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.

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

5 and 6 year olds taught me everything I need to know about great leadership…

Sorry for being a bit slow on the blogs lately. My 10-day, 2800 mile, cross-country motorcycle ride kinda had me preoccupied. Then of course coaching football to 13 5-6 year old boys has also cut into my 80 hour work weeks. 🙂  As a matter of fact, if you EVER think you’re a great leader, volunteer to teach 13 kindergarten and first grade boys how to play flag football… Teaching a handful of these kids in a classroom certainly must have its challenges, however football has it’s own nuances that the classroom does not. For instance its a physical sport and everyone knows a boy’s favorite thing to do is wrestle, tackle, push, and tease so having them go from that to learning something new is never a smooth transition. Additionally, each kid is learning something different and all at the same time. One is learning to be a quarterback another to be a running back another a wide receiver another a center. It’s actually more like the team in a business than in a classroom. Most importantly – You just gotta get all of them running in the same direction.

So here is a quick summary of the lessons my 5 and 6 year old players have taught me about effective leadership already (all of which apply to adults):

  1. Everyone has preconceived notions. I have one player who has older brothers and has obviously watched football on TV. He’s really fast and so a running back would be perfect for him. However this is flag football so running straight up the middle, like they do on TV, isn’t generally the best way to avoid getting your flags pulled.
  2. Work with what they can do and what they like. I have another player who is particularly rambunctious. Always goofing off, tackling other players, not listening, throwing grass etc. So I gave him a single objective on defense. Pull the player with the ball’s flag. He’s one of the 2 smallest players on the team and yet he pulled more flags than almost everyone else combined. He absolutely loved it and obviously I encouraged him every time. He got so good at it that he once pulled the flag of the running back before the quarterback had time to hand him the ball. The referee wasn’t real sure what to do and I couldn’t help but laugh.  So when I asked him what his favorite part about football was guess what he said? “Pulling flags!”
  3. Let them understand why its better for them to do something. The fearless player who runs up the middle does it because that’s what the pro’s do. So how do I get him to run around the other team to the outside instead? Well I can tell him to do so, or teach him why its in his best interest to do so. “OK running backs, what’s your goal?” “Score a touchdown!” “Great, so in which direction do we run?” “That way!” “Straight up the middle” “Yes!” “If you run up the middle do you think they’ll get your flags?” “Uh, yeah” “So since your so fast you think they could get your flags if you ran around them?” At this point you should have seen the excitement on his face. It was like the whole world was open to him and now he could score limitless touchdowns (those looks alone make coaching worth it).
  4. Give them structure. If you don’t have specific drills, specific breaks, specific plays, huddles, team meetings, key phrases (like “freeze!”), and some ground rules it’s chaos. Honestly my team is chaos. I’m still trying to figure out this structure thing. I like to think I’m better at it in business but now I’m not so sure… And that structure doubly applies to the dads who are helping out. They’re even more lost without specific instructions.
  5. Provide encouragement but don’t be too nice. As mentioned in #2 above you have to encourage, however if you don’t also discourage certain behaviors you have a riot on your hands. That’s my problem. I’m too nice (which makes me think I have the same problem in business). The kids need specific guidelines as to what’s acceptable (like your business needs Points of Culture) and when they’re out of line they need to have some sort of punishment (sitting next to coach and not participating is always a good one).
  6. Never assume everyone understands because you’re so great at explaining things. This results in kids running in the wrong direction. It has the same effect on your business, which is why procedures, position descriptions, scripts, incentive-based pay, Points of Culture and other VERY specific documents are necessary.
  7. Reward success. Kind, compassionate mothers everywhere are going to chastise me for this one, but if a child (or adult) drops the pass, fumbles the football, misses the tackle etc. you don’t give him a sticker. He’s not stupid. He knows he didn’t succeed so why would you confuse him by rewarding him? Now when he does well, you (as the highly respected coach) better be the first one to congratulate him!
  8. Do what you say you will. If you tell a team member you’re going to stop practice if they keep misbehaving, then stop practice. Threats without consequence carry no weight. Even a 5 year old figures that out real quick.
  9. Ignore the ignorable. My mom taught me this one. When a group of boys are sitting in the middle of a field they are going to throw grass on each other. It can’t be stopped. It’s an impossible force of nature that cannot be overcome. So ignore it. Often times there are things in our business that require the same selective ignorance… Not everything warrants our attention.
  10. You don’t know everything. Since I’m a nice guy, and not a brilliant coach, we took turns handing the ball off to different players to run. One by one each player got a chance. Another of the littlest guys I was a bit concerned about… I really wasn’t sure what he could contribute to the team and what I could encourage him to do. So when it was his turn to run he took off and ran for a touch down. His next rotation around he ran in for the extra point. In practice today we didn’t have any goal lines so he ran all the way down the field and back to me (the line of scrimmage) with no one catching him. I don’t think anyone has ever pulled his flag! Looks are deceiving. The shortest legs are not necessarily the slowest. Man am I glad I gave him a chance and, more importantly, so is he!

