Category Archives: Uncategorized

The people problem

The challenge of making good fits

A recent conversation with an entrepreneur drawn unexpectedly into a family business, reminded me that the biggest challenge to building and growing a better business is managing the relationships within the organisation.

meeting - explainingLike him and most other entrepreneurs I know, you are confident and competent in the primary domain essential to the business – technology, operations, financial or sales and marketing management. But managing people and inter-personal relationships is a tougher challenge. And it can be painful to be continuously drawn into issues that you are not interested in and not good at. You would rather focus on other priorities and ignore the distractions – performance reviews, payroll and benefit plans, managers that are competing instead of co-operating, conflict between employees on the job, petty complaints about policy and procedures, questions about who is doing what and why.

People do make it challenging and maybe you can delegate to a human resource professional, but as the owner/manager you have to ensure that people and relationship issues are not holding back business performance.

The solution lies in making good fits. Getting the right people in the right jobs, doing what they are both good at and like to do. Building teams at all levels that deliver better performance and solutions because they communicate well and share effectively their different strengths, knowledge and experience.

It starts with open two-way communication throughout the organisation. From the corporate mission statement, strategy and objectives down to the set-up and staffing of the reception area. Advise, listen, explain. Listen again, explain again. Still a challenge, but too important to be neglected.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com or contact DirectTech Solutions at www.DirectTech.ca for assistance on your strategic business issues, growth and profit improvement plans or your exit strategies.

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Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

Necessary, but not sufficient

You’re not there yet. 

Golf swing“Keep your head down, focus, stay calm.”

All good advice, but never sufficient to get you to the finish line with a higher level of performance. Remember there are usually a few more steps in the process of improvement.

The first step is necessary, but never sufficient to initiate real change or start seeing better results. In golf or business.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com or contact DirectTech Solutions at www.DirectTech.ca for assistance on your strategic business issues, growth and profit improvement plans or your exit strategies.

Join our mailing list at LearningEntrepreneurship.com for ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Read more articles at:Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

 

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

More celebrations

Fewer apologies 

It seems to be part of the new approach to historic anniversary celebrations to give more attention to apologizing for past failures and the sins of our ancestors than on recognizing our accomplishments and the progress we have made on all fronts since those evil events in our past.

celebrationsThe celebratory narrative is interrupted by vociferous activists and protestors directing the audience to their issues and raining on our parade. They do get our attention, but it’s not usually the time and place for constructive action on challenging issues. It is too easy to respond to the rhetoric and symbolism with more rhetoric and symbolism, instead of initiating creative and ambitious programs to make real progress. Another time and place, starting with an exchange of mutual respect and goodwill, will more likely lead to practical long-term solutions.

In life, business and politics, it is important and instructive to recognize our accomplishments as well as our failures. It is acceptable to create a mythical version of our history and who and what we are, without denying our errors and imperfections, as long as it inspires us to strive continuously to achieve those high ideals.

Apologizing is not enough. Let’s be more ambitious.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com or contact DirectTech Solutions at www.DirectTech.ca for assistance on your strategic business issues, growth and profit improvement plans or your exit strategies.

Join our mailing list at LearningEntrepreneurship.com for ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Read more articles at:Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

 

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

Manage like a Hockey Mom

But in a good way

hockey-fansIt is that time of year for hockey playoffs and not just in the NHL. It’s always exciting and entertaining and often provides inspiration and ideas for outside the hockey rink.

At a grandson’s recent Peewee AAA hockey tournament in Montreal, the welcome brochure included the Quebec Hockey Association’s Code of Ethics for Parents (also useful for grandparents). In reading it, I realized it could be adapted as a useful guide for business owners and managers. Here is my version.

The Code of Ethics for Entrepreneurs

As a business owner and responsible manager, I recognize that I have the potential and the opportunity to make an important contribution to the personal development and well-being of the individuals who choose to work with me and accept that as a priority over “winning the game”.

