Are You An Idea Hamster?

Are You An Idea Hamster?

I often spend time with clients and other business owners who are full of ideas– so many they don’t know where to start, or they starting working on 2 (or 10) without much progress. Their head and office notebooks are littered with the ghosts of projects past.

I heard another business owner Amy call this being an “idea hamster”– what a great term!

You have an idea, and another idea, and another one, and you start running on that hamster wheel spinning and going no where.

Sound familiar? I know that it does for me, I struggle every day with being a reformed hamster.

Here are six key steps that have made a difference for me to complete something important [as Seth Godin calls it “shipping”]:

  1. Write a destination postcard for the end of the year– what you plan to accomplish
  2. From the postcard results, generate a long list of potential projects and categorize by type [are they planning, sales, marketing, people, operational?]
  3. Now rate those projects on effort and on impact on your goals — then rank by those with the highest impact and the lowest effort — these are your short list– put the rest into a “parking lot” [crucial step 1- they are always there to be re-considered.]
  4. Prioritize the list of projects— does one have to be completed for another to be effective? Does one address a burning issue or roadblock to growth?  Rank them and put a guestimate on the number of weeks to complete.
  5. Select the Number One priority project, get your team together, make an action plan to divide up the tasks and start chipping away every week.
  6. Crucial step 2– do not start another project until this one is complete! 

Do not get distracted by the next shiny thing, just keep momentum on that project. Focus on the next step, one at a time, every week.

Get your team concentrating on just one task and making progress. Yup, it’s hard to do but any change in habit is challenging.
{See the great graphic above that I think captures what we all go through! This is great, this is hard, this sucks… dark swamp of dispair…}

5 Plans to Run Your Business

5 Plans to Run Your Business

Remember Steven Covey’s habit “Begin with the end in mind”?

There are five main plans to guide your activities and decisions to create the business you desire:

1. Strategic plan

It is crucial to provide a roadmap to guide your major decisions. A simple strategic plan answers the key questions: “what kind of business do we want to be, who are we, what do we do best, who is our ideal customer, how are we different, what do we value?”

2. Budget

An annual budget is a planning document that is a snapshot of your goals for revenue increases, cost reductions, and profit enhancement. Once finalized, it becomes a monthly report card to ensure your activities and projects are on track to achieve the expected financial results, or to alert you to items requiring attention to fix.

Budgets are also extremely valuable to aid your decisions— they are a simple tool to forecast the return on investments or business changes.

3. Sales plan

If you want to find, attract and cultivate leads into new and repeat customers, the solution is to have a consistent optimized sales process that is semi-automated. This “pipeline” is designed around finding the Ideal Customer [who craves what you have to offer and deliver well], and then nurtures the relationship, until they are convinced they need your solution and you are the right vendor for them, turning them into customers.

4. People Plan

This plan outlines your current and future people roles—what job titles you need, clarifies role responsibility and authority, and forecasts what additions and changes to roles are needed to support sales growth and new business lines.

This plan also specifically outlines what people are accountable for, and how they will be measured, as the foundation of your performance coaching and process improvement.

5. Owner’s plan

Owners, just like every team member, should be in a role that maximizes their strengths. Many owners continue to be the CEO- the Center of Everthing Officer. This creates a huge roadblock for growing the business as the owner becomes overworked and overwhelmed. An owner’s plan considers their current and future desired involvement, and outlines a plan to transition responsibilities to key people over time.

Once you have these 5 plans defined, this guides your team to prioritize activities and make effective decisions to achieve the results outlined in your strategy. You and your team have the entire “operating manual” to optimize and automate your business, and ensure it’s transition and survival beyond one key person.

This reminds me of a phrase repeated by my veteran friendsProper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance… 

 

Image provided by basketman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

9 Ways a General Manager Will Benefit Your Small Business

9 Ways a General Manager Will Benefit Your Small Business

Over the years, you built your small business on step at a time. Your hired more staff to sell and service your clients, then you added an office manager and/or an accounting manager. With each hire you expected to get “freed up” to act like an owner, not an employee.

Yet you are “crazy busy” every day– getting sales, monitoring if work is done, leading improvement projects, fighting fires, and otherwise tending to the daily work in your business.

