Bite-Size Chunks of Wisdom

September 2015

Recent Posts

I received a notification this morning from my Contact Us page. Yippee! Or, so I thought…until I read what it said…

Hey! My name is XXX and I run a very experienced XXXXXXX company located in XXXXX. I wanted to see if you are interested in partnering with our company, where we would do the back-end work while you will still deal with your clients—our rates are reasonable, certainly cheaper than you hiring in house or local XXXXXXXXXXXX. We have extensive experience with complicated development, including XXXXXX, XXXXXX, XXXXXX, and XXXXXX tools. Please email me at XXXXXXX.

For as long as people sell their wares, there will always be those who don’t know, or understand, how to best connect with others for the benefit of their own business. Hitting us with a sales pitch—without first taking the time to build a relationship—wastes everyone’s time and creates major brand damage for one’s product or service.

What’s Wrong With This Picture

This email—and other similar sales attempts—remind me of the notion of “what’s wrong with this picture.” And, just like the picture below, poorly implemented sales attempts lead no where.

Let’s see if we can identify some of them:

  1. There was no established relationship.
  2. Needs of the potential partner (i.e., me) are assumed.
  3. Weak value proposition.
  4. Requests the potential business partner to do the work with the statement “please email me at…”
  5. Failure to establish—or acknowledge—a potential pain point for which they have a solution.
  6. Flounders in solving a problem.

One’s initial contact with a potential business associate (and potential client) sets the stage, not only for the immediate request, but for the rest of the relationship.

Although it’s more time consuming and labor intensive to develop a long-term relationship, it’s well worth the effort.

  1. Start by building trust. “Web psychologist” and author, of Webs of Influence: The Psychology of Online Persuasion, Nathalie Nahai, says that a lack of trust is one of the biggest impediments to success. If you’re looking to build trust, follow the steps in Nine Steps to Building Trust Online & Offline for Your Small Business
  2. Conduct research to gain an understanding of the potential partners services, buyer persona, and possible challenges for which you perceive a synergy.
  3. Once a strong relationship is secured, remove all potential obstacles to connecting. If the potential alliance was initiated by you, by all means, make sure you keep the flow going by reducing the cognitive load (i.e., the amount of mental energy and memory required) of your potential enterprise partner.
  4. Believe it or not, when you reach out to develop a collaboration with another, make sure you keep the conversation focused on how your proposed team effort benefits their interests (See point #2).

Don’t wing it when reaching out. Whether it’s a potential collaborative relationship or a potential client, develop the strategy that nets you the best results. Done right, collaborative efforts with other entities pays off in spades.

Don’t have a strategy? Don’t worry! Contact us today to help you create energetic growth strategies for your business.

All right, so you want to do some employee recognition and make sure people who work hard get properly rewarded—that’s a great idea. Most employees want to know that their efforts on your behalf are noticed, and few things are more depressing than the belief that the company doesn’t care about them. Even better, knowing recognition is possible can help other employees work harder—and the end result will be a major gain for the company.

Still, what kind of employee recognition can a small employer offer without fracturing your budget? After all, money isn’t always a good motivator—the most expensive rewards may not be the best ones. Let’s take a look at some of the more affordable HR Solutions you could use for recognizing employees.

  1. Newsletter Recognition
    If you have a company newsletter, a section highlighting special efforts people have made can be an outstanding way of making sure everyone knows how well they’ve been contributing to the team.Try to avoid things like “Employee of the Month” or “Best of…” segments, though—this kind of recognition can feel temporary at best. Instead, honestly talk about their actions and what the results were—especially if they work remotely, since employees who aren’t in the office all the time often need to be managed in different ways.
  2. Tickets to Events
    Few things feel more rewarding to employees than the sense that their job supports the rest of their life—and few things support the rest of their life as well as tickets for their whole family to some kind of event. Perhaps they’re tickets to a play, the movies, a theme park, a concert… there are countless options here, and they’ll almost certainly enjoy something that’s happening around them. However, it can be difficult to time things perfectly. Tickets are a great gift for employee recognition after they’ve really gone beyond the call of duty or just finished a major project. If you’re not sure what kind of tickets to give, you can either ask outright (along the lines of “We think you did a great job, and we want to treat your family to something—what would you like to do this weekend?”) or give them tickets that can be used at any point in time.
  3. Treat Them to Lunch
    Everybody likes food—and even a meal at a good restaurant is easy to work into the company’s support budget. If your relationship is good enough, consider treating your employee to lunch at a nice sit-down restaurant, perhaps with an extended lunch hour so they have plenty of time to enjoy it. Alternatively, have catered meals brought to the office—though this works best for recognizing larger groups of people, rather than individual employees. Highly tangible rewards like food are also particularly good for meeting the needs of Generation Z employees.
  4. Get Some Donuts
    This HR solution is a little sneakier than most. With a large variety box of donuts—several boxes, if you have a lot of employees—announce to the company that a given employee has done a great job… and that the donuts are in their office. Anyone who wants one is allowed to go say “Hi”. This will allow for a steady stream of happy employees showering recognition on someone.
  5. Enable Profit-Sharing
    If you want to recognize a lot of employees, a good HR solution might be to start a profit-sharing program that directly rewards employees for improved productivity (profit for the company). This is the kind of employee benefit that’s actually a benefit—and its value is not to be underestimated. Profit sharing gives employees a direct stake in the profitability of the business, creating an atmosphere in which employees want the business to succeed as much as management does.

