The most frustrating question in the world
No, it doesn’t have anything to do with World War II. This is the question that inevitably comes up after your project is just about to be implemented and go live.
You are in a meeting and someone asks the question Why Wasn’t I Involved?
Wait just a second, you think. We have been working on this initiative for over 6 months. We have had meetings out the kazoo, you have received sign-offs from the city, county, state, executive team and yet it never fails. Like clockwork, right before you pull the trigger you are hit with “the question”.
Now, in reality, it’s not really a question at all. In fact, it’s an indictment. Like, you didn’t involve me and if this thing fails don’t come crying to me. Don’t expect my help if you go forward.
This technique is actually used quite effectively by everyone from the entry-level clerk to the President of the company.
Here are 5 different versions of the Why wasn’t I involved question.
So what is a leader to do when it seems the odds are stacked against ever getting any change implemented?
While you can’t really control how people respond to change, you should be able to ensure that no one is surprised. That happens through effective communication. So this is what I suggest:
Finally, keep a good sense of humor, you’ll need it.
When my wife and I were newlyweds I was making minimum wage ($4.35/hr) working at a warehouse in Southern California.
With a new baby on the way, I had to figure out a better way to make ends meet.
My boss set me up with a meeting with a man who used a financial plan created by Larry Burkett (the guy Dave Ramsey studied under) and he showed me how to create and monitor a monthly budget.
The bottom line was that income must exceed expenses otherwise I would be in debt, which was bad news.
When your average gross income is $754 a month you have to get very creative in order to make ends meet.
Once I graduated from college I was sure I’d be able to get a good job, eventually, but that was still over 6 months away and while I had overtime and odd jobs to supplement my base wage, we needed a system to control expenses.
These are the questions that my wife and I committed to ask before every expense. It was transformational!
The same concepts can be applied to small businesses as well as non-profits.
These questions can be applied to any purchase. A vehicle, rental space, household or general business expense. For fun let's just say we found a pair of hiking boots on sale for $85. I'll walk through the questions and lets see what happens.
1. Do we need it? Since my primary job is indoors and I work inside I would have to say no. Now let's say I was planning on hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. In that case the answer would be yes assuming the PCT got past the questions and still survived.
2. Do we need it now? If my PCT journey begins in May next year and it is December the answer is no. We don't have to spend the money now.
3. What are the options? Is there another way? Well, perhaps we could use hiking shoes or synthetic material vs leather. It is possible to hike in tennis shoes but not advisable. There are lots of styles, makes and models of hiking boot. Are there sales? What about the bargain barn at Sierra Trading Post?
4. Can we get it used? Yes, In our town we have lots of outdoor people so the thrift shops are full of cool outdoor gear including boots. What about the REI garage sale? Craigs list? If we are patient and know exactly what we need, there is a good chance we can find it used. Another idea is to post on some outdoor forums and ask if anyone has your size boot that they would like to get rid of.
5. Can we get it for free? Yes, it is possible to write the boot manufacturer and ask if they would sponsor the event. We could pick a cause and raise support for a nonprofit and perhaps we will receive a free pair of boots to help us accomplish our mission. Who do we know that is an outdoor fashion king? If our size matches we should be able to get the hand me downs when they upgrade next month.
6. Is it budgeted? If the answer is no then don't spend the money. If the answer is yes then you still need to check the bank account and make sure you have enough cash to cover the expense. You can only spend budgeted dollars after the budgeted income has been deposited. Now if you have a surplus in one account and you forgot about an expense in another then it may be acceptable to borrow or transfer from the surplus account. However, do not get into the habit of robbing Peter to pay Paul otherwise why bother having a budget to begin with.
7. Can we afford it? If the answer is no then again you should not spend the money. However, just because you have money in your account does not mean you should buy the item. You can burn through a lot of cash if you get careless about spending just because you can. In the case of the boots let's say that we are on track for purchasing them in January. So in this scenario we will wait and see if we can find a good pair of boots another way for the next couple of months. If not we can always buy them at full price later.
