Ailing, Failing Business– Rethink Basics, Revise the Recipe: Tough Times Require–Tough Measures, Tough People…

How do I fix an– ailing, failing business? Is it salvageable? Can I work harder, work smarter, and push through the difficult issues? According to Jeff Haden; think like a firefighter… ignore the business plan, which is often little better than a fantasy… Instead put all the attention on reality; sales, revenues, expenses, operations, cash flow… Focus on people; when a once-successful business is struggling, it’s almost always a people-related issue; leaders, management, employees… always start with people…

Often times, failing businesses have a very narrow view of what they think the problem really is. You can’t fix a failing business without looking at the big picture. Throw out the magnifying glass and focus on the wide angle… Business is too complex to assume that any one issue is the sole cause of a business’ shortcomings… According to Mark Zarr; our natural tendency is to hunker down and focus on the parts of the business that we know best. We tend to believe that the littlest things will revive the business if we can just perfect them. The more desperate we get, the more engorged the determination is to focus on some of the most obscure things, thinking that a fine detail-single relatively small issue is dragging the business down…

However, there is an upside; more than anything else working for a failing business teaches you about yourself. You learn what you’re really made of. What you’re capable of doing when everything’s on the line and everyone’s counting on you… Yes, troubled companies really are gold mines. They’re great opportunities to step-up, reach-out, take risks, and test yourself… You gain confidence from successes and wisdom from failures. Most of all, you’ll grow into whatever it is you’re capable of becoming… According to James Hurley; running a company is like reading a road map; a business is lost when it doesn’t know where it’s going, but equally lost when it doesn’t know where it is, now. In difficult times, strip the business model to basics; be ruthless, be honest, be clear, focus on core values… 

fail thIn the article Have You Worked for a Failing Company? by Steve Tobak writes: Nothing will prepare you better to lead, then working in a failing business– working for troubled companies brings out the best (and worst) in people. It creates strong, resilient, adaptive leadership… it’s what you learn by working for a company that has to slug it out with the market leaders, while on a shoestring budget… Here are a few pointers:

  • How to drink from the fire hose without drowning: When the business is understaffed, underfunded, and losing money every quarter, nobody’s going to wait around for management to figure things out… Customers have better things to do. So do competitors. These days, markets are constantly changing. Everything moves at lightening speed. There’s always too much information and never enough time to breathe. Better get used to it.
  • You can find a home: If there’s a test for knowing if you’re in the right place, it’s when the company you work for is in deep trouble and everyone’s got to– sacrifice, pitch-in, fight… If you still love getting up in the morning and going to work under those conditions, then you’ve found a home.
  • Know what great leadership really is: Chief executives don’t usually get fired when things are going well. They get canned when times are hard and the board figures out what they’re really made of– and it falls short of their expectations. When business is floundering that’s when the rubber meets the road. That’s when you can really tell if the company’s leadership has what it takes: guts, smarts, and most of all, resilience.
  • How to win no-win situations: When you’re outmanned and outgunned, you always end up having to troubleshoot seemingly impossible problems. When you’re pushed so hard that your back is up against a wall, that’s exactly when you’ll rise to the occasion and do the best work. That’s right: Necessity really is the mother of invention.
  • Guerilla warfare: Let’s face it: You don’t learn how to be scrappy, how to be crafty, how to do more with less, while working for the industry leader. You learn all that by working for an upstart that has to scrape and claw for every point of market share and every product feature with a fraction of the resources that the big guys have.

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In the article Four Most Important Words in Any Organization by Bruce Johnson writes: If you were to make a list of the four most important words in a business or organization, what would they be? It’s an interesting question. If you were to narrow down a business philosophy to just four words, what would they be? According to Dave Wheeler; the four most important words in any organization are: What do you think? I love the simplicity and power contained in those four simple words…

As leaders, we so often get stuck in the– It’s my job to have all the answers… or, It’s my job to come up with solutions to problems… But, we often forget that the primary job of a leaders is not to have all the answers, but to leverage time, talent, resources, intellectual property of the people in the organization, such that they get the answers, ask more questions, achieve results… Even more, when we ask: What do you think? A leader is doing so much more than just asking a question. For example:

  • You’re giving people respect (I value what you have to say, which is why I’ve asked).
  • You’re training people to be solutions creators (I want you to help solve this so you can do this in the future).
  • You’re bringing new ideas into the mix (not giving in to your own biases, prejudices).
  • You’re creating buy-in (since people tend to own what they help create).
  • You’re creating relational capital.

