How to Grow My Business

Many businesses stay small because the owners are afraid to let their employees take over important tasks, for fear they’ll make a costly mistake. Let’s face it: the owner is a control freak!

Here’s a basic rule for growing your business:

The more you can let go, the more you can grow.

• If you’re stuck being a worker or an administrator, you can’t be a good manager.

• If you’re stuck being a day-to-day manager, you can’t be a good strategic executive.

You’ve got to bring in top-quality people to handle every one of these tasks you hold on to and need to hand off, or you’re stuck doing them yourself. That holds you back, and limits your growth and profitability.

Many owners have a very hard time seeing this. They can see getting a bookkeeper or admin assistant, or hiring more producers, but they hold back from hiring a director of operations or a director of marketing. This keeps them small, and consigns them to low profit and low wealth build up. Then they complain about how hard they work and how little they have to show for it.

Hire good people, show them how to do what you need done, give them goals and targets, then let them do the job you hired them for, give review and feedback as needed. If they don’t do it, let them go, but that means you didn’t do a good job of hiring them in the first place.

For you to have good people so that you can let go, that means you have to learn to select good people–or get help from somebody who can help you choose and bring on board good people.

CEOs of rapidly growing companies are leaders of a growth team.

Former Employee Poaches Your Clients

If you can’t stop an ex-staffer from trying to steal a client, then at least you can keep your clients from wanting to leave you.

Q. Can you stop a former employee from poaching your current clients?  Question on Quora.

A. Probably not.

The bigger question is, from now on, how do you get your clients to identify with your company rather than with a particular employee. Do clients work only with one of your staffers, or do they draw on the team?

Some clients can be drawn away by the promise of lower fees, but a client who leaves solely on price may not be a very good client anyway.

This is a good time to ask your clients how you could serve them better.
Give them a call; put in some face time. If they’re already grumbling about
you, then they’re ripe to be picked off by a competitor, including your ex. In
that sense, this event could be an important wake up call for you.

Sometimes clients come back after a time, because the newly independent guy cannot provide the level of service they are used to. Keep in touch.

And finally, sometimes you’ve just got to let it be. After all, how many of us started our businesses with a few customers from our former employer? It’s the chain of business continuity. Look at it as a form of giving back.

Then go out and beat this guy in the marketplace with your superior service!

12 Steps to Introduce Change to Your Employees

To make change happen in your workplace, you have to deal with resistance to change.

“How NOT to introduce change” was the topic of a previous post. So how should you do it? Follow these steps. I’ll elaborate on these in upcoming posts.

  1. Treat change as a shift in your business culture.
  2. Take leadership. Don’t leave it to others.
  3. Do your homework before you start.
  4. Involve all those affected.
  5. Apply the Problem Solvent.
  6. Build acceptance, starting with allies.
  7. Address questions, concerns, and objections.
  8. Tackle resistance.
  9. Watch for the hidden barriers.
  10. Stick to it. Don’t get sidetracked.
  11. Know when to change course.
  12. Declare completion.

I’ll talk about these in upcoming posts, but I’ll start here with #8, “How to tackle resistance to change,” because that’s what the most people ask me about.

How to Tackle Resistance to Change

When you introduce change to the people in your organization, you can count on questions and resistance. Even making minor changes: “All I wanted to do was change the type of fluorescent bulbs we use; I had no idea this would rouse such heated discussion!”

How do you tackle this resistance? Here are a few guidelines from my “Twelve Steps to Successful Change” from my new ebook.

Resistance comes from supportive and well-meaning people—it isn’t necessarily antagonistic. It can come from long-time employees, your partner, spouse, co-owner, or even from you. Yes, you! You, as owner, are an enthusiastic backer of the new system. You want the benefits, yet you resist the change and become part of the problem yourself. If your people sense this, then you give them tacit permission to vacillate and backslide.

Can you spot these negative reactions to change? How will you address them?

• Inertia. Any change is resisted. Its value must be proved.

• Not invented here reaction. “If we didn’t come up with the idea, it can’t have much value.”

• Busy-ness. “It sounds great, but we have way too much to do already.”

• Bad timing. “We can’t do this just now. We need to wait until after the summer season.”

• “It’s just another whim of the boss. If we drag our feet, she’ll get tired and forget about it.” This is an important comment on your management style.

• Fear. “I’m afraid I’ll be held accountable for all of these tough things in the future.”

• Resistance to your mandate. You think you are asking, “Will you do this, pretty please?” while others hear you demand, “You will do this!” Perception is reality!

