Businesses owners must avoid sabotaging themselves

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 4:28 PM

Kim Bowsher

Say you run a manufacturing company, manage a coffee shop or own a printing company. You may assume you are in the business of producing lattes or of marketing materials.

Wrong. You are in the business of sabotage.

You hire people only to destroy their capabilities by micromanaging their moves, limiting their power and overriding their decisions. You hired employees because you’re not an expert accountant, brilliant marketer or efficient project manager.

Even if you were, you know you can’t do it all.

Still, day in and day out, you try to do their work for them — overanalyzing each step, critiquing every move, cutting programs before they are given an opportunity to produce results. You go back to enforcing the old way even though that clearly wasn’t working because, if it had been, you wouldn’t have hired someone to do it better.

You are in the business of sabotage.

You scramble around chasing leads, schmoozing clients and winning over new business — only to fail to deliver all that you promised. You can’t make a pumpkin latte better than your competitors and have never trained your baristas to make this beverage, but you advertised the drink, gave out coupons and bought all the supplies.

The lattes are terrible, and now those customers you worked so hard to get aren’t going to come back. You fight for new customers over and over again because you aren’t keeping the ones you’ve had.

You are in the business of sabotage.

You lower your prices merely to please a cheapskate customer. You’ve undercut your profit line, and now you take shortcuts to lower your upfront costs — cheap materials, less-skilled laborers and rushed labor. No one is happy.

You aren’t selling the quality product you had envisioned when you opened this business, your employees hate the constant rush to get this junk out the door, and your customer — though happy with the price — is no longer happy with the end result. You, as an owner, are especially unhappy at the end of the month when money has come in, bills have been paid and you are no better off than when you started the month.

You are in the business of sabotage.

You let others fail. Continually. You are more concerned about rocking the boat than you are about being a manager who holds people to their word.

Jane is frequently late to work and never submits her assignments on time, but she’s been here half a decade and you’d really hate to lose her.

Why? At the very least, your employees have promised to do what is outlined in their job description. So much more is necessary, and yet we’re letting our staff fail us at the very basics, the most minimum of requirements. And that makes it OK for them to fail in the bigger things.

Quit the business of sabotage.

Let your employees do their job. Trust that they know what they are doing. You hired them; you ought to trust them. If you can’t trust them to do it alone, you shouldn’t be employing them.

Create something of value. No matter what it is you produce, sell or market, make it worthwhile. The experience you create for your customer is your highest value. Make the experience something to come back for.

Know that money does matter and that it’s OK to charge what you’re worth. Accept that occasionally losing a customer over costs is better for you in the long run.

Hold people accountable — yourself and your employees. Make it a requirement that people do what they say they are going to do, that a failure to do so is an unacceptable betrayal of the team.

The business of sabotage is the least profitable and the most time-consuming of all businesses, so quit.

Kim Bowsher started her management track at the original Starbucks in Seattle. She moved on to helping small businesses, putting to work the lessons she learned in the coffee business. She currently works with a private firm in Salt Lake City. Contact her at

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