How to Master the Inner and Outer Game of Business Growth

On September 30, Jamie was interviewed by Eric Dye of the Entrepreneur Podcast Network about dealing with growing pains and managing the internal and external challenges that come with growing a successful business.

With tips from our business coaching toolbox Jamie painlessly describes what specific characteristics and skillsets are needed for an entrepreneur to have successful business growth. Give it a listen:

TIP: Invest in you. Your business is a reflection of you. If you want to grow your business and stay one step a head, then you need to grow you. And to find the place to start, look to where your stress is. Stress is usually created by uncertainty, i.e. not knowing how to handle a certain problem. That might be the place you need to learn some more or become more capable in same way.

Listen to Jamie’s interview with Curtin FM for the skinny on the productiviy apps that can help you manage your time and harness business growth

If This Is How You Handle Employee Performance, You’re Doing it Wrong

The Employee Performance Problem

Ask any well-meaning manager what an employee performance appraisal should accomplish, and you’ll usually hear answers along the lines of: “to categorize the organization, improve employee performance and boost motivation.”

While these are all critical aims for an organization if the answer to how they currently accomplish this is through an annual performance review—then there are problems with the system. Namely, those annual performance appraisals generally only serve one of the three purposes listed above—and it isn’t performance or motivation.

So, How Did We Get Here?

The long and short of employee performance reviews is that they are derived from military practice, were never designed to foster improvement, and have long been used as a tool to cull an organization of their bottom performers. According to the Harvard Business Review, they also serve to punish past behaviour at the expense of achieving the desired future performance that is critical for organizational survival.

So, the question begs: If employees hate them, managers don’t see their value and an organization isn’t benefiting from them—why not ditch them all together?

The Elimination Problem

Well, while I was going to title this post “The Stone Age Called and They Want Their Appraisal Back,” that wouldn’t be entirely accurate, as ditching the yearly recap isn’t always the best solution either. So many initiatives are tied to it, including, planning and compensation. However, the employment landscape over the last few decades has made it clear that the conversation needs to shift away from the metrical to the malleable.

Anyone familiar with the psychological principle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs knows that motivation comes in various levels: from the basic (like food, shelter, and wages), to psychological (belonging, achievement, respect of others, etc.) and finally to self-actualization (morality, problem-solving, creativity, etc.)

Although this theory has its critics, the basic premise is that human beings are striving for self-worth and acknowledgment—and if you aren’t creating an environment where this (and the resulting performance growth) can occur—your employees are going to look to another organization to fill those needs.

The take-home is it’s no longer realistic to rank an employee with performance metrics once per year, give them either a raise or a performance improvement plan, and expect that the basic needs you do satisfy (like a regular paycheque) will be enough to sustain them and motivate them to perform to a level that will grow your organization.

Where Do We Go from Here?

It’s no secret that supported, engaged employees do better—and when they do better, you do better. The goal of employee performance is to elicit behaviour that supports the organization’s bottom line while fulfilling some of those psychological needs your employees crave—and giving them the tools to do it effectively. There are several ways to get this done—and yes, you can keep your year-end appraisal—if you focus on its value as a recap of the year. A good rule of thumb is that there should never be anything in a performance appraisal that is a surprise for the employee. Other strategies could include:

  • Linking goals to key company objectives like the mission/vision (they “why you exist” stuff)
  • Tying goal achievement to collaboration and communication (not every task needs to be a group project, but increased collaboration and information sharing leads to increases across the board)
  • Training managers to check in consistently (this allows for accurate course corrections throughout the year while retaining employee autonomy. The key here is manager training)
  • Allowing the employee access to the tools, resources, and training to allow them to successfully fill any knowledge gaps they have.

Of course amended performance measures won’t solve all team issues (for an idea of what other issues employers regularly encounter and how to fix them, read this page) but it’s a good support system for overall team engagement. And of course, we’re more than happy to help with any issues you do have  in finding the system that’s right for your business.

 How about you? How do you facilitate the employee performance process, and what challenges have you encountered along the way? What do you find helpful? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

The Hidden Profit Centre in Your Business

Think HR has no bearing on profitability? Think again…

Having long been denounced as nothing more than a cost centre and a necessary part of doing business, the people management aspects of an organization (specifically HR) have been overlooked as an integral component of the profit structure of an organization. The link, however, is a lot stronger than many businesses have traditionally thought.

