In working with various entrepreneurial and small business clients, I have noticed a trend that beckoned to be explored further. Let's face it, business owners work hard in their businesses. So hard, in fact, that sometimes their vision can be clouded and their ability to make decisions can be stymied due to feeling attached to aspects of their businesses that are no longer serving them well. This "hanging on" tends to always boil down to an emotional attachment that derails strategic business or fiscal thinking.
The passion you have for your business and what it brings to market is part of what has made you successful. The key is to not allow your passion to be misplaced into thinking that what may have served you well in the beginning is still serving you well today. To follow are five areas I consistently see as emotional road-blocks to effective decision-making in businesses:
1. Customer Segments: I am always amazed at how poorly businesses identify their most profitable and least profitable customer segments. As a result, their efforts are wasted on markets that everyone is going after, while ignoring sub-markets or segments that are screaming for attention. Additionally, a customer segment that was a business' bread and butter in its start-up years becomes a drain to resources and profitability, yet the appreciation factor felt for these customers keeps the business serving them in the same way. The key is to find a different way to serve them or redirect them to other resources with loving appreciation.
2. Capabilities: Have some of your offerings become commodities in the eyes of your market, forcing price wars or a lack of distinction compared to competition? I see all too often the least profitable offerings being promoted heavily because they haven't been analyzed considering certain intangible, yet direct operational impacts on profitability. The result is the company spending more time delivering its least profitable products or services, distracting its team members from being able to market and deliver its most profitable ones.
3. Employees: Do you have long-time employees who cannot seem to step up to the demands of your growth? Change is never easy, especially for people. Growth dictates an evolution of the business in order to deliver in greater capacities or with higher efficiency or effectiveness. Sometimes, however, a business can outgrow some of its employees in what is required to step it up. As a business owner, you have two choices. Train and advance, or find a better match for the employee, perhaps in another company.
4. Processes & Systems: How you did things and are doing things within your business versus how you may need to do things should be an ongoing assessment process. Sometime the greatest efficiencies can be realized from the simplest shifts if you are only willing to explore and allow your team members to explore options as well.
5. Identity: Is your company's name still serving you effectively? This is where I find the greatest emotional attachment with business owners. In one case, a company planning to franchise nationally had a name that was already being used in multiple markets coast-to-coast. In another case, customer feedback reinforced a company name was sending the wrong message. And in both cases, the owners were reluctant to change to high-appeal, distinctive names because of their investment in the names to-date. Even though they were citing monetary investment, it was really about their emotional investment.
If an aspect of your business no longer serves you, prior investment, emotional or financial, should not be used as a reason for denying the reality right in front of your eyes. Force yourself to see your business through clear lenses and you will find decision-making takes on a whole new realm of effectiveness.
Sherré DeMao is author of the nationally acclaimed books, 50 Marketing Secrets of Growth Companies in Down Economic Times, www.50marketingsecrets.com, and Me, Myself & Inc., www.memyselfandinc.com, Her column seeks to help business owners build and grow sustainable enterprises and businesses with economic value and preference in the marketplace.