Family Friday

March 29, 2009

We recently implemented Family Friday at my office.  It’s an idea from my Army days where we would leave early one day a week.  Our office chose Friday.  So each Friday we leave at 3 instead of 5.  It allows everyone to beat the rush hour traffic, get a jump on their weekend, and spend a bit more time with their family.

Morale has instantly increased on those days.  I’ve gotten several comments from our team about this being a great thing.  Best of all is that it is really free for the company to do.  I have found that everyone still gets their job done and that customer calls or anything that happens after 3 still gets handled.

So next time you are looking for a free way to boost morale, add Family Friday to your list of benefits of working for your company.  Your team will love it and it won’t cost you anything.

We are now thinking about no email Friday.  That’s a tip from one of our folks right out of the new What Would Google Do book.  I think it’s an interesting idea.  The concept is that you don’t send email internally on that day.  Of course some departments will still have to in order to communicate with clients, partners, and vendors but a lot of the company can go without for a whole day.


The 3 L’s of Leadership

March 26, 2009

The 3 L’s of Leadership.

A while back I learned these 3 principles of leadership.  I have to say that these are just the foundation.  Being a strong decisive leader is important, but without the foundation, you miss out on the best parts of being a leader.  Not to mention the most rewarding.

Here are my 3 L’s of leadership:    Love, Listen, and Lead

Love – Love your team enough to listen.  A great team is so key to your success as a business owner or leader.  I find it essential to learn to love your team.   Love the great things about them and really express your gratitude for the work they do.  Love the things you learn from them and the challenges they present.  A great team will not only support its leader, but challenge the leaders character and help the leader mature.

Listen – Listen to every word with your full attention.  When I’m with my team, I focus on every word they say.  Turn off the phone, email, TV, blackberry, or anything else that can distract you.  Look your folks in the eye and repeat things back to them so they know that 1.  You are listening to them, and 2. You understand what they are saying.  A great leader will ask more questions than anything else.  Ask them how they would like to solve their problems.  Ask them what they want out of life.  Ask them how their kids are doing.  Ask them if they need anything.   Ask them if they have time for a walk or lunch with you.

Lead – Care enough to lead them by setting an exceptional example.  The best leaders Love their team, Listen to everyone on the team, and LEAD by example.  They step in and do a task no one else wants to do without asking for a volunteer.  They step up for what is right every time without fail.  Their integrity can’t be questioned because everyone knows how they play the game.  They may not lead without fear, but they lead in the face of fear.  They are the first ones to step up and make a decision when no one wants to make one and they are the first to work out a favorable solution that benefits the whole team.  They set family first as a priority and they stick to that priority.  Great leaders always mean what they say and say what they mean AND follow through on everything they say.  You can count on them to step up in any situation, good or bad.  They share the credit and shoulder the blame.


A 7 year olds Customer Service

March 26, 2009

The theme for several of my last posts is customer service.  So in keeping with that, here’s a quick story about my 7 year old. This story really touches on customer service, marketing, and sales.

Two years ago we moved to a new city.  We didn’t really know anyone, but we wound up in a great neighborhood with about 20 kids.  We got the best lot on the block at the end of the cul-de-sac.  To introduce ourselves a bit and build up some goodwill, we came up with Movie Night.  It started out simple.  We would just let everyone know that this was going on every other Saturday and that we would choose a kid friendly movie.

My 7 year old had other plans.  She created invitations and got them out a full week in advance.  She hand delivered each one with her little sister right behind her.  On a side note, she wouldn’t leave any of the invitations in the mailboxes.  She would ring each doorbell.  If someone wasn’t home, she went back until she spoke to someone.  The day before Movie Night, she went back to each house to remind them about the movie and to put them on her popcorn list.  Now that’s selling.  She was closing the deal by using some great techniques here.  Follow-up, only talking to a live person, going door-to-door, using the popcorn list to get people to make a commitment upfront.  Brilliant stuff really. 

The cool thing was the way she acted behind the scenes.  She made a list of everything that needed to happen to make sure the event went off correctly.

