_Business & Organizational Management Issues: It’s All in Your Perspective

I have always known that different backgrounds and experiences bring different perspectives and solution-sets to a problem. This ‘truth’ began for me some 30+ years ago as a public school speech pathologist who worked with school psychologists, physical/occupational therapists, special education and regular education teachers. We all approached a child’s learning difficulties from our own distinct professional perspectives. The same holds true for me now, as a business/organizational management consultant. Not in a long while has this ‘truth’ been so striking for me as my work with a current client.

In my consulting practice I look at the ‘big picture’ organizational/management structure and the systems necessary to support the structure. I tend to look at the ‘human aspects’, both from a management and operational perspective. Working with a financial expert, their perspective drives home the critical nature of their view – financial systems, cost-controls, billing and tax implications. These are all critical elements in the health of a business/organization. In this particular business, the owner is an expert in marketing/advertising and branding. They understand and work tirelessly on branding, marketing, and customer service, bringing new ‘products’ and services the customers.

As we work through the issues which must be addressed for this business to be successful, we each come at the challenges from these distinct perspectives. While there certainly are overlaps, agreement and recognition that each of these elements must be included in the overall issue resolution, it does remind me of the saying: “He is a builder; he tries to fix every problem with a hammer.” What has been a real treat for me in this process is that we have all been very successful in understanding this basic ‘truth’ and have worked to integrate each of the perspectives we bring into the overall set of solutions.

In this particular situation, had the owner not reached out to others, they would continue to try to ‘fix’ the problem by spending more on more on marketing, while profits continued to disappear, They would have continued to use the same policies and procedures, while employees continued to engage in unnecessary and/or ineffective procedures. They would have continued to try to enhance marketing and product offerings, yet achieved the same results.

Different perspectives and expertise, when combined in a well-designed plan of action will create the best solution possible for owners and leaders of businesses and organizations. It is not rocket science, but is takes time, effort and professional respect to accomplish it for the client


_The Millennials in the Workplace: Managing Expectations

Part 2 of 2

As I mentioned in my last post, Millennials joining the workforce are creating some new opportunities and new challenges for employers. One of the challenges is that of ‘expectations’, on the part of both the employer and the millennial employee. In the first example of expectations, I outlined an employee’s expectation for a higher pay rate when the individual had yet to fully learn and demonstrate competence in the new position she was given. In this post, I will discuss another employee’s expectations about ‘work focus’ versus ‘personal life’ focus.

We all know that ‘life happens’. And for some, ‘life’ stays private at work and others bring ‘life’ to work…and this occurs across generations. In this particular case however, it remains unclear to me even after working with this individual that she understand fully the real risk she has put her position. This Millennial not only discussed her life issues with the boss and her supervisor, but others in the office were very aware of it. She was observed on her cell phone texting and talking, violating policy. Her production fell off dramatically and people were unable to trust that she would get her job done, so they could complete theirs.

I spent time discussing this issue with her and while she appeared to understand, was not able to lay out a strategy to stop the behaviors. I then provided her with detailed steps, detailed behaviors and detailed expectations of what was to be expected. And what did this mentoring accomplish?

She asked for two days off prior to completing her 90 day introductory period, with having no such leave earned. Expectations? She continues to expect her needs will be met by her employer, apparently with little or no regard to the employer’s…or the lack of earned benefits she has yet to earn.

In Part 1 of this topic, I discussed a young woman who expected to get a larger raise than she received, in spite of receiving a raise prior to the end of her first year of employment. She was extremely disappointed with the employer’s commitment to her. Less than five days later, even after the mentoring I provided, she resigned.

As I stated in Part 1, young people bring a new vitality and energy to the workforce. They also bring a new and very challenging set of expectations which may be very difficult for employers to meet.


_The Millennials in the Workplace: Managing Expectations

Part 1 of 2


As more Millennials (individuals ages 18 to 30) enter the workforce, employers are now struggling with managing expectations.  Not for the employer, but for these new workers. I have recently been asked to meet with a couple of these new breed of employees and one of the greatest challenges they face as they enter the workforce is to clearly understand how they can advance, both in position and compensation.

This is the generation which grew up on the internet with access to instant information. This is the generation which was generally raised by parents who praised often, yet often did not hold accountable their precious children. This is a generation which expects to be treated by everyone, including their employer as the same precious and special person, which they have to this point always been treated. And therein lies the challenge… for them…for their employer. I understand it is dangerous to make broad sweeping statements of an entire group of people. And heaven knows, there are any number of Millennials who fall out of this descriptor…as did Gen-Xers and Boomers. But the trends for these general behaviors do exist and are happening in today’s workplace.

