Business Management

Your Two Greatest Assets

I still hear many stories about companies treating their employees like commodities. I personally know some extremely talented people who are being used and abused by their managers simply because they think they can get away with it in this economy. Having people work night and day and at your beck and call puts more money in the pockets of these very short-term thinking types. Or, so they think. If they can operate with a drastically reduced head count that means a bigger bonus for them.

I also still watch companies cut back on the level and quality of interaction with their customers in order to save money. In my experience that type of management occurs when the CEO is really an accountant who never should have made it to the top position.

“Times are tough. We can’t afford the client appreciation program any more.” for example.

This type of thinking is going to bite many of these companies and managers in the ass someday soon. I call them managers because they sure as hell aren’t leaders.

The two greatest assets your company has are your employees and your customers. You don’t have one without the other.

Take them for granted and they will leave. The very best ones have probably already left or are making plans right now. That goes for both your employees and customers. Employees are tired of doing the work of two or three or more without the compensation. Hell, without as much as a thank you.

Your customers are also experiencing the same difficult economic times. Now is the time to do everything you can to help them. You need to listen to them and let them know you understand what they said. You need to be there for them if you want them to be there for you. The entire concept of short-term profits to satisfy stockholders and multimillion dollar bonuses for managers who are clueless about leadership is one of the biggest reasons this country is in the mess we have right now.

You need to let both your employees and customers know they are valued and that you appreciate them.


They are your greatest assets.

Treat them that way.

What If a Party Broke Out In Your Doctor’s Office?

I was sitting in my family doctor’s waiting room this morning when a crazy idea flashed into my brain. Now, you should know I was fasting for the previous 12 hours so perhaps my brain was a bit addled. But, here it is and you can be the judge.

Wouldn’t it be a lot of fun if doctor’s offices had patient appreciation days? Your average doctor’s waiting room is about as much fun as the local undertakers. Actually, my local mortician is a whole lot more entertaining than any physician I know. I especially like it when he removes his toupee or puts it on backwards.

Anyway, back to the doctor’s office. At least once a month, I think they need to have patient appreciation day complete with balloons, costumes, some music (other than the usual PBS stuff), refreshments (they can be of the healthy variety) and some good, old-fashioned hugs handed out by the staff and physicians.

I know you’re thinking this is a dumb idea. I bet you’re worried about catching something from one of the other patients. Listen, as far as I’m concerned, I believe that if you’re sick with something potentially contagious what the hell are you doing mingling with people that are just trying to get their birth control or anxiety drugs?

Which leads me to my other idea for doctor’s waiting rooms – two rooms – one for sick people and one for well. I bet it would cut down immensely on colds, flu and dirty looks being spread around. And, we’ll make sure the sick people get refreshments too. And, yeah, a couple of the balloons. Sorry – no hugs.

Health care is one of the most expensive things we pay for in this country. Doesn’t it make good customer service sense to say thank you to the people footing the bill? And, if you think you’re not footing the bill because insurance is paying for it then you need to make sure you always go into the sick person waiting room.

So, what do you think? How are you going to feel if the next time you visit your doctor a party breaks out to thank you for being a patient?

Trust me, you’ll thank me.

And, while you’re thinking about it, how can you show your customers, clients, or patients that you appreciate them? When is the last time you said thank you? When is the last time you had balloons for them.

When is the last time you gave them a hug?

Image compliments of deltaMike

Corporate Pacifiers

They still don't get it. What is it about companies that still insist on doing everything the way they've always done it? Do they think that it's safe? It's not.

They're still doing things like buying air time instead of providing personal value. And, when they do dip their toes into any new marketing like social media they either spam or hire a PR firm to do it for them. Ask B.P. (British Petroleum not Bob Poole) how that worked out for them.

When they look for help with this new marketing they run to the same old entrenched big consulting, legal and accounting firms for answers. Or, they have a PhD from a big name business school put on a seminar.

It's like having a corporate pacifier. But, a pacifier is just that. It makes you feel good for the moment but it doesn't get you what you want and need.

Go ask some twenty-something-year-olds who are running their own businesses about marketing today. They can teach you more about what to do and what you CANNOT do than any of these big name firms.

