Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tips to be a great manager

"Motivation is everything. You can do the work of two people, but you can't be two people. Instead, you have to inspire the next guy down the line and get him to inspire his people." -Lee Iacocca

All of us want to be the best managers we can be. After all, our employees are our company. The more we can motivate our staff to feel good about what they do, the better our organizations will operate. Managing employees takes work and a commitment to help them succeed!

One great thing you can do is to find out what each employee’s goals are and then help them achieve those goals. Finding out what each person really wants out of life does two things. First, it tells the employee that you really care enough about them to ask. Sometimes staff just will not know their goals, which is okay, but just asking translates to caring. Second, once you know what their goals are, you can help them achieve them. It is so surprising to me how many managers just have no idea of what the career goals are of their staff. It is so important to think of yourself as a coach. Like an athletic coach, your job is guide the team members to be the best they can be.

Another thing, you really want to become a full time mentor with each of your employees because this really keeps your staff humming. That doesn't mean you are mentoring employees 12-hours a day, but that you have their success on your mind at all times. Evaluating your employees once a year is a one of those ideas that you really, really have to question. Normally an annual evaluation turns out to be the evaluation of only the last two weeks of an employee's work history. All employees, if they are human beings, need feedback to make sure they are living up their boss’s expectations. With only a yearly evaluation, frustration sets in quickly. I take each staff member out for a meal once a month. During that time, I try to find out how they are doing and to identify their needs. I also communicate how I feel they are doing in a clear and concise manner. Taking them out of the office really tells them that I want to be there to mentor them to be more and more successful. If you find the time to spend a few moments with each employee, you will be surprised what you might find out about your employees and how this individual time with them motivates them to succeed and promotes loyalty within the workplace.

Positive reinforcement is critical to being a great manager. So many times you hear staff members say that the manager only notices when I screw up and never notices when they do great things! Pay attention to great behavior and always recognize it whenever you see it. On a recent tour of a business I observed the owner who spotted one employee doing some great things. The entrepreneur stopped the tour to tell the employee what a great job he was doing. Recognizing great employee behaviors is a sure way to communicate to your staff how pleased you are with their performance.

Managing employees takes so much work and effort. However, it is so worthwhile because it makes your staff feel so much better about their work. Now go out and improve the ways you manage your staff.

You can do this!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Alternative Marketing Approaches

“ORIGINALITY is unexplored territory. You get there by carrying a canoe – you can't take a taxi.” ~Alan Alda

So many marketing consultants believe there is only one way to advertise. Some feel that face-to-face interactions are the only way to make sales, building trust first then convincing the client to buy the product. Other experts swear by advertising on social networking sites. However, there are so many other approaches deserving consideration that are simple and just as effective.

We were helping a renowned sculptor, Nilda Comas, whose sales appeared to have stalled because of the shape of the economy. However, she had a database full of over 4,000 former customers and serious inquiries. These contacts were her low-hanging fruit. We suggested that she call these clients and tell them she had some time free if they would like to take advantage of it.

Artists are notorious for not wanting to push their own products, so she was a bit skeptical about this approach at first. But she gave it a try and had tremendous success. On the first call alone, she was able to sell three high-end sculptures.

A small plumbing contractor was having serious difficulty in the current economic climate. She was hemorrhaging cash at a rate of $10,000 a month. Because of her cash flow trouble, traditional advertising was not an option, and even repeat business from existing customers would not have been sufficient to turn the problem around. We had to think creatively about how we could drum up business.

We suggested that she use door hangar advertisements to offer a special price reduction on the first service call. She hired some very inexpensive workers, and for two weeks, they hung 2,500 hangars a day. After just the first month of this promotion, she watched her cash flow go from negative $10,000 a month to positive $16,000.

My co-author, Tim O’Brien, and I have just published a new book entitled, “If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book.” A very meticulous entrepreneur, Tim spent days and days researching the best ways to market our book. He knew that if we were going to be successful, the book had to be an Bestseller. We would need that stamp of success.

