A while ago, we mapped out a customer journey for one of our clients. (We map it out on a roll of brown paper, looking at all of the touch-points that the customer has with the team, and who is involved at each point.) Their journey was about twenty-five feet of brown paper long, and so confusing that my head hurt when we’d finished.
The sales team were involved from start to finish of this journey; I’m surprised they ever had time to sell! The customer had to speak to four different people in order to do business with the team. Supporting the journey there were four teams, all over-lapping in terms of the roles they were performing, and all doing things in a very different way.
What had happened was what happens a lot in successful small businesses. Maybe it’s happening to you. They had started small; the owner and three trusted team members all of whom were very clear about their role and very focused on it. Communication was tight, everyone knew what everyone else was doing and the larger business picture. They quickly became successful and with the success came a bigger team, and an even bigger team, until very soon they were a team of thirty.
With such rapid growth ‘the way we do things around here’ had become confused, as each of the four original team members gave new people their version of what the operating processes were. Then those people trained others their way and so on until chaos reigned. As a consequence, their service and delivery times were poor, they’d lost consistency and they were losing staff almost as quickly as they could hire them.
Our job was to work with the team to unravel the Customer Journey (always easier when you’re not in the thick of it), to look for the simplest route for the customer, and the most logical way to support their journey. And then with them, to develop the ‘one right way’ to do everything. To regain consistency from the chaos and to restore the company as ‘easy to do business with’ and a great place to work.
It’s easy over time particularly when you’re growing quickly to lose the one right way and that tight system of communication. Having those things in place at the beginning of your business, having the one right way, the ‘How To’ for each task and solid lines of communication embedded in your business gives you reliable foundations for growth. And the one right way isn’t stagnant. If someone comes up with a better way of doing things or technology allows an improvement then that becomes the new one right way and gets trained in using a new How To.
Regularly reviewing your Customer Journey will ensure you’ve not added hoops for your customer to jump through as your business has evolved.
Do two things:
1. Think about your Customer Journey; view it through your Customers’ eyes through each tiny step right from:
- How many feet of brown paper will you need?
2. Take your daily routines and start to develop ‘the one right way’ (your How Tos) with your team. Start laying those solid foundations for consistency and growth.
Thanks for reading :)
One of the questions I always ask my clients is ‘How many of your current team would you re-hire tomorrow if you were given the chance?’ So…how many would you re-hire?
If you say all of them I’ll be delighted for you; that’s only happened to me once since I started asking the question! Most people have at least one person in their business who was never right. You've put up with them for years rather than removing them from the team; knowing that they should never have been hired in the first place - they were never a good fit for you, your team or the business.
So how to avoid this?
I have two golden rules for hiring:
Golden rule No. 1 - Never, hire in a hurry.
Why? Because anything you do in a hurry tends to be botched. You’re rushing to plug a gap; hiring somebody to make up the numbers.
You hire in a hurry, you make mistakes.
Golden rule No. 2 - Always hire to your values; this is key to successful hiring.
Think about why you’re hiring. You're not just hiring a body. You're not looking for someone who's going to clock on, park their brain at the door, and then clock off at the end of the day. You want somebody who is engaged. You want somebody who cares about what you care about - who buys into that goose bump-giving inspiring vision of yours; who has the same values as you.
Which brings me to the main purpose of this week’s blog. If you recognise how important it is to hire to your values but you’ve never really considered what they are….
’Keeping in touch with your values is a lifelong exercise.’
If your vision is your goose-bump-giving, inspiring picture of your future, and your plans are the route map to take you there, then what are your values?
The Dictionary defines values as… ‘principles or standards of behaviour; one's judgement of what is important in life’.
For me, they are the compass that guides every decision, every action, and the way you behave every single day.
We all have values whether we recognise them as such, or not, and our life is much easier when we understand what they are and align our plans, decisions and behaviours with them.
For example, if you value family, but you work 70-hour weeks, you’ll feel internal stress and conflict. If you don't value financial risk, you’re unlikely to start your own business.
Being clear about your values, helps you to make decisions and take actions that are fully aligned with them. When you’re in tune with your values, your gut will reflect them. Go against your gut and you might well be going against your values.
When thinking about what your values are, ask yourself:
Decide what’s important to you and how you’ll demonstrate it in your business, because what you do is a megaphone for what you believe in. You may genuinely believe and therefore say, one thing, but your actions and behaviours may well be saying another.
