Business Relationship Germs

In management seminars I often compare debt to an infection. A reasonable amount of debt will not kill a business, but too much debt will. While most businesses carry a substantial amount of debt from time to time, it must be maintained in an acceptable relationship to stockholder's equity.

Infection is also a threat in business relationships. How serious the illness your business' relationships experience depends on how effective management is at controlling business relationship germs that are spread around in the normal course of doing business.

The following are a few of the relationship germs I'm referring to. Managers must understand them and control them to keep their business relationships healthy.

Belittling your employees. Your company's best and most productive employees have more options than ever. With so many options, employees have the luxury of demanding respect. So if you observe your managers belittling, putting down or showing disrespect to the people in the organization, corrective action is called for.

Seeing more negatives than positives. Is the glass half full or half empty in your organization? When employees break rules, make mistakes or violate company policies, these issues certainly need to be discussed and dealt with. However, when employees do something that you perceive to be over and above the call of duty, they also deserve praise.

In the little management book, The One-Minute Manager by Kenneth H. Johnson, the "one-minute praising" is recommended when employees are observed doing something right. To be most effective, "praisings" must occur as soon as possible following the positive behavior and should be as specific as possible.

Failure to provide employee feedback. Employees deserve to know where they stand and in professionally managed organizations, feedback is typically given via a formal performance review.

What is the employee turnover in your organization? Are your operating expenses higher than necessary due to excessive employee churn? Excessive employee turnover is a sign that your people are either not earning a competitive wage or management is not communicating clearly.

Poor customer care behavior. Competitors are highly motivated to begin more aggressive attacks on your customer base. Because so many of your industry's less professional salespeople will employ low-ball pricing tactics as bait, more attention than ever must be paid to how well your company is treating its customer base.

The owner or general manager should be on a first-name basis with each of the customers that make up the top 80% of your sales. A manager should visit each top customer at least on a quarterly basis, showing genuine and sincere interest in their business and asking what the company can do to improve the efficiency of their operations.

Invite customers and prospects onto your turf. Organize customer seminars, hold an open house, invite vendors to conduct new product demonstrations, launch a customer newsletter, etc.

Bill Lee works with managers who want to put more money on the bottom line and author of Gross Margin: 26 Factors Affecting Your Bottom Line. $29.95 + $5 S&H.

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