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Ken Keller: Make sure you question a company’s changing needs

Brain Food for Business Owners

Posted: June 17, 2012 1:30 a.m.
Updated: June 17, 2012 1:30 a.m.

One of the more influential thought leaders today is Verne Harnish. In his book “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits,” he breaks down the demographics of business in America.

There are roughly 28 million firms in the US, 96 percent of which have fewer than 10 employees. The other 4 percent are above $1 million in revenue.

Of the remaining firms, less than 1-out-of-10, about 0.4 percent, ever make it to $10 million in revenue, and only 17,000 companies surpass $50 million.

Finishing out the list, the top 2,500 firms in the United States are larger than $500 million, and there are 500 firms in the world larger than $11 billion.

If you are reading this, odds are your company likely generates somewhere less than $50 million in revenue.

While there is competition locally, regionally, nationally and internationally for many industries, there also exists more opportunity than ever before.

A key question for every owner is a simple one: Are you so focused on the problems of today that you are failing to create a viable future for your business?

Today’s problems are not going away. As a nation we have had rising energy costs, particularly gasoline, since 1973.

We have competing needs to keep and maintain safe working environments for employees while trying to honor costly governmental regulations at various levels over and above the need to maintain margins.

The issues related to recruiting, hiring, training and managing a multigenerational, multicultural workforce have always been present.

Trying to take the time to create and implement long term strategic plans and the more tactical operational plans remains a challenge in terms of balance and focus.

 Complaining about these problems will not make them go away.  The best advice probably ever given about addressing the current reality is, “Face the brutal facts, whatever they might be.” Only by taking the time to turn complaints into facts can viable action plans be created to solve the problems.

 Talking about solving a problem without taking action to solve it is irresponsible leadership.

Are you guilty of all talk and no action (ATANA)? Unfortunately, many owners are.

In order to have a secure and prosperous future, more attention needs to be paid to what lies ahead.

Probably the single largest issue that needs to be addressed, or revisited, is the viability of your business model.

Whatever your current system of creating clients, delivering goods or services and collecting money, it can not only be improved, it might have to be totally reinvented because of external forces, many not even be visible today.

Some owners believe that “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” That demonstrates an attitude of complacency. Embracing change is essential.

A second area of focus is the development, evaluation and re-creation of the firm’s competitive advantage.

Businesses ride what they thought was a sustainable competitive advantage into the market and once there, discover it is easily copied or compromised by competitors.

One of the major responsibilities of every owner is to be looking at the radar to see hazards and opportunities that lie ahead.

Owners sometimes fail at this task because they are so focused on maintaining an unreasonable amount of control over not just what is being done in the business, but how it is being done.

Are you guilty of micromanaging?

Small business will continue to be the engine of growth in America. Whether your business succeeds or not depends on the willingness and attitude needed to face today’s problems head-on, and to address the business model, competitive advantage and level of control that will allow the organization to have a better future.

Ken Keller is CEO of STAR Business Consulting Inc., a company that works with companies interested in growing top line revenue. He can be reached at Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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