When writing your values don’t go for catchy slogans, cliches or phrases you got from a book. Think meaningfully about what really matters to you, your core values and then write them as you’d speak them. Surround yourself with people whose values match your own whether recruiting, outsourcing or choosing a supplier.
To grow a successful team, first hire to your core values. I'm not saying hire clones; look for people with diverse perspectives who will add value and have the courage to challenge you. But they must share your fundamental values at heart.
Do one thing: if you haven’t already, establish what your values are (if you have already, re-visit them) and then stand back and look at your business. Does it reflect those values?
Thanks for reading.
‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times!’
Geoff had been with Martin from the start, and had worked hard to help him grow the business. As a result, he’d been promoted to manager, reward for all his efforts. Well, financially he was so much better off, great! But the day-to-day reality felt more like a punishment.
Plucked from a job that he excelled in, and where he felt completely comfortable, even when the pressure was on, he now found himself managing a team of fifteen, actually no, not even a team, a group of people who came together every day to work under the same roof. Their work standards certainly didn’t match his; ‘sloppy’ and ‘slow’ were the two words that summed them up for him.
When I met him he was exhausted, frustrated and disbelieving that this group of people would ever do their job right without him watching over them, let alone take ownership. He was checking every piece of work that went out to clients, working longer and longer hours to do so, and the team, knowing their work would always be checked by him, didn’t bother to check it themselves. Why bother if he didn’t trust them?
Together we set to work on reviewing the customer journey with the team, I introduced them to the concept of simple, logical, repeatable, and we streamlined their flow of work, removing all of the hoops that they and their clients had been jumping through. We developed How-To guides for the most routine tasks, to achieve consistency and raise the basic standards, and we introduced regular meetings to improve communication, daily fifteen-minute huddles to set the expectations for the day, weekly meetings to review what had been achieved and set priorities for the coming week. Once a month I got them to meet as a full team, and to have one of the team do a twenty-minute presentation on something that would be of interest and/or benefit to the whole team. After that meeting, I encouraged them to go out for a team drink, or maybe even a meal, to build team spirit.
With Geoff, I focused first on his mindset, and the notion he had that everyone but him was lazy, useless and not to be trusted. I asked him to focus on training and feedback; to show individuals exactly what he wanted, by using How-Tos, and then to let them get on and do their job, without his interference. I encouraged him to trust that if he trained his people properly, and gave them feedback that encouraged them to improve, then they would, and that mistakes were not the end of the world, but a learning opportunity.
Geoff wasn’t convinced at first, but to his credit, he did listen, and he did change both his mindset and his actions. The daily, weekly and monthly meetings became the norm, and as the team began to blossom, I watched Geoff relax into his role as their manager. Twelve months later, with three further managers grown from the team, Geoff was promoted to Director within the business! Proud or what?
When I started working with Amit, it was clear that he had a problem with the team. For a start they didn’t work as a team, and they were all way too focused on the clock; never a good sign. Turnover was high too; for a business that was five years old, 90% of the people that I met had been there for less than twelve months.
There was one employee though who was driving Amit mad; always turning up late, questioning every decision, doing sloppy work; Amit was at his wits’ end and wanted to know what I would do about it, in his place.
‘Well, tell me one thing first’, I said, ‘Do her values match yours?’
‘Good god, no!’ was the reply, ‘But she had an excellent CV’.
That is so often the problem, and one that you’ll have difficulty overcoming. Hiring to a CV, focusing on the experience that an individual has had, rather than their values, their attitude, their fit for you, and your team, is a big, and a very common mistake.
So, Amit sat her down and had a conversation about his vision and his values, and what he was looking for in the people he worked with. He inspired the woman in question with his passion and drive, and she is now a real advocate of the business and a highly valued member of his team.
Focus on values; find those whose values match yours, you can always train for skill.
Do one thing: have you shared your vision and values with your team? If not, it’s never too late to start or reinforce.
Thanks for reading.
‘Recent research found that a huge 71% of businesses don’t train their new managers effectively, if at all…’
One of the biggest challenges you face as a successful small business owner is managing your growing team.
So, to make your life easier, what do you do? You pluck your very best person from the comfort of a job they excel at, and promote them to the lofty heights of management.
Fabulous! Reward for their great performance, and a signal to the rest of the team that there is potential for progression within your business.
But then what happens?
