Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Blown Away

I had a recent experience at a local tanning salon, named MAX TAN, that literally blew me away, from the perspective of customer service. It made such a huge impression on me that I feel compelled to write about it. The lesson you will learn is so simple: remember names and address customers by name. Here's the story. . .

I last visited this tanning salon 5 years ago. When I decided to go back 5 years later, I walked in and the manager, who was there 5 years ago, said, "Hi Chris". It stopped me in my tracks. I couldn't believe it. He remembered my name after 5 years. He walked around the corner from a hallway, made eye contact with me, and addressed me by name without hesitation. I have to admit that although I recognized him, I couldn't remember his name. He made a dramatic impact on me (and I teach this stuff!). Of course, I asked him, "How did you do that?" He didn't have any tricks. He said that he just remembered. Every day since then, he has addressed me by name and I always remember the 5 year thing. What an impression!

The other great thing about this company is that every person who works there addresses me by name - even some of the people who I have never met or been introduced to. One of the employees even opened the door for me when I left there today. This company truly gets CUSTOMER SERVICE. What does it cost them to use my name? Zero! Guess how many people I've told? Before writing this article - at least 10. That's the best marketing a company can ever hope to get - a customer's enthusiastic testimonial and recommendation.

As an additional note on this company's overall service, their salon is always ridiculously clean, the employees are always smiling and making eye contact, they price their services reasonably and give customers multiple options for the various levels of available tanning agreements. They are simply unbeatable.

As a business manager, or as a person who simply wants to make a great impression on others, take a lesson from MAX TAN. Address people by name. Do whatever it takes to remember names. There are books available on remembering names. Get one if that's what it takes. Take pictures (with consent) of your customers to attach to their profile in your company database. Whatever it takes, address customers by name. You will blow them away.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Don't Get Mad at the Money

As I've said before, customers who complain are a valuable opportunity for a company. Unfortunately, many times, when customers do complain, staff get upset or even angry. They take it personal because they don't realize what a great opportunity that complaint can be. It will give them an opportunity to evaluate and improve systems, products, staff, and services. You need to train your employees to accept complaints and learn from them. Even more, you need to train them to thank customers for complaining and giving them an opportunity to improve.

In my office, when a customer has a complaint that hasn't been handled to their satisfaction by another employee or supervisor, I always speak with that customer and make them happy if it is at all in my power to do so. What I usually find is that one of my employees has followed policy the way they were trained to do, but the situation warrants breaking policy to make the customer happy. Some policies are meant to be broken on a case-by-case basis. After all, policies are for staff - not for customers. I'm not talking about very important company policies like the ones that address following laws or that prevent workplace injuries. I'm just talking about "smaller" policies. For example, my doctor's office has a policy of needing to personally meet with patients who need certain forms filled out. Well, if that patient (customer) is going to be late getting back to work if she has to wait long for the doctor, maybe we can just interrupt the doctor and get the formed filled out right then. We have another policy of taking our last patient 30 minutes before we close. However, if a new patient were to come in 15 minutes before closing time, it's a good idea to help them out and get an account started so that we can see them again tomorrow. These are less important policies that are meant primarily to maintain order and give all associates a frame work for how to operate. They are not policies for customers, so customers don't need to care about them.

When a customer talks to me and I "over-rule" one of my employees, that person will sometimes be upset with me because I didn't "back them up". I just tell them that making customers happy is the top priority for all associates at all levels of the organization. I'm a brick wall when staff complain about customers. Customers = Money. So, I say, "Don't get mad at the money."

Train your staff to make customers happy and empower them to break policy on a case-by-case basis, to make customers happy. At least encourage them to talk to their supervisor about finding a solution that can make the customer happy. Complaints are a valuable opportunity for creating happy customers that refer other customers.

Don't get mad at the money. Instead, make customers happy so they will tell all of their friends about how you went above and beyond to take care of their needs.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Working ON the Business

As a top manager or business owner, the way you spend your time at work will determine the impact you have on the business - either positive or negative. You can not allow yourself to get buried in the day-to-day tasks of your organization. If you, for example, answer phones, stock shelves, purchase inventory, or do other work that could be handled by someone else, you are hurting your business because you aren't serving your primary purpose of growing the business. When you spend most of your time working in the business, it's like you're a hamster on a wheel - you're working really hard and getting no where.

As the top manager or owner, you need to spend the vast majority of your time working on the business. When you work ON the business, you are doing things that grow the company in many different ways, from creating policies and procedures, to devising strategy for getting new customers. Some tasks that you should be doing instead of the day-to-day tasks of the operation are:

1. Writing and modifying policies and procedures.
2. Writing marketing and strategic plans.
3. Creating budgets and reviewing financial statements.
4. Talking to customers to get their feedback on ways to improve the business.
5. Training others to do the day-to-day tasks of the organization.
6. Reviewing sales reports.
7. Reviewing your chart of graphs to find problems and opportunities.
8. Training people to do the training of others.
9. Delegating assignments and following up on their completion.
10. Working with suppliers to get better deals.
11. Talking to established clients and future prospects.
12. Talking to your staff to find out what problems they are having and identify areas needing improvement.
13. Creating new products for sale.
14. Building alliances with complimentary products and services.
15. Finding ways to get more efficient.

