Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

Your “experience” is what’s holding your managers back and limiting your growth

If you hired the right managers, who are better than you in their areas of expertise, then the key to getting them to excel is simply to unleash them.

In other words, get out of his or her way!

You just need to let him make his own decisions, his own mistakes, and allow him to lead his own team. Once you realize that your “experience” and knowledge is actually holding your team back, then real growth can start.

If you’re doing ANY of the following, you’re holding your leaders back:

  1. Addressing issues with the team members who should report to him. This should be clearly defined in your organizational chart.
  2. Addressing issues from customers who should be talking to him. If your customers have been trained to go to you to get the best deal, then un-train them by making sure all pricing goes through your chosen leader.
  3. Vetoing ideas and making decisions in his department. Your job as the CEO, Owner, President or Team Leader is to explain why you think something will or will not work. Not to make the decision.
  4. Dictating that leader’s schedule. Sure you can ask him to take care of an issue or help you with something, but dictating a schedule without his approval is more like putting on a choke collar and then asking him to chase away the rabbits. He can try as hard as he wants but he’s never going to get the job done.
  5. Second-guessing or analyzing every decision. The details are not important to you, only the results are. Allow him to work out the details. (I explain below what to do if you think he’s going to implement a bad idea.)
  6. Holding regular meetings to ensure you ultimately get to make the “big” decisions. Quite often this is done indirectly. You might never come out and say, “It has to be done this way because I said so.” But saying, “You know, I really think that idea won’t work but it’s up to you,” is interpreted as “You better not try that!“, when it comes from most bosses.
  7. Ignoring mistakes that are made. This is a major misconception. Allowing people to make mistakes, in and of itself, is pretty worthless. Not addressing those mistakes is downright harmful to your business and the mistake maker. Mistakes should only be made once and the only way to ensure that your leader knows that it was a mistake, and has a way to prevent it from happening again, is to openly discuss mistakes. Biting your lip because you’re afraid to hurt his feelings by pointing out a mistake, is a sign that you still have him on a leash.

So how do you keep tabs on your newly free leaders?

  1. You need some “Rules of the Game” in the form of a written Vision, Mission and Culture. Think of these like your 10 Commandments of business. Everyone on your team doesn’t need to memorize them. However, your key leaders do need to know what’s expected of them and the clearest way to do that is in writing.
  2. You must have a Weekly Action SnapShot (WacSnap) so you can keep regular tabs on the key areas of your business. Depending on your function on the team, this may be included in a weekly meeting with your key leaders.
  3. You need Key Performance Indicators for each leader. For example:
    1. Service leaders need to demonstrate a profitable service department with minimal call-backs and customer complaints.
    2. Marketing leaders need a target acquisition cost, marketing ROI, number of leads, and conversion rate.
    3. Sales leaders also need to know conversion rate along with average dollar sale and lifetime value of a customer.
    4. Finance leaders need to know cash on hand, cash in receivables, and pending payables at all times. She also needs a target goal for savings and capital available for upcoming large purchases.
  4. At least twice a year you need to conduct a 12 Questions survey with each leader.

What if a leader is going to make a bad decision?

Have you ever made a bad decision? Since you’re reading this, then you somehow managed to survive it. Most poor decisions will fall on that side of the coin – They’re survivable. Keep that in mind.

  1. Ask him (don’t tell him) why he thinks X will work out well.
  2. Ask him if he knows of anyone else who has implemented it successfully. If not, and you have a resource for him to talk to on this topic, then offer it. You don’t have to pretend to be the expert on every topic. It’s much better to have a list of resources available.
  3. Let him know you’ve tried something similar to that before and ask if he’d like a few ideas.
  4. Find out how he plans to measure if the idea is successful or not. Every idea should have a measurement for success and just defining that allows most people to see the flaws in their own ideas.
  5. If he still thinks it’s a good idea, no one is going to die, the business isn’t going to go under, and an account worth more than 5% of your gross sales doesn’t have a highly likely chance of getting lost, back off and let him implement the idea.
  6. Once he realizes he’s made a mistake (which will be obvious if you did step #4), ask him what went wrong. Again, don’t just tell him. If you ever want him to think critically and figure out how to catch mistakes before they’re ever made, you have to stop spoon-feeding him all the answers. 
  7. If the idea does work, congratulate him on a job well done! Now go celebrate because allowing a leader to do something you didn’t think would work and being proven wrong, just helped you take a giant leap towards growing your business without it depending solely on you.

Won’t that take more time than me just making all the decisions?

Yes. At first.

You can only physically make so many decisions so your growth will be limited. Additionally, your freedom and ability to take vacations will also be limited.

More importantly, the ability for your team managers to be fully engaged and satisfied with their work will also be very limited.

One last thought…

For some people, “unleashing” your managers is going to be a BIG change. You’re not quite ready for it and they don’t quite believe you’re serious.

So during this transition, when someone comes to you to ask a question, don’t assume she wants your opinion. Chances are she doesn’t. She just doesn’t fully believe the decision is in her own hands and still doesn’t want to do something you won’t like.

