Business Reorganization After Growth

arrows-box-business-533189As your business becomes increasingly successful, certain aspects of your business will need to change and/or grow to keep up with your demand. Through TAB meeting discussions, I’ve seen this growth take the form of increasing your inventory to meet local demand, expanding to another location to meet national demand, providing more offerings to meet client interests, or outsourcing or hiring more staff to meet all of the above. If you keep hiring more employees, there will come a time when you need to reorganize your reporting structure or even your departments.

In anticipation for future growth, I encourage all business owners to create an organizational restructuring process to ensure your business expansion goes as smoothly as possible. Here are just a few topics you may want this process to cover:

Promoting vs. Hiring ­

When your business requires a new department, you will need to decide if it’s best to promote an existing employee or hire someone new to manage it. It may sound ideal to promote someone who already knows your business, but it could be best to hire someone from outside your business with a more precise set of skills. For example, your highly skilled and dedicated salesperson may not have the right qualifications to lead a new marketing department.

Training

If you do hope to promote from within, how will you prepare your employee for the tasks and responsibilities that come with a higher-level position? If you anticipate expansion in the coming months, I have seen many business owners see success with managers mentoring talented employees to prepare them to take on the same or similar position. An outside hire can learn the ins and outs of your business this same way.

Communication

To ensure everyone in your business is on the same page at every step of growth, you may also want to detail how to communicate to staff that the growth may affect their roles within the company. If big changes are coming and your employees aren’t aware of what they are, they may jump to the conclusion that their jobs or the business may be in trouble when in fact the opposite is true. Your success is their success, and clear communication of any changes in roles or responsibilities can greatly help the progress continue.

Once your organizational restructuring process has been developed and implemented, I encourage you to regularly monitor and reassess its effectiveness. Perhaps there’s an area that can be improved or wasn’t ideal for the type of growth your business experienced. Did you actually need to hire more in-house staff, or should you consider hiring contract workers in the future? It’s important to be flexible and allow your processes to grow and improve with your business.

If you would like to discover how other business owners have restructured as a result of growth, contact me today to discuss becoming a member of a TAB peer advisory board!

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How Do You Provide Employee Feedback?

pexels-photo-70292It’s a standard business practice among large corporations, and even smaller businesses: annual performance evaluations. Many businesses hold on to the tradition of conducting annual performance evaluations to review employee progress and goals. However, 30% of performance reviews decrease employee morale rather than improve it.

To ensure your employees receive constructive feedback in a receptive manner, here are a few other options for providing feedback you can consider:

Be Timely

I encourage business owners to provide constructive criticism as soon as their employees experience difficulties within their role. This way, they can take appropriate steps right away to improve their actions rather than continue down a slippery slope of poor performance, which can in turn negatively impact your business. For example, if one of your employees seems slightly too blunt with a client, consider speaking with them immediately after the meeting to discuss how to better communicate with clients.

This suggestion of providing timely feedback applies to providing praise as well. Although it may be appreciated at any time, your employees will have a precise image of how to continue their good work if they can clearly remember the work you’re commending.

Clearly Define Expectations

Before we hire employees, we have an idea of the tasks they’ll perform and the role they’ll serve in the business. Sometimes, especially in smaller businesses, the roles and responsibilities of an employee can shift quite quickly based on the needs of the business. If there’s been any change in the roles or responsibilities of an employee, it’s important that you communicate any changes in expectations that arise as a result of a shift in responsibilities.

You can improve your employees’ performance even further by discussing with them how to meet the expectations of their role rather than to simply assign the expectations. Much of business success is rooted in two-way communication.

Ask for Their Feedback

Although intimidation isn’t your intention, some employees believe receiving feedback to be a daunting ordeal. To help them be more receptive to feedback, try asking them to comment on themselves first. If they are already mindful of their workplace struggles, this allows them the opportunity to inform you of the steps they are already taking to improve. You can then offer further guidance, as needed. The goal of this method is for your employee to have a conversation with you rather than feel they’re being criticized.

To find out how you can better provide employee feedback or learn how other businesses approach it, contact me today to discuss joining a TAB advisory board!


Respecting Professional Boundaries

29-11-2011Have you ever patted an employee on the back to praise them? Or, have you ever asked them a deeply personal question simply because you care about their well- being? While your intentions may be good, your staff may perceive these gestures in a completely different way than you would like them to. Sometimes we work so closely with our staff that the boundary between employee and friend can become blurred. Despite having the best intentions, as a person of authority, you should be cognizant about how you interact with your employees.

In order to protect yourself and your brand’s reputation from unsavoury allegations, I encourage all businesses, no matter their size, to implement a workplace harassment policy. In fact, all employers are required to have a workplace harassment policy under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The purpose of a workplace harassment policy is to ensure there are procedures in place to prevent and handle employee harassment complaints. If there aren’t documented procedures that you and your employees can easily reference as needed, you potentially open yourself up to legal repercussions. To avoid any grey area, there are template policies you can use to create your own.

