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Ken Keller: Getting results from the midyear retreat

Posted: July 2, 2014 6:45 p.m.
Updated: July 2, 2014 6:45 p.m.

At the end of June, the company held a retreat.

Managers were invited to a local hotel for the day. The owner emailed the session would begin at 8 a.m.

Things got started with the announcement that the goal was to turn around the performance of the company for the second half of the year.

Following this quick orientation, the results for the first six months were revealed.

Information was kept vague, using terms such as “sales were up three percent” and “profits dropped by five percent” because of “an increase in expenses” instead of sharing the actual numbers.

No one except the owner and the finance manager knew what to make of these generic comments, as there was no point of reference.

“We are failing,” said the owner. “We must not; we cannot have another six months like this.”

The managers looked at him and each other, wondering what he was talking about; they felt that they were working pretty hard.

The rest of the day was spent setting three major goals for the company to achieve. Each manager was scheduled to each meet with the owner the next day for a one-on-one meeting.

The owner arrived late to the office, missing the meeting with his sales manager. During the second meeting a client called, so the operations manager left to go back to his office.

The finance manager met with the owner and said that based on his responsibilities, none of the three company goals affected him. The boss agreed, and that meeting was soon over.

The owner never rescheduled with the sales manager, and he never called the operations manager back to finish their conversation.

The results were predictable at the end of the month. Sales were down, and expenses had increased. Profits were nonexistent.

This was revealed the next time the managers met. The owner could barely contain his anger and frustration.

Leaving the meeting, the managers wondered what had caused their normally good-tempered boss to be so unlike himself. The owner wondered why he tolerated such lousy performance.

A quick analysis reveals significant issues in this company.

The owner practices poor time management skills, which sets a similar example throughout the company. He also lacks the follow through required to lead a successful management team.

If the owner had established the three goals and used time at the start of the retreat for input and clarification from his managers, there would likely have been more buy in.

The management team would have spent an entire day focused on what the company was trying to achieve in the second half of the year.

With the exception of the accounting manager, it is clear the remaining managers do not understand financial metrics of the company, but more critically, they have no idea how they can positively impact those numbers.

The managers are managers by title not in deed. The owner has given them the responsibility for something without giving them any authority.

Finally, everything but those critical follow-up meetings seemed to be a priority to the owner. This man might be the owner, but he is certainly no leader.

This is a company of one: the owner. He has no one to blame but himself for the performance of his company.


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