Take The Break You Deserve

work-2005640_1920Most of us look forward to the holiday season as the perfect time to take some time off with family, but if you’re a typical business owner, you might be looking at this holiday break as a great time to get some extra work done. The freedom to work without being interrupted is a pretty exciting prospect for many of the business owners I work with. I advise that if we don’t take the time to relax and disconnect, we may end up piling more stress on top of an additional workload.

Aside from leaving your work back in the office, spending time with your loved ones during the holiday season is important. Even when you’re doing a thousand things per day, try to reset and think about who and what you’re working for. If you’re finding it hard to take your well-deserved time off, here are some practical tips to help you unplug during the holiday season:

Cover all of your bases before the holidays

Before that last work day of 2018, you might like to have your workload in a place that feels comfortable enough to leave for a couple of weeks, and manageable enough to pick up again in January. This includes responding to emails, setting up appointments and completing any urgent tasks. Many people find that they can’t relax if they have a mountain of work waiting for them when it’s time to come back to the office. See what you can do to take as much as you can off of your plate before loading it up again.

A concrete strategy for completion can be helpful in the weeks preceding the holiday break (e.g. having a set goal for completed tasks each day). Take a deep breath: no matter how organized you are, you may not complete everything on your list, and that’s okay. Try to prioritize, and leave the remaining tasks for a new, fresh year.

Leave work mobile devices alone

 It’s going to be really tempting to check your work phone during the course of the holidays (trust me, you’re not alone), but doing so can make you spiral back into work mode. In order to turn off your work brain, try to shut down anything and everything that inspires you to start working again, especially work related devices.

To make it easier to step away, have someone close to you help you with accountability. Allow them to help you set some boundaries and have them recommend a safe place where you can keep your work phone during the holidays. Don’t worry – it will still be there for you, right where you left it, once January 1st rolls around.

 If you must check your work emails, only do so once per day

 If you’re the type of business owner who still likes to stay connected to your business, even when you’re on vacation, see if you can limit checking your email. Setting aside one time per day (e.g. in the morning) to check in can be a very helpful way to see it, deal with it, then leave it. Limiting the amount of time you remain plugged in can be a valuable step towards finding a sense of peace and relaxation outside of the office.

Have an automated email response that provides an emergency contact

 In the event of a work emergency during the holidays, it can be helpful to have an emergency contact available via an automated email response. If someone absolutely has to get in touch with you during the holidays, an automated email response can be set up to provide them with your emergency contact. However, try not to give this contact out to anyone under other circumstances. Remember- you’re trying to relax!

Kicking back for the holidays can feel virtually impossible, and even when you’ve done everything you can to leave your work at the office, you may still find yourself reaching for your work phone during the holidays. It’s natural. As a business owner who is passionate about what you do, you’re always thinking about what more you can be doing, and how you can make it better.

Some experts suggest that taking some time off can actually help to increase your productivity. Mental stress doesn’t just create physiological issues; it can actually prevent you from giving your full attention to your work. Consider your holiday break as an opportunity to get fully charged for a new year. That way, you’ll end up feeling better and more productive.

However, taking a break is not only important for your own mental health, it’s important for the people you care about. We all deserve time to breathe! Work on releasing the urgency of getting work done in favour of enjoying every moment of joy the holidays have to offer. Who knows? You may even find yourself enjoying the time away.

 

 

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Personal Vision VS Business Vision: What Do They Mean For You?

concept-1868728_1920A business is so much more than a “job”. It’s a lifestyle, a world-view, a reflection of the type of person you want to be. It’s how you want to contribute to the community, where you see yourself in your future, and in some cases, it’s what you want to leave behind.

So many business owners tell me that they want to take their business to the next level, but they never define why. Everyone has goals, but they rarely take the time to write everything down and decide the “how’s” and “why’s” of what they want their business to be. In my experience, it’s not only helpful to carefully consider and record your vision – it’s essential.

These personal goals and business goals can be defined and followed by crafting a personal vision and a business vision. Here is a brief outline of both and not just how they are different, but also how they can work together.

Personal Vision 

Create your personal vision first. As the owner of the business, your vision is key to where you want to take the business.

Do you dream about being able to take your family on vacation to an exotic location once a year? How about a four-day workweek, or buying your dream home? These things could be part of your personal vision.

When crafting a personal vision statement, you’ll need to write down where you want to be in a year from now or 2 years from now. This could include considering your desired material lifestyle, your passion giving back, your ideal workweek, time with your family, and time enjoying the things you love (not your business). If you want to make sure that you are making enough money so that your children can have their college tuition paid for, this should be recorded in your personal vision statement too.

In addition to this, it’s important to include an exit strategy in your personal vision. This will detail how you would like your business to proceed when you retire, including whether or not you intend on naming a successor (e.g. a spouse or child), or if you would prefer to sell the business. Be mindful that your exit strategy is carefully considered, and entails what you plan to do in place of work. Some business owners find it hard to leave their business behind, and it can never hurt to plan ahead for how you will fill your free time in the future.