Before you answer her question, you need to ask directly, “Are you looking for my approval or my opinion? If you want my approval, you have it. If you want my opinion, I’ll only give it to you if you treat it for what it is. Ultimately, it’s up to you to make the best decision for your team.

More importantly, when you say that, you better mean it!

To your success in unleashing the talents within your leaders, Bryan

Happiness leads to better Employee Productivity… Not the other way around! [VIDEO]

TED speeches are a secret obsession of mine. On any given week I’ll watch 2-4 of them. Out of the dozens and dozens of speeches I’ve watched, this speech by Shawn Achor is only the second I’ve ever shared on my blog. Why?

  1. It’s powerful and extremely effective.
  2. It’s simple to learn and easily IMPLEMENTED.
  3. It’s backed up by science.
  4. Few small business leaders have this concept on their radar.
  5. It’s actually quite entertaining.

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How to Implement a Compensation Plan Based on Productivity AND Customer Satisfaction

It’s the holy grail of service-based small businesses. But it’s never quite that simple, is it?

If you pay for productivity or performance, customer service suffers because everyone just tries to fix as many widgets as fast as possible to make more money… Or pay based on customer satisfaction and now it takes your technicians 3x as long as normal so they can “take care of the customer.” Plus it adds a whole new dimension of work for your payroll department.

Upset Customer

Not the happy customer we're looking for...

However, what if you COULD do both?

And without adding a mountain of paperwork to your payroll department each payday…

Here’s my experience with companies paying their team based on productivity and customer happiness

In 2006 I had cable internet installed at my home in Pennsylvania and had a few issues along the way. And true to the stereotype for that industry, service was less than stellar. Around that time I had a good friend who worked for them and confirmed for me that they paid a straight hourly wage. A very high hourly wage in fact. However, for some reason, paying more than the average hourly wage didn’t translate directly to better employees or better customer service.

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Customer loyalty isn’t about your product – It’s about your PEOPLE…

When I work with small businesses nearly coast-to-coast one thing we do is collect and review testimonials from customers. What I’ve learned from this exercise is that your customers will become fiercely loyal and gladly recommend you primarily because of YOUR PEOPLE, not your products…

Here’s a quick sample of actual testimonials:

Our service guy goes above and beyond the call of duty.

The girl in the office makes me feel like she knows me.

Our rep doesn’t try to sell us stuff we don’t need.

Our service man is wonderful – wouldn’t change him ever!

Or how about, “We love their business because they have such great personalities.

I didn’t make that last one up! It’s a real testimonial that we received for a small business.

You mean people are choosing their vendors based on the personalities of that vendor? Yes! Believe it or not, people want to do business with other PEOPLE!  In case you haven’t noticed, these days in the USA we aren’t real fond of doing business with our government or big corporations.

Now keep in mind, if the product or service you promised to deliver is sub-par, then you have a problem. If the customer enjoyed working with your people, chances are very high they’ll give you the opportunity to fix the problem. If not, good luck.

However, if you deliver just what you told them you would, or a little more, then it’s your people who will turn those regular customers into raving fans. Once they have your product or service there’s virtually nothing else to set you apart from everyone else who provides a product or service for them. You said you would deliver X, you delivered X, and the transaction is over.

Let’s look at a dramatic example…

The banking industry has some of the highest retention rates of any industry bordering on 90% retention of customers. You’re much more likely to get divorced than to change banks once you get married.

But, believe it or not, it’s not the free checking, savings account interest rates, or debit card rebates that get people to stick with a bank…

My mother got married when she was 19 and moved 1500 miles across the country to do so. She was in a new area and didn’t know anyone aside from my father and his family. In those first 6 years of marriage she had 5 children and guess who were often some of the first people to meet her new babies?

The tellers at the bank!

Sounds crazy, right? But in the days before direct deposit, every 2 weeks she’d have to go to the bank to deposit a paycheck and every time she’d see the same ladies. They obviously would chit-chat about her current child or the one on the way and what women don’t love to see cute little babies?

The point is, to this day, nearly 30 years later, she couldn’t tell you a darn thing about the programs or services or interest rates of that bank, but she remembers the tellers AND the bank.

If your business has any sort of regular interaction with your customers (and it should if you have recurring revenue) then the same can be true for you.

Here’s how:

  1. Provide great service to YOUR team members – One of the keys to great employee productivity and retention is if they, “feel like someone at work cares about me as a person.” Call it touchy-feely, but I’m an engineer and if the science didn’t back it up, I wouldn’t point it out.
  2. Collect testimonials and reward people for doing so. Not only does that show how important happy customers are to you (actions speak louder than words) it’s actually very uplifting and exciting for the people gathering the testimonials. They’re also a great marketing tool.
  3. Track customer complaints. Review each one of them, immediately resolve the problem, and review with your team what happened and how we can prevent it from happening again. If you care about mistakes being made, they will too.
  4. Develop a great small-business culture. The advantage to your customer in dealing with a small business is that they get to deal with real, local people and not bureaucracy. The same needs to be true for your team. If they have an issue, question, or suggestion they need to feel comfortable talking to the head-honcho. To do so, each of your team leaders needs to have regular reviews with their team members at least twice a year but ideally every 90 days. Separate those reviews from pay. The goal is to build a relationship between the 2 parties, not to bash someone.

