There will be times when nothing you do will work. You cannot seem to make a difference in the business, at any level. Maybe sales have flat lined or inventory keeps piling up and getting more expensive or even your long-term employees seem to be fighting and arguing with each and even with the customers! Perhaps worse, some event in the public eye has created controversy or possibly a catastrophe that has you wondering if you should even be in business. To say it another way, your business has hit the proverbial wall. No matter how hard you pound against it nothing seems to break through the wall.
You are Not Alone.
You are certainly not alone. Every business on the planet Earth has had issues similar to what you are experiencing and some of them are far beyond what you are dealing with. Some companies overcome them and some don’t. Examples are all around us. Remember the Samsung Note 7 exploding cell phone disaster. Estimates are as high as five billion dollars in lost value not to mention degraded customer confidence.
They may recover and prosper but they have lost quite a bit of their previous market share. Then there's the small problem of the new president being arrested on various corruption charges.
And even more recently, the reaction to the United Airlines violent removal of a passenger has hurt both their customers’ perception and their stock price. I am certain the police who came on-board the aircraft thought they were doing the right thing but events got completely out of hand and were captured on multiple cell phone videos.
Now they have more serious issues. Today’s social media environment was able to transmit the incident at the speed of light, and it has rocketed around the world millions of times over as the company stumbled around with different responses. Social media sites lit up with charges of racism and promises to never again fly that airline again. Even Congress has vowed to investigate. The bottom line is this is a public relations disaster for United.
Is It a Perception or Something Worse?
Going back a few years we had the television host and author, Paula Deen, who had social media explode around her use, 30 years earlier, of a horrible slur. The trolls and haters labeled her with all sorts of evilness but it turned out to be nothing more than a perception. The haters wanted her to be something she wasn’t. Some in the public perceived her to be less than an honorable person. Essentially she lost it all, the stores that sold her cookware stopped selling them, her publisher, and her television shows, all of it, fell apart. But with some image consultants she just waited until the storm blew over and slowly started to build up her brand once again. She has made something of a comeback and is on television again, albeit in a more subdued manner.
Much more often than these crazy problems are the old fashioned problems like slow sales, negative social media reviews of your products or just not making decisions in a timely manner. For some owners, letting go is absolutely fraught with danger. Ask yourself, has your business grown to the point you can’t keep track of each tiny development? Are you feeling like you are losing control of your “baby”? Are you reluctant to hire a few more people or promote someone to help handle the business?
Executive counseling can make all the difference in these cases. This isn’t a “business” problem so much as it is an “owner” problem. Talking with a professional consultant who can counsel you in how to grow the business and get past the small thinking will allow you, the owner, to see the future a little clearer.
Of course your business may not be having these types of over the top issues, but every organization has situations that come up, time after time, that can cause the C.E.O. serious heartburn. If you are seeing problems starting to boil up, like an increasing rate of customer complaints (you are tracking them right?), sudden high employee turnover, or my personal favorite, the water cooler scuttlebutt that indicates things are not exactly going swell, consider bringing in a business consultant. They can usually get to the bottom of the situation(s) and offer one or more solutions.
Be forewarned, the solutions may be ugly, or expensive, or simply unpalatable. The recommendations I’ve given have ranged from reducing headcount, removing one or two specific employees who are causing trouble, to dropping one obstinate customer. Often the answer isn’t so drastic, but rather simple. Perhaps some new processes have been recently instituted that need a tweak. Maybe your vacation schedules have left the customer service people constantly shorthanded. Until the underlying issues are discovered, you just don’t know the cause of the heartburn.
Please don’t fall victim to the swan song of those that think there is an easy, quick fix to the problem at hand. Often the phrase “more training” is heard. But when the main issue hasn’t been identified, the nebulous concept of “training” won’t solve anything. More often than not, a deep dive into the business is required to fully identify the problem that you are trying to solve.
But my favorite types of problems to solve are those involving good problems. How about a company that is bursting at the seams because of high order volume? Too much business, in a very short time, will draw out the flaws in your business model, your organization structure, your processes and so forth, and leave the customer wondering what happened. All of those can usually be solved with an outsider, such as a consultant, who doesn’t have the baggage of an employee or isn’t embroiled in office politics.
Get Help Quickly
When nothing you do seems to have an effect on the problem, that’s the time to bring in outside help. A basic rule of business is, the longer you wait, the worse a problem becomes. It is always bad to wait until events get out of hand. What did you expect, that the problem would self correct?
Yes, you should have resolved it sooner and it might have been less expensive had you recognized the problem quickly and applied your business acumen for a solution. But sometimes that’s just not possible, and, as we have seen in the news, events can very quickly spiral out of our control. Sometimes the problem was never in our control, as in the United Airlines event. Remember, the longer you wait, the worse the problem becomes. Every. Single. Time.
He who hesitates is lost. Act quickly and with resolve. Use a consultant!
As a business consultant I have one goal. That is to help small to medium size businesses create such high levels of economic value that together we redefine their respective industries. Thank you for reading.
Lee West - President, C.E.O.,
Tidewater Capital Services.