Achieving Business Success

By Robert L. Bailey

In these United States there are some 150 million people who are gainfully employed. Of these, surveys tell us that as many as 72% don't like their jobs and/or their bosses.

Another major research organization said that some 70% of American workers are "disengaged," which is a high-class way of saying that seven out of ten workers don't give a hoot about you, your company or your customers. The researchers went on to say that these "disengaged" workers are costing American businesses some $300 billion a year.

With some back-of-the-envelope math, I like to bring this down to numbers that apply to your business. Take 70% of the annual payroll of your firm. Now apply a "slippage" factor; that is, how much less effective is the "disengaged" worker as compared to an employee fully committed to the success of your organization. Let's say that's 50%, so multiply the 70% payroll number by .5.

That alone is a significant amount of money. But overhead costs must be added in. We estimate that for most organizations there is a dollar of overhead for every dollar of payroll – some 30% to 40% for benefits, a desk or work station, a personal computer or other equipment, a parking place, a supervisor for every 15 or 20 people, etc. This dollar of overhead for every dollar of payroll brings us back to a full 70% of payroll that perhaps is being flushed down the drain every payday by the employee group that is not fully dedicated to making your business a success.

This does not consider the loss of business resulting from the work of people who are not customer focused. Although the number is difficult to quantify, undoubtedly many customers move to a competitor because they did not receive the type of service they had a right to expect. And they told others about it, creating another market segment that your firm will never have an opportunity to serve because of instances of poor service.

Another troubling statistic is that some 50% of American workers have already checked out mentally in that they are either actively looking for another job now or say they would accept one if the opportunity arises.

From this we can draw three disturbing conclusions: First, we can be certain that American employers are not receiving full value for their payroll dollar. Second, it is doubtful that customers are being served in the manner we would like – and many move to competitors. And third, and to me most disturbing, it is a tragedy to think that seven out of ten employees drudgingly go to work each day to jobs they don't like.

I often told the employees of my former company, "If you hate to go to work tomorrow, don't go. You'll never be successful doing something you don't enjoy. Find something you love!"

People who are overwhelmingly successful tend to have never worked a day in their lives. Did Sam Walton, Ray Kroc, Bill Gates and others like them work hard? You bet they did – harder than most of us can even imagine. But they loved their work so much that they didn't consider it work.

It's impractical to believe that the some 70% of those who don't like their jobs can be reduced to zero. There will always be some folks who don't like their jobs. And we must remember too that every job in this universe is not a dream job, and that's not likely to change.

But I believe it should be possible to bring the 70% down to single digits. What's the magic elixir? It's leadership. Improve the quality of leadership and employees' attitude toward their jobs will improve. Which brings about improved customer service. Which brings about a more profitable operation. This brings about greater success for the near and long terms. The dividend that great leadership pays is overwhelming.

If great leadership was easy, everybody would be doing it. But they're not doing it – far from it. But with conscious effort, leadership can be learned.

Excellent leadership begins with excellent communication. Every single dimension of leadership requires thorough, effective, ongoing communication. Great leaders tend to be great communicators. I challenge you to name a truly great leader who is not a truly great communicator.

People want to be a part of a winning team. They want to know how their company is doing, what the competitors are up to, and how their company intends to deal with the competitive challenges and industry problems on the horizon. They want to be a part of a worthwhile mission. They want to contribute – and they want to know if their efforts are meaningful and appreciated. This requires continual communication on the part of the leader.

The most powerful form of communication is example. It matters little what you, the leader, say or write if you do not set an appropriate example.

Start with communication – and set a positive example – and you'll be off to a good start toward improving your leadership skills.

Robert L. Bailey is the retired CEO of a major company. Visit or contact him at 919-629-6226 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..