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Is there any Passion Left? or I love my job! May 5, 2009

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Business Improvement, Improving Personnel Performance, Increase Profitability.
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A while back, I spoke about customer service and illustrated my points with a couple of concrete examples. But that didn’t solve the customer service meltdown we are experiencing in the States.  This post speaks about the underlying causes of poor customer service and poor employee performance and most importantly, offers some solutions.

Recently I was reading comments in Facebook that had been entered during working hours, it is amazing to me the number of people that are counting the hours, minutes and seconds until they can leave their job for the day. It was as if they were being tortured and at 5pm the prison gates would swing open to freedom. What truly amazes me is that we are in the middle of an employment crisis and today I still heard those magic words in a Starbucks, “my job sucks”. I asked the employee if she just said “her job sucks” and she turned a little red and dismissed her comment. I wasn’t fooled – hopefully she wasn’t either.

Understand that I am not one of those people who lives to work but I have to ask, “Where is the sense of obligation of today’s employees, the passion to do something great, the joy of solving a difficult problem or innovating a new process. Why would you drive 5 or 6 days a week to something you hated?

Incredible yes? But this issue is completely reverseable with a paradigm change from two departments….HR and Senior Management. Before your hairs raise up on your arms you have to understand that I am not here to slam Human Resources or Senior Management (they are usually the folks that hire me) but for today I am saying that things must change  if you are wanting to maximize productivity, create a culture of innovation and retain good employees. The solution is relatively simple and involves an old management concept aptly named, managing by walking around. In many companies, HR and Senior Management types typically hole up in their silos and await an triggerin action by an employee. “I need an insurance form”; How do I apply for FMLA” or “I appeal this write up by my no-good supervisor” or “I have this idea I would like to share with the President”.  If Human Resources and Senior Management would  come in early and talk to folks getting their morning coffee or while they are settling in their cubes or if they would stop by at the end of the day and ask questions – both personal and business – the results would be amazing.

Examples of questions:

1) How is the family?
2) What project are you working on?
3) What roadblocks are you running in to?
4) What could the company do to help your team operate more efficiently?
5) Would you mind if we spoke more in detail at a later time.

Now you wouldn’t ask all of these questions to each person nor would you get perfectly honest answers initially but you get the picture – over a period of time you will meet your most important asset – your employees. And you would give them a gift far greater than money – you will bestow them with a sense of belonging, supply them with someone to connect with, and show they that the folks upstairs really care about them and their work product.  And as a free bonus, you will find out quickly what can be done to better your company.

It is important to remember that everyone who works at your company begins with passion.  After all, they send a motivational resumé and cover letter, beam during their interview and promise that they can fulfill the companies goals and objectives.  Their passion is fueled during  the orientation week as they are introduced to the company, staffers, leadership, their department and their new desk and duties. Sometime between that magic hire date and six months to a year later, things can start to turn sour. The pox may be unclear goals or multiple unachievable targets; it could be an already vexxed employee who actually poisons our new recruit; many times it is a supervisor who knows the technical skills of the job but lacks the people skills (nurturing, training, listening, advising, mentoring). Companies that fail to manage by walking around are condemned to never know what is happening around them as they sit around and wonder why they are the last to know when a staff member decides to terminate their employment or why their latest IT project is six months and $40 million dollars behind

Some of the most critical solutions in running a successful company are the simple ones and they involve key players investing precious time in their staff. Starting is easy and can begin tomorrow.

Steve
costavoidance.org

Solutions Business Consultants are specialists in cutting costs and expenses without sacrificing employees™. We take an enlightened look at a company’s spend and create innovative cost savings methodologies which bring money to your bottom line! Many of our services can be enjoyed on a contingency basis – based on our success!

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What’s in it for me? February 10, 2009

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Accountability, Business Improvement, Customer Service, Improving Personnel Performance, Increase Profitability, Marketing, Travel Policy.
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I have had numerous requests asking “What can Solutions Business Consultants do for my business” In response, I have prepared a brief summary of what we do. If you learn anything from this post, it should be that we offer a complimentary initial consultation – let’s talk and discuss your issues… I have been known to successfully solve a problem or two on the phone call and if our conversation leads to an engagement or referral then we have a win-win situation we both can be proud of.

Businesses exist in a state of flux depending on 1) market conditions, 2) goals/objectives  of the company and the 3) internal and external processes the company employs to operate.

Business inefficiencies occur when #1, 2 and 3 are out of sync. My job is to help businesses redefine and understand the current market, modify goals and objectives to meet the challenges of the current market and then align the company’s processes making them more relevant and efficient.

To better understand the aforementioned explanation, I am listing recent categories of consulting business that I have completed. This should not be viewed as a list of services because every business is different and I will tailor my approach and execution dependent on your needs.

Business Development/Customer Intelligence: I assist businesses in understanding who their ideal customer is. Not all customers are born equal and profitability is key – minimum volume generation, product mix, sales/service support and infrastructure requirements all have to examined and possibly modified. Once the ideal customer is defined, it makes it much easier to focus efforts on new customer recruitment and proper servicing of existing customers. I show companies how to leverage this information to then go out into the field and develop new customers.

Cost Reduction/Expenditure Management: I assist companies in tackling and bringing their expenditures under proper management.  Expense control, vendor selection and negotiation, bid processes, travel policies and an intensive look at purchasing always results in a stronger organization and bottom line savings. Lenders and investor/shareholders alike are impressed with the results.

Website Analysis/Logic/Design and Search Engine Optimization: I assist companies in taking a customer-point-of-view analysis of their existing or proposed web-site focusing on simplicity of navigation, ease-of-use, goal maximization and sales effectiveness. Additionally, I focus on low-cost, no-cost methods of promoting your web site using social media, podcasts, key word/phrase selection, promotion and research tools.

