Craig Durosko: Are your company?s problems internal or external?

The economy has presented many challenges, but it also has presented opportunities for people who are up for it.

August 03, 2012

Recently my wife and I watched “Kitchen Nightmares.” That is a show where a famous chef visits struggling restaurants on the brink of closing their doors and attempts to turn them around. It is always amazing to me that there is so much to learn from other businesses. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what we sell, we all have similar challenges. 

In this show, the father had left two brothers in charge. There was infighting, personality challenges, a terrible culture and no one could take criticism. That flowed into the dining area; clients were being treated poorly, they could hear the fighting in the back, and would be challenged if they didn’t like the food. On top of all that, the food quality suffered, the website and marketing was out of date, the restaurant looked “tired” and cash flow suffered. 

There doesn’t seem to be a day that goes by that I don’t hear something blamed on the economy when I talk to people. Don’t get me wrong, it has presented many challenges but it also has presented many opportunities for people who are up for it. The economy is challenging people and businesses to improve—run more efficiently, provide better service, differentiate and be more client focused. The down side to a good economy is that it can keep a poorly run business alive.

What was interesting about the TV show to me was the business was broke, and they were looking out at all the external challenges. And yet by the end of the show, somehow they were able to turn it around by things they did control: their internal problems.

The lesson learned is that we are given many challenges that we cannot control. And although change is usually not welcome or fun, it is often required to thrive while adapting to new environments.

We all have our perceptions and our history (baggage) we bring to the table (I like to call it head trash). What is keeping you back? Keeping your business back? Take a break from working in the business and work on the business. 

Do you enjoy going to work? Do you look forward to it? So if I asked you one year from now how things were and you couldn’t make any excuses, what would you want the outcome to be? Can you paint a picture of that, write a vision, create a plan to make it happen, create a budget, put an action plan together, get buy-in from your team, check in on your progress, celebrate your successes along the way? There will always be setbacks—can you create contingency plans to make up for something gone wrong? Don’t forget—it’s not just about the destination, have fun getting there.

What is the feeling people get when they come in to your office? What is the culture of your employees? What is the experience your clients have? How do you respond to their feedback? What is the buzz of the business? What is your first impression to the world? What does your website portray about you? What about your company vehicles, job sign, and your office? Look around, take a picture of each and lay them on your table. Are you attracting the clients you want to work with?

What is your product or service? Could you improve it? Can you challenge the “we have always done it like that”? What is your experience like? How are people experiencing you? Are your clients loving the process for just the outcome? How are your employees enjoying the process? Do you know what your clients think? Are you surveying them? Are you getting all the feedback? Are you making changes to improve your service?

Looking for more resources? Try a peer group; get real feedback on what you are doing, a different set of eyes. Use a third party surveying company. Or maybe do a SWOT analysis on your company (see my previous article on this at 

Understand why people are buying from you, not just the “what” they are buying. Stop looking out and start looking inside at how you are showing up, how your business culture is, how your employees are showing up in your clients’ homes. If you want more proof than a reality TV show, read Jim Collins most recent book “Great by Choice.” He compared many companies in the same business, in the same market place, with the same opportunities. In each case, one outperformed the market by 10x and the other failed.  PR


Craig Durosko is the founder of Sun Design, an award-winning Burke, Va.-based design/build firm. He can be reached at:

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