To truly develop a team culture that promotes great service, you need to do a bit more homework. You are welcome to contact me and I’ll show you how to transform your small business culture.

Or read the following books and try to implement the changes on your own:

To your success fostering loyal customers, Bryan

Employee Motivation – It's about winning!

Have you ever hit a game-winning shot, scored the game-winning goal, or converted the game-winning touchdown?

How about setting a new Personal Record for swimming, running, biking, car, quad, or motorcycle racing while taking first place?

It feels good, doesn’t it? As a matter of fact, there are few things in life that will ever rival those feelings of accomplishment and the adrenaline rush that ensues. For the rest of your life, those moments will be remembered and often relived as you just love to tell those stories. Athletics have the power to evoke such an amazing feeling because they bring together a few main things in one place:

  1. Competition – No one is letting you win or succeed. Actually there are plenty of people hoping you fail so that they can win instead.
  2. Recognition – When you have the ball, or the wheel, or are on the track, it’s up to you. All eyes are on you whether it’s because you’re doing well or failing. When you succeed, they’re all cheering for you!
  3. Public Pressure – You are not behind closed doors. As I pointed out in my blog asking Are you putting yourself out there for criticism? public pressure forces us to be good or embarrass ourselves trying.
  4. It’s not easy – By definition, if everyone could (or even wanted to do it) there would be no competition. You worked hard to acquire the skills and talents you have, that brought you to that moment of victory. In other words, you’re doing something you are good at.
  5. Exclusivity – You’re in front. Everyone else is behind you. Only 1 person can be in that position.

So what does that have to do with employee motivation and business building? Everything. If you can understand and appreciate that feeling and those emotions, you understand what motivates people.

Though I used sports as an analogy there are parallels to this feeling of accomplishment throughout our lives. Here are just a few other ones so you can see the universal appeal of accomplishment:

  1. Getting the girl (or guy) – Especially if you had to take a risk to do so by approaching a stranger and your buddies were watching.
  2. Closing the sale – Especially if you’re paid on commission and you’re in competition with either yourself to do better or to be the best in your group.
  3. Buying a house or car or something of great value – Generally this provides a major sense of accomplishment as not everyone has the ability to do this (except for a few years during the mid 2000’s when anyone could get financed).
  4. Winning a competitive bid – You proved that you are the best and it felt good.
  5. Making a profitable stock transaction – You bought low, sold high, beat the market odds and beat all the “experts” while doing it.
  6. Getting recruited – Instead of being “hired”, someone actively and aggressively sought you out because of your talents.

The list can go on and on… My underlying point is simply this – If you, as a leader and manager, can find a way to bring Competition, Recognition, Publicity, Exclusivity and a Challenge to your business, most people will rise to the occasion and LOVE their jobs because of it.

If you can remember back to those 2 hour practices, or twice a day camps in the summer (3 runs/day at cross-country camp), it was not always easy, fun, or painless. As a matter of fact, the majority of the time it wasn’t fun at all. However, human beings are generally willing to sacrifice and struggle through all of those obstacles because the rewards of success, particularly the feelings that come along with it, are worth it.

Again, though I use sports as my analogy, this lesson certainly isn’t limited to the sports arena so don’t let that prevent you from getting the point.

The other day in my office, I started to ask some of my team about their experiences with sports. Even the ones who “sat the bench” understood what I meant by that great feeling of accomplishment at hitting the game-winning home-run. Ironically, the one who admitted to being the bench-warmer instantly latched on to our current inter-office competition. Every day she gets so excited about it she tells me about every single customer she signs up for this program and then “trash-talks” me for not getting as many as her. She’ll even walk into my office to receive a high-five to commemorate her latest score. Talk about fun and excitement at work! What may be most impressive, is that for all intents and purposes, her job is “secretarial.” Something most of us would never consider to be competitive or exciting.

Let’s take this concept one step further. According to Marcus Buckingham in his book “First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently,” the primary motivator for most people at their job is not how much they make. The primary reason for someone leaving or staying at a job is their relationship with their direct superior (remember that coach you hated or loved?). Take a moment and recall some of your favorite stories about your life. How many of those were directly related to your income at that time? Even your stories of accomplishment at work are rarely simply “I got a raise.” The accomplishments you made to get that raise are what makes for a great story and the true sense of accomplishment. The raise was simply the reward (i.e. winning the game) for showcasing your talents.

So to take this concept full-circle, compensation should be tied to these competitions and other measures of success. This is why I’m not a fan of an hourly wage. An hourly wage does not incorporate a single one of the 5 items that motivate people to make sacrifices for success. Admittedly, several of my team members are at least partially compensated hourly. The biggest problem with this is obviously that it breeds complacency. Once you’re used to getting that $10/hour, you are no longer motivated to keep working hard to get it. It’s a given; it’s guaranteed; all you have to do is show up.  What kind of motivator is that???

Great coaches, great leaders, and great managers find ways to motivate their team members to do their best by rewarding them for their talents.

