The Vicious Circle of Mediocrity

I have an idiosyncratic view of life in small to medium sized companies based on a lifetime of experience, and I think that there is a real employee culture problem out there.  What I see with a number of the owners I work with is that when it comes down to the true essentials many owners are actually afraid of their employees.

Outsourcing Payroll

The prize for the “worst single waste of time for a business” must go to those who handle payroll internally rather than outsourcing it. Payroll is the ultimate commodity where, for a miniscule outlay a month as a percentage of payroll, you can offload a complex, time consuming task.
If asked, most of us would say that our business was focused on what our customers need. The reality, however, is often a little different as many businesses tend to spend more attention on their own issues than they do on their customers’ needs.
A number of business owners that I meet tell me that the reason they prepare their monthly financials in the format they do is because that is how they report to the IRS. “We pay taxes on a cash basis, so we prepare all our financials that way”.

Find and Protect Your "Prime Time"

We all have a time of day when we are at our most productive. For most people, this is limited to about three hours, and it comes at different times of day for different people. This is the time when you have the most energy, the time of day when you can really get things done. I call that Prime Time, and identifying it and protecting it is a critical component of The Time Edge process.  
Most businesses require both an inside person and an outside person. The skills and personality required for each are quite different, and they seldom reside within the same individual. As a result, the business owner is likely to be much better at one than the other...and therein lies the problem.
Are you stuck in the vicious circle of business ownership?

The Negotiation Line Drawing Technique   

When I first started my business life and found myself in negotiations with hard-nosed, unscrupulous people, I felt at a disadvantage in a number of ways. They weren’t at all interested in win:win, and the issue that I found the most difficult to cope with was the addition of additional negotiating points after I’d made a concession.

"Part time woman"

I regularly see advertisements for part time workers. While it is illegal in most cases to be gender specific, people still are, and somebody told me recently that they were looking to hire a part-time woman. They asked me if I knew any, and I couldn’t help asking what gender they were the rest of the time. 

Delegate the Insomnia

If you have ever woken up at 3 AM worrying about your company, you probably felt pretty lonely. That’s the worst time, and it feels as if the whole burden lies on your shoulders.....and it usually does. It is natural for people who own the business to own the worry as well….but it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Patients Rewarded

This was an email I received from my local Y. 
I hadn’t realized until I saw the notice that the clientele is largely doctors who refer their patients for exercise therapy. 

Lifetime Value of a Customer

Identifying the lifetime value of a customer is an essential step in understanding the dynamics of your business. It will change your view of acquisition costs and of the profitability of different segments of your business, add urgency to your retention strategy and cause you to think hard about working more effectively to generate referrals.
You get the behaviors you pay for, not the ones you say you want. It is essential that your incentive compensation plan matches your marketing plan, and they must be kept synchronized during the year if your incentives are to drive the business that you want.  
Newsday Article Published March 7, 2016
1.     Never give me urgent work in the morning. Always wait until 4:00 and then bring it to me. The challenge of a deadline is refreshing.

“It’s For My Family”

One of the most frequent weasel words you hear as an employer are some variant of: “it’s not for me but for my family”. Beware when you hear this…it often signals the need for a pay raise, but it can also be an indication that what is coming is not only self-serving but that it will probably cause you some pain and may in some way be unethical.

Outsourcing COBRA Administration

One of the easiest and most important things to outsource is COBRA administration. Not only does it meet my VICE criteria, but it is something that carries a big potential liability and can create significant discord in the workplace.
One of the most easily identifiable risk factors facing any company is the loss of a major customer. It is one of the most alarming things that can happen in business but as with any risk factor, there are ways to minimize the risk beforehand and processes that can be implemented if it does occur. 

Are you Hard of Listening?

We all use the phrase ‘hard of hearing’. We generally apply it to older people, but there is an affliction that affects people of all ages… inability to listen. I call that being ‘hard of listening’ and it is something well worth taking time to correct.

Don't Confuse Your Role With Your Ownership

One of the mistakes I most frequently see in business is owners not making a clear distinction between their ownership position in the company and the role that they fulfill, and this can be very damaging. As an owner, you should be paid a salary for what you do and get a return on what you own. You should be paid for the job that you actually perform and the financial reward for your ownership will come as a return in the form of profits and growth in the value of your equity. 

