Sunday, December 9, 2012
Who Is Really Running Your Business?
In my experience working for numerous companies over the years, or speaking to the business people I have interacted with, I have noticed all too often that, surprisingly, companies are not run by their President, CEO, or Operations Manager. Instead, these companies are run by someone or a group of people that shouldn’t have been anywhere near the steering wheel of the corporation.
I work in credit and collections, and my industry colleagues and I deal with risk management every day – we reduce losses through collection, we improve credit screening processes to protect creditors from danger and loss. You’d think we’d all be fully aware of the weak points of operating a company. But yet, I’ve seen the following horror stories ... let me share them with my fellow business owners and managers, as these dangers are not limited to just my industry.
Your Giant Client
You’ve got The Client (notice the capitalization). They are your best, largest, most profitable customer. Sadly, they know it. They represent 60-80% of your company’s revenues, and they dwarf your organization. They have a long list of how you will do work for them, if you want to continue to receive their business, you will ask “how high” when they say “jump”. They don’t care about your business plan, your goals, your company philosophies – you and your company are just an extension of their massive and indomitable will.
Your Ever-Present Competition
You work in a heavily competitive industry, so you are constantly watching your competitors and attempting to edge them out. You copy them, and pursue the same clients, and offer what you think your competition would offer (maybe at a slightly lower price or rate, to win the clients over). You’ve even managed to entice some experienced staff away from the company down the street. By your efforts to outcompete your competition, you become just like them. Your experienced staff that you have attracted have brought their pre-established company culture with them. You are now a clone of your industry, despite your ongoing efforts.
Your Secretive IT Cabal
It would be great if you could implement your company vision, but your servers are in upgrade hell, you can never find your IT manager anywhere in your building (especially if there’s a database crash), and your to long-term do list is not getting done. You thought you employed a brilliant, intuitive technically-minded technical manager, but you’ve discovered they are more like Dennis Nedry from Jurassic Park. You are held hostage by your IT staff, and your company plan has stalled because of it.
Your Super-Successful Sales Manager
You’ve got a great sales guy. He knows all the key clients personally. He’s always on the front lines, delivering statements, dealing with complaints, making the tough calls to make everything go smoothly. And because he knows ALL the clients, he’s more a part of your company brand than you. If he leaves the company, he’ll probably take all the clients with him because he has the access to the Rolodex of Power, and he uses it with authority, so you are basically reduced to sitting in the passenger seat of your own company.
Your Rogue All-Star
You have guidelines for your staff, but you’ve got one person that the rules simply don’t apply to – they take two hour lunches, take all sorts of time off, don’t follow your dress code, and often butt heads with co-workers and managers. You’d do something about it, but they generate the same revenue as any three or four other staff members combined. That’d be okay if you only had to deal with the feelings of your all-star – but your other staff have noticed your favouritism and selective application of your own company rules. Staff turnover, complaints to human resources, and all the time you spend mollifying your temperamental star team member is undermining your grand plan for the company, stalling your growth and hurting your relationship with the rest of your team.
Okay, none of the above apply to you – you are the Commander in Chief, with the grand vision and the authority to carry out your business plan. Everyone follows your directions, to the letter, without question. And that could be the problem right there. When you take a week’s vacation, everything falls apart. No one is allowed to make decisions without your ultimate approval. Your people have no opportunity to make suggestions or even small changes, and there is a huge disconnect between them and yourself. Because they have no need to take leadership roles, you couldn’t drag an opinion out of them with a tow-truck. So, how is this any better than the above disaster scenarios?
Your Continuity of Business Plan Probably Doesn’t Deal With People
Sure, you have a plan for the building catching fire, or a power outage, but can you deal with a maternity leave by a key player? Can you cope with a disgruntled manager who leaves the company, and also leaves a gaping hole in your team? Odds are, you haven't thought much about it – but you should.
A company is more than a series of departments, hardware, balance sheets, and reports. A company is the sum of its people – without people, it will fail. Companies succeed based on the dedication, morale, and talent of the people who work there. Policies and hardware are easily replaced, people far less so.
A company is an interconnected web of people, from the smallest company to the largest national corporation. Those people aren’t just the staff, they include key clients, consultants, consumers, and other individuals that can affect your company. An organization that survives on one single person is eventually going to fail. Eventually, someone is going to get hit by a bus, the Big Client will go somewhere else, get an offer to go work somewhere else, or one of your dependable staff will have their personal life come tumbling down, and it’ll take out a crucial gear out of your otherwise balanced company clockwork. A company isn’t a chain of command, it’s a lattice of responsibility and trust. You need to constantly have your eye on diversifying your client base, your staff, and your processes; you will build an insurance policy or plan for your success.
The lesson here?
è Have a plan to balance and protect the company – call it “The Plan”
è Write down “The Plan”
è Share “The Plan” with everyone on your staff and constantly tweak it
è Cross-train your processes, and write them into “The Plan”
è Let your people question “The Plan” and also let them improve it
è Make sure you know about your company - do it by reading and re-reading “The Plan” and talking to your fellow teammates about it
è Review “The Plan”, and be prepared for the worst, even when things are going well
So, if your company isn’t bulletproof (a hint – none really are), take a stand, make changes, and strive to build something better. Companies that succeed are innovative, create leadership and involvement with their staff, build multiple revenue streams, and balance company responsibilities and workloads.
Risk management is about outside events – it’s also about people. Talk to your team and see what they think.
I’m interested what you think – after all, business is all about sharing ideas and enthusiasm, so feel free to reach out to me. I’m always curious what other companies are doing, whether they are in credit and collections or not. My office number is 226-444-5695.
Kingston Data and Credit
Posted by Blair DeMarco-Wettlaufer