I will therefore ensure my conduct continually demonstrates that:

  • I understand that my employees are here for their benefit and pleasure, not mine.
  • I consider winning as part of the pleasure of playing the game; I will not exaggerate the pain of failure; and I will recognize errors as a necessary part of the learning experience.
  • I will respect the efforts and the decisions of the supporters and supervisors and of the outside authorities responsible for enforcing the rules and regulations. I will do my best to understand and accept the rules and regulations applicable to my business.
  • I will recognize good performance on the part of our individual employees, as well as that of our competitors.
  • I accept each individual’s limitations and will not project my own ambitions or unreasonable expectations upon anyone. My expectations will be appropriate to the qualifications and experience of each individual.
  • I will demonstrate and expect from all employees a reflection of the important values of respect, discipline, effort and loyalty.
  • I will not encourage or tolerate any level of personal harassment, conflict or aggressive behavior.
  • I will encourage and support the personal development of the skills and capabilities for every individual.

Good advice from responsible hockey moms. (I do notice that a lot gets ignored during the playoffs when winning is everything, but that’s another issue for a future article. Meanwhile, the hockey analysts are all over it.)

Be better. Do better. As a responsible, enlightened entrepreneur.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Read more at:Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

Join our mailing list for more ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

This article is extracted from Uncle Ralph’s, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way. Read the book.

The Evolution of e-Business Challenges

Good management principles still apply

Internet-WWWEarly e-business challenges for small-business owners started with the arrival of e-mail and websites in the early 1990’s. Today we are trying to understand the implications of the rapidly expanding world of social media and mobile applications.

Perceptive entrepreneurs continuously ask: What does it mean for my business? Are competitors getting ahead of us? What are the risks of ignoring the new technologies? What are the new opportunities to be pursued?

In the early days, my advice for entrepreneurs was to turn the WWW upside down and remember the important principles of MMM: Management, Measurement and Marketing to successfully adopt new technologies. Every new initiative requires Management of the process, Measuring of results to monitor performance and effective Marketing to achieve visibility.

The internet and applications are continuously evolving and the online audience has grown from a few million to several billion around the globe over the past twenty years. But we still have the same challenges and questions.

The challenges remain the same: how to avoid the risks and seize the opportunities.

A successful e-business strategy requires sound management principles to be applied. First learn about the relevant technologies, then assess your justification for applying time and resources to adopting them. Do not start just because it’s cool, or your ego or your kids are pushing you. Or your competitors do it and your customers are asking about it.

It will be difficult and expensive, so be sure your initiative is justified by the expected impact on increasing sales, reducing costs, improving customer service, or enhancing competitive advantage. (Like every other business investment.)

Much has changed over the past twenty years, but the advice has not:

  • Your online initiatives must be an integral part of your business plan.
  • Thorough preparation and good project management are essential to meeting your objectives. .
  • Continuous monitoring of feedback and analytics will allow you to review, respond and revise your plans for improved results.

Start with a diagnostic of your current online performance, check the competitive environment and then come up with a plan to do better.

Don’t forget to enjoy the learning experience and prepare to cautiously avoid the risks and aggressively seize the opportunities.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Read more at:Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

Join our mailing list for more ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

 

 This article is an extract from Uncle Ralph’s, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way. Read the book.

Building loyal, long-term, profitable customer relationships

Evolve through the customer experience

 Goal: The primary objective of every business: building loyal, long-term, profitable customer relationships.

 Process: It’s a three-part process of Marketing + Sales + Customer Service.

buyerIt’s all about finding, attracting and retaining customers that bring value to the business in continuous profitable revenue and also become our biggest fans, telling everybody how wonderful we are. Sometimes we get so preoccupied with the hard work managing our marketing and sales efforts that we forget the essential strategic objective.

The financial objective, of course, is to generate and grow sales revenue and profits. But to have sales you need customers. And to have sustained, profitable and growing sales, the best strategy is to develop loyal, long-term customer relationships.

So the marketing, sales and customer service activities must all be aligned to deliver a customer experience with your company and your brand that evolves from a first time buyer to a long-term customer. The marketing and sales efforts bring in the first order and then customer service has to deliver on the rest.

The customer experience with any business should evolve through four levels:

1. Satisfaction with price and availability

On the first exposure to your business, customers will quickly, maybe even subconsciously, compare price and availability to their expectations derived from prior experience with your competition. If this minimum expectation is not met, there will likely be no sale and maybe no second chance.