But, that would be taking a risk. Instead they continue to follow the process they've always taken. Forget creativity. Forget standing out. Forget leading. Just suck on the pacifier.

There is a belief amongst these companies that nobody ever gets fired for hiring IBM and the other big name firms.

I say that's another big mistake.

Legal Slimy Marketing

I got a mailing the other day. You can see a photo of it here. It’s a self-mailer letter and envelope that has the following in bold type:

PENNSYLVANIA BUSINESSES
INSIDE:  11 FEDERAL AND PENNSYLVANIA
REGULATIONS AFFECTING YOUR EMPLOYEES
IMMEDIATE RESPONSE REQUESTED

It also has an image of the state of PA and at the bottom of the envelope the words:

Compliance Update
2010

The date is in the same typeface as you see on your IRS 1040 form. Inside you are greeted with more bold type and the title of UPDATE NOTICE – 2010. The small type then goes on to explain that as an employer in Perkasie, PA, The Poole Consulting Group LLC must ensure compliance with revised 2010 labor law posting requirements and replace any outdated notices.

The mailing isn’t from the state of Pennsylvania or the federal government which is what the graphics and wording want you to believe. The company that sends them out is Personnel Concepts in Ontario, CA. Their return envelope is even addressed to Compliance Service Department.

Don’t you just love the word compliance? Personnel Concepts hopes you’ll be compliant, scan the document quickly and send them your credit card order for $15.90 or $25.90 dependent upon your desire for the laminated or unlaminated version.

If you do a search on Personnel Concepts you’ll find plenty of complaints. You’ll also find comments by someone by the name of Anonymous supporting the company and a rebuttal on a Ripoff Report from the company that states:

“Personnel Concepts has always informed consumers the posters they advertise are available from the government for free. If one chooses, they may read only one side of the mailer received, but it’s recommended they read both sides.”

That’s correct – all the stuff they sell to businesses is free from the government. And, they do say it on the letter I got. It’s in gray type on a gray background on the back side of the address piece of the envelope. That’s the side that usually gets tossed in the trash when you disassemble the self-mailer.

Is their marketing legal? As far as I can tell. In fact they say, “Our business nor our services and products are fraudulent. In fact, all of our products are attorney reviewed…”

Legal but absolutely slimy!

The mailings are meant to mislead and take advantage of the busy and uniformed. I’m sure many small business owners send them the money when they could get the same things for free. They’ll tell you they are providing business owners with a great service. But when an owner realizes they have been duped (even though it is only a few bucks) they will respond the way one customer put it in his posting:

“They may or may not have a good product but they have lost me as a customer with this sleazy low life marketing. If they indeed have such valuable products and services they would never need to stoop to such practices as other schemers on the Internet. Just makes you question if they are trustworthy or not, I say not. Once they loose enough customers they will change the deceptive marketing strategy that they currently employ.

If that were only the way it turns out. My guess is this is so profitable all the slime in the world won’t change they way they do business.

Oh, and by the way. My company doesn’t have any employees.

Fear of Flying Solo

“Stop the plane at the end of the runway. That last landing was a little hard and I want to check the tire.” With those words my flight instructor jumped out of the 1938 Luscombe 8A taildragger turned around and smiled at me and said, “Make three take-offs and landings. When you’re done pull it up to the pump.” He shut the door and walked away never looking back as he strolled back to the hanger.

If you to fly there comes a day when it is time for you to solo.

My day occurred nearly 34 years ago on November 11, 1976. My thoughts turn back each year to that day when the signs of fall appear with the squirrels around my house going crazy gathering acorns and leaves starting to swirl at  my feet as I walk along the creek.

So what does this have to do with business? Well, today a lot of people are considering or have already started up their own businesses and if my email is any indication – many of them are afraid. I was thinking about fears I’ve faced in my own life and pushing that throttle in and heading down that grass strip runway while knowing I was the only person in the plane could have been an extremely fearful experience for me.

But, I wasn’t afraid.

Oh, I’ll admit to a lot of feelings as I pulled back on the stick and watched the ground disappear. Euphoria and butterflies hit all at the same time – but not fear. I had been practicing for that moment and had put in twenty-hours of flight time with my teacher flying in all kinds of conditions, practicing stalls, emergency landings, and anything else I might face when I flew solo.

