The Pros and Cons of Working with Family

Have you ever considered running a family business? Perhaps you’re enticed by the convenience of working with people you already know, or maybe you’re seeking to leave a family legacy for your children and theirs. While there are many benefits to working with family, it can also have its downsides. Although many families succeed in business, sometimes the stress of running a business can get in the way of family relationships and vice versa.

I have worked with dozens of family businesses over the years, and through TAB meetings I have noticed several pros and cons family business owners seem to experience. Here are a few pros and cons you may encounter if you decide to work with family:

Pros

  • Kick-Start Your Succession Plan. Your business may be your pride and joy right now, but if you ever plan on retiring or starting another venture, you may need to consider eventually passing it along to someone else. Partnering with or hiring a family member can be a great way to show them the ropes so they can one day run the business.
  • Gain a Valuable Marketing Angle. Consumers prefer purchasing from family businesses. Although this doesn’t mean you should partner with any family member for the sake of owing a family business, hiring a qualified sibling or child can improve your business’s image.
  • Trust Who You’re Hiring. Hiring can be a convoluted process, and it can become discouraging if your business experiences a high turnover. By hiring a family member, you likely already have a strong sense of their work ethic and whether they’d be a good fit for your business and team.

 

Cons

  • Taking Work Home With You. Many business owners I know are guilty of this, but you may find it difficult to keep business discussions within business hours. For the sake of continued positive family relationships you may not want business to be at the forefront of every family gathering.
  • Concerned Employees. Unless your entire staff is family, some of your non-related employees may worry that they won’t be treated equally. I encourage you to communicate to your staff that all employees are held to the same standards, and are subject to the same policies and codes of conduct.
  • Maintaining Professionalism. Regardless if you’re working with relatives, a certain level of professionalism should still be maintained in the workplace. Keep family gossip out of the office and treat each other no differently than you’d treat a normal co-worker.

If you truly believe that one of your family members would be a valuable asset to your team, I encourage you to hire them. If, on the other hand, you are considering working with family solely out of convenience or family pressure, I suggest standing firm on the decisions that are in the best interest of your business. There can be substantial benefits to partnering with or hiring a family member, but it takes a strong, communicative family to make it work.

To discuss the ups and downs of your family business with a TAB peer advisory board, contact me today!

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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!


Focus on the Human Side of CRM to Improve the Customer Experience

The Customer Relationship Management industry (CRM) has exploded. It’s estimated that 91% of business with more than 11 employees now use a CRM system. CRM is a term that refers to the strategies, technology, and practices that companies incorporate into their business to manage and analyze customer interactions and data. However, many businesses are not realizing the full benefits of CRM because they’re entirely focused on the data and ignore the human side of CRM. The data will tell you how to manage customers, but not how to build relationships with them. Computers don’t build relationships; people do.

In today’s highly competitive marketplace, the success of your business depends upon delivering customer-focused experiences and processes. I have outlined below a few tips I’d recommend for staying focused on the human side of CRM.

Don’t overlook the human side of CRM

Helping is the new selling” are the latest buzzwords being bantered around these days. It speaks to relationships and a service-oriented mindset. Although CRM has the potential to provide deep insight into both individual clients and general trends, it’s imperative that you connect and engage with your customers in a meaningful way or you diminish the value of your CRM system. No amount of data can provide the human touch.

Implementing a CRM system doesn’t automatically deliver results

Databases full of client information are the basis on which to improve customer engagement, but never lose sight of the relationship-side of technology. The success of your business depends on the human element.

Being authentic

This is crucial in any industry. Your sales team are the ones that can help your organization achieve its revenue goals. The human interaction between your salespeople and your customers is what will ultimately differentiate you from your competition, and bring them back again.

Listening

This skill is highly underrated. Do your sales people listen? Do they understand what your customers value? Can they educate and inform? Can they close the deal?

In order for CRM to deliver on its promise, ensure that the data and the human element are fully integrated.

Want more advice on how to get the most out of your CRM system, or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you.


The Best Managers are the Best Communicators

As a business owner, you dedicate much of your time to communicating with your clients. While this is crucial for your business, equally important is communicating with your employees. Internal communication touches every aspect of your business from announcing the onboarding of a new client, to introducing a new product to your business line. No matter the size, industry, or type of company you own, I recommend having an internal communications process embedded in everything you do.

