Business operations

Anti – testimonial

Anti-testimonial

When we check Trip Advisor and think who would write such a glowing testimonial report, we know, it’s possibly the best friend of the director or owner of that business.

When we read a scathing one, we know it’s possibly the competitor’s version, of don’t go there, find us instead.

It’s the in-between reports that seem the most genuine and realistic. After reading enough 3’s and 4’s rather than just the 1’s and 5’s, we start to get a picture of what’s really going on.

So as an alternative, perhaps it’s better that when we ask our customers for feedback, and then we decide upon taking this one step further.

Imagine if you would, picking a 3 or 4 from your client feedbacks and reporting on and after the feedback event. Let me explain it this way.

One course we ran recently had a delegate say the following;

“I loved the course but felt it was too superficial. I would love to have some more detailed examples of how the process works. Especially ones that are true stories and an application of how it worked. Otherwise, the course was great, food was nice, venue ideal and the trainer was engaging” 4 out of 5.

So, when it comes to reporting a testimonial, it would be very tempting to just reprint the first and last sentences, missing out the suggestion and the critique.

This makes it slightly disingenuous.

A more powerful way would be to report the whole and then, address the critique and suggestion, and ask for second feedback.

We did just that.

The client was invited back, at our own cost, and we added the suggestion in as well as addressed a bespoke solution to a client issue he had at the time.

This is what he wrote after the second event.

“Attending the follow-up course, I was stunned to realise that my feedback had been taken so seriously. I had more than a renewed understanding of the training concept, I had a practical solution to one of my own difficult issues. I was blown away! The food was nice again. The venue was ideal, and the trainer was just as engaging. However, this time I had a fantastic experience and will be recommending this wholeheartedly. Thank you for listening but thank you more for taking action to improve my experience.” 5 out of 5.

The first and second testimonials, carry so much more weight and honesty.

Feedback is the food of champions. We know that. However, what we do with it is the key.

Are you brave enough to quote both the feedbacks and then give an explanation of why the difference or are you just going to highlight the positive bits and miss the real powerful testimonial?

It is one way to set yourself apart. It is more genuine and realistic. It also shows that you care enough about doing a good job that you will expose where you fell short and prove that you are willing to do something about it too.

That takes guts. You need to be brave to do that. You need to be openly honest enough to admit you are not perfect but are trying always to be better.

Go on. I dare you.

Key people in your company and life.

 

Are you generating mistrust?

 

Key people in your company and life.

I remember a significant customer who gave me so much business every year, that I joked about if he were ever ill, I would send my own personal doctor by helicopter to get him well again.

We laughed about it at the time, yet we all know that some people in our businesses, customers, key salespeople, directors and office managers can be so integral and valuable, we would do anything to keep them in situ.

With regard to team members, while this is impossible to guarantee, it is possible to strengthen their position with you to make it unlikely they would leave. It is possible to have the right health plans in place for them. We can pay them more than the open market value too. However, this is not good enough. Yes, it will help, but when you are running a business, you need more than a plan A or A & B.

First, it is not wise to be so dependant on one person. This means having a robust enough back up to replace anyone.

Secondly, it means recognising that this is a vulnerable position to let yourself be in. A table with only one or two legs will fall when one goes.

Thirdly, it means having the right people feel appreciated.

This last one is the overlooked one.

Appreciation is often shown with money, rewards or even recognition. However, the secret to appreciation is based on being real about it.

A heartfelt thank you. A case of wine, A personal thank you note. Perhaps a gift of extra time off.

One of my personal favourites is just a surprise gift. Saw this and thought of you. I knew you liked these, so I got you one.

It can often be like courting. When you are trying to win someone over you, tend to be more attentive than at any other time. Yet if we want people to be loyal and happy and productive, we have an easy option of just paying them the respect they deserve. It is not about money only. It is more about a sense of self-worth or contribution. Making a difference in people’s lives is a strong motivator. Tap into it.

Ask yourself, how can I improve the lives of the key people in my business, or life. They won’t get it easily anywhere, yet if we know how to, we can build a business based on the valuable traits that make people happy.

People will come and go for a variety of reasons. It is important to shore up the valuable assets in our businesses and families and relationships. The most valuable is often the people. Pay respect to that fact and it will serve you well.

Eight biggest mistakes of business owners

Eight biggest mistakes of business owners

The following eight mistakes of business owners are not meant to be a comprehensive list because as all of who are business owners know the list is a lot longer than 8 points. However, I believe that if you address the following 8 points, those actions will have a massive impact on the profitability and success of your business.

