View Mobile Site

Ask the Expert

Signal Photos


Find ‘the main thing' for your business

Posted: January 20, 2009 8:09 p.m.
Updated: January 20, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Kenneth W. Keller Kenneth W. Keller
Kenneth W. Keller

The sign on the window said it all: "Gone out of business - we forgot what business we were in!"

Most businesses are in the business of taking care of the needs, wants and desires of their customers. It is a sad but true fact that many people employed in businesses don't see it the same way.

What are those employees concerned about? What business are they in? They are in the business of getting a paycheck, of having a job and of making sure they have benefits. There is nothing wrong with that; it is commendable.

But the two are in conflict with each other - it doesn't have to be that way.

Businesses can get what they want (everyone taking care of customers) and everyone can get focused on doing the same thing, all the while earning a paycheck and building security into the organizations they work for and with.

This happens when everyone is "singing from the same sheet of music."

It starts by hiring the right people.

These are people who have and demonstrate initiative. These are people who want to be at work, not just because that is where their paycheck comes from, but because they do something worthwhile and of value.

What they do is rewarding, not just monetarily, but intrinsically. These are people who are winners not whiners.

It continues when people are given candid, unvarnished evaluations about what they have accomplished versus the goals that have been set.

It isn't a matter of liking someone or not liking someone, it means being fair and evaluating people on what they have done. It also means helping them with coaching and counseling to get them over the rough spots when they need help, sought after or not.

This also means understanding that the current place of employment is not for everyone; that some who were hired do not have the skills, abilities or talents to do what is asked of them.

Those individuals need to be either recast within the organization in a more suitable position or be recast out of the company where another organization will be a better fit.

This dance of hiring, evaluations, promotions, recasting and renewing will continue for as long as the organization does.

Regardless of who is employed, whatever the position, a central focus needs to be created, communicated and reinforced from highest level to the lowest level in the firm. Above it was referred to as the "same sheet of music."

In layman's terms, it is called "the main thing."

"The main thing" prevents people from being scattered and defused. It is probably the most underutilized management tool compared to the concept of a company-wide calendar. It is the tool of choice of great leaders.

Having a "Main Thing," organizes people around a single principle that brings people together in a common purpose.

It is a great unifier.

Churchill, in the darkest days of the British Empire, stated simply "We will never give up" and it gave hope to hundreds of millions fighting around the world.

Lincoln, as he took his oath of office as president, told a divided nation that it was the intention of his administration to "hold, occupy and possess" federal property in the states of the seceded South. Those words unified the North, and left no doubt as to Lincoln's policies.

Why did Churchill and Lincoln create a "main thing"?

Their purpose was to have single, simple focus that everyone could rally around and support.

The responsibility of leadership is to make sure that everyone knows what the main thing is and what they are expected to contribute to the realization of it.

People not buying into the main thing are, in effect, by their actions and words, conspiring against the company by fighting against it, what it stands for and wants to achieve.

These people have no place in the organization; they arepart of the past and not part of the present and future.

What business are you in? Now is as good a time as any to re-think what appears to be a simple question. It's the complexity that gets in the way of success and it should not.

Keller is President of Renaissance Executive Forums, which brings business owners together in facilitated peer advisory boards. His column represents his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


Most Popular Articles

There are no articles at this time.
Commenting not available.
Commenting is not available.


Powered By
Morris Technology
Please wait ...