A significant part of my day is spent talking with business owners. Whether small independent business owners or restaurant operators or franchisees or freelancers, I’m alarmed at the state-of-mind of many of them. It’s more than mental health as the culprit. Although, their mental health is certainly at risk.
What’s being conveyed to me is not a sense of loneliness, hopelessness or despair. More so, what’s being shared are concerns about just not knowing what to do to keep their business afloat. They’ve thrown money at their business. They’ve cut their own salaries. All to keep the business moving along.
They’ve tried to run their business with just-in-time inventory to keep cash flow positive. They’ve increased wages for staff to retain not only the best, but even the worst of employees. They’ve worked extra hours in any position that needed to be filled. They’ve enlisted spouses and their children to help where and when possible.
To say sacrifices have been made is an understatement of biblical proportions. But were these sacrifices necessary? Were the decisions to implement the action items listed above necessary, or were the decisions essentially just knee-jerk reactions? Are the actions being taken effective for the long-term or just filling gaps until the next one widens?
Of course, this can all be debated for hours on end. Especially, as the actions being taken could certainly each be looked at as being reasonable, practical and the right things to do at the particular time of need. Therein, I believe lies a problem. The actions being taken are often reactive, and in the moment.
Now, don’t get me wrong, if the utilities are scheduled for disconnection today or an insurance termination is looming or if two key employees’ last day is tomorrow, sure, quick decisions are necessary. Actually, quick decisions are definitely better than procrastination or indecisiveness.
But have decisions been looked at from both sides of the coin? Meaning, are there options, or a potential partial solution? Or, are the decisions just being made by one person with one perspective without nary a thought something else could or should be considered?
Again, we can debate this for hours but I firmly believe what’s being missed is dedicating the time to think through the what ifs, strategize and plan for possible situations, and to include stakeholders in the discussions. After all, open, transparent communications is a cornerstone of a strong culture within an organization and a strong culture goes a long way toward business success, and in this case, business survival.
Transparency in communications is essential as it lends to creating a decision-making process built upon different perspectives and from different points of view. This is in lieu of a business owner keeping the problems bottled up and then making decisions without so much as a thought to looking at the problems from different angles. After all, stakeholders will be affected, as well. So, they should be included.
With stakeholders involved in discussing and resolving problems, they’re buying into the solutions and as is human nature, will work harder toward the action plan goals. Essentially, they’ve bought in because they were allowed to participate. They may view their opinions as having value, and see some solutions or parts thereof, ones that may have been based upon their input.
They will also be appreciative of being part of the solution as opposed to ending up as a victim of the problems. And if there is a negative outcome, they’ll at least feel like they were consulted and may be willing to “participate” in more drastic action steps. They certainly will not feel like it’s not their problem and turn their back on the business owner.
This Henry Ford quote is one of the best I’ve ever read about teamwork. I believe it’s a true statement. With this quote in mind, think about this simple example. Ten people in a boat rowing together. The more in sync they are, the faster and straighter the boat will travel. Out of sync and the boat can actually spin in circles and out of control.
Have a great day. Make it happen. Make it count!