A Survey Shows a BIG Disconnect

My local business weekly newspaper published the results of a July 2014 Wells Fargo/Gallup survey of 603 small business owners.  The survey asked the respondents to list the single biggest business challenge they currently face.  In looking at the survey results, I found a couple of concerns that are counter to some core ActionCOACH concepts.  Here are the survey results:

CHALLENGE                                        %

  • Attracting Customers                               13
  • Government Regulations                         11
  • Financial Stability / Cash Flow               11
  • The Economy                                              11
  • Government (general) / Taxes                10
  • Hiring Qualified Staff                                  7
  • Product Improvements / Updates            6
  • Healthcare / Obama Care                           6
  • Competition with Larger Corporations    6
  • Cost of Running Business                           5
  • Credit Availability                                         4
  • Marketing / Advertising                              4
  • Nothing / No Challenge                               2
  • Seasonal Issues                                              1
  • Employee Benefits                                        1
  • Don’t Know                                                     1
  • Other                                                                1                                             TOTAL       100%
  First of all, nearly one third (32%) of the owners are challenged by exactly the same issues (Government Regulations, The Economy and Taxes) that their competitors are faced with.  At ActionCOACH we advise our clients and aspire to live “above the line” of choice, taking Ownership/being Accountable/being Responsible for our results, rather than being “below the line”, Blaming others/making Excuses/being in Denial.  (For additional information about above/below the line, visit ozprinciple.com and/or read or listen to The OZ Principle by Roger Connors and Tom Smith and Craig Hickman).  Regulations, The Economy and Taxes are not challenges to the business owners who operate above the line and refuse to make excuses for their less than stellar results and treat these issues as opportunities to outpace their competitors. The BIG Disconnect I found within the survey results is the 9 percentage point difference between the top challenge, Attracting Customers (13%) and Marketing / Advertising (4%).  This gap demonstrates one of the top issues my colleagues and I find at our prospects and new clients, namely not viewing marketing as an investment aimed at “buying” customers.  It seems that everyone wants more customers, but do not have a realistic attitude about marketing.  It always amazes me how many business owners I meet who believe that simply having a better mousetrap and opening their doors will attract customers.  Today’s market environment is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing due to the greater opportunities to cost effectively reach very large audiences with our marketing messages.  It is a curse due to the tremendous amount of “noise” that there is out in the marketplace.  Our clients who view marketing as an investment, who therefore, establish proper and useful metrics, and are prepared to respond to what their metrics tell them, consistently outperform their rivals. If you are not pleased with the number of customers/clients/patients you have, I suggest that you contact me or one of my ActionCOACH colleagues before you contact a marketing consultant.  If you build the proper foundation and expectations, your marketing will be much more effective when you begin your next marketing campaign.

Would I Fire My Client If I Owned His Company?

During a coaching session the other day, one of my clients asked me a very interesting question.  To paraphrase his question –> given his shortcoming number one, and shortcoming number two, and etc., “if you (meaning me) owned my (meaning his) company and I was your employee, would you fire me?”  At first I was, I must admit, speechless.  After gathering my composure I realized a couple of things:
  • All of the shortcomings he mentioned represented areas that are outside of the ownership zone. They all focused on working IN the business rather than working ON the business. They revolved around tasks that he could, and should delegate.  My client owns a mid-sized manufacturing company with a front office team that has the theoretical capacity to accomplish most, if not all, of the items he mentioned.  On the other hand, his front office team may not be the right team to accomplish the items.  Which led me to my second realization …
  • Being an owner is very different from being an employee. An owner has several prime responsibilities, among them are:
    • To create and maintain a success environment for his team
    • To create, communicate and live the company’s Mission, Vision and Culture (M/V/C)
    • To design, build and lead the company and its team to ensure consistent delivery of the company’s M/V/C
So my answer to his question was that as an employee I might fire him.  As an owner however, he, as is the case for all of us, could improve.  I told him that it is time to build the kind of team to whom he could confidently delegate, not abdicate, those items that he shouldn’t be doing, is not good at or simply doesn’t like doing.  Effective and successful delegation will enable him to concentrate on working toward growing the business and fulfilling the company’s M/V/C, in other words, to grow as an owner.