Too Much of a Good Thing is a Bad Thing

As a business owner and CEO you need to be out front, especially when a crisis develops.

Now, I know you’re well intentioned and you’re doing everything you can to either take advantage of opportunity or keep your business afloat. But being out front trying to grow the business or improve profitability doesn’t mean suffocating your business and its people.

There’s an old saying: too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Too much direction, too many ideas, too many meetings, too many projects, too many emails. Too much of anything creates chaos and complexity – that equals extra cost.

It’s never a good time to be adding unnecessary complexity and cost to a business even if its well intentioned.

Manage results, not efforts.

Nobody knows how long these shelter in place orders or the closed economy is going to last. When and how businesses will reopen, what buying behaviors will come back and what will change is still up in the air. 

Singularly focus on your long term vision and use your experience and leadership skills to move your team closer to achieving it each day. Even though you are not in control of political and environmental conditions, you are in control of what you choose to focus on and the decisions you and your team are making.

Excessive engagement

Unfortunately I’m seeing numerous examples of micromanagement coming to the forefront among business owners and CEOs during this crisis period.

Ask yourself:
• Are you continuously telling people what to do and when to do it? 
• Are you the one always coming up with new ideas and solutions? 
• Do you call all the meetings?
• If you were reporting to yourself, would you feel whipped around from task to task?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re in the weeds. Bottom line, as CEO, you’re not doing your job.

Take a step back and figure out what’s making you feel like you need to micromanage all the details.

• If you can’t trust your direct reports, is that something about you or do they deserve your lack of trust? Trust comes from the reputation a person has established as a result of consistent behaviors in line with your values. If you don’t have trust in members of your team, why are they on your team?

• Keep your direct reports focused on the vision and the results from action items getting done on time.

Some ideas worth considering:

• Call or videoconference each of your top 20 customers and engage in business conversations. Be a thoughtful and helpful ear to their struggles. Search for what their performance indicators are and whether there are opportunities for you to take strategic actions.

• Talk to your banker. Let then know what’s going on with your business. Offer them industry insight to help allay their fears and anxieties

• Look for gaps in your management team vs. the path you need to take to achieve your long-term plans. There’s a lot of good talent out there. Are you missing someone in a key functional area?

• Develop your company wide plan to re-engage customers. When everyone in your industry is shut down, what must take place to get greater cash flow, improved profitability, and greater marketshare than your competitors the day your marketplace reopens?

• People have found alternative solutions for their needs over the past 6 weeks. Are you assuming your customers are going to come back to you? Your differentiated, true competitive advantage is what’s going to bring your customers back. Make certain you have identified what matters to your customers today. Figure out, in value proposition terms, why they should come back to you.

• There’s lots of talk about innovation and creativity. Were you not being innovative or creative prior to the pandemic? If innovation is the answer to reversing your company’s fortunes now, what kept it from being a higher priority within your business earlier? Coming up with innovative solutions helps keep a business dynamic.

But, be careful with your innovation initiatives. Innovation may just be a mask for unjustified spending on ideas that aren’t all that great.

Run ideas through a check and balance exercise before moving forward. Are your ideas game changers or just incremental? Will implementing specific ideas be simple or complex? Will your best customers, the ones who were high volume and high profit contributors, see the value in the solution? What is the expected ROI and by when? Plan to re-examine your justifications within 6-12 months to determine whether or not they panned out.

By all means, introduce new products, engage in new services, take risks – just be smart about it.

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Brian Oken has helped dozens of business owners and CEOs become better leaders, build more effective teams and grow bottom-line profits.

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