How’s Business?

Well, it’s that time of year.  The time of year when those of us in a leadership position attend our fair share of holiday happy hours, client office parties, family gatherings, year-end reviews, tax planning sessions and formal corporate affairs.  The question that normally follows “How ya doin?” is the inevitable “How’s business?”  Now perhaps you’ll hear close relatives like “Did you have a good year?” or “How are you handling this market?” or even “Are you going to be able to hang on?”  But no matter the words, the tone or the delivery, people just want to know how your business is doing.

Now some, like your employees, your bank or even your customers, have a real vested interest and deserve an honest, thoughtful answer.  Others may just be nosy or are probing for dirt so feel free to blow them off and have a little fun in the process.  “We had planned to double this year, but since your firm laid off so many people, we were able to hire the cream of the crop and triple our production and earnings!”

The stakeholders you really care about are the ones with whom you should be creating an open and honest dialogue.  If you struggle with sharing information, now is the time to get over it.  If you’ve had a tough year, share your financial results and ask your team for their support and effort in turning things around.  This is a great opportunity to build long lasting working bonds and loyal allegiances.

If you’ve had a good year but are nervous about the next year, share that sentiment as well. One company we know is having a very good 2009 because they are completing work they bid on in 2008 while using materials they purchased during a slumping 2009. The company leadership knows 2010 will be a much tougher year because new players have entered their market, and with their entry comes added pressure to lower costs.  Share these market dynamics with your staff so they can also look for ways to drive down  costs while still meeting customer demands.

Take the opportunity to teach your team about your market and your business model.  Share as much information as you can.  If it’s not the secret to Coke or personal information, then share the information with your leadership team and perhaps your entire workforce.

If you’ve created a culture where the performance of the organization is dependent upon just you, now is the time to build a coalition inside your company that will shoulder the burden of leadership.  Now is the time to build a deeper, stronger team that is equipped with the knowledge and tools to move you in the right direction.

So this time next year, your stakeholders won’t be asking “How is business?”, they’ll be telling you the things they are doing to position the company for success!

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