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Get off the doom and gloom kick!

Flash! People are sick and tired of this recession. Over 90% of all Americans, those who want jobs, have them! And, despite what you hear, most have medical benefits too!

So, why are we hanging our heads? I’ll tell you; because the media is making hay, driving ratings scaring people to death! I don’t know about you but I’msick of it!

Don’t want to sound successful or anything not PC but…I bought a new 09 general motors car this year. And, low and behold…it’ still running! In fact, it’s a great car! So, life as we know it has not ended and, unless we let the sobbing, politically motivated pundits control our emotions, we can survive!

Let’s all decide to be positive for a change. We’ve been through tougher times….much tougher..and we’ve survived. And we can now. I’ve never Americans so down in the dumps without reason in my life. Don’t misunderstand…out of work is out of work. But, we can work through it if we go forward and get our heads out of the sand.

If you run a company, you’d better be showing a postive face 24/7. If you are an employee, representing a company, you’d better push back against consumers who are being sold the doom and gloom story. If we kick consumer spending in the rear, if we begin, again, to invest in the future, we’ll actually have one.

I know my positve view is not exactly typical but, I was part of a home serivce business during the 1987 recession..a tough time for the service business. I saw people pull in their horns and expect to fail. No surprise, they did! Self-fulfilling prophecy, I suppose. But my company did not! And my clients this time around are growing! Why, becasuse the refuse to buy into the media dribble which, in my view is mainly responsible for the malaise that has overtaken our country.

Good news! Our attitudes are ours! We can choose to be up…or down. Stay in the dumper if you must but, as for me..I’m not taking part in the negative recessionary doom and gloom any longer.

Gee, I feel better already!! How about you?

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Smart Managers Learn To Delegate

Talked to a client yesterday….about an upcoming consulting visit.  After explaining his needs, we talked about the fix.

I asked the man whether or not he’d like to be involved in our initial meeting with the lead supervisors. He declined, saying “Nope, not me. I delegate that to my supervisors.” I made sure I understood, asking “Do you mean you don’t want to listen to what I tell them?” He affirmed his intention to let me do my thing and let his front line supervisors take the responsibility for using the information. “If there is no improvement, we won’t repeat it”, he said.

I hope some of you will understand that this senior leader was not shirking his managerial responsibility. He was simply demonstrating the level to which he’d developed the art of delegation. And, it really is an art.

As my client learned long ago, delegation starts with staff selection. You don’t delegate anything to anyone without first determining that they will likely succeed. They want the responsibility and they have the trainaing and skill to succeed. Knowing this, you delegate small responsibilities. Based on success, you go farther.

All I can tell you is that this particular client believes in his people and knows how much they want to do the job right, the first time. His confidence in them is rewarded daily by the continuity of his operations and bottom line success…even in a recession.

If you want to grow, learn to delegate. If you don’t, you will spend your management life as an army of one..and an army of one never went anywhere!

Tell me what you think.

Teams are out in tough times!

In a football or baseball game, one person alone cannot win. To succeed, people need to combine indivudual skills, ideas and enthusiam for the good of all. But folks, staying afloat in a recesssion of this magnitude is not a team sport; at least not typically.

In times like these, my experience is clear on one point; it’s the strong, persistent individual who succeeds first. Granted, a great individual performance can and and should pull weaker players along, and the team can win. But it is the never say die leader in the group that makes it happen.

So, have your team meetings, talk about working together and helping each other, etc. After that, look for the determined person who simply is not going to be a victim of tough times. That person is your winner.

I know, sounds corny; even writing this I feel sort of corny and old fashioned. But in my consultng work, I am exposed to people every day, looking for two things: first, someone to blame for the current situation. Second, someone to solve their problems. Think about it. I’m betting you’ll agree.

Who is to blame? Our culture; high living standards and the unrealistic, never could have lasted bubble of the last 10 years. Who will solve it?  We will! The same people who allowed this country to get into the hole we’re in will pull us out. The only problem is that most younger workers and managers have never experienced anything like today’s business world. To them, it’s like a bad dream that never should have happened; not to America.

