The secret Profit Killer: What your employees know but aren't telling you

What if a one-hour meeting could save your company $65,000?

In my experience, most business owners either trust their designated I.T. person to advise them on technology decisions.   And the I.T. guy (or gal) is almost already prepared to give them the their own answers, based upon their own experiences with technology, sometimes based on their personal brand preferences (Mac vs. Windows PC, Dell versus HP versus Apple, Box.net versus Dropbox... the list continues).  Sometimes I.T. advice is rooted in a product sales agenda, usually leaning toward whatever the consultant or salesperson profits by selling to their customers.  

I.T. people love giving advice- It's always a great feeling to help people.  And giving advice can feel good to to the I.T. person for another reason.  I call it the "Hero Effect".   It's a combination of ego and control:  The I.T. guy has the knowledge and answers that the customer wants.  It's good to feel needed, right?

The problem is that the I.T. guy doesn't have the answers, at least not the most important ones.  Your employees do.   

Note to business owners:  Your employees have the most important answers

I was in a meeting recently with a business owner and several of their key employees.  Part of my agenda in the meeting was to review what's working and what's not working for them related to their technology.  I made sure the agenda and tone of the meeting allowed the employees to express their concerns, ideas and perspectives openly.   There was no right or wrong, no scale of "importance" or "priority" imposed on them.  This was a catharsis, a full dump of everything, especially the little stuff everyone has grown accustomed to living with each day.   

One employee identified a little problem they've been dealing with as long as they can remember.   On the surface, it's just a small problem- maybe a one minute issue.  It was disregarded almost immediately by the person who raised it.  But when I dug in a bit deeper and asked how often it comes up, and who else is affected by it, it became pretty clear that the email issue was actually causing about 30 minutes of interruption and workarounds per day, per employee.   Take 25 employees, multiply the 30 minutes per day and now you're at 12.5 hours per day of interruption.   That's time you're paying your employees for.   That's one and a half full-time employees' time, per day, going to waste on the most trivial thing.   That 12.5 hours per day times five days per week times 52 weeks per year totals 3,250 hours.  What does that cost you as the business owner?  At $20/hour (assumption), that's $65,000 per year.

The reason the little issue was disregarded immediately was the most interesting part of all.   "The email system is really stable, it works great" was the comment.   But when I asked the question "is it working for you at the time you experience the issue?" the answer was "well, of course not!!".   When I asked what they thought it would take to solve the problem, the answer was more training on how to use the email system.

Does any of this sound like a normal tech conversation?  Of course, the age, condition and specs of the workstations and software still came up.    And it needs to.  But was the email system working from the "technician" perspective?  Would the tech consider the email system broken?   True I.T. professionals realize they don't have all the answers, but that their job is to ask questions and then facilitate finding solutions.

Assuming your expenses are constant, your employees just found you an opportunity to return $65,000 back to the bottom line, straight to your profits.  What would you do with the extra $65,000 this year?   

If you have questions or want more information about facilitating this kind of employee meeting, contact me.