Business Systems

Q&A: Communication can fill the void

Huw Jenkins of Melbourne, Victoria asks:

The best decision of my life was to go into business 3 years ago. Most would say I’m ambitious and all about growth, the proof being my rapid expansion. What surprises me though is that, as I’ve grown, the sections of my operation I’ve left to my staff have been crumbling. It’s almost like unless I do the job, it’s not going to be done properly! What I really need is an early-warning system to catch emerging problems. The how, when, where, why and what on this point would be helpful right now. Thanks.

Kenelm Tonkin
, Chairman, Tonkin Corporation answers:

This “crumbling” effect often occurs with personality-driven businesses, those with larger-than-life, dominant owners. Initial early success leads to expansion. In the entrepreneur’s refocus and impatience to grow, employees have to fill the inevitable void. Business owners, like everyone else, have only 24 hours in a day. Before long, proprietors report that the staff who fill the void caused by their new focus never do a good enough job.

The truth is that business owners often (a) have unrealistically high expectations of their staff, (b) fail to train them properly, and (c) have no performance measurement system in place. In short, in the enthusiasm to expand, entrepreneurs are ill-prepared for growth.

Here are the solutions.

First, understand that if the employees do not own the business, they are less invested, literally and emotionally. It’s like the difference between your treatment of a hire car versus your own.

Second, before you take the next step toward expansion, articulate exactly how you want each task performed in your business. Create and deliver engaging training programmes, then improve them.

Third, define job performance by a number or Key Performance Indicator (KPI). The number could be 36,000 units produced per month, less than 7% annual staff turnover, or 120 customer service interactions a day. Whatever applicable to your business, have a number to measure individual performance.

The secrets to stopping the crumble are thoughtfully trained staff, universally understood KPIs and realistic expectations from the boss. Durable growth will follow.

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