There are four areas that a business owner can address that can help them build a better business by building better employees. These four areas of concern for your business and your employees are preparation, rewards, benefits and productivity. By addressing these four areas, you can build a stronger business by helping you help those that help you.
The goal of implementing solutions to address these four areas of concern will help you as the business owner to manage you business more effectively. They will help you eliminate the need for micromanaging employees by empowering them to succeed by helping you succeed. Along with eliminating the need to closely manage you employees, other difficult topics such as annual employee reviews and employee generational issues will be lessened or eliminated altogether.
If you have ever asked yourself the following:
“Why aren’t we marketing more, growing faster, what we can do to bring in more business?”
“I don’t get enough time off and I need to make more money. What can I do?”
The solution is to create an environment where employees are prepared, equipped and enabled to help their firms succeed. In other words, help your employees help you.
Preparation: The first and hardest principle to implement is preparation. To create happy successful employees, business owners need to first prepare themselves to support the success of their employees, and then prepare their employees to be successful. There are a series of steps the business owner can undertake in order to implement this first part. The first step is creating a way of thinking on the part of the owner that focuses on building a successful business. The second step is designing a culture that fuels passion, purpose, growth and happiness. It’s about sending a clear message to the employees that their job is important, and that their firm and its owner stands behind them. The third step is about giving employees the basic knowledge and skills to excel within that culture: how to communicate, to ask questions, to learn to do their jobs their way, to fuel personal happiness and to know what the goals of the firm are. Creating a system that the business owner and employees can follow that encompasses these three steps can help create an environment in which success brings success for the business owner, the business and the employees.
Reward: The single most powerful employee motivator is to tie a portion of their compensation to the success of the business. The best way to do this is through revenue-based incentives (which are easy to calculate, easy to understand and eliminate the profit-sharing issues surrounding legitimate costs in small businesses). Compensation rewards that increase as a business grows create a sense of ownership (in lieu of actual ownership) that is essential to maximizing employee contributions to a business’ long-term success.
Benefits: There are a lot of benefits that employers offer to employees, from medical benefits to retirement benefits to lifestyle benefits. Which benefits really motivate employees? Employers must offer medical and retirement benefits, but more importantly, creating a flexible work environment is a good motivator. Plus, it can be tailored to each employee’s needs and optimal work habits without disrupting the firm’s goals.
Productivity: There is probably no stronger message that a business can send to its employees than the quality of the tools it provides to get their jobs done. Today, that means cutting-edge technology and training to use more of that technology’s functionality. Obsolete or barely functional technology tells employees their job is not important and their time is not valued. It also tells them the business owner does not care about his or her business, and doesn’t care to be up-to-date with what’s going on in his or her industry.
Once the systems that address these principles are in place, most businesses virtually run themselves, with employees managing themselves and each other. Business owners must make a mental shift from trying to manage their business to supporting their employees to be as good as they can possibly be. It’s not about recruiting great employees. A business owner can make problem employees out of great ones every time. Likewise, a business owner that implements a system as described in this article can turn problem employees into successful employees, and create a successful business in turn.
An effective sales or service professional is one who consistently achieves high sales numbers and manages to develop a large base of loyal clients who liberally refer business back to that sales or service person. The single most important trait of that effective sales or service professional is the ability to form genuine, close relationships with clients. The type of relationships that result in repeat business and referrals. These sales professionals are the ones who consistently outproduce their competitors. They do so not by saying anything and everything to get a sale, but by being genuine and keeping the client’s needs first and foremost above anything else.
Those who are especially good at forging client relationships tend to appear to their clients not so much as a “salesperson” but rather a consultant or advisor. They make it their business to learn as much as they can about a client’s business. And what they cannot learn from their research, they learn at an initial meeting by asking all the right questions about a prospect’s needs. Then, they go the distance by using their time in getting to know their clients and prospects, and that extra effort makes all the difference in developing strong relationships with their clients. An extra 30 minutes spent learning more about a client’s or prospect’s needs creates the opportunity for more sales and referrals, not to mention that it is the right thing to do for your client.
One way sales and service professionals build relationships with clients is by presenting their products or service as a solution to a client’s problem. By presenting the product or service that is the best available solution to a client’s individual needs, a sales and service professional can show his attentiveness to the client’s problem. The sales and service professional answers all of the client’s questions and offers useful information, even if it is not directly related to the sale of his or her product or service.
After the sale, this sales and service professional maintains effective continuing contact with the client, offering the same kind of consulting help offered during the initial sale. Clients are generally loyal to such a sales professional — not because the products or services are superior or cheaper relative to the competition but because they possess excellent client-relations skills, problem-solving abilities and the willingness to spend time on a client, even if it doesn’t directly result in a sale. Many sales and service people make the mistake of getting the sale, and then forging ahead to find new prospects, instead of paying continued attention to the client they already have.