How can you create allies from people who are initially indifferent or against you? By heeding their concerns, and producing positive results.

Resistance with a smile. Some people will smile and say, “This is a great thing.” But then they will pick it apart and criticize you behind your back. For example, a long-time loyal employee may subtly resist things you want her to do that push beyond her comfort level. These might include mastering a new technology, adopting new systems, logging time or activities, supervising others, or even participating in the coordination meetings for the big transition.

This puts you on the spot. You are loyal to her but you can’t let her dictate the pace of change. She has done her job well up to now but now the job requirements are changing. Can she adapt? Is she willing to learn? How can you make it easier for her?

Her initial resistance may melt away once the change is made and positive results are apparent, but it may not. She may not be happy with the new responsibilities, and on top of that feel guilty for letting you down. She may well be happier elsewhere.

The Foot Draggers Club. Some who resist turn out to be saboteurs. Unfortunately these might be long-time employees. They may pay lip service to the change yet drag their feet to the extent that the process is endangered. They may seek out others who don’t want to change and reinforce each other in their resistance. Their hidden agenda may be to prove that the new process won’t work so you will go back to the old way of doing things. It is dangerous and debilitating for you to allow this to spread. In most cases you will have no choice but to get rid of such people.

You can find the whole program laid out in my new ebook “How to Introduce Change to Your Employees” on Amazon for Kindle or iPad. A very affordable $2.99.

 

How NOT to introduce change to your employees

The 12 worst ways to introduce change to your organization

What are the WORST ways to introduce change to your employees? Yeah, I’l be glad to tell you the BEST ways, but first see if you’ve used any of these approaches:

  • Surprise your people by springing it on them.

    How well are changes accepted?
  • Issue a fiat: “Starting Monday, everyone must . . .”
  • Introduce change on a whim: “Hey, I had a good idea; why don’t we…”
  • Assume you know best and ignore people’s questions and concerns.
  • Seek the input of your people and then ignore it.
  • Say one thing, do another.
  • Keep everyone guessing.
  • Let negative rumors spread because you haven’t said enough–or anything.
  • Play down the burdens and hassles involved.
  • Start the project and then abandon it.
  • Make the change seem like punishment or extra work.
  • Wait until the change is forced upon you, then do it in crisis mode.

So this is what you want to avoid. What’s the best way to introduce change? That’s the next post.

 

How to Create Jobs

Start your own business!

(My response to a question on EIUhow to tackle unemployment–so widespread among young people in many parts of the world.

Perhaps it’s my American bias, but I think that encouraging entrepreneurship is a big part of the answer. The worst policy is to create government jobs or government-funded jobs.

Unleash and nurture the desire of people to launch and grow profit-making and wealth-creating ventures. Every entrepreneur creates a handful of jobs–at the very least, for him- or herself.

It’s easy to start a business, if your government will let you, and if you are willing to risk failure. The government’s role should be to provide infrastructure for ventures of all sizes to get started and grow, so that more succeed, and those that fail can quickly try again.

I advise small business owners. Many started as “corporate castoffs” who were forced to strike out on their own. Many of these are now employers in their own right. And even the solopreneurs are glad they took the leap, and would never want to go back.

Look around you for the things that need to be provided in the marketplace, and find a way to sell it for more than it costs you.

Can you stop a former staffer from poaching your clients?

How do you get your clients to identify with your company rather than with a particular employee?

From question on Quora. Several attorneys addressed the legal side of this question, then I added my 2¢.

MVH. The bigger question is, from now on, how do you get your clients to identify with your company rather than with a particular employee. Do clients work only with one of your staffers, or do they draw on the team?

Some can be drawn away by the promise of lower fees, but a client who leaves solely on price may not be a very good client anyway.

This is a good time to ask your clients how you could serve them better. Give them a call; put in some face time. If they’re already grumbling about you, then they’re ripe to be picked off by a competitor, including your ex. In that sense, this event could be an important wake up call for you.

Sometimes clients come back after a time, because the newly independent guy cannot provide the level of service they are used to. Keep in touch.

And finally, sometimes you’ve just got to let it be. After all, how many of us started our businesses with a few customers from our former employer? It’s the chain of business continuity. Look at it as a form of giving back.

Then go out and beat this guy in the market place with your superior service!

The Business Owner’s Greatest Fear

My response to article by Jeff Haden

Two partners joined one of our business owner groups a while back. Their big issue was how to get rid of this one problem manager. They were afraid to fire her. Every month they’d come to the meeting, and the other business owners would ask, “Did you fire her yet?” “No, we didn’t do it this month.” Months dragged on, same question from the group, same response. Got to be a joke.
Then one meeting they came in and announced excitedly, “Guess what! She’s gone!”
“Oh great,” the group responded. “So you finally fired her?”
“No. She quit.”
So my hat’s off to Jeff Haden. This is definitely the entrepreneur’s bugaboo.