These points are more about mindset changes as opposed to specific activities.

1. Being driven by money and not a passion for delivering value

Sure we have to make a good profit to remain in business. It’s no good having a wonderful business which you love if you do not make enough profit to live your desired lifestyle and help your teams of people do the same.

In the end, the money your business makes is a direct reflection of the value it offers and the number of people it delivers that value to

However, if your focus is ONLY on the profit, you will not build a strong growing business. A business is only as strong as the idea behind it and the value it delivers to its customers. Bear profit in mind but swing your mindset more to offering as much value as you can to your customers. The more you can grow and differentiate the value your business offers to your customers, the more “Raving Fans” you will build. Therefore, the word of mouth recommendations you get will significantly improve, and the more your business will grow.

Look at every one of your products and services. Focus ONLY on the ones that you believe you can offer extraordinary value to your customers and either ditch the rest or find a way of outsourcing that to someone else. This focus will make your systems and teams increasingly better, which will keep adding value and keep growing profits.

2. Not thinking long term sustainability

A business is not or at least should not be in the game of beating its competitors (unless it’s a sports team) It’s not about the competition – it’s about sustainability.

Business owners that focus on beating the competition simply do not understand the game they are playing. In sports, the game has a defined time limit, a defined set of rules and a referee. Your business has continually changing competition across the world; there is no time limit; there are no clearly defined rules and certainly no referee.

A business is in an infinite game where the game is really – To Stay in Business. You lose the game only if you go out of business.

If you want a long-term sustainable business, you have to start with the intention of growing a long term sustainable business not simply beating the competition.

Think long term. Build the best you can now and apply the Kaizen principle – Continuous and never-ending improvement.

  • Keep your best people long term and keep helping them to improve.
  • Build your systems for the long term and keep improving them
  • Improve your products and services continually
  • Build your financial reserves against a rainy day
  • Protect your intellectual property – the way you do what you do

3. Not working on your personal development

Every business is a reflection of its leader or leaders. The way you think determines the culture and actions of your teams and ultimately what your business does and how it does it.

Working on your business is like adding extra apps to your phone. Very useful and certainly adds value if the apps are good.

Working on yourself as Leader is like changing the operating system from a mobile phone which simply makes calls to the supercomputer you probably have in your pocket right now.

Working hard and getting coached on your personal development will change how you think, your life and business strategies and how you interact with the world. Growing personally will inevitably change your life for the better.

4. Not working on your business culture

Your business has a culture irrelevant of what you do. Your culture is how you, your teams and your business behaves. The question is – How effective is your culture in winning your business game.

In the 1960s Douglas McGregor wrote a seminal business book called the “Human Side of Enterprise” about Theory X and Theory Y companies. – Google it to learn more

Basically, theory X companies work on command and control – They believe people need to be controlled, told what to do and how to do it.

Theory Y companies believe people are generally good, self-motivated and self-directed and want to produce a good job. They prefer the autonomy of being allowed to work to the best of their abilities.

Both methods can produce excellent results. It’s just one is much more fun to work in, less stress for the business owners and potentially is more sustainable in the long term.

Today in a fast moving and ever more complex world, the most talented people are increasingly mobile and well connected. They know their own worth and are only attracted to companies where they feel valued and can work with purpose-driven highly capable teams. It’s not just the money. In the first five years of Google, nearly everyone who worked for them took a salary CUT to join them because they were excited to work in a high performing autonomous culture.

You cannot hope to run a great business by yourself.

Building a great culture to attract extraordinary people who will help you grow your business with more fun and less stress is essential in today’s world.

5. Not measuring team members performance properly

You can make every effort to employ the right people and build a great culture, but still, some people will underperform. You or their team leader may feel that underperformance in their guts but its really hard and time-consuming to pin down. If you or a team leader gives a person a bad appraisal, that person can simply dismiss that appraisal as the “Boss is just a ********! – He /she doesn’t know what she is talking about. They then carry on regardless, doing the same as before or worse still simply paying lip service to the feedback.

So what’s the answer?

360 Degree anonymous reviews for every person in the company and especially team leaders and the boss from at least five other people who work closely with them. The results should produce average scores against a whole range of criteria.

It’s easy to dismiss parts of your appraisal because the boss is a ******** but practically impossible to do so if it’s all the people you work with giving you an average low score in a particular area of your performance. It does not matter what you think. Whether you think the score is fair or not is irrelevant – the fact is that other people who work closely with you believe this is a correct indication of your performance – so nearly everyone will take more notice of the results.

