How can your business achieve sustained growth? Try one or all of these ideas and thrive.
Part 5: What every business needs to do for sustained growth
Is achieving sustained growth for your business a goal for the new year? Not only can you grow, you can thrive. This situation with HM Manufacturing is not unique, though I’d love to say it is.
While many companies may not experience something as bold as employees creating a shell business and competing against their employer, many organizations face theft and dishonesty. You can’t completely eliminate it, but there are steps you should take to protect yourself.
Achieve Sustained Growth IN Your Business
Question everything – The biggest killer of businesses today is, “That’s the way it’s always been done.” When we don’t challenge the status quo we fail to seek out change. Without change there cannot be growth and innovation. Teach yourself, and your team, to question what is being done from time to time.
Re-Engage Occasionally – I work with business owners to get them out of the day to day. However I am not advocating for the absentee owner. If you are vested in your company you need to know what is going on even if you’ve re purposed yourself for other opportunities. This goes back to trust but verify. Know what your people are doing and look for things you can improve. Make sure there is alignment.
Don’t Assume – A law of nature is everything follows the path of least resistance. Making assumptions is an example of that. Our hard-wired notions for how things should be can get in the way of growth. It can also hide bigger problems related to theft or lost efficiencies. Question if something doesn’t seem right.
Trust but verify – Owners want autonomy. Staff is hired for their talents, technical expertise, and ability to contribute to business growth. Many owners struggle with getting people productive. Just handing off a task isn’t that easy. Successful delegation means follow up and accountability.
Denial is your worst enemy – Sometimes even when we know things to be off we are unwilling to trust the information before us. Humans are great at throwing the blinders on and justifying their own truths. Our belief system gets in our way. If you want to shift your business you need to shift your paradigms. That may even mean shifting your perceptions of members of your staff.
Know Your Numbers – Be financially literate. Know your numbers. Be able to read your balance sheet and your P&L. Track what’s in your sales pipeline, margin, customer retention, etc. These are the lagging indicators for what you are doing well, and what you do poorly.
Sustained Growth WITH Your Employees
Cross train – Not everyone can be an expert at everything. That doesn’t mean your team should stick to only one task. If only one person knows a particular skill set you put your business at risk in a multitude of ways. For HM, Nicole was able to find discrepancies by learning several jobs in the company. A different set of eyes sees different things. You also have a backup when the primary person isn’t able to fulfill their duties.
Money Changes Everything – As much as I hate to say it, money can change people. Greed, fear of loss, personal hardships, and justification are all reasons why people can believe it’s OK to take from the business coffers. If there are no checks and balances in place eventually someone will come along and take advantage of the situation. Always implement proper cash handling procedures. Anyone who has access to the accounts should take a mandatory vacation and have their position audited. It will give you peace of mind and help eliminate temptation.
Be Efficient, Be Effective, Question When You’re Not – You might be seeing a theme here. Growth is created by change. Change means not relying on old norms to stay in place. If Henry Ford didn’t develop the assembly line we might still all be riding horses. The growth we’ve seen over the past 100 years all stems from someone’s willingness to find a better way to do things. Productivity has taken on a whole new meaning with technology, AI, and automation. Also many processes are a patchwork quilt of systems stitched together to plug gaps in the original. I’ve found many situations where the way of doing things became very complex and counterproductive. Sometimes you have to wipe the slate clean and make things simple, yet effective.
Sometimes It’s Better To Be Shorthanded – When I worked in retail there were several times we were shorthanded and they were far better than the times we were over staffed. Why? When you have more than enough of the wrong people you actually lose productivity. I know many business owners who would rather hang onto a bad apple than run short. Here’s the impact that makes: Ultimately the leader spends all their time chasing the poor producers. In the meantime your highly productive people are burdened with more work and less support. They wonder why you keep poor performers and if it lasts too long, eventually look for other opportunities. Who has the hardest time finding a new career, high performers or low performers? Opportunities are always going to be greater for your best people and they want to surround themselves with other like minded workers. You hanging on to dead weight only drives them out the door.
Micromanaging Is Not Your Friend – Even though it might seem like a good idea to get your hands into everything to avoid fraud it will actually do more harm than good. As an owner, your responsibility is on business growth. Tying all your time up in the details can create burnout and blind spots. Assign tasks, follow up, and hold accountable. Set aside time throughout the year to get more involved. Getting in the weeds should be occasional vs. regular.
Achieve Sustained Growth IN Yourself
Trust Your Gut – Science has shown that 80% of the time our gut instinct is spot on. Sometimes we choose not to pay attention to the signs we pick up on at a subconscious level. If something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t
Waste Not. Want Not. – What wasteful habits do you have? I guarantee there are several things you do that could be done more productively. That is true for everyone. While 100% productivity is impossible all the time we should always look for ways to eliminated waste. Time is a non-renewable resource. Once it’s spent it can never be recovered. Implement methods to be more productive.
Ask For Help – I see it time and again. Leaders avoid asking for help out of fear of being incompetent. Seeking advice is actually a brave thing and successful people do it all the time. If you rely on yourself, there’s a limited bank of knowledge to draw from. Gain a broader perspective.
Get A Third Party – Bring in someone from the outside to be a fresh set of eyes. Shameless self-promotion would be hiring me to work with you but that’s not a requirement. Friends, family, and peers can also be great resources if they have the skill sets you need to uncover changes to make. If you realize that you are lacking the talent, do not hesitate to invest in expertise. It will be far more costly if you don’t.
Measure Success Have specific goals on profitability and costs as well as sales. Your team should understand how the targets are set and how they are achieved. Create some transparency for the finances so you have more people engaged in the success of the company. They may also be more vigilant if something seems out of whack.
Do Unto Others – A big reason HM was able to recover was through the help of peers. Some could even be considered competitors. Bottom line: if you treat other people right they will be there to support you in times of need. I saw this many times on the farm. If a farmer wasn’t able to get their crops in due to illness or death, the neighbors stepped in to help using their own resources to assist the family. If you treat your peers, customers, and your competitors well they may come to your aide when it’s needed.
Do What You Love. Love What You Do. – Creating a thriving enterprise has to be a labor of love in some ways. Find joy in what you do. That will keep you engaged. Sure, having your own business is all about making a profit that supports the lifestyle you want. Just don’t let it get in the way of being an enjoyable place to be for you and your team.
Implementing any and all of these steps can create a company resistant to fraud or theft. While there are no guarantees, the more engaged you are, and the more empowered your team is will keep you from the painful consequences of a dishonest employee.