Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

The #1 secret to being an effective business coach or consultant

There are things you need to have to be successful no matter what:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Experience
  3. Access to powerful resources
  4. A Plan or System to quickly evaluate businesses
  5. Strong Value Proposition and USP

But none of these are the most important thing…

[Read more…]

Take back your schedule, business, and life.

In that order.

For the first time in 2 years, I spent a few days in the last week onsite at other businesses doing some consulting and training. Since I’ve been working on my own business, I just hadn’t the time to put a lot of effort into helping others. After a few days of interfacing with some very successful small business owners, it intrigued me how interested they were in my own personal daily schedule…

A few months back I noticed sales were slipping and my stress level was rising rapidly. In those moments, when you finally realize that in the last 5 working days you got absolutely nothing of value accomplished, you really need to step back. Sit in your office with the door closed or take an extra long shower since you’ll have no interruptions and evaluate a few things:

  1. What is your role as the business owner/leader? Literally, what is your job description and are you following it? No job description? Make one!
  2. What can you do that would most benefit the company in 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, and 5 years? Forget about what’s needed to get through today for a few minutes and focus on longer term. Unlike public companies, you don’t have next quarter’s earnings report to cloud your long-term judgement.
  3. Are you spending half of your time on marketing/sales (getting new customers) and half of your time on customer service/operations (taking care of existing customers)? Granted, your sales and marketing efforts should certainly include marketing to your existing customer base, but do not make the mistake of convincing yourself that that ONLY means dealing with current customer issues. Your sales/marketing efforts to existing customers mean up-selling, cross-selling, educating them on all the products and services you offer along with gathering referrals and testimonials.
  4. Does your schedule allow you to achieve 1-3? Obviously, this is where most business-owners, myself included, often get side-tracked.

So what can you do about it? The answer is simple, create a daily or weekly schedule.

Initially my daily schedule looked like the following:

8-9:30 review schedules, answer any questions for service and address any service issues
9:30-10 Review and Respond to emails
10:00-11:00 Customer Complaints, Personnel issues, Inventory checks, Office Questions
11:00-12:00 Service quotes, Business Accounting, Financial Reports, Daily reports,Taxes, Insurance etc.
12:00-1:00 Lunch
1:00-2:00 Improve Processes, Procedures, Checklists, Scripts, and Handbooks
2:00-3:00 Marketing
3:00-4:00 Sales and Customer Follow-ups, Office Questions
4:00-5:00 Payables, Billing Questions, Payroll, Emails, Etc.

However, after realizing that the “creative” processes of Sales and Marketing weren’t really as effective in only an hour time-slot I converted to a weekly schedule with 2-hour blocks for Sales and Marketing in the afternoon and my standard morning schedule. Personally, I define Marketing as everything my business does to get a prospect to contact us to solve a problem. Once the prospect has contacted us, they are now in my sales process/system. Everything from that point of contact, till we sit down with the new customer after our work is finished to make sure they’re happy and to gather referrals, is Sales.

Monday through Thursday I alternate between Sales and Marketing and Friday is a “flip” day where I choose which one will benefit the business more (or whether I need to just go for a motorcycle ride).

So now that you know what needs to be done, do you have any doubts that in 3, 6, or 12 months, let alone 5 years, your business and therefore you will ultimately benefit from such dedication to your job description as the business leader???

Businesses generally mimic their owners according to the 3 Leaders every business needs. If you’re sales oriented you’ll love that time spent working on sales and marketing. If you’re a more technical, hands-on guy, you’ll feel much more in your element taking care of the customer issues and making them happy. If you’re a numbers person, that time from 11-12 and 4-5 where you work on payables, reports, and other accounting needs will be right up your alley. That being the case, you have 2 options:

  1. Commit to taking care of all of these items yourself.
  2. Hire someone else to help you in the areas you aren’t good at or passionate about.

If you choose the first, my Recommended Reading section is a great place to learn about books that will help educate you on all of these areas.

If you choose the second, I’d read some of the books anyway so you know if the team member or consultant you’re working with really knows her stuff. There are plenty who do not. The first item I would outsource would be the accounting stuff.

My blog title obviously infers that just by setting your schedule you’ll now have a sense of control over your business and more importantly your life… The only proof I can offer for that is to try it. Force yourself to make it a priority to follow your schedule and you will be utterly amazed at how productive you can be.

To your scheduling success, Bryan

P.S. At our weekly Team Meeting I apologized to my team for not doing my job and let them know about my new schedule. I recommend you do the same so everyone knows things-are-a-changin.

The 4 things that DRAMATICALLY improve teamwork…

[digg=http://digg.com/business_finance/The_4_things_that_DRAMATICALLY_improve_teamwork]

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