When you look back on all the people you’ve hired, who have been some of your biggest problem people? Or, when you look back at any of the organizations you’ve worked for or been a part of, who have been some of the biggest pains?
My guess is that in virtually every case, the biggest problem wasn’t a lack of skill set or competency, it was a misfit of culture. Why? Because it’s relatively easy to improve someone’s skill set, but their character and values—those are hard to change. Once they’re ingrained it’s hard to change them. Not impossible, just rare.
For example, one of the classic mistakes a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs make is that when they’re looking for, let’s say, a “top producer” to ratchet up sales they’ll often overlook some of the values and behaviors of that “top producer” because, well, they believe they’ll produce big numbers.
But is that wise? Let’s say you’ve worked hard to build a culture of service and collaboration. Everyone else on your team pitches in and helps everyone else … except Mr. Top Producer. Everyone else thinks that everyone else is just as valuable to the team as anyone else … except Mr. Top Producer. Everyone else volunteers to serve on committees or to serve in a local non-profit once a month … except Mr. Top Producer.
What do you think happens to your culture. Exactly. Everyone quickly realizes that the culture you’ve been trying to build is bogus. It’s a nice slogan on a wall but what really matters to you is money. All of a sudden other people stop volunteering and helping other people out. Other people on the team get jealous of the two tiers. Politics rears its ugly head. People start choosing sides. You end up having to be the referee and results go down across your company.
Why? Because of a mismatch in culture.
On the other hand, when you hire and recruit based on culture fit, that’s when everything gets easier. Why? Because culture is a 24/7 manager. If you hire someone who already believes and bleeds service and collaboration (or whatever your cultural values are), you don’t have to waste a moment of time training them to be of service and to work in a collaborative way. It’s already hard-wired in to them.
All you have to do now is fit them into your system and train them in the skill sets or competencies that they’re currently missing—all of which are very doable. That’s why culture fit matters so much. It’s hard to change someone’s wiring. Not impossible. Just difficult. Which is why I say that culture trumps competency all day long.
So, when you’re getting ready to hire someone, do you focus more on culture or competency?
If you’re like most of the business owners and entrepreneurs I know, chances are you focus on the competency (“Can you complete the tasks that I want to hire you for?”) vs. the culture (“Do you fit the culture of our company?”).
To help you turn that around, here are three key reasons why you need to reverse your current practice.
I. Culture Makes Managing Your Business Infinitely Easier
When I say that culture is a 24/7 manager, that’s exactly what I mean. It’s there even when you’re not. It’s the way you beat the old maxim, “When the cat is away, the mice do play.” The only way you can avoid that is by making sure the culture is so strong that even when you’re not present, people will do what you want them to do.
For example, back in my former career, when we would send a missions team to a foreign country we’d always get back the same report. “Your people were amazing. We’ve never seen a group of people work that hard and that long. They’d show up before our people got there. They’d stay when our people were ready to go home. Most missions teams want to go sight seeing. Your team didn’t. They wanted to work the whole time. We’ve never seen a team like this.”
I love that story because these weren’t people who were paid. And they weren’t even in the country. They simply caught the culture of hard work, of service, of excellence, of staying until the job was done, etc. They caught the culture of we’re not here for us, we’re here for others. And they lived that out. Oh, and one other piece of information I left out … I never went on a missions trip. I didn’t have to.
The same thing applies to your business. If you hire people who value excellence, you don’t have to stand over their shoulders and inspect their work all the time. If you hire people who are respectful, you don’t have to wonder what they’re doing on a service call with an irate customer. If you hire someone who owns personal responsibility you don’t have to wonder if they’re going to get their work done.
Culture trumps competency. When someone owns the culture that you want to create ahead of time, then you know exactly the kinds of choices and decisions they’ll make even when you’re not present.
II. Culture Avoids Creating Tiers
As I alluded to above, when you have a stated culture and someone or a group of someones are allowed to act differently, it creates a two or three-tier system that undercuts everything.
I remember years ago consulting for a company where I was interviewing their top team. In the boardroom, on the conference table there was a glass pyramid with the company’s values on it. During those interviews, three of the top team members literally grabbed the pyramid and said, “This is bunk!” When I asked why, they each said, “Because we don’t believe it.” I asked why. They said, “Because we treat different people differently around here. There are those who have to abide by the ‘rules’ and others who, because of their revenue numbers, don’t.” And you thought I was making up that example in my introduction 🙂
This really happens. When you have a set of people (or a person) who can get away with not living in congruence with your culture, it automatically sets up a two-tier (or more) system—whether you want it to happen or not. And once a tier system enters a business, it begins to create factions, politics and all kinds of conflict.
On the other hand, when you focus on hiring people who fit your culture, you, by definition, avoid creating tiers (and tears).
III. When You Get Your Systems Right, Competency Is Less Critical
If you’ve been reading me for any length of time, you know I’m a systems guy and that every business needs to be systematized in order to scale.
However, I disagree with the assessment that when you create systems, you can hire anyone to work the system. I think you should always hire the best talent you can at a good value for you and them.
That said, the beauty of systems is that competency becomes even less critical than in an “unsystematized” business which depends on the skill set/competency of the person hired to know how to do the job. This leads to having to pay more for more skilled labor and, at the same time, creating more risk for your business if they leave.
When you systematize your business it’s infinitely easier to get someone up to speed to make a greater impact even if they have less competency than someone in an “unsystematized” business.
This is where culture fit shows itself proud. If you hire someone who has a set of values around issues like personal responsibility, excellence, hard work, resourcefulness, perseverance, etc, you can take and put them into a great system and they’ll flourish fast.
On the other hand, if you hire someone who is an excuse maker, or someone with a negative attitude, or someone who is critical, or someone who is egotistical, or someone with a poor work ethic, it doesn’t matter how skilled they are, they’re going to fight with your system and want to do it, “their way.”
Trust me, I’ve watched this with clients for decades. Avoid it at your own peril.
So are you sold? Do you believe that culture always trumps competency? If so, your next question ought to be, “What should I do now?” Well, here are five simple suggestions for today.
- If you haven’t already, create a list of core values that will drive the kind of culture you want (try to limit to five or less)
- Once you have that list, expand each value with some practical examples. For example, excellence could mean doing a spelling and grammar check before sending anything out, paying attention to current design trends, doing the best you can with what you have in the amount of time you have to do it, etc.
- Add culture to your hiring ads (e.g. “We’re looking for someone who loves working with a team, who’s open to new ideas, who has a positive mental attitude …”)
- Develop a list of questions that will help you discern if someone owns your core values (e.g. “Can you give me an example of when you persevered on a project you were working on when everyone else had given up?”)
- Never ever hire someone just because they’re “good” at a task IF they’re not a good fit for your culture
Why? Because culture always trumps competency!
To your accelerated success!
P.S. If you like topics like this and want to scale your team and business, make sure you check out the Wired To Grow Coaching Club today.
Now, before you react too negatively too quickly to that statement, hang with me for a moment.
My full statement would be,
If your business isn’t scalable, you don’t have a real business, you have an incorporated career (or another way to put it would be “you have a job”).
There is nothing fundamentally wrong with having an incorporated career/job. If you’re an accountant and you want to do accounting work, great. If you’re a plumber and you want to do plumbing work, great. If you’re an artist and you want to create art, great. If you’re a lawyer and you want to do lawyerly work, great. If you’re a computer programmer and you want to do programming, great.
But doing work is not the same thing as owning or leading a real business. Nor is it what you probably signed up for when you decided to start your business (i.e. few people start businesses thinking, “I can’t wait to start a job that will overwhelm and constrain me in ways I can’t even imagine.”).
This is a huge issue. And it’s one of the main reasons why so many small businesses stall or fail or stay small.
What we often forget is that a business is not about self-expression or about making enough money to pay the bills. A business is an entity separate from the person who created it that exists to solve a problem for a specific group of people.
In other words, just because a state or a city/town awards someone a license that states they’re a business does not in fact mean that entity is a real business (as I would define a business).
Once you own this idea, it changes everything. Let me explain.
I. You Are Not Equal To Your Business
At the core of most small business failures is this idea that a business is an expression of the person who started it or is currently leading it.
It makes complete sense how this happens. If you’re a physician who wants to do heart surgery, form a business that allows you to do heart surgery. If you’re an attorney and you want to do real estate transactions, open an office that allows you to do that. If you’re a sales person who loves to sell, create a business that allows you to do that. If you’re a finance person who loves to play with money, create a business that allows you to do that.
That natural desire has been further stoked by issues like “the lifestyle business” model or the “pursue your passion” movement. Basically, the argument has been, “It’s all about you!” And who can argue with that? Who doesn’t like to hear it’s all about them? It’s an easy sell because, well, we’re all born with a nature that’s motivated by self-interest.
But that easy sell on the front end is what creates the problem on the back end. When a business is all about you then who has to be at the center of everything? Exactly … you! And you wonder why you always feel overwhelmed or why “no one takes responsibility around here” or “why can’t anyone make a decision on their own,” etc.
Why? Because you designed your business that way (that is, if it’s not a scalable business model). If your business is an expression of you and your passions and your wants and your preferred lifestyle, then it’s really not a business (i.e. an entity external to you), it’s an incorporated career/job.
Once you own this idea that a business is not about you or your self-expression but an entity separate from you that exists to solve a problem for a specific group of people, you’ll begin to change everything in your business and you’ll finally build the kind of business you always dreamed of building.
II. Real Businesses Exist to Solve Problems
A business, as a separate entity, doesn’t exist for you, it exists for others. Note: for those who think a business exists for its shareholders, I disagree. The shareholders are beneficiaries of the successful execution of a business’ plan to solve a problem (or a set of problems) for a specific group of people. If the focus of a “business” is on its shareholders, it’ll quickly go out of business and those shares will be worthless.
The only way for a business to succeed and make money is to solve a problem that other people think is worthy of a value exchange. Just because you have something you want to offer for sale does not obligate other people to buy it. If it doesn’t meet a need/want that other people have at a price point they deem as a win for them, you lose.
In other words, instead of looking at what you want to do or what you want to offer or what you want to build, if you want to build a real business (a scalable business) then you’ll want to start with the people in your target market who have a need or a want to solve a problem or heal a hurt or overcome an obstacle or fulfill a desire in a way that’s easier, faster, better, cheaper, more consistent, of a higher quality or promises a higher return than they could get on their own. That’s it.
