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It’s Usually Something Else.
“Employee Problems” doesn’t mean “Problem Employees”. We miss cause and effect all the time, and most employees usually aren’t at the bottom of employee problems.
Edward Deming, the father of Process Improvement, said (paraphrased) that when an employee screws up, we assume right away that we have a bad employee, when in fact there are a dozen other things we should look at before we come to that conclusion. Deming suggests the problem may be somewhere else. I couldn’t agree more.
First look at the vision for your company. Don’t know where you are going? Then your employee can’t be in trouble because they aren’t doing ANYTHING that will keep you from getting there. Deming and I would both say get your vision fixed first.
Then look at your mission – do you have a clear understanding of the results you are to produce for your clients? If not, how can your employee harm your lack of clarity? He’s doing “badly” because neither he nor you know what a good result even looks like!
If your vision and mission are clear and everyone is on board with them (including your “problem employee”), than take a look at your leadership. Are you leading the way you should? Are the other leaders in your business leading the way they should? If not, why would you expect a great follower?
Then look at your infrastructure – does your employee have the tools and environment to be successful? If so, great. But is the employee properly trained including ongoing training? If so, you can check that off.
If all the above is in place, does your employee have clear expectations for performance, and clear WRITTEN processes for getting there? If not, then you’ve got some work to do here.
And finally, if all the above is in place, you have to ask yourself, did you hire someone who doesn’t fit your culture? Did you get tempted and hire for skills even though you knew this person didn’t fit?
If all the above is checked off the list, you probably have a problem employee. But how often do we look at ourselves and our own companies before we throw stones at our people?
It’s a lot easier to see that you have a problem employee, when in fact, more often than not, you have an employee problem, or actually an EMPLOYER problem, neither of which was caused by the employee.
Do you hate the thought of ever taking on employees or managing the ones you have? Are employees convincing you by their behavior and results that employees in general are simply a bad idea?
The fact is that your view of employees is not a result of employees in general being a bad idea. It’s because you are not willing to deal with the need to address your own soup and the things above that will help you actually build a business where employees could be stakeholders who find real significance.
If you don’t like your existing employees or hate the idea of ever having any, take a look at your own issues and unwillingness to build a business. The problem is there more often than with the employee.
by Chuck Blakeman, Author of the #1 Rated Business Book of the Year, Making Money is Killing Your Business
Today let’s talk about the word: business.
What does the word, business, mean? You can look the word up in the dictionary and get a definition for the word, business – but what does it mean to you?
As a CEO or owner, you’re in business every day. So this word especially has meaning to you. It may mean something as simplistic as being able to sell a product or service, doing what you do better than the competition, provide great customer service, make customers happy and in turn, are paid well for what you provide and are profitable. You do this over and over and over every day.
The word, business, may be just a word but to anyone running a business, it has a lot of meaning.
Here’s another word that has a lot of meaning when running a business: problem.
Now put the two words, together: business problem.
Is a business problem a crisis or an opportunity for you and your company? And how do you decide which it is?
If you are a plumber and the phone rings, there’s a problem on the other end of the phone line. Someone has a leak and there’s water all over the floor or there’s a drain that needs unclogged or a showerhead needs replaced. If the phone to your plumbing business only got calls that said, “Everything is fine. Don’t need you.” You wouldn’t be too happy and there wouldn’t be any business!
If you operated a grocery store, you’re a destination because people have a particular problem – they’re hungry. Not only do you sell food to satisfy their hunger, but you have flowers to greet them as they walk into the store – so they can see them, smell them and think about what a great grocery store it is and how nice it would be to have some flowers on the table tonight with dinner. The food staples such as bread and milk are to the side and back of the store so as customers walk through the aisles other products will be picked up for purchase. That’s how you make a profit by selling more than just the staple food items. That’s why they are placed at eye level to attract the right buyers. And don’t forget the checkout line. As customers wait in line, they are surrounded by lots of tempting, feel good items that are easy to pick up and toss in the shopping cart or put directly on the conveyor belt – magazines, chewing gum, candy, cookies. All really profitable but they also solve a problem for the customer who is hungry and needs something quick or wants a few minutes of escapism by reading about the latest gossip or fashions. If you’re hungry or you’ve had a bad day, you’re in crisis.
