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?


Everyone Needs to Take Time Off

sea-holiday-vacation-tableAre you suffering from vacation deprivation? If so, you’re not alone. So much has been written about the importance of a work/life balance, but not enough Canadians are living it. According to Dr. David Posen, author of Is Work Killing You?, “Humans were never designed to have stress all the time. Our stress reactions were designed to be turned on and then off. That’s the healthy cycle. But today we operate in a semi-permanent state of stress. Proper vacationing is an antidote to chronic stress. It is absolutely imperative that Canadians are vacationing each year – and not just one time per year.”

I understand from many of the business owners I work with that you worry about leaving your businesses because you feel nobody else can do your work, and although that may be partly true, I can guarantee that if you burn out – you risk not having any business to run.

Make this the year that you take a vacation – consider it preventative medicine – and instead of just thinking about taking a vacation, prepare for actually taking one by following these 4 tips:

  1. Plan your vacation during a slow period. It will definitely reduce your stress levels about going away.
  2. Deal with all time sensitive issues before you go. In theory, anything that arises in your absence should be able to be dealt with by your staff or wait until you return.
  3. Contact your clients well in advance and let them know you’ll be going on vacation. If they have anything that requires your special attention you’ll be able to take care of it before you leave. Delegate a point person for them to contact in your absence.
  4. Empower your employees to step in and step up while you’re on vacation. Delegate specific tasks or duties. Leave detailed instructions about how to deal with situations that may arise. If you’d feel more comfortable with regular status reports, have a staff member email you at a predetermined interval with a report of the company’s activities during your absence. Let your staff know that they can reach out to you under certain circumstances and be clear as to what these circumstances could be.

All work and no play is a recipe for burnout. We all need time to relax, recharge and reconnect with family and friends. What are you waiting for? Start planning your vacation!


Do your clients make unreasonable demands?

TAB-Demand (1)As a business owner, it’s always very difficult to turn away business, especially in challenging economic times. However, the reality is that not every client is a good client. In fact, some clients make unreasonable demands. You know the kind of client I mean; we’ve all had to deal with them.

In my experience providing advice to business owners, I’ve heard hundreds of stories of unreasonable clients, yet many owners are unclear as to how to improve their relationship with these clients.

I’ve outlined below some of the classic unreasonable client requests and some steps you may want to consider trying to better the relationship.

1. They expect you to be available 24/7.

Unless this is the type of service you offer, you should clearly define your boundaries. Let your client know what your working hours and days are.

2. No matter what you charge, it’s always too expensive for them.

An unprofitable client takes time away from your profitable clients. Set your pricing and be prepared to negotiate but only within preset parameters. Be prepared to say no and walk away if necessary.

3. They consistently pay slowly which has a negative impact on your cash flow.

If you’re spending a lot of time and energy chasing a client for money, this may be a client worth letting go – unless you can afford to wait for your money. This type of client will not change their paying habits until you enforce your payment terms. You may have to hold back on your deliverables to make your point.

4. They keep changing their mind about what they want.

If you have a client that keeps changing their mind about what they want after you’ve done the work, start charging them for the changes.

5. They don’t respond to your calls/emails/texts in a timely fashion.

Ask if there is another person who perhaps has more time to be responsive. Let them know that the lack of response may delay timelines and keep a paper trail in case it does.

6. They rarely turn up at meetings or cancel at the last minute.

Your time is valuable. If your client is consistently not turning up at meetings or cancelling at the last minute, start billing them for your time.

I recommend that you try to convert an unreasonable client into a good client, but that’s not always possible. When all of your best efforts fail, it may be time to fire the client.


Things to Consider When Determining the Value of Your Business

bg04Whether you’re considering selling your business, or are just interested in knowing how to put a value on your investment, the evaluation process can often prove difficult.

There are a number of factors you might want to consider when evaluating your business’ net worth.

Your team, assets, processes and recurring revenue are key factors in evaluating your business when reviewed with the net earnings and cash flow. These key factors help to reduce the buyer’s risk and significantly increase the multiple used in the transaction and the total company value. Ultimately, the business is worth whatever the buyer thinks it’s worth, but you can estimate your value by looking at several different factors including the ones I’ve shared with you below:

Consider your team

When evaluating the value of your business, it is important to include the key employees and management team. Buyers generally require a strong management team to continue to run the business and are concerned with your own knowledge of the business — relationships, processes and ideas. They’ll question what the impact will be on the company if the owner is no longer operating the business.

Look at current business processes already in place

A business process is a set of steps or tasks that you and your team use repeatedly to create a product or service, reach a specific goal, or provide value to a customer or supplier. When processes work well, they can significantly improve efficiency, productivity, and customer satisfaction. This is an ongoing process, but ensure you have a plan in place to document all of your processes. This allows a buyer to see how you process your offerings and allows them to see what is involved in the operations of your business and can show your business is independent from you.

