Solomon Bruce Consulting Blog

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The End of the Year--What Did We Accomplish?

  As we are at the end of 2010, one of the key questions that many business owners need to ask, sometimes don't but always wonder why not is the simple question, "What did we accomplish this past year?"  This is a simple question, however, the answer(s) are substantialy and significantly more complex.  For a few minutes, let's explore how we can address that question and if we are having difficulty in 2010 addressing those questions, perhaps we'll have better luck in 2011.
   The first key point is to identify some key goals that were to be accomplished in the past year.  To be complete, these goals should be written down, documented and reviewed continually.  This is not rocket science-- simple goals, i.e., increase new customers by 4 each month is one example.  Go to 3 networking events each quarter, one of which is NOT sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.  Hum-- why a non Chamber event?  Well, you might be able to enhance and increase your sphere of influence and meet other folks that you would not meet if only at a chamber event.
   You need to review the goals each week and see how you are progressing toward goal attainment.  Waiting until the end of the month to review a monthly goal is foolhardy-- you have no more month left to make the behaviorial changes needed to accomplish the goal!  For example, if the goal is to increase new accounts by 4 each month and you are at the 17th of the month and only have 1 new account, you know that you need to get 3 more new accounts by the 30th.  That is only 10 business days in which to do that-- that is one new account every 3 remaining business days.  If it took you 14 business days to get one account that month, odds are you will not be able to achieve the goal.  However, you have a better chance of achieving the goal on the 17th of the month than reviewing the data on the 30th of the month and have no month left in which to work!!
   Perhaps at the 4 month point in the year, you may need to make a "field adjustment" in the goals.  If you are exceeding the goals established at the first of the year consistently, then perhaps, the goal is not as robust as it needs to be.  Goals should be attainable, however, not so easy that extra effort and work is not put forth.  We don't want the goal so robust that it cannot be attained under any circumstances, however, we want it rich enough to be able to cause some "stretching" action on the part of the staff.
   Now is the right time for some year end reflection on how your organization has operated/performed this past year.  There may have been some challenges that you were unhappy with.  Now is the time to make the field adjustments to preclude those events from happening in the future!  An easy way in which to do this is to identify categorically where changes should be made.  Identify 3-6 categories, then list(identify) what characteristics you want to change in each category.  Once you have the category identified, you can then identify the components on the category and list those.  Now you have actionable steps which you can take to make effective change.  Using this method, you will be able to have goals identified, actionable steps which comprise each goal and steps you can take to make sure that you are achieving the goal.
   Good luck for 2011!!  Some careful reflection time now will yield measurable results in 2011.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Metrics, graphs and flowcharts!

       I was at a function the other day and talked to an individual who was the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a large corporation.  As we visited, he told me that the board had promoted him to the Chairman of the Board.  I asked who was now the CEO of his firm.  He told me who it was and said, "He can now worry about the metrics, graphs and flowcharts-- he likes that better than I!"
       The more we stood and visited, the more intrigued I became!  What the chairman said was although he understood the need and value for metrics, graphs and flowcharts, he enjoyed being in the business development mode, visiting with clients and identifying new work opportunities for his firm.
       What I had expected to hear and I did not, was the fact that metrics, graphs and flowcharts were tools that the firm used, on a continual basis to measure the performance of the corporation.  I am not sure that is what I heard.
        So-- the question that I ask is this-- "Do you really use metrics, graphs and flowcharts in your business?  OR-- do you have the staff go through the motions, however, do not use them to measure your corporate performance?"
        Nothing is more disconcerting for staff than to try and build the best management performance indicators and then nobody either look at them or use them to guide managerial decision making.  We strongly encourage our clients to develop graphical displays of managerial performance indicators for all of their measurable metrics.  If the metric is worth measuring, it is worth managing.  If you don't believe that, then, don't develop and track it.
         Metrics, graphs and flowcharts portray the health of the business-- if you constantly collect the data, you should have a good idea of how your business is doing.  You need to share this information with the staff-- they want and need to know how things are going as well.  The real benefit of metrics, graphs and flowcharts is to provide information on how the business is performing.  As a manager, you need to know that information.  As an employee or team member, they need to understand how the business is doing and what they need to do to impact the metrics in a positive direction.
        Metrics, graphs and flowcharts are important managerial decision making tools.  Use them all the time to track the effectiveness and efficiency of your organization.  Careful tracking of these tools will identify the health and efficacy of your organization.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I'll Fix It!

