New Way To Deliver Your Business Contact Information

I’ve just attended a very interesting presentation – and I’d like to share the knowledge with you.

Until I heard the conversation I had not realized just how problematic a regular Business Card is. I knew that people are likely to have problems finding it after a week or two, but I hadn’t realized that after I move office and so I have a new address and phone number then the card I gave you is now full of useless info.

Here is a solution to that – an electronic card. It is my gift to you. And by ‘gift’ I mean that it has some apps attached that you can use, immediately, and for no cost to you. All you do is click the ‘Your Free Apps’ link at the bottom of the page.

Save your passwords in a safe place, your bank account information, invoice your clients and more, and all of this is available form any internet-connected device.

Would your customers appreciate this kind of link?

I hope my gift is as useful to you as it has been for me
http://bit.ly/1q513Os

What’s the difference between an Employee and a Business Owner?

As I type this I am about 100 metres from the surf. The only thing between me and the beach is a swimming pool! I’m living in a place where most people come on holidays. The reason I mention that is that I spoke to one of the other couples here this morning, and they reminded me about the difference between employees and business people. Let me explain that.

Getting Your Staff To Think… (Part 1)

Or commonly known as `How to let go of the reins’…

Part 1

Are you frustrated by any of the following behaviours of some of your employees?

They:

  • Want you to solve almost every problem that arises
  • Tend to seek your permission unnecessarily
  • Need help with tasks that they should know and should be within the capabilities of their role

It can be the same behaviour repeating itself with different staff… it feels like you are not getting any of your own work done… going home at end of the day with a headache… feeling that you must be the only person that knows what they are doing… having to constantly micro-manage staff…

This may seem an exaggerated description of your situation but it represents the frustrations many business owners and managers feel at times.

It is understandable that you want to monitor everything happening in the business.  Your business is your baby; it is your lifeblood and provides your income.

However, there are some aspects where you can lighten the load.  One area that can wear out a business owner/manager or manager quickly is staff `dependency behaviour’.  Somehow a balance has to be found between maintaining control and allowing employees the freedom to make decisions.

There are four different tactics that can resolve those tension headaches.  Two can be implemented immediately, one can have been done before you hired any employee and the fourth is a short to medium term strategy.  All take a little work on your part but the result can leave you with more time and mental energy.

1 It all goes back to when you hire people

Sometimes we have a habit of hiring people that do not have self-confidence and this is not necessarily a conscious ploy on our part.  Perhaps we feel we have a better chance of retaining control of our business operations if our employees are not over confident.  Perhaps we feel that we can ensure that our employees will not undertake an action that will result in negative repercussions.

The most successful business people like Donald Trump, Mark Bourdis and Warren Buffet all have something in common.  They hire people that can do the specific job that they are hired to do because there are employees that can fill that function better than the owner can do it himself or herself.

It is possible to surround yourself with people that are smarter than you but with  business and system controls in place that ensure they have boundaries that they can not cross.

So the question is, what type of people are we hiring?  Perhaps we need to look beyond a person’s skill set and look at the personal set.   The level of confidence the person has.  We can use our own sense of judgement and we can also use referees or we can even use psychometric tests.  We can use any means of assessing a potential employee’s capabilities above and beyond their skills abilities, we just want employees with strong decision making capabilities from the outset of their time within the business.

If the situation feels like it is too far gone, then the next concept may help to quickly start shaping behaviours in the right direction.

2 Getting employees to think for themselves

The last thing needed is to have some of your staff dependent on you and overloading you with additional work.  If they are dependent on you for decision making, right down to what colour paper clips to buy, it may eventually result in your own burnout.

So how can we start to promote incentive thinking?

When a staff member approaches you regarding a circumstance that they perceive to be a problem, the first question is:  Is there actually a problem?

With that question answered, then the following questions are directed to the employee:

  • What did you do about it, the last time this situation occurred?
  • What did someone else here do (or you remember from a past job) when this situation occurred?
  • What would you do/what do you suggest be done and how should it be done

At the conclusion of the discussion, specify to the staff member to “Let me know how it went”.

These questions force staff to search for possible solutions and then to create a  solution now.  This conversation suddenly makes them responsible and accountable for his or her own decision making skills rather than you.  This person has to start thinking rather than relying on you for a solution – you guide them to a point where they are given permission to find a solution..

The request to provide you with a report of the result has a dual purpose.  You can monitor the situation and any further adjustments that may need to be made.  The second reason is that your staff member is now learning to report to you, rather than bring you an open ended problem to be solved.

If needed, tell your staff that “when you bring me a problem, bring me a solution as well”.  Notice that it is `a solution’.  To ask for `the solution’ can set people up to feel they have failed if every solution they offer turns out to be incorrect or unsuitable.

The usual “that idea has merit but what will be the effect of  etc… now how about this idea as well…” always acknowledges the effort and still encourages future incentive to think.  You already know how to deal with this part and all the diplomacy that goes with it.

What we also know from this exercise is that the staff member is given the opportunity to show incentive.  This is perhaps a chance for that individual to show or develop leadership qualities.  Many studies claim that it is not necessarily the wages that bring the most satisfaction to employees but the opportunity to develop/expand their skills, recognition and acknowledgement.

This situation provides the opportunity to show acknowledgement of your belief in their abilities.

If the result of the staff member’s action to solve `the problem’ produces a negative result, be sensitive about it in the debriefing.  Work through what happened or didn’t happen and help them to learn from the occasion, ensuring that they retain their confidence for the next time.

