Seriously Speaking: Accentuate the Positive (Part 4)

Mediocrity is failure in slow motion

This is the last installment of the “Accentuate the Positive” series. As you will recall we have been using the Lyrics from the old Johnny Mercer song. Here they are again, just in case you don’t recall.

You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
And don’t mess with Mr. In Between.

Last time out we talked about how to focus on finding and eliminating negatives in your business. This time let’s focus on eliminating the Mr. In Between”. This is my personal pick for reasons a business may be struggling. Yep, good ol’ “Mr. In Between”.

This injurious dynamic may infect your business. It can be characterized as: Lack of commitment to a plan, inability to give answers, can’t or won’t give direction, etc..  In essence: the ship is drifting. The dynamic here is that the “Leader Doesn’t Lead”.

There are all kinds of “rules of thumb” that get thrown around by “experts”.  Do this, don’t do that, etc. We follow them because we read something by some industry guru that knows my industry better than me. And that’s Ok. It’s a start. However, these rules of thumb may be outdated or they may not be relevant to YOUR business. They may even keep you in the middle of the pack. “Mr. In Between”. You won’t be in the bottom 20% but you won’t be in the top 20% either.  You end up squarely in the middle 60% of businesses like yours. That makes you Mr. In Between, just mediocre. That is not ok.

Mediocrity is simply a failure in slow motion. You might get on the team for a short while but you will never get in the game. Eventually, you will be cut from the team, never having experienced real success.”

Here are MY rules of thumb for avoiding Mr. In Between and mediocrity:

Rule 1: Take “rules of thumb” with a grain of salt. Make sure that they make sense for your business. Many times when we latch on to these rules of thumb they may be from a market or an area that is very different than the one that we are actually in. Costs, selling price, labor costs, etc, may be very different where my business is, as opposed to the “averages” that usually get tossed around.  Make sure metrics that you follow are for your area, business type, business size, etc.

Rule 2: Differentiate your business: Ask these questions: Is my business in a typical market for the industry? Is my business unique in my area? Are my products or services the same as others around me? Are my employees (Am I) capable of creating a difference between my business and others in the area? It is highly unlikely that you can be the best in everything. First, start out by striving to be the best in ONE thing. If you can’t compete on price then have better products, or better service, or…

Rule 3: Engage with the people “of” your business. I use the word OF because your customers, your vendors, and your employees are a part of your business. Make them feel like it. When decisions are needed make them. When answers are required give them. Stay engaged with the people of your business. Talk to them, reward them, get feedback from them, and thank them.  They will be part of the history of your business. Hopefully, that history will be a success story written over many years.

Rule 4: Own your Brand, your quirkiness, your uniqueness. Here in Louisville, there was a restaurant named Lynn’s Paradise Cafe. Now, this was a unique place. It was quirky. People came in pajama’s, it had weird (in a good sense) decor, and the food wasn’t ordinary. They were different and they owned it. People loved it. The place was always packed. And now that it is gone… the people of LYNN’s miss it.

Will your business be missed when it is gone?

Rule 5: Make sure that the systems you have in place allow you to SEE your business: Do you get reports that let you see what is working in your business? Can you see what your cash flow is? Do you get Cash Flow Statements along with P&L’s and Balance Sheets on a timely basis?  Make sure you have a cash flow forecast for at least six months. How can you know where to drive the car unless you know how much gas you have to get there? It is the same with cash. Know it. Talk to your CFO (if you have one), Controller, Accountant, Managers or Employees.   Are they too busy to get it all done in a timely manner? Are they focused on the right things? You don’t have to “hire” people but you may need to get them some help.

Remember to Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative and don’t mess with Mr. In Between


 

 

Author: Patrick Cowan, CFO

I have over thirty years experience in Finance, Accounting, HR, and Business Management. Most of this has been at the Senior Management and Executive Level. I believe that small ideas can be big winners if the right dynamics are applied.

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