Play Dates Pay Over and Over Again

October 1, 2014 | Leave a Comment

If you are like other entrepreneurs, according to recent statistics, you are likely to be working a lot more hours. The question is, “Are those hours working you or are you working them?”

Many books have been written on various ways to cut the hours, to increase productivity, and to do more in less time. Not as much has been written on ways to rejuvenate yourself, and reenergize after long periods of burning the candle at both ends. No matter how much we love what we do, we must still take time to let our mind, body and soul rest.

Some clients have shared they feel guilty about taking time off when there’s so much to do. Others have said they can’t relax when there’s work to do so why bother. Yet others say that playmates seem like child’s play and aren’t responsible.

Play dates pay you back in many ways. First, they give all the parts of your mind a chance to catch up to each other. This means that some of your best ideas will come when you finally stop to take a break. Edison, Einstein and other great creative geniuses knew the secret behind focusing intensely on work and following it by a break.

Second, play dates allow you to check out and detach from your business in a good way. When you let go, all of those things that you’ve been holding onto so tightly have a way of finding answers. You may feel that by working on something harder you will get the answers, but consider whether or not that is really true.

Third, by taking a break, you can be a better you. That means a better boss, a better spouse, a better parent, a better technician, a better sales person, and a better marketer. This one pays dividends upon dividends – improved relationships, improved life, and improved sales.

Last, but not least, when you take a play date to take care of yourself, you give others permission to take care of themselves. The big façade is that successful people work themselves into the ground, but really successful people have figured out that when they push away from the table, they really increase how effective they are. There’s a reason why Richard Branson does business from a tropical oasis, and why Oprah steals away to Hawaii.

Three Steps To a Great Play Date

  1. Schedule Time During the Week. Plan your break during the week, and make it a special time for yourself. Do plan your time off. You can of course take a break when an appointment cancels, but when you plan it, you can breathe easy that people aren’t looking for you. A good play date is at least two hours long, but could be several days if you like.
  2. Make it personal. Do something you’ve been putting off because you haven’t had the time. Choose something that you will really enjoy – golf, visit a museum, take in a movie, hit the spa, or just spend some time alone. If you enjoy being with a favorite friend, invite your friend to come with you and see how much the two of you can do in an afternoon!
  3. Unplug – completely.  A play date isn’t relaxing if it is interrupted by a Crackberry or a cell phone. Turn off the phone, put an auto responder on your email, and unplug so you can be fully present for your play date. Enjoy this time you’ve given yourself knowing that everything is a-okay.
  4. Take notice. When you return to the office, take notice of what happened that was unexpected. What pleasant surprises popped up? Did a sale go through? Did a problem correct itself? Consider making a note of these – mental or written – so you can remind yourself how valuable these breaks can be.
  5. Be great-full. When you return, share your rested, vibrancy with everyone. When people comment on how great you look (and they will), share your secret, and encourage them to do the same. When you are grateful, your greatness is fully available to others to see. When you give to yourself, you give to others as well.

Play dates don’t just happen. They require your attention. If you’ve been secretly feeling like you would like to steal away, pull out the calendar and schedule your play date. It’s time!

Leverage Pays 5 Reasons to Stick with Your Ideal Clients

February 18, 2008 | Leave a Comment

One of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs face is moving from fear to trust. Most new entrepreneurs go through a progression of ‘I’ll take anyone who can write a check’ and move to one where they know the clients that work best for them. What can make this transition that much easier is realizing that there is plenty of business out there. When you combine this understanding with a strategy to attract more of your very best clients (more on this in a future Marketing Mojo) you can have a virtually unbeatable marketing combination.

Here are 5 reasons to stick with your ideal client!

Reason #1 – Taking the Wrong Clients Wreaks Havoc on Your Marketplace Trust

“I don’t trust that if I give up one that I’ll get another one,” the entrepreneur says. Our entrepreneur takes the non-ideal client (misfit vs. perfect fit), loses money on the deal, and then the misfit client goes out into the marketplace and erodes external trust. The misfit tells one, two, 10, 20 people about how awful it was to work with the entrepreneur. Each of those people may tell another two or three, soon that company has a little trust leak that could have easily been avoided. If the misfit enters the online space, then there’s an immediate way for others to know about the less-than-ideal client – and about how that client was underserved.  

Reason #2 – Misfits Offer Opportunities for Leverage

It isn’t about saying one company isn’t as good as another. It’s about having the integrity to bypass the companies that will not be best served by you and your company. These misfits are not a fit for your company; however, they are a perfect fit for another company. If you know what your ideal client is you use your ideal client profile, a misfit may simply be passed up. But, if you understand the law of reciprocity, you can leverage the non-ideal client for future profits. Here’s how.  