2. Recognition of superior service levels

The first point of differentiation and the first step to building a stronger customer relationship will be when the customer recognizes that you offer superior service. You can demonstrate it in many ways – more stock, better delivery, easier payment terms, faster response to inquiries or better warranty service and support. Any one of these may be sufficient for you to stand out from the competition and deliver a satisfied customer.

3. Appreciation of the value of your knowledge and experience

After the basic needs of price and availability are met and you have distinguished yourself with superior service, the customer experience should then lead to an appreciation of the added value of your knowledge and experience. This will be demonstrated by your staff having the product knowledge, training, education and experience to help customers make better purchasing decisions. Now you are building a relationship valued by the customer.

4. Connection on values, mission and vision

The final step in cementing loyal, long-term relationships will occur when the customer recognizes a common sense of values, mission and vision in the way you both do business. This connection will be developed over several interactions, particularly when problems are solved together, or you connect on issues not directly related to the buy-sell transaction like honesty and integrity, social values or environmental issues.

The sooner you can meet customer expectations at all four levels, the faster you will build lasting and loyal customer relationships. And that is the primary objective of every business, right?

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Read more at: Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

 

Join our mailing list for more ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

In conversation with Stephen Goldberg, a discussion of the value of Business Planning. “It’s about the process, not the product.”

Read the full article and watch the video here.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson
 
Read more Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs.
Join our mailing list for more ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs. 
 Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

This article is an extract from Uncle Ralph’s, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way. Read the book.

Consultants: How to Choose, Use, and Not Abuse them

Help them, help you

ConsultantsSince doing my first consulting project over thirty years ago, I have learned a lot about how to successfully manage consulting projects and the client/consultant relationship.

Here are some ideas that may help you with your consultants (and your lawyers, accountants and other professionals):

  1. Before you introduce consultants to the process, be sure you need what you want and want what you need. Beware of consultants that agree to do whatever you want, whether you need it or not.
  2. Look internally to confirm the three “C’s” of consulting project readiness: Capacity in budget, time and resources; Commitment of management and staff affected by the process; and Capability to support the project and implement the conclusions.
  3. One more “C” – Compatibility. Select your consultants from an organisation that is compatible with yours – are you a corporate multinational or a local entrepreneurial business?
  4. Recognize whether your consulting needs are strategic: requiring outside expertise to inspire and facilitate your business planning process, or operational: bringing knowledge, skills and experience that are not available internally.
  5. Meet the operating consultant. It may not be the same charming, talented person that sold you the work.  And at those fee rates you don’t want to train a recent MBA, who started last week and studied your industry yesterday.
  6. Test Drive: Check whether the consultant arrives with questions, not answers; will operate as neither boss nor employee; and will win the hearts and minds of your staff. Successful consultants will listen, understand, empathize, analyze, strategize and persuade better than normal people.
  7. Remember you are hiring a consultant to challenge and push you. You are not renting a friend to tell you how smart you are.
  8. Can you confidently expect a solution that will be yours not theirs?
  9. Ask for references.  Call them.
  10. Ask who is not on the reference list and why not.  Learn what they think causes a project to be unsuccessful.  And ask which list they expect you to be on when this is over.
  11. Ask for fee rates and a work plan with estimated hours. Then agree on a fixed fee for agreed deliverables with dates, documents and milestones.
  12. Don’t let their progress reports interfere with your progress.  Get what you need, not what they need for “CYA” requirements.
  13. Check who else is billing time to your project.  Sometimes there is a very expensive partner back at the office who needs to keep his billing rate up. Your budget can be quickly consumed while he “supervises” from a distance.
  14. Avoid surprises.  Ask about additional expenses: travel, telephone and printing. Terms of payment?
  15. Do they have a satisfaction guarantee?
  16. Get the agreement in writing, read it before signing it.
  17. Watch for signs of trouble: such as, selling more work before the work is done; long delays between on-site visits; too much time spent “back at the office” and billed to you.
  18. And finally, remember consultants are people too. They want to boast about good work and satisfied clients.  You can help them help you.  Don’t be difficult.

