How do you run a successful Canadian small business? Buy a large one and wait.

It is a classic joke that is not too far from reality looking at the current horizon of business health in Canada. Looking closely at the Globe and Mail’s “Top 1,000” Businesses in Canada shows that only 407 of them were profitable last year!

As our local and global economies shift, creating a tremendous array of opportunity, a lot of business leaders are still waiting for things to come back or turn again to their favour. Chances are, they won’t.

Countless businesses have gone through massive cuts to reduce operating cost, and many projects have “paused.” A lot of these companies, especially the larger ones, have wasted this crisis and opportunity for real change. They still experience some people being overworked, while others don’t have enough to do; managers who don’t really know how to keep their teams accountable for results; and people in jobs where they are spectacularly average at best. Cascio & Young have been studying downsizing for decades and have shown repeatedly that “As a group, the downsizers never outperform the non- downsizers. Companies that simply reduce headcounts, without making other changes, rarely achieve the long-term success they desire.” Those “other” changes to make? Business design and organizational effectiveness.

Now, before you hand this off to your top HR person, consider firing that person instead. And possibly yourself. This is work for which you, the top leader, are directly accountable. No one else.

Many leaders rely on gut instinct, past experience, or what their peers are doing to make these kinds of decisions on their own. That only gives the temporary illusion of success. Most research says it just does not work, in both the short run and the longer term.

Better science applied to organization design yields possibilities to reduce cost structure (not just costs this year, but every year going forward) by about 20%, in my experience. The upside is even bigger with productivity gains of 50% faster execution on clear strategic plans.

According to studies done by Ron Capelle over the past 20 years, better organizational alignment can yield efficiency gains of at least $2,500 per employee. Doing the quick math – if you still have 1,000 employees, that meansyou are still leaving more than $2.5 million on the table in organizational misalignment. Every year.

Redesigning on these rigorously verified principles is a lot easier to do than you might think. It takes less than a year and it feels a lot like ripping off a giant invisible Band-Aid. There is a lot of fear and hesitation at first, followed by relief, fast recovery and smoother movement afterward.

If you are truly serious about immediate performance improvements and long-term, sustainable success, starting with business design is the best way to both survive and thrive.

Otherwise, your business may be the next tragic joke.

Len Nanjad is a management consultant working with senior leaders committed to making massive impact through their people and performance strategies. He can be reached at