Company Vision 

Once you’ve completed your personal vision, it’s time to concentrate on your company vision. The two go hand in hand. If for example, you want to spend only 6 months of the year working at your business, then part of your business plan needs to include finding a current or future employee who can take on some of your current roles and responsibilities. If your plan is financial freedom, then your company vision will be to increase your sales and marketing efforts, etc.

As the business owner, it’s up to you to set the company vision; it is not a team approach. Although you need to share it with your staff, the company vision statement needs to be synergetic with your personal vision so that the two can work together to create a business that benefits both you and your employees.

The company vision will also help you create a big picture idea of what your company will look like as a whole, for both you and your employees. This is why creating a company vision can enhance your existing leadership skills, which in turn helps your employees attain their own career visions.

Writing out a personal vision and business vision and following them is crucial, and often, overlooked in creating the kind of business you’ll be proud of. Writing out what you really want out of your business in a personal vision and then writing out how it can be achieved through your company vision can be both humbling and gratifying.

To get a better understanding of how to help your business grow, contact me today to find out more about joining The Alternative Board.

 

 

 


The Pros and Cons of Letting Employees Work From Home

adult-brunette-communication-920381It’s not out of the ordinary for employees today to ask to work from home. Many business owners tell me that their employees feel like they are more productive overall when working remotely.

What can you do to accommodate them, especially if they feel like the arrangement will make them a better asset to your company?

Many employers are making it a priority to keep an open door policy with every one of their employees so that they can be aware of anything that may prevent them from coming into the office. Let’s take a more in-depth look at some of the possible pros and cons of allowing your employees to work from home:

The Advantages 

There’s no better way of ensuring employee retention than meeting them halfway. In my experience, a happy employee is a loyal employee. The satisfaction that an employee experiences from being able to work from home can be a great way of motivating them into being more productive. This can also serve to create a strong sense of employee/employer trust. If an employee feels like their employer trusts them to get the job done, they will feel valued. When you empower your employees, the possibilities for growth are truly endless.

The Disadvantages

If having all hands on deck is essential to your company, letting an employee work from home may not be an option. It can also be an issue in terms of monitoring your employee’s progress. You will have no way of controlling your employee’s production, which can be difficult if you like having the ability to check in with your staff throughout the day. Although Skype and FaceTime can help maintain a connection, it’s not a replacement for face-to-face mentoring. Additionally, personal life distractions, especially technological ones, can be unavoidable for most employees working from home.

As a business owner, you are keenly aware that your employees are the most valuable part of your business. Be sure to maintain an open dialogue with each employee and come up with a working solution that fits both of your needs.

If you’re wondering what more you can do to assist employees who want to work from home, contact me today to join a TAB peer advisory board.


You Don’t Have to Know Everything

adult-brainstorming-business-1181622As a business owner myself and through interacting with business owners nearly every day, I understand that it can be difficult to let go of certain aspects of your business. However, you can’t be everywhere doing every job all the time, especially as your business grows. I’ve seen many TAB members stretch themselves thin this way, which can lead to important matters slipping through the cracks.

In a perfect world, no one would wear more than one hat at a time. If you’re wearing so many hats that you’re feeling weighed down, find out if any of them will fit your existing employees. If no one is a match, or if your current employees are also overwhelmed, it may be time to recruit.

Needing to delegate is not a weakness. In fact, acknowledging that you need to practice delegation can reveal the following positive qualities of a leader:

Forward-Thinking

You have big dreams for your business, but you may be hesitant to take the necessary steps to reach your end goals if you have enough on your plate as it is. By delegating you are preparing your business for future growth. By freeing yourself of tasks that can be trusted to your employees, you will have the time to look for new growth opportunities. It’s hard to see the horizon when your many hats obstruct your view.

Self-Aware

When you show your staff that you understand your own strengths and weaknesses and know they can take the lead in areas that aren’t your strong points, you build a trusting work relationship. By respecting the skills of your employees, their performance and the overall work environment can drastically improve.

One of the best ways to show self-awareness is to listen to your employees. How would they suggest the business processes could be improved? What are their opinions on employee morale? They may even have constructive observations on how you can improve as a leader. I encourage business owners to welcome feedback from their employees.

Approachable

Inviting your employees to provide feedback opens the doors to communication. No matter how approachable you may be, it can be difficult for some employees to feel comfortable around an authority figure. Communicating both your strengths and shortcomings to your staff humanizes you to an approachable level. If they seem resistant in the beginning, I would suggest sending an internal survey that staff can submit anonymously. Once they see that their anonymous proposals are being taken seriously, they may be more willing to come forward for future communication.