With all due respect and best regards to my favourite clients and consulting associates.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Read more at:Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

 

Join our mailing list for more ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

 

Brexit: Success for democracy or failure of leadership?

Union jackNow we know the risk of a protest vote. You may accidentally get the result you were only intending as a threat to get some attention to your complaints. Poking the bear to make it go away may just provoke it into biting your hand off to leave it alone.

What else have we learned?

Maybe asking for a final conclusion to a complicated issue in a simple referendum question is not a good idea. Delegating decision-making to a popular vote is a mistake, suggesting there is a simple solution to a wide range of complicated problems. “Just say yes, or no, and all your problems will go away.” Too many will make their decision for the wrong reasons, expecting the unlikely happy conclusions that they hope for and ignoring the negative consequences that cannot be avoided.

It is better to seek public consent on policy direction rather than asking for final conclusions. Surveys of voters already give us a good idea of their concerns and possible solutions that will be acceptable. Elected officials and public servants should be aware of voter sentiment and accept the responsibility to study the issues, assess the implications, make decisions and manage the consequences. The electorate will then decide which policy direction is preferred and whose performance deserves a renewed mandate at the next general election.

Plebiscites and referendums may seem like the ultimate expression of democracy, but they allow the angry and uninformed to be too easily misled and falsely motivated by populist rhetoric from those with a personal or political agenda that does not address the issues they are exploiting.

The most important lesson for leadership is to listen to all voices and not dismiss those who do not agree as ignorant, biased, fearful or unworthy of consideration. Unpersuaded to accept your arguments, they may turn to less desirable leadership and more drastic and painful solutions.

Democratic principles need to be respected, but leadership must also accept the responsibility to make difficult decisions and then communicate effectively that they are in the best long-term interest of the electorate. Accepting the appeal of simple short-term solutions can be disastrous.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Read more at: Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

 

Join our mailing list for more ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

Business is Like Golf

Easy to get into trouble and hard to get the results you want.

golf drivingIt is the season again to get out and enjoy a round of golf. (Unless you’re one of those people who would rather eat sand than try to hit a golf ball straight for 400 yards and then roll it into a 4-inch cup.)

It is a very simple and enjoyable game, or it’s a terrifyingly frustrating challenge that can drive you crazy. Again very much like business, you can love it and enjoy it or hate it and avoid it like a bad case of food poisoning.

You might think you are sufficiently smart and talented to succeed, but you may fail miserably in your attempts at both. There is value, therefore, in recognizing that you can learn from golf how to do better at business.

Have a strategic plan, master the fundamentals, and focus on execution

The first step is setting goals and having reasonable expectations. If your objective is to be a world class competitor, you will have to start early and work hard to develop the skills, knowledge and experience to win. In golf, that means swinging a club by age six, practising every day until you make the college team, then dropping all distractions, like a social life or a day job, and dedicating every effort to perfecting the skills and mental attitude to win against the best in the world.

If it’s already too late for that or you are not motivated to that degree, then adjust your expectations. Maybe you will be satisfied with occasionally breaking 100, or making par on the odd hole or even a rare birdie might be enough to keep you going.

As you play the game and watch the pros more often, you will also notice that it is important to have a strategy for each round and for each hole. Like in business, choosing a strategy is the same process of matching your strengths and competitive advantage to the opportunities that are presented, while avoiding the risks associated with your weaknesses.

Achieving good results requires having the right strategy, making good decisions, mastering the skills to deliver according to your plan, and then focusing on execution in spite of the stresses and distractions presented by the environment and the competition.

Sound familiar? Business is like golf and golf is like business. Don’t you agree?

But please remember to enjoy the golf, especially if your intent is to take a break from the challenges of your business. You do not need more stress created by unreasonable expectations. Arnold Palmer has been quoted as advising an angry amateur he was playing with, “You’re not good enough to get that upset by a bad shot.” Another good lesson from the world of golf.

Have a good day, occasionally hitting one long and straight.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson9781496932259_COVER.indd

Read more articles like this one at: Business is Like Golf Blog

Visit LearningEntrerpreneurship.com and join our mailing list for more ideas,  information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Check outUncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.