Tag: business owner

How Much of My Time Is Needed If I Hire a Fractional Chief Operation Officer?

How Much of My Time Is Needed If I Hire a Fractional Chief Operation Officer?

The most significant stress point for small businesses is TIME. Can my current business operate without me needing to be there every minute of the day? Can I take a two-week vacation? Can my employee take responsibility for the workplace?

If you can’t answer these questions, how long will it take to diagnose and fix the problems that keep you from living the life you want?

Usually, this challenge drives the typical small to mid-sized business to look for help because they don’t have the time or experience in-house to re-build, repair, or build the systems required for sustainable achievement. Using an Outsourced or Fractional COO is an excellent fit in these circumstances.

Once the top executive understands the workings of the IAS model, the question I often gets is, “How much of my time is needed if I hire you?”.

How Often Do We Meet?

Based on the scope of our involvement, we are on the ground in your business 1-6 hours per week. Working with you, your team members, contractors, etc., to identify, educate, and improve the ability of your business to operate without dependence on any individual.

This minimal time commitment results from our experience building operational efficiency in non-traditional businesses and knowing how to leverage the client’s domain knowledge to guide our efforts.

Early in the relationship, I invite my client champions to invest additional time by attending staff meetings we lead, participating in discovery sessions we facilitate, etc. I’ve found this extra involvement up front helps us form a productive working relationship and allows the client to get more comfortable with the new concepts.

Throughout this journey, the client sponsor and us stay in lockstep by focusing on high-level activities during our routine check-in meetings, such as:

  • Individual support plans for employees
  • Maintaining alignment
  • Reviewing the work products we produce and refining them as needed before roll-out.
  • Partnering on culture transition objectives.
  • Checking in on milestone progress and establishing the next set of goals.

What Do You Take Ownership of?

Most often, there are six phases during our involvement:

  • Discovery & Assessment
  • Design & Implement
  • Operationalize with Adoption
  • Evaluation
  • Adjust improve (introduce continuous improvement)
  • Continuous growth

After completing the Discovery & Assessment phase, we develop a plan to serve as our guide. We oversee the steps and actions necessary to create the change you brought us in for. With this plan defined, we’ll take full ownership of designing the agreed-upon work products and implementing them with designated members of your team.

We involve your employees during the design process to glean insights from their subject matter knowledge while also gaining their buy-in before new solutions are implemented.

During this heavy lifting phase, you remain at a high level yet aware of the changes by gaining updates during our routine meetings.

We focus on the key organizational competencies that most small to mid-sized businesses struggle with Strategy, Performance Management, Process Documentation & Improvement, Culture Alignment, Ownership, Trust, Communication, etc.

We work with your team to implement, evaluate, adjust and improve organizational behavior to create sustainable improvements.

How Do We Work Together?

While we’re in the trenches with your employees throughout the six phases described, acting on your behalf to ensure the proper changes are made and adopted. This is most effective when we develop a strong bond of trust, honor one another’s authority areas, and are committed to seeing changes through.

We guarantee that we can fix 1 of your top 5 problems in the first 90-days or less.

We have seen owners panic when the company isn’t completely fixed within 90-days. They grow impatient and feel drawn to undo the work. To avoid ending up at square one, leaving the new processes and systems in place is critical to gaining the desired outcomes.

The Best Outcome: Trusting Your Business to Succeed without you

We enter many small to mid-sized businesses every year. We’ve found that most business owners struggling to reach their goals are the same ones who are personally overseeing/involving themselves in all their departments.

Usually, that means late nights doing someone else job, making excuses for others, stressing out about sales, and trying to figure out what went wrong. Unfortunately, this often leads to a lack of focus, crunched windows of time, and a never-ending project load.

Imagine the time you’ll immediately get back by hiring an Outsourced or Fractional COO Leader! Not to mention how it will feel to be able to take time for yourself.

This freedom allows the owner or top executive to work “on” the business, creating a greater sense of impact and personal fulfillment.

You can actually take a vacation and not spend the entire time fretting about an order not being fulfilled or a project not being completed. No more sleepless nights filled with stress. You can enjoy time away knowing your business is going in the right direction to achieve the growth you’ve always dreamed of.

