January 2011 Archives

Here is a seemingly incomprehensible fact of life:

How is it possible for the owner of a small business to be so overworked, so involved and so busy… and still not make the income they need?

How is it that an intelligent, educated and hard-working person can devote hours and hours of their time, sometimes working late into the evening, with stress that they bring home to their family, and then not even make the money they really should be making? It seemingly violates natural law! How can it even be possible?

A business owner can have all kinds of brilliant ideas; consultants can provide them with stellar advice; seminars, webinars and classes can tell them all sorts of things they ought to do…and maybe they should do them. But who has time for it all? A business owner is typically so busy just handling what they’ve already got on their plate that there is just no time to do anything else. And the overwork can be unbelievable! For most, try as they might, they never seem to be able to get on top of it all. It’s sort of like a treadmill that is going ever-so-slightly faster than they can run.

The “to do” list mounts up and, though the business keeps going, the amount of work required can be enormous. The effort expended by a small business owner is Herculean at times. They are the unsung heroes of the American economy. What the average small business owner goes through just to keep their business running would make others quail and close the doors their first week. If there is one common denominator of small business owners or practice owners, it’s the fact that they work hard—continually

However, there is another side to this. When speaking of hard work which doesn’t get you anywhere toward your goal, this is OVERwork. When a person is working and working, yet isn’t winning the game they set up for themselves, this isn’t about being a hard worker. This is about being overworked and overwhelmed.

But do they have to work that hard? Can it really be true that they have to do all of this hard work, devote their life to it and then in the end not really get ahead?

One is apt to just sum it up with, “Life is like that” or “Well, that’s how running a business is” or just “You take what you can get.” After years of trying, years of working 50-plus hours a week, pouring heart and soul into the business, one tends to “face the facts” and “get real” about things.

But what if this weren’t the way it really is? What if there were another answer?

There is. It lies in the field of organization.

To understand overwork, one has to understand organization.

All business owners tend to know their particular field pretty well. A dentist generally understands dentistry. A veterinarian can handle animals. A mechanic can fix cars. This isn’t the problem. For them to be in business at all, they normally have to be pretty decent at it. So where do they get bogged down? On the business end of things. They never really had any formal training in organization or management. Everything they do is through trial and error. Therefore that’s the part of their life that gives them the most trouble.

Does the dentist worry about root canals? Does the veterinarian worry about spaying a dog? No! These are fun for them. These can even be relaxing at times, compared to finance and business issues. That’s because these are the areas that they were trained in. These are the areas they are certain of. This is what they’re skilled in.

Their entire trouble lies in the fact that they never learned HOW to organize. They never learned HOW to manage. There are procedures of organization. There are methods and skills involved in managing. One doesn’t just open up a business and start banging around any more than a person opens up the hood of a Cadillac and starts banging around. Every specialized field has its own knowledge and skills—running a business is no exception.

Being overworked in a business is not a symptom of having too much to do; it’s a symptom of too little organization to handle what’s going on! Almost any volume of work can be handled comfortably so long as it is properly organized. It all depends on having an owner and a staff who understand organization and management—and these subjects can take some real work to learn.

Thus, the “overwork” of any business owner is actually “under-organization.” The specific skills and tools of management just aren’t known, so any time the traffic gets too high, it exceeds their know-how and overwhelms them. They become overworked and don’t know what to do to get out of it. They need to make a good paycheck, so they have to keep the traffic coming in. Unfortunately, they are actually running their day-to-day operation well above their real knowledge and ability to organize! The work stacks up around them, they get backlogged and they just stay there…for years. Now that becomes “just how their business runs.”

One has to get the real picture of what’s happening here: the business and its employees are actually creating the “overwork” by not really knowing how to handle that flow of traffic. The “overwork” is actually an illusion. This isn’t a natural part of life. It’s CREATED. The reality of what’s happening is that the business needs X dollars to survive in any given week or month. Therefore, they must flow X volume of production and traffic through the place. In truth, this volume of traffic isn’t overwhelming; it could be smoothly handled. It isn’t natural that it has to be more than that business can comfortably deal with. However, lacking proper organization, the office staff mishandle the customers, the materials and the accounts. They neglect what they are supposed to do, there was never a system set up to handle it correctly, or the employees never fully learned the workable systems that are in place. One or two staff members then end up doing everything to keep the place running. This creates overwork.

Did you ever wonder how certain people are somehow able to do an extraordinarily large amount of business? You know, the dentist that is doing $6 million a year comfortably, when all his peers are doing $2 million…. There are always a minority of people around who just seem to be able to run a bigger show. They have more going on and still have time to do other things in life. What’s the difference? Are they better? Smarter? Have more ability?

No. They’re better organized. Somehow—through training, natural intuition or something else—they have an ability to correctly organize the traffic and production they handle. Thus, they can handle a ton of it with no strain.

Then there are others who are overwhelmed and trip all over themselves if one customer walks through the door. The customer waits for a long time, is told the wrong price, and then it turns out that the office staff had the wrong file…the customer needed a different product. Whoops.

