A Delicate Balance

Jan. 1, 2003
by Lee Rosenberg If you think your business isnt fragile, think again. Okay, youre successful, youve been in business for 20, 30, or even 40 years. Your

by Lee Rosenberg

If you think your business isn’t fragile, think again. Okay, you’re successful, you’ve been in business for 20, 30, or even 40 years. Your name is solid, your reputation flawless, and your employees and customers love you to pieces. What could possibly change all of that?

Often, even minor changes or events can make a huge difference and take a once-thriving enterprise and put it on a rapid course to extinction.

Too Much, Too Soon

The change that can most disrupt a smooth-running, thriving business is a change at the top. I’ve seen successes, and I’ve seen complete
disasters. It’s a real pity to see a
vibrant, successful business evaporate overnight by bringing in an incompetent individual to head up the operations.

For instance, say you (the owner) sell the business, exit, and a new owner steps in. Employees usually expect certain minor changes. However, if too many things change too quickly, watch out. You could be headed for disaster.

Therefore, if you’re contemplating a major change at the top, think through all of the scenarios and all of the ramifications before you start that journey.

You may want to hang on to the business and just promote an existing employee to a general manager position. Or, you could bring in an outsider to fill the top slot. Again, use caution. The transition has to be correct, and you must keep employees in the loop about the changes that are occurring.

Another sledgehammer that can break the fragile glass of company stability includes changes in branding. You wouldn’t want to change the name of the company, create a totally new logo, repaint the trucks, and change the letterheads and business cards all at once.

The same goes for replacing the person answering the phone, altering the answering script, and changing the hours of live telephone answering. All of these changes could confuse and alienate customers and employees alike.

How about pricing strategy changes? When customers discover a major change has taken place, they fear being treated differently, and they’re on the lookout for price changes.

Here again, if you make too many changes too quickly, you’ll lose your customers’ confidence and they’ll go elsewhere.

Finally, watch out when contemplating a new computer system installation or conversion from system A to system B. This can be costly, and I don’t mean the cost of the hardware, software, cabling and setup. I mean the trauma that it can bring to your company, employees, and eventually, your customers.

Words Can Kill

In addition to excessive internal change, bad press can kill your business, and it can happen very easily. One example is a media sting. Here, many unscrupulous, dishonest contractors have been caught and ruined. However, a number of excellent contractors have unfortunately been caught as well. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The employee, probably a single bad apple, shouldn’t have been a part of that honest contractor’s team in the first place.

Rumors can also be mighty nasty. Often, a disgruntled employee or customer spreads rumors in the community. If his or her comments take root, you’ll be deemed a dishonest company or a terrible employer. You’ll also be amazed at how quickly the bad word travels. Be aware of what is being said, and when necessary, put an end to it.

Happy People, Strong Company

Our people are the key ingredients to our success. Sure, it takes a realistic business plan and effective execution; however, bottom line, it’s our people who make it happen.

With all this is mind, your company is only as strong as your human resources. Keep them strong, nourished, challenged, and happy, and don’t make the foolish mistake of thinking that all forms of change are necessary or healthy. n

Lee Rosenberg, P. E. is president of Lee Rosenberg HVAC Consulting Group, Inc. and is a member of Contracting Business’ Editorial Advisory Board. He can be reached at 210/479-1830 or e-mail at [email protected].