This piece of advice is especially important for owners who are no longer involved in the day to day operations of their businesses. Usually, a business owner who has the luxury of not needing to show up every day has a much-trusted employee running things. This is wonderful for you if you don’t get lazy and just rely on that person’s account of what is going on. As an owner, even if you are still involved, you need to stay engaged with your workforce. The best way you can get an idea of what is really going on in your business is to maintain open dialogues with all your employees without fearing retribution. I recommend you have a one on one conversation with each department manager at least once a month. Make them confident that their conversations are private and that their suggestions will be honestly assessed. Also, let all your employees know that they can contact you any time with concerns and that you will address their concerns. To some, these suggestions may seem excessive. But if you own a business, if you want its value maximized, you must stay engaged.
Obviously, I bring this up because I have first-hand knowledge of a disengaged owner and the damage it has caused his company. He spent over twenty years building a very good company. When he retired, his children had no interest in taking over the business. The employee he picked to run things had been with him for many years and had his complete trust. It was the closest thing to having a family member at the helm--he thought. He had taught his management style to his new president and thought she had a good idea of his vision to maximize the company’s value. He expected to sell his company eventually and have enough money to sustain his lifestyle while taking care of his children’s futures. The problem this company has run into is that while the new president possesses the same management style, she has no leadership skills. This owner would have quickly picked up on this had he kept an open line of communication with other key employees. Instead, almost all his contact is with his president, whose take on how things are going differs from everyone else’s in the company. However, the fear of retribution I referred to earlier has everyone afraid to say anything to the owner. In addition, since he has been disengaged for the last few years, very few of his employees even know him. As a result, I suspect that the company’s value is much less than its potential.