What could be the cause? If you have 10 or more people on staff, you are likely missing a “level” of management.

You have level 1- individual workers, and you (level 4)- expecting to lead well-designed and highly functional systems run by others.
You might even have level 2- a “supervisor” who monitors daily work of direct reports (perhaps informally and tactically), and is concerned with the next week or month.

But if you want to plan 1-5 years out and make changes that will improve your people, process and profits, you have to get out of the “daily supervision” game.

You need a deputy.

Here is a list of 9 ways your deputy (general manager) can positively impact your organization:

  1. Watch the store– develop and implement dashboards with key business results, review regularly and alert you to any “exceptions” so you know things are on track and there are no surprises
  2. Process improvement – identify trends in your hassles, bottlenecks and other issues, research to find route cause and suggest solutions, then implement the solution
  3. Build your team– Identify new roles or more people before your delivery suffers. Recruit, screen, onboard and train new staff that are Ideal Candidates, build a virtual bench of pre-qualified candidates before a position opens up
  4. Coach the team– schedule, assign and coordinate work, monitor performance and attitude, give feedback, train and develop people for the best job fit and opportunities, engage the team to retain A players.
  5. Client experience building– handle escalation of client issues, routine relationship building, periodic follow up to uncover unreported issues and identify opportunities
  6. Get stuff done– Take your brilliant ideas for sales, marketing, process improvement, customer service and work with you to implement them
  7. Get Strategic – Provide another viewpoint and involvement input in annual goal setting, then cascade goals down to every person, communicate and implement via individual dashboards and team coaching conversations.
  8. Hold down the fort” so you can have dinner with your family and take several two-week vacations (almost worry free)
  9. Open up your schedule– so you can focus on thinking and planning, provide leadership and direction, building strategic relationships, and monitoring from a dashboard (instead of an avalanche of data)

Basically a deputy lets you guide the process while they drive the business.

Most owners wait far too long to get a deputy- a general / operations manager. The concerns are the usual- effort (how can I find and train a good one) and cost (how will I pay for him or her?).

Take a quick count- how many of these are happening now in your business?

What impact would these activities bring to your business if they were in place?

  • Would it tighten up your sales process to win more business and increase revenue?
  • Would it increase customer satisfaction leading to more sales and referrals?
  • Would it provide the systems for reducing your costs based on higher efficiency?

If you increase quantity and value of each sale 5%, and reduce costs 5% this can double your profit.

Can a deputy do this for you?

Wish employees came with an instruction manual?

Wish employees came with an instruction manual?

How do you possibly find out the needs and motivators for each person on your team, and then maximize their strengths and give them what they desire?

After all, your team is made of individuals, all with their own strengths, weaknesses (or as I like to call them, “areas of non-fit”), personality quirks and idiosyncrasies.

As a client’s manager once phrased it, “we have 100 people and we have 100 different personalities! I realize I have to treat each one differently.” Truer words were never spoken, Bill C.

Fortunately, even though every person might need a different approach and respond to individualize coaching, you can start the “strength building process” by categorizing in two key areas: performance and commitment.

In fact, I designed a template that allows you to profile your team on these two key elements, and then created a matching “Action Plan” focus for each one.

Every time I use this “blueprint” with clients, a lightbulb goes off about at least one employee “Oh, that is why I am struggling with this person” or “Oh no, I should have that conversation I have been putting off soon—they might be looking for another job.”

Mapping out your team also helps you prioritize your coach efforts for fast results or avoiding a disaster — by focusing on the most urgent situations first. (A word of caution, don’t ignore the middle for too long, but that is for another blog article.)

We use this proven tool with clients to focus and prioritize weekly coaching conversations for maximum benefit (as part of the development action plan process).

How to get started mapping your team

  1. Download your copy of the People + Performance Profiler here
  2. Read the instructions to create your People Profile

After mapping your team, start the discussion and development action plan process to find out what each person wants from your job, and jointly create the path to get there.

If you develop the trust and the relationship with positive and appreciative discussions, they will tell you what motivates and engages them so you can give it to them.


Diana Southall is a fifth generation entrepreneur, and creator of the People Plan toolkit.™ Her firm specializes in coaching small business owners and managers to build, engage and reward a fabulous team! You can learn more about the “9 Steps to Build a Fabulous Team” at her upcoming webinar– Click to register here.


