If you are a business owner with employees or a manager of employees, you may have encountered employee apathy. You know, the employee that has been doing a great job and then all of a sudden they are not engaged, mistakes are happening, and possibly complaints from clients. When it gets to this point, the challenge of reversing the situation is pretty difficult. It’s not impossible, but it will take a willing effort from both parties.
Causes of employee apathy
There are a variety of reasons why an employee could become disengaged with your organization. Here are a few that may resonate with you:
- They have been in their position for a long time and are now bored with their responsibilities
- They feel they are not appreciated or acknowledged for their work
- Poor performance by other employees is tolerated so there is no reason to try hard
- Antiquated systems or processes make the organization uncompetitive and there is no plan for upgrades
- Something in their personal life is affecting their work life
It is important to remember that you might not agree with their thought process on any of these items, but right or wrong, it is what they believe and is what is driving their thought process and behavior. It’s also important to be open to the idea that there may be some validity in their concerns. This is a great opportunity to salvage an employee relationship and possibly improve parts of your business.
Identifying employee apathy early
The faster you can identify when an employee is starting to become apathetic, the easier it is to help them change course. The nice byproduct of these solutions is that it should improve the overall communications and culture of your organization.
- Have regular one-on-one checkins with your employees. You can do this formally or informally. Ask open-ended questions and then listen. “How are things going?” “How can we improve things?”
- If possible, have group functions periodically. An informal lunch goes a long way to building relationships and keeping everyone engaged as a team.
- Create a mechanism for employees to provide feedback. While this could be a formal process, it can also be as easy as having an open-door policy. If employees are empowered to bring things to your attention with the knowledge that you will actively listen and are interested in what they have to say, it will go a long way to keep them engaged.
- Create a mechanism for clients to provide feedback. An easy way to do this is with a telephone call or an email. It doesn’t have to be elaborate and you can also use the same open-ended questions.
Hopefully apathy doesn’t happen frequently in your organization, but if it does, there are ways to help this situation. A lot of it comes down to you as the leader. You may have an organization-wide issue that you need to change such as improving workflow processes, implementing cross-training to give employees some variety, or creating more of a team environment. You may also need to improve your communication skills and sharpen your leadership skills.
As a leader in the organization, you need to be committed to staying engaged yourself. If you are working in the business instead of on the business, you may be missing key signals that are being sent by your team. Take this opportunity to take a hard look at your current situation and determine if there are areas that need some attention.
If you would like to discuss how to keep employees engaged and stop meh in further detail, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am here to help!
I clearly remember back in 2014 when I started my new journey to become a business coach and consultant I was excited, nervous, and a little unsure about the best way to start. I jumped in and then stopped. What happened? I had the opportunity to acquire a company and it made too much sense to pass up. Instead of jumping into coaching and consulting I dove into an acquisition and then the post-close transition. I’ve been through a few of these and absolutely love the challenges associated with these transitions. I had the opportunity to work with a great team of people at HPS Process Service & Investigations and I continue to be thrilled with the level of service they provide. They’ve been doing it for over 30 years and really know their stuff!
About six months after my first attempt to jump in I was ready for my second attempt. This time I decided to focus on one industry and mainly focus on the consulting side. A lot of time and energy was spent on creating fantastic programs to help companies transform into something new. The only problem? The industry wasn’t ready to buy what I was selling. Someone very wise told me “It’s not very fun to go to a dance when no one will dance with you.” So true! At that point I decided to take a pause and focus more on my two existing companies HPS and Get Smarter Prep and spend more time with my kids. While this happened I would ponder on what I wanted to do next.
One of the best things about coaching is providing clarity on next steps to others. Sometimes, with a little reflection, you can get your own clarity. Sometimes it takes a lot of reflection. I realized that I was at the same place I started back in 2014, ready to jump in and work on business coaching and consulting. I am less nervous, not unsure about the best way to start, and very excited. Will I get diverted by a new opportunity? Maybe. But that’s the best part of life – living it!
