The Biggest Mistake Most Entrepreneurs Make when Implementing Business Controls

When you build a business versus a job, you want your team to have the authority to get tasks done without running everything past you.

At the same time, the business needs to make sure that the right things are getting done, at the right time, to produce the right results.  It has to ensure that resources are focused on what matters most, and that simple mistakes that should easily be avoided don’t come back to bite the business.

The tool to do this is called a “control”.  Controls are a subset of business systems which specifically help protect your company from careless, costly, or uninformed decisions or behaviors.

The most common mistake that entrepreneurs make with respect to introducing and harnessing intelligent controls in their companies is to build the controls to help them or their key leaders spot mistakes, poor performance, or misbehaviors.

This is like behaving like a traffic cop who is hiding in the bushes to catch an unwary speeder in the act, and to write up an expensive ticket that will make them think twice before ever daring to speed in their district again.

The best controls, however, help your team self-manage.  They give your individual staff members the feedback they need to make better decisions, and to stay on track with better behaviors.

The problem with being a traffic cop is that not only do you need to be present to stop a speeder, but you’ve alienated the driver from learning safe driving lessons from you.

Instead, good controls are like speedometers, and traffic signs that share feedback (e.g. “your speed is” and “traffic ahead”.)  They also include better road design so that the road itself influences how you drive.

So when you’re implementing internal controls, ask yourself, “What tools could I give to my team that would best empower them to better self-manage to get the correct outcome?

This is why tight checklists they can follow, and score cards that report on key metrics, and project templates they can re-use, help your team to better self-regulate and independently create more value for your company.

Here is a short list of potential internal controls for you to harness to help your staff get better results (and at the same time, let your managers know when they need to step in to coach and redirect your team):

  • Standardized sales paperwork.
  • Sales scripting.
  • Sales metrics (e.g. Closing percentage, dials per day, etc.)
  • A master marketing calendar.
  • A direct mail checklist.
  • Operating budgets.
  • Customer service surveys.
  • Operational metrics (e.g. cost per unit, amount of scrap, etc.)
  • Quality review checklist.
  • Aged accounts receivable report.
  • Written job descriptions.
  • Key Performance Indicators for job performance.
  • Formal customer credit policy and process.
  • Ect.

For more on building systems and controls, including a free tool kit with 21 in-depth video trainings to help you scale your business and get your life back, click here.

Business David is a Wall Street Journal and Business Week bestselling author of 11 business and financial books. A syndicated columnist for and, David’s articles have appeared in over 6,500 publications. As the founder and CEO of Maui Mastermind®, David has worked with 100,000+ business coaching clients and community members to buy, build, and sell over $5 billion of businesses.