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Kenneth W. Keller: A few good expenses

Inside Business

Posted: August 18, 2009 7:57 p.m.
Updated: August 19, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Every business owner is on a quest to reduce expenses. Every organization is leaking money and costs can be reduced by 6 to 10 percent simply by doing things differently. Those changes will likely have minimal impact as to how an organization operates but will change the cash flow and profitability immediately for the better.

However, it does make sense to spend money when the return on investment will yield solid, positive results. Here are several places where an owner should consent to spending money for the good of the organization, even in difficult economic times.

The first is a fresh coat of paint. This is a metaphor for getting the workplace clutter free, cleaned up and spruced up. Included in this wise investment would include painting the walls, replacing stained or missing ceiling tiles, replacing burned out light bulbs and lighting ballasts, washing windows, replacing worn carpeting, putting art on the walls and all the other things to make the workplace look physically more visually appealing.

People are happier and more productive when the workplace is neat and clean. It doesn’t cost much to clean a place up and the morale will improve quickly with this kind of investment.

The second is in providing business cards for every employee. If you want to demonstrate to those on your payroll that they are important, get them business cards. Put their title on it and make them proud of the position they hold, the job you are paying them to do and show them that you are happy to have them as employees of the organization you lead.

The third is an all employee company lunch held on the premises. This is not a business lunch but an opportunity for all employees to gather together and be in one place at one time. As the owner, you do not have to give a speech, or share any news. All you need to do is be present and to tell each employee, to their face and as a group, “Thank you for your individual and team effort; your hard work and dedication has not gone unnoticed. It is sincerely appreciated.” Say nothing more. Smile and be sincere.  

The fourth is to create a theme for each quarter of the year. Choose something that you want employees to focus on and to improve. For example, in the fourth quarter of the year, the theme of every organization could be “We’re doing more than you expect.” Let each department decide on five things they need to do to go above and beyond for external or internal customers.

On the front of the shirt, put the company logo and the name of the theme. On the back, for each department, list the five things they will do better between October 1 and the end of the year. Pick one day each week when every employee (including the owner) is required to wear the shirt while at work. Employees will wear the shirt just 14 times before it being retired. The next quarter, pick a new theme and begin the process again.

The fifth is for the owner to identify something to thank individual employees for doing because it sets a good example for others in the organization to follow. Assume that you have identified three employees who have not been late to work all year. Write a note to each of these employees thanking them for their work ethic and tell them how much you appreciate it.

Mail the note to their homes where it will be shared with family and friends. Let the grapevine take over, as it will, and in the following years you should see a reduction of tardiness.  

The sixth is to put a moratorium on meetings with more than three people attending. Give up, cold turkey, meetings for two weeks and see if productivity improves, gossip is reduced and people stay focused on what they are supposed to be doing.

The seventh, which won’t cost a single cent, is to take the time, over a period of time, to visit with each employee, and thank them for being a member of the team. Not everyone should be thanked for working hard (some people don’t work as hard as you would like them to). Not everyone needs to be thanked for doing a good job (some don’t do a good job; some do merely an acceptable job). But everyone on the payroll can be thanked for being on the team, and the owner is the best person to do this.

These are simple investments that will yield strong results that will improve morale and productivity. Your job as the leader is to set an example. There is no time like the present to get started.

Ken 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.


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