In a recent study on management practices in Fortune 1000 companies, the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California found that employee involvement measures (that traditionally sit well beneath the HR umbrella) show a solid ROI and link to the bottom line.

For small to medium-sized businesses who don’t even have an HR department, the impact of this study is even larger, as decisions made at owner-run businesses see an immediate trickle-down effect due to the smaller work structures, and can see a positive impact in the bottom linke much sooner than a larger organization. The key is in increasing the employee commitment to the organization.

Any one of the following measures can be implemented by a company to see a lasting improvement in financial returns (not to mention the cost-savings garnered from reduced turnover):

  • Employees generally feel that if an investment is made in them, they will return that investment in-kind. Establish a feeling of “repricosity” through:
    • Information-sharing
    • Skills training
    • Encouragement of ownership thinking
    • Fostering “buy-in” for organizational change measures
    • De-centralizing decision-making
  • Using technology for process improvement, not just cost-cutting benefits. If employees are brought into the process on the ground level, working backwards and can have input into process design, hey are more willing to manage change, and feel a greater benefit of new technology as a tool for them—not just because it’s cheaper for the organization
  • Building a culture which values job-security – which means attaching value to the person over the employee number.

Each of these measures is fiscally achievable in one way or another, even for very small businesses and engage in the employee’s higher level needs, which leads to increased productivity, better customer interactions, a willingness to tackle challenges and stick with the company–all which have a positive impact on profit.

Small tweaks can often have the greatest impact on profitabilty, particularly if they are seemingly unrelated to the bottom-line. Remember that everything in your organization starts and ends with culture, so before you tweak your marketing, sales prices, or slash costs to boost productivity, have a critical look at how investments to your people-practices can pay you back in spades.

5 Ways to Make Better Business Decisions

When we started working with Adam he told us he didn’t have the time to measure stuff, let alone the time to compile and analyse the results.

Adam’s situation is typical of many small business owners.

While not all our clients say it to our face, we can see the anguish on their face when we start talking about metrics and reporting.

Here’s how we got Adam excited about numbers to the point where we had to put the brakes on him measuring too much.

We started by asking Adam, “What would you say to an athlete that was trying to run a record time but was not timing their efforts?”. Predictably he said he’d tell them they were crazy.

Next, we asked “How comfortable would you be flying on a plane whose pilot could not read the controls?” Again came a predictable response “Not very”.

“Or what about a doctor who prescribes medication without measuring any of your vitals like blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.” … Adam could see the theme.

Bringing it closer to home we asked “What about a business (not yours) that you invested your life savings into and the CEO didn’t know the profit margins on the work they were doing. They also didn’t understand the numbers behind their marketing so had no idea how to grow the business. How safe would you feel about your investment?” This one made Adam sit up a little straighter.

He knew where we were going, and we probably didn’t have to ask him the next question, but we wanted to drive the point home. You see Adam was not doing nearly as well as he wanted to—and on this point of measuring—he had his head in the sand.

Last question … “Adam, what’s the difference between all these examples and you and your business? If it’s important for all these other people to measure and read the results, what do you think might be good for you and your business?”

He got it.

There’s a business mantra “What gets measured gets managed”. And while we are huge proponents of this mantra, there’s another quote by Einstein that we also like. He says “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts”. 

For small business owners, both of these quotes need to be taken into account. When you are short on time and possibly lacking easy access to data (although this is rapidly changing with cloud accounting and other apps), starting simple is the key.

Follow these four steps to gain some meaningful data which will enable you to start making better businesses decisions.