I constantly see the sayings “Is your cup half empty” or “Is your cup half full”. There are many variations to these, all with the purpose of determining whether you are optimistic or pessimistic. While I think that, as a leader, it is important to know how you naturally perceive things, it is just as important to take the next step and ask the question “Why isn’t the cup full and what are we going to do to fill it back up?”
Why perception is important?
As a leader, you need to understand how you and each of your team members perceive things. If you are naturally pessimistic and you surround yourself with like-minded individuals, you are probably going to see your environment in a less-than-positive manner. The same if you are naturally optimistic. I want to stress that I firmly believe you should embrace who you are. If you are naturally pessimistic or optimistic, understand that and work with it. Create a team that balances your natural perception.
You’ve observed, now act!
How many times does your organization encounter a difficult situation and then nothing happens? I see situations like this frequently and too many times there is a lack of action because the team is too focused on why they are in the situation. They spend a lot of time working through the cup half empty / cup half full debate. While it is important to understand the situation, once you have defined it you need to create your strategy. Then act!
The next time you encounter a difficult situation, I encourage you to not spend too much time defining the situation and spend more time on planning how to move forward and fill the glass back up. Rally your team around creating a strategy to not only fill up your cup, but make it overflow – then you will need a bigger cup! Then you can have a heated debate with your team on whether your new cup is half empty or half full!
Getting stuck in these situations is a very common problem for businesses of all sizes. Sometimes, a new perspective helps get things started. Please contact me if you would like a confidential, no obligation conversation about your cup.
I saw this cartoon and chuckled to myself. I instantly thought of multiple situations where this brand of leadership occurred. A group of leaders sitting around their conference table trying to fix a difficult situation or turn the company around without any solid solutions on how to fix it. I often wondered if anyone actually thought or wished that something would just magically happen to fix their problem. Is hoping for magic to happen the same as hoping that time will allow a difficult situation to resolve itself? Is that what the ostrich is thinking as it sticks its head deeper and deeper into the dirt? I guess if things happen to create a difficult situation, is it so unreasonable to sit back and let things “unhappen”? Yes, it is unreasonable.
Employees Count On You
No matter how big or small your company is, if you have one or more employees, you have a duty to do what is best for the future of the company. Employees generally take a leap of faith when they join your team. More than likely, they are looking for something beyond just a paycheck – especially the newer generations. They are looking to be part of something growing or moving in a positive direction. If their leadership team is sitting around the table hoping for something magical to happen, how committed do you think employees are to that team? On top of that, employees have expectations that their leadership team will have the capacity to work out solutions for these difficult situations or connect with outside experts that do have the expertise. Here’s a little insight – employees don’t mind if solutions don’t work every time. They mind when there are no solutions.
Customers Count On You
Your customers use your services and/or products because they provide value. They want to keep a relationship with you as long as you are providing positive value. As a customer, it is much easier to keep going to the same company than finding a new company. If customers gets a sense that your company is not capable of solving problems or adapting to difficult changes, they will quickly translate that to thinking your company is not innovative and will not keep up with the trends. They may not jump ship immediately, but be assured they are looking to do so.
Competition Loves This
How do you think a competitor reacts when they hear a leadership team in their industry is hoping for magic? Some may celebrate; knowing that they soon may get more customers coming their way. Others may focus on how they can be opportunistic and take advantage of this situation. How many competitors, do you think, will reach out to the struggling company and offer some free assistance?
Unfortunately, unless you are a professional magician, magic is not going to solve your problems. If you are in a leadership role at an organization, there are times when you are going to need to make some extremely difficult decisions to handle extremely difficult situations. Hoping things work out all by themselves is actually a decision – usually a bad one.
If your group is having a hard time finding a workable solution you have three options: change the makeup of the group, expand the group, or bring in some outside expertise to help facilitate the group. All three of these are better options than hoping for magic.
