Posts Tagged ‘Team Building’


How to Launch a Philanthropic Program Within Your Company

The concept of corporate social responsibility, or CSR, is incredibly popular in large companies where deep budgets allow employees time off to participate in community-oriented projects. But what about small businesses? Without big budgets, is it possible for the little guys to make an impact?

“Absolutely, yes,” says Lauri Flaquer, small business expert and owner of Saltar Solutions, a business consultancy in St. Paul, Minnesota. “In fact, I’ve been seeing a ton of small businesses develop their own philanthropic programs as of late.”

Interested in getting involved in your community? If so, here are some helpful steps to get you started.

Poll your employees

You want your company to get involved, but you aren’t sure where to allocate your resources. Chances are good that some of your employees may already volunteer or give to specific charities in their off time, so start by involving them in the development of your CSR program.

“Ask your employees what organizations they think the company should give to or volunteer with. Then, task those who are passionate with giving a presentation on their pet causes and ask the group to vote,” recommends Flaquer.

Be choosy

Don’t have any takers for a charity presentation? Find your own non-profit to support. Flaquer recommends looking at organizations that are somehow connected the mission of your company.  “If you own a water filtration business, for example, try supporting a charity that promotes clean water,” she says. “Or if you are in the publishing industry, maybe join a non-profit that prevents the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.”

Do your homework. Flaquer recommends checking with the IRS to make sure the organization is a 501c3 (tax code for non-profit) and with the Better Business Bureau to research on its reputation in the community.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????Schedule volunteer time strategically

Too busy to volunteer? Flaquer recommends scheduling volunteer days (or hours) when your business is in a lull. “If your organization is cyclical, choose a time when it isn’t all that busy,” she suggests.

Transform a volunteering activity into a team building activity. Instead of renting an expensive hall and calling a catering company, opt to spend a day out of the office, cleaning a local park. Then spring for some pizza at nearby picnic tables. The event will end up costing you less and your employees will probably enjoy it more, too.

Set boundaries early

“When you are volunteering your time, it is easy for that time to take over your full-time job because you feel so good about helping others,” Flaquer says. “I recommend that before you start your program, set out exactly how much time you and your company will spend giving back, how much money you will spend and how many resources you will.

“Those guidelines will help you feel good about the impact you are making, but also help you keep an eye on your core business.” 


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 5 Steps to Creating a More Harmonious Workplace

Is conflict between employees hurting your business? While disagreements and ill will between team members may seem like minor issues not worth the boss’s while, in reality employee conflicts can damage everything from morale and productivity to customer service and your business’s image. Don’t sweep employee conflict under the rug—take these steps to defuse it.

  1. Pay attention. Many small business owners get so occupied with their own duties they ignore employee relationships. Spend some time every day walking around your workplace and seeing how people are doing. In addition to verbal interaction, pay attention to facial expressions and body language, and you’ll quickly notice when employees aren’t getting along. If you’re truly clueless and not a “people person,” enlist a key employee or manager to keep a finger on the pulse of the office mood and let you know when problems are brewing.
  2. Investigate. To keep problems from festering, start by finding out what’s going on. Meet with each of the employees involved to get their side of the story and find out what they think the problem is.
  3. Mediate. Once you have both sides’ input, get the affected employees together to discuss the problem and what can be done. Keep the discussion business-focused rather than personal by explaining how their attitudes are negatively affecting other employees and the business. Then ask them to come up with solutions for the issue. Your role is to mediate and guide the discussion into fruitful areas.
  4. Set consequences. Once you come up with solutions, develop next steps that each employee is to take, set a date to follow up on the issue, and create consequences if the problem isn’t resolved. For instance, explain that relating positively to others is part of their annual reviews, and failing to do so could lead to further discipline or cause them to miss out on a promotion.
  5. Be prepared. Part of your employee handbook (you do have one, right?) should specify how employee conflicts are handled and the consequences if they are not resolved. Having a plan in place protects your business in case an employee ever files a lawsuit claiming that your workplace was a negative work environment where harassment was allowed to fester. 

