Whenever a business owner begins our pre-consulting conversation with, “Well, we’re pretty unique,” I know that I am going to be dealing with one of the following:
- A business that evolved from an owner-operator to employees taking on responsibilities without any coordinated plan or,
- Multiple partners or family members in key jobs with unclear management structure or,
- A business feels that it is “too busy” to work on things that it knows are important.
Unique rarely means “difficult to copy” or “clever beyond words”. More often it implies that no one else would choose this model on purpose.
The most telling trait of the allegedly different is that they aren’t different at all. In fact, the company has not changed in years, permanent growth is elusive, and every project takes extraordinary effort because…well…a unique company does everything they do as if it was the first time. Every project is the same: a surprise.
Here are three things you want to copy from other businesses:
You really don’t want to reinvent accounting. Small business owners sometimes force their bookkeepers to maintain records in a way the owner understands instead of what’s required for sound accounting. Unique, but dangerous. Use accounting principles and best practices, but also apply financial analysis to help y9ou understand what it all means.
“We have a very flat org chart.” Yikes, that tells me your company is designed to be reactive not proactive. I will find kingdoms and silos hiding in this “flat” company. Lack of defined leadership and decision-making will stifle innovation and improvements. Accept responsibility and structure. Your employees need it.
Payroll is probably 50% or more of your expense budget. Wandering away from best practices into unique or undefined compensation plans is very dangerous. Inequities in pay, advancement, and bonus plans will scare off good employees and make you less attractive to new hires. Help employees understand how they can benefit from helping you be more successful.
Being different is an advantage, but too often it is used as an excuse to avoid business fundamentals.
Real business is boring, but boring businesses make money. The goal is to have a highly differentiated Strategy (with a capital S), but before a company can effectively execute an interesting plan, it has to have a very uninteresting business fundamentals