Tag Archives: Operations Management

Great Leadership Quotes from Tom Brady

 

Good leaders get inspiration from a number of areas, some from popular books or Blogs, and many from everyday people.  I wasn’t planning on focusing on Tom Brady this week but the news cycle and Mr. Goodell convinced me otherwise.  Here are a few quotes from a leader I draw inspiration from that easily apply to what we are all trying to do, Quarterback a winning team.

Tom Brady on;

 

Excellence  –

I don’t care about three years ago, …….I don’t care about two years ago, I don’t care about last year.  The only things I care about is this week….



Focus & Execution –

If you don’t play to win, don’t play at all

Strategic Planning –

You want to know which ring is my favorite?  The next one.

Organizational Effectiveness –

Every quarterback can throw the ball; every running back can run; every receiver is fast; but the mental toughness that you talk about translates into competitiveness

Personal Leadership & Prioritizing –

I always try to do as much as I can do.  I’m never the person that does not enough, because I’d regret not doing enough and think I probably could have done more.  I probably go too far and then have to reel myself back in, which works in some things, and in other things, it doesn’t work….

Communication –

If I have to say something, I want it to be meaningful.

 

Any great quarterback can be used for this analogy, and I am admittedly biased for TB12.  Leadership is found in all shapes and sizes.  Using quotes from sports figures  resonates with staff better than quoting Maxwell or Covey, so perhaps these may help you.

C.S.Simon Consulting recognize the challenges to get everyone on your team to contribute to a common goal.   Focus, Execution, Planning, Communication, Prioritizing and Mental toughness are skills your people may need developed to achieve the goals.   Developing individual leaders with in your staff is an investment in your business and doesn’t need to be costly.

Consultants Tip –  I challenge you give on the spot feedback to someone demonstrating leadership by an action or behavior.
Few things are as appreciated as recognition & a “high five.”

Management has a tendency to focus on people’s errors.  While that is needed, it is also to spend dedicated time of finding an employee do something right.  Many explain they don’t have time to do that.  Positive reinforcement reduces turnover and decreases productivity lost during recruiting and onboarding.  From a financial perspective you are much better off developing a culture of Leadership in your staff (who then train other staff) then having a “revolving door” policy.  Wouldn’t we all like to have a Tom Brady on our staff? Where would Tom be without his coaches?

         Carpe diem!

 

Bad Hiring habits are a Cancer to your business

A strong team knows what it needs to accomplish and is comprised of people capable of doing it.  It is management’s job to ensure there are tools to get the job done and the right people in place to do it.  It is leaderships role (often the same person as the manager) to ensure the direction the team is working towards produces the results needed to grow the business in a strategic manner.  It is my experience that 99% of the time I encounter a manager, owner, or supervisor that is “stressed out” or frustrated with results in the business, one of these 3 areas are to blame.  Here is an excerpt from our white paper          “5 Keys to Effective Operations Management” that focuses on what is generally the root of most problems.

How the problem spreads – Bad hiring practices

How do you determine what you ask your staff to do?  Do you have a written plan for them to follow?  Even for a small business, I highly recommend having a written job description for all positions.  It needs to give an overview of the position, and key responsibilities at minimum.  It is imperative that employee’s know what they are responsible for.  “Everything” or “whatever is needed” isn’t the foundation an employee needs to be successful.  This also helps you plan what is yours and others roles are to meet the needs of the business.  This is one basic component of what is referred to as “Labor Optimization”.

But more importantly, when you are hiring staff, how do you determine what you need them to do?  Some small business owners become overwhelmed and hire staff long after it is actually time to hire.  They are so busy; they will almost beg someone to work for them.  This is often referred to as “ass’s and elbows hiring”.  Because you don’t have the time to properly plan what you want them and need them to do, you tend to hire based on personality or friendship rather than behaviors and proven skills.  Managers tend to see what they want to see in the candidate, and don’t evaluate the true work habits and skills they have.  This type of hiring will lead to bad outcomes.  Bad hiring is bad business, it’s like a cancer and will consume what surrounds it!  Generally you end up terminating the person or they quit and you are back to square one.  Most often you repeat these mistake and fall into a bad habit.  That becomes very taxing on the business and all who pass through it.  Poor labor practices are one of the key reasons good businesses fail.  Having an employee quit looks bad on the business, and employers must consider that.  It’s not the employees fault if you hired wrong and didn’t set them up for success.  Yes, that is a key phrase.  “Set for Success” and should be the motto of every hiring employer.

It is your responsibility for hiring someone that can succeed and will succeed after training.

If they don’t succeed, it is often the businesses fault. Trust me when I say that most court rooms tend to agree with this.  Once hired right and trained, the ball is in their court (employee’s).  Pun intended.

Here is an over simplified plan for what you do to avoid this cancer to your business.
  1. It is crucial to plan out everything that is needed over the course of a week for the business.  You need to include as much detail as possible when doing this.  Even the smallest tasks should be listed (ex. – taking out the trash).
  2. Create multiple levels of job descriptions and start by placing a title at the top of a blank sheet. (Manager, Supervisor, cashier, counter help, etc).  Decide what level of employee will perform each task, and then add it to that job description (entry level, intermediate experience needed, expert, etc)
  3. Then look at each Job Description to determine how many hours to allocate for that job and what the values of those tasks are to the business.  The higher value tasks get the higher rate of pay etc.  If the Job Descriptions seem to fall short on tasks, you can combine multiple job descriptions if needed to ensure it equals enough hours to attract the right sort of candidate.
  4. Use this new description as a template for asking questions of candidates to form an opinion on their level of competency for the position
  5. Create a model of the type of person that would excel at this job.  Think of background, skills, successes, mindset, social behaviors, trustworthiness, team player, etc.

