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.
For 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.
What can you learn from a veteran about your small business? Turns out, quite a bit.
A former US Marine turned entrepreneur and I have been working on growing his small business. He is smart, driven, and has built a successful business in a relatively short period of time. And he wants more (sound familiar?). As we chatted about growth strategies and prospecting in particular, it struck me: fighting in the Armed Services and successfully growing a small business have two things in common:
- A clearly defined purpose
- Repetitive training
What they don’t share is the same driver for success: a gun pointed at you.
Many of my clients have heard me remind them that “this is your livelihood.” This is what sustains you and your family. This is often when a business owner is going soft about letting an employee get away with sloppy work, bailing out on prospecting efforts, or something that requires a little more push. That push is needed when we’re faced with a fear so strong that it feels like we have a gun pointed at us, but of course we don’t…and we let it slide. We tell ourselves that we can clean up when an employee doesn’t quite meet our standards or that we have “enough” business. Those things are true, but we don’t end up with a business that brings us joy. Instead, we end up frustrated, tired, and a little defeated. And that’s where the US Marines come in.
I honestly can’t imagine what it’s like to be in combat, but I can imagine the overwhelming desire for success that our Armed Services personnel feel. That desire, coupled with a clearly defined purpose and repetitive training, becomes success again and again. So how does this translate into success for small business owners?
- Know your purpose for each mission. Speaking engagement? Define exactly what the purpose and your desired results are – market exposure, perhaps, and follow-up meetings with complimentary professionals, on-site newsletter sign-ups, requests for more speaking. Prospecting? Be specific and define your success path: in some industries, if you want 5 new clients, you’ll need 8 meetings, and you’ll need to speak with 40 prospects.
- Practice. If it’s important, and most things are, practice again and again. Whether it’s an employee meeting, customer open house, or prospect phone call or meeting your confidence will grow with practice. Clearly define your purpose (see #1) so that the words you choose will help you reach your goal. My former US Marine and I ran through several practice prospecting calls until he reached that “I’ve got this” point.
- Reflect for a few moments on the bigger picture of your business – your “Big Why”, your dreams, your definition of success. All of that rolled up together is why you do what you do – it’s not a job, most entrepreneurs wouldn’t even call it a career. It’s your livelihood. When you connect with all of that, you will be driven to succeed in a way a gun to your head never would.
Today, thank a veteran or an active service member for their service. And, take a page from their book and remember that your business is your livelihood, and it deserves to succeed.
Have you built a culture of quality in your business? While “striving for excellence” is part of nearly every business mission statement, what does that look like? A recent study by the Forbes Insights showed that companies that regularly instill quality measures and test them are more likely to meet their goals than companies that do not.
Instilling quality is more than just developing a mission statement and setting goals – it’s leadership in action, and it has to come from the top down, and should be reflective in every aspect of your business. Key questions, like the one in the study, can determine whether your team is on track or whether they should change course. Read on here.
Reference: Forbes’ Insights, November 5, 2014
Cold calling prospects, or even warm calls to referrals, stops many business professionals in their tracks. The other day a client said to me “I fought in Afghanistan, I’ve been shot at as a police officer, but I’m afraid to make phone calls! What gives?” Adrenalin played a part in those scenarios, but beneath that, she felt the same emotion that she does when trying to call prospects: fear. Fear of being rejected, fear of saying the “right” words, the fear of not knowing what to say, period, all prevent us from making calls even when we know it could help our business. I’ve heard more than a couple business professionals say that they’re just giving up on calls, but there is an alternative.
Chances are, especially if you’ve been struggling with making calls, you’ve read that you need to be confident in what you have to offer and then you’ll “easily” make the calls. I consider confidence as Step 1; Step 2 is understanding your objective in calling beyond making a sale or scheduling an appointment. What feeling do you want as a result of the call? What emotion do you want to evoke in the person you’re calling?
When my client and I walked through these questions we discovered that she loved to connect with people – to hear their stories, to find a connection between herself and the person on the other end of the call. That’s really what each of us wants – to connect with another human being – whether it’s by phone, at a networking event, or by e-mail. We worry about the words we will say when calling someone, yet connecting is more about listening than talking.
To increase the effectiveness of your phone calls, choose your words deliberately and carefully to share your offer (remember it’s about the benefits not the features!) but most of all, listen and connect. Let that other person know that you care; even if you get a “no thanks” you’ll feel better about the call and they will remember you as that person who listened.
The idea of business systems often connotes large corporations, complicated flowcharts, and lots of money spent. For small business owners, though, simple systems can mean the difference between paperwork in the office or reading a book on the porch before dinner. Personally, I prefer time on the porch.
The other day I was chatting with a business owner about how her customers pay her, and I asked her why she had chosen to not accept credit cards. Her response was that her husband was encouraging her to grow the business bigger, but she was happy with it as it is. Funny – I hadn’t said a thing about growing the business, only about making her payment process easier. When I said, “Systems don’t necessarily mean bigger, they can just mean easier” it was like the proverbial light bulb went off for her. We chatted about implementing credit card processing to her business, and what it could change for her – namely, no more customer payment reminders (never fun) and more timely and reliable payments.
In the spirit of finding more time – whether it’s for summer fun, relaxing, or time spent on business tasks to grow your business – here are the top simple systems you can implement to add minutes, or even hours, to your day:
- Online or outsourced payroll processing;
- Credit card processing or Point of Sale (POS) applications;
- As an aside: If your employees rely on tips as part of their compensation, adding Square (www.Squareup.com) as a payment option will also boost their tips.
- Social media scheduling apps, such as Hootsuite (www.hootsuite.com);
- Scheduling applications for everything from home repair to landscapers and dog walkers;
- Financial dashboard data collection, most likely in your industry specific software.
There are millions of apps out there, and chances are if you have a task that consumes more time and frustration than you want, someone else has experienced the same and has built an app for it. Adding an app or a business process does not necessarily mean that you have to grow your business; it can just mean that you will have time better spent on a more meaningful task or some extra personal time. And, it does not necessarily have to be tech related – it could be a better system for opening mail, sending out correspondence, or contacting your clients. Before that can happen, your first step is to stop and recognize your business process pain points and then to define the priority (because you will have several points you want cleaned up!).
Yep, there’s a system for that.