Let’s say that you interview a company that is really not a good fit service-style wise. Let’s say you are a high-touch company and this company isn’t really interested in that. This company wants a bargain basement price and does not value highly personalized service. If you have a list of referral sources ready for these occasions, then when a company comes along that wants the lowest price, it is easy for you to refer this client to a reputable firm that will offer a service-match. Likewise, with a strong reciprocal relationship, the referred-to company can refer those companies they meet that want a more high-touch relationship that they simply can’t offer due to low cost.

I see companies that let misfits go, but I don’t see a lot that take the next step to find a solution for their misfit. When you use this strategy, not only do you leverage the relationship of the referred-to company, but you also leverage the referred company – the misfit client. The way it works is that they see that you have their best interest in mind. Because this is true, you’ve ignited the law of reciprocity not once but twice. The law of reciprocity causes an individual to feel the need to reciprocate a kindness. This deal works best when you don’t expect anything. You do your best, take care of clients like they are your mom, and others tend to want to take care of you. Simple, yet oh so powerful.

Reason #3 – Like Attracts Like

One of my favorite benefits of working with an ideal client profile is that there are more ideal clients where those came from! Generally speaking, like attracts like so ideal clients tend to know others that are similar and therefore a source of better referrals. Think about how much time it takes to work with a referral that is not a good fit. It is time-consuming, even though it can still be beneficial (see #2 above). Still, in the end, wouldn’t you rather work with ideal clients who send people who are similar? I thought so! The ultimate benefit to this reason is that getting more ideal clients takes a lot less work.

Reason #4 – Builds Leverage in Centers of Influence

A big buzz word thrown around these days is social networks. The reason these social networks are getting so much attention is because they are powerful. In very short order, a connected group of social networks can build a brand virtually overnight. A good example of this is how Timothy Ferris’s book, The 4-Hour Work Week, debuted at the top of the New York Times Best Seller list after being promoted in key centers of influence through blogs and other means. When you work with your ideal clients, a similar phenomenon happens within your niche. All of a sudden your name is tossed around more than Paris Hilton. You become a big buzz in your ideal client niche. Suddenly, your marketing efforts are earning big dividends – with the same amount of, or less work.

Reason #5 – Creates a More Powerful Brand and Company

When entrepreneurs try to serve anyone and everyone, it spreads resources thin and dilutes focus. By focusing on an ideal client base, you, the entrepreneur can then dedicate time and energy to serving and constantly meeting the needs of your very best clients. The result is usually a higher per-customer sales average, a more loyal client base of raving fans, and a client base that grows with you as you grow. The more consistent your message is and the more direct your services and offering, the more powerful you appear to your market. Clarity of vision feeds clarity of the ideal client which results in strong sales and a never-ending opportunity to serve those you work with best.

In the bigger picture you do business a certain way – we all are unique in who we are. This unique service style combined with the services you offer are a perfect match for certain individuals and companies. That’s the short of it. Just like a puzzle piece, there’s an interlocking fit between you and your ideal client. Those clients that are not a good fit are free to bypass your door and move to the best company to serve them. What could be better, right?

Nothing is much better, honestly. If you are a services company, then you already know how painful (and very unprofitable) a client that is not a good fit can be. Face the fear, refer the misfits, and serve your ideal clients. It’s a winning combination that makes profit and sense.

Understanding Financial Ratios

February 16, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Even the most business-savvy person is tempted to ask, “What does this mean?” when faced with rows of numbers stacked into pages of columns on financial statements. Fortunately, some quick ways exist to analyze financial statements and get an understanding of this data. Known as financial ratios, these rules of thumb can help you:

  • Benchmark operational standards against industry averages and your competitors;
  • Analyze overall financial and operational health; and
  • Predict the results of future operations.
  • You can also use financial ratios to measure:
  • Liquidity (ability to pay current bills);
  • Activity (rates of inventory turnover and accounts receivable collection);
  • Leverage (ability to borrow money and pay off debt); and
  • Profitability (performance and efficiency at turning a profit).

In your analysis, you can choose from a variety of financial ratios. Here are some of the most common.

Current Ratio

Equation: current assets ÷ current liabilities

What you can learn: How well a company is able to pay its bills — short-term solvency. It indicates the extent to which the claims of short-term creditors are covered by assets expected to be converted into cash in the near future.

Quick Ratio

Equation: (current assets – inventory) ÷ current liabilities

What you can learn: What percentage of assets can be quickly turned into cash. Inventories are typically the least liquid of a company’s current assets, and that makes them the assets on which losses are most likely to occur in the event of liquidation. Therefore, the quick ratio is a measure of the firm’s ability to pay off short-term obligations without relying on the sale of inventories.

