The Roles They Are A-Changin’

changes-aheadAs a business owner, you know how important it is to keep things fresh and innovative in your workplace, but when making changes, you’ll need to consider how your plans might impact your employees.

If you are in the process of job redesign where employees are assigned new roles that play into their strengths and contribute to a more successful business, these changes can be stressful to your employees. If someone has been hired for a particular job and then he or she is suddenly expected to perform a different role in the organization, tension and stress can result.

A recent report found that 46% of 1,018 Canadian employees recently surveyed had taken time off work or noticed other employees taking sick leave following workplace changes, a common symptom of a stressed-out workplace.

I’ve outlined below a few tips on how you can shift roles in your organization without contributing to employee stress:

  1. Share your vision.

Why are you doing this? What is this change going to accomplish for your organization? Sharing this vision with employees will allow them to understand exactly why this is happening, and help them find their part in it.

  1. Keep the lines of communication open in regards to role change.

Ask employees how they feel they can contribute to a new role and encourage conversation. By doing this, you can evaluate each employee’s strengths and weaknesses, while giving them an opportunity to work in a new role they would truly enjoy.

Make sure employees stay up to date as things begin to shift. For example, when you have made some final role decisions, send out an email to all staff informing them of the new structure. Keeping everyone in the know will ensure a smooth transition process.

  1. When your employees begin their new role, make sure they feel supported.

Assuming a new role can be challenging, especially if the employee doesn’t have a lot of previous experience in the position. Positive reinforcement can go a long way, as employees are less likely to experience stress when they report a positive and supportive workplace culture.

In today’s workplace, you need to keep things fresh, but maintain a balance against a backdrop of inclusiveness and communication. Learning how to handle change effectively is what will keep your team on the right path to growing your business.

How have you successfully restructured your business?


When You’re Looking for One in a Millennial

entrepreneur-593358_1280Every day, thousands of millennials are entering the workforce for the first time. Now, many small business owners are considering hiring these individuals and asking what they need to consider before they opt to hire them.

There is no denying that the millennial generation is much different than the generation of workers that has come before them.  This means that as a small business owner, you’ll need to make some changes to your business culture in order to accommodate the very unique needs of this particular group.

I’ve outlined a few key items you might want to consider before hiring millennial workers to ensure success for both your company and your potential millennial hire.

  • Flexibility

Millennial workers, unlike any other generation before them, are keen on the idea of having office hours that suit their personal needs. How flexible are you willing to be with your office hours? When interviewing potential millennial candidates, ask about their work schedule expectations. If you run a business that can only accommodate the hours of 9am to 5pm, then you can expect a millennial may not find your opening suitable to them.

  • Millennials want to be valued

Millennials need a great deal of validation from and communication with their supervisor/manager to let them know how they are doing, and to give them praise (preferably in a group setting) when they have done a good job. In the workplace, this may require more of your time and attention. They want to be noticed for their work and you will need to be available to give them ongoing feedback. Do you have the time to provide them with ongoing feedback and praise? If not, a millennial may not feel valued in your office.

  • Company Culture

Millennial workers are expecting an inclusive and exciting company culture that promotes social relationships and fosters innovation. If you have other millennial staff, or see your company hosting social nights or team-building activities, a millennial might fit in well. Their need to work and collaborate with a team is key to their success. Is your office made up of employees aged 45+? If so, a millennial worker might feel like an outsider and have trouble fitting in.

There is no doubt this new generation of workers are the future of business, and they have so much to offer, but we need to learn how to accommodate their needs if we are to add them to our workforce.


The Right Plan Needs the Right Combination

network-1989137_1920.jpgWith the New Year now well underway, many business owners are just putting the final touches on their business plans.  That doesn’t mean, however, that adjustments can’t be made to ensure your goals can be reached in 2017.

As a business advisor for many years, when it comes to planning, I tend to come across two types of approaches: the visionary and the executor.  Both approaches have their pros and cons, but as I’ll explain, a combination is what you, as a business owner, should strive for, especially throughout the business planning process.

A visionary knows where they want to go.  They have a “big picture” vision and are often concerned with growing the company by setting goals.  However, they lack tactical deployment and detailed plan as to how to attain this vision.  They tend to not pay much attention to the processes in which their goals are met.

On the other hand, an executor’s primary concern is detail-related.  They set high performance standards but fail to align those tactics to the “big picture” of growing the business because they’re so focused on processes.

As a business owner, do these two approaches sound familiar?  Whether you’re a visionary or executor, I recommend the following steps as a way to bring both visionary and executor together when developing your plan.

  1. Have a Vision

Think “big picture.”  Have a solid idea of your current state of affairs, determine what changes you would like to make, and consider how much you want to grow and in what areas of the business.  Some examples of this might be that you want to increase revenue in your X division by 10% , perhaps you want to acquire a smaller business this year to expand your national reach,  or you want to offer an automated solution to your XX customers.

