Sunday, March 20, 2011

10 Key Area's of Attention For Your Business

This week I was blessed to be in Charlotte on a SWOT team with Jonathan Warrey and Tom Polk. We came to town at the request of The Network Essentials team – led by Kyle Elworthy and Nathan Sanders. We discovered a number of the normal issues – communication, service delivery consistency, sales and sales management, employee benefits and on the list goes. Here are some ideas that have come out of the last few SWOT’s that may fit your situation. Thanks to the SWOT teams for their insight (and particularly Jonathan Warrey for putting some of this on paper). We didn’t see all these this week – but over the past months I certainly have (some by looking at my own company) and these seem to be key areas that need owner attention.

1. Consistent company communication from owners to employees about what the vision of the company is and how it is doing financially. Employees are too often in the dark and wondering about the future. You have to be open book enough to help them be comfortable with your direction and the sustainability of their job.

2. Set and communicate goals—set a realistic goal, make it public, measure results against it, and communicate it consistently. Too often employees are unsure what the targets are and how they are doing at achieving them. People want to know they are doing a good job – that can’t happen if they are unsure of the goal and the status.

3. Explain why growth is important—often employees don’t see the need for it. Growth matters because fixed costs keep rising and growth creates further opportunities for good people in your company. If they don’t have opportunities for growth, many good people leave. Are you creating a culture where people feel like they have a career, or just a job.

4. Define and lead culture. This is definitely more caught than taught. Each company has its own culture – but far too often it isn’t really planned – it is just allowed to happen and then the owners look back and wonder what happened. Accidental culture never turns out the way you desire.

5. Create clear roles and expectations and confirm results—from service performance and efficiency results, to sales performance in various categories, to customer satisfaction metrics—how are you doing. Do each of your people know where to go when they don’t have an answer? Clarity in job definition is critical for satisfied team members.

6. Make sure everyone understands the mission of the company as well as the vision and company values. There should be no question about where you are heading and how people are expected to act along the journey. These things give us the boundaries that we will operate within. Without a clear definition – people will wander aimlessly unsure how to act. Throw in your BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) as well – so they know you have a big picture around the future.

7. Create Raving Clients. Client satisfaction should be at 95% or higher so you can build referrals to grow your business and maintain a strong client set to continue to work with. Referrals are still an important way to grow our companies. Too often we don’t want to go the extra step to make our clients raving fans. We are content to be “good enough”. It is the little things that make the difference – and a sincere thank you goes a long way.

8. Deliver what you promise. If you say you are going to perform something (i.e. periodic business or account reviews, preventative maintenance checks, etc.) you better deliver on it. Too often you commit to monthly reports, quarterly visits, and annual planning meetings and delivered on about 10% of those commitments. You need to make sure that you are delivering on our commitments. You owe clients the value they are paying for. Period.

9. Remember that compensation modifies behavior, but not personalities. People work on things that maximize their compensation, but it won’t drive people to do things that requires a change in their personality. You spend hours working on compensation plans that target higher compensation for important company initiatives. You certainly don’t always get it right. It’s a reason compensation plans change every year with at least some tweaks. It’s because the market keeps shifting and so do costs to deliver your products and services. You need to spend time understanding personalities as well as managing behavior with compensation. It takes work to understand the different personalities and how they interact and are motivated. Getting those two right at the same time really makes things click!

10. Change is a constant. Some companies have cultivated a culture that is open to change – while some certainly have not. This week in Asheville I ran across these words:

  • Life is change
  • Growth is optional
  • Choose wisely

What is your tolerance toward change? Change is led, not taught. It is not preached into existence – it is caught. Are you a change leader in your company?

So there you have it – ten areas that each of us need to take a look at and consider. If you are normal – five of these are direct hits – a couple more are too close for comfort – and the other three are in need of some work. Unless you are a very unusual small business – these are key areas that need your attention. The upcoming HTG Summit will address many of these areas. There also will be other business owners among the attendees who have these things nailed. You don’t have to go it alone. Get with others – listen and learn – and then get after making some changes. Vision without execution is only hallucination!

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