These important tasks can not be left to someone else. You are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of you operation. Jefferey Fox suggests (and I agree) that you first need to hire a office / business manager and a marketing / sales person. You will be able to delegate many key tasks to these positions which will save you the time you need to work on the business. While these people will also be charged with doing their part to work on the business, their key responsibilities will be to work in the business and ensure that your priorities are handled effectively.

Working ON the business is the only way for you to grow the business to the level that you envision in your own mind. Start delegating the day-to-day tasks of the organization and do the things needed to grow your business.

10 Tools for Getting a Pay Raise

Some companies give cost-of-living increases. Others give automatic pay increases annually. Still others give pay increases in the form of bonuses (that are often undeserved). When you want the pay raise that you really "deserve", you need to use these tools.

1. Most importantly - you must ask for the raise.

2. Calculate and present your worth / value to the organization. How much did you do in sales in the past year? How do you rank among your co-workers? What was the overall dollar value of your performance?

3. Present the market value for your position / job title in your geographic area. You can use web sites like www.salary.com to find a very rough estimate of your market value. A better way to do this would be for you to call other businesses and talk to others who do your same kind of job. When you share salary information with others in your industry, you give those other people tools that they can work with and this will probably convince them to talk to you about salary. This is a form of salary survey like salary.com uses - only on a smaller scale. (Note: your company probably has policies on discussing salary with your co-workers. Don't violate this policy and get yourself fired. That's why I suggested talking to people in other companies.)

4. Be willing to take on new responsibilities that will increase your future value to the organization.

5. Ask for more than you expect to receive. This gives your supervisor room to negotiate. When you concede some of the money that you're asking for, you supervisor gets to "win" when he/she gives you less that you ask for and you actually "win" because you get a nice pay raise. This is a proven negotiation technique that works. Even if it seems silly, do it anyway.

6. Don't expect to get your answer today but know that the longer your supervisor takes to "think about it", the less likely you are to get what you want. The better your presentation of facts and the more likable you are already, the more likely you are to get resolution sooner than later.

7. If you don't get an answer today, you must always ask, "what day can I expect you to have a decision on this matter?" It's important that you have a mutually agreed upon time line. The longer it takes, the less likely you are to get the result you deserve. So, get a firm deadline.

8. If your supervisor is required to take your request to a higher authority, ask them to take a stand for you. Here's what you have to say: "Considering my high value to the organization and the market rate that is above what I'm currently getting paid, will you recommend to your boss that I get my requested pay increase?" When you get the supervisor to commit to helping you, he/she will be very likely to make a strong effort to do so, if for nothing else, to remain consistent with their agreement to help. This is a powerful influence technique.

9. Ask for objections to find out what, if anything, would prevent you from getting your raise. When you don't know what the objections are, you can't change anyone's mind. You need to know what your supervisor is thinking if you want a good outcome.

10. Tell the supervisor that they already agree with your position. I love this one the most. When you are presenting all of the facts, you tell your supervisor, "You'll agree that I'm being paid less than market value, especially considering my excellent production." Or, you might say, "Our company values high performance, that's why you'll agree that rewarding my performance is the right thing to do." Or, "I'm sure we agree that high performance deserves high reward." The key is that anytime you can emphasize points of agreement with your presentation of facts, you will significantly influence your situation.

Finally, many people think that it's a good idea to threaten to quit if you don't get what you ask for. What a bad mistake! Never, ever, ever do this unless you are ready to walk out the door right now. Threatening to quit does not win you favor with your employer -present or future. If your value is not perceived as being high, you are probably punching your ticket with the threat of quitting. Even if you were previously perceived as being valuable, now you have left a bad taste in your employer's mouth and that's a devastating result for you. Threatening to quit is only going to work if your employer is short on other talented people in your position, but only in the short-term. As soon as someone else is hired, you could be fired. Lastly on this topic, never threaten to quit unless you already have another job lined up. You might just be asked to leave right then.

Don't make yourself jobless when you're just trying to get a raise. Instead, follow these 10 tools, stay employed, and get the raise you deserve.

Critical Missing Sales Step

Businesses that do great marketing and sales have a well written marketing plan, with a killer sales offering, a compelling message, and effective marketing and sales materials. As part of the marketing plan, one or more sales people may be charged with face-to-face marketing with key referral sources. During these sales attempts, the marketer / sales person will try to get time with key decision makers. They will hopefully present the sales materials (brochures, booklets, presentations, etc.) in a way that compels the decision maker to send them more new business / customers.

But, with the potential high cost of marketing and sales, and in spite of the effective sales materials, the effort to reach decision makers, and even with having what you think is a spectacular marketing / sales person, if the following critical sales step is missed, the entire cost and effort could result in a frustrating and damaging nothing. What is this critical missing step?

Always Ask For The New Business. Always Ask For The Sale. Always Ask For The Referral.