  1. Dig into the Details

Now that you know what goal you want to achieve, create a plan outlining in detail how you are going to get there. If your goal is to acquire a smaller company this year, then it makes sense that part of your plan will involve searching for available companies.  The devil is in the details as they say, so capture as much detail here so the plan can be easily executed on.

At this point you’ll also need to allocate budgets accordingly and introduce the means or tactics in which the budget will apply to.

  1. Review your progress

As with anything in business, monitor your results.  Regular progress meetings should be conducted to get an accurate picture of how your business is progressing. Most importantly, ensure you are consistently making modifications to ensure success.

A carefully thought-out plan that contains both a big picture vision and accompanying details required for implementation is crucial for success.   Ensure you share the plan with your employees so they are aware of the role they play in its execution.

While your business plan is somewhat of a blueprint, having a vision of where you want to go and how you are going to get there will position your business for success.


The Business of Letting Go

8095592977_85b9c8e0bcOne of the biggest challenges I have seen many small business owners struggle with is that of delegation. Most owners started their businesses on their own being the person who does everything and so letting go or delegating can be difficult from many angles. Let’s face it, if you continue to do everything, then why do you have staff and how can you ever hope to grow your business?

Delegation means letting go of the day-to-day tasks associated with that responsibility, but by no means does it mean completely letting go of that responsibility. In other words, if you have hired a sales person to take on the responsibility of sales for your company, although you may not be making the sales calls, you do need to ensure that your sales person has the right sales processes, sales metrics and that they are in fact the right person for the role.

Without the right processes, metrics and people in place, it’s likely the onus will fall back on you to get things done. Sounds familiar? Letting go isn’t easy, but having a proper delegation structure in place will allow you to focus your energy and resources on building a successful business. Here are my recommendations for effective delegation:

1) Have the right processes

Ensure you have the right processes in place to ensure that the task or responsibility will be done correctly and in accordance with your standards. For example, if you are delegating writing you will need to ensure what type of writing, how much time the writing should take, what structure the writing must have, what approvals are required, what source materials, and how the writing must be started. The process needs to be written down, explained to the person who you are delegating it to, and followed up with by you to ensure the process is being followed.

2) Measure your success

The only way you can truly know if the process is working right is to measure its effectiveness and subsequent success. To measure the success of the objective, you may want to consider KPIs as they are an effective way of measuring key business objectives, as are analytics. There are numerous measurement tools available, so finding the one appropriate for your business is important. Whatever metric you choose should be spelled out and communicated to the person taking on the delegated task or project. They need to understand that they are being measured in their responsibilities.

3) Have the right people

In a previous blog, I discussed the importance of building a solid team. Ensuring you have the right people working for you means that you can delegate appropriate tasks with the confidence they will be completed accurately and efficiently. Trust and communication are two qualities that can make or break a business. In my many years as a business advisor, I’ve witnessed numerous business owners cycle through employees simply because they had the wrong person in the role who was not fully capable of handling the responsibilities despite having the right processes and metrics in place. Invest wisely in securing the right team. With the right team in place, you’ll experience no hesitation in delegating important tasks and responsibilities.

Delegating is what most business owners crave – you want someone or something to take the huge responsibility of doing it all yourself off your shoulders. Have no fear, by ensuring you have the right processes, metrics and people in place will mean you can lessen your load, and free up the much-needed time to do what you have always wanted to do: focus on building your business.


This Holiday Season, Focus on You

relax-955798_1920.jpgAs a business owner, the holiday season can be overwhelming. With client demands at an all time high, staff vacations and strategic planning in the works for the next fiscal year, stress often pervades around this time. That’s why at this time, perhaps more than any other time, it’s important to take care of yourself and take time off from your business.

I’ve outlined below my top 3 tips for taking care of yourself over the holidays.

1) Do something you enjoy

Whether it’s volunteering, reading a book or playing one of your favourite sports, dedicate some time during the holidays to doing something that you love. It’s easy to forget about the world around us when we’re so immersed in our work, but you’ll appreciate the opportunity to rid yourself of work-related stress, even if it’s just for a few hours a day.

The holiday season is also a great time to spend some much needed quality time with your close friends and family members. Business owners are often so caught up in the day-to-day stresses of running a company that they often forget to make time for their loved ones.

2) Exercise

Physical activity is a great method for reducing stress. There are plenty of winter activities that incorporate exercise, such as skating, skiing, tobogganing, or even just a walk. Fresh air every now and again is important to your health, cold weather aside. If you prefer indoor activities, visit your local gym for a workout or swim. Your eyes will thank you for the much-needed break from paperwork, smartphones and laptops.

3) Rejuvenate

Even if it’s just an extra hour of sleep each morning, do something that will make you feel revitalized. A fresh mind means that you’ll be focused on making the right business decisions come 2017, possibly from a different perspective you may have previously had. Mindfulness is a practice that you may want to consider for rejuvenation, which also happens to improve decision-making.

