Leadership: lessons from business

lessons from business - part One

This will be an ongoing series, highlighting business and leadership challenges, speaking to everyone from C-Levels to mid-level management, all the way down to entry-level employees.


1) When your company is struggling, never add more services as a way of differentiating in a market.

Declining growth and revenue led one company to believe that their industry was dying and that drastic change was needed. That change came in the form of enterprise-level offerings, white-glove treatment (requiring more employee time and focus) and a slew of other services way outside of the company's wheelhouse. With the inclusion of new product offerings and services, employees were more taxed, causing existing customers to fall through the cracks, and existing infrastructure that was never designed to be enterprise-level began to implode. When someone tells you your industry is dying - assume nothing and verify everything. Don't let panic direct decision making. Get back to the foundation and essence of what your company does, what problem it solves, and what value it provides.

2) Keeping employees happy and motivated is a full-time job.

If you ever have the unfortunate experience of dealing with declining revenues or a ballooning OPEX and downsizing is implemented, consider the following. While it may be a foregone conclusion that layoffs can be the point of no return for any company, it's open and honest communication with your team that will ultimately determine your eventual turnover. It's the secrecy and closed door meetings that cause employees to lose faith, motivation, and loyalty. COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION. These three words should be on the desk of every person in your organization, and be openly encouraged from the top down.

As a side note: Keeping employees happy, motivated and incentivized is a full-time job for any decent leadership team, even when business is booming. They see and hear everything, read into comments made by management, and they talk to each other. A lot.

3) A company’s falling revenues and the owner’s personal finances are mutually exclusive.

I've seen this to be a tough pill to swallow for new employees and Millennials. Tough as it may be, here's the truth of the matter: the company’s falling revenues and the owner’s personal finances are mutually exclusive. I've seen a business smack dab in the middle of layoffs all while the CEO is out picking up a brand new 3 Series from the dealership. Fair? Hardly. But then again, isn’t this how everyone told you life would be? If no one has, accept it and embrace it. Hate it? Start your own business.

4) entrepreneurial entitlement. 

Among the many questions running through a business owner’s mind when discovering their business is heading toward insolvency, “How do I maintain my current lifestyle in spite of my firm’s financial situation?” should never be one of them. At this point in my post, a myriad of business owners (many of whom I’m assuming opted for the new 3 Series) might chime in with a different perspective, and they're free to do so. I've worked with many companies in varying capacities, and these are my personal observations and experiences. So, by all means, if you're an executive with a counterpoint - I'm always open to opposing viewpoints. Drop me a line. 

Until then, remember: You were an employee once - remember what that was like.

5) Integrity can suck. but, Strive for it. always.

For all you aspiring entrepreneurs and seasoned business owners, there’s an unspoken rule about owning a business, about being the leader, and about being the one whose signature is on the paycheck — it’s called integrity. Frankly, integrity can suck. For some, it’s the last thing on their mind when facing a financial iceberg. It’s easy to not give a crap. It’s easy to do what’s best for yourself. But, as much as integrity can suck, it’s those who adhere to it in their darkest hour that make the greatest business owners and the leaders employees aspire to emulate.