How we relate to people is how we lead them. Many business owners talk about finding it difficult to run their companies because they have not figured out their leadership style. They move between the three different relationships, not being aware at all of where they are or how to lead. Our relationships with people change and with that change come different challenges.
I know a woman who stepped into an existing business because her husband had invested in it and it was not making money. The business was a small embroidery and t-shirt company with all kinds of problems. Christine decided that she would take it on, and see what she could do to salvage the business. Her goal was to get as much of their investment back as possible.
Turning a Business Around
At first, she told everyone that she was going to be around and that she had a lot of questions for them. She reassured them that she was not asking questions because she questioned them, but because she knew nothing about the business.
True to her word, Christine showed up and went to work. She took on every job there. She mopped floors and cleaned toilets. She went to the “floor” and started by folding shirts. She packed boxes, learned to check in raw product.
Christine had worked at a hospital for 14 years before leaving to raise her family. Now that her family had grown, she found time and devoted herself to the business. She was where she could apply systems and procedures to the business. Just as the hospital ran on processes, and each surgery ran on procedures, step by step, she started in.
It was not long before her approach was successful. The people who were working responded favorably to Christine's new approach. The procedures she implemented made sense. They made the jobs easier. She worked with each person to explain they whys and rational behind her improvements. The people were much happier in the new environment. As some left for other opportunities, new employees were easily trained based on the clearly delineated tasks that had been set forth, step-by-step. Our owner bought new equipment to go along with the improvements.
All of this change did a great deal for the business. It became not only break even, but profitable. The more Christine worked the more profitable it became. You might think that she was able to sell the business and recoup the investment and she lived happily ever after but that is not what happened.
All the work she had put in changed Christine. She came to know the people she worked with. She came to know of their challenges and she became friends with all of them. Over the course of her experiment, she had found another family. She had formed bonds of kinship, it was no longer just a business; it was much more.
I met her as she reached a point of confusion. She had met all of her goals, plus much more. She wondered, "Should I sell as originally planned or should I keep running the business?" I noted that this was a really hard decision for her. Obviously, a lot of people would simply say “sell and go”, but it was not that easy. I could tell that Christine felt responsible for the lives of the people who depended on her business. She was struggling with one of the toughest decisions of her life.
When leaders find themselves tightly interwoven with the people they work with, decisions sometimes get tougher.
How can we approach our businesses to make these decisions easier and more natural?
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Brian Vincent has over 30 years of experience as a business law attorney and has worked extensively with business owners to protect and defend their interests. Contact Brian online or at (616) 608-4440 with your questions.