Now think about what the crisis is in your business?
It could be you have employee problems. Okay, let’s deal with the problems.
It could be you have marketing and sales problems. Okay, let’s deal with the problems.
It could be you have cash flow problems. Okay, let’s deal with the problems.
Or it could be any number of other business problems you are facing.
When you wake up in the morning and walk into your office, into your business, it’s not: Do I have a business problem?
It’s: What problem do I have today? Am I willing, able and qualified to tackle that problem? If I’m not qualified, if I don’t have the information, where am I going to get what I need to solve the problem?
Business is a string of problems put together that you solve in order to make a profit.
No problems = no profits.
The next time a problem develops in your business, don’t go into crisis mode or get overly upset. When a customer is unhappy with your service, when someone is unhappy with a product, when someone else is unhappy with an employee interaction, for example, pause and say to yourself: Aha! That’s exciting! There is a problem I can tackle! And by tackling it, business is going to get even better! Not only am I going to take it on but watch for it to show up again in the future! And I’ll be ready for it!
Embrace business problems as they are opportunities. Don’t be afraid of them. For example, if there is a problem and you have to call someone back, don’t put it off – call them right away. Pick up the telephone, dial the number and say: Hello. I understand you have a problem. I’m here to solve it for you.
Remember: The word, “problem”, is not a bad word. It’s a word that means: I will improve my business. It will help me improve my profits. It will reduce my stress because I’m going to deal with it. I’m going to knock the problem right out of my business so that when the next problem comes up I can deal with it. I am not going to let business problems accumulate only to create more business problems.
By thinking this way about the word, business, and about the word, problems, you won’t be creating a crisis but rather an opportunity for your company to improve and become more profitable. And that’s the definition of success!
Howard Lewinter guides, focuses and advises CEOs, presidents and business owners throughout the United States to more success – more profit – less stress. Visit Howard’s website and blog: www.TalkBusinessWithHoward.com
Management is a lot like raising children — there are basic, game-changing rules of engagement but no exact formula. Why? Because people are different. They’re inspired and motivated by different things. They process and communicate information in different ways. And these unique elements may require a unique approach from time to time.
After 12 years in management and teaching workplace communication to teams of employees in various settings: Fortune 500 company, small businesses as well as non-profits and I’ve notice at least three ways that some leaders try to manage their team. Two of these options lead to massive failure in the long run. Have you seen these in action?
The Fantasy Manager
The Fantasy Manager waits for problems to fix themselves, but this fairytale leadership style doesn’t work. This manager believes that with enough time and space the problem will disappear. However, people don’t function like that. They can hold an offense the way camels hold water. And when a team is left to fend for itself you’ll find passive aggressive methods of revenge that’ll destroy team unity and erode productivity. Every team needs a management plan. Unfortunately the next type of manager tends to implement too many rules.
The Nit Picker
The Nit Picker micro-manages every assignment as well as office relationships. Their goal is to maintain control but the result is a stifled environment where team members can’t make a move without the Nit Picker’s overbearing feedback. This leader is trying to “stay on top of things” and “handle their business” because “nobody cares” as much as they do and “if you want it done right, you have to do it yourself.” But successful businesses grow. And growing businesses need teams. And teams need room to succeed or fail at their job. If they fail, you can retrain or let them go. But if they learn to succeed, you’ll have the makings of something great — a group of dedicated people who help you serve your clients and not just a one man, one woman, show.