Or to put it a little simpler,
“Businesses exist to solve problems for people or groups of people (businesses, governments, non-profits, etc.) in a way that is easier, faster, better, cheaper, more consistent, of a higher quality or higher return than they could on their own.”
Once you own this, it changes everything as well. Instead of looking internally and asking, “What do I (or we) want to offer,” you’ll be looking externally and asking, “How can we solve a specific problem that enough people in our target market want in a way that is easier, faster, cheaper, better, etc. than they can solve on their own for a positive value exchange for them at a decent profit margin for us?”
III. Therefore, There Is An Ethical Imperative Your Business Becomes Scalable
Assuming you buy into my argument that businesses exist not for owners/shareholders and their self-interests but for others and meeting their needs/wants in a way that those prospects are willing to engage in a value exchange that they believe is favorable to their own self-interest, that leads to a natural moral/ethical obligation and motivation as to why you should want to build a scalable business.
However before I explain what I mean by that, let me first define what I mean by being scalable.
“A scalable business is a systematized business that is designed and built for rapid growth and can sustain that growth.”
In other words, a scalable business isn’t dependent upon you or a group of highly talented people who randomly do work that only they know how to do. No, a scalable business is a systematized business—meaning that no matter who’s doing the work, it can still be done in an efficient and effective manor to deliver the results the customer/client is looking for (or your internal organization needs).
Secondly, it’s designed to scale because it’s not focused on the self-expression of the founder/leader. It’s designed to meet the needs/wants of a significantly large enough group of people at a huge value add for them vs. the price and to do so at a fast/rapid pace (i.e. not at 2%-5% growth but at 25%-1000% growth).
Thirdly, with that design in place, everything is done internally to build that kind of business at that kind of pace so that the business itself can sustain that kind of growth and not collapse under its own weight. Which, by the way, is one of the reasons why you should want to build a scalable business.
Why? Because, in order for a business to grow rapidly and sustain that growth well, it can’t be built with you at the center of everything since you and your time aren’t scalable (i.e. it forces you to build a business that gives you freedom to enjoy being the owner/founder).
Once you own all of this, you’ll be able to see why I say that there is a moral/ethical obligation to become scalable. Let me explain.
If your business isn’t all about you but about the people you serve who have a problem that you can solve for them easier, faster, better, cheaper, etc. than they can solve on their own at a positive value exchange—but they can’t be helped because you’ve built a business with built-in limitations (i.e. it’s not systematized, there’s limited capacity, it’s dependent upon you, it’s not lead or managed well, there’s no systematic marketing and sales machine in place, etc.) then you’re doing a disservice to all of the people who need your help but can’t be helped because your business isn’t scalable.
This is the reason why we do everything we do here at Wired To Grow. We exist to help business owners and entrepreneurs like you because we fundamentally believe that
“Every business should be a scalable business.”
If you’re willing to stand up and start a business (thank you!), then make sure you do it right. Don’t build your business around you and your lifestyle. Build your business around helping as many people as possible because to not do so is a disservice to all of those who need your help.
If you believe that there are more people you could be helping than you’re currently helping right now (and what business leader doesn’t?), then I would argue you have an ethical imperative to create a more scalable version of your business.
Once you own this, it changes everything again. No longer will you limit the potential for your business. No longer will you want to organize it around you. No longer will you tolerate poor performance. No longer will you allow unsystematized work. Why? Because there are way too many people and businesses counting on you and your business to help them. As I said, you’re doing a disservice to people if you don’t build a scalable business.
So, if you want to build a real business (not an incorporated career or job), then I’d encourage you to make the decision today to build a scalable business from this point forward. And to do that, I would suggest that you start with the following three items:
- Remove yourself from the center of your business. See your business as an entity that exists external to you. This will be incredibly freeing!
- Stop thinking about your self-expression and lifestyle. Fall in love with the people in your target market (note: this includes your customers who are simply a subset of your target market). Become obsessed with solving their needs and wants in ways that are easier, faster, better, cheaper, etc. than they can solve on their own.
- Own the idea that you’re doing a disservice to people if you don’t create a scalable version of your business. Design your business to help as many people as you and your team can in a sustainable and systematic way so no one, including you, gets crushed in the process.
When you create a scalable business, you’re creating a real business. And not only will you be able to help more people and businesses, your business will grow faster, you’ll make more money, you’ll employ more people, you’ll contribute more tax revenue to your community to help sustain it and you’ll get to enjoy a better quality of life. When you consider all of that, why would you ever want to create anything less than a scalable business?
To your accelerated success!
P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about building a more scalable business, I’m leading a new webinar next Thursday, July 13th at 12:00 p.m. EST on “5 Keys to Scaling Your Business Now.” Go ahead and sign up. You’ll be glad you did!
Do you ever get frustrated that every summer your people seem to hit the slow gear when summer arrives? Does it bother you that their drive, their energy, their excitement, their speed level drops off for two months between mid-June and mid-August year after year?
After all, your business still has to hit its metrics. Your customers still want exceptional service. Your projects still need to get completed. Your strategic plan still needs to be fulfilled. And there are still plenty of people in your target market who need the solution you offer to their pain. So, what gives?
What I’ve always found interesting, having grown up in upstate New York, where there’s still a lot of farming, is that summer was never designed to be a slow season. The original reason why schools took off for the summer had nothing to do with going on vacation or giving teachers a break. The reason why schools took off for the summer was because, in an agrarian society, the summer was the hardest work season of the year and families needed their kids home to work on the farm.
In other words, summers, from the dawn of man until the industrial revolution, weren’t the lazy, sit back and relax, take a break from life, hit the beaches for some fun time in the sun time of the year. They were the most intense work horse times of the year. Spring was for planting. But summer, well that was for cultivating and early harvesting (depending on the crop).
In other words, for the past several millennia, summer has been a “work before the sun comes up until the sun goes down” time of the year.
So, how can you get your team back on track with how people have worked for the past several millennia vs. the past several decades? We’ll, here are a few ideas.
Note: This is not an argument against vacation. You and your people should take vacation whenever you choose to. However, when you’re at work, you and your people should be fully at work no matter what day the calendar says it is.
I. Bring Your A Game
If you haven’t watched my video on Leader Draft, you’ll want to. Everything in your business drafts south of you. So, if there’s something you don’t like in your business, your default question should always be, “What part do I play in this?” In other words, whenever you notice something in your people that you’re not happy with, your reflex assumption should be that you’re partially to blame. Why? Because that’s what leaders do.
I have several clients who like to take off for multiple weeks in the summer and then wonder why their people aren’t as engaged. Hum. I’ve worked with plenty of owners and entrepreneurs who mentally check out for the summer and then wonder why their people seem to check out as well. Hum. And most of the owners and entrepreneurs I’ve interacted with over the years tend to give off the “it’s okay to slow down during the summer” vibe because … well … it’s summer.
Like I said, everything flows south of you. If your people are just mailing it in, are you? If your people are slowing down, are you? Do you validate this idea that it’s summer and summer is supposed to be the slow time of the year mentality? Do you intentionally or unintentionally ascribe to this idea—either verbally or non-verbally?
I was with a group of people yesterday and said, “You guys seem a little tired today.” One of the people present said, “Well, it’s Monday.” I said, “What do you mean by that?” This person said, “You know, it’s Monday.” I said, “I don’t understand. I love Mondays. I always think TGIM. Thank God It’s Monday. I love work.”
Now, most owners and business leaders would simply agree with this person and say, “Yeah, it’s Monday. I get that.” Similar to, “It’s summer. I get that.” Which is why I said that the first place to start with overcoming the summer blues is you. You have to bring the energy. You have to be the one who says, “Thank God It’s Summer. Now we can get some real work done.” You set the pace. You determine what’s acceptable and what’s not.
The fact that other businesses ascribe to this idea that summers are the normal slow down part of the year gives you a strategic advantage … if you choose to take it. So, take it.
Note: this doesn’t mean you can’t take a summer vacation. It simply means that when you’re at work, you set the pace. If you slow down, your people will slow down. If you mentally check out, your people will check out as well. However, if you get energized, if you bring your A game, if you think, “Thank God It’s Summer and we can get some real work done now,” then that will set the pace as well. It’s really up to you.
So, what kind of pace and mentality do you want to set for you people? Are you bringing your A game all summer long?
II. Run Multiple 30-Day Challenges
If you haven’t picked up your 30-Day Challenge Acceleration Guide yet, make sure you do so now. In that guide I walk you through, step-by-step, how to organize and lead a 30-Day Challenge so I won’t repeat it here. But the basic reason for using a 30-Day Challenge is that it speeds up the process for completing projects.
And summer is the perfect time of the year to run multiple challenges. Why? Because the reality is that since a lot of businesses do slow down during the summer, you and your team probably do have extra time to get some of those projects done that haven’t been completed yet.
In my coaching club, we organize our years into
- Marathons (yearly plans)
- 90 Day Races (quarterly plans)
- 30 Day Sprints (monthly plans)
- Weekly Dashes
- Daily Meetings
In light of that, my recommendation to you would be that you host three 30-Day Challenges each summer to nail several big projects each summer (one in June, one in July and one in August). However, since I’m writing this at the end of June, I’d recommend you still host two 30-Day Challenges before September arrives this year (and then three next summer).
Moreover, if you follow the plan I lay out in the 30-Day Challenge Acceleration Guide, it won’t take you long to create the challenge (i.e. you can do this today if you want to).
Grab your team, some post it notes®, some dry erase markers and go at it. Pick one to three projects to focus on, come up with all your task ideas for what needs to happen to successfully complete this project over the next 30 days and place them in the hopper, then move the first few into the on deck section for tasks for this week and then the doing section for what you’re working on now until they finally end up in the done section. That’s it.
In an hour or so, you’ll have your first challenge started. Then you simply need to meet in front of your board for 10-15 minutes per day for a daily meeting and by the end of July, you’ll have accomplished more than most will in 90 days. Do this same process again in August and by the end of August, you’ll have accomplished more than you would have normally by December.
So are you up for a 30-Day Challenge?
III. Reward Your Team With More Fun and Play
In the midst of challenging your people to play all out during the summer, you also want to use this as a chance to bring more fun and play into your workplace. Giving people more for doing less doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But rewarding your people for digging in and bringing their A game during the summer … well, that makes a lot of sense.
