Business Owner, Entrepreneurs, Leadership, Management

I often ask business owners what makes their business unique – why would a customer choose them over a competitor. The answer is often Customer Service.

Customer service can be a powerful part of your overall Product. But beware thinking it is something you can claim as a selling point. Everyone says they have excellent service, so few believe you when you say it. Service is like Love – it only exists in the experience, not the words. But even when you have excellent service, it is rarely unique. Most companies have good service, so how will you stand out? It’s no good having 10% or 20% better service. It won’t be noticeable.

If Service is to be your claim to fame, it had better be way over the top, smack you in the face service. To do that means you have to consciously focus on and design your service “moments of truth”. It had better be the topic of DAILY team communications and be well documented what “service” means to your business. You can’t just “take care of the customer” to have your business be renowned for it’s service.

Tom Peters used the example of coffee stains on the tray table of an aircraft, which may cause a passenger to question the maintenance of the airplane. That’s a Moment of Truth – you must constantly be identifying and designing these moments.

Every aspect of your customer interaction has to be designed with care to maximize the impact. Where in the sales process will you WOW them with your attention to detail, your thoughtfulness? Name 10 SIGNIFICANT differences between your service and your competitors. Now name 10 MORE! If you can’t, or the differences are small, Customer Service is not a key to your success.

Good luck in your Quest!

How about discussing your Service over a cup of coffee? I’ll buy if you bring the topic!

Want to see how your business stacks up? Take my free Business Health Check.

View Jim Barger | MBA, Business Coach's profile on LinkedIn

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Business Owner, Entrepreneurs, Leadership, Management

The role a business owner takes in a business is the single best predictor of the success of business. How the owner sees their role and how well they execute it is critical. One aspect of an owner’s role is what functions they cover in their business. In meeting business owners, I find there are four stages of business control.

In the First Stage, the owner handles all major functions in the business. The individual conducts sales calls, does installation, performs the service, etc. These micro-businesses experience a See-Saw result, gyrating between sales and production, with a cash flow to match. If the business is to grow into more than an hourly job, it will have to grow enough for the owner to hire a team to begin replacing the owner in the functions.

The Second Stage of business ownership is evident when employees do most of the major functions of the business but the owner continues in one major function such as Sales or Customer Service. This structure typically results in a lack of planning and strategic thinking. The owner is so busy working in the business that she cannot take time to dream of the next step. The need here is for the business owner to understand that they have more value to the business than the function they are filling. This is a very difficult transition to make, as owners often find self-worth in ‘their function’.

In the Third Stage, all major functions are covered by other people and the owner acts as the manager with all functions reporting to them. Once a business owner is able to reach this level, they are able to take the time to fulfill their true role in the business – the dreamer, planner, trainer. The focus of the owner should be on developing their team to do the functions of the business. Time spent developing the team and planning the direction of the organization will drive the ongoing success of the business.

The Fourth Stage of business ownership exists when there are multiple levels of management with functions handled by teams of people. The team leaders then report to the business owner. This is a natural progression from Stage 3, but here the owner is truly the entrepreneur – designing the growth of the enterprise and enlisting his Team to make it happen. This Stage allows the owner to reduce the time they spend in the business and frees them to pursue other goals.

What Stage are you in? I’ll buy the coffee if you bring the topic!

Not sure where you fit? Take my free Business Health Check.

View Jim Barger | Business Coach's profile on LinkedIn

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Business Owner, Entrepreneurs, Leadership, Management

Here’s the definition of an expert:

Ex•pert: a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of, or skill in, a particular area.

If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you have built up experience and knowledge which most people do not have. And since most businesses are fairly narrow in their industry or service, your knowledge is focused around specific topics. That makes you and EXPERT!

You may think that’s obvious, but most business owners don’t take advantage of the fact. For example, how often do you share your expertise with the general public? How often are you called upon to give general observations about your industry? Probably not too often. We tend to only share our expertise with customers or prospects, but we have a huge opportunity to be known more widely. Here’s some ways to do that:

Blog – This is the easiest way to share your expertise. Sign up for free on WordPress and get started. Short entries about the stuff you know is not hard.

