Thursday, September 22, 2016
Odds are that sometime in your life you've encountered a sports coach or other person who made a positive difference in your life. Whether it was from your childhood memories or as a parent watching your child, you probably have a good idea of the type of coach that you would prefer to lead you or your child to success. Being a great coach in business is not much different than a coach in sports. The business coach has most likely had many years of experience in your industry and has probably visited a variety of businesses who have a varying degree of challenges.
As you probably know I'm a business coach. I enjoy helping people and organizations reach their highest potential. During my last 23 years of assisting a variety of professionals, managers and business owners, I've had the opportunity to experience a very diverse set of business processes, work habits and leadership methods. I guess I would have to say they every business has its own "Unique Business Personality".
On occasion, I encounter a situation where I make what I think is a recommendation for improvement and it gets denied. Usually it is because the business leaders believe they have a better solution than what I recommend, or they do not believe the obvious deficiency that I'm pointing out, is a problem that needs to be addressed or they do not want to confront it for reasons unknown to me.
A few years ago, after spending quite a bit of time analyzing processes and leadership methods, during a site visit with an organization, I made my opinion well known about several employees' undesirable behavior, and how it negatively impacted the overall business objectives. After sharing several possible solutions to resolving the issue. I'm told that there is nothing that we can do about it. Basically saying, that I should ignore it.
I also had a case where I went into a business to help them improve their customer service and professionalism in the field, yet after spending a few hours in the office I could clearly see there were several personality conflicts and lack of processes or guidelines in the areas of customer service focus, in phone skills and dispatching. Everyone just did whatever they felt like doing. It felt like total chaos to me. I brought it to the attention of the business owner and was told that he has an office manager who is fully capable of handling that. He said he wanted me to focus on the field service part of the business, not the office. To me field service is a process that starts when the phone rings. I told him that the office didn't seem to be running well and it looked like a circus to me, and if he expected his field employees to be acting and working in a professional manner than he needed to also get his administrative staff in shape also. Of course, he told me it was a matter that is being handled internally and he was not interested in discussing it any further. So, I let it go that day. The following morning, I'm holding a meeting with the field employees and all I keep hearing about is how screwed up the office is. Of course, I eventually did get the business owner to finally agree with me. Eventually, we worked together and resolved the challenges of the administrative staff.
In another situation, I was watching a service representative on the phone take a call, then print it out, take a picture of it with her phone then text it to the service technician. I asked the owner of the company why they just couldn't send it directly through the system, the owner tells me that she (the service rep) prefers to do it that way.
I could go on and on about the crazy things I've seen but instead of boring you with an incredible amount of detail, I'll just run through a list of things that I have heard over the years as "Sacred Territory", or things some of my clients have done that just makes no sense to me, or that I had to spend extra time and effort getting them to realize that there is a better way.
Here as some examples of a few things that I've experienced, followed by my sarcastic, yet truthful comments:
- Company has a "Technology Guru" who will create their own service management software system that will be designed specifically for that business. Okay I will build my own car and it will be better than the car manufacturers' can make. Plus, since we drive our car in such a unique way, none of the other cars out there will work for us.
- Although I have a supervisor who is rude, obnoxious and disrespectful to employees and customers, there is nothing we could do about it because he has been here for 27 years. Really? Let me spend a few days with him/her. Things will get better or we will be hiring a new supervisor!
- One of my installer's handles the updating of our website and social media. Okay, this could be a real issue if the installer gets terminated or gets mad at the company and quits. Again, we tell our customers to only hire professionals, yet we don't!
- We have our own print shop in house because we send out so many mailers. I didn't want to pay expensive printing fees so I decided to do it all in house. Why don't you deliver the mailers too. Why pay the post office when you can do it yourselves? Have you considered email?
- We are proud to say that we complete more service calls, per tech, per day than any of our competitors! I didn't know that there was a contest for that! Really! Don't you measure revenue per call? I'm telling them to spend more time with the customer and make sure your focus is on doing a great job and checking everything. Then leadership tells them "Hurry up! You have 8 more customers to get to today.
- Do you have a video, maybe an hour long, to teach my guys how to sell and talk to customers properly? If that was possible, I'm sure I would have sold several million copies. This just as bad as the people who ask if I can do a two or three-hour class that covers everything the need to service HVAC products.
- As the business owner, I really see no reason why I need to go into the office. OMG! Not showing up means you don't care to be with your team, being there is so incredibly important to them.
