Golden Business Ideas

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

When Getting Tough Is Not the Answer
Although the saying rings true—and has lots of value in tough economic times—sometimes those who are tough can be a bit too tough when they get going and their efforts can become counterproductive.

For example, Robert was hired as a vice-president to resuscitate a failing division. Since he knows his job depends on whether and how fast he can succeed, he decides he’s going to be the toughest of the tough, and that’s where he commits error no. 1. Since the division is on the skids, he concludes that the real problem is not the economy—something he cannot control—but the staff—which he thinks he can control. He concludes that employees are incompetent, lazy or both. So off he runs at full speed to correct the problem. But instead of investing time to examine his premise or look for pockets of competence and experience, he effectively writes off the entire staff and brings in some new people with general business knowledge—but little or no specific experience with the division’s operations.

Result: The entire staff, already demoralized by their unit’s poor performance, is further demoralized by Robert’s assessment of them. Now, even if an employee has a good idea for improving results, he or she remains quiet.

Error no. 2: Robert accepts, without question, the advice of the newly hired people—revising procedures with little regard for testing their past effectiveness.

Result: Further loss of morale among staff; some even begin exhibiting signs of passive aggression—finding subtle ways to sabotage results.

Error no. 3: To prove how tough he is, Robert raises the productivity bar, demanding his division increase output by 10%.

Result: In the effort to meet these higher levels, errors and product defects rise—further weakening staff spirit and confirming Robert’s premise.

Error no. 4: When the vice-president sees no signs of improvement but, instead, evidence of further slippage, he redoubles his efforts—only to redouble the problems.

Conclusion: The really tough manager doesn’t have to be tough all the time.

Customer Surveys That Really Work
Surveys that ask customers to rate only a company’s performance are usually worthless because they fail to ask the right questions.

What are the right questions? The two keys ones are: Where does the company need to improve, and how can it accomplish that goal?

Suggestion: Don’t try to conduct the survey yourself. Instead, hire an experienced interviewer to poll past, present and prospective customers. That way, you’ll get a wide variety of perspectives, making the survey more useful.

Why the Boss Should Sign the Checks
Except for the largest of companies, the CEO or CFO should personally sign all the checks the company pays out. Reason: That’s the most effective way to see where the money is going.

Added benefit: Knowledge that company management sees all the checks deters frivolous spending and even fraud.

An Invitation
The JofA publishes a monthly collection of Golden Business Ideas and invites readers to contribute their favorites (for attribution, if you like).

Send your ideas to contributing editor Stanley Zarowin via e-mail at zarowin@mindspring.com .

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