Over the weekend a Focus Group I facilitate met in Naples, FL to once again take an in-depth look at the financial, marketing and operational sides of their businesses. Many of these seven franchisees rank among the sales leaders in their system, yet they value the importance of getting together each quarter to share, challenge and learn from one another.
Among the key metrics tracked and reviewed are Percentage of Salaries compared to Sales and Sales per Employee. One member has lagged in these categories for a while, so the group recommended it’s time to address the situation by either changing the makeup of the workforce, reducing headcount or increasing sales to make the ratios fall into line.
Not surprisingly, there was pushback to this suggestion, with the franchisee saying things like: “In our market we wouldn’t get a single resume if we advertised for anything less than what we currently pay,” “We couldn’t get out the door this much sales without the skills these folks bring” and “If we were to reduce salaries even slightly, there would be an uprising.”
Of course, the other owners and me countered with: “How will you know until you try?” “Might it be possible bringing in new energy in a few positions might give you more capacity?” and “So you’re happy with your employees maintaining their income while yours continues to fall as health insurance and other expenses rise?”
Owning your own business means you take all the risks. You cover mistakes out of your profit. You pay yourself last. Every franchisee or small business owner I know previously worked for someone else at some point during their career, so they’ve seen both sides. It may seem cold-hearted to make tough decisions about your employees, yet it’s part of the responsibility that comes with being the boss. As one of my first clients told me nine years ago, “The only place a business will run itself is into the ground.”
When the numbers don’t add up and cash flow is tight, you have to make the difficult call to protect the organization. Otherwise, one day you may wake up and be out of business.
I’m speaking today to a local Rotary group. They invited me back three-and-a-half years after my first presentation. Came up with new jokes, new stories and a new ‘takeaway’ angle for them – especially after the person who invited me said, “I really don’t care what you talk about just as long as you’re funny again.”
Seems I heard the same thing about this time of year in 1978. It was my senior year in high school and the graduation committee – made up of my soon-to-be fellow alumni – asked me to deliver the speech at our baccalaureate. I remember saying, “Wow, I’m honored. Can’t wait to share my views on life, education and making a difference in the world.” The head of the committee said, “I don’t think you understand. We just want you to tell jokes and make everyone laugh.”
I guess it’s not only actors who get typecast (see: Culkin, Macaulay).
So my message today will be about two recurring themes I’m seeing in my recent coaching work with clients. With the challenges of the past few years, leaders are struggling to: remain positive you’re making the right decisions (confidence); and, present your solutions in a way that leaves no doubt in your audience’s mind of the position you’re taking (conviction). The first is an internal emotion, the latter external.
There’s no magic bullet or secret formula for overcoming these. You just have to look in the mirror each morning and think, “I’ve got this one.” As things occur in your business, remain steadfast in your belief everything is going to work out fine. You’ll do the right things.
As the saying goes, “Never ever let ‘em see you sweat.” And when you’re having ‘one of those days,’ take a deep breath and share a funny story. Laughter heals.
Can it really be that long since ‘Miracle on Ice’ when the United States Olympic hockey team – a group of amateur and college athletes – beat those big bad nasty Russians who were 27-1-1 in the previous four Olympic tournaments?
Mike Eruzione. Jim Craig. Herb Brooks. Those legendary names are synonymous with the pursuit and achievement of excellence for those of us old enough to remember the original tape-delayed broadcast. A then unknown Al Michaels counted down the seconds and said, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” (The hair on the back of my neck still rises whenever I see or hear that dramatic highlight.)
Things have changed a lot since then… most notably the greatest athletes are professionals – including those who participated in yesterday’s U.S. upset of the highly favored Canadian hockey team. The Olympic credo “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (Swifter, Higher, Stronger) needs to add “Profitus” as a fourth value.
As a capitalist nation, there’s nothing wrong with that transformation. Heck, when USA basketball fell to Bronze medal status in 1988, our solution was to assemble the Dream Team to win back Gold. Take that world. It’s all about the Benjamins… which means we’ll never again see a bunch of 20-something amateurs endure a grueling seven-month training regimen like the one Brooks put his team through and create an ending only Hollywood could produce.
So we’ll just have to enjoy the memories of three decades ago and celebrate today where we watched USA 4, Russia 3.
Continuing the countdown of the Top 10 things I learned this year:
Go For It – A few months ago I read where Seth Godin wanted to invite a select group of 10 small business owners to spend a day brainstorming. The cost would be travel to and lodging in New York City and a $3,500 charitable donation. I decided to apply and wrote a compelling business case about why the marketing guru should pick Success Handler. He replied immediately with a personal e-mail. A week later, he sent another… notifying us we weren’t among the chosen few. While that was disappointing, it convinced me that I’m one click away from anyone on the planet. In 2010, my biggest Rock is to reach out to a lot more smart people and see what happens.