- One company I worked with allowed employees to do side work. The reason? The owner of the company says it saves him from having to pay them more than he does now. Guess what? You are paying more than you can possibly imagine in lost sales, parts, products, maintenance agreements etc. . . I can hear it now. . , "I can come back this weekend on my time and do this job much cheaper"
- I don't see the need to have formal reviews with employees, I have an open-door policy, whenever they want something, they are free to come see me! People need feedback on a regular basis. Just like in sports, we all need to know what the score is and if we are winning. By the way, who sets themselves up to go listen to a twenty minute lecture on how tough business is today?
- I have great relationships with my employees, my wife has become very close with their wives, and they are always invited to family gatherings. We have even taken a few family vacations together. Everything is great until you need to fire someone, now what?
- I don't see a need to measure individual performance. Everyone knows how they are doing. How do you determine who your most valuable player is? How do you determine pay increases? How do you know if someone needs training or improvement?
- There is no need to measure customer service, my customers will let me know when something is wrong. Most customers who are upset just leave and tell their friends, they do not tell you.
- I don't care about my rating at the BBB, Google, Yelp, they really don't matter!. Oh, yes they do! They really do matter. Take the time to research yourself on a regular basis and resolve or reply to any negative comments.
I could probably go on and on. Unfortunately, the people who really must have a better insight on running a business, will probably never read this. For those of you who do. . . Congratulations! You are yet another step closer to becoming the best you can be! Thanks again for reading my posts! If you enjoy my articles, please email me at the email address below and let me know. Just like any person working to help others do better, I love feedback!
I'm sure you have heard the term "Millennials". I'm also fairly positive that you may have already developed an opinion of what they are all about and who they are. I will make an attempt to clarify this group and hopefully share some insight into how to best lead them to create a win-win situation. Whenever I mention the term "Millennials" in a group of contractors, I here people start moaning about how these people don't want to work, spoiled brats, don't know anything and expect everything, etc, etc.
Although there is plenty of debate about how this group developed, why they have a distinctive personality and work ethic uniquely different than all previous age groups. Especially when it comes to the workplace. To understand who they are and how they were created, we need to understand the circumstances that created this group of people called "Millennials". Generally, they are those who were born from about 1985 to sometime before 2000. It may vary one to 10 years depending upon geography and social background.
The "Baby-Boomers", which happens to be the group I am in, were defined as the group who brought sex drugs and rock and roll into our society. Although they did party and included the "Viet Nam Era" of youths. They eventually developed a strong work ethic and drive to show everyone, including themselves, what they will be able to accomplish and were fairly successful at doing well financially. We wanted the boat on the lake, had great friends, have fun and enjoy sporting events. The "Generation X" group were those born from between 1965 and 1985. Gen Xers were defined during a period of broken homes, turmoil and parents who typically were more concerned about self-interests, personal pleasure and basically themselves, probably a bit more, rather than focus in on the specific needs and wants of their own children and classic family situation. They were the group who had parents that would use television as a babysitter, probably used drugs at one time or another and also had social circles of similar other parents that were within their own class or financial circles.
This group of "Generation X" people who eventually became parents and wanted to make sure their children received plenty of attention that they may have not received as children. Eventually this resulted with the development of a group of young adults who were constantly fed positive feedback, no matter how well or poorly they behaved or functioned. They were rewarded for just being there and struggled do differentiate between working hard and having good feedback and not doing anything and getting the same result. Eventually causing confusion as to what was expected of them in the real world. The Gen X parents made it a point to make every attempt possible to make sure their children did not have to experience or get exposed to negativism, criticism or violence. Eventually even many our school systems decided that no one would get a failing grade and that any negative behavior demonstrated by a child was not the child, but it must have been something in their personal environment, or medical disorder that needed treatment, that was causing the problem. Parents did whatever they could to minimize any negativity or potential failure of these children, including creating various disorders that resulted in the medicating of millions of students. This developed into a group of young people who, on the average, do not have the ability to adequately perform in a typical work environment that was originally designed for the "Baby boomers" generation.
Now that we have an understanding of how this group became who they are, let's discuss how to best adapt our business methods to be able to operate with millennials in our places of work.
First, it is important to understand that millennials do not like to be micro-managed, being told what to say, how to act, what to wear and have to deal with huge bureaucracy when they have an opinion or idea. They have limited experience receiving that type of feedback or even being told what to do. The idea of giving tasks to this employee and just expecting them to do something without an idea of what the final outcome or goal is, does not work.
