Management Letter Featured

10:09am EDT July 22, 2002

Creating the balance needed for change

By Tony Lang

The only constant in running a business is change. While we can't control change itself, we can control our responses to it.

One way to be ready for whatever might come your way is to make sure your business has the necessary balance to ride out the waves of uncertainty. But what is this balance, and how do you achieve it?

In my experience, there are two critical components for achieving a balanced business: the art and the science.

The art of business is the ability to perceive the big picture, the thrust of your creative energies.

The science of business, on the other hand, is constituted by the parts and pieces-the daily operations and the ability to make things happen. Businesses need both these components because without vision we don't know where we're going, and without processes we won't get there even if we do know.

For an example of how these apparently different skill sets fit together, consider a profit-enhancement model:

  • You identify a management team that shares responsibility for profitability throughout your organization.

  • You get key decision-makers to learn to identify business strategies that increase productivity and sales.

  • You train key decision-makers to implement these strategies.

  • You identify specific financial goals that will enhance profitability.

  • You implement a system of accountability and responsibility that makes positive financial results happen.

  • Finally, you share the rewards with the team.

If you have done the process right, one outcome should be a management team that has a deep sense of commitment to improved financial performance.

Another outcome is the idea that profit is an attitude. An attitude that will, if encouraged, permeate your company from the owner to the receptionist.

But a profit attitude is much more than cutting costs, increasing sales or tightening financial controls. It's about empowerment, encouraging everyone to think, to initiate, to be innovative and to be committed.

This reflects the best kind of science/art equation-offering a flexible structure in which businesses can factor in their own specific needs, finding their own unique balance for success.

There is a vision at work here, one that has room for specific, practical processes to reach organizational goals. In fact, it's the best kind of vision because it's grounded to the reality of results-oriented applications even as it's being driven by the values of your entire team.

The result is balance and stability, even in the face of change.

Tony Lang is a partner at Hausser+Taylor LLP, a Cleveland-based regional accounting and consulting firm.