Send invitations out – check

Make sure we have enough popcorn – check

Double check with each house on RSVP – check

Get drinks, cups, bowls, napkins – check

Pick a movie – check

Test projector in the garage – check

Get chairs setup – check

Clean garage – check

Make signs for the movie – check

A lot of thought and planning went into something simple.  The result…. Everyone showed up for movie night.  We are now going into our second summer of movie nights and they are a huge hit.  My little one still goes door-to-door each time and tells everyone what movie we are playing.  She is sure to get an RSVP each time.

The key elements to her success:

1.  Planning – She takes the time to think about the event and the desired result she wants.

2.  Sales – She’s warm calling on previous customers to come back for another round.

3.  Marketing – She always has materials to hand them with event information.  It’s evolved from crayons and construction paper to nice word documents over the last year.

4.  Customer service – She goes out of her way to make sure her customers are happy.

5.  Persistence – She doesn’t take maybe for an answer.  She wants a hard yes or no.  And she doesn’t stop until she gets one.  Even then, she usually works on getting a yes if you first say no.

6.  Toughness – She never gets discouraged if people say no.  She keeps going back and keeps going on to the next house.


Why Does Customer Service Matter? Part 2 of 2

March 26, 2009

I last left you with quite a rant on bad customer service.  So here’s a fresh perspective on things.

I’m just going to get right to the point here.  Here are 3 things you can do to change customer service in your organization forever.  These are surefire, tried and true methods that will rock your clients world every time.

1.  Get it right –When your customer orders something, start by getting the order right every time.  I know this sounds like a no brain-er, but I’m telling you, this will keep them coming back. 

TIP:  One thing I like to do is repeat an order to client.  It just takes a couple of minutes to go over what they want to make sure you got it right and they have everything they need.

2.  Get personal – Find a way to make your clients experience unique to them.  Ask their name.  Call them by name once you know it.  Ask them where they are from, share a story with them if you have a funny one (if you are funny),  comment on a nice necklace or ring or their car.  Anything you can do to get the experience on their level.

3.  The WOW factor– Do something to make them say WOW!   A free upgrade for being so sweet or for being from Nashville or whatever.   Walk them out of your business if you have a minute.  Remember them….and their name.  Introduce THEM to your team and introduce your TEAM to them.  Here’s a great example, “Hey Jim, come over here and meet our new customer of the month from Nashville.  Jenny here grew up in just down the street,  she loves those white chocolate cookies you brought in today, let’s make sure we have some on hand.  Jenny is going to be back in a few days and I want to make sure we have her favorite cookies in the store.”

That’s a great “in-store” example.  I’m sure you are thinking, yeah right?  That’s crazy… Think about this.  How you feel about yourself if someone treated you that way?  Would you buy from them again?  I bet the answer is yes.  Even if they were more expensive than the other guys.  Can you say competitive advantage!

Now, suppose your clients are all over and you only talk to them via phone.  Here’s a quick way to do the same thing. 

 “Hi Steve, how’s it going today in Tampa?  I saw the weather there this morning and it looks cold.  Are you still planning on taking the kids to Disney next week?  Steve, I really didn’t need anything today, I just wanted to check in with you to see how you are doing.  I was thinking of you when I saw the weather this morning and just felt like checking up on you.  You know what, Alex from support just walked by.  Do you have a second for me to introduce you?  I just want to make sure you know Alex in case you ever need anything.  Alex, this is Steve, he’s amazing guy and one of our best customers.  Please send Steve your contact info when you get back to your desk in case he ever needs anything.  Hey Steve, I’m going to let you get back to business.  Be sure and let me know how Disney goes next week.  I hope your boys have a better time than last year.”

See what I did there?  I made it personal at ever turn I could.

Bonus TIP:  BE GENUINE!

When you do this kind of thing, you have to mean it.  It has to come from the heart and your clients have to feel it.  You can’t fake this kind of thing or your clients will know it.

The bonus for you is that you will not only get more business by following these simple steps, you will feel great about your efforts each day.

One last thing to remember.  It costs 6 times more to market to new businesses than it does to just keep the ones you have.  Work on retention!  Work on retention through customer service.


