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The neck of the bottle is always at the top.


Frequently requested to assist organisations large and small, I observe a common and recurring theme. 

The issues revolve around the struggle of owners /managers to manage effectively. This is visible predominantly in companies that have started small and are growing, in family run businesses and families themselves.

They are invariably puzzled that management approach, style and methods which worked so well in the past, now just don't work anymore. They resort to even more hard work and effort, yet the situation only worsens.

Finding themselves in unfamiliar situations they dart here and there implementing fads, half hearted strategies alien to their thinking and character. They do this because they are getting frustrated and doing something is considered better than doing nothing. They change staff and managers. They churn product mix, vendors and even customers and markets. They try so many things but nothing seems to work. They change almost everything except themselves or their approach.

When a person is a founder owner/ manager or head of a family then they have to by necessity wear many turbans. They have no choice but to be multi tasked, handling everything in their organisation. They work by instinct and gut feeling and this gives them speed and they can reconcile all aspects of the organisation's needs effectively and almost instantaneously.                   Requirements of business in its initial stages differ significantly from those of the growth and consolidation phases. Then again a new growth phase and so on. The approach and style of management need to change.

When the owner /manager leader refuses to change the approach they become the bottleneck. No wonder it is said, "the neck is always at the top of the bottle."

Owners and specially founder owners are not always easy people to get along with. It is the same stubbornness and determination that made them successful in the first place. However they tend to be mercurial, temperamental, and impulsive. So their team is often clueless and always have to second guess the boss. No one dares tell the boss that he or she is the problem, unless they are ready to go job hunting.

The type of boss for founding a business , for growth phase and for consolidation and next phase growth, all have to be different. Alternately the boss too needs to change his style and approach with the times. Unfortunately the leader rarely finds the need to change.

Why this blind spot or reluctance to change? There are several reasons;

Success brings rigidity. Once owners and managers find a style that worked they freeze the approach. They assume it will continue to work irrespective of size or even business. They fail to appreciate that the game has changed and so must the style. They also carry the same style to different types of businesses with frustrating results. A trader diversifying into manufacturing has problems when he treats his industrial and manufacturing activities the same way as he did in trading etc. Another example is a person blindly bringing his military methods to civilian situations is more likely to fail than succeed. 

Arrogance. When owners have control over resources and people they sometimes get ahead of themselves and tend to become inconsiderate, rude and arrogant. Nothing blinds a person more than arrogance. They refuse to listen having closed their minds to others.

Cronyism. The owner-manager is surrounded by a close circle of assistants. These people derive their power by their close proximity with the owner-manager, and they do not allow the system to change. Any change has the potential to disturb the status quo and destabilise the power of these key assistants or cronies.  It is shocking how often I encounter trouble situations, where a lowly but powerful assistant keeps things centred around him or her. The clients had become prisoners of their own making and could not proceed with any major initiatives or restructuring because of the smooth sabotaging of their own assistants.

Inefficient, unaccountable and dishonest staff. have a field day when things are chaotic as they can never be found out. They always work to sabotage all attempts to organise.

Unwillingness to let go.They recruit someone to do a job and then keep interfering. Power nourishes the ego and people get addicted to power.
Every owner believes he is an expert on every function in the organisation and often does not let the person any freedom to execute his or her job. ( Often they themselves are not clear what job they want their assistants to do). Routine things must be done in a routine manner

Failure to accept that strategising and planning is also important work.  Failing to plan is planning to fail. Many a time the owners fail to appreciate that planning detailing, reviewing or systemising as important work. Hence needless activity often drives out purposeful and important work. 

Yesterdays methods were acceptable for yesterday's competition. If owners and leaders refuse to change then they run the risk of losing everything including their reputation and their savings.


  1. I can relate to your article, and was looking to see if you have a solution to the issue. You did mention that the owner/manager needs to change with the state of the organization, and also tried to pin point the necessary symptoms that are the cause of all the concerns for such an organization. However, I would like to know from you if and in what way should the organization try and address the problem.

    I will quote a specific point where we know that we were trying to find a solution: We know that we are growing and a very high rate of 40-50% every year for the past 2 years. And in this scenario we know for a fact that we are not growing in the manner we should. We are finding it hard to meet the demands of our customers. To this we thought we need a professional to come and help in organizing. We brought a person with over 35 years of experience in the automotive business and had worked with some of the well respected names in this industry. However we failed to provide him with the necessary time to understand the organization and make his assessment of our functioning but clammered his thought process with our own mindset. We have been doing things in a certain way and wanted to enforce exactly that on him. The results were expectedly showing our crooked face. He said that you have hired an expensive driver...however you are still driving the car by yourself. Point was well understood...however we found certain unimpressive things about his way of work that gave us some solace to the situation.