The first individual I spoke with has been on the job for less than one year and has already received a dollar-an-hour raise. But she is upset. She is upset because she is being trained to develop additional skills which will allow her to significantly rise in the company. She has also been given more authority. But she is upset. Why? Because she didn’t get a big enough raise and thinks maybe she should be doing what she originally was doing for the less-than-adequate pay raise she received.  I then had to spend time discussing ‘expectations’ both on her part, and from an organizational perspective. I discussed with her that the very structure and system she worked in, did not typically give raises within the first year. And finally, discussed in detail the amount of time and money the employer was investing in HER. This investment would add significantly to her value both with this employer and then others in the future.

I continued our discussion by explaining to her the rules of organizations. That constantly complaining about her wages and woes did nothing to improve her status either with management or co-workers. I further discussed that ‘value’ is determined in many, many ways by employers and that the negativity she was displaying was putting at risk, future advancement opportunities over time. Finally, the fact that her employer was paying a consultant (me) to help mentor her in better understanding workplace expectations should be acknowledgement of value for her skills and potential with the company.

I should not have to do this, but I do and probably will be doing this much more often for other clients. Young people bring a great vitality to the workplace. They also bring new challenges to employers. Are you ready?


_What Employees Want…Don’t Want from the Boss


Isn’t it nice when actual data supports your long-held beliefs? I have had one of mine validated today via the “Business Management Daily” email I receive. This particular email reviewed a few of the findings from the book; What People Want, by Terry Bacon.  The lists compiled by Mr. Bacon do confirm my general beliefs about employee needs and ‘do not needs’. He has created these lists based on a survey conducted of 500 employees. Here is the list found in the text of the email I had the pleasure of reading earlier.

Nine (9) Things Employees Want:  Honesty, Fairness, Trust, Respect, Dependability, Collaboration, Genuineness, Appreciation, Responsiveness.

Five (5) Things Employees, Do Not Need:  Friendship, Conversation, TLC, Emotional support, Cheerfulness.

What Mr. Bacon found is that employees have a pretty clear set of expectations that ‘work’ is a separate experience from their ‘personal life’ and they are filling a role for an employer. Their expectations of the employer then focus on how that ‘role’ can be supported, not their personal lives. Not desiring ‘friendship’, TLC and Emotional Support are very clear that employees have a defined set of rules and roles employers play in their life. When employers/managers violate that role, it can cause problems for the employee. On the other hand, when employers provide things like honesty, fairness, trust and respect, employees enjoy – and most likely perform – their jobs at a higher level.

When establishing systems to hire, train, manage and evaluate employees, it is important to make sure the nine desires of employees be accounted for, and the five ‘do not needs’ be reduced or eliminated. The work place needs to be a safe, healthy and team focused for employees. It should not become a social club or mental health counseling center for employees.


_It’s the Position, Not the Person


One of the systems I assist business owners and managers create is the employee management/performance system. When establishing a more formal system, one of the first places to start is with the creation of formal position, or job, descriptions.  If this is done, after employees have been hired, this task can be more complicated, than had it been done prior to the first employee hire. The reason, ‘personalities’ can get in the way of creating the best position description for the needs of the business/organization.

We all become attached to employees, some more than others and some much less than others. Therein lays the difficulty…creating job descriptions based upon the needs of the company, not the individuals currently inhabiting the ‘default positions’ currently in existence. The following are some of the ‘traps’ or dilemmas an owner faces when creating great, and effective job descriptions with current employees.

  • Fitting the ‘person’ to position, not the position to the needs of the organization.
  • Manufacturing a position for an individual who is not a good fit for the organization, but they are ‘nice’ or ‘well liked’.
  •  Creating a position to ‘push’ an individual out of the business.

In other words, creating positions with job functions and duties which simply do not make sense for a single job description so that  a person ‘fits’ is liking sticking a square peg into a round hole…it simply is not very effective. Often I discover when working with owners who are attempting to ‘fit square pegs in round holes’ they need the objective view of an outside perspective. De-personalizing the process of creating job postions is a must. Building great job descriptions first and then filling those positions with the best, or most, qualified person (some of whom may currently work in the organization) is the first step in creating a very effective employee management system. Remember, it is the position, not the person when building a systems-driven job description.