Yes - you must ask if you want to receive. This seems so obvious, but the number of sales attempts that end without actually asking for the business is shocking. This sometimes happens when the sales / marketing person is intimated by the decision maker, so you must hire someone for this position who is not only very skilled, but very confident (almost cocky). It also happens when the sales person is not trained on effective sales techniques or even worse - when the sales person simply doesn't believe in your product. In the first case, you need to make sure your sales team is highly trained. In the last case, you just have the wrong person in that key position. Get someone else fast.

Asking for the new business can dramatically improve your sales effectiveness. While there's a lot that plays into this step (enough to write an entire entry on the subject) you must be aware that your sales / marketing team may not be doing it, and this is hurting your business. Make this part of your marketing and sales policies. In policy, you should clearly mandate that asking for the business is part of the sales and marketing process. Asking for the business should also be found in your marketing and sales materials. Do not take it for granted that your customers will do business with you just because you have good materials and good people. Instead, always ask for them to do business with you.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Management Fire Fighters

A management fire fighter is someone who is great at fixing problems. In fact, they know exactly what to do in most problem situations. Everytime a customer complains, the management fire fighter is there to fix the problem. Everytime a staff member has a problem, the management fire fighter knows the solution. That problem can happen over and over again, and the management fire fighter will never forget the solution. The management fire fighter will handle problems as often as they occur, even if a subordinate manager is there to help. The management fire fighter doesn't need to waste any time teaching others how to solve problems, because solving problems is his job. To the management fire fighter, fixing problems feels good. It makes that manager feel very useful. And, while the management fire fighter feels really good about always being able to fix every problem over and over and over again, he is also damaging the business.

As a manager, everytime you have an opportunity to solve a problem, you should take extra time to write it up. Writing it up means identifying the problem, determining its root cause, and implementing a solution - all in writing. After its all written up, you then need to train those involved, with your new written solution, so that the problem never happens again.

Many times, organizational problems occur due to a lack of policy or inadequate existing policy. When you find this, you must recommend and implement new or revised written policy and then distribute it throughout the organization. Policy is another form of written solution to problems. In absence of solid, written policy, people will make up their own rules. While they probably think these unwritten rules make sense, they very well may not fit into the bigger picture. It is the manager's job to make sure employees do not need to create their own rules.

Similar to written policies, managers need to also implement written, step-by-step procedures for how to do each job. It doesn't matter if only one person is involved in a process or if multiple people are involved, written routing procedures will crystallize the task and make it more simple. Written routing procedures are also excellent training tools. Managers can literally teach each step of the process, one-at-a-time, to make sure each new associate is able to do their job successfully. Finally, written routing procedures can be made more efficient because when working the procedures, you can find ways to make each procedure more simple or to combine processes so that the cycle time is at its lowest. Shortened time cycles can give an organization a decided strength advantage over the competition.

The last way a management fire fighter damages the business is by not training other managers how to do the job right and how to train others to do the job right. Instead, the manager should always have the direct supervisor involved in the solution, writing up the problem, creating policy, fine-tuning routing procedures, and training staff. When you are able to delegate future problem-solving to your subordinate managers, your time will be free to make big-picture decisions and grow the business instead of hurting the business.

So, don't play the role of management fire fighter. There is absolutely no value in fixing every problem over and over again. Write it up. Implement effective policy. Create routing procedures. Shorten time cycles. Train managers. Focus on the big picture.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Management No-No's

As a manager, you must be held to a higher standard than that of those who report to you. No - you must hold yourself to a higher standard. If you don't, then how can you ever expect anything that resembles excellence from your staff? Clearly, you can't. So, let me point out some things that I have seen managers do that you should never do.

1. Don't have a personal vendetta against anyone. It is unacceptable for you to "be out to get someone". I see this mostly when managers feel insecure about their own performance or when they fear that someone under them might take their job. First of all, nobody should ever be able to "take" your job. When you chronically under-perform, you are giving your job away to someone who can do better. So, work hard, be smart, do excellent work, and treat people with dignity and respect. If you find yourself being "out to get someone," don't be surprised if it is you who is gotten.

2. Don't place blame on someone else, or as I like to say it, "throw someone under the bus". As the manager, you are ultimately responsible for everything that you are responsible for. If someone under you messes up, it was your job to have trained them not to make that mistake in the first place. If you did train them, and they continually make that mistake, then it is your job to put them in a more fitting position, or to free up their time to find a better position elsewhere. Placing blame is a sign of weakness in managers. It is unnecessary. Instead, find a solution for problems and fix bad situations.

3. Don't be messy and disorganized. I once heard someone say that if you want to know something about a manager, take a look at their desk. Stacks of paper usually mean unfinished business. Papers scattered all around the desk and office usually means forgotten and thus unfinished business. A messy work area creates a very poor image of the manager and as a manager, you want people to think highly of you, don't you?

4. Don't make excuses for poor performance. First of all, nobody's perfect. Mistakes happen. Own up to them and figure out a way to avoid them in the future. Also, instead of excuses, promote how you will make sure performance will improve. A sign of a good manager is the ability to acknowledge areas of poor performance and fix them. Don't waste anyone's time giving excuses. Just fix it and move on.

