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Are You an Octopus?
                                      by R. Thomas Stocker

Is your business in control or do you cont...
They won’t tolerate just being a “doer”. It’s     and ‘C’ level employees. Revenue and
not in their nature. They need the ...
And in all cases, when employees come                                         first they may not know what to say or do,
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Are You An Octopus?


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Business owners sometimes try to do too much. Do you know what "control" really is? Or is your business really out of control?

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Are You An Octopus?

  1. 1. Are You an Octopus? by R. Thomas Stocker Is your business in control or do you control “A” companies work this way. Most your business? Being an octopus stifles problems brought to superiors have already growth; revenue, creative, personal, profit been analyzed for possible solutions and and worker to name a few. Evaluate through the analysis the best alternative is yourself. And be candid. Does everyone in presented. The manager is not necessarily your organization come to you to make a being asked to decide, but approve the decision, big or small? Do you have a basic direction the employee is taking. In some feeling that no one can do “it” better than cases, the alternative presented may not be you? Is it easier to do it yourself rather than the solution the manager would have show someone? Do you delegate? And preferred and subsequent peer to peer when you do, do you give the person you are discussion to decide the best direction delegating to very specific instructions? Do occurs. Subordinates are encouraged and you find it hard to get good people, and if expected to have alternatives and to be able you do find that person they end up leaving? to defend their chosen solution. How many hours had you worked already Where are you in your business cycle? If by the end of Wednesday following your you are a start-up, being an octopus is part last vacation? Do you have a short temper of the plan. You’re figuring everything out. for suggestions? Do you ask for options? You don’t have the cash you need to hire Do you make all the “big” decisions by everyone you’d like to. But if you are past yourself? Often wonder why no one in your the critical stage of start-up, and you are still organization is “thinking”? the octopus, it’s time to assess why. It If you are an octopus you may not realize it doesn’t matter whether you are profitable or but you’ve trained your staff to let you be. not, something is wrong. Your management For example, how often does your controller style is holding you back. or bookkeeper come to you with a problem, An octopus may not realize the culture they perhaps about a collection issue? Do they have created. But over time, the octopus bring you all the facts, information, will get tired. The business may not be as alternatives and their favored suggestion for exhilarating as it once was. Frustration may resolution? Or do they just bring data and set in because no matter how hard he/she is wait for instructions? How often do you working, the business doesn’t respond. need to stop what you are doing, look at the Employees can’t or won’t help; they’ve been data, hear their problem then have to send taught that their opinions aren’t valued. If them back for more information; maybe they have been in the company long enough, with instructions about what you may need they may not remember how. They may to make a decision? How do you think it have become complacent and comfortable to would be if most problems came with let the boss do all the lifting. The business suggested alternatives? Even better, what if isn’t under control. the conversation was more about informing you what was being done rather than asking Earlier in the article I mentioned ‘A’ players for your instructions? don’t last long working for an octopus. 10 Larkspur Road, East Greenwich, RI 02818 401-451-9799
  2. 2. They won’t tolerate just being a “doer”. It’s and ‘C’ level employees. Revenue and not in their nature. They need the mental profit growth will always be sub-optimal. stimulation of working though problems and With a weak team and one clear decision- don’t understand when they aren’t heard. maker your company will be considered a Although the octopus may have great regard risk and you may not be able to get the for that individual’s ability, the octopus has financing you need and certainly the value a hard time changing their ways. They may of the business will be less than optimal. not give the responsibility the subordinate But it doesn’t have to be this way. feels they should have. Ultimately, that Generally an octopus needs someone to help person will get frustrated and leave. them change. This can come in the form of An enlightened octopus won’t let that a trusted advisor, coach or mentor. It could happen. Getting the business in control will also be a key subordinate, but this generally require the octopus to delegate…and have doesn’t work well as that individual has the patience to let it sink in and work. When their own job to do and coaching the boss people step up to make the business easier, isn’t something very many people look the octopus must embrace it. Challenge forward to doing. Sometimes a board of subordinates to provide their opinions, advisors or an organization like Vistage can alternatives and solutions on a regular basis. help, but generally the coach or mentor is A change won’t happen overnight and will the best choice as they have been hired to require a significant amount of coaching and help with the change. Although CEO or effort on your part. Make sure your owner groups are good peer to peer groups subordinates are doing the same thing with and can definitely help, they can’t provide their reports. This is a serious change in the same depth and attention as the coach or direction for an octopus company. Many mentor. employees will be unsettled and may not be So to start the transformation, what is one to able to accept the change. It could drive do? First come to the realization that being away long-term employees. You may an octopus is not good for the long-term sometimes have to make employee changes value of your company. A company similar yourself. But the change will be for the to yours with a more disciplined and better of all involved. distributed management style is most likely One of the biggest positives of this change is stronger, growing faster and attracting the the effect it will have on company growth. type of employees you need to help you Over time, you will be able to concentrate reach your goals. To be competitive you on the things necessary to increase revenues must change in order to allow your company or whatever your specialty may be. Others to change. You are going to need the help have stepped up to run their own areas, and of your employees. They will need to with little “help” from you. Interruptions for change as well. every little thing occur less frequently. Staff Having a plan is important to making the is more energized. You will start to notice transformation. As you work toward talents you didn’t realize employees had, educating employees to analyze the data and and you will find you are actually having produce potential alternatives and solutions, fun again. it will be important to spend time explaining Changing from an octopus doesn’t happen your new expectations. In some cases you easily, and you may not be able to do it. But may need to show how analysis of the data the consequences of not changing can be will lead to multiple alternatives and make it harsh. You will forever be saddled with ‘B’ easier to have meaningful discussions.
  3. 3. And in all cases, when employees come first they may not know what to say or do, looking for your input and instructions, start but over time you will see the asking one of these questions; “What are my transformation of your company from an options?” or “What do you suggest?” At octopus company to a company in control. To comment on this or other topics important to private business owners, access my blog at About the author; Tom is a Principal of Boardroom Advisory Group, LLC, an owner advisory and consulting firm. Tom serves on the Board of Directors for the RI Economic Development Corp’s Small Business Loan Fund Corporation (SBLFC), the finance arm of the RI EDC. He writes a monthly article for the RI EDC’s Every Company Counts initiative. His articles focus on areas that can add significant value for business owners. Contact Tom directly at 401-451-9799 or Boardroom Advisory Group, LLC is a business advisory and consulting firm specializing in helping business owners resolve day-to-day systemic issues that interfere with cash flow and profitability attainment. The Firm works with both growing and underperforming small to mid-market private companies. The Firm’s team of hands-on senior professionals find and implement solutions to improve top-line and bottom-line growth, increase cash flow, reduce costs, improve process, structure, and use world-class metrics to keep the business on track. The team also has extensive experience working with troubled companies through business restructures and recapitalization. Boardroom Advisory Group’s core focus on developing strategies to drive and measure performance has resulted in a history of sustainable top and bottom line growth, healthy cash flow and increased company value for their clients. For more information about how we can help you build a more valuable business visit our website at ©2008-09 Boardroom Advisory Group, LLC All Rights Reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced without the express permission of the author. All registered trademarks mentioned in this document are the property of their respective owners. Additional articles written by Mr. Stocker include: Start Forecasting Now! Do You Have Contingency Plans? I’m Out of Compliance. Now What? Have You Thought About Your Future Lately? Are you in a Foxhole? Metrics Should Be Everywhere (Part I) Are You an Octopus? Metrics Should Be Everywhere (Part II) What is Value? It’s All About Growth These articles can be accessed at You can also request to be added to his email list to receive his latest articles on a monthly basis on the Company website. Contact Tom at