Quick fixes are not always the answer. Band aids can cover a sore without really doing much long term good, without healing the underlying infection. Covering a hole in the wall with a picture may hide a defect but does not fix it. On the other hand, some quick fixes serve a useful purpose. Putting a sheet of plywood over a broken window or glass door until it can be properly fixed keeps out the elements and provides a modicum of security.
The key is understanding what one is accomplishing with a quick fix. It cannot be confused with a more permanent solution. It must be recognized as an immediate action step providing temporary relief.
At 720thinking, we do a “deep dive” into organizations, enabling us to ferret out underlying causes of problems and locate the sources of organizational stress and turbulence. We can collaborate with ownership and management to effectuate long term solutions. But while that process is going on, there are always some immediate steps that can be taken by an owner or leader to make things better quickly. They are stop-gap steps and they may or may not be part of the overhaul, but they serve a strong purpose. If you are not doing them, here are a few actions you should take immediately:
- · Sign every check yourself. Many leaders, particularly entrepreneurs, find the finance side of the business to be the least pleasant. So, they delegate it as soon as practical- including deciding which bills to pay when; and the actual writing and signing of checks. BIG MISTAKE!! Delegate but oversee. Know what is going on in the business and make sure everyone in the company knows that you are doing this. That way nobody will get any ideas that you are not paying attention. To add to this impression, ask for the bank statements each month. If you cannot be totally invested in the financial side, at least look like you are.
- · Break the chain of command. Leaders who observe a strict chain of command get most of their information in a filtered fashion, as it passes through layers of management. The leader can never really know how many rear ends are being covered by the time information finally reaches her. Step outside the chain of command once in a while and find out what individuals think and believe right from their own mouths.
- · Call five customers or clients. Not your role? Of course it is. If you do not treat all of the customers as yours, they may leave when the employee handling them leaves your business. Check in, reach out, go to dinner. And ask them “How easy is my company to do business with? Where are the rough spots?” Who better to tell you?
- · Survey your employees. Show your teams that you care about their opinions. Learn about what is important to them, whether they feel they have all of the tools they need, whether management is acting on the right information- whatever you want. But get their feedback and act on it. Get them to be part of the solution.
- · Re-visit your vision. You may have to dig it out of a file cabinet or out from under a pile of papers. Review it. Does it still apply? Is the organization still headed toward it? Does everyone remember it? Is everyone aligned with it? If not- remind them.
- · Do some sort of training or employee development. If budget does not exist to hire someone to lead this, handle it internally. But show employees you want them to be constantly learning more and improving.
- · Be transparent about one thing. Tell your employees one thing you would not normally share with them. Take them into your confidence and see if they earn that confidence.
- · Set a few short term goals to create some quick “wins”. Create opportunities for successes that can be built upon and for workers to be appreciated. Find a way for everyone to be a hero, even for a day.
- · Set up meetings with your three biggest vendors and discuss the relationships. See if you can improve your terms- time to pay, credit limit, etc. It never hurts to ask.
- · Take an hour to think. What are the best uses of your time? Are you spending it on things that only you can do? Or are you being the prima donna entrepreneur who just does what he wants, not what the business needs? Are you doing your part to make the business great?
There is no magic to this list. There are lots of actions one can take. Don’t just sit around waiting for a new strategic plan to be created or for some big outside event to happen. Use your time to learn more about your company and what will make it stronger. The above quick steps take little budget and minimal time, but can yield immediate benefit without conflicting with long-term plans.