In my prior posts about buying a business I went over the major steps leading up to closing a deal. There is a lot of hard work and many moving parts to manage in the buying process. You may encounter unexpected hurdles, last-minute surprises, and possibly a couple of sleepless nights while you approach the official closing date. This is absolutely normal. There are too many pieces to this complicated puzzle for it not to cause you to scratch your head a few times or ask “Did I forget to do this?” My best advice is to go into this expecting there are going to be some rough spots, but remember that your ultimate goal is to buy a business that is going to make you incredibly happy. Let’s assume the big day has arrived, you’ve signed all the paperwork, and you now have the keys to your new kingdom. What’s next?
Bust A Move!
You just accomplished something that only a small percentage of the population has done. All the hard work during your search and closing has culminated in this amazing opportunity that you created for yourself. This is a huge deal and you should celebrate! During your lifetime you will have a handful of milestones that you will remember. I guarantee that this will be one of them. Celebrate with your loved ones, friends, and anyone else you want. Toast your hard work and your future successes. If you have a personal happy dance, this is a great time to do it! It’s probably a good time to thank all your trusted partners who helped you get to this point. Relish in this moment and remember it. You will have opportunities in the future to look back and use this memory to help you out. Now it’s time to get to work!
Make A Plan
This is probably a little misleading when I state at this point to make a plan. Actually, prior to your closing date, you should have sat down a created a plan on how you are going to approach this business as a new owner. You should definitely have a detailed plan on what you are going to accomplish your first day, week, and month. These will definitely be fluid plans, but they need to be in place to ensure you start off on the right foot and keep your positive momentum. Some of the key things you could consider doing the first day or week are:
- spend quality time with each employee – learn what they do, get to know them, and let them get to know you
- begin learning all aspects of the business – roll your sleeves up and get to it
- communicate your short-term plans to the organization – this will reduce anxiety surrounding a new owner
- reach out to all your key customers and vendors to introduce yourself – let them know it’s business as usual or what is going to be different
- work on your cash flow and expenses – making that first payroll cycle can be a little stressful
Having a plan before you walk in the door the first day will help alleviate all of your stress and convey to your team that you are on top of things. Of course, there will be many issues that come up during the first days or weeks that you did not consider. Take them on one at a time and know that you will get through them in short order and a routine will emerge.
Why Did I Do This?
When things get a little hectic, you may let a little negative thinking sneak in. A little buyer’s remorse is perfectly normal and probably expected. What you just spent, both in time and money, was very significant. When those doubts creep in I want you to think about how you felt during your celebration. Maybe picture your happy dance, especially if it looked ridiculous. Owning a business is an incredible experience and it is also a lot of responsibility. Unlike being an employee for someone else, at the end of the day you are still the person in charge and accountable. The fulfillment you will receive when your business succeeds is incredible and worth all the hard work and sacrifice.
Finding, buying and owning a business can be one of the most incredible experiences you may encounter, but it can also be a little overwhelming. If you are thinking of taking the plunge, but are unsure of how to start or if it is the right move for you, I would be happy to share my experiences with you. I’m here to help you.
In Buying A Business – Part One, I gave an overview on identifying the type of business you want to buy, searching for available businesses, and then a not-so-subtle tip that it will take time and hard work to actually close on the business you are pursuing. There are a few more areas in the process that I’ll cover in this post. As a reminder, these posts are not meant to be an all-inclusive primer on buying a business, but a high-level overview on some of my learnings as I’ve gone through the process multiple times.
Circle The Wagons
As soon as you start the process of buying a business, you should begin to identify your trusted advisers and vendors. Here is a short list of some of the most important connections for you to make. Each transaction is different, so you will want to evaluate your situation and identify any others you may need.