My wife and I saved thousands per year using creative approaches to getting what we needed.
Once I started making more money we relaxed and thought we could "afford it." We started paying retail prices and although we saved a bit of time, we scratched our head at the end of each month wondering why our bank account was so low when our income was so much higher.
When we went back to the 7 questions we saw major results in as little as two months.
Here's your challenge!
Write down the 7 questions on the back of a business card and put it in your wallet. Every time you are about to buy something, go through the questions, and see how it impacts your cash on hand. Try it for 3 months.
It may be hard at first but I think you will like the results.
A colleague of mine told me a story about an event he was attending at the nonprofit we both worked for. It was a graduation dinner and each of the students were seated together with their families and 1-2 staff members.
It was during the dinner that one of the student's grandmother asked my friend a peculiar question. “Sir, could you tell me who here is the vice president of perfection?” “What do you mean” my friend responded. “Well since I arrived, everything I have experienced has been perfect. When we drove up, the parking lot was well lit with easy directions, we walked in and were greeted with big smiles and treated like royalty. The decor was delightful and interesting and everywhere I looked it was spotless. We have just enjoyed a scrumptious meal and I want to thank the person in charge of perfection. Is that you?”
My friend responded “well thank you so much for sharing that with me. I will make sure your evaluation gets back to all of the staff that made this event happen. While we don’t actually have a VP of perfection our founder has created a culture where every person/department strives for excellence. Our hope is that everyone that visits us will feel exactly the same as you.”
If you haven’t read the Perfect Order blog go ahead and give it a read at this point and then come back.
Great! Can you begin to see how the perfect order can apply to service?
Think about your organization and the particular service you provide.
When I first took over the inventory management department for a nonprofit that distributed educational material I asked to see the metrics that were being used.
I received charts that measured total investment in inventory, COGS, turns, etc. The most interesting number, however, was inventory availability. The department was very proud that they had reached 99%. What that meant was that out of every 100 sku only 1 was on back-order. In this case with 5,000 SKU that meant we were only out of stock on 50 items.
Compared to what it used to be that seemed pretty good!
That was until I found out that only 1 out of 3 people that ordered from us received all of the items requested.
In other words, the actual order fill rate was only 66%!
So while the department thought they were producing A level results, in reality, they were measuring the wrong thing from the customers perspective. The true work results was closer to D level performance.
This is not an isolated incident.
Ed Frazelle PhD is the founding director of the Logistics Institute at Georgia Tech. I had the privilege of going through his Logistics Management Series and one of the concepts that he used as an eye opener for supply chain professionals was his perfect order % exercise.
What he would do, is ask everyone in the room to define what a perfect order looks like. He would write down each item and then asked how good are you? What is a great performance? And everyone would respond somewhere between 95 - 99% and we would end up with a chart like this:
Clear online description 98% -> A
Pricing was accurate 97% -> A
No errors during checkout 95% -> A-
Items available 95% -> A
Order confirmation 98% -> A
Picked accurately 97% -> A
Packaged properly 97% -> A
Shipped on time 95% -> A-
Received w no damage 97% -> A
Proper documentation 95% ->A
In every case, each department thought they were doing pretty good.
It was not until the end that Dr. Frazelle would say no, we aren’t going to average them, we need to multiply each one to get the actual perfect order percentage.
Here is what that looks like.
.98*.97*.95*.95*.98*.97*.97*.95*.97*.95 = 69% or a D+
Now, who wants to get excited about D+ work?
To have A level work, each component of the supply chain needs to be (to borrow a line from Mary Poppins) “practically perfect in every way”
Ok, so nowadays Amazon does all of that stuff for you. You're wondering, is this even relevant to my organization?
Yes, I think so.
Next time I'll show you how this applies to a service organization like a school, resort or camp. In the meantime be thinking about:
I was just out of college and working as a manager in a distribution center and heard about a problem brewing in the warehouse.