An internal communications process allows for the exchange of information between all members of your organization, which will save you time and money. In fact, companies with effective internal communications processes experience 47% higher total returns than those that are not effective at communicating.

I’ve outlined below 3 key elements to help you establish an effective internal communications process.

  1. Have the Right Mechanisms in Place to Keep Employees Informed

Your internal communication mechanisms must be strategic, in order to be targeted and the most beneficial. Consider your company’s current mechanisms, from the methods of communication it uses, to the way your company engages with and seeks feedback from your staff, to the way it measures if the mechanism is successful and identifies any issues for future change.

Choosing what mechanisms to use depends on your size and budget. If your company has multiple locations, you may decide to invest in passive, large-scale communication options to disseminate information. Creating an intranet (a private network only available to a company’s staff) is one great option. If your business is smaller, consider using more conventional communication channels such as an internal newsletter, e-blast, Director’s blog, or notice board. I have even seen some companies benefit from using social networking sites as their primary means of internal communication. More directed options could include Breakfast Briefs for front-line staff, a monthly Director Communications Day, scheduled Director Q&A drop-ins, or Lunch & Learns.

No matter what mechanism(s) you choose, the bottom line is that employees have access to a platform where they can receive important company information so they stay abreast of the information they need to do their job.

  1. Creating a Two-Way Loop

Having great communication mechanisms in place is vital, but ensuring that they consistently generate engagement between management and employees is a key step. It is imperative that business owners and managers actively respond to feedback received and ensure a loop is created, as opposed to a top-down form of communication. By acting on the honest feedback reported by employees encourages more of the same – staff telling it “like it is”.

  1. Measuring the Mechanisms

To ensure that the communication mechanisms you choose are working effectively, incorporating measurement indicators, such as scheduled weekly face-to-face meetings with actionable items reported for follow-up, anonymous employee surveys offered at quarterly or annual company all-staff meetings, or through specific activity surveys through the intranet, could help identify gaps, what is or isn’t working, and what methods of communication work best for your employees.

Regardless of which avenues you choose, the main goal is to ensure employees have several effective paths available to them where they can communicate with senior management and feel heard.

Communicating with your employees is essential for the productivity of your business. Does your company have an internal communications process in place?


The Roles They Are A-Changin’

changes-aheadAs a business owner, you know how important it is to keep things fresh and innovative in your workplace, but when making changes, you’ll need to consider how your plans might impact your employees.

If you are in the process of job redesign where employees are assigned new roles that play into their strengths and contribute to a more successful business, these changes can be stressful to your employees. If someone has been hired for a particular job and then he or she is suddenly expected to perform a different role in the organization, tension and stress can result.

A recent report found that 46% of 1,018 Canadian employees recently surveyed had taken time off work or noticed other employees taking sick leave following workplace changes, a common symptom of a stressed-out workplace.

I’ve outlined below a few tips on how you can shift roles in your organization without contributing to employee stress:

  1. Share your vision.

Why are you doing this? What is this change going to accomplish for your organization? Sharing this vision with employees will allow them to understand exactly why this is happening, and help them find their part in it.

  1. Keep the lines of communication open in regards to role change.

Ask employees how they feel they can contribute to a new role and encourage conversation. By doing this, you can evaluate each employee’s strengths and weaknesses, while giving them an opportunity to work in a new role they would truly enjoy.

Make sure employees stay up to date as things begin to shift. For example, when you have made some final role decisions, send out an email to all staff informing them of the new structure. Keeping everyone in the know will ensure a smooth transition process.

  1. When your employees begin their new role, make sure they feel supported.

Assuming a new role can be challenging, especially if the employee doesn’t have a lot of previous experience in the position. Positive reinforcement can go a long way, as employees are less likely to experience stress when they report a positive and supportive workplace culture.

In today’s workplace, you need to keep things fresh, but maintain a balance against a backdrop of inclusiveness and communication. Learning how to handle change effectively is what will keep your team on the right path to growing your business.

How have you successfully restructured your business?


The Business of Letting Go

8095592977_85b9c8e0bcOne of the biggest challenges I have seen many small business owners struggle with is that of delegation. Most owners started their businesses on their own being the person who does everything and so letting go or delegating can be difficult from many angles. Let’s face it, if you continue to do everything, then why do you have staff and how can you ever hope to grow your business?