To your “motivational” success, Bryan

P.S. Since you’re the coach of your team, make sure your competitions and motivators encourage both individual and team performance. ER9Y2V4W6YK5

How to fix your business FAST – Part 3 – Cut Costs and Improve Productivity

On the face of it, cutting costs sounds pretty simple. In reality, if you know your numbers, it is rather simple.

Here are some ideas to evaluate for potential cost-savings in any business:

  1. Insurance – whether it’s commercial, auto, or health insurance, if you haven’t shopped around in a few years, you need to. This area alone has saved my small business $9,000 over the past 2 premiums with slightly better coverage. Granted, it took a lot of time and energy to get to that point, but how can you argure with that level of savings?
  2. Telephones – cell phones and land lines can both be EXTREMELY over-priced if you don’t shop around. Make sure you have the best group or individual or combination of the 2 for all of your cell phones. For land lines, if your internet is reliable enough, you seriously need to consider VOIP. VOIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol and simply means using internet data lines instead of phone lines for your phones. In my business this would save us about $250/month IF we had reliable internet. Our internet is very spotty, has little competition, and relatively slow so we’ve tested with VOIP several times and just can’t make it work. :-/
  3. Vendors – When was the last time you renegotiated with current vendors OR shopped around to make sure you’re getting the best rates? Through buying in bulk, group purchases (with similar businesses), shopping around, and good old fashioned renegotiating (particularly on things like fuel charges and freight expenses) you should shoot to save 5-10% on all of your purchases. While your at it, double-check your retail price list and make sure your mark-ups are sufficient. We found a handful of items on our price list going for little to no mark-up as we performed this exercise.
  4. Pre-payment discounts – While you’re calling to renegotiate prices with your vendors, be sure to find out if they offer pre-payment discounts. Those are simply discounts for paying early which could be within 10 days, or 10 days after the end of the month, or whatever their terms are. If you consider those discounts can range from 1% to 5% this can be VERY significant. If your business buys $200,000 in products each year, at 1% you would save $2,000 year or$167/month just by paying a few days earlier!
  5. Meals & Entertainment – and all other “discretionary” spending. Are those meals, trips, expensive hotels, etc. etc. etc. really necessary? If they’re an integral part of your business recruitment strategy then fine. But make sure your deducted-meals are actually legit. Meals are only allowed for documented business purposes (i.e. names, place, and business discussed all have to be available to the IRS) and overnight travel. Even then, only a portion of those meals can be deducted. The upper-management of Walmart and Sam’s Club are still required to fly coach and book modest rental cars when traveling just like their founder always did.
  6. Shop around for cheaper services – Every business needs the help of other businesses to get things done. This could be your IT firm, your accountant, lawyer, bottled water delivery company, tire and oil change business, uniform company, or even your payroll company. I’m well aware that it’s very hard and expensive to find a lawyer you trust, so if that’s something you already have, I’d leave that one alone, however the others can be done with relative simplicity. Just changing our payroll from Paychex to Quickbooks has saved us over $100/month (though QB prices have just gone up slightly so the gap is lessening).
  7. Improve Efficiency and Productivity – This is probably the most important of all of them which is why I put them as a separate step in a separate category for fixing your business. This all boils down to basically 1 thing: Paying people for the results they deliver.

In a nutshell, that’s what an efficient, productive business will consistently do. It will pay people for their work. What a novel concept, huh? Now you need to determine if your business is a better model for a Results Oriented Working Environment (ROWE) like I discuss in my blog on Intrapreneurship and Entrepreneurship or whether your business simply needs to get away from paying everyone an hourly wage with no incentives.

Here are the steps to take to increase productivity for every employee in your business:

  1. Make job descriptions – If your people don’t know exactly what their duties are, you as a leader aren’t even giving them a chance to succeed. Everyone needs a job description and possibly even a daily, weekly, and/or monthly checklist to make sure they’re taking care of all of their responsibilities.
  2. Create processes, procedures, scripts, and checklists – This goes hand-in-hand with a job description. If you don’t have scripts to teach people how to handle customer inquiries, procedures for how to track those inquiries, and checklists to make sure nothing has gotten missed you will never ensure a consistent customer experience. Making this fundamental throughout your business is the key to successful franchising. If you want a successful, universally applicable, consistent business, this is your foundation. This will also help you determine who on the team needs to stay and who needs to go.
  3. Know your numbers – My last blog dealt with this in detail so to just make the point quickly… If you don’t know the income and profit per person on your team it’s very hard to develop benchmarks, set goals, and recruit new people who you believe can achieve those goals.
  4. Remove temptations to “cheat the system” – In my business this comes in 2 major forms. No temptation to play on the internet for the office people, and no temptation to take extra long lunches or sneak home early for our service guys. The first is temptation is removed but letting everyone know their internet usage is tracked and will result in dismissal if internet use is inappropriate. GPS systems on our service trucks take care of the latter temptation. Very rarely do I ever analyze either item. Basically it’s just there in case a problem develops.
  5. Incentivize and create healthy competition – I still credit the doubling of our profit/day/technician in large part to converting a portion of technicians’ income to commissions. Find ways to incentivize everyone on your team to do their best.
  6. Get rid of those who don’t stack up – If you’re the kind of guy who hates to let people go and so cuts everyone’s pay instead of just letting the weakest link go, you need to change your practice immediately! There is nothing worse for morale then to have everyone “punished” with lower pay when the low-hanging fruit needs to go (and everyone but you knows that). If you really feel that bad about letting an unproductive employee go, cut your income first before any one else’. To keep costs down, review my blog on how to let someone go without paying unemployment.