I called the two staff members that were engaged in the conflict into a conference room to try and understand what was going on. That’s when Sue pointed her finger and blurted out HE PINCHED ME! and I thought to myself, seriously? I’d been working with Ben for a year and he did not seem like the kind of person that would go around pinching people. And besides, isn't this the kind of thing you deal with in Kindergarten or maybe Jr. High. Surely, I am not going to have to recite the “keep your hands to yourself” speech. Please, aren’t you two in your 40’s and aren't you immigrates from the same country. I’m sure we can all get along, right?
Back to the conversation:
Ben was so flustered that he could hardly speak. So I asked Sue and Ben to take a turn and walk me through the chain of events that led up to this altercation. When Sue shared her story it was all about how hard she worked, the sheer volume of orders that she would pack each day. She poked fun at how slow Ben worked and said that it was unfair that he would hurt her because he was jealous.
This only frustrated Ben more and with his heavy accent it was all I could do to figure out what actually happened.
Here is what happened:
Ben and Sue had come from the same country but from different classes. So while there was a common language and it appeared from the surface that these two got along fine, there were deeper cultural issues that intensified the situation.
Sue had figured out a way to cherry pick most of the easy orders and shift the larger more difficult orders over to Ben’s workload. So as they packed orders, it appeared that Sue was doing more work because her stack of empty totes was always higher than Ben’s. This was a fact that she proudly pointed out to the team, leads, supervisors and anyone else who would listen. Ben internalized his frustration and it finally came out one day when Sue came too close to him and in frustration and anger he reached out and pinched her.
I ended up giving Ben a formal warning regarding the pinching. He was reminded of the proper outlet to report issues as they arise. Sue was instructed not to cherry pick orders and a lead was assigned to go back over the process and procedures with her. Sue left that next year. Ben stayed on for 20 years. He never pinched anyone again.
Even though most professional workers are more sophisticated in how they interact with each other there is still virtual “pinching” going on every day. According to Gallup, 87% of the global workforce is disengaged at work. I am sure any leader could think of a number of frustrating staff related issues that while not exactly the same have the same underlying issues.
Having worked with hundreds of leaders over the years I have observed 8 things that great teams have in common.
Let me ask you a few questions:
Does your team genuinely enjoy working together?
Does everyone know exactly what they are expected to do each day?
Are you getting the absolute best from your team every day?
Have you developed your team to the point that you can take a week off without having to worry about a thing?
If you answered no to any of the above then I’d like to invite you to schedule a chat with me. This is an advice only (no sales/pressure) session to help you identify specific ways to improve your teams performance.
There is no shortage of business networking opportunities today, but how many of them incorporate true Colorado adventure?
I'd like to redefine business networking by shifting the commercial rendezvous from posh banquets to the wild & crazy waters of the Arkansas river.
The Biz & Raft Networking Series, provides whitewater rafting for business leaders who are looking for a new adventurous way to connect with other entrepreneurs, clients and key industry contacts.
Unlike other events where you don't know who you will meet, this event puts you in the drivers seat. Once you reserve the raft for this summer you get to invite an additional 5 people to become part of your crew for the day.
I will facilitate the days activities in order to help you accomplish your objectives.
When you’re all on the same boat, shooting the rapids together, you develop a feeling of oneness. It’s this solidarity which is crucial in relationship building.
Our groundbreaking networking series is designed specifically for leaders who are looking for a creative, fun, adventurous way to strengthen relationships and grow their business.
Go HERE to get all the details and discount information if you make your deposit in May.
Or if you like send me your email address and I can shoot you over more information.
What You Need To Know To Sell Your Business
Selling your business will prove much easier if you prepare ahead of time. The worst thing you can do is rest on your laurels, take your foot off the gas pedal and assume the offers will come rolling in. You should do the exact opposite. This is the perfect time to go all out, work your tail off and maximize the value of your business.
Here's how to do it.