Reality sinks in, and without any training or coaching your highly-motivated new manager begins to flounder. The team begin to lose confidence and the mutterings start around the coffee jar. Your new manager goes from loving their job to dreading coming to work.
It’s a sad truth that managers are less likely to receive training than any other type of employee.
Recent research found that a huge 71% of businesses don’t train their new managers effectively, if at all; managers who have responsibility for developing team members, measuring performance, maybe controlling a budget and other resources to deliver results for the business. Scarily that means that a hefty percentage of businesses are being run by managers simply flying by the seat of their pants.
I’m sure the natural leaders and gifted organisers will thrive on the challenge, but what about the rest?
Those who are ‘consciously incompetent’ have a chance of improving – they’ll recognise their shortcomings and do what they need to, to develop the skills they lack.
The dangerous ones are the ‘unconsciously incompetent’ – those who think they know what they’re doing and plough on regardless: a downward spiral of the ignorant leading the ignorant. The damage they can do to your team, and your business is immeasurable.
Give your managers a chance to be the second line you need them to be. Focus on their training and continuous development, and they will do the same for your team.
(If you want help with this, check out our Manager’s Development Programme – created to develop the second line managers of people just like you).
One final word on management training. Some highly productive and talented people are not suited to management, or simply don’t want to be managers, so be prepared to build a development plan for them that isn’t a management ladder.
Training is an investment, and a big one at that, no question. But the return it delivers both to your bottom line and to your time freedom, makes it worth every penny and every minute it takes.
Do one thing: have a look at your training plan; how much of it involves management development?
Good luck and thanks for reading :)
"We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions.” - Stephen Covey
I was attacked by a wasp the other day. My lovely walk in the country was suddenly interrupted by a severe burning pain in my arm - the little beggar having sunk his stinger into me with no provocation whatsoever.
On my way home, accompanied by what felt like a hundred pixies stabbing my arm with tiny sharp daggers, I pondered on the purpose of a wasp. Wondering if their role in life was simply to cause pain, annoyance and allergic reactions. Why do they exist?
So next day, faced with some serious work to do… I googled, ‘What purpose do wasps serve?’ and was amazed to discover that they actually do serve some purpose as pollinators, though not as efficient as their bee cousins.
To be honest, it kind of ruined the blog I was going to write about the wasps in your business that serve no purpose:
But now I know that the pesky wasp actually does some good, it got me thinking that perhaps we shouldn’t rush to judgement, or take things, particularly people, at face value.
Maybe that person serving at the till had the headache from hell and wasn’t up to smiling.
Maybe that colleague who didn’t return your good morning was too preoccupied with her bulging to do list that she didn’t even hear you. So often we can take things personally when more often than not, people's behaviour is nothing at all to do with us.
Maybe that person you think has struggled since day one, just hasn’t been trained properly, or maybe they would blossom in a different role, or maybe they’ve been doing something quietly, behind the scenes, adding value to your business and just not making a song and dance about it.
Perhaps this person will never be a bee but they make a very effective wasp!
Have you ever employed or worked with anyone like this; someone who you doubted initially who turned out to be a revelation for all the right reasons? (Think of Richard Branson at school and where he is now).
Do one thing: Think about your people and for each of them write down what you believe their main strength to be, then ask them what they think. Finally ask yourself, “Am I playing to and challenging their strengths?” (Okay, that's three things!)
Good luck and thanks for reading :)
P.S. Did you see both the old and young woman in the picture?
Photo Credit: NY Public Library
Did you know that around 95% of everything you think, feel, do and achieve is the result of habit?
So the habits that are making you productive or unproductive, keeping you stuck or making you successful, right now, have almost certainly been with you since your youth.
Unsuccessful people have a number of common habits, habits that revolve around the words ‘should’, ‘must’ and ‘have to’; habits that feed their inner procrastinator; habits that keep them stuck. Successful people have habits in common too, habits that keep them focused, keep them prosperous, keep them making great decisions and enjoying life.
And the great news? New habits can be learned. You can develop new patterns of behaviour by modelling the habits of successful people and making them part of your personal management system. Success habits like:
Even better news – there’s a proven seven-step formula for embedding a new habit into your psyche:
Step 1: Decide what habit you want to install
Step 2: Tell people what you’re doing – make it public
Step 3: For at least twenty-one days, stick religiously to the habit – no exceptions, no excuses
Step 4: ‘Act as if’ - visualise yourself doing it - use the power of muscle memory
Step 5: Develop an affirmation you repeat over and over. ‘I get up and get going immediately at 6:00am’, ‘I arrive five minutes early for everything’
Step 6: Show resolve and commitment – persist until it’s second nature – a hard habit to break
Step 7: Reward yourself to reinforce and reaffirm.