Vision Mapping

A goal I run across quite regularly is “to double (or triple) the size of the business in (three, four, five) years,” It is almost never accompanied by a realization of what the company will actually look like when the goal is reached, and this really has to be a key part of the process of planning for growth.
Meetings can be the curse of business, and if you are not careful they can be the single biggest impediment to productivity. The danger is that if you run meetings that are unfocused and don't accomplish anything, then you not only waste your people's time but also demotivate them. You can actually reduce communication rather than improve it.

Bank Personal Guarantees and Collateral

Business owners often balk at giving personal guarantees but they are a fact of life in most banking relationships for small to medium-sized businesses. What guarantors often overlook is the benefit to them of the bank having adequate collateral for the loan and ensuring that it has been properly perfected.

Risk Factor Analysis

Risk Factor Analysis Questionnaire
Risk Factor Analysis Worksheet

Using a To Don’t List to Manage Time

Time management experts (including me) stress the importance of having a “To Do” list and you can’t move these days without being assailed by the plethora of options available.  This list, updated and prioritized daily will help you identify and execute the most urgent things but it will not help you identify the things that you should eliminate from your day.

Pay Yourself When You Pay Your Employees

Business owners pay their employees regularly, but many don’t pay themselves at the same time,  and this is a serious mistake that can lead to failure to achieve key personal financial goals. One major reason to own a business is to make more money for yourself than you could by working for somebody else, yet many people put themselves at the bottom of the list, get paid after everybody else and end up making less, not more. 
A Post-Sale Discount is one you voluntarily offer after the customer has already agreed to buy. Before you shake your head and say “I never do that”, think for a moment and analyze the way discounts operate in your sales process. It’s a more frequent problem than you might think, and it may be a feature of the way you run your business.

Using a Negotiation Process

When you come up on the short end of a negotiation, it is almost always because you haven’t prepared and paid attention to the process. A strong process will help you avoid the twin pitfalls of neediness and focusing on the result and help you prepare for and focus on the things you can control within the negotiation. 

"Taken Back"

I was having a conversation with one of my employees about his performance and laid out a specific area where he had failed to perform. He apologized and said “I’m really taken back by what you’re saying.”

Using the Big Picture to Resolve Issues

When something bad happens in your business there are two way that you can attack the problem. You can let your anger and frustration dictate your actions and lash out at the obvious cause or you can start by addressing the big picture and try to get to the underlying cause of the problem.  
On June 14th 2016 The Alternative Board put together a panel of digital recruitment specialists to discuss how to find more candidates using online tools. The panel was moderated by Tristram Gillen - Customer Success Manager: Global Accounts, LinkedIn.

Do you have Irritable Partner Syndrome?

While partnerships can deliver great value in running an organization, the behavioral styles of the partners are often very different. This can lead to irritation and confrontation that not only puts a significant strain on their relationship but also damages the culture and effectiveness of the company.
You need to put in systems to measure effectiveness rather than attendance. Your organization probably already knows who accomplishes and who does not. The problem is that they don’t tell you – and then blame you for doing nothing about it.

Are you hiring the "tallest pygmy"?

The "Tallest Pygmy" syndrome comprises ten basic hiring mistakes that I see companies making over and over again. In this book I will look at the 10 most common mistakes, identify where they fit into the hiring process and offer suggestions for how they can be corrected.
One of the areas where owners and managers consistently fail is in putting things in writing to their employees, and in an increasingly litigious employment environment, this can be both damaging and costly.

Employee Behaviors

I started my own company from the ashes of another corporation I was running, and brought about seven people over with me. I then grew that organization to 225 employees over the next 11 years, and probably had in the region of 400 different people working for me in the company.
How many things are you doing in your business that could be handled by another organization that specializes in just that task and does it better than you ever will? By insisting on handling it yourself, how much time do you waste and, more importantly, how much risk are you taking?

Steve’s Rule of Mailing Lists

Over the years I have done a large number of direct mail campaigns followed up by telemarketing.  The big question has always been where to buy the list to be mailed, and I have always felt that the quality of the list was much more important than the price I paid for it.  This really is one of those areas where the more you pay the more it's worth.
Whenever you approach somebody, whether it is to sell to them or to interest them in an idea, you never know what is going on in their life at that point. They may be in an extraordinarily busy phase where they simply aren’t interested in taking on a single new thing or something bad may just have happened to them and you need to develop antenna.