September 21, 2021

Corner Office | Harry West: Harry West of Continuum, on Defining Your Company’s Future

Q. What were some early influences on your leadership style? What about your family?

A. I’m the eldest of six kids, and I think that may have some significance. One of the main groups in our company is the strategy group, and we once looked at the family position of most of the people in the group, and they’re pretty much 100 percent the eldest kid. So I think there’s some correlation between maybe being the eldest and wanting to blaze a trail. I think that probably helps in some way. But I think that’s just one type of leadership, which is the type I have: the need to find a new way and take responsibility for other people.

Q. I’ve been surprised by the number of C.E.O.’s I’ve interviewed who come from big families.

A. Well, there’s probably a good reason for it — you’re surrounded by other people all the time. And you have to take responsibility if you’re the eldest or one of the older siblings, and you’re constantly communicating in a way that perhaps you aren’t if you’re in a smaller family.

Q. What about lessons from your parents?

A. My father builds homes. So I grew up around the idea that you can take a piece of land, and you can bulldozer it and build new homes on it. You can create something new. My parents both left school at 14, but my parents are incredibly smart, successful, thoughtful people. So one of the lessons I learned from my parents is that the fancy degree is just a foot in the door, and there are a lot of very smart people out there who don’t necessarily have the fancy degrees. And given the opportunity, they can do amazing things.

But the only explicit lesson I got from my father was when I was not doing very well in school, and he had a little chat with me and said, “You know, there are people who work for me who dig trenches, and there are people who are professionals, and if you keep going the way you’re going, you’re going to be digging trenches for the rest of your life.” So that shook me up.

Q. How would you describe your leadership style to a new hire who’s going to work with you every day?

A. I trust people, and I respect their areas of responsibility. People who work for me know that they have a lot of autonomy. I like to know what’s going on, and I’ll offer my opinion, but I want people to feel that they can say to me, “That’s great that you have that opinion, but, no, we’re not going to do that.” I really appreciate it when people say “no” to me. I want people to understand that I’m totally supportive of what it is they’re trying to do as long as we’re all on the same team.

Q. That can be a tricky balance to strike.

A. I have to trust those people. There’s no system of controls that can replace trust, so I need to reinforce that trust, and part of reinforcing trust is making sure that people feel accountability, and with accountability comes some degree of autonomy. You don’t have one without the other.

Q. What other lessons have you learned over the years as a manager and leader?

A. Pacing is really important in an organization. When you’re leading, you’re generally trying to lead change, and I think it was Roy Amara, who said about technology, “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” And I think the same applies to change within an organization.

I have in the past tended to overestimate the amount of change I can affect in the short run and then not fully appreciate the change I can affect in the long run. And so I’ve learned that it’s critical to think carefully about the pace of change, and it’s something that I’ve learned the hard way. It’s important to manage that carefully, because it’s not just about the pace of change that certain people in the company can manage.

It’s about the pace of change that the company as a whole can manage. You can push and push and nothing seems to happen, and then suddenly it takes off and you’re sort of running to catch up.

Q. And why is that?

A. I think in most companies you’re surrounded by the past. This is true for most of the companies that we consult with. And, to some extent, I’ve realized it’s true for us, too, because you can look back and see what you have done. You may have a Web site or archives or a lobby that sort of shows off your work of the past. The future is not as tangible. It’s not as clear, and so there’s always a tendency for people to go: “Well, I know the business we’re in because I can see it. I see it every day. That’s the business we’re in, right?” Well, that was the business you were in.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=0dfedf0cc086f00870ee8dda4f5073f7

You’re the Boss: The Best of You’re the Boss

Here at You’re the Boss, we believe that most small-business owners are really good at a few things, the things that allowed them to get their businesses off the ground. Inevitably, however, most owners are unprepared for the dozens of other tasks that are essential to running a business. We hope to help with those. But we don’t try to make it look easy.

Success rarely comes in a straight line from point A to point B. So we don’t emphasize the stories of rock star entrepreneurs who never seem to struggle; instead, we emphasize the struggle. Our bloggers try to show what life is like in their trenches, the ups and the downs, what’s working and what isn’t, the lessons learned. Along the way, they often benefit from the feedback of some of the smartest small-business readers around.

