Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Would You Want to Work for Your Business?
If you want to attract high-value employees in a marketplace that is growing increasingly competitive with each passing day, you need to start by putting yourself in their shoes. What are some things that 21st-century talent may be looking for that you aren't currently offering?
Thanks to things like SaaS (software-as-a-service) and IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service), the ability for businesses to allow employees to work remotely has become a significant priority for quality applicants. Even if you don't feel comfortable bringing someone on and allowing them to work from the home full-time, see if having them work remotely two out of the five business days is something you can manage.
Likewise, BYOD (bring your own device) has become a significant priority for younger employees. It lets them bring their own smartphones, tablets and other devices to work that they already feel comfortable using, thus increasing the overall quality of the work they're able to generate. It also helps save money for businesses, as you no longer have to pay to purchase and maintain a computer for an employee if they're already bringing one from home. These small changes to your existing policies can go a long way towards creating the type of environment and culture that attracts the talent you're after.
Another one of the core ways to attract valuable employees these days involves being as competitive as possible when it comes to job perks. Apple, for example, has a now-legendary attraction strategy that includes not only traditional perks like healthcare, but also things like educational reimbursement as well. Not every company has the type of bankroll that Apple does, but it's always important to remember that making an investment in your employees through competitive perks is ultimately an investment in the future of your company.
These are just a few of the many ways that you can create the type of environment that makes it easy to attract high-value employees and even easier to retain them for the long haul. Remember: quality employees don't grow on trees, and the difference between someone who is "just punching a clock" versus someone who is putting their blood, sweat, and tears into the task at hand is an immense difference, indeed. By putting yourself in their shoes and creating the type of company they can't help but want to work for, you, in turn, create the kind of company clients can't wait to do business with.
Friday, September 16, 2016
What Can Failure Teach Us?
Without learning how to fail and pick yourself up again, most people would never learn anything new or complete any task. It is an accomplishment to fail, and then go on to make something of yourself by admitting that you have failed and refusing to be deterred from your final goal. While this concept can apply to any endeavor in life, it is certainly a concept that can be easily applied to business.
Living with Failure in Business
The business world is full of failures. Companies often have products that do not do well in the marketplace among the mix of products that they sell. In fact, most sales teams figure failure into their daily routine since they know that they will have to approach a lot of leads before they can turn some of them into buying customers. Many successful salespeople use rejections to tally how well they are doing. For instance, they may decide to make enough cold calls over the phone each day to tally up to a hundred "no, thank you's." The reason they count those no's is that they realize that if they receive a hundred no's, they will also have enough yes's in that group of phone calls to make the quota of appointments they need to have.
Failure is a Requirement for Success
"Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly." - Robert F. Kennedy
Greatness can only be achieved by someone who understands what it takes to become great. Therefore, failure is a requirement for success because it takes failure to appreciate success. While not every one of us needs to spend 27 years in prison to finally achieve our goals, the truth remains that unless we persevere towards our goals, we will not be able to achieve success in our careers or life.
Dealing with Failure in Business
As a business owner, it is very likely that you will make mistakes, disappoint staff and customers, and lose business from time to time. However, each time failure occurs, it is best to admit the failure, and then examine why it happened. By learning from our mistakes, we become better business owners and better people. Failure helps us relate to others who have experienced hard times and gives us the opportunity to connect with them as customers.
Dealing with Future Adversity
The next time you or one of your employees fails at a task, take the time to use the failure as an opportunity to learn and improve. Maybe the failure of one person can become a lesson for everyone, and it will lead to the next big success for your entire company.
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
When you're the boss, however, you aren't quite so lucky.
When you're the person in charge of steering the ship, there WILL be mornings where you don't feel as creative as you need to be. There will be days where being productive seems impossible, regardless of how hard you try. If you want to be able to stay as creative and as productive as possible, even when you don't have to answer to anybody but yourself, there are a few key things you'll want to keep in mind.
It's All About Momentum
Staying productive when you're the boss may require you to think about things a bit differently from how you're used to. One of the most valuable assets that you have on your side will be momentum, but unfortunately, that driving force isn't just going to create itself.
