In a question-and-answer session following a recent speech, I was asked the following question: “How should we respond when we’re constantly asked to do more with less?”
My answer might not have been particularly comforting, but it was honest: “The challenge to do more with less is industry agnostic,” I said. “Virtually everyone, everywhere is being given that challenge. And I expect that will be an ongoing mantra far into the future.”
Judging by the expression on the questioner’s face, I suspect that wasn’t what he wanted to hear.
But I wasn’t finished. The good news, I told him, is that the “do more with less” challenge presents a golden opportunity for smart, proactive people.
Most anyone can do less with more. That’s a no-brainer. Doing more with less requires strategic sorting of priorities. It’s fairly common for business people to tell me that in their organizations “everything is a priority so, therefore, nothing is a real priority.” That’s the equivalent of saying you’re too busy driving to stop and get gas.
Recent events have focused the business community on safety in the workplace like never before. While it’s nice to think that “it will never happen to us”, you and everyone involved will feel more at ease with a plan. I’ve admittedly had situations where I thought, “I did NOT go to school for this!” A confrontation with a former employee left me feeling cornered and attacked, and I was not prepared. Whether you’re a non-profit or small business, outline and practice the procedures prior to an incident so that you and your staff know what to do in the event that they occur. It’s always better to be proactive rather than reactive.
1. Be prepared to end a working relationship with a client if you or a staff member feels uncomfortable or threatened. Let tempers calm down and, later, contact the client and let them know that you are sending them their records or files so that they can find another service provider that better suits their needs. Keep the conversation and correspondence on what is best for them. Tip: Make sure that these procedures are outlined in a “client manual” so that you, your staff and the client have these procedures, even before an event occurs. This can protect you legally.
2. Neither you nor your staff should ever be alone with a new client. If you are a freelancer, meet your client at a public location, like a coffee shop. If you operate a physical location, make sure that someone else is there with you. Tip: use “stranger danger” procedures in your business. The safety of your staff, as well as your own safety, should always be paramount.
3. Listen to your staff. Your staff meets with the general public for many hours a day and has learned a thing or two about human behavior. Listen to your staff when they say “something isn’t quite right” about a client interaction. Tip: keep notes. Make a habit of documenting the temperament of your clients, current concerns, and behaviors. Do not record financial information, as this can be a liability of another sort. This is an invaluable tool for other staff members.
4. Your staff needs to know that they come first before revenue from a hot-tempered client. Support your team without referencing lost income. Remember that your business is worth more than ONE client, as is your staff.
5. Staff training and role-playing through difficult situations will make staff more comfortable and more able to de-escalate a tense situation. Take the fear out of the unknown and show your staff what is expected, even in a dangerous situation. Tip: have law enforcement come in to do a brief workplace safety workshop. They’ll be able to give you and your staff a few tips on behaviors and body language to look for, and how to stay safe.
6. If you have more than one location, alert other locations of threatening behaviors. Make sure that safety procedures and protocol are the same across all locations. Larger business should have a trained staff member that is responsible for all safety trainings, procedures, and documents.
7. Contact the police. Too many people think “it’s not that bad” or “we don’t need to get them involved.” The risk is too high; always let the police know and they can decide what to do with the information. (See #5)
8. Make sure that you have similar procedures for workplace conduct. Employees should know that they will not be threatened or endangered by a fellow employee. As unpleasant as it may be, disagreements do happen, and they should be handled in a way that respects the dignity and safety of all persons involved. These procedures also need to be known and understood by all staff members. Be willing to resolve conflicts, but also recognize the signs that a work relationship has to end.
Remember, as a business owner you are liable for the well-being and safety of not just your clients, but also your staff. The safety of the people that visit, work, and serve your business is always your concern. Set the expectations and best practices before an incident occurs so that your staff can safely do their jobs and look after the best interest of your clients.
Vision Planning notebooks are an excellent way to map out your action plan for the New Year!
Hi everyone! Now is a great time to write out your goals and plans for the New Year! You know my motto – “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail”. I have extra vision planning notebooks that I’m giving away FREE starting Wednesday, December 18, until the New Year. The only thing you have to do is sign up for the newsletter on www.avisionofyourown.com! Once you do, shoot me an email at with your mailing address, and I’ll send it out. Any questions? Shoot me an email!
Vision boards are a great way to really focus on what you want to accomplish next year. Writing down your ideas makes you accountable to yourself, and moves your ideas from your head to reality!
2014 will be here before we know it – have you started setting your goals?
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
We’ve heard so many times about the importance of setting goals. Calendars, mugs, desk paraphernalia and social media (heck – even me!) remind us daily to set goals, often with quotes like those above. We all know we “should” set goals, and we want to, we intend to, but we just don’t get around to it. What’s the deal?
There are a few reasons that goal setting gets put aside. Let’s walk through the most common reasons and find solutions.
There’s just not enough time. I hear this from business owners frequently. Between the never-ending email, answering client questions, working through staff concerns and issues, and keeping the revenue stream going, long-term planning gets pushed aside.
It can be scary to put a stake in the ground, so it feels easier, in the short term, to avoid it. The catch is that the lack of goals causes us to waste time and energy by pursuing faulty avenues, wondering how we are doing, and just plain worrying. Classic “short-term easy way out” versus long-term gain.
