Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Is everyone in your Small Business in sales?

Being in sales for 28 years and a small business owner for the last twelve years,  I know we all have to wear many hats. But do we all have to sell? I hear people tell me all the time, I don’t have the personality to sell, I hate salespeople, they don’t pay me enough to sell, it’s not my job to sell. Well if you have heard or maybe even said any of these or worse, relax. What if you just change the word from selling to serving? We can serve. Recently I was at the dentist and the receptionist was so harsh, direct and cold that honestly, I don’t want to go back even though I love the dentist. Every member of our team that comes into contact with customers or even potential customers is communicating a message. What is that message? I love going to Chick-fil a to get an iced tea. I am always greeted with a smile as they ask me “how may I serve you”.  How can we make it a measurable goal for each member of our small business team to be responsible for making a customer’s interaction with our company a positive memorable experience? One that a customer could walk away thinking, “wow was I served well”. We always greet our clients with a smile and offer them a cup of coffee or a bottle of water with a smile. It just makes people smile and they can then relax and we can enjoy our time together as we listen to what their needs are and then explain how we can serve them. 

So how can you and your service team make develop some measurable goals that will increase your service levels? I would suggest reading and giving copies of the two following books to your team to talk about.  It changed our approach to sales. The two books are The Three Signs of a Miserable Job by Patrick Lencioni’s and the Secret by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Workplace Literacy, what is it costing you?

I just finished reading a report by the Federal Reserve that documented the cost of workplace illiteracy. The report stated that most Americans would get the score or grade of  “F” if they took a basic financial literacy test. The productivity lost to the employer was huge. It starts with the lost of productivity because the employee did not sleep well or was being distracted by thoughts brought on by stress associated with financial matters. Employees also took out pay-day loans and loan against their 401K plans who struggled with finances. Many workers were getting  sued and had their wages garnished. The cycle just keeps continuing over and over. Some employees left jobs they loved simple for a small raise due to the financial pressure they were under do to making poor financial decisions

Most people had never received financial literacy training. If they had it was given to them when they were in High School or College. This is good, but like Geometry, if you don’t use it right away, you tend to forget about it.
Or, could it be that the person teaching the class on financial literacy was educating everyone to buy one of his or her financial products such and insurance or investments.

In a controlled study, workers who were taught in a classroom about personal finance at the workplace and were given one-on-one financial coaching were more productive and had less stress at work than employees who did not get financial coaching. In fact, in the controlled study of hospitals, there was a 70% reduction in malpractice laws suits at the hospitals who participated in the Financial Literacy program. Other benefits of the program were as follows:

Employer Benefits
1) Reduced cost associated with processing wage garnishments of employees
2) Increased participation in 401K saving by lower compensated employers that results in the ability to offer higher compensated employees more generous retirement benefits. 
3) More employees participate in flexible spending accounts result in lower FICA or Medicare taxes because the employee contributions are tax-free.
4) Less theft and embezzlement from the employer due to financial stress on employees.
5) Increased productivity due to the fact that the employee is not dealing with financial issues on company time.
6) Less absenteeism due to financial stress
7) Increased productivity due to lack of financial stress at home.
8) Reduced workplace violence
9) Reduced on the job accidents due to distractions and inattentiveness brought on by financial stress

Employee Benefits
1) Reduced late fees due to paying bills late
2) Eliminate the use of Payday loans
3) Reduced interest rates on credit cards 
4) Reduced credit card payments due to paying off debt systematically
5) Reduction of 401K loans that have high tax consequences
6) Increased savings
7) Better insurance coverage at lower costs
8) Increase wealth at retirement because of increased participation in retirement programs
9) Better overall health due to less stress
10) Lower divorce rate

If you are interested in inviting the team at Lighthouse Coaching to come to your facility and educate, equip and inspire your team concerning Financial literacy, contact us at fdavewilliams@mac.com or 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Would you hire your as a pro?

A friend of mine was sharing a story about her friend’s husband who was starting a new business. The business was struggling because the husband was teaching himself HTML or something like it so he could design his own web site. I get being frugal with your business. That is what we are all about. We actually had to pay more to get our office furniture moved than we paid for it at auction. But at some point in time we must first value our own time, which I have talked about in a previous blog. There are some small business activities that it just might makes sense to outsource to professionals. Here is a short list of reasons:
1) They do a better job in most cases
2) They are quicker
3) If frees you up to work on revenue generating activities 
4) It reduces stress
5) They may be less expensive because of the volume they do and the tools they use
6) Save money

Some of the activities to think about that may make sense to outsource may be: accounting, payroll, web design, graphics design, painting, lawn care, car care, general maintenance, IT, networking, and computer support. 

One of the rules I have learned to follow is to always get at least two quotes and a recommendation or reference from someone I know who has used the services that I am looking at outsourcing.  This just makes good business sense and helps me have time to work on my business not just be my business. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Can you afford the time to count?

