Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

How do I change the culture in my office or business?

A friend of mine just emailed me today to let me know he’s just been promoted, is now taking on a much larger leadership role where he works, and sales are doing well BUT he’s having ‘people’ issues.

Well who isn’t, right? 🙂 All businesses have issues with unproductive, combative, and poor-communicating employees. But before you can address how to fix those problems, you need to know why people are that way. It’s my firm belief that the vast majority of people don’t want to suck at their job. If that’s the case, why do so many businesses have so many personnel issues?

Here’s a quick litmus test to see if your business is creating personnel issues or you just happen to have a few bad eggs.

Personally I’m not a big fan of the term “managers” as “managers manage resources and leaders lead people”. A hundred little things, like your titles, added together form a culture for your team and team members (not employees) that can affect everything about your culture, including financial results. I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, so I’ll get more into what’s required of a leader in number 4.

  1. The first step is defining the culture you want… Mine is literally called our “14 Points of Culture” that set the ground work for our team expectations. While you’re laying the ground work for your team and culture, you may already have a Vision and Mission statement, but if not, that’s foundational so create that as well.
  2. From there you need to develop a Team Organizational Structure chart with the hierarchy of the leaders in your business. Keep in mind that the 3 points on a successful business triangle are made up of Sales/Marketing, Finance/Administration, and Service/Operations so your Team Structure should make sure someone is excellent at each of those things and has the supporting team to get better. At it’s most basic level, your Organizational Chart would include a Team Leader (CEO) above the Sales/Marketing Leader, Finance/Administration Leader, and Service/Operations Leader who all report to the Team Leader. Underneath each of those leaders will be their supporting teams. Keep in mind that the Team Leader should always dedicate half of his time to sales/marketing and the other half of his time to everything else!
  3. Create job descriptions for every position in your Team Organizational Structure. The descriptions should include expectations, benefits, Key Performance Indicators and benchmarks tied to incentives. No one on your team should ever be able to say “I don’t know what’s expected of me or how to do my job well.” More importantly, you must fit each team member’s skill-sets and passions into the position that will best allow her to express those passions.
  4. Now you start changing the culture by actively leading your team. You provide opportunities for open communication like regular team meetings (even going to the point of picking fights between people and departments). You provide regular and consistent feedback with quarterly performance reviews based on the 12 Questions Marcus Buckingham outlined in First, Break All the Rules. You rearrange your offices according to the rules of proximity. Make sure each of your leaders knows how to use NLP and then train your people. When you come up with new products, ideas, promotions, etc. you work hard to provide systems, procedures, scripts and all the pieces your people need to be successful at implementing new programs. You develop a culture of innovation by requiring people to come up with new ideas without fear of reprisal for “bad” ideas that don’t materialize… And rewards for the ideas that do yield results. You ensure that your leaders all develop relationships with their team members because the most important factor in employee satisfaction is an employee’s relationship with his direct superior.
  5. The fifth piece is probably the hardest, yet most important. You fire, let go, or force out the people who don’t fit into your culture, vision, structure, or job descriptions. You get rid of the people who aren’t contributing to the team and culture immediately. The lost time and energy in trying to “fix” them can almost never be recouped. However, if you haven’t provided for them an environment to succeed (with all of the 5 pieces), you’ll really have no idea if they’re good or not because you haven’t defined the rules of the game, yet. If you’re the leader or manager, this is your responsibility. If your leader or manager isn’t providing this type of atmosphere, maybe you should read my last blog on moving on.

Obviously I just presented a whole lot of ideas and pieces that make up a complex problem in a rather succinct manner. The myriad links throughout this blog will provide additional details on certain topics, however don’t try to make this TOO complex. Problems that are TOO complex get pushed to the back-burner, avoided, and ultimately never solved. Take these 5 pieces at relative face value, work on each of them, and enjoy the results.

For further resources, I recommend the following 3 books to help you change your culture:

  1. First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham
  2. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
  3. Instant Team Building by Brad Sugars

To your culture-creating success, Bryan

P.S. Though it should go without saying, before you do anything else you should foster a highly ethical business environment. Without an ethical foundation, everything else will be overshadowed.