You will also need to consider other aspects when hiring like behavioral based questions to ensure they fit with your brand and culture.  Do not overly focus on personality of the candidate, focus on the behaviors and habits they present.  As you well know, these employees may be the face of your business; they need to fit whatever model you want to help sell your brand.  It doesn’t matter what position you are hiring for, even if your customer doesn’t come in contact with this person, it will still affect your business in the long run.

Successful people tend to find ways to be successful.  Success happens at all stages of life so when interviewing a candidate, dig for anything they have been successful at and find out why they became successful.  Too many hiring managers focus only on experience.  The key is to find someone with a history of success, who is trainable.  Train them and ask them to help build your business….

and they will.

Be picky, you owe it to yourself, and once you have found the “right” person make sure you communicate your needs up front (have them read and initial the Job Description when they fill out the application), and then hold them accountable.

Studies show that good people tend to manage themselves.  Hire the right people and provide clear expectations (Job Descriptions)  and your life could be that much easier. 

To read more about “Creating a Hiring Model”  LearnMore-Red-Primary-16

For other of our “Conversations with a Consultant” series LearnMore-Green-Primary-16

Carpe diem!

Non Profits & Small Business – How to plan a Communications Strategy

Content Management, Frequency, and Target Audience are but a few of the components in a Communications Plan.  Non Profit(s) and Small Businesses need to be very strategic on what messaging they need and which tactics to use when creating a Marketing Campaign due to the amount of time needed and financial investment it takes for these to work.

Knowing the attitudes and motivators of your buyers/supporters/followers has a direct impact on measuring  a plans effectiveness.   The following are excerpts from a white paper published by C.S.Simons Consulting  in 2012 designed as a FREE resource for those businesses who recognize the need for better effectiveness in their communications but have limited funds to hire a professional Marketing firm.  There is also 2 worksheets available to expedite your Communication Planning, feel free to contact me if you would like a copies.

Why develop a strategy around a Communications Plan?
  • Planning contributes greatly to success.
  • Increases effectiveness of messaging
  • Identifies key users and followers
  • Engagement, engagement, engagement
  • Keeps entire organization focused on Strategic initiatives

What is Strategic Communication?

 Strategic communication is planned and accomplishes a specific outcome.  It is essentially a project plan for everything you may need to “Market” a product, service or business effort. Designing one will ask the right questions of you as to how you want it presented(see below).  It is designed ahead of time so your company controls the exposure and narrative that puts your product/service/effort in the best light to the people or businesses you want to see it.  Otherwise you risk the reputation and message being delivered.  Below is a checklist to help you organize a Communication Plan of your own.

  • Strategic communication is targeted to a particular audience or audiences utilizing known demographics about your customer.
  • Strategic communication is designed and delivered to produce a desired result
  • Strategic communication aims for results with the best possible use of time and resources.

Strategic communications should be tracked, with measurable performance.

Some key questions to consider at the start of the process are:
  • Where are you now and where do you want to be?
  • What will you need to do to get there?
  • What role can communication, education and training play to achieve your goals?
  • How will you learn from your experiences?

 

 Be careful! – what to avoid
  1. Communication is part of the entire Policy and Strategy implementation process.   To implement a Communication Strategy there are many projects to be prepared and undertaken. There must be an understanding of what your customer wants from you, who your customer is and where to find them.  Demographics, Attitudes and Motivators is how it is referred to with in the Marketing world.  These are addressed first prior to forming a Communications Strategy around how to effectively have that group pay attention to you.  Most business people or Executive Directors would agree with this yet this stage often receives little attention until much later on.  Often communication is considered only after plans, polices or projects are prepared which strongly reduces the potential for successful project implementation.
  2. Ad hoc communication is not effective.   There is an enormous difference between communication strategically planned and that without strategic planning.  It will miss the target audience or deliver the wrong message.  You may have very little time to get the attention of your audience, so every little effort needs to be effective.

 

FREE Checklist for planning a Communication Strategy

 Message: This will comprise a combination, of WHO you are trying to speak to, and WHAT you want them to remember or HOW you want them to act.

Timeframes & Frequency: You have to clarify if you are designing a communication strategy with long term goals, a communication plan with short term goals or a communication plan for a specific project. A Strategic Communication Plan will likely utilize all three types of communication plans and is a comprehensive approach for long term messaging.

Target Audience:  To create a master strategy, match the goals of your strategic plan to groups identified in the recent membership survey.  The membership survey results provide detailed information on demographics such as age, proximity to lake, length of membership, and communication preferences.  Use this information to choose which medium to communicate to each demographic.  To broadcast a particular message, many organizations choose multiple mediums and alter their message slightly to improve connection with a particular demographic. Much of a communication program success relies upon the content connecting with its target audience.

Budgeting:  You must consider costs when planning a single event or campaign style communication.  This needs to be in the planning phase to insure its completion.  Too often plans don’t become reality because the finances weren’t thought of ahead of time.  Include time of any staff in your estimation even though it is part of a different line item.  When you want to determine the success of a tactic, all costs must be considered.  Include any print materials, ad space, postage, graphic design, sponsorships, office supply and smallwares (table, chairs, poster board, raffle prizes, etc)

Content:  The body of the communication and the vehicle for reaction.  Utilize demographic information to “speak in a language” that the reader will understand.  Incorporate grabbing headlines, pictures or graphs whenever possible as this is a proven to increase attention and action.

Tools & Format;  what method or medium would be best suited to deliver message and achieve results.  Consider the target audience, and how to best reach them based on prior success.  If trying to reach a new target audience, which design works best for the market? Is capital expense needed for a first impression?   Is graphic designing needed for a mailing or email blast?  Print ready advertisement design?  Pictures needed for social media or press release?