Here are highlights from a year in the You’re the Boss trenches:

Jay Goltz wrote about why there are more and more resources for small businesses — but failure rates still remain high. And the top 10 reasons small businesses fail. And the dirty, little secret of successful companies (they fire people). And why it can be a mistake to dismiss annoying customers (for one thing, “crazy” customers can have sane friends). And whether Groupon is ruining retailing. And what it takes to collect receivables, especially in a difficult economy. And why checking references isn’t a waste of time (especially if you know what to ask). And how to tell if you’re a good boss. And a surprise e-mail he got from an employee he’d tried to forget. And why if you can take a vacation, you should take a vacation.

Paul Downs wrote about how hard it can be to accept advice. And the surprising results when he experimented by turning off his Google Adwords campaign for a week. And the meaning of his falling health insurance rates. And his long-term struggle with pricing. And dealing with an extremely picky customer. And the reader comment that changed his business. And, best of all, how his business finally turned a profit.

MP Mueller wrote about coming to terms with being a boss. And using God as a marketing strategy. And figuring out that she’s not getting as much out of her accountant as she probably should. And two businesses that really understand social media. And how telling your story can help you connect with customers.

Barbara Taylor wrote about business owners who can’t bear to hear the truth about what their businesses are worth. And the four questions to ask before hiring a business broker. And how words can get in the way of selling a business. And realizing that you know you have to change as a business owner. And whether the term lifestyle business is an insult. And whether there is any way the iconic owner of an iconic business in Atlanta can sell her business.

Bruce Buschel wrote about the five things he wishes he had known before the fire. And what it took to reopen the restaurant after the fire. And how his customers say the darnedest things. And the events of an especially bad night in August. And the hardest part of running a restaurant. And how to defend against an unhappy customer who is trashing your business all over the Internet.

Gabriel Shaoolian wrote about why mediocre Web sites are so dangerous. And whether a small retailer can compete with the big boys and what’s wrong with this retailer’s site.

Tom Szaky wrote about choosing between profits and growth. And about trying to create a policy to cover romance in the office. And his top 10 sales tips. And whether green companies should partner with mega companies like Wal-Mart. And how a small company can go global.

Robb Mandebaum wrote a case study about a retailer who couldn’t get a loan. He also wrote about whether small businesses are over-taxed and over-regulated. And whether the health care overhaul will encourage businesses to drop health coverage. And how small-business owners responded to President Obama’s jobs plan. And how some small businesses have thrived without borrowing money. And he answered questions about Small Business Administration lending on C-Span.

David Freedman wrote about whether it pays to move to the cloud. And a company that has automated the process of starting a business. And a more efficient approach to hiring. And a tool to help businesses struggling with social media. And why, if you have a great idea, you should tell everyone.

Adriana Gardella created a business group of women business owners who meet regularly to discuss how they’re doing. She wrote about the struggles of one of those owners to overcome some bad decisions made early in her career, before she understood the dangers of growth. And how two of those owners think their fathers would react if they could see how the company they started is being run today. And the dark side of opening a store. And why women have an advantage in technology. And how a Rwandan entrepreneur lost her husband to genocide and then found her way into the funeral-home business.

Jessica Bruder wrote wrote a case study of whether it makes sense for a failing business to spend $170,000 for a consultant (in this case it did). And about a start-up incubator that floats. And a start-up that wants to eliminate “food deserts.” And starting the “Netflix of flowers.”

And every week, Gene Marks scours the Web so that you don’t have to — looking for all of the stories that have the biggest impact on small-business owners. On Tuesday, he selected the best of those stories.

Happy Holidays from the You’re the Boss team!

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=0c3ebe875589f451622992599e38a453

You’re the Boss Blog: A Year’s Worth of Wisdom From the Trenches of Small Business

Here at You’re the Boss, we believe that most small-business owners are really good at a few things, the things that allowed them to get their businesses off the ground. Inevitably, however, most owners are unprepared for the dozens of other tasks that are essential to running a business. We hope to help with those. But we don’t try to make it look easy.

