Archives for September 2014

Training: Step 1 is to Prime The Pump For Results

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Training, like most words in business conjures up various images:

  • Class Rooms
  • Work-books
  • Certifications
  • Boot Camps
  • Lectures

I think of training in 2 buckets:

1)  Formal

2)  In-formal

The bullet points above are formal.

Formal, structured training certainly has its place in business.  There’s a tendency for senior management to expect immediate results or a “spike” in productivity, like some type of sales promotion increasing sales in the short-term.

In-formal training is where the action is.  It happens off the cuff.  Spontaneous.  Un-predictable.  Free-flowing.  Back and forth.  Sounds a bit like everyday life doesn’t it?

If you want to know how the lion lives, don't go to the zoo, go to the jungle.

 

The purpose of any training program needs to be about growing people, and then as a result, business growth becomes easier.[Continue Reading…]

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The Small Business “Sorry” Dilemma

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I root very hard for the success of the small, locally owned small business.  A thriving small business community is a cornerstone to a great OVERALL community.

But I can’t help but scratch my head at a recent experience.

The Scene?

  • A local deli in an industrial area of NJ.  Opens at 6am, serves typical breakfast food, coffee, etc.
Local coffee shop

Image Credit: WSJ

I asked the owner “how’s business been?”

“Extremely slow, never seen it this bad.  We’ll see?”

Sounded ominous.  And to be honest, a bit de-flating.  Maybe because we were chatting about a Jets loss on Monday Night football.  Starting the day off with negativity < Optimism!

He proceeded to make the sandwich, I poured a cup of coffee.  Sandwich was good and better than the local chains.

But something I took for granted as I finished and topped off my coffee before leaving:

“We charge for re-fills, I’m sorry, that will be $1.65!”

“No problem!”  I paid, left and as always, re-played that event and how a small business chooses to compete, or not.

Every business owner has the privilege of making whatever decisions they think are right for their business, it’s one of the beauties of a free economy.

But their WAS one word in this exchange I found a bit telling:

“I’m sorry.”

Apologies in business are somewhat rare.  When done with sincerity they are a great customer service building gesture.

However…..

Why apologize for your OWN decisions related to how you run your business?

I had some thoughts what prompted his appology….

  • Maybe it’s a new policy?
  • Many customers take a self service station as a license for granted (admittedly presumptuos))?
  • He sees perplexed looks on your customers faces?
  • He really is sorry for charging for a re-fill….

How about a new tool:

The Sorry Meter:

If you find yourself compelled to apoligize for business decision, maybe you should think about an alternative to avoid the Sorry to begin with?

 

There are plenty of alternatives to the dilemma:

Post a humorous sign by the station:

  • “Crappy coffee is cheap and free re-fills work.  Great coffee costs money, so we proudly charge for a second cup.  Because Life is too short to endure crappy coffee”

Sales Pricing/Promotion 101.

  • Give Free Re-fills for higher ticket transactions.  Make it a reward for valuable customers.
  • Just Increase the price of cup #1 and offer free re-fills.  Yes, the single cup customers subsidize the multi cup customers, but most would rather have the experience “built in” to the price.
  • Interestingly, this small business had ZERO internet presence.  No web page, social media engagement, etc.  No Yelp reviews, etc.  Maybe his audience is not active, but I doubt it.

How about creating a “Customer Manifesto” that outlines the principles of service and the pricing charged for that service?

How about some direct engagement trying to understand the person walking in the door, what they are about, do they work in an office (or Manufacturing plant) with many people that could be potential customers?

Hustle takes the shape of many forms.

Not recovering costs in business (and then a profit) is a surefire way to bankruptcy, so I would never advocate giving away anything that does not look to generate profit.

All businesses struggle with the need to generate profit TODAY, vs the LONG-Term health of the business.  Sustainaability is driven by, loyal customers.  Loyalty drives Lifetime value, and it’s always preceded by a relationship.  

The Challenge?

We are in a hyper-competitive world with so many choices.  One decision can either INCREASE trips or $ ring, or DECREASE it.  The battle is the transaction.  The WAR is the lifetime value of the customer.

It’s possible to win both, but like most great things in life, it won’t happen by accident.

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Working Towards a 2am Friend…..In Business

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In February of 2014 I wrote a post on the holy grail of relationships:  The 2am Friend.  Who would you call at 2am if you were in a real bind, stuck on the side of a road 100 miles away from home?  Or some other bind where you cringe picking up the phone and only 1 or 2 people come to mind.

Bill Cosby tells the story in 6 minutes as only he can.

“Friend” is a loaded word these days, and with Facebook it has been marginalized in my opinion, but that’s another story for another day.

Friend generally applies to life OUTSIDE of work.  Sometimes the lines of work and life outside of work merge and they become one.  Many people have very strong philosophies to not socialize with work colleagues, keep lives separate. I personally believe that is very difficult to do, although I do see the logic.

Here’s the thing that’s worth noting with the 2am friend concept:  Why would it NOT apply to your critical WORK relationships, become something worth striving towards? 

Said differently, if work is a critical area of our lives, as it is for everyone, do you have a handful of genuine 2am friends?  The key word is GENUINE.  

Sometimes business gets messy when authority structures make relationships a bit more complicated.

A trusted colleague of mine painted a picture of the future with me a while back.  She said “you and so and so can work to be 2am friends.”  It’s a sentiment that brought a very big smile to my face, as the person is a critical component of our success.  And truth be told, it left me a bit uneasy.