Dedicating some “me” time for yourself during the holidays may seem easier said than done, but the benefits are simply undeniable. If you’re anxious about the impact time off would have on your customers, informing them about office closures and/or reduced hours during the holiday season may alleviate some of the worry you have about not focusing on the business.

How do you plan on getting some R&R this holiday season?


Will Your Business Benefit From Benefits?

massage.jpgFor many small business owners, the idea of group health benefits is not even on their radar. Many would rationalize this as a “large company” benefit and too expensive for a small business. However, with the ever-present issues of employee recruitment and retention, employee benefits, from a small business perspective, is not a human resources issue, but rather a business decision worth considering.

As a business owner, it’s ultimately your decision if you want to offer group health benefits or other benefits to your employees, but I’ve outlined a few key questions you might want to consider when reviewing benefits for your employees.

  1. Is this part of an employee recruitment/retention strategy? Employee group benefits have become a standard part of an employee contract for most mid- to large-sized businesses as they can make potential and current employees feel they are valued and taken care. It can therefore play a key role in the decision-making process when candidates are deciding to work with or stay with you versus your competition. By offering groups benefits, are you evening the playing field in this regard?
  1. What is the demographic makeup of your employees? Take a look at the make-up of your employees: if they are mostly single, or millennials, they might be less likely to need or want health benefits. However, if they are older, with spouses and dependents, they may want, or even need a group benefits package. You may also want to consider the type of industry you are in; an office environment with full-time staff might have very different expectations than a construction company with seasonal, part-time, or contract staff.
  1. Can you afford this benefit? Group benefits can be costly to a small business, amounting to thousands of dollars per employee per year. How do you rationalize this benefit against potential pay increases, bonuses, etc.? Look at your bottom line, and specifically your recruitment costs and what you perceive as the “benefit” to offering this benefit to your employees.
  1. How can you define a benefit? In a smaller company with only a handful of employees, you may want to consider offering a benefit, but not a group health benefit plan. I have heard of several business owners who offer employees an annual lump sum cheque to cover medical or dental benefits or have their employees submit receipts for medical or dental expenses that are then paid for by the owner.
  1. What do they want? Decide on a couple of scenarios that you can afford and logistically implement and then speak to your team and get their opinions on group benefits packages vs. other benefits options. You may find that some employees want a benefits plan, or your employees would prefer to have a small cheque made out to them to cover medical expenses, or they may come up with an entirely different type of benefit.

The point of this exercise is to decide as business owners how you can show your current employees and future employees that your company is one that values employees by offering them what is valuable to them in terms of a benefit.

 As a small business owner, have you ever considered offering benefits to your employees and if so, what type of benefits? What has the response been like?


The Importance of Onboarding New Clients

onboard.jpgCongratulations! You’ve landed a new client, now what? The first few months of your new business relationship will determine the level of satisfaction your client has with you and will ultimately factor into whether or not you have a solid working relationship from which to grow. In order to maximize your level of service during this new and exciting time, I highly recommend following a carefully crafted onboarding process.

An onboarding process acts as somewhat of a blueprint for the next few months of the new relationship by clearly outlining expectations for both parties involved. Moreover, it protects both parties by mitigating any form of miscommunication or false expectations.

I’ve outlined below the steps involved in creating an effective onboarding process:

1) Send a welcome email

With most things in life, first impressions matter. This is no different in business, and sending your client a personalized welcome email from a C-level individual at your company not only shows your commitment to working with them, but it’s also a nice gesture that opens a line of communication.

2) Learn their resources

Since every company is different and operates in their own way, knowing what resources they have available is important to accomplishing your goals. For example, and depending on the type of services you’ll be providing, you’ll need to establish what platforms each company uses, what internal staff will be directly working with you, and whom you can go to with questions.

3) Establish mutual goals

A new business relationship is a two way street, and success is dependent upon clear communication and support offered by each party. Simply because a working agreement has been established, it doesn’t automatically mean both parties are on the same page. It is through the onboarding process that the details of the contract can fully be planned for effective execution.

4) Have a kick-off meeting

Whether over the phone or in person, hosting a kick-off meeting with key members involved in the launch of a service is an important step for setting expectations and weeding out any kinks that may have been overlooked during the original planning phase.

5) Obtain feedback

Once your business relationship has begun, checking in with your client to provide updates and ensure their satisfaction is key to demonstrating your willingness to foster a successful relationship. Not only will this show them your commitment to providing excellent customer service, but it will allow for any concerns or necessary changes to come to light. Having a 30, 60 or 90-day feedback session is recommended, but you can customize this plan based on your client’s preferences.

As you’ve probably realized in your business ventures, every client is different. Making tweaks to your onboarding process may be required depending on what each client’s expectations of you are and vice versa. Ultimately, an onboarding process is created to help you achieve success and maintain a mutual understanding with your client, so putting in the time to carefully craft one is in your best interest.

  

Do you have an onboarding process in place for new clients?