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Why your staff wants more profitable work to do

Consider the profitability of the work being done by each member of your staff. Are they making your business more profitable? Or are they doing non-critical work that a computer or service could do?

Why not automate those often lame-but-necessary tasks?

Why? Because you arenâ??t getting it all done otherwise.

Want proof? Call a vendor who performs a service or sells an item that requires installation. More often than not, youâ??ll not find someone who can deliver today, or even this week.

Despite the state of the economy. Or perhaps, because of it.

Odd example: I was told late last week that Amtrak passenger trains are packed to the gills because they don’t have any more passenger cars to put in service. Now donâ??t get me wrong, thatâ??s good thing because it means theyâ??re busy. Busy is good. Means they are doing some things right (and of course that fuel prices are high).

But backlogged and having to force businesses and consumers to go to your competition isnâ??t good, and itâ??s a fine line between busy and too busy.

What’s bad for Amtrak in this case is also bad for you. And that’s where the profitability of the work your staff does will come into play.

On one side of the fine line: things that require your expertise.

On the other: stuff that a high school kid could do in their sleep (and they need more sleep anyhow, right?).

Those are the kinds of things to target for automation.

It isnâ??t about getting rid of people. Itâ??s about giving the people you have the kind of work that generates profit, rather than simply keeping them busy in low-value jobs that take them nowhere.

Why do they want that?

Because the kind of work that generates profit is the kind that makes a job – and thus an employee – more valuable.

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Do your clients need a faster horse?

Back in the last century, Henry Ford is famous for saying “You can have any color Ford you want as long as it’s black.”

Today, Ford Motor Company has a different thought process, but that isn’t all that Henry said.

He also said this:

If I’d have asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me “A faster horse”.

Doing research into customer needs is a necessary thing, just don’t confuse the customer’s stated needs with the problem they’re actually trying to solve.

When a client says they need a faster horse, don’t they really mean “I need to go faster”?

What about your clients?

How much time do you spend studying what your clients *really* need?

  • Isn’t anticipating those needs what market leaders really do?
  • Isn’t it your job to see them before anyone else?

Isn’t it your job to present those new solutions to problems clients didn’t realize they had – until you pointed them out?

One of my favorite local CEOs here in Montana says they deliver their products “just before just-in-time”… isn’t that the job of a market leader?

It takes some thought, in fact, maybe even some study of the problems your clients really have. Not just a questionnaire about the problems of today often caused – paraphrasing what Einstein said – by the thinking of yesterday.

Did any of us realize we needed a Walkman until Sony pointed it out? Or an iPod, until Apple started selling them?

So think about it: Do your clients *really* need a faster horse?

Or is that just a symptom that cloaks the real problem facing them?

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Leading your market: Not an opportunity you wait for.

Finding the opportunity to lead your market is something that some businesses wait for years to take advantage of…and then they pounce. Well, at least some do.

Hold on there, Trigger: Did I say “Wait for?”

Leading your market isn’t something you wait for, it’s something you must make happen through explicit, planned actions.

In what ways are you the leader in your market?

  • Do you offer the fastest or best service?
  • Do you offer the most value for the dollar?
  • Does your business have the most knowledgeable staff with the best, most up-to-date training?
  • Do you offer the highest quality products – and regularly discover and begin to offer better ones?
  • Do you offer the best selection of only high-quality products?

How do your clients know these things to be true? How do they learn to care about the difference?

Do you educate your clients so they will learn to appreciate the difference between so-so and outstanding?

Are you executing a well-planned effort to transform your clients into experts and connoisseurs of what you sell?

If not…Why not?

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How your top 10 clients can impact your disaster recovery

Yesterday’s mini-rant about the Flip (which I otherwise *really* like) codec thing aside, our disaster series continues today with a discussion about planning for your disaster recovery – before things go bad.

Aymee Ruiz with State Farm Corporate Media Relations sent me this list of disaster recovery planning steps, which I suggest you use as a high-level starting point to formulate your disaster plan BEFORE things go bad. There’s also some discussion of what to do afterwards, so be sure to use that to add to your disaster recovery plan NOW so that you don’t find yourself looking at the ground when your agent asks you if you have <whatever>.

Using that Flip recorder to document your assets isn’t a bad idea either. Just make sure the videos are stored somewhere other than at your business location, preferably in a secure, online location.