The Team Builder
The Team Builder falls somewhere between fantasy and nit-picking. Like the Fantasy Manager they give their team a good amount of room to fix the problem themselves, but this freedom is balanced with clear instructions and relevant consequences. No matter how talented the group your people need at least three things from you:
Successful business don’t run themselves, teams don’t either and every team needs engaged leadership.
These days it seems, everyone is a content creator of one sort or another. If you are not blogging on your website, you might be creating videos, or podcasts, or social media posts, or product descriptions, or whatever. The point is, it is highly likely that if you work in business today, you create content.
The question then becomes – how do you get people to find and read that content? The standard answer is typically two-fold:
1. Create great content: This is the “if you build it, they will come” theory. The idea here is that if you create great content, people will eventually, naturally find it and share it; your content, if it is up to snuff, will sooner or later find it’s audience.
I create content for a living, and have done so since the Internet Paleolithic era. What I know is that yes, there is truth to the ‘great content finds its audience’ theory. But the thing is, the thing they don’t tell you, is that it usually takes a long time for this strategy to bear fruit.
2. SEO will do it: Search Engine Optimization is the holy grail of content creation. The theory here is that if you just get good enough at SEO, your content will end up on Page 1 of a Google or Bing search result and the rest is gravy.
There are so many problems with this strategy that it is difficult to name them all, but here are a few for starters:
So, what do you do if you do in fact have great content that you want people to see but you don’t want to wait forever for the organic love or the SEO to eventually, hopefully, kick in?
You market it, that’s what.
Case in point: Not long ago I launched a new content heavy site, TheSelfEmployed, and we needed to get visitors to the site. At first, we relied heavily on Theory #2, SEO. It worked, to a point. But here is what worked better:
Content marketing. Think about any big content site you go to online, be it CNN or USATODAY or the Huffington Post, or what have you, and what do you see at the end of any article? That’s right, a recommendation of other articles, “from around the Web”. Content creators pay to have their articles show up in those recommendations. People see them, click on them, and voila! Instant traffic. That is content marketing, and it works.
My site has had incredible success marketing our content and getting traffic this way, and as an added bonus, its quite affordable. We happen to use a content marketing service called Outbrain, but there are others out there too.
The good news is that if you want to get traffic to your site and you have the content to drive people there, these days you can market that content, just like you market your other products and services.
And, after all, as we all know, marketing works.
Riches vs. Wealth – the big lie.
I was stunned when I heard it – “Next summer is our 30th anniversary, and I’m planning a full two-weeks off work to celebrate with my wife.” This proud declaration from a man who owns a $30 million a year company demonstrates what a sad life he has. This is a man who lives in abject poverty with no clue how to run a business.
I see it all the time. Business owners whose personal lives are train wrecks, with no time to invest in their kids, spouse, or non-existent hobbies, and no time to even think about creating meaning in their own lives. They are hostages to their businesses with no end in sight for their incarceration.
People think this guy is a great business owner because he works all the time and has a lot of toys he doesn’t have time to use. I think he lives in abject poverty.
Riches vs. Wealth
Riches is just money. Wealth is freedom. Freedom is the ABILITY TO CHOOSEwhat to do with my time. Time is more valuable than money. It usually takes money to buy time, but unless the specific goal is to buy time, money can make us hostages.
Money does not bring freedom. Time brings freedom. This man has millions and has no freedom. He readily admits that if he is gone from his business for a few days things begin to go awry. He has built a $30 million business that depends on him personally being there every day! He is a hostage to his business. He is not a business owner; his business owns him. He lives in abject “time poverty”.
Intending to receive time, not just money
You get what you intend, not what you hope for. You can just hear this man starting his business. He intended to do two things:
1) “I’m going to work REALLY hard” and
2) “I’m going to make me some money.”
He got exactly what he intended – hard work and some money. And he is trapped by the hard work. He did not go into business intending to get both time and money from his business, just money. He HOPED that getting money would give him time and create freedom, but we don’t get what we hope (wish) for, but what we intend to get.
