Don’t Get Bit in the Financial Butt!

Perfection is a myth, yet, many companies engage in seeking the “perfect solution” to stay competitive and improve the bottom line. A few are doing a great job by focusing on “viable solutions.” Most, however, are realizing mixed results due to reliance upon the same old practices that have long surpassed their peak. Less savvy companies are simply hanging on to their soon-to-be outdated products and services. They are afraid to make changes, despite their customers’ requests, and dismal sales.

Why have many business owners stopped listening during this critical time? They fear the change process. They don’t understand how to create a blue print for success. They falsely believe that since riding it out it worked in the past, it will work now. Sticking your head in the sand (think, ostrich) will only get your financial butt bit – hard!

Navigate change now. Waiting won’t change anything! Management needs to seek the right guidance and alter their paradigm to include change. It doesn’t need to a big, evil, costly endeavor. It’s time to hear employee and customer ideas with an open attitude. A simple twist of the wheel may gain the competitive advantage. Proper alignment, direction, and training to manage ever-changing economic factors will keep your doors open for business!

Talk Straight. Give the members of your staff the opportunity to contribute, appropriately. Brainstorming isn’t about judging ideas as right or wrong, or good or bad.  It’s simply a process to gather ideas. Often, off-the-wall ideas are winners once they are narrowed down and fine-tuned. Determine the ROI and viability of the final cuts, and during implementation and execution, train everyone to ensure consistency and positive results. Focused action is the key.

Big Picture vs. Small Details. Some people tend to get caught up in the “bright shiny object” of the bigger picture; others get lost and don’t understand how to move from “here” to the vision of “there.” Create a strategy to put everyone on the same page. Break tasks down into “bite-sized pieces.” Keep listening to and communicating with your team. When you hit the inevitable walls that crop up due to poor planning or implementation, do not reduce your expectations of intended results! Readjust your strategy as necessary, but remember: the success or failure of any idea is in the details.

Hire a Business Mentor. If management is too narrowly focused on people considerations OR on bottom line financials, it could stymie the forward movement required to achieve the expected results. A business mentor helps you blast through the stumbling blocks that change causes. A business mentor helps you make the hard decisions that may be unpopular, at least initially. S/he can also help you create business savvy solutions that balance people and numbers. Someone from outside your organization can see landmines coming up more clearly than you can, since you are so close to the situation. S/he helps you recognize and navigate around them, and enables you to move forward with speed and confidence.

(c)Jeannette L. Seibly, 2010

Costly Promotions

Companies are very focused on being cost conscious, especially in the current economic climate. Many bosses have promoted their key employees too quickly, beyond their skill level — to their level of incompetence. Bosses falsely believe they are saving time and money, but this type of reactive decision-making ends up being costly and has a detrimental impact on the company. Sadly, the once successful employee feels forced to leave the company when her/his continued contribution is short-circuited, and will rarely go quietly.

Since the person was previously treated as an asset to the company, it is often unclear as to why this sudden experience of failure is happening. Instead of having a professional conversation with her/his boss to provide solutions to this dilemma, s/he blames extraneous factors and looks for a new job, outside the company. The real issues? The newly promoted person may not have taken the time, or taken advantage of the opportunities, to develop the interpersonal skills required for the new position. Perhaps s/he has not learned how to delegate or is unable to prioritize and manage multiple issues well. S/he may simply lack the interest and ability to quickly learn the skills required for performance success (e.g., technology, financial, mechanical, sales, etc.) in this new position.

Time to get real. Newly promoted people may be unable to acclimate appropriately when business needs change rapidly. Where did the old adage, “sink or swim” come from? It didn’t work then and doesn’t work now. Unfortunately, employees feel they can not say “no” to their bosses’ requests without hurting their career. If they may agree, their naiveté can create additional issues and stresses since they do not possess the required depth and breadth of experience. It’s time to create a win-win development plan that helps the employee succeed and meets the needs of the business.  Be realistic – it takes time. Employees won’t suddenly become great managers if they have poor people skills. Employees with no interest in financial monitoring will not handle their budgets well. Top sales people will not make the best bosses. Remember, accepting mediocrity loses customers internally and externally.