Keeping good employees is as easy as providing a bit of recognition so they feel rewarded. Do your employees feel recognized for good work? Contact us and we can help you make sure your employees feel supported, which is a win-win for them and your company!

This article first appeared at M.J. Management Solutions, Inc.

MJ Management Solutions, Inc., is a human resources consulting firm that provides small businesses with a wide range of virtual and onsite HR solutions to meet their immediate and long-term needs. From ensuring legal compliance to writing customized employee handbooks to conducting sexual harassment training, businesses depend on our expertise and cost-effective human resources services to help them thrive.

Charles Dickens must have been thinking of social media when he so eloquently said, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Without a doubt, social media levels the playing field for all businesses—large and small. It amplifies the “best of times” (and tools) for business growth for smaller business enterprises.

Used ineffectively, social media assumes the form of the “worst of times” in the life of the overwhelmed small business entrepreneur.

How can social media efforts be tailored to achieve your goals for business growth? Easy! Make a connection.

Let’s Connect…and Then We Don’t

Who hasn’t received an automated LinkedIn connection request!?

When I see the subject line, “I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn,” I’m tempted to send back a one-word response—why.

Why, you ask? Well, it’s really simple. If a connection is important enough to request, wouldn’t you think it was important enough to craft a personal message? For too many that are extending the invitation, it’s not…and it hurts their business growth.

With little or no effort put into “connecting,” opportunities to grow relationships through social media are merely a pipe dream—often expressed as, “you can’t get clients from social media.”

Oh, contraire!

Come Back and See Me Sometime

Google the meaning of “connection,” and you won’t be at a loss for an abundance of definitions. From “establish communication between” to “associate mentally or emotionally,” my favorite characterization, as it relates to business growth, is “to have or establish successful communication.”

NASP (National Association of Sales Professionals) featured an excellent article authored by Julie McEwen Johnson titled, “Use Social Media Sites For Their Original Purpose And You Will See Excellent Results.” Like Mae West, for social media to produce results, you need to connect—and reconnect—to create relationships that contribute to the growth of your business.

Make Connections That Last

Once you decide which social media platform is best for your business, there are a variety of ways to use social media to make lasting connections. Whether you’re linking, following, liking, or pinning, here are a few tips you’ll find helpful:

  1. Connect with those who match your buyer persona.
  2. Personalize your social media invitations—without selling!
  3. Express appreciation when someone accepts your invitations and/or shares your status updates.
  4. Ask genuine questions to get to know them and their business—without selling!
  5. Build trust by following the Nine Steps to Building Trust Online and Offline for Your Small Business.
  6. Keep up with the latest developments and achievements in their business.
  7. Share their social media posts and/or status updates with your network.
  8. Reach out to say “thinking of you”—without selling!
  9. Demonstrate your sincere interest in your clients—and their business—by researching their social media before meetings. If appropriate, mention it during your client meeting.
  10. Share information of value to your clients through social media. Nothing says “top of the mind” like a post that says, “I thought of you when I read this.”
  11. Wish your clients well before a big event.

People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. Social media is the perfect platform to demonstrate the value of the relationship. After all, it’s the relationship that leads to business growth—not social media!

These tips merely graze the tip of the iceberg. In fact, we’d love to hear how you use social media to better connect with your clients.

When running your own business, it’s imperative that you keep up to date with today’s latest labor availability rates. You’ll also want to look at your turnover rate and see how it compares with your competitors.

Fortunately, no matter what your turnover rate is, there are tools you can use to increase employee retention within your company. Here’s a quick look at the causes of high turnover rates and how to avoid them.

Top Causes of Employee Turnover

  • Employer has no vision
  • Poor management or supervision of employees
  • No flexibility or telecommuting opportunities
  • Little opportunity for promotion or job enrichment
  • Employees required to work long hours
  • Minimal rewards for employees

The Cost of Employee Turnover

If your company sustains a high turnover rate, your turnover costs will increase, which lowers your profit margins. Common costs (some monetary, some not) associated with an employee leaving your company include:

  • Separation costs
  • Lost value of departing employee’s knowledge
  • Lost productivity of that position
  • Overload on team during recruitment period
  • Lower workplace morale and productivity
  • Increase in recruiting, hiring and training costs

Tools for Reducing Employee Turnover

Are you tired of the headache and financial loss associated with losing a new employee every other week? If so, you should know that when an employee walks away from your company, most often he’s walking away from his manager, not his job. In fact, the number one reason for high turnover rates is not being able to get along with one or more managers. Have you assessed and evaluated your managers lately? If not, you may want to start. You can also take advantage of these helpful HR solutions for enhancing your employee retention rate.

