Technology has been an amazing boon for businesses of every size, but none more so than for small businesses. Having come of age as an entrepreneur through the technology evolution, it’s truly amazing that what once took days by many, is now done in minutes by one person.

The development and ease of use of current technology now allows small businesses to compete with much larger organizations. Software applications that once would have cost the small business owner a fortune to purchase, along with the hardware to run these applications, are now available for pennies a day and hosted on the cloud. Heck, most can be managed on your smartphone, giving you true mobility and freedom.

Small screen and keypad restrictive

I admit that, try as I might, there are just somethings that I can’t manage well on a smartphone. Whether that’s because the screen size or fat finger syndrome, I just prefer a much larger interface. Don’t get me wrong I love having all this capability in the palm of my hand, but I find the small screen and keypad restrictive.

I read somewhere once that smartphones and tablets are for consuming information, whereas laptops and desktops are for inputting information. I guess the reason I remembered this, is because it certainly rang true to me. Hats off though, to those that can manage everything on their smartphones!

This simple app never gets credit

However, one the most powerful apps included in every smartphone that gets used less and less every day, is the phone app. This powerful, yet simple app never gets any credit or hype, yet has the ability to increase our efficiency and productivity many times over.

Unlike so many of our other available communication apps, this simple app can cut through the clutter that fills our inboxes and messaging apps. Aside from calling a customer service line, where you’re put in a cue, because our call is important, if someone is available, they’ll usually answer the phone. This then becomes an opportunity to create a personal interaction that is sorely missing in todays business environment.

Calling someone to get an answer, is far quicker than writing an email or sending a text message. Talking to someone on the phone reinforces the relationship and that’s a critical element in a selling situation. One major advantage a phone call has over just every other communication vehicle, except face to face interaction, is the ability to hear an individual’s emotions.

It reinforces relationships

This live interaction gives you the opportunity to clarify or reinforce your position based on the feedback you’re receiving. A phone call allows to adjust on the spot should the situation change or if someone is having a bad day. You can’t really do that once you’ve hit send on that email or text message.

In addition, when two people are having a conversation, you can typically benefit from added information that is shared during a conversation. This information can be personal or business and serves again to reinforce the relationship. This rarely happens in email or text communications.

Phone calls also have an immediacy. Once more, if the individual is available, you’re not having to wait hours or days for a response that is becoming the norm with many electronic communications. Most interactions via the phone are usually just a clarification on some outstanding issue. If necessary, a follow up email can always be sent later as a confirmation. Meanwhile, by making a call, you get your answer and can then move forward with your task at hand.

Phone calls are personal

I’m constantly having to remind clients to pick up the phone when I see them starting to compose an email or text message. As a small business owner, it’s incredibly important to connect on a human level as frequently as we can with our customers and prospective customers. It’s one more human touchpoint. In many cases it can be a point of difference between you and your competition, because a phone call is personal.

I’m not sure how we’ve managed to move away from this tool but as the chasm grows between human interaction, I predict that we may see a resurgence in it’s use. I for one hopes so. So next time you’ve got a question for a customer, pick up the phone!

You may also enjoy Look as Good as You Sound

Copyright © Greg Weatherdon 2019

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Get More LIFE Out of Your Business

You shouldn’t be the hardest working person in your company.

Many small business owners find that even after the struggling start-up years, they’re working too many hours and still managing every aspect of their businesses.

Greg Weatherdon has been there, done that. As an entrepreneur, he learned not only how to get a business to the point of running smoothly, but also how to reduce the number of hours he worked, delegate more responsibility to his employees, and take longer vacations while his business chugged along like a well-oiled machine. And now he is providing the secret to success.

Do you suffer from any of the following?

1. Business ownership isn’t living up to the dream.
2. Endless workdays.
3. You can’t find good people.
4. Profits are less than expected.
5. You can never take a vacation.

You’re not alone. But there is a solution. As Greg demonstrates, with some time and effort, you really can Get More Life Out Of Your Business.

In the movie Top Gun, Maverick and Goose are flying in close formation with Iceman in a training manoeuvre as they try to shoot down a much nimbler fictitious Russian MiG fighter. Maverick having been accused of abandoning his wingmen in the past, is sticking tight to Iceman but clearly has “the shot”.

Maverick pleads with Iceman to break off and let him take the shot. Iceman’s rebuttal is that he only needs a few more seconds to acquire the target. Finally, after what seems like an eternity, Iceman capitulates and breaks hard right as Maverick has requested and that’s when things get really ugly for Maverick and Goose.

When Iceman finally relinquished his position by breaking hard right, the airflow over the wings of Maverick’s plane became disrupted. What was once clear air flowing across his wings, turned into a vortex of turbulent erratic air. This clear air disruption meant the plane’s wings lost their lift capabilities. Suddenly, the plane was into a flat spin, from which Maverick couldn’t recover and cost Goose his life.

It’s good enough for me

Of course, this was fictional, but serves as a great example of what happens to too many businesses that don’t set their own strategy. They blindly follow a competitor’s lead assuming all along that “if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.” But what you don’t know is, what conditions they are operating under.

Thoughtlessly following a competitor’s strategy is just being lazy and leaves you vulnerable. Taking the time to set your own course is time well spent.

Your flight path

Charting your own flight path minimizes the risk of being caught up in a competitor’s vortex. You decide what to sell, who you want to sell to and where you want to sell. Paying too much attention to your competitor, restricts your ability to come up with creative solutions. Just because it’s never been done before, does mean it can’t.

