A Sacred Cow in business is someone or something that is beyond reproach or considered to be exempt from criticism or questioning. This “untouchable” can often be the source of the greatest problem or issue facing a company. Take an honest look at your employees or procedures that might just be mooing within your company. What does it cost to feed that cow? In almost every case as a small business consultant, I would find the source of a major issue within a company and would be told either that person or that procedure was not going to be changed. It was off limits. I was told to “work around” the issue. This made it difficult to affect change and improve efficiencies. Sometimes the issue was a “pet” project that was a drain on the company’s profitability but that the owner was insistent on continuing. Sometimes it was an actual employee and believe it or not, not often a family member. It was more often an employee that had been with the company for many years and was set in their ways. The employee was not willing to change and the owner was not willing to rock the boat. In this example, both a procedure and an employee were a sacred cow. I was hired to turn around an office product supplier/reseller. After doing my due diligence and reviewing the financials, I determined that most of the sales people were hitting their monthly goals every once in a while but never consistently. Furthermore, in this call center environment, when the end of the period came and goals were not on track, the owner would hit the floor and scream, demine, and verbally abuse his employees. This caused an amazing amount of stress and actually limited the company’s ability to hire and keep new sales people. This company paid huge amounts of money in monthly recruitment, hiring, and training of new employees, only to lose them to a hostile work environment. To help improve the work environment and consistency, I implemented a performance-based system where an employee that hits their monthly goal, would actually make more money than their current salary. Essentially, they would be paid a bonus for consistency. With consistency came a better work environment. In reality though, when the sacred cow employee missed their number and were going to be paid less because of their efforts, the owner would actually write them a personal check to make up the difference. When confronted, I was informed that this was his company and he could do anything he wished to do. That was the last day I consulted for that company. I understand that sometimes loyalties override productivity, and in some cases profitability. In any given situation, one of these sacred cows could be the main cause of issues within the company. Is it fair to the company, its employees, and to you yourself, to allow a procedure or someone to drag the company down? Business is business, and sometimes making a tough decision about one of your sacred cows, be it a procedure or an employee, is the best thing you can do for your company. Take a hard look at your company and see if it’s time to put a sacred cow out to pasture?