_The Ownership Trap: “I Don’t Have Time to Plan and Make Changes”


Over the past year or two I have spoken to small business owners who tell me they simply do not have the time to spend on planning and making changes to their business.  They can describe to me the number of hours each day they spend in their business. They can articulate their frustrations and concerns about ‘just keeping up’. Additionally, they indicate they would really like to make changes in what and how they go about their business, but they  ‘don’t have time to do it.’ And there is the trap, the vicious trap of ownership.

Business ownership can be difficult. It can also be complex and all-consuming. Ownership can also carry more responsibility and accountability for the owner than they could have ever imagined when they had the brilliant notion of ‘starting my own business’. Ownership can also be a joy and enriching (financially, emotionally and experientially). The point is; Business ownership is what we the owners of our business make it…period. And if we want to make changes in our business organization, management, practices and effectiveness, it is our responsibility, the person staring us back in the mirror every morning, to set that as a priority.

If you want, or at a minimum need to make changes in your business to create more time, more effectiveness, more money or any of a number of improvements it is we alone who has to create that priority and act upon it. There are no magic pills, nor ‘wand waving’, nor  easy solutions to making the changes we desire.

I have found that when owners meet with me to engage in a planning activity or session, even when stressed about the cost (both financial and time); they come away with a new sense of ‘possibility’ and excitement. Clearly defining the changes one wants in their business, a specific plan to make those changes and the support of experts who can provide support in implementing those changes creates new excitement for the owner.

All of this can happen only if the owner takes the first – and the most important step – firmly establishing the commitment to make the change as high priority action.



_Selling Your Business: What’s In It for the Buyer?


Succession Planning, or the term I have adopted – Intentional Business Transition Planning – traditionally focuses the owner’s perspective only on meeting their end-game needs. And it first and foremost must do that. Make no mistake, when you clearly understand and articulate your desired outcomes the formulation of a comprehensive plan to achieve those outcomes is critical. What about the prospective purchaser’s needs? Do we really understand and plan for them?

We spend years and years planning and implementing marketing activities which costs dollars upon dollars to promote and sell our products and services…literally. We analyze our market, refine our message, and engage in many different types of marketing activities, events and processes all in an effort to convince prospective customers/clients/patients, that we can best meet their needs. But how many future ‘business sellers’, plan, and create the maximum value for the final sale of their business life…their business?

The work I do with clients to create an effective organizational and management structure and the systems which support that drives increased success and achievement of their long-term goals. I have written in the past on the subject of how such systems can both increase the effectiveness and efficiencies of a business while also reducing risks to the business. It is these very same structures and systems which become “key selling points” when you begin to market your business. In other words, the more attractive the business is in both “dollars & cents” and effectiveness of the ongoing operations, the more perceived and real value the business is to prospective purchasers.

When your business’ value has been established by an expert in business valuation it becomes the baseline for establishing a ‘selling price’. From the purchaser’s perspective, they will then begin to evaluate if that is a good value for them. One of those factors a buyer will, or at least should; use in determining if that value makes sense is ‘sustainability’. You may achieve great revenues and have cash flow projects (based upon recent past performance) that are very positive. However, if the prospective purchaser believes that value and those impressive numbers were built on the personality and reputation of the owner, and not on the overall functions, systems, practices and procedures of the ‘business model itself’, the value may be diminished. In other words, if the prospect believes that when the owner walks out the door, so to do key employees and customers/clients, the value drops rapidly and the business is not sustainable.

Intentional Business Transition Planning is the most comprehensive type of planning an owner will engage in if they want to maximize their return on investment. One of the elements of that plan must be evaluating how best to create the best possible business to meet the needs of a prospective purchaser.


_Intentional Business Transitions: A Model for Successful Succession Planning

This evening a local attorney, Jessica Jensen and I will be presenting a seminar for business owners looking to transition out of their business. We call this process ‘intentional transition’, because from our experiences we have seen owners who do little pre-planning, and implementation of any plans they have developed prior to selling their business. The results of this can be mixed and many times not as successful as they had hoped. For owners who want to maximize the value of their business at the time of its sale, and be satisfied with the return on their long-term investment the business can provide, the planning and implementation must be intentional and guided by a clear set of goals and expectations.

There are several core elements I believe are critical for every ‘succession’, or intentional transition plan to include. First, the ‘end-game’ for the owner must be clearly defined and written down. This clear delineation of the end result outcomes for the owner must be specific enough to guide all planning and implementation procedures and activities toward achieving those specific outcomes. It is critical these be written, as intentional transition plans are developed well before the actual transition is to occur. Having these written, reminds the owner and every support team member over time of what is to be accomplished.

