October 14, 2011

To survive in this economy, everyone has to do more with less. We need to explore new ways to do business. These are realities for any small business today. However, business leaders often make things worse by their actions.

That’s why I found this Bloomberg article:


about the downfall of Harry and David fascinating. It’s by far the best review of what went wrong with a company that is the largest employer in Southern Oregon (my home base).

This article mirrors my experience in the airline industry. During a period where the airline I worked for was losing a million dollars a day during the 80s, I had six different bosses in 14 months. I often joked that I earned my MBA then (More Bosses Annually).

The pitch was the same for every new boss: “You are part of the problem. You don’t know what you are doing. I know better.” Then, after failing to understand the airline business, they would walk away with a fat severance check and the process would start over. The next boss would say the same things: “You are part of the problem. You don’t know what you are doing. I know better.”

This experience has shaped my coaching practice. In my book I point out that few businesses fail because they did one thing wrong. They did a series of things wrong over a period of time because they stopped listening to their customers and employees. As a marketing coach the first thing I do when invited into a company is to listen. I’ve found that most mid-level executives and front-line personnel know exactly why a business is failing, but no one at the top wants to listen to insiders. So, they pay consultants to tell them the same things.

To make your company grow, start really listening to your employees, especially the ones that have day-to-day contact with your customers. A good way to do this is daily, short, stand up meetings (no chairs). Focus daily on what everyone can do to make the customer experience better. Take 30 minutes a day to do this, then go out and win the game.

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