Good client relationships create loyalty. Loyalty creates repeat business and increased referrals.
If you want to generate more client referrals, and you do because it’s the most cost effective way for you to generate new clients, make sure you develop and practice healthy business habits to ensure that clients feel like they can safely introduce you to their friends and family.
There are five simple healthy business habits you can take, develop and make them your own that will make your clients happy to refer you to their friends, neighbors, co-workers and family:
1. Show Up On Time To Your Appointments
How often do service providers show up late, return calls late, or keep their clients waiting? This lateness creates a feeling of anger, dissapointment and resentment from your clients and make them feel like you don’t respect or value their time. Return calls when promised, and show up to all appointments, whether in person or on the phone, on time. Timeliness will reflect your professionalism, and your love for your work which will in turn communicate to your clients that their friends and family are going to be well taken care of.
2. Do What You Say You Will Do
As a consumer, I frequently encounter this from contractors and home repair service people who almost always seem to over promise and under deliver. How many salespeople and service providers promise you the world before they have your money, then fall far short of providing the service they originally promised after they have your money? This lying may get a company the sale once, but no one will ever repeat purchase from them since they didn’t do what they originally promised.
Instead, always promise your clients less than what you think you can accomplish, or deliver. This way, when your results are better than expected, they think you are the greatest, and end up referring and/or renewing with you.
3. Complete Your Work & Be Thorough
Builders, contractors and home repair service people are notorious for not finishing what they start. All of us have experienced entering into an agreement with a service provider who does half the work, and then stops for one reason or another and never completes the job. Make sure you complete the work that you start with all of your clients. Many sales and service people make the mistake of only focusing on signing up new clients, and fail to pay enough attention to whose they already do have.
4. Say Please And Thank You To Your Clients
When was the last time a service provider said please and thank you and really meant it? You must show appreciation for your clients – they are the lifeblood of your business. Make sure you treat them like gold. In fact, you should…
5. Connect and Bond With Your Clients
Most businesses don’t have any idea how to connect or bond with their clients. They feel business relationships should be treated differently than personal relationships. But, you must remember that people are people, and they experience the very same emotions that you do. Look at your clients as friends, and treat them that way. Stay in touch with them at least once a month. Occasionally, surprise them with unexpected gifts. Recognize them, and refer them to other clients. In short, treat them like you expect to be treated.
If you consistently practice these five healthy business habits you will start to see a dramatic change in your business. You will also begin to enjoy your work and your work with clients more, and it will start to feel more like fun instead of just work.
A final word of advice, make sure you listen to your clients – what they like, what they don’t like, why they bought from you, why they renewed with you, what other products and services you can provide for them, and so forth. Your clients have all the answers. All you have to do is listen, and practice healthy business habits.
People under 30 hate to talk about retirement. Many refuse to even discuss it or even think about it.Yet, it is vital to plan for this eventual time of life. Retirement is a necessary part of life, and it’s coming whether you want it or not, and coming whether you’re ready for it or not.
If you’re under 30, start to plan now & make your retirement years the best years of your life. It’s important to begin thinking about financial security during your life in retirement. An easy plan for successful retirement planning should include the following components:
- If your employer offers a plan, get to know it.
- No one else is going to fund your retirement …contribute, contribute, contribute.
- Consider a Roth IRA . Contributions go into the account after taxes have been taken out. That means you can withdraw your earnings tax free when you reach retirement age.
- Increase your deferral percentage every time you get a raise.
- Establish an IRA.
- Take advantage of an employer match to your 401(k) . It is free money.
- Consider your own risk tolerance and take into account the amount of time you have until retirement.
- Know when you will be 100 percent vested in your account. That’s how long you should stay with your current employer.
- Don’t treat your 401(k) like a glorified savings account.
- Even if your plan allows them, don’t take loans against your 401(k) account.
- Move your accounts with you when you change jobs.
- Budget and live within your means.
Following these steps, people under 30 can begin the process that will lead to an enjoyable life during retirement years, and make their retirement age, the best age of their life. If you’re under 30, start to plan now & make your retirement years the best years of your life.
Losing customers is never fun. Worse, often we do not even know why we lost a customer. Not knowing why something happened means to risk repeating the same mistake with another customer, and losing them as well. many businesses cannot survive such mistakes, and many rarely do.
It can be a mistake to think that just because a customer is dissatisfied with your work, product or service, you automatically lose that customer. A dissatisfied customer is an opportunity to create a life-long customer, and better yet, an advocate for your business. How is this possible?
The first step requires recognizing the essential truths about not just customers, but people in general. People, and this includes your customers want:
to be respected.
to have attention paid to them and their needs
to be appreciated and recognized
to be, and feel, understood.