Every business is somewhere on this scale. At the low end of the scale we have an office that falls all over itself and bumps into walls when one person walks in. They can hardly handle any volume. No need to promote or drum up additional business…if anyone additional walked in it would just swamp the place. At the high end of the scale we have a business that can handle huge volumes of people, incredible production volume, tremendous numbers of jobs. The place is efficient, busy and full. Even if there aren’t a large number of employees, somehow they can handle it all and no one is under serious strain.

The “ceiling” on any office’s production capabilities is its degree of organization. In other words, every office has an invisible limit to the amount of work and production they can do. This is determined solely by how organized the place is. If you try to push an office beyond its “ceiling” this results in overwork. If you push the production very far past this ceiling, it creates chaos for the business owner, whose only solution is to simply work later into the night and skip meals.

Every business has an invisible production ceiling. Where is yours? Take a look. See if there is a line that you can’t really seem to get past. Feel stuck at a certain level? Never can get your collections above a certain point? That’s because there is a line that, above which, you can only reach by raw effort and chutzpah. Business owners instinctively know that they can handle X dollars in collections and production. However, trying to push it higher than this, well….

If you notice an invisible ceiling in your practice, just realize that you’re looking at the limit of your business’s organizational skill. It just isn’t set up to handle—or generate—more traffic than that. It will coast along in that fixed area, getting a bit better or a bit worse, but won’t move into a different range.

The solution is to organize the business. Locate the jammed up internal flows, locate who is overworked, discover who doesn’t know their jobs or company policy. Find out who has all of the work landing on their desk. Chances are, you’ll find out it’s the business owner.

Now that you know what the problem is, you can do something about it. Restructure your office duties. Delineate more clearly who does what. Train your staff on the underlying laws and principles of organization. Teach the staff their jobs better. Switch the physical traffic flow in your office so it doesn’t all pile up in one place. Change the schedule. Put your best staff in charge, getting someone else to cover for them. Teach the new person how to do the jobs your other one was handling. Track the office production. Find out what caused more new patients and do that. Locate what made the production to go down. Remove that. Little by little you can organize your office and turn it into a smoothly-running, highly effective machine. And quality of work will only get higher, your customers happier and the products you deliver, better.

Mark Hanses

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This is one of the most heated and debated topics in the fields of business and management.  It almost single-handedly determines the prosperity of a business, but also creates the most trouble.

It’s such a touchy subject that we hesitate to even write the article.  Invariably someone will be offended.  There is almost no way to write about the relationship of employees in managing a business without upsetting someone.  This is because it’s a subject that’s fraught with emotions and failures.  Who hasn’t experienced it?  Everyone who’s ever had anything to do with business at all has seen the “mean boss” or the “no-good employees.”  In fact, this one problem of small businesses across the country, taken to the macrocosm of American history IS the classic battle between management and labor; “the bosses” and “the woikers” (workers); the unions and the coal companies.

The subject of employer-employee relations is one of the most volatile subjects in the history of this planet.  Taken to epic proportions, it evokes images of everything from the 1917 Revolution when the USSR was born, to slaves being whipped into building the pyramids of Egypt.  People get quite touchy about the subject.  Whole political parties are built around it.  Entire philosophies of life can be constructed around this one subject: how do you deal with the idea of getting people to get some work done?  Failures to handle this area correctly has led to raw, red revolution and rioters in the streets.

And yet, if some manager somewhere doesn’t do something about it, everyone starves.  No one makes any money.  No one eats.  Extreme examples of this are third-world countries where no industrial infrastructure has ever been built and so the people simply aren’t utilized.  They sit around as subsistence farmers, eking out a living the best they can with no electricity, no running water and no chance at a job.  In other words, without SOMEONE running SOME kind of business, there simply is no industry.  No one works; no one eats.  This is called starvation and poverty.

It’s sort of a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” type of situation.  If there are no jobs, then no one eats and the whole culture suffers.  However, if employees are handled wrongly, it all blows up in your face and can make the company nearly impossible to run.

Bringing this down to the level of reality and practicality in YOUR business, it’s like this: if one doesn’t have employees, then one can’t run a business.  Period.  If there aren’t good, dependable and trustworthy people, then you won’t produce anything.

On the flip side, the moment you have any employees you now have to deal with OSHA regulations, benefits, extra taxes, etc., ad nauseum.   You’ll have to answer questions, handle upsets and sort out confusions.  You’ll have to keep discipline in, ride herd on inter-office warfare and keep certain factions separated.  Part diplomat, part counselor, part teacher and part supervisor—the manager of any business is in for quite a ride.  Let’s assume that he also has his own duties that no one else can do…like treating patients.  When does he have time to, oh…see the family?

Probably he doesn’t even want to get into it.  The amount of work required just to keep the place going makes dealing with employees an insurmountable task.  The solution becomes keep your head down and walk quickly past them.  Just hope that no one notices you and brings up some problem.  Don’t look over in that direction.  Maybe you can make it through the day, get everything done and not even have to open up that can of worms.

