I have worked for some terrible businesses.
Let me qualify the level of terrible. Three businesses closed a year after I quit, and two others stripped their workforce of all my colleagues.
I had worked for so many dismal businesses that I didn’t know what a good one was for most of my employment years.
What I’ve always found interesting the continuity between these so-called professionals. All were very different business offering varied products and services. Yet they were all identical repeat offenders of identical business crimes.
If it was possible to attend school for bad business practices, all would have passed with honours. It was almost as if they were trying to fail, with intentional violations of basic business principles. They alienated their staff. Their customers were happy to see them go. And, possibly worst of all, they completely missed the mark with their product offering.
As we’ve scarcely survived 2020, more than ever we need to better with our businesses. Not only to ensure they are ‘pandemic proof’ but to ensure we survive anything ‘business’ throws at us.
Call this my public service announcement to all businesses, large and small. I plead with you. Don’t become another business doing bad things well.
Allowing Extreme Staff Turnover
When a staff member leaves a business, it is rarely because they hate the customers or even the work itself. They leave because the people they work for are awful.
‘Awful’ can mean many things in business. It can be that they’re abused, ignored, or bullied by the management. Or it could be that they’re underpaid or undervalued for what they offer the business.
One staff member leaving rarely rings alarm bells with most business owners. Yet, a high turnover of staff, a high percentage per year, indicates the workplace isn’t a desirable one to work in.
Businesses should be measuring the amount of staff who leave.
The number of staff versus the reasons they provide for their departure. The businesses I worked for never did this, nor did they consider themselves to be the problem.
Bad businesses often blame the staff they hire. That they attract unreliable staff, immature staff who don’t value the opportunity. What bad businesses need to realise is that staff don’t leave good jobs.
A Distorted Assumption About Customer Feedback
It alarms me when businesses disregard customer feedback. Yet, it happens more often than you think. Even the businesses that actively seek feedback will ignore everything they collated. If what the customer is saying doesn’t align with their values or budget, they scrap the feedback.
Customers are often treated like the enemy at war. They are people you need to lure in and trap. Once caught, the business tortures them with their offering in the hope the berating will force them to buy.
Many bad businesses consider customer feedback to be negative and unconstructive.
Customers are the backbone of your business. And without them, your business doesn’t exist. By ignoring their wants and needs, you end up alienating your customer. They stop buying from you, no matter how in-demand your product currently is.
Thinking Reviews Are Pointless
This is a very common trait of bad businesses, yet so many don’t realise they’re doing it. It’s the idea of ‘setting and forgetting’.
Setting and forgetting within a business is when they make a decision, or implements a process, and leave it. They continue with their operation without reviewing the process.
It’s almost as if the business declares the process effective before knowing so. They don’t evaluate efficiencies, they don’t analyse improvement opportunities, and they don’t overhaul with the times.
In short, a process in place is good enough.
Technology is an area that often gets overlooked. I used to work for a shoe brand that used point of sale machines that were from the late nineties. They relayed the data to the head office using the phone line. This meant no one could be on the phone and process a sale at the same time.
This antiquated system posed many issues, including reliable data measuring and an impossible returns process. It almost meant they couldn’t offer modern retail gratitudes, such as loyalty systems. They couldn’t even keep an accurate and up the minute stock system. The system could process sales, so that was good enough.
But when asked why they won’t update the technology, this shoe business responded. “Why fix what isn’t broken?” Whilst it wasn’t broken, it could have been significantly better for the customer. And for the staff.
As you can imagine, these challenges caused significant issues with the staff. Only more reasons for them to quit.
Pretending Working With Family Isn’t Fraught With Issues
While not all family-run businesses are bad, I’m yet to find one that hasn’t ended in disaster. Or that hasn’t been a nightmare to work for.
Except for one in my experience, family-run businesses tend to attract unprofessionalism.
The issues are endless.
There are petty squabbles between family members. Communication issues are rife usually thanks to unprofessional family meetings. And there is often confusion about who manages what sections of the business.
I worked for a husband and wife team for a short time, and one point I had an issue with the husband’s behaviour. It wasn’t harassment or anything like that, but he was notoriously unreliable. He didn’t show up to meetings, he didn’t deliver stock, and he was impossible to get on the phone.
I relied on him to complete my work. With his broken system, the flow-on effect to my role was detrimental. And then I endured the consequences. The wife would get angry with me because I hadn’t delivered my work.
There was I was in the middle of a family war. I felt it impossible to dob in her husband, and blame him for holding me up. I couldn’t tell her the truth about what was happening in her business. I couldn’t improve processes without speaking negatively about family.
Breaking The Cardinal Business Promise
I’ve intentionally left this issue to last because it’s one of the biggest sins of bad businesses. It’s almost cliche because there are so many who lament over this issue. Yet despite the noise, businesses continue to make promises they can’t keep.
Breaking promises to customers is unacceptable in our modern landscape.
Customers have so much option. There is rarely a business offering a unique product or service that customers can’t find somewhere else. With these options comes wavering loyalty. It doesn’t take much to push a customer away.
A promise broken with a customer can vary so much, and that’s why bad businesses often don’t realise it’s happening. A promise is anything you ‘guarantee’ to happen. These can be quality guarantees, shipping times, opening times, email response times, for example. The minute you can’t meet that guarantee, customers lose faith in you.
Breaking promises to staff breeds distrust and fuels staff turnover. Your staff take your word with incredible seriousness. When you say that you’re going to pay them on a certain day of every week, fortnight or month, they live by that promise. They make plans by that promise.
When you don’t meet that basic expectation, they don’t trust anything you say you will do. Even if you deliver time and time again, the overpromising has done its damage.
Staff and customers aren’t alone. Suppliers, trades and stockists, as well as shareholders and alike stakeholders, suffer too.
Listen Up Business: Do Better
There isn’t a pardon for modern businesses to commit these unforgivable business crimes. We have too much knowledge at our fingertips. We have more training opportunities than ever. We have no excuses.
What all these businesses I worked for lacked were the willingness to do better. They couldn’t make the tough calls. They couldn’t honestly evaluate themselves. They weren’t looking for ways to improve. They were content with good enough.
But good doesn’t survive. ‘Good’ leads you to think you’re doing well. That is until you’re challenged, and the competition becomes a little thicker.
Bad businesses don’t survive. As much as some can appear to have longevity, the reality is they don’t stand up against those who are trying to better themselves.
In 2021, don’t be a business that collapses from its own mistakes. Take pride in what you do, and do better.
I’m Ellen McRae, writer by trade and passionate storyteller by nature. I write about figuring about love and relationships by analysing my experiences. Some of the stories are altered to protect the people in my life. But my feelings are never compromised. /https://ellenjellymcrae.com/