By partnering with a Fractional Chief Operations Officer, you are gaining a partner with the skills to create immediate impact while only investing a fraction of your time.

If you’d like to discuss the improvement you’re looking for in your business, contact me through these methods: (412) 397-7967 or doogie@ideasactionsuccess.com or book a slot on my calendar.

I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn to gain exposure to future article posts that will offer more valuable insights.

5 ways to ask your clients about their problems (unintrusively)!

5 ways to ask your clients about their problems (unintrusively)!

Every business wants extended engagement or to sell their clients additional products and services. There are many fancy strategies to increase the initial sale like cross-selling, upselling, and subscription services; you get the point. 

 

However, if you really want to keep a client, you don’t need to sell them extra bells and whistles. Instead, what you need to do is solve their problems.

 

 In this article, we will discuss 5 strategies (opportunities) to discover additional problems and bring additional value to your people without making your people feel uncomfortable.

 

Problem Identifying techniques

 

Listen for the keywords.

When going through your prospecting, sales, or delivery of the experience, pay attention to what and how things are said. For instance, when people use words such as ” I think, ” I would like, ” it would be nice too. This is because they have opened the door for a question. So let’s explore this example:

 

Client “I think I rank well on google.” If you’re a marketer, the next question should be, how do you know? This creates an opportunity to engage in discovering how much they know and where their education gap is. Thus creating a chance to sell an additional solution.

 

In conclusion, study what language people use to understand when they have an unknown or none defined problem.

 

Magic Wand Sale’s Question

Now many consultants have some form of magic wand question. It could be if I had a magic wand that could fix any problem in your business; what would it fix? Or it can look like this, if we were celebrating a year from now, what would have happened in your business?

 

Getting your people to chat about what they want to see changed is key. They will describe something with more detail than my staff to their job or 5 million in revenue. Instead, they start describing a scenario where their employees know what to do, how to do it, ask fewer questions, and solve more problems. Now those are all tactical elements that be solved. 

 

The lesson to learn here is to get to the details and push the person to share how they think and feel.

 

Share your observations

This is my favorite way to learn more about a person because it takes a lot of finesse. In the first two, you were simply asking questions and listening for what and how they responded. However, here we’re going to share our responses.

 

I am going to share my simple steps on how to share an observation without offending others.

  1. Ask for permission “may I share an observation.”
  2. Shit sandwich, share something good, the observed problem, and the hope. 
  3. Shut up, let them speak; the key is to wait for them to agree
  4. Offer a solution
  5. Add it to the contract

 

I know this was highly simplified, but when done right, you can bring up the many additional problems you want to work on and solve with your client. Practice the steps above and see how things begin to change. 

 

Indirect Survey 

Many businesses use satisfaction surveys; however, very few genuinely use them well. We tend to only survey at the end of the experience, depending on what may be correct, but if you provide the ongoing or long-term service, it is best to have multiple engagement points. My cadence is 6 weeks in, 3-month mark, and then every 3-4 months after that. Once you have your sequence, it is time to discuss the questions.

 

When, how, and what you ask are the superpowers of an excellent survey. So many of us will use questions to understand how we did but rarely do we add questions about unmet needs. In this article, we’re talking about discovering additional problems; if you want help creating a kick-ass survey, feel free to reach out.

 

Here are a few questions to add to your next survey to get to their problems:

  • Was there anything that you expected but didn’t receive?
  • Please finish the statement; it would be nice if (insert company) did …? 
  • If (insert company) had a magic want that could solve your biggest problem, what would it be

 

Those are just a few of the ones I through into my survey, but the point when you craft these questions is to think about what would be helpful to hear. Think about adding this to your next survey, and don’t forget to follow up. 

 

Qualitative research

It is essential to discover precisely what your customers want. Conducting a qualitative market study includes mapping customer journeys and evaluating data regarding customer pain points. Some vital steps for conducting research are:

  • Map out your customer journeys gives businesses valuable insights and understanding regarding common customer pain points.
  • Create customer personas to focus your time on qualified prospects, guide product development per customer needs, and align all work across your business.
  • Holding focus groups with internal and external customers
  • Using survey data

 

You can do this while you’re currently engaged with a client, or you can do it before engaging. Information and education are the most important pieces when solving a problem. The more you have, the better equipped you will be to help your customers. 