A Day a Week, a Week a Month, a Month a Year
I built five businesses like he did and was trapped as a hostage every time. This time around I intended to do something different – I decided this next business was going to give me both money AND time, and everything I did from the beginning was driven by forcing my business to produce both.
As a result, I now have every Friday off, the last week of every month off, two weeks every three months, and the month of February. I also now get the unintended bonus of every other Monday off, and only work a half day on the other one. A three-day, to three-and-half day week, with 16-20 weeks off each year is something I’m getting used to. I use only a few weeks for vacation, andCHOOSE (freedom) to invest the rest in Africa and helping others build businesses around the world.
A recent American Express OPEN survey found 66% of business owners haven’t taken time off in several years. And of those few who do take vacation, 68% of them check in daily to try to run things from their beach chair (we didn’t call once from New Zealand for 3 1/2 wks last February).
The famous Framingham Heart Study found those who took regular vacation are 32% less likely to die from heart disease and 20% less likely to die from anything else.
The objective of your business should be to build your Ideal Lifestyle. If you’re proud that you finally get two weeks off, you need to reassess how you are running your business and your life, and refocus on WEALTH (time/freedom), not justRICHES (money).
Is this just for special people? No. I built five businesses and never got off the treadmill. The sixth time I simply decided/intended to do it differently, and, what a surprise, it turned out different.
You get what you intend, not what you hope for.
What are you intending to do with your business and your life?
by Chuck Blakeman, Author of the #1 Rated Business Book of the Year, Making Money is Killing Your Business
After watching the social media disaster of Amy’s Baking Company play out in front of our very eyes over the last few days, it’s clear that every small business owner should have some fundamental PR disaster recovery skills in his back pocket – especially if you’ve just been portrayed in an unfavorable light on a national television show.
Here’s a great place to start when it seems like your customers, and perhaps the entire internet, is out to get you.
1. Address the criticism. For big time backlash, like what Amy’s Baking Company faced, ignoring it until it goes away just won’t do the trick. You should address the criticism, of course, but don’t immediately get defensive, especially if the claims are true. Apologize if you were wrong and describe how you plan to remedy the situation and prevent it from happening again. If the claims are false, say so and explain why they are false.
2. Watch your language. It’s easy for things to get heated, especially when someone is attacking the business you’ve worked so hard to build. But remember, you’re a professional. Act the part! Never lose your cool and curse at your customers on social media. Even if you delete it later, once it’s on the internet… it’s always on the internet.
3. Know when to bail when things get out of control. If the 48,000 people that “liked” the Amy’s Baking Company Facebook page just to watch (or participate in) the unfolding debacle is any indication, then it’s likely that they’ve passed the point of no return on the social media front. If you can no longer control the situation on your own page and everything you post is receiving thousands of negative comments, it may be time to get out. Stop posting or close your Facebook account until you feel you’re in a better position to maintain control on your page. Better yet, now might be the time to hire a social media professional to do some damage control.
A publicity disaster doesn’t have to mean the end of your business, as long as you take the necessary steps to do damage control while you still can. Have you faced any would-be disasters? How did you put the fire out?
A small business does not exist in a vacuum. You have customers, and those customers have deep ties to the community you do business in. Those ties benefit you, as well.
We’re always looking for a magical formula for success, something we can measure out and distill down into a repeatable process. Unfortunately, the greatest secret of success in small business is that there is no secret. The path to success is never a linear one.
Still, there are universal truths, and one is that supporting your local community will pay dividends for you. Your customers are more likely to develop brand loyalty if they think you have loyalty to them and the town in which they reside, so that should always be a priority for your business. The question is, how do show them you care deeply about your community and its success?
In my eyes, there’s three ways to ensure this.
3 Ways To Connect With The Community
How do you ensure small business success through the community?
