Alligators in the Swamp

In my office, I have a plaque on the wall that was given to me thirty years ago, and it has helped me over the years to stay focused. The message reads: “When you are up to your backside in alligators, it is difficult to remind yourself that your initial objective was to drain the swamp”.

Too often in business today I see company owners struggling for years with some of the same underlying issues because they never really address the issues that are causing their problems to recur. Let me give you some examples.

“I can’t get good people to stay with my Company”. The underlying issue could be a lack of current well-written job descriptions. Why is this important? If you provide an outdated vague job description to a new employee and that employee does not do the job expected, then whose fault is that? Or, if pay increases, incentive, and/or recognition programs are not in place to reward employees for good or exceptional performance, why would that superstar employee stay with the company when other companies have those types of programs in place? The days of a person staying with a company for an entire career and being happy with a gold watch at retirement are long over.

“I wish I could get my people to do the job right the first time”. This could be a problem of simply not having a well-documented process for those key processes in the company. Some business owners tell me they have a process manual someplace, and when they find it, the dust accumulation is a telling sign of the last time it was opened. Further, in today’s world of messages limited to 144 characters, a longwinded exposition is likely not going be read all the way through, or even understood for that matter. Think about redoing and updating your process manual in a colorful flow chart format with short sentences in boxes and arrows pointing to the next steps.

One last example: “I wish I had better cash flow so I could grow my business”. Being a former banking executive, I have heard this one more often than I would care to remember. Having adequate cash flow to grow any business is so critical to the business it should be paramount in every business owner’s mind. Make and take the time needed to understand and plan cash flow, and study what causes cash flow to increase or decrease.

Without cash flow, the business is not a business for all practical purposes. I will admit cash inflows can and do happen if you are selling something, but the timing of cash inflows and cash outflows is what needs to be understood, planned for, and monitored on an ongoing basis.

If some of these phrases are familiar to you and you think it is time to address the real underlying issues, and you need assistance with your planning, you may want to consider working with an experienced Silver Fox Advisor and business professional. I encourage you to visit our website at to learn more about the Silver Fox Advisors, including their business advice, consulting, and mentoring offerings.

Dick Hendee, Chairman 2020

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