Solomon Bruce Consulting Blog

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Taking Care of your People--Your Most Important Asset!

     One of the most important assets you possess as a business owner is the people that work for you.  Now, you can say that they work for you, with you, on the same team, etc., it really does not make any difference how you characterize the relationship, the bottom line is that you pay them and they, in return, render you some type of service or work.
       Failing to be in tune with them, their needs, wants, desires and expectations can cause some expensive and surprising results, normally when you least expect it.  I know, you advertise the "Open Door" policy, just come in and see me, we'll work it out, etc., etc., etc.  Having had some time in large bureaucratic morasses where this was often touted, one has to wonder why it is touted?  I suspect that the truth is that the door is not near as open as the Public Relations department would like you to think that it is!
        I know a couple of executives that recently left their employer for a competitor.  Both of these executives were considered to be "Bright and Shining, Up Coming" executives that their previous company was interested in retaining.  Surprisingly, both of these individuals took the steps of calling a competitor and checking to see if other opportunities were available.  To the great delight of both, the answer was YES, we have opportunities!  We would love to talk to YOU!  Well, you know the rest of the story-- both executives visited with the competition, were pleasantly surprised at the results and elected to make the change.
        Now, the real question becomes, "How come their bosses did not see this coming?"  Perhaps they did and did not want to recognize it.  Perhaps the boss was not really listening when a question was asked, a request was made or a comment was solicited and the answer given was not "the party line?"  Of course, I don't know what happened.  What I do know is that both executives are very happy in their new jobs, the former employer is very unhappy to have lost both executives and is not in scramble mode to try and find some good replacements.
        Pay attention to your people-- each and every day.  Listen and talk to them.  See what they want and need.  Often times, it is not MONEY, although that has some significant effects.  It may be flexible work hours, a laptop to take home and work, a better work chair-- some times the requests are not near as surprising as one would imagine, but the impact on the employee is very significant.
        In today's world, it is hard to attract and retain good employees.  It is even harder to keep good employees on your team if you don't share some significance for their needs and concerns.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Repainting MakesThe Store Look New!

   One of our clients is a retail store located in downtown area of major city.  The store has a long history in the community, is well known, carries a higher end product and is recognized as "the place to shop" by people who are interested in their retail products.     Recently, the building that the store is located in has undergone some major renovations.  The Landlords elected to remodel their building after deciding to become a major player in the downtown community in which they are located.
     Our client elected to close his business for abut 3 weeks while the major renovations were undertaken.  Planning on opening on a certain date, our client found out that with any type of building or remodelling, things always take longer!  After he saw the new window that the landlord installed in his one wall, he decided to do some internal painting and sprucing up of his store.  He elected to stain/paint all of this racks and display cases the same color as the newly installed window casement. 
      Here is what is interesting--his store looks brand new!!!  It is amazing what a couple of buckets of paint will do to any space.  In this case, the client painted all of his display cases and shelves the same paint as the new window casement.  Although this may not appear to be a major step, the store has taken on a more elegant and richer tone, totally appropriate for the type of retail business that he is trying to attract.
      What about your store?  Do you need to do some repainting?  Change the color schemes?  Rearrange the placement of the store furniture?  Perhaps get some of the chairs reupholstered?  Buy new chairs?
       In this particular case, the manual labor part of the job was the  most involved and complex.  Although our client could have hired the work done, he had the time, skill and interest to do it himself.
       Look around your business place! You may find that a couple cans of new paint can do wonders to your store, office, facility.  In our clients case, this repainting exercise was well worth the time and money.  The store really looks nice!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

We are Thinking, Moving, Changing all the Time

      A friend of mine owns a small Italian bistro.  His food is always great, his sandwiches are always fresh, his staff is friendly and polite and he always has something new on the menu to try.  Last week he had a sandwich with goat cheese, strawberries and spinach.  I thought UMMMM, that does sound good, so I ordered it.  As I envisioned, it was just as good as it sounded!
      I was in there the other day for lunch and he sat down with me for a minute before he was off to another never ending restaurant task.  I asked him why he always has "something going on?"  His answer was right on target, "We are Thinking, Moving, Changing all the time.  We always listen to the customer and give them what they want!" 
     Listening to the customer and giving them what they want.  Isn't that what business is all about?  His other point was that if you have a passion for the business, you don't have to worry about money--- money follows passion!
      Are you listening to your customer?  Are you giving them what they want?  Constant change is good-- it keeps everything fresh, dynamic and interesting.  Think about it-- if you are not always Thinking, Moving, Changing-- what are you doing?   

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Where is the new Manager?-- Oh, he just walked out on us!

    A friend of mine is in the quick service restaurant business.  His restaurant is located in a city which enjoys a great quality of life, good salaries, relative easy cost of living and a lot of demand for folks to go out to eat.
    I was in his restaurant about 2 months ago and he excitedly introduced me to his new manager.  This individual had been with a large food distribution company for many years, but had "cut his teeth" in the restaurant business and was ready to go back to working in a restaurant.
    I, being a somewhat skeptical type was a little "concerned" when I met the guy, however, he was not my employee.  My friend has had some luck with employees, however, he would be the first to admit that he has been "bitten" before with employees.  The new manager began well and made some changes, improving the overall tone and profitability of the restaurant-- at least initially.  However, a month into the new gig, my friend provided some "strong adult guidance" to him because his costs for labor and food were above stated guidelines.  In the food business, labor and food costs are the key parameters to overall profitability.  A restaurant that is just a couple of percentage points over the cost  benchmarks can cause a profitable establishment to become highly unprofitable!
     My friend also had heard, through the staff, that this new manager was "selling" all of his possessions.  Becoming concerned, he asked the new manager if there was anything wrong.  The manager told him that nothing was wrong, he was working hard (which he was-- 7 days/week, every week) and liked his job.  Seven days later, he failed to show up after a forced day off.  He had left town and was never coming back.
     My friend said that he was not surprised by the manager's behavior, however, he was shocked that he lied about it.  When I asked my friend what he learned about this incident, he told me that trust is the key factor in retaining employees.  My friend said that if he can trust an employee, he will work with them, irregardless of the plethora of circumstances that most employees find themselves in today.  However, if the trust factor is not existent, then, no matter how hard one tries, nothing ever works out.
     When you hire a new employee, make sure that you develop a strong bond of trust.  Experience has shown that if you don't have a trust factor with the new employee, no matter what happens, a long term employment relationship will never exist.