Another option
This will make many a business owner or manager start to sweat just from the thought of it – but be brave.  Sit each of your staff in your chair for one day or a even half day and mentor them through everything that you have to deal with on a daily basis.  Let them experience the personally draining effect and how unproductive it is to have people running to you all the time for answers.

In Part 2 we will look at business systems contributing to this ‘dependency behaviour’ and how the role of education may set you free…

Increase your profit, first thing tomorrow morning

Increase your profit without any additional expense – starting tomorrow morning!

This means that you have the remainder of today and tonight to start using `The 5% Rule’ and increase your profit by up to 35% per year.

By simply focusing on 3 aspects of your business you can easily increase your profit and this includes putting your prices up!

I came across this method some years ago and can not remember who needs to receive credit for the idea.  Having introduced The 5% Rule to many small businesses in the past,  significant changes have returned extra profit for the owners or managers that have implemented this concept.  At first they found it hard to believe that you can do this and to get away with putting their prices up but you will shortly find out that this is not as bad as it seems.

(To some degree this concept can also be adapted to service based businesses).

What you will need

You need a printout of your expense accounts relating to:

  1. Your overheads
  2. Cost of goods sold
  3. Total profit on your products

You will also need a clear and creative mind.  Be prepared to talk to your staff for their ideas as well and especially if you are struggling to come up with some simple options by yourself.

How does it work?

What you will do is:

  1. Reduce the cost of goods sold by 5%
  2. Reduce the cost of overheads by 5%
  3. Increase your profit margin across all products by 5%

You may not be able to reduce the first 2 by 5%, you may initially only find 3 or 4% but that is better than not at all.

Some ideas to get you started…

Reducing Cost of Goods

  • Can you squeeze your supplier for a 5% discount?
  • If you are are paying interest as part of your terms with your supplier can you negotiate a discount?
  • Can you get a better price on your delivery charges?
  • Can you use a different delivery method/courier at a better price?

Where else can you reduce your costs?

Reduce Overheads
Do you use too many biros in a year?  Do they all seem to disappear into a mysterious black hole?
Buy all your staff a nice but bottom of the range Parker pen and inform them that there will be no more plastic biros.  If you lose this one, you buy the next one.

You will suddenly find that firstly they feel just that little bit more important and professional using a `nice’ Parker pen.  They will not lose it and they will definitely ensure that customers do not suddenly walk out the door with `my’ pen.

Use printing paper that usually goes into the shredder and turn it into note pads, rather than buying pads.

Are you giving your employees free personal calls, on your phones?
Its a nice gesture but those calls are not increasing your sales and profit.  It is actually unnecessarily adding to your expense and most people already have their own mobile phones now.  If you have given employees a work mobile, do they use them for personal calls?  This costs you even  more.

Can you reduce your electricity costs?
Turn off unnecessary lights and computers overnight or at the least put your computers on the hard disc hibernation setting.  Turn off the electronic cash register, appliances and anything that definitely does not need to be on after hours, including anything on standby power.

[Start some lateral thinking about your expenses.  One business that I worked with complained that within the last 3 months their sales had quickly dropped off, for no apparent reason.  They had filled their street-front windows with display boards to show their new clothing lines.  Passing foot traffic started to slow for 2 reasons.  The display boards showed clothing to a narrowed consumer taste, deterring shoppers from looking further into the shop.  The display boards also meant that passing trade could not even see into the shop.  The owner removed the display boards from the windows, allowing shoppers to see the entire range of clothing and accessories as they walked past.  Sales increased but they also found that by removing the display boards from covering their front windows they only needed to use one third of their internal lights, as they had now let all the light back in through the front windows.  They also unexpectedly found that their electricity cost had now reduced dramatically.]

Can you improve the effectiveness of your yearly advertising/promotional strategy so that you pay less for improved exposure or for better targeting of your market?
(See other articles on this site for new strategies)

Now go through your business and start looking at where you can reduce both your overheads and your cost of goods, each by 5%.  If you can make it even more than this figure then all the better.

Increase your sales profit margin by 5%
Most people will immediately panic at the thought of just arbitrarily increasing their prices by 5% but what you are going to do is actually increase only the profit margin by 5%.  If you do the maths on your products you will find that increasing the profit margin hardly increases the retail price by that much at all.  In fact it is usually hardly noticeable to even the discerning regular customer unless your products are extremely price sensitive.

For example, this means that with an item retailed at $123, the price may only increase to $125 (inc GST).
But you have increased the profit margin on all items on every sale by 5%… get out the calculator and see how much additional income you have just created across 12 months.

Combining the savings from the Cost of Goods and from your overheads to this price increase and there are quite a few thousand dollars extra in your bank every year.  The reduced costs have converted savings to your bottom line but also stopped eating into your profit margin and actually become additional profit.

Find the motivation for this exercise
To see how much extra profit you can have , use last year’s financials and start working that calculator.  See how much more profit you will have by subtracting 5% from last year’s overheads expenses and subtracting 5% from last year’s Cost of Goods expense.
Now add 5% to last years gross profit.

What is your total extra profit and is it worth aiming for this over the next 12months?  Some small businesses have reported back an additional $20-50,000 the next year and now they try to find additional cost savings every year.

If you have employees and you want to reduce your overheads, involve them with a push to be much more environmentally friendly and start reducing the wastage.  Get their ideas on cost savings as well and then reward them with a bonus from the additional profits.

What Does Abundance Look Like?

Many people these days are talking about ‘abundance’ versus ‘lack’. What does ‘abundance’ mean for a business?