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Ken Keller: Advice given, heard and ignored

Posted: June 22, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 22, 2014 2:00 a.m.

 

Being a trusted advisor is a place of honor. When you reach a certain stage in life, you are compensated not for what you do but for what you know.

As one business owner said to me, “I don’t need to know the ‘how to,’ I need to know ‘what to do’. And that is where you come in.”

One of the hardest things to accept as an advisor is that you give advice, and try to make a difference for the people and companies you advise and you are listened to, what you say is heard but it is ignored.

I’ve long since learned not to take being ignored personally because when the advice I give is not taken, it is usually because it is beyond the capability of the company to accept and implement.

Years ago I had a client who owned a successful but underperforming company. The owner asked me to turn things around, make the company more profitable and make employees more productive.

This particular owner was cautious, slow to make decisions and I realized that perhaps he needed time to process.

I sat down and shared my thoughts as to what needed to take place for the company to improve their financial performance.

I told him the goals for the company were vague, and goals for the employees, were non-existent. People were not aligned in the various departments. No one was going to take the initiative for fear they were doing something wrong.

His management team had some bright spots but all were managers in name only as they did not have either the authority or responsibility to make decisions managers normally make.

The managers I spoke to identified employees who should have been terminated years before for a wide variety of offenses. But because the owner pushed back whenever it was discussed that an employee should be disciplined or terminated, the managers had given up trying to get rid of anyone.

This impacted morale in the company, particularly of those employees who were hard working and dedicated. The owner did not comprehend that hard working employees do not want to work with people who are slackers. This work ethic division split the employees into two camps.

When firms grow to a certain number of employees, I encourage the hiring of a full time Human Resources Manager. The company then has someone to administer various laws, rules and regulations, can perform or arrange for training and development and can be the outlet for employees who want to vent and bring forth problems that they might have with other employees, including their supervisor.

I also determined that the company lacked a strong financial focus; it wasn’t just that the financial information wasn’t shared. It turns out the financial reporting was almost non-existent. I advised the owner to have a monthly financial review with the Finance Manager and the CPA to see how things compared to the annual plan and to determine which corrective measures to take.

I discovered there was no annual plan, no strategic plan. No sales plan. No prospecting plan. No marketing plan.

Planning was not something that this company did. All of which ties back to the other problems that surfaced when I started to dig a bit into the company operations.

It took me years to understand the mindset of many business owners. They often think that all of their success is a direct result of their work alone and not the efforts of many who contributed.

At some point they hire a trusted advisor to look at their business and make some recommendations.

Instead of viewing those ideas for improvement in the spirit of how they were given, they are seen as either a direct threat to the owner and they are rejected out of fear; or they are measured against what the owner has done thus far and set aside to be implemented later, which means never.

Owners are often their own worst enemies. It is sad because it doesn’t have to be this way.

Ken Keller facilitates The Wise Owners Advisory Boards, bringing business owners together for education, sharing and on-going success. Contact him at KenKeller@SBCglobal.net. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

 

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