Throughout my career I’ve broken the rules many times and received very little push back. In most cases it opened up a huge competitive gap that gave me a significant advantage over my competition. I didn’t have to wait for them to clear out of the way, because I wasn’t following anybody, as I had clear air all the way.

Clear air

How do you find clear air? Most of the time, it’s simply a matter of looking around and seeing what others outside of your industry are doing. We get so immersed in our industries, that we forget that people are doing new and creative things everywhere, in every industry and every day. You need to be aware of your surroundings, of what’s going on around. Once you develop this habit, you’ll begin to see a myriad of new ideas or opportunities that others have overlooked.

Copyright © Greg Weatherdon 2019

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Get More LIFE Out of Your Business

You shouldn’t be the hardest working person in your company.

Many small business owners find that even after the struggling start-up years, they’re working too many hours and still managing every aspect of their businesses.

Greg Weatherdon has been there, done that. As an entrepreneur, he learned not only how to get a business to the point of running smoothly, but also how to reduce the number of hours he worked, delegate more responsibility to his employees, and take longer vacations while his business chugged along like a well-oiled machine. And now he is providing the secret to success.

Do you suffer from any of the following?

1. Business ownership isn’t living up to the dream.
2. Endless workdays.
3. You can’t find good people.
4. Profits are less than expected.
5. You can never take a vacation.

You’re not alone. But there is a solution. As Greg demonstrates, with some time and effort, you really can Get More Life Out Of Your Business.

Small business owners are faced with a myriad of challenges every single day. If it isn’t sales, then it’s receivables and if it isn’t receivables, it’s operations. Add to this the hundreds of thoughts they are juggling trying to sustain their enterprises. Always at the top of their worry list is how to keep their staff focused and motivated.

Unlike much larger corporations, small business owners usually don’t have the financial resources to implement sophisticated incentive programs. A big part of the problem in smaller organizations is that the employees usually wear more than one hat or have overlapping responsibilities.

Of course, we can argue that this isn’t efficient or effective, but it’s the way it is in so many owner operated companies. Compounding the situation is that most owners are not skilled in human resources, as their expertise tends to lie in other areas of the company, such as manufacturing or sales.

So, in order to offer up any type of solution we must first look into the mind of the entrepreneur to understand why creating meaningful performance initiatives can be so challenging.

Time

Time is a precious resource for everyone but even more so for an owner. With a finite number of hours in a day, week or month, the typical owner must prioritize where they are going to spend their time. Inevitably, any and all activities that contribute to generating or maintaining short term revenues are usually contenders for the top spot.

Even though we could argue that a well executed incentive program could provide significant operational gains, the reality is that scoping out a plan requires time that so many owners just don’t have. If the truth be known, most owners would rather focus their attention on other priorities under the guise that they’ll get to it soon.

Money

With any incentive program, there is an expectation on behalf of the employee that there will be a payoff for doing more or doing it better. This has been ingrained into our psyche since we could first walk in the form of allowances, rewards for good behaviour or achievements. Right or wrong, there is an expectation.

What few people realize is that owners are conflicted in taking care of their personal needs versus paying some form of bonus to their staff. You see, a great number of owners are not paying themselves an acceptable wage putting the company and staff ahead of their needs. This sacrifice usually transcends the workplace as it puts tremendous pressure on the owners family life. If you don’t think so, try telling your spouse that there isn’t enough money to take a paycheque again this month all the while paying out a performance bonus to the staff.

Type of Rewards

Again, the business owner is challenged in how to reward individuals because revenue and profitability if far more volatile in smaller organizations. So, even if they can afford it in the short term, there’s a potential that it can’t be sustained over the long haul and therefore, it’s just easier to do nothing.

But instead of doing nothing, the simplest way I found is to structure any incentive program as a project with clear start and end dates. That way they don’t become expected and gives you tremendous flexibility to create incentives based on the needs of the organization at any given time.

So, what are the solutions for a small business owner? How can they affordably launch an incentive program that satisfies all the stakeholders?

Keep It Simple

Ideally any program should start small. The owner needs to know what they can handle. Many get overly sophisticated in designing their programs and don’t consider how they are going to capture the information, let alone monitor it.

Make the objectives clear and straight forward. An example would be – to reduce the after sales service calls by 20% or increase billable hours by 4%. These examples are simple and measurable. Because implementing a program and then not being able to properly measure it is a recipe for disaster and a waste of time. Plus, there is a huge risk that it will likely cause ill-feelings when nothing ever comes of it.

Get Creative

The default idea for most people is that an incentive needs to be a monetary reward. In keeping with my previous comments this becomes a challenge for the business owner. Fortunately, people covet other things that may have far more value than money. Such as, offering time off in lieu of a cash related compensation will be far more valuable to many employees.

For instance, someone with children who would prefer a day off with pay that they can use when the school board has a PD day. What about the individual who has elderly parents that they need to assist with appointments? Even the single person would enjoy an extended weekend without having to dip into their vacation pool.

How is this any different from cash to the entrepreneur? Since salaries are usually a fixed expense, giving someone a day off, isn’t costing the entrepreneur anymore money.

Getting a little imaginative when trying to create an incentive is not that difficult. It just requires a little thought. But whatever plan you put into place, you must follow through or you risk turning an incentive into a disincentive.

Copyright ©Greg Weatherdon

 

Get More LIFE Out of Your Business

You shouldn’t be the hardest working person in your company.

Many small business owners find that even after the struggling start-up years, they’re working too many hours and still managing every aspect of their businesses.

Greg Weatherdon has been there, done that. As an entrepreneur, he learned not only how to get a business to the point of running smoothly, but also how to reduce the number of hours he worked, delegate more responsibility to his employees, and take longer vacations while his business chugged along like a well-oiled machine. And now he is providing the secret to success.