Accountant An accountant is a great person to review your opportunities. They have seen many successful and unsuccessful business over the years and are well-equipped to give you advice on the financial health of the business. Also, you should decide if you are you going to do your own bookkeeping? If not, you will need to identify who is going to do it. If you are, it’s still a great idea to have a trusted financial adviser in your corner to help review your efforts and possibly prepare your necessary tax submissions. This is a critical area for the long-term success of your venture and is not an area to take shortcuts or try to save a few dollars.
Attorney A strong deal lawyer is worth their weight in gold, especially if you can find one that will protect your interests without flooding your deal in paperwork. One of your decisions could be whether you want to go with a big or small firm. The benefits of a large firm are they can throw a lot of resources at a deal and make things happen quickly, which you will pay for. The benefits of a small firm is possibly a lower bill and personalized service. There are pros and cons to both options and I’ve seen success using both. The best advice I can give you is to get referrals from trusted advisers and go with the lawyer you connect with and understands what you are trying to achieve.
Financing How are you financing your deal? Are you considering an SBA loan, a conventional loan, or other alternatives for your deal? There are many options for deal financing. Some will make more sense than others, depending on your financial situation, deal size, and type of business you are acquiring. Like other areas, the more homework you do ahead of time, the better. The worst time to start looking for financing is after you have made an offer. I highly encourage you to do a lot of homework in this area as soon as you start looking for a business. Until you know what financing you have available you will not know what price range to look at or what to offer. The other thing to keep in mind is that financing should not be a cookie cutter approach – financing a deal can be an art and use a lot of imagination and creativity.
These are just a few of the important connections you should make when you start your search. Depending on the type of business you buy you may need other resources like Information Technology, Marketing, Banking, etc. These will be valuable resources even after you close on your business.
Bow To Your Partner
You’ve found the business that meets all the parameters you previously established and you want to move forward. Now comes what I call “The Dance”. Depending on your personality, this could be the part of the process that really gets your adrenaline pumping or elevates your stress level. Usually you will be given the opportunity to meet with the Seller and ask them questions about the business. This is a great opportunity to learn about that specific business, but an even better opportunity to learn more about the Seller. Why are they selling? What type of deal structure do they prefer? What does their ideal Buyer look like? If there are multiple offers, what will they base their decision on? Don’t be afraid to ask specific questions about a deal. If it’s a question they don’t want to answer, they or their Broker will say so. If you are polite and genuinely interested, a lot of times they will give you some critical information. The key objective of this meeting is to give you enough information to decide whether you want to continue to pursue the opportunity or not. The secondary objective is to give you key information that will help you draft an offer that gives you a higher chance of acceptance, if you want to go down that road. Like other aspects of buying an acquisition, there is a little bit of an art to these meetings. If you do your homework and prepare quality questions for the meeting, you will do great.
Once you have decided to pursue the opportunity, you will need to submit a formal offer to the Seller. You will need to determine what price you want to offer and the broad terms of the deal. Depending on the Seller, the size of the deal, and a few other factors, you will probably present the Seller with a Letter of Intent or something similar. Each opportunity is different and your approach may need to be different for each one. If you are responding to a business that has been listed by an Aggregator or Broker, you will probably be competing with a few qualified buyers. You may go back and forth a few times or you may, but hopefully you will come to an initial agreement that allows you to move forward towards the actual purchase.
The Seller accepted your offer. Now it’s just a matter of picking a closing date and getting the keys, right? No. You’ve still got a lot of work ahead of you. There are major things to do beyond just picking a closing date. Here are a few of the major things you will need to do to get to the closing date.
Due Diligence You will need to perform some due diligence on the Seller’s business prior to closing. Depending on your financing, they may require some proof of this. At a minimum, you will want to do this for your own benefit. You will want to verify the validity or existence of key items that the Seller represented to you. This could include reviewing the Seller’s prior years’ tax returns to verify revenue and expenses. It could also include reviewing existing customer contracts to verify that they can be transferred or assigned to your new entity. A thorough due diligence process is vital to closing the deal and assuring you the business you are buying is worth the amount you are paying.