Your workplace harassment policy can cover as little or as much as you deem necessary for your business, but here are a few subjects to take into consideration:

 

Verbal Phrasing

I strongly suggest mulling over every comment in your head before sharing them with employees, because carefree comments from a superior can easily be misunderstood as inappropriate or intimidating. Some employees may give you the benefit of the doubt over simple mistakes, but there may be others who take offense. The same goes for jokes; a joke that went over well at a friend or family gathering may not be appropriate for the workplace.

 

Physical Actions

You may have the most innocent of intentions when you pat an employee on the back or place a hand on their shoulder, but not everyone will realize this. If you have a habit of casually touching people when you speak to them, I would suggest trying to break it. If you’re unaware of any such habits, I would recommend taking a day or week to be particularly conscious of your actions around employees; you might have a habit you didn’t know about.

 

Visuals

Décor such as calendars, posters, paintings, statues, and any other form of decoration brought into the workplace should be chosen with a purely professional mindset. Where possible, I suggest choosing pieces that won’t cause debate over the definition of “tasteful.” And similarly to being cautious of jokes you share with employees, satirical images may not be as well received among employees as they can be among friends.

For specifics on what topics should be avoided in the workplace and to ensure discriminatory or offensive remarks/actions don’t take place, consider reviewing the Ontario Human Rights Code.

If you need help manoeuvring around this delicate subject and want to discuss how to implement an effective workplace harassment policy, contact me today to join a TAB peer advisory board.


Know Your Clients: Tips for Effective Surveys

user-satisfaction-2800863_640Based on discussions at TAB meetings, I have found that regular client feedback is essential for business improvement. Because of this, business owners often ask me how they can create surveys that get opened and collect relevant information.

To increase the probability that clients will complete your survey, here are the practices I follow:

  • Use action verbs. Much of English conversation consists of the verb “to be”, resulting in dull, passive language. Try to use the active voice as much as possible.
  • Create an easy user experience. Because the human attention span is generally quite short, I suggest creating a simple survey using multiple choice and dropdown questions rather than paragraph-style questions where possible.
  • Offer an incentive. Who doesn’t like free or discounted products and services? Consider holding a draw for clients that submit the survey or providing a discount code upon completion.

As for which questions to ask, here are my suggestions based on the type of data you want to collect:

Client Data

Do you want your client email list to answer which demographics your clients are from and in which neighbourhoods or countries they live? If this kind of client information might benefit your business, surveys are great opportunities to ask for targeted information, which in turn allows you to customize marketing campaigns.

Consider including these questions to gather useful information about your clients:

  • What is your postal code?
  • In which age range do you belong?
  • What is your ethic background?
  • What is your job title?

In order to assure clients that their information is safe with you, it is likely in your best interest to include a disclaimer at the bottom of your survey that states how the information will be used. 

Product/Business Data

When a business’s sale decrease or become stagnant, I have found that surveys are effective tools to find out why that is. Your loyal clients want to see your business succeed and are likely more than happy to suggest a couple small areas of improvement. But whom you really want to hear from are the one-time buyers that didn’t return. How can you get them back or at least prevent future clients from walking away for the same reasons they did?

Consider including these questions to gather useful feedback about your products and your business practices:

  • Which of our products or services do you use?
  • Are you satisfied with the product or service quality you received?
  • How can we improve your customer service experience in the future?
  • Will you continue to do business with us in the future?
  • What types of discounts would encourage you to purchase our products or services in the future?

If you would like to discuss different forms of client engagement with a peer advisory board, contact me today to find out more about TAB!


Holiday Pay: Is It Worth It?

K-P-32-WorkSchedule-id-1551-jpegThe Victoria Day long weekend is approaching, and as a business owner, you may be debating whether or not you should pay employees holiday pay in order to continue your business operations during this holiday.

To clarify, when I say “holiday pay,” what I mean is the regular holiday pay plus premium pay employers are required to grant employees that agree to work on a public holiday. For guidelines regarding how holiday pay is calculated, you can visit the Ontario Ministry of Labour’s website. In most cases, holiday pay is 2.5 times an employee’s regular salary.

When my clients are making this decision, I suggest they ask themselves this question: Does the cost of paying employees holiday pay outweigh the potential value added to your clients?

Are your clients 24/7/365? Then perhaps your business should be too. If there is a high probability that your clients will need your products/services on a holiday, you may want to consider having employees on hand. Providing availability on public holidays can greatly improve client relationships and ROIs, as it’s an uncommon and possibly lucrative practice.

Since paying employees 2.5 times their regular salary can take a big hit on any small- or medium-sized business’s bottom line, I’d like to share some alternatives to providing holiday pay in order to minimize your costs:

Have Employees Be On Call

If you don’t want to trust the “chance” that clients may need attention, you could have employees be on call rather than officially in the office. However, this won’t be without it’s own price. As a result of Bill 148, beginning on January 1, 2019, on-call employees are entitled to at least 3 hours of pay, even if they aren’t called in to work.

