I sometimes jokingly refer to myself as a janitor. In my work as the Turnaround Authority, I go into businesses and clean up their messes. And I have seen some doozies in my career, many of which were caused by poor management or a business owner just not paying attention to what’s happening in his company.
This post is for business owners or CEOs that may be looking for a few ways to improve their business in 2014. Here are my top five resolutions for you to help avoid the troubles I’ve seen and the messes I’ve worked to clean up to get the company on the path to success and profitability again.
1. Leverage the talents of others
Don’t aim to be the smartest guy in the room. Hire people smarter than you, who have skills and experience that you don’t have. Take an honest inventory of your own strengths and weaknesses. We all have areas we aren’t as strong in. Successful business owners and CEOs recognize this fact and hire to compensate for their weak areas. Hire those people to help build a strong team.
2. Know where you are financially and always check on your books
As more layers of management are added to a business, the further away an owner may get from the details of the business’s finances. If you are making payroll and paying your bills, you may have turned your attention to other areas of growing the business. Always know where your business is financially. Have someone double-check your payroll. Poke around your books and ask questions on anything you don’t understand.
3. Be aware of conditions that affect your business
An effective CEO keeps up to date on what is going on in the world or the economy that could affect his business. For example, if you own a distribution company you need to know if shipping costs are expected to rise or if oil prices are going up.
Or is society changing so that the market for your product may be shrinking? In 1990 there was a Blockbuster on every corner and many people made it a weekly ritual to go peruse movies. Then Netflix, streaming video and options to watch movies on the Internet came along. All the Blockbuster stores closed late last year.
4. Ask for help before it’s too late
When you are confronting an issue that is beyond the expertise of you or your staff, don’t hesitate to call a consultant or turnaround manager. One with integrity will tell you if you don’t need them. In an initial meeting, it may become evident that you can handle the problems on your own. But if you do need help, it’s better to call earlier rather than later.
Some of my sadder cases have been where I was called in to help a company that could have been saved if only they had called earlier. Sometimes it was just too late to avoid bankruptcy. With others we were able to save them but they were significantly downsized or had suffered large financial losses.
5. Pick a plan and stick to it
As a leader it’s your job to establish a clear direction and to march that way. I’ve seen so many problems arise when CEOs make a plan and garner resources to accomplish that goal, then change their minds later and start over in a different direction.
This often happens with CEOs who are facing a crisis and are unsure of what to do next. They end up following the advice of the last person they spoke to — immediately acting on everything they hear. Gather the best information you can from all relevant parties and make your best decision on which direction to go in. Then stick to it.
However, you do have to continually monitor the numbers, and if they continue to trend downward, react quickly.
Add your own personal resolutions to this list to help ensure your success in 2014. And as a final resolution, resolve to stick to your resolutions!