A friend of mind just called from an airport in the Northwest. He had to fly out there to help count products for an inventory audit. Yes, a Nation Sales Manger who gets paid six figures was counting $.39 widgets for three days. Think about this, round trip air, hotel, rental car, travel time, five days out of the field, to count widgets. If my accounting is correct, the cost for the trip including his time, food, lodging, and transportation should be around $5,000. He said he did about 20 hours of work for the $5,000 or $250 an hour for his efforts. My point here is, do we value our time as small business owners?  If we are billing our clients at $60 to $150 an hour for our services, what are we charging our businesses when we do necessary but non-revenue generating activities, such as picking up office supplies, data entry, making bank deposits, cleaning the office, waiting on the service guy to fix the dish washer for three hours and getting our car fixed. 

I have calculated that I have about 12 to 15 hours of these kinds of duties to take care of. Honestly at the end of the week, after running two businesses, I am exhausted and do not have any extra time. I have found a solution. I have hired a personal assistant who I can delegate these kinds of tasks to. This frees me up to be more productive tasks such as write more blogs like this and to do other necessary income generating activities. Think about the math, do I want to pay me $125 an hour to get office supplies or pay someone else $15 to $18 and hour to do it. When I looked at it this way, it was a no brainer and it reduced my stress and increased my productivity. Do the math, does it make sense for you in your business and personal life to delegate some of your activities. The last I saw they were not adding any extra minutes, hours or days to my work schedule. This make good business sense and helps me have time to work on my business not just in my business

Check the following books for more info on these kind of time saving ideas:
Time Traps
4 hour work week

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Do you trust who is writing your checks?

As a small business coach I get to see almost everything in my office. The one issue I see over and over again is financial infidelity by an employee. I have seen so many small business brought to their knees by the person who is writing the checks or has access to writing the checks. I my opinion this kind of theft hurts more than just financially. I see the emotion wound that goes deeper than the money. The bleeding of this emotion wound drains the energy out of the business owner and they are not able stay focused on leading their business, or have the energy to stay in the race. So many times the owner spend time and emotional energy being upset with the employee and themselves. It is like driving down the road at 100 MPH and taking your eye off the road to see what is happening in a lane going the opposite direction. These can only lead to a second collision. 

If this has happened to you, I feel for you. My accounting friends tell me that for every dollar you can document they have stolen from you they may have taken three times that.  Having been in business 28 years and owning two business currently, one of the first pieces of advice I would give a small business owner would be to write every check himself or at least sign and or look over every check. This may sound like a huge burden but think about the alternative. Secondly, I always take the time to reconcile my checking accounts on a regular basis to make sure I have recorded and deposited everything correctly. And finally, it is imperative to have a close working relationship with an accountant you feel comfortable with and trust. I have seen so many sets of books walk in my office that are missing huge chunks of financial information such as debt and debt payments and IRS debt. The best money I spend each year is for business coaching advise for my business and my accountant. If you cut corners in either of these areas or do not trust or work well with them, things can become difficult. Be proactive, do not delegate check writing to someone without having several checks and balances. This makes good business sense and helps me have time to work on my business not just in my business.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Who is leading your organization?

John Maxwell say’s everything rises and falls on leadership. His law of the lid states that our leadership ability determines our level of effectiveness and our level of effectiveness determine the success of our organization. The activity I see with so many small business owners is that we are so busy working in our business that we do not set aside time to work on our business. We are busy doing things right but we do not take the time to evaluate if we are doing the right things. Our markets and economies change so rapidly that the strategies and tactics that we have used the past 3 or 5 or 10 years may not be the most effective strategies and tactics today. Think about the advertising part of business, Google has taken the place of the trusted Yellow pages and where and how do we effectively use Face book, Linkedin and Twitter. Someone is making a million dollars out there using social media and someone is wasting a lot of time. What is the difference?

As small a small business owner and small business coach, I have had to work extra hard both networking with successful professionals, and reading up on what it takes to become successful in the ever changing small business market. Small business owners tend to isolate and insulate themselves from others who may have fresh perspective on what we are doing. My question to you is, who are you listening to and whom are you reading about that will help you become a more effective leader and/or small business owner?

I am subscribing to podcasts by people like Andy Stanley, Dave Ramsey, Dan Miller and Steven Levit. I am following Scott Stratten  and other social medial professions on Twitter.  I listening to CD’s while I drive by John Maxwell, Zig Ziglar, Jim Rohn, Tom Hopkins and more. I am spending my down time reading Magazines like Success and trade magazines as well as books such as Tony Dungy’s Mentor Leader, Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfuctions of a team and John Kotter’s Leading change. Things can’t change for the positive in your organization, if you as a leader are not open to change.  Things are always changing and the choice is ours.  We can choose to learn to make positive change or keep doing things the way we always have and take a chance. Choose to change. This makes good business sense and helps me have time to work on my business not just be in my business.

Check out some of the following book lists
Dave Ramsey book list