Whitepapers – 2 to 3 page essays and informational brochures on your knowledge can be used many ways. Give them away, send them to magazines for publication, post them on your website, mention/quote them in your blog.

Get on TV or Radio – Meet reporters and hosts. They always need new guests. They often need someone to call for comment if stories arise in the news. Be THEIR expert!

You can find other ways to share yourself. Just don’t assume that you are no better than anyone else. Get out there and get known.

Not sure you have what it takes? Let’s meet and find your expertise.

Wonder what your business strengths are? Take my FREE Business Health Check.

 

View Jim Barger | Business Coach's profile on LinkedIn

 

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Business Owner, Entrepreneurs, Leadership, Management, Uncategorized

Seth Godin recently proposed this phrase as a blog post waiting to happen: “Everything will be alright” is not the same as “everything will stay the same.” So I’ve taken up the challenge!

Sometimes we’re faced with some serious issues and we can easily break down and wish things would just go back to being the same as before. But that’s not the way things work – changes come unbidden and we are forced to adapt and adjust. But that’s not a bad thing. Someone once told me that a “rut is just a grave with the ends kicked out”. Life has an amazing way of shifting us out of our comfort zones and into learning new skills, new perspectives and new relationships.

The fact is that these shifts are rarely fun – but they can be exhilarating. To breakthrough to a new level requires a “break” – break down, break up, break out. And breaking up is hard to do. But the opportunity lies on the other side. The grass MAY not be greener, but it MIGHT be – and the grass on this side is looking a bit well-chewed.

For us to improve our situation likely requires a real shift from our comfortable situation. But if our current position isn’t meeting our needs, it’s a move we need to make.

Are you in need of a shift? Maybe your business isn’t hitting the high notes anymore. I’ll buy the coffee if you’d like to explore the options.

Want a peek at the other side? Take my FREE Business Health Check.

 

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The eighth point of ActionCOACH culture is Team Work.

At Action, we identify the 6 Keys To A Winning Team. The six steps are

1.Strong Leadership

  1. Common Goals
  2. Action Plan
  3. Rules of the Game
  4. Support Risk Taking
  5. 100% Involvement/Inclusion

The first four of them are the Leader’s responsibility. The team itself provides the other two. If any of them are missing, the team will be less effective. So the critical questions are: “As a business owner, how good are you at being a strong leader?”, “Do you have and communicate clear goals?”, “Do you have a plan? Starting with a budget and then a detailed plan to achieve that budget.” and finally, “Do you have clear rules of the game – how you expect your team to behave and work – and are they communicated effectively?”.

These are serious questions and require the business owner to spend some time thinking away from the day to day activities. Much frustration is caused by owners thinking their team understand all these, but since they only exist in the mind of the owner, the team just reacts rather than taking the initiative.

Where’s your team? Do they have a leader or a needer? Let’s meet today to talk through how your team can carry you to victory.

I encourage you to explore our ActionCLUB course to begin to implement the 6 Keys.

 

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One of the first exercises I have clients do is to draw their company’s organization chart. Not the one they currently have – but the one that they envision for the future – what the company should look like.

Try it: Draw your chart. It will have the usual boxes – sales, operations, marketing, etc. Maybe Customer Service, Maintenance, IT.Others that are industry or company specific. Once your boxes are drawn and identified, fill in the names of the people who currently do these functions.

Chances are, the owner’s name will fill several, if not all, the boxes. That’s ok. Now think about which boxes could be filled by members of your team. Could you delegate some of these functions?

Now, decide which box you would fill first with a new hire. Which one would free you up the most, generate more revenue, improve your profit. That’s the one to focus on.

Next, identify the second best box and the third. This process gives you a plan on who your next hire will be and it will be tied to what value they would bring. More time, more money, better service. In the meantime, keep thinking about why you have to wear all the hats.

For more thoughts about Hats, see my blog on the 6 Thinking Hats.

If you’d like to see what parts of your business need attention, try my free Business Health Check.

 

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Boom! It’s a new year! Where did that come from? How are you going to make this year different from last? Here’s 7 things you need:

1. Smart Goals: Specific, Measurable, Agreed By Team, Realistic, Time-Based. Without goals you have no chance to change anything.

