Slideshow 6 silent business killers

  • October 07 2013, 2:26pm EDT
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Life is good

Blue says this is the feeling that “things have been going well for a long time now. You hardly ever hear of any problems. The numbers look good, although lately they have been getting a little soft.” He cautions that this is not the time to sit back and work on your golf game. He advises:

• This is the time to be on your guard. Dig hard into your operation to see what’s wrong. Peel back the onion of your financials and find out where the issues are.

• Do a deep dive of every department. You are not trying to determine if you have problems — you do.

Everyone makes nice in meetings

Your meetings are oh-so-nice with no disagreements, no conflicts and no lively debates, says Blue. But you can’t move the business forward without conflict. So the absence of conflict should not be your goal, productive conflict should be. Here is what he says you need to do:

• Encourage, insist and even demand that people engage in conflict. Make it clear that the absence of conflict is not acceptable. Just be sure it is the productive kind.

• Conflict needs to be managed, measured and meaningful. Otherwise it turns destructive in a hurry. Train everyone on the team in conflict management skills.

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Innovation is DOA

Product development has been a little slow for a while. You are on a death trajectory, just waiting for the competition to make you irrelevant. Blue says you need to re-energize innovation — and fast:

• Make innovation the number one goal in the company (read: big incentives for achieving innovation goals, even an innovation challenge). Don’t restrict this to new products. It can and should include internal and external processes and procedures.

• Train everyone (and I do mean everyone) in the tools and techniques of innovation. This is a process that can be learned and applied by everyone, not just the “creative” types.

Your sales team works for your customer

When a conflict arises between your company and a customer, does your salesperson/producer side with the customer? If this sounds like your sales team, here is what you should do, Blue says:

• Sales people develop deep relationships with their customers. So deep they are afraid to offend them, give them bad news (like a price increase) or otherwise irritate them. Shake them up. Change account assignments. In the new assignments, change the incentive plans to include whatever it is you have been trying to get done, but couldn’t because they were working for the customer (i.e. price increase).

• Develop a new model for the sales person of the future. You’ll need it because some of the old guard won’t make the trip. Be prepared to act on them.

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You have some toxic employees killing off customers

One toxic employee can destroy years of customer loyalty. Don’t let his happen to you. Do a toxic employee check-up, Blue says, with the following:

• Take the process one organization layer at a time and start asking who the toxic people are. And don’t buy the excuse that no one knows who your toxic employees are. Someone knows.

• Once you have identified them, tell them they must change their behavior immediately or they can’t stay. And terminate them if they don’t come around.
• Set a new standard of behavior for the entire company. Once you have cleaned house, be mindful that weeds always grow back, so be prepared to prune the garden often.

Cost is under control

Under control is not good enough, Blue says you should always be looking at how to save more or it could sneak up on you:

• Set a goal for improving productivity by 10% per year. And don’t play the shell game of “where did the savings go”? When you improve productivity that much, you either need to raise the top line or reduce the workforce.