In First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, Buckingham points out that you always do better by having people who are good at something keep getting better than having someone who is not so good improve. You build up his strengths and ignore his weaknesses. You don’t spend time trying to overcome his weaknesses. Granted, as small children they have a lot of growing and learning to do so what may be a weakness now could certainly become a strength later. However for adults, that’s almost NEVER the case. Adults love doing what they do best, will be proud of themselves when they do it, and will continually work to get better at it because of that pride. They’ll do even better with some encouragement and continual education from their leader.

Wait a sec – that sounds exactly like my 5-6 year olds. Let them play the position they love – some prefer running, others throwing, others catching, and others getting flags – encourage them when they do it well and they will make themselves better. And if you’re a decent coach and can help them learn what they need to do to become even better, then they’ll be immeasurably more excited with their new found knowledge. The team at your business works the same way. That’s why we have team meetings, regular reviews, benchmarks, reports on performance, commissions, bonuses, processes and procedures, scripts and a Team Leader (which I tell everyone is most synonymous with “coach”). My job as a coach (and team leader) is to help everyone do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

What’s your goal as a leader (coach) in your business?

To your success, Bryan

P.S. You know what’s most amazing? These kids taught me all of this in only 4 practices and 1 game so, so much for that MBA. 😀

Improve employee teamwork by picking a fight!

Ok, I didn’t exactly pick the fight on purpose… It just sorta happened because in my normal read-a-book-and-instantly-implement-a-great-idea method I didn’t bother to inquire of the team what they thought…

Anyway – maybe I was a bit over-excited about Sam Carpenter’s suggestion about PTO (Paid Time Off) in his book, Work the System… After all, as I stated before, that single idea was worth reading the entire rest of the book (yes, including his hippie woodstock stories). So why didn’t my team love the idea as much as me??? Did I present it wrong? Not explain it well enough? Not review the benefits clearly? Possibly I should have asked them to participate in the decision to implement PTO to improve team buy-in…

Possibly all of those… Or possibly none of those… Actually, it doesn’t really matter to me why they hated the idea. Let me explain.

First off, PTO is simply paying someone immediately for their vacation and sick time so they don’t have any “accumulated” sick or vacation days. In other words, if you pay someone $10 per hour, they earn 40 hours of vacation per year, and you pay them bi-weekly (26 times per year) then each paycheck will include a PTO Earned bonus of $15.38 (40/26*10). That means that they earn 1.538 hours of Paid Time Off per paycheck and multiplied by their hourly rate of $10 they have earned $15.38 hours of “vacation” that I paid them for immediately.

For my business, I loved the idea for a few reasons:

  1. Since people are paid ahead of time and generally aren’t great savers, the chances they can afford to leave the office and take a 2-week vacation all at once are pretty slim. When someone who is an integral part of the business takes such a long vacation all at once it hurts the business, stresses the team, and our customer complaints instantly go up. In theory I thought PTO would take care of that.
  2. We offered Sick/Personal days as part of a perk. That always seemed silly to me… How can I know how many Sick/Personal days a person will need at the beginning of the year for that year? And if they don’t “need” any then people feel obligated to take them which negates the whole point of a Sick/Personal day. It’s not meant as a day to just use even when you’re not sick since you have it available. With PTO if they take off a day, they don’t get paid since they were already paid ahead of time… So according to Mr. Carpenter, in his office absenteeism dropped 80%. Makes sense to me.

Lucky for me, the Team Building exercise the week after I implemented the PTO was a review of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team as taught in the book of the same name by Patrick Lencioni. Part of that was a review of the first rule being, “an absence of trust”. Without getting too caught up in the lessons of that book, one idea is that a team that trusts each other is not afraid to “argue” and bring up points of disagreement. It’s important that everyone brings up any frustrations or varying point of view during meetings so that an open debate can ensue and everyone knows that their opinion matters. That allows everyone to then buy-in to the final decision discussed whether they originally agreed with that or not. You see where I’m going with this?