In essence, you’re saying to your team, “Summer is the time of the year that we work harder and play harder here at Acme Inc.”
In addition, this isn’t something that just you have to do, it’s something that you can get several of your team members engaged to do. As I said to a client recently, “It’s not unusual for a company to have a culture committee or a social committee (or team) engaged to help make this happen.” In other words, find your extroverts who like to play, give them some guidelines and some money and let them help make the summer fun for your employees (in addition to what you can do). For example, you could …
- Buy more lunches for your people (and make sure they’re from different places than normal so they feel the love)
- Bring in a vendor for lattes or omelets or desserts or …
- Hire an ice cream truck (or have one stop by)
- Organize an outing to a baseball game or soccer match (or whatever team sport is in your community)
- Go to a place with bumper cars or a Dave and Buster’s type environment
- Organize team or individual challenges with prizes (i.e. who wouldn’t want a new iPad Pro :-))
- Have your team work together on a community project (like building a ramp for someone in need)
- Organize some happy hours (if that fits your culture)
- Take everyone out to a movie or a driving range or a _______ during a workday when they complete something major
- Give away random gift cards for projects that are well done (i.e. Starbucks® cards or free movie tickets work well for most people), etc.
Use your imagination. You know your people. But the key here is to let your people know that even though summer isn’t a slow down season, it is a high reward season. If you work hard, you will be rewarded well.
So, there you have it. Three very simple ideas that you can begin to employ this week to help overcome the summer blues/slow down that normally occurs here in the states between mid-June and mid-August.
- Bring your A game
- Run multiple 30-Day Challenges
- Reward your team with more fun and play
However, don’t forget that the real change for overcoming the summer blues begins when you change your mindset and that of your team about summer—that summertime isn’t meant to be a slow down time, it’s meant to be a hard work time. It’s the time of the year when you do the hard work that’s necessary in order to have an incredible fall harvest.
So start preaching, “TGIS. Thank God It’s Summer. It’s that time of the year when we can get some real work done.” If you do this right, you’ll have a huge strategic advantage over your competitors.
To your accelerated success!
What if your life as a business owner/entrepreneur didn’t have to be marked by a constant state of feeling overwhelmed with too much to do and not enough time to do it all in?
Or what if it were possible to reduce the amount of decision fatigue you feel day in and day out?
Or what if you could create more leverage in your day-to-day world that would allow you to more fully enjoy the business you’re leading?
If any or all of those could be true, would you want to know how to make that happen? Of course. The challenge isn’t in the want, the challenge is in the execution. And one of the problems with creating leverage through automation is that when most business owners and entrepreneurs hear the word, “automation” they only hear it at the fourth level, the level of technology/software.
But that’s only one of four levels. There are three that come before it. In other words, you can start creating massive leverage in your business this week if you start thinking through how to use all four levels of automation instead of just one.
So, what are the four levels of automation that can use to create massive leverage? Well here they are.
Level 1: You Automation
By now, you’ve probably heard the story about why Steve Jobs wore the same outfit he did every day. He didn’t want to waste his decision power on choosing what to wear (i.e. he was trying to avoid decision fatigue by creating a simple system that automated his clothing decision for him).
My experience has been that most business owners overlook the power of this kind of “manual” automation—of creating simple systems so that non-routine work becomes routine. Every time you automate something in your world, you reduce the amount of decision fatigue and increase your productivity.
For example, schedule automation is a simple system that can make a huge difference. Case in point. Most business owners and entrepreneurs complain that they can “never find time to work on their business.” That’s not true. You never “find” time, you make time. It’s a schedule and priority issue.
So, one simple “automation” you can create is to schedule a weekly strategy or planning block into your calendar every week. In my former business, I blocked out every Tuesday morning (I was off on Mondays) from 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. for planning. How did we grow 30.5% per year for a decade? Well, one of the keys was a simple schedule automation. I never had to think, “What should I do first thing this week?” Nor did I let email or meetings or other people keep me from my business planning session. It was automated. Every Tuesday morning from 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Any time you do something more than once, you can automate that sequence. It could be as simple as written directions or sample replies or selecting what to wear each day.
So, what is something that you’re currently doing on a somewhat regular basis that you could create a system for and “automate” how that thing gets done?
Don’t wait on technology. Start this week. Put systems in place so that you don’t have to waste time thinking about what to do. You just do it.
Level II: You and Others Automation
One of the great advantages of being a business owner and/or entrepreneur is that we get to create leverage by hiring other people. However, while we often think about hiring people for roles (i.e. sales, marketing, HR, admin, delivery, etc.) we often forget how we can use them to help automate our world.
For example, I was recently talking with one of my coaching club members. He had finally put together a weekly meeting with his team on Monday mornings but was struggling with putting together an agenda ahead of time. His wife, who also works in the business was meeting with us. So, I said, “I have an idea (Note: as a former pastor, I’m always pro-marriage, which gave me the idea). What if the two of you set up a lunch date every Thursday to talk about the business. And, as part of that lunch, discussed the agenda. Then when you get back, [_______ name withheld], can type the agenda up and get it out on Thursday afternoons so everyone who needs to prepared for something can before the Monday morning meeting?” In other words, he had a task, “Create agenda.” To avoid putting it off, we created a “you and others” automation. Now, it just happens.
Back in my old pastoral days, I knew I needed to write more notes to people. I would write down on my to do list “Write three notes today.” And yet, day after day, it wouldn’t get done. Partly because I forgot and partly because I hated addressing envelopes (I know, we all have our issues). So, my simple “you and others” automation was that I had my assistant put three note cards on my desk every day and then he’d address them and send them out.
I have another client who knew he needed to keep in touch with past clients but never would. The solution? A simple automation. Every Monday, his administrative assistant gives him a list of ten past clients with their phone numbers. While he’s out driving, he now uses that time to reconnect with his past clients.
Don’t overcomplicate automation. It doesn’t have to be with technology. Create systems that automate processes that you want to accomplish and find a way to get your people to help you get your stuff done.
So, what can you make into a you and others automation this week?
Level III: Others Automation
Level three is the delegation level, not the dump level. It’s where you automate some of your tasks through others. For example, a few years ago I was helping a client automate his follow up sequence. He’s a service professional so he does a lot of networking (maybe like you). And yet, like most business people I know, when he came back from a networking meeting, he wasn’t doing much to follow up that stack of business cards.
To turn that around, we created a simple seven step follow up system. Later we automated several of these steps with technology but at first, it was all manual. However, the best part was that he didn’t have to do any of the follow up himself. All he had to do was turn in a business card with someone he wanted to follow up with and his administrative assistant would then oversee his seven step follow up system. He had to help design the system, but once it was designed, it was automated through someone else—even though the end user felt like it was coming from him. Note: he has one system. You can take this to the next level by creating various follow up sequences based on the need of the people you meet.
Nowadays, having others handle your social media accounts can create some significant leverage. For example, I have a friend who’s written a couple of books and a ton of articles. To create some leverage, he finally decided to outsource to someone in the Philippines to go through his books and articles and then create FB posts or tweet quotes from them on a set schedule. Simple. Easy. Done. It looks like he’s active on social media but the vast majority of it is all automated by others.
By the way, another business owner choice that’s worth considering is outsourcing your accounting. Some business owners get this early on, but plenty keep this until they’re in the multiple millions of dollars of revenue (which is way too late). Why? Outsource this and let your outsourcer know that you want X reports on Y dates (i.e automate it though others)
So, what are you currently doing that you could fully automate through other people—internally or externally?
Level IV: Technology Automation
Finally, we arrive at the fourth level, the level of technology. As I said above, when you hear the word, “automation,” my guess is that this is the level you immediately think of. And we could easily spend days discussing workflows and funnels but we won’t. Today’s discussion is primarily focused on the first three levels—not just because they’re the forgotten three but because once most business owners and entrepreneurs start thinking about technology automation, progress tends to slow down.
“Yes, we ought to use technology to solve that!” Okay, which technology? Well, I guess we ought to do some research. Then we ought to get some bids. Then do we have money in the budget for that? Which one will we select? How will we implement that? Who will be responsible for that? Etc. In other words, rarely when a business owner/entrepreneur thinks about technology automation is it something that can happen this week—and I want you to get traction on automation this week.
However, when it comes to technology, there are plenty of simple automations that you could get started on this week if you’re not already using them. For example, remember when we discussed automated responses above. Well, a simple technology automation would be to put those responses in different “signature files” so you can quickly select the response and it’ll autofill. Two seconds. Done.
Speaking of autofill, keystroke program can allow you to create auto-actions (record a series of keystrokes) or autofill in text. For example, how many times do you have to type out your email address each day/week? A ton. Personally, I just type command-shift-e and I’m done.
A template is another pretty low level automation you could create this week. For example, if you run a weekly meeting, why start from scratch each week. You could create a template of your weekly agenda and only have to change a few words each week. That’s pretty doable this week.
Notifications and email reminders are pretty low tech automations that you could execute on in the next few minutes.
In other words, don’t let technology automation slow you down by thinking it has to be big. Start small. Then, once you have the low level items taken care of, you can start thinking bigger like working on big workflow solutions. Or you could choose to migrate from a simple email service to a CRM with automated campaigns. Or you could decide to have a dashboard created with APIs to your key programs so you no longer have to open six different programs to see your key metrics for your business. You just have to open one and now you have everything automatically in front of you.
However, for this week, all I want you to do is think through, “What is one task I’m currently doing on a somewhat regular basis that I could “outsource” to technology?”
If you’re really serious about increasing your productivity and creating leverage, while decreasing your sense of feeling overwhelmed, then I’d encourage you to invest more time and energy this week into figuring out how you can automate more and more of what’s currently on your plate. And to do that, you’ll want to consider using all four levels of automation.
- You automation
- You and others automation
- Others automation
- Technology automation
Remember, the sooner you start automating on all four levels, the sooner you’ll create more leverage, increase your productivity and experience a greater sense of calm and peace. So, what are you waiting for?
To your accelerated success!
