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Posts Tagged ‘planning’

Make Your Clients’ Dream Come True with a Wish List!

A "wish list" will help you know today what's most important to your client.

A “wish list” will help you know today what’s most important to your client.

Gathering client or customer information is standard procedure in many industries: chiropractors, veterinarians, interior design, heck – even business coaches! Contact information is tedious to write and collect and, for me, a bit annoying in this age of technology. I’ve found a way for many of my clients to turn it from a chore to an incredibly valuable tool for the business owner and the customer or client:

Ditch your “Client Information Sheet”

And instead, ask for a “Wishlist”.

Beyond the basics, ask customers or clients for a wish list of items and to rank them in order from #1, their Biggest Wish, sequentially to #2, #3, and so on. For example, an eye doctor’s patients might wish for using only one pair of glasses, rather than switching back and forth to reading glasses. The wish of an interior designer’s client might be to create a gathering spot for her family to play games. Understanding a customer or client’s wishes allows you to:

1.) use their language when communicating with them, and

2.) get to the heart of how you can best help them immediately, which in turn often results in sales and a more satisfied customer.

When you speak in their terms, your customer feels understood and their concerns and ideas valued. Further, having a customer wish list gives you insight into your market’s future, it gives you marketing language and tactics, it gives you a sales’ forecast, and, if used properly, an ongoing revenue stream.

Beyond products and specific services, a wish list can tell you what your customer’s current frustrations are with product/service delivery. A financial service industry client of mine learned that face-to-face account reviews was a frustration for some, from clients who wished for “Account reviews via phone or Skype”. Another client, a high-end custom product provider, learned that the wait between their custom order and delivery was frustration. This set the company to shaving unnecessary time out of the process and to providing customers with product completion updates. Customers received photos of their products in production, which kept them excited and the provider in their mind. Customers tend to show those pictures to friends who then investigate the company. Happy, regularly informed customers became referral engines for the custom product provider.

Turning your Client Information Sheet into a Wish List is fairly simple to do (30 minutes or less!) and provides you market research, sales forecast data, and incredibly satisfied customers. That’s a wish I’d like granted to every business owner out there!

Snowed In? Here’s an Idea…

Use this winter weather to plan ahead for your small business!

Much of the East Coast is STILL snowed in. (!) Schools and businesses are closed, highway speeds have been lowered. Days like this are asking for reflection and strategic planning, so consider this your nudge. To help you along, use the template I’ve provided here; not only will it help you update your 2015 goals but it well keep you on track during the year. Download it today! 2015 business planning worksheet

How to be the most productive person in your office

I love this article! #2 is my absolute favorite for daily/weekly productivity, and #4 is the best advice for long-term goals. Comment below and let me know what you think!

gettin-things-done

Some days the to-do list seems bottomless. Just looking at it is exhausting.

We all want to know how to stop being lazy and get more done. I certainly want the answer.

So I decided to call a friend who manages to do this — and more.

Cal Newport impresses the heck out of me. Why? Well, I’m glad you asked. He’s insanely productive:

  1. He has a full-time job as a professor at Georgetown University, teaching classes and meeting with students.
  2. He writes six (or more) peer-reviewed academic journal papers per year.
  3. He’s the author of four books including the wonderful So Good They Can’t Ignore You. And he’s at work on a fifth.
  4. He’s married with a young child and handles all the responsibilities that come with being a husband and dad.
  5. He blogs regularly about productivity and expert performance.

And yet he finishes work at 5:30 p.m. every day and rarely works weekends.

No, he does not have superpowers or a staff of 15. Okay, let’s you and I both stop being jealous of his productivity for a second and learn something.

Below you’ll get Cal’s secrets on how you can better manage your time, stop being lazy, get more done — and be finished by 5:30. Let’s get to work.

1) To-do lists are evil. Schedule everything.

To-do lists by themselves are useless. They’re just the first step. You have to assign them time on your schedule. Why?

It makes you be realistic about what you can get done. It allows you to do tasks when it’s efficient, not just because it’s #4.

Until it’s on your calendar and assigned an hour, it’s just a list of wishful thinking.

Here’s Cal:

Scheduling forces you to confront the reality of how much time you actually have and how long things will take. Now that you look at the whole picture you’re able to get something productive out of every free hour you have in your workday. You not only squeeze more work in but you’re able to put work into places where you can do it best.

Experts agree that if you don’t consider how long things take, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

I can hear what some of you are thinking: But I get interrupted. Things get thrown at me last minute.

Great — build that into your schedule. It doesn’t need to be perfect. Things will change. But you need to have a plan, otherwise you’ll waste time.

Want to stop procrastinating? Schedule. Here’s Cal:

Assigning work to times reduces the urge to procrastinate. You are no longer deciding whether or not to work during a given period; the decision is already made.

Does this sound too mechanical? Overly structured and not much fun? Wrong.

Research shows that it’s even a good idea to schedule what you do with your free time. It increases quality of life:

This study was designed to identify the relationship between free time management and quality of life, exploring whether the amount of free time or the way people using their free time relates to their quality of life… The result has found a positive relationship between free time management and quality of life.

(For more on the schedule the most productive people use, click here.)

Okay, the to-do list is in the trash and things are going on the calendar. How do you prioritize so you’re not at work forever?

Read entire piece here.

Originally published September 18, 2014

How to Handle Change? Think Like an Employee

Most days, I’m reminding my clients to step into their leadership shoes, their successful entrepreneur shoes, or sometimes their confident small business owner shoes. But this week, I’ve been reminding several business owners to step into employee shoes. That’s right, when it comes to workplace change I want business owners to step into the shoes of their employees.

change4For the most part, employees and business owners just think differently. Chances are that if you’re reading this you wonder what’s next, how you can improve operations; you’re ready to move on to the next thing before the last new idea is complete. The typical employee prefers work to stay the same and when change is introduced some may dig their heels in. You may be lucky to have some employees who embrace change and some who like to perfect current operations before moving on. Either way, when you are introducing change you need to sit in your employees’ shoes and think through how the changes will affect them. Let me give you some examples:

  • A medical practice is bringing on a new practitioner. Other personnel will be wondering not only how this will affect their schedule and work load, but on a deeper level they will wonder “will my boss still have time for me? Will my boss still ask for my opinions, or will he ask the other doctor instead?” Basically, the question they want answered is “will I still be loved?” Be up front that the relationship may change, but let them know how you will still rely on them, and how they will fit in.
  • Another business is promoting an employee into a new managerial position. Before the change is announced to the whole staff, it’s critical that the effect of the promotion on the rest of the team is sorted out. Will they pick up new tasks? Will some of their tasks be given to the manager? Who will they report to? Office real estate is important even in small businesses, so decide if the promotion means a change in office or desk space. Employees will ask how decisions will be made; what they really want to know is “do I still have a say?”. Be up front about how decisions will be made, how input is to be given, how they can still reach you, the business owner, with their thoughts and concerns.

If change is in the works for your business in 2015, sit in your employees’ shoes before spreading the word. As excited as you may be about rolling out the changes, take some time to think about how the change will affect your team in terms of responsibilities, communication, and personal fulfillment.

A Refresher on Workplace Safety

safetyaroundtheclockRecent 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.

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.