It’s essential that a 360 review system is put into place to help people develop because hopefully most of your people want to do a good job. Most of us are simply blind to our weaknesses. People should want to know how to improve otherwise, why are they working with you?

Following that 360 appraisals, a personal development plan should be agreed with every employee and regularly discussed and progress tracked by team leaders.

A team leaders MAIN job should be to get the best from his/her team

This regular feedback and tracking to help low performance in certain areas are essential for everyone. Across your company, this will produce extraordinary results. Across the board, low performers can be moved to other roles to give them a chance. Ultimately, low performers are likely to deselect themselves as it is very difficult to continue work in a team when you know everyone thinks you are underperforming. You will either strive to improve, or you will leave or the company.

Sometimes the company will have to “ask” some people to leave.

If you have to go through the correct disciplinary procedure with a few people who underperform you are protected. Its very difficult for them to claim unfair dismissal when a whole team of their peers are stating in their records that they are underperforming in key areas.

For your good people – they know they are doing a good job. As such they really want to know their lower scores (which they may well be blind to) and how they can up their game.

Measuring performance fairly across a range of key criteria and following it up properly will produce high performing and happier teams

What gets measured gets managed.

6. Not enough focus on attracting, identifying and engaging great people

Many companies boast about how great their training programs are. If you spend more time energy and resources on attracting, identifying and engaging great people you can spend a lot less on training. Great people are self-motivated. They will identify their weak areas and self-train without the need for much help from you. Smart, engaged people can learn how to do most things well provided there is someone to teach them.

In my opinion, there is NOTHING more important than doing everything you can to employ the best people.

Until you are certain you have a fantastic team of HR people with a highly systemised and proven record of employing great people do not leave it to them.

How can you be certain?

Develop scorecards and questions to determine the attributes you want for every prospective employee. Your performance management system should be checked back against the scorecards produced when that person was engaged. Were the scores in line with the actual performance the employee produces?

If not adjust the employment process and questions asked to improve your engagement process to only hire world-class people.

It’s currently x10 harder to get a job with Google than it is to get into Harvard business school. That’s not because they are a highly successful company now. They are a highly successful company because they work extremely hard to get the right people and build a culture for those people to perform well.

7. Not building systems for everything

Great people are essential, and they can even get around bad systems, but why should they have to?

Everything in the business should be part of a system with strong checklists.

You should have the attitude of: To err once is human to err twice on the same thing is stupidity.

If something goes wrong and you have a system – the first thing you should do is blame is the system – most bosses blame the person when in fact the error is probably the fault of the boss for not having a proper system. If the system is at fault talk to your people on how to improve the system, so the fault does not happen again.

Does this mean all your people become robots? Absolutely not – their role is to identify exceptions to the system, faults in the systems and have the authority to act accordingly without fear. They should also be architects of improving the systems and therefore will be engaged in making it work.

With great highly engaged people constantly looking to make 1% improvements to the company systems, the company continually improves to win its game.

8. Not having a coach

All of the above points take a lot of time, energy and resources.

All great performers have great coaches, and I believe it’s almost impossible to perform well without one.

A great coach will question your beliefs and thinking from which all your actions and results are driven. They will hold you accountable to drive forward when things get difficult, and you wonder if you will ever fix big problems. They will remind you that all big problems can be resolved with a good strategy and hard work even if it takes years.

A good coach keeps you in your business game and helps you win.

Enjoy the journey

Do you want a new computer?

Do you want a new computer?

I had got so used to my old one that it took someone else working on mine to make me realise that I had got stuck in a rut of habit and had no idea how inefficient I was managing my computer, and anything linked to it.

Therefore, you need a coach. You can not see how you are performing. It takes others with a trained eye to help you relook at the stuff you have habituated and got comfortable with.

Unless you have more than your own perspective, you can’t possibly compare enough or load up the

a new way of working.

Our skills as social animals help us in so many ways. When you are running your own business, it is easy to think you have everything working well enough to keep growing and be competitive.

If you let a skilful observer give you feedback, you can enhance what you are good at, and this helps you grow in ways you hadn’t thought of already or were blind to. Practice being sociable about how you manage you.

Take stock, analyse and request feedback.

Let those that you trust, give you constructive criticism. Be open to suggestions, new ideas and even allow others to do things for you for a while. You’ll be amazed at how much you can quicken your processing.

My new computer is so much faster. Slicker, smarter, and I now love it. The change suggested to me was difficult to allow because I had got used to how it all worked. I managed the time it took to do certain tasks and was pleased to consider myself as efficient. Looking back at it now, I was stuck in a poor cycle of doing things the way I knew how rather than the way I should do them.

