Does Your Business Need to Go on a Diet?

By Rich Lindblom, YSN

With all the talk of “The Great Resignation” and the challenge of finding and keeping great workers, it may be helpful to remember that employment work both ways.

My company had an employee named Joe who had been with us for over twenty years.  Joe was 64 and made no secret of the fact that he was going to retire as soon as he turned 65.  He did in-shop repairs, took in the new appliance deliveries, ran errands, and took care of all our janitorial needs.  But in all honesty, Joe really wasn’t very productive and certainly wasn’t essential by any stretch of the imagination. We knew it, but we just didn’t have the heart to fire him since he was going to retire in less than a year anyways. 

One day I walked into the shop area in the back of the store where Joe was stationed and glanced up at the calendar he kept on the wall. I was absolutely stunned. Joe had numbered all the remaining days until his retirement (238, 237, 236…). 

You may be thinking, “So what? That doesn’t seem all that unusual.”

But here was the rub: The calendar didn’t have that countdown two days earlier.  Meaning somewhere over the past 48 hours I was paying this guy $20 an hour plus benefits to write 238 numbers on a calendar.  Here we were trying to be nice guys by keeping him around until he turned 65, and instead of working, he’s wasting time counting down the days until he retires — and doing so on my dime.

Well, we made the decision right then and there to give him a head start on his retirement.  We fired him that day and didn’t replace him on the payroll.

Don’t get me wrong; as mad as I was, it was still a hard thing to do. And before you go calling me a cruel, heartless villain, he immediately filed for unemployment, and we didn’t fight it. So he still got a paycheck for six more months without working. Heck, I think you could argue that we actually did Joe a favor. 

The bottom line is that firing Joe saved my company about $50,000 a year. And, as I said, we didn’t replace him, meaning that in the five years since he left, we saved roughly a quarter of a million dollars!  Yes, we had to divvy up his duties among other employees, but as it turned out they weren’t very hard to do. Which confirmed for me that we had made the right decision by letting him go.  Sure, I had to clean a toilet or mop a floor once in a while, but for $250,000 that’s a tradeoff I’ll make every time.

Look, I don’t care how lean and mean you think your company is right now.  Every business has some fat that can be trimmed to save money, and if I studied your operation, I guarantee I’d be able to find some unnecessary overhead there too. But since I’m not at your store, it’s up to you to put your company on that much-needed diet. 

Take the blinders off and look at your business from an outsider’s perspective. Find the fat in your company, take out a carving knife, and trim it out. Yes, it can be difficult, but in today’s highly competitive business atmosphere, no company can afford to waste money.

And maybe the fat that needs to be trimmed isn’t from the payroll.  Review your financial statements and look at your expenses. Perhaps you can switch, renegotiate or even eliminate some of your suppliers.  There are lots of different places you can look to cut costs. Ultimately, just about every single item on your monthly expense report is negotiable.  And it’s up to you to make the hard decisions that in the end will make your company more profitable. 

Personally, I think today would be the perfect day for every BrandSource member to put their company on a diet and cut out the fat.

Hey, I saved $250,000. How much money can your company save?

I have three goals in mind with my columns: To motivate, educate and entertain.  If I have achieved at least one of those, then I’ve done my job. Don’t be shy about letting me know if you agree. Write me at egvrich@gmail.com.