Do you suffer from any of the following?

1. Business ownership isn’t living up to the dream.
2. Endless workdays.
3. You can’t find good people.
4. Profits are less than expected.
5. You can never take a vacation.

You’re not alone. But there is a solution. As Greg demonstrates, with some time and effort, you really can Get More Life Out Of Your Business.

We all learn lesson throughout our working lives. Some are good lessons, some are a little painful. Some of those lessons we remember, some we forget. Hopefully, we learn to apply the good lessons as frequently as possible and not repeat those painful ones too often.

One of those lessons I learned a long time ago, was to play the long game when it comes to sales. So, what do I mean when I say, “the long game”? The long game means understanding that actions today may pay off at some future point with unknown timing.

The long game is understanding that people are different. Whereas some people need to buy immediately, others prefer to do preliminary research before buying. On the other hand, some customers have existing relationships or inventory that precludes them making any immediate changes but are now entertaining other suppliers.

Never know which ones

A lot of people think of sales as a one-hit wonder, whereby if someone doesn’t buy immediately, they are dismissed, and you simply move on to the next prospect. To be fair, some industries have created this environment. What is far worse, is that many individual salespeople operate this way regardless of their industry and think this is perfectly acceptable. Their attitude is, if you’re not buying, you’re simply wasting their time.

Fortunately, professional salespeople don’t work that way. They know the value of playing the long game. They’re focused on building relationships. They are patient and provide whatever information the prospect requires, all the while knowing many of these prospects will never convert to a sale. As frustrating as that can be, they also know that quite a few will eventually turn into clients. Unfortunately, they never know which ones.

So, the lesson I learned, was when I first started out in sales after leaving my career as a truck driver. Needless to say, I had very little sales training, but I had good instincts and had availed myself to every sales book I could get my hands in order to become proficient.

I decided this wasn’t for me

The job was selling flexible packaging, which was a fancy word for plastic bags, the majority of which were custom printed. I had no territory or existing accounts and was free to travel within reason to generate business. My prospect list covered everything from boutiques, chain stores, manufacturing and agriculture. Pretty much anyone who used plastic bags. This was a volume business because the set up costs for custom printing was high and therefore had to be amortized over thousands of units.

Because of the sheer number of bags companies had to order became quite an obstacle. Regardless if our quality was better or price was cheaper, I constantly faced this existing inventory issue. Although I kept both my spirits and head up, it eventually started to take its toll. Even though I managed to get a few orders here and there, this lack of success, eventually got the best of me and after a full year, I decided this wasn’t for me.

Funny thing is, I wasn’t on commission and I wasn’t being pressured by the owner of the company to up my performance, other than the occasional enquiry of my plans for the day. So, I probably could have stuck it out for a while longer. But alas, I decided to leave.

When I handed in my resignation, I remember getting berated by the owner over how much he had invested in me. I couldn’t disagree, as he had been more than generous, in supplying a car and all expenses along with a decent salary. Suffice to say he was none to happy. But I just wasn’t able to generate many sales and I was getting into quite a funk over it.

Then a funny thing happened

Over the next few months, I kept hearing through the grapevine how disappointed he was in me.  Little did he know I was also a little discouraged with this sales career I had chosen. Then a funny thing happened.

It all started with a few orders trickling in and then they just kept on coming. Within a couple of months, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of orders were placed. These orders came from a number of those accounts that I had visited over that year of cold calling. In today’s numbers, I would estimate the value of those orders would be close to a million dollars. It was at this moment that I learned the value of playing the long game.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that after months of being criticized by the owner for leaving, he quickly changed his tune and began telling people how good I had been. Not something that happens very often.

Although we try to uncover customers needs and overcome their objections, there are plenty of times when you just can’t make a sale. Keeping in touch, following up and being patient has paid off more times than I can remember. The best part of playing the long game is when you least expect it the phone rings and someone wants to place an order. It makes for a real good day!

You may also enjoy The 80/20 Rules of Sales

Copyright © Greg Weatherdon 2018

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Get More LIFE Out of Your Business

You shouldn’t be the hardest working person in your company.

Many small business owners find that even after the struggling start-up years, they’re working too many hours and still managing every aspect of their businesses.

Greg Weatherdon has been there, done that. As an entrepreneur, he learned not only how to get a business to the point of running smoothly, but also how to reduce the number of hours he worked, delegate more responsibility to his employees, and take longer vacations while his business chugged along like a well-oiled machine. And now he is providing the secret to success.

Do you suffer from any of the following?

1. Business ownership isn’t living up to the dream.
2. Endless workdays.
3. You can’t find good people.
4. Profits are less than expected.
5. You can never take a vacation.

You’re not alone. But there is a solution. As Greg demonstrates, with some time and effort, you really can Get More Life Out Of Your Business.

In the movie City Slickers, Jack Palance’s character Curly and Billy Crystal’s character Mitch are riding along having a bonding moment, when Curly turns to Mitch and asks,

Curly: Do you know what the secret to life is?

Mitch: No What?

Curly: This! (As he holds up one finger)

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else doesn’t mean (expletive).

Mitch: That’s great, but what’s the one thing?

Curly: That’s what you gotta figure out

I’m always reminded of that scene whenever I ask my clients “What’s the number one thing every business needs in order to succeed?” Inevitably, I get a number of different answers that include reputation, a good product, good customer service, great staff, hard work and so on. 

Quite frankly they’re all wonderful valid answers and easily qualify within the top 5 items, but not what I consider the most important item. However, every once in a while, I get the answer I’m looking for, and that answer is money!

