Like many others, I worked construction jobs during my high-school and college days. I remember one particular job remodeling a bar when the boss asked me to knock a hole in a solid concrete wall for an electrical outlet. He handed me a hammer and chisel (and a small hammer at that). I’d been doing this kind of work long enough to know those weren’t the best tools for the job and had worked around the boss long enough to know it was no use arguing with him about it. Fortunately, another contractor I also worked for arrived as I was starting to work. I asked him if I could borrow his electric demolition hammer and a few minutes later the job was done. The boss had a surprised look on his face when I asked: “What’s next?”
Obviously, I no longer work construction, but the underlying lesson remains valuable to this day. Are you using the right tools for the job? I can’t count the number of times that I have started to work with clients and find that their financial reporting is lacking, they have multiple unanswered questions about their business, and people are busy compiling data but have very little useful information. At the same time, I find they are versions behind important software upgrades, are using outdated versions of Excel, and their computers are painfully slow (one recently suggested I use a laptop at their office which is the same model as one I retired years ago . . . no, thanks). Equally frustrating, people don’t know how to use the tools that they do have (they haven’t been to a training course to enhance their skills in years).
People cannot be at their most productive if they don’t’ have the right tools and aren’t properly trained. A true craftsman would never set out to work without making sure his saw was sharp and he had the right hammer for the job. Why should professionals in your office attempt to do their job with anything less? You might as well ask them to perform with one hand tied behind their back while hopping on one leg.
I once experienced this exact situation with a new client that was two major releases behind in software upgrades to their ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system. There were upgrades available at no cost except for the time and energy it takes to put them in place. They literally had the tools at their disposal but were choosing not to use them. We moved ahead with the first major release upgrade (a necessary step) and plan to follow with the second shortly thereafter.
Whatever job you are doing, ask yourself if you are using the right tools for the job? Consider whether you have upgraded your software releases lately and take the time and energy to explore what new capabilities are available to you. Think about how some simple software changes or upgrades can improve work flow changes to streamline processes and produce a better result at the same time.
In addition to having the right tools, make sure your people know how to use them. Too often, companies avoid spending on a $1,000 training course and then spend $10,000 paying that same employee to get the job done in an inefficient manner over the next twelve months.
Finally, eliminate any “that’s the way we’ve always done it” attitudes from your company. Continually search for new and better ways to do things and challenge whether or not current processes are the best approach (particularly in light of new and ever changing software tools).
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 For more information, visit www.homza.com
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