Keep in mind, that the more drastic the situation the more drastic the cost-cutting measures required. Act quickly and decisively and move on. If you make a mistake in that process, learn from it.

To your cost-cutting success, Bryan

How to fix your business FAST – Part 1

A friend of mine asked me today about what I would do with a business that isn’t doing very well in this economy. Actually with 5 different businesses in 5 different industries… So I told her. My blog about how I doubled the profits in my business in the first year covers much of what this and the succeeding blogs will, however these will have much more detail and be much more specific.

Firstly, by “fixing” I simply mean increasing profits and cashflow (yes, they’re different). The bottom line is that the number one goal of business, and its reason for existing, is to make a profit (and a healthy one at that).

Secondly, you need to determine the time frame for your fixing. In other words, do you need cash by next week or month to make payroll and pay bills OR are you simply looking to increase the value of your business to sell in a year OR are you looking for a way to have your business provide the income and freedom that you desire for the next 40? Granted, some solutions will overlap but the plan of attack may be different. Since she was looking for IMMEDIATE solutions to improve the business we’ll look at that first.

Before we go any farther, though, as a business owner and/or leader you need to get 2 things situated right away

  1. Work on the Business – If you’re a plumber and you’re out plumbing while your business is going down the tubes, it’s a lost cause. Of course I’m assuming you have a team and aren’t a one-man operation. The point is, if you have a team to take care of the work of the business, your work needs to BE the business. If it’s not, then the business will never improve. Make the commitment to spend time daily on improving your business.
  2. Make a list – Actually, lots of them. I’ve done enough consulting to know that if your goals aren’t in writing, they get forgotten and pushed into oblivion. Don’t fall into that rut. If your business needs to change, you need to change. As we go through these blogs, make a prioritized list of the improvements you’re going to start and don’t stop working on the list until it’s done! Personally, I’m still working on a list of 10 things that I made at a conference in February 2009. Currently, 7 out of 10 are checked off, but the list won’t be thrown away until 10 of 10 are taken care of.

Again, our goal is near immediate improvement so here’s what you can do:

  1. Know your numbers – In my experience this is the biggest mistake business owners make. They know things like their gross and net profit margins, number of customers, and total revenue, but have no idea how or why those things are down. Customers, revenue, and profits are not answers to problems, they’re simply questions. All they can do is tell you what question to ask but you have to dig deeper to find the answer. If you stop digging there, you’ll never locate the problem or come up with a way to devise a fix. Some of these numbers were covered in my blog on weathering the economy.
  2. Cut Costs – If a business exists to make a profit, it’s breath of life is cashflow. Assuming you have sales and customers already, the quickest way to increase profits and put cash in the bank is to cut costs. You cut $1,000 in costs and you add $1,000 to the bottom line. Don’t ever forget that.
  3. Improve Efficiency and Productivity – You already have a team, though if money is tight you may have to start cutting. Before you do that, you need to do some simple analysis to determine the effectiveness and productivity of each person in your organization. Again, you need to know your numbers. If you don’t know your daily break-even per income-generating job position AND for the entire business, you’re shooting in the dark. If you can go back to the “good old days” and compare your profit per person back then to now, you’ll quickly know if you have to cut positions.
  4. Improve Marketing and Sales – There is a reason this is so far down. If you need immediate cash, this is often the slowest response. You have to develop marketing, you have to get your marketing out and wait for a response. You then have to review your process for acquiring, handling, and converting leads to customers. You need to track the effectiveness of each marketing campaign because the first one might not be successful and determine, through testing and measuring, what marketing provides the best Return On Investment. This is obviously important long-term, but generally can not immediately get you cash. That being said, this should be done concurrently with the items above.
  5. Build recurring revenue – This one is often most challenging because it can require a cash investment up-front.  Cash that you obviously don’t have if you’re business is not doing well. Then again, there are ways to generate immediate and recurring cash with no up-front investment and you’d do well to develop some of these in your business.

That’s the 5-step process for fixing a business quickly. Now that I’ve reviewed this list, there are only a few things I would change if you’re looking long-term versus short-term.

  1. If you’re making money and not looking to sell any time soon, the costs are less important. Obviously $1,000 saved is a $1,000 more in profit. However, if you’re happy with your income and perks and those provided for your team, then this doesn’t become an IMMEDIATE necessity even though it’s ALWAYS beneficial.
  2. If you’re looking to sell soon, cutting costs to increase profits is extremely beneficial as it will increase the value of your business. Any “perk” you can’t reasonably classify as an ownership perk, and therefore a seller add-back, should be cut immediately. For instance, if you have a lot of meals and entertainment expenses and tried to do a seller add-back on those and I’m buying your business, I’d argue all day long that if they weren’t necessary for business you wouldn’t have them on your books and I won’t accept them as an add-back.
  3. Knowing your numbers, efficiency, productivity, sales, and marketing are as important today as they will be in 40 years so work on them constantly. For the long-term owner, these systems and numbers are what will allow you to manage your business remotely and with minimal input.
  4. Recurring revenue can either require up-front cash or not. Recurring revenue that costs nothing up-front (or is break-even very quickly) is well worth the investment short-term as it will produce cash and increase your business’ value. Recurring revenue that requires an up-front investment in sales, marketing, equipment, and installation/service is not a good short-term plan but can be an amazing long-term one so don’t neglect it.