Inventory Turnover

Equation: cost of goods sold ÷ average inventory

What you can learn: Frequency with which inventory is sold. The ratio depends on the industry and in some cases, even the time of year. Faster turnovers are generally viewed as a positive trend because they increase cash flow and reduce warehousing expense.

Debt to Equity

Equation: total liabilities ÷ net worth

What you can learn: Relationship of dollars creditors contribute (debt) to capital invested by owners (equity). This ratio indicates the degree of financial leverage that you are using to enhance your return. A rising ratio could mean that new debt should be restrained. Most investors feel safer investing in a well-capitalized company than in a highly leveraged business. A company is generally considered well-capitalized if the owners generally have a significant amount of their own funds at stake.

Return on Equity

Equation: net profit ÷ net worth

What you can learn: How well owner-supplied funds are being used to generate profits. The higher this number, the better. It shows what you have earned on your investment. The higher the ratio, the better the funds are being used to generate a good return on investment for shareholders and the greater the profit.

One Caveat

While benchmarking against other companies can be valuable, it also presents pitfalls. Comparing apples with oranges can distort results. Look out for differences such as:

  • Accounting methods (for example, using the first-in, first-out instead of last-in, first-out inventory method leads to dif­ferent inventory and cost-of-sales figures on the income statement).
  • Fiscal year-ends (especially important for seasonal companies).
  • Methods of computing financial ratios (for example, before-tax basis vs. after-tax basis).

Who Else Uses Financial Ratios?

Business owners and managers aren’t the only ones who can benefit from looking at financial ratios. So can:

  • Investors, to make informed and intelligent investment decisions.
  • Corporate financiers, to spot potential takeover targets.
  • Creditors, to evaluate business loan risks.
  • Investment advisors and banks, to find prosperous companies that might need their services.

Take Advantage of Financial Ratios

In addition to using ratios to evaluate the performance of your own company and benchmark it against the competition, you can use them when considering the financial health of potential business partners and the viability of investment options. Keep in mind, though, that financial statements often provide only one part of the big picture,true performance management relies on other means of measurement.

Redefining Employee Roles Can Increase Performance

February 14, 2008 | Leave a Comment

How well do your employees understand what’s expected of them, and how well do you or they manage those expectations to increase performance and meet company goals?

Effectively managing staff and communicating each employee’s role are perhaps two of the most difficult tasks you will face as an entrepreneur or executive. Performance expectations based on performance may appear bipolar depending on whether the employee knew what was expected of them. Many good-hearted managers are well-intentioned professionals who advanced into management based on their own job performance. As a result, unless they receive proper training or coaching, these managers lack many of the skills required to skillfully manage employees and positively impact performance and productivity. To add fuel to the fire, many companies lack the tools necessary to adequately address an employee’s work performance because job descriptions are either dated or may not exist at all.

Lack of both job expectations and the knowledge it takes to communicate the expectations can take its toll on properly managing employees because employers constantly must redefine employee roles. In a perfect world, the astute employee would know what’s expected, and would turn those expectations into increased performance, and, ultimately, an increase to your company’s bottom line.

So how can you redefine employee roles to increase performance? Perhaps it’s best to follow Stephen Covey’s advice and begin with the end in mind. However welcome or dreaded, a well-delivered performance review is a good indicator of not only expectations, but how well the employee is progressing within his or her role. The evaluation also is a good time to set next year’s goals and expectations.

Here are five ways to establish expectations and align employee roles with performance.

1. Maintain an Updated Job Description With Written Expectations. It is difficult for you to create an evaluation without a benchmark. It is even tougher for an employee to self evaluate on an ongoing basis if s/he has only a vague idea of what results s/he should achieve. A job description and a statement of written expectations provide the criteria to perform the employee evaluation while leaving the employee with a clear set of job expectations.
2. Meet One-to-One With the Employee. Periodic (monthly or quarterly) meetings can help you and your employee monitor progress and performance. For example, a short, scheduled meeting provides the time to review past objectives and professional development. You become more aware of the employee’s strengths, accomplishments and areas to develop, while the information focuses the employee’s performance on key behaviors.
3. Provide a Monthly Progress Report. Continuous reports help you gather information on employees’ performance and allow them to track their progress. At the end of each month, ask employees to submit a short report stating their accomplishments, major tasks in progress, any training received and areas identified for improvement. Your job is to review this report, discuss it during the one-to-one session, and keep the reports as a reference tool for annual and semi-annual performance evaluations.
4. Conduct a Self-Evaluation. Most employees welcome the opportunity to provide constructive input. Ask each employee to draft a self-evaluation. These personal insights will help you immensely with setting performance goals and aligning your expectations with employee competencies.
5. Other Forms of Feedback. Without being too intrusive or sly, solicit feedback from customers and co-workers about each employee’s performance. Concentrate on behaviors, not subjective ideas about a person’s motivations. For example: Johnny attends to customers in a slow manner vs. Johnny is lazy and isn’t concerned with attending to customers. A word of caution: Be sure the information you receive is accurate and sources stay protected.