One of the more fun aspects of what I do for a living is that I often get to work with big companies in order to help them better understand and assist small business. After all, we entrepreneurs make up a big segment of the economy, yet as we all know, there are some fundamental differences between big and small business; some bad, others good.
For instance, I have never stopped being jealous of the money and resources available to bigger companies – whether it’s the full stockroom, or the clerical help, or the legal department – that sort of institutional support is something most small businesses just dream of. Conversely of course, we can run a more nimble ship that can respond to events and turn course quickly. That’s a huge competitive advantage.
But there is one fundamental difference where big business really seems to outshine we small business folks, namely, in understanding and taking advantage of all that technology offers. Oh sure, there are some early adopters among the entrepreneurial class, but it equally seems true that figuring out and tapping into the Latest and Greatest is just so much hassle for the average, harried, small business owner.
Case in point: I recently was privy to a survey done by my friends at Staples. That the results of the Staples Small Business Survey are surprising would not only be a vast understatement, they also reinforce the point I am making here, namely, that too often small business tends to be late adopters, not early adopters, and that that choice costs us money and business.
Here is the stat from the survey that I found most disturbing/surprising/troubling/amazing (take your pick!):
60% of small business owners polled said that they do not have a website and further, don’t see the need for a website.
As Jerry Seinfeld might say, who are these people? Not having a website today is, I suppose, akin to not carrying a business card around in the 80s’. I mean, who would ever do that? I challenge anyone reading this blog to tell me why they don’t need a website.
But there was also some good news in the Staples survey. One question asked was “If given a magic small business wish, what would you wish for?” Given several choices, 41% said they would love to have a Facebook Page with 2 million engaged fans. Good choice, that.
Yet, while many respondents clearly saw the value of being engaged in social media, get this next surprising stat:
35% said that thought that social media offered no benefit whatsoever to their business.
Look, there was a time where I infamously advised small business owners not to tweet, but that was many years ago – before social media took over the world. These days, you simply have to be in social media if you are going to own a business, bottom line. It is where people will learn about you, find you, and engage you. You will make more connections online (connections you would never get to make in the offline world) and get more business.
How do I know this? Because of those entrepreneurs surveyed who did use social media, more than 75% found it very useful.
To me, the takeaway is that while, yes, I know we are all busy running our businesses, we should never be too busy to learn something new, because often, that is where the small business gold is hidden.
(And by the way, Staples is having a great contest this month called Push It Forward. Found on the Staples Facebook page, small mall businesses that enter are eligible to win $50,000 in digital marketing. To enter the contest, submit a 75-word essay that answers the question, “What would a $50,000 digital marketing push from Staples mean for your small business?” I am helping judge the contest and the deadline for submissions is 5:00 p.m. ET on May 31. There will be three grand prizewinners.)
And the SBA is non-responsive.
In April I shared Why Small Business is Fed Up With Government – both sides are addicted to “big”. That addiction continues to escalate and hurt small businesses nationwide. And a Washington Post surveysay you’re tired of it.
In early 2009 both sides declared the 19 largest banks “too big to fail”, and vowed at every photo op to change that. It was the political buzz-phrase de jour for a few months designed to make us “small” guys feel like someone was looking out for us while they gave hundreds of billions to their big business friends.
Today, three years later, those same few banks now control an even LARGERpercentage of the banking industry. That’s how big government dealt with the issue; with their handouts they made the banks even bigger and an even greater national security risk for us. They assumed we would go back to our pitiful little lives and ignore them.
In 2010, Olympia Snowe, the self-styled Republican Senate advocate for small business, introduced legislation to kill the only small business loan actually designed for very small businesses. She had championed the loan through Congress, but received strong opposition from her big bank friends as well as her big government friends. She showed that her allegiance is to the bigs.
And now, in the midst of the biggest recession in history, government is killing small businesses with new regulations. On July 15, the State Department introduced requirements that forced small businesses to put as much as $500,000 in escrow (a business I know would have had to escrow that amount), and leave it there for 12-24 months without touching it.