Say you have a big task ahead of you that needs to be completed by a specified date. When you look at it as a single goal, it can understandably seem insurmountable - particularly if you have nobody to answer to but yourself. However, if you were to break it down into a number of smaller, more straightforward tasks, suddenly you're building the type of momentum that will carry you far.
Start by making a list of all the more minor things you need to accomplish that will eventually add up to your singular large goal. It's important that you don't try to keep a record of this in your head - write it down on a piece of paper or in a word document on your computer. Doing so will help you visualize both what needs to be done, and the forward progress that you're making. Turn every task less into something that needs to be done and more into a single problem that you need to solve. As you do, physically check each item off the list. The benefit of this method is that you can SEE how much you're accomplishing, even if you haven't technically completed that one larger goal yet. Every time you cross off another task, you're building a little bit of momentum that will drive you forward to the next waypoint. Before you know it, all of those small individual items that seem insignificant by themselves will add up to the proverbial end zone that you were working towards in the first place. You're not doing any more or less work - you're just shifting the way you think about the task at hand when you don't have anyone to look to for motivation other than yourself.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Creativity is the same way. Instead of looking at something as a single, big task to be completed, be it a piece of creative material or a catchy new slogan for your business, look at it as a series of small puzzles to be solved. Visualize the amount of work to be done and the amount of progress you've made thus far. Before you know it your creative problem will be solved, even if you weren't necessarily feeling creative yourself along the way.
For those days where creativity seems fruitless and remaining productive seems all but impossible, remember a very mere fact of the business world that you've likely forgotten. Even though you're the boss, you DO have someone that you're answering to, the client. Put yourself in the mindset of one of your employees - what would you tell them if they were supposed to turn in that big project but didn't because they just weren't "feeling creative enough"? You'd say "too bad - it's too important, it needs to be done." Because the work IS too important and it DOES need to be done. As the boss, it isn't so much that you're answering to someone (in this case, the client), but more that someone genuinely depends on you. It's your job not to let them down in any way possible.
Friday, September 9, 2016
Consider the fact that "productivity" as a metric is not something that you can improve indefinitely. You can only find new and innovative ways to raise the amount of work you're able to do so far before you hit a period of diminishing returns. People WILL get overworked, at which point you're farther away from your ultimate goal of "do the best work possible, no exceptions" than you were when you started.
Increasing productivity is a means to an end: it is not the end in and of itself. Instead, there are far more important things for running a successful business that you should be focusing on.
Don't Focus on Outcomes. Focus on Processes
When people place all of their emphasis on increasing productivity, "work harder" tends to become the mantra of the day. However, the old phrase of "work smarter, not harder" still very much applies - or at least it should for the best results.
Focus less on what your employees can do and more on how they're able to do it. Does your management style create unnecessary waste in the daily workflows of your staff? Do what you can to eliminate it wherever possible. Would giving your employees the ability to work remotely make their lives easier, thus increasing the QUALITY of the work they're able to offer? It's something you should consider.
Instead of looking at work as an issue of quantity, look to quality wherever possible. Do whatever it takes to improve HOW your employees are working and rest assured, WHAT they're able to do will improve as a result.
Keep Everyone on the Same Page
As time goes on, one of the biggest challenges that business leaders face tends to be one of communication. Remember that every department or team in your business isn't acting in a vacuum - they're all essentially working together to form the single cohesive whole that is your business in the first place. A vacuum is exactly what is created when you don't take the time to periodically redefine exactly what a person or team's purpose is, what they're doing and (most importantly) why that matters.
Giving people a mission that is unclear or that lacks focus is an excellent way to lower engagement at the same time. Always take the time to make sure that everyone has their "eye on the prize," so to speak, regarding why they should care and what the prize is they should be eyeing.
These are just a few of the factors that are far more important than the blanket concept of "increased productivity" in the world of business. In fact, you'll often find that when you take the time to focus on other areas of your business to help create the well-oiled machine you always wanted to be running, productivity tends to increase on its own as a result. Workflows become easier to sustain, and communication becomes clearer, paving the way for the high volume of quality, timely production you were after in the first place.
Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Why Use Trial and Error?
Even in our current modern age of computers and mobile technology, too many businesses use trial and error or other decision-making techniques without any evidence of potential results before they get started. Keeping in mind the adage of what happens to people who make assumptions, there are better ways to decide on business matters.
Using the Scientific Method
If you think back to your high school days, you may remember learning about the scientific method. Like many high school students, if you didn't pursue a career in science, it is likely that you have not thought about the scientific method in recent years. However, business is more like science than you might expect. You can prove and disprove many theories with factual evidence before risking time and money on a new project or campaign. Why should you risk your company income and employees' paychecks when you can test theories before you take the plunge? If you could predict behavior, you would be able to achieve much more reliable results.
Let's see how much you remember about the scientific method. The basic method is to create a theory and then set up a scientific experiment to test your theory. You need a test group equally divided into control and experimental subjects.
Setting Up the Experiment
Google is a prime example of a company that tests its theories on a regular basis. They are constantly running tests to see how people react to various changes in their search engine. When they find a particular change that nets the results they want, they then implement the successful change over a larger group of search parameters.
Tests have been run by various companies to answer questions such as these:
Do lobster tanks increase lobster sales at Food Lion supermarkets?
Do eBay users bid higher in auctions when they can pay by credit card?
Do Subway promotions on low-fat sandwiches increase sandwich sales?
Does a Toronto-Dominion branch get significantly more deposits when open 60 hours a week compared with 40? (from https://hbr.org/2009/02/how-to-design-smart-business-experiments)
When Tests Do Not Work
Testing does not work in all situations. You have to have a large enough collection of data to learn anything significant. However, when you do have enough data to create a test, testing will give you measurable and repeatable results. According to the Harvard Business Review,
"Whether in marketing, store or branch location analysis, or website design, the most reliable insights relate to the potential impact and value of tactical changes: a new store format, for example, or marketing promotion or service process."
If you have a situation with specific, measurable results, instead of guessing the outcome and taking the risk, create a test that will give you a valid answer and confidence in your investment.
Friday, September 2, 2016
"Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in."
- Isaac Asimov
Assumptions are a Poor Way to Doing Business
With the ability to work from practically anywhere due to the internet and Wi-Fi, people from many careers often work from home. Working from home means that they may work in their grungiest clothes or even their pajamas. Depending on how eccentric they are, you may even find people shopping in their pjs.
It is amazing how many assumptions people make based on how other people dress. These assumptions can lead to insulting the wrong customer and losing business that you need.
Working from Home
Working from home is not a new invention. In fact, there are several careers that have traditionally been pursued from home or a studio, namely writing, photography, music, art and invention. It is notable that all of these careers are creative endeavors, often pursued by unusual people. The question is, when a famous writer comes into your shop to have their work printed or the next Picasso comes along to have a print made of their artwork, how do you differentiate them from everyone else wearing raggedy jeans and a t-shirt? You can't.
In fact, if a top executive from a corporation works at home, it is extremely likely that he will work in his most comfortable clothing. Therefore, when he walks into your store, you will see a man in jeans and a t-shirt, someone who looks like they are a college student or an average Joe.
Treating Every Customer like Your Best Customer
This situation is exactly why assumptions are bad for business. With mobile technology, any traveler can be your biggest customer. A paint-covered customer might be a famous artist instead of the house painter next door. And even if they aren't your biggest client, they might refer her to you if they like how you do business.
"Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends." - Walt Disney
Kissmetrics notes in an article about customer service (https://blog.kissmetrics.com/true-love-with-customers/) that the best thing you can do to make your customer fall in love with your business is to genuinely interact with them. In other words, make every customer interaction a relationship-building one. Develop your customer by how you work with them each time they come in. Even if they are just a college student needing their final paper printed, they could be starting a career that will bring you the best customer you have ever had.
Don't make assumptions. They are bad for business.