As a business leader, there are a thousand and one things to distract you on any given day from driving growth in your business. Just think through all of the different options you’ve faced in the past week. My guess is that you’ve probably had to deal with issues and to do’s like
- Processing way too much email
- Tweaking your website
- Solving a staff conflict
- Dealing with a problem customer
- Doing research
- Putting together a meeting agenda
- Running a meeting
- Responding to requests
- Returning phone calls
- Reviewing financials, etc.
Now, none of those things are bad things in and of themselves. They’re only “bad” when they distract someone like you from focusing on what really matters.
As you may know, last week I ran a quick survey of business owners and entrepreneurs. The number one problem/frustration they identified was,
- “We’re not growing as fast as I’d like.”
And, surprise, surprise, the number one want/aspiration was,
- “To grow my business faster.”
Now, isn’t that interesting?
So, let’s ask, “What hinders growth?” If the number one want is, “To grow faster” why would most business owners and entrepreneurs be frustrated by the lack of it? My answer, because of distractions and lack of focus.
When you strip growth down to it’s core, there are only five dials (only five) that you can adjust to drive the growth of virtually any business (Note: In my coaching club we talk a lot about the 7 dials of growth and profitability, but since the final two are focused on profitability and we’re only focused on growth today, we’ll just discuss the first five here).
The challenge for any business leader is to make sure their time is focused first and foremost on those activities I refer to as HRAs (High Return Activities). As Alec McKenzie said so well years ago,
“Nothing is easier than being busy. Nothing more difficult than being effective.”
Getting distracted from focusing your time and energy on the five dials (first and foremost) is what hinders growth. In other words, if you want to get back on the path to accelerated growth, the solution is relatively easy. Stop focusing your best and highest use hours on well meaning distractions and get laser focused on your HRAs (in this case, the five dials).
So, what are the five dials? Well, here they are. Note: Don’t discount their simplicity. The most powerful things in this world are simple.
Dial #1: Generate More Leads
In a funnel, the size of the opening at the top determines everything else that flows south of it. In the internet marketing world, an email list of 50,000 will, in general, always drive more growth than an email list of 5,000, which will drive more growth than an email list of 500. In a VAR software business, a pipeline with 100 leads will dwarf a pipeline of 10 leads. In the professional services arena, a law office with 50 leads a week will grow infinitely faster than one with three a week. Everything in your business runs south of dial number one.
What surprises me when I talk with business owners and entrepreneurs and ask the question, “So how many qualified leads do you have in your pipeline?” is how frequently the answer is, “I don’t know.”
Listen, if everything in your business runs south of this number, how can you not know? More importantly, how can you not be fixated on this number all of the time?
As a business owner/entrepreneur, you don’t have to be generating and/or qualifying all of the leads, but you should be focused on them. You should be driving awareness about it. You should be generating new ideas for more leads. And you should be holding your team accountable for the number of qualified leads they’re supposed to be generating each week/month/quarter.
So, how are you doing at ratcheting up the dial of generating more leads in your business?
Do you have a weekly focus on it? Are you continually challenging your team with new strategies and ideas to get more leads in the door? Are you testing your tactics? Are you getting out there? Are you considering new marketing channels? Do you need to change your current copy to produce better results? Etc. What can you do this month to drive more new leads for your business?
If you want to drive more growth, you need to make sure you give weekly attention to how your business is doing at lead gen. Everything else runs south.
Dial #2: Increasing Your Lead Conversion
Once you get a new lead in, the next dial is to increase the probability that lead will convert into a new customer. All things being equal, if you have a 100 leads in your pipeline and your current conversion rate is 50%. If you can grow that to 60 or 80 percent, you’ll have an additional 10 to 30 customers per 100 leads. That’s a game changer.
However, this is also one of those dials very few business owners and/or entrepreneurs pay a whole lot of attention to. Just think back over the past month (or six months). How much time have you spent on ensuring that the percentage of leads generated converts at a higher percentage? If you’re like most business owners, probably not much if at all.
Obviously, the first way to increase your lead conversion is to improve the quality of your leads. So, what are you doing to ensure that you’re getting better quality leads?
The second way is to improve your sales process and sales scripts.
And the third is to improve your sales training.
So, looking at those three options, what are you going to do this week and month to increase your lead conversion? That’s dial #2.
Dial #3: Increase the Average Transactional Value
Again, this is another dial that often gets forgotten but has a huge impact on growth and revenue. It’s the old McDonalds, “Would you like fries with that?” principle. If, in general, 30% of people take an upsell and you’re not offering an upsell option, you are by definition “leaving money on the table.”
In the online world, you see this all the time when you go to buy a product. It’s part of their funnel process. You buy a product, then the next screen says, “Wait? Upgrade to the deluxe version for this one-time only special price. Then based on whether you take the offer or not, they offer an even bigger package or a less expensive package. Then based on that choice, they may offer another upgrade (or not). So, instead of a $67 transactional value (the first item), you’ve now opted to spend $397 (with two up or cross or down-sells).
Depending on the kind of business you’re in, there are plenty of ways to increase your average transactional value. For example, you could …
- Increase your prices
- Make sure your customers know of your other products/services (they probably don’t)
- Productize your services
- Create more packages
- Use a point of sale promotion
- Systematize a cross-sell or up-sell or down-sell
- Add bonuses to your current services or packages to justify a larger investment
- Offer varying levels of service (silver, gold, platinum, etc.)
- Set a minimum purchase level, etc.
The key is to make sure you and your business are actively helping your customers to choose a higher level of investment because it’ll help them get the results they want, faster, better, cheaper, more comprehensively, etc.
So, what are you going to do this month to increase the average transactional value of each customer? That’s dial #3.
Dial #4: Increase the Frequency of Repurchase
In some businesses this is more difficult than others. For example, if you’re in real estate, most people won’t buy more than one home in a year. However, most businesses have some influence over the frequency of repurchase. For example, a hair salon can either accept that most men will get their hair cut every six to seven weeks or they can be proactive and try to reduce that down to once every four weeks.
Now, going from every six weeks down to every four weeks might not seem like a big deal, but it is. If you divide 52 weeks by 6-7 weeks, you end up with roughly eight hair cuts per year. If you divide 52 by four, you end up with 13 hair cuts. If you then divide 13 by eight you end up with a 62.5% increase in revenue. Did you catch that? A 62.5% increase in revenue just by increasing the frequency from once every six or seven weeks down to once every four weeks. Can you imagine what a 62.5% increase in revenue could do for your business? That’s the power of the frequency dial.
As you think of ways to increase frequency be creative. You’ve seen this with software products. In the past, you would have bought the program and then bought a new version three or five years later. However, now, they’re selling it to you with a monthly recurring charge for, let’s say, $4.99/month.
You can also increase frequency with add on services. For example, if you’re a pool company. You could just sell someone a pool (a one time sale). However you could also sell them an annual maintenance package with a monthly charge.
You could also create a customer loyalty or rewards program. Or offer your customers more special sales. Or you could increase the number of emails and contacts you have with your customers. Or you could develop a more intentional follow up system. Etc.
There are a ton of ways you can increase the frequency of repurchase dial, but the question for today is, what are you going to do this month to increase the frequency of repurchase by your customers? That’s dial #4.
Dial #5: Increase Your Retention Rate
The fifth and final dial that you can adjust to rapidly grow your business is to increase your retention rate. In my old church days, we used to call this, “Closing the back door.” As much as you want to grow new clients and customers, if you’re bleeding them out the back door, all your efforts on the front end are being thwarted by your leaky back door.
To help you realize how impactful this is on your business, if you only retain six out of every ten of your customers (a 60% retention rate), that means that the next four new customers you attract to your business are simply replacing those you’ve lost so you’re not really gaining. You thought you had a 40% increase in new customers but you didn’t. Those four customers were simply returning you to what you had. Even worse, at a 60% retention rate, one of those four won’t be retained so you actually need five or more just to stay where you were.
Let’s play this out in real life. Let’s say you have a million dollar business, your average transactional value is $10,000 and you have 100 clients (i.e. let’s make the math simple :-). If you want to grow by 25% this year, the typical business owner would say, “We need to attract 25 new customers.” But, he or she would be wrong. If your retention rate is, let’s say, 80% (which sounds good), that means you have to replace those 20 lost customers first (plus possibly four more … 20% of the 20 who won’t be retained). So, the reality is, you have to land 45-49 new customers just to grow by 25% (i.e. you would basically have to acquire twice as many new customers as you though you needed to grow by 25%).
On the other hand, if you could increase your retention rate from 80% to 90%, then you’d only have to replace 10 client defectors vs. 20 (plus you’d only need one more vs. four more) for a total of 35-36 new customers to get to your 25% growth objective. That sounds a whole lot more achievable and that’s why focusing on increasing your retention rate is so critical.
So, what are you going to do this month to increase your retention rate?
- Will you improve your on boarding?
- Share more customer success stories?
- Eliminate some customer unWOW?
- Create a customer community?
- Work on your Moments of Truth?
- Assign your customers a customer advocate?
- Send some follow up notes?
- Improve your follow up system?
- Offer more hours of operation?
- Speed up your response times?
- Or something else?
Every week, a thousand and one things will try to suck your time away from what matters most. But if you want to scale your business quickly, you have to focus on those activities/dials that have the greatest potential impact for your business (your HRAs). And when you boil all of your options down to their core, they usually fit within one of the following five dials for growth.
- Generating more leads
- Increasing your conversion rate
- Increasing your average transactional value
- Increasing your frequency of repurchase
- Increasing your retention rate
Even better, when you focus on all five, you can rapidly accelerate the growth of your business. For example, at just a 10% increase in each of the five dials, you can end up with a 61% growth rate. Think about that. What would a 61% increase mean for you and your business?
If you’re serious about growth, get serious about these five dials and make sure you and your people work on them every week!
To your accelerated success!
P.S. If you find this subject interesting, and you want to accelerate the growth of your business by scaling it, these are the kinds of discussions we have at our WTG Coaching Club meetings. To find out more, check out our WTG Coaching Club page
You know that in order to grow your business, you need to drive sales up. Everything else runs south of sales. You can have a great plan, a great business model, great people, great products and services. But if you can’t scale up sales, everything else is irrelevant.
The problem, of course, is that most small businesses don’t have any kind of sales organization in place that even has the capacity to scale.