 

The superpower of qualitative research is it provides you with a tool to discuss issues you have observed but have felt uncomfortable bringing up because of the level of emotional attachment. It allows you to turn those issues into objects, thus depersonalizing them. 

 

I hope you enjoyed this quick blog about my top 5 ways to ask your client about their problems. I look forward to connecting if you need additional help or want to discuss anything in this blog. 

 

Remember, the best time to change was yesterday, so you better start today.

Sometimes life and business are chaotic; which choice are you making?

Sometimes life and business are chaotic; which choice are you making?

Businessman with umbrella overcome challenge in chaos office. Mixed media

Do you choose to fight against chaos, or Do you decide to order your chaos?

Sometimes life and business are chaotic; which choice are you making?

In my former career as a summer camp director, as an industry, we used to use the term controlled chaos to explain what camp was like.

However, I was not too fond of this term; it was like we were in conflict with what we were doing and not truly in control.

In reality, we can control our experience by creating processes and systems to give all of our people the greatest level of preparedness as well as teaching them what to do if it does not go right.

My team and I created an intentional, repeatable experience through processes and systems. This was everything from a detailed schedule with employee roles to how, who, and when we communicate difficult information to our two client types (kids & parents) and how we handle a problem at the moment and after.

If your business is feeling crazy. Build yourself a system that can be replicated over and over again.

Let me know what is causing chaos in your business below?
#business #process #IASbiz #experience #summercamp

Why is signage important to your customer experience?

Why is signage important to your customer experience?

As I am sitting here at my favorite coffee shop. I enjoy the quiet, but I can’t help but notice when people use the restroom because they never know how to get in. 

People will stand there giggling the handle, waiting patiently, or knocking. Since I am a nice guy, I tell them, “you need to get a key from the counter.” I am usually sitting there getting work done; this process can be disturbing. I ask myself every time, why don’t they just put up a sign? 

Adding a sign that says, “Please get the bathroom key from the front counter,” could elevate this minor problem. My point is that signage is your passive communication tool for getting your clients/customers to do the things you want. 

Think about your sign on the door; it is designed to catch a person’s eye to entice them to walk in. The menu on the wall is to explain what options are available. Every single sign is about creating an ideal behavior. With all this in mind, here are a few tips on making and using effective signage in your business.

 

Tip 1: Design Your Sign to Convey A Clear Direction

 

A good sign tells a person where, when, and how to do a specific behavior. Therefore, it is essential to think of your signs as a sequence of physical actions—a step-by-step experience. You need to consider the person who will follow these directions, who they are, and what problem they have? 

 

Tip 2: Does Your Sign Tell Your Story 

What is your business identity? Why do you exist? What problems do you solve? A great sign can convey these messages. For example, take Royal Caribian Cruises. A few years ago, they rolled out their Live, Love, Cruise Campaign. It was to transition their brand from cruise vacation into a lifestyle.

 

If you walk around their ships, they have artwork, decals, and signage just to share and reinforce their beliefs. So when you think about your own location, consider what beliefs will support your companies identity.

Tip 3: Know Your Desired Customer Behaviour

 

Make sure you take the time to map out the action that is important to a successful customer experience. This may take the form of walking through your experience as your customer or creating a process map. It doesn’t matter but make sure you get into the head of your customers. 

 

Tip 4: Talk with a professional about all the above elements

 

Take your time to find a company that will understand your brand and the experience you want to create. Then, they will add their expertise to design signage that does all your desired outcomes and more.

A quick suggestion is to talk with my friends at Spark Signs and Graphics; they get that a sign is more than a sign. It is a visual story ready to be told. Here is what owner Alex Maurer has to say 

 

“When working with clients, we set out to understand their business and what challenges they are trying to solve. As an example, effective directional signage within a building – whether it is a corporate environment or a church – can make a visitors’ experience so much more positive when they get from point A to point B in an efficient and easy way.”