Provide an outside coach. An outside coach can provide insights that the corporate mindset and culture may overlook. The employee will feel more comfortable sharing her/his challenges and fears, confidentially. They know many bosses have long memories, and don’t want the risk. Ensure there is clarity of goals to be accomplished every three months. Write them down. Put together action plans for implementation. Monitor effectiveness. Keep it simple and smart!

Keep valued employees. Although egos play an important role in a person’s ability to stay and thrive after a failure, it requires the boss’s dedicated intention to keep a valued employee! Find a position within the company where s/he can be successful. Don’t be afraid to create a new position to keep the person, but use a scientifically validated assessment tool to ensure you’re not simply creating another new issue. The cost of hiring a replacement is much greater than realigning a job description to match up employee skills with business needs. Provide focused training and development so the employee can gain the skills s/he lacked that caused the demotion in the first place. This allows the employee to experience success once again, and provides her/him with the opportunity to be promoted in the future.

©Jeannette L. Seibly, 2010

More Money Does Not Equal Better Results

Too often employers are held hostage when employees demand more money to do the job they were hired to do. Since most employees are paid by the hour and not by the task, it’s difficult to know when to reward someone with additional compensation, particularly when you don’t have stated and objective performance results for each position. Unfortunately, even though everyone says “money is not a motivator,” many employees have the false perception that money will indeed motivate them!

It starts with clarity in your hiring process. Since most hiring processes are fraught with improper and antiquated methods of selecting people, it’s important that you are clear on expectations for the job. Then, hire the right person based upon needs for the job, not his or her ability to sell themselves! Remember, the wrong person in the right job will rationalize poor compensation as the reason for poor performance.

Set up clear expectations on Day One. Onboarding new employees requires the boss to provide a written outline and timetable for producing the required results, along with an accurate job description. To create a win/win for a new employee, the boss needs to stay involved, working through the new employee’s honeymoon period, and beyond. Do not make mention of additional compensation opportunities until after a six-month period. Communicate a clear expectation – in writing – of the results required for the new employee to receive any added monetary perks.

Compensate based upon results. Too often, employers compensate based upon promised results. If employees who don’t deliver these results receive the money anyway, they get a pretty clear message that achieving performance goals is not truly important. It is wise to devise a plan that is performance based. Make sure the goals are objective and attainable.

 ©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Don’t Fear The Rattlers

There is a saying, “Don’t pet the rattlesnakes.” When bosses make decisions, these are not always perceived as welcomed solutions. Some employees are very attached to the current state of the business, and are not privy to financial impact or other business issues behind some decisions. Any change can cause employees to get nervous. When you look at financial results and other objective data with the human perspective factored in, the end result may be some of your employees are upset by the required change.

Your response. When you encounter a rattlesnake, you simply back up and review your options. The same response works here. Some times it’s as simple as waiting out the rattling – by communicating the changes in a factual manner.  Other times, you may need to change your implementation approach to ensure employee buy-in.

Consistent communication is the key. When you make changes, communicate in a straightforward manner. Keep it simple and smart (K.I.S.S.). Don’t get into mind-numbing details. Pick three key points and share them appropriately and simply.

Right decisions may not be applauded. Change of any kind can create uneasiness amongst employees, regardless of economic and/or political environments. When you make the right decisions for the right reasons, simply stay the course. K.I.S.S. (see point above). Eventually, most employees will concur it was the right course of action after they experience the sure-to-come positive results.

Poor decisions may not cause rattling.  Poor decisions coupled with no reaction from employees or customers may allow you to falsely believe you’re on the right path. The truth is you may have a history of making incorrect decisions, if you base them upon little or no factual information, or unable to interpret the data in a manner that creates truly new solutions. Employees and/or customers may simply seek other employers or vendors/suppliers silently.

