Appreciation Marketing – Small Business and Services Focus

Sunlit Mountains Free HRAre you a small business owner or service provider such as a doctor, lawyer, coach or physical trainer who is looking to expand their business today?

New business, in today’s world, can be a difficult task given the internet and social websites for every level of human interaction.  It’s even more difficult if you don’t have a solid base of satisfied customers from which to build that new business.

Customer satisfaction is a goal that every business owner should strive to improve every day.  The key is, do you have a plan to show your current customers that you really do appreciate them, over and above the $$ they spend with your business.  I venture to say that many business owners tend to see the delivery of product or service as an end of the transaction with no follow-up and that is dangerous in today’s market. It’s really all about communications, communications, and communications.

There are a number of facets to any customer transaction and you can be derailed at any one of these steps if you have not been diligent in your customer communications.  Why is this important?  Let’s look at a typical transaction:




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Your Urgency May Not Be My Priority

Collaboration Graphic (2015_07_30 18_46_37 UTC)Every day, as a leader, you are involved in communications and processes with various clients, employees or community members that are all trying to get your attention. The pace is always hectic, with everyone in the community involved in doing what they do best – providing or soliciting high-quality delivery of the services you provide.

Your pace, as the leader, is hectic as well, trying to ensure that all requests by your ‘clients’ are being met with excellent results in a timely fashion, while also attempting to ensure that all of your people are fully engaged in tasks that meet or stretch their capabilities without being overwhelmed.

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What is the Price of Wisdom?

man_spyglass_books_300_nwmThere is a great story that John Maxwell uses in his discussion of Wisdom. It truly points out that the key to wisdom is knowledge and experience. I use the story often, especially in today’s Knowledge Based world.

Here is the story:

An expert is called into a company to look at their manufacturing system.  It had broken down and everything was at a standstill.  Nothing they had tried fixed the problem and dollars were being lost in idle payroll and production.

When the expert arrived he carried nothing but a small black bag.

Silently, he walked around the equipment, surveying all the nook and crannies of the device then he stopped abruptly.  As he focused on one specific area, he pulled out a small hammer from his black bag and tapped a particular place inside the machinery.  Remarkably the machine started running and the expert quietly left the building.

The next day the expert sent a bill to the company and the manager who had called him in went ballistic.  It was for $1000!

Quickly the manager e-mailed the expert and wrote, “I will not pay this outrageous bill without it being itemized and explained.” Smugly he sat back and waited for a response from the expert.

Shortly he received back an email with an itemized invoice attached which read!

  • For tapping on the equipment with the hammer – $1
  • For knowing where to tap – $999

Enough said the manager paid the invoice.  This is the value of wisdom!  How often do we underestimate our own wisdom or that of others? Wisdom implies that you are fully present on the job and eyes are wide open because this is how you discover the jewels that lie beneath the surface.

How many of us are guilty of ignoring that which is in front of us?  Time to grow!

If you would like to hear more please check out my website at or call me at 630-454-4821.

Path to Problem Resolution Success

Every day you face problems, some you will discover and others will discover you. How you deal with problems will determine how much time you have left to deal with important growth issues in your business. After years of experience I have found this process, if used properly, can make us heroes.

Marketing PlansFirst, define the problem – Be proactive, anticipate where possible, this can help minimize but never eliminate problems. The more urgent the issue the deeper you will need to dig and ferret out the details.  This should be a fact hunt, not a blame fest. However, never let anyone present problems without thinking through the situation. Part of your modus operand should be that people who bring problems also suggest at least one solution they would recommend.  This is critical.  If you don’t keep this practice in place, someone, more than likely you, will be stuck solving all the problems. When this happens there will not enough time to be proactive and successful.

Second, gather data and analyze the problem – When you, as a team, define the problem, be sure to uncover hidden expectations and relationships but control time frames for discovery, based on urgency and potential damage. Make sure you remove time wasters and analysis paralysis. If a problem is a high priority issue, make sure the timetable is consistent with the desired resolution and the perceived urgency.  Time is money so invest it wisely.