Thankfully, I allowed my PA to bully me into changing. It now takes me much less time, be more accurate and suffer much less stress.

Let a coach into your life, your business, your gym, your relationships, your study methods, your home, your….. anything, and you get that shiny new computer feeling I had today.

It takes courage, it takes to change, and you must be open and trusting. Is it worth it? Oh yes!!!!!!

What businesses are going to be the best in the future?

What businesses are going to be the best in the future?

I was asked this at a business meeting last week, and although I thought I knew an answer, the number of different answers around the table made me question if I had even really considered it at all.

I work in a paper-heavy business and we are going through scanning 30,000 large files, to walk towards being paperless. Nothing new I hear you say. The obvious conclusion from that is programmers and scanners that relate to the many businesses that are paper and file dependent will have work for the foreseeable.

Looking through the costs and set up fees for the right scanner, software, training and servicing, it is easy to think that being in one of those is going to produce work for many years to come.

Yet the salesperson still had to contribute an understanding and interpretation, enough to help me get to grips with what I was signing this new lease contract for.

Would I be setting myself up to be trapped by the software provider, what about the scanner, after I have scanned the bulk of my files?

This thought led me to realise that the information we can find online is infinite, but the interpretation of how it works with each business is another.

One Will drafter was concerned that Wills would become digital in the years ahead. I do believe that to be so. However, the content of the electronic Will, video, signature, placement, style and even exclusions, will all need to be interpreted and structured or it can’t work.

The real work in the future is guiding. Helping people make decisions, reflection of goals, interpretation of facts, extrapolation of outcomes and even moral conjecture. These are difficult to digitise. I’d even say impossible.

The emotive foreplay before a decision is best seen through the eyes of others. Sharing ideas and weighing up the outcomes are often referred to as facilitating. This is something a coach does best.

The businesses of the future that will unlikely be replaced are creativity, coaching, teaching and motivating. Sooner or later we will find much of what we do replaced by computers.  I know though that I shall be struggling to work big ideas or projects without the consultancy of wisdom from others.

I know that I rely on others motivating me and that I can get motivated by encouraging others. I’m amazed that 1+1 ideas often equals three ideas. That sharing problems halves them.

We all concluded that talking, listening, extrapolation, guiding, being a moral compass and even just asking the right questions, will all be currency of the future.

How does your business stack up to this? Is it congruent with your purpose and ethical stance? Does it fit your lifetime goals as being necessary or just wanted?

Just ask yourself, does your future look brighter knowing this?

Begin with the end in mind

Begin with the end in mind

Begin with the end in mind

‘The servers down’!!!!!

It seems like it’s the perfect excuse for not working or to take stock of the jobs that can be done when its down, that you may otherwise have decided was best not started.

Begin with the end in mind may not seem an obvious Stephen Covey quote to refer to when the server goes down, yet a recent event in my office led to the discussion about, what should we do when the satellites decide to play up.

One hour or five without the internet seem rarer these days. Our conclusion on the last event though helped us realise that we were distracted enough by our computers to have many of the ‘other jobs’ start to get behind.

One major benefit of this thinking is that it allows you to think of all that is needed for a job or project to be finished. Some of us are not good at following a job all the way through to the end, but some are.

Some of us use computers well and enjoy them. Some of us don’t.

It is helpful to think of a division of jobs that need tenacious computer types and jobs that need a tenacious other type.

A recent storage issue in one of my businesses helped me define a newer approach. Heavily paper based for over 20 years, made a big scanning project a necessity. To be frank the scanning should have been done years ago, but not being as tech based as the modern world requires, I kept putting it off.

Now I’m looking at selling this business, I am forced to face the challenge, that could have been easier had I been brave enough and thought end game more.

I ran the project by my team, and after a few ‘Luddite’ comments, I agreed I should not be the one running this. So, with the end in mind, I set the goal, I gave it to my tenacious computer-based people, and they are now charging through the job faster than I’d thought they would. With more enthusiasm than I could have mustered and with a better insight into how to get the job done than I could have. The end I have in mind seems so much closer.

I love the concept of sharing goals, getting the right people doing the right jobs, getting a deadline agreed and overall, delegating things that are just not my forte.

Waiting until the server is down, to discover what you can do without these amazing things called computers is not the best strategy. The jobs that are needed to be completed to get a project finished are best split between those that can be best at doing them.

Remember the differing versions of style of skills and mindsets you have at your disposal and if “begin with the end in mind” becomes an ingrained habit, you will get there so much quicker.

I look forward to next satellite wobble and its effects.