Solution? Talk with your business mentor(s) to ensure the design and execution of your decisions meets your business needs, now and in the future. It’s critical to incorporate the human side into your process to support the success for all of your (internal and external) customers. Encourage your employees to provide solutions in a positive way, and not in a critical “all or nothing manner.”

©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Generating Ideas for Profit

Many entrepreneurs and business professionals love to think up new and innovative ideas all the time. It’s fun. It keeps the ego alive and happy.  Unfortunately, an inability to take these ideas from start to profitability often impedes progress. When the ego gets in the way, the focus of moving an idea from the conceptual into the practical drops.  Some simply don’t have the business experience and fail to create a practical plan. Others are easily distracted by the “bright shiny object” and neglect to finish executing the steps necessary to finish the project.

Delve into your ideas.  Complete a strategic plan along with a reasonable return on investment (ROI). If an idea seems to have a positive ROI, make a detailed tactical plan. Again, review your ROI to ensure you haven’t inadvertently made it unprofitable. Recognize that some ideas simply cannot be made into a profitable venture.

Keep Additional Ideas.  Write these ideas down anyway and file them for later review.  It might be worth revisiting them in the future, from a fresh perspective. You can focus most effectively on launching only one profitable project at a time. 

Beware the lure of bright shiny objects. Too often the shininess of new ideas rivets our attention and we quickly lose interest in any current project. If we haven’t developed the brain power to work through ideas carefully, the cloudiness of implementation overwhelms us before we even get started.

Create Focused Action Plans. It’s crucial that you work with a Business Coach to provide clarity and ease in developing a plan for success, and to ensure financial profitability. Remember, the success or failure of any project is in the details. Hence, the need for a detailed and Focused Action Plan. 

When you hit the proverbial wall, it is time to make a critical assessment before implementing any changes.  What is working? What is not working? Knowing the specifics will prevent making arbitrary or unnecessary changes (aka sidetracked by new ideas) that sabotage success and drain time, money and energy.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Beware of Time Mongers

As business owners, executives and professionals we are very busy people.  Many of us wish we had more time to get everything done.  The unfortunate truth is that it wouldn’t matter if we had more time –  we would simply keep creating too much to do!  Instead, make time work for you.

To use the time you do have more effectively, change your attitude:

Multi-Tasking is a Myth. Thinking or doing something in addition to listening or working on a task creates mediocre results. And, more work in the long run due to customer dissatisfaction. Stay solely focused on the task at hand and you’ll get it done faster and better. This also works wonders when listening to others. It’s amazing what we miss when we’re not focused!

Pay Now or Pay Later. We use our busy-ness as an excuse for not taking the extra minute or half-hour now (or scheduling it for the near future) to hear what someone has to say, fully! Because we are poor listeners, it takes us longer to resolve an issue or get to where we are going. Unfortunately, it often takes us hours, days, months, and even years to resolve something that we could have resolved now.

Prioritize. Many of us wish we didn’t have to handle certain projects or handle sensitive employee issues. We’re late for meetings, or fail to ask for and receive needed direction.

As a boss or leader, you need to handle the toughest parts first! Being the boss doesn’t allow you to impede productivity of others because of your own inability to handle issues. The biggest obstacle? Not being prepared. Take time to break issues into smaller pieces. If you are unable to handle people issues or conflicts, appoint someone else to handle them for you. Talk with your coach if you don’t know how to break issues into smaller do-able pieces.

20 minute rule. Tackling anything unpleasant, but necessary? Set aside 20 minutes of uninterrupted time to handle tasks or issues (hint: shut the door and turn off voicemail or email).  You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish in a short period of time.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Multiply Your Effectiveness

You are having a great day. Everything is going well. Projects are done on time and within budget. Disruptive conflict is non-existent. A new idea has saved the company (and client) money and time. It’s solidified your reputation as an effective boss and your employees are happy. 

Wouldn’t it be great to have more days like this one? You can when you have the right person in the right job.