So there’s the quick and dirty overview… In the next few parts to fixing your business I’ll dissect each of the 5 pieces and provide real-world examples, suggestions, and solutions for each.

To your business-fixing success, Bryan

Intrapreneur and Entrepreneur – The common ground

In my last blog, we reviewed the 2 most basic types of people in any organization. Of course there are more specific and scientific personality tests and reviews along with detailed methods of how to best communicate with the 27 personality types, however who is ever going to remember 27 personality types let alone how they best interact with your own type? Moreover how are you going to remember exactly which person fits which type?

In contrast to that, my idea is simple, quick, and easy and though it won’t get you a perfect result every time, it’s certainly better than lumping everyone (including yourself) into one category.

That being said, in Marcus Buckingham’s book First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, he lays out the exact 12 things that every person requires to be effective at their job. I have probably recommended that book half a dozen times in my blog and if you’re a leader or manager for any business you need to read it. So let’s get a quick and simple review of what Buckingham’s exhaustive research points out. All team members require the following:

  1. Vision, Mission, Culture guidelines – What’s the big picture?
  2. Job Description – Obviously this will be very detailed for intrapreneurs and more flexible for entrepreneurs. Absolutely no one can
  3. Positive Reinforcement – Do not underestimate this power.
  4. The right tools to get the job done – Nothing can be more frustrating. Intrapreneurs will have more tactile tools while the tools of an entrepreneur may just be pointing them in the right direction.
  5. Someone at work they can trust – this is universal
  6. Progress reports – everyone wants to know how they’re doing and how they can do better. No one wants to suck at their job.

He has 12 items on his list. I cut it down to 6 overall so read the book to learn how to determine if your business is setup for maximum profit and productivity. The point of this exercise is to point out that no one can manage themselves. No matter how entrepreneurial someone is, if they have a boss, they need direction. Period.

Another commonality is goal-setting, though the way that goals are set can be different. According to a Yale study from 1953, the 3% of graduates who had written goals had amassed more wealth than the other 97% of classmates years after graduation. So regardless of your personality, written goals are extremely valuable.

Everyone should have written, measurable, time-sensitive goals. Those goals should include levels of education, income, savings, type of work, family matters, travel ambitions and everything in between. I’ve gone as far as to make a list of all of the motorcycles I’d like to own in my lifetime. Several are already checked off however the list seems to be growing faster than I can control at the moment. 🙂

Now most people have a general “big picture” idea of what they want. Things like, I want a family, I want a job that I love, I want my kids to respect me, I want to retire at 65 with $2 million dollars, I want to see Paris, etc. etc. etc.  Now if you have all of that written down and you reference it often that’s a BIG step in the right direction. However you can do better. Here’s a quick 3 step process to setting goals:

  1. You need to put everything into Do x Be = Have perspective.
  2. You need to assign time frames.
  3. You need to take into account your entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial tendencies.

The 3rd item is what we’ll address right now. As an extreme entrepreneur, my goals have time frames, but they are honestly relatively vague. For instance, in my lifetime I want to own at least 5 businesses, become a “young millionaire”, and write at least one book (though I have 4 in mind at the moment). As an entrepreneur, my immediate goal is to always find the best opportunity right now. That means in the next 12 months, I may write the book, buy another business, or get more schooling to help me learn more of the things that millionaires might know that I don’t. My point is, that my personality thrives on making the most of the moment. So instead of saying “I want to write a book by 2011”, I work on all of my goals at once and then go after the opportunity that’s best today, this month, or this year. In 2010 that may be writing that first book, or it may be visiting all the countries on my goal list, or it may be the next business. I’ll be working on all 3 and choose the path that is best at the time.

So how is that different than an intrapreneur? Intrapreneurs are more of the details individuals. They need specifics and they need specific time frames and they need a specific way to get there. Whereas I just need a “big picture”, an intrapreneur needs smaller goals to help achieve the larger ones. So if we take the same example of becoming a “young millionaire”, the successful intrapreneur will have a more specific goal list to achieve those goals.

For instance, their sub-goals to achieve the goal of becoming a millionaire might look more like this:

  1. Buy a business with vendor financing in the next 12 months that has the potential to double in profits within a year with only the $5,000 I can drum up from selling my stuff and from savings. I must pay no more than annual cashflow plus assets for the business. It must have the possibility of paying me enough to live on while I’m growing it.
  2. Build the business for less than 12 months and relist it on the market. It must have the potential to make me $100,000 profit when sold.
  3. Reinvest the $100,000 in another business under the same criteria but with the ability to potentially sell for $300,000 profit within a year.
  4. Of the $300,000, put $50,000 into down payments on cash producing real estate, $50,000 into the stock market and the other $200,000 into another business with the potential to be sold for $500,000 profit within 1 year.
  5. Reinvest as much as necessary into a business that can either produce sufficient cashflow to make me a millionaire within 2 years of can be sold for $1 million in profit. The rest will be split between additional real estate and securities.