5. Don't be a sniper. I hate hearing constant negativity being thrown at people, policies, situation, etc. Managers can not constantly criticize others. They can't use meetings to "throw others under the bus". They can't constantly criticize company policy (especially to their subordinates) and they can't criticize the boss publicly. Snipers always find time for negativity. They always find time for criticism. This just makes me want to take a deeper look at them and see what problems they're causing.

Be a good manager and avoid these no-no's. If you fit into any of the above categories, there's a better than zero chance that you won't get to stay there for long. Be nice. Be positive. Be professional and organized. Be a problem-solver and not a problem-maker.

What are You Really Selling?

I think it's critically important for you to understand what you're really selling to people. If you can't identify your real product, you will never be able to effectively sell your product or service to the masses that you want to sell to. Let me give you some great examples.

1. Hair Stylists do not sell hair cuts.
2. Chiropractors do not sell adjustments.
3. Electronics stores do not sell big screen TV's.
4. Furniture stores do not sell beds.
5. TV advertisers do not sell advertising.
6. Realtors do not sell houses.
7. Athletic shoe stores do not sell shoes.
8. Lawn Care guys don't sell lawn mowing.
9. Gyms don't sell gym memberships.
10. Photographers don't sell photos.

So, what do all of these people really sell? Well, hair stylists sell people self-confidence and a strong ego. Chiropractors sell relaxation and freedom from pain. Electronics stores sell an entertainment experience you can share with your friends and family. Furniture stores sell the best night's sleep you've ever had. TV advertisers sell companies a dramatic increase in new customers. Realtors sell dreams and a better life. Athletic shoe stores sell a better jump shot. Lawn Care guys sell a beautiful yard that is the envy of the neighborhood. Gyms sell beach-ready bodies and photographers sell memories that last forever.

When you know exactly what you sell, you're able to create more effective advertisements with more powerful headlines and better sales pitches. You create a mission that everyone who works for you can get behind and believe in. Most importantly, you give your customers an emotional reason for buying from you instead of your competition.

What are you selling?

Friday, March 13, 2009

My Story of Perseverance

This is part of my story and due to its personal nature is the hardest entry I will write. Some will find it "cheesy". Others will find it self-serving. Still others might even find it pointless. But, someone will find it motivating and inspiring. I am writing this to that person.

As a kid, I was small, quiet, shy, and in my opinion, just average, but there was my grandmother. She always told me that I was big, and smart, and cute, and great at everything. She told me that I could do anything that I wanted to. I believed her. Thank God she was right.

At the age of 9, my grandmother asked me if I wanted to learn how to play the "fiddle" (not the violin - trust me there's a difference). I wanted to please her so I said yes. She paid for my lessons with the best fiddle player I have ever heard. Before the year was up, she began entering me into fiddle competitions against other kids my same age. I stood on a stage, in front of a microphone and crowds of people who were watching and hoping that their kids would win. At the end of each competition, I disappointed quite a few moms and grandmothers. My grandmother always told me I was the best and I believed her. I never placed lower than 2nd, but usually 1st (and I won $25 to $50 each time - I couldn't believe that they paid me to do that).

I continued winning for the next 3 years until I put down the fiddle to play the trombone. Thankfully, I maintained my healthy self-esteem and was the best at trombone too. I won 1st place in most of the competitions. I was the "1st chair" of my band's trombone section. I played solos in the Jazz band and solos in the marching band, including the state champion band when I was just 15. I stood on the 45 yard line of the University of Texas football stadium and played a beautiful solo - totally fearless and absolutely unaware of the possibility of failure.

After a few years of music, I decided to quit the band to focus on sports. Several years before this, I was little and slow. Instead of giving up on sports, I just kept working at it. As a 14-year old, I began to grow, got faster, and generally began to "figure it out". By my freshman year in high school, I made the varsity track team for the 400m dash and the mile relay. I wasn't slow anymore. In practice, I ran until I literally puked every single day, then I kept running. In my sophomore year, I blew out my ACL (knee ligament) and had to run with a bulky, fiberglass brace for the next 2 years after two knee surgeries. In each of those 2 years, I was voted the MVP of my varsity track team, despite running on a bad knee.

Academically, I was a straight-A honor student and an officer in the National Honor Society. I graduated high school with honors and went straight to college at the University of North Texas. It was at this stage of my life that everything temporarily fell apart. I went thru 3 different academic programs, was placed on academic probation, and at one point was 1 hour away from being placed on academic suspension. I got an A in that 1-hour basketball class and the rest was history. I started making the deans list, re-took all of the classes I failed, and finally graduated with a degree in Kinesiology (coaching, PE, personal training, etc).

I knew I was going to be a strength coach until the Summer of '98 when I spent one training camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a volunteer strength coach. What a great experience this was, but it helped me realize that I needed to change career paths because I wanted to be able to spend time with my family while making a fortune professionally. That just wasn't going to happen soon enough for me in the NFL.

Two years later, my boss asked me a life-changing question: "Chris, do you think you could run this place?" "Of Course," I said, and I had no idea whatsoever about how to do it, but I knew I could do anything, so I said yes. Years later, we're breaking records. Since then, I went back to school to get my MBA (Master's of Business Administration) and I am so proud and thankful that my grandmother was still alive to see it. Sadly, she later passed away and I will never stop missing her and I will NEVER forget her - enough said.