Do you know your clients?

get to know your clients

Do you know your clients? Yes, but do you really know?

We often think we know our businesses, and its true most us have a handle on the numbers and the history.  However, Sir Clive Woodward, at a recent conference talked about ‘The Data’, and the story behind the data is not often a true explanation of the facts.

Get the Facts. Truly, deep down can’t get any more data Facts.

You can look at your ROFE, yet behind that could be just a handful of great profitable customers that are masking the truth behind the vacuum of profit customer. Averages help get an overview but break them down and the character of the good bad and the ugly, start to show.

Ask your team, who is a pain to deal with, and why is that so. A client may serve you better by being referred to a nearby competitor. That client may have come from them in the first place.

I remember letting a client go once, and he was horrified. He got quite angry too. So, I explained to him that my average customer spent 20 hours a month of my time and gave me £300,000 turnover a year. I explained that my profit from my average customer was £100,000. On the other hand, he gave me 30 hours work a month and only contributed to £80,000 to my turnover.

Once I had explained the ‘Facts’ to him he calmed down and realised why I was making the decision and that had he known more, he would have looked at what I offered differently.

The result with this client was that I offered to charge him an hourly rate. He declined as he knew he could go and take advantage of a competitor, without paying the fees for his time. So, we agreed to no longer work together.

Unless I had got to the bottom of his way of dealing with us and backed it up with enough comparable facts, I may have continued to be bossed around by this client. It turns out the staff loved that I had ‘let him go’ because he was the proverbial heart sinker. A double win.

Working with clients you like is always a bonus. Ones that are profitable as well make a great business.

The sweet spot of what you offer is one number crunching exercise. Looking at clients who could be ten times more profitable than your average is another.

Which of your clients have the capacity to do so much more? Fewer clients to deal with could be a new option. The numbers will reveal them.

It could be that your top clients are not top clients. It could be that your low turnover/profit clients are capable of so much more, or, would refer you to others that can. Getting to know your clients in depth is important.

By getting ALL the numbers, the decisions are so much easier.

Yes, it felt good to remove Mr Pain. It was easier than I thought because I had got the facts. Numbers never lie if you dig deep enough.

So do you know your clients well enough?

Hire slow fire fast

Hire Slow Fire Fast

Hire slow fire fast

When we employ enough staff, we start to realise that employees are transitional. They come and go based on their agendas, lifestyle, circumstances, competence or even just boredom.

Hiring people is an art form. Get it wrong and you will be going through a tough time. Hire well and it can be extremely rewarding and fruitful. Good staff and stability is a great measure of how you run your business.

If you consider staff to be friends then lines can get blurred. Complacency, familiarity and lack of progress are tell-tale signs that the job isn’t the job hoped for and must be guarded against.

Building a team of people that complement each other or generate a powerhouse of work completed takes time, awareness and attention.

The question is, who does that for you and what systems do you use to ensure great productivity? How much do you develop a relationship with staff or them with each other for optimal performance?

It could be considered formulaic. However, people are people and by that, I mean, we are all different. We may have skills that are needed to compliment others or complete a team. Overall though we need to feel human, fulfilled, valued, cared for, respected, listened to and appreciated.

Even if you are all the above, turnover of staff will occur. Loyalty cannot be bought. Life changes outside work and life impacts.

When trust breaks down, fire fast. No employee should be allowed to continue in their job if the trust has gone. It is better to pay them all they are entitled to and change the locks and passwords. If you find yourself compromised, shut up shop. Get rid and move on.

The opposite is true. Hire slow. Take your time to find the right person. Do not react by getting in the first person you can. Take your time. You could be with them for years to come. Valuable people are out there. People who have skills that are rich and useful and underutilised do exist. People who are looking for a breath of fresh air and want to be part of a company that is fertile ground that enhances their natural abilities and captures their great ideas are keen to be with you.

Where would you like to work and under what conditions? Create the type of environment that people will want to come to. They will want to work hard and feel appreciated. That must be better than trying to fill the bank account with enough money each month, just to get by. That style of thinking will never serve your businesses, the employee or others who work there.

We can stifle great people. We can micromanage them to the point of strangulation. I could not think of a worse job.

When selecting someone to take on board, they need to be self-starters. Batteries included. Your role in making that happen is important and worthy of investment.

Ask the candidate, how do you see yourself in three years’ time. You already know what you want to hear, and they will already know what you want to hear too. However, those that can easily answer and are excited about the prospect of growth and learning as well as being able to articulate that in a way that you know isn’t contrived should be sought after, cared for, protected, nurtured, cherished and included in your vision for the future.

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