“Change or die” as a phrase was popularized by business author Alan Deutschman in his 2006 book of the same name. Short and sweet, this provocative phrase communicates clearly what most business owners know but can struggle to accept. The truth is the business world is constantly changing, and if you don’t adapt, you’re not going to be able to compete.
While it may seem harsh, it’s important to embrace change sooner rather than later — especially if it’s going to benefit your business in the short term as well as the long term. But where should you start? We have come up with a list of 4 popular business ideas that you should leave in 2021.
1. You Think If You’re Suffering, Then It’s Working.
The “no pain, no gain” mentality has become so prevalent within American culture that you can find hundreds of T-shirts, mugs, and even commemorative coins that sport this old, tired slogan. But underneath this saying is an idea (and a wrong one at that). It’s the idea that unless you are miserable, you’re not making any progress. After all, in order to get something, you have to give something up, right? You can’t have a thriving career if you’re not willing to tolerate endless overtime, belittling behavior from your superiors, and hyper-competitive company culture.
But is that actually true?
It turns out that not only is this idea wrong, it’s dead wrong. Research from Oxford University suggests that happy employees are 13% more productive overall. Happy, engaged employees are also far less likely to experience costly health issues that can negatively impact their work performance. That’s huge if you want to foster a company culture with engaged teams that consistently produce high-quality results.
But it’s not just about productivity, it’s also about retention. In fact, 96% of employees believe empathy is essential to retaining quality employees. So what does that mean? It means that when management treats employees well and with respect, they are more likely to stay — plain and simple.
So no, a toxic company work culture is nothing to celebrate. In fact, it’s a huge impediment to your business overall. That’s why you should always be focusing on how to build a better, more gratifying company culture within your business.
2. You Think Quantity Is More Important Than Quality.
It’s always interesting to see how many businesses set up goals and requirements based on quantity without any consideration for whether or not it makes sense. For example, a social media strategy may be set up to require “daily posting” — or even twice daily posting. Why? What if your audience engages more with your content when they only hear from you twice a week or three times a week? To some business owners, it just doesn’t matter. They want to post every day, and that’s that.
Or maybe you want your salespeople to make 10 calls every day. If that’s the requirement, all you’re doing is disincentivizing your staff to properly vet leads. If the number is what’s important, not the quality, then your team is going to be wasting time each day calling leads who have no interest in your product.
It’s always within your best interest as a business owner to prioritize quality — even if that means lowering your expectations on quantity. So when you’re setting goals or requirements, get some feedback from your team on what they think is possible while still maintaining high standards. This will improve not only your company’s overall productivity but your team’s morale as well.
3. You Think Your Incentive Structures Are ‘Working Just Fine.’
For a long time in corporate America, setting up incentive structures was done using a one-size-fits-all approach. That meant that when your employees signed their contract, they were all told the same thing. “This is your hourly rate. We expect you to work 40 hours a week plus occasional overtime. Clock in and out here.” Some companies even expected salaried employees to clock in and out. After all, they just signed up to work 40 hours a week, so it was important to make sure that they were holding up their end of the bargain.
That all seems fine and reasonable enough, right?
But is it really “working”?
There are some jobs that should absolutely be paid by the hour (a tech at a mechanic’s shop or a server at a restaurant, who can’t control how many customers come in at a time but must stay there anyway). But in many professions, paying by the hour and valuing the amount of time spent over the amount of work done sets up an incentive structure that penalizes productive people and promotes laziness. That may sound harsh, but it’s true. If an employee knows that they have to be at work for 40 hours — no matter what amount of work they get done — then there’s no real incentive to get a lot done within those 40 hours. In fact, it may even benefit employees to put off completing work so that they can chart overtime, even if they could have completed the work within the 40 hours.
Think about it.
Let’s say you have two employees, Lola and Louise. Lola is a diligent and conscientious worker, while Louise is not. Both employees are paid the same hourly rate (plus overtime) to write code for software. In a typical week, Lola makes sure she is completing projects and focusing on creating high-quality code for the 40 hours she works without charting any overtime. She always finishes projects ahead of schedule and even offers to help her coworkers with their code when she has downtime. Contrastingly, Louise chooses to do the bare minimum to meet deadlines and even puts off work so that she can chart 3–5 hours of overtime per week. One employee is making more than the other, and it’s totally undeserved.
What if instead Louise and Lola were paid salaries and given bonuses for efficiency? Perhaps they could be paid a 5% commission for every project that was completed ahead of schedule with no errors. If that were the case, both employees would be incentivized to be as efficient and diligent as possible. If this method of compensation was set up for an entire company, there’s no limit to how much more productive they could become as a whole.
But if you’re not tracking hours, then how will you know that your employees are actually doing their jobs? Simple — you track their productivity. You see how much they were doing instead of how long they were doing it for. If that sounds complicated, it doesn’t have to be. There are lots of employee management programs that allow you to assign tasks to your employees and track what stage of the process they are in (like Asana). Therefore, progress can easily be tracked by making a few simple changes and using the aid of software.
4. You Think You Know Better Than Your Employees.
Don’t get us wrong, you do know more than your employees in some areas. After all, you’re the one who got your business off the ground and probably know more than any other person about the ins and outs of your specific company. However, you don’t know more than your employees when it comes to their areas of expertise. That’s why you hired them, after all. So when it comes to setting up a marketing strategy, you should want to hear from your marketing manager — because that’s their specialty. If you’re thinking about switching to a new payroll system, you should talk to your HR manager — because that’s their specialty.
Getting employee feedback is essential if you want to adapt to the times and keep up with your competitors. They might have new ideas, methods, and insights that can give you the strategic edge that you need to succeed in your market. Sometimes all it takes is giving them the floor to talk.
The takeaway? It’s time to change. If you’re adhering to any of these old business practices, then take this as a sign that it’s time to update your processes. Not only will this improve your company’s overall productivity, but it will also help you to compete more effectively in the labor market. That may be just the competitive edge that you need to meet and exceed your goals in 2022.