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Don’t Let These Signs of Trouble Threaten Your Business

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As a business leader, you are always alert for outside challenges: changes in consumer tastes, increased competition, product or service innovations, government policy changes, and other volatile impacts to your organization. 

The signs of internal threats are often more difficult to spot, in part because they worsen gradually, and in part because there is a certain comfort in looking the other way: “Oh, that’s just the way we are. It’s part of our company identity.” However, internal threats are just as critical as external threats when it comes to protecting and controlling your future and the future of your company.

Change is hard—unless it happens when you are looking the other way. Then it can be dangerous.

Here are five signs of looming internal threats to your future.

Lack of Support and Training

Recent studies have found that people stay with a job because they like the work but they leave because they want to grow their careers—not for more money, or a different manager, or a prestigious title (although these are considerations) but for growth. Without opportunities for advancement, top talent begins to look elsewhere.

If you are skimping on training for yourself or your employees, you are encouraging people to leave and exposing your company to a charge of stagnation. 

Too Many Rules and Procedures

According to one study by the Society of Human Resource Managers, 58% of employees cite poor management as one of the biggest roadblocks to their productivity. 

People are most frustrated when poor management takes the form of intrusive rules and procedures. As one business owner explained, “I expected my employees to do everything in a very certain way. I learned to let employees work on their own terms and that freed me to work on my business instead of in my business.”

Rules and procedures also stem from legislative laws and regulations. Those rules and procedures often increase paperwork and pull people away from the parts of their job that they enjoy the most. While you cannot easily change legislation, you can keep an eye on its effect on your employees and on your own sense of accomplishment during the workday.


Work overload decreases productivity because it increases stress and interferes with focus and concentration. Responding to work overload by multitasking merely makes the situation worse. A 2008 article in The New Atlantis, a Journal of Technology & Society, explored the myth of multi-tasking and cited a $650 billion cost to U.S. businesses from lost productivity due to constant interruptions, information overload, and other drawbacks of multitasking.

Another study found that unnecessary and excessive emails took up to 28% of the workweek—creating a nearly constant interruption to work. More communication is good; but more unnecessary communication means lower productivity.

Lack of Recognition or Rewards

Unfortunately, managers have a well-documented tendency to assign more work to people who had proven themselves more competent and responsible. Thus, the only reward for good work is more work.

While it might seem obvious that recognition and rewards would make people feel more appreciated and would boost productivity, the surprising fact is that rewards also boost profits. In one study, reward programs increased profits as much as $104,000 per week. 

Incentive plans are likely to succeed when they have a purpose directly related to company goals, they match the employee’s or team’s priorities, they are fair and open to everyone, and employees are aware of how they operate.

Financial Problems

Often entrepreneurs will count their business a financial success without ever mentioning that they haven’t been paid for their work. If your business cannot pay its employees, including yourself, you are in financial distress whether or not you acknowledge it. Often financial problems begin because owners know their product or service but don’t understand accounting. 

A business owner described how the situation escalates: “I hadn’t taken any business courses as an undergraduate….I just needed a way to make the business work. I wouldn’t give up, but I would imagine there are a lot of people struggling and considering giving up.”

The Top 3 Consequences

When you and your employees are stalled in your careers, trapped by rules and procedures, overworked but not given recognition, and are in financial straits, the consequences can include: 

  • Turnover. Turnover is extremely expensive—including advertising, interviewing, and training a new employee as well as the costs of having the work covered by other employees in the meantime.  But turnover is one of the most common consequences of internal threats (worldwide, 10% of the workforce annually).
  • Stress and burnout. People who continue to work despite feeling trapped, underappreciated, and underpaid inevitably experience stress and burnout. Stress amplifies physical and mental obstacles to productivity and leads to mistakes and lack of attention. Teamwork suffers, tempers escalate, and even clients feel the strain.
  • Loss of business. This calculation is an easy one: high turnover plus stress and burnout equal loss of business. Stress and burnout communicate themselves to your customers, perhaps through shoddy products and services but definitely through attitude. Moreover, overwhelmed employees are unlikely to come up with innovative ideas and attentiveness to risks that allow your company to stay relevant and strong in the marketplace.

You can save your company from high turnover, stress and burnout, and the loss of business but first, you have to see the signs that something is wrong—and you have to be willing and able to counter the threats those signs represent. The goal of JB Partners is to give you the insight and the courage to create a business that succeeds for you and for your employees. 

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