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Small Business

No Matter the Business, Certain Principles Apply

If you hone in on one or more of these three key principles, a business can make a course correction, improve its operations and start making the numbers look better.

By Izzy Kharasch.

Since starting my consulting business, Hospitality Works, in 1987, I’ve helped turn fortunes around for many restaurants all across the nation. And I have come to realize something: Most of what I’ve learned about the restaurant business can be applied to almost any business in almost any industry.

As a financial professional, you probably have among your clients business owners, would-be business owners and investors in various enterprises (even including restaurants). Perhaps you keep the books for medical, dental or other health-care offices. Maybe you’re trying to help a business climb out of the red and back to profitability. You yourself may be a small business owner wondering how to improve your social media reviews.

If you hone in on one or more of these three key principles, a business can make a course correction, improve its operations and start making the numbers look better. And it’s why, this works in industries other than hospitality.

 1. Invest in great service.

A lot of businesses attribute negative reviews to their staff having a “bad day.” In actuality, it  all starts with service.

If a patient, retail customer or potential client is left waiting at the front desk, if the receptionist is talking on his or her cell phone, if the billings are incorrect, business is being driven away before a potential customer even gets to see you, and there will be a one- or two-star review on Yelp or Google.  A business can avoid this by investing in service training, along with training specific to their business or industry, and weeding out employees who can’t meet the standard.

Another mistake is not having enough staff to provide good service. Controlling costs is one thing. Serving customers badly, or not serving them at all, by skimping on staff is a recipe for disaster.

2. Watch the numbers and devise an action plan if they’re not adding up.

It’s true no matter what business you’re in. The numbers are what will help you grow (or lose) a business. A client who is investing in a business that is outside their expertise must trust their partners, but only up to a point. As the old journalism motto goes, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

If a client tells you, “Our business is going gangbusters, but we’re still losing money,” something is wrong. This could be problems with how the books are kept, problems at the bank – or even a dishonest employee embezzling funds. Profit-and-loss statements have to be reviewed at least every 30 days, and if you seem to be doing good business but are still losing money, start trying to find out why.

Beyond that, though, you must devise a strategy for addressing the issues. One way to get the information you need is to act as a manager or owner for a brief period and gain access to all of the business’ accounts. This may mean gaining access to all of the business’ accounts and even acting as a manager for a brief period. But if you solve the problem, you will have become a trusted advisor.

3. Share information with staff.

A lot of business owners like to keep information about the business close to the vest and not share it with their employees. This is a big mistake. A business owner should meet regularly with staff, let them know how the business is doing and get their ideas on how to improve. “No secrets” is my operating strategy.

Can following these three principles guarantee a business or investment will succeed? No, because there are a lot of other factors, such as a tight labor market, the economy and technological trends, that are not in an individual’s control. However, the odds can be improved  by applying these four simple precepts.

All business is the same. If everybody is focused on the right things – costs, revenue, customer service – the business itself doesn’t matter.


Izzy Kharasch is a consultant and founder of in the Chicago area.  He works with all types of businesses and is offering a free consultation by emailing him at