Why does the intrapreneur need so many sub-goals? Because something vague like “become a millionaire” seems so daunting an unattainable however when you break it down into small steps with specific time frames and details it becomes a whole lot easier for them to accept. Entrepreneurs can often feel much more comfortable and in-their-element with goals that are more vague. The exact details can at times make us feel trapped. That being the case is a detailed list bad for an entrepreneur? Of course not. As long as he can appreciate that it’s a guideline and the numbers and time frames will never be exact.

So my last question is, how does this help leaders better lead their teams?

As leaders, it’s our responsibility to provide progress reports, to develop job descriptions, and to help develop goals for team members within your organization. By now, I hope that it makes sense that those job descriptions, review sessions, and goal-setting meetings might be quite different for the 2 basic personality types.

To you success in providing the foundations of the common ground, Bryan

P.S. If you’re curious why my steps to becoming a young millionaire are primarily contingent upon buying, building, and selling businesses check out my blog on the topic.

Intrapreneur vs Entrepreneur… The 2 types of people every business has…

Every business is comprised of 2 basic types of people.

Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs… Those who want risk, reward, challenges, and the excitement that comes with that and those who want stability, direction, consistency and the security that may come with that. Of course there are also those who just want a free ride and try to skirt responsibility, cut every corner, and get away with the highest pay for the least amount of effort, responsibility, or risk – but we’re going to skip over that lesser type and focus on the positive parts of an organization.

Before we delve into these 2 types, keep in mind this is an exercise in simplicity. It’s helped me determine and target which individuals I need to hire for which positions and it’s also helped me tailor, structure, and respond to those already on my team. Probably more importantly, it’s given me a greater understanding of my own requirements, desires, and motivations so that I can keep myself passionate and effective.

So which are you and how do you identify those around you?

Intrapreneur – These are the 9-5ers. The team members who don’t want to come earlier than starting time or stay late (though sometimes they may). They want to know exactly what they’re going to do that day, and know that next week, next month, and next year their paycheck will be there. For these types of individuals it’s very important that your leadership is consistent, fair, and direct. They want detailed, specific training. They want all the right tools and they want to know how to address any situation. These individuals are risk-averse and generally prefer repetition in their tasks so they know they’re doing what they do best constantly.

Entreprenuer – According to dictionary.com, entrepreneur is “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, esp. a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.” Within your team, whether they are leaders or not isn’t significant. They’ll naturally gravitate to the leadership positions and get people to follow their lead whether they’re given the title or not. They want excitement and a challenge. They are proud of their creative talents and want a forum to showcase them. Responsibility and appropriate reward for their risk-taking is very important. They hate being stagnant. If you aren’t helping them get better, faster, and smarter constantly, they won’t stay. Appropriately these are the traits of entreprenuers who venture into their own businesses, however with an environment that provides them the benefits of self-employment these individuals can thrive within an organization owned by someone else.

So why understand these classifications? As I mentioned above there are 2 main reasons:

  1. To identify for yourself which one you are so you can understand your own strengths and weaknesses.
  2. To identify which your other team members are so you can structure your communications with them to meet them on their level.

Let’s look at #2 first. What would be the difference between an Intrapreneur and Entrepreneur as far as appropriate compensation? The following video discusses some science that helps us better understand how to answer that:

The ROWE work environment is GREAT for entrepreneurial individuals. The studies he mentioned demonstrated that with those type of individuals working in complex, changing, challenging environments where “thought” is the primary value of the team members, compensating based on performance is counter-productive. However, intrapreneurs, who value consistency, will respond much better to simple tasks with compensation tied directly to their performance. Which is why in my organization, I work hard to incentivize those simple tasks.

So let’s jump back to #1 so we can better understand how introspection and clarification can help us perform at our peak. This is broken down into 2 sub-categories:

  1. Our interactions with other team members.
  2. Our goals for ourselves.

Let’s take a scenario and see how it might differ based on the circumstances. Let’s say you’re the leader and you’re implementing a new, exciting product in your business. Since your team members are in front of customers all day every day you have to get buy-in from all of them so how do you present it to an intrapreneur and an entrepreneur?

The intrapreneur will require a LOT of hand-holding. They want instructions, scripts of what to say, Frequently Asked Questions with the appropriate responses and all the benefits listed out so they can reference and recite them.

Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, need excitement. If they believe in the product and are excited about how it can help them and the customers whom they interact with, they’ll figure out the rest. They’ll learn how to answer the tough questions and the best way to present it in a way that’s comfortable and yet effective.

How do I know this is true? As one example, in my business we just started Platinum Care Plans which are simply extended warranties including all necessary maintenance. My entreprenurial individuals ran with it. My intrapreneurial individuals, at best, have started mentioning it to customers but have not sold one Platinum Care plan. Why? Because I didn’t present the information that they needed in the way that they appreciated so that they were comfortable enough to sell it.

