It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment. ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero
Every once in a while you need to sit back and reflect on life to see if there are any trends or experiences you can learn from. The Jim Moran Institute recently celebrated its 15th anniversary, and I was reflecting on the common problems that entrepreneurial clients (more than 3,000) have had over the years. By far, the number one problem entrepreneurs have dealt with is the selection of accountants.
Too often, entrepreneurs continue to use the same accountant, not realizing that the services offered can vary tremendously from one accountant to another. In addition, many entrepreneurs feel intimated by accountants, and they are not comfortable asking cogent questions. However, you must have an accountant on hand to spot trends and advise you on ways to improve your profits.
Having an accountant that only does your taxes at the end of the year is not adequate. Entrepreneurs must hire an accountant that will look at their financial statements each month and give them advice on how to better perform.
The second common problem is that entrepreneurs do not have a coach or mentor. Empirical studies have repeatedly shown that entrepreneurs who have mentors are much
more successful in terms of their business' performance than entrepreneurs who do not have coaches.
So many entrepreneurs do not ask for help from a mentor or coach because they think that to do so would be a sign of weakness. However, in reality, asking for help is a sign of strength and courage. There is no way any entrepreneur could ever know everything about their business, and having a coach or mentor can help them navigate the rough waters without slipping out of the boat.
The third area where almost every business struggles is staffing, both in terms of hiring the wrong employees and holding back when it comes to letting questionable staff go. In order to have a great organization, you must have great people working for you -- people with character, people skills and motivation. Where these qualities are concerned, you cannot make exceptions as they are not skills you can teach.
In terms of letting people go, it is always tough. I like to say that the day you have to let someone go is both the worst day and the best day of your life. Having a bad employee is like cancer in that it just keeps growing if left unchecked, and letting these problem employees go frees you and your organization. If you have a bad employee, the sooner you let them go, the better, both for your organization as well as for your ability to manage it.
Jerry Osteryoung, a business consultant, is a Jim Moran professor of entrepreneurship (emeritus) and professor of finance (emeritus) at Florida State University. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.