What can a job description do to help define roles?

A good job description will:
establish, communicate, and document management expectations   and employee understanding and acceptance;
form a basis for establishing employee goals and for conducting   employee performance evaluations;
communicate and document changes in employee responsibilities   during the course of a performance year;
identify training needs;
help determine employee job classifications;
inform job candidates about prospective positions; and
assess employee workload so managers can make strategic staffing decisions.

Most employees want to hit the target; often, they just don’t know what the target is. Taking these points into account can help ensure performance meets expectations, but more than that, it helps produce skilled, knowledgeable employees who will work even harder to produce your desired results. If you are interested in learning more about how incremental improvements in performance can significantly impact your company’s bottom line, gives us a call today.

Skip-Level Reviews and The Benefits of 360-Degree Feedback

February 12, 2008 | Leave a Comment

When was the last time one of your employees told you he or she had an effective performance review? While this may be a rhetorical question, it’s a valid one given today’s volatile business climate and the need to receive consistent feedback on performance.

Today, a direct manager’s or supervisor’s review of an employee may, indeed, not be enough to adequately provide the employee with enough information. One of the trends occurring in business is the “skip-level” review. Also known as “360-degree feedback,” employees are reviewed by their manager or direct report’s manager, employee peers and even subordinates.

There are many benefits to this process. For the individual, perception is reality and the skip-level process helps workers understand how others perceive them. While many may tell each other day-in, day-out how they feel, getting these thoughts on paper in a stylized, confidential process is a completely different matter. The individual also benefits because feedback is essential for learning, and individuals can better manage their own performance and careers.

Maintaining a skip-level review also benefits the “team” by increasing communications among and between team members, and supports the teamwork process by involving everyone in developing the appraisal methodology. Organizations, too, benefit by promoting better career development for employees, improving customer service by having customers contribute to evaluations, and directing the training process.

A national human resources consulting firm quantified the reasons for skip-level reviews. According to a recent survey, HR managers said that 360-degree feedback is being used for management and organizational development (58 percent), performance appraisal (25 percent), supporting strategic implementation and culture change (20 percent), and team development (19 percent).

Naturally, there are a variety of methods to gather data by using paper-based forms, diskettes or other storage, through an electronic network or by interviews. Scoring can be conducted on-site or through central scoring by an external vendor.

One, burning question is the frequency of the review – how often should the review be conducted? While annual performance appraisals usually suffice, skip-level reviews may be done more often. Since employees need time to make the changes proposed on the last set of reviews – and because it takes some time for others to perceive that change has taken place – six-month intervals make sense. This time frame allows people to create change, and then get feedback on their progress so that they can develop next-level goals and action plans. However, some organizations prefer to conduct surveys of just 10 to 15 questions, focusing on a specific topic. These smaller-size reviews are done monthly in conjunction with training on that certain topic.

Next comes the matter of whom should be the reviewer(s). The method in which organizations set the criteria for this important step could make or break the review depending on a variety of circumstances. For example, the length of time the respondent knows the subject is important, as is the amount of contact. You also may want to choose reviewers who understand what the subject does, as well as some who work well with the subject and some who do not.
After the review is conducted, the subject is the only person who gets a copy of the report. The manager gets group and organizational data, but no individual information. While giving the data could increase accountability and enable the manager to quantifiably track progress, there are a variety of pitfalls to giving the manager a copy of the report. Here are a few examples:

  • People will fear the process.
  • Feedback comments will not be as constructive.
  • Scores may be higher.
  • Data can become a weapon, not a development tool.
  • The manager may lack the ability to interpret the data appropriately.
  • The manager may reprimand the employee for not doing well.

Another consideration in skip-level reviews is whether feedback should be linked to performance appraisals. While skip-level reviews or 360-degree feedback and performance appraisals can be complementary, they should not be linked. If 360 is linked to compensation decisions, it loses its power as a development tool. With compensation as the outcome, individuals quickly will learn how to play the game, a.k.a., “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.”