In the article Fix Your Failing Business by Mark Zarr writes: Fixing a failing business starts with you ‘the leader’. You have to step back, look at the big picture and honestly evaluate– what is going wrong, and right… This does not mean that you beat yourself up, but it does mean that you need to step up and take responsibility for the business. The buck stops with you, so if you’re– emotional, irrational, fearful, hopeless... then there is nowhere to go but down… The most common mistake that failing businesses make is to close the purse strings and stop investing (i.e., it’s investing, not spending)…

Many leaders are afraid of making hard decisions and choices because they cost money– leaders must ad fuel (i.e., investment) to the business if you want to fix it– ultimately you have two options: Do nothing and close the doors… or, Find the problems, design a solution and move forward… There is no small fix… and, just changing minor details (e.g., limit travel, reduce phone usage…) will never fix anything.

Businesses fail because of large problems, not from minor issues– and solving large problems is a team effort and everyone on the team must contribute and say; What they think? Leaders must listen, lead, and implement a realistic action plan… The good news is–with effective leadership, full team participation and commitment to move forward, there is good chance that you can fix a failing business, and turn it back into a thriving enterprise, instead of an all-consuming nightmare...

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In the article Failing Business Doesn’t Need a Turn-Around Plan by Dan Waldschmidt writes: Most businesses don’t need a turnaround strategy… They might need more sales, better marketing, happier customers, fresh product ideas… But a turnaround probably isn’t on that list. Frankly, if you can do ‘turnaround’, then you probably aren’t in that much trouble. If you can pivot. If you are jive. Then turning around is really just about managing priorities, executing on a plan, and taking responsibility for actions and results throughout organization… If you need help, it’s not because you are turned around. It’s because you’re lying on the ground. You just got crap kicked out of you– you’re  lying on the ground… broken, bleeding, half-dead, barely kicking… even with all this pain– the answer isn’t despair or hopelessness…

It’s leadership, action plan, execution… and, despite all the problems you can overcome but you must act now, for example: Forget about turnaround: Focus on ‘get-up’… the job is just to ‘get-up’… be realistic, don’t pretend that you’re better off than you really are… don’t blame people for silly mistakes… make better decisions… do more things right..

The truth about disaster is that it takes time to rebuild… it takes guts to put in the hard work… to keep going even when you don’t feel like it… But, that’s the job of a leader… to help those who are weakest make it across the finish line ahead… If you can do that, you won’t just have pulled off a ‘turnaround’, but you have changed the lives of those around you… You can do it… Get-up, Go-forward…

Get primal: Start with the basics– start with what you know works… Nothing fancy, just the basics… Even if a business is doing well on most levels, one major problem can lead to its decline. Or, a combination of multiple minor problems can end up being too much for a business to handle. It’s difficult for any business– to survive, to grow, to prosper; it takes capable leadership, adequate financing, well-defined goals, effective business practices, and more than a little bit of luck…

According to Grant Cardone; when the business is ailing don’t lose heart… there are steps you can take to turn the business around, before it’s too late, for example: (1) Get the real scoop; experience your business, first hand, become a customer… (2) Sell the staff; turn the staff into ‘ideal’ customer-centered employees– problem solvers, disciplined people who initiate on their own– all the things that HR puts in employment ads… (3) Take one hill; rallying the troops around a specific, achievable goal… focus on one hill (i.e., one problem, one issue…), then execute– take that one hill, then another, and another…

Each victory helps improve business, employees morale, customers satisfaction, stakeholders equity… it’s the road for improving an ailing, failing business