Instrumental style communication – You need to be conscious of whether you are dealing with a communication campaign that is organized to raise the interest of the public, politicians and other special groups for a particular issue, or to generate support for policies or plans.

 Interactive style communication – A plan is for establishing active dialogue with certain groups and fully involving them in planning, implementing or evaluating (Feasibility study)

 Maintenance and Accountability;  to assist with daily management of any communication campaign, the creation of tools to help monitor message, frequency, placements and responsibility should be utilized.  Examples of such tools are provided in the tools section of this report.

 5 considerations for Successful communications
  1. When implementing, regularly check how feasible the plan is, and what disasters may occur.
  2. What will affect the success of the message? Which stakeholder is it designed for?
  3.  Be flexible in adapting the plan in case of shortages in money or time.
  4. What will people’s reaction be – What do they want in the communication?
  5. If the communication is announcing an event or action item, how much time is given for members to react?

 

When to use a campaign and when to use single source messaging

A campaign can be designed for virtually any application, after all, more is often better when done right.  The primary goal behind a multi-tactic campaign is to leverage each individual tactic/method to achieve greater impact with the desired message.

Some occasions for use of a campaign

  • To educate a population on a particular subject
  • To tell a story of your brand
  • Establish a dialogue
  • To create recognition of a subject
  • Public Relations
  • To display a style or belief system

Single source messaging which is a one time event through standard media such as direct mail, email, website or online posting and is designed as a “one and done”.  It doesn’t have a direct connection to either the message that LSPA has agreed to or a direct connection to the mission of the organization.  While it is important and informational, it may not lead to a call for action like those in a campaign will from its recipients.

Some occasions for use of single source messaging

  • Scheduled events
  • Confirmation of expected information
  • Thank You’s
  • Annual Reports
How Non Profits can identify the role for a Communication Plan

 To identify the role of communication it is necessary to ask:

  • What is the current Knowledge, Attitude and Practices (behaviors) of the target groups and stakeholders involved?
  • What reactions do you want the target groups and stakeholders have?

It is also important to clarify what are the desired changes in the people involved in this issue:

  • Is it to change the attitudes of people and/or organizations
  • change the mind sets – the way people look at a certain issue
  • change the way people feel about an issuer
  • change behavior? (more difficult)

To assess the role of communication in this change process it is necessary to understand if the problem is due to:

  • A lack of awareness that the issue is important
  • Negative attitudes towards the issue or the solutions
  • Lack of skills or “know how” to make a change

In these cases the different states of knowledge, attitudes and practices need different communication solutions, and communication may be used as a sole instrument.

 Frequently made mistakes in communication planning

 The objective of the communication activity is not properly defined or is too vague

  • The objectives are too ambitious to achieve
  • There is lack of knowledge of what is precisely wanted from the target groups and what is required to achieve the result:
    • e.g. is knowledge needed? new skills and practices?  
    •   e.g. do we need an attitude change from them?
  • Communication goals are set to change other people’s behavior and values without understanding how the behavior change can take place
  • The fact that people need social, economic or other benefits for any kind of behavior change is not considered when objectives are defined
  • Indicators are not defined for the communication targets/objectives, making evaluation of the outcome difficult.

 

For more on this subject or to discuss additional ways to help your organizations Ability to Generate Revenue, contact C.S.Simons Consulting.

 

Carpe diem!

 

 

P&L’s – The most important number?

I received a question about  our recent post regarding Financial tools every business needs regarding the Profit and Loss Statement.

The question is…

” Which is the single most important number to help manage your business on the P&L?”

The answer quite simply is the “% Variances” column.   Not all P&L reports even have that so what is it?  To truly have an idea where your business needs to be, you need to start with creating a budget.  Every line on a P&L should have a “budgeted amount”  number in it.  This is the amount you expected to spend to yield the profit you planned.  If you don’t do the work to create a budget, then the P&L looses half of its value as a tool to help your businesses ability to generate revenue.

Many know that to help manage your business you compare the “Actuals” to the “Budgeted” columns for each line.  But there should also be a percentage column next to each of these showing the percent of total revenue that each is, which isn’t as common to find in smaller businesses P&L.  It is important to do this because Percentages reflect day to day execution of the operations in your business.

The VARIANCE column shows the difference between the budgeted and actual dollars spent, which should also have a % Variance column next to it.  This is an excellent “At a Glance” illustration of how you did in that area for the given period (+/-).

The variance dollar columns are great information for when you need to “dig in” and find why an area was high or low, but comparing that areas “actual” percent to the percent of “budgeted” revenue….

is the single most telling number for performance.

Example:

Sales are up, which would likely mean some controllable expenses are up, right? But how much more should you spend to maintain your margins?  Management needs to make sure expenses are still with in the Budgeted percentage of sales to maintain profit levels as expected.  Simply put if you expected to spend 20% of your expenses on materials, you should still spend 20% on materials whether sales go up or down.  This column helps you keep an eye on that and make adjustments if necessary.   Businesses that have a lot of fluctuation tend to run these reports more often (Food, Retail, etc).  This helps you control your product costs.  Granted, this may also mean that profit dollars are down (assuming revenue is down), but at least you maintain product and fiscal integrity.  That is very important which I have a lot to say about as well as how to impact these numbers, but I will save that for another time.

But the SINGLE most important number, one that a Business Analyst or Owner should focus on first is the % Variance to budgeted because it shows so much information.

Call me if you need help with this, my number is at the bottom of our Contact page.

Carpe diem!

Ask an Expert – Creating a “Hiring model”

Stephanie asked-

“I need to hire for a new retail venture in 2016.  When I heard you speak, you referred to a “Model” to use when recruiting.  Where can I find those?”