To discuss how you can find out how other business owners take initiative with delegation, contact me today to join a TAB peer advisory board!


The Use of Job Descriptions Beyond Recruiting

image-from-rawpixel-id-76035-jpegDo your employees know the extent of their responsibilities? This may seem like an odd question because it can be difficult to imagine they’d be able to do their jobs if they don’t know their responsibilities. The truth is they may have enough of an idea to fly under your radar, but a detailed job description with clearly outlined responsibilities could provide them with enough guidance to truly excel. Through TAB meeting discussions, I’ve noticed that many business owners who don’t provide defined roles or job descriptions are frustrated with their turnover rate.

Some indicators that your employees could benefit from updated or detailed job descriptions are that they don’t improve from one evaluation to the next or they show a lack of enthusiasm or initiative. Additionally, unclear roles and responsibilities can lead to confusion among your team, and some members may even feel like they are picking up the slack of others, which can lead to low employee morale. Here are just a couple benefits I’ve seen businesses experience when they document job descriptions:

Employee Autonomy

How much freedom do you want your employees to have in regard to how they complete their required tasks? If you trust that your employees are qualified and don’t need micromanaging, they may in fact do a better job if they’re given as much independence as you can offer. You can describe each of their tasks as much as you’d like: use more details for tasks that require them to follow stricter processes and less details for tasks that allow for more autonomy.

Lower Turnover

When employees have a clearly communicated idea of what tasks they are supposed to complete and who they report to, they are likely to spend less time worrying about whether or not they are adequately meeting your expectations. Because one in four Canadians leave their place of employment because of work-related stress, the boost in confidence that comes with knowing what’s expected of them can help decrease your turnover.

If you agree that providing your employees with detailed job descriptions might be in their and your business’s best interest, here are some sections you may want to include:

  • Job Title
  • Job Description – List all duties and tasks that the employee is responsible for in order of importance or anticipated time it would take to complete the activities.
  • Reporting Structure – Do your employees know who they’re responsible for and who they’re meant to report to for each specific task? Having it all down on paper leaves little room for error.
  • Experience and Skills – If your employees have already been in their position for a while, they likely have most of the experience and skills they need. However, reading this job description may remind them of a task they weren’t aware of or remind them of some skills or programs they may want to brush up on.

Another plus of providing all of your existing employees with detailed job descriptions is that you have them on hand in case you need to hire replacements. When interviewing job applicants, you can ask questions tailored to the job description to ensure you hire the most qualified candidate.

If you’re curious to know how other businesses format and communicate job descriptions, contact me today to join a TAB peer advisory board.


How to Keep Valued Employees Without Giving Raises

action-adult-african-descent-1089551For small businesses, every dollar counts to achieve a positive bottom line. When a hard-working employee asks for a raise but your budget doesn’t have the wiggle room right now, but you also can’t afford to lose a quality employee, how can you ensure they don’t start looking elsewhere?

Here are what I suggest as alternatives to pay increases to keep the employees you want without paying more than you can afford:

Flexibility

One survey revealed that 58% of millennials would choose a better work-life balance over improved compensation. Do your employees need to be physically in the office every weekday? If they have everything they need to perform their duties from home and the independence to work on weekends, consider allowing them the flexibility to do so when it may be more convenient for their social or family life. Showing your employees that you care about their life outside of work will likely motivate them to care more about their life at work.

Commission

If the employee requesting a pay increase are members of your sales team, consider offering them commission incentives. Commission payouts may sound like they will cost you money, but they encourage your team to hit difficult goals that they otherwise may not have the motivation to accomplish. With increased sales you should be able to afford the commissions that come with them. There are many different commission structures that I recommend you look into before deciding which is ideal for your team.

Bonus

If an employee is putting in extra time on a project and the results are successful for your business, think about sharing some of that success with an employee with a bonus. This could be a cheque or a Visa gift certificate. Let them know why they are receiving the bonus.

Travel Expenses

Does your employee frequently use their own car for business-related travel? Reimbursing their per-kilometre allowance may be costing you more than if you provided them a company vehicle. As a Canadian business owner, many expenses related to company cars are tax deductible. Consider the difference in cost, and if the math doesn’t add up in your favour, then it may be better to consider one of the other alternatives on this list.

Professional Development

No matter which industry you’re in, it’s changing. Businesses that don’t grow or adapt to new technology or best practices become stagnant, and your employees want to stay relevant in the industry just as much as you do. In fact, 70% of employees wish they had more growth opportunities within their company. Offering them free learning opportunities to better themselves and develop their skills will allow them to better benefit your company. There would be costs involved, but group workshops, seminars, and conferences benefit multiple employees as well as your business, whereas individual salary increases only benefit the individual employees.

If you would like to hear about other ideas on how to keep your employees engaged and productive for the long-term, contact me today to discuss becoming a member of 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!