The keys to my success (and the main point of this entry that I hope you will take away and use for yourself) were the unbelievable and infinitely loving supportiveness of my grandmother, my subsequent huge belief in myself and my abilities, extraordinary hard work and perseverance, never turning down a great and life-changing opportunity, and a laser-sharp focus on my goals. You need to believe in yourself. Otherwise, how can you expect anyone else to? Always work hard and set big goals. Never turn down a great opportunity. These are the lessons from this part of my life.

"Micro Manager" - Not the Definition of a Great Manager

Micro Manager
A manager who dictates rather than delegates job functionality to those they manage. A manager who is excessively concerned with specifying the details of how a task should be done rather than managing the big picture and allowing subordinates to do their job (from http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/micro_manager).

Micro Manage
To direct and control in a detailed, often meddlesome manner (from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/micromanager).

As I've previously written, one quality of a great manager is the ability to effectively delegate tasks. The definition above states that a micro manager dictates details of how to do something rather than managing the big picture and allowing people to do their jobs. Has anyone ever felt as if they were being micro-managed? If so, how did that make you feel? Did you feel like your boss didn't think you were able to do your job? Did you think the general feeling was that you weren't good at your job or at least good enough to manage the fundamentals of your job? How did that feel? From my experience, the answer is, "not good".

Another part of that definition is . . . "rather than managing the big picture." This is the job of the manager - to manage the big picture. If you are wasting your time on the minute details of each person's job, how then can you possibly focus on the big picture? How can you focus on growing the business by getting more new customers if you are spending so much of your time doing everyone else's job? Don't be a micro manager. Anyways, very few people like or appreciate micro managers. This doesn't inspire people to do good work. It just makes people feel upset and insecure.

So, if you are afflicted with the micro management bug, I am going to give you some steps to letting go, allowing people to do their jobs well, and focusing your attention on the big picture of growing the business.

1. If you set up effective training protocols, you will have no need to micro manage because everyone will already be doing the job the way you want them to do it. So, create and implement effective training protocols and train those that you intend to train everyone else. Then, let them do that job.

2. Set up lines of communication and an organizational structure that allows staff to report to their direct supervisors. Those supervisors will report to a top manager. The top manager will report to you. Maintain these organizational lines. Make sure everyone in the organization maintains those lines.

3. Teach the management team to manage effectively. Make sure they understand management policies and procedures and that they follow them.

4. Set forth the organization's mission and your vision for your company's future. When everyone in the organization believes in and follows the mission and vision, you will not need to micro manage because everyone will be doing exactly what you want them to do.

5. After everyone is trained, the organizational lines are set, the management team is functioning properly, and the mission and vision are being followed, the final step is to set up feedback points and measurement tools that tell you what is happening, how the company is performing, and where potential problems exist. I have referred to these in previous posts as graphs because these give snapshot pictures of the current situation at all times. You will also hold meetings with your management team and hold them accountable for accurate feedback and excellent performance.

Then, all that is left is TRUST. If after following these 5 steps, you still can't trust your managers and their direct reports to do the right job, then either you have done a poor job in preparing them for excellence or they are the wrong people for the job. Also, it may just be that you are not willing to extend the trust necessary for everyone to handle their jobs so that you can handle the big picture. If this is the case, then good luck to you because your good people will go find a good job somewhere else where they can be trusted to do excellent work and where they will feel appreciated for it.

Aside from fair pay and the right benefits, the thing people really want the most is to feel appreciated for the good work they do and to feel like they are actually good at their jobs.

Constantly micro managing them will not get this done. Don't be a micro manager. Fight the urge. Follow the 5 steps above and trust good people to do good work.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Turning Around a Failing Business - Part 2

When we took over the other office, it took about 9 months to take the office from losing tons of money every month to starting to make it into the positive. In this blog, I am going to outline all of the steps we took to turn that office into a profit machine.

1. We got the wrong people off the bus and kept the right people on. In one day, I permanently freed up time for several people to find jobs that were better for them. Note: I did all of this in one day. When you're going to do a mass personnel change, it's critically important that you don't drag out the process. Doing this will make the "right" people uneasy and some of them will quit, while others will be poor producers until the time passes. So, I got it all taken care of at once and then assured the remaining associates that their jobs were safe as long they got their act together. Making sure we had the right people on board was the critical first step.

2. The manager who was in charge of the business was demoted and subsequently resigned. I will note here that when the CEO suggested to me that the manager be fired, I opted to allow him to continue his job as clinical director instead of firing him. Does anyone think he would have extended me that same courtesy?

3. We reviewed all of their written systems, found that they weren't using any of them, and re-implemented all of the written systems that I and the CEO had created for use in my office

4. We re-trained the entire staff on all of the written systems - over and over until everyone had it down cold.

5. We created new positions that mirrored some key positions in the other office to make sure that each office operated identically.

6. We put new managers in place to operate the office locally and set up vital reporting lines to ensure that everything ran smoothly.