1)     Hire for Success: 
Use objective and scientifically validated pre-hire assessment tools to assess accurately for job fit, including: thinking style, core behaviors and occupational motivation/interests.  (http://SmartHiringMadeEasy.wordpress.com)

2)     Coach for Results: 
Many times managers lament that they can’t get things done on time because of their employee’s unwillingness to do it correctly. Or, they are too busy firefighting urgent customer needs. Focus on results, not busy work. Clarify your expectations and the results required. Teach your employees how to cost-justify possible solutions. Provide learning moments when they make mistakes. Use tools that provide insights to more effectively communicate and manage each employee.

3)     Walk the talk:
Don’t expect employees to do things you wouldn’t do.  For example, if you’re not willing to manage your own time to attend meetings on time and be prepared, it is counter-productive to expect others to do so.  Clarify your expectations of others, and then be a great role-model.

(c)Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Seven Basic Requirements for Working Effectively with Anyone!

Successful business relationships stem from mutual respect and a sincere desire to create win/win situations regularly.  Here are some simple but highly effective requirements to ensure your success.

1. Do what you say you’ll do, when you say you’ll do it. Apologize when you “drop the ball.”

2. Take an interest in the company, people, product, financials, safety, community, etc. Be knowledgeable about what interests or concerns others and be able to converse appropriately.

3. Respect everyone on the team regardless of his/her opinions and/or personality. Make it a habit to not to judge anyone regardless of their manner of dress, organizational style, or position in a company.

4. Acknowledge others easily and often. Make it a habit to say “Please” & “Thank You.”

5. Keep confidences. Don’t talk negatively about other people – that’s commonly called gossiping.

6. Understand by truly listening. Be aware if you normally listen, as most people do, you will simultaneously form a comment or opinion. This is not listening. Too often we really don’t want to hear what a person is saying because we think we already know what they’re going to say. Remember your non-verbal actions speak much louder than your words.

7. Take into account other people’s ideas and concerns when developing a solution. Be easily understood by using KISS:  Keep Ideas Simple & Smart

(c)Jeannette Seibly, 2010

Got Sales Smarts?

While many companies are busy blaming the economy for their reduction in sales, smart companies are reassessing their sales teams and focusing their money and attention on top performers. Why? They often sell more – exponentially – than others. 

For the past decade, many products and services were sold to non-discriminating buyers.  Sales people did not need to learn the art of selling to make sales. Buyers often bought without first validating the functionality, legality, integration or longevity of their purchase.  (Think electronics, mortgages, bank loans, lease-options, etc.) They relied upon the sales person to tell them what they wanted to hear. Now, limited budgets are spawning much more selective consumers.

Successful sales people first learn how to deal with a buyer’s first impression, and effectively handle fear of new products or services. They understand how to work with busy people who rely upon yesterday’s experiences and overlook the value of today’s new products or services.

These top performers sell up to six times more than average sales people who do not incorporate objective data into their repertoire to facilitate the buyer’s decision making process. 

What does it take to sell more?

First and foremost: Get real about who is a top performer. We hire for job skills and fire for poor job fit. Many sales executives and business owners still rely upon their gut and other antiquated methods for determining one’s ability to sell their product or service.  Unfortunately, they falsely believe that a person’s verbal ability to talk the talk will ensure sales ability. As a result, they miss out on hiring top performers who could have made the difference between an adequate bottom line and a great financial outcome.

Use scientifically qualified assessment products and it will make all the difference in hiring the right person who can sell. You cannot fix and change someone who does not possess the right job fit skills for your sales requirements. Thinking style accounts for over 50% of a person’s success; core behaviors (can they close?) and occupational interests (do they possess up-to-date info?) round out the other 50%.

Another falsehood: We believe that high energy type people make better sales people. This myth can create many problems. 

  1. High energy is not just “younger employees”
  2. This type person can actually deter potential buyers, particularly in a long sales cycle or in developing a long-term relationship
  3. This belief is discriminatory and focuses on personality issues that statistically don’t make a difference!

Focus on sales results.  Traditionally, poor sales people have relied upon brochures, websites, credentials or social network data to sell their products or services. For many products and services, this didn’t work then, and certainly does not work now, even with the increase in web-based purchases. Buyers have become more selective, and rely upon their “relationship” with their sales rep. 