If ratings are lower than expected, morale can decrease when the review is linked to performance appraisal. However, when low scores are used purely for development, the scores tend to be viewed as constructive feedback. Be sure that team members are coached on the rating scale so feedback is consistent across the board.

Introducing skip-level reviews to a potentially resistant organization isn’t insurmountable. First, start at the top and conduct a pilot. Directly address, up front, the issues that are at the source of the resistance, and focus on the benefits for the individual or group. When possible, use an external consultant to minimize fears of confidentiality and inappropriate data usage.

Are skip-level reviews ever inappropriate? In some cases, yes. For example, if the person receiving feedback is too new to the group or organization, there probably aren’t enough respondents who truly understand the full scope of the individual’s responsibilities. In addition, during a time of major change like a merger or acquisition, skip-level review may not be very effective because the staff is focused on other, more important, efforts. An environment with a high degree of mistrust is a red flag that also would inhibit the process.

Skip-level reviews or 360-degree feedback can be a cost-effective, measurable method to the appraisal process.

How Do You Get Personal In Business?

February 10, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Ask Tina

How Do You Get Personal In Business?

Q: Thus far, I have kept business life and personal life very separate.  You talk a lot about personalizing business websites.  Is this what large successful companies like Microsoft and IBM have done?  I can’t really think of a way for them to add personal items to their business web sites.  I’m curious about your thoughts on that.

A: The more transparent your organization is, the higher the trust you have with your employees, clients and future clients. It’s that simple. The more people can know about you, the more they feel they know you, the more they begin to trust you, your company and the brand that you are creating. Bringing the True You and transparency to your business is not about airing everything and anything that is personal. It is about knowing what you believe in, knowing what you are passionate about and conveying that passion in a personalized way so that those who align with what you are can easily find you. We always come back to business is people serving people, and people do business with people they know, like and trust.

Many companies offer no opinion – they play it safe, trying not to be ‘too’ out there. I believe most companies play it safe because they want to try to capture everyone (versus creating an ideal client profile) and they believe by staking a claim on a target market they will ‘lose’ someone. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Companies that are publicly traded are owned by the public so they may be more stringent about their stories. With public companies, such as those you are asking about, the game is slightly different because it isn’t an owner making the decisions. Yet public companies still have a company personality and this is communicated in their branding, community outreach projects and various other ways they communicate what they believe in and what they stand for. If you look around, you can see the personal side coming through in larger companies. There are many examples of this – Starbucks, Apple, IBM, just to name a few. Some of the smaller companies that do an equally good job are Patagonia, Clif Bar, Tracy Porter, and Cranium. When you visit these companies’ websites it is obvious from the start what these individuals are passionate about and how the company reflects the passion.

Best of luck as you allow the True You to shine through!

Create a Persona for Your Ideal Client

February 9, 2008 | Leave a Comment

A couple of days ago, during a conversation with a client, Donny Deutsch’s show, The Big Idea, came up. She said, “Have you seen it lately?” I told her that not only do we check it out every night, but I even blogged it. Then she said something that got my attention. She said, “Talk about someone that didn’t know who his audience was when he started out. He was all over the map.” I commented that it was that exact thing that I blogged about. The show in the beginning was, in her words, “all over the place.” Today, though, she loves the show since it is aimed right to our hearts – passionate entrepreneurs.

So what can we learn from mega-millionaire advertising guru Donny Deutsch? It’s this. No matter who you are you can sometimes go off the road when it comes to identifying your ideal client. All kidding aside with Donny – it was probably the lack of format that made it hard to choose a target (he obviously knows what he is doing with his $2.3 billion dollar sale of the Deutsch agency). Still, you might be struggling with the same things. It can happen to the best of us.

I believe creating a persona can really make your ideal client profile sing. When you take your ideal client profile and create a persona it allows everyone in your company and other referrals sources know exactly who you are looking for in a client. A persona creates a snapshot – a character picture (cartoon or otherwise) of your best client. But, just like Donny, you need to begin with a clear snapshot of that special something you have to offer your ideal client. The two go hand in hand.

Create a Persona (do this for each target market you have in your business)

Think of your best clients. Choose three, and begin to look at how they are similar. Everyone is different, yet your best clients are the same in very similar ways. Your job is to discover those ways.

Start by covering the demographics. Age, size of company, number of employees, and any other physical characteristics you can think of. Take note that if you are choosing clients only by the demographic level, it’s likely you have a lot of room to choose from the cream of the crop of clients!

Next move to psychographics and characteristics of your ideal client. What do they want? What do they think? How do they think? What motivates them? What problems do they have that you can solve? The more in-depth you can make this the better.

