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Kenneth W. Keller: Common contents of the owner’s toolkit

Inside Business

Posted: September 22, 2009 6:19 p.m.
Updated: September 23, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Albert Maslow is credited as saying, “If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”

Every owner needs a set of tools to use as a leader and to manage a business. A single hammer, or a set of them, simply doesn’t work.

Most owners have some tools that they use frequently.

Sometimes a tool sits in a toolkit gathering dust and dirt and is seldom used, but when the time comes, the user is relieved it is available.

Now is a good time to examine your existing set of tools and here are few you might want to add to your toolkit:

Vision statement
Owners set a vision which is then articulated in writing and verbally. All organizations that are on the path to somewhere should have a vision. Does this tool exist in your company? Do you share it? Often enough so that everyone is clear as to what it is?
This tool needs to be used at least once a quarter and more frequently when meeting with managers.

Mission statement
Owners determine the mission for the firm. A mission is what sets you apart and states what your organization does. Everyone should know what it is.

It is not “to make money” for the owner. This is a tool that should be repeated daily.

Daily huddle
Just like a football team meets before every play, having each department meet once a day to check in on goals, issues and obstacles should be a tool every business should use.

There are many different ways to hold these meetings but the most effective ones are short, stand-up and have a tight agenda.

Daily cash flow report

It never hurts to let everyone in the organization understand that cash is king in the world of business.
The content of the document is not to be announced to everyone; but the fact that the owner is getting this critical information daily will stress to employees

Continuing education
Everyone in business should be continuously improving themselves.

This could mean spending as little as 15 minutes a day reading an article or a short chapter out of a book, or asking a colleague in another industry how they handle problems similar to ones you might be dealing with.

Sales power hour
One of the best ways to power out of slow sales is to improve the sales abilities of everyone on the sales team. The devotion of a single hour once a week to teaching new sales skills and brushing up on old sales skills is time well worth spending.

It is a tool that will certainly bring a return on investment almost immediately to the company. If you want a faster return, do this daily.

Visual management
When Larry Bossert was leading Allied Signal he posted in the company cafeteria large graphs that indicated the performance on key indicators in the various business groups. Every day the numbers changed and that focused employees at every level on what needed to be done.

The six questions
Marcus Buckingham’s best seller, “First, Break All The Rules” provided a wealth of information on how managers could improve the performance of their employees.

What if every manager in your organization was required to meet with every employee for 30 minutes once a month to discuss their performance?

What if those sessions were started by asking: Do you know what is expected of you at work?

Do you have the materials and equipment that you need in order to do your work right?

At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

In the past seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?

Do you believe your supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about you as a person?

Is there someone at work who encourages your development?

Take these questions and put them on a laminated card, and provide one to each manager. Require that the manager leave the card on their desk and use it as a starting point for a monthly discussion with each employee, individually.

Having an empty toolkit does no one any good and having the wrong tools doesn’t work either. Add these tools to your toolkit and watch how focus and productivity improve.  

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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