Tim discovered that in order to be an Bestseller, it had to be the top-selling book during a one-hour period on any given day. Tim quickly figured out that we could make this happen by encouraging all our friends and acquaintances to buy the book at a designated date and time. We sent out an e-mail blast to all of our supporters, asking them to buy the book on Wednesday at 11 a.m. If they did, they could go to our website at and get three bonus items. One of these items was a video of me talking about customer service, and a second was an e-book that Tim had written.

This was an innovative marketing effort that brought us great success. At the end of the day, we did become number one in our category at, and we did not have to spend very much to get it.

These are just three examples where alternative approaches to marketing products and services were customized to the entrepreneur’s circumstances and worked brilliantly. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many other ways that can work for your unique set of products or services.

Now go out and make sure that you are considering alternative marketing techniques and not getting stuck in a rut with traditional methods.

You can do this.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Business and Marriage

“It's all about quality of life and finding a happy balance between work and friends and family.” ~Philip Green

So many businesses are run by husband-and-wife teams. While working alongside your spouse may sound ideal, I can tell you that it is one of the most difficult partnership arrangements out there. Running a family business is like running a normal business but on steroids. Not only do you have to be concerned with all the usual entrepreneurial issues, but you must also deal with all of the family issues that are often so deeply engrained in the business.

For husband-and-wife teams and family-run businesses, one question always seems to arise. What comes first, the family or the business? For some, the answer is that the family always comes first, but for others, the business always takes the front seat. Where this is concerned, it is not so important which school of thought you subscribe to. The critical issue is that the priority is clearly articulated and understood by all of the partners.

We were helping a great couple that had been through so much. The wife started the business but had partnered with an individual that stole money and made her life miserable. It took them more than a year to dissolve this terrible partnership. Much like a very bad divorce, there were many legal and emotional challenges, and the path to the end just seemed interminable.

In order to finally end the long and nasty legal battle, the wife had to sell all of the assets and start a new company. She had to close the business for two months to make the much-needed renovations, and because of legal reasons, they had to form a whole new corporation with the husband at the helm. The wife could not be engaged at all.

While the husband was a great guy, he really had very little experience running a business, and he was equally inexperienced at managing the company’s all-women staff. As his lack of managerial skills began to affect the business, they hit a cash crisis.

Reacting out of fear that he would run out of money and the business would fail, the husband became very dogmatic in managing the staff. His lack of management skills became more and more pervasive, and both the business and the marriage began taking a thrashing. Adding an extra layer of complication to an already grim situation, the wife did not understand her husband’s reasons for adopting such a rigid management style. Soon enough, both business and marriage was floundering.

One day, I got calls from both of them, each saying how frustrated they were with the other. They had reached the breaking point. Their marriage was in serious trouble, giving out under the pressure as the husband struggled more and more with managing the business and the wife became more and more frustrated with her husband.

The following evening, I had dinner with the couple to see if I could help them deal with some of these difficult issues. To begin, I asked them whether they felt the marriage or the business was more important. In unison, they both answered that the marriage was. Once that was established, it was easy to show them what the real issues were and how they could resolve them.

One of their most destructive issues was their lack of communication. As they took turns discussing what they felt were the real issues, the other just sat there in awe. Neither had any clue how the other person felt. Up to this point, they had not been communicating effectively, and as a result, they were completely in the dark about the other’s motivating factors.

The couple came away from our meeting with a newfound understanding of the importance of really listening to what the other was saying. The husband agreed to back away from running the business, and the wife agreed to step up and run the day-to-day operations. They each would have a say in expenditures over $500, and to resolve the communication gap, they would have weekly meetings.

This husband and wife started the evening as two separate people operating in different universes, but emerged as a unified team. As we left the dinner, both husband and wife felt so much better because they now truly understood where the other was coming from, and they were prepared to work together and support one another.

Now go out and make sure that the communication channels are open in your family business, and that each partner’s needs are being met. Additionally, make sure that you all clearly understand what will come first, the family or the business.

You can do this!