I recently had a conversation with one of my past bosses whom I consider a friend and a mentor. We talk a few times each year and I always come away with little nuggets of wisdom. The latest conversation generated an “aha” moment that really resonated with me.
We were talking about business in general and more specifically about the impact that people have on a business. Here’s what he said:
“Business is pretty simple when we are making decisions based on hard facts. Assets are assets and liabilities are liabilities. Making business decisions based on the facts doesn’t have very many variables. What’s hard is when we add people to the equation”
I thought about his statement for several days and applied the logic to every business I have personal knowledge of, past and present. As simple as it sounded, it started to make a lot of sense.
I reflected on the companies I was employed by in the past, and the companies that I have worked with as a coach. And there it was, case after case of evidence confirming what my friend told me. Projects, initiatives, and goals that either failed spectacularly or were great successes as a result of the people involved.
As an example, if we are looking at any properly prepared balance sheet, profit and loss statement, or cash flow statement, the numbers don’t lie. Any competent business person can determine how the business is doing. From those documents you can determine if you need to increase sales, lower expenses, increase margins, find cash infusion to help cash flow, increase debt, lower debt, or a combination of the above.
The business owner makes strategic decisions and plans by analyzing the financial tools. What’s hard is implementation and execution of those plans because they involve people. And that means having the right people, which is easier said than done.
Having the right people means, are the people sufficiently trained? Are they engaged in their work or are they looking for the next best opportunity? Are they in the right job within the company? Are they allowed to do what they do best? Are they supervised effectively which depends on whether or not you have the right supervisors.
The people part is hard because no two humans are the same and as hard as we try to mold them a certain way, they probably don’t fit into that mold, or at least won’t for very long.
And lest we think that we are doing pretty well in the people department, employee engagement statistics from the Gallup Corporation tell another story. In the United States, employee engagement is at approximately 33.5%, depending on which month you check it. That means that 66.5% of American employees are not engaged with their work.
When two out of three employees are going through the motions, do you see how it might be difficult to execute a sales strategy that increases sales, creates a committed customer service team, or provides the products or services, effectively and efficiently, that our customers or clients expect from us?
On a more positive note, the people in your company are perhaps your greatest opportunity for growth and profitability. The old slogan “Our people are our greatest asset” is more spot-on than we may realize.
Engaged employees that have the proper skills, strengths-training, and support can have a significant impact on the bottom line. The Gallup Corporation conducted a massive study that included 49,495 business units in 45 countries and 1.2 million employees. With the proper strengths interventions the findings were clear.
In ninety percent of the business groups, performance increases were at or above the following ranges:
- 10% – 19% increased sales
- 14% to 29% increased profit
- 9% to 15% increase in engaged employees
- 6% to 16% lower turnover (low-turnover organizations)
- 26% to 72% lower turnover (high-turnover organizations)
- 22% to 59% fewer safety incidents
So, apparently my old boss did know what he was talking about. In a business, people can be the biggest problem or the greatest opportunity. The question is, are we investing sufficient time and dollars to develop our greatest asset?
And in case you don’t think this applies to you, if you are a one person business, strengths training and development could be the best investment you can make in your personal development.
After all, who doesn’t want to tap into his or her best self, bring out the best in others, and attract new customers or clients that want to know more about the special gifts you and your company are bringing to the world?