The “model” needs to be created by you specifically for a position or department.  It is a fairly easy process to develop and one that will pay off in the long run.  It helps build a sustainable workforce well suited to help generate revenue.    A hiring model captures the key strengths and attitudes (skills, personality, work experience and even core values) of an ideal candidate for a particular position.  Stephanie you need to literally make a list ahead of time of what will be needed by a candidate to succeed at this job in your environment.  You can then formulate questions for you or your team (open ended ofcourse) to ask during the interview or simply use the “model” as a litmus test when reviewing a candidate.

Let me break these areas down further and show you how I have used them on Hiring Models and or looked for them during Interviews.  Be sure to read my 3 tips at the end!

Skills

Hiring Model -really look at what is needed to get the job done proficiently.  Skills simply illustrate someones capabilities and knowledge base.  If you need a person to be extremely detailed, don’t just look for that skill listed in their work experiences, look for it IN the person.

Examples (customer service, computers, time management, organizational, communication, detailed, analytical, etc)

Interview – perhaps their work isn’t a great example of what they can provide. Lets say they also volunteer and run large events for a charity or church, that takes a lot of organization, attention to detail and coordinating,  so they may very well be capable of performing what you need.  That person may have not brought this experience up because it didn’t seem relevant to the job to them or they thought bringing up religion opened the wrong door.    So listen to what they offer in “icebreaker” questions, because you often get great information you can follow up on.  Asking someone to “tell me about yourself” can provide you very useful information that is technically unsolicited (which protects the interviewer).  People often have many skills that may not be used in past work experiences but may help your business.  You challenge in the interview is to find them!

-The better you know what it takes to complete a given job, and the better you can break it down to a set of skills, the higher the chances of finding someone who can excel at their job.

Personality & Attitude-

Hiring Model  – culture is important and culture isn’t found in your book of Policies and Procedures, it is found in the heart of the business on a daily basis.  Personalities help drive your culture and diverse personalities can either strengthen or break down the teams dynamic.  Personalities and attitudes are an important part of your businesses ability to generate revenue.   We have all been on those teams where either someone else on it became our best friend or we found a person that we couldn’t stand and made us want to leave the job .  So how does it fit in the Hiring Model?  Well if you are adding to an existing team,  you need to have an understanding of the interpersonal dynamics on your team.  What type of person do they want to work with?  While it has nothing to do with completing the job, it has a lot to do with how comfortable that person will be with the existing group of workers.  If the person is uncomfortable or makes others uncomfortable, quality and productivity may go down and turnover may go up.  I am not suggesting clones, but similar or complementing styles.  Building a new team for a new venture like Stephanie mentioned is a great time to build a synergistic team because you are hiring everyone at the same time.   Read a case study where this had a huge impact.

Interview – One great way to assess this is to have a “key” employee(s) interview the candidate also.  If all parties think they can work with this person,  you can feel much more comfortable with the “fit”.  Lastly, as a manager you do not manage peoples personalities you manage or correct their behaviors.   You only get one chance to make a decision based on someones personality and that is in the Hiring process.  Terminating based on personality can get a business owner into legal hot water.

Work Experience

Hiring Model  this one really depends on what job you need filled.  Regulatory or certified level employee’s need a certain level of experience to show they can perform and are competent.   But for most positions, if you focus on a candidates experience you are really focusing on the level of training the past job(s) provided this person and the management staff of each location.  I have seen people work their way through levels of management that weren’t really qualified to even be a supervisor on my team.  Titles are nice but don’t hire primarily on the titles someone has attained.  Many hiring managers falsely assume that experience implies competence.  Competency is what you really need to look for in this category.  In forming your Hiring Mode think about two things;

  1. What do you need this person to be competent at?  Which of the skills you listed will this person need to use most frequently?  Pick the top 2 or 3 and focus on those.
  2. think of the Top companies you may want to see candidates from, or key positions that are similar to what you have available.  You will find particular companies that share Hiring, Training & Development styles with your company, and those typically provide good candidates.

 

Interview – Form questions around how they got those jobs, what they felt they learned while doing them, and how those experiences help them be a better employee today.  Quiz them a little in areas they need to know to do this job to help gauge competency.  Usually in this area you can also get a good sense of what they are like to work with by asking questions around co workers or how they responded to a supervisors feedback.

When assessing professional experiences I always look for progression.  Do they aspire to move up the ladder?  or are they comfortable doing the same thing day in and day out?It is important to match this to your position yet ambition is important to a degree in all candidates because you need your new hire to have ambition in there new position.  Do they seek resources when faced with a challenge or take an easy way out like “just do as I am told” or my favorite “not my job”.  Clearly you need to insure their level of ambition is realistic also, someone who thinks they will be promoted next month may not be what you need!  History WILL repeat itself here I promise.

I strongly recommend questioning about jobs they have had that may not even be pertinent to what you want this person to do.  Ask “how they achieved, why they wanted that, what did they take away from it” and you may be very surprised in what you find.  But do not disqualify someone just because of certian job experiences, this can be a huge mistake for an interviewer.  Sometimes great people have to accept jobs at mediocre companies and often large companies hire and promote people for the wrong reasons, it is just to hard to tell which it is on an application you are looking at.

Lastly, consider how long it may take in the positions listed from a candidate to be competent and what the persons next roll was.  Ultimately think of what accomplishments you would like your candidate to have as it relates to there Work Experiences as a gauge.

Values 

Hiring Model probably the single most important part of a Hiring model in my opinion.  What are the core values of your company ?  Core values should be a guiding force behind all hiring and firing in your company.  You may have 3 or 15 of these, figuring our which ones may be most beneficial to the position you are hiring for can help build a great  Hiring model.