 

As you seek to create the best experience for your customers and yourself, make sure to consider these 4 tips. If you want additional help creating a business that thrives and generate the lifestyle you deserve, consider taking a test drive and see what our profit acceleration can do for your business.

 

Remember, the best time to change was yesterday, so you better start changing today.

8 reasons your business is not growing, and it has nothing to do with sales, revenue, or profit

8 reasons your business is not growing, and it has nothing to do with sales, revenue, or profit

There are 30.2 million small businesses in the US, accounting for 99.9% of all businesses in the country. Even though they account for 99% of all business;

  • They employee less than half of the American workforce
  • The average annual business revenue is $46,978 
  • 86.3% of small business owners make less than $100,000 a year in income

It begs the question; what is holding back your small businesses from reaching its full potential and becoming multi-million dollar businesses. This series will discuss 8 reasons why your business may not be growing and the action you can take to fix it. Today we will discuss numbers one and two.

  1. Cash Flow
  2. Dependent Model 
  3. Supporting Relationships (Trust) 
  4. Waste/inefficiency
  5. Leverage 
  6. Lack of curiosity 
  7. Vision with a plan 
  8. A mirror 

Cash Flow

Cash flow is considered by many to number one business killer. There is a saying cash is king when it comes to your business; there is no more accurate statement. For those that don’t know this term:

 

The term cash flow refers to the net amount of cash and cash equivalents being transferred in and out of a company. Cash received represents inflows, while money spent represents outflows. A company’s ability to create value for shareholders is fundamentally determined by its ability to generate positive cash flows or, more specifically, to maximize long-term free cash flow (FCF). FCF is the cash generated by a company from its normal business operations after subtracting any money spent on capital expenditures (CapEx). (definition provided by Investopedia)

 

So how do companies get into cash flow trouble? 

  • Accounts receivable; you have provided service but have yet to receive the cash. Again, this usually comes down to your payment terms and your ability to collect whenever possible try to get full payment before or at least at the time of completion. 
  • Paying Bill First; we all hate owing people, but many businesses do not take advantage of the same payment terms. For example, if someone offers you net 30, 60 payment terms, take advantage of them and wait until the last opportunity to complete payment without accruing penalty. Also, consider renegotiating for a more favorable term.

There are many other ways to develop cash flow problems, but these are two of the biggest. Please take the time to review your cash flow statement & balance sheet see how your cash flow looks. Then, consider setting goals to improve your cash flow as a tool to increase the value of your company.

 

Dependent Model

Now that you have begun to conquer cash flow, the next step will be to make an independent business model. But, of course, you’re probably asking yourself what the hell does that means?

It means creating a business model that does not rely on you as the owner to push the buttons, pull the levers, provide the basic service. It is the philosophy of shifting from working in the business to working on the business. 

There are several reasons why owners struggle to make this transition; we will discuss a few today but remember there are many more, and it is up to create time to do the work and discover your cause and correct it. Today we will discuss the sphere of control.

This is a big one for most owners. At some point, you will get to the place where you can’t be everywhere at once and can’t interface with every client. This can be very tough because this usually means you need to hire middle management. It requires a different set of skills than the ones you have hired before but usually comes with a dip in profit. So what can you do about it?

The first step is to get organized and answer these two questions:

 

What do I need them to do?

Where is the information they need to get the job done stored?

 

Simply put, to create a stable sphere of control, you need to have a documented process with clear expectations, responsibilities, and most importantly, the information to be successful. The standard term for this is SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures).

Creating your companies SOP’s or engaging these new hires in creating the first version can significantly reduce the mistakes, miscommunication, and headaches that occur.

I hope you have begun to see your opportunities to improve your business. As always, our fractional COO’s are here to help with these and all of your other operational challenges. Thanks for reading, and remember the best time change was yesterday, so you better change today. 

Decoding Word-Of-Mouth Messages

Decoding Word-Of-Mouth Messages

Title Photo

Today’s lesson will talk about how word of mouth messages are delivered and how you can influence those messages.