Try doing anything without money

Money pays the rent, the staff, the new pc’s, product or service development, etc. It’s what keeps the lights on. Money affords you the opportunity to create great products or services. Money allows you to provide great customer service. Money allows you to provide a great work environment. Don’t believe me? Try doing anything in your business without money.

Generating profitable revenue, getting paid and controlling expenses are the key elements to getting money. Do enough of these you’re your bank account grows. I know this sounds pretty simplistic to many, but unfortunately, countless owners don’t get it. What I typical come across are owners spending their time on non-revenue generating activities. Although they’re busy, these activities are just a waste of time and are usually a substitute for doing the things that they should be doing, but don’t like doing, such as a prospecting, follow up calls or networking.

The thing is, the longer they put off doing the important stuff, the longer they’ll struggle. What they fail to realize is that they only have to do these uncomfortable tasks until such time as they can afford to hire someone else to do them. Therefore, it’s in their best interest to focus as much of their attention on generating as much profitable revenue as possible.

Other reasons for building a healthy bank balance is to avoid stress. Running a small business is full of stress and an opportunity to minimize the any of it, is welcomed. Having a healthy bank balance means not stressing over making payroll or paying your suppliers. Having money in your account means being able to take a regular paycheque.

Weather any storm

One of the biggest benefits to having money in the account, is being able to weather any form of revenue drought. Over the course of the 17 years I owned the Marketing Resource Group, we would inevitably have one month of the year where revenues would go to zero. Not just slow down, but really go to zero!

When it first happened, I remember getting very concerned wondering what the heck was going on. Had our service model run its course? Had our clients found another supplier? Had they found an alternative solution? It’s the kind of thing that could really ruin your day, week or month and keep you up at nights.

The first time it occurred was in January, I justified it by saying our clients are just a slow getting back into the swing of things following the Christmas holidays. The next year, it happened again, but this time in March. Once again, I was stressing over it. However, when revenue recovered the following month, I chalked it up to Spring Break distracting my clients. Year over year in continued to happen, but strangely never the same month. Fortunately, as time went on, it became a non event and I just accepted the fact that we would lose a month of revenue every year.

Maintain discipline

The upside of this, is that those quiet months would give us almost four weeks in which to get caught up on a ton of housekeeping activities that we couldn’t get done the rest of the year. Eventually, we actually, planned these activities for our down month. All this to say, that this is another luxury of having money in the account. We didn’t panic, or should I say I didn’t panic anymore. We didn’t rush out and change our strategy or desperately take on any old piece of business just to generate some cash. And we didn’t lay off anyone. We just kept doing what we had always done. We maintained our discipline in targeting those clients we wanted to do business with and with full confidence that the business would return to normal. You can’t do that when your account is empty.

I do recognize, that having money tempts us to get little careless and spend it on “nice to have, versus need to have” items. But those temptations are easier and less stressful to deal with, than having no money.

Curly might be right, that as individuals we each must find our own “one thing” but when it comes to owning a business, there is only one thing, and that’s money!

You may also enjoy Pricing For Profit

Copyright © Greg Weatherdon 2018

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Get More LIFE Out of Your Business

You shouldn’t be the hardest working person in your company.

Many small business owners find that even after the struggling start-up years, they’re working too many hours and still managing every aspect of their businesses.

Greg Weatherdon has been there, done that. As an entrepreneur, he learned not only how to get a business to the point of running smoothly, but also how to reduce the number of hours he worked, delegate more responsibility to his employees, and take longer vacations while his business chugged along like a well-oiled machine. And now he is providing the secret to success.

Do you suffer from any of the following?

1. Business ownership isn’t living up to the dream.
2. Endless workdays.
3. You can’t find good people.
4. Profits are less than expected.
5. You can never take a vacation.

You’re not alone. But there is a solution. As Greg demonstrates, with some time and effort, you really can Get More Life Out Of Your Business.

In its heyday, the Kodak company used the following tagline in their advertising: “Make it a Kodak Moment!” This phrase was used when taking a picture of someone at a particular moment that will never be forgotten. It even made its way into everyday use to highlight anything good or embarrassing that happened to an individual, even when it wasn’t captured on film.

I’m sure we’ve all experienced our fair share of Kodak Moments in our lives, so I want to share one of mine that will be forever burned into my memory. It was an expensive sales lesson about being overly confident, that I’ll never forget. This event unfolded when I had my first company, The Sales Support Company. As a quick backgrounder, we provided retail merchandising services for the major consumer packaged goods companies, whereby we performed a myriad of services for our clients that ranged from new product introductions to regular sales coverage and even in-store display building.

Camera of choice

This last item, in-store display building usually required us to take a picture of each display as proof of performance. This was a pretty common practice in those days and these photos would ultimately be submitted to the client. Like pretty much everyone in the industry, our camera of choice was Polaroid. It’s ability to produce an instant picture that could be immediately catalogued with all the necessary information made it attractive unlike traditional film which required waiting until the whole roll was used and then developed.

Although we had a pretty impressive roster of clients, most of which were global players, we still wanted more. One such prospect was the Kodak Company, which at the time was one of the worlds largest photographic film companies. When you consider that in those days film was sold in thousands upon thousands of retailers that ranged from the local corner store to department stores. This was an ideal client for our services.

Over a number of years, I had tried multiple times to get an appointment with their senior sales personnel only to be rebuffed. However, over time, we did manage to execute a few small regional projects but certainly not on the scale we had hoped. These small projects had happened only because we had developed a working relationship with the local sales representative. Over time though, the impact of our performance on these small projects began to get noticed at higher levels of the organization.