I implemented PTO unilaterally. Some team members hated the idea and several others were indifferent. No one was on my side. :-/

So we hashed it out. I let everyone speak their mind and then I explained the 2 reasons listed above that were important to me as benefits that PTO provided. I then asked them to give me a better program or system for allowing the above 2 goals to be met without PTO. So they did. They suggested to adopt as policy that no one could take off 2 weeks of vacation at once and that no 2 people in the same department could take off a week of vacation each back-to-back during peak season. They also suggested that we just ditch Sick/Personal days altogether. Seriously – I never even hinted at that. Someone suggested it and I verified with everyone that, that was acceptable. Everyone agreed. 🙂

At any rate, we no longer have PTO, however we don’t have to worry about someone taking off 2 weeks in a row and we won’t have a problem with someone abusing sick/personal days. Moreover, the whole team made that decision together as a team so everyone bought-into the new policies and felt better about being able to reason with the Team Leader…

Maybe implementing PTO, even for its short-lived glory days of 1 week, was actually a brilliant idea… 😉

To your success, Bryan

Why I don't have anyone working for me…

The other day as I’m walking out of a meeting with my top salesman another business owner inquires “So is this your partner?” The salesman responds “No, I’m just the salesman. I just work for him.” Keep in mind, this guy is twice my age and has been in this business for 18 years. I’ve been there for less than 18 weeks. As quickly as I could think of the words I interjected, “Of course he’s my partner. We work together every day.” Immediately his demeanor changed and he added, “Yeah, that’s true we work real closely together. We are partners in what we do.” I finished the thought with, “Without this guy I’d be in a lot of trouble.” – and I sincerely meant it and more importantly the salesman knew I meant it.

The other business owner who asked the question seemed to be a bit shocked. My guess is that he’d never seen a small business owner react that way. However what I said was completely true. The salesman is an extremely valuable part of our team and as such is certainly my partner in making the business grow. My goal was to take a rather uncomfortable situation for that important team member and turn it around to make it a positive thing. Based on his second response I like to think I did that.

So you see, no one works for me, they all work with me. Its my responsibility to ensure I’m leading the whole team to a common goal and vision. Generally that goal can only be achieved by working together.

What are you doing in your business to emphasize that everyone is working together with you and not for you?

To your success, Bryan

The 3 basic leaders every business needs…

Imagine in its most basic form that for any business to truly excel it requires 3 main pieces. Picture a triangle with following at each point:

  1. Sales & Marketing
  2. Finance & Administration
  3. Operations & Service

Here’s the basic idea, without marketing you can’t sell and you won’t have any customers. Without effective operations and service you can’t install or service what you’ve sold. Without finance and administration you can’t pay your bills, issue paychecks, track if you’re making money, or if your margins are high enough to cover your overhead.

If your business has excellent leaders taking care of all 3 then you’ll be humming right along. Without even 1 piece, and your business will never reach its full potential.

As a team leader I take a portion of the responsibility for each one. Not necessarily because I have to, but because I enjoy it and like to think I’m good at it. 🙂 My leadership requires me to control marketing, handle financials and payables, and manage all of the numbers and systems. That means I have a few gaps to fill. My business still requires a Sales Leader and Operations/Service Leader. As a matter of fact, nearly any business that I’ll be involved in in the near future will require leaders with a passion for those areas of business. Eventually the goal is to find leaders for all aspects so I can completely step away or simply work on marketing and reviewing the numbers.

Let me explain more thoroughly. As a mechanical engineer, it’s no secret that I love numbers. Cash flow projections, margin calculations, break-even analyses, closing ratios and ROI evaluations are a few things that get me excited. 😀 On nearly a daily basis I’m creating one or more spreadsheets to help me track the proficiency of some area of my business in the hopes of finding areas of improvement. Those (and many other) numbers help me find, address, and then ultimately plug holes. Then as we implement changes the numbers again tell me if we’re going in the right direction or if we need to make a U-turn. Every business owner uses his or her “gut” to make decisions, but completely shooting from the hip will never allow you to make the most educated decisions. Additionally, as my aunt recently pointed out to me “You love to know how things work.” For that reason, designing and implementing systems for my business gets me pumped. Scripts, check lists, flow-charts, training materials and on and on are great fun for me. (As a matter of fact, this blog itself is a system of “indoctrinating” my team leaders without having to repeat myself every time.)