The Henry Habit
Take Henry, for example. Henry was tasked by his school to read more, and challenged by his dad Peter, to read for thirty minutes every day. Both Henry and his dad told friends about the challenge (Step 2) and then for one month, every single day, Henry would announce both when his half hour started, when it had finished, and how many pages he’d read (Step 3).
With this habit, Henry had to act as if he was enjoying it, to talk about it as something he looked forward to every day (Steps 4 and 5). He stayed the course, completed his month, and was suitably rewarded for his perseverance (Steps 6 and 7).
Did the habit stick?
Of course not – he’s a thirteen-year-old boy! But, as a result of supporting Henry in his habit-forming activity, his dad has developed The Henry Habit, and now reads one business book a month, for thirty minutes every day!
This formula really does work. Give it a try!
Good luck and thanks for reading :)
Any business that wants to anticipate changing circumstances and act with agility needs high-performing, multi-skilled teams. If you consider that, ‘the only constant is change’ then seamless adaptability is key if you’re going to meet challenges head on and continue to give customers the consistency they crave.
Any training that takes place in an organisation has one purpose and that is to take the business forward. Training will mainly be needed:
The question then is ‘how should this training be delivered?’ Should it be focussed on individual team members or on the team as a whole? In my view the nature of the training need will determine the choice of training vehicle. It will usually be a blend of both.
Training the individual
If you have ‘one right way’ to do every task in your business and that one right way is written down (or videoed) as a step by step guide, it provides a solid platform where people can be trained on a variety of tasks. This ability to quickly change between tasks means the business continues without hitch when hit by the unexpected. It runs in a spirit of co-operation to get the job done.
This sort of training will usually be carried out in the workplace on a one-to one-basis and has several benefits:
Training the whole team including their manager has many benefits. As well as the direct benefit of the subject matter (which should be relevant to all and business focussed) there are many indirect benefits:
This is equally important if not more-so for the management team. Training the management team as one unit:
Cross team training is not always used by those larger organisations who like healthy competition between their teams. Keeping small teams in tight units and training them together can build really strong bonds which can have advantages. But personally I prefer co-operation. The downside of the tight knit team comes if it loses sight of being first and foremost part of the business.
If everyone wants what’s best for the business and everyone’s job is customer service then working together in a spirit of co-operation is the way forward. If you want flexible teams with people switching to where they’re needed then you cannot have people protecting their kingdoms. Training as a team, as one business can benefit that culture of learning and co-operation and lead to success.
Do one thing: re-visit your training plan and check:
(Don’t have a training plan? Then take a look at your team and routine tasks; do you have enough people with the skills for an agile business?)
Thanks for reading :)
I read an article this week on linked-in where the writer had challenged herself to take a whole week off and totally switch off from work. And she reinforced the ‘totally’ bit. She wanted to spend quality time with her children for an uninterrupted week and was asking readers if they thought she could do it. My response was, “Yes! Otherwise, what’s the point?!”
And that’s the question I’d like to pose in this blog:
“Why are you really in business?”
With my clients over the years I’ve gleaned there are often three main reasons:
You could almost combine 2 and 3 into the time and financial freedom to provide a great life for me and my family. And of course ‘be my own boss’ ‘get rid of the 9 to 5,’ ‘work at something I believe in’ are all in the mix.
But for many business owners I meet, the ‘making a difference’ is happening and often the ‘making money' (for financial freedom) is happening but what’s got lost is the pursuit of time freedom. That has often become a vague ideal that will happen somewhere down the line.
And of course when you’re younger you take your health for granted, you’re loving the buzz of your business. You’re energised and focussed and you’re driving your business forward. And that’s great…to a point.
So I would ask you to just pause, take a breath and think about what’s really important to you. Most often people will respond to this with one word - ‘family.’ And you may say that you’re out there working all the hours for your family but given a choice would your children want more money or more of your time? Okay, maybe not teenagers! But younger children; are they going to remember summers of great games on the beach, pony rides and ice creams, and bedtime stories with mum or dad, or a parent who was always too busy?
If you want great relationships with your children you can’t say, “Right I’ve got time now” and find they’re eighteen and about to leave home. And it’s not just about those wonderful memories you want for your children but for yourself too. You’ll never have this time again. Same for your spouse or partner.
