I’ve seen it time and time again, business owners, whether they own an accounting, engineering firm, marketing agency or IT company, are left feeling vulnerable due to the feast and famine of income streams.
When I meet with business owners they share with me their concerns about their struggle for consistent revenues; one month the financials look great, but next month, they are not on target and they begin to stress about making enough income to cover their expenses. Sometimes this cycle is endless and it can take a toll on the many business owners striving for income predictability and growth.
When a business experiences the feast or famine scenario, things like hiring staff for a project today in hopes that there is work for them tomorrow can result in more stress and pressure on the owner to bring in more business.
Owning a business can be one of the most rewarding experiences, but so often business owners are conflicted with decisions about hiring the right staff, committing to paying rent for the appropriate space, investing in office equipment and technology, not to mention marketing. Without consistent and predictable revenue it is hard to make long term plans that will allow owners of professional services businesses to accomplish their goals.
If you are interested in learning about a professional business that will put an end to this feast or famine scenario but still give you the freedom to own a business, check out this website or simply contact me to discuss your situation.
The Customer Relationship Management industry (CRM) has exploded. It’s estimated that 91% of business with more than 11 employees now use a CRM system. CRM is a term that refers to the strategies, technology, and practices that companies incorporate into their business to manage and analyze customer interactions and data. However, many businesses are not realizing the full benefits of CRM because they’re entirely focused on the data and ignore the human side of CRM. The data will tell you how to manage customers, but not how to build relationships with them. Computers don’t build relationships; people do.
In today’s highly competitive marketplace, the success of your business depends upon delivering customer-focused experiences and processes. I have outlined below a few tips I’d recommend for staying focused on the human side of CRM.
Don’t overlook the human side of CRM
“Helping is the new selling” are the latest buzzwords being bantered around these days. It speaks to relationships and a service-oriented mindset. Although CRM has the potential to provide deep insight into both individual clients and general trends, it’s imperative that you connect and engage with your customers in a meaningful way or you diminish the value of your CRM system. No amount of data can provide the human touch.
Implementing a CRM system doesn’t automatically deliver results
Databases full of client information are the basis on which to improve customer engagement, but never lose sight of the relationship-side of technology. The success of your business depends on the human element.
This is crucial in any industry. Your sales team are the ones that can help your organization achieve its revenue goals. The human interaction between your salespeople and your customers is what will ultimately differentiate you from your competition, and bring them back again.
This skill is highly underrated. Do your sales people listen? Do they understand what your customers value? Can they educate and inform? Can they close the deal?
In order for CRM to deliver on its promise, ensure that the data and the human element are fully integrated.
Want more advice on how to get the most out of your CRM system, or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you.
As 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
Every 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.
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.
For 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
Congratulations! 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?
Forbes published an article on the importance of peer advisory boards, “10 Reasons To Join A Peer Group.” While I thoroughly enjoyed the read, I noticed the author overlooked a few key benefits that I’ve been lucky to witness firsthand as a facilitator. As a business advisor, I take pride in facilitating a peer advisory board that has proven results for my members. The peer boards help business owners reach new heights and succeed in ways they never imagined.
Peer advisory boards led by trained facilitators embody the power of collaboration, accountability, and perspective. A deep bond can be created and a business asset is formed that business owners crave and are hard pressed to find in any other forum. I’d like to share with you my list of top 7 reasons many business owners join a peer advisory board:
One of the greatest benefits of joining a peer advisory board is the exposure you’ll receive to other small business owners much like yourself. Entrepreneurship is unlike any other job, which means the challenges you face on a daily basis are just as unique. As a member of a peer advisory board, you’re able to share ideas with people in similar situations. As a result, the business ideas you’ll be provided with won’t just be erroneous but tried and true.
As the owner of a business, there aren’t many people you have to report to other than perhaps a Board of Directors or other shareholders. When you’re part of a peer advisory board, however, your fellow business owners will often hold you accountable for the executive decisions you’ve elected to make. Many peer groups meet once a month and they often expect some form of progress each month.
We’ve all had ideas that we considered to be foolproof, but as we’ve come to know in business, not every idea is feasible. In becoming a member of a peer advisory board, you’ll receive constructive criticism from the board regarding your potential business decisions. This allows you to fill in any gaps that you may have overlooked.
With competition at an all time high, it’s difficult to know whom you can share your ideas with. With peer advisory boards, anything that is discussed is confidential among members, so you’ll receive reassurance in knowing that you can freely discuss your business decisions without compromising trade secrets.
As previously mentioned, you’ll surround yourself with like-minded entrepreneurs as a member of a peer advisory board. What this means is that you’ll witness them experience successes and/or setbacks, just as they’ll witness the same for you. Either way, you’ll challenge one another to learn from your mistakes, grow, and ultimately succeed.
A common benefit I hear from board members is that a peer advisory board allows them to focus on developing their business rather than working in the business. Don’t get me wrong, one of the best qualities of a business owner is someone who knows the ins and outs of their product or service, but when it boils down to growth, strategic decision-making is a necessity.
As the saying goes, “it’s lonely at the top.” But it doesn’t have to be. Your fellow board members are there to support you through your journey, and many if not all are experiencing, have experienced, or will experience the trials and tribulations you are facing as a business owner. They are as much of a support group as they are anything else.
Have you ever considered joining a peer advisory board? What would be your top reason for joining?