1. Job Applicant Assessments
What does your job application process look like? Does it involve a drug test and that’s it? If so, then you are definitely missing out on the many valuable job applicant assessment tools that are available. From a background check to a competency screening, there are many ways to evaluate whether or not a job candidate will be a good fit with your company. Background checks allow you to check everything from a person’s past criminal history to employment history and even education verification. A competency screening can be used to assess whether or not the applicant has the knowledge and training needed to fill the position she’s applying for.

2. Career Training
When you provide training to your workers, you demonstrate that you want them to be both competent and safe in their new position; this leads to the cultivation of employee loyalty. For each new position that an employee works in, proper training should be provided. If possible, each worker should be trained for several different positions when they first come on board. In doing this, you’ll have a first-class workforce that can operate around the clock regardless of each week’s worker schedule. Cross-training employees keeps things exciting for your workers, which deters them from becoming disengaged, which is a major contributor to high employee turnover rates.

3. Predictive HRMS Software
As you can imagine, there are many types of HR solutions that can be used to reduce turnover rates. One of the best involves the use of HR Management Software (HRMS), which streamlines both the recruiting and onboarding process, providing a better job applicant experience. With better applicant experience comes the ability to attract today’s best talent.

The Takeaway

By employing certain tools, you can be on your way to running a more successful business. It all starts with respecting your employees and finding today’s best talent. For a comprehensive look at managing turnover, grab our e-book, “Practical Tools to Manage Costly Employee Turnover.

This article first appeared at M.J. Management Solutions, Inc.

MJ Management Solutions, Inc., is a human resources consulting firm that provides small businesses with a wide range of virtual and onsite HR solutions to meet their immediate and long-term needs. From ensuring legal compliance to writing customized employee handbooks to conducting sexual harassment training, businesses depend on our expertise and cost-effective human resources services to help them thrive.

In my first career as a registered nurse (RN), taking additional courses following graduation was expected. Plus, it was important. Let’s face it—who wants an RN unfamiliar with the latest heart monitoring technology caring for a loved one during a health crisis. Not me! Ongoing learning was so important that it was rewarded with continuing education units (CEUs) often required for re-licensing.

Nurses, of course, aren’t the only professionals bound by the imperative of continuing their education. Attorneys, tax professionals, physicians, and engineers are only a few professions that require ongoing education to maintain their licensure.

And then there are entrepreneurs…

Ah yes! Long gone are the days of securing our degree in business, never to crack a book again—or so we hoped. With the rapid growth of communication technology, the need for ongoing learning—continuing education, if you will—is reaching epic proportions.

At the current rate of change, your skills—and your business—can quickly become obsolete and irrelevant.

School is Never Out For the Pro

Former President of Harvard, Derek Bok, said, “If you think the cost of education is expensive, try the cost of ignorance.” How true this is for small business entrepreneurs. In today’s age of information, clients can access experience, expertise, and knowledge with the click of a mouse.

If you don’t keep up, the competition will eat your lunch. (Don’t ask me where this came from. Its been rumbling around my head for decades, waiting for just this moment to escape.)

Additionally, the pursuit of education and knowledge brings along other perks. It…

  • Encourages contemplation, creativity, and thought process
  • Inspires fresh solutions to stubborn problems
  • Establishes a desire to stay abreast of changes in the business community
  • Prepares you to be a more valuable service provider for your clients
  • Permits your business to sustain success in an ever-changing environment

If that wasn’t enough, furthering your entrepreneurial education prevents mental and physical diseases…and, it’s just plain fun!

Class is in Session

The pace of business comes at a cost. That cost being a lack of time for learning for which entrepreneurs pay dearly. With time limited, it’s important to focus your ongoing learning efforts on these important topics:

  1. International Economic Trends
    Regardless of your country of residence, you’re no longer an island. We recently “got schooled” on the far-reaching impact of conditions around the world during the recent shakeup of the Chinese economy. What happens to the future of your business is closely tied to what happens in China, Greece, Spain, etc.Pay attention or pay the price—the choice is yours.
  2. Technology
    According to a J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in technology. Really? You wouldn’t know with the number of people with their noses in their smartphone while waiting in line at Starbucks. Technology is on fire.As entrepreneurs, we need to gain an understanding of the cloud, social media, user experience (UX), and apps like Evernote and Trello that are revolutionizing productivity, just to mention a few.

