Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Your Attitude : Friend or foe to your small business

Do you focus on what you can control?

There are many things you cannot control that impact upon your small business. These include things such as an uncertain economic climate, the inevitability of BAS, government business policies and interest rates to name just a few. 

However, what you can control is the attitude you adopt in dealing with these things. ....... So how would you describe your attitude?
You can put two different people in the same situation and one will see a threat whilst the other sees an opportunity. 
Your attitude determines how you navigate your way through life's challenges.

Your attitude reflects in everything you do - it is sometimes referred to as the Law of Attraction, which essentially says that the thoughts and expectations you have influences what comes back to you.. By recognising the power of your attitude in shaping the destiny of your small business, you take a big step towards building a more prosperous future.

In deciding to make a friend and ally of your attitude, you are committing to adopting a positive approach  to how you face the challenges, pressures and uncertainties of small business. A positive attitude is not just about being optimistic and having self-belief that you will find a way to deal with any problems - your positive attitude will actually start to have an influence on the environment around you.

A cheerful manner reflects a positive attitude 

A positive outlook will usually shine through with a naturally more cheerful and upbeat manner ..... which in turn will help lift the spirits of other people around you, including your family, staff and customers. 

You can see this type of dynamic happen every day - when you smile at someone, most people can't help but smile back. We all prefer to be around happy people, who seem to be able to find things to laugh about and be grateful for

Yes, each day you will have to put some effort into rejuvenating your positive attitude and keeping it an ally. You will need to consciously banish any negative thinking as soon as it starts to creep in ......, However you will find that with this way of looking at the world, you begin to notice small things that you can better appreciate - things that in the past you more than likely have just taken for granted.

6 tips for cultivating a positive outlook

So what can you can do to cultivate and nurture this positive attitude? A few simple things include...
  1. Get a hobby that you find fun, or maybe spend more time on the one you have - this helps to keep you fresh and interested in life
  2. Think of good times you've had, rather than dwelling on any regrets or disappointments
  3. Get in the habit of complimenting other people as much as you can ..... Even small acts of kindness stimulate positive endorphin's in your body - which help you feel good
  4. Exercise and keep yourself reasonably fit - mind, body and emotions are all inter-connected
  5. Be open to learning and trying new things - regain your child-like curiosity of the world around you.
  6. Remember to take regular short breaks during the day - and ensure you take a holiday every year. Do not allow your business to consume you - there is much more to life than your business. 
You might like to also have a look at Self Motivation Tips, which offers a great list of other ways to stay positive

Have no doubt that investing in a positive optimistic mental outlook and a lighter, cheerful mood will eventually deliver a steady stream of dividends for your small business. 

You will become the type of manager that employees will gladly want to do their best work for. And you will be the type of supplier that customers will  be happy to do repeat business with.

So, are you wearing a smile or a frown - it's your choice, right?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Performance management of staff in your small business

If you manage a small business and have staff working for you, then you've probably already found that motivating and managing some people can be a huge challenge - and often quite frustrating.

Performance management cycle
However some of the problems that we might experience with staff performance are through our own making. As small business managers, we sometimes make too many assumptions that our staff understand our expectations and have the training to do what we want them to do.

The performance management cycle is a nice simple reminder of some of the important stages in staff performance management
  1. Performance planning is about preparing the employee for the work you want them to do. It includes ensuring that right from the very beginning, a new employee has a clear understanding of the scope of their job and that you have clearly explained what is expected of them. It's also about ensuring that any new staff member receives adequate training necessary for using any systems or complying with procedures that are associated with performance of the duties in their job. Many managers unfortunately often neglect to invest enough time in this stage, because they assume that it's all too obvious ..... They forget it's only obvious because of the greater experience and familiarity they have with the various tasks in the workplace.  But performance planning can also refer to the weekly or even daily outcomes that you might set for your staff. Again, it is essential to ensure that any performance or work plan is reasonable (ie. achievable) - and that the employee has been equipped with the training, tools and resources needed to meet the performance expectations.
  2. Performance tracking is about keeping an eye of the progress of the employee - and checking that things are getting done properly. Monitoring and occasionally observing, yet without being intrusive nor seen as too distrusting. With a new employee we will need to be checking on the quality and timeliness of their work more frequently than say an experienced staff member, because we should be able to feel more confident in  our senior employees.
  3. Performance feedback is about providing the employee with recognition for good work and showing them that their efforts are being noticed. Sometimes constructive feedback may need to be provided however, if there are job requirements that are not being quite met. This might be a reminder that they need to take care with a particular procedure, or a reminder about what time they need to be back from lunch, or a reminder to take more care when filling out a form....... Sometimes people make mistakes - hey, we're all human. The important thing is that we help the employee learn from it, so that it's not repeated.
  4. Formal performance review is sitting down with the employee on a quarterly basis, over a coffee, and having a conversation about their performance - what's been going well and whether there may be areas that could be improved. There are many businesses that incorporate some documentation around this, particularly for the more comprehensive annual review. The annual review will assess employee performance on each of their key responsibilities and identify whether these have been performed to a competent or acceptable standard. The annual review can also include a conversation about the employee's longer term career development aspirations. Although a small business may have some limitations upon progression opportunities for their staff, it is never-the-less useful for their manager to be aware of staff ambitions. This is because there can sometimes be opportunity to enrich the employee's current job and possibly provide them with more of the challenge they may be seeking. But in doing so, you need to also ensure that your employees are being fairly rewarded for good work
In a positive sense, an effective performance management process will help to ensure open lines of communication between a manager and their employees - thereby avoiding confusion and preventing misunderstandings about what is expected.