1. Find Valuation Comps
There is no way to gauge the true value of your business unless you understand what similar businesses have sold for. Take a look at what companies of similar size and revenue in your industry have sold for in recent years. Once you have a firm grasp of your company's true value, you will be able to make an accurate assessment of your business's actual worth. If you do not want to do the research on your own, hire a broker to help. Professional insight and research will give you an idea of what your business should sell for based on prior sales of similar businesses and current market dynamics.
2. Mind the Books and Records
Prospective buyers are primarily interested in the business's financials. You should be able to present a clear and accurate picture of what your business income is today and what revenue is projected to be across the next couple of years. Your bookkeeper should also be able to detail current costs as well as expected cost down the line. Update your books, make sure you can provide a legitimate picture of your company's finances and potential buyers will be that much more likely to bid.
3. Review Systems and Processes
The average business owner has operated his company for several years or even multiple decades. It is perfectly excusable to forget the nuances of systems and processes. Review these systems in-depth before discussing the business with potential buyers. Streamline operations as best as possible prior to putting your business up for sale. Make everything is as efficient as possible so the buyer-to-be understands he or she will enjoy a seamless transition as they assume control of the enterprise.
4. Clean the Premises for a Powerful First Impression
You only have one chance to make a first impression. Though a thorough cleaning of your business will not increase its value, an unkempt business really will convince some prospective buyers the enterprise is not worth bidding on. Consider repainting the office, replacing old electronics and installing new carpets to make your business that much more aesthetically appealing.
5. Prepare Your Employees
Wait until you are certain one of the proposed offers is worthy of acceptance before telling employees about the sale. The alternative is to notify your team of your intention to sell and watch them exit one-by-one for new positions with other companies. A depleted staff will make the business less marketable so remain quiet until you are certain a deal is in place. However, it will help to confide your intentions in a couple trusted employees. Explain your vision, ask them to help you plan for the sale and speak with staff members about the transition at the appropriate time.
6. Perform Your Due Diligence
Instead of hoping offers will roll in one after the other, be proactive by looking within the industry for prospective buyers. You just might find one or several candidates looking to expand their operations. Some of those within the industry might be interested in your business as your unique offerings will diversify their existing product line and ultimately expand their customer base.
7. Pinpoint The Right Buyer
There is no reason to rush the sale of your business unless you are starved for cash. The average buyer has less than a couple hundred thousand dollars to invest. Some prospective buyers have not owned a business of any type. Consider the buyer's motivation for purchasing your company before committing to the sale. Do not be tempted to offload the business for a low offer simply because an offer is made.
Be patient, hold out for the right offer and you will get fair value for your business. If you plan on retaining a share of the business, do not settle for a buyer with significant flaws. Finding the right buyer for 100% of your company is also important as this individual will have power over your hardworking employees. If possible, try to sell the business to a caring individual with good people skills.
8. Do Not Ease Up Until Your Business is Sold
Continue to work your hardest all the way up until the day your business is officially sold. Otherwise, you run the risk of putting your business up for sale and receiving underwhelming offers or no offers at all. Follow the advice set forth above and you just might be pleasantly surprised with the bids made for your company.
This book was published back in 2009 but I still think it is interesting and can be relevant as you consider the interests and values of each tribe. DG
Here is an excerpt:
The Seven Tribes
Citing his research, Barna indicated that the United States has seven dominant faith tribes that hold the key to the restoration of the nation. “We must recover the values that made this nation great and that must be firmly in place for order, reason, freedom and unity to prevail,” the researcher explained. “Our faith tribes are central to the development and application of people’s worldviews, which in turn produce the values on which we base our daily decisions. It is on the basis of such values that a nation rises to greatness or plummets to oblivion. The choice is ours. And it is up to our faith tribes to demonstrate the courageous leadership necessary to facilitate a national restoration of the mind, heart and soul. Without a nationwide commitment to this process, we are destined to become a country of historical significance and present-day insignificance.”