Third, generate potential solutions.  This should again be a team activity, avoid dictating any solutions, if possible.  Allow employees to participate in the resolutions and in the next step; The Decision.  If people do not feel they have any input in their working environment they are more apt to become disengaged.  Productivity can diminish, resulting in less revenue and profit for the company.  Always ask the question, who can help us with suggestions for improving the process through the solution maze.  Reach outside of the normal participants.  Don’t rule out talking with the customers or users to get solution insights.  Once you have a number of potential solutions, prioritize them based on impact and potential. Note, this will vary by industry or work environment.  Establish success metrics for each of the prioritized solutions, both hard and soft factors and make sure that each is agreed to and documented in the presentation.

Fourthly, Select and carry out a solution from the prioritized pool. Ultimately, someone has to make a final decision based on customer impact, employee relations, profitability, revenue, cost avoidance or other business factors the business requires. However, make sure you are communicating the process and outcomes in a positive and supportive fashion.  The higher the impact, especially perceived negative impacts, on the internal employees, the more critical this step can become. Define the implementation process and who will be accountable for each step. Once begun, the communication must continue to the point of being part of the daily process.  Success will breed success.  Monitor the milestones and ensure you are meeting the dates and process steps defined in the approved solution.

Finally, evaluate the solution and declare success or the need to reassess.  If a solution is successful then there needs to be a celebration, people need to know their work paid off and there are the results. In the event the solution is less than effective, look at the portions that are not successful and reassess the processes or products and make the necessary changes.

Thomas Edison did not fail thousands of times developing the light bulb, he just found thousands of ways it would not work.  The key is; persistence can pay off if the initial goals and expectations are well-defined and understood.


Can this process work every time, YES? Will it be implemented correctly every time, NO! This is where your management skills come to the forefront.  How the process is driven should be facilitated by you, the manager or senior executive, but you cannot do it alone.  Embrace your customers and employees as advocates and supporters then think in terms of innovation and growth. If you need help with defining your processes please visit my website or call me at 630-454-4821.

Are You Looking for the Ideal Working Environment?

man_spyglass_books_300_nwmThe more I read and digest the works of John Maxwell, the better I understand the nature of interaction and   relationships.  Wherever I choose to work, I use the following as guidelines in making the choice.  If I don’t find the elements present, can I influence their creation in the future?  If the answer is “no” to either question then I have to seriously consider my future in that location or firm.  The key here is to be honest in your evaluation from both sides, personal as well as corporate.

1.   Is it a place where others are ahead of me! 

Are there people that provide a group from which I can learn and grow? This means I have a group to learn from and grow with which makes time and learning progress much faster and provides a lot more fun in the process.

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Proactively Dealing with Absences

Optimism (2014_08_09 17_26_59 UTC)

As a leader, I am sure that you have dealt with or are dealing with workplace absence and it is costing your company profits, productivity, and customer satisfaction. It is well known that not all days taken off work are due to genuine sickness. Many employees “take a sick day” because their attitude is at a low point and they just don’t want to or can’t do their work.

Engaging people is a perfect platform to help ease the pressure of absences.  If people are engaged at work then they are less likely to take a day off every time they wake up with a stuffy nose or feeling blue.

Some think that paying more money, improving job security or working conditions are the only answers. Well, they aren’t, and finding solutions can be perceived as a daunting task.

People who lead other people need to become more tuned to their employees’ emotional needs and find out what really motivates them. This is may seem to be easier to achieve than paying more money or improving job security, however, there is no quick fix.

To reduce the amount of absence there are three practices you need to consider adapting or improving in your organization:

Always pick the right person for the job in the first place.

Improve your interviewing and selection processes.

Spend more time on this process; pay more attention to the applicant’s attitudes rather than their qualifications or experience. Get to know them better.

Find out what makes them engaged, how well they get on with other people and how much energy and enthusiasm they have. Engage them in meaningful conversation, not just surface chatter. Make sure they know what they’re getting into and be sure the job suits them.

Always believe in and trust your people.

If you’ve interviewed well and picked the right person for the job, then you need to trust them to do their assigned job. There should be no need for micromanagement if you found the right person.

However, you need to constantly demonstrate to your people that you trust and believe in them by what you say, your tone of voice and your body language.

If you believe that your people are not to be trusted, discuss it with the individuals and work on the lines of communication and connection.  Don’t leave the communication to perception because as a leader you will lose every time.

If, on the other hand, you believe that they’ll do their job well, that they can be trusted to make decisions and they’ll give you a fair day’s work, then it is more likely this is what you’ll get.

The tough part of believing in your people is that you need to be willing to allow them to fail and learn. This is critical for success in this area.