  That was the answer I received the other day when I took some material back to a printer that I had just used.  We needed some more printing material, I was given a recommendation from an acquaintance about a printer that he said was good, so I thought that I would give them a try.
   I took the material to their office and the owner reviewed the material I had.  He gave me a price for the work.  I took it home, reviewed his price and told him to begin the work.  I emailed him the file of the material.  A week later, I received a phone call and was told that the truck would deliver the material that day.
    I was excited!!  Using a new business is always fun, you get to meet some new people and see how somebody else does something.  However, when I opened the box of material, the color for one of the parts of the document appeared to be black, not blue.  I thought that perhaps, maybe it was a real dark blue-- which it may have been, however, to me, it looked black.  Whatever the case, it was not what I could use.
    Not being sure what challenges might lie ahead, I took the product back to the vendor.  I showed him the original document and what we got.  Of course, there was no disputing that the colors were different. 
    This business owner said, "I'll fix it!  You are right, it is blue on the computer, but it is real dark blue here!  Maybe the computer shifted it."  I said, "OK, you'll fix it, right?  The owner said, "Oh yes, this is a horrible way to begin a relationship!"  I said, "No problem, I just need the right color of the document."
     Now, this was a very pleasant experience of fixing a glitch.  This individual really understand customer service and customer care.  I did not get any litany of excuses, I was just told, "I'll fix it!".
     The question that always come up is how do you handle a matter like this?  Would it have been this pleasan and easy, or would there have been a greater challenge?  I know how I would have done it-- just like this business owner did it, "I'll fix it!"
      The next time that you have a glitch, remember this business owner.  Would I recommend him again?  Well, I think so.  I don't have the final product back, however, I do understand how glitches occur-- after all, we are all human and make mistakes!

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Only Reason I come here is because I bought the contract!

   My neighbor told me that the other day when we were talking about car maintenance.  He bought a new car a couple of years ago and elected to buy a "lifetime" oil change policy with the car.  The deal works like this-- he paid about $350 for lifetime oil changes for his new car!  He said that if you were to calculate it out, it costs about $20 an oil change if you keep the car to 75,000 miles!
    Now, the rub comes when he takes it to the dealer for service.  He bought the car from a big "mega dealer" which is a multi state dealer and has stores of many different car types.  He told me that it takes between 1.5 to 3 hours every time he takes the car in for the service.
    The neighbor visited with the service advisor the last time and asked why it took so long.  After a long harangue, the final point made by the service advisor was this, "You don't have to bring it here for service!"  My neighbor responded with the title used today.
    Wow, what great customer service and advertising this dealership promotes with an attitude like that.  More interesting, according to the neighbor are the other 4-5 clients sitting the show room waiting for their oil to be changed as well.  We can argue about why this may not be a big deal, however, that is the topic for another post!
    The neighbor told me that the service advisor gave him a long litany of why it takes so long to get the oil changed, however, the bottom line is that it appears that pride in workmanship and pride in the dealership is lacking.
     Now, is that your business?  Do your staff talk to customers that same way?  Remember, in today's world, the customer/client has a choice-- he can use your firm, or he/she can walk and go to the competition.    Most folks will stay with you if you are fair, friendly, and faithful.  However, those traits are not to taken for granted.  If you take them for granted, the customers will walk on you.
     Perhaps if you were to get more than one comment/complaint on this matter or any matter, you have a problem that you may not recognize.  Just because you did not see it does NOT mean that there is not a problem-- if a customer relays a concern, rest assured that there is an underlying problem, if you wish to admit it or not!!
    These are opportunities that are hidden that you need to fix!  Telling the customer that he does not have to come here is not the way to increase business and profitability.  In my neighbor's case, he wishes that he did not buy the oil change policy.  However, since he did, he wishes to use it.  Cannot fault him for that!!  When a customer identifies a point that is unfavorable, recognize that there is a problem that needs to be addressed.  You may not like it, however, at least in the customer's mind, there is a problem that needs attention.