Is your company in tip-top shape or is it about to have a heart attack?

The human body is fascinating. People around the world constantly amaze us with their physical, artistic, and mental achievements and creations. Considering the success of many individuals, Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote comes to mind: “you can do anything you set your mind to.” Here is where being healthy comes into play. Even if the sky is the limit, we are unable to perform at the best of our ability if we are not physically, mentally, and emotionally well. Indeed, being sick or having a disease prevents us from achieving our maximum.

In this article, I would like for you to think of your business as a living person. Surely you want to see it succeed both today and in the future. But if your organization is unhealthy, it will not be able to perform as it should. Or worse yet, it may just come to the point of having a heart attack and die off altogether. Just as there are parameters such as blood pressure or cholesterol for measuring physical health, there are also signs that a business is healthy. In the following, I would like to share with you 3 things which are characteristic of healthy companies. You will notice that none of them are directly about finances. It is true that a company’s well-being is tied to its financial health. Much has already been written to this fact. For this reason, this article focuses on other aspects within the company.

1. Preparing for the future.

One of the worst things a company can do is focus too much on the present. In other words, concentrating on doing everything in front of you right now to the best of your ability. Don’t get me wrong, the old phrase carpe diem, “seize the day” does have some validity. However, it must go along with a vision for the future. Otherwise, you may find yourself putting too much effort into tasks that shouldn’t be done.

To avoid being stuck in the “now” and keep the future on your mind, you must set goals. They serve as points of reference. As reminders along the path of the daily grind. Almost all entrepreneurs have goals, some are good, others not so much. Don’t just keep your goals to yourself in your head, write them down and share them with you work team. Great goals are also well-defined. Make them specific. “In the first quarter we will strive to increase our clients by 15%” is a much better goal than “We are going to work to get more clients.”

Another thing you must do to prepare for the future is to be flexible. Zig Ziglar shares an interesting story about this in his best-seller See You at the Top. The story tells about a woman who always chops off a big portion of a piece of meat before putting it into the oven. Her husband asks her why she does this and her answer is that is the way she learned from her mother. Investigating further, the husband asks his mother-in-law about it. She replies: “My oven was too big to fit the whole piece into the oven.” The husband’s wife had spent years doing something that was not necessary. You may want to take a good look at your company and see if there are any tasks that are not the most sufficient way of doing things. Is your business flexible, willing to break from the norm? Better yet, are you, as the one in charge, willing to listen to the opinions of others?

2. Having a model of transparency.

In the past decade or so, there have been huge changes in the way people go about running a business. Previously, there was a huge gap between the owners/managers and the workers. Perhaps this was just a continuation of how things were done in the industrial age. Owners with lots of power imposing their position of authority on the workers, keeping a distance from them. The workers were demanded to simply produce as much as possible and ask no questions. Currently, we are seeing companies benefit greatly by shifting away from this style. Creating an atmosphere of transparency will enable your team to work together more efficiently and allow your business to establish trust within the community.

So how is transparency established? First, you as the leader must set the example. Share financial information, ask for input regarding an important decision, or just open up with other employees about your concerns for the business. These things will not only cause your team to feel like they actually belong to the organization, it will also help them to communicate honestly with you about their work.

Secondly, after you have committed yourself to modeling transparency, you need to forge this within your organization. This can be done in writing and in action. By writing I am referring to your company values, culture, etc. You may want to take a look at yours and see if there is anything that specifically talks about the value of each team member. As far as action steps, you want to take measures that encourage team collaboration, communication, and feedback. If an individual or team must deliver a product, why not include the whole team in its evaluation instead of just one or two bosses? Try using a project management platform such as Asana, Basecamp, or Slack instead of email. There, all of your team members will be able to see what everyone is working on, in real time. With a little creativity, you can surely think of more little things you can do to promote transparency.

Thirdly, work on transparency without the company. The first two points dealt with transparency within the company, this one is about how those on the outside see the organization. Software company Buffer not only shares their employee salaries with their whole team, they have made them available to the public. You may not be ready to go this far with transparency, but there are other options. On your blog or “About Us” page, why not share about some of your mistakes over the years instead of just the successes? Videos or pictures about your business can also help in this area. For example, the clothing company Patagonia has a campaign called The Footprint Chronicles® where they show their supply chain information for each product:

If you have a section of reviews, are you including the bad ones? Even if you receive bad comments, there is an opportunity to show the world how you deal with them.

3. Retaining your employees.

In my opinion, this is the most distinguishing mark of a healthy company out of the 3 mentioned in this article. Employee turnover not only is a sign that workers are not happy in your organization, it also costs you a lot of resources. There is a lot of time and energy wasted in having to carry out a search, interview, and train a new employee.

In our company, EMT, we do specific things to keep employee retention high. From the start, we made it a point to have one-on-one monthly meetings with each member of our team. The idea of these meetings is not so much of an employee evaluation, but a discussion of how they feel about their work and their role in the organization. In this way, we are able to identify their frustrations that they may have and create a plan for changes. This point goes hand-in-hand with the previous point on transparency. At first, the employees may not want to open up, but over time, as you are open and honest with them, they will share more and more.

Conclusion: Like all entrepreneurs, I am certain that you want your company to be as healthy as possible. One of the world’s leading figures in health and fitness, Dr. Kenneth Cooper states “It is easier to maintain good health that to regain it once its lost.” Although he is referring to individual physical health, it is true for companies too. I encourage you to begin today and take measures to keep your company as fit as possible. If you don’t the consequences could be vital.

This article was shared by Cristian Renella, Computer Engineer and C0-founder of OMT, a comparison services site for Brazil. He is passionate about the development of artificial intelligence in Latin America.