Fred Koury: Sometimes you have to do a little pruning to get the best fruit Featured

10:59am EDT January 28, 2014
Fred Koury, president and CEO, Smart Business Fred Koury, president and CEO, Smart Business

No one likes to move backwards. The goal in business is to get better, beat the competition and grow. But sometimes you have to take a step back in order to enable your organization to move forward.

A pruned tree bears more fruit, even though it might require some painful cuts that aren’t pretty at first. Making cuts in an organization, whether it’s people or products, is never easy.


Courage may be needed

But what is it you are trying to hold on to? A product that’s not selling? A division that’s not going anywhere? An employee who isn’t the right fit? Admitting that it’s time to move on from those situations requires courage, because you are sacrificing a lot of time, money and effort that went into them.

Making a move like this can feel like starting over. The economic upheaval in 2008 forced this on many companies and industries, as everyone had to take a hard look at everything they did, why they did it and how much money was being made. The results weren’t always pretty at the time, but now, in many cases, they don’t look so bad.

For example, banks were pummeled, taking heavy losses in real estate and other ventures. Some didn’t survive, but those that did are stronger, have tighter controls and are in most cases, more careful about how they lend money.

Many bankers probably felt like they were starting over and taking a step backwards, but they, like many of us, were able to leverage relationships, knowledge and lessons learned to create an even better product. Overall, they are more solid and nimble than before.

Another example is Union Pacific Corp., which emerged from the recession with greater revenue, but fewer employees, thanks to selective pruning. It remains on a solid growth path.


Don't keep waiting

Some difficult situations are salvageable, but don’t wait forever. If you’ve given a product time to sell or a person time to perform and it hasn’t happened, it may be time to move on. Instead of trying to make something out of nothing, selectively prune your organization and focus your efforts on something that might yield better results.

The key in business is to focus on finding enjoyment in the things you do on a daily basis and not becoming obsessed with hitting that home run. Frustration comes when you are trying to get somewhere and aren’t — and refuse to admit it didn’t work. The real home run is being able to enjoy what you are doing every day.

It takes a different mindset to see a little pruning as a positive, but in the end, it will yield more fruit. ●

Fred Koury is the president and CEO of Smart Business. Reach him at