What are some of the reasons businesses lose customers? A recent survey asked customers why they stopped patronizing a business. The results of the survey indicated the following reasons why customers left:
5% Developed a good relationship with another supplier
9% Found a less expensive product elsewhere
18% Were unhappy with service/product
68% Were unhappy with the poor attitude of the supplier
The results of the survey indicated that customers most often left a business they were frequenting because they felt they were not being respected, they did not receive the proper attention, they did not feel appreciated, and worse, they felt misunderstood.
It is never easy to earn a new customer’s trust. that is why it is doubly important to nurture existing customers and try to ensure that their needs are not just understood, but that they are perceived to be understood and attended to. The way to be in a position to spot trouble as soon as it arises is to:
Make regular visits or calls. Spotting trouble early can help prevent more trouble from developing later on
Reply to all calls & queries for information as soon as possible
Talk to customers. Find out about them, get to know them on a personal level
Keep customers informed
See you business through the eyes of your customer. Conduct regular reviews of your and your staffs performance
Placing yourself in the position to be able to anticipate and react to problems, or potential problems will allow you to be, and to be seen as being more responsive to your customers and their needs. Be proactive and make sure your customers know and feel that they come first.
Even if you make mistakes, and you certainly will make mistakes, they’ll be willing to give you a second, and sometimes even a third chance and beyond, because they feel like they, as your customers, matter to you and your business.
A few days ago, I wrote about the new Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. The Department of Commerce has just released more information about this new mandate, and in as soon as two weeks, the final document is expected to be released by the FTC. For business owners it is expected to have quite an impact on business. The question for many is exactly how much.
This Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights is actually just a small part of an entire set of guidelines and practices that will provide a framework for how privacy is handled by business and data and information collecting organizations. This entire framework is designed to ensure that consumers know exactly what will become of their data and information, how it will be used and how it will be protected. In addition, it will also include commercial codes of conduct, effective enforcement provisions and an international interoperability provision.
The Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights is founded on seven principles or primary provisions:
- Individual Control The first principle focuses on the control of information, as well as its collection and distribution. The Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights gives consumers the right to control what information businesses collect and how that information is used. The new framework will also apply to third party data collection, such as data collected by information brokers, most of which obtain their data through public records. Consumer responsibility is a secondary component of this provision. This principle also includes a provision for companies to protect consumer data collected before the final implementation the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.
- Transparency The second principle focuses on transparency. The Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights provides to consumers the right to easily access their information and have easy-to-understand statements about privacy and security practices by the information and data collector.
- Respect for Context The third principle gives consumers the right to expect the data collection organization will use and disclose data in a manner consistent with the purpose for which it was collected. This provision is closely tied to Transparency and will present challenges as marketers consider the age and sophistication of the consumers they serve.
- Security The fourth principle concerns the safety of the consumer’s information and data. The Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights gives consumers the right to the secure and responsible handling of their personal information.
- Access and Accuracy The fifth principle gives consumers the right to access and correct personal data based on the sensitivity of the data or the potential for harm caused by inaccurate data.
- Focused Collection The sixth principle gives consumers the right to expect reasonable limits to the information and data that a company collects and maintains. This principle also covers what happens to the data and information collected once it is no longer needed. Companies will have to securely dispose of the data or de-identify it once it is no longer needed.
- Accountability The final principle gives consumers the assurance that their data is being handled by companies who are following these principles. This principle encompasses a number of commitments including adopting the principles, training employees, auditing systems and processes and being accountable to enforcement authorities.
This is only a the beginning of a process. The necessary codes of conduct still have to be determined, as well as many more details which remain to be ironed out. We will know more once the FTC releases it final documents in about two weeks.
Marketing is the lifeblood of your business. Without marketing, your business is dead in the water because nobody knows how to find you, or what you do. Without marketing, nobody knows what you can do for them, or how you can do it better, cheaper, faster, etc.
Ultimately, what is it that makes a marketing campaign, tool or strategy successful? Mainly, it is the idea, or ideas, behind that marketing campaign, tool or strategy that determines how successful it is in bringing attention to your business, product or service. These ideas are intellectual property that can become quite valuable to you and your business. You on your business, but do you own the ideas that make you and your business successful?
A marketing campaign is an essential element in running a business. Businesses start marketing campaigns all the time, but many may not know the essentials of running a campaign. The most important part of your marketing campaign are the ideas or intellectual property that make the marketing campaign successful.
Here’s what you need to know before you start your next marketing campaign, whether you do it in-house, or hire someone to do it:
A marketing campaign usually revolves around an idea, or series of ideas. These ideas may come form you, or someone on your staff. More often than not, though, the ideas come from an individual or agency that works freelance, or independently. These marketing specialists, whether individual or as part of an agency, work for you, are paid by you and come up with ideas for you to market your business. Who owns these ideas?