Next, I thought it might be wise to discuss something that might make you a little uncomfortable.

Making a top 10 list

You probably already have it in your head, but you may not think about it much.

If the disaster forces you into a position where you can handle the work of only 10 clients…which 10 will it be?

If you think back to last week’s post about the restaurant/catering business that burned, remember what he did first that was super-critical: He kept the catering business alive and kept the cash flowing.

In the eyes of his catering clients, there was no fire.

Despite all that was going on with the public-facing retail side of his business, he kept delivering and kept accepting catering orders. He focused on the relationships and facilities provided to him that kept that piece of the business going while the recovery of his retail business was in motion.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it pains him deeply every day that his retail serving area is closed… but the priority had to be the catering clients. Bigger tickets. Repeat business. Loyal business that appreciates the little things they do that other caterers don’t do.

You need to have that in mind as well. Which clients will get that sort of service, and which will have to wait?

Sure, it’d be ideal that none will have to do without, but the reality is that unless you’ve planned *very* well and you are *very* lucky, some aspect of your business is going to have to sit for a while.

Does that thought provoke you to look at your existing business a little differently?

Do you have another income stream for your existing business that functions without access to your retail (or public-facing restaurant) location?

If you have a retail store, do you sell on eBay? Etsy? Yahoo stores? Your own online store?

If you have a restaurant, do you cater events or corporate meetings and the like?

No matter what you do…is there a core revenue stream you can establish (or that you already have) that doesn’t depend on your physical business location?

It’s easier to get one now than it is in the middle of a crisis. Get to work.

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Preparing for business disaster: Replacing You.

You may find it uncomfortable to think about this one, and you might even be lazy when it comes to implementing things related to it, but it’s important to do so.

What steps have you taken to deal with something happening to you, or a key employee?

Insurance companies have “Key man coverage” (and yes, I fully realize it is available for women, surely by now you realize that all of the women in my life are key<g>).

Do your key people have key man coverage?

What have you done to prepare your company for the worst?

Would they know where everything is? Are there instructions to help find it?

If it’s a family-owned business, have you talked with your family and put plans in writing for succession?

Are you cross-training other family members, or other employees?

We’ve talked at length about documenting employee processes, but are YOURS documented?

Is there a checklist of things that must be done weekly, monthly, quarterly? For example, are you the only one who knows what EFTPS is? Certainly anyone can pick that up and do it, but if they don’t know they need to…big problem.

Coming in this discussion: technology, marketing to clients who think your biz is toast, what others have experienced and what you can learn from it.

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Why don’t you do what you know needs to be done?

I was listening to Sam Clark this morning and he was talking about a group he surveyed about their business habits and noted that 86% of the people surveyed had no plan.

We talked about this when I first heard this comment from Sam a few months ago, but didn’t really press the issue.

Dan Kennedy calls it the “Monday morning reinvention” – where people show up at work Monday morning and start all over again. They sit down, they get coffee, and then they start figuring out what they need to do that week, at least until they’re distracted by a few joke emails or a link to someplace that takes them somewhere else until it’s “suddenly” lunchtime, or mid-afternoon.

Would it shock you to look across the room at 100 people at today’s Rotary Club meeting or Chamber of Commerce lunch and find that only 14 of them are working a plan to get where they want to be.

The other 86 have:

  • No plan for today.
  • No plan for tomorrow.
  • No plan for next week.
  • No plan for next month.
  • No plan for getting their business, or their part of the business, from where it is today to where it will be tomorrow. A

We all know that you have to plan in order to achieve what you want, so why do so few people do it?

Start today. Don’t give me that “one of these days” comments, or “I’ll start on it next week, it’s too late for this week”.

Do it now. As soon as you finish reading this post.

Why now? I already know you aren’t working – because you’re reading this:)

If you aren’t working a daily or work week plan, take 15-30 minutes or however long it takes and figure out what your most important achievements for this week will be.

Now take a few minutes and figure out what the first few steps are to work toward each one, and start on them. NOW.

As you finish those first few steps, figure out the next few, and then knock them off.

At the end of the day, spend a few minutes planning tomorrow. Repeat it the rest of the week at the end of each day.

If you *are* one of the 14% who are working a plan, don’t forget to re-assess where you are at the end of the day, adjust as necessary and stick to it.

Do what most people aren’t doing. Get what most people arent getting.