Archive for the 'Training' Category

Embrace change to improve your small business

The life of a small business owner is hectic, to say the least.  Multi-tasking is the norm.  So much of our day is spent reacting to the crisis of the moment, conducting the business of the day, and initiating our plans for the future. And once we acquire a level of competence in this life we’ve chosen, it’s natural to want to relax, settle in, and seek the ease that can come with familiarity and repetition.

But the marketplace isn’t a comfortable, lumbering vessel anymore, rolling along like a single screw trawler. It’s become more like a vibrant starship capable of warp speed. Indeed, it takes a much more knowledgeable person to successfully operate a business in today’s marketplace than it did even 10 years ago.

The great American revolutionary and legendary wordsmith, Thomas Paine, said, “I have seldom passed five minutes of my life, however circumstanced, in which I did not acquire some knowledge.”  This from a corset maker who dropped out of school at 13.

You can’t anticipate everything, so react when you must.  The business of the day, obviously, must be attended to.  And what will you have tomorrow if you don’t plan for it?

But however circumstanced, before you succumb to the human tendency to rest on your laurels, make it part of your daily tasks to acquire some knowledge.

Make it your daily intention to learn something new that might help you react more effectively, operate more profitably, and plan more intelligently.

Thanks for being part of my community. I’ll see you on the radio and the Internet.

“Thank you” is golden, “No problem” is a problem

It has happened to all of us: You’re being waited on at a restaurant, buying a product or returning something to a merchant, and as an employee is delivering some kind of service you say, “Thank you.”

Good for you; your mother would be so proud.  But she wouldn’t be impressed by what has become an unfortunate response to thank you. After you say thank you for having your water refilled or your order completed, there is sadly a good chance the employee will say, incredibly, “No problem.”

So, from this response are you now to think that simply allowing service to be delivered is some sort of problem you’ve created, for which forgiveness should be granted?  Should you feel relief that you’ve been redeemed by this person with “No problem” absolution?

Clearly, American English has devolved to a level that makes many of us nostalgic for casual. It’s difficult to pinpoint where things ran off the rails. But somehow the sublime “it’s my pleasure” has deviated into the subpar “no problem.”

Well, my friends, let’s get one thing straight: No problem is a problem. When small business employees say no problem to a customer instead of you’re welcome, it’s a serious problem that over time could be the equivalent of a business death wish.

Think I’m overreacting?  How much money do you spend getting a customer to do business with you?  How much energy and resources do you invest into making sure your products, pricing, display, etc., are just right?  How many sleepless nights do you spend worrying about how to compete with the Big Boxes?

Now that we’ve established the enormity and consequences of these answers, are you sure that no employee of yours ever causes one of your customers to think — even subliminally — that the mere fact that they do business with you could be some kind of problem?

In The Age of the Customer, the only thing unique about your relationship with a customer is the experience they have with you — how they FEEL about doing business with you.  Everything else is a commodity. Everything!

So, pray tell, in what universe does “no problem” help your business maximize the positive emotions of an excellent customer experience? Stop saying it, and train your employees to stop saying it.  If success is your goal, this is non-negotiable!

There must be 39 different ways in the English language to express your delight in serving a customer without saying “no problem.” Use one of them.

Write this on a rock… In The Age of the Customer, “Thank you” is golden, “No problem” is a problem.

Jim Blasingame is the author of the award-winning book, “The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.”

A little knowledge can make you smile

Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond, and cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education.- Mark Twain

After all these years there has been no one to compare with Twain, and the light of his wisdom has not dimmed.

No matter what we do or where we go, owner or employee, and now more than ever before, we must continue to study, train, and learn. Everyone in your organization. Everyone. Everyday. Lifelong learning.

Are you feeling threatened these days - maybe even frightened - because of all the changes brought on by the advent of the information age? Me, too. Sometimes it seems we’re like Alice - we have to run as fast as we can just to stay in one place. And in our Wonderland, everything is changing so fast that what we learn today may be obsolete tomorrow.

The irony is that the thing that is creating so much potential for anxiety - technology - is also the thing that can help you stay competitive. And the unprecedented wealth of information available on the Internet is a two edged sword: one side cutting for us, and the other for our competition.

When I feel threatened by all of the new information and capability that’s emerging, I just make a point to learn something new, with emphasis on e-commerce, or the Internet, or how my industry is adapting to the virtual marketplace. And when I acquire that new understanding or capability, I smile like Alice’s Cheshire Cat.

Learning makes me feel stronger, as if I’ve gained a little ground in the marketplace. Maybe today I’ll put the heat on somebody else.

Advantage: Me.

Give it a try. The only thing better than your garden variety smile is one that comes from knowing that you just got a little smarter.

I have to say, however, cauliflower does not make me smile.

What does your training plan look like?

Please answer this human resource (HR) question: What is your business’ annual training budget?

While you’re chewing on that answer, let me point out that one of the important HR lessons we should take from our big business cousins is about their commitment to training. Too many small firms conduct training after a fashion, if at all.

Historically, big businesses have had an advantage in this area because they have the resources to pay for structured training programs and to give their people time away from their assignments to acquire training. But thanks to the Internet, and thousands of companies that develop and distribute convenient and affordable online training programs, small businesses can acquire training in a wide range of fields without breaking the budget and with a minimum of lost production. Training is an excellent example of how technology has leveled the playing field for small businesses.

So how’re you coming on that training budget answer? If you’re having trouble with it, perhaps we’ve found a good place to focus your attention.

Next HR question: Explain how your employee motivation strategy contributes to your company’s success.

Does that sound like a trick question? Well, it is only if you don’t know that the best way for your business to be outrageously successful is for you to have a strategy that helps your employees to be successful in their individual assignments, and then recognize their progress. And if this requires subordinating your ego and personal recognition, do it.

Remember Blasingame’s First Law of Aggregation: Your employees’ success in their assignments ultimately aggregates for, and accrues to, you, the owner.

Next question: In two words or less, identify the key employees in a small business.

Yes, it’s another trick question because the answer is everyone. Every member of a small business must be competent, versatile, and have a good attitude. Your company’s ability to compete will be diminished by the same factor as the percentage of your team who don’t fit this profile.

Identify the keepers, praise them, equip them, train them, and pay them well. Get rid of everybody else! Any questions?

What about acquisition and retention? Whether the unemployment rate is zero or 10%, good people are ALWAYS in demand. Find and keep the right people, invest in their training, and help them to be successful in their assignments.

Make your company a GREAT place to work by committing to a comprehensive training program.

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Check out my latest interviews Robert Brands from The Small Business Advocate Show®. We talk about having a culture of innovation through a detailed training program.

What does your innovation training program look like?

Here’s what your innovation training program should look like

Check out more of Jim’s great content HERE!

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