In the worst case scenario, a formal performance management process maintains an audit trail in the event that an employee is performing unsatisfactorily and may need to be dismissed. There will be some written record that a manager has previously raised performance concerns with the employee and made reasonable attempts to secure performance improvement

Keeping good staff

No doubt you want to keep your good staff ..... They show initiative, they're reliable and they're capable. Right? ...... You've come to rely upon them and trust them. So just be careful that you don't take them for granted. Show them that you appreciate their efforts - and make sure that they are being duly rewarded.

Why do staff resign? ...... Surveys show the most common reasons include a poor relationship with their immediate manager, poor working conditions, conflict within the team, lack of job satisfaction with their actual work (no longer challenging) and finding a similar job that requires less travel or offers much higher wages. Although people say their salary is important, in influencing their levels of job satisfaction, many people say they place higher importance upon the quality of their working relationships, the opportunity for learning and growth - and also whether they find their work "meaningful".

Effective performance management will help you to both retain good staff, as well help you to identify staff that simply might not be a good "fit" for your business.

Also have a look at Management Skills Development for further suggestions and ideas on how to manage and motivate the performance of your staff.

About the author
Brian Carroll is the founder of a corporate training and leadership development company, Performance Development, based in Melbourne, Australia.  He is a qualified psychologist, experienced management coach and an engaging presenter, with a passion for helping people achieve their full potential

Customer Service In Your Small Business

If you're in small business, then you know the importance of good customer service as a strategy to compete against larger companies in your sector.

You may not have the same profile as some of the larger companies, you do not have their advertising and promotion budget. You are probably not able to beat them on price - because they have economies of scale and greater volume in their purchasing power.

However, where you can compete with "big business" effectively is in customer service - building a closer relationship and establishing more of a personal relationship with your customers.

Manage customer expectations

One thing I have learned from more than twenty years in small business is the importance of managing customer expectations - and the principle of promise less, deliver more

There are few things that annoy customers more than their supplier not doing what they said they would when they promised. Your customer may well plan their schedule and other commitments around your delivery promise, so you are better off adding some contingency time onto your time estimate.

In other words, let's say for example that you run a small printing business. And your customer asks when will the job be ready, and you think to yourself that it should be finished by 2.00 pm . You could actually say 2.00 pm and then maybe later you discover that it takes a little longer than anticipated and isn't actually ready til 2.30 pm - and therefore you'll have a disappointed customer on your hands.

Instead by applying the principle of "promise less, deliver more", when you think to yourself 2.00 pm - you say to them "It' should be finished by 3.00 pm - but if we get it dome earlier, I'll call you" - then when you complete the job at 2.30 pm they'll be happy and you'll be less stressed !!

If you're thinking of some customer service skills training for your staff, you might have a look at Customer Service Training Melbourne

Service recovery

OK, so we've explored the importance of managing customer expectations. But what happens when you do get it wrong? Maybe you've provided them with something different to what they asked for. For example, going back to the printing business - let's say the customer ordered a big supply of printing on yellow paper, but you mistakenly printed on white paper.

Often, it is the complaint from the customer himself that will bring the matter to your attention. This is where it's important that you have trained your staff in how to handle complaints. The customer may well be upset, so it's important that you show some empathy in the situation. Once you recognise that you got it wrong then apologise quickly and explain what you will do to fix the problem.

This is not the time to try to find excuses for the mistake, because all the customer wants is a solution to the problem you've created for them . If it is going to take some time to correct the situation, see if there's anything you can do in the interim to alleviate any difficulties your mistake has made for your customer.

For example, imagine you arrive at your hotel to check in and yet your room is not ready when it should be. The receptionist apologises, says it will just be another twenty minutes - and arranges for a couple of complimentary drinks at the bar whilst you wait. Doesn't this gesture help retain goodwill?

Let's go back to the printing example .... imagine you have rectified the situation and deliver the printing on the correct paper, you should think about what you can do retrieve some goodwill. Maybe you give the customer a significant discount on the order, or you throw in something of a complimentary nature to "ease the discomfort" suffered by your customer. After all, research has shown that it costs a lot more to attract a new customer than it does to retain an existing one.

And the final aspect of service recovery involves you and your team reviewing why the problem happened in the first place, and how you can prevent a recurrence of the problem. Is there a procedure that needs tightening up? Does an employee need a bit more training? Remember, if you've recruited good people, then they would not have intended to make a mistake, so try and see what can be learned from the experience and be careful of simply blaming an employee without having got all the facts.

So in summar, effective service recovery when things go wrong can help to retain customer loyalty that otherwise would have been lost to your small business. We all make mistakes some time - the measure of your resilience is how you recover from them

Motivating your staff

High and consistent levels of customer service will only be delivered by motivated staff. As the owner and manager of your small business you have a vested interest in the success of the business. But how do you create a feeling of "ownership" in your staff? How do you get them feeling some enthusiasm for the business and engage them in what you are trying to achieve?

For some great tips and advice on staff motivation, have a look at How To Motivate Employees

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Richard Branson on Business Failure

Some two out of every three small business "fail to launch" within their first eighteen months. In other posts we have explored some of the reasons for this - but the following video clip offers some reminders about not being scared of failure. Many successful business people have "failed" but learned from the experience and come back stronger and wiser.

In the interview, Richard Branson shares some great tips for people in small business who may be struggling with some challenges

Another great video clip that can inspire you to persevere. The clip lists many successful people who experienced failure in their life, or were labelled by others as failures, and yet had the courage and determination to continue to move forward and achieve their goals

If you are looking for a boost to your motivation, have a look at Self Motivation Tips