Perseverance

As luck or perseverance would have it, we were finally invited into the inner sanctum of Kodak’s head office to pitch our services. This was monumental. For the record, Kodak was a very conservative company and for them to even contemplate outsourcing some of their retail sales/merchandising services was an enormous opportunity.

I don’t quite remember how many hours I had put in preparing for the presentation, but I do know it was significant. Aside from the general overview of our company, I also prepared summaries of performance with other similar sized organizations as well as a summary of our performance on the numerous small Kodak initiatives. The time spent on this was well worth it, as it could result in a six or seven figure annual contract.

At this point in the company’s evolution, we were no longer trying to prove our concept, as we, along with some competitors, had firmly established the viability of an outsourced sales and merchandising force to the industry players. So, needless to say, I had developed a high degree of confidence in our ability to win over Kodak, much as I had with other clients.

As I entered the board room at my scheduled time, I was taken aback to find 10-12 very senior managers sitting around the table. Typically, a presentation of this nature would only involve 3-4 managers at most companies, but apparently, Kodak worked differently. Although surprising to see such a gathering, this didn’t really phase me as I had presented our services often enough and was feeling confident and in hindsight possibly a little too relaxed.

I knew all was lost

The presentation unfolded as usual with all major questions and objections handled deftly. As we moved into the Q & A session of the presentation, I was feeling pretty good and possibly a little cocky at this point, as I felt I was winning them over. Questions continued to be asked and I continued to answer them confidently. Then came a perfectly natural and expected question that ultimately derailed any hope we had in ever getting them as a client.

The question was simply, “How would you quantify or authenticate the merchandising activities or display building reported by your field force?” As soon as I heard the question, I knew I had the answer and without missing a beat, I answered it with three little words that before I had finished uttering them, I knew all was lost. What were those three little words? “We take Polaroids!” The silence was deafening.

Whatever goodwill I had generated or convincing argument I had put forth, I was done. Competition in the film category was fierce and Kodak was the leader in those days and just arrogant enough to let you know. So being stupid enough to mention a competitor’s product by name was not one of my brightest moves.

Yes, it was an innocent mistake, as Polaroid was the generic name for any instant developing film much like Kleenex is for facial tissue, but they certainly did not take it that way. I did try to lighten the mood a little but to no avail. It was clearly evident that there was very little chance of regaining any lost ground as the questions dried up and a meeting was concluded.

It was like a ground ball trickling through your legs

I’ve never forgotten this Kodak Moment. Being over confident and letting your guard down when so much is on the line, is a rookie mistake. It was a hard learned and expensive lesson much like letting an easy ground ball trickle through your legs that allows the winning run for the other team to make it home.

To make matters worse, was that we had opened their eyes to the potential of outsourcing this area by executing those smaller projects on a local level. The business eventually went to a competitor and the size and scope of the assignment was as I had thought.

From that point on, I always tried to add a small preamble before answering a question like “Being able to quantify the display activity is something we all care about…”. By doing so, it gave my brain a couple of seconds to consider my answer instead of blurting out something stupid like “We take Polaroids!”

Copyright © Greg Weatherdon 2018

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Get More LIFE Out of Your Business

You shouldn’t be the hardest working person in your company.

Many small business owners find that even after the struggling start-up years, they’re working too many hours and still managing every aspect of their businesses.

Greg Weatherdon has been there, done that. As an entrepreneur, he learned not only how to get a business to the point of running smoothly, but also how to reduce the number of hours he worked, delegate more responsibility to his employees, and take longer vacations while his business chugged along like a well-oiled machine. And now he is providing the secret to success.

Do you suffer from any of the following?

1. Business ownership isn’t living up to the dream.
2. Endless workdays.
3. You can’t find good people.
4. Profits are less than expected.
5. You can never take a vacation.

You’re not alone. But there is a solution. As Greg demonstrates, with some time and effort, you really can Get More Life Out Of Your Business.

A constant refrain that I hear from business owners is “they should know better!” “They” of course being any or all the employees that screwed up. Naturally, when I hear this statement, I just can’t leave it alone and therefore I need to challenge it. At which point the conversation goes something like this,

Client: They should know better

Me: Really, why is that?

Client: It’s their job

Me: Did you tell them?

Client: No, I shouldn’t have to

Me: Why shouldn’t you have to?

Client: Because they’re supposed to be adults

Me: That may be true, but you still need to tell them what you expect

Client: I hired them to do a job. If I have to tell them or show them I don’t need them.

Me: Seriously?

It’s not about micro-managing

I think you get the drift and I’m sure many of us have felt the same way at times. Unfortunately, too many owners wrongly assume that once they hire an individual, that person should automatically know everything there is to know. Granted, they should have all the technical skills required for the job, but that’s only half the battle.

Where many entrepreneurs fail, is in telling their employees what they expect from them on a regular basis. We’re not talking about micro-managing, it’s about providing clarity. It’s about setting expectations or objectives. It’s about letting them know specifics, like when you expect the task to be completed or how many hours you’ve allocated for that project or how you expect them to act in front of customers, or your dress code and on and on. Just because you failed to mention something and then expecting your employees to read your mind, is asking a little much, don’t you think?

The easiest way to fix this is to communicate. Yup, it can be that simple. Communicating is nothing more than telling people what you expect. Because left unsaid, it is usually just asking for trouble. And once it becomes a crisis, emotions usually take over and its no longer just a conversation. By having regular ongoing dialogue between employees and managers, everyone should be on the same page. This can go a long way in minimizing surprises.

Here ya go, get it done!

