From processes to personnel, there are a number of places where entrepreneurs and business owners can effect immediate and meaningful change in business performance. My experience in nearly two decades of working with hundreds of business owners and leadership teams from a broad variety of industries is that most are frustrated by one or more of the following issues: lack of control, personnel concerns, profit worries, lack of growth, and strategic burn-out from previous strategies and unsuccessful quick-fix remedies.
Addressing these issues and solving these problems requires leaders to start viewing their businesses differently. There are six fundamental components to any business: People, Vision, Data, Issues, Process and Traction, and, in a triage situation, People, Vision and Traction should receive immediate attention.
People are both a company's greatest asset and potentially its greatest liability. Getting past emotion, personal histories, individual egos, and subjective opinion and getting the right people in place to do the work that needs to be done is a vital first step. When evaluating personnel, try to let go of ingrained assumptions and focus on what is best for the organization going forward. The impact of even one individual who is a poor fit can be profound, and I have worked with clients whose entire operation was revitalized and reinvigorated by a single personnel adjustment.
Now, more than ever, a business has to go back to its core vision. If you cannot clearly articulate and communicate your core values and core focus, it is important to go back to those foundational questions and establish a metaphorical anchor point. For many businesses, the game has changed. Tough times call for realistic and achievable expectations and a willingness to be able to adjust as necessary based on evolving circumstances. Just having a more realistic plan can be a motivating tool. One firm I worked with personally had drifted so far from its founding vision that a critical self-analysis revealed that the company had actually evolved into two businesses, and both turned out to be better off going their separate ways.
If you make no other investment of time and energy in your firm, commit to locking company leadership in a room every 90 days and encourage them to spend that day hashing things out. A large percentage of problems and nagging issues get solved simply by devoting the time necessary to find simple solutions. Better yet, take it a step further and, within those 90-day periods, plan to meet for 90 minutes every week, and try to spend at least half of that meeting time productively working to resolve issues. Businesses who commit to this "90-day world" are being practical; the operational equivalent of periodically tuning a car so you do not drive off the road. It's all about progress and continuous improvement in 90 day incremental steps.
Ultimately, the bottom line is clarity. There is value in completing a business evaluation, taking an objective look at your organization and analyzing things as they are, instead of how you want them to be. Business owners and entrepreneurs who do that; who adopt a holistic approach and challenge their own assumptions; who train themselves to stop treating symptoms and start getting to the root cause of problems (vision, people, data, issues, process and traction), will be making the best possible investment they can to help their company survive - even thrive - even in the toughest of economic circumstances.