Don’t Let Numbers Paralyze Your Business

document-3268750_1920Since profit is essential for longevity and overall success of a business, it can be difficult to not obsess over your business’s numbers. As a passionate business owner, you may find yourself spending a lot of time worrying about unmet sales goals, overspent budgets, or unforeseen expenditures. These are all valid concerns, but is fixating on them benefitting your business?

Probably not. Instead, I encourage you to look at your business’s big picture. I believe that numbers are better used as a point of reference for the future rather than as an immediate source of panic. To help free you of the burden that numbers place on many business owners, here is what I suggest:

Build a Detailed Plan

You may have annual or quarterly financial goals, but are they included in an in-depth plan that includes steps and strategies to reach those goals? It’s generally easier to reach a destination with a map. Consider implementing KPIs into your business plan to help you recognize that a poor financial quarter doesn’t necessarily mean your business isn’t growing in other relevant areas.

Re-evaluate Your Existing Plan

If you already have a detailed business plan, it can be understandably frustrating if you are not meeting your goals. You have big ambitions for your business, but every business moves at its own pace. Consider that perhaps some goals may be currently out of reach and can be postponed until next year. Aim for greatness, but ensure your goals are realistic for your current means.

Communicate With Staff

Part of re-evaluating your business plan may include confirming that individual staff and departments are aware of the specific part they play in achieving the company’s goals. Perhaps your employees are doing their best to play their parts, but their best could be better if offered the right motivation. Budgets are often tight, but there are ways to keep employees motivated without giving pay raises.

Remember, going over budget on one item or for one quarter rarely means that you need to stop everything. Businesses have their ups and downs, but you will remain on the path to success as long as you treat everything as a learning opportunity.

If you would like to discuss how to build an effective business plan, contact me today to join a TAB peer advisory board.

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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!


The Dos and Don’ts of Hiring Negotiations

pexels-photo-872957As a small business owner, you know that hiring quality talent on the first try can be critical to your bottom line. In fact, finding and hiring a suitable candidate can cost your business thousands, or even tens of thousands, of dollars.

When the cost of hiring is so high, what do you do when your offer is countered? Spend the money to start the interview process all over again, or negotiate?

As an owner, being presented with a counter offer may leave a bad taste in your mouth. It’s natural for you to consider the negative personality traits this may reveal about the candidate, such as greed and disinterest. However, in my experience, an attempt to negotiate reveals the following positive personality traits:

  • Intelligence – From the candidate’s perspective, there isn’t much harm in asking for a higher salary. The worst you can say is no, so to not at least ask for a higher salary would be foolish.
  • Confidence – A confident counter offer would tell me that the candidate intends to prove they are worth that value.
  • Enthusiasm – If the candidate only wanted the experience and wasn’t planning on staying with your company long-term, they’d take any offer. It’s understandable for them to want to build a solid base before settling into your business.

If you see these traits in your candidate and want to go ahead with negotiations, you may first want to address this two-part question: How do you negotiate without 1) the candidate changing their mind, and 2) paying more than you can afford? To help guide you, here are some dos and don’ts tips I share with my clients when handling hiring negotiations:

Do 

Don’t

  • Welcome negotiation
  • Be insulted by counter offers
  • Initially offer at least $10,000 below the maximum your business can afford
  • Present your best offer at the start
  • Allow the candidate a couple days to consider the offer
  • Let the candidate drag you along for an indefinite amount of time
  • Communicate the reasoning behind your offer
  • Reject their counter offer and stand firm without explanation
  • Consider highlighting or adding to perks other than the salary
  • Go beyond the hiring budget you deemed reasonable

 

If after a couple rounds of negotiations you two can’t come to an agreement, it wasn’t meant to be. If you are looking for ways to help your business grow including insights on hiring the right candidate on the first try, contact me today!


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!


Four Tips to Deal With Conflict on Your Team

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 10.10.03 AMEvery business owner has had some amount of conflict on their team, whether it has been the slamming of doors, a screaming session, or someone walking off a job site. No matter when it happens, or who started it, as the owner you’ll need to address the conflict and provide resolution as soon as possible.

