As any business grows, more people seem to get involved with decisions. The proportion of internal emails versus external emails changes. I wonder what the magic number is when a company actually becomes less productive because they have too many people? (We are a long way from that at RedBalloon, as we are only 40 people). It is not necessarily the more people you put on a problem, but how they work which will make the difference.
I heard this fascinating story from an entrepreneur in Canada. He shared that a business owner friend of his had 450 employees and things were not going well. In fact, he was facing bankruptcy. A consultant knocked on his door and asked the question, ‘How many people can you afford to pay for the next 12 weeks?’ The business owner responded, ‘Perhaps 180, 200 max.’ The consultant said, ‘We need 12 weeks to turn this business around.’ The business owner knew that bankruptcy or losing more than half his people really equated to the same thing? how could he possibly run the business with so few people?
He asked the consultant, ‘Exactly what do you propose to do with the remaining people?’ He responded, ‘I was the CEO of a very large organisation until I retired about five years ago. I had a personal assistant, and it was her job to arrive 20 minutes before me and open the mail, review it and put it in my pigeon hole for me to respond to. She did this again at lunchtime. I reviewed mail twice a day and the rest of the time I got on with running the business.’
The business owner said, ‘Well how is this going to help me?’. ‘Do you use Outlook here? Of course. How often do your people respond to emails? Quite frankly if my assistant had run into me every time a piece of mail arrived, announcing “You’ve got mail? STOP everything” I would never have got anything done.’
You might have paid $100 for the software but most people only use 1% of its functionality. You’re going to pay me $300 to teach your people how to use it as a productivity tool. Not the demanding beast that it has become.’
The owner engaged his services, the business turned around with less than half the staff and profitability returned. And Outlook (inbound emails) no longer dictated how their day was going to go.