This drove thousands of small businesses under in only a few days. The big businesses swooped in behind like vultures on a wire and took over all the customers these small businesses had cultivated for decades. They couldn’t get back in business now if they wanted to. Big government now has fewer, bigger clients to regulate. All the bigs are happy.
How did our government help the little guy with this? The business owner and I approached the SBA Office of Advocacy on July 11 and sent repetitive requests for intervention, the very thing that this bureaucracy was designed to do. For 24 days we received no response to many emails until July 29, which was a very unprofessional reply making the SBA out to be the victim. Since asking us a question on August 4, we have again received no responses to many more emails over the last 15 days. Simply inexcusable for an agency supposedly designed to advocate for small business.
Giant business and giant government got us in this mess, then turned around and looked behind and asked us to get them out of it. But they don’t invite us to the table to help them see how to do it. We couldn’t possibly know – we’re small and they’re big, and big knows better than small. Washington has Jeffrey Immelt, former CEO of GE who paid no taxes last year, in charge of fixing this. He, too, has no clue what a small business looks like.
Talk to any banker who used to give small business loans, and they will tell you very quietly and in complete anonymity that the reason their lending standards are beyond the reach of most healthy small businesses is because the government regulators are putting such pressure on them that they can’t adopt REASONABLE(not loose) lending standards. 73% of small businesses who need capital haven’t even bothered to apply because they know it’s useless. 48% who do get rejected – astonishing statistics. The 25 biggest banks control 32 percent more deposits than they did in 2006, but made 30 percent fewer small business loans.
This is your small business advocacy in Washington. In case you wondered if anyone is looking out for you, the small business owner, on either side of the aisle or in any of the halls of the giant bureaucracies there, you might think again.
I’ve said this in dozens of places on the internet for three years – access to capital is the #1 issue for small business and has been since October 2008. #2 is predictability from our govt., and #3 is regulations that hurt small business and help the big ones. The SBA says the #1 job growth sector is businesses with 1-9 employees and the #2 job growth sector is 10-19 employees. Then they, the rest of the government, and the giant corporations who all got us into this mess, continue to use this crisis to help each other just get bigger. Expect large donations from giant corporations to both sides next year.
Small business doesn’t want a bailout. And I personally don’t have time for recessions – I have somewhere I need to be with my business. None of the above make it impossible to succeed, but it does make it harder. And when government proactively kills jobs and small businesses like the State Dept. did on July 15, that is interventionism in commerce that is unacceptable and needs to be addressed, even if the SBA doesn’t have the spine to do it (in case you wondered, the SBA isn’t focused on small businesses under 19 employees).
Caveat emptor – for too long we have bought that someone in Washington is looking out for us. Think again. You won’t get help and you don’t need it. You can succeed without their help; just know that they are not in Washington to make it easier for you, but to make it easier for themselves and their giant corporation donors. It’s time to expose the game for what it is, one “big” scratching the back of another “big”, all at the expense of 28 million small businesses and the American economy.
This isn’t a lack of courage to act. This is simple self-preservation at work – both bigs (giant government and giant business) will protect their “bigness” at any cost, even the worst recession in history. And certainly without blinking an eye at the demise of small businesses.
by Chuck Blakeman, Author of the #1 Rated Business Book of the Year, Making Money is Killing Your Business
Every month, I like to put on my reviewing hat and take on a new business book. This month’s choice was a treat.
The esteemed Seth Godin wrote “The Icarus Deception” as a foil to the persistent idea that you’re supposed to keep your head down and not make waves in the workplace. That strategy can be a successful one, but Godin argues that in today’s world, getting noticed and taking risks is the way to be successful.
I don’t want to take too much away from the review, which you can watch below. Suffice to say you should pick the book up at your earliest convenience. To help at least one of you out with that, we’re going to give away a free copy of the book, which you can get by following this link!
With a Let us know what you think of the review!