Last month, I wrote about the importance of staying motivated. The other morning, I was training with a group military cadets and someone mentioned the word “fun”. More specifically, they had said that the morning workout wasn‘t much fun. For the record, few among us consider our morning workout fun. If you push yourself, it’s hard work. But the fun part is in the results.
The same goes with most business problems. Sure, there are days when business is fun, but most of the time it is just plain hard work. The fun part comes in seeing the results. Years ago I was working on an acquisition and the bookkeeper at the target company asked if I ever smiled at work and what made me happy? She had the accounting package open on her desktop and I pointed to all the negative numbers in red ink. I told her that I’m happy when red ink turns black. That’s when you know you have made an impact. It’s hard to smile when you’re awash in red ink.
I see businesses all the time that try to avoid the “hard work” part of running a business. They avoid the difficult decisions that incrementally improve a business. And make no mistake, most business improvement is incremental. It comes from doing countless small things better each day with an eye toward long term improvement. In almost all cases, people are looking for a silver bullet. They are looking for that one easy thing that will change their business from losing money to profitability overnight. That silver bullet almost never exists.
Left unattended, small problems get worse. Management avoids dealing with the lazy employee because it is easier to “let it slide”. . that employee infects another and now the company has two bad employees. They avoid dealing with a slow paying customer hoping that the situation will resolve itself . . . then payments stop altogether and the account is a total write-off. They don’t invest in better technology hoping to get by with what they have . . . then there is a system crash and the company is down for a day, or two, or more. They settle for inadequate financial reporting since it has gotten them this far . . . then the bank gets tired of it all and refuses to renew their line of credit. Problems don’t go away if left unattended. They get worse.
On the flip side, fixing one problem actually has the opposite effect. Getting rid of the lazy employee motivates others. Clamping down on a slow paying customer forces them to pay you (although they probably start slow paying someone else). Upgrading technology allows people to complete work sooner with less frustration. Better financial reporting allows for a higher level dialogue with the bank and true insight into business performance.
As problems are resolved, it is almost always the case that more opportunities to improve the business present themselves. Day by day, little by little, the business is transformed from a poor performing organization to one that is getting results.
As you head out on this July 4th weekend, try to have some fun so you’ll be ready for the hard work of improving the business when you get back to the office next week.
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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