Controversial business consultant and CEO of American Management Services, George Cloutier, sat down with the members of Inc. Magazine's Business Owners Council: Greater New York and shared with them his view on best small business management practices based on 25 years of advising small companies. The evening began with a healthy dose of skepticism on the part of the attendees. Many members confided that they didn't think they'd like what Cloutier, the author of "Profits Aren't Everything, They're The Only Thing" had to say. They felt that his management style focused too much on profits at the expense of company culture.

It's a frequent concern I hear from our members: most business owners express pride in the company culture they've created as much as anything else they've done as entrepreneurs. At the same time, they want to be well rewarded for all the risk they take each day. It's not surprising, however, that these two ideas clash frequently.

The participants at this event expected Cloutier to be one-sided about this struggle, ignoring the collateral damage of a strong bottom line approach. I think it's fair to say that Cloutier proved the skeptics wrong. During the course of the evening Cloutier shared numerous real-world examples of how his deep industry knowledge of many different vertical markets could lead to specific suggestions to drop more revenue to the bottom line.  As he offered these ideas, the participants seemed to be won over, one-by-one.

By the end of the night, not only had Cloutier offered up many concrete ideas for the assembled business owners to consider, he'd demonstrated to them that company culture doesn't have to suffer in the quest for better bottom line performance. In fact, his approach seemed to offer a new kind of company culture--one which recognizes that a successful business yields a positive culture in and of itself.

There's been quite a bit of "flaming" of Cloutier work on blogs and forums. Many of them seemed to suggest that his "tough love" approach is not an attractive business strategy for smaller businesses. Some have even attacked him personally. I think they miss his point entirely. At our meeting, when one member asked what the single greatest barrier to creating profitable businesses was, Cloutier had a one word answer: will. He suggests that most people don't have the will to do what it takes to run their businesses at the highest level of impact.

While reasonable people can disagree on what it takes to make an impact in business, it remains true that only a small minority of businesses are extremely profitable and only a small number of entrepreneurs manage to create substantial wealth as business owners.  In other words, don't hate the messenger, deal with the message.

Thank you George Cloutier for sharing your ideas and strategies with Inc. Business Owners Council: Greater New York