Now here’s the real kicker, considering that I’m the entrepreneurial type (squared), is it any wonder that I presented the information in a way that was more digestible for the entrepreneurial team members??? Of course not. Which is exactly why we must understand how we fit into this scope. Next time I’ll do a better job of helping my intrapreneurs right from the start of a new product.

More importantly, understanding our own basic tendencies can help us more fully understand how to structure our business and personal goals. For instance, if you’re exceedingly entrepreneurial, at some point you’re going to want to go out on your own. You’re going to want your own business or be in charge of your own team with minimal oversight and you’re going to structure your education, contacts, and career choices to get you closer to that goal. If you’re exceedingly intrapreneurial, you’re going to generally look for a skilled trade and a reliable, predictable business where you can work. Now that skilled trade can be computer programming, accounting, or plumbing. It doesn’t matter much, you just want stability and the comfort that comes along with that.

Since this post is getting long, I’ll continue my next blog with more clarifications on what BOTH intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs have in common and require from their leaders.

To your success, Bryan

The 4 things that DRAMATICALLY improve teamwork…

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This evening my sister was working on a speech for a college class where she wanted to teach people how to improve teamwork in a business. Wow, a summary of how to improve teamwork in any business in only 5 minutes??? We’re going to have to narrow that down. So we decided on improving the productivity of a team that already exists. In other words, we’re not hiring new people, expanding a business, or firing unproductive people. So we talked it through for a few minutes and here are 5-minute’s worth of suggestions to having the best team around. 😉

  1. The most important factor in determining an employee’s satisfaction is his relationship with his direct manager. That’s more important than salary, benefits, flex time, over time, company picnics and the like. We’re talking about his direct superior and not the CEO, CFO, or departmental VP. If his manager does not have solid rapport with him, he will not be happy. This is extremely important because almost every other tip, suggestion, or improvement MUST take this first factor into account. Don’t forget it!
  2. One of the most common complaints you’ll hear from employees, if you bother to ask them, is, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.” Sure, she knows her title is “receptionist” or “salesperson” or “plumber”, but what does that mean she has to do every hour of every day. As her direct manager you need to define that. The best way to figure this out is to provide enough detail, goals, benchmarks, and Key Performance Indicators so that every single day your team member can easily answer whether they had a good and productive day. They should then be able to list exactly what they accomplished that made it successful and productive.
  3. Tie compensation to the Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s). The number of businesses that do this HAS to be less than 1 in 10,000. Out of several hundred businesses I’ve worked with in some capacity only 1 comes to mind that does this extremely well with a few others doing this moderately well. Most don’t do this at all. If you determine someone needs to get 8 “jobs”, “services”, “deliveries”, or “sales” done every day but you pay them by the hour, what’s his incentive to do more than 4 or more than 8 once they get those target 8 done? As a general rule, salespeople are the only ones who have jobs strictly based on commissions. Why? If an engineer designs a brake system that doesn’t work, why should he get paid the same as an engineer who designs one that is flawless? A friend who is an engineer for Penn DOT told me he was welcomed to his engineering job with “Congratulations! You have a job for life. No matter how bad you screw up you basically can’t get fired.” You think that government agency is attracting “go-getters”? Even if it did, as I respect my friend’s engineering skill, how long do you think it will be before those employees are taught to accept less than the best in their own work? Figure out a way to provide an incentive for EVERY single person on your team even if its just tied to the overall company revenue targets. Software companies often do this by providing stock to employees. Public companies do it by offering 401k plans with discounts on the company stock. Depending on the size of the company, it can be very difficult for someone to gauge the effectiveness of his work when his only non-salaried incentive is the stock price.
  4. Provide quarterly reviews with every team member. So you’ve defined for everyone on the team what makes up a productive day and you even related incentives to that productivity, now you need to review those with them at least every 90 days. Many sales managers and sales teams do this on a weekly basis. Again, why are salespeople given such strong incentives to produce and few others are? My recommendation is to get your hands on “First, Break All The Rules” by Marcus Buckingham IMMEDIATELY and use the 12 questions he’s developed from information gathered from over 80,000 managers over 20 years for your reviews. These reviews need to achieve a few key objectives:
    1. Determine the team member’s progress on meeting the goals from last session
    2. Determine whether you as a manager can do more to help them achieve those goals
    3. Set new goals for the next 90 days

    This is not a complaint session where you attack the individual and highlight all that they’ve done wrong. Numerous tests and studies have proven that mice and men both respond much better to positive affirmation than to critical attacks. Don’t say things like “Look, Bob, you did this wrong. It’s spelled out in detail in the manual so you don’t have any excuses.” You’ve immediately put Bob on the defensive, probably upset him, and didn’t score too many rapport-building points with him. Instead try, “Hey Bob I have a few copies of your TPS reports here. How can we work together to make these even better this time? Was the manual clear or should we improve it?” Now, if that team member thinks you’re a chump, then the second wording may only get you slightly farther which is why having a strong relationship and solid rapport with your team members (reference #1) is so important.

So there’s the 5 minute performance review for your team. The next step is reviewing your company Vision, Mission, and Culture to help fill in all the blanks that are not spelled out in the company manual or in the KPI’s.

To your success, Bryan