The Easiest Way to Fix a Broken Business

“Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator. And change has its enemies.”Robert F. Kennedy (“Federal Power and Local Poverty,” The Pursuit of Justice, 1964)

She was very impressive. Smart. Assertive. And had exactly the working history we wanted for someone to run our business. We hired her, and everything went smoothly for a while. She assembled an impressive, name-brand team of product vendors, customer-service providers, and fulfillment specialists.

For six months, her boss and I were very optimistic. But then one day we sat down together to talk about this young hotshot’s progress and realized that one thing was missing: She had failed to produce sales.

How could it be possible, we wondered, that our hope for the future had neglected to do the most important thing?

My reaction, as usual, was on the extreme side. “Dump her, quick!” I sagely shouted. Her boss was more temperate. “Let’s give her another six months and see where she goes with this. We’ll set goals and monitor her progress.” I reluctantly agreed.

Six months later, we had lost about a quarter-million dollars. And our Lady of Great Potential handed us a budget that showed us losing another million before the business turned itself around.

“That ain’t happening,” I wisely concluded. Her boss agreed — and since we didn’t have a suitable replacement standing in the wings, she offered to step in and do the job herself.

The result? Within three months, the business stopped bleeding. By the sixth month, it was turning a profit. Today — less than one year later — we are on our way to a million dollars a year in profits.

And it all started with a single change in personnel.

This story is just one of 10 I could tell you. For example:

* the list-rental business that went from breakeven to $400,000 a year when PR took over

* the public-relations business that got itself out of bankruptcy when we fired the guy who used to nap on the radiator (He was that
bad and that short.)

* the pool-building-business crew that doubled its daily sales by replacing the crew chief with the guy who was digging holes

* the publishing business with sales that went from $25 million to $90 million when the manager was replaced by a marketer

* the nightclub with profits that suddenly increased by $400 a night when the evening manager was replaced by an honest man

You get the picture.

Do you own or work for a business (or a division of a business) that is floundering? Is the person running that business making
excuses? Are you that person?

When a spouse is mysteriously murdered, smart cops extend sympathy to the remaining spouse but nonetheless work their investigation around the likely probability that he or she is the one who did it.

This is your clarion call.

If your business is in trouble and you’ve been getting nothing but plans and reasons why the plans don’t work, consider hard-core

 If you are running a business for someone else (who reads ETR!) — and you don’t want to be replaced — stop coming up with excuses and start repairing things FAST!

What you need (or need to be) is someone who is willing to spend 80% of his productive time on what’s missing. In the case of the business above, that missing element was marketing. In eight or nine failing businesses out of 10, that will be the problem.

If you want change, you have to cause change. The biggest change you can make is to change the most powerful person in the organization.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]