1 opportunity overlooked by (almost) every entrepreneur

Listen to the podcast here:

“Every dollar we spend has to count right now”

Every business today is in the people business. Entrepreneurs often overlook the opportunities locked up in the people that are working for them or with them. A business can find new revenue or improvements to their margin by engaging the people that are actually doing the work. In my experience, an entrepreneur will pay close attention to the people in their business when times get tough and when every dollar has to count. It’s unfortunate but the reality is that limited money and resources force creativity which becomes the catalyst for changes and improvements. Where is the best place to find creativity? From the people in your business.

People. People. People.

Employees want to contribute value to a business by leveraging their skills for a paycheque, yet many entrepreneurs are stuck trying to figure out how to use their staff to impact the results a business is getting. You need to look no further than the recent headlines surrounding the massive layoffs at GM (and soon to be Ford) to see how companies are struggling to use their people to create value. Historically, employees have filled many specific job descriptions that are quickly being replaced by technology which is changing the manner in which people can be used in a business. I believe that the folks working inside a business can be used to add value over and above specific job descriptions if given the opportunity to do so under strong leadership.

It’s not unusual that an entrepreneur will be frustrated with the people they have in their business if they don’t perceive or use their team to add value to the business. This leaves an entrepreneur with two (or three) choices:

  1. Keep trying to get better results doing the same thing and leading the same way (which by definition is insanity)
  2. Look at the variables you have to work with and figure out how to work with them
  3. Fire everyone (although its hard enough to attract people that this option is counterproductive unless they really want to leave)

Being able to view each person’s time as a resource can change how you treat them and set them up for success. If every person in your business had to contribute to your bottom line, what would that look like? I have this theory that technology is removing most of the “reporting” and “recording” work leaving people to do the “analyzing” and “implementing” work. If you think about it, your people know the most (even if they don’t realize it) about your business and should be in positions to leverage that knowledge to add value. They know how customers are using your products or services, where they are frustrated with processes that are not working and if harnessed properly, this feedback can be used to increase your bottom line.

Part of the resistance I face when I share this with entrepreneurs is that they think “people are being paid to do a job” so therefore they should do it. While I agree with the response I believe that the management exercise is more nuanced than simply giving job descriptions to people. I think people need to be lead and held accountable but I believe this starts at the top and works its way down the reporting lines. If you as a leader believe every single minute spent on people needs to get a return, how do you structure your team and your technology to enable this? What would happen in your business if every person had to contribute to the bottom line? What would that mean? It probably means you would need to employ some new technology. It probably means you could improve the experience your business gives to customers or clients. It probably means you may have to rethink your business (listen to last weeks episode for more on this topic).

Changes in the workplace have been occurring since the beginning of time. The key is to understand whether or not your business is leveraging people in new ways and giving employees what they want or trying to hang on to the traditional way of employing people and their skill sets. The best opportunity to build a great business will come from the people inside your business.

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