It may not be broken, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be done better or prevented from breaking!
A complacent attitude can miss opportunities for improvement, that can not only make staff happier but also increase productivity and profits.
Sometimes, business leaders can lose sight of things they can be doing differently because they are used to repeating the way they had always done things, and let’s not forget they are busy dealing with everything, in the way they know how to.
An open mind to exploring a situation differently can make a huge difference to the outcome of that situation.
Amelia – So, let me tell you about David, I met him at an external meeting almost 2 years ago now, and when we were talking, he told me he started his business in 1986, employees 175 people and has a turnover of £36m, and they sell components to the marine, airline and automotive industries.
David’s a charismatic, confident character that was proud to tell me that they have operated through 2 recessions and have come out the other side, dealing with the issues as they arose.
At that point some would say, that’s great, it’s been very nice to meet you and leave it there.
But, loving to understand what has led to a company’s success and interested to understand if they really let the recession control them rather than they control it, I said that’s great, can I just ask few questions?
David responded positively so I asked 4 questions:
- My first was – how did you navigate your way through the recessions of 1990 and 2008/9?
Upon feeling my interest, he relaxed a little and said – Well to be honest it wasn’t that easy, orders fell, and I had to let some key staff go, getting additional finance and trimming back to get us through it.
2. Also, during the quieter period of the recession did you take the opportunity to review and potentially refine how you operate?
He replied, not really from what I remember, I remember we were all (the top team) scratching our heads in the midst of the recession continually trying to keep up with the orders we had. We had to get hands on again in the operation to some extent because we lost some key people as part of our trimming exercise.
- So, what happened when the situation turned around?
He replied, orders started to come through at a fast pace and we were hastily trying to recruit people to fulfil the orders, it did get a little tough because everyone that survived that difficult time were doing the same, as in trying to recruit. Luckily, there was an increase in European workers who wanted the jobs, our team culture changed from before the recession, but it did seem richer in character for it. And almost like starting again, pushing and persuading our clients we were still their best option, it was hard work but we got through it eventually.
- And lastly – How is your company coping at the moment with the effects of the uncertainty?
David -Again, it feels a little like a recession with orders down but this time we have also been affected by higher costs like in 1990 and we’ve lost some of our workers because they are worried about what is going to happen to them personally. We have stopped investing in our growth at the moment, as have some of our customers. We just need to wait (again) and see what happens.
Amelia – Having considered all David’s responses to my questions my response was:
You don’t need to just wait and see what happens or hold back on investing in your company for the future because you can use this time to take a wide and deep look into your company and understand specifically which areas are affected and what options you have to do something different or better.
- You import/export so look at your supply chains to see what other options you have.
- Look into your customers and see if/how you can appeal to a broader customer segment.
- Considering your products and services, think about what other opportunities could present themselves if you explored further
- And importantly, consider what your competitors are doing and try to get a step ahead, if they are not doing anything and you are you could win over them and leave them behind.
There’s a lot of areas that you can be looking at, think about how motivated your operational staff are, I’ve mentioned this because lack of motivation results in boredom, lower productivity and complacency or worse they could leave and move somewhere that fires them up more.
I’ll tell you how we help companies like yours, our clients have included large companies such as O2, Nationwide, EDS etc and smaller companies just like yours, that either manufacture, provide logistics services, procure or sell internationally including retailers and hotel/restaurant chains.
We poke our noses into all areas of the company using our simple 3 step improvement model where you will get a clear action plan from it that prompts you to address or improve all the areas identified during the review.
By the end of it your company will not only operate smoother and more efficiently but will be more resilient against external things you have no control over. Your staff will be fully engaged and retrained where relevant, they will be more motivated and you will see their productivity increase all because you have considered options and taken opportunities that you hadn’t done or thought of previously.
And do you know that this initial improvement review phase doesn’t cost a lot, we achieve this through a series of workshops and meetings, providing you with information and simple ways to begin to take control of what your company’s future looks like in this changing business landscape.
David had a deep thoughtful look on his face with a little frown as though he was chewing over not only his responses to my questions but also my response to him, in wanting to help in these difficult circumstances I decided to surprise him, by offering to conduct a free 3 step improvement review, saying that if we didn’t identify anything of benefit we would not charge.
He looked a little surprised, how could he refuse to use this period of treading water more effectively than he had done previously.
Sometimes, it’s all about being given the opportunity to open someone’s minds to possibilities, after all we are all creatures of habit in some way.
David smiled, and said how can I not take you up on this offer, because from talking to you I’ve realised we’ve potentially missed opportunities previously to improve things or consider other options.
Amelia – I didn’t need to respond to each question because as David was talking he could hear some of the obvious missed opportunities from his own answers, at times all it takes is to discuss the right things with the right independent person, which can make all the difference to their businesses here and now, and in future.
We don’t often offer a free improvement review, but I wanted to help David to see what can be achieved when you’ve previously believed nothing can be.
A meeting was arranged with David to talk through our approach for taking his company forward.
Roll forward to now, and we have since been working together, seeing the company taking different routes and doing things differently and better, they now have people wanting to work for them which has reduced their recruitment costs and look slightly but positively different from where they were when we first met. They have not been treading water but making a real difference to their future.
And what’s more – from my side what was only a 15-minute initial discussion has led to a fantastic working relationship helping the company go from strength to strength.