SBM #59 Quit Digging!

Quit Digging

Read Time: 3:58 minutes

I often get approached by entrepreneurs who are facing significant challenges in their businesses. By significant I mean – They’ve dug themselves into a hole so deep that they’re going to go out of business if something doesn’t change! So, my first piece of advice courtesy of Will Rogers , the American humourist is, “When you find yourself in a hole, quit digging!

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been the person called upon to help fix a situation. For the less urgent ones, I’m more of a troubleshooter, as I usually had some time to assess the problem or problems and then sketch out a game plan.

On the other hand, when I’m approached by an owner with an urgent challenge, I usually take on the role of a firefighter. This is because the situation is critical and there is no time for naval gazing and strategizing. It’s a time for action. It’s more akin to a scorched earth approach, whereby nothing is sacred.

Got the t-shirt

It has been my experience, that in these situations to do anything less is not an option and speed is of the essence. These situations are usually long in the making but typically ignored until they become a full blown crisis. To an outside observer, you would wonder how it could have gotten so bad? But until you are in the thick of it, you’ll never really understand how these things happen. Been there, done that and I’ve got the t-shirt!

Of course, we’ve all read those inspirational books or articles that tell you to stick to it and persevere no matter how hard it is. Or, that suffering is the price you pay to be an entrepreneur. So, I want to tell you that there’s a limit to how much misery, you must put up with.

Unfortunately, when many of us are faced with business destroying crises, we tend to develop a bit of tunnel vision that limits our ability to see all the options available. Couple that with our desire to succeed, plus a little pride and ego, we don’t even consider any of the negative options that can effectively gut your company and your dream.

Strangely enough, when talking with these clients many already know what they “should” do. They just can’t bring themselves to do it, preferring to carry on hoping and praying that the situation will improve. Regrettably, it rarely does.

5 Survival Tips

If survival is your goal, then you must make the hard calls. The first of which is to reduce all your expenses, regardless of how uncomfortable you are. We’re talking survival here. The following list can get you thinking of some of the drastic measures you must take:

1. Move your business. Relocate to your residence or some other free or less expensive space.
2. Cut staff. Payroll is usually the largest expense a company has. Not a fun exercise but a necessary one.
3. Cut all non-core expenses. I mean everything. Nothing is sacred. Cell phone, copiers, coffee service, cleaning services. No more client lunches. Absolutely everything gets scrutinized.
4. Dump unprofitable clients. If you don’t know who they are, figure it out immediately. Deal only with those clients that are profitable now and pay promptly.
5. Streamline your product or service offerings to those items that are profitable. With reduced staffing, you probably won’t be able to support more than a couple of core services. So, do the stuff that makes you money.

Yes, I can state categorically, this is an painful and humbling process. But if you think the business and your sanity is worth saving then you have absolutely no choice. Once completed though, it’ll feel like a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulders.

Quit Digging

Many who have gone through this and survived have felt rejuvenated. It’s like they’re in start-up mode all over again and what they discover is that this is their happy place.

So, if you ever find yourself in a hole, quit digging!

I’m Greg Weatherdon and this has been your Small Business Minute.

You may also enjoy The Fear Of Decisions

Copyright © Greg Weatherdon 2018

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SBM #58 You Might Want to Check

You Might Want to Check

We all spend time, money and other resources making sure we put forth the right professional imagine. Many people limit their definition of image to how we look, dress and speak and for the most part that would have been acceptable once upon a time. But not anymore.

In our connected digital world, the tools we use to do business number in the many. What was once a Yellow Pages ad has been replaced by a website and a variety of social media business pages. Where a human being answered the phone, auto attendants and voicemail now do the job. All in all, these are wonderful tools that have increased awareness and productivity and reduced operating costs in the average business.

We need to check

Unfortunately, because they do their jobs so efficiently and require little maintenance we often forget to check in on them to see how they’re doing. Because of this neglect, these tools may not be projecting your company, staff or yourself in the best light.

How often have you called someone and got their voicemail that states that they are away from the office between two specific dates? A common experience that we’ve all come across. Sadly, though the dates of their absence are months old. Similarly, you receive an email out of office notice, generated by an auto responder, that is weeks old! Lastly, you go to a website that clearly has not been updated in years. What message do these oversights send to their customers or business partners? That details aren’t important?

We already know

Why does this happen? There’s a pretty simple explanation. We don’t phone or email ourselves. Nor do we ever go to our own website. Why would we? We already know what we do. We already know which products or service we sell. We know where we are located and our phone number. So, we have no reason to check any of these things. But that’s exactly why they need to be checked regularly, because no one is.

