I heard it once said that, “It’s hard to read the label of a mayonnaise jar from the inside out.” In other words, as an owner or manager, it isn’t easy to make the best decisions for your small business by constantly looking at it only from your perspective.
Over the past few months, I have visited and experienced several businesses and organizations. As a consultant it is easy to see some of the not so obvious mistakes business owners are making. Some will survive their miscalculated thinking while others will not. Either way, these omissions of sound business judgment can always serve as an example – a bad example for the rest of us to learn from and not commit.
1. Financial Planning Office Poor Location. I visited one financial planner and she was very proud of her new office building she had moved into. She told me it took a long time before she found “just the right building and location. As I looked around his office I wondered what possessed her to move into this structure. It was a little small – OK, let’s just say it was cozy. It was nicely decorated and space seemed adequate.
The parking spots she had in front of the building numbered no more than three. The back end of the building had a service company as the main tenant. Service vehicles were parked on the side of the building as well as in the back at different angles. OK, so you have lots of company and you won’t feel alone. However, this isn’t a very conducive arrangement for impressing your wealth-minded clients. Finally, as you looked out the front door of her part of the building, the view was less than satisfactory. A two lane paved road with broken pavement and a less than prosperous neighborhood was all that the eye could see.
The incorrect selection of this facility could have been avoided had the owner used a spread sheet with three categories which would include: Must Haves, Should Haves, Like to Haves.
She could have assigned a point system of 5 points for each item met for the Must Haves, 3 points for each item of the Should Haves, and 1 point for the Like to Haves. After tallying up the scores for each of the different buildings she had on her short list, he would have been in a much better position to make the best decision possible for her new office.
2. Inconsistent Strategy in Marketing a local lighting store. A business owner asked me to meet with him to discuss the possibility of using my consulting services. The problems he was facing were in the areas of building a geographical presence in the community and differentiating himself from the rest of the competition that had a store front and Web presence.
In my systems review and outcome assessment, I discovered a number of glowing errors that were serving as stumbling blocks to the lofty goals he had set. One of his main concerns was the creation of a keen awareness of their physical location. He felt, and rightly so, that the four surrounding communities would be loaded with prospects. But first potential customers would need to know his store location. I looked at their very professional business cards he had made up for their team, including their three new sales people. I noticed something quite odd. There was no physical address on the card. Yes, people could go to the website to look up his physical address, and most times they do, but why make them take one more step to find your location instead of putting the address on the card?
The solution could have been as simple as putting the address with cross streets to help their prospective clients know exactly where they were.
3. Hiring the Wrong Office Manager. The third blunder I witnessed was where a small home remodeler continued to make the mistake of hiring the wrong office manager. After his star performer left to pursue work with a larger home construction company, the business owner made the mistake of promoting an employee who was not qualified. This person failed miserably. He dismissed that person only to promote another unqualified person. This person failed and was fired.
In the meantime, the original star performer found his new company not a good fit and wanted to come back to his office manager’s position. The owner refused, citing that if he left once, he would leave again.
So, our misguided business owner hired from the outside. This time it was a person who was not truly qualified, but none the less, it was assumed he would work out. He didn’t and he too was dismissed. The owner once again, reluctantly put on still another hat, that of office manager.
This business owner could also have used a spread sheet to identify the Must Haves, Should Haves and Like to Haves of a new office manager. During the time I worked with this client it occurred to me that if he would have placed an ad in the proper places and used a spread sheet to interview new applicants, he could have found the right person.
On the other hand, if he would have reached out to his original star performer and rehired him, he would have probably made the best hiring decision. As hiring expert, Mel Kleiman, points out, “It is a good idea to stay in touch with the great employees who left you. Often they find pastures are not really any greener elsewhere. In fact, once they get there, they may find themselves wishing they’d never left you. Even if they don’t come back they could be a great source of referrals.”
My point is don’t burn your bridges with past star performers. Keep in touch with them. You may find that they are the best person for the job and will give you many more years of outstanding service.
So, in summary, get help from an outsider. Solicit ideas and suggestions from other business owners, your employees or a professional consultant. When you do, you will have the ability to see things from a different perspective and make better, more profitable decisions.