There is a simple hierarchy of how to make WOM most effective

  1. Be an expert talking to an expert
  2. Get that expert talking to ICA (Ideal Client Avatar)
  3. Then get the ICA to talk with other ICA’s

 

When experts talk about your products or service, you will usually receive an amazing rush of sales and new customers, so obviously, this is one of the best things that can happen. However, you can also help facilitate this by offering free products to experts to review.

Expert opinion can also bring about new ideas that help to fuel new products, services, and operating systems within your company. If you take the time to change or develop the opinions of even a small group of experts, you will have the opportunity to help your market explode.

There is a standard word-of-mouth delivery system that, in most cases, takes a few years. But, you can speed this up into only a few weeks. The traditional approach is:

  • First impressions from an expert
  • Organized trial of your products or services
  • Pooling peer experiences

 

It’s important to know exactly who is advocating for your products and service. Take the time to find out who they are and reward them. While you may already have a customer service system for filing complaints, do you have one for compiling praise? Most likely not. If you take the time to show these people appreciation, they will help take your products and services to the top. 

Some of the ways you can show them appreciation are:

 

  • Invite them to a customer appreciation dinner
  • Offer to videotape their testimonials
  • Ask to interview them for feedback to improve with
  • Offer them a premier customer membership
  • Ask them to join a referral incentive program

 

There are lots of things you can offer your biggest fans to help spread the word about your products and services. 

Conventional media has been around forever, and while it can still be effective, it’s lost a little of its luster over the last few years. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Expensive and doesn’t necessarily return results
  • Boring, lacking something fresh and new
  • Too short of a time slot to offer enough information

 

While these are all true, there are ways you can make conventional media work for you. For the information to be effective, it needs to be presented in the right sequence, come from the right sources, be relevant to the target customer, be credible, and be delivered at the right time in the medium. 

We’re going to switch gears a little and talk about the two phases of the product adoption cycle. Traditional media is great for taking you through the information stage, where you can offer the information you need to your potential customers. Still, it’s not so great for measuring the results of those efforts. 

Without these results, you can’t fine-tune your marketing and, therefore, can easily miss the boat and lose potential customers and waste a whole lot of money. Once a consumer has the information they need, they’ll go through a verification process as they analyze whether or not the purchase was a good one. They generally get their information through:

  • Direct experience with the product
  • Interaction with peers using the same product
  • Experts’ experience
  • Scientific journals and other resources
  • Independent reviews and opinions

 

You can accelerate this process by:

 

  • Providing your own demos and free trials
  • Offer them indirect experience through the experience of others
  • Offer a good, true story that can be passed around 

Once you have the ability and can work through these concepts, you will be able to target your customers much better. If you need help with any of this along the way, try our FREE test drive to gain access to our experienced business coaches.

5 Killer Mistakes – Part 1

5 Killer Mistakes – Part 1

5 big mistakes that will kill a deal are:

  1. Not meeting the client’s expectations
  2. Mishandling a client crisis
  3. Taking on more than you can handle
  4. Putting all your eggs in one basket
  5. Up cash creek without a paddle

Any one or a combination of these can not only kill the partnership but can take down your company as well. We’re going to take a bit of time to talk about each of these; in this lesson, we’ll cover the first two.

Not Meeting Client’s Expectations

You must give your clients exactly what you promised during the negotiation portion of your relationship. If an event does happen where there is no way to meet the client’s expectations, not only do you have to find a way to fix the situation, but you also have to find out where it all went wrong. 

A couple of things could have contributed to this problem:

  1. Bad salesmanship. This could mean the salesperson was trying too hard to seal the deal and didn’t listen to the client’s needs.
  2. Lack of communication. This breakdown occurs between the salesperson and your operations department.

To avoid these mistakes, you need to put a clear plan of action into place that all of your sales staff needs to follow:

  • Think before you speak.
  • Give yourself a break.
  • Perfect your process.
  • Pre-format over-deliverables.
  • Stay hands-on throughout the entire process.
  • Define success.

 

Mishandling a Client Crisis

Crises will happen, but how you respond and fix them will define your company and interaction with your clients. You need to react quickly and effectively. This will help you gain even more trust and confidence from your client.

