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The Myths of Small Business Growth and How to Overcome Them! by P. John Brunstetter, Ph.D

Every small business leader has been exposed to a variety of “theories” about how to make a business successful. Although many of these theories are prone to be invalid, some proponents continue to base key business decisions on them. The following are the most pervasive, but invalid, “myths” about small business growth and what enlightened small business executives have done to overcome them.

Myth 1: Our customers’ only concern is getting their own needs met.

Fact: Successful companies are passionate about openly sharing needs, wants and expectations with their external and internal (employee) customer. Research confirms that Customer and Employee Satisfaction are highly correlated. Rapid growth is the result of highly satisfying company, customer and employee partnerships i.e., joining forces and responding to the following questions:

  • What will it take to satisfy mutual needs?
  • What are our mutual problems/challenges?
  • Who and what mutual resources are required?
  • How do we become mutually “proactive” to adapt to changing market conditions?

The Myth 1 Bottom Line: Our experience indicates that businesses are more effective
when they treat customers and employees as partners.

Myth 2: All companies should be solely profit driven.

Fact: Recent research throughout all industries suggests that highly profitable companies are value driven, not solely profit driven. Studies of customer satisfaction confirm that customers seek the best value, not necessarily the lowest price. Cost containment that lowers customer service and satisfaction is shortsighted and inevitably a profit drain. The most successful companies live by a consistent set of values, ethics, and business
practices. These are critical cornerstones in the foundation for business growth.

The Myth 2 Bottom Line: Profitability is only one dimension of a business growth strategy. Applied corporate values are equally important. Core standards of behavior and
business practices need to be defined, communicated and rewarded. For example, the
most successful high growth companies make following a “Customers Bill of Rights” and
“Employee Code of Customer Conduct” a key part of each employee’s performance
evaluation.

Myth 3: Charismatic leaders with creative new ideas drive the most successful
companies.

Fact: Our experience clearly supports that the most successful companies are driven
effective operating systems and procedures as well as by leadership. Some entrepreneurs shy away from systems and procedures for fear of being too
“bureaucratic.” Consistent and focused change planning, however, allows the business to
grow and flourish without being dependent on charismatic behavior. The most effective
companies integrate creativity and systematic controls.

Self Test for Small Business Success

1. Would your key customers and employees consider you a business partner?

__ Yes __ No
2. Do you use cost containment mainly to increase short-term profit? __ Yes __ No
3. Has your company defined and communicated to all employees its expected values,
ethics, and business practices? __ Yes __ No
4. Does your business depend on charismatic leadership behaviors to insure work gets done? __ Yes __ No
5. Are your supervisors aware of and responsive to the unique needs and expectations of
their subordinates? __ Yes __ No
6. Is positive feedback and encouragement a critical (80%) part of your culture?
__ Yes __ No
7. Are you and your stakeholders committed to an overall strategic plan to grow
your business? __ Yes __ No

The Myth 3 Bottom Line: Planned change combined with “passionate” leadership gets better results than charisma alone.

Myth 4: Employees are motivated, if not driven by money.

Fact: The money-motivation myth is one of the most persistent and problematic myths despite significant experience and research to the contrary. Each of us is motivated by different things at work, e.g., control, autonomy, recognition, affiliation, peer respect, loyalty, etc. The most successful companies use simple management tools to understand its employees’ unique needs and then train leaders to respond accordingly. When employees’ needs are addressed, they work harder, smarter and with greater creativity. Openness, trust, cooperation and integrity are easier to sustain when employee
satisfaction is more than rhetoric. The most successful supervisors learn and respond to each employee’s unique needs, wants and expectations. Management science has provided powerful tools available to assist the supervisor in motivating employees. The payoff is higher job satisfaction for all parties and increased productivity for the business.

Myth 4 The Bottom Line: Research shows that increasing an employee’s financial rewards does not proportionately increase his/her productivity. Successful supervisors look for and respond to each employee’s unique needs, wants and expectations. They
quickly discover that what is rewarding to one employee is not necessarily rewarding to another. Successful supervisors have a different motivation plan for each employee.

Myth 5: Change is inevitable, so why plan too far ahead?

Fact: Marketplace dynamics and change are inevitable and demand an effective, timely response. The most successful companies develop tactical (short term) and strategic
(longer term) plans based on visions of the future and core values which do not change
significantly over time. Customers and employees need the security of knowing the direction the company is going and that in spite of change there are certain things they can
count on. A plane traveling from New York to Los Angeles is “off course” 95 percent of the time. Business Planning as well as navigation is a continual process of minor course correction without which goal achievement is difficult, if not impossible.

The Myth 5 Bottom Line: Strategic “flight planning” gives the stakeholders the most control possible over changing events and circumstances. The more volatile the environment, the more critical the change planning process.

Myth 6: Too much positive feedback makes employees complacent and lazy.

Fact: Employees cannot get too much encouragement. The smallest kudos go a long way. Employees respond better to constructive feedback when their “bank” of positive feedback is full. To be effective, each constructive feedback received by an employee
must be balanced with 5 positive feedbacks. Of course encouragement must be sincere,
timely and authentic. Surprisingly, supervisors often need to be trained on how to give (and receive) positive feedback. Ironically employees tend to slack off and get lazy when they don’t get enough positive feedback.

The Myth 5 Bottom Line: Employees and the companies they work for grow better and faster when 80% of the feedback employees receive is positive and 20% is constructive.

The Business Success Formula:
The most successful approaches to managing change and business growth include:

1. Become partners with your customers and employees to determine mutual needs and wants and expectations.
2. Define the corporate values needed to drive performance and customer satisfaction at all levels.
3. Integrate tactical and strategic change plans at all levels.
4. Measure results and do course correction.
5. Reward successful team/organizational performance tangibly and intangibly.
6. Enjoy the benefits of continued profitable growth and pass on your legacy to others.

Dr. Brunstetter is an Executive Coach & CEO of Team Interplay, Inc. and Organizational
Development Strategies, Inc. Each company provides some of the most unique and contemporary tools, training and change consulting being offered in business and
industry today.