Here is an excerpt from another terrific article written by Jeff Haden for BNET, The CBS Interactive Business Network. To check out an abundance of valuable resources and obtain a free subscription to one or more of the BNET newsletters, please click here.
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Business owners pay incredible attention to detail — to even the most minute details — during a start-up. A maturing customer base, reasonably steady cash flow, and added layers of management naturally create a shift in focus and attention.
That shift in focus can be a good thing… unless in the process your business starts to drift away from what made it successful in the first place.
Here are [four of] eight easy ways to tell your business may be losing its edge — and jeopardizing its long-term future.
[To read the complete article, please click here.]
1. The parking lot is empty at 5.30 p.m. Once there weren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done; now there aren’t enough hours in the day to maintain a “proper” work-life balance. Growing a small business requires tremendous effort, effort that doesn’t always stop at 5 p.m. If you or your employees aren’t staying late at least occasionally, that’s a sign you’ve lost the drive and excitement that once propelled your business. Employees want to stay late when their work is meaningful. Start projects or initiatives everyone can rally around. Find an “enemy.” Build a sense of mission; that’s your job.
2. Meetings are an end in themselves. When you started out you didn’t have “meetings.” You pulled people together to share news, you asked for ideas, you solved problems… but you didn’t schedule meetings. Spending time in meetings was a luxury you couldn’t afford. Now you meet regularly simply because that’s what successful companies do; sometimes you meet just to decide if you need to have additional meetings. Any meeting that does not result in decisions, action items, and accountability isn’t a meeting — it’s a social occasion. Get back to holding as few meetings as possible, take hardcore steps to make sure any meetings you do hold are effective, and otherwise stick to getting things done.
3. Interpersonal skills are more important than results. Remember the programmer who seemed a little odd but built your first database? Remember the salesperson who was a little too demanding with in-house staff but landed all your big customers? Remember the warehouse worker who seemed to have no friends on the staff but was amazingly organized and kept product flowing? Once upon a time you overlooked a few minor social faults; now you worry more about how individuals “get along” than about how they perform. (I can trace the turning point in a plant’s fortunes to the day upper management decided how supervisors worked together was more important than how each of us worked with our teams.) Some behaviors should not be tolerated; otherwise, manage through any interpersonal squabbles and find ways to build an effective team when that team includes a superstar. Talent deserves some — not a lot, but some — latitude.
4. The lights are on… but no one is home. Early on you worried about every dollar. It was easy since you had few dollars to keep track of. You turned out lights, turned down the heat, re-used packaging and paper… you worried about every dollar. Now your focus has shifted over a few zeros and you only worry about hundreds of dollars — but if a dollar was worth saving when you had very few, isn’t it still worth saving when you have a lot? Lights left on are always a waste. Heat left turned up is always a waste. Just because you have it doesn’t mean you should spend it. When you lose focus on spending, so will your employees — to an even greater degree than you.
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Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about management as he worked his way up the printing business from forklift driver to manager of a 250-employee book plant. Everything else he knows, he has picked up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest CEOs he knows in business. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books, including four Business and Investing titles that reached #1 on Amazon’s bestseller list. He’d tell you which ones, but then he’d have to kill you. Visit his website at www.blackbirdinc.com.