Second, the transition plan itself should be viewed as a ‘business plan on steroids’. The set of annual business plans which each build on the previous, and are driven toward the end-game desired outcomes, must include more than the standard revenue and expenditure estimates, cash flow and profit/loss projections, but much more. Maximum value businesses are businesses that are systems-driven, not personality-driven. This requires a set of systems and corresponding changes in organizational and management structures which often times need to be added or modified. Transition plans not only have to account for the time lines of when these systems will be created, but also who will assist in the creation and the resources necessary to accomplish the desired goals.

Finally, a transition plan must have clearly documented measurable goals and clearly assigned individuals who are responsible for seeing those goals are accomplished.  It often takes a support team that includes; a management consultant, attorney, CPA/Accountant, financial advisor as well as others to support the owner in achieving the goals necessary to meet the desired transition outcomes.

A great succession plan is intentional and assures the owner’s transition from ownership to non-ownership is as successful as the owner desires it to be.

As a final note, I need to add one additional concept. Undoubtedly there will be readers who will ask: ‘Why should I go to the expense of adding systems to my business? Won’t those costs reduce my profit at the time of the sale?’ The answer really comes from the other side of this transition process… the buyer. When a buyer looks at the ‘financials’ of a business the information reviewed is simply a ‘snapshot’ of company’s recent past and current performance. The question they will want answered of you is: ‘How sustainable are these results? In a personality-driven business, the results are far less likely to be sustainable when the ‘personality’ leaves and therefore the value of that business drop significantly in the eyes of the purchaser. In a systems-driven business, the results are not personality-dependent, but rather systems-driven.  Investing in the systems up front will result in a more valuable business at the end.



_Why Me? Creating Your Unique Selling Proposition


“Why me?” Or, more specifically: “Why would someone choose my business over someone else’s business to purchase goods and services from?”

That is the question every business owner has to answer in very specific terms if they want to succeed in their business venture. Understanding what makes you, your products and/or services and your customer services unique in the market place has to be answered every day you operate your business. The answer(s) to this question may change over time, but reassessing ‘why my business’ on an ongoing basis better assures you will accomplish both your long-term and short-term business goals.

The answers to this question are as varied and nuanced as the business itself. They may include; experience, specific expertise, superior materials and products, or any number of other factors consumers use to make decisions about purchases.  The answers to this question will also become the foundation of any marketing strategy and goals you establish. The answers to this question will guide you as you develop new lines of business or expand your business into other locations or communities.

People buy solutions to issues, problems or desires they have. They buy plumbing services when they have water rushing onto their carpet. People hire an attorney to solve a legal issue they are presented with. There are lots of plumbing services. There are even more attorneys. What makes your services, your expertise, and your business the one those people will choose to solve their problems, issues, or desires? The answer to: “Why me?” will be critical in them choosing yours, over your competitor.


_From For-Profit to Non-Profit Status: Be Careful What You Wish For…

From time-to-time I have had a client bring up the idea of changing the status of their business from a for-profit to a non-profit. When I ask them why, the answer is universal:  “Free Money”. They seem to believe that by creating a non-profit, the money will simply come.  So let me ruin this wonderful but very naïve myth.

First, ask any Executive Director how easily money ‘flows’ into their non-profit and they will either; (a) laugh hysterically, or (b) weep hysterically. So the first myth about ‘money’ as a great reason to transition a for-profit business to non-profit is simply inccorrect. Whether the funder is a government source, foundation or individual donors,  money is very hard to come by.   The second myth about ‘money’ and non-profits is that the money is never ‘free’. Twenty years ago some private funding sources were not overly demanding when it came to accountability of the money they provided non-profits. Today, every funding source; governmental, foundations and corporations all demand accountability for both how non-profits spend their money, and, how a non-profit will continue the program into the future without their money..The third myth about money is that it is hard to retain over time. Many funders will provide seed money (e.g. a 1-3 year grant) to start a new program with the stipulation that the non-profit then continues the program on, without that source of money.  It simply is hard work to get the money, account for the money and then retain the money over time.

In addition to the ‘free money’ myth, the reality of ‘power and control’ loss by an owner should end any notions of giving up ownership of a company. In other words, moving from owner to executive director moves the ultimate control of the business from owner to a volunteer board of directors… who can fire the former owner and move on.

If you have a passion for addressing an issue in the community, start a non-profit, find others with the passion and then work to toward achieving your goals. Then with the money you make from your for-profit business, donate it to your newly created non-profit organization and serve the community in the areaa of your passion.  Non-profit organizations do amazing things for communities. Use the power, money, and influence of your for-profit to support a new, or any of the numerous non-profits who do those great things.