Finalize Financing Your financing partner should be working closely with you at this point to make sure you are gathering the right information they need to approve your funds and make sure everything is proceeding in a timely fashion. I highly recommend communicating often with your financing partner to make sure everyone is on the same page during this whole process. You don’t want any last-minute surprises or delays that could derail your deal. Generally, these partners have a lot of these transactions under the belt and will be a huge asset to you completing the deal.
Closing Documents While you are doing due diligence and working on your financing, you should also be working on all of the closing legal documents. In addition the the sales agreement, you may also need consulting, non-compete, and lease agreements. Whether the Seller’s attorney or your attorney is drafting these documents, you will want to thoroughly review them to make sure they encompass everything you want and need to transition the business. If the Seller’s attorney is preparing them, you will want your own attorney to give them a thorough review. Don’t be afraid to ask for changes if you need them. This is another area that may cost some money, but you should not try to cut corners.
The process of buying a business takes a lot of flexibility, patience, and endurance. You will be juggling a lot of different balls at the same time, but it can be one of the most gratifying and exhilarating things you go through. In my next post I will cover the important things that should happen after you take possession of your new business. That’s right – there is more work to do! In the meantime, if you have any questions or want more details about my experiences buying businesses, don’t hesitate to contact me.
Over the last few years I have had the pleasure of going through two different searches to find and purchase a business. I’m not sure which was more exciting to me – the hunt or closing on the deal. I learned a lot from both searches and wanted to share my experiences, in case you are considering something similar.
What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?
For me, one of the hardest things about buying a business was trying to identify which type of business I wanted. Since I grew up in service-oriented companies, I naturally gravitated towards them. Beyond that, I wasn’t sure what I wanted. I went through the SIC directory to see if any specific type caught my eye, but it really didn’t help much, except to identify some industries that I wanted to stay away from. After a lot of time and headaches, I decided that not knowing exactly what I wanted was not a bad thing. Actually, for me, being open-minded helped me buy two of my businesses.
Release The Hounds
Finding the right business to buy is a combination of skill, persistence, and sometimes luck. Once you have narrowed down what you are (or are not) looking for, the really hard work begins. The first thing you should understand about “the search” is that you will probably have a lot of competition. Depending on the market you are searching, many times there are more buyers and sellers. It’s important for you to understand this dynamic in your market. If there are a lot of pursuers for a business, many times you will have to pay a premium for the business or be creative with your offer. If you know people who have recently bought a business in your market, ask them how the process went and what the competition was like. The more informed you are about your market, the better your chances. Here are a few options on how to find available businesses.
An example of a list aggregator is BizBuySell. They provide lists of companies available for sale that you can filter by location, type, etc. If you register, you can also get updates emailed to you. I would sign up for these lists whether you are seriously looking or just thinking about starting a search. You should definitely understand that this is a volume game and that you and a gazillion others will be looking at the same information. However, there is a plethora of great information on these websites. Once you find an industry you are interested in, you can look at different locations outside your market and see how they are priced. This is helpful insight for you when you are contemplating offers.
If you are serious about buying a business, you should absolutely reach out to the brokers in your market. Before you send your first email or make your first call, reach out to your network and find out who the best brokers are in town. You might also find out who you should shy away from. Once you have your short list, reach out to each of them and take the time to introduce yourself and begin developing a relationship. I highly recommend you meet them in person. I’ve always believed that you can build a relationship stronger and faster if you meet in person. Each brokerage will have a slightly different approach to working with clients. Some may offer to help you perform your search – for a fee. While I have not gone with this approach, I know others who have had great success with it. This is a decision you will need to make based on what you are looking for, how fast you want to find your business, and your budget.
If you are in a position to share the news that you are searching for a business, by all means do so. Leverage the network you have built over the years to help you find the business of your dreams. You may be surprised and find the business of your dreams through your network. I would leverage your connections and even look at groups on LinkedIn to identify opportunities. Think of searching for a business like fishing. The bigger the net, the more fish you will catch, and hopefully find one that is a keeper.