So, where are the answers? The solutions to our business probems are within every organization I work with. That’s right…every one! If we can just get over the shock and awe of realization that, as 9-11 was real, so is our bagged out economy. Once we accept that fact, we can begin to create positive, forward planning and ride the coming bounce out of this mess.

I guess my point is that, when times are tough, we should encourage individuals to come up with ideas and suggestions that we can at least try; creativity that, as in recessions, even depressions past, pulled us through.

One thing is certain, anyone who sits and waits for Washington to save us is in for a long, long wait!

Comments welcome!

Marathon Thinking Develops People

I don’t know about you, but if I had $10 for each time I’ve heard “nobody wants to work anymore” or “there just aren’t any good people in this business anymore,” I’d be rich.

Let’s set the record straight. First, neither statement is true! There are hard workers out there and there are lots of good people. The negative perception about workers is driven by two main factors: first, in today’s Green Industry, we tend to ask more of our people than in the past. Second, we fail to adequately prepare our people to multi-task at desired levels.

Why has this happened? The basic cause is that we have been forced to stretch as never before to make a decent profit.

Costs are higher; profits are shrinking. How does one recoup the deteriorating bottom line? Simple: Get more for each labor dollar.

The thought process has gone like this: “Gee, I can’t make a bag of fertilizer go any farther, and I can’t get nursery stock any cheaper. My fuel costs are stable now, but still way up and equipment costs are still growing. But labor, my people — that’s got to be the answer. No, I can’t lower their pay, but I can increase my expectations, set goals higher and get more out of them.”

It has happened gradually, sort of a creeping escalation of goals and added activities. At first, we told ourselves that if we eased it on them — the higher goals, the more and different tasks — people might grumble. But since they don’t want to lose their jobs, they’d adapt.

For a while that strategy seemed to work. But there is a breaking point beyond which people just won’t go. In many companies, that point was reached and surpassed years ago. The result was predictable: higher turnover and, as word spread about the changing work environment, inability to recruit effectively. Over time, many of our best players left the industry. Hence, “there just aren’t any good people anymore.”

The question to be answered is this: How do we rebuild quality teams, filling chairs with motivated, productive workers at all levels — management included?

I believe in people-centered “Marathon Thinking.” The strategy is to build a true people culture in the business. The focus is on developing the people who deliver our services consistently, not on maximizing short term productivity. The term Marathon Thinking refers to a mind set and development process that begins with well-planned recruiting and training, goals based on individual skills and daily management aimed at achieving small, reachable daily goals followed by consistent recognition. It’s a matter of behavioral conditioning — and it works! You develop people, not in a week or two but over time, one controlled step at a time.

Sign up for the marathon
The premise is that a person who wants the job and understands how to perform tasks successfully, in a supportive world where recognition and appreciation are ongoing, will succeed. That early success will drive the motivation, then to do even more and better work.

Below are plan requirements that will allow you to win with your employees using this strategy:

  • Commit to re-focusing your business model on achieving goals through people. People must become your key resource and drive results. Without this commitment, you’ll waste your time.
  • Plan human requirements farther ahead. Evaluate current staff twice annually and be ready to upgrade in the fall, before winter hiring. Do not keep non-performers or negative people.
  • Establish an effective recruiting plan that communicates the good things about your business. Over time, build your company reputation locally by participating and supporting local events and letting people know your jobs are good jobs.
  • Build your training program to focus on just what the employee needs to know first. Do not try to teach more than the new hire can learn easily. Appoint a trainer who wants the job.
  • Follow initial training with repetitive on-the-job coaching, enhancing gradual learning.
  • Recognize and reward consistently.

For more information, contact me at hoopes@columbus.rr.com.

All they want is a deal!

Hey, I just broke one of the cardinal rules of living life in a recession…I bought a quality product; and I paid full price for it! Before you conclude that I’m nuts, read on.