Delegation means letting go of the day-to-day tasks associated with that responsibility, but by no means does it mean completely letting go of that responsibility. In other words, if you have hired a sales person to take on the responsibility of sales for your company, although you may not be making the sales calls, you do need to ensure that your sales person has the right sales processes, sales metrics and that they are in fact the right person for the role.

Without the right processes, metrics and people in place, it’s likely the onus will fall back on you to get things done. Sounds familiar? Letting go isn’t easy, but having a proper delegation structure in place will allow you to focus your energy and resources on building a successful business. Here are my recommendations for effective delegation:

1) Have the right processes

Ensure you have the right processes in place to ensure that the task or responsibility will be done correctly and in accordance with your standards. For example, if you are delegating writing you will need to ensure what type of writing, how much time the writing should take, what structure the writing must have, what approvals are required, what source materials, and how the writing must be started. The process needs to be written down, explained to the person who you are delegating it to, and followed up with by you to ensure the process is being followed.

2) Measure your success

The only way you can truly know if the process is working right is to measure its effectiveness and subsequent success. To measure the success of the objective, you may want to consider KPIs as they are an effective way of measuring key business objectives, as are analytics. There are numerous measurement tools available, so finding the one appropriate for your business is important. Whatever metric you choose should be spelled out and communicated to the person taking on the delegated task or project. They need to understand that they are being measured in their responsibilities.

3) Have the right people

In a previous blog, I discussed the importance of building a solid team. Ensuring you have the right people working for you means that you can delegate appropriate tasks with the confidence they will be completed accurately and efficiently. Trust and communication are two qualities that can make or break a business. In my many years as a business advisor, I’ve witnessed numerous business owners cycle through employees simply because they had the wrong person in the role who was not fully capable of handling the responsibilities despite having the right processes and metrics in place. Invest wisely in securing the right team. With the right team in place, you’ll experience no hesitation in delegating important tasks and responsibilities.

Delegating is what most business owners crave – you want someone or something to take the huge responsibility of doing it all yourself off your shoulders. Have no fear, by ensuring you have the right processes, metrics and people in place will mean you can lessen your load, and free up the much-needed time to do what you have always wanted to do: focus on building your business.

 


The Importance of Onboarding New Clients

onboardCongratulations! You’ve landed a new client, now what? The first few months of your new business relationship will determine the level of satisfaction your client has with you and will ultimately factor into whether or not you have a solid working relationship from which to grow. In order to maximize your level of service during this new and exciting time, I highly recommend following a carefully crafted onboarding process.

An onboarding process acts as somewhat of a blueprint for the next few months of the new relationship by clearly outlining expectations for both parties involved. Moreover, it protects both parties by mitigating any form of miscommunication or false expectations.

I’ve outlined below the steps involved in creating an effective onboarding process:

1) Send a welcome email

With most things in life, first impressions matter. This is no different in business, and sending your client a personalized welcome email from a C-level individual at your company not only shows your commitment to working with them, but it’s also a nice gesture that opens a line of communication.

2) Learn their resources

Since every company is different and operates in their own way, knowing what resources they have available is important to accomplishing your goals. For example, and depending on the type of services you’ll be providing, you’ll need to establish what platforms each company uses, what internal staff will be directly working with you, and whom you can go to with questions.

3) Establish mutual goals

A new business relationship is a two way street, and success is dependent upon clear communication and support offered by each party. Simply because a working agreement has been established, it doesn’t automatically mean both parties are on the same page. It is through the onboarding process that the details of the contract can fully be planned for effective execution.

4) Have a kick-off meeting

Whether over the phone or in person, hosting a kick-off meeting with key members involved in the launch of a service is an important step for setting expectations and weeding out any kinks that may have been overlooked during the original planning phase.

5) Obtain feedback

Once your business relationship has begun, checking in with your client to provide updates and ensure their satisfaction is key to demonstrating your willingness to foster a successful relationship. Not only will this show them your commitment to providing excellent customer service, but it will allow for any concerns or necessary changes to come to light. Having a 30, 60 or 90-day feedback session is recommended, but you can customize this plan based on your client’s preferences.

As you’ve probably realized in your business ventures, every client is different. Making tweaks to your onboarding process may be required depending on what each client’s expectations of you are and vice versa. Ultimately, an onboarding process is created to help you achieve success and maintain a mutual understanding with your client, so putting in the time to carefully craft one is in your best interest.

  

Do you have an onboarding process in place for new clients?