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Pearls of Management Wisdom
From "Dr. Michael Hudson's Daily B.I.G. Idea"
SAY THANK YOU TO THE FAMILY
Here's an interesting idea that works in amazing ways. The next time an employee, colleague, associate, or peer does something that is really special that you appreciate, send a letter to their family and say thanks. It may sound odd, but think about it for a minute...wouldn't it be great for your family to know that your business associates respect the work you do and appreciate it? It might not make up for those long nights, those weekends on the road, or those missed dinners, but it will remind them that you are appreciated in a very powerful way.
Trust me on this one...it is worth the special effort that it takes, not as a manipulative tactic, but as a simple and direct way to let the families of those who impact your world know that you appreciate the people who are special in their lives.
STOP DEBATING AND START TAKING ACTION
In my work with entrepreneurs, CEOs, and growing business leaders, there is one thing that seems to work every time--stop debating alternatives and start taking action. It sounds simple, and it really is...but it is seldom as easy to do as it sounds. When you lead a business you see lots of opportunities every day, and if you are conscientious in your approach, you consider them carefully before taking action. But sometimes this turns into analysis paralysis where you get so deeply involved in debating what might or might not work that you fail to take action, and that can become a deadly pattern. So what do you do?
First, define a simple set of decision criteria that you will use to make difficult decisions...criteria that support your vision of success and that you can easily apply to the decisions you face.
Second, define a time frame for evaluating alternatives...set the time frame to give you enough time to thoroughly evaluate the alternative, but adhere to your deadline for making the decision.
Finally, implement a process that allows you to quickly assess the benefits and costs of the decision...simply comparing the positive outcomes against the potential negative outcomes often reveals a clear answer to the question you are debating.
Bottom Line: Don't rush the decision process, but shorten it so that you spend more time taking action more than you ponder alternatives.
SCHEDULE YOUR EMAIL PROCESSING
Here's an important productivity question: How much time each day do you lose to e-mail? Think about it for a minute and add it up in your mind. Even with the best spam filters and the most judicious deletion of things you do not need to read, chances are this very valuable, but insidious communication tool is consuming more and more of your time each day. And the reality that not only is it not going to go away, but the volume of it that you receive each day is going to continue to increase. So what do you do?
Try this simple action step: Schedule three times per day to check your messages and respond only during the scheduled times. Start with 15-minute power blocks and stick with them for a week. You'll become much more effective in learning what needs your attention and what doesn't, your messages will become more focused, and you'll begin training others to adhere to your system. After the first week, adjust the time frame as you see fit, but don't break the 2-3 times per day habit. Over the next few weeks you will gain a great deal of time and increase your effectiveness by scheduling your daily e-mail processing!
SOMETIMES GOOD ENOUGH REALLY IS
In graduate school the running joke was that a good dissertation was a done dissertation. The point was not to suggest that any level of quality that would be accepted was OK, but rather than there was value in completing the project and moving on to whatever was next. One way to extend this concept into the day-to-day world of business is to consider that there are times when good enough is indeed good enough.
Times where further effort will amount to polishing the polish...it takes time and effort, but it produces no truly visible results.
Consider these three quick suggestions for applying this concept to your efforts:
(1) Are there tasks that you or your team have not completed because they are not yet perfect? If so, consider whether it is time to bring closure to them, clear the decks, and get on to the next project. (2) Have you defined clear standards that allow you and your team to declare projects completed? If not, consider doing so to ensure that the proper level of effort is being allocated and that time is not being wasted trying to make something better when it is already acceptable. (3) What tasks are you waiting to tackle until you know you can do them perfectly?
Take action today to move them ahead remembering that progress beats perfection every time!
USE THE 4D RULE
Looking for a great way to improve your efficiency and your effectiveness? Try the 4D Rule. Whenever you handle anything, whether it is a phone call, an e-mail, or a conversation, make the next action fit into one of four categories: Do It, Delegate It, Defer It, or Dump It.
The decision criteria are: (1) Do It only if it is something that you truly need to do that can be done within a reasonably short period of time and that really needs to be done; (2) Delegate It if there is someone who can handle it 75% as well as you can and it can wait until they have a chance to do it, or if you want to teach them how to handle things like it to free up your time in the future; (3) Defer It if it is something that you must do, but you do not have time to complete it now, and schedule a time to complete it in the future; or (4) Dump It if it is something that really does not need to be done by you or anyone else in your organization because it is not a priority or it is one of those things that would be nice to do if you had the time.
When you look at things using these filters, it is amazing how easily things fit into the four categories and how much more you can get done just by taking this simple action as your first step.
JOIN A KNOWLEDGE COMMUNITY
Web 2.0 has ushered in a powerful new world where like minded people can come together to create a community around a subject of common interest. What an amazing way to advance your knowledge and expand your expertise. Whatever your passion, invest some time in looking around for one or more communities that capture your interest, make the investment, and join the conversation. You'll gain tremendous insight into subjects that interest you, you'll increase your network of people you can exchange ideas with, and you'll add a new exciting component to your online experiences...one that will help you grow personally and professionally, and that always translates to more success for your business!