Now, your business may be different but a typical small business has a founder who is the primary sales person and maybe one or two other people doing sales. Nothing is systematized. There’s rarely a great sales plan or sales process in place. Almost all of sales are done by relationships (usually with the owner/founder) and whatever the sales person thinks will land the account or get the deal across the line.
While that’s sufficient to get a business off the ground, it’s also what keeps most stuck. There’s only so much revenue that one or two sales people can generate. And when the whole sales process relies upon them and their relationships and their personal style, that is, by definition, unscalable. In other words, one of the primary reasons why most small businesses remain small is because they haven’t developed a scalable sales organization that can rapidly ratchet up revenue.
So, how can you turn that around? Well, here at Wired To Grow, we believe there are three keys to building a great sales organization. If you apply these three keys to your small business, you’ll be able to begin the process of scaling up your sales, which will then help you to scale up your business. We refer to these as the 3 Ps of Sales (People, Process, and Performance).
Key #1 – Select the Right People
The first person you need in any great sales organization is a great sales manager—and therein lies the first problem. Most business owners and entrepreneurs are terrible sales managers. Sales people close deals. Sales managers build sales people. The difference between the two is dramatic. Sales people are driven by immediate rewards (they want to hunt, kill and collect the cash as fast as possible). Sales managers are driven by the long-term development of people, which is also why their compensation is structured completely differently.
Sales people are compensated primarily by closing deals (where frequently 50-100% of their compensation is commission-based). Sales managers, on the other hand, are compensated primarily by salary with a smaller variable compensation component (often in the 10-25% category).
So, what do you think happens when an owner wears the hat of the CEO, the sales person and the sales manager? Exactly. Nothing good. No one is great at all three. Why? Because all three are full-time jobs. Which means that sales suffers (as well as the organization). Systems aren’t created (or optimized). Training rarely, if ever, happens. And nothing is scalable. In other words, finding the right person to be the sales manager as fast as possible is critical. And if you as an owner have to function in the sales manager position for a period of time, you have to give up being the primary sales person and start functioning like a sales manager vs. a sales person.
The second person you need to get right on your team is your sales person (which could and should be multiple sales people). The problem for most small businesses with picking sales people almost always begins with their hiring process (which is rarely systematized and optimized). Typically, business owners hire someone they know or someone from their church who needs a job or a friend of a friend who’s out of work, etc. And not only is the interview very casual, the on boarding and training are even worse, which is why most small businesses I’ve seen often have to let go of their current sales people and hire a higher level of sales person if they want to scale up.
Note: apart from hiring people they know who need a job, the second most common mistake I observe with hiring sales people in small businesses, is hiring sales people from large organizations thinking that they can lead their company to the promised land (“Hey, they worked in sales for Marriott or IBM or Lockheed Martin etc. They know more than me. They’ll help us scale up.”). Sorry. It rarely works that way. Better to hire one or two levels beyond where you’re at than going to the big leagues (i.e. if you have a team of ten, it’s better to hire someone from a company of 20-50 employees than one from a Fortune 500 or even a company with 100 employees. Those transitions are rarely successful, though often tried).
The third person who needs to be a part of your sales organization, is your sales support person. For example, if everything in your company runs south of sales, do you really want your sales person entering data into your CRM or Pipeline software? Do you really want them qualifying leads so they’re frequently wasting time with unqualified prospects? Or do you really want them going back and forth with people to schedule meetings? No! You want your sales people spending their time building relationships and having conversations with people that can result in dollars flowing into your organization. That’s just smart.
So, as you look at your sales organization, do you have the right people in place? Do you have a great sales manager? Some great sales people? And then a great sales support team or person?
If not, you now know what you need to do.
Key #2 – Develop the Right Processes
As I mentioned above, one of the typical problems with most small business sales organizations is that they rarely have a systematized process for how they do sales. Everything is a one off or is dependent on the person who’s trying to sell in that moment. Just ask yourself, “If I asked someone on our team to lay our our sales process, could they draw it out?” And then, would their diagram and yours be the same?
When I’ve asked people who’ve been leading companies for five, ten, fifteen, twenty years or more to lay out their sales process, the vast majority of them can’t (let alone their people). That’s shocking.
If you remember, we started today’s conversation be asserting that everything flows south of sales. If someone doesn’t sell something, everything and everybody else is irrelevant. You would think then that if something was this important, it would be one of the first things to systematize and then optimize.
Here at Wired to Grow, we use a simple seven step sales process.
- Lead Generation
- Lead Qualification
- Appointment Set
- Meeting Preparation
Pretty simple. You can easily adapt that overall process to your business and change the language. Then the hard work begins.
For example, how will you determine what a qualified lead is? How will you score it? How will you distribute inbound leads? How will you set the appointment? Who will set the appointment? What research needs to be done before the meeting? Who will do it? What is the sales conversation process? How will you answer the objections that prospects might raise? What are the steps in your follow up sequence? Who will create your win plans? How will you stay on top of your pipeline? Etc.
Once you get your sales process systematized, then you’ll want to focus on your sales collateral. What additional support will your sales people need to help convince your ideal prospects that you and your company are the best solution for what ails them?
And then finally, you’ll want to make sure you have all the right technology in place to support your sales processes from you CRM to your pipeline tools to your sales dashboards to your sales support technologies (like demos).
So, when you look at your sales organization, do you have your entire sales process systematized so that you can easily onboard a new sales person and make them successful in short order or not?
If not, you now know what you need to do.
Key #3 – Ensure the Right Performance
If you have all the right people and all the right processes in place, there’s still no guarantee you’re going to get the results you want unless you put in place a series of systems to ensure you get the right performance from your people and processes.
From our perspective, there are five components you need in place to ensure your sales people and sales processes produce the kinds of results you want. The first is sales training. Simply put, great sales people are built. The typical approach of hiring a sales person and assuming they can figure it out on their own is foolishness. As an owner, you need to make sure your sales people are regularly getting sales training. Sometimes this is didactic (like a sales manager teaching from the front of the room) whereas other times it’s in real-time in front of a prospect and then afterwards during the debrief. But whatever the format, it needs to be there on a weekly or at least monthly basis.
Secondly, the right performance is about accountability. And thirdly it’s about sales meetings, which is often where a lot of the sales accountability takes place. Every week, at a minimum, you and your sales team ought to be meeting to review your metrics, discuss your sales pipeline and commit to a win plan for the week.
Finally, the last two parts of ensuring the right performance from you sales people are incentives and strategy. To get the right performance from your sales organization, someone needs to be working continually on your sales strategy. Likewise, someone ought to regularly be thinking through what incentives can get the best/optimal performance from your sales team.
Remember, great sales people love the hunt. They’re driven by the short-term. So having something continually thinking about how to motivate your sales people to go after more sales at a more rapid rate and for more money, is always wise.
So, there you have it. The three keys to building a great sales organization. They’re not difficult to remember (after all, they’re only three words and they all begin with P).
- People – Select the Right People
- Process – Develop the Right Processes
- Performance – Ensure the Right Performance
If you want to build a more scalable version of your business, you now have the basic framework to make that happen. And if you’d like to go much deeper on this subject, these are the kinds of conversations we regularly have in the WTG Coaching Club. If you’re interested, just contact us and we’ll have a short conversation to see if we’re a great fit and if we can help you get where you want to go faster.
To your accelerated success!
Have you ever been frustrated with not knowing how to build your brand?
I mean, “everyone” talks about how businesses and entrepreneurs need to “build their brand.” There are plenty of books and courses, conferences and blogs all about branding. Type “branding” into Google and you get 229,000,000 results. Type “branding” into Amazon.com’s book search and you get a whopping 7,592 book results—which is a pretty impressive number if you do the math (i.e. if you were to read one branding book a week, every week of the year, it would take you 153 years to get through that stack of books).
Yet, despite all that talk about branding, how does that help you as a small business owner and/or entrepreneur to build your brand?
Evidently not much because when I ask business owners and entrepreneurs what their brand is, it’s not unusual to get that deer in the headlights look. You know what I’m talking about. They know the word, but describing what their brand is or how they’re actively building their brand … well, that’s another story.
So, let me help you take your next step in your brand building journey by reducing all the clutter around branding to just one idea and one simple question.
A few years ago I wrote a post about what a brand is and isn’t (i.e. a brand isn’t really about a logo or a color). A brand is all about your reputation.
Now, if that’s true (and it is), what is your reputation built on? Exactly. It’s built on trust. So, if a brand is about your reputation and your reputation is built on trust, what do you think the single most important question you need to ask yourself is if you want to build a bigger and better brand? Bingo.
How can we build more trust?
It’s that simple. Logos, colors and style sheets are important to helping people visually connect with your brand. But, ultimately, what builds your brand (or any brand) is trust. So, the more you and your team wrestle with how to build more trust, the better your brand will be.
How can you do that? Well, here a handful of ideas for how you can build more trust with your target market and, by doing so, build a bigger and better brand.
I. Share More Credibility Authenticators (i.e. Trust Builders) With Them
Few things in life are more compelling to a prospect than seeing or hearing results that others have obtained using your product and/or service. Credibility is about trust. An authenticator proves that trust is well-grounded. So, a credibility authenticator is something that can communicate to your prospects that you can be trusted (like a testimonial or tangible result or a third-party endorsement or an award or a case study, etc.).
In other words, brands are built bigger and stronger when someone or some organization outside the referring organization says, “This is a company or product/service you can trust.”
Unfortunately, most businesses are terrible about collecting this kind of data. In fact, when was the last time you shared a credibility authenticator? Even better, when was the last time you asked for one (like a testimonial) or created one (as in a case study)? My guess is it’s been awhile—which means you’re missing out on a critical part of developing of your brand—proof that you’re worthy of trust.
In fact, a great question to ask is,
“If trust is the key to brand building, then how can we prove, to our prospects and customers, that we actually are trustworthy?”
When you answer that question, my guess is that one of your best answer is going to be, “Through sharing our credibility authenticators on a more consistent and predictable basis.” And you’d be right.
So, what credibility authenticators do you need to collect and distribute this quarter?
Remember, the more positive results you show, the faster your brand will grow.
II. Consistently Deliver What You Promise … Every Time
Believe it or not, I’ve been a Mac Addict now for over three decades—and will be for as long as Apple is around. Why? For a number of reasons but one of the simplest and easiest is “It just works” (a la Steve Jobs). Apple’s brand of cool technology that’s innovative and designed well and just works is just that—a product that continually delivers what it promises. By controlling the entire supply chain, everything ”just works”.