Pay attention to your sales team’s communication style. 

  • Will the person listen to the buyer’s needs and provide value-add solutions?
  • Can they quantify the product or service details vs. their competition?
  • Will they close the sale? Can they up-sell and cross-sell to address future needs?

Additional communications basics that are often missed:

  • Say please and thank you – still works. 
  • Learn proper email etiquette – it’s not hard.
  • Follow-up and follow-through — still required to get and keep customers.
  • Greet someone with the proper handshake — makes a difference.
  • Talk voice-to-voice — still required for many purchases.
  • Pronounce people’s names correctly — it’s still a must!

Do it now. Objectively assess your sales team’s ability to sell. Focus your attention and money on your top performers. Train those who have the potential, based upon the right job fit. Sales will naturally – and exponentially – escalate. 

©Jeannette Seibly, 2010

What is your capacity? Planning & Growth

What is your capacity to handle new clients without reducing what you deliver? The focus of small business owners everywhere tends to be the same: Making money, paying bills–not building systems and people, not planning capacity.

As entrepreneurs, we usually believe we can handle an increase in sales volume. It’s what we seek, it’s the holy grail of growth—right? Unfortunately, unplanned rapid growth can send any business to an early grave. Often, only after the fact of rapid growth do we discover we didn’t have systems and people to meet our growing needs.  Customers have little patience for trial and error. Waiting until necessity drives development of systems and people, we miss the opportunity to proactively increase capacity.  Ultimately, we damage profitability, and our reputation. So, how do we dodge the bullet?

Hire the Right People. Hiring the best can be a slow process. We must answer three questions:”Can they do the job?” (capacity); “How will they do the job?” (behavior); and, “Will they do the job?” (occupational interest—is this what they want to do?) All three questions must also be context-specific: “Can they do this job here?” If the questions are asked properly and answered clearly, the probability of hiring someone who fits the job increases. Research confirms it: people who fit their jobs produce more, stay longer, and create happier, more profitable workplaces!

Clarify strengths and weaknesses. When your capacity doesn’t change much, employees stagnate!  Those who might have handled new challenges have left for new opportunities, usually with your competition.  Current employees may have effectively departed while still on your payroll—a problem Harvard Business School calls “presenteeism.” A clear view of each of each employee’s “true” interests is critical. Remember, it’s an ongoing process: A wise entrepreneur once said, “When you think you have it all handled, you’ve set yourself up for failure.” Our working systems are often created by employees for their own convenience, not necessarily for your customers. Worse, we rarely know what our systems really are, and employees modify them continuously.

Customers have their own, private opinions about your business. Ask them questions, directly and indirectly:  What works for you, our customer? What do we do that does not work?  Allow them to clarify. What do they need from you? What else would they like from you?

Develop accountability and responsibility in your employees, managers and yourself.   Simply having feedback is one thing, acting productively on it is another—and acting is harder!  Measure skills in your managers, and plan to improve them. Make sure everyone realizes it’s an ongoing process: “Perfection is a direction, not a place.” Handle problem employees now! If you have an employee unable to do the job, be fair and let them go.  Hire slowly, fire quickly.

One manager put it very well: “The most expensive employee time I have is the interval between when I realize they have to go, and when I actually make it happen.” An effective manager must concentrate on, and measure, results.  ”Working hard” is a valuable part of the systems producing your total results, but is rarely sufficient. Focus on these fundamentals of business, and you will soon see new opportunities for growth in your business, based on planned increases in your capacity!

Copyright © Jeannette L. Seibly and John W. Howard, 2004-2010

Jeannette Seibly, Principal of SeibCo, LLC takes your company to the next level by creating leaders, success and results. Whether it be generating your next million, making a strategic difference or resolving people issues, SeibCo, LLC is your partner in causing unprecedented results and impacting your bottomline.

John W. Howard, Ph.D., owner of Performance Resources, Inc. helps businesses of all sizes increase their profits by reducing their people costs. His clients hire better, fire less, manage better, and keep their top performers.