Why?

I have not managed the relationship where 2am friend status is possible.  Productive relationship?   Yes!  2am level?  Not even close.

Sometimes it takes a simple conversation and a look in the mirror to step up your game.

Every business has a handful of people where IF a 2am relationship was achieved, results, satisfaction and fun would simply soar through the roof.  I have been fortunate to have more than a handful in my career.  

The reality is that people run through relationships like they are running to the next meeting:  Cordial.  Efficient.  Respectful.

The 2am concept is different.  A 2am friend would move heaven and earth to fight for you, even if you have conflict…..which always exists in business.

Like most leadership principles on Hustle or Bust……the first step towards the 2am Friend in business is a look in the mirror on what YOU control.  Then take appropriate action to change your future, and the future of those around you.

What if all leaders identified who are those (very few people) they need 2am status with?

Then they look in the mirror and ask if they are doing their part to move in that direction?

Great relationships, like most things in life do not happen by accident.  

 

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Your First 90 Days & The Only School That Matters

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The first 90 days on a new job are probably the most critical for ANYONE.  It’s a time when you are confronted with so many new things….

  • New Colleagues:  Establishing sound relationships, remembering names, knowing who the key opinion leaders are

  • The Culture:  One of the critical components.  Here’s a primer.

  • The business model of the company:  How they generate money and improve over time

  • External stakeholders of the business:  Customers, suppliers, investors

And of course, your JOB.  What you were hired to do.

It brings me to the critical question:

Who’s the #1 person in charge of training a new employee?

  • The direct manager?
  • The “training” manager?
  • The peers of the new employee?
  • All of the above?
  • None of the above?

If I answer as the leader of a company, I probably lean towards “All of the above.”

If I’m giving practical advice to 99% of the world?  NONE OF THE ABOVE.

The person in charge of successfully on-boarding a new employee, is the NEW EMPLOYEE.  The person in the mirror is the one in charge.  The one with the most at stake.  The one that has the most to learn, and if they don’t learn it, they will not survive.

The stakes are even higher, if that person…

  • Has > 5 years of experience.  Companies hire for experience for a simple reason:  Most are not good at training, and they are paying for the accelerated ramp up experience SHOULD provide, but often does not.  The more experience, the > the expectations.  
  • Is working for a person (direct manager) that may fall into one of my favorite institutions:  The Old School.

Everyone has a different definition of what it means to be Old School, but most agree on the general characteristics.  Fact is, put a new employee reporting to an Old School manager, and that new employee better get used to the person in the mirror being in charge.  Why?

The Old School Leader tends to gain their satisfaction from:

  • Results, not pedigrees.

  • Sincere effort.  Blood.  Sweat.  Tears.  Paying your dues.  Action > Talk.

  • In short, the Old School Leaders almost always has Dirt Under Their Nails.  They wear it as a badge of honor.   They believe in leaving it all on the field.  Hustle mandatory, not optional.

Want to find a surefire way to UN-successfully fail on your first 90 days?  Come off acting like a robot, a stuffed shirt, a business wonk, a theorist.  Don’t get your hands dirty.  Don’t show the effort beyond normal working hours.

Imagine this:  A new employee enters the following scenario (extremely common by the way)

  • The company is not “sexy,” but it’s manufacturing, one of the pillars of our great economy.  Margins are measured by pennies on the $.
  • The key people all have 10+ years of great experience building that company.  They are successful BECAUSE of these very people.
  • They are all generally “Old School.”

What’s the recipe for failure?

  • Work normal business hours.  Remember, we are dealing with Old School.

  • Don’t ask questions.

  • Don’t offer to help people swamped.

  • Don’t get your hands dirty in the ugliest, un-sexiest assignments.

  • Most important:  Don’t build trust.  Break commitments.  Don’t “Do what you say you will do.”

Common sense?  You bet.  Broken often?  ABSOLUTELY.

If you were to analyze why most new hires do not make it, I bet the root cause is simple:  There’s a tendency for the new employee to not count on the most important person to get it done:  The person in the mirror.

Most of the time, where and IF a person went to college doesn’t matter.  But everyone has gone to school.  If you are starting a job and those people are from the Old School, strap yourself in.  Be humble.  And be prepared to garner respect the old fashion way:  Earning it.  

 

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Advice: Not All is Created Equal, so Use The ENERGY TEST!

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There are some realities in life I refer to as “Brutal.”  You may not like them, but they are true.  One of them that always seems to ring true is that of the….

They are close cousins.  Most people won’t dispute that there is not a “normal” distribution of anything.  Very few things are created equal.  Just look at the nation’s wealth where it is concentrated among a very small % of people.  Or influence.  Or “problems.”

These principles can also be applied to your career development.  Take one simple aspect of self improvement:

ADVICE.  Who you seek it from?  Who influences you to improve (or not)?

Personal growth is certainly about learning from others, their experiences both good and bad.

There’s an interesting thing that must be recognized when it comes to advice.  NOT ALL ADVICE IS CREATED equal.

  • Some advice needs to be filtered.
  • Some advice needs to be given more weight to tip the scales and move to ACTION.  And you need to do this YESTERDAY.
  • Some advice needs to be appreciated, but flat out ignored.
  • Some advice is game-changing.  Act on it and you will accelerate.  FAST.
  • Some advice is poison.  It will slow you down at best, maybe even help you self-destruct at worse.

So what do you do when being given Advice?[Continue Reading…]

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