Keep in mind this group of team members, Yes, I said team members, are expecting to have a defined role in an overall mission that is heading towards an established goal that rewards everyone on the team. In other words, they want to be part of what the business is really trying to do and understand how it will involve and reward them when they contribute. It is what they have learned in their childhood.
They care about the future. Millennials want to know what the next logical step is for their career. So make it a point to show them a possible career growth chart and help them make one for themselves. They also need to know what they have to do, within this team to get to the next steps.
They love technology. If you are still filling out invoices on paper and dispatching by telephone, these people will not stay long if they see no changes being made to keep up with the rest of the world. These folks make it a point to immediately buy a new I-phone within a week of its introduction, even if the device does nothing much different than what they currently have. They will sure not want to start using a pencil or pen. If you are in the process of transitioning to a paperless workplace, get the millennials in your place involved. Believe me, they know what is going on, much more than you do.
Change is good for them. Doing the same thing over and over again is boring to them, they need to be exposed to different things often to keep their attention. Don't be afraid to let them try installing new products, looking at reviewing new technologies and meeting with distributors.
Be a company that is impressive. They look at their career as something to brag about to their social group. If you are Joe Blow Mechanical Company and have no advertising, no real market presence and have virtually no impact in the community, most likely they will be looking for a new job as soon as they believe in their mind, and their friends believe that you are company that really has no presence in the market and doesn't seem to be changing things to improve that..
Social and personal lives are more important to them. Allowing them the opportunity to adjust their work hours to be able to accommodate their personal and family life will strengthen your odds of hiring better people and keeping them. This doesn't mean you let people come and go as they please. It just means that it is important to consider their needs, much more than you ever had before to allow personal time. I ran a service group with over 75 field service technicians and had some starting at 6:30AM in half hour increments to some even starting at noon. The starting time for each employee was determined through a review of the history of what our customers demanded and requested, plus the personal needs and wants of my team members. I was not going to force an employee, who prefers to work all afternoon and doesn't like to get up before 10AM, to start at 6:30AM when I had a segment of my customer population who created more than enough work to keep him more than busy every evening of the week. It turned into a win-win-win situation for everyone.
They want you to listen. Creating and establishing a consistent method for feedback that you actually respond to is critical. Since they are part of the team, they want some say as to how things are done. This doesn't mean you have to sit and have a meeting every time they think of something. Perhaps just an email or text would be suitable, acknowledge and respond every time. Some of the best ideas that were implemented when I was a manager at GE and RCA came from employees, they usually will be able to give you better insight as to what is really going on.
In 2015, Amazon overtook Wal-Mart as the biggest US retailer. Amazon is a unique employer who goes out of their way to draw millennial employees. Originally they were not very "employee-friendly". Employees were driven to perform at their highest pace possible. Run like last century's workplaces, the employees didn't last long. Unlike "Google" or "Quicken" who are highly desirable to millennials, Amazon falls short of providing all of the expectations that millennials are looking for in an employer. Yet they still employee more millennials per capita than most every other employer in the US.
As we've seen, Millennials need constant affirmation: Amazon supplies this with ongoing evaluations, reviews, and status-updates. They also expect ideas and recommendations from everyone. If an employee has an idea that will improve productivity, they are expected and recognized for bringing it up. The warning of a high turnover rate (only 15% of the company has been there more than 5 years) is a good fit for a generation of workers who average two years per employer. The fact that their starting pay is higher than most every other employer in the area. (Starting pay at Amazon may start at fourteen dollars an hour up to twenty-one dollars an hour, plus full benefits, even for part time workers), is also attractive. During holidays, workers are expected to work sixty or more hours per week.
Lazy people do not last at Amazon. The trial-by-fire approach Amazon employs will speak to Millennials' desire for constant improvement and the acquisition of new skills-a generation raised on video games is always looking for the next way to "level up."
Sure, Amazon's corporate culture leaves a lot to be desired, but the company is not in danger of a Millennial employee exodus. The constant evaluations, evolving workplace, and ethos of constant improvement all appeal to a generation in need of regular feedback, short-term, career-focused positions, and achievement-driven employment.
Although Amazon may be getting the softer side of corporate culture wrong, it is serving the needs of career-focused Millennials. Forbes Magazine listed Amazon as number 10 in the top 25 in a 2016 Millennial Career Survey Preferred Companies to work for.
The good thing about hiring a millennial who worked at least a few years at Amazon, they learned how to work hard, but do expect a great deal of feedback on a regular basis.
The NSHSS (National Society of High School Scholars) surveyed 13,000 students, ages 15 to 32. Over half, (55%) expressed entrepreneurial interests and would want to start their own business. To me, this means that you may have a better chance of promoting or getting a millennial to have more interest in business and management than other age groups.
