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Ken Keller: Twenty-five ways to be a better owner

Brain Food for Business Owners

Posted: December 18, 2010 6:02 p.m.
Updated: December 19, 2010 4:55 a.m.

The final print issue of US News & World Report magazine cover story was “50 Ways to Improve Your Life in 2011.” The subjects included stories with suggestions on personal health, money, career, mind and the world.

There are many ways to improve a business financially, as well as increase the engagement level, focus and productivity of employees, enhance relationships with clients and vendors and improve the leadership function. Here is a list of 25 impactful ideas to become a better owner in 2011. 

1. Have every employee make a list of three things that they believe the company needs to stop doing. The owner should read every item and implement as many as possible as soon as possible.

Give full credit where credit is due, and tell those whose ideas were turned down the reason why.

2. The owner should make his or her own ‘stop doing’ list, and this list should be read every day.

3. Engage your employees in a dialogue about what activities the company does well; and ask employees what activities would contribute to its success.

4. Vow to observe more, listen more and say less. Then do it.

5. Stop using the words “so,” “but,” “well” and “however” when beginning a sentence.

6. It may be your company, but you don’t do everything that happens in it, and you shouldn’t take all the credit for everything either. Rid your vocabulary of “I” and replace it with “we” when talking about the company. 

7. Teach the people who are on the payroll how they can improve cash flow and increase profitability. If you don’t teach your employees these “mission critical” things, who is going to teach them?

8. Share the impactful numbers of the business with employees. If you want your employees to be more mindful of how they spend their time, you need to share the impact of wasted resources on the vital numbers of the company.

9. Advise your people “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions.” You might want to order a nameplate with those seven words on it; it will have a terrific return on investment. When someone tells you about a problem, challenge, opportunity or situation, respond back with “How would you handle it?”

10. People crave recognition. Ask people how they want to be recognized. Use that knowledge to create a better work environment for everyone.

11. “That is the way we’ve always done it” thinking should be banned from the workplace.

12. Hold people accountable for getting things done. Not just some people, everyone. Don’t play favorites.

13. Schedule fewer meetings and make an effort to make the ones that you do have important. 

14. When a raise is given, explain why.

15. When a raise is not given, explain why and what it will take to earn one.

16. Create a company calendar with key dates on it, and share it with all employees. The more “in the know” people are the more they are likely to focus on hitting deadlines.

17. Focus on improving hiring and on-boarding processes. Seek assistance from outside the company if needed.

18. Perform a state-of-the-company address at least once a quarter. Let people know what the key goals are and how the company is doing versus those goals.

19. Everyone in the company knows at least one employee not carrying their fair share of the workload. Do the right thing and meet with those individuals privately, and have a discussion about what they need to do to change their attitude, effort, focus and results.

20. Create an “Opportunities List” for the company and leave it on your desk where you can review it every day.
21. Devote resources and create formal marketing and sales plans over the course of the year.

22. Personally confirm that every employee has been formally evaluated in writing by their supervisor. Keep a checklist to make certain that no employee is missed, accidentally or otherwise.

23. Start formally cross-training people. The more employees understand about their “internal customers,” the faster the silos between individuals and departments will disappear.

24. You should not expect anyone to be committed to the company as you are. But you can increase everyone’s level of commitment by putting into place a “pay for performance” program that rewards employees for meaningful results.

25. Make a vow to spend time every week with clients, vendors and employees. Rotate the calendar so that you connect with different people each week. This will improve morale and help you keep your finger on the pulse of the company.
The growth of a business starts with the owner and then flows to the leadership and management team until it touches all the remaining employees. If more is desired in the year ahead, it begins and ends with the person at the top. This list should help get you started.

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 His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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