Rot Starts at the Top, in Both Trees and Business
Make no mistake, rot starts at the top in any business!
On our small farm in Tennessee, we have many large oak and pine trees. One day we noticed one of our pines turning brown and starting to die at the very top. As days went by, the decay kept moving down the trunk until the whole tree was dead.
We consulted a tree expert to find out what happened. He told us Tennessee has an infestation problem with the Southern Pine beetle that can kill a pine tree in a matter of days.
“The rot starts at the top,” he said, “and moves quickly down to the bottom of the tree.”
In like manner, a business beset with poor leadership, adversely affects every employee — from top to bottom.
This may be painful to hear for a small business owner, but if your company is suffering from disorder, look no further than a mirror to place blame.
As Michael Gerber said, “You are the problem, You've always have been the problem, and you will always will be the problem, until you change!" The first time I read that statement in Gerber’s book, “The E-Myth,” it was a wake-up call for me.
A Decision to Change Will Change Everything
Facing the truth and making the decision to do something about it changed not only our business, but my life.
Fact is, we took a fast-track — from a small dysfunctional “mom & pop” operation with five employees, to twenty-five employees operating like a well-oiled machine. In fact, errors and miscommunications reduced to a level, whereby we shipped product and service on-time every time at a rate of 99.8%. Yep, ERROR FREE!
How did we do that? SYSTEMS! And, we continually improved them.
More importantly, I stopped blaming others in our company for the mistakes and miscommunications that were a regular occurrence.
As renowned business leader Dr. Edward Deming stated, “Change has to start at the top!”
If this shoe fits, and you can accept the self-scrutiny, then your reasoning must change. Make the decision to start documenting the way your business runs from front to back.
Surprisingly, when you start documenting a process (e.g., on-boarding a new customer), you quickly discover how that workflow process effects other personnel and departments. Having a workflow process stored in your head, versus having a process written on paper in a step-by-step format, is very enlightening.
You will soon discover why errors and miscommunications occur in your business.
Actions and Behaviors from the Top Causing Rot
Consider the following events and their effects.
- When the boss’s office looks like a tornado hit it, in most cases the rest of the business is drowning in clutter and disorganization.
- When the boss’s knee-jerk reaction to mistakes and other problems is to vent with a stream of curse words; rest assured, many discouraged employees are looking for the first opportunity to leave.
- When the big boss gets excited about a newly-discovered product, equipment, or idea and expects everyone in the company to buy-in. However, as time passes, the boss’s excitement wanes and the hot new item is on the back-burner.
Yes, another failed implementation of the boss’s big idea. Unfortunately, employees conclude that the boss’ words mean little.
To be fair, there are those responsible, independent employees who do the right thing, no matter where the boss goes.
But, as for the rest — as that great sage Forrest Gump might have said, “ROT is as ROT does!” (or something like that).
Did I mention? Great systems work!
Philip Beyer, founder/president of Ebiz Products LLC and founder of Beyer Printing Inc. in Nashville Tenn., is a chronic entrepreneur, business systems analyst and consultant. Author of "System Busters: How to Stop Them in Your Business" and recipient of an InterTech Technology Award for the design and development of System100 business process management software. Beyer speaks to business owners across the country on how to bring lean, sustainable order to their businesses. Contact him at (615) 425-2652.