Sunday, December 14, 2008

What It Takes To Survive In Crisis Situations

It's hard not to notice the scores of businesses failing right now. Many claim that they are the "victims" of this nasty economic crisis. The hard truth is, they are only the victims of how they dealt with the circumstances. Let's really look at the facts:

Why won't all businesses in their industry fail? After all, they're dealing with the same circumstances. Actually, there's a simple answer:

There are two primary aspects of our operational abilities: Preparedness (Training; Having processes in place; etc.) and Resources (Money; Physical assets; People; etc.) Here's the secret that true world-class businesses have discovered: Your current status regarding these two issues are based on how you think!

This is NOT some "name it, claim it/ask the Universe for it" kind of garbage...uh, I mean, theory. When leaders think training is important, they invest in that and are better prepared. When they think innovative solutions best come from front line employees, they engage them in opportunities to adapt/improve results. You get the picture. Their actions begin with their thoughts and beliefs.

Because circumstances constantly change, the key is thinking in a way (focusing on proven, real-life solutions) that gets consistent, world-class results - even in difficult times.

It's too bad many professionals miss that truth. It means the difference between thriving and merely surviving...and sometimes (unfortunately) between surviving, and not.

Don't be that statistic. Even now, it's not too late to invest in the proven approach that will completely change your situation for the better. Really. Don't settle for less when you can tap into proven solutions that will lead you to achieving your potential.

Think about it...but more importantly, act on!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Employee Engagement = Organizational Improvement

I just finished up a consulting project that centered on improving the client organization's business performance. In this particular situation, they had several problems: low customer loyalty (repeat/referral), inefficient processes, high turnover. The client expected some expensive and drawn-out intervention to fix it. If they had gone with a typical consultant, they likely would have been correct.

But they hired my team ("the anti-consultants") ...and they were thrilled to be wrong.

In this particular instance, well-placed effort on engaging their employees created a ripple effect that positively impacted everything else - especially in challenging times. It works like this:

Connect with (really engage/care for) the employee =
1. higher morale/teamwork/productivity (more ownership, buy-in, and passion)
2. more efficiencies (employees are the closest to the operations and know how to improve it)
3. higher satisfaction/loyalty (employees are closest to the customer and can create better relationships - which, coincidentally, have been modeled by leadership as part of the engagement effort.)

Isn't it wonderful to see a business achieve it's potential? They especially appreciate that these dramatic improvements are occurring while the economic environment is killing off the weak businesses, injuring the average businesses, and rewarding the businesses that invest wisely in developing their people.

It's never too late to improve...right up until the "death rattle".

What are YOU doing to engage your employees/save your business during this difficult time?

Think about it...but more importantly, act on!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Anti-Consultants Unite!

Can someone PLEASE come up with a new term for an ethical and skilled professional who is hired as a freelancer to provide expert opinion about how to genuinely improve a business operation and get legitimate results for the client?

Most consultants have made "consultant" a bad word. It really ticks me off to see what the plethora of inexperienced, unskilled, ignorant, and selfish out of work people who throw together a website and business cards have done to ruin an important and needed industry. It is pathetic and shameful!

The Small World Alliance team is currently working on a project and discovered that our client has hired a string of "consultants" previously, and each one bungled things so badly that the organization was in danger of going under. These "consultants" came in, dispensed poor advise, and then abandoned them while they struggled to implement the badly-designed plan.

Unfortunately, my team seems to find ourselves "cleaning up" after these corporate rejects fail to meet their lofty promises. Why doesn't someone invent some kind of corporate stun gun to jolt these "consultants" to their senses? I would pay dearly (and take a LOT of personal satisfaction) to start using it on these people.

Let's unite and begin to hold these people accountable. Spread the word about poor performance and broken promises! Let's all commit to due diligence before investing in someone to come in - make sure they have the background, experience, and the passion to deliver real results, especially in these difficult times!

And please, me first (the "anti-consultant")...not AFTER these "consultants" have made things worse. You - and your entire organization - deserves better.

Think about it...but more importantly, act on!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

NOT one of the gang...

Ah...the air travel process. Many complaints have been launched since 9/11 and the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) was launched. Critics accuse the people who work for the TSA to be morons, imbeciles, or idiots (do NOT get me going on these terms...) For my clients, I travel hundreds of thousands of air miles a year. Just yesterday, I returned from Europe and saw a distinct difference between the Holland/England security teams and the United States teams.

Upon arriving in the U.S., I passed through a group of six (yes, SIX) TSA workers positioned at the end of the X-Ray machine. No one acknowledged me as I repacked my laptop and gathered my luggage. They were far too busy talking among themselves and joking about some personal situation. I then noted what I believe to be the real problem when I realized that one of the six was actually their supervisor...and HE was participating in the crude joking.

All leaders are role models whether they like it or not. This particular leader was leading his team toward 1. ignoring the customer, 2. inappropriate communication, 3. inefficient execution of job/process/their purpose. What truly irritates travelers in these (unfortunately, common) situations is how none of them were adding value to the situation. It becomes obvious that the more important priority of this entire group of ON THE CLOCK workers was...their personal discussion - not the traveling public's need.