After another spring selling season in the green industry, I was almost convinced that the younger sales reps had it figured out. Day after day, all I heard from our sales reps was, “All they want it is a deal.”

For sure, I’d be an idiot to pretend people aren’t looking for deals; they always have, always will. Still, in a recession, the DEAL is king. At least in the mind of my less experienced friends.  When selling gets tough, the easiest thing to do is blame failure on the recession and give away your profit.

My point, simply that there is a lot more to selling than cutting price and, if you are a winner this year, I’m betting it’s because you have learned to go beyond the DEAL to selling what people really want…value! OK, sounds generic and general…value. Let me take it a bit farther. People want satisfaction. They want expectations met! And that, my friends, has zip to do with DEALS.

So, get smart, all knowing sales reps out there…learn to communicate what you have that competitors don’t. Learn to identify what prospects want before you “pitch” what you’ve been told to sell. And LISTEN to what your prospects are telling you. Selling, at its best, is a conversation, not a pitch.

Finally, use the discount to close the sale, never up front! You communicate how you will provide what the prospect wants, then, after differentiating your product or service from the pack, you use the recession focused discount as a closer.

Two days ago, I paid full price for a top quality chain saw. OK, the rep threw in the oil and gave me 10% off the price of the gas can..but I paid full price for the saw. Why? Am I stupid? Gullible? Nope. I paid because I wanted quality, reliability and customer service when the damn thing won’t start! So, I was buying more than a saw. And, to get it, I was willing to pay more. 

The point is, once again, people want and need more than a DEAL! Show them that you have it and you’ll be amazed at what people will pay. And, remember this, most people are NOT unemployed. They are living their lives frugally and making more careful choices, to be sure. But, people are still buying. Sell value. Fill wants and needs and don’t let yourself off the hook, blaming the recession or your boss because you can’t give away your product or service.

Selling requires a focus on how we can not why we can’t!

I’m just off another week on the road, training sales people.  Reflecting on the current situation, no way to describe it but dismal.  Dismal? To whom is it dismal? From my vantage point, the most dismal among us are found in two groups of people; the media and those out of a job! The former preach threat and fear for one reason…to boost ratings. The second, have a legitimate reason to be down.

What about selling home services in this environment? One would assume that, with all the chit-chat on cable talk shows and throughout the media, people would not buy. In fact, people aren’t buying….except, except in one particlar instance. Let me tell you about it.

I’m in Nashville.  The economy there is no better, no worse than in most other mid-southern cities. Talking heads, as they do everywhere, proclaim the end of life as we know it. So, what’s my point? Simply, that if we [the sellers] accept media BS and focus on the downside of things, the sad result becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We can’t sell.

In my training work there, I came upon one less than highly educated employee…someone asked to skip the negatives and sell what is still of value to homeowners…pride and investment in the single biggest asset most of us will ever have, our homes.  Knowing no better, the young man did what I asked.

Every night, after a day in the field, we’d role play the absolute and demonstrable value in a home investment. Over and over, I worked with him on moving the prospect’s mind from the deluge of daily media gloom to the notion of a better day; a day  that would see home values begin to stablize and even rise a bit. I showed him how to  lay out the increase in property value of a home with real curb-appeal. And, in the interest of brevity, let me just say, it has worked.

Now, before you pile on….think about it for a moment. Here we have a young seller, not yet able to own a property but still believing it to be a future possiblility.  A young person who, like most, want to see a brighter future.  A young person unable to live in a negative world of daily disasters and, to quote our new leader, a world of “catastrophies”.

My point, so very simple and uncomplicated is…..it’s all in our heads! That is, unless you are one of those who either must sell your home now or is out of work. Still, with more than 91% of all employable Americans earning a living, there are lots of people out there looking for a reason to be positive.  They may not take that cruise or buy that new car this time around but….talk to them about building value in the one asset that matters most, and will for years to come, and they will listen!