My other talent and passion is marketing. Without getting into too much detail, cross-marketing, up-selling, sales scripting, back-end sales, and the like are all areas where I focus a good deal of my time. As Michael Masterson pointed out in Ready, Fire, Aim: Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flat (Agora Series) a Stage 1 business’ main priority is sales. If your business doesn’t have an efficient system for generating leads and closing sales then you probably have a lot of room to grow. Which probably also means I’d be interested in buying your business. hahaha

So what do the 3 pieces to the business triangle mean?

  1. This is about the most basic way to create an organization chart for your business to make sure you’re taking care of the crucial aspects of leadership.
  2. If you’ve read my last blog and are still a little fuzzy on how you could fit into the picture as one of my team leaders this should narrow down the passions my leaders will need.

For example, if I’m looking to buy an oil services business and you don’t know a thing about sales, marketing, finances, administration, or systems BUT you know how to lead people and are passionate about the service and operations of customers in that field, then you have the potential to be the Service and/or Operations Leader.

If you have the ability to sell and you have the talents and motivation to teach others how to sell, you could be a sales leader for almost any business regardless of what you’ve had experience selling before.

However, that thinking is a bit backwards don’t you think?

Before we delve into why that’s backwards, let me quickly reiterate why I keep saying “Leader” instead of “Manager”. My main goal as a Team Leader is to enable all of my team members to do the absolute best that they can at their jobs. Leaders lead people and managers manage resources. To fire on all cylinders, the main leaders of a business need to not just tell someone they aren’t performing up to standards – they need to be able to lead them into improving themselves. James Rhome, I believe, was the one to say “Work harder on yourself then you do on your business” and the same is true for your team members. A leader is willing to invest in her team and gets excited when someone improves. Leaders with a passion for and ability to positively communicate with their teams are the people I’m constantly searching for.

Since my strengths are Finance and Administration its my contention that with the proper Sales and Operations leaders we could grow any business. Conveniently for me, calculating profit margins, closing ratios, lead sources, or creating systems for phone scripts etc. etc. etc. are almost exactly the same for every business everywhere in the world. So with a little adaptation to a few spreadsheets I can quickly get all of the important numbers from any business. However, without a sales leader and operations leader I can’t effectively make the changes the numbers tell me I need to make.

For that reason, my approach to buying businesses is shifting. My first goal is to find the 3 main leaders I’ll need (usually it will be 2 since I can handle Finance & Admin with a bit of help) and THEN I’ll find the business that would allow all of us to excel at something we’re passionate about. That is why I’m completely vague on what businesses I’m researching, evaluating, and looking to purchase in my blog – If you have the ability to be a top-notch leader of service or sales, I’ll find a business we can excel in together.

“The only failure is the failure to participate.” – Brad Sugars

To your success, Bryan

Leadership – What would someone pay to learn from you???

In my experience meeting hundreds of business owners, 2 stand out as extremely unique. In a sentence, Bob Reiss and Steve Dickerson are probably the only 2 businessmen I’ve encountered who I would carry their briefcases around for a year for free. I would just download as much information and as many lessons from them as I possibly could. It occurred to me that I when I’m leading people, I want them to feel the same way about me. What can I do so well and so fluently that someone would actually pay me to learn it???

Well it better be whatever I’m doing to lead my team. Think about it for a second. Consider you’re hiring someone new. They’re young, inexperienced and considering whether to enter the job market or go to school full time for business. You’re the team leader for your business, right? Would that person learn more from you or from her professors at business school? Will they learn more from the other business owner down the street? Why can you teach them more? What about your service leader and office leader? Do they all have something to offer each of their teammates?

Let’s face it, if you aren’t so talented at what you do that you can teach a class on it and people would pay to learn from you, then you probably need to start investing more time in yourself. James Rhome used to say “Always invest more time in yourself than in your business.” Doesn’t that make sense?

Here’s another way of looking at it. If you’re team has so much faith in you that they would pay to learn from you, imagine how enthusiastic they’re gonna be when you thank them for their hard work every time you hand out their paycheck.