Some examples of commonly found “Core Values”.

  •  If hiring for a service based position, you may want a person to exhibit “Loyalty” or “Passion to serve others”.
  • Someone who will be working with the public and excepting cash needs to be “Customer Focused” yet firm enough  to “Protect company interests” in the event of a small confrontation.
  • Someone in sales needs to demonstrate “Patience” yet assertive and “Willingness to listen” is critical to close a sale.

If you don’t have these printed on your wall somewhere, jot down single words or small phrases ahead of time to help you keep focused during an interview and give others a better idea of what type of person you are looking for.  Another method that works is to have a tick sheet with you when you interview.  Have all the Core Values as column headers.  Every time you feel someone exhibited that value in your interview(s), mark it down to review later.   Get people talking and telling stories about work, school, or even volunteer work  and you will probably find common links.  The more you hear a particular value the more genuine it usually is.

3 tips on matching your model employee to candidates

  1. Sometimes the best employees are the ones with little “work experience” and huge similarities with the values, personality, and attitude you need in this position.  
  2. Skills can be taught, and I would rather teach someone how to do it then someone else doing it.
  3. Training on Values, Attitude, and Personality won’t happen.  People generally don’t learn these, they only conform to company policy.  Having a natural fit will benefit the workplace greatly.  Assuming you have the means (time, resources, systems, etc) to provide skills train, this can help you build a sustainable workforce the helps generate revenue for your business.

Questions?

 

 

Maximizing Millennial engagement

Statistically the Millennial/Gen Y’s are the most diverse and the most socially aware generation yet.  If you sell a product or employee more than a few people, you need to have a strategy on how to communicate and engage this growing population.  Doing this correctly will amplify your message, value and ability to generate revenue significantly.

In 2014, 36% of the workforce was comprised of Millennial’s (born 1976-2001) and by 2020 46% of the workforce will be.  A majority of these 80 million adults are in the workforce today.  Of them 64% are reported to ask about social policies of a company during interviews and 24% indicate it as a key factor when accepting a job.

Businesses who adapt messaging, management practices and policy the earliest may win the loyalty of this critical group.  Loyalty translates into engagement and retention, and is a great motivator.  In my personal experience, this is the most savvy and hardest working generation that I have managed.  In my 25 years of management I have managed boomers, Gen X, Y /Millenials and each clearly have different values and goals.  Building a program around a workforce’s values and goals so they feel as though they are contributing may be the best motivator.  Read a case study

Synergy seldom happens through “old school” management. 

The common denominator for attracting this group as followers is through the corporate leadership strategy.  One thing needed is that a Millenial generally needs to feel comfortable that a company is adding to society in some way.  This is vital for recruiting and this workforce may be the most productive group to date, so some companies need to rethink the benefits they offer.  The Benefits program is where the money comes from for many companies that offer the types of programs that attract this workforce.  The trend to decrease company match in 401K’s by a point or two, decreasing vacation or sick days, even eliminating cafeterias in the building frees up finances to point towards newer benefits that are more valuable to this generations.  Benefits exist to attract workforce, they(benefits)are an added value to working for a particular company.

How to attract or engage this group? – Learn from Disney

Walt Disney was not exactly known for taking care of his employee’s.  Early strikes from artists nearly shut down his studio.  Yet, he taught us the key to managing the millennial population…….

In the mid to late 1980’s the restaurant industry saw how important it was to not only serve food quickly to their guests but they realized the value of creating an “experience” for there patrons.  Theme restaurants boomed and dominated the industry.  This started with Ground Round and TGI Frdays but was perfected by Applebee’s.  Applebee’s International grew to over 1400 restaurants worldwide in record time and they did it by creating an “experience” the diner was comfortable with.  When the kids say “lets go to Applebee’s”, parents generally didn’t argue.  This was all inspired by the “experience” the guest received when going to a Disney theme park.  Roy Disney understood the importance of creating an escape and what a lasting impression it made.  If you focus efforts on executing the “experience”, loyalty will follow.

After Lloyd Hill popularized the “customer experience” motif with Applebee’s, the Healthcare industry was next.  To this day most hospitals place a great emphasis on the “Patient Experience”.  There have been departments created around tracking it with surveys, hour upon hour of staff training, and the bed side visit has been completely re-scripted, and it has all worked!  Studies show that hospitals that create the best overall “experience” for the patient have less open beds than those that don’t and they have a greater number of Outpatient procedures booked while also enjoying a much lower cancellation rate.  When the healthcare industry shifted it focus to the “experience” of their guests, it increased loyalty.

Many businesses need to start focusing on what I call the “Employee experience”  and go to lengths to include it as part of the culture.  Millenials grew up knowing this environment as the norm.  Everywhere they went someone was competing for them to have the best experience, so why should work be any different?  Focusing your company on the “employee experience” will increase engagement, productivity and satisfaction and isn’t that what you want?  One of the Core Values of Applebee’s was “Fun”.  That’s not only cool, I guarantee it works by building employee loyalty.

Whether you are looking to recruit or promote sales; here are                          5 tips to engage this group and start creating a successful         “Experience”
  1. Speak to a flexible workplace, environment and culture
  2. Demonstrate dedication to career growth through support, feedback and goal setting
  3. Boast a culture of collaboration
  4. Design opportunities to contribute to society both as individuals and as a corporate structure
  5. Competitive Compensation structure

 

Bonus – #3 is worth repeating, it is that important – Promote a climate of leadership and development, this group doesn’t respond well to being managed and micromanaged.

