George Cloutier is the author of a popular business book, Profits Aren’t Everything, They’re the Only Thing. The book came out of a series of business training seminars he was doing for small-business owners.
The Turnaround Ace’s Tough Advice
So named by Business Week, some of Cloutier’s advice is unusual, if not controversial. A few examples:
- Cloutier says you should love your business as much as you love your family. (And he used to say, “Love your business more than you love your family.”)
- He says it’s fine to have a plan—but that’s the easy part. The hard work is the hard part. Work on weekends. Give up golf, because you’re not going to make money on the golf course. The people who say they do are making an excuse to be lazy.
- Take responsibility for your failures—don’t blame the economy, the recession, the bank, or your employees. If the bank doesn’t lend you money, it’s your fault. If an employee fails, it’s your fault. If a customer drops you in favor of another product, it’s your fault. Taking responsibility is necessary to be successful.
The Business Owner Comes First
Cloutier espouses that business owners take care of themselves first—ahead of the employees, process, team—or anything else. He says that without focusing on profits, your business will fail. When business owners allow employees and popular wisdom to run the company, instead of focusing on cash and profits, they will fail.
You’re Not in Business to Pay Your Vendors’ Bills
Cloutier advises business owners to not pay vendors on time. When it’s difficult to obtain financing, the only place you can get more credit is from your vendors. If you’re getting 30 days, ask for 60 days. If you’re getting 45 days, ask for 75 days. He does not advise business owners to be unethical, or to not pay taxes on time, but to be upfront and conserve cash as much as possible.
Teamwork is Overrated
Cloutier thinks teamwork is vastly overrated. If the team takes over your business, they will protect their failures. They will not hand out harsh penalties. Better to have one person in charge—the business owner.
Embrace Your Inner Control Freak
Coultier says that if your employees fail, it’s your fault. You must take responsibility. You hired the wrong person, failed to train them properly, or failed to correct their mistakes. And what about delegation? He says, don’t do it. Instead, micromanage your business. Look at everything, every single day. Who’s calling? Who was that customer who just left? What did they buy—or not buy? How are your employees dressed? How much cash is in your bank account?
Getting good help, Cloutier says, is “100 times more difficult” than we think. Many people are mediocre—so it makes sense to have procedures in place to follow up on them and see how they’re doing. Monitor closely, and intervene earlier, rather than later, when they’re going off track.
Fear is the Best Employee Motivator
But it’s okay to like your employees. In fact, Cloutier says that business owners must treat employees with respect, follow the law, help them with personal problems—but coddling employees is off the mark.
Stop Whining and Get to Work
The recession, Cloutier says, is a big excuse for poor performance. Failure to build a strong sales organization, strong financial reporting, and strong profits and cash flow are the real reason businesses fail.
And Fire Your Relatives
According to Cloutier, says a family business with more than one family member is a bad idea. The entitlement family members usually feel is a morale killer and bad for business.