In fact, I’m writing this on my MacBook Pro (Fall 2016 version) and I love it (including the magic bar). When I meet people I’ll say, “Check this out. Isn’t the design gorgeous? Hold this. Isn’t it amazingly light? The speed is incredibly fast. The new keyboard is awesome. Ya da Ya da Ya da.” In other words, I’m a fan because they’ve made a promise and they’ve kept it … over and over again.
In your case, what is it that your “brand” promises? Do you promise speed? Or great customer service? Or innovative products? Or seamless integration? Or quick resolution? Or saving money? Or making money? Or delivering a certain result? Or …
Whatever your promises are, you need to make sure that you and ALL of your employees consistently deliver on those promises. Why? Because a promise that isn’t kept kills trust. Even worse, all it takes is one employee or one botched product to spoil all that brand value you’ve built.
In other words, if you promise to deliver a software patch by Friday at 2:00 p.m. it better be there before 2:00 p.m. (remember, everyone’s watch isn’t synced the same). If it arrives at 5:00 p.m. or next Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. or even worse, the following Friday by 5:00 p.m. a little (or a lot) of trust has been lost.
So where are you not consistently delivering on what you promise? Whatever it is, fix it quickly so you’re back inline with consistently delivering on what you promise.
Trust is built one customer experience on top of another. Do what you say and you’ll build a great reputation and brand.
III. Regularly Share Relevant Content They Perceive Is Beneficial To Them
Notice, I didn’t say, “just share content.” I said, “share relevant content they perceive will be beneficial to them.”
This is another classic small business problem. The tendency for most small businesses is to share content about them (“We just released a new X142 machine that will help you do XYZ) or content that the business thinks is relevant (i.e. If I’m interested in this, then others will be as well). Both of those are unwise choices.
All of us choose to consume content everyday that we perceive is relevant to us. It’s why we all skim newspapers and magazines, as well as website search results and blog posts. All of us skip over 90%+ of our content options and only read those items that we perceive to be relevant to us TODAY and may help us solve a PROBLEM we have (or an interest we have).
This is how you and I get to be trusted authorities in our respective markets. Not by talking about us or about what we’re interested in but by sharing information that’s relevant and beneficial to those we’re trying to reach (i.e. sharing something that helps them solve a problem or meet a need or offers them a new insight or accelerates their goal achievement). When we do that consistently, the people in our target markets begin to believe that we’re worthy of trust. And that’s when they begin to turn to us for help.
Or to put it another way, part of your brand is built one piece of content on top of another. If you regularly provide content that’s perceived to be irrelevant or motivated by self-interest, your brand will be established as a self-centered brand that’s only focused on getting a sale. If, on the other hand, you continually provide content that helps the people in your target market solve their problems, without them having to pay anything for it, you’ll be perceived as a trusted advisor and a brand worth working with/purchasing from.
So how are you doing at giving lots of value without expecting anything in return? The more relevant content you share that helps your target market prospects solve a problem that they have, the more trust you’ll be building (and hence your brand will be building as well).
IV. Be Different In Ways That Matter to Them
This is counterintuitive but critical. The natural tendency is to think, “If we want to be successful, we should be doing what others are doing who are currently succeeding.” In other words, modeling or engaging in best practices—which is good advice for certain things—but not when it comes to branding.
In one sense, you would think sameness would build trust (“Hey, this company is just like every other company, so we can trust them”) but it doesn’t work that way. Why? Because if you’re like every other company/solution, and their need isn’t being met or their problem isn’t being solved, then being the same won’t increase their trust because, “You’ll fail me just like every other company has and I’ll still have this problem.”
When it comes to branding, different is good. For example, I was talking with one of my coaching club members recently about how his franchise was different (he owns several Mosquito Squad territories). As we were discussing it, one of the items he mentioned was that they use a premium chemical blend for their mosquito spraying. I said, “That’s a feature. What’s the benefit?” He said, “Well, it lasts longer.” I said, “How much longer?” He said, “Our spray typically lasts two to three weeks, even if it rains.” “Whoa.” I asked, “What do you mean, even if it rains?” He said, “Well, most sprayers use a less expensive blend that washes away if it rains, which is why they often have to come out and respray.” I said, “Now, that’s a difference that matters.”
To me, that’s a difference that builds trust (our spray lasts even if it rains … which clearly matters here in the low country of South Carolina because it rains a fair amount here). When I heard that, it automatically made be trust the Mosquito Squad brand because it was both different from it’s competitors and it was different in a way that matters.
Everywhere you go you can see that different matters in branding. For example, my wife is a “The Voice” addict. She loves the show. Every year a number of incredible singers get stage time and they’re all good (unlike “American Idol” where you had a lot of terrible singers competing with good singers, especially through the auditions). But what separates out the best performers from the good performers is always difference. When you hear someone sing a familiar song just like the original, it’s good but not worth buying. However, when they sing a familiar song in a different way—well, that’s remarkable and that’s a brand worth trusting for your music tastes.
So, how are you doing at being different? What is unique about you and your company? And, then, how are you marketing that difference to make sure your prospects know that difference?
Brand building doesn’t have to be so hard. Nor does it have to cost a lot of money. At its core, brand building is about building trust. The more trust you build, the better your reputation. And the better your reputation, the stronger your brand equity will be (and hence, the more faithful your customer base with be).
It all begins begins by asking a simple question on a regular basis, “How can we build more trust?”. Once you do that, you’ll begin to think of ways to make that happen, including the four options we just talked about.
- Share more credibility authenticators (i.e. trust builders)
- Consistently deliver what you promise every time
- Regularly share relevant content they perceive is beneficial to them
- Be different in ways that matter to them
So what are you going to do to build more trust this week?
To your accelerated success!
Everyone messes-up some time. It’s not a question of if your business is going to mess-up, it’s only a question of when and then how you’re going to respond.
Note: If you’re reading this post later (or somehow missed this story), this is the week that a 69 year-old doctor (of Chinese descent) was forcibly taken off a plane by security guards in Chicago, literally dragged down the aisle with blood on his face. The incident went viral leading to a non-apology, an internal memo that discredited the “apology” and finally a “real apology.”
In a week where big stories should dominate the news (like Russia-US relations sour after Syria bombing, North Korea threatens US nuclear strike, etc.), this United story was everywhere. The video of the doctor being dragged down the aisle was shown and re-shown on every network and cable news station over and over again.
And that doesn’t count social media where this story was ubiquitous. In fact, in China alone (hence my reference to the fact the doctor was Chinese), within a few hours, over 120 million users of the Chinese social web app, Weibo, had viewed posts with the hashtag #UnitedForcesPassengerOffPlane. Think about that. 120 million within hours.
Any way you add it up, it was a PR nightmare leading to people stating that they won’t fly United anymore.
So, what can you and I learn from United’s mess-up? Well, here are five lessons that all of us, as small business owners and entrepreneurs, can learn from one big company’s mistakes.
I. Make Sure You Have the Right Systems In Place Before Something Goes Wrong
United should have had a great plan in place for how to deal with this situation because it’s not hard to anticipate that something like this could happen.
Unfortunately, most people who fly don’t realize that when they purchase a ticket, there’s no guarantee that you get to keep that seat. It’s in the small print that most people don’t read. Since most people don’t read the small print, it shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that discovering that you don’t have a right to your seat, when you’re already sitting in a seat on an airplane, could be a shocker.
Moreover, it shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that there are small set of predictable reactions to this news—one of which is “No.” Everyone who’s ever been a parent should have seen this coming. The idea that everyone who learns this news, while sitting in a seat on an airplane, would be compliant is ridiculous. Every part of what happened on that plane, should have been anticipated and planned for.
So, looking at your business, have you and your team played out all of the possible actions and reactions your customers might have as they interact with you and your business? If something goes wrong, what’s your system for handling that? And then have you played out, how your customers and the public might respond to your response/action?
Remember, the best time to fix a problem is before that problem actually occurs. United’s mess-up should hopefully remind you to “war game” out possible scenarios and responses so that you have the right systems in place before anything goes wrong.
II. Make Sure Your People Follow Your Systems Perfectly Every Time
It’s one thing to have a system in place. It’s another to ensure it’s followed correctly. In the case of United, part of their system was not for their people to respond to someone who wouldn’t leave a plane but for them to contact the Chicago Authority’s security team to do so—which they did.
However, I’m trusting that neither organization has a system in place that calls for dragging a passenger out of a plane by their extended arms (let alone for a 69 year old). But that’s exactly what happened.
The reason so many organizations train, re-train and role-play is because “knowing something” and doing it are two completely different things. Just because something is in a manual, doesn’t mean it’s actually being done by those who are supposed to be doing that thing. And some of the worst offenders are professionals and executives who think they know better (i.e. it’s not just front line staff who mess-up).
This is why the best sales team members still do role-plays in their sales training meetings. This is why high performance organizations place controls throughout their organization to ensure compliance. And this is why you should be making sure you both train your people to follow your systems and put controls in place to ensure compliance. Why? Because it only takes one mess-up to go viral and you’re losing customers, prospects and market share.
So what are you doing to ensure your people are actually following your systems perfectly every time?
III. Build Flexibility Into Your Systems
Having a system doesn’t mean you only have one response for everyone, it means you’ve thought through the range of options and then you empower the people who have to execute the system to choose the right option.
In the case of United, there were lots of possible options they could have chosen. The system United uses for choosing who to “kick off” could have been changed. A 69-year old doctor who wanted to get back to Louisville so he could see his patients the next day is in a different category than someone heading home after vacation.
Note: I didn’t know United’s system for selection because different airlines use different systems. Southwest does last on, first off. Others use cheapest ticket prices or those who have direct flights over connections, etc. But there are people who have a greater reason to not be bumped than others. For example, those of us who are professional speakers. If we don’t show up on time, hundreds or thousands of people will be left waiting, an organizer will be in big trouble and we lose real income. In other words, there are factors beyond ticket prices that should be factored in (i.e. the airplane companies are only thinking about metrics that matter to them (like ticket prices and the inconvenience of rebooking multiple flights) than what matters to the individual customer). Shocker!
