Are You Busy or Bored? (August 2010)

Are you busy or bored at work? It’s a question worth asking and the answer can probably give you insights into your company’s financial position even if you’ve never seen an income statement or balance sheet.

If you’re busy (and there never seems to be enough hours in the day), odds are that your company is staffed appropriately and is profitable. This is especially true if you look back several years and realize that you and those around you are doing more with less, have improved processes, and are more efficient than you were several years ago. Frankly, this is what it takes just to stay even with the competition in the marketplace.

If you’re bored . . . and you can tell that others around you are bored at work, chances are that your company is struggling financially. Regardless of your role, you’d better be busy enough that you’re adding value well beyond your salary. And I don’t mean 10% or 20% more . . . that’s not even enough to cover employment taxes and fringe benefits. I’m talking about adding value of 2x, 3x, 5x or even 10x your salary. Depending upon your industry, that’s what it takes to pay for corporate overhead, capital investment, and to earn a fair return for the shareholders who have invested in your company.

If you and those around you are bored, you’d better do something about it because either one of two things is going to happen. Either someone is going to realize it and single you out as a cost reduction opportunity or your company will not survive very much longer. It may take months, even years, but eventually the company will wither and die. Even if it doesn’t go out of business completely, it will be a lifeless shell where people are showing up but are just going through the motions. Sooner or later, however, chances are that you’ll end up unemployed.

I recently heard about a factory worker who was frustrated about his plant closing. At the same time, he admitted to being bored at work and “hardly working” for years. What’s amazing is that he really didn’t make the connection that it was the actions (or lack thereof) and those around him that brought about his state of unemployment. Sure, he held onto a job longer than he should have, but no company can survive a large percentage of unproductive employees indefinitely.

Whether you make twenty thousand, two hundred thousand, or two million dollars per year, you have to add more value to the business than you’re taking out in order for the company to survive.

So, as you go about your next work day, ask yourself if you are busy or bored? Regardless of the answer, ask yourself if there are ways you and your co-workers can add more value to the business? Adding value is the best way of assuring continued employment by working for a profitable company.

If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you. Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to

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