Think about what’s stopping you from taking time off:
Small business owners are clearly passionate about what they do, so it’s no surprise that they find it hard to leave work behind on holiday. It can be a challenge also to totally switch off from work as technology has made it so much easier to stay in touch. I believe it’s crucial to take proper breaks to achieve an enriched life and avoid business burn out.
This is why we at MPL exist. Our vision is to make business easier. To enable people to achieve financial and time freedom.
The right team, recruited to your Big Vision and Values, simple logical and repeatable systems to follow, and a strong second line manager to whom you can delegate are the portals to freedom.
If you want any help unlocking those door please take a look at our website:
www.mariannepage.co.uk or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Do one thing: Think about what’s really important to you and what may be preventing you from achieving it. Then act.
Good luck and thanks for reading :)
"Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn."
The other day I answered a query someone had about where they could get help to implement ‘Investors in People’. I started by asking what it was they wanted to achieve? Which got me thinking about learning.
It’s said that some firms give new employees brief training on how to do the job and then that’s it. Some invest in things like team building exercises or NLP because it’s the done thing or they want to be seen to be doing something. There’s probably benefit in both these things but training and development shouldn’t be a random add on to the business it should be what drives individual and team growth to enable business growth.
The only factor by which you can judge the effectiveness of training and development is by improved business results. Yes, there can be indirect measures like better attendance and time-keeping, a better atmosphere in the office, less time spent supervising or reworking but these are not ends in themselves. All development should be positively affecting the bottom line including Customer satisfaction.
Some training has to be in sheep dip/ classroom style and may have to be outsourced but you can facilitate learning everyday on the job:
Training and development in whatever form it takes should always be about improving results. Sometimes you can see an immediate effect; sometimes it will take a while but you’ll see improvements over a period of time. Bear in mind that to judge improvements you need to know where you started from, like getting on the scales before you try to lose weight! So know your critical numbers before you start.
Do one thing: establish your critical business numbers and make a start.
Thanks for reading :)
Contentment can sound like a dirty word in business. There’s a thought that we should all be striving and pursuing and achieving and other go-getting verbs! And I agree I’m all for continuous improvement, for making things better and easier for clients; for being as good as I can be. That is my business mantra, as I know it will be for many of you. But things can start to turn sour if the constant exposure to social media makes people start to feel unworthy and discontent by comparison with peers. I read recently that this is happening and starting to undermine people’s self-worth. So today I want to share with you a short story which I hope will shore up any flagging self-esteem and draw learning points to restore or protect your self-belief.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…
Long, long, ago in a land far, far away there lived an old man. Each day he went to the stream with two earthen pots hung from either end of a pole. One was perfect, always full of water, the other was cracked and leaking, only half full when he got back to the house.
One day the cracked pot said (stick with me) to the man, ‘I’m so ashamed’.
‘Why on earth would that be?’ asked the old man.
‘I’m hopeless!’, said the pot, ‘water leaks out of my cracks all the way back to your house and you never get home with two full pots of water. I’m a failure.’
‘You couldn’t be more wrong’ laughed the old man, ‘you’re a wonderful pot. On the way back home look carefully at the side of the path and tell me what you see.’
All the way home the cracked pot paid attention, and at the end of their walk the old man asked him what he’d seen.
‘Flowers’ answered the miserable pot. ‘I know they’re beautiful, but it doesn’t help me. It was nice to look at the flowers but here I am only half full again. I’m still leaking. I’m still a failure. I’m so sorry old man.’
The old man smiled. ‘You daft old pot,’ he said, ‘there’s no need to be sorry. Did you not notice where the flowers were growing?’
‘Well, yes,’ said the puzzled pot. ’On my side of the path; why?’
‘All these years I’ve planted seed on your side of the path. And every day as we walked back from the stream, you’ve watered them, and the seeds have grown, and the flowers have bloomed for all the villagers to see. You are a wonderful pot. Because you are the way you are, the village path is full of beautiful flowers.’
The cracked pot glowed with pride and happily watered the path for ever after, content that he was after all, a wonderful pot.
Sweet story, but how does it relate to you and your business? There are a few key learning points:
Do one thing: Brainstorm all the good things you do and all the value you add in your life as a whole, and in your business specifically, as a person and as a business owner. Then take the time to celebrate your YOUness.
Thanks for reading.
Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)