But, more importantly, why get to that point? Incentives work. They could have easily empowered their attendants to up the incentive to make it interesting enough for four people to say, “I’ll wait for the next flight.” Being cheap is bad business. If they had offered more, they could have easily found four people to take an offer for a free round trip ticket and some cash—and, by doing so, they could have avoided this PR nightmare completely.
They also could have offered alternative transportation if a later flight wasn’t available. For example, I bet an Uber driver would have gladly driven the doctor to Louisville (which is approximately four and a half hours away from Chicago).
Bottom line, United should have built in more flexibility into their system. Once the team realized that the person who drew the bad card was a doctor who needed to see patients the next day, that should have changed the equation. However, the better system would have been to give some flexibility in the choice of incentives. No one likes being bumped off a flight. Why make it worse? Compensate them in such a way that they’ll love the airline more, not hate it more (i.e. “Hey, I got a free first class ticket” is so much better than “I got dragged off a flight by my arms with blood streaming down my face.”).
So, looking at your systems, how much flexibility do you need to build in so your people on the front line are empowered to make better choices?
IV. Apologize Fast … And Mean It
Years ago, I wrote a post that Leroy Gibbs (from NCIS) is wrong. Gibbs hates apologies. I disagree. There’s nothing wrong with apologizing and it’s not an admission of guilt. Apologizing is about restoring relationships, not about rightness and wrongness.
I apologize all the time. Why? Because relationships matter. If someone feels wronged (whether it’s legitimate or not), you want to connect to the emotion so the relationship can move forward. Note: there is a big difference between saying, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” And “I’m sorry that what I said made you feel so angry.”
In the case of the CEO of United, he blew it. Here’s what he said in his first “apology.”
“This situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact the Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help. Treating our customers and each other with respect and dignity is at the core of who we are and we must always remember this no matter how challenging the situation.”
Does that sound like an apology? Not even close.
Finally, after taking a beating in the media (and markets), the CEO, Munoz, came out with a real apology (just a little too late).
The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment. I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way. I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right.
If he had only said the above immediately, the story would have been completely different.
So, in your case, when something goes wrong, what’s your natural inclination? Do you double down on “rightness”? Or do you apologize fast (and mean it)?
V. Remember, Andy Grove Was Right … Only the Paranoid Survive
If you’re not familiar with Andy Grove, he’s the guy who led Intel to become the world’s largest chip maker and who penned a book back in 1999 entitled, “Only the Paranoid Survive.”
I love that phrase, and you should too, especially in the social media world that we now exist in. All it takes is one bad video, one bad email, one bad text, and you can have a PR nightmare on your hands that can either significantly decrease your revenue this year or totally kill your small business. Hence why it pays to be a little paranoid.
Of course, the problem for most entrepreneurs is that we, as a group, tend to be pretty optimistic. We want to believe the best (I mean, who else would ever want to start a business when the odds of success are so low and the probability of making less money than you were or could have is so high). In addition, we often tend to be big picture people who don’t want to be “burdened” with systems and minutia.
However, it’s usually the little things that hurt/kill us. Which is why it pays to develop a little paranoia. Not enough so that you think there’s a bogeyman behind every bush, but enough so that you’re constantly thinking about and preparing for the worst (as well as the best).
United’s CEO should have been a little more paranoid about what a negative passenger story could do to his airline. It’s not like this hasn’t happened before. And, as I mentioned above, it’s not like it couldn’t have been anticipated.
In addition, with news leaks on Capital Hill every week, Munoz, should have been paranoid enough to anticipate that his “internal memo” defending his attendants would be leaked by someone in the organization and become an “external memo.”
So, don’t be like him. Be a little paranoid. Don’t assume everything will just work out. Do assume things will leak. Risk mitigation is still part of your job. And, in a social media world, I would suggest that every small business owner in America needs to be a little paranoid. All you need to do is look at how much destruction one little video did on a Fortune 100 company within a few hours.
Well, there you go. Five small business lessons from United’s mess-up that can help you protect your business from a PR nightmare.
- Make sure you have the right systems in place before something goes wrong
- Make sure your people follow your systems perfectly every time
- Build flexibility into your systems
- Apologize Fast … And Mean It
- Remember, Andy Grove Was Right … Only the Paranoid Survive
In light of those five lessons, what are you going to do this week to ensure your business is better prepared in case something goes wrong … before it ever happens?
To your accelerated success!
No one in their right mind wakes up in the middle of the night thinking, “I need to design a perfect org chart.” Why? Because, technically, you don’t need to have an org chart—unless you’re running into some problems. And typically, these problems fall into one of two camps.
- Complexity Issues
- Strategy Issues
Complexity issues arise when your organization has grown and what used to be simple no longer is. For example, when you had a smaller team, let’s say a small business (or department) of five or six people organizational issues were pretty simple. In that kind of environment, everyone on your team “knew” what everyone else was doing. Rules were probably pretty lax. Communication was probably very informal. And everyone on your team helped do a little bit of everything.
However, as your team grew and now comprises, let’s say, eighteen employees, complexity has raised its ugly head. Now, everyone doesn’t know what everyone else is doing. Communication is incredibly complex. Your employees now have very specialized roles but it’s often unclear, especially for those who were with you when you only had five or six employees, who reports to whom. In fact, some of your people may have one direct report, but others as many as four (which, as you can guess, is a major problem). In other words, complexity calls for clarity (and the need for an org chart—or, at least, a better one).
On the other hand, strategy issues are related to design questions about the future of your business. Let’s say your business now has 12 employees (congratulations). The question is, “In order to get to the next level (or fulfill your strategic plan), what are the next positions you need to add?” Or let’s say you want to double your business in the next twelve to twenty-four months. If that’s true, what kind of organizational structure will you have when you’re twice the size you are now? To answer those questions, you need an org chart.
In other words, the only reasons to care about org charts aren’t related to org charts, they’re related to the twin motivators for any change in your life—pain or pleasure. Either you’re in pain (complexity has taken over and something needs to be fixed in order to release the pain) or you’re in pleasure (strategically, you’re dreaming about the future of your organization that you want to have vs. the one you currently have). Either way, you need a better org chart (which I’m calling here, “the perfect org chart”).
In order to do that, you’ll want to use all five of the following keys to designing the perfect org chart for your business.
Note: don’t overcomplicate this process by trying to figure out the best software program to use to design your org chart (or how to get the boxes to look right in PowerPoint). Delegate that away. All you need to design your perfect org chart is a yellow pad of paper and a pen. Someone else can make it look pretty.
I. Design for What Your Want, Not What Is
One of the more difficult transitions for most business owners to make is to get out of what is and to think about could be. Why? Because it’s difficult to forget what you’ve been working on for the past x number of years. It’s hard to forget all the decisions you’ve made and the people you’ve hired. It’s difficult to let go of everything that you’ve done up to this point.
However, if you want to design your perfect org chart moving forward, that is exactly what you need to do. Some people like to call this “Zero Sum Thinking.” In other words, you choose to let go of everything that’s brought you to this point as if you were starting all over again from scratch (i.e. zero).
Based on everything you know now (primarily through experience), if you were to do it all over again, how would you design your perfect org chart for today moving forward?
Forget what you have. Focus on what you want. This is your chance to design your perfect org chart.
II. Design for the Position, Not For the People You Have
Probably the biggest mistake most business owners and entrepreneurs make when they’re creating their perfect org chart is they start by designing it based on the people they already have. I hear this over and over again when they say, “Okay, next we have Danny who’s my Director of Operations …”.
Did you catch the mistake? They started with a name (Danny). However, when you’re designing your perfect chart, no names should be present until it’s completed (including your name).
In other words, at the top, it should NOT say, “Bruce” or “Marjorie” or “Warren.” Instead, it should say something like, “Owner” or “CEO” or “Managing Partner” or “Executive Director.”
Anytime you’re tempted to put a person’s name in a box or a title you’ve used in the past, let it go.
For example, when you were smaller, you might have called someone who helped out with office issues your “Director of Operations” (probably as an inflated title). However, now that you’re larger, moving forward you may conclude that at your current size that position should be filled with a COO (Chief Operations Officer). Forget that Anik doesn’t have the skill set to be a COO. If you need a COO moving forward, that’s what you need. Don’t simply insert, “Director of Operations” because that’s what you’ve had for years.
III. Design For Formal Reporting Authority, Not Skill Sets
Have you ever had four bosses? If you have, it wasn’t a great experience, was it? Well, it’s not great for your people either. The good news is that designing your perfect org chart can help alleviate that.
For example, in a small business, it’s not unusual for people’s responsibilities to drift based on their expertise. Let’s say you hire a woman, let’s call her Natasha, as a sales rep. She starts working at your company and you soon learn that she’s really good with Quickbooks. Before you know it, she’s helping each month put financials together and then developing your budget. You also realize that she’s pretty good at writing copy so she’s now helping George, your Marketing Director, with creating copy for your marketing collateral.
The question is, who should Natasha report to? Should she report to your Operations Director, your Sales Manager or your Marketing Director? Currently, that’s not clear.
What should be clear, when you create your perfect org chart, is that a sales rep should report to the Sales Manager (i.e. see point two above, you don’t design for the person, you design for the position).
Now, your business may be the exception, but frequently when I help business owners with their org chart (especially if they have more than eight employees), they almost always have several people who fit under several different bosses and that’s a problem.
Back in my old pastoral days, we used to say, “Anything with two or more heads is called a monster.” No one likes to have multiple bosses. This exercise is your chance to correct that.
IV. Make Sure Every Function Is Covered, Even If It’s Not a Position
As a business owner and/or entrepreneur, apart from positions, you always want to make sure that every function is covered by someone. For example, you may not have a position called “strategy” but you want to be clear on whose responsible for strategy formulation in your business. Note: I suggest that should be you.
The reason this is important is because you may need to add a new position or clarify what current position should be responsible for a specific function. Now, in case you’re not sure what functions should be covered, here’s a good list for you to start with.
In your business (on your perfect org chart), who’s responsible for each of the following functions.
- Customer Service
- Finance and Accounting
- R&D/Product Development
- Department Responsibilities, etc.
Note: feel free to add to any additional functions based on your industry since different industries have different functions.
That said, looking at your org chart as it’s designed right now, do you now need to add any positions to carry out any of these functions? Or can your current design handle all of them?
