Can’t we move any faster?

By Ken Keller

The hungry, driven business owner ranks at the top of any list of the “most impatient people on the planet.”

The ones I know walk fast, drive fast, talk fast and think fast. I’m no slouch when it comes to being impatient, but when I compare myself to some of these folks, you can clearly see I am in the slow lane.

Last week I wrote about having a strong second quarter. In my column, I provided five steps to plan and get started down the path of success.

What I did not address was the mindset and tools owners need to make achieving goals a reality.

The first is to spend less time planning and more time executing. General George S. Patton said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

As an example, too many owners fall into the trap of having long, ineffective meetings. There is nothing wrong with, and many things right about, having short stand-up meetings.

There is nothing wrong with telling sales people that they must schedule their first out of the office appointment to be held by 8 a.m. and that they aren’t welcome back into the office before 4 p.m. And, the time spent in-between is to be with clients, prospects or referral sources.

The second is to focus on profitability. Some companies have “loss leaders” that they use to gain market share and then work to make up the lost margin by selling the client other, more profitable products or services.

Many companies can’t afford loss leaders, and even more companies can’t afford to sell anything at a loss.

Given the opportunity to sell something at a lower price, most sales people won’t hesitate to sell as much as they can, as quickly as they can.

To counter this, owners need to reign in discounts, promotional offers and allowances and giveaways.

Surprisingly, many companies do not know what is actually profitable and what isn’t. The analysis can be done by product line or brand, by size, geography, by channel of distribution and by client.

The third is constant cost cutting. Don’t step over dimes to pick up dollars; go for the dimes because they add up quickly.

Finding a few places to negotiate lower costs can save hundreds of dollars a month, leading to thousands of dollars in the next 12 months.

There is nothing wrong with taking the time to look at every invoice before it gets paid. It is perfectly acceptable to question charges.

The fourth is that cash remains king. Personally reviewing the Accounts Receivable list is not micromanaging. It’s being smart about finances when people owe your company for products already delivered and services already rendered.

It’s also smart to see exactly what the AR team is doing to collect money. In many accounting departments, collections is the last task on the “to do” list because no one likes making the calls.

The fifth is to be leaner, meaner, and more nimble by doing a thorough job of spring cleaning the facility. When in doubt about filing cabinets, stacks of paper, and other clutter, put them away, out of sight.

Spend time shredding, dusting, painting, cleaning and rearranging furniture to improve focus and productivity.

No owner or employee I know wants to work in a dark, dirty place; everyone prefers to work in a clean, well-lit and organized place of work where they are proud to spend time every day.

Sixth, and last, speed up decision-making in your company. This goes back to the Patton quote. What most owners don’t realize is that not making a decision is actually making a decision.

But the “not now decision” is never communicated as such. The owner simply does nothing, and says nothing. This leaves everyone in limbo.

The waiting kills momentum. It frustrates and then kills the spirit and enthusiasm of your team. Do it often enough, delay long enough and people just may go to work somewhere else.

Saying “we need to go faster” and having it actually happen depends whether or not the owner truly wants this reality. If so, the owner needs to step up and lead by not the owner truly wants this reality. If so, the owner needs to step up and lead by example. Every employee will be watching.


Ken Keller is a syndicated business columnist focused on the leadership needs of small and midsize closely held companies. Contact him at KenKeller@SBCglobal.net. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of this media outlet.

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