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46. Tom Peters searching for small business excellence in tough times No 8

Tom Peters and Robert Waterman’s 7th precept for successful businesses was keep simple and lean staff. If you do not have staff, easy to do! And surely this is not difficult for any small business employing small numbers? But even small businesss sometimes continue with outdated processes, employing staff undertaking processes that are no longer productive or sometimes even relevant.

The impending recession – it is difficult to realise that technically we are not yet in a recession – will force businesses to deal with these issues. I have come across businesses where someone was brought in to do a job which now no longer exists, and that person has been ‘found other things to do’ – but these ‘other things’ were not real jobs. They were nice to have extras – work will expand to fill the time available, if you let it. This is never a good business practice, but in tough times, it could be the death of your business, and cost other people their jobs.

So make sure that you do only what you need to do to achieve the results you are targetting, and that you ensure that you have only enough people to do that. And that they are the right people. (If you employ someone to do a job at which they are not proficient, they may take twice as long to do it. You would be far better off paying one person 20% higher salary to do a job effectively and efficiently than paying two people to do the same work – or make sure you invest in training one person to become proficient.) Being busy is not the same as being effective.

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