Gatekeepers – Are They Helping or Hurting Your Business?

Gatekeepers – Are they helping or hurting your business? eCommerce marketing consultant Shirley Tan explains.Are your gatekeepers costing your company money? Most businesses have them, especially if the company has more than 10 employees. A gatekeeper is defined as the person who is responsible for a certain task or job (or the person you need to go through to get to the decision maker).

Gatekeepers are pretty much needed. They are there to ensure that employees and owners of the company follow the established company protocol of procedures and systems. They usually get credit for running a tight ship. It is great when your gatekeeper is doing his or her job, and then some.

What I would like to discuss is when your gatekeepers are actually costing you more money than you realize in lost sales and business opportunities.

Consider these scenarios:

  1. At a law firm where it’s typical for lawyers to go through manila folders like it’s going out of style, the office manager was spending her time removing the labels of very old files and putting on new labels to reuse the folders. It’s admirable that her intent is to save the firm money on folders, and the other intent is not to be wasteful, but she didn’t consider that her time is better spent doing other tasks, like making sure monthly billing gets out on time.
  2. A VP tightened up the CVVS code review, which resulted in a delay of processing orders because she was the only person approving and she had other things to do all day long. What preempted this was when was that I said, “We really have to do something about these fraudulent order” (after getting about 4 -5 of them in a row). So, our VP decided that she would review each order herself. Unfortunately, she’s super swamped already and was allocating only an hour a day to review the orders and waiting until the next day to approve more. Our orders were coming in daily and she was always behind (and seriously would never catch up), which resulted in customer complaints, canceled orders and lost revenue.
  3. When we were doing embroidery production in our warehouse in Burlingame, the production crew made mistakes on some of the bags and they would try to salvage them by unstitching the thread so that they could re-embroider them. This is great, except for the fact that it takes four times as long to unstitch the thread, and the crew could have been working on new orders. So we compromised — only unstitch if the product cost more than $10.00 and there are less than three letters to unstitch.
  4. Your purchasing manager, in his effort to save you money, decides to recycle used equipment which took months to get up and running, and test to see that it was working properly. Meanwhile, you watch your peak season go by, having to stall the launch of new products until next season. The bottom line: saving $700.00 to forego projections of several thousands of dollars in sales is not saving your company money. While you may have saved $700.00, you’ve lost the opportunity to make revenue as well as the opportunity to bring products into the market as a market leader.
  5. (Last one, I promise.) A purchasing manager, who does all the ordering in her proven way, typically calls in the order to the vendor and ensures that the products are en route. It’s great that she’s hands-on, but it’s not sustainable. I had a conversation with the owner, and I told him that he’s putting his company at enormous risk by continuing on this route. Don’t get me wrong, even the purchasing manager conceded that this pattern is not sustainable, especially at the growth rate that their company is experiencing. Solution: they’re bringing in affordable technology to help them with their inventory management.

Now, you’re probably thinking of the different possible scenarios that your gatekeeper might have cost you money, don’t blame her or him. This is a classic case where you may be thinking that its common sense, but it’s not about common sense. It’s about the strategy and goals that are communicated to your employees. These need to be clear and simple enough for everyone to understand, and they need to be achievable. Review the system you have in place, collaborate with your people, and make sure you understand where they are coming from. Get to know the thought process behind them making that call.

By: Shirley Tan

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