How to minimize the impact of hiring new people on your office…

Part of building a business will always be building your team – that includes both the team you already have to work with and the new people you’ll be adding to your team. The recruitment process can be quite an arduous one and if my memory serves me correctly, Dave Yoho taught a few years back that the average small business loses between $30,000 and $40,000 for each “bad” hire or a hire who doesn’t work out! As of yet I haven’t put a pen and paper to that number in our business however when you add in all the expenses it starts to make sense – my time is spent writing advertisements, conducting interviews, reviewing resumes and employment applications, indoctrinating new hires into our culture, reviewing progress during the initial evaluation period, setting them up for payroll, negotiating compensation, etc. etc. etc. My team is also asked to train and work with them for an initial evaluation period and if they don’t work out then I have to go through the process all over again. I can start to see how those numbers can become very realistic. With that in mind it’s paramount that your recruitment process is accurate in its selection and systematized.

For this blog we’ll be reviewing some basic ways that I’ve learned to systematize my hiring process with the help of my father and some other small business owners.

In order to have the most likely success in recruiting the right person it makes sense that the more people who are interested in your position the better choices you have. So you write up the “perfect” recruitment ad (we’ll review how to write that ad in another blog) and place it in your front window, in the local newspaper, on their website, on and you let everyone on your team know you’re looking for some new positions. Now you have to deal with people coming in, filling out employment applications, tying up your office staff with questions, etc. etc. etc. However there’s a better, more efficient, easier, and possibly more selective way to handle this initial stage of recruitment. This is what I do:

  1. Place an advertisement for an open position with a unique phone number listed.
  2. Setup that unique phone number with my VOIP phone provider (or you can get one setup with as my father does).
  3. Record a detailed Voice Message on my new line that includes a more detailed explanation of the job position, responsibilities, pay, and 2-3 questions for the recruit to respond to about their experience and why they think they would make a good fit for our team.
  4. The voicemails then get emailed to you for you to review at your leisure. Mine obviously also get sent to my Blackberry where I can listen to them and respond from anywhere in the world. 😉
  5. I call and ask them to come in an fill out an application (I haven’t really ever been a big fan of resume’s).
  6. If my initial reaction to their job application and personality is positive I provide a copy of the Vision, Mission, Culture and setup a time for a more thorough interview.
  7. Then I call references from the application and prepare for the interview.

That covers the “intial recruitement”, so why use this method? In a nutshell, it’s automated and it’s cheaper. The phone line costs me about $5/month and now I don’t take up my office staff’s or my own time fielding basic questions about the position, pay scale, benefits etc. etc. It also allows me to get an idea of the recruits oral communication skills through the voicemail instead of just reading their “skills” on a piece of paper.

The next time I need to recruit it’s simply a matter of rewriting and recording a new voice mail message with 2-3 more questions and writing a new help-wanted ad with the description of the position. Obviously as the business grows I’ll be recruiting new people for the same positions over and over again so those positions will become very automated with my time investment being listening to messages (at my convenience) and interviewing those who seem to be a great fit for our team. Eventually I’ll be replaced by another Team Leader and I can quickly teach them how to work our recruitment process.

It’s worth mentioning that our “14 Points of Culture” (yeah, I added 2 more points since my blog on the topic) are introduced very early in the recruitment process. As soon as I determine that the recruit seems to be reliable, well-spoken, and has the potential to be an asset to our team (i.e. he wasn’t fired from his last 3 jobs for not showing up to work) I pull out my business card with my title of “Team Leader.” Then I briefly explain that my position is that of General Manager, CEO, President or whatever other fancy term you can come up with – however my greatest responsibility is to help everyone on our team do what they do to the absolute best of their abilities. My responsibility is to LEAD the team, not manage it. Then I reach into my desk and pull out a copy of our Points of Culture, Vision, Mission, and Company Philosophy. These are not top-secret words that should be guarded. They’re very public documents that I have no problem sharing with anyone who might benefit from them. Besides, chances are very slim that any other interview they go through will include reviewing the Vision, Mission, and Culture so it immediately sets us apart. 🙂 After all, you have to sell them on the idea that your team is the best one for them because if they’re as good as you hope, they will also have other job offers to entertain.

I believe Brad Sugar’s recruitment process doesn’t include spending time on Vision, Mission, Culture until after you’ve hired them, however I think that’s too late. The recruit needs to know before she wastes a whole lot of her or my time that this is what’s expected of her and if she think it’s just a bunch of “hog-wash” then I can quickly wish her well at someone else’s business. I guess only time will tell if my timing of the Vision, Mission, Culture review is optimal.

To your success, Bryan