Tag Archive for 'best practices'

Employee engagement is a key to small business success

With so many hats to wear in a small business, and so few heads to put them on, making sure everyone on the team is committed to excellence is always necessary. But right now we have this thing hanging over our heads – economists call it a recession – and regardless of how it’s impacting your business, this is not a time for the human components of your small business machine to be less than finely tuned. Here are two important fine-tuning steps to take:

1) Make sure you’re employing people who are engaged in their work. In a good economy the negative impact of an unengaged employee is often masked or diluted by opportunity, and merely reduces organizational productivity. But in a recession, the drag of even one unengaged team member can be the difference between survival and, well, you know. Discover if you have an unengaged employee, redeem them if you can and get rid of them if you can’t.

2) Share your vision for how the business is going to address the challenges ahead. It’s not unreasonable for you to believe that your employees trust your leadership. But during unsettling times like these, a leader should reinforce the trust factor with some details.

In a team meeting (perhaps more than one) ask your team members to talk about their concerns about the economy. Ask them for suggestions on how the company can become more productive, effective and efficient. If you can, talk about your experiences in past downturns. Employees will like hearing that this isn’t their leader’s first rodeo. Explain what you’re doing to make sure the business will weather this storm, and talk specifically about what the company needs them to do.

Michael Stallard is an employee engagement expert and he joined me recently on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, to talk about this very important part of successful business management. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from one of the best. And of course, be sure to offer your own thoughts.

Fight small business fear with performance

Anyone who has contemplated forsaking the perceived, if not real, security of employment to start a business has come face-to-face with the real possibility, as well as the dangers, of failure. Indeed, countless prospective owners discontinue their entrepreneurial pursuits for fear of losing too much –- the risk being just too great.

But fear can be an immobilizer — holding you back; or a motivator — giving you critical information. The only way to make sure it’s the latter is through performance, which includes being nimble and flexible, all of which require you to be armed with what I call, “the fear-fighting tools.” Here’s my short list of fear-fighting tools: awareness, knowledge, experience, training, planning, preparedness, decisiveness and execution.

In an interview today with Peter Meyer, author of “Warp-Speed Growth,” on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, we talked about overcoming fear and being an effective manager even in a difficult economic environment. Peter is a world-class management expert. Click on the listening option below and take a few minutes to listen to our discussion on this very timely topic. And if you have something to contribute to this discussion, please post those comments here so that others can learn from you.

Finally, remember that once you have full command of the fear-fighting tools you can replace fear with its archenemy, total confidence. Good luck.

Great American Small Business Challenge

One of the most unfortunate things about 21st century small business is the fact that Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) fall into the category of “best kept secrets.” SBDCs, staffed by diligent and highly capable counselors, are in hundreds of communities in every state. Nationally, SBDC professionals number more than 5,000. And here’s another too-well-kept secret: Their support for your small business is free of charge. The only exception to this is if you take certain courses that are branded, for which participants pay a nominal fee just to cover direct costs. What a deal!

For over 11 years I’ve been telling the world about SBDCs and their outstanding national organization, the Association of Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC). Which is why I’ve very pleased to learn about a new program for 2009, co-created by Mike Kramer and Jean Kulig-Tucker.

It’s called the Great American Small Business Challenge, and I interviewed Mike on my show to find out more about how he is partnering with SBDCs to help small businesses learn something that is sorely needed: how to adopt more effective management and operating best practices.

Take a few minutes to listen to my conversation with Mike Kramer, then check out their website and take the Challenge. It’s also free and might be the smartest thing you’ve done lately. And of course, if you have a comment or your own best practice you’d like to share, please post it here.

Small business preparation for economic challenges

What steps do you have to take to prepare your small business for the challenges of an economic downturn? Everything has to be scrutinized, from expenses, especially payroll, to inventory, to capital expenditures, to customer relationships, the list is long.

Of course, all managers want to make these preparations. And even if you have the foresight to see what must be done, having the discipline to take those actions is another matter, isn’t it?

This week I talked with Brain Trust member Stephen Baum, author of “What Made Jack Welch, Jack Welch,” on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, about the survival practices of the managers he works as a Vistage leader and CEO coach, and we talked about these practices. He said that some of the managers in his group began taking survival steps several months ago.

Click on the “Listen” link to learn more about what Stephen had to say, and comment on what you’re doing in your business.

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