In my experience Millenial/Gen Y’s are attracted to a company for what I mentioned in the first part of this blog, and choose to leave because of one or more of the bottom 5 points.  Incorporate those points into your culture, manage this group by results and mentor them so they succeed and you will be as amazed as I at how this will help your company build loyalty and generate the revenue you were hoping for.

 

Carpe diem!

Progressive Discipline – A great coaching tool

The first role of a Leader is to effectively communicate.  A great leader will recognize the variety of ways they have to communicate.  Conversely, an employee wants to follow someone that knows where they are going.  Employees only want a few things out of a job, certainly pay and stability, but employees also want to contribute, they want to make sure they are doing a good job.  Training, Coaching and development tools are often used while Onboarding a new employee, but once that 90 day grace period is up how corrections are communicated are critical to developing each employee.

Many I have spoken with view the Progressive Discipline process as a means to an end.  “It’s how you fire someone, right?”  It is looked at a tool to document when employees have not performed, broken policy or exhibit unacceptable behavior.  While this is true, it does all that, the Progressive Discipline process is a much greater tool to both employees and management.

Progressive Discipline is a great coaching tool

The Progressive Discipline process dates back to the 1930’s and was instituted as a way for EMPLOYEES to know that a business would treat them fairly.  This is a policy that is designed to protect individuals from being treated differently than others with in that company and it holds all parties (both management & employees) accountable.  It is a process that forces a supervisor to be progressive with both coaching and accountability, thus improving leadership with in an organization.  A process that levels the playing field for employees because it assures them they are not being singled out and that everyone would be treated consistently.  Lastly, it is a process that should teach and hold all employees accountable for job performance, following company policy, and matters relating to company culture or work environment.

One problem is that employees generally first hear of this policy when they are in trouble.  It is referred to by the “boss” who says that “HR is making me do this, sign here”.  This is lazy management in my opinion.  I became notorious for conducting a very long employee orientation class wherever I have worked.  It is the best way to set expectations(but more on that another time).  I ALWAYS go into detail about the Progressive Discipline policy and that it is there for their protection, and I can tell you that people like hearing that.

What is Progressive Discipline?  – a quick overview

A Progressive Discipline policy exists in most companies and is usually found in the Human Resource Policy and Procedures.  It states that when employees exhibit certain actions or behaviors contrary to policy, regulations or municipal laws that the company will respond in a specific way.  Most occurrences fall under a “Progressive” category and most policy’s also list certain actions that could mean immediate discharge.  I like to refer to that section “the deadly sins” because most people understand that severe consequence are associated with it.

For the instances that fall under a progressive category, the policy outlines a course of action to take each one being more severe than the last, hence “progressive”.  This is for 2 reasons.  To guide the managers and to inform the employee of potential consequence.  The law is clear to state that the business needs to inform an employee of the consequence should they repeat that action.  Failing to do so will likely mean that you could lose in court if sued by the employee.  Losing in court can cost you a lot of money (and pride) and the court is generally on the side of the employee, so you better be prepared.  Here is a generally accepted hierarchy of the progressive steps taken.

First offense – Simple conversation, nothing for the employee to sign.  But a pointed conversation stating what was wrong and what will happen if it happens again.  Once you have done this, it is up to the employee to manage their own actions.

TIP – The manager should make notes to “record” this conversation.  You may have to prove down the road that you had this conversation and accurate notes are the accepted medium of proof.  Date and time should be included.

Second offense – Generally called a “Verbal Warning”.  This is the first official session.  You sit with the employee in a private location.  Make sure their privacy is secure and respected.  You reiterate that you spoke about this before (time & date), and that it happened again which is why you are speaking.  This time you will have something in writing speaking to the policy they broke if possible.  Again, you state what happened and what the next step will be if they repeat the action.

Third offense – Escalates to a “Written Warning”.  Same process, tell them what other times they were spoken to about this, that they did it again, and what will happen should it occur again.

In each of these instances do not scold the employee.  This is not emotional, it should be very matter of fact.  You did this, your not supposed to do that, if you do it again then this will happen.  Do you understand, thank you bye bye.  Raising your voice, using gestures or even looking angry can look bad in a court of law.  Be smart.

Each company’s policy may be different as to how many chances an employee will get prior to the last warning.  Smaller companies may terminate on second written warning, larger companies may wait until 3rd written warning and it may require a managers superior being involved.  This is for the employees protection.  It ensures that multiple people in the company are in agreement that it is a justified action.  It makes it more difficult for a manager to terminate an employee, thus creating more protection.

So why is this a good Coaching tool?
  1. This is designed to insure that an employee knows what is expected and gives ample time to correct the behavior in question.  During this time the supervisor should not be looking at this as discipline but as a corrective tool.  Perhaps it identifies where additional training is needed or makes them reassess job responsibilities and workloads.  The supervisor wants the employees to succeed in completing their tasks on time and is held accountable by their supervisor for doing so.  Clearly the supervisor should have a vested interest in making whatever happened not repeat.  This process helps clarify expectations to the employee and is a Leadership “best practice  “ It is really just an opportunity for training.
  2. Other employees are aware long before management that someone is not doing there job correctly.  They are upset by this because they work hard to meet the standards but this other person “gets away” with not doing the same.  Correcting that problem WILL be noticed by other employee’s, guaranteed.  Of course, you never tell the other employees that you wrote someone up, they notice because the problem went away.  This sends a message that all the rules/policies apply to all of the employees.
  3. Discussion of a particular policy (what ever you had to address) often leads to discussion of other policies.  The employee may come to you with questions on another policy or standard.  Welcome this, it is good discussion and will increase everyones awareness of policies.  Policies are the expectations of the company and discussing expectations is clear leadership.  Discussion leads to conformity, and conformity generally means employees are more productive.
  4. This process will create open communication in the workplace
  5. Open communication tends to decrease turnover
  6. If a team is properly Coached it tends to be more effiecient, which saves money
The Downside of the Progressive Discipline process
  1. Time demanding
  2. Must be consistently utilized throughout organization
  3. Easy for Managers to misuse
  4. Employees can “play” the system
  5. Needs an in-house examiner for escalations and approvals
  6. Can negatively affect Unemployment Insurance when not consistent
Advantages of the Progressive Discipline process
  1. Increases productivity
  2. Decreases turnover and avoids expensive replacement costs
  3. Lays the groundwork for defensible employee terminations by recording history
  4. Allows an accepted way for earlier intervention at first sign a problem is developing

Progressive Discipline is more of a mindset than a policy and it should be part of the culture in an organization.