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Delegation Tips for Delegation Haters

Generally speaking, small business owners aren’t the biggest fans of delegating. And it is easy to understand why. Most of them built their companies from the ground up and worry that the addition of a new person may disrupt their business environment and possibly scare away clients. But as Roberta Matuson, HR consultant and author of the new book Talent Magnetism: How to Build a Workplace That Attracts and Keeps the Best, explains, delegation is essential to building a business.

“You will never succeed as a business owner unless you let go,” she says. Here are a few of her top delegation tips for business owners who hate to delegate.

Tap into your network

Talk to fellow businesspeople in your area to get the names of possible candidates. If you are new to your city, Matuson recommends joining the local Chamber of Commerce or contacting a nearby college and posting ads on an alumni job board.

Start with small tasks

Now that you’ve hired your first employee (or contract assistant), it is time to give him or her a few job assignments. “Start by giving them tasks that you are confident they can accomplish,” she recommends. “And allow them to do those tasks the way they want. Accept the fact that your way may not be the best way in all situations.”

?????????????????????????????????????????????Focus on training

Don’t expect your new hire to know how to do everything, even if he or she has a lot of experience. You may do things differently in your business, so it is important to provide specific training.  “Give them what they need,” recommends Matuson. “You can’t throw something into someone’s lap and expect them to learn how to do it by osmosis. Give them the tools and then get out of their way.”

Be careful what you delegate

You may want to hold on to major tasks like entertaining a new client at a dinner or attending a conference call that helps close a sale. “Delegate the things that are weighing you down so you can be free to do what you need to grow you business,” she says. “An important meeting may better be suited for you, not your assistant.”

Don’t micromanage

Many of us have had experiences working for micromanagers—experiences that most likely didn’t last long (because you quit). Stop yourself from being too overbearing with your new employee by checking in semi-frequently. “There isn’t a rule of thumb for how often you should check in, but I’d say it is best to see how they are doing once per week,” says Matuson. “Every day can be a bit much.” 


Mondays with Mike: What You Can Learn from Marketing Masters

Whether or not we like it, we all have to market ourselves and our businesses.  Fortunately, we have a wealth of lessons we can learn from the marketing geniuses who have provided us with a variety of techniques that can help you find new clients and transform them into loyal repeat customers.

  1. Have the people making it, use it.  Walt Disney, perhaps the greatest marketing genius of all time, demonstrated the effectiveness of this practice in Disney World.  Both corporate and park employees rode every ride over and over until they fine tuned every detail – even down to the simulated fireflies in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  If your team experiences your services as a customer, they’ll have greater insight into what customers want.
  2. Multi-level marketing.  Mary Kay Ash gave the world much more than just pink Cadillacs.  She also gave us the model for successful marketing based on direct sales to friends and family and valuable rewards for achievement and recruitment.  She painted the glass ceiling pink and turned it into a stepping stone to the next level.
  3. Design matters.  Steve Jobs didn’t create the only technology for accomplishing tasks; he created the coolest technology for accomplishing tasks.  Never underestimate the appeal of sleek, snazzy packaging coupled with ease of use.
  4. The huge promise.  Tim Ferriss taught us that consumers will snap up products even if they know that the unrealistic claims about them aren’t entirely possible.  Get rich by working 4 hours a week.  Get fit by exercising four hours a month.  We know it aint’ gonna happen, but we buy it anyway, and we may still reap rewards – even if they’re not exactly what was promised.  Ferriss showed us that it’s okay to aim for the stars and settle for hitting the moon.
  5. MarketingNever stop testing.  David Ogilvy is the father of modern advertising and an early proponent of split testing.  His method of testing – creating two postcards in a direct mailing campaign and tracking each card’s success – provides the perfect model for ensuring that your large advertising campaigns yield results.
  6. Be the best at one thing.  Michael Phelps is the poster boy for singleminded dedication and the astonishing results it can yield.  Focus on your strengths and your passion, and your results will surprise you.
  7. Word of mouth matters.  Conrad Gessner is our representative from the wayback files for this example.  Gessner was a sixteenth century botanist who penned a poem about tulips that contributed to the European craze for the flowers, ultimately resulting in people with more money than sense who were willing to part with astronomical sums of money ($1M in today’s equivalent) for a single tulip bulb.  Make it desirable, and people will want to purchase it.
  8. Be remarkable.  Seth Godin has spent his career being different.  He’s proven that a purple cow (his term for a remarkable product) is the key to standing out in a crowded marketplace.  He’s also shown that it’s possible to generate revenue while still giving back to his community.