Drawing from the research, Barna identified the seven faith tribes as:
Here is a great info graphic that that demonstrates the power of camp and the impact it can have on kids lives. Schedule a chat if you would like to discuss how to maximize the impact of your organization.
Energy Leeches and how to stop them.
Over the holidays I was talking with my 87-year-old aunt about a childhood business she had collecting and distributing leeches to people in her small town in Sweden.
As I understand it she did pretty good at it and even hired an employee (my mom) to expand her market and increase profit.
The logic back then was that a good leech would get rid of a lot of bad blood and if you drained enough bad blood you would eventually get better.
But, the problem with too many leeches is that a person can lose so much blood that they become weak, faint or even die.
How does this relate to your organization?
It’s easy to get consumed with too many things that we think are important but completely drain our energy reserves. Let me ask a few questions.
If you answered yes to any of these then you may have some Energy Leeches causing you trouble.
How can you get rid of Energy Leeches and still run an effective organization?
Here are 7 steps you can take to get rid of leeches and restore your energy levels.
#1. List the items/activities that consume your time that you do not enjoy.
#2. Rank them in order from the worst to least.
#3. Indicate whether the item/activity is something that is really important.
#4. If the item is not important, extract it and immediately place it in the kill jar.
#5 If the item is important then find 1-2 staff members who could do a great job and would enjoy doing it.
#6 If you can’t find a staff member who could do it then find a consultant or contractor to help you manage that component of the business.
#7 Begin to offload each energy leech one by one until you notice a change.
Try this exercise once a year and see what happens to both your personal productivity and the effectiveness of your organization.
P.S. I've been told there is still a market for leeches as pets and for certain medical procedures. I wonder if my Aunt wants back into the business? :)
Businesses would be nothing without loyal customers.
Customers make purchases, support, and refer people which keeps a business thriving. Through online reviews, feedback, or honest opinions, they’re also there to tell a business owner or the team what’s working and what’s not in a current product or service. However, as a business owner or entrepreneur, you’ll likely face a situation when your customer isn’t right.
While it’s important to always listen to what your customer has to say, there are scenarios when it’s helpful to move forward and go a different direction. It can be difficult to grow, innovate, or surprise when you’re stuck in this cycle.
If you’re looking to grow your business, it’s your job to show your customers a solution. Through advertising or marketing it’s helpful to provide an even better product or service.
It’s helpful to keep in mind that your customers can’t envision the future of your business.
Check out the infographic by Valpak below on when not to listen to your customer. It breaks down helpful scenarios, company examples, and common types of customers you may need to coach along the way.
It’s been said that people tend to overestimate what they can accomplish in a year but underestimate what they can accomplish in a decade.
I’m not sure if that has been scientifically proven but one thing I know for sure is that when I create a plan, I accomplish more. Period!
In college, I started a list of life objectives some that I thought would be impossible to accomplish. Since that time it has been fun to see the list dwindle.
In fact, each year my wife and I take time to evaluate, dream, add too and update our 1-3 year plan.
This practice keeps things fresh, allows us to be thankful for the many blessings we have received through the years and helps us keep our life goals aligned with one another.
Some of the areas we talk about include family, marriage, vacation, money, health, etc.
I encourage you to carve out some time to pause, look at your life and get some plans drawn up so that you can make the most of your year.
To help you do that I have a planning guide that you can use for free. Go ahead and download it at your convenience (no opt-in required). I hope you find it easy to use :)
Let me know if you would like some help walking through the process.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
In business and life, we make a huge number of decisions daily that we may not realize are based on assumptions.
The workday is busy with communications and projects, and if you’re a leader or decision-maker, it’s likely that you’re overwhelmed every day with critical decisions that must be made rapidly.
Due to the limits time, information, or memory, mental shortcuts called cognitive biases are necessary to help us succeed. These cognitive biases are a way of recognizing patterns that can help streamline our work days.
However, because these cognitive biases don’t rely on facts, they can keep you from correctly assessing a situation or making an ideal choice.