The most important factors in choosing an employer to millennials are as follows:
Treat employees fairly - 73.1%
Flexible work hours/schedule - 70%
Benefits - 60.1%
Corporate social responsibility - 46.6%
Base salary - 45.9%
Brand image of the company - 39.5%
Prestige - 30.5%
Performance bonus/rewards - 19%
What does this mean to you, the contractor and business owner?
First and foremost, on top of the millennial list we have "treat employees fairly" and "flexible work hours".
Keep in mind, these people have been exposed a mindset that many corporations and businesses are only out to take advantage of their workers and are only concerned with making money. So naturally they are very concerned about being in an environment where they are treated poorly. Make sure that a new millennial is exposed to and engages with your most enthusiastic and positive team members. This will get them past the fear of just being a spoke in a wheel.
In regard to flexible work hours and schedule. It is a 24 hour a day world today. I see no problem making a schedule whereby an employee may work a 10 or 12-hour day and get additional day or days off. In fact, studies have shown that an employee is more productive working 4 - 10 hour days rather then 5 - 8 hour days!
Obviously benefits are important simply because we have a law that requires that everyone has health insurance. This is no doubt going to be on the top of the mind of any employee.
Corporate social responsibility. Once again, we have a group of people that have been given the idea that big business doesn't care about people and is only concerned about profits. It should be a regular practice of any business to be socially responsible and involved in local events. It is not only a good thing to do but helping out your local community reaps plenty of rewards for your business in various ways.
Salary is on everyone's mind, but the next one, "Brand image of the company" is unique to millennials. The number one company that millennials wanted to work is "Google" in 2015. It is a well-known brand that they see all day long simply because they are spending a large part of their day connected to the internet and social media. A millennial wants to be able to share and be proud of the brand they are working for. If your company is not on social media, and has a nice website with a great presence, you may be missing out, not only for potential employees but to your new upcoming customer base of millennials.
Prestige and bonuses for performance should always be part of your culture. Using great metrics that are in line with organizational objectives, and a reward system that recognizes performance improvement, will always encourage gains in profitability if implemented correctly.
Millennials are much more socially connected than any other group ever in society. They know about everything that is happening, not only within their group of friends but also every event that happens to occur moment by moment. They expect to get feedback regularly not once a month, but every day and perhaps every hour if possible. They live in the right now. They expect results and information immediately and often. Should you have a situation within the business that may cause an effect on them, they feel like they need to be involved. Millennials also like to be able to share their ideas and concerns openly with management. This means there needs to be a method of connecting with management and allowing open communications. Amazon for example encourages and expects feedback from every employee in regard to problems and recommendations.
Millennials also expect a learning environment are very willing to learn new things if they recognize the benefits of why they are doing what they are doing. If you happen to get a millennial asking for a job who looks professional, shows up early, willing to work long hours and then pummels you with questions about what you have to offer and the expected long term benefits. . . Hire that person! You have yourself a winner who will actually work. They have the right attitude. You can teach them everything else!
Please recognize that this group has been insulated from a lot of reality, steered in a direction of looking for utopia and requires a period of transition into the reality of a career in the contracting business.
So now what? The biggest challenge facing our business is finding employees. I encourage you to take the time to visit middle schools, high schools and even colleges to share your knowledge and information on what is becoming the best career opportunity in this country. The potential for success and the highest need for employees is in the skilled trade industries.
You may not realize it but people who know and do what you do are becoming rare. When a commodity becomes difficult to find, the value increases and the price increases. Raise your price, set aside some funds to hire motivated people and teach them what they need to do. The days of the same group of guys who have limited ambition and are jumping from one contractor to another for a few extra nickels will soon be over.
Now is the best time to move forward, creating new objectives and considering different ways to get there. If you need my help to do it, or would like me to speak at an event. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, September 1, 2016
I have to admit I've learned a few new things about myself these last few months.
There is a story about every person, including me. All of those stories and experiences have made me who I am today. Some are horrific, some I will never forget, some I really want to forget but can't, Some I never want to forget. Several of these events replay in my head, over and over again, I keep looking for a possible solution to what happened. Trying to examine what I did wrong or could have done differently to make the result turn out better, hoping I can fix it somehow. Even though I know it is impossible, I keep trying to figure out a way to change history, to fix it, just make everything be okay.
I'm just starting to accept my history, I can't bring people back from the dead. I can't remove pain that is already done and gone. I can't ignore the pictures in my head, but I can choose to not look that way or pull them out to re-examine them.
It is my history, I have to learn to just accept it, they are my stories, my life experiences, it is who I am. All of these experiences molded me into what I am today. I realize there is some damage and issues that really cannot be fixed, I can't go back in time and undo everything or erase things. It is totally impossible to make them better.
These experiences molded me to become what I am. There is a reason for everything. It is how I was made, it is why I am here. Because if it wasn't for my history, I wouldn't be who I am today. So my new goal, my new mission is to create new history that makes a positive difference, that promotes my thinking, lets me refocus. Making things happen that will help me and others, maybe change lives for the better.
I'm starting to figure out how to be okay and become happy about who I am today. It is a slow crawl up a steep hill, but it is well worth the trip.
My history is something that only God understands and put there, He makes everything happen for a reason, to make that special me.
The one and only Frank Besednjak.
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
I remember discussing this in one of my workshops and I mentioned a degree in Anthropology for example, as something that would limit your marketability. I had someone in the group tell me they had a degree in Anthropology. I asked her how long ago she graduated and what she was doing now and how much she was being paid. She said she graduated five years ago, currently in her fourth job since graduating. Since college has worked in various jobs in hotels and restaurants. Most recently she is working in a clerical position supporting a sales team. Current pay is $12.75 an hour. Still paying off student loans.
Recent studies have shown that a beginner plumbers apprentice, with no experience, makes more than the average four year college graduate. As the years go by, statistically, we are finding that over a lifetime, a person would be much better off financially in their career choices to get a job in the skills trades, simply because the demand is so high, causing the average pay to continue to climb.
Most of my customers are contractors and are struggling to find employees. When I ask what the qualifications are, I hear things like, "Someone who is willing to learn, drug free, will show up everyday, follows instructions well, good communication skills, knows how to use hand tools and is friendly and can work well with others."
Unfortunately, parents today don't raise their children with the understanding of how important these simple basic skills are to becoming happy and successful. I would bet if you asked the average 18 year old to go find a crescent wrench or Phillips screwdriver in a tool box, they wouldn't know what to look for. But I would bet money that they would be able to tell you everything about the life of Kim Kardashian or what the latest trends in shoe wear is.
We need to get our kids ready for life folks. It's going to be a very difficult future if we don't stop and realize that the future of our country is at risk here. Stop kissing your kids butts and telling them it's okay to waste all of that money and time on something they find interesting now. Encourage them to look at the job market and plan for the future. Otherwise their short term goals of being entertained in college will result in a long term feeling of being a dismal failure. Unless of course you are happy having them hanging out in your home and being taken care of by you the rest of eternity.
Monday, January 4, 2016
What changes can can be made in the coming year that will help increase sales to your customers in the next twelve months? Will it be a new pricing structure? Sales training for employees? Or maybe a new advertising campaign that actually works. Keep in mind about 70% of your clients are repeat customers. What can you do to get them to spend a bit more or use your product or service more often?
2. Dump Non-Profitable Services and/or Products
How may things are you involved with that generates virtually no profit? Focus on products and services that provide a high return on your investment. If it hasn't paid off yet, it never will.
3. Look for New Profitable Services and Products
Is there anything that you should be offering that you are not? Maybe you should take a second look at what you were considering when you went to the last trade show or conference. Perhaps adding a service to your menu may bring in more clients that you couldn't get otherwise.
4. Evaluate Your Relationships at Work
Every team member needs to hear from a manager as to how they are doing and what is expected from them this year. This is also a good time to look over your business relationships like, partners, vendors and suppliers. Are you really benefiting from this relationship or not?
5. Evaluate Your Systems and Processes
No better time than right now to figure out what you are doing well and not so well, and how you can improve it. Get your team involved in this. (Click here for a link to a video I made on that subject.) You may also be missing some incredible efficiency improvement methods by not considering a technology change. There are so many systems available out there that make running businesses easier, that you would be an idiot to not check them out.
6. Find New Ways to "WOW" Your Customers
Customers make buying decisions primarily based on emotions. Busilding relationships, creating awesome experiences and doing things none of your competitors will do is what makes you the best at your game. Constantly be on the lookout on what can be done to enhance what you offer your clients. Try calling and asking them, it does make a difference.
Monday, November 16, 2015
Many managers struggle with employee performance, motivation and attitude. As a business coach, I find the majority of time, it is not the employee creating the problem, it is a poor process or lack of a process altogether. The following is an article discussing "Fundamental Attribution Error" I believe you will enjoy it!