V. Reduce Your Direct Reports to Three to Five People
Probably the biggest issue that most business owners and entrepreneurs complain about most of the time is, “I’m just too busy.” Or “I’m overwhelmed.” Or, “I have no time.”
This occurs for a number of reasons, but the main one (related to today’s discussion) is that they’re wearing too many hats and have too many direct reports. For example, once you create your perfect org chart and then start filling in names, one of the things that will probably become clear is that your name is in too many boxes.
For example, it’s not unusual for the business owner/entrepreneur to also be the sales manager (as well as the main sales person). It’s also not unusual for them to be the bookkeeper/accountant. It’s also not unusual for them to oversee all operations. Etc. You get the picture. Way too many boxes leads to an overworked and overwhelmed business owner.
On the other hand, it’s also not unusual for the business owner to have too many people reporting to them, especially when the business owner has less than ten employees. However, to do your role as the business owner, you can’t do that well and oversee ten or twelve or more people. Note: you probably can’t do that well with seven or eight people either.
So my recommendation is that as you’re designing your perfect org chart, you try to reduce your direct reports to three to five people. Every number beyond five will make or keep your life more complicated. Plus, your job has too many important responsibilities that won’t get done well if you’re trying to manage too many direct reports.
Trust me. If you take my advice on this one, you’ll be forever grateful. I’ve done this countless times with plenty of business owners and leaders and I’ve never heard one of them regret it and come back to me saying, “Please, I want to go back to more direct reports!”
So, there you have it. Five keys to designing your perfect org chart.
- Design for what you want, not what is
- Design for the position, not the people you have
- Design for formal reporting authority, not skill sets
- Make sure every function is covered, even if it’s not a position
- Reduce your direct reports to three to five people
If you follow these five keys, you’ll be infinitely ahead of most business owners and you’ll have either eliminated some of the pain you’re currently experiencing or increased your sense of fulfillment as you’ve laid out where you want to head. Either way, you’ll be happier and a better leader/manager of your business.
To your accelerated success!
P.S. In another post, I’ll talk about what to do when you realize you either have the wrong people in the wrong positions or you have too many people’s names in too many boxes. Those are different issues. But for today, be happy that you now have a perfect org chart for where your business is today.
You want your employees to perform at an “excellence” level. You want them to deliver excellent work—both externally to your customers as well as internally with any work product produced for you or anyone else inside your company. The question is, “How do you get them to produce at that level of excellence on a consistent basis?”
For some of your employees, it’s no big deal. You give them an assignment and they always do it to the best of their ability. They’re like you or me. Unfortunately, not everyone is like us. In fact, I’d guess that most of your employees aren’t like that. So, what can you do to get that more than half of your employees group to up their game and consistently produce at an “A” or “A+” level?
Well, here are five ideas for how you can do that … and do so without being a jerk.
I. Recruit for It
I know this doesn’t impact your current employees, but one of the first steps any business owner/entrepreneur ought to take in creating a culture of excellence is to make sure they recruit people who perform at an excellence level. In other words, if you only hire “A” players from this point forward, you’ll automatically increase your corporate level of excellence.
The problem is that most business owners/entrepreneurs don’t hire only “A” players. They often hire fast to get someone in the job. Or they hire based on their “gut” or their desire to “help someone out,” or believe that they can turn anyone around, etc. And the result of all of that is a lot of bad hires.
In other words, the primary reason we’re having this discussion today is because of some bad hires. If you only hired “A” players, you wouldn’t have to “demand” excellence because excellence would be the only thing your people would be producing.
So, the first step to “demanding” excellence would be to go back and revise your hiring process (remember, at Wired To Grow, we’re all about systematizing everything). How can you change the expectation? How can you check for examples of it? How can you test for it? What questions should you be asking in the interview process (and the reference checking process)? Remember, if you stop hiring less than excellent people, your people will automatically produce at a higher level.
II. Set the Expectation For Excellence Early and Often
In your recruitment process, you should be setting the expectation. In your on-boarding, you should be setting the expectation. In your communications, you should be setting the expectation. In other words, it should be impossible for anyone who works for you to not know that excellence is your standard.
If anyone thinks that they can do less than excellent work in your company and get away with it—then you know you have some work to do. Clearly they don’t understand your expectation (which usually suggests a “you” problem vs. a “them” problem).
This is especially true for any task you delegate. You need to clearly communicate your expectation for what excellence looks like for that task when you’re delegating it. If they don’t clearly understand what your expectations are, you can’t hold them accountable for something they didn’t understand.
So, what expectation do your employees have related to your excellence standard? How often do you remind that of that expectation? And how clear are you on setting what excellence looks like per task?
III. Cast Vision for What Excellence Looks Like Everyday
In general, it’s difficult for most people to create something that they haven’t seen (i.e. it’s the reason why it’s easier to put together a jigsaw puzzle with the box top than without it). So, help them see.
Share with your employees examples from other companies. When you see excellence in a service (a restaurant, a hotel, an airline, an HVAC contractor, etc.) or a product (a car, a smartphone, a knife, a power washer, etc.) share that story with your people during a meeting or in a video or in print or one-on-one.
Likewise, if you’re working on a marketing piece, keep a swipe file of marketing pieces that you like so that when you’re delegating that task, you can show them, “This is the kind of quality I’m looking for.” Or, if you’re working with a sales person, keep a swipe file of sales presentations so you can show them, “This is the kind of quality sales presentation I want you to shoot for.”
Also, make sure you keep some bad examples that you can share with them as well so you can say, “I don’t want you to do something like this.” For example, if you were to show someone on your marketing team some examples of direct mail you don’t like (you know, the kind with clip art 🙂 ) they would have a better idea of what not to shoot for. Then when you combine that with some positive examples you do like (e.g. those with nice glossy images on both sides, a great hook to a need/want of the prospect, lots of white space so it doesn’t feel cluttered, a clear call to action, benefit-focused copy vs. feature-centric, etc.) they can easily understand what excellence looks like for you.
Note: this is one of the easiest ways to “demand” excellence without being a jerk. By showing your people BEFORE they execute what excellence looks like, you won’t be a jerk. You’ll simply be a great boss.
Another great source of examples of what excellence looks like is from your own team. Anytime someone does something great, share that with your team. It’s an easy double win—the employee who did the excellent work will love it, and everyone else will get another picture of what excellence looks like.
Bottom line, everyday, whether you’re at work or not, you should be looking for ideas and examples to share with your team of what excellence looks like.
So, how are you doing at casting vision for excellence? Do your people get it? And are they hearing it often enough?
IV. Hold Your People Accountable To It
The primary reason why most people can get away with “less than excellent” work is because their bosses let them get away with it.
So, if you want to “demand” excellence, you have to stop tolerating less than excellent work. You have to be the one who calls someone on the carpet for not holding up to your expectation/core value of excellence.
But, how can you do that without being a jerk? Well, here are a few ideas
- Ask questions vs. make statements.
In other words, become Socrates. Ask, “Betty, do you think this email hits our standard of excellence?” vs. “Betty, this email is terrible. The design is bad. The content stinks. There were two spelling mistakes and three grammatical mistakes.” The former is non-jerky, the latter, jerky.
- Refer to your core values.
In the above question to Betty, did you notice that I referenced the core value. In other words, I was asking a question that connected Betty to something greater than the task at hand. Whenever you’re referencing a core value, you’re reminding the person of an agreed upon standard of behavior—which makes it less about you being a jerk and more about them not living up to the standard.
- Don’t get emotional.
Anger leads to jerky-ness. So, don’t give in to it. It’s not in your best interest to hold someone accountable when you’re angry. Instead, get past the anger and confront the employee once you’re back in control. Then, in a calm voice, you can ask them about the thing they just blew.
- Never scold (and definitely not in public).
Scolding is what parents do to children (and, by the way, wrongly). Adults hate to be scolded. So, don’t do it. Scolding is about making someone feel bad for something they’ve already done. That’s not helpful. Instead, you want to focus on changing their behavior moving forward. So you might want to say something like, “Betty, this seems below your standards. I know you can do better and I assume that the next you attempt this you’ll be back on track with what I know you’re capable of producing.”
There are plenty of ways to hold someone accountable without being a jerk (these four will give you a start) but the main idea is to make sure you’re holding your people accountable to an excellence standard and not letting them get away with doing less than excellent work. Remember, people don’t do what you ask them to do but what you inspect. So, inspect continually. Praise them when they hit it, but also make sure you call them on it when they don’t.
V. Model Excellence In Your Own Life Everyday
Everyday your people are watching you. Everyday, they’re taking their cues from you. Everyday they’re assessing, based on what you do, what really matters around here.
Now, if you’ve been reading my content for any length of time, you know I’m a huge advocate of core values. I think they’re critical. They tell your staff, “This is the standard at which we do work around here.” They are the 24/7 culture drivers of your business so your people know what they should do or how they should decide something without even having to ask you.
However, as critical as core values are, your example is even more important. Your example lets people know if your core values are simply words on a wall or the real drivers of your business.
So, what model are you setting for your people when it comes to excellence?
- Do you check your spelling and grammar before sending an email or letter (or any other communication piece)? Or not?
- Do you show up at meetings fully prepared? Or do you just wing it?
- Do you dress with excellence? Or not?
- Do you take the time to develop well thought through plans? Or go by the seat of your pants?
- Do you keep your office “reasonably” clean? Or are there messy piles everywhere?
- Do you prepare well for your talks so they come off “flawlessly” and have additional support (like slides)? Or do you just wing it because, well, you’re the boss?
- Are you the banner carrier for excellence in your business?
In general, everything tends to run south of the key leader of that organization. So, if you’re not modeling excellence, there’s very little chance your people will. However, if you’re modeling excellence, you should be setting the expectation everyday of what the standard of performance is in your company. And you will, in essence, “demand” excellence without being a jerk. Your sheer example will drive everyone else to up their game.
So, if you want to “demand” excellence in your business without being a jerk, I’d encourage you to use all five of these ideas.
- Recruit for it
- Set the expectation for excellence early and often
- Cast vision for what excellence looks like everyday
- Hold your people accountable to it
- Model excellence in your own life everyday
The more you systematize each of these, the more you’ll get the behavior and company you want—a business where everyone on your team is producing at an “excellent” level—both internally and externally—to the delight of you, your customers and the rest of your team. It’s a triple win!
To your accelerated success!
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