Listen to your engine

How not to lose your business

Adaberemchi Aja-Onu

I used to love the idea of driving as a kid. The concept of freedom was massively appealing to me. Free to jump in my car and go wherever I wanted was my dream hobby. Then I grew up and now driving is no fun. We all grow up. The one lesson my Dad taught me about driving which has stayed with me after about several decades is this: listen to your engine. He told me that a good driver could tell when his engine was maxed out, and it was time to shift gears upwards. That was his answer to my question about when I’d know it was time to change gears. He also said that listening to your engine would also tell you when something was wrong with your car.

A business is just like a car. When it’s running well, you need to know when to shift gears upwards. That’s the time to scale up. Increase. Grow. Hire more. At these times, life’s right, and it looks like nothing can stop you and your team. Oh yeah! I like this stage. The business is on cruise control until someone or something throws a wrench in the gears, and things go wrong.

A bad leader won’t be able to tell when the engine is making all sorts of ungodly sounds. The machine is still grinding, and movement is again happening but it’s jerking now and smoking like hell’s inferno is in your back yard, but they’re clueless. My car has been doing that. When I got it, it ran ok. The important things worked. I made sure I took it to the shop for an oil change and then I got adventurous. I needed the engine tweaked, and that’s when someone threw a wrench in my car’s gears. Now every morning my car farts a bellow of white smoke as a “Good morning to ya” when I start it. I know something is wrong and I intend to fix it. Not yet, though. I know it’ll cost me a tidy stack of pennies when I do.

This morning, I took a drive with my kids and had that intuition we all have, but not all of us listen to. I heard this morning and ducked into the next service station I met along the freeway. I popped my hood and asked the attendant to gauge the oil. My engine was dry. “Na God save you,” he muttered, and I agreed. I wondered how much longer I’d have driven the car before it stalled and went dead and I’d have lost my engine.

Many businesses are running dry and are about to lose their engines. They have no gauge and haven’t had an oil change in years or decades. The business owner hasn’t been listening to the disgruntled employees or the poor service being offered to customers. The staff isn’t smiling, and the dark cloud of complacency has made a home here. Business processes aren’t measured, and in the end, it begins to look like the Leadership of the company doesn’t care. In fact, it seems the Leadership likes things this way.

This dysfunction isn’t rare today. In an “It doesn’t matter” economy, it’s an anomaly to find excellent companies. Make no mistake, an excellent team is similar to a new vehicle that runs with a well oiled and serviced engine. Everything less than that just steps away from a corporate shut down.

I saved my engine today by listening. Are you listening to your business engine? Do you have the right gauges in place to make sure you don’t lose your business?

If you’re in that place where you can see the telltale signs of a broken, smoking engine, consider booking a session with our team so we can start with setting up the gauge that measures the health of your teams and works towards bringing your business back to a 100%.