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Ken Keller: The formula for business success

Brain Food for Business Professionals

Posted: July 14, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Updated: July 14, 2010 4:55 a.m.

The shelves at most bookstores are crammed with interesting books. Unfortunately, most business owners don't have the time to read everything they would like to. Some don't read anything at all, particularly when it comes to books on business.

The book "What Really Works: The 4+2 Formula for Sustained Business Success" is highly recommended to anyone looking to improve the focus, direction and results of the organization they lead. The book is based on scientific research, which is a rarity among business books.

The first part of the formula sounds so basic it is almost too embarrassing to state: People need to know what is expected of them at work. It is amazing how many people working today cannot provide an answer to the query: "Why are you on the company payroll?"

It sounds like a simple question. Many employees working for you today could not answer it from a company contribution perspective. They would be able to answer it from a personal perspective. Therein is one of the reasons why results might not be up to par with the desire of the owner.

The best way to make sure people on the payroll know what their goals are and how they are performing related to those goals is for the immediate supervisor to spend the necessary time with them on a regularly scheduled basis and perform performance evaluations. During a performance evaluation, coaching needs to take place to make certain that those responsible for achieving specific goals have the tools, education and support they need.

This kind of conversation is rare. This conversation is often dreaded by both parties and takes place in an atmosphere of anger and frustration. It often takes place months or even years after it needed to take place.

In some companies, it is never clear what is expected of employees; in other companies, employees are micromanaged and interrupted so often the work is never completed.

The second part of the formula is the need to unite the entire organization. This meshes with the efforts of the individuals into something that propels the business forward. In order for the team to stay focused, do the most important things and ignore the rest, a united goal is essential.

Everyone needs to know what the goal is, and the goal needs to be emphasized and reemphasized as a mantra. This is done so that people at every level are clear about why they are on the payroll and what they need to be doing everyday to help the company achieve the goal.

Caution: The goal of the company is not to make money for the owner. There is no faster way to disengage employees than to have this as the stated goal. Who but the owner will get excited in achieving this goal?

The third part of the formula is that having the right people in an organization impacts the most as to how well the business operates. Having the right people in the organization, in the right position, doing the right things at the right time is critical.

So is having the courage to understand that for some people, the job or the company is not right for them, and that they need to move on for their benefit and for the health of the organization.

This is why larger organizations are difficult to change; the negative, disengaged employees are not only present in large numbers, they have been in place for a long time. That is not to say that the same problems don't exist at smaller firms; they do. The difference is that in a smaller firm, there are fewer places to hide.

The fourth part of the formula is having the best possible managers in place. A great manager has the right skills and understands that having the necessary talent and skills and the ability to get results through people.

That is what a good manager does: They get results through people. Many managers working today do not understand that concept. Too many managers serve as roadblocks to progress, do not have the right skills and have set a personal agenda before that of the organization. Should this type of individual be a manager in your company?

It is July. There is still plenty of time to achieve the company goals for the year. These four parts to the formula can be in place and working well (clear expectations, a unifying mission statement, the right people and all focused on the right results) and it will mean next to nothing without strong and effective leadership at the very top, from you, the owner.

Now is the time to step up and do what needs to be done.

Ken Keller is president of Renaissance Executive Forums, helping top executives make better decisions through informed peer perspective, resulting in better top and bottom line results. He can be reached at His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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