We don’t know how to set goals. It’s natural for humans to set goals and to go after them; honestly, I think we are born with that tendency. Somewhere along the way it gets complicated with books, checklists and workshops. Amazon lists over 6,000 books on “how to set goals”!
Now that you’ve seen yourself in at least one of those scenarios, let’s explore some solutions:
As many quotes as there are about setting goals, there are probably as many quotes about time – “we all have 24 hours in a day” – that sort of thing. It comes down to seeing value in spending time on setting goals. If you haven’t experienced success with goal setting before, just try an experiment with a small idea and see how it works. For example, set a new customer inquiries goal for January, 2014 and follow the steps I’m about to outline.
If you truly believe it is just about time, set aside time and space for goal setting – preferably out of the office without interruptions. Give yourself a time limit and stick to it; a couple of hours is a great place to start.
I get that setting goals is scary – I get scared, too. Remind yourself how good it feels to set a goal and to achieve it. Pause long enough to really capture that feeling, and it will help pull you towards setting a goal and achieving it.
Give yourself a safety net if you’re nervous about setting a goal. Rather than relying on one strategy, map out two to pursue and have at least one in the back of your mind.
Find someone to share your goal with, someone who will safely hold your goal for you – encourage you, strategize with you, and celebrate with you.
The “how” of setting goals starts with finding the “right” goal for you. My definition of the “right” goal for your business is one that makes you smile, gives you the feeling of everything falling into place, and makes you squirm. Goals that push us to try new ideas, to learn new concepts or skills, or to use previously untapped resources can make use nervous; as long as they meet the first two criteria you’re on the right track.
Once you’ve landed on a goal that you feel good about and that pushes you, here’s where we often get off track. Believing in your goal is a requirement to reaching it, but action needs to accompany that belief. Mantras and positive self-talk can help but they can not achieve.
Separate your goal into pieces:
Results Goal – Define the outcome of your goal; what can you measure? Outside forces that we can’t control are at work on our goals, so we can’t completely control the outcome. Results Goals are things like revenue, percentage growth, or customer count.
Action Goal – This is the piece of your goal that you can control; it’s what you do – the number of phone calls, the education you attend, the events you host.
Correlate Action Goals to your Results Goals, asking yourself “what action will most likely help me to reach this Result Goal?”
Finally, measure your actions and results and record them. Every Monday a reminder pops up on my screen to record my weekly traffic; sure, it is sometimes a nuisance and I think “I don’t have time”, or “what if the numbers went down this week?”. I plug away, though, because setting goals and working towards them is my nature, and it’s your nature, too
With pieces of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) about to go into effect, this is a good time for owners to look at the small business benefits they offer to employees.
Small business owners are struggling with rising healthcare costs, and balancing the financial implications to their company with keeping their talent happy. How do they know the right mix of benefits? When should they ask employees to be responsible for a bigger piece of the cost? Employers are hesitant to small business benefits, yet absorbing the ever-increasing costs are hurting their bottom line.
Back in my corporate days when I oversaw Human Resources, creating the benefits package honestly felt like we were gambling with employees’ financial and health future. The health insurance co-payment and
deductible could have significant financial impact in family lives. While young employees often see little value in life and disability insurance, their potential impact is enormous, although hopefully less called upon. Retirement benefits are increasingly more important to employees, yet business owners often believe retirement to be cost-prohibitive. How do business owners know what the right decision is?
Ask. As in your employees – the people you are trying to help. Personnel costs are often the largest expense and can potentially have the most significant impact on the success of your business so you need to get it right. Yet all too often the benefits’ decision is made in a vacuum, without the input from the people they’re designed to benefit! Ask your employees what healthcare elements are most important to them – out of pocket costs, routine coverage, or catastrophic coverage. Tell them that you will make the decision but that you would like their input.
At first glance, this process may seem risky to your bottom line. Compare headcount costs as a percentage of revenue over several periods; is it growing? Flat? Decide what your business model and you, the business owner, can live with for headcount costs. As long as benefits fit within that framework, and you’ve gotten input from your staff, don’t stress the details. Ask employees’ to share in the costs from the get-go and always let them know the benefits’ cost that the business is picking up.
Retirement plans have the feel of being expensive, yet with the tax credit now available for setting up a plan (check http://www.irs.gov/publications/p560/ar01.html for an overview) a 100% employee-funded plan can have no financial impact to your business. While employer contributions are not required under all types of plans, the contributions are tax-deductible and are a relatively low cost/high value benefit.
Don’t underestimate the value of group life insurance and long-term disability. These costs are miniscule compared to health insurance and yet have the potential to save an employee’s family. While not often called upon, these provide peace of mind to your staff. Peace of mind means your staff can be more focused on the task at hand – growing your business.
Helen Dutton, A Vision of Your Own, has provided business and personal coaching for small business owners since 2000, providing online and face to face coaching for entrepreneurs, small business owners, start-up businesses as well as established businesses across the country. Clients come from New Hampshire, her home state, but she has also acted as a mentor to business owners in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Denver area, and closer to home in the Boston area. Helen helps her clients develop their small business ideas, create marketing plans, improve operation efficiency, build customer service systems, build management and leadership skills, and develop confidence as a business owner. Helen provides business tips and resources through her blog and her newsletter, where you can also find business templates to help your business prosper.