Riddell: More customers, better employees—all by losing twenty cents
Not Business As Usual
As you undoubtedly know, the word “paradigm” is commonly identified as a particular pattern or model and many organizations operate within relatively strict boundaries and guidelines inherent in their pattern or model. Not so many years ago it seemed like every business book and column made some mention of the word “paradigm” and how breaking one opened up new avenues for creative solutions. We were all directed to “think outside the box.” (Once in a management training seminar I was asked just what a paradigm was. I quickly replied “twenty cents.” I was outside the box.) As time has progressed, however, many came to realize that some paradigms were quite beneficial and thoughtlessly abandoning them proved to be quite the disaster. For small and large businesses however, their ongoing success is largely determined by maintaining what is working while actively pursuing alternatives that might work even better. The key is knowing where to apply the limited energy in breaking down the existing paradigms and replacing them with improvements.
I always suggest that if owners or managers are really serious about challenging their operational status quo then they really need only to focus on two areas—customers and employees. As the sole purpose of the business is to find and retain new customers, then this is a great starting point. The “finding” part is basically sales and marketing. A simple internal question to ask is “How are we doing our finding?” Are we merely doing it the same way as everybody else because it is the path of least resistance or have we really thought through the viability of the approach? The simplest way to engage in this exercise is to start with the customer, study his or her framework of product or service requirements with communication habits, and work backwards. Then simply ask yourself two questions. The first is does the way we are currently conducting business meet these product or service requirements along with the communication habits? The second question, assuming that the answer to the first was positive, is are there opportunities where we could do a better job in meeting these same requirements and habits?
Addressing the employee paradigms are of equal importance. Virtually every conceivable answer and implementable solution to the above topics are dependent upon someone implementing them correctly. This is the retaining part of the purpose. So finding and keeping talented employees becomes the alpha and omega of a successful business. Yet so often large and small firms get themselves all tied up in their underwear with stupid personnel policies often firmly rooted in that age old paradigm of “we’ve always done it this way!” I have often counseled managers and owners that when an employee asks why a certain policy is in place that they take some time before firing off some idiotic response. They, the managers or owners, simply need to find out why the policy is what it is, if there might, if fact, be some legal basis for it, and determine whether it still makes sense or not. If it does not, and many “we’ve always done it this way” programs do not, you need to thank the employee for bringing it to your attention and immediately remove the stupid policy. The key to remember here is good and talented employees will not tolerate working for a stupid organization or manager. So don’t be stupid!
Following a successful international business career, John Riddell turned his attention to small business/entrepreneurial pursuits that included corporate turn-arounds, start-ups, teaching, authoring business and sports columns and serving as VP for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce directing its Center for Entrepreneurial Growth.
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