Schedule a Substitute Holiday

In order to avoid the cost of holiday pay or the eventual cost of having an employee on call, you could instead provide employees with substitute holidays. This would save you money, but it may leave you short-staffed on later dates. As a business owner, I know that being only one person short can have a large impact on the productivity of a regular workday.

Is paying employees holiday pay worth it? The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all formula to decide, even though the government provides a handy calculator to help you figure out the exact cost of an employee’s holiday pay depending on their wage. If you would like some business advice or would like to connect with other business owners in a peer advisory board, contact me today to find out more about TAB!


How to Terminate an Employee Without Decreasing Morale

pexels-photo-70292Have you made a recent quick hire that isn’t quite fitting the bill? Or perhaps you’ve realized that an employee’s quality of work isn’t what it used to be? For smaller businesses especially, an underperforming employee can have a large impact on the organization as a whole. But what should you do if you encounter such a scenario in your business?

Letting employees go isn’t always the easiest decision to make, but sometimes it’s necessary, especially if all other options, such as coaching and job accommodations, have been exhausted. Before making your final decision, you may want to consider how the termination of an employee could affect your overall business. Consider these factors:

  1. Customers are perceptive. If you have employees with low morale, customers may sense that something is off.
  2. Employees startle easily. Discharging one employee could cause others to worry that they’re the next to go. This can result in a decrease in office morale.

In order to keep your customers happy and avoid employee turnover, I have put together a list of suggestions to hopefully minimize low morale within your business after letting an employee go:

Plan for the Increased Workload

Before terminating the employee, if you don’t already have a replacement lined up, I suggest having a plan in place for the increased workload. One in four Canadians have left an employer due to work-related stress. Note which team members would be best suited to take on which additional tasks, and try your best not to overload any one employee. You may even want to consider taking on some of the tasks yourself, to show your solidarity with the team.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

After the employee has been let go, communication is key. Carefully prepare how to explain the termination to your team without possibly opening yourself up to legal repercussions. It’s also important to assure your employees that they are appreciated and that their jobs are secure.

Remember, communication is a two-way street. Not only should you keep them in the loop, but also you should give them the opportunity to provide their input and ask questions. Employees are 4.6 times more likely feel motivated at work if they feel their opinions are heard and valued.

Get Out of the Office

I’ve found that the quickest boost to office morale is getting your employees out of the office. Organize outdoor team-building activities or a team lunch. Maybe put your teamwork to the test in an escape room. Such outings can remind your employees that you care that they are members of your successful, ambitious team.

Deciding when it’s best to dismiss an employee is not an easy task. If you need help preparing your business for change, contact me today!


Customer Retention: The Benefits of a Loyalty Program

Customer Incentive.jpgAt a few TAB meetings I’ve recently facilitated, the business owners around the table have asked how they can ensure their customers keep coming back. When the cost of acquiring a new customer is five times more than the cost of customer retention, we need to show our customers that we care.

Many of you may be familiar with loyalty programs in your personal life such as from your gym or a preferred airline, but loyalty programs are also relevant for those who sell B2B products and services. So, what constitutes a loyalty program?

Loyalty programs can encourage your customers to continue purchasing your products or services by providing them rewards for their continued business. Such rewards may include discounts or free products by spending earned points, advance notice of a new product, or participation in loyalty members-only sales.

I’d like to share with you four possible benefits of implementing a loyalty program:

Money Savings

Not all money-saving offers, such as frequent sales and deeper discounts, are likely to be ideal for your business, but some loyalty programs allow customers to earn their own personal sale so you don’t need to cut prices across the board. A good example of this is programs that give money back after spending a certain amount (Spend $X, Get $X Back). You could create service packages like this as well. The customers get the satisfaction of feeling like they are saving money, but in reality they tend to spend even more money at the time of reward redemption.

Loyalty programs can increase your sales without needing to lower your overall prices, giving your bottom line a valuable boost.

Promotion of New or Less-Popular Products

As a business owner, you might find that your business has difficulty selling certain products/services or getting customers to try something new. A well-designed loyalty program can offer greater rewards – and greater incentives – for specific purchases, which can compel customers to add or explore products or services that they would normally ignore.

Collection of Unique Customer Data

In order to sign up for your loyalty program, you’ll need your customers to provide you with some basic information. This is an opportunity to ask for more targeted information than what you may already have on your customer, which in turn allows you to customize future offers to them. You may ask them about their preference for certain services, packages, or types of offers they’d like to see. Keep the questions brief, and offer dropdowns with possible answers for a simple user experience.

Knowledge of Your Customers’ Spending Habits

Once a customer is registered for a loyalty program, you can track their activity with your business through an identification number or membership card. The more they use the program, the more data you collect on how often they make purchases, when they tend to shop at your business, and what products/services they buy and in what combinations. You can never know too much about your customers’ spending habits.

If you do decide a loyalty program is a right fit for your business it can become an integral component of your customer retention program, but it can also be a deciding factor for a potential customer to choose you over one of your competitors.

Building customer loyalty is just one of many solutions to help business owners grow their business. Contact me today to discuss the benefits of working with TAB and growing your business!