Most people would say that the business owner, or manager, who hires the marketing people to come up with a marketing campaign owns those ideas, but in fact, the person coming up with those ideas – the marketing specialist or agency – actually own those ideas, unless you, as the business owner have a work-for-hire agreement with the individual or agency creating the actual marketing materials and ideas.
In addition, you must have a written assignment from the marketing people giving you the rights to the ideas that are presented and used in the marketing campaign. Unless you have this documentation in place, your marketing campaign, and more importantly, the ideas that make up this marketing campaign, do not belong to you or your business even though you paid for those ideas.
On the flip-side, if you are a marketing specialist working either as an individual or as an agency, you must have documentation in place to secure your rights to your work. This documentation must be in place to ensure your ownership of your ideas, or intellectual property.
A freelancer or agency must have an agreement that explicitly details ownership of the ideas that will be presented to the client. As a freelancer, or outside agency being hired, you must also have an NDA, or non-disclosure agreement, signed and agreed to before you present your ideas to ensure that your ideas remain with you, and are not used without you being hired for the job.
Ideas are the lifeblood of marketing. If you are considering hiring someone to come up with your next marketing campaign for you business, or if you are a marketing specialist coming up with marketing campaigns for your clients, you need to make sure that you have your paperwork and agreements in place to protect those valuable ideas, you intellectual property that can be worth a lot of money.
President Obama presented a new Bill of Rights this week. Recent concerns over tracking by marketing web sites and privacy led President Obama to introduce his Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. This important new “Bill of Rights” is supposed to serve as a blueprint or guideline for meant to improve protection from increasingly more invasive methods of information collection and gathering by the big Internet companies as they seek to learn everything that they possibly can about their users and their friends.
Read more in this press release from the White House: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/02/23/we-can-t-wait-obama-administration-unveils-blueprint-privacy-bill-rights
3 Simple Ways To Prevent Identity Theft
The credit card industry seems to be growing rapidly despite the recent economic troubles plaguing most of Americans. According to some recent studies of the credit card industry, the average American household has at least one credit card. In fact, this recent survey found that 81% of households in America, have at least one credit card. Many American households have more credit cards that they can wisely handle.
Credit cards offer much temptation to today’s modern consumer society. Credit cards make it easy to consume more and more products each day. Products that most American’s only use once and then discard or forget all about because they have gone out and gotten even more stuff. It never seems to end, and the sales pitches keep coming spurring even more wanton consumerism.
Since many Americans decide to get at least one credit card, using credit wisely becomes an important skill to acquire. Irresponsible use of credit cards can lead to the spread of fraud and fraudulent activities affecting the credit card industry, and the pocketbooks of many Americans.
One of the most common fraud-related problems in America is identity theft. In fact, it has been documented by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the government agency tasked with dealing with such issues, that between 350,000 to 500,000 cases of identity theft take place in America each and every year.
What is identity theft? Identity theft occurs when criminals access personal information about the victim that allows them to impersonate the victim, and use their identity for financial gain. Personal information such as social security numbers, credit card numbers, work related information and home addresses is used to create fraudulent applications for credit cards, purchase consumer goods or services with stolen credit card numbers of any combination of actions that result in the use of the victims’s money or credit to buy goods or services.
What are some of the way’s that consumer’s can prevent identity theft from becoming a problem for them?
Start by protecting your personal data and financial information. One way that criminals get access to this type of information is by picking up the phone and calling the intended victim under false pretenses. It is a good idea to never engage in phone calls that require you to give out personal data or information. Many criminals impersonate service providers in order to trick the victim into providing the information needed to duplicate the victim’s identity and use it for financial gain. Even if, and especially if, the caller says he is from the bank that issued the credit card, or account number in question, caution should be exercised and information not disclosed. It is important to verify that the caller is, indeed, a representative of the bank, or financial organization that is supposedly calling you to request this information.
Do not provide your credit card or banking details in response to freebies and give-away offers. Many scam artists, or criminals, pretend to give away valuable prizes, information or rewards in order to trick consumers into giving away their financial information. It is a good idea to never give out information that is not going to be stored securely, or used in a secure environment. A cheap paper or post card form is not the place to provide your financial information details to strangers.
Review your credit cards and financial statements on a regular basis. Having a regular check up on your credit card balance, bills and other financial documents is an effective way to prevent the criminal misuse of your financial resources. Review or verify your financial statements regularly. Ignoring your financial statements is an easy way to fall victim to identity theft. Regular checkups of your financial statements and accounts will help you find potential instances of identity theft.
Identity theft is a huge problem and concern to many Americans. Have you fallen prey to identify theft? How did it affect your financial situation? If you have experienced identity theft, share some tips with our readers in order to help them protect themselves from this potentially financially catastrophic problem.