Small business owner – ready to revolutionize your company?

by | Small Business Consulting

If so, honestly answer these two questions:

1)   Look at your current business practices and processes. If you weren’t currently doing them, would you start doing them?

2)   Look at each person in your business. Would you still hire that person?

“After I ask the first question,” says Linda D. Henman, Ph.D, author of Challenge the Ordinary: Why Revolutionary Companies Abandon Conventional Mindsets, Question Long-Held Assumptions and Kill Their Sacred Cows, “there is a roomful of silence. After I ask the second question, everyone starts talking at once.”

Take an extra-hard look at the operations person in your business. How well is he or she performing? The scary reality, Linda says, is that the business will never run above the level of that person. So, if he or she is average, then that’s the best you can hope for, overall.

Companies need to abandon anything in their business that is average or ordinary (or, obviously, substandard!).

This means not settling for average:

  • Management
  • Employees
  • Hiring practices
  • Promoting practices
  • Pricing practicing
  • Marketing strategies
  • Customers

“Business people got into a lot of bad habits before 2008,” Linda says, “and as we discovered the problems with mortgage lending, other bad habits were revealed – including keeping on okay people with okay managerial experience, and selling okay products to okay customers.”

“By the time the U.S. economy recovered in 2013, it was clear that the rest of the world did not stop and wait for us to recover. Instead, they kept playing a bigger game and, by the time we were back into the global game, the rules and players had changed.”

How well is your leadership team performing?

Linda has created an online test that can quickly check the pulse of your team. You simply answer 24 questions with responses limited to “totally disagree,” “disagree,” “agree” or “totally agree” and then get your results.

The first three questions focus on trust, which is the core of any team. Question 1 read, as just an example: Members of our team admit mistakes and offer and accept apologies.

The next three focus on accountability, also a key ingredient of any successful group. A sample question reads this way:  Members understand what decisions and tasks others expect them to address.

The next sets of questions focus on:

  • decision making
  • conflict resolution
  • communication
  • goal clarity
  • collaboration
  • leadership

How did your team score? Here are tips from Linda to develop your leadership team.

You can also take a similar test to see how well your strategy is working and where you can improve. You can also read articles by Linda to address specific issues you’re having.


Step one for any small business owner, Linda says, is to try to improve the ordinary – whether it is behavior or skills – to the extraordinary. Standards and performance must go up. “If it’s an aptitude problem, though,” she adds, “you’re out of luck. Small businesses have a hard time firing people, but there isn’t any money for redundancy.”

As a second approach, “you can get creative and reshuffle the deck. If your operations person needs to go, can the finance person or the sales person handle operations? What can you move around?”

The situation can get trickier when the owner is the problem – and Linda says that’s often the case, especially in family-owned organizations. “These owners need to acknowledge that the company has outgrown them and that someone else needs to run the business. That person can still own the company, but his or her skills no longer suit the business and someone else needs to manage and run it.”

Snippets of Linda’s advice for business owners

To resolve conflict at work:

  • “Depersonalize the conflict. Catch yourself when you begin to fall into the trap of believing that the other person is deliberately trying to make a situation difficult.
  • At the beginning of resolving differences or conflict, clearly state your desire to find a solution that will work for all involved.
  • Build on areas of agreement before you address areas of difference.
  • Remember to listen first and talk second. Ask open-ended questions to draw others out and to encourage them to talk about the conflict.
  • Try to arrive at a common goal around which everyone involved can focus, and agree to work through areas of disagreement. In other words, don’t agree to outcomes that you will not support. Surface reservations that you have and talk with the other person until you can agree on a course of action.
  • Dig for understanding without implying criticism.
  • Focus on common ground issues and interests of both sides. Find a ‘win’ for all affected parties and avoid entrenched positions.”

And, although business owners have lots to juggle, sometimes it’s the little things that matter the most:

“Respect others’ time . . . In America, being ‘on time’ means participants are in place a few minutes early. Being ‘late’ is anything after that. As I mentioned earlier, the boss who continuously shows up late to meetings with her direct reports sends a loud message that they are not important to her, no matter what her words might indicate to the contrary. People with status and power can show up late and get away with it in the short run. However, in the long run, not respecting the time of others can cost you in loss of trust and rapport.”

To become the boss that nobody wants to leave:

“To become the boss no one wants to leave, you’ll need to rouse others with confidence in you and inspire them with assurance in themselves. Lou Holtz, famed Notre Dame football coach, captured the essence of this daunting task in three questions:

1. Are you committed to excellence?

2. Can I trust you?

3. Do you care about me?

Lou Holtz’s questions make it all very simple. Can your direct reports answer ‘yes’ to all three?”

In what ways is your company currently extraordinary? What do you need to improve – and how do you plan to do so? Leave a comment below.

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