Assess the recurring revenues

Recurring revenue is predictable revenue that can be expected to continue in the future. It makes a company more stable and certain, both operationally and financially. Having recurring revenue as a portion of your total revenues lowers the risk associated with a company’s operations, and can help your company withstand a hiccup in sales. Establishing recurring revenue isn’t only good for business – it ensures you’ll get the maximum value when it comes time to sell.

Evaluate hard & soft assets

A company’s assets are an important factor to consider when determining value. There are hard assets, such as equipment, furniture, and inventory, and there are soft assets, such as patents, trademarks and software. Consider if all of your business’ assets are for sale or if you plan to include accounts receivable and inventory. Hard assets have value, which can be calculated by estimating the resale value of your equipment, furniture, and inventory. The value placed on soft assets such as patents, trademarks and software, can be a greater proportion of the total value of your business than is the value of tangible assets.

Evaluating your business properly is not a simple undertaking since it concerns several factors, many of which are hard to quantify. It is recommended that business owners looking to sell their business consult with an expert in order to reach a realistic estimated price, but the factors noted above will have a significant impact on the price a buyer will be willing to pay.


When to Manage and When to Coach- Recognizing the Difference

prop-motivatingAs a business owner, you wear many hats, two of the most important being “manager” and “coach”. What I’ve noticed most business owners have trouble with is differentiating between the two roles, and when exactly to wear each hat.

There is a very clear difference between managing and coaching, and it is important to recognize the distinction in order for your company and employees to achieve success under your leadership. So what is this apparent difference exactly?

In the simplest sense, managing is all about directing. As a manager, you are telling others what needs to be done, how to do it, and when it needs to be completed. You have a specific outcome in mind, and you are directing a group whose purpose is to achieve it.

Coaching, on the other hand, is all about facilitation. Your purpose is to create a relationship with your employees as a guide and mentor, working towards long-term improvement and a number of outcomes.

While a manager and a coach may have the same authority, the way they approach each situation varies greatly. While managing, you’re concerned with the strategy and planning, delegating the tasks to the appropriate people. While coaching, you are present, providing encouragement, support, and making suggestions/revisions along the way.

So at what point do you wear each hat? They’re both effective under different circumstances. When facing stressful deadlines or crisis situations, acting as manager is what’s needed. When you are building your team and focusing on your staff’s development, you are coaching them.

A combination of these two styles is ideal, and by evaluating the task at hand first and the individuals involved second, you can then decide on your management style. Managing an employee who is new or unfamiliar with a task makes sense, while coaching your experienced staff can assist in developing their growth.

In what situations do you find it difficult to distinguish between the leadership styles and which to use? Share your questions or concerns in the comments.


Millennials in the Workplace

millennial-management-studyA hot topic of discussion in the business world as of late seems to be millennials in the workplace, with people weighing in both positively and negatively on the matter. In my experience working with small and mid size businesses, I have seen a fair share of millennials adding great value to organizations in a number of ways.

This younger generation of professionals has a lot to bring to the table, and they shouldn’t’ be discounted just because of their age. In today’s world, the business environment is continuously changing and transforming itself, and this is something millennials truly understand, as this fast-paced, evolving nature is all they know.

So, what exactly can you and your business learn from millennials? Here are just a few ways this generation of professionals adds value.

  • An understanding of technology and social media.
    • Nobody understands the Internet and a business’ role in social media like a Millennial. They live and breathe the online world.
  • An understanding for work-life balance.
    • Millennials are young, energetic, and motivated. While they work hard, they also understand the importance of a personal life and can juggle both well.
  • A strong emotional intelligence.
    • Millennials are confident and comfortable, but have no problem communicating emotion like self-doubt or disappointment and seeking help from others.
  • The ability to thrive off challenge.
    • Young professionals love to be challenged and given opportunities that will teach them new, useful skills. Fresh challenges are thought of as rewards.

It is important to keep in mind that the value Millennials bring must also be managed properly. This cohort of professionals needs structure in order to succeed, and leadership and guidance from senior colleagues is very important. You are making a coaching commitment when you bring them on board. With the right forms of encouragement and affirmation, they will be loyal and hard-working employees.

What is your experience with hiring millennials to your team? Have you taken advantage of the value they offer? Let me know in the comments!


Be Accountable First

leadership-and-accountability

Accountability is always top of mind for all the business owners I work with. Most struggle with how to hold their people more accountable. When I came across this blog from Sam Silverstein the author of “No More Excuses” I felt it addressed this issue head-on and wanted to share it with you.  Sam believes the answer to getting more accountability starts with holding ourselves accountable to everyone we want to hold accountable to us.  He says it all starts with us and it’s not so much about “holding” people accountable as it is about “helping” them be accountable.  Please click on this Be Accountable First link to read his post.

Did you find this article helpful?  Do you agree with his comments on accountability?  I look forward to reading your comments below.