7. We agreed that I would be on-site at the office at least one day per week and the CEO would be there every other week. Another key manager frequently worked on-site as well to make sure some of the inner-workings of the medical office ran smoothly.

8. We identified and cleaned up the back-logs in every area so that everyone was able to work on current operations and old billings didn't get too old to collect.

9. I trained the new on-site office manager to manage the staff and their operations the right way.

10. We brought the collections operations to the home office in a successful effort to centralize billing and collections. This was a huge success.

11. We graphed everything for ongoing feedback on all business areas.

12. We continue to review their systems, technology, staff, and all business reports to make sure that everything continues to run in a way that breaks records.

So, remember - when you take over a failing business, always make sure you have the right people in place (do this swiftly), create and use effective systems, train everyone to do the right job the right way, teach managers to manage effectively, create feedback systems, graph everything, and never lose touch with the operations.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Turning Around a Failing Business - Part 1

Three years ago, I had the unique and special opportunity to turn around a failing business. It was my company's second office. The manager at the time was a brilliant clinical practitioner, but the management decisions that were made absolutely destroyed the company. At one point, the company was losing tens of thousands of dollars every month, and the next part of the story is my favorite. Read on.

My office is internationally accredited for excellence in rehabilitation. This is a very prestigious honor that we have maintained for 7 years. Three years ago, we were set to undergo our next accreditation survey, but the weather was a horrible icy mess. I was worried that I would be iced in the morning of the survey, so I decided to spend the night in my office floor so that even if nobody else was there to oversee the survey, I would be. Yes, I slept overnight in my office floor. When I woke up the next morning, I got dressed and ready for the survey team to show up (fortunately, they stayed in town overnight so they were able to be at the office that morning). My boss (the CEO) stopped me in the hallway and told me something that I will never forget. He told me that the manager of the other (failing) office said it was my fault his office was failing, due to some really ridiculous reasons that later proved to be false.

Recap: I just woke up from sleeping in my office floor. We subsequently received the maximum accreditation by the survey team. My office was making money. His office was losing money. I WASN'T EVEN LISTED ON HIS OFFICE'S ORG CHART. But, the problems were all my fault. Really? Jim Collins writes about this sort of thing in his book, "Good to Great". Only he writes about the opposite kind of manager who looks out the window for success and in the mirror for failures.

Anyways, to skip to the really good part - a few months later, the truth came out. I took over that failing office, turned it into a profit machine with the help of other managers, and it has just finished breaking records in net income for the last two years. I use the management principles in my blogs daily. These principles are the base line for how to get this sort of turnaround done.

For more on the details of how we turned office #2 around watch for Part 2 of Turning Around a Failing Business.

Business in Your Own Image

Many businesses take on the personality of its top manager. Who do you want your business to be? If you are a manager who panics in adversity, your company could find itself in a state of paralysis. Your staff will fight with each other and they will eventually quit to work somewhere more stable. Customers will realize it and they will leave too.

On the other hand, confident and optimistic managers will build a strong organization filled with employees who feel empowered to make good decisions for the company and its customers. Employees will report high satisfaction and customers will buy more products and purchase them more often. Confident and optimistic managers inspire the staff to achieve high goals. Their inspiration will be measured in many areas throughout the organization.

As a manager, who do you want your business to be? What do you want outsiders to think of you when they interact with your organization?

Here are 10 tips to build an organization in your good image.

1. Always seek to inspire and motivate.
2. Always be positive and upbeat.
3. Talk about big goals with all levels of the organization.
4. Be fun, have fun, and encourage everyone else to have fun.
5. Choose optimism over pessimism always.
6. Never panic - ever.
7. Be decisive and consistent.
8. Be highly organized and promote efficiency.
9. Get in really good physical shape and be in great health.
10. Meet with your employees often, get their opinions, and solve their problems.

Remember: Your company will be a reflection of you.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Are You Emotionally Intelligent?

Emotional Intelligence is the ability, capacity, or skill to identify, assess, and manage one's own emotions and the emotions of others. More and more research is being done on this relatively new idea, but it is becoming clear that emotional intelligence is among the top abilities required of managers.

Break down the definition. First, it requires an ability to identify emotions - to recognize and understand them. Next, to assess emotions - where do the emotions stem from, how serious are they, etc. And finally, to manage emotions - how do you deal with them in such a way as to control the outbreak of negative emotions, turn the emotions into productive actions, and determine ways to prevent negative emotions in the future or bring about more positive emotions.

In my experience, this is a key ingredient in a great manager - the ability to recognize, understand emotions and their severity, and to convert them into productive action. Very often however, I have seen managers fail completely in these areas. These managers take the negative emotions of others personally and may possibly lash out at the other person. They seek to invalidate emotions or find excuses for the person expressing emotion. They are nervous in emotional situations and don't know how to respond. They may even avoid them all together and hope the situation just goes away - weak.

That's about negative emotions. What about positive? Managers low in emotional intelligence have no idea how to capitalize on positive emotions. They don't realize that success breads success and that people want to be rewarded for success, especially with public compliments on good work.