UPDATE YOUR BUSINESS CARDS
Looking for an inexpensive way to market your business? Use business cards as mini-advertisements, pass them out freely, and update them regularly. Few things are more powerful than that small piece of paper that you share with people you meet and for a small investment you can purchase them in small lots and change them every few months to keep things fresh. Think about it. The investment for 1,000 full color business cards is less than $100, but they are a very personal form of marketing...you actually put them in someone's hand and have a chance to make a personal connection.
Beyond that, they are a very effective way to deliver focused messages and calls to action. For example, you might print an offer for a free estimate or a free report or a purchase discount on the back of the card to stimulate action on the part of the recipient. Or you might print a mini-brochure about your core products or services in that valuable space. Whatever you do, don't leave it blank...you are not passing out writing paper!
Enough said. If you were to invest in new business cards every quarter and work to make sure you actually passed out all 1,000 of them to people in your market area, how much new business do you think you would see come your way?
CREATE AN ONGOING COMMUNICATIONS PROGRAM
We've all heard that it takes 7-10 contacts to get a person to take action. So the next logical question is: What are you doing to create these 7-10 communication opportunities with your prospects and customers?
With the technology of auto-responders, broadcast voice-mail and e-mail newsletters, it's relatively easy to create and program a series of messages that will go out to people at predefined times.
So why not launch an ongoing communications program with those that you serve today?
Here's how to get started. Define what you want your customers to do as a result of your messages. Do you want them to buy more of a certain product or service? Do you want them to come in to your business to see your new offerings? Do you want them to call you to schedule a free consultation? Whatever it is, clearly define the outcome that you want BEFORE you start crafting your messages.
Next, define the format that you want to use...direct mail, e-mail, or telephone, and jot down the series of messages that you want to share. Make them personal, connect with the recipients in a way that will not waste their time, but rather will keep them informed.
Be sure to show your businesses personality in the messages, and keep them short and focused on the outcome you want.
Then, craft your messages, review them, set up the system to send them out, and send a test to yourself and a few trusted friends so that you can go through the experience to make sure it does what you want it to do.
Finally, identify the people you want to send them to and launch the series...which may involve inviting the person to subscribe if you are reaching out via e-mail. WARNING: Send these messages only to current customers or people who have opted in to receive them...that's what will make this work because the people already know you.
SEND HANDWRITTEN NOTES
It appears to be a dying art, but the sending of handwritten thank you notes to people is a powerful way to get their attention and differentiate yourself from just about everyone else.
Here are some great times to use this technique...to thank a customer for placing an order or making a purchase, to thank a supplier for delivering your rush order on time, to thank a person who introduced you to someone you wanted to meet, to let someone know you enjoyed meeting them at a recent event, to thank a speaker you heard who impacted you in some way, to share a news article you saw about the person, to congratulate someone on an award they received, or just to let them know you appreciate their business.
Try this...it's amazing the people who will call you after receiving a handwritten note...even those you cannot get to call you any other way!
ACTION STEP: Make a commitment to send two handwritten notes per week for a month and see what happens, you'll quickly see the value of this low cost habit. AND, if you really don't like the handwritten approach, use one of the online services that sends notes out for you.
CREATE AN OBJECTIONS FILE
No matter how great your product or service, there are some people who don't need it, won't buy it, or just don't understand it. When you encounter these people during your sales process you have tapped into some of the most valuable information you will ever receive. Let me explain. When people don't want to buy something they will express their objections in a variety of ways, and in the process they will give you information that you can use to help others who actually do want or need your product or service.
Suppose the prospective buyer tells you they don't want your product because it won't do X. What they are telling you is that they need to know that it can actually do X. or that it does something better than X. So if you are going to get them to buy, you need to show them that it can do X, or that it does Y which is better than X. Here's what you do when you get an objective like this.
First, write it down on a file card. (use file cards because they make it easy to review the information later). Next, note possible solutions on the other side of the card. Then, have your sales team review the information to learn to deal with future customers.
Finally, use the objections you get to create more effective marketing efforts by addressing the objections before the customer even raises them. i.e., explain that Y is better than X in your marketing process.
Enough said. Track your objections, define your responses, study them, apply them, and increase your sales!
READ DIFFERENT MAGAZINES
Here's something that I regularly do every 12-15 weeks, and strongly encourage you to try at least once. I block out an afternoon and head off to a large bookstore like Borders or Barnes and Noble.
For the first 30 minutes I check out the featured titles on the main display tables for both fiction and nonfiction...taking note of the titles, topics, authors, cover designs, and colors. Next I enter the magazine section and randomly picking up 25 magazines. I pay no attention to titles or subjects, I simply pick up magazines that capture my attention for some reason. I then head over to the coffee shop, order a large iced tea, and find a seat with my stack of magazines.
For the next couple of hours I skim, scan, and scroll through the magazines...looking for commonalities and differences, pondering how ideas from different fields might be incorporated into my work, and paying special attention to the ads to see how the magazines see the marketplace. My reviews complete, I purchase a book or two, and maybe a couple of magazines that I carefully select and head back home.
