In this article and in a few of the articles to follow we are going to explore the differences between small businesses that are troubled and small businesses that are triumphant.

While there are a lot of differences between troubled small companies and triumphant small companies, there is one commonality that they both share. It's been my experience that the owners of both types of companies really have the all the answers that they need to make their businesses successful and that's not true most of the time; it is true every time.

There was a time when I didn't recognize that. I was sure that I had all the answers and all I needed my clients to do was follow my lead.

But one day I was working with a client on the beltway in DC. His company consulted with the government on submarine nuclear warfare so he was a consultant also. The project was really successful'

My job was to develop a succession plan for the owner. He had no children, what he had was 10 retired admirals, each of whom ran a division and each of who truly believed they should not only be allowed to run the company, I'm fairly sure they each felt they should be allowed to run the world.

Talk about a room full of egos.

But I did my job, named the successor and convinced each of the other Admirals that their job was probably more important than the CEO spot. We didn't lose one of them.

So the owner and I went out to dinner. Before we left for dinner he pulled an envelope out of the safe and told me that we were going to look at its contents at dinner, I of course was feeling pretty good about myself and then he opened the envelope and showed me the name he had written down before I started the project.

Of course it matched the Admiral that I had chosen.

He then asked me if I knew what the definition of a consultant was. He told me the answer which was that a consultant was someone who borrows your wrist watch and then tells you what time it is.

And that was a great revelation to me.

There is a great difference between a business owner who knows what the answer is, knows what change needs to be made and can make the changes and an owner who knows what the answer is, knows what changes need to be made and just can't make the necessary changes.

And don't underestimate the fact that change is very difficult to bring about . In fact that's the reason that consultants like me are needed, we are change agents.

Machiavelli said" It ought to be remembered that There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions and only lukewarm defenders among those who may do well under the new"

Truer words were never spoken. And that's why consultants like me who are really change agents can make a good living; we understand a lot about processes and know how to bring change about.

We could spend many pages more describing the process of change, but I can assure you, the process exists and if you are going to operate a winning or a triumphant business you must understand the change process.

Now let's consider a question. If I were to tell you that there were two business owners in the same industry and they were equally smart and had exactly the same number of years of experience.

Now given that scenario if I were to ask you which of the owners would be the most successful I would get answers ranging from the one that works the hardest to the one that has the best sales staff to the one that is the luckiest.

While all three of those options can be helpful, in my consulting practice I learned that companies that had operating plans consistently outperformed companies that did not have an operating plan.

Think about it. The reason is simple, attempting to operate a business without a clear concise plan that leads you to your goals is just like trying to go on an automobile trip without a map. If you are going to maximize your results you must have a plan.

And once you have a plan you must live the plan, not just once a month or once a week but every day.

And if you are going to have an effective plan you have to get your entire team involved in its creation.

Sure, as a business owner you could go into your office and sit down and go through the process of creating a plan and present it to your employees and tell them this is your plan.

You could say "Go out and be sure we achieve this."

Your employees just have a plan that they think has been shoved down their throat. This is an ineffective way to manage.

It's kind of like a quote I saw from a former marketing executive at Citrix Corporation. He said "Teamwork is a lot of people doing what I say."

If you don't involve your employees in the creation of the plan, they certainly have no sense of ownership.

Owners of winning companies involve their employees in the creation of a plan. Every employee should be responsible for developing their portion of the plan.

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