Fixing Your Business’ Woes

Business owners often sink so much of themselves into the company that improving even simple problems seems overwhelming. Finding and conquering your company’s problems one by one builds value, and here’s how to start.

Few businesses actually build value because this requires hard work. It also requires systematic, disciplined work – a quality many businesses lack.

Typical business problems range from over-thinking a solution rather than fixing a problem; failure to understand the need or grasp the consistency to fix trouble; and inadequate hiring or delegation.

According to business consultant and author Jim Collins, “executives spend too much time drafting … and redrafting vision statements, mission statements, values statements, purpose statements, aspiration statements and so on.”

“Business vision combines a business’s fundamental reason for existence beyond just making money … unchanging core values and huge and audacious but ultimately achievable aspirations for its own future,” according to Collins.

Think about these points to create value in your business.

Admit your company has issues. This takes soul searching from you. Be assured: Your company has issues, probably lots of them.

Ask yourself, “What issues?” and don’t stop at answering just this question. Ask why your company has these issues. Then write down what you’re going to do about it. If you plan to do nothing, fine, just make sure you write down that you do nothing.

One cool thing about owning your business: You decide how you handle problems in your business. If you know you have a problem you choose to not handle, admit it and move on. It might affect value later on – and that too stems from your decision.

“Get the right people in the right seat” (Collins). You need good people to attack and improve issues. A good employee doesn’t necessarily mean a high salary; it means clarity when finding those good people, knowing their traits and knowing how their potential to help you.

Sometimes you rent the right C-level personnel, such as chief financial officer, chief marketing officer and a chief executive officer. Renting a senior executive can net you great and affordable talent. Many private business owners fail to secure the right talent because they think full-time executives with the best skills come too expensive for a full-time offer.

Pick the best low-hanging fruit first. If your company suffers from many issues, choose one – the low-hanging fruit easiest to fix and with the biggest payback if fixed. Choose one issue, not three and not even two.

Choose one and concentrate until you put it in the past, then choose the next. Focusing on one big rock at a time produces progress faster than if you tackle several projects at once.

Honesty – sometimes painful honesty – with yourself as a business owner comes hard, but it pays big. Target your issues wisely and narrowly, solve one at a time when you start. Accept that just three steps improve your business one step at a time.

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Josh Patrick is a founding principal of Stage 2 Planning Partners in South Burlington, Vt. He contributes the NY Times You’re the Boss blog.

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