To Improve Business – Be Hard…

Last week an old friend, Nigel, told me he wants to know how to improve business.  After talking for a while, it was clear that he is shooting himself in the foot. 

Nigel has too much overhead in his business – too many people, inefficient systems, expensive offices.  But when he needs to cut back, what does he do?  He trims away at the edges and fails to address his key issues.  He never actually fixes the basic problems.  Worse than that, he sees these problems as assets to the business, key things that help him.

Well, to every Nigel out there – what use is a business that never makes money???  If you want to improve it, you have to be harder.  If you don’t make money, you may as well pack up because you are running a hobby, not a business!

To Improve Business – Cut Once, Cut Deep…

This is a tough thing to do.  You have to overcome the emotions attached to so much history with people, things, services etc and make the decisions that will make the difference in your business.  It’s no use "being loyal" to your staff if they are dragging your business down with costs and lack of performance.

And the thing is this – if you cut deep, you make big changes.  If you make small, tiny cuts, you change nothing significantly and the costs will creep back on.  Big changes get big results.  Little changes get little, if any, results.

The biggest reasons you don’t make these big decisions are sentimentality and fear of change. 

If you fear change think about this – if you don’t make changes now, you might not have a business to change in a year’s time.  Which do you fear the most?

If you feel bad about letting a member of staff go, how bad will you feel if the whole business fails, and you have to tell everybody you employ that they have lost their jobs?

This is the big, hard stuff you have to deal with as a business owner.  Lots of people don’t do it until too late – make sure you face up to this stuff early and meet it head on.

Make A Decision To Improve Your Business – It’s Better Than Avoiding The Problem

Your business coaching action for today is to take 30 minutes to look at your business and decide what you can do to improve your profits.  It maybe that you don’t use your fax anymore and you can cancel the line.  Or perhaps you could get rid of some old stock that’s been sitting around for years.  Or, perhaps you have a member of staff who you know, in your heart, has to go.  You just haven’t faced up to it yet.

Just take a decision – you’ll feel better when the dust has settled.


  1. Chella Heyes on October 28th, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Thanks Lee. I Have been putting off a decision for the last couple of weeks, which I will now do today!

  2. Lee on October 28th, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Hi Chella!

    That’s great – whatever it is you’ve been putting off, you know how much better you’re going to feel when you’ve done it.

    Look forward to catching up again soon,


  3. jonathan on October 29th, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Putting off a decision is the worst thing to do. Unfortunately, by putting our head in the sand – things will happen anyway. The cut once cut deep is (I think) a Gerry Robinson tactic – he often says "Sh!t must only happen once" – and the manager must be on the scene – not on holiday somewhere…

  4. Tim Gale on October 29th, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    Hi Lee
    I have been making that time to think and plan and already the light is there getting brighter at the end of the tunnel which curiously seems so much closer now.

  5. Lee on October 29th, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    Hi Jonathan, Welcome to my blog 🙂 Cutting deep is certainly a Gerry Robinson tactic, although I’m not sure where I first picked up the quote – possibly an old friend of mine who’s now at Rolls Royce, although my memory is a bit faded around it. The big thing I do remember about cutting deep and cutting once is that you must take the big, bold decisions instead of avoiding them. The same reason, I suppose, that ships doctors used to quickly amputate badly damaged limbs. Better to take the tough decision quickly than to die a slow and painful death. And of course it’s great leadership to do it in person, rather than letting people know by text message (I remember some call centre that closed down a few years ago sent out redundancy notices to hundreds of staff by text – horrible). Cheers, Lee

  6. Lee on October 29th, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    Hi Tim!

    Great to see you on the blog – welcome. I’m really pleased that your time to think is paying dividends – you always keep so busy that finding the time to plan a little will give you even better results – brilliant 🙂

    I wonder if I might persuade you to get me a ticket for the Christmas bash from Granta, if there’s one going 😉



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