My mind is filled with ideas that I allow to ruminate overnight before even attempting to capture any of them...my goal is to broaden my perspective and see what develops, not to solve any immediate problems, even though that often happens in the process.
Give this a try perhaps on a smaller scale with 4-5 magazines you don't usually read...I assure you the results will be amazing!
LET'S GET PERSONAL
Whether you know it or not, your business has (and needs) a face, and it may not be human. Your location, your advertising, your signage, your invoices, your envelopes, your letterhead, your vehicles, your website...all of those are elements of the face of your business. They are what people put into their memory banks and associate with your products and services.
But here's the key question--who (or what in the case of a mascot or avatar) is the human face of your business? Who do people think of when they think of your business? More important, who do you want people to think of when they think of your business? With the explosion of small, focused entrepreneurial businesses and online sales, the human face of your business is more important than ever.
It provides a degree of realness to your business and it differentiates you from everyone else, because it is a truly unique face that depicts the personality of your business the way you want it presented. Take action and define the face of your business today!
CLARIFY YOUR IDENTITY
It's always interesting to talk with business owners about how they define their business and then to have the same conversations with actual and prospective customers about how they define that same business. The differences are often dramatic, to say the least.
The reason may be obvious--most business owners are so close to their businesses and so entrenched in what they do, that they take for granted that everyone else understands what it is that they do.
Add to that the familiarity that arises from being in the same location using the same name for a period of time, and it becomes almost impossible for a business owner to believe that people don't know what they do. But the truth is that there are often major gaps between what a business does and what people think it does.
And this is not just a local problem. In a world where even the smallest local business can have a truly worldwide presence online, it becomes more important than ever before that the identity of the business be clearly defined and communicated...accurately, consistently, and repeatedly.
So what do you do? First, ask as many people as you can across a two-three day period how they see your business. Next, analyze what they have told you and compare that to how you see the business. Finally, create a communication campaign that fills in the gaps and lets people know what you actually do, for whom you do it, how they benefit, and why you are better than the other available options in the marketplace. This simple process will help you to clarify your identity, and that is a key step in growing a sustainable enterprise!
IDENTIFY YOURSELF ON EVERYTHING
Here's a good tip for you...always identify yourself on everything you do. If you create a document that summarizes something about your business, make sure it has your business name, your copyright, your address, your phone number, your slogan, and anything else that you always want people to know about your business on EVERY PAGE!!
The reason for putting it on every page is that even when you distribute a stapled document people may pull it apart and share individual pages with others and you never want the second recipient to not know how to reach you. Be consistent and do this all of the time and you will be surprised to learn how things come back to you when you keep people fully informed!
DEFINE YOUR SALES FUNNEL
Many businesses have a series of products or services that they provide to their customers. Even those that don't have a pathway along which the customer moves as they increase their involvement with the business. For example, you may offer a free consultation as a way to connect with potential customers, and then after you have qualified them you move to a sales presentation, perhaps with a free or low-cost trial to get them involved with your product or service.
The point? You are moving your customers through a sales funnel when you engage in this process, and it is important to define that funnel at the outset so that you consistently move new customers into and through the funnel in the same way. That's what systems are all about--creating consistency and delivering the product or service the same way every time for every customer.
Your action step? Define your sales funnel. What are the steps in the process you move customers through? What are the investment levels and time lines that govern when you move from one stage to the next? What supporting materials and customer service support are required at each step in the process? Once the customer is deeply engaged, what are the next steps for them? Are there logical up-sells (and sometimes down-sells) that you can or should apply at different points in the process?
BOTTOM LINE: Defining your sales funnel will take you a long way down the path of really understanding how you attract customers, engage them with your business, and develop long term profitable relationships. Take action today to get started by defining your business's sales funnel!
CREATE YOUR STORY AND SHARE IT DAILY
Every business has a story. The only question is whether it is being told. For some it's a colorful historical tale about the founder or the location. For others it's the tale behind the development of the product or service the business offers. And for others it's the experience they create for their customers. And all of these stories are important...because they position the business in the mind of the current and potential customers, as well as the overall marketplace.
These stories can be leveraged to create ongoing relationships that create lifelong customers. So what's your story? Are you telling it every day in the same way to everyone you meet in a clear, consistent manner? Does it grab people's attention and help them understand the business in a way that supports their decision to patronize the business? Enough said. You need to create your story and share it every day...it's a great way to grow your business.
LEARN TO NEGOTIATE
Few skills are more important in life than the ability to negotiate. Even if you are selling products and services with fixed or predetermined prices, the sale involves negotiation regarding things such as time of delivery, terms of service, or maintenance agreements.
The same is true of interpersonal relationships. Even something as simple as selecting a place to go for dinner with a group of colleagues at a conference involves negotiation. No doubt you can think of many more examples of every day situations where you need to use basic negotiation skills.
So here's the action idea...take a course in negotiation, take someone who negotiates for a living to lunch, read a book on negotiation...do whatever it takes to learn how to become a highly skilled negotiator and watch your results soar!
From "Dr. Michael Hudson's Daily B.I.G. Idea"
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