Take Control: Seven Steps (Plus One Bonus Idea) for Business Owners and Leaders

Fatigue. Burnout. “Blue flu” - calling in sick because you just don’t feel like going to work. Negativity on the job. There’s even a book called “I quit but forgot to tell you” by Terri Kabachnick. In today’s gloomy economy we’re seeing more and more “work fatigue” – people who in better times might have gone looking for a new job. Or perhaps they are good workers in the right job who are falling apart because they are covering for an understaffed department.

The economy is stuck and the future is very unclear – customers are shopping around based on price, companies are being forced to compete with firms half a world away and analysts tell us we may be heading into a double-dip recession. Sixteen percent of American workers are unemployed or underemployed. Meanwhile, employees are suffering too – promotions and raises are on hold, layoffs are looming or there is no work at all. Our heroes have fallen (even Brett Favre!) and our country has been at war for several years. Even the media seems depressed. When was the last time you read a “feel good” story on the front page of your local paper? Taxes, home values, demonstrations...people feel out of control and this feeling is worrisome.

As a business owner or a manager, it is your job to help your employees take back control. We all know the market is difficult right now, but as a business leader, you need to exert as much control as you realistically can and then deal with the rest by putting it all into perspective.

Here are seven suggestions for business leaders who may have started to see the symptoms of “blue flu”:


  • Lead by example. Start by getting your business under control now. Employees know when their company is out of control. A classic business control strategy is to stop spending. Period. This often ends up causing more misery than it alleviates. Strategic spending is driven by a strategic budgeting process. Make sure you have a budget in place. 
  • Physical fitness produces endorphins and helps people feel better. Operationally fit companies are happy companies too. Work from well-defined milestones and recognize your successes along the way to achieve your goals. (And getting physically fit is always a good idea too!) 
  • Get perspective. Bring in an outsider to look at your business with fresh eyes. Consider creating an advisory board. In addition to providing great business advice, an advisory board can be a good support system for you as well. 
  • Flatten out the emotional highs and lows as well as the business ups and downs. People are reluctant to hire even when they desperately need help because they want to avoid the pain of potential of layoffs in the future. Outsourcing is one way to get back control and can help your company grow enough to hire full time help. Manage expectations internally and get help when you need it. Long term, your team and your company will be happier and more productive for it.
  • Get happy yourself. Take a moment to get perspective and enjoy your success. Sometimes this perspective can be difficult to achieve when some “business disaster” strikes but remember that there are others out there who aren’t lucky enough to have a great business like yours.
  • Show appreciation for the hard work others are doing. Acknowledge the fine job people are doing. Saying “thank you” and “good job” doesn’t cost anything. Compliments are free!
  • Morale boosters, quick fixes like Pizza Friday, parties or outings are nice but not sufficient unto themselves. And they can backfire if left to stand on their own. Make sure you back up morale boosters with real work on your business model.

And, a bonus suggestion -- Your suppliers are your business partners, you are in this together. Talk to them about how you can better support each other. Maybe your suppliers could become your customers, and vice-versa. It’s always better to do business with people you know. Think about how you can extend the mini-economy you are building with your suppliers by making an introduction or referral. They’ll appreciate the referral and you’ve strengthened the relationship with a valuable partner.

If you think you are seeing the signs of danger in your company, (high absenteeism, falling productivity, etc.) don’t wait. It’s too late to work on a budget when you are in foreclosure and too late to address personnel issues when your best workers have already handed in their notice. And, talk to your AMS consultant about how we can help you.

Rich Silton is CEO and President, VideoLink, and is a member of the Accounting Management Solutions advisory board. He focuses on bringing “Knowledge, discipline, innovation and perspective” to the companies he works with.

Jim Bourdon is Founder and CEO of Accounting Management Solutions, Inc.

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