February 2019
Business Essentials - Taking Care of Business
Hire and Retain Great Staff


Hire and Retain Great Staff

Good employees are sometimes hard to come by and today in Canada there are some regions and sectors where competition for skilled staff is intense. If you've found it difficult to hire and retain good employees, what can you do to give your company an edge when it comes to competing for the right hire?

Once you manage to hire a great person, how do you keep them happy and not see them lured away by a competitor? The "revolving door" syndrome can cost you a fortune. While some industries (trades in particular) have experienced this to a higher degree than others, it seems few small businesses have been untouched by these struggles.

Here are some strategies which will help you minimize the cost of turnover and more importantly, hire and retain the real superstars that can help your business succeed.

Hire right

Nothing is more effective than making the right hire in the first place. So much staff turnover occurs because not enough effort was put into the initial hiring process. Simply hiring a body out of desperation to fill a position, will almost always end badly. Yes, it takes effort (and sometimes a bit of money) to create a meaningful selection process, but the investment is worth it. Use all the tools available to you (personality inventories, skill testing, individual and group interviews, test periods, etc.) to ensure you're hiring a person who not only provides the skills you need to do the job, but who will fit into your business culture, mesh with existing staff, fill skill gaps and who buys in to your business vision. A little extra time and effort up front goes a long way towards less stress and aggravation later, when yet another person walks out the door.

Recruit constantly

Just like your sales prospect funnel, your potential employee funnel should also be full; it doesn't matter that you have no positions available at the moment. Always be on the lookout for someone you think would make a good employee and get their contact information. The person who impressed you when they served you at the tire store? Get their contact details and add them to your list, or even ask them to send you a resume.

Question the old ways

The world is in a constant state of flux and new generations bring with them new expectations. Nine to five office jobs used to be standard, now people expect greater flexibility with regard to hours, or job sharing. One size no longer fits all where employment is concerned.

Jot down all your assumptions or preferences about human resources, and then ask yourself whether any of those can be challenged given current economic, social and generational realities. Gen X, Baby Boomers, Gen Y – what does it all mean and how does it impact your workplace? People in each generation have a specific set of workplace ethics that affect how they perform on the job. You may not agree with them, but not only are they the reality for people in those generational models, you will be forced to accept that they are reality for you as well. Understanding the difference between generations at work may be your most valuable tool in finding the right people for the right job, and in effectively communicating with each generation.

Caring leadership counts

Make a commitment to improve your leadership abilities. Understand the areas where you are strong, and focus on growth in the areas where you are weak. An effective leader knows how to empower and motivate people to get the job done, in a way that re-enforces his/her care and concern for the individual. It's a tough balance, but those who are able to achieve it have the most loyal, committed staff.

Your employees are your most important asset. Once you attract the right people to join your company, keep them happy and productive, and use their individual differences in an intelligent and collaborative way. Do this and you'll be miles ahead of others whose revolving door just keeps spinning!

Hire and Retain Great Staff


The Top 6 Reasons Home-Based Businesses Fail

It sounds so glamorous in the beginning. You've carved out a beautiful home office, furnished it with just the right balance of beauty and function, done your research, secured your financing, created your brochure, and launched your business. You're not alone. Thousands of people across Canada do this every day. Unfortunately, not all of them survive. Too soon they're over extended, unable to collect their receivables, and have difficulty paying the bills. They're spending far more time trying to find customers than they are doing what they love to do (which is why they started their business), and they're wondering why they ever did this in the first place.

Instead of being a place they love to work, their home office becomes a place where they feel trapped and they begin to find excuses not to be there. People who fail in their small business can be smart, innovative, have great ideas, be good with people, have solid financial backing, and end up not understanding where they went wrong. Here are a few of the reasons small businesses don't survive.

1. Not treating it like a real business

Many home-based business owners simply don't treat their business like a real business. But they should, the CRA certainly does and so will customers. Have professional produced business cards, a website, join the local Chamber of Commerce, get a business licence. People who treat their home-based business like a hobby, inevitably fail in business. A hobby can provide you a few bucks here and there but it's not a business.

2. Not taking financial management and budgeting seriously

Because the home-based business is run with minimal investment, it's easy to be sloppy with the financial paperwork. Receipts get lost, Staples or Office Depot become candy stores with irresistible toys leading to over-spending, and who has time to create budgets and financial statements? One of the biggest mistakes home-based business owners make is not managing their finances professionally and not respecting their own budgets.