  1. Brainstorm a list of possible things to measure (here are some to get you started)
    • Marketing (lead sources, retention rate, website performance, referral rate, social media stats, campaign results, cost per lead, etc.)
    • Sales (conversion rates [dissected by lead source and salespeople], pipeline stats [how many fall off where], average quote value, average job value, margin, sales activities, discounts, new vs. existing customers)
    • Operations (major costs/sales, project completion duration, Work In Progress, quality stats, bottlenecks, scrap or waste)
    • People (turnover, absenteeism, survey responses, revenue/employee, etc.)
    • Financial – AR Days, AP Days, Inventory days, Gross Margins,
  2. Identify top 5 that will give you meaningful information for your business. Things to consider:
    • Which number, if measured, will make other numbers less important (e.g. an employee survey may give you way more insight vs. measuring absentee days, and it requires fewer resources to measure)?
    • Which numbers can we measure easily?
  3. Take the top 3 from this list and commit to measuring them for 90 days. If 3 is too hard, make it less. Your primary goal here is to develop the habit, make it easy to be successful and see the value from having some accurate numbers. Note: Allocate accountability for each number.
  4. At the end of 90 days, review what you’ve accomplished and do 1 – 3 of the following:
    • Amend what you are measuring – you may have found out that was not the best thing to being measuring
    • Add to what you’re measuring. Over time you’ll want to have a more robust scorecard than just 3 numbers. Gradually add to it as it makes sense.
    • Develop a wish list of other numbers to measure. Having numbers on your wish list lets you know they are not forgotten and can forgo the temptation to try to measure too many at once.
  5. Be sure to look at the numbers at least weekly. The more often you look at them, the more beneficial they will be. The exception here is, of course, numbers that require long periods of time to change, though these are usually few. Also be sure to display data in a format that is meaningful. (i.e. sometimes you need to see trends vs. stand-alone numbers.) For example. # quotes mean more when there is something to compare it too.

All About Brain Dump…And Why You Need it in Your Day

I define a successful day as one where I get a lot of stuff done, I don’t feel overwhelmed by it, and I have fun doing it. Simple in theory, very difficult in execution, right?

There is a great way I start my day which helps me clear my head and begin the day with a concrete idea of where I’m going. I’m talking about Brain Dump.

What is brain dump? Well, it’s simply this. Taking 5-10 minutes every morning (wherever is convenient for you) and writing down everything that’s in your head. Get it all out on paper and then have a good look at it. If you look at the list and aren’t overcome with a tightening in your chest, then this list is a good indicator of your to-do list for the day. If you get it all out and panic sets in, then this enables you to see things in a concrete way and allows you to break down your items one-by-one so you can decide which items can be put off, passed on or delegated to achieve success.

Try it for a week. You won’t be disappointed. And – if you need some help with planning in the long-term – check out our free 90-Day Planning tool to help get you started. Make it a great day 🙂

Business Lessons From the Bike Trail #1 – Knowing Where to Focus

There’s a basic object to enjoying a safe ride on a mountain bike: Look where your going.

While the same can be said for business, it’s amazing how many people focus on the obstacles in front of them instead of focusing on the track, but when you fixate on the obstacles which are in your way – they tend to magnify – which makes your changes of hitting one fairly high.

The same goes for them you start riding faster on the trail. The faster you go (ie: the more you grow) the further down the track you need to look. Just don’t look so far down the track that you get blindsided from something you didn’t see just up ahead.

Have a think about your business. How far down the track are you looking? What obstacles do you face that you could find the answer to if you just ventured to look a little beyond them? Are you getting blindsided by other things that are stopping you from making progress?

The Secret to Managing Attitudes at Work

The number one stressors in business are (and may always be) money, and people. In fact, you likely know first hand how much emotional energy and loss of team synergy is wasted on a member of your team that just doesn’t fit the bill.

It turns out – the key to managing attitudes in the workplace is as simple as communication and follow-up. Sounds easy, right? Well it can be more difficult that you expect to implement, but once the expectations are set, it can become remarkably easy to keep momentum in your team.

The tools we need start with creating our core value and culture. You see, if expectations for every member of your organization aren’t clear, and we don’t hold people accountable, you will always have an organizational culture that is driven by the quality of people within it.

A good starting point is to check out “The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business“, by Patrick Lencioni it is a fantastic read about the concrete advantage that can be gained by having a healthy organization.

