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Three Common Business Screw Ups

Three Common Business Screw Ups

February 13, 2014

From TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes to the more recent America’s Funniest Videos, everybody seems to enjoy laughing at people's screw ups. And at baseball games, all eyes are glued to the giant screens to watch the funny mistakes the players make. But it isn't so funny when it happens to us... especially in our businesses, where the mistakes are embarrassing and costly.

Well, guess what? Most of the mistakes that you and I have made, or will make, have already been made by somebody else. As King Solomon once said, "There's nothing new under the sun."

A wise person learns from the mistakes of others, so if you want to save some time and find some shortcuts to success, read on and learn how others avoided making the three big mistakes in business.  

1. No SOU (Sense of Urgency)

You know your company is in bad shape when you are the only one who feels the need to do what it takes to get the job done. If your team doesn't have this fundamental characteristic, I can assure you money is leaking out of the holes in your bucket. Take note Baby Boomers -- Gen Y is not going to cut you any slack. Like me, you probably grew up sending letters in the mail and waiting a week for a response. They grew up with instant chat, instant messaging, texting, and broadband connections. They get ticked off when they are sitting in an airplane going 500 mph, in an air-conditioned seat and their internet connection is too slow. Give me a break! What this means is that the bar has been raised for all of us.

You and your team had better respond with a sense of urgency. I know of one business that made a potential customer wait two or three weeks to get a price quote. I know for a fact that $120,000 worth of business was lost in that situation because of a failure to respond to the request for a quote fast enough. In today's environment, if you don't respond quickly, other companies will eat you for lunch.

Domino's made over a billion dollars with the promise of "30 minute delivery or it's free." And in fact, they have continued to up their SOU Score.  They now give you a minute-by-minute blow of where your pizza is while it's on the way to you.

So, what can you do to make this generation of impatient buyers feel more safe and confident when doing business with you?  

Consider what promise you need to deliver. Start with the customer in mind and ask yourself - how do I deliver faster and better? Then and only then, go back to the drawing board and figure out how can we increase our SOU Score (Sense Of Urgency).      

2. Lack of Transparency

Do you hold your cards too close to the vest?  One business owner was so reticent about sharing information that he lost the trust of his key personnel and even his clients.  He promised them, in general terms, that he would "take care of them." But they believed him about as far as they could throw him. 

We’re living in a transparent world and by holding back you create a sense of secrecy.  This works well at mystery murder dinner parties, poker games or in magic shows -- but not so well in the business world. People want to see what is going on behind the curtain; they like a sense of transparency.

I want to share a radical idea with you. It's called open book management.

"What? Open up our financials so that our employees can see how much we are making? Are you out of your mind? I don't want them to know how much I earn. If they see how much profit we make (or don't) they will demand more money."


Listen, I have yet to find a company who has taken the bold move to open up their books and been harmed by it. Now you can't simply do it in a vacuum. No, you don’t have to divulge everything. But you should let all of the key players in on how things operate, your overall financial situation, and what your vision is for the company.  You want them to feel a sense of ownership, because without that it's always going to be a game of leader and follower, and you'll have to live in secrecy. Being transparent today is how you build honest, trustworthy relationships. And building, and maintaining, relationships is what successful business is all about. For a great primer on the topic read Jack Stack's book The Great Game of Business.

3. Hiring too Quickly

This is like a plague. Do you know how many business owners I see whose companies are growing and need to hire new personnel? But do you know what most do? They simply choose the lowest hanging fruit, or the easiest people to bring on board quickly, rather than the best people for the job.  Ultimately, they screw up and have to let them go or get stuck with a bunch of staffers that don't get the job done. 

Sure, you want to build quickly, and maybe you feel you can’t afford to hire the best people, but I'm telling you that you can't afford not to. If you hire wrong, you'll end up spending extra time and money training new employees, only to have to then go out and train other new employees.  But, if you establish a good, expedient screening method for new employees, well in advance, then when it comes time to address growth, you will be in a better position to hire fast and smart. For a good book on recruiting "A players", read Brad and Jeff Smart's Book Top Grading.

Screw-ups: We all make them

I hope you will be "a wise person" and learn from the mistakes of others. In some of the businesses that I have owned we have also made these mistakes. I wish I was smart enough to have learned from someone else's mistakes so that we didn't have to spend much time straightening them out. Now when someone tells me to pay attention to having a sense of urgency, being transparent, or hiring the right people, I pay attention. I hope you will, too.

 FREE BOOK OFFER: If you feel frustrated that your team doesn't share your sense of urgency, don't know how to open your finances a bit to get more buy in, or need help hiring "A players" then give us a call by FEBURARY 19TH for a quick start consult and get a free copy of one of the books listed. Call (410) 235-7070 or email me jongoldman@brandlauncher.com.

Taking you from where you are to where you want to be,

Jon