    Although experts avail themselves and their expertise, entrepreneurs need to have an understanding of the far-reaching impact that such technological developments have/will have on the future of their business.

  3. Consumer Behavior
    There seems to be some disagreement about which came first—changes in consumer behavior or technology. One thing we can all agree upon is that this is not 1995.Consumers buying behaviors are changing—and fast.

    For instance, did you know that 89% of shoppers do online research before purchasing an item in-store. Or, that a dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. Or, an overwhelming majority (96%) of consumers have searched for product information from their mobile device.

    (Want more little tidbits like this? Check out 50 Essential Facts About Consumer Behavior.)
    Egads! Lots to learn to stay fresh and relevant for your audience.

  4. Industry Trends
    Each industry has its own unique set of goings-on that exert influence for opportunity and risk for your business.It’s important to learn what is on the horizon for your industry. But, that’s not all. It’s equally important to continue your education to stay abreast of what lurks around the bend for your clients industry, as well.

    What happens in your client’s industry materializes in your business.

    Check out Deloitte’s Industry Outlook 2015 to learn more.

  5. Marketing Trends
    Closely tied to technology and consumer behavior, the marketing landscape is continually on the move. Smart consumers know this. Subsequently, they make decisions (right or wrong) whether to do business with you or the other guy—much based on the relevancy of your marketing.Want to know what marketing will look like in 2020? Check out Jeff Beer’s aptly named article in Fast Company, 25 Predictions for What Marketing Will Look Like in 2020.

Whew! My brain cells are saturated…and we’ve only just begun.

It seems as though we wouldn’t need to mention the importance of continuing our entrepreneurial education. Sadly, we see each and everyday that many businesses are failing—failing to stay informed, failing to stay up-to-date, failing to remain powerful and inspired.

The words of Shiza Shahid, CEO of the Malala Fund, sum up the importance for entrepreneurs to continue their education, “Knowing allows us to act, allows us to repair, allows us to move forward and evolve.”

When Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and declared, “This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” it was transformative. It was success as defined by that particular mission. It was anything but “one” or “small.”

Like success in business, it was a mission composed of a million small steps and victories.

What’s the Hurry?

Like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland: [singing] I’m late. I’m late. For a very important date. No time to say “Hello, Goodbye”. I’m late, I’m late, I’m late.

So, too, entrepreneurs are in a rush. In a society in which we stand in front of the microwave and yell, “HURRY UP!” anything we want to know, do, or have is a mere click away.

Even Superman leaps over tall buildings in one single bound.

Want success? No worries…click here.

Except—that’s not reality for most entrepreneurs, and it’s hurting your success.

The Facebook Effect

Facebook is one of the fastest growing companies in history. It grew from an unpretentious dorm room to over 1.18 billion users in August of 2015 in a mere decade. It continues to alter the communication landscape as it persists in dominating the Internet.

Regardless of what you think about Facebook (I think Facebook is a slacker), the rapid growth of Facebook has literally changed many aspects of life, including marketing, politics…and business.

Many of the changes triggered by the Facebook Effect can be construed as positive. There are, however, other aspects that may be damaging to your business without your knowing.

Just Add Water

As a business coach who has worked with entrepreneurs since the mid 90’s, I’ve noticed a dramatic shift in expectations that has accompanied the dawning of such fast-growing, mega businesses like Facebook, Google, and Amazon.

In the mind of the “average” entrepreneur, if success came fast and big for other companies then, somehow, the same hyper-growth and attainment awaits them. Except it doesn’t.

Too many entrepreneurs expect instant success. Unrealistic expectations of what is possible—and what it takes to grow a successful business—cause lane changes that ripple through the business preventing a business from gaining any sort of traction.

What happens when instant success eludes you? It’s quickly followed by unnecessary anxiety and the “what’s wrong with me” syndrome. Even the most gifted entrepreneur experiences an erosion of confidence. It’s not a pretty picture.

Master the Mundane

Jeff Olson said it best in his book, “The Slight Edge. Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success & Happiness,” when he said the real key to success is mastering the simple daily disciplines…the simple productive action, repeated consistently over time.

Jeff went on to say that the difference between achieving—or not achieving—our goals lies in our ability to master the mundane—conquering those things that are as easy NOT to do as they are to do.

Activities such as strategic thinking, blogging, planning—require discipline. Whereas poking around on Facebook, responding to unimportant emails, and distracting ourselves from real business work is easy.

Your success in business, much like our moon program, is composed of a million small steps and victories. How willing are you to master the mundane in exchange for your “overnight” success?

Core Business Assessment


Brooke Billingsley

Vice President
Perception Strategies

Synnovatia is a strategic coaching firm that is detailed and knowledgeable about business. i have a small business that grew from $150K to $750K because of the goal setting and resources that Synnovatia provided. It saves me years of learning on my own.

Search The Blog