3. Lack of management skills

Many home-based or cottage businesses are started by someone who has a specific skill which they are selling; for instance a potter, a roofer, a handyman, a graphic designer. But just because they can do what they do well, doesn't mean they understand the management aspects of running a business. Taking the time to get training in business management is paramount to success. Until you can afford to hire someone to be your bookkeeper, inventory control specialist, shipper/receiver, receptionist, sales rep and accountant, you have to do it all. That knowledge doesn't come out of nowhere, you need to learn it if you are going to survive.

4. Lack of sales skills

One of the biggest reality checks for new home-based business owner is that people do not line up to buy what they sell. Someone, almost always them, has to go out and bring in the business. Remember, sales and marketing are two distinct activities. Marketing may bring you to prospect's attention, but actually selling to them brings in the orders.

5. Believing word of mouth will be enough

A business can only survive if it is properly advertised. This requires implementation of an appropriate advertisement and marketing campaign, which must be managed within a budget. Some business owners think they'll survive on word-of-mouth marketing alone. This may be more effective down the road, but it can't be the primary focus. Proper advertising costs money, and there are a significant number of home-based business owners that are reluctant to spend money on advertising. This is a mistake. Advertising and marketing costs should be built into your budget, and you should have a strategy about where you're marketing and how much you can afford to spend. If you avoid spending on marketing, you'll have a tough time surviving.

6. Not being professional

Working at home does mean you have the freedom to throw in a load of laundry at lunch, or put a few things into the crockpot so dinner's ready on time. But it's easy to get caught in the trap of letting personal tasks creep into your professional time. In addition, it's a temptation to let your office get sloppy – not do your filing, let your inbox overflow, and have dirty dishes and coffee cups strewn around your desk. Your home office should be as tidy as if you were working for someone else and your boss could walk in at any moment. A slovenly approach to your business office leads to slovenly business, and that's one thing customers won't put up with. Dress the part every day and treat your business like you would if you were working for someone else.

If you recognize yourself in any of these descriptions, find a mentor or advisor who can help you change your work patterns and move you toward behaviours that will lead you toward greater success in running your home-based business.

Hire and Retain Great Staff


Practice Makes Perfect

"Practice makes perfect," is an old saying, we've all have heard many times over the years. In looking at this aphorism, what does practice look like and what does perfect mean?

Just because you practice, doesn't mean you will necessarily improve. You need to practice in the right way, sometimes you may only be going through the motions.

It is when there is mindful, deliberate practice that improvement is realized. In her book, GRIT The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth speaks of four basics to the idea of deliberate practice.

A clearly defined stretch goal with full concentration and effort, followed by immediate and informative feedback, and all are repeated with reflection and refinement.

Let's look at what Duckworth means and see how you can apply it to the daily practice of your business profession, craft, sport, or whatever is important to you.

The idea of a stretch goal is not necessarily the ultimate goal. It is what you strive for and are challenged by. It can be a short-term goal within your longer-term dream. What does the route to that stretch goal look like? What are the steps you need to take to attain that goal?

The practice needs to be deliberate, with the utmost of concentration and energy applied. It needs to be designed in a way that the goal has been broken down into smaller steps and each step leading to eventual mastery.

An important part of honing our skills with meaningful practice is to incorporate immediate and informative feedback. Thomas Crane, author of The Heart of Coaching, talks about effective feedback as being "Delivered in the moment – or soon," being "Authentic – candid yet compassionate," and "Describes observed behaviours and impacts." This allows us to view what we have done and ascertain whether we have reached the stage or goal for which we were striving, or if we require more refinement, more practice.

It is this habitual repetition with deliberate practice, feedback, and refinement and our goal constantly in mind that moves us to success.

What does this mean for everyday practice? As a salesperson, you may want more effective sales calls which lead to an increase of sales and more revenue. Your stretch goal may be making cold calls which are not always easy or comfortable. How do you turn those cold calls into actual sales? What do you say to grab a potential client's attention in a meaningful and authentic way? It may mean having a script of questions that engages the person to help discover their needs, or it may mean developing an "elevator pitch" to describe what you offer succinctly and quickly. Once you have developed your approach, you may want to practice with a colleague, friend, coach or mentor to get some meaningful feedback. Better still what's stopping you from practising "live" on the sales call and reflect how engaged or receptive the person was to your questions or pitch? That then becomes your feedback to help refine what you are saying before moving on to your next call. Each call then becomes part of your feedback loop. Reflect on what was said. What would you change next call?

While perfection may never be truly realized, there is always room for continual improvement. Remember it's called practice, not perfect!

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