How you approach resolving the issue is a question on the minds of many business owners because conflict resolution can disrupt the momentum you’ve set as an owner, your team dynamics and possibly your entire company. We all know how important it is to confront the issue directly before your workplace becomes toxic. I’ve outlined below four tips to keep in mind when dealing with conflict.

Pick Your Battles

When your staff work alongside each other every day, it’s inevitable that small disagreements will arise, so let these small issues work themselves out. However, when there is hard proof that an employee is causing conflict, it is an ongoing conflict, or other employees are being negatively impacted by this conflict, then it is time for you to intervene. More often than not, your staff is waiting for you to resolve the issue and if you wait too long, it can put your leadership reputation at risk.

Define Roles and Responsibilities

As owners, we are often too busy to create formal roles and responsibilities, but by not creating these documents, it can leave your employees unsure about what is and what is not part of their job. This ambiguity can often lead to one employee blaming another for issues on a project. The best way to ensure any role conflicts do not happen is to create and define each role and responsibility by clearly defining task objectives and expected outputs, and ensuring their job descriptions are up-to-date and reviewed regularly so their role’s purpose and duties are clear.

Don’t Take Sides

Just as there are low-performing employees who can irritate their coworkers, there are also high-performing employees who insist on doing things their way. Sometimes in a small office, we might even have members of our team who we get along with more, but it’s critical as a business owner to ensure that all employees feel heard and understood, and know that their manager is willing to step in and help solve an issue, rather than “side” with an employee who is liked or valued more.

Keep Things Private

Effective and supportive communication is often all that’s needed to solve conflicts in the workplace. Find a private setting, or maybe go grab a coffee with the employee so they feel supported and feel they can speak freely without judgment or embarrassment. They need to feel they can trust you to help resolve the conflict. Trust forms the foundation for every important relationship at work and typically, workplace disputes should not be discussed with the entire team unless it becomes necessary.

Conflict is an issue that you can minimize in the workplace and by doing so, can help you to build a more supportive, welcoming and productive environment. If you’re a business owner dealing with issues like this, don’t face it alone – contact TAB to find out how to become a member, or contact me today.


When Is Hiring A Contract Worker A Good Idea for Your Business?

shutterstock_189811220As a business advisor, staffing has to be one of top issues that business owners need help with, particularly whether to hire more employees and what type of employee. You may have read in recent media coverage that a growing trend for 2018 is the increased hiring of contract workers by small businesses. We know that a contractor is someone who works for your business on a defined basis, and they can sometimes be referred to as freelance workers or consultants. But it’s very important to remember that contractors are independent businesses, working for you. They can help your business through periods of growth or difficulty, but they are not full-time employees.

Initially, some business owners may focus on the bottom line and think of the hiring of contract workers as a way to save costs. I’ve outlined below some of the key factors you might want to consider when determining if hiring contract workers makes good business sense for you:

  • Your business has turned down major projects due to lack of resources
  • You’re preparing for a seasonal change in business and demand is uncertain
  • You’re trying to remain lean but your budgets are a concern
  • Your business needs someone to hit the ground running
  • You are considering testing out an internal need without a serious commitment
  • The project requires a specialized skill that your company lacks, or as a business owner, you don’t plan to specialize in
  • If you are in an industry that is a fast-growing, such as technology, you can hire a contractor faster than a full-time employee to keep up
  • If you have a virtual office or small space, a contract worker can work offsite

Create a Network
You can hire independent contractors for one-off projects or even long-term business functions such as I.T. or payroll, to help you manage workloads during peak periods. This is why it is so important to create a network of contractors that you trust, so that your business can say “Yes!” to more projects. Being able to hire reliable and available contractors on an ad hoc basis can be a good strategy for growing your business.

Determining your hiring needs and making informed decisions is an area that can be challenging for business owners, and one I see often as a business advisor with TAB. If your business would benefit from the guidance of other business owners who have “been there”, as well as an advisor who has “done that”, contact me to see how I can help!