As with all theories, there is no guarantee that it will work every time, however, the majority of employees are reasonable people and if you treat them as such then they are more likely to behave in a positive manner.

Most importantly. give them feedback and coach them.

This is where so many leaders fall down in dealing with their people; they’re failing at giving positive, constructive feedback. Many leaders are uncomfortable telling staff how they feel about their work performance.

Most employees want to know how they are performing in their job; they want to know if they are doing it right or how they could do it better, not necessarily that they are doing it wrong. Seek to improve not just criticize.

If you really want to motivate your people, then you need to give them feedback on what they’re doing well and what needs improvement on a regular basis and with an attitude of authenticity.

When you notice an employee doing something you do like, tell them about it. When you notice something you don’t like, explain it to them.

Do it as soon as possible. Acknowledging a job well done is not much good six months later, after the fact. Also, if you don’t immediately call someone’s attention to something you’re not happy about, then they’ll assume it’s okay. Either that or they’ll think you didn’t notice or you don’t care.

Do it in private. Why is it some leaders still feel it’s okay to reprimand someone in front of their colleagues? Even the mildest rebuke can have a negative effect on the general morale of the company.

When you do speak to the person use “I” messages. Say things like “I liked the way you did that” or “I’m unhappy with the way your reports are always late and I’d like your views on why this is.”

Avoid “You” messages such as “You’re doing great.” That can come across as patronizing or insincere. “You’re doing that all wrong” may cause conflict, lower morale and may not sort the problem.

In Summary,

Focus on one or two things. Don’t spew a whole list of attributes or complaints. Also be specific about job behavior, focus on what the person did or didn’t do, don’t make a personal attack.

Employees will feel happier if they perceive their leader is a reasonable and fair individual – someone who is quick to praise but also says when they’re not happy about something. Someone who is open to listening and allowing others to speak authentically.

The message is – if you want motivated staff then make their work interesting, give them feedback and give them the feeling that they’re involved in the business.

You can make the job more interesting by giving people more responsibility, assigning projects and offering to develop them. You need to regularly give people feedback on how they’re doing; focusing on what they’re doing well rather than on what is not so good. Focus on their strengths first and foremost.

To meet their need to feel involved you should regularly communicate both formally and informally. You could also involve staff in meetings they might not normally attend.

These steps will take time and thought, however, they’ll make a huge difference as to how employees feel about their work. If they feel good and gain satisfaction from their work then they’re less likely to find a reason to “take a sick day”.   Contact us if you would like help putting this to work in your company.


Make Your Company an Engaging Workplace!

Thinking of others big picture 2014 (2015_07_30 18_46_37 UTC)Suppose you want to make your company the best company on earth to work for. What would it be like? When leaders are asked this question many of their answers were highly specific, of course.

However, at the foundation, there are six common characteristics. Together, these six provide a framework that allows a company to operate at its fullest potential by allowing people to do their best work.

In general, these 6 characteristics, when embraced by all, will allow for an environment where individual differences are nurtured; information open, not spun; the company adds value to employees, rather than sucking it from them; the organization stands for something meaningful; the work itself is intrinsically rewarding; and there are no idiotic rules.

At first glance, these characteristics might all sound utopian. Who wouldn’t want to work in a place that values and engages them? At the same time, many studies have confirmed that executives are fully aware of the benefits of engagement.

To support these thoughts, research from the Hay Group finds that highly engaged employees are, on average, 50% more likely to exceed expectations than the least-engaged workers. And companies with highly engaged people outperform firms with the most disengaged folks—by 54% in employee retention, by 89% in customer satisfaction, and by fourfold in revenue growth.

Yet, few, organizations exhibit all six characteristics. A number of them run counter to traditional practices and ingrained bad habits. Some are complicated and can be costly to implement. And all require leaders to carefully balance tactical and strategic interests and rethink how they allocate their time and attention.

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What is Commitment?

Thinking of others big picture 2014 (2015_07_30 18_46_37 UTC)Simple question, not so simple answer.  So often we treat this term very lightly with little concern for the actual outcome. In a relativistic society, we often look at commitments as being one-sided, our own personal benefits are the primary focus.

Well, I decided to take a look at this simple word:


noun – com·mit·ment  \kə-ˈmit-mənt\

Simple Definitions of commitment

: a promise to do or give something

: a promise to be loyal to someone or something

: the attitude of someone who works very hard to do or support something

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