CEO’s I work with are amazed at how many of their managers don’t know how to use this. It’s in the policy book and assumed to be used.  This is seldom even thought of until a problem erupts and then the policy is referred to like everyone uses it.  It needs to be developed into daily interactions rather than a way to rectify a problem employee in order to be effective.  Lastly, as with most of what I post, utilizing this tool effectively is directly related to your businesses ability to generate revenue.  It helps you get the most from your staff and is well worth the time investment needed.

Few other tools help you manage THE most important aspect of your business effectively as the Progressive Discipline policy.

 

When incorporated into a culture, it vastly improves accountability and believe me, everyone is watching.  Correction is part of training and development and is often a process.  If your organization can approach this as a tool that you can use to Coach your team better rather than a series of signatures needed prior to a termination you, your employees and the organization will be much better off.

 

This is a large topic yet I only touched on it here, you are welcome to contact me with any questions.

Carpe diem!

 

Why Goals Fail

Being a “realist” helps create worthy goals and many confuse what they wish to accomplish as the targeted goal in place of what will actually have a valuable contribution or a permanent solution to the issue.  Many look at problem solving as a bandaid, as a method to get them by or kick the can rather than finding the root cause to eliminating the issue.  The only real solution is to stop a problem at its source and many spend their time on goals that don’t address the problem at its source, they focus on various symptoms.

Having been inundated with blogs and newsletters  since the end of December about how to manage yourself to create goals, I felt the need to tell you why most of what you have read this year falls short and that if you follow them, how your goals may fall short also.

There are really only a few steps in the process of goal setting but before any of it starts you need to ensure two things;

    1) Is the person looking at the problem able to see the root cause?

    2)  Does the proposed goal eliminate the root cause of the problem?

If not, go back and keep trying until you can answer yes to both.

Once you have a worthy goal, use the old but proven “S.M.A.R.T. Goal” acronym for planning your goal.  I am sure you know the one; Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time based. It not only works, it works really well.  Don’t try to reinvent the wheel looking for a quicker, easier, or sexier way.  This has been used by the largest, most efficient companies throughout the world for decades, yet some blogger somewhere has come up with a new, better way?  Even if it sounds boring, do it the proven way because at the end of the day (or year)

it’s about the results isn’t it?

The last thing you need and the reason why your goals may fail this year boils down to one word: accountability.  Who is holding you accountable for these?  Yourself, a Supervisor, a spouse?  While we don’t like to believe this, few of us have the self discipline to make sure we follow the plans we make to the letter.  It is easy (and human) to make adjustments as you go which changes a goal and lessens the positive effect these actions will ultimately have on you, your business or your family.  Some how you feel justified doing it at the time, but at the end of the year, the problem still exists. You’ve either shifted your goal or accomplished part of it and let yourself off the hook.

A partial goal should be considered a failure.  If not, why set the goal in the first place?

Being accountable to someone changes that by increasing the rate of success.

Questioning someone on the progress of a planned goal makes them pay attention.  It is human nature to not feel comfortable when reporting that you did not complete something.  Discussing the obstacles you encounter with an Accountability Partner can help considerably to keep you on track.  When goal setting with my clients or employee’s I always recommend an “Accountability Partner”(usually me, but I can be tough) someone to periodically report milestones to or be questioned by to help maintain the focus on results.  A good Accountability Partner will continually ask about results even if you didn’t have any at the last meeting.  They don’t need to be an expert on the subject, they just need to follow up and get you talking about it.  Think squeaky wheel…

Easy right? Here is a recap-

You want your goals to work?  Remember these 3 things

  • Does the goal solve the problem?
  • Is it planned correctly (SMART)
  • Is it managed correctly (Accountability)

 

Carpe diem!

 

Click here to contact  C.S.Simons Consulting for a FREE template to help you establish and organize your goal setting process.

10 steps to a better Inventory Process

To many it is a dirty word, but most businesses understand that “taking inventory” is a necessity and must be dealt with.  The frequency of it is often determined by the industry and it ranges anywhere from once a week to once a year.  But Inventory is an extremely important tool and when managed properly will not only add to a companies profit line, but contribute to keeping your cash flow lower.

Many dread the process.  It can be very lengthy and tedious.  We thought it would be helpful at year end to pass along some tips to help make this process more efficient for you.  Simply put, the more organized you are, the easier and quicker it goes and the better you do it, the more you know where your money is.  When working with clients, I often offer to do an inventory with them.  They usually jump at the offer for help, and it gives me great insight as to how they run their office and thus lets me know where to dig in deeper.  The goal is usually to do a better job with Inventory and save them time doing it.  I have listed those things I look for below.

Inventory is a process; don’t view it as a task.  So many look at it as a one time task of counting what’s on hand.  That part of the process is referred to as the Physical Inventory, but it should not be viewed as the only component.  What leads up to, and happens after the Physical Inventory is equally important in the process and each adds to the efficiency of the other.

Why is this process so important?

