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Ken Keller: Hope isn’t a strategy that the best businesses use

Brain Food for Business Owners

Posted: April 8, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 8, 2012 1:55 a.m.

It is hard to believe, but a quarter of the year is now history. Why are some businesses thriving and others not doing as well? 

The gap can be explained comparing and contrasting the best versus the rest.  

The best have strong business models. These organizations have clients and allies, not customers. They have ongoing revenue streams and strong relationships in the supply chain. 

The rest think, say and act “we hope customers do business with us.”

The best create and work from a written plan. The plan is usually long term, strategic in nature and includes an annual
action plan all departments are responsible for executing.

The rest have a semi-thought-through or poorly conceived plan somewhere in the owner’s head. 

The best delegate appropriate responsibility to get things done. This does not include giving away the company checkbook. It means that management is trusted and empowered to get things done to the satisfaction of the client within established guidelines.

The rest suffer from ongoing underperformance because people lack the authority, responsibility and tools to get things done. People are simply not trusted.  

The best evaluate their people continuously. Performance reviews are scheduled and held; the people in these organizations know what is expected of them.

The rest don’t believe in evaluations because they take too much time, aren’t done well and don’t work. No one considers that these excuses have any bearing why evaluations don’t work.

The best believe in “sharpening the saw.” People are learning all the time. The better organizations are learning organizations. Continuing education is a sustainable competitive advantage.

At the rest, learning is optional, and everyone opts out. The company suffers from the school of hard knocks, but employees are taught only what they need to know.

The best don’t make or accept excuses. When something goes wrong, responsibility is accepted, learned from and all move on. 

The rest spend time being caught up in the “blame game,” resulting in punishment but not always of those responsible. 

The best focus on results. At the end of the day, the best understand that intention, action and activity do not equal results. Trying doesn’t count, either. 

The rest spend their time focused on everything but results.  

The best hire the best. These companies realize that great people get great results. 

The rest hire those that aren’t hired by the best.

The best have clear priorities. Everyday people focus on the vital few things that really matter. These organizations understand key performance metrics and monitor them continually. 

At the rest, most of each day is filled with working on the trivial many and nothing much gets measured. The clock is watched all day long.

The best always try to find a better way. The best companies are never satisfied with how things are because they understand that improving means distinguishing themselves for their clients and from their competition.

The rest are satisfied with what they have; good enough is good enough. The rest don’t understand that fair, OK and good are the enemies of great.

The best weed out underperforming people. The best companies know that allowing people who aren’t working to a high standard lowers the standards for every employee. High performing employees resent the presence of those who are not keeping up.

The rest tolerate poor performers.

Hope is a word rarely spoken at the best organizations. 

Ken Keller is CEO of STAR Business Consulting Inc., a company that works with companies interested in growing top line revenue. He can be reached at Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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