Law Of Large Numbers
I hate to be the one to tell you this, but it may take longer than a few days to find the business of your dreams. I’m also sorry to tell you that you may bid on the business of your dreams and lose – multiple times. I will tell you that if you are persistent, you will find more than one of these golden opportunities. I don’t know how many dream businesses I lost or even walked away from (actually, I do), but I picked myself up and kept working hard. Eventually, it paid off.
In my next post I will discuss what happens once your offer is accepted. The fun of due diligence and contract negotiations begins. You also will need to start developing key relationships with your trusted advisers. These are the critical people that will help you finalize your transaction and get you started on the right foot.
If you are thinking about starting the exciting adventure of buying a business, or in the middle of a search and would like to get some valuable feedback on the process, don’t hesitate to contact me. I would be happy to share my successes and failures with you.
I have been a member of a peer group for over seven years and I can say that making the decision to join was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The benefits I have received from the groups I have belonged to have been instrumental in my personal growth and success. I know this sounds like it may be an overly dramatic statement, but I firmly believe that I would not be where I am today without these experiences and my groups pushing me.
Peer groups or mastermind groups, as they are also called, have been around for a long time. I’m going to describe my group, but it is important to understand there are many different variations that are equally successful. I would define our group as being medium in size with eight members. You can go a little smaller, but if you get too small (4-5 members) you may have issues with having enough members show up to have a quality meeting. You can count on having 1-2 people having a conflict and not being able to attend. I believe you need at least 4 members in attendance to have a quality meeting. There are some groups that are much larger (16-18 members), which can work effectively, but you need to weigh size of the group against the amount of time you are meeting and what you are trying to accomplish. If you have too many members, some may not have time to participate and that is one of the critical parts of the group – everyone participates. We meet monthly for three hours, which is just about the perfect frequency and amount of time for our size.
Our monthly meetings are broken up into three sections:
- Social – we take a little time to have open discussions about current events or other general topics
- Updates – each member gives a very brief update on how things are going in their business and personal lives
- Process Issues – members can bring up a pressing issue that they need help with
You may have perked up when you saw that we talk about our personal lives. We absolutely do this. We recognized early that our business and personal lives are intertwined and one affects the other. I should mention that we each signed a non-disclosure agreement and what is said in the group, stays in the group. While there is a great amount of trust built up over time, this agreement helps new members in the group feel comfortable sharing information. My favorite part of our meetings is when we process issues. This is where you see the power of a peer group happening. The member gives you an overview of their situation, what the issue is, and what they are looking for in a solution. The rest of the group gets to ask clarifying questions to make sure they fully understand the situation. Then, each of the members give a possible solution to resolve the issue or at least move it in the right direction. Think about this for a second. If you had the opportunity to present one of your most difficult challenges to a group and get multiple solutions to consider, how would that improve your chances to succeed? When you see it in action it is incredibly powerful.
There are other important aspects of our group that I think are critical to its success. I mentioned earlier that everyone participates. Whether you have an issue to present or you are giving solutions to a member’s issue, each member is expected to be completely engaged. It is not uncommon to walk out of a 3-hour meeting feeling exhilarated and drained at the same time. We challenge each other. We create an atmosphere of trust, which allows us to confront each other when we think a member may be taking “the easy way out”. We hold each other accountable. If you bring up an issue and you receive multiple solutions or action steps from the other members, we are going to expect that you do something and we are going to ask you about it at the next meeting. If you know you are going to have to report on your progress, the chances of something happening are much higher.
As you can tell, peer groups are something I am very passionate about. I would not trade the bonds and relationships I have created with my group’s members. I firmly believe that by being involved in a well-constructed peer group you will greatly enhance your level of success. And if you are stuck in your current situation, a peer group is one of the best ways to get movement. If you want to hear more about my experiences with peer groups or would like to create or join an existing group, please contact me. I am here to help you.
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Aristotle