 

Image provided by stock images, freedigitalimages.net

 

If Not You, Who is Coaching Your Team?

If Not You, Who is Coaching Your Team?

A new software for small business owners is called “17 hats” – and I think this accurately reflects the roles of a small business owner. You are chief everything officer (sales, people, operations, marketing, accounting, customer service), cheerleader and spokesperson, and as my family says “chief bottlewasher!” (if it needs to get done, you will do it.)

So it is no wonder you feel like you don’t have time to coach your team members monthly (much less weekly).

And no doubt some people on your team are easier to coach than others, so you tend to procrastinate in delivering feedback or talking about what would challenge and motivate them.

The data is clear—employees don’t just want daily task discussions (called “Managing by Wandering Around” by Tom Peters)—

Employees want to know how they can contribute, what is the purpose of their work, feedback on results, and that there are opportunities to develop and maximize their strengths at your organization.

This means you need a development plan for each person, coupled with regular two-way discussion on their aspirations and challenging assignments that meet their desired career path. (That is what we mean when we say “coaching.”)

If all of your conversations center around “what are you working on today” then they feel ignored, and will lose interest, commitment, and engagement in your job. (Reminds me of the joke – “I feel like a mushroom, left in the dark and fed manure.”)

Ultimately these unnoticed people will seek employment elsewhere where they can feel appreciated, a sense of accomplishment and contribution.

Or worse, stay in your job as “actively disengaged” working against your team. (Read my article—Want Employees to Tune Out? Ignore Them to find out the huge cost of the disengaged).

Every small business owner or manager can be a motivational, positive, and appreciative leader and implement a rhythm of weekly coaching conversations.

You just need a blueprint and training, and the willingness to learn and get outside your comfort zone to start having real conversations with your staff.

I have created a Free Video Course for you to learn more about the process for discussion and development to turn around your poor performers, energize your average, and engage and retain your high potentials. I encourage you to sign up here with my compliments.


Diana Southall is a fifth generation entrepreneur, and creator of the People Plan toolkit.™ Her firm specializes in coaching small business owners and managers to build, engage and reward a fabulous team!

Who killed your summer vacation?

Who killed your summer vacation?

The average manager has 2-3 weeks of paid vacation each year, but most do not use every day off.

Time Magazine cover article for the 6/1/15 edition asked “Who Killed Summer Vacation?”

In fact, this has become so prevalent, there is a commercial featuring kids asking “can we just have one more day?”     Pretty heartbreaking!

Do we love our jobs so much that we can’t possibly get away for 5 days at a time? Or are we creating conditions at the office where our teams and colleagues can’t function without our genius and brilliance?

I have a global client with multiple locations in Europe. Last summer we were working on a high priority sales compensation project. I was struck by the attitude of the sales manager from France and the regional operations Director in the UK. They simply mentioned “I am on holiday those two weeks (or month)”—no apologies, no offer to call into the meeting from the beach. And somehow their divisions seemed to survive the summer, and re-emerge in the fall with plenty accomplished.

If you own the company, you truly have no excuse.

What are you doing that can’t wait 5 days?

Who can you train to make decisions while you are gone?

My mother’s wisdom applies here – she used to say “I became a manager when I opened my second store. I had to put systems and people in place, since I couldn’t be there to handle everything.”

What can you do? I say book a 10 day cruise or vacation without email or phone access, and prepare as best you can. Then leave! You would be surprised by how your team can “hold down the fort” without you.

(In fact, have everyone keep a list of things they normally would have discussed with you, but they somehow figured out … then add these things to your training plan for next quarter).

Need some tips for taking charge of your schedule?:

Read my article about how delegation actually leads to more engagement: Engagement Driver 4- Training and Development

Entrepreneur Magazine article- 12 Habits for a Better Work-Life Balance


Diana Southall is a fifth generation entrepreneur, and creator of the People Plan toolkit.™ Her firm specializes in coaching small business owners and managers to build, engage and reward a fabulous team! You can learn more about the “9 Steps to Build a Fabulous Team” at her upcoming webinar– Click to register here.