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Ken Keller: When the owner gives up the crown

Brain Food for Business Owners

Posted: September 28, 2010 7:26 p.m.
Updated: September 29, 2010 4:55 a.m.

One of the key research findings outlined in Keith McFarland’s book, “The Breakthrough Company,” is that there should only be one crown worn in every organization.

That crown should not adorn the head of the owner. It should be placed on the head of the customer.

That’s a tough message for an owner to receive. What owner hasn’t sacrificed his blood, sweat, toil and tears in an effort to start, grow and beat the odds of success to have a business?

Hasn’t the owner earned the right to wear the crown and have all the trappings of business ownership royalty?

The findings suggest that by providing the customer with the crown, two things happen. The first is that the customer will know he is truly considered royalty by the company, which is not something that takes place all that often. Truth be told, many companies pay lip service to their customers.

The second is that with the customer as the focus, employees align. No department is considered more important than the other; none is less than any other. Each department plays a role in serving the customer, and those roles are delineated.

Of course, those employees who don’t subscribe to this theory are usually identified before they are hired or immediately thereafter. 

Because the owner has given up the crown, he or she can make the change from being the all-powerful, all-knowing Commander-in-Chief to being Chief Talent Scout and Coach.

The business no longer needs a leader to make sure every customer is taken care of because when the customer is royalty and every employee understands that, the role of the internal leader shifts.

The missions of the Chief Talent Scout and Coach are to develop the talent in the company. This is done by recruiting successful people to the organization, on-boarding them into the culture and placing them in the correct role.

The role of coaching is to take someone who is already successful more valuable to the company. This is done a number of ways, including providing learning opportunities so that talented individuals can help take the company to the next level.

Part of the new role of the owner is to prevent loyalty from becoming a liability. This is done by ensuring that each member of the organization is evaluated objectively to clear and established goals.

Often businesses have employees who have been outgrown by the company. This is a sad but true fact, and it is often overlooked in the day-to-day dynamics of a business. Allowances are made due to longevity with the firm, but in the end, the question arises if the employee is contributing to the level needed.

One of the key responsibilities of the Chief Talent Scout and Coach is to make certain that the performance-evaluation process is actually carried out. Sometimes a manager will delay conducting performance evaluations because of the time required in doing them properly, but the real reason is that they do not want to have a difficult conversation with an underperforming employee. 

The end result of this process is a happier and more satisfied group of customers, an aligned organization that knows what the priorities are and an organization filled with talented people who work for a growing and profitable organization, thus ensuring employment with a future.

Can you say Southwest Airlines?

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 (661) 295-6892 or Mr. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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