Finally, those with emotional intelligence also understand their own emotions. These people don't take bad personal situations out on others. They don't take abuse from their low emotionally intelligent boss and then let it roll down heal (so to speak). They don't take constructive criticism personally. They understand their own strengths and those of others. They build on those and don't penalize people for their weaknesses because they know that we all have weaknesses.

This just scratches the surface for this complex and relatively new topic, but as a manager, you need to understand that such a topic exists and that when you score a high emotional IQ, you will excel. For more information, google emotional intelligence and read more.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Think BIG!

The most successful people in our history have been big thinkers. Thinking big is a key ingredient to reaching huge goals. Instead of thinking incrementally, you need to think exponentially. My company just finished back-to-back record-breaking years. After reaching such a great accomplishment, I decided that I wanted to double in the next two years. So, I set a goal to double in the next two years. Simple. In order to reach big goals, you first must set big goals. Guess what has happened? The first 2 months of this year were double the average of the last 2 years. Setting big goals can be powerful. We'll keep it going in that direction too!

What big goals have you set for yourself and your business? Guess what? They aren't big enough, so set them higher. The pastor of my church, who is a very wise and great man, once said that God wants us all to achieve great things. He said that regardless of how big we think, it's never big enough. So, of course I look back at my business goal of doubling and I wonder how small that goal really is compared to my abilities. We'll sure see.

Get out of your comfort zone. Anyone can set conservative and easy goals. If anyone can do it, then it's not good enough. Be a little uncomfortable with your big goals. I want people to think you're just being cocky when you announce your goals. Good! Let them think that.

And, that leads to the next point - announce your goals publicly. You need to write them down, share them with others, and be held accountable for reaching those goals. Most people will work like hell to do what they say they are going to do. So, say it loud. Everyone in the organization, in your family, and your circle of friends needs to be aware of your big goals. Give yourself something big to live up to.

What's the worst thing that could happen by setting big goals - even bigger goals, announcing them and then working like crazy to reach them? Only good things can happen. Shoot for the moon and reach the stars. If I plan to double, but then only increase profit by 50%, do you think anyone's going to ridicule me? Heck no! I'll be known as the guy who broke company records 3 years in a row. I'll take that any day. Wouldn't you?

So, think BIG - BIGGER! Be careful though. This kind of thinking could make you famous.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

5 Marketing Tips That Make the Competition Invisible

If you want to truly beat the competition and be untouchable in your market, you have to follow these unbeatable marketing tips and make your competition invisible to your customers.

1. You must have a remarkable headline that grabs the audience's attention. Take this blog's title for example. Notice how is doesn't say something like, "Use these marketing ideas" or "Good marketing ideas". Instead, it stops you cold. After all, who doesn't want to make the competition invisible.

2. Use information in your marketing materials that is useful and of great interest to your target audience. This information should set you far apart from the competition. For example, if you are a personal trainer, don't tell the reader that you are certified and you have been a trainer for 5 years. Everyone expects their trainers to be certified. So what? Instead, tell them that your training techniques have helped your clients achieve massive reductions in body fat. Tell them about your clients that met all of their goals and were very happy with you. Tell them how compared with working out without a trainer, your training techniques achieve a 70% greater improvement in body composition. (PS: don't forget to add your certification to the ad.)

3. Use color and pictures that get people's attention. Don't use the same stuff that everyone else is using unless there is clear evidence that it works so good that you must use it. Otherwise, it is a good idea to stand out and be noticed. After that, you better have a killer headline and intriguing content.

4. Connect the dots between your offering and the audience's needs. Tell people why they need what you have. Tell them all of the things others use your product for. Tell them the very best uses for your product or the very best reasons others use your product (or service).

5. If something bad could happen if customers don't choose you over the competition, absolutely point that out and be emphatic about it. But, be careful you don't unintentionally talk bad about a specific competitor or competitor's product. This could get you into unnecessary legal trouble. Instead, you need to point out exactly how you or your product will solve their problems, even if they don't yet know that the problem exists.

For more information or assistance on ways to supercharge your marketing materials, email me at chelmsmba@aol.com.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Dangers of Financial Ignorance

We all love to get more new customers. Selling those customers a lot of products or services improves revenue. You can really ring that cash register if you get a lot of new customers and sell them all a lot of great stuff. Then, you get repeat business from lots of those customers and you've got the makings of a great selling machine.

If you don't understand how to read, analyze, and use your financial statements, you will be at risk of running that machine deep into the ground. You must know where your money (expenses) is going. Do you ever take the time to review your income statements? Do you even have income statements? For those of you who aren't sure, an income statement is nothing more than a detailed report of your revenues and expenses. It tells you what you are spending your money on (and how much) and it compares it to how much money you are making. The bottom line of this report is Net Income (or Net Loss if you aren't paying attention). For operational purposes, this is (in my opinion) the most important piece of financial data that you can use. A program like QuickBooks will let you enter invoices and print checks from your computer. It also lets you enter in your revenues. As soon as checks are printed, and at any interval, you can immediately run an income statement. You can view these as often as you want to - daily, weekly, and absolutely monthly.