Success rarely comes in a straight line from point A to point B. So we don’t emphasize the stories of rock star entrepreneurs who never seem to struggle; instead, we emphasize the struggle. Our bloggers try to show what life is like in their trenches, the ups and the downs, what’s working and what isn’t, the lessons learned. Along the way, they often benefit from the feedback of some of the smartest small-business readers around.

Here are highlights from a year in the You’re the Boss trenches:

Jay Goltz wrote about why there are more and more resources for small businesses — but failure rates still remain high. And the top 10 reasons small businesses fail. And the dirty, little secret of successful companies (they fire people). And why it can be a mistake to dismiss annoying customers (for one thing, “crazy” customers can have sane friends). And whether Groupon is ruining retailing. And what it takes to collect receivables, especially in a difficult economy. And why checking references isn’t a waste of time (especially if you know what to ask). And how to tell if you’re a good boss. And a surprise e-mail he got from an employee he’d tried to forget. And why if you can take a vacation, you should take a vacation.

Paul Downs wrote about how hard it can be to accept advice. And the surprising results when he experimented by turning off his Google Adwords campaign for a week. And the meaning of his falling health insurance rates. And his long-term struggle with pricing. And dealing with an extremely picky customer. And the reader comment that changed his business. And, best of all, how his business finally turned a profit.

MP Mueller wrote about coming to terms with being a boss. And using God as a marketing strategy. And figuring out that she’s not getting as much out of her accountant as she probably should. And two businesses that really understand social media. And how telling your story can help you connect with customers.

Barbara Taylor wrote about business owners who can’t bear to hear the truth about what their businesses are worth. And the four questions to ask before hiring a business broker. And how words can get in the way of selling a business. And realizing that you know you have to change as a business owner. And whether the term lifestyle business is an insult. And whether there is any way the iconic owner of an iconic business in Atlanta can sell her business.

Bruce Buschel wrote about the five things he wishes he had known before the fire. And what it took to reopen the restaurant after the fire. And how his customers say the darnedest things. And the events of an especially bad night in August. And the hardest part of running a restaurant. And how to defend against an unhappy customer who is trashing your business all over the Internet.

Gabriel Shaoolian wrote about why mediocre Web sites are so dangerous. And whether a small retailer can compete with the big boys and what’s wrong with this retailer’s site.

Tom Szaky wrote about choosing between profits and growth. And about trying to create a policy to cover romance in the office. And his top 10 sales tips. And whether green companies should partner with mega companies like Wal-Mart. And how a small company can go global.

Robb Mandebaum wrote a case study about a retailer who couldn’t get a loan. He also wrote about whether small businesses are over-taxed and over-regulated. And whether the health care overhaul will encourage businesses to drop health coverage. And how small-business owners responded to President Obama’s jobs plan. And how some small businesses have thrived without borrowing money. And he answered questions about Small Business Administration lending on C-Span.

David Freedman wrote about whether it pays to move to the cloud. And a company that has automated the process of starting a business. And a more efficient approach to hiring. And a tool to help businesses struggling with social media. And why, if you have a great idea, you should tell everyone.

Adriana Gardella created a business group of women business owners who meet regularly to discuss how they’re doing. She wrote about the struggles of one of those owners to overcome some bad decisions made early in her career, before she understood the dangers of growth. And how two of those owners think their fathers would react if they could see how the company they started is being run today. And the dark side of opening a store. And why women have an advantage in technology. And how a Rwandan entrepreneur lost her husband to genocide and then found her way into the funeral-home business.

Jessica Bruder wrote wrote a case study of whether it makes sense for a failing business to spend $170,000 for a consultant (in this case it did). And about a start-up incubator that floats. And a start-up that wants to eliminate “food deserts.” And starting the “Netflix of flowers.”

And every week, Gene Marks scours the Web so that you don’t have to — looking for all of the stories that have the biggest impact on small-business owners. On Tuesday, he selected the best of those stories.

Happy Holidays from the You’re the Boss team!

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=0c3ebe875589f451622992599e38a453