Why Does Customer Service Matter? Part 1 of 2

March 26, 2009

I  had a great conversation with a client today.  It was all about customer service.  Something I noticed was a common theme that I’ve been seeing.  My client was complaining about his customers.  At first I thought he had a point.  The more I listened the more I realized that he was the problem.  He kept complaining about how  hard his customers are to please.  After just a few minutes, it was very obvious even to him that his customers just want what they purchased.

My client is the one that has changed his policies over the last few months and customer service has taken a backseat to profitability and payback.   The payback is what got me.  He has let a few clients take advantage of him in the past and to even things out, he is now charging everyone for services that were once included with their purchase.  His customer support has basically gone from one extreme to the other.

This whole conversation got me thinking….

It seems like in this economy (by the way, the economy really isn’t that bad…  Have you been to the mall or a restaurant lately?  The lines in those places tell me a different story) you would want to do everything you can to keep customers and get new ones.  But what I have seen is the opposite.  A lot of companies are charging for things they never have before and customer service is at an all-time low in a lot of places. 

Here’s a great example of poor customer service.  The other day I took our girls through McDonald’s.  Now I don’t expect much from their support, but this was crazy.  We waited quite a while in the line, but the kicker was when we got to the window.  The girl at the window was very rude when she asked, “that soda, did you want ice with that?”.  My wife and I were both stunned.  We were thinking, “is that extra now?”.  Maybe ice isn’t standard anymore? So the girl rolls her eyes and tosses our cup in the trash, shuts the window and walks off.  I was quite stunned.  The sad thing is that this girl will be stunned if she loses her job for poor performance.  What a generation…  But that’s another blog.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a pretty simple guy.  When I buy something and the box says the product does something, call me CRAZY, but I expect it to do what it says!  That isn’t expecting a lot if you ask me.

So what’s driving this behavior?  A lot of things if you ask me.  Here are my top 6 things causing this problem.

1.  The dot.com boom started it.  Simply put, people got lazy when they thought they could just build a site and the business would come.  The concept of giving a damn about customers went out the window because millions would line up to buy their services. 

2.  The “ME” and “Gen X or Y” generation.  I could easily get on a rant here, but as I said, that’s not what this blog is about.  The concept that “my” needs and feelings are more important than anyone or anything else makes it hard to find employees who really care about anything more than a paycheck.

3.  What’s in it for me attitude.  This is tied to number 2, but shared by a lot of folks.  It’s a strange attitude being shared by CEO’s and business owners these days.  A what’s in it for me attitude asks, “what would I get out of this and what can you do for me?” instead of; “How can I help you?”.

4. Lack of vision.  This is a big killer in business.  People just don’t realize how important vision is.  If you don’t know where you are going, it makes it tough to get there.  Without a vision, no one on your team will know what you are trying to accomplish.  A great vision includes phrases like, “we are the best in the world at”, “we are global leaders in the market”, “we provide exceptional customer service”.  A vision defines who you are and where you are going as a company, but more importantly, it acts as a filter for decisions.

5.  Poor leadership.  Many business owners today are great at the business they do, they just suck as business owners.  I know that sounds harsh, but its a fact.  Think about it, the best plumber in the world probably doesn’t know jack about marketing and sales if they have never done it.  So how can that person lead a team if they have never done it.  Being a great leader is part learned behavior from watching great leaders and part educating yourself.  But most business leaders are so distracted by their business that they don’t take the time to really develop themselves.  And one last thing on this, you don’t lead by talking to people.  You lead by DOing.  Setting an example by rolling up your sleeves and sweating alongside your team!  As you can see, I’m a bit passionate about this one.

6.  Lack of accountability.  This is a favorite of mine.  One of the best things about being a coach is that I tell my clients right up front that they can’t fire me.  They are now accountable to me.  I also get their credit card on file and authorization to charge them anytime they break my rules.  Now, we agree on the rules upfront and they have a chance to add or take away from the rules, but once the rules are locked it, it’s GAME ON!  A lot of business owners and leaders get lazy in this area and don’t make themselves accountable to their team. 

Wow, what a motivational post.  More of a rant than anything.   But here’s the good news.  Part 2 of this post talks about correcting the problem.  Please read on…


Rules of Time Management

March 24, 2009

This post comes from Cathy Sexton at On Point Solutions LLC.    Cathy is great.  If you have a minute, please check out her site.