It appears that they are not stupid...they simply aren't aware or don't care enough in these circumstances. No accountability = no account OF ability. All led by their supervisor who was modeling the ineffective behavior.

Are you doing more/better within YOUR work team? What behaviors are YOU modeling?

Think about it...but more importantly, act on!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

"No Problem" Can Be A Problem

Yesterday, I had an interesting phone interaction with a front line retail employee. The day before I ordered some books online - all of which were listed as "in stock". I had received an email notification that some were not yet sent and I was concerned that they weren't going to arrive by the time I needed them.

After calling to follow up and rectify the situation, I thanked her for her efforts and she replied "No problem." Although I didn't say anything to her directly, I immediately thought: "Actually, the reason I called you was because there WAS a problem - and even if serving me was a problem, as the customer, I'd prefer to hear something akin to a Ritz-Carlton or Chick-fil-A response of "My pleasure". This would've taken my focus away from the problem (undermines loyalty) and focused it on the nature of our business interaction (relationships build loyalty.)

Details like these "throw-away comments" - especially when they are a first or last impression - either add to or take away from the customer-company relationship. And in these difficult times, no one can afford to carelessly undermine that relationship...especially when all it takes is a quick awareness/training effort to ensure all front line employees get it. If employees don't "get it" (understand), then the customer won't "get it" (a good experience), and in the end, the bottom line won't "get it" (financial benefit) either.

Think about it...but more importantly, act on

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Customer is NOT "Always Right"!

One common quote regurgitated frequently in training circles is the classic "The Customer is always right"! What moron came up with THAT lie? More importantly, what imbeciles keep repeating it?

Anyone who spends any kind of time in the real world knows that Customers are NOT always right. This attitude creates an unhealthy bi-polar situation: if the Customer is always right, and there's a disagreement (with the Employee), then who is wrong? The Employee! Not exactly an environment that anyone I know would want to work in. NO one is going to get excited to come to work every day so they can be wrong!

Like anyone else, Customers are people. People aren't perfect and they certainly aren't always right - but, as people, we ALL deserve respect. I like Disney's more enlightened opinion: "The Guest may not always be right, but they are always the Guest - and if they're wrong, they must be wrong with dignity!"

Imagine: a company rooted in fantasy operating in the real world. How refreshing!

Think about it...but more importantly, act on!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Getting Through the Tough Times

With all this economic turmoil, the typical response of the average person is to freeze. For ordinary companies, freezing spending is an easy short-term "solution", but it has significant long-term ramification. Cutting back on investing in what creates the results, only serves to undermine the ultimate results themselves.

That's why extraordinary companies do NOT freeze. They may cut back on certain non-strategic expenditures (which makes sense), but in order to get better results in difficult times, they actually focus MORE on investing in what generates those results: their people and their customer experience.

No wonder that, when the dust settles, these legendary companies have extended their lead in the marketplace.

Certainly something to consider...only if you want to be extraordinary, of course.

Think about it...but more importantly, act upon!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Internal Customers

One thing I've found that's odd to me: business leaders all want to provide the best service and they make the mistake of focusing all their efforts on their external customers. Well, exactly who delivers that service to the external customers? The front line! Ultimately, the level of service is dictated by the quality of the source of that experience - the front line worker's behaviors.

World-class companies consistently provide an extraordinary environment for their workers. This doesn't mean spoiling them with catered meals, free dry cleaning, and expensive toys. It does mean understanding them, listening to them, and supporting them by providing tools and opportunities...just like the criteria for the external customers. Great internal service extends out and impacts the quality of the external service.

The same tools that help us be effective with our external customers will allow us to accomplish the same with our "internal customers".

What are some best practices you've seen/heard of for providing excellent low/no cost internal customer service?

Think about it...but more importantly, act upon!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Thriving in Tough Times

I've noticed something about tough times and the organizations that thrive in the midst of them. Maybe you've noticed too...

It seems that there's an interesting pattern: the corporate environment goes screwy (bad economy, social upheaval, tech revolution, etc.) and when the dust settles, some company has risen dramatically. Ever notice why?

What consistently happens is that a leader/organization will use the window of uncertainty (when most are simply standing around watching the dust flying and focusing on staying "safe") to aggressively focus on improving their fundamentals and begin developing a game-changing strategy to capitalize when everything settles.

When the circumstances in your industry start to get crazy, that is the best time to invest in creating "an unfair competitive edge".

Think about it...but more importantly, act upon

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Beginning...

Finally! After years of encouragement, I’m making the leap to provide a blogging venue for the experiences and insights I discover while working with businesses all over the world. My goal is to distill the secrets of the world-class corporations (without diluting them!) and share low and no cost ways to implement them in your operation about once every week or so.

As an “operation guy” at heart, I know how none of us has time to play “mental pattycake” with our careers, so I’ll cut to the chase. You’ll get the real me – and my “plop it out there” stand that causes “business as usual” people to get uncomfortable. In an ocean of overwhelming fluff that is out there, I’m committed to contribute something valuable to us all: what really works!

I’m counting on you to share as well. I eagerly invite your questions (what challenges are you facing right now that need to be fixed for your company to lead the pack?) and your insights. Thank you in advance for being part of what will be an amazing community of difference-makers!

Welcome to “our” new blog. I’m thrilled to partner with you!