Inventory takes a lot of time to perform correctly.  What if you could save ½ hr or more every time you do it?  I save most people at least an hour by having them follow the steps below.  Oh, and also….this is money were talking about.  Inventory is important because the dollars it identifies are vital when figuring out your product costs, so the more detailed the collection process, the better your product costs look.

If you don’t have everything I list here in place, it may take a few months of implementing to really see the effects of how much time it will save you.

Here are what I refer to as  the 4 components of the Inventory Process;

Determining need(s)

    • Establishing what needs to be in your inventory ahead of time helps streamline the counting process.
    • Establish Product specifications and Order guides to insure consistent ordering.
    • Have Vendor agreements to insure pricing, quality and consistent supply.
    • Have Production systems in place that can establish pars on items needed to inventory.  Keeping inventory as low as possible to meet demand.

Organize

    • Organizing storeroom logically and insure items are located together.
    • Establish product pars to insure adequate space is available.
    • Create Physical count sheets to mirror storage to accelerate counting process.  (see “Shelf to Sheet” below)
    • Have someone clean and organize store room prior to counting.
    • Create different count sheets for different store rooms and consolidate like items at the end of the counting process (not during)

Daily Management

    • Label and date to help insure proper rotation (everything has a shelf life)
    • Limit access and secure storeroom when not in use. (Key control)
    • Minimize storeroom personnel to ensure consistent receiving and control
    • Limit who receives orders and handles invoices
    • Perform account receivable tasks as invoices are received

Monthly Management

Pre- Physical counting

    • Ensure the most current price is on the Inventory extension sheet (Master Spreadsheet) for each item (changes by industry) and that it is done prior to Physical counting day.  Account receivables need to be up to date at time of Inventory counts.  Doing price changes at the same time is proven to not be efficient.

Post Physical counting

    • Review and tally all Physical count sheets.  If products may be found in multiple spots, consolidate to one number to enter on the Master spreadsheet.  Doing this ahead of time will expedite the data entry AND begins the analytical process.
    • Enter counts in Master spreadsheet to allow for calculations (referred to as “Extensions”)
    • Review extensions and look for obvious errors.  – Key miss-types or entered as “each” but priced by “case” would be one of the more obvious
    • Analysis of inventory by category totals and comparison to prior inventory.  Look for any major differences, variations, or trends.

Depending on the industry, I generally advise establishing an acceptable variance by Inventory category becomes established.   If over the “acceptable” variance (5%?) then have the manager report as to why.

Other key points that will help your Inventory process
  • Make sure how it is being counted is consistent with how it is purchased, used or stored.  If it comes in a case of 100 ea., yet they are only used 1 at a time, then break the sheet down to an “each” price and inventory them by the “each”.
  • If it is purchased by the pound, then make sure there is a scale available when inventorying occurs.  Do NOT assume each one is a given weight.  There is a reason why the maker doesn’t price the product this way.
  • The Physical Count process needs to be completed at a designated time when no product will be entering or exiting the storeroom(s).  Often done after hours or before business start for the day.  If you have multiple units doing individual inventories, it is important to insure they all do it at the same time, otherwise performance comparisons are difficult.
  • Utilize  “Shelf to Sheet ” – a 2 party system during physical inventory.  Inventory is not about filling in what is on the count sheet; it is about capturing the money on the shelf.

                 Process -One person starts in the upper corner of a storeroom and calls to                                             the second person.  The person calls what item it is and how many there                                                are.  The second person finds the item on the count sheet and writes down                                             the amount.  If they don’t find the item on the sheet, they write it down                                                   separately to be added at the end of the process.  The first person then goes                                       to the item adjacent to what they just counted and calls that item off etc.                                             This is done throughout the storeroom and is a methodical way to ensure                                               everything is accounted for.

  • Make sure Physical counts are never taken while someone is sitting at their desk.  Mistakes happen and this is why they call it “Physical” inventory.
  • Lastly for proper control a non Ordering/Receiving person should be involved in performing the physical counts also.  This is a common Risk Management practice plus; people that touch these products everyday are more likely to make assumptions/mistakes during a lengthy Inventory process.

 

Carpe diem!

 

Conversations with a Consultant – Operations

This area of the blog will be dedicated to the broad category simply called “Operations”.  Much of the focus will be dedicated to the common components that people skip for one reason or another.  I will show you the details to consider and tie those to the dollars and cents of your business.  Most people understand the discussion regarding “operations” in the business and how it has a direct reflection on your profit, so I don’t need to sell anyone on the importance of this category.  This is most commonly focused on in the Manufacturing or Retail sectors, can focusing on it improve the Financial or Healthcare Industry?  I will discuss these and other industries to show you what you may be missing!  I have clients from these sectors that will absolutely agree this is linked to your businesses ability to generate revenue.

The bulk of this blog will be multiple conversations over time around general management topics like Financial reporting, Auditing, Crucial Policies (every business needs), Time Management (my most popular seminar!), the many sides of Human Resources, and Labor management to name a few.  As with all of the blogs on C.S.Simons Consulting, special efforts will be made to break these down into actions that fit the scale and scope of your business.  Continued focus and discussion of these common subjects in a conversational format will make it much easier for operators to “fine tune” their own programs.  So questions are encouraged!

But I promise to still challenge you in ways that you may not have thought about!

Operations comes down to a few key area’s; Planning, Execution, Measurement, and Correction.  This blog will challenge industries that don’t think one of these pertains to them, and show them the importance.  I will also provide broader concepts to consider and different approaches to accomplish these.  Learn from my 25 years of Leadership in Operations Management, because I want to help.

This category will help keep you focused on the two things that matter most;

1) how to increase your businesses ability to generate revenue

2) how to be more profitable.

 

Carpe diem!