In case you haven’t noticed from my blogs, I’m a bit neurotic. I can’t stand not doing something to the best of my ability. So if I’m going to create the best marketing or sales system for my business, you better believe I’m going to read dozens of books, blogs, articles and ask my colleagues about those topics. However, as much as I love to learn, I’ve learned that it’s much more fun to teach others. If you want to see your teammates light up and get actively engaged in growing your business, start teaching them new things. Start helping them shape their ideas into effective parts of your business. Start showing them how their contributions are making a difference by measuring the results. And most important of all, reward them for what they’re doing. My next blog will be about why I will never pay a full-time person an hourly wage which is related directly to what we’re talking about now.

I previously mentioned that no one wants to suck at their job. Quite to the contrary, everyone loves to go home to their wife, husband, mom or best friend and tell them how they had this great idea that helped improve the business. In my business, if I’m working with someone who has been on the team less than 6 months or more than 20 years, it amazes me how hungry they are to both learn and be challenged. We all want to brag about how much fun our job is because our team leader gives us so much “freedom.” The interesting thing about “freedom” is that if everyone is part of a team, they start to worry less about doing it “their” way and instead appreciate what’s best for the team. However that only works if you walk the walk. 😉 When I implement a new policy, incentive, marketing program, etc. we discuss it at the team meeting, get some input and run with the idea. Everyone seems to feel apart of the team instead of me just dictating this is how it should be. Keep in mind, that if everyone on the team respects my talent for marketing or leadership so much that they would pay me to learn it, then maybe what I suggest in the meetings carries a bit more weight… Maybe not… lol Time will tell. 🙂

If you need incentive to keep yourself on your toes and always learning and teaching your team, implement a Team Building portion of every team meeting. That’s the point where you educate your team on some of the great ways to communicate with customers, improve themselves, and be an effective part of the team. In our last team meeting I introduced Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and it was so much fun! One of these days I’ll summarize my NLP lesson into a blog or 2 for you to help build your team.

To your success, Bryan

Polarizing your company’s culture

In our team meeting 2 weeks ago I introduced our company Vision, Mission, 13 Points of Culture and Company Philosophy. I hadn’t intended to review it with the team as quickly as I did (our 4th team meeting) however we had some issues that required me to be much more specific than “lying is never an option” as I had emphasized at our first team meeting. The details of the incident really aren’t important – basically we just told a customer one thing and did something else. Obviously we corrected that and so it is my responsibility as the Team Leader to lay out for them in black and white EXACTLY what is expected from the team.

You may reference my previous blog, “Your company has a culture, did you choose it?” for the first 12 points of culture and I recently added another point emphasizing safety.

The first week I just handed out a copy of the Vision, Mission, Culture and Company Philosophy to present the concept of each and then allow them a week to “mull it over.” My teammates ensured me that while they had down-time they were reviewing the points and a few questions came up that hopefully I clarified to their satisfaction.

At the next team meeting, a week later, I reviewed each point with a quick synopsis. At this point my goal was to ensure everyone was familiar with the points and knew exactly what our team was about. The 2 things that amazed me most about what happened after revealing the points of culture were:

  1. The number of times I referenced a point of culture with a teammate. – In the first meeting when I was explaining the concept of “Points of Culture”, our most senior technician spoke up and said he’s had an issue at times with pride that prevented him from asking for help when he really needed it.  I immediately got a big smile and said – take a look at #7 on the list “We understand that every person we encounter has something to teach us and so will learn from everyone around us.” He just laughed and whole-heartedly agreed. Throughout the week, I was working on reviewing our “12 Questions” employee review surveys courtesy of First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, and in every single performance review meeting I referenced at least 2 points of culture. I never planned to bring up the points in our meetings, they just happened to explain something that my teammate and I were discussing.
  2. The enthusiasm with which everyone embraced them. When I reviewed all of the points of culture one-by-one, I made it clear to the team that in companies where a culture as specific as this is created, not everyone fits. I went as far as to say that I hope this doesn’t happen, but I’m prepared for people who just don’t agree to move on. For me it is extremely important to let them know that this isn’t a game or some feel-good lovey, dovey BS. Everyone on our team has a job to do and the result of that job can be boiled down to black and white. For me, my responsibility is to make the business more profitable. If the bottom line doesn’t improve, then everything I’m doing is a waste. With that being said, of the 4 people I sat down with to have performance reviews all 4 of them said “Bryan, I agree 100% with what you’re doing and I think it’s great for the company.” And I believe that they were all very sincere and excited about what’s to come.