Finally, we get to the unseen level. I call it the feeling level of who the client is. Your best clients feel a certain way. You act a certain way around them. You know how you act. Put into words a description that allows you to share this with others. It’s easier than it sounds. People relate to each other on this level every day, they just don’t talk about it, and they aren’t aware of it. This level will keep you safe when it comes to bypassing the clients that aren’t a fit, a.k.a. misfits.

After you have all three levels complete, take these and create a persona that looks something like this:

Bob is a 50-something, progressive-thinking business owner. He has children in college, he’s been divorced twice. He takes a great deal of pride in his business. He’s driven and has high standards. That works well with us because we have high standards too. We are driven to be the best in our industry, too. Bob isn’t too concerned about brand names, and he drives an American made car, just like many of the other self-made millionaires. His measure of excellence is a can-do attitude. He doesn’t like mistakes, but he is forgiving. When I’m around him, I feel like I’m being pushed to be better. It’s a fatherly feeling where I know he likes me, but he keeps me on my toes.

The more detailed you can make your persona, the easier it is to do market research, to identify magazines “Bob” may read, to ask others if they know a “Bob” and to actually attract and spot a Bob. With this information in your mind about Bob and aligned with why Bob likes doing business with you, it is much easier to speak about this in a way that gets your message across while helping Bog identify himself as a good client.

This one technique has literally increased many clients’ revenue very quickly. That’s the gift of clarity and the gift of being able to pass on that clarity. This week, commit to creating a persona that will help you say bye to struggle and hello ease.

You can do the same with a client that was a train wreck too. It can help you deconstruct what worked and what didn’t and where the engagement went off the tracks. Have the courage to be honest about the part you played and you’ll be able to better bypass the next one.

Next week, we’ll talk about how to leverage misfits for more profit and reciprocity. There’s a way to send people away that actually will get you more clients. Imagine that!

Here at the True You Marketing, we also work with personas. This is our female entrepreneur persona.

Sally is passionate about leaving the world a better place than when she found it. She is a successful expert in her chosen field, and is an influencer of others. People say she is generous, kind and compassionate, but she’s no pushover. She’s a courageous, talented entrepreneur who is fueled by her intense commitment to serve others. She believes in doing her best each and every day, and encourages others to do their best; always looking for the best in others. She is an energizing force for others and her passion is contagious. She knows who she is or is evolving into it. She believes in something greater than she is, and believes that when we serve the whole, all the parts benefit. Sally is a responsible and intentional person who sets goals for herself on many levels, and she realizes she isn’t perfect nor does she try to be. She is involved in her community. She reads a lot – self development books, business books, O Magazine, and tunes into influencer blogs online. She may be single or married, and she enjoys the good things in life that have come to her materially and otherwise. Sally realizes that having an outside perspective can make her even more successful and chooses to work with a like-minded company such as the one80 group. In the end, Sally understands life is about living. She strives to balance life and work in a way that honors who she is.

Experience the Dramatic Results of Open Book Management

February 8, 2008 | Leave a Comment

From billion-dollar corporations to small businesses, open book management (OBM) delivers results that take companies that are struggling or merely surviving … to thriving. In theory, OBM sounds like a business owner’s worst nightmare because the thought of sharing the financials can leave them feeling a little, well, exposed. Beyond vulnerability, however, is a road populated with incredible numbers of courageous companies who opened the details of the company to employees.

Perhaps the most well-known OBM success story is Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation (SRC), a division of Navistar. Before OBM, the company was a long-standing, money-losing division. After the OBM injection, company revenues exploded to $100 million. Small companies reap the rewards, too. Accounting firms report increases of 60 percent or more the year following OBM implementation. Some staffing firms have shown a sales gain of almost 80 percent in just one year. In short, OBM works.

But how does it work?

Simply stated, open book management places the responsibility of the company’s success on every person in the organization. From the janitor to the president, all are focused on increasing profits. The company’s goals become each employee’s goals, who realize that building a better system, maximizing productivity, reducing defects, cutting costs and increasing efficiency not only is good for business, but also good for them.

The basics of OBM include:

Financial literacy – If employees don’t understand the way their behaviors affect the bottom line, they can’t make smarter choices for the company. The first step to OBM is to “open the books” to all employees. Some companies choose to post scoreboards in the break room, others post financial information on the company intranet, and both meet at “all-hands” meetings to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Accountability – OBM makes every employee accountable for the company’s success. Whether an employee is a forklift operator, administrative assistant or CEO, each person is expected to first be a business person looking out for the financial well-being of the company. Owners and executives build in accountability by teaching employees how they can increase the bottom line.
Incentive – The ‘What’s in it for me factor?’ is strong in most business settings, but in OBM it is a critical element of success. Employees learn very quickly they get a piece of the pie when the company meets or exceeds set goals. More often than not, OBM offers higher-than-expected results. Company owners are only too happy to share the increased profits.