    Now we are back to the problem after paying some 5-7 lacs. Problem is still that we face the challanges of today with our old orthodox style which is not giving me a feel good factor.

    Tell us what would you?

  2. Ashu,

    It is unhealthy to recommend a solutions without proper study. A few general comments are however possible.

    Success is when preparation meets opportunity.
    If you have been preparing for this growth then it is to be seized and maximised. However if you are overloading your system then this growth is unsustainable and will likely stress and strain your organisation.

    Growth is a nicer problem than not enough orders. A 40% to 50% growth rate is very good, if it is managed properly. If the opportunity has come to you based on a cost and quality leadership and you can deliver then you are on firm ground.

    If you are getting this because of a temporary capacity crunch in the industry then you should be careful. Sooner or later demand and capacity will even out, and you may be left with unsustainable debt and high overheads.

    You appear frustrated on several counts. You need to focus on the key issues or else you will be lost in a sea of mere concerns.

    As regards driving yourself or getting an expensive driver for your organisation, this is a matter you have to debate and decide amongst the owners and management as appropriate. Maybe it's time to effect a change in style, maybe not.

    If you do bring in a new driver he has to win the trust and confidence of the owners and the management team.
    He must also be empowered to make real not cosmetic changes, this is often difficult in family owned business for them to trust an outsider.
    Whatever be the decision please do remember responsibility without authority is impotence.

    Wish you good luck for even the longest journey also begins with the first step.


  3. Dr Colonel BSKS Chopra said;

    Nice one Gurvinder. BSKS

  4. Priti Quinn said;

    Please do one on CHAMCHA GIRI! It is very prevalent in Indian business mgmt.


  5. Anil Gudi said;
    dear mr. gurvinder

    I have been following your enigma solution blog. it is good and informative.

    thanks and do keep sending me these. I surely would like to enrich my self.
    Anil Gudi

  6. Kiran Kamath said;

    As usual very well written and very true also.


  7. Vijay Sakhrani said;

    hey buddy, keep writing and mailing, you really know how to teach and communicate. Enjoy reading. Regards. Vijay Sakhrani.

  8. George Khanduja said;

    Hi Gurvinder

    Enjoyed reading this blog make sense the neck of the bottle is always on top

    G Khanduja

  9. Manav Ahluwalia said;
    Good one! Will keep it in mind. Cheers and have a nice day. Manav

  10. Ankush Ghule said;

    Enjoyed reading this blog make sense the neck of the bottle is always on top.

  11. BV Joglekar said;

    Dear GS,

    What the article says is true. However I would like to make a minor change. If we observe very carefully the neck of the bottle is NOT AT THE VERY TOP , BUT JUST BELOW IT. THESE ARE THE LACKYS WHO SABOTAGE THE GROWTH OF THE ORGANIZATION
    The boss must realise this fact at some point in time and take corrective measures.
    Success is then not very far away


  12. Dear BV,

    What is your proposed solution to your observations?
    What corrective actions do you think need to be taken?


  13. Sushil Dayama said;

    Sir, your articles help me a lot and guide me too, you are the best, thanks to god for gifting me a fiend like you.

  14. Ebe said;

    Such owners of companies require help of an Executive Coach like me.

    Ebe Chaney

  15. Jimmy Kapadia said;


    I could'nt agree with you more. This was the MAIN reason I felt the need to call it a day and quit from the board of directors of my two companies. In fact 3 of the 4 directors resigned. The companies now as expected are in doldrums.

    Thanks pal,


  16. Lawrence said;

    Hi Gurvinder,
    this is so true in the thrust to get to the next stage a radical change in thinking & work habits is required.
    I am so glad for yr insighits on the subject as i too went through that stage,& I know I made the right decicion in handing over to my son who is showing he has the guts to face the challenge of change & approach to the changing needs with a clear head.

    I can already see the difference. thanks for ur piece,I feel so relieved,regards


    Lawrence Dubois []

  17. Sanjay Chaturvedi said;

    Sanjay Chaturvedi []

  18. Sanjay Chaturvedi said;

    Enjoyed reading this Gurvinder and this just emphasizes the need for a good Coach to every Business Owner that can use a proven system to guide the company through the various phases - founding, growth, consolidation and also to ensure that strategies and plans are updated and are current.

    Thank you for sharing.


  19. Anish Poojara said;

    Just read it. was travelling.
    nice reading.


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