Monday Mornings with Madison


Would you rather have a busy company or a profitable company? In these challenging times, many business owners are looking to reduce costs.  Some have been quick to cut their staff, letting people go with the hopes that, when business returns, they will be able to rehire. Of course, this means that the remaining employees have to take on ever greater workloads, leaving them with less time to handle their original responsibilities.

These companies often appear exceedingly, even frantically busy. Other business owners have tried to keep their staff intact, making up for lost revenues through across-the-board pay cuts, unpaid furloughs or other cost-cutting measures, while looking to employees to come up with ways to offer other or better services. Although these companies may not seem to be frantically busy, they are often more profitable. Why is this?

It all has to do with how management views the hiring of employees. There are two distinct approaches to taking on a new worker. You can see this as a liability that adds another expense to your overhead. This new person is going to cost your company X dollars per month and, though you would love to avoid this cost, the work has to get done so you have no choice but to add the employee. Or, you can view the new hire as an investment in your business. You are adding another resource that will increase your company’s value by taking on responsibilities and performing tasks that free you up to focus on your core mission, which is to grow your business.

The differences between these two approaches can be significant. Employers with the first mind set believe that employees are expendable and should cost as little as possible. They want to make sure that their workers are always busy in order to justify the expense of employing them. On a deeper level, these employers often believe that if there were just more hours in the day, they could do everyone else’s job better.

Recognizing this belief, their employees are determined to look busy at all times so as to allay any doubts about their importance to the company. There is little incentive for these employees to figure out more efficient practices because to keep their jobs, they must always have more than enough work to do. Besides, thinking creatively might cause the boss to question their focus on the job at hand.

Employers with the second mind set, on the other hand, look at the success of their company as a team effort. They know that they can’t do it all on their own and understand that their future growth depends upon hiring talented people with unique abilities. These employers focus on supporting their employees, encouraging them to thrive by making creative contributions. Workers are rewarded for coming up with more efficient practices; as long as the job gets done well, it doesn’t matter how busy people look at any given moment.

So again, do you want a busy company or a profitable one? If you run a company using the first approach, you will be the only person focused on growing your company, surrounded by many employees who are focused on looking busy. Using the second approach, you focus on supporting your employees, surrounded by lots of people who are directing their knowledge, skills and  experience to building your company.

“Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can’t miss.”   Lee Iacocca

© 2009 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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