Paradigm Shift

Skilled business performance consultants realize it is not enough to show people how OBM works. The key to lasting success is developing the desire to make it work. Employee motivation comes from understanding that each person has a chance to make a difference. It’s a shift to empowerment instead of management. Owners and managers move from telling employees what not to do or how to do a task, to actually sharing with employees what they want the outcome to be. This empowers employees to be part of the solution. And all too often, those working closest to the process offer insights that lead to greater efficiency, increased cost savings and/or profitability.

Sign Me Up

So, you want to try OBM? You may be wondering how to actually implement open book management. There are four major steps:

Share Company Information – This goes back to unveiling the critical data needed to improve the bottom line. For a manufacturer, you may want to take a look at pieces manufactured per hour and explain how a small increase impacts the bottom line. If you are in a business where your returns are higher than industry average, discuss the reason with employees. Remember: it’s not enough to simply say what needs to be improved, and ask employees to do it or find ways to do it. Employees need to understand how their division or group’s numbers impact the company’s profitability. The more they understand their personal contribution, the more likely they will stick with the program.

Business 101 – Entrepreneurs seem to be born with a business gene. They tend to have a knack for company basics. On the other hand, most employees have no idea how the business operates or what matters affect profits. Today, many college graduates don’t understand how a business works. What if you could teach every employee to think like an owner? You can. Teaching employees the “game” of business brings company issues to life, and ignites the entrepreneurial spark inherent in all of us. Employees go from thinking the owner is taking home all the dough, to questioning wasteful practices and implementing efficient systems.

E-M-P-O-W-E-R Your People – If you think business owners squirm at the thought of turning over the financials, they get equally as nervous at the idea of turning over power to employees. Many management philosophies went the way of the dinosaur because they didn’t work when applied. OBM isn’t lip service. Company leaders must enable people to make decisions that affect their group or department, and be willing to accept the consequences of those employees’ decisions. Experience shows us that people learn quickly and often make smart decisions. To do otherwise would adversely affect their personal pocketbook. Now who would do that?

Make it Personal – Profit sharing plans have been around for years, but they aren’t like true open book management since employees know very little about how their actual actions impacted the bottom line. Just like any astute business owner, employees start the year with a goal or target. They can monitor their group’s or department’s success – or failure – on a weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual basis, and know right where they stand at any given moment. Knowing the bonus ahead of time has an incredible effect on motivation. If employees know their share of the pie is 10 percent of profits and they can see profits steadily increasing all year, they know the payoff is worth the extra effort.

OBM makes your business your employees’ business. The results can be awe inspiring, but it takes courage to try something new. Those who have done it say it has transformed their businesses. Those who haven’t don’t know what they are missing.

Investing in Employee Growth Makes Bottom Line Sense

February 7, 2008 | Leave a Comment

For many owners, traversing the peaks and valleys of a fluctuating economy is just part of the entrepreneurial adventure. And when the market takes a downturn, a natural survival reaction is to cut overhead. It’s a logical place to start. But where and when do these cuts adversely affect your business?

Employee training often is seen as double overhead because employee salaries reside in the expense side of the business, while things such as equipment appear on the balance sheet as assets. Because the company invests in training and educational courses, with the added costs of travel and lost productivity; employee training is often one of the first things to go when money becomes tight.

What some employers don’t consider is that while cutting these training and development programs may immediately help lower overhead, the affect of putting employees on a company backseat can have long-term ramifications that result in financial negatives.

To compete in business today, companies need to understand that most potential employees are no longer simply seeking a job; they’re seeking career advancement. However, this advancement does not necessarily mean promotions; it can be as simple as knowledge and skills. New-generation employees know career development requires a commitment to growth. They seek companies that understand that a paycheck is only part of the career equation. In fact, training, education and degree-completion programs are some of the most desired employee benefits available today.

So what does the company have to gain from investing in employee growth? When a company satisfies employees’ desire to obtain more training, the result often can be a company team that is more capable and willing to accept responsibility and control over the part they play in the company’s success. Well-trained employees often need less supervision, leaving management with additional time to focus on other critical areas of the business. In addition, a well-trained employee generally has a higher level of productivity, and is more inclined to remain loyal to the employer that has taken a vested interest in them.

Savvy employees see training as a way to create value for the company. They know it’s the difference between their company merely surviving and thriving. In a world that grows ever more competitive, many employees fear their company may fall behind competitors and lose market share.