You see, nobody likes surprises because they usually occur at the wrong time and leave little opportunity to correct the situation. Simple, regular and informal dialogue between managers and employees would avoid many of the problems that arise.

The alternative of course, is to simply assume that once the project was assigned, it would be completed without further communication and it usually goes something like this- “Here ya go, get it done!” The weakness in this strategy usually manifests itself once the client calls to inquire why the project is two weeks behind schedule. Those are always fun conversations. Why is it then, that the only person that knew was the client?

In hindsight, one of my major communication tools was simply wandering around and talking with my staff or watching them do their job. This provided me the opportunity to reinforce what my or our clients expectations were. If I noticed that something was lacking, I would typically bring it to the attention of the project coordinator responsible for the project, for them to rectify. Often in a quick group meeting.

Fortunately, this was a rarity because the coordinators were very good at setting expectations and at helping individuals meet those objectives. In addition, our reporting processes allowed us to monitor our benchmarks in real time. This real time reporting was not designed to “catch” individuals for low productivity, but to identify potential problems in the execution and to take corrective action early on, thereby allowing us to finish on time and on budget with excellent results.

Hoping things will improve rarely works

Because of our ongoing dialogue with the front line employees, coupled with the data, this allowed us to notify the client early on of a potential problem and take corrective action. Although this was never fun to tell a client you’re having a problem, and thankfully was a rarity, it was far better strategy than waiting until the end and hoping things would turn around on their own. It has been my experience that hoping things will improve rarely works and leaves you to make a bunch of lame excuses to a very disappointed client.

Being visible and asking questions is part of being a manager. Equally important to opening the lines of communication, is asking the right questions. These questions should focus on removing roadblocks to productivity and serve as teaching moments.

However, in order for this to work it must be a two way street. Employees need to feel comfortable enough to be able to express their thoughts or know that delivering bad news won’t earn your wrath.

Yes, they should know better, but if you want better communications within your organization, then it’s up to you to create it. Being visible, watching, listening and letting people know what to expect, will go a long way in reducing those nasty surprises that just ruin everybody’s day.

 

Copyright © Greg Weatherdon 2018

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Get More LIFE Out of Your Business

You shouldn’t be the hardest working person in your company.

Many small business owners find that even after the struggling start-up years, they’re working too many hours and still managing every aspect of their businesses.

Greg Weatherdon has been there, done that. As an entrepreneur, he learned not only how to get a business to the point of running smoothly, but also how to reduce the number of hours he worked, delegate more responsibility to his employees, and take longer vacations while his business chugged along like a well-oiled machine. And now he is providing the secret to success.

Do you suffer from any of the following?

1. Business ownership isn’t living up to the dream.
2. Endless workdays.
3. You can’t find good people.
4. Profits are less than expected.
5. You can never take a vacation.

You’re not alone. But there is a solution. As Greg demonstrates, with some time and effort, you really can Get More Life Out Of Your Business.

READING TIME: 5 minutes

Discipline is not always a strong suit when it comes to describing many entrepreneurs, it just goes against their rebel nature. One of the main reasons they went out on their own is because they figured they could do a better job, make more money and have a better life, but to do it their way.

For many, their jack of all trade, get it done, whatever it takes the attitude, helped them launch their business, but this, not an enduring strategy if one wants to create a sustainable business. On second thought, it can be, if you enjoy long days, doing everything yourself and running around like your hair is on fire. Chances are though, this helter-skelter approach to running a business won’t get you to where you want because that requires discipline.

We can do whatever we want,
regardless if it’s productive or not.

Discipline is one of the most difficult habits for entrepreneurs to form. On any given day, distractions abound for these individuals. When coupled with not having a boss looking over your shoulder, it’s akin to leaving a child alone in a candy shop. We can do whatever we want, regardless if it’s productive or not.

This is why discipline is so hard. It’s almost like anti-freedom. It means you must do certain things, at certain times and these tasks become your new boss. However, over time, with enough practice this boss becomes your partner that shoulders much of the load. But first, you must embrace discipline, if you want to achieve freedom.

“I’ve got so much to do,
I don’t even know where to start?”

Embracing discipline means, identifying what’s truly important on a daily basis. In general terms, what’s truly important can be summed up as follows- “Any task that can move the business forward, by eliminating restrictions or generating revenue.” These important items can cover multiple areas of the business that range from preparing estimates to dealing with customer problems or handling those niggling HR issues. You need to make them your daily priority even though they may be unpleasant. By not addressing these, less than fun priorities, they start to pile up and eventually generate so much stress that it can become paralyzing. Just think how many times you have said, “I’ve got so much to do, I don’t even know where to start?”

A daily dose of discipline,
in exchange for tremendous freedom,
is a fair trade.

For many, it’s because we let other more interesting things distract us. Notice I said more interesting and not productive. These more interesting distractions often taking us down endless rabbit holes, that although keep us entertained, do little to move the business forward. Yes, discipline means doing things even when we don’t want to.

The Cambridge dictionary defines disciple as “the ability to control yourself or other people, even in difficult situations”. This sounds simple enough, but it’s easier said than done. For most of us though, we have to dig really deep to stay on task every single day. I know I have to. But to be honest, a daily dose of discipline, in exchange for tremendous freedom, is a fair trade.

Being individuals, it’s hard to prescribe a single solution that works for all, but here are 5 steps you can take to help you get those really important things done everyday that could help you to get that elusive freedom we all seek.