I’m a big fan of learning from the best.  These marketing mavens can teach you volumes.  


Are You a Fake?

a-penguin-imposterMany small business owners suffer from the imposter syndrome. They feel that their customers or employees will find out "who they really are" and lose confidence in their ability to run the company. This fear holds many people back from displaying who they really are at work. This becomes a problem in the transparent world of the Internet where "being human" and authentic are highly valued by customers.

Customers buy from who they believe, like, and trust. Without being authentic as a leader and a company, this will never happen and it will become impossible to build a profitable company. Here is what to do:

1. Tell the truth. This is more difficult than it first seems in small business. Most owners have good intentions, but sometimes are afraid to disclose to employees and customers what is really happening. How to be authentic: Focus on the companies strengths. Always deliver good and bad news in a timely fashion. Don't be afraid to be humble and show personal or company warts. Build a culture of openness and frequent communication. 

2. Stick to the brand. Many times, companies want to be everything to everybody. This leads to telling the customer that the company can do things that they really can't. This leads to frustrated employees, disappointed customers and an unprofitable businesses. How to be authentic: Determine the exact customer segment served and the pain solved. Get clear on what the company cares about. Stay focused on delivering outstanding results in this niche area.

3. Hire employees that want to be part of the company's culture. Too many times, owners hire a person to fit a particular job. They rush into a decision and don't understand how that person would work in the overall company culture. How to be authentic: Hire for attitude over skill. Think about how the new employee will complement the rest of the team. Have team members give feedback on prospective employees.

4. Be consistent. Too many times, the company's brand does not match it's culture. The friendly company persona contradicts the cut throat office atmosphere. The boss is sometimes an angel and other times an ogre. How to be authentic: Live the company brand. Be the same person inside and outside the office. Be the same in front of managers, staff and customers. Have no hidden agendas. Set an example by practicing whatever is preached.

Are you authentic? How do you demonstrate it? 


Mondays with Mike: 7 Simple Steps to Improving Office Morale

Worried about post-holiday doldrums in the office?  Afraid that short of spiking the coffee with Prozac, there’s little you can do about it?  Fear not!  These simple tips can help you brighten the mood and invigorate your staff.

  1. 10-tips-for-boosting-employee-morale-pop_6697Daily Huddle.  Don’t sweep your office problems under the rug.  Take a few minutes each day to air out concerns and address practical solutions.  Let your staff know that you’re making changes by giving them regular updates on the concerns they’ve expressed.  Tip:  Hold the meeting standing up.  You’re more likely to keep people on topic and to-the-point.
  2. Schedule Change-Up.  Offer your staff a chance to shift their schedules a bit.  It’s amazing what a little flex-time can do.  You’ll see refreshed, focused faces if you give your employees the chance to get out of their rut.
  3. Focus on the Why, rather than the What.  No matter what you do, you can benefit from reflecting on why you’ve chosen your field.  Accountants’ offices may not be the most exciting places to work, but if you can get your team focused on the real benefits they provide to your clients, then you can invigorate your staff and get them ready to tackle even the crunch of tax time.  Focus on your purpose.
  4. Say Thank You.   Simple.  Free.  So important.  Take the time to let your staff know that you appreciate their hard work.
  5. Listen.  Any good customer service rep will tell you that the first step to resolving a problem is to let the customer vent.  If a member of your staff has a complaint, it’s important that they be able to voice their concerns.  If a frustrated employee has no place to vent appropriately, then the dissatisfaction will spread to other members of the staff.  The important tip here is to let your staff air their grievances in private if possible, preventing the negative attitude from multiplying and giving you the opportunity to address legitimate complaints.
  6. Take the Bullet.  Does your staff have a gripe about a particularly unpleasant or difficult task?  Is there something standing in their way – an obstacle that needs to be overcome?  Be the hero!  If you step in and show that you’re not just willing to pitch in, but able to solve problems for your staff from time to time, you cement your position as the solution-finder extraordinaire.  By modeling the willingness to roll up your sleeves and get dirty on occasion, you’re setting the example of being a problem-solver.
  7. Change of Scenery.  Monotony is the slayer of enthusiasm.  Get your employees out of the office for a day and see how their collective outlook improves.  Pick a charity and spend the day volunteering, and when you return, have a new coffee maker or new desk chairs for your staff waiting for them.  Shaking up the routine can make your staff as enthusiastic as they were on their first day.