So how does the bottom line look after only 2 weeks of improved culture and a dedicated focus on our service department? Well the “black and white” performance measurement that I use in our service department is the average revenue each technician brings in each day. I know what my daily break-even is for each technician and so I have a target reasonably higher then that. On average, in January thru April 2008 we were losing money each day in our service department. The first 2 weeks in May represent a 60% increase in Revenue/Tech/Day over the average for the first 4 months in 2008. 🙂  Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I do still have to figure in the alotted revenue the service department receives for each new install since my numbers only reflect revenue generated from service. Nonetheless, with a 60% increase, I think we’re on the right track!

Additionally, 2 of my technicians are moving on to greener pastures. One to make 3-4 times more money then I can offer (though he did admit he wishes my programs were in place for longer since he knows they would have helped him do better at his job. He also went on to say that if he could choose his boss, he’d be exactly like me. lol I just had to throw that in.).  The other stopped showing up for work before I ever had a chance to review our Vision, Mission, Culture. There seems to be some bad blood between him and my partner that I really don’t plan to get involved with.

One of my main goals with developing a company culture is to polarize it. Nordstrom’s is famous for creating a culture where you either love it or hate it. According to one of Jim Collins’ books, people who are hired are there either less than 6 months or more than 10 years. There is no middle road. There is no luke warm. You’re either a part of the team or you’re not. That’s the kind of culture I want for our team!

Have you or can you develop that for your team?

To your success, Bryan

No one wakes up and says "I want to suck at my job today"

In the book, In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies they talk about a study conducted in a manufacturing plant to improve employee productivity. One of the managers theorized that by improving the lighting conditions productivity would go up because they would be creating a more positive environment for the workers. Well after turning up the lights productivity did increase. So he said, well if the lighting was the cause, if we turn down the lights productivity will return to normal. So they turned the lights back down and productivity still went up! So what happened???

The people who conducted the study discovered that what management does to improve morale makes little difference as long as your team members feel that someone cares about them.

I’ve lauded Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman’s research in First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently several times and his research seems to correlate directly with the findings in In Search of Excellence. For that reason Buckingham and Coffman’s 12 questions that “measure the core elements needed to attract, focus, and keep the most talented employees”, include:

  1. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  2. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

With those pearls of wisdom in mind, my first change at my new business was to implement a mandatory weekly team meeting. The team meeting is presented as a great way for me to educate the whole team on marketing programs, price changes, and other changes while providing everyone an opportunity to voice what changes can be made to improve issues. Generally the issues that need to be addressed are brought up by me based on problems we encounter during the week or through researching issues from analyzing our database. We then brainstorm on how to improve them.

We’ve had 3 so far and I can’t imagine implementing changes without them. How else can you possibly get the whole team on the same page??? I’m still in the process of fine-tuning our process, however right now it’s composed of 4 pieces:

  1. Review of last meeting
  2. Service/Delivery Issues
  3. Marketing/Sales Projects
  4. Team Building Exercise

An added benefit that I didn’t expect from the team meeting is that it has actually encouraged competition between our service technicians. Our team includes 4 technicians including 1 who is extremely thorough, at the cost of expedience and another technician who is very fast, but sometimes sacrifices quality. They routinely challenge each other when we talk about the number of callbacks (i.e. service calls where we have to go back to a customer for the second time because the issue wasn’t fixed the first time) that are acceptable or the length of time it should take for routine service. You’ll never hear me suggest that healthy competition isn’t positive. 🙂

After being onsite for about 3 weeks and making lots of small changes designed to help improve operations, I’ve made it very clear that if everyone on our team is succeeding, I’m succeeding. My title is even “Team Leader” instead of General Manager, VP of Operations, CEO or whatever other titles come up with these days. For the first time in quite a while, the entire team realizes that someone not only cares about how well they do each day, but is willing to work very hard to make sure they are able to do their best.

The result of all of this “touchy-feely” teamwork building stuff and a new focus on our vision to be the absolute best in our market by consistently exceeding our customers’ expectations??? How about the highest household sales for the month of April in the entire 60 year history of the business? That also indicates one of the top 6 grossing months in the entire company history for household sales. Alright, so 3 weeks on the job and it may be a bit premature to assume the team building exercises and the great sales performance are directly related.

Over the next few weeks as we start NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) training, Mission Statement and Culture Statement reviews, and performance based bonuses, we’ll see if sales and profits still increase by investing more time in the team.

To your success, Bryan

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