This is called running your business at “effect.”  This means that the owner is so far backlogged and behind that he is unable to proactively deal with issues, and so really isn’t managing the company.  He is handling whatever pops up, but mostly is simply hoping that nothing DOES pop up.  This necessitates, by the very nature of it, avoiding confronting what issues might be lurking there.  It requires that the owner sort of skirt right over everything, hoping desperately that nothing gets brought up he’ll have to sort out.

And this is the exact sort of thing that keeps a business small.  Every single area that the business owner isn’t looking at, every single part of the business that the owner sort of swiftly walks by, while averting his gaze …these are all the weak spots and problem issues in the business.  These are the areas that hold the business back.  It’s in these areas you find embezzlement, you find duties undone, you find hidden attacks on the owners, company protocols violated and a million million other things.

If the business owner really were confronting what was holding his business back, wouldn’t it be handled?  If he really knew what was wrong, wouldn’t it be solved?  He would solve it!

All the undone, unhandled and un-dealt-with issues are the ones that prevent more clients from being seen, they hold production down and they create the sudden confusions that “unexpectedly” pop up, requiring the owner to handle them—all the stressful points of a business.   So who is running whom?  Is the owner running the office or the office running the owner?  That’s why it’s called being the “effect” of your own business.

What’s the solution for this sort of thing?

Well, it requires proactively running the business.  It requires dealing with employee issues and confusions before they develop into large business-affecting issues.  It requires that the owner have enough free time and energy so that he can get HIS work done and have enough left over to actually inspect his business.  It requires that he be able to get around to the office and talk to the employees off of production time.  It requires that he be able to look at the issues and really dig in.  It requires that he not just gloss over an issue, actually bring it into the sunlight and assess what the problem really is.  Only then can he find a real solution for it.

That last is extremely important.  The only way that one will ever find a real solution to a problem is if he brings it out into the open and looks at what it really is with no bias or blindness.  It requires talking to the person and finding out what’s REALLY going on.  Then, and only then, can the problems in an office actually be solved.

But how does one go about doing this?  It’s all very good to talk about it, but everyone talks about it.  If it’s all just a bunch of hot-air psychobabble, how does it relate to the real world?  If you’re just told to “proactively run your business” that’s great, but it doesn’t mean anything.  It doesn’t open the door to any kind of handling or meaningful course of action.

We have to go a bit deeper.

Why does an owner fail to “proactively run their business”?  Why does a person avoid those problems in their business?  Why do they skirt around issues rather than confronting them?  If we tell a person not to do those things, that’s all well and good, but there’s an underlying reason.  We can tell them to stop doing that all day long and they just treat it like it’s a New Year’s resolution: “Ok, I realize I need to confront the things in my business I’m not confronting and deal with them rather than avoiding them.”  Ha!  It’s almost a joke.

So why does a person avoid confronting certain issues in their business?

The reason is that they don’t know how to handle them.

Mark that well: the reason a person avoids looking at and confronting the problem spots and employee issues is just that they don’t know how to handle them.  They don’t really know what to do!

How does one handle the critical employee?   What about the perennially confused front-desk person?  How about the associate doctor who just marches to the beat of a different drummer?  Two different employees fighting?  Someone who is having personal issues and bringing them to work?  These lead to protocols not followed, clients not properly serviced, tasks forgotten or botched and many other problems.

The owner, not knowing how to deal with these issues, just doesn’t LOOK.  It’s easier.  It’s more comfortable.  He just walks by the person.  Knowing there might be something wrong, but not having a clue what to do if he found out what it is, he simply doesn’t ask.  He hopes they don’t bring it up.

The solution to employee troubles is to teach the executives how to handle employees.  One has to be expert in training, organizing, interpersonal relations and the laws of communication.  One simply can’t expect to run a business without being trained in management.

It’s like this: would a dentist avoid dealing with issues related to a patient’s oral hygiene?  Would the veterinarian avoid looking for the cause of a pet’s very obvious pain?   NO!  Why?  Because they’re trained in it!  They want to find out what’s going on.  They actually dig in and look for the root causes of trouble, because they know what to do with it when they find it.

If you actually know how to handle employee-related problems, not only are you eager to dig in and find out what issues you have in your office, you can actually SOLVE them.  You can get results.  You can change the fate of your company and your future.

Get trained in management.  Get a consultant.  Learn how to deal with employees.  Implement a training system so that people know their jobs.  Create a company organizational structure.  Set up inter-office communication channels.  Get your long-term planning straight.  Work out the direction of your business.  Find out how to judge good employees from bad.  DO something about it.

Hanses Management can help you.  With over 20 years of experience all across the United States and Canada, we assure you that your problems aren’t mysterious.  They aren’t unusual.  They are what everyone runs into.  It is actually easy to handle.  It just takes a belief that things can run more smoothly, an understanding that there are right ways and wrong ways to manage and a willingness to stick with it long enough to learn how.  You stuck with it all the way through undergrad school, all the way through your professional schooling…you invested hundreds of thousands of dollars and now you have a business.

Learn how to run it.

Call us today for a free consultation and let us see how we can help you.  We treat each person as an individual situation and are interested in yours.  There is no obligation.  Write us and let us know what you’re running into.  We’ll give you an honest assessment of the situation.


Mark Hanses

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