Running your own business is a lot of hard work and it is easy to get discouraged. You can start focusing on failure when things aren’t going according to your business plan. You might begin to think that you’ll never succeed – that it will never get off the ground.

But, you’ve been practicing to do this all your life.

Are you ready to solo? Are you ready to stop being afraid?

There is only one way to find out and that’s to do it. Activity is critical for you. Analytical processing, asking others for advice, planning, reading books, and studying the masters have their place but even more important is the doing.

You are ready.
Believe it.
Start doing.
No more fear.

Thriving on Responsibility and Freedom

Last week I wrote a blog post at The Water Cooler Blog expressing my opinion that having average employees is a recipe for failure for small companies. Actually, I think it holds true for all size companies but I’m more concerned about smaller business and start-ups like some of you might have or be contemplating.

I said:
Big businesses tolerate and cultivate average employees.

Small companies can’t afford to have average employees.

Everyone working in a small company must be exceptional leaning towards extraordinary.

Average in small business leads to failure.

Always.

Today, a friend sent me a link to a slide deck written by Netflix CEO Reed Hasting that reinforces my opinion. For example, Hasting says at Netflix “adequate performance gets a generous severance package.” They cannot tolerate average or adequate. I don’t think of Netflix as small as they are now a public company. But, if a public company can think this way, I can only imagine how this kind of progressive thinking might help a small company.

I’m going to give you the link to the slide deck. It very well may be the best expressed description of what a company expects from itself and its employees and what it is willing to do in return that I’ve ever read. He calls it a Reference Guide on Freedom and Responsibility Culture.

Take time to read it and see if it resonates with you. You might really enjoy reading about their vacation policy. Hint:  They don’t have one! In fact, they don’t have many corporate policies. I think you’ll find their thinking quite unlike what you may have
experienced in your careers. It doesn’t have to be that way.

One last thought from the deck just to convince you to take the time to read it.

Hastings also says:
Responsible People
Thrive on Freedom,
and are Worthy of Freedom.

Maybe this is how you’d like to see your company.

Imagine the possibilities.

Average = Fail

Big businesses tolerate and cultivate average employees.

Small companies can’t afford to have average employees.

Everyone working in a small company must be exceptional leaning towards extraordinary.

Average in small business leads to failure.

Always.

Give Them One On The House

Walt knows how to run a bar and restaurant and he knows how to deliver extraordinary customer service. He also knows it is a lot easier and less costly to keep the customers you have than it is to find new ones. He makes it a practice to give his customers a drink on the house on a regular basis. They appreciate it and they keep coming back. They also tell their friends about Walt's Place.

What about you and your customers? Do you make it a habit it give them one on the house to let them know you appreciate them and their business? Or, do you nickle and dime them for everything you can get?

People want to feel like they are appreciated.

People prefer to buy from people and not companies when possible.

People buy from people they like and trust.

Walt knows this and lives it.

What about you?

Recipe for Success When the World Is Falling Apart

Last week, I met with people at 6 companies who told me how well things are going in their businesses. Some of them are start-ups, one 5 years old and the rest have been in business at least 10 years. They are all very busy and making money. The only common problem I heard voiced is they are too busy and want to dial back the chaos a little bit.

What are they doing to stay both so busy and profitable? 
  • They know how to tell a prospect why they should do business with them versus all the other competition including doing nothing.
This, by the way, immediately separates them from almost all their competition.
  • They give exceptional customer service and have exceptional products and services.
  • They follow-up with customers proactively to make sure expectations weren't met. They all want to exceed the customers expectations and they work to make that happen.
  • The communicate with prospects and customers all the time using all types of media. All of them are using things like Skype video,
  • To a person they follow my advice of sending out cards, letters, and pictures just to say hello, thanks, happy day, etc.
  • They consistently blog and they engage their readers by asking them what they want to read.
  • They make it point to talk about customers and other people on social networks at least 6 times more than they talk about themselves.

IStock_000011756075XSmall And, most importantly, every single one of them said they do not pay any attention to main stream media's cry of doomsday, that the world is ending as we know it, and all the reasons they should be afraid.