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Kenneth W. Keller: A few year-end thoughts on business

Inside Business

Posted: December 30, 2008 9:48 p.m.
Updated: December 31, 2008 4:30 a.m.

My normal column provides practical advice and counsel to those in business, but there are occasions when it is important to stop and take a broader, more personal look at the world of work.

As this is the end of the year, the last issue of The Signal in 2008, it is the right time to do so.

The year started out strong economically and came to a screeching halt sometime between summer and fall. Apparently, no one saw it coming and now everyone is reacting.

Reacting means different things. Owners who may have a growing business with strong cash flow are now tightening their spending habits and shedding jobs wherever possible to reduce nonessential costs.

For many owners, one nonessential cost is someone who is not helping to grow the revenue base or helping to maintain good client relations.

I speak for myself when I evaluate cost by asking, "is this helping me or hurting me?" and then I make a clean decision.
Who are these people?

In some cases, these people are whiners, complainers and those who don't work well with others in a team setting. These are people who do not add value to the company in tough times. Put another way, they are on the "expense" side of the income statement and not on the "revenue-producing" side.

It is true and sad that many good, hard-working people have been terminated, laid off and furloughed from jobs they loved. This happens in a free-market economy when things take place beyond the control of the owner or the employees. For those unemployed reading this, I have been there with you, more than once, and my empathy and sympathy are with you.

Reacting to the government means spending money. It is a useful problem solver that works well with anything that comes up, kind of like a hammer around the house. Only this tool is expensive and someone will be paying for it down the road.

I am grateful that I enjoy the work I have chosen. I wake up in the morning happy I have selected a profession that allows me to serve others. From that I receive a great deal of joy and fulfillment.

If I could make a single wish and it could be fulfilled, it would be that everyone on the planet find a job, but more important, a job where they are fulfilled and engaging their interests and their passions.

Just consider how more productive organizations would be, how much better customers could be served and how conflicts at places of employment during work hours would decrease if individual passions were engaged and focused on achieving worthwhile results.

This joy would transfer to families and alleviate the tension that exists at home because people are not happy with what they do for a living.

How much more joy in the world would there be if people and their passions were combined and used?

My passion allows me to serve my clients; they provide me an income that permits me to live a comfortable lifestyle.

They are kind, intelligent and sharing individuals who teach me a lot, and I do my best to provide valuable services to them.

Imagine how much better the world of business would be if everyone had more customers and clients who were friends and allies instead of adversaries and enemies engaging in conflict about service, pricing and quality. Would this not make a workplace an even better place to be each day?

Unlike many business people, I have a group of fellow professionals, my peers, who support me in my business endeavors. They provide me with the essential elements that I need to make business and life better, including accountability, knowledge, perspective and tools.

How many business people would benefit from having the ability to simply pick up the telephone or sit in a session to seek candid, unfiltered advice from a peer, as opposed to being required to have all the answers to every problem and to have strategies for every opportunity?

I am thankful for the support and understanding of my family and friends who have provided unqualified support. Their patience as my business has developed through the years has been one of the foundations of my life, through the tough times and the good times. How much more confident would every person in business be with the unflinching backing of their families and friends?

Finally, I am thankful I have the ability to reach so many people each week and provide them with knowledge and tools to improve their businesses and their lives. I have been deeply touched by many members of this fine community who have responded to my articles.

I am regularly called, e-mailed and told in person how much people appreciate what I provide to them through this weekly column.

That alone encourages me to continue my writing and sharing each week.

These are difficult times, but with difficulties come opportunities. I hope 2009 is the best year ever for your life, your family and your business.

Kenneth W. 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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