2. Your Story: Create a story incorporating your goals. Be able to communicate your story to customers, team members, stakeholders.

3. Clear Marketing Plan (from Guerrilla Marketing by Levinson/Mclaughlin): Write 7 sentences to:

a. Explain the purpose of your marketing.

b. Spell out how you achieve that purpose by describing the benefits you provide to clients.

c. Specify your target market.

d. Describe your niche in that market.

e. Outline the marketing weapons you will use.

f. Focus on the identity of your business.

g. Establish your marketing budget.

4. Calendar of Events: Marketing campaigns, training events, sales events, key performance indicator milestones (average sale, # of leads, etc.)

5. Specific Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s): Measure every 90 days.

6. Clear Default Calendar: Focus on your ideal week.

7. Personal Development Plan: Training, recreation, Business Coach . . .

Most people would agree these would make 2012 a much better year, but few will spend the time or effort to implement them. Why? Because it’s easier not to.

Let’s meet over a cup of coffee and I’ll show you how you can have more time, more money and a more effective team in 2012.

Need more incentive? Take my free business health check!

 

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What do you do with your team to build relationships and a sense of membership in your employees – especially over time? At our most recent ActionCLUB session on Team, we discussed the importance of Richuals (A ritual with a profit goal).

A Richual is something that your team does without fail to communicate a part of your culture (you do have a clearly defined culture, don’t you?). Your goal, as a business owner, is to define these Richuals and make sure it is conducted at all times. Here’s some examples from ActionCOACH:

WIFLE: This is a “What I Feel Like Expressing” time where everyone can express their feelings without discussion or challenge. We do them before some meetings and after some meetings. The goal is to get thoughts and feelings out in the open and not leave them bottled up inside. At first, everyone is shy and just speak platitudes but as the relationship grows, people become more open and share real thoughts and concerns. This is the goal.

Whoosh: This is a motion and a cheer that is prefaced by saying “Lock in the learnings and get rid of the negative thoughts.” We do it at the end of our meetings and it focuses us on the goals ahead.

I recommend these Richuals to my clients, but you can have your own. One company I owned in New Zealand had wine and beer for employees on every Friday afternoon. This was the custom for all companies, but it served the purpose of bringing every employee together at the end of the week and letting off some steam. We all felt like a team when we left for the weekend.

A key learning for the ActionCLUB members wasthat Business Owners need to DESIGN their businesses, not take what comes. Design your culture, your team, your rituals. Don’t leave anything to chance. It will change the way you run your business.

Let’s discuss how Richuals can transform your business.

You will find my free Business Health Check provides valuable insight.

 

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Ever wish there were more of YOU? You’d like more hours in a day, more days in the week to get done all the things you want done?

You can’t make more of YOU, but there are clear and proven ways to leverage your business. I define “leverage” as “ever more, with ever less”. You want more results with less of your time and resources. The way to leverage your business is with Systems. You should be systemizing 80% of your company’s functions, allowing you to deal with the exceptions to the rules. Eventually, this “firefighting” can be reduced to just a few events.

There are 4 areas in which you can multiply your efforts:

1.People & Education: By having the right people, well trained, you are free to work ON your business. You can begin to focus on your role as the business owner which is to develop your team to be ever more effective. It is critical to continue your education, as well. We don’t know what we don’t know, so keep investing in yourself.

  1. Delivery & Distribution: Measuring your delivery systems and designing them to be more effective is a sure way to leverage your time. How long has it been since you reviewed the procedures in these areas? What are the chances that extra steps and effort has crept into your systems over the years? You know it’s there.
  2. Testing & Measuring: Do you have a well-defined way to know what is happening in your business? What Key Performance Indicators you watch regularly? By actively testing new ideas and measuring performance, you can find ways to eliminate bottlenecks and inefficiency.
  3. Systems & Technology: Technology is always changing and is likely well advanced since you reviewed your systems. This change can spell huge increases in your productivity and peace of mind.

Leverage is how you, the owner, increases your business without increasing your time and headaches. I have over 20 strategies for each of the 4 ways – let’s meet and discuss your opportunities.

Take my free Business Health Check to see what areas Leverage can help you.

 

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