the Startups

You came in too late.

What an awful thing to hear.

One day we’ll probably become famous for our habit of comparing business consulting with medicine and companies with human bodies.

But there are so many similarities to the two that it would be a waste of our talent not to outline the obvious. Besides, people seem to be more reactive when you find a nasty way to tell them they are lousy at running a business.

Every once in a while you need to inspect your business in detail and as a whole, from both inside and outside, zooming in and out, because you might discover that not all things work the way you thought they do.

You might read this and think “there’s nothing wrong with my business, I’m in perfect control and you are full of sh*t!”

The thing is, you’re not in control. Out of all the companies we’ve met with so far, all of them had flaws and gaps they knew nothing of. We’ll say that again, maybe you weren’t paying good attention: 100% of the companies have problems they don’t know about. And even the ones that had some clue about what’s wrong still had no idea how bad it is.

That’s mainly because most problems in a company take time before they develop into disasters. And silent symptoms are impossible to treat.

Illness is universal

A dysfunctional body or a dysfunctional business is all the same. They are both healthy and gleeful until they’re not.

And just like it happens with humans, the moment when we decide to go see the specialist can make the difference between “on time” and “too late”. Unfortunately, too many people show up later rather than sooner.

The medical exam

Our role as business consultants is very much like a medical check-up. We make a full analysis, run a series of tests, ask hundreds of questions. We inspect all the internal and external factors linked to that business, we give it a full “body” scan and determine what has been broken and just how bad the breakage is.

The diagnosis

The checkup brings out some ugly truths about companies and that pill is sometimes very difficult to swallow even by the ones who saw it coming. If you’ve been neglecting a bunch of problems for way too long, a bad prognosis shouldn’t exactly come as a shock to you.

It’s what every doctor would tell you in real life: why the f**k did you wait so long before showing up in here? I’m sorry, there’s not much I can do for you. You came in too late.

Time of death: inevitable

The autopsy report says: Severe damage to the workflows, poor management and multiple uninspired decisions. Although the cause of death remains unclear, we have strong reasons to believe your business died from ignorance.

Other possible causes of death:

  • Lack of the macro view – most people fail to look at the big picture. This is one of the biggest enemies a business can have. When you go into too much detail or only pay attention to parts of your business you can be sure you’re jeopardizing all of it.
  • Poor investments – always lean on professional advising before putting your money into big acquisitions, mergers, tools, systems or partners. No one holds the utter truth and, unless you validate your intentions with a specialist first, you’re only gonna’ know it’s been a bad investment when it’s already dug a deep hole into your business.
  • Choosing quick fixes over a sustainable plan – we’ve talked about this on several other occasions. Planning must be step 1 in everything you do. Treating the effects instead of the causes is a common error people persist in. With no plan, you’re only an amateur who thinks they can play all the roles and be in all the places at the same time, which takes us to the next bullet:
  • The as*hole who thinks he knows everything – now this, this is a deadly virus. The know-it-alls only care about their status, not about the company. They don’t give a sh*t about their co-workers, their employees or their partners. No one is ever good enough or smart enough to argue with them or question their decisions. This specimen is the first to run their business full-speed into a wall.
  • Lack of organizational culture – when you fail to surround yourself with people who share your mission, vision and values, you’re gonna’ be the only reason why your business lies 6 feet under when it does because it will. If you hire the right people and grant them access to a healthy environment where they get all the resources they need and they’re able to sharpen their skills and creativity, your business is going to thrive. On the other hand, hiring unfit people just for the sake of filling some empty slots is the same as building a house on quicksand.

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Your business sends a lot of signals when it’s in pain. You must’ve noticed the irregularities in the numbers, the decrease of your customer database, the employees coming and going, the suppliers slowly walking away and never returning any of your calls. And these might just be warning fires, or they can mean the end of a story that might have otherwise been successful if only you would’ve taken a closer look.

It’s really important to analyze your business periodically if you want to keep it healthy, because if you don’t, sooner or later you are going to have to hang a cross on it. And don’t try to fight it when it happens. Any desperate effort to salvage your company is futile at this point. Take it as a lesson learned and keep in mind that the more it costs you, the better you’ll know next time.

 

Authors: Vlad DiaconuAndreea Mares

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