You’re the captain of the ship.  Keep tabs on morale and make sure you brighten up the office when necessary.  


How to Win a Business Plan Competition

Want to win money at a business plan competition?  There is plenty of cash out there in 2014, but it takes team preparation since the rules for contests differ and can be quirky. However, they can be a viable source of funding your business.

Here is what you need to do to win:

Management experience: Tell why your team is uniquely qualified to run this business. An experienced management team always wins over a great idea since success is about execution. For example, explain which members of your team have built a company before and have industry experience.

Market size: Describe the true addressable market of your company. Be as specific as possible. For example, a target market is not toys, but rather educational toys for 0-18 month olds.

Describe the problem your solution solves: Customers only buy when they are in pain. What pain do you solve and for whom? Do they have the money to buy the product? For example, the solutions that Nextiva sells allow companies to reliably communicate with their customers.

Proven concept or just a prototype: Showcase your paying customers since they are the best example that there is really a need for your product.

Strategic alliances: It is difficult for a small company to do it alone. Which larger brands can you get help from? For example, if your product is distributed by Wal-Mart, this is a big advantage.

Sustainable competitive advantage: If your company is successful and a richer competitor comes into the market, what will be your competitive advantage? For example, this could be a patent, trade secret, or distribution rights.

Use of the prize money: Judges want to know how the money will be used and make a difference in your company.

Get the math right: Financial projections are usually critical in any competition. Making arithmetic errors or having projections that are too optimistic can be fatal.

Make it engaging: Make the written entry or presentation engaging. Bored judges stop reading or paying attention. Anticipate the most likely questions, but be ready to improvise when things go wrong.

Rally your tribe: Many contests have a public voting element. Get everyone that your company is connected with to vote for your business.

Winning isn’t everything. Participating in these contests can bring valuable connections that can exceed the value of the cash prize.

Apply to win The 2014 Rule Breaker Awards sponsored by Nextiva, Microsoft, Skype, and Constant Contact. 

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2014 Resolutions: How to Promote Wellness in Your Company

office-yogaWith the New Year right around the corner, everyone is thinking about how to get back into shape, improve what they eat and live better lives. That way of thinking can easily be applied in the office setting and, according to Lisa Menninger, a corporate wellness consultant, business owners are smart to incorporate health-related practices during the workday.

“For every dollar a company spends on wellness, they get back $5 to $6 in decreased insurance claims, a decreased number of employee sick days and an increase in general efficiency on the job,” she says.

Here are a few easy ways to promote wellness in your company:

Start a walking club

Chances are good that your employees are looking to get healthier in 2014. Help them in their effort by creating a walking club where a group meets for a 30-minute stroll at lunch or after work, recommends Menninger. Establish a daily meeting time and ask a staff volunteer to lead the group. Better yet: divide leadership responsibilities between a few people to increase the chances of the program lasting past January.

Throw out the break room

Take inventory of the snacks in your break room. Are you finding chips and dip or carrots and hummus? If your answer is the former, it’s time to get out the trashcan and start over.

“Don’t stock fake creamer or fruit juices. Instead, cut up veggies and put them out on the table,” suggests Menninger. “I promise that those goodies will be gone in no time. By supplying the room with healthy snacks, your employees will no longer reach for the other stuff. They will be fuller longer or have more energy to get work done.”

Launch a health-related newsletter

Take a moment to think about your staff members. Who is the healthiest person in your office? The person who runs races on the weekends or talks about his or her yoga retreats on a regular basis?

“If you have someone in your group that can recognize good information, ask that person to circulate blogs on health topics or create an internal newsletter to help motivate employees throughout the year,” says Menninger. “Either that, or give the person a corner of your existing newsletter to write a column about health.” 


Work Your Biz Wednesday: 5 Things Your Employees Need

Support your employees and develop a win-win relationship to help your business succeed. Learn how with this week's Work Your Biz Wednesday video from The Small Biz Lady, Melinda Emerson.




 
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