The 5 Steps 

  1. Make a list of every single outstanding issue you need to deal with.
  2. Rank them by the most urgent to least urgent. Urgent should be those items that directly affect the business, good or bad. These are usually the things that keep you up at night.
  3. Circle the top 3 items and action them. This sounds simple enough, but this can be especially difficult when these items make you uncomfortable or where your natural instinct is to keep ignoring the issue. Layer on all other day to day distractions and your day will be full.
  4. Repeat this every day adding in new items, deleting completed ones and dealing with the top 3 and you’ll soon find yourself sleeping a little better and feeling more in control of your world.
  5. Lastly and probably most important, is to find that time of day when you’re most productive and creative. For me, it’s first thing in the morning, for others it’s late at night. Once you identify your most productive time, embrace and protect it. Use this time to complete those items that require deeper concentration. To be sure, some items just can’t be completed in the wee hours of the morning, like disciplining a staff member, as it’s usually frown upon to contact them a 5am. However, prepping for that meeting is something that can be done before the sun is up.

Identifying priorities in a business can be challenging, because when we’re overwhelmed, everything appears to be a priority. But getting things under control will require discipline. So, try the above 5 steps for the next month, because they say it takes 30 days to create a habit and this is one good habit to have.

So, if you’re tired of always being stressed out and not having time for yourself, maybe it’s time to apply a little discipline to your daily routine. Because discipline equals freedom.

You may also enjoy Know Your Strengths

Copyright © Greg Weatherdon 2018

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Get More LIFE Out of Your Business

You shouldn’t be the hardest working person in your company.

Many small business owners find that even after the struggling start-up years, they’re working too many hours and still managing every aspect of their businesses.

Greg Weatherdon has been there, done that. As an entrepreneur, he learned not only how to get a business to the point of running smoothly, but also how to reduce the number of hours he worked, delegate more responsibility to his employees, and take longer vacations while his business chugged along like a well-oiled machine. And now he is providing the secret to success.

Do you suffer from any of the following?

1. Business ownership isn’t living up to the dream.
2. Endless workdays.
3. You can’t find good people.
4. Profits are less than expected.
5. You can never take a vacation.

You’re not alone. But there is a solution. As Greg demonstrates, with some time and effort, you really can Get More Life Out Of Your Business.

Why is it that so many owners think they and they alone have all the answers, to every problem in their business?

When you consider that most owners started their companies as the only employee, it’s easy to understand how this attitude got started but why it continues is the question? Granted, there will always be those technical, legal or safety issues that require the owners input, but what about those day-to-day operational, sales and marketing challenges that arise?

Businesses are not democracies

Contrary to all the discussions about managing in the new millennium, businesses are not democracies and the final decision still rests with the owner. However, there are plenty of opportunities to engage employees in the problem solving process.

Owners who think that the only opinion that counts is theirs, are doing their employees a great injustice. What they fail to realize is that they are hurting themselves even more by being the choke point for every decision within their company. The risk of operational paralysis increases exponentially.

It’s interesting to note that this frustration of having to make every decision, usually manifests itself in longer tenured entrepreneurs. It is my opinion, that the compounding effect of always being called upon to make every decision, has just depleted their patience. Their younger self, would have relished in the control and prided themselves in being the go to person for everything. That’s one of the reasons they went into business in the first place, to be in control of their destiny. It got their blood pumping.

But as a company grows and time goes by, there are many more decisions to be made. Finding the time to deal with everything then becomes a herculean task and develops into a source of anxiety and stress. The thing is, it’s a situation of their own doing and can be easily rectified, given enough time.

“Isn’t that one of the reasons

we went into business?”

Like everything in business, adopting a new approach and moving away from old habits can be daunting. But learning to engage your employees in the decision making process can bring with it tremendous freedom, and isn’t that another reason we went into business?

But before we go any farther, we must first understand that there are limits to engaging employees. If you’ve never asked for their input before, you need to contain it to their areas of responsibility and not strategic issues facing the company. My rationale is quite simple. First, by keeping them focused within their operational area, they suddenly don’t become distracted into what could be someone else’s area of responsibility. Let’s face it, everyone has opinions about other areas of the company. Keeping their input to their operational area, forces them to look inward at a deeper level.

Secondly, when you stop and think about it. Who better to help than the people doing the job in the first place? There are countless stories of large corporations ignoring input from the front line employees only to have near death experiences. What they finally realized is that they could have avoided the problem in the first place, had they just asked these same people. The same hold true for many small enterprises.

So, if you find yourself in the situation of having to make every decision and want to affect change, it needs to start with you. As challenging as this may be, you must first transform your approach and embrace the change. So, the next time one of your employees brings you a problem, instead of blurting out the solution try asking these simple primer questions:

1. What do you think we should do?
2. Why do you think that?
3. If we do that, what are the downsides?
4. Do you have another solution?
5. What are the downsides to this solution?
6. Which solution do you prefer?

Don’t give them answers

Because of your experience, there may be additional solutions that they haven’t thought about. This now becomes another teaching moment. Through this teaching opportunity, try to help them uncover those additional solutions by asking even more simple thought provoking questions. If they are unable to uncover additional solutions, don’t just give them the answer, but make sure you explain why. By explaining, you broaden their perspective and help them to understand your thinking about the business.

To make this an effective exercise, they need to know that you’ve got their back and that any of the solution you both agree to initiate could fail and that it’ll never be held against them.

This is one of those evolutionary processes that can take time to fully realize its potential. Consider it an investment that will have tremendous payoff in the future.

Taking the time to engage your employees in the decision making process, may just turn you from being a cynical employer, who can’t get employees to make decisions, to one whereby your staff is fully engaged.

When this all comes together, it’ll free you to focus on those higher value activities that should be your priority. But remember, it all starts with you!

