4 Early Signs You May Be Losing Control of Your Business

April 30, 2013
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Guest article from: Alan Creedy, Creedy Commentary 

Recently I read something that triggered an insight. In my Funeral Home Consulting practice it is clear that businesses don’t just suddenly spin out of control. Except in the rare case of disruptive innovation like an unconventional competitor, calamity does not occur overnight. ”Things” start happening well before the challenges are apparent. Almost all of these “things” are correctible and most are the result of benign neglect.

Over the years I have seen patterns that I now realize are clear indicators that trouble is ahead. Here are 4:

1. Preoccupied Leader- Some years ago a casket company Exec asked me what I thought most funeral home owners wanted. Without thinking and to my utter surprise I said, “Based on their behavior I think most funeral home owners want to not be there.” After I got over my shock I realized that answer had come from my subconscious and it was true. Whether from boredom or frustration too many owners spend a lot of time away from their business. Fortunately or unfortunately in a small business it is the owner that has the primary responsibility of being a hands-on leader. In order to lead you have to be there. While it sounds simple it is a common problem in most organizations. Too many owners like to brag that they have forgotten where the prep room is and don’t know how to fill out the paperwork any more. Yes, you have to work on the business. But mostly I see owners escaping the business under the guise of working on the business. You can tell because there are always lots of ideas and never any execution.

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 2. Lack of Clear Expectations – The owners of the under-performing funeral homes are absurdly unclear with their employees about what is expected, in everything from how they should greet customers to what they wear to what their specific job responsibilities are. I have never been able to reconcile the claim by owners that their market differentiator is “service” with the knowledge that almost none of them train or monitor the practices of staff. These owners are reluctant to place specific demands on their people, often in the spirit of giving them freedom. But like any business plagued by a lack of clarity, what they get is an organization without a culture, plenty of employees who don’t belong, and, worst of all, inconsistencies around what customers experience. Basically, people show up and apply their own definition of what is right in a given circumstance in a self-defined effort to provide good service.

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