So, here’s 7 things that need to be checked regularly:

  1. Call your office main line and listen to the message. Does the message project the company imagine? Remember it was probably recorded a long time ago and possibly by an employee that is no longer there. This is one of your first point of contact with potential customers. Does it convey a welcoming and professional tone? If you cringe a little or think it can be better, then fix it now.
  2. Next call each person’s extension. What does their personal message sound like? Is it clear? Is it what you’d like your customers to hear? Remember not everyone is comfortable recording a voicemail message. If it’s not to your liking, help them change it by writing a script for them and getting them to relax and smile while recording it.
  3. Call everyone’s cell phone and listen to their messages. If you’re paying for the phones and include these numbers on business cards, then you have a right to check and enhance.
  4. Send everyone in your company an email, including yourself. Don’t forget to include your company’s generic address such as info@ and sales@. Do you get an auto-attendant response? If not should you? If so, is it valid? Is it current?
  5. Visit your website. First check to see if the contact information is current and accurate. Then move on to content. Is the information still current? Does it look cluttered? A very high percentage of prospective customers, will check your website prior to initiating contact so it behooves you to make sure the information isn’t dated. Does the site have to be an award winner? No, but it must at least contain current information.
  6. Have you got a Google Business page? Is the information valid or current? Have you moved locations? Is your business hours and contact information accurate?
  7. Are your social media pages such as Facebook, Linkedin, Google+ and so on contain the right data? Also consider that if you haven’t posted anything in months on these pages you may want to reengage or otherwise suspend them. Customers want to see timely information on these sites. That’s why they’re called Social Media not Static Media.

So, take a moment right now and put your customer hat on check your own voicemails, emails and the website. Do they sound, look and feel right? If not, fix it now because it’s probably costing you money.

I’m Greg Weatherdon and this has been your Small Business Minute.

Copyright © Greg Weatherdon 2017

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SBM #57 Recognition

Recognition

Recognition is the easiest and most effective way to motivate employees, yet remarkably, one of the least used.¬ Entrepreneurs spend endless hours trying to figure out how to motivate their teams, yet ignore this basic human need.

A little research will show that there are an untold number of studies that rank recognition, or appreciation for their work, in the top 10 qualities that lead to job satisfaction, often placing it as the number one item.

The funny thing is, this is not revolutionary. I remember being a young manager in the pre-digital age and regularly coming across articles stating the exact same thing. A different time, a different generation, yet the very same piece of advice for managers. Tom Peters, in his seminal book, In Search of Excellence, stated that “we need to catch people doing something right”!

What about all the good?

All too often we’re quick to notice when something goes awry, we lose no time in bringing the misstep to the guilty party’s attention. Yet, how often have we ignored the many good things that same individual does? Is it because we take the position that it’s their job to do it right and that’s what I’m paying them for?

Catching people doing something right requires very little effort and only entails you to be on the lookout for those moments. Recognition of a job well done can have a significant impact on morale, on profitability as well as innovation.

Build confidence

Think about it for second. You catch someone doing something really well or took the initiative to try something new. At this point you thank them and let them know you’re pleased. So, what do think happens next? Well, it’s been my experience that a smile usually breaks across the individual face. Even the most grizzled employee will probably soften for a moment. That small action on your part signals that what they do, matters. It builds their confidence, all because someone noticed.

Let’s face it, we all like to be recognized. We all enjoy the occasional pat on the back. Don’t you beam just a little when a customer says, you did a great job? Well your employees are no different. Seriously, how much effort does it take to acknowledge a job well done? Very little!

Just a little effort

If you train yourself to be on the outlook, you’ll find plenty of moments to praise. Just be sure to be sincere. The following are just a couple of examples to prime your thinking

  • You overhear an employee on the phone with a customer and you’re impressed at how they handled the situation. So as soon as the call is completed, let them know that you were impressed and thank them for caring. You can’t wait until later. It must be done immediately after the call is completed to maximize it’s impact.

 

  • You task someone to query your customer database for a list of customers that either bought a specific product or service. Not only does the individual provide you what you asked for, but took it a step farther and provided a list of potential targets of that service or product.

 

  • Another employee, shares with you something a co-worker did to go the extra mile or how they helped another employee. You first thank the employee for bringing to your attention and then immediately let the other employee know that you appreciate what they did. That’s a double in my books.

It really does matter

These types of situations happen everyday in thousand of business, without the owners ever acknowledging the individuals for going the extra distance. Too be fair, many entrepreneurs do recognize the effort, but fail to let the employee know because they get busy and forget or they don’t think it matters. Let me be very clear on this point, it does matter!

By regularly acknowledging peoples good work, you set the stage for people to give a little more or try a little harder. By letting them know their efforts are appreciated, they will go the extra mile and the impact will have a trickle down effect throughout the organization that will be noticeable.

The beauty of catching people doing good is that it doesn’t cost anything. The reward is the recognition and knowing they are appreciated. So, I challenge you to spend the next week catching people doing good, and see if there is even the slightest change in morale. What have you got to lose?

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