by Patricia Olson
Small Business Consultant
Many of the small businesses I work with have poor communication between the sales
and accounting departments. When I ask a few basic questions of the business owner it
turns out that he or she has no policies in place to guide the employees. As a result, the company is spiraling out of control.
Clear policies create the structure employees need to feel secure. The knowledge that someone is in charge leads to efficiency and increased productivity. When policies are not in place, or they are hit and miss, the business suffers and so do the employees.
A business without clear guidelines is similar to a dysfunctional family. If the father and mother do not know how to set and keep clear boundaries, the children have no idea how to behave. And so they act out, which drives the parents crazy. Many people grew up in dysfunctional families and they bring their adaptation to chaos into their work environments, which creates undo stress on other employees and the business owner. It is up to the owner to put in place a structure that requires honest and direct communication between and among the departments.
For example, sales people must not be permitted to distort sales figures to make sales, then expect the accountants to figure out what is wrong with the figures. When the
salespeople are out of line they need to be called into the owner’s office and given a warning. Similarly, when accountants notify the owner that sales figures do not match the suggested price for an item, the owner must not say, “you take care of it, that’s an
accounting problem, that’s why we hired you.” The owner must confront the salespeople so that the accountants do not get blamed for a problem they did not create.
Consistent policies expedite the flow of communication in a company, which leads to high morale and deep commitment on the part of every employee. Like children in a well-run family, employees thrive in a company whose owner is in control. Rather than worrying about when the next disaster is going to strike or leaving to find a saner environment, they feel free to concentrate on their work.
Deep down, people want to be held accountable for their actions. It is up to the owner of a company to assert his or her authority in a fair and reasonable manner so that the company makes money and the employees enjoy their work.