His advice: You're probably doing it all wrong
A good friend once made a handsome living as a business consultant. But he eventually had to give it up.
Not because of the hours or travel, although both were brutal. Rather, the aggravation finally got to him.
As someone whose job it was to diagnose businesses with problems and show how to fix them, he grew tired of what too often happened. Which is to say, nothing.
The inaction did not occur because he misdiagnosed the challenges in play. Or because monumental effort was required to turn things around. No, the status quo often remained in place because the client was simply unwilling to act. Tired of seeing his efforts lead to nowhere, he decided it was time to move on.
I was reminded of my friend while recently reading an article about George Cloutier in Forbes magazine.
Cloutier has been running American Management Services for the past three decades. During that time, he has been giving nursing homes and other small business clients this troubling message: You don't know what you are doing.
Among his old-school mantras: Watch cash flow closely, pay yourself first, reward employees only for performance and cut costs viciously. In his book, “Profits Aren't Everything, They're the Only Thing,” he's similarly ruthless:
“Business comes down to how hard you work, how smart you work, in good times and bad. Do more. Get more. And be ruthless in your quest to make money.”
Sounds pretty basic, doesn't it? But even in this sector, such suggestions often escape to the vapors before they can be carried out.
Which, to put it bluntly, is hard to believe. Ours is, after all, a field in transition. And what many smaller operators need to do in order to remain in play is often no mystery. The hard part is getting the people who run things to move. Or, as he jokes in the Forbes article, “Nothing happens until somebody cries.”
You can be sure that in the months to come, numerous experts here and elsewhere will deliver insights and suggestions that can make your future brighter.
But if all you do after taking them in is go back to business as usual, you'll be doing something far worse than wasting your time. You'll be failing to take action that could have avoided a business failure.
And that really would be a crying shame.
John O'Connor is McKnight's Editorial Director.