Business Processes: I assist companies in tweaking their infrastructure processes to maximize staff utilization, customer experience, defining goals and objectives, creating business policies, correcting bad or faulty operations and more. . .

The best part about what I do is the diversity of the challenges- I have helped small companies, large companies, small projects, multi-departmental software implementation – the variety is endless, fun and productive. As always I look forward to our initial complementary consultation. Call me at 865-356-3575 or email me at steve@costavoidance.org

Accountability can save you a fortune January 28, 2009

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Accountability, Business Improvement, Increase Profitability.
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In a recent analysis of a 1500 person company, I found that lack of accountability in project execution attributed to the following:

1) Millions of dollars wasted via failed projects.

2) Creating a culture where there were no consequences (corrective or otherwise) for failure. Employees leading failed projects actually received undeserved promotions and other accolades because senior management did not closely monitor project successes and failures. Employees assigned new projects were aware of this lack of follow-up and had no external forces motivating them to complete projects in a timely or successful manner

3) Best practices were not codified which resulted in departments repeating failed steps and not taking advantage of process improvement.

4) Several company departments became known company-wide as a roadblock for getting things done. Their failures have put the company at risk for continued business operations and have crippled crm and inventory systems.

5) This company is a private stock company so lack of accountability places the board of directors at risk for shareholder suits.

It should be noted that repeated issues of failed accountability is not unique to this company. Many companies face this internal cancer. However, by implementing a few positive steps, accountability and oversight can be brought back into the mainstream of company operations. Below are a few thoughts on implementing a system of accountability.

1) Whether it is internal development of software, the modification of off-the-shelf software or mods to existing software, basic purchasing methodology has to be brought into the decision-making process. Here are a few questions that should be asked:  a) What is the return on investment?; b) Is there an easier way to achieve the goal of the project that could employ low-tech, or no-tech solutions? c) Can a third party solution be used rather than hiring contractors or using internal employees? d) Does the project conform to corporate goals?  Of more importance is the involvement of purchasing to perform due diligence, competition and ultimately make the purchasing decision. Absolutely, the last thing you should ever allow is the ability of corporate department to make independent purchasing decisions. I could reel off numerous horror stories if you don’t believe me – the short story is that the key to any good purchasing decision is independent oversight. A corporate department such as IT is incapable of providing their own oversight – blame it on the fact that we are all subject ot human failings. For larger projects, not only should purchasing be brought in but I would involve the CFO and, more importantly, the board of directors. Accountability starts at the top and placing emphasis on doing a good job sets the tone for the successful company.

Steve

Don’t wait and miss your opportunity January 28, 2009

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Business Improvement, Increase Profitability.
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Lately there has been a pleathora of knee jerk reaction to the “poor economy” resulting in companies such as IBM, Sprint, Jewelry Television, and others  to commit mass layoffs of their workforce. But, the need to cut payroll by 500 or 5000 employees does not occur overnight. And the “economy” cannot be blamed entirely for the panic dance that is taking place.

Nothing makes me sicker than to see a company try to fix things by misusing employing termination. Why? Because bulk terminations are lazy:  they offer only a temporary cost savings measure, severely damage morale, cause negative publicity,  erode public confidence and most of all, they fail to fix the underlying corporate issues.

The positive benefit about our current economic situation are that companies are being forced to look to improve themselves from within. These progressive firms realize that a wait and see attitude will most likely lead them into serious financial difficulties in the future. Many companies are now taking a serious look at bringing in business consultants to take an independent look at the status quo. Oftentimes, outsiders can easily identify low hanging fruit such as high supplier costs, departments working at cross purposes, outdated sales techniques and poorly defined job duties. Rarely, do we find tens or hundreds or thousands of employees who are the root cause of a companies woes; most often we find it is bad communication and poor processes that have been allowed to infect a company for months creating the perfect storm for failure.

Don’t wait and miss your opportunity to spend a few dollars in correcting today’s business problems. Start small and focus on documenting and fixing specific problems. Six months from now, you can be the hero and your employees can benefit from growth and stability instead of being victimized by needless mass layoffs.

Steve

Responsible Travel Policy December 13, 2008

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Business Improvement, Increase Profitability, Travel Policy.
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If you review or approve travel for your company, chances are you have seen it all. Many of our clients have had similar issues with wasteful trips and requests for reimbursement that are abusive. One would think that most employees who travel would have the good common sense not to bite the hand that feeds them. However, in all fairness, sometimes you just have to spell it out in black or white. That’s why a comprehensive travel policy is a must to set proper expectations for your traveling employees.

Here are some points that should be covered. 

1) Set up an approval process that requires a superior’s approval for any travel and a VP approval at $1000

2) All expenditures should conform to IRS requirements for documentation.

3) Where possible, the company should negotiate a blanket contract with airlines, hotel chains and rental car companies.

4) Meals should be limited to a specific dollar amount, disallow liquor and limit tip to 15% and any reimbursement should require the detailed receipt showing exactly what was purchased.

5) Require lowest fare adoption and 14 or 21 day advance notice of travel – exceptions should go to a Senior VP to dissuade poor planning.

6) Larger companies should use a dedicated person to make all travel arrangements or use a web-based system that allows for your policies to be programmed in to the system.

7) Hotel room nights should have a maximum $ per night limit depending on the market.

8) Rental cars should be disallowed unless it can be demonstrated that the cost plus hotel parking and gas would be less than airport shuttles and taxis.

9) Family members/friends should not be allowed to travel with the employee on business trips – this just encourages company paid vacations and distracts from the business purpose of the trip.

10) Phone on planes should never be used and hotel phones should not be used if the employee has a cell phone.

11) There should be a list of things that are not going to be reimbursed such as dry cleaning for stays less than 