Would tha media agree with my experience or even give it exposure? Not on your life! Why?  Because it takes away the play and exoses them for and the party in charge for what they are…people making a living by taking us down! the worse they all make it sound, the greater their accomplishment in “saving America”.To heck with politics! To heck with the media! Let’s focus on how to make things happen than describing why it can’t and won’t! Let’s not continue to fall for the media and political BS designed to make them successful and think about personal, individual responsibililty.

There, I’ve said it. I can’t live and work in a negative world….how can  you?

Look not to Obama for success in 09!

Expectations are way, way too high for a quick fix in 2009. We [our economy/our country] are in new and unchartered economic waters. Few alive today, very few,  have experienced, as adults,  the sort of distress. And it’s only just begun.

I’m old enough to recall my dad telling me over and over how Roosevelt and his “New Deal” in the 1930s, the government programs that were supposed to end the “great depression”, failed.  Sure, roads, bridges, lakes and damns were constructed. Sure, thousands went to work for their country.  Still, look at the facts…the economy DID NOT come back.

What brought us out of the depression was the second world war; the worst war in American history!  Sad…but undeniably true.

So, we can sit and dream, we can listen to politicians preach at us about the need for and sensibility of deficit funded  bail outs but…in the end, it’s not going to be enough.

I almost feel sorry for Obama.  This current economic crisis is not of his making. Leading us out of it, however, is now his responsiblity.  Problem is, he has so little significant control. That’s right, so little control.  About the most important thing he or any leader can do when faced with problems of this magnitude, is to act like a leader!

What he can do:

First, try doing what John Kennedy did in 1961…set an aspirational goal around which we can rally. Kennedy dazzled us with the space program. He made us believe we were good enough, smart enough to send a man to the moon and bring him back alive…”not because it’s easy but because it’s hard”.  So, Obama, Mr. almost President, do the same. Set an aspirational goal. And if you, my readers, are small business operators, you do the same. To be motivated, people need a cause.

Leaders unerstand that, when we focus on the big, overarching goal, the one that is a game changer, small problems and roadblocks fade away; they are handled as simply challenges to eliminate.

Next, find the best, most talented people to lead in focused, functinal areas. I believe Obama is doing this. But…politics have to be kept out of the staffing process. Great leaders understand that they only direct and inspire…and that it’s their people who make things happen. We must have the right people in the right jobs…and, in politics, that is not typical. So, Mr. Obama, buck the trend.

Now, give your “go team” the tools they need to make things happen. Playing with monetary and fiscal policy is a place to start but…you’ll have to go far beyond these overly complicated and slow to be effective government processes. You’ll need to get down in the weeds. Find out what the leaders need, give it to them..and do it quickly.

Then, Mr. President, we’ll need a a positive working environment. See to it that our smartest people interact , that they work together and share the best ideas, in an atmosphere that is all positive.

Most government programs are soon bogged down in red tape. Mr. Obama, you must cut it.  As he led the space program in the 60s, Kennedy cut the red tape, made the process efficient. It was essential to reaching the goal then and is now. So, facilitate the process, Mr. President.

And last…be a “hands-on” coach. Stay close to the action. Get out of Washington, DC! Get out there on the playing field with those on whom you depend to make change happen. Don’t let the status quo tie your hands. Great leaders, those who solve tough problems NEVER LOSE TOUCH WITH THE PEOPLE ON THE FRONT LINES!

If all this sounds a bit trite, that’s only because blog readers are impatient. I have to lay it out concisely or nobody will take the time, I fear, to read my thoughts.  But I know this, the process works.

So, will Obama save us? No. Can Obama quickly but carefully put in place a process of leadership that minimizes our time and national pain in the “recession”? You bet. Will he? My bet is…he’ll try.

Who will make the difference? You will; the American people. You always have and you will again. A positive belief and commitment the principles on which this country were built will be the base, the foundation of our movement out of this economic crisis.  Do we need strong, committed leaders? Sure. But who will do the heavy lifting? You and I.

Are you ready? I am. Let’s learn a lession from those brave souls on 9-11. Let’s roll!