To make sure your operation is making money, you should graph this information at regular weekly and monthly intervals. Graph your expenses and work like crazy to minimize these, except for anything that helps your company grow. Graph your incoming revenues and work like crazy to increase money coming into the organization. Finally, graph the bottom line - net income / loss. It is irresponsible management not to know where you are financially at all times. The income statement provides you with this data.

On the income statement, your expense categories need to be detailed enough for you to measure each individual category and find ways to reduce those expenses. A simple report with nothing more than a Total Expense number is practically useless to you operationally. With this only, how would you begin to figure out if something is wrong or where you have problems? So, give yourself plenty of detail, and certainly enough to effectively manage your financial operations.

You can not be blind to expenses, revenues, or net income. This is financial ignorance and this kind of ignorance will surely run your company into the ground.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

You Can Achieve Financial Freedom

How much of your income is going straight to credit cards, loans, and other wasteful spending? Have you ever taken the time to create for yourself a personal or family "operating" budget? Do you know how much money you and your family need just to get by? What percentage of your take-home pay goes to savings and what percentage goes to needless waste? How long do you have before you will retire and when would you actually like to retire? How much money do you have and how much will you need to live on after retirement? If you lost your job today (which is a sad reality for record numbers of Americans today) how many months would you be able to remain unemployed before you have to make very tough decisions about your home, cars, and other necessities? Will you be able to send your kids to college or will they need to get huge loans that they will have to pay back for the rest of their working, adult lives?

These are the tough questions that many of us face, but that so many of us don't have answers to or even know where to begin to look for those answers. In this blog, I am going to give you some very easy instructions on ways you can begin to answer these questions and achieve financial freedom. Notice that I didn't say to "get out of debt" or any other negative statements. Instead, I focused on the positive outcome of new strategies, "To Achieve Financial Freedom". Doesn't just saying that feel good? Imagine everything that this statement means to you. What is financial freedom to you? For me (as I've eluded to in previous posts), it's vacations to Vegas, relaxing on a beach, sending my kids to Notre Dame, having the house of my wife's dreams, and more. For all of us, it is something that makes us smile or something that makes us sad if we don't know how to get there. So, by all means, let's all get there. So, consider my advice below on getting yourself to your state of financial freedom.

1. Create a personal / family operating budget. All you need to know is how much money you bring home and how much money you spend. Break you spending down into the separate categories: Mortgage, utilities, car loan, insurance, gas, credit cards, groceries, etc. I recommend doing this in Microsoft Excel so you can save it on your computer and never lose it.

2. If you're like most people and you have a lot of credit card debt (or even just a little), get a poster board and create a "Payoff Schedule for Financial Freedom". Set a goal for the date that you want to be completely debt free. Divide your poster board into the number of months that it will take and list all of your credit cards, their current balances, and the minimum payments due monthly on each card. Each time that you make a payment, write it on the board. Each time you pay off a credit card completely, reward yourself reasonably. Set goals, achieve goals, and reward this achievement. Hang this poster board in a place where you will see it every day. Where many people fail, is thinking about the problem, setting a goal, and forgetting it soon after because it is out-of-sight and out-of-mind.

3. Cut up the credit cards and close the accounts as soon as the card is paid off. Cutting up the cards will prevent you from using them again. Closing the accounts will improve your credit score. Most people think that it's enough to just pay them off. A banker told me that closing the accounts is even better because it shows banks and other lenders that you don't have other revolving lines of credit that could get you into trouble later.

4. Where are your areas of wasteful spending? Everyone has some. For me, it was premium movie channels such as HBO. The time I spent watching this wasn't worth the money. I've also gotten more productive since cancelling these subscriptions. The book, "The Automatic Millionaire," calls this, "The Latte Factor". (Check out this book in my 5-Star Book Store.) Every dollar of wasteful spending that you can save, should be paid directly to debt.

5. Don't kick yourself too much for past mistakes. Getting down and depressed will only make the situation worse. Stop all of that negative self-talk. Thanks to your new plan, you are no longer that wasteful spender or that person who is deep in debt. Now, you are that intelligent, hard-working person who has a great plan for achieving financial freedom. In that way, you have already achieved a degree of freedom. Doesn't it feel good?

Finally, I want you to never lose focus of your goals and I want you to continuously work on your plan. I want it to be as natural to you as breathing. You need to be thinking about it all the time. Most likely, you didn't get in this situation over night, and it's going to take serious determination for you get out of it, but YOU WILL GET OUT OF IT.

DO YOURSELF A HUGE FAVOR: I want you to get the following books that I have placed in my 5-Star Book Store. I read these books and everyone who wants to get into a better financial position needs to read them to. These particular books, in my book store, are audio books and I did this because the #1 excuse I hear for people not reading and learning is that they don't have time. Well, guess what? You have time every day that you get into your car. Also, instead of watching all of your favorite TV shows, DVR them for later and pop in the Audio CD and take notes. When you have questions about the books, email me and I'll help you out. So, here are the books:

1. The Automatic Millionaire
2. You're Broke Because You Want to Be
3. Live With Passion: Strategies for Creating a Compelling Future

You have to hear these books. I want you to be able to do the things that others will not be able to do. So, do the things that others are unwilling to do. You can do it!