In 2000, the American Management Association conducted a survey of 352 human resources executives. The AMA’s findings confirmed that among issues of top importance to employees were certain enhancement issues. These issues also had a direct correlation to increased retention.

“Investing in an employee’s future is more important than immediate compensation,” said Eric Rolfe Greenberg, AMA’s director of management studies. “Programs that improve work skills and future career development are seen as particularly effective.”

The AMA survey identified the following skill enhancement techniques (the percentage of companies employing them as a retention strategy is noted as well):

• External conferences and seminars, 78.1 percent
• Tuition reimbursement, 67.3 percent
• Managerial training, 66.8 percent
• Company support for degree, 62.2 percent
• Interpersonal skills training, 56.8 percent
• Technical training, 54.5 percent
• Employability training, 35.2 percent

In a study of more than 3,100 U.S. workplaces, the National Center on the Educational Quality of the Workforce found that, on average, a 10 percent increase in work force education led to an 8.6 percent gain in total productivity. While a 10 percent increase in the value of equipment increased productivity just 3.4 percent.

Investing in employee growth is a philosophy first and a program second. No matter how strong the training or mentoring program, it only will be successful if principal business decision-makers are fully committed to it. Employee development cannot be an item that easily hits the chopping block when times are tough.

If you are unsure about where to begin building an employee development program that nurtures your employees and creates long-term relationships, consider an anonymous survey. For best results, be sure to provide employees time to think about the questions and provide meaningful responses. Obtaining information straight from employees is a great way to increase their sense of importance, and helps you avoid wasting time by offering programs that are not valued by your team.

Investing in employee growth can go a long way to creating loyalty, saving your company money and providing a platform to reward top performers for exceptional work. A well-rounded program will put company goals in line with employee development, and can deliver a measurable return on investment.

The Art of Constructive Criticism

February 4, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Every day, millions of employees in today’s business marketplace go home frustrated because “the boss” has seemingly called them on the carpet for something they either didn’t do, or in many cases, didn’t do very well. Not everyone’s perfect, but the way the boss, a co-worker, team member or anyone else delivered the criticism can make or break morale.

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Would you want to be demeaned for underperforming? Most supervisors or managers don’t intend to deliver a harsh dose of negative feedback. More often, than not, they simply never learned the art of constructive criticism.

Can behavior be changed? Absolutely. With work and the understanding that when constructive criticism is applied – and applied with a purpose – supervisors can get exactly what they want while giving the employee exactly what they need to improve.

If you’re providing constructive criticism, try these tactics.

• Respect the person’s integrity by reacting to behavior or performance in private.
• Provide feedback that is specific and behavioral, rather than general and judgmental. Focus on the work, not the person. Point out the two missed deadlines, not the fact that you believe the person lacks commitment to the organization.
• Remain calm, and ensure you are in control before you deliver criticism. Any feedback that is perceived as “angry” won’t do any good when the person you’re criticizing hears your emotion – not your intended message.
• Limit feedback. Don’t point out too many issues all at the same time. Focus on relevant, important observations that will make the most impact in the shortest amount of time. Deal with details later.
• Identify the positive outcome of the desired behavior. Stressing the positives will go a long way to motivating an employee to change.
• Provide the right balance of the positive and negative. Use common sense to make sure you get your point across while aptly getting the end result you want.

We all have a boss. Even the company president answers to clients or a board of directors. Knowing how to receive criticism graciously is an art form in itself. If you’re on the receiving end of the criticism, follow these tips.

• If you want to be perceived as professional, separate emotions from the situation. Consider your body language. Are you tense? Are you wearing the weight of the message on your face? Remaining calm and steady is key to the situation, even if the person is unjustified in making the criticism or the criticism isn’t delivered appropriately.
• Don’t interrupt and don’t provide excuses. This is a red flag to the other person that you’re nervous and defensive. Let the person finish before responding. You may even respond by taking a break and processing your responses. If the critic is rational, s(he) will understand your need to take time to think.
• Use the criticism to your advantage. For example, it would be more beneficial for you to thank the person, accept the criticism and turn the situation around.
• Don’t take criticism if it’s unfair. If the person is unjustified in criticizing you, let the person finish speaking, then approach the feedback with what you think happened without tattling on the other person or pointing the finger.

The bottom line is respect. Can you provide constructive criticism and let the recipient know s(he) is still a respected member of the team or organization? If so, you’ve done your job well. If not, it’s time for a refresher course on human behavior. Your willingness to provide constructive criticism – and accept feedback from others – is paramount to long-term survival in the marketplace.

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