Copyright ©Greg Weatherdon

Get More LIFE Out of Your Business

You shouldn’t be the hardest working person in your company.

Many small business owners find that even after the struggling start-up years, they’re working too many hours and still managing every aspect of their businesses.

Greg Weatherdon has been there, done that. As an entrepreneur, he learned not only how to get a business to the point of running smoothly, but also how to reduce the number of hours he worked, delegate more responsibility to his employees, and take longer vacations while his business chugged along like a well-oiled machine. And now he is providing the secret to success.

Do you suffer from any of the following?

1. Business ownership isn’t living up to the dream.
2. Endless workdays.
3. You can’t find good people.
4. Profits are less than expected.
5. You can never take a vacation.

You’re not alone. But there is a solution. As Greg demonstrates, with some time and effort, you really can Get More Life Out Of Your Business.

Read Time: 5 mins

Don’t worry about your competition. Pretty unusual advice to receive for any business owner. To be sure, we need to know some things about our competitors like:

• Who they are
• What products they sell
• Their pricing strategy i.e. cheap or expensive
• Their reputation i.e. after sales service, timeliness, etc.

But this just makes good business sense. Far too often I find small business owners who obsess about every move their competitors make. This obsession often leads to distraction and paralysis as they are not sure whether to match a competitor’s activity or ignore it.

In industries where there is lots of competition, you run the risks of getting serious whiplash as you try to keep an eye on what they are all doing. Let’s be clear, some of your competitor’s activities will prove to be successful. When that happens, that’s your queue to borrow their strategy, provided you have the skills to make it happen, but not before.

Play your own game

Nine times out of ten though, my advice is to completely ignore what the competition is doing and to focus squarely on your own business. In other words, play your own game. What does play your game mean? Well, most us like to think we provide the best service possible to each and everyone of our clients. But do we really? Or, do we simply accept ”good enough” as our performance standard and only do our best once a customer complains?

Think about this for a second. If you were to outline what you consider to be the gold standard of service delivery in your industry, how do you stack up against those benchmarks? Now be honest. Chances are, we probably miss the mark on many and you know what? So do most of your competitors!

Performance standards

Although we talk a good game, do we really do what we say we’re going to do? Do we start when we say we’re going to start? Do we finish when we say we’re going to finish? Do we keep the customer informed throughout the assignment like we said we would? Probably not and why? Because most of us have never set performance standards.

Having performance standards is even more important as we add employees to the organization. As our company grows, we tend to get farther and farther away from the actual work. Where once you were directly involved, you could take corrective action and catch any oversights. Now, you’re relying on others to deliver the end results and you assume they know what your expectations are.

Everybody has their own standards

Statements like “we provide the best customer service” or “we are dependable” are hollow throwaway statements when they’re not backed up by any performance standards. We wrongly assume that our employees know what those words mean but unfortunately, they don’t because everyone has their own definitions and standards. The only way to get everybody on the same page, is by having a clear set of documented standards that outline expectations that are monitored and reviewed regularly.

So, what are some benchmarks or standards that we can put into place to ensure we are doing our best work? Here is a list to get you started and add to once you’re comfortable with the concept

  1. Return phone calls and emails promptly – I had a policy that we returned all client telephone calls immediately or worse case before the day was done. Even, if we couldn’t answer their question immediately, we’d let them know we were on it and when we’d have the answer. Then get back to them when promised. In a subtle way showed them they were important.
  2. Advise clients beforehand of any potential problems that may arise. For clients of my company, if we saw any stumbling blocks to success, we would advise them before beginning the assignment. In these situations, we would try to get them to tweak the parameters. If that was impossible, we typically advised them not to proceed. Why did we take that stand? It’s simple, we knew what it took to execute a successful program and we wanted to avoid marginal programs. It wasn’t worth the grief of explaining after the fact why things didn’t go as they expected. It was a powerful credibility builder when we told clients we didn’t want to spend their money.
  3. Start when you say you will. Granted, things happen that can blow up your scheduling, but more often than not, you probably didn’t leave enough of a buffer between projects for the unexpected. If things go smoothly, then getting permission to start early is a lot more enjoyable than the alternative. If you absolutely must delay the start, give them lots of notice, so they can adjust accordingly.
  4. Advise client immediately, when you encounter unforeseen problems and allow them to make a decision, instead of surprising them at the end with an larger than expected bill. That never goes over well

Too often, we get so enamoured chasing new customers or chasing the competition, that we forget to keep our promises to those customers who entrusted us in the first placed. By establishing company wide performance standards, you will deliver consistent results that make for loyal and profitable customers. I’ll promise you the competition won’t figure out what you’re doing.

Got some other ideas, let me know in the comments below

You may also enjoy Look as good as you sound

Copyright © Greg Weatherdon 

Sign up above to receive email notification of the latest update to this blog.

Get More LIFE Out of Your Business

You shouldn’t be the hardest working person in your company.

Many small business owners find that even after the struggling start-up years, they’re working too many hours and still managing every aspect of their businesses.

Greg Weatherdon has been there, done that. As an entrepreneur, he learned not only how to get a business to the point of running smoothly, but also how to reduce the number of hours he worked, delegate more responsibility to his employees, and take longer vacations while his business chugged along like a well-oiled machine. And now he is providing the secret to success.

Do you suffer from any of the following?

1. Business ownership isn’t living up to the dream.
2. Endless workdays.
3. You can’t find good people.
4. Profits are less than expected.
5. You can never take a vacation.

You’re not alone. But there is a solution. As Greg demonstrates, with some time and effort, you really can Get More Life Out Of Your Business.