That’s why it's important to be aware of some of the most common mental traps that you fall into as a professional or small business owner.
For example, the planning fallacy that keeps you from correctly accounting for how much time a task takes and the confirmation bias that makes it harder for you to hear opinions that differ from your own.
There are hundreds of biases that can have a significant impact on your bottom line.
Look at the infographic below and leave a comment on your #1 bias trap.
Years ago when my family ran a whitewater rafting business it was not uncommon for me to yell to one of my guides “Go get me the green van!”
Being crazy busy I just needed someone to run over the the lot next door and bring the van around to the front of the office.
There was a problem…
We didn’t have a green van!
New staff quickly learned that whenever the boss asked for the “green van” that meant the Blue 12 passenger van.
Why the disconnect?
How about color blindness!
The van looked green to me. Definitely not blue...
Once the staff knew I was color blind they just adapted and the blue van became the green van.
As the company grew I needed a better way to describe the vehicles and we adopted better names for each one.
Have you have ever been shocked to find out that something you felt was so obvious, everyone else saw differently.
Sometimes as leaders, we have blind spots in how we approach our work, our partners, employees, and customers.
Sometimes it may be innocent enough and everyone simply adapts.
Other times blind spots can create massive problems that result in a toxic work environment, loss of productivity and ultimately hurts or destroys the business.
This is precisely why I have a coach.
Even though I consult and coach others it is not always easy to see what is right in front of me. That's one of the reasons why I have a coach and seek insight from others.
Jesus addressed that in that in the sermon on the mount when he asked:
“Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye?”
So how can a leader find their blind spots?
Brace yourself! If you are used to being right all the time this could be a difficult assignment.
Hard as it might be to swallow, this could be the first step in transforming your organization and the relationships that matter the most to you.
Many organizations focus solely on attracting new customers, but you NEED to spend a good chunk of your time retaining current and former customers.
These are people you already know… they’ve already bought from you! Hopefully they love you...
Take the time to market and sell new products to your old customers and less time trying to sell old products to new customers and you will see a drastic change in your sales, customer quality and branding position.
A few years back I was helping a camp with there summer program. Two rental groups accounted for over half of the summer attendance.
I found out that one of the group leaders was thinking about switching camps.
When I asked why he said that we were too small and he wanted to be able to grow his camp but someone told him he was capped out.
So I asked him if we could find a way to increase capacity would he stay?
"Of course, we love you guys".
We then proceeded to brainstorm several ideas and landed on adding an extra week so that he could run two camps.
The next summer we had 50% more kids and he still had capacity to grow!
Here are a few keys to retaining your customers:
1. Stay in contact: This means by phone, email, e-newsletter, in person, what ever it takes.
2. Post-Purchase Assurance: This means you need to follow up with customers. Your customers need to feel like they are being supported for their purchase and with the item they purchased.
How many times have you purchased a product, then felt completely abandoned? Something as simple as a Thank You note with your contact or customer service information can go a long way in retaining a great customer.
3. Deals & Guarantees: Always offer your current customers the best deals and guarantees you have. Show them you appreciate their business or even come up with a club specifically to reward loyal customers. You can also do this with a preferred pricing option.
4. Integrity: Using good business practices and simply upholding integrity, dignity and honesty go a long way with customers. Let's face it, there's a lot of swindlers out there and the safer and more confident you make your customers feel, the more they will trust you and that makes for an amazingly supportive and loyal customer.
Stop wasting all your time on new prospects while your current customers fall by the wayside!
Your best prospects are your existing customers. If you’ve been putting all your marketing efforts into acquiring new customers, stop and divert some of your resources into reselling, up-selling, cross-selling to those same customers. In every ways possible – through package inserts, regular mailings, special offers – stay in touch with those customers and get them used to buying from you.
Dwight Grant is a seasoned businessman with over 30 years of leadership experience. He lives in CO where he enjoys whitewater rafting, mountain biking and spending time with family.