I work for businesses that are doing very well as often as businesses that are struggling. That may seem odd but the successful business generally wants to stay ahead of the competitive curve and is willing to invest in knowledge. Successful businesses are more open to change ideas. This is an odd paradox on the surface but makes perfect sense.

Naturally, a business open to a wide variety of thinking will do better. The business willing to consider ideas from within and to seek ideas from outside has more options.

I guess that’s why well people go the doctor for check-ups.


That’s the key word. Ideas are options. They don’t have to be immediately adopted. New ideas can be modified, molded to fit the business or a particular situation. Some ideas can be dropped altogether.

The successful businesses I’ve worked with encouraged me to offer as many observations and suggestions as possible. They want input.

Here’s an example. One of my clients is a large medical billing company. The company is very well managed, morale is always above average and they are consistently profitable. This is not a small operation. The company has about 50 employees.

This client will ask me periodically to spend a couple days with them. I’m always treated like royalty. (I mention that because the more successful companies treat everyone well.)

I study the flow of the day and gauge the mood of the talent as the work day progresses. At the end of the day, I’ll go to my hotel and prepare a report with observations and suggestions.

It never ceases to amaze me, though it shouldn’t, how open senior management is to my thoughts. I’m met with glee as I present my findings and suggestions. (Really) And then, the owner always calls for a staff meeting for around 10:00 a.m. to discuss my ideas and take input from the staff.

The meetings always end with a resolution to adopt at least one idea immediately. The means of implementation is agreed to at the meeting. Yes, agreement will be reached. By 11:00 a.m. I can see change taking place.

I might offer some thoughts to polish the new idea. After lunch I’ll meet with the owner briefly to re-cap the work and report the changes I’ve seen. I’ll give some additional thought about keeping the new ‘way’ going. It takes a little time for change to become part of the ‘way’ things are done. She always follows through.

A week or two later I’ll get a call telling me how well things are going. Often there will be a thank-you note, hand-written by the owner, on my submitted invoice along with prompt payment.

The Struggling Business

Generally, when I work with a struggling business, each idea is met with a lot of resistance. “That won’t work because…” “We’ll think about that…” “We’re not ready for that…” “We’ll give it some thought…”  There is always a reason to delay change.

At the struggling business, no idea is good enough to consider seriously. The meeting to discuss new ideas takes a lot longer than necessary. Little comes from the work. Employees will often tell me “things never change around here.”

Employees at the struggling business adopt the style of management. Employees no longer believe improvement in their daily work situation is possible. They will argue any new idea. They will resist even a simple thing that could make their work a lot easier. I’ll hear words like “Bill will never go along with that.” Or, “Jenny won’t do it. She insists on everything being her way.” And my favorite, “we a program for that, we just never use it.”

I work with a lot of businesses that are working far harder than necessary. Work isn’t fun. There are profit ‘leaks’, errors that constantly cost money. Still, it’s nearly impossible to bring change that could improve business.

Do you agree with these?

  • Almost any task can be made easier
  • Work can be fun
  • Fun work is more productive and more profitable
  • Internal cooperation is essential and should be monitored and required

I’ll continue to struggle with the struggling and have fun with the successful.

The choice to continue struggling is firmly in the hands of the business.

Change doesn’t have to be difficult. Small, inexpensive improvements aggregate to BIG results.

Chris Reich