Most small businesses incorporated in 2005 will fail by the year 2007. No matter the industry or the economic times in which the company was initially conceived, the fact remains that businesses fail on a daily basis due to general lack of knowledge and know-how. What follows are my opinion on three very common methods to ensure not only mediocrity but failure as a business entity in today’s world.
1. Lack of vision and focus
Most business, like most people today, lack a clear vision for their company (and products). I can count on one hand the number of my clients who have been able to answer the initial question of “What are your goals?” without stuttering or pausing in confusion. Strategy formulation (or business planning, if you will) begins from the top-down, starting with a company mission, and ending with a specific plan towards mission completion and execution. Some common flaws the indicate lack of vision and focus include:
-a vague and passionless mission statement, such as “Our company is committed to building a better world”, or, even better, “Our company strives to be the company of choice for our consumers”. Vague statements serve only to dilute collective energies within your company.
-a mission statement and business plan that is articulated by all and lived by none. Too many companies believe that having a vague, multi-colored business mission statement on the walls (for all to see) qualifies as strategic planning. Employees may walk by this “mission statement” on a daily basis, as would zombies warmed-over, setting about doing whatever it is they do to execute this vague and passionless “mission statement”.
The solution to this problem is simple: You must first start with an idea, a plan on how you want your company to exist in the future. The idea can be as large and grandiose as you like, however, you must then designate a purpose behind the ultimate company goal. Purpose is the fuel that enables the company to move forward in times of difficulty. Once you have a purpose, you must then clearly communicate this ideal to every single employee you have AND you must make certain that you leave no room for misinterpretation of this ideal. This serves the purpose of creating a collective group focus, whereby an entire company is centered around a single abiding ideal or principle, and is committed to the attainment of this ideal. That’s power. That’s focus.
2. Lack of cash flow
Businesses are made or broken by a simple statistic: net cash flow received. Simple company dynamics dictate that the greater the net company cash-flow, the more solvent and independent the company. Companies that rely consistently on credit lines, for whatever reason, are susceptible to economic downturns. They will be the first companies to fail. Just as many real estate investors have learned, capital liquidity equals success or failure. Therefore, to ensure the life of your company, you must learn to master some simple rules:
-produce multiple, varied products (services, tangible products, etc)
-economize expenses as best possible (every dollar spent on advertising should produce two dollars in income, as a rule of thumb)
-maximize monthly income (rather than settling for inconsistent, feast-or-famine events)
These are simple rules, however, many companies fail to follow them. They aren’t glamorous, and they certainly aren’t rocket science. Perhaps that is why are NOT followed. Most people are enamored with technology and gadgetry, bells and whistles, intricate and elaborate business plans. They focus on how cool their advertisements look rather than how much income results from them. They allow themselves to fall in love with the idea that you must spend money to make money (when they should realize instead that you must spend money appropriately to make money). Keep it simple, and follow through.
3. People problems
One of the easiest ways to judge the potential success of a company is to visit with some of its employees. Front desk staff, customer service reps, managers, or even officers. If you enjoy your interactions, and feel valued, then that is a sure sign that the company is on the right track to success. After all, a company is only as good as its’ people. And most companies are certainly adequate at hiring mediocre, unhappy, or problematic employees. In fact, most companies put more thought into their cafeteria lunch choices than they do their employee selection.
What follows are some tips to improve your bottom line in this area:
-Put more thought into hiring and firing. At the risk of sounding simplistic, your company needs to be in the business of finding knowledgeable, friendly, driven, and team-oriented people. If your current employees don’t fit the bill (with regards to company mission) then you need to allow them to seek employment elsewhere.
(As an aside, years of employment with the company should not be the primary criteria for advancement (though many companies seem to think so). Look at it this way: Some people are great at being mediocre (with regards to the above criteria), and do it consistently, year in and year out. Don’t reward complacency, and don’t promote based on years worked alone. That’s ludicrous!).
-Place your best people in areas of high-customer contact. For example, your receptionist or customer service representative should be your ideal company representative, as he or she will have the most contact with potential consumers, and thus, the most potential impact on buying habits. Potential customers that feel valued at first sight tend to stick around and shop.
-Always provide for communication of employee roles. People need to know what their specific role is (and duties, oddly enough) within a company. If they don’t, they can’t fulfill these roles or duties. Productivity wanes, your company suffers, and so on.
Copyright (2003) Leif H. Smith, Psy.D. All rights reserved.