“Keeping Boomers Fit for Work” was the headline of the lead article in theWall Street Journal’s Marketplace section on December 28, 2011. The focus company was Harley-Davidson, which represented what is going on at a lot of companies. The key points made were that these firms have:
An older, more fragile workforce
These workers have hard to replace skills (ask anybody who owns a machine shop about their aging workforce and hard-to-find younger replacement workers)
Jobs where it takes years of training for many of these jobs
Implemented exercise routines for employees that are specific to their jobs
Are you doing the same for your company?
These companies are putting a lot into their human capital, i.e. their employees. Are you (or your clients) putting that same kind of investment into your business and its people? In other words, are you keeping your business fit? Let’s look at three areas.
What about your leadership structure? Is it too top heavy with you, the owner, a major part of everything? It might be time to start implementing a delegation strategy. Are there generational issues you must deal with? This could be a family member in the business or just the great differences between workers of different generations.
For example, a couple of my clients have stated that their younger workers are not motivated by bonuses for a job well done. They are often more interested in non-financial rewards. This is often hard for owners and more senior managers to understand but it must be dealt with.
And then there’s marketing. Always a subject that brings a look of confusion to many faces; it’s become even more confusing and faster paced with social media. My last CEO/owner group meeting was on the topic of social media and Internet marketing. There wasn’t one person in the room (myself included) who felt they were up to speed on it, in control of it and at the same time most realized they have to be doing something in this area. If for no other reason than in a few years it will be a necessity. As younger buyers take over within their customer organizations the same old-same old ways of reaching them and communicating won’t apply.
Ask yourself, is your marketing as fit as the Harley workers mentioned above?
Finally, there’s the issue of balance. As the pace of life quickens with social media, instant communications and just in time everything it becomes more and more important for owners and their employees to not sacrifice quality for speed. There is an old saying in business that the customer can have two of the following three: the best quality, the best service, and the best price. But it’s impossible to have all three at the same time.
You don’t want to sacrifice quality or service because you’re moving so fast you’re out of control. You must pay attention to the fitness level of your business. It’s hard to have long-term success and fitness if you’re not in-tune with what your people need (and you need).
To address the above issues I have a new program I called, “Buy Your Own Business tm – again.” A few years ago a sales manager thanked me for helping my client buy the company she worked for. She said he was a, “Breath of Fresh Air” to the business. It was a good solid company and at the same time the employees felt constrained because the owner was content with the status quo and the employees had lots of (good) ideas that he wouldn’t implement.
It hit me that there are a lot of businesses that need a Breath of Fresh Air. If you know of anybody who wants to make a good business even better, let me know. This program can really help spur growth and innovation.
Staying out of bad deals, avoiding bad customers, bad loans and just bad business in general should be on the top of all of our lists.