Some simple tips can help you deal with any client crisis:

  • Take responsibility and apologize, no matter who is at fault.
  • Act swiftly and effectively.
  • Step in and take control of the situation.
  • Never point fingers or place blame.
  • Stay in constant communication with your client.
  • Stay calm throughout the situation.
  • Keep your eye on the ball.

Now that you know the top two mistakes you can make to kill a big fish deal, you’ll know better how to avoid making these mistakes in the first place and learn how to put a plan of action into place in case of a crisis.

If you need help with any of this, don’t wait, email me at doogie@ideasactionsuccess.com

Next time we’ll talk about the 3rd and 4th killer mistakes you can make in working with big fish clients.

One Fish two, Fish, I can’t stop thinking about the Big Fish.

One Fish two, Fish, I can’t stop thinking about the Big Fish.

Title picture

In the last post, we started our series on catching big clients, or “fish,” that will sustain your business over the long run. Today we’re going to take that a step further by talking about understanding and thinking like a big fish company and how that can help you plan your approach and find success.

Before you can start landing big clients, you have to make sure your entire team is on board with your approach and vision. There are six keys to finding big client success. They are:

Six Key’s: Big Fish Mindset

  1. First Impression: Never give them a reason to doubt your abilities. Plan your interaction and be prepared to listen, learn, and act to solve their problems. Make it about them and not you; be patient. 
  2. First Priority: Your fish must always feel like they are your priority. Return calls and emails promptly and find solutions to their problems or questions as quickly as possible. Over-communicate on the process; let them know your thinking of them.
  3. Flexible: You need to be flexible in your negotiations. If they need a particular service or for you to customize a product, say yes for the benefit of the long term. A little hassle now will be a big payoff later.
  4. Long-term: This goes along with the last one a bit. As you are approaching and negotiating with big fish, you need to think about the long-term benefits for your business. If you go for a one-time big score, you will lose their interest.
  5. Have Fun: Work should be fun, even when trying to land big clients. Going after the big fish should be the most fun. You are sharing your vision with new people and including them in your future success and likewise. People work better in a fun, happy environment. Your passion will also be contagious and pull the fish into your vision even more.
  6. Put them first: If you take just a little bit of time and offer your clients ways to save money or time by introducing them to potential business partners, this will show you are invested and interested in their business. Strive to find the balance between your business needs and your client’s needs.

Now that you understand the basis of the Big Fish Mindset. You might be asking, great, how do I develop a vision for my entire company? There several tactics to employ, but here are a few of my favorites. 

  • Engage your team in defining who is an ideal “Big Fish Nothing gets a team to share a vision like having them be a part of the process design.”

 

  • Write the vision and goals everywhere. Create signage that reinforced the company vision and goals. Everyone loves suitable bathroom reading materials. A fun poster in the stalls can go a long way. Plus, this is a great way to reinforce company values.

 

  • Training, Training, Training: Constitnantly reinforces the goals and objectives while teaching your staff the skills to achieve them. Get help and provide resources for your team to be successful. May I suggest starting with a lesson on the “Big Fish Mindset.”

 

  • Score Board: create a way to share the progress with your entire company. It is a great way to show each person’s contribution to the whole. Plus, it can be a great way to track and evaluate your process. 

 

  • Strategy eats tactics for breakfast, holds frequent meetings to make sure your strategy is working, and adjust the tactics to achieve your goals.

 

  • Create a communication policy, be very clear with your team about how quickly you expect your staff to get back to customers. In addition, create shared language and terms around communicating to clients and other team members. Defining these parameters will solve a lot of problems down the road. 

 

  • Reward in public, coach in private. As often as you can, praise your team. Find a reason to thank your team and appreciate their work. If they’re not performing, pull them aside and ask a straightforward question. What do you need to be more successful?

Including a big fish mindset in your overall company vision and experience will allow you to achieve more as a business owner and organization than you could ever imagine. It will enable you to start thinking long-term and give you the ability to invest in your people, process, and profits. Include the tactics in your strategy, and your company will begin landing big fish in no time.

If you need help creating the system, process, and developing the strategy big-company mindset, contact us today to work with one of our coaches or check out our resources and tools. 

The best time to start was yesterday, but today will do just fine.