Solomon Bruce Consulting Blog

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fair is Fair-- The Tale of a Marketing Firm Getting Fired!

    I visited with a business owner the other day who told me a story about a marketing firm that his company had engaged with.  The business owner knew he needed some marketing assistance and this firm offered their services.  However, what happens next is nothing less than incredible!
    The business owner told me that the firm held a 6 hour focus group with part of his staff.  The end result of the focus group was a new "slogan" that was something like "The Sun Shines Every Day".  When asked if any customers or suppliers were involved in the focus group, the answer was no, if the staff believed in the slogan, their enthusiasm would be communicated to other stakeholders.  Well, you can guess what the business owner thought-- BS!  After all, he was charged almost $20,000 for this work product.
      Now, I don't know if a plan of work was developed before the engagement or not.  I suspect not.  Of course, the business owner should have insisted on such a document, as well as the marketing firm should offered the same.
      The straw that broke the proverbial Camel's back was the fact that the business owner was charged for the flowers and research time that the firm expended in sending flowers to the funeral home for the business owner's mother's funeral.  Now, in our way of seeing the world, we would have sent the flowers to the funeral home, but would never have explicitly charged the client for such an action.  Yes, this is business development and those costs would come from the business development budget.  However, to explicitly charge a client for funeral flowers for his own loved one at a time of sorrow and grief shows a real lack of sensitivity and consideration.
      Fair is Fair-- that is the axiom that remained with me as this business owner told me this story.  Sadly, the marketing firm lost a client, received negative press and our business owner wasted money that he probably did not have to spend on a product that was poorly defined initially.
      Remember, if the deal is not WIN/WIN, then probably you should reconsider how to make this deal a WIN/WIN for all parties involved.

Friday, August 19, 2011

I am Too Busy for any Help!

    I was attending a conference last week and met a business owner who had been in business for many years.  As we were sitting and discussing world affairs, he told me that he was so busy that he could not service his existing clients, he depended upon 3-4 key clients and had not developed any system or process where he could enhance his business.
    As we talked, I asked about getting some assistance, perhaps a part time employee who could help do some of the mundane work, if that was what was needed.  No, that would never work-- our business owner was the only one who knew what to do.  Well, what about using a firm such as ours, to help identify areas where improvements could be made.  Again, no value.  Interestingly, no matter what suggestions I made, there was no value!
    Now, as I left and thought about this answer, I realized that this particular business owner failed to see the "big picture" of business operations.  He failed to see the big picture because he was solely focused on the micro parts of the picture that he understood, not realizing that help, other perspectives or professional consultation would be most valuable to him.
     No matter where you business is in the maturation phase of operation, i.e., start up, initial growth, full growth, mature, declining, always obtaining an other perspective will provide you with ideas and perspectives that you may not have previously studied or understood.  None of us is as smart as all of us!  When you engage the services of a professional consultant who has special training in identifying those problems that many business owners face, you are able to realize that you are not alone in teh challenges of operating a business.
     Will this particular business owner seek external assistance.  I doubt it.  Will he continue to be successful?  I don't know.  What I do know is that with his current mode of operation, it is only a matter of time before he will need some assistance.  The question becomes will he too far gone to benefit from any outside assistance?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

No, We Don't Have That---

    I was in Dallas last week visiting/working with clients.  I had a few minutes to kill, so I went to the mall, near where the client meeting was to take place.
    As I was walking in a big department store, someone asked a clerk if the store carried a certain type of product.  Without hesitation or doubt, the clerk rudely said, "No, we don't carry that!"  The customer looked at her, somewhat incredulously and was startled.  The clerk told another clerk, "Go look, however, we don't carry that!"  Well, the customer followed the younger clerk to the department where the product was located and WALLAH--- there was the product that the customer was trying to buy!
     As I watched this event unfold, I could not help but think how this near fatal event could have been precluded?  Why would the clerk be so rude when all the customer was trying to do was find if the product was available?
      Remarkably, this event was salvaged, as much as it could be when the younger clerk  indeed did find the product that the customer was shopping for, offered to find the exact style of product and said that it would have to be ordered on the inter net, the store did not carry extra pieces of product.  The customer was happy with that-- what the customer was unhappy with was how the original clerk handled the original inquiry.
      As business owners, it is imperative to insure that when a customer comes to the store, you take the time to at least hear the customer and SEE if you don't have exactly what the customer is seeking, that you find something that is equally as good, satisfies the need and hopefully makes the sale!  After all, that is why you are in business, to make green dollar bills!
     In this case, the original clerk should have at least tried to satisfy the customer's basic inquiry.  Don't let a customer leave the store without at least trying to solve his/her problem.  After all, that is why they came to your store-- to try and solve a challenge they had!  Every time that you fail to help solve a customer problem, you increase the probability of losing a sale, losing money and losing a client.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

This is Not Working--- I Cannot Sleep, Let Alone Eat or Work!

     A client called the other day seeking counsel on an employee relations matter.  The client hired a new employee who had been tested and shown to have a real aptitude for the line of work that  the client had the employee performing.  Unfortunately, the employee had worked for the firm for almost 5 months, but had not yet become a profitable employee--i.e., the employee was generating more revenue than the employees compensation package.
      Our client held a employee progress counselling session with the new employee, identified what steps the firm expected and what the employee was supposed to be doing.  The employee acknowledged understanding and indicated that employee performance would meet company expectations.  Unfortunately, the employee failed to meet corporate expectations, even after more encouragement and performance counselling.
       Our first question that was asked regarded the development of a job description for the task of the employee.  No such job description was available.  The second question asked was the availability of an employee procedures manual, commonly known as an employee handbook.  Unfortunately, the client did not have an employee handbook either.
        In today's employment environment, a job description and employee handbook are paramount even if you have one employee and he/she is a family member.  OK, you say, we don't need that stuff for a family member.  Well, I am going to say that you do, however, I'll pass on one employee, however, you definitely need both job descriptions and employee handbooks if you have more than 1 employee.
         In the state where this client is located, state law allows for employee termination within the first 6 months of employment  if there is no job description or employee handbook.  Fortunately for our client, the employee was beginning month 5.  Interestingly, the employee figured out that the corporate expectations were more than the employee could perform and submitted his resignation in lieu of termination.
           Our client stated that we would have an engagement to help develop an employee handbook and job descriptions for all corporate staff.  I told our client that this experience turned into a very good teaching lesson.  The client agreed, however, was not enthused to have to go through this, even once.
            Making hard human resource decisions is difficult for many individuals, especially if you have a friend or family relationship with the employee.  However, employee's must be profit centers, not cost centers.  Careful, strategic planning coupled with a clear set of expectations for each employee will negate many human resource problems.
              Job descriptions and employee handbooks are tantamount to better human resource management.  Even if your firm only has one employee, the time to develop and write job descriptions and employee handbooks is time well spent.