 

Business Growth Myth #3. “I can’t find and keep good people”

If you fail to get needed help, if you opt to go it alone, if you have people who only follow orders and take no initiative, this guarantees you remain a small operation.

I hear this from both solopreneurs and owners with a handful of employees:
“I can’t find good people to hire.”
“I’ll train a good person; then they quit and become my competitor.”
“I had an employee. It didn’t work out. I’m not hiring anybody else.”
“My work is so unique, only I can do it. Too much trouble trying to train someone else to do it.”
“I can’t rely on my managers to make good decisions.”

What I see. If you fail to get needed help, if you opt to go it alone, if you have people who only follow orders and take no initiative, this guarantees you remain a small operation. This may be what you want, but if you want to grow, you’ve got to overcome this attitude. You must learn to ask:

“What is the highest skilled person I could bring in to free me up to focus on growing the company?”

My recommendations. (From our “Finding and Keeping Good People” and “Employer Assertiveness” ebooks)

— Make sure you hire the right people. If you have trouble interviewing and selecting quality people, get help from someone skilled at this.

— Start with a job description that answers the question just above. Look for, not just work skills and experience, but personal qualities and attitudes as well. For many jobs, the latter are more important.

— Help your people do the job you hired them for: training, clear direction, trust, feedback, systems and tools, acknowledgment.

— Be firm, fair, and consistent with your people. Employees leave because they don’t like their boss!

— It someone is not working out, let them go. Hire slow, fire fast!

— For every job that you think only you can do, look for the pieces that you could hand off to others.

This is a major theme in my “Top 3 Barriers to Small Business Growth—and how to overcome them” program.

 

Cost of training when cash is tight

Are training costs an essential part of your budget? Do you allocate funds to training programs even if your revenues are lower than expected? Linked In question by Eric Saint-Guillain

I advise owners of small growing businesses. When their business is small, money is tight, there’s no budget for training. So one of three things happens:
— Training doesn’t happen, productivity suffers, mistakes get more expensive, good people are fired for not doing a job they haven’t had proper training for.
— Training happens ad hoc, but since it’s not budgeted for, the money is drawn from other sources, such as marketing–or profit.
— Training duty is assigned to people who are already working full tilt, so it’s not accorded the importance it deserves, and gets done haphazardly or grudgingly by people whose hearts are not in it.

It’s a “coming of age” marker for a young, growing business when the owner decides to allocate money and time to training, for all levels–workers, managers, and him/herself.

 My comments were aimed at companies with employees, but they are equally true for solopreneurs. As a consultant, I find that I get most of my training via:
— My industry association, Institute for Management Consultants (IMC USA)
— Webinars and other such events
— My clients! I learn a tremendous amount from them.

Here’s my sermon!

Training needs to be viewed as an investment in the increased profitability of the operation. Otherwise, why are you doing it? An owner who is a strategic planner sees training of valuable people in the same light as upgrading and maintaining valuable equipment.

It’s insane not to do it–even if money is tight. If you as executive let operations slide so that you cannot afford to take care of your most productive resources, then you should be fired. If you’re the owner, you’d better learn the lesson well, or you’ll soon be left behind by competitors, and lose everything you’ve put into the business.

The Power of a Strong #2

I’m now getting a glimpse of what I can do in my business if I’m not in charge of day to day operations.

“I’m now getting a glimpse of what I can do in my business if I’m not in charge of day to day operations.”

So says a woman who owns an eight-person professional service company and who just hired a top-notch marketing associate. “Execution–doing the work–isn’t our problem; it’s keeping the pipeline filled. That’s what I can focus on now that she’s handing the operational side.”

“Now that she is coordinating my staff, making sure they are working efficiently, using their time well, and keeping the clients happy, I have the bandwidth to turn my attention to building the strategic relationships in order to expand our service area.”

“She’s expensive. But what choice do I have if I want to grow? I’ve got to be willing to invest in my business—especially right now as the economy is beginning to turn around. I’ve got to be there to take advantage of the opportunities that are happening right now. If I don’t, the others will be passing me by. The key is selecting that person who can do the job—even better than I could—so that she pays for herself many times over.”

I couldn’t say it better myself!

So who is the strong support person you should bring in (or groom) to free you to leap into the emerging opportunities?