Rules of Time Management
By: Cathy Sexton

1. Value your time:
Understand the value of your time – perception, attitudes, and actions.
Different people will place different value on their time, but each of us has the same number of minutes in a day and it is how we use them that will make the difference. Once they are lost, they are gone forever.
2. Plan your success:
You don’t plan for failure, but you have to plan for success.
Planning short term keeps objection to forefront, minute, hour, day, week.

3. Plan for tomorrow:
Do Tomorrow’s planning tonight.
Know what it is you need to accomplish and prioritize before the day starts.
Plan 75% of your day, allow for emergencies and interruptions.
4. Identify your “prime time”:
What times of day do you have more or less energy?
Plan high-energy or low-energy tasks accordingly.
5. Use the 80/20 Rule:
Start your day working the first 96 minutes on your most important task (understanding the difference between urgent and important.
This is generally not doing email, voicemail, getting coffee or making phone calls, etc.

6. Work from an action list:
Create and prioritize your task by using a to-do list or a tickler file.
Break projects into small tasks.
Delegate anything from your list that someone else can do.

7. Ask yourself:
“Why am I doing what I’m doing right now?” and ask it often.
Always evaluate what you are doing to make sure that you are making the most productive use of your plan.
Can someone else be doing this “Delegate, Delegate, Delegate”.
Is what I am doing making money, retaining/creating clients, contributing to the bottom line?

8. You have the control:
Eliminate clutter, file those things you have completed, delegate tasks wisely.
Learn to say NO.
Learn to minimize interruptions.
The more organized the easier it will be to deal with last minute unexpected problems.

9. Check your calendar:
Have a good date planning system that you feel comfortable with and use it.
Include all activities: work, social, family, travel, church, etc.
You only have one life, you only need one calendar.
10. Be flexible:
Have the ability to accommodate the unforeseen. Sometimes the urgent will have to override the planned.  Have days for unplanned relaxation and spontaneous activity.
For more tips, techniques, training, coaching on the following:

Individual and Staff Training
Getting and Staying Organized
Time Management
Email Efficiency and Etiquette
File and Find Electronic Files Fast
Making meetings matter
Contact Cathy Sexton at:
636-717-6588 or
cathy@onpointsolutionsllc.com or
www.onpointsolutionsllc.com


5 Ways to leverage your time

March 22, 2009
Your time is your most valuable asset. How are you investing it?If you are like me, your time is worth a lot. If you are like most people, you are spending quite a bit of your time and investing little of it. Here’s 5 ways you can leverage your time for what it’s really worth.

1. The Early Bird
Get up at 5 AM every day. Get out of bed and get moving before the majority of the earth is. That will enable you to get so much more done while the rest of the world sleeps. The key here is that no one can break your concentration if they are all asleep. And focused energy is amazing. A single interruption can cost you up to 35 minutes of wasted time.

2. Get Driven
Find someone to drive you around. Whether it’s a limo driver, your assistant, or your out of work cousin. The average person wastes over 2 hours a day in their car. And those of you who think you can use the phone, take notes, read a map, read a book, eat, and drive the car are living on the edge. Imagine making phone calls, setting appointments, closing deals, and working on your laptop in the car on the way to your next meeting. A driver allows you to concentrate and put 100% of your effort into all you do in the car.

3. Phone Power
Many people are still avoiding phone meetings these days. We need to embrace the phone more. The phone allows you to focus and get to the point. View your phone as an ATM machine. The more time you invest in the machine, the more money comes out of it and into your bank account.

4. Sell the Television or get TiVo
Either sell the television or buy TiVo or some other digital device that allows you to record and skip commercials. Reinvest your new found television time with your family, self, or personal development.

5. Decide and Commit — This one is key.
A business owner must be a great leader. In order to be a great leader you MUST be able to make quick decisions and commit to them. You can work with any challenges from your decisions down the road. The key here is investing your time by being decisive and not floundering over a decision for hours, days, or weeks. I’ve found that the 80/20 rule applies here. 80% of your decisions can be made in less than 5 minutes. 20% of decisions should take hours or longer to decide.