 

A Better Alternative to New Years Resolutions

Most people acknowledge that New Year’s resolutions rarely work, so why do we keep making them? Is it a moment of drunken utopia that makes us believe that this year is going to be different?
The truth is, Jan 1st is just another day in the calendar. There is nothing magical about it. I know that sounds a bit deflating. Sure, it comes with the perception that you get a clean slate (and I’m all for taking advantage of that) but that is it. So why do we think a ‘resolution’ is going to work on Jan 1st vs. any other date on the calendar?
The reason most resolutions don’t work is because there is no emotional substance behind them. The plan to go to the gym and workout 4 times a week takes some serious dedication. Most people won’t do it because it requires a massive change in habits and the payoff is not entirely clear. The gym resolution is based more out of pain and fear (“I look like crap in front of a mirror”) vs passion and excitement.
My goal here is to give you a more concrete strategy to make your business and your life better
There are three things that must exist for a plan to be well executed. They are:
  1. Emotional leverage.
  2. Tools and skills.
  3. Visibility / Accountability.
(note: I’m now talking about plans and not resolutions. And the first ingredient to make a plan work is to actually have a plan ????. I’m not going to be talking about how to create your plan here. For more on that topic read my post creating 90-day plans or the importance of planning)
Emotional Leverage – is the ‘why’ behind your plan.
Why do you want it?
What is it going to do for you?
How important is that to you?
Your answers to these questions must add up and offset the level of difficulty in sticking to your plan. In other words if you are not really clear on the payoff, you are likely to quit or fall off the plan as you come up against obstacles. If the pain of not achieving your goal is less than the pleasure from hitting your goal … you’ll quit every time.
The way I do this, is I get my wife and kids involved in setting our family goals. Then together we work to build our vision board (a board with pictures representing the things we want to ‘be’, ‘do’ and ‘have’). These are both individual and family based. One of the ‘have’ items on our vision board right now is a pool in our backyard. And every other night or so, as we are putting the kids to bed, we role play how it would be to have the pool, like it is already there. During this process we get a feeling that builds within us. It’s an excitement and it give me fuel during the day when I’m going about executing my plan. Believe me, having your kids asking daily “how’s the pool coming along Dad?” is potent fuel for action.
Does it work. Hell yes. I’m using it right now. For me, writing like I’m doing here, is one of those tasks that will easily fall on the procrastination pile. So to make it happen I think of my kids playing in the pool. It makes me move!
Tools and skills – when you are awesome at something, it is much more fun to do. Simply because it is easy. So to make executing on your plan easier, get better at the things on your plan. The more you invest in your own education and betterment, the easier life becomes. The question to answer is – “what 2 or 3 skills are going to be critical to this plan succeeding”. Then develop some methods for improving (reading books, practice, attending a course etc). Just think, if you invested in improving 1 or 2 skills every 90-days, how much could you improve over the course of a year? What about 5yrs? Oh yeh … this is where the gold really lies.
Visibility and Accountability – Even if you have strong emotional leverage and you have all the tools and skills you need to be successful, sometimes we just don’t make the best choices with our time. (i.e. we get distracted – it happened to me yesterday as I passed too close to a bike shop and I got sucked right in ???? ) and caught up in things that are not key to our progress.
My suggestion for you here is have your goals and key activities clearly posted where you can see them. I use my 90-day plan format and have it posted on my wall in my office. Our family vision board is where we eat every meal. It is all front and centre so it’s very hard to forget. I also take tasks from my 90-day plan and have them posted right in my calendar so I know exactly what I’m supposed to be working on and when. My last tool is one I call ‘The Sales Game’ and it is a points system based on certain activities I know need to be done to grow my business. It sits on my desk and is very obvious. It serves as a constant reminder as of what I should be working on.
Having someone you are accountable to also helps. You really should have others involved in your plan anyway so it becomes easy for others to see what should be getting done. I’m not a big fan of people checking in on me (I know when I’m behind, having people ask me just pisses me off). What works for me is making commitments to people. I really feel bad when I don’t keep my commitments. Know what form of accountability works for you and use it to your advantage. Want an app solution? Check out www.coachme.com
Some things to remember before you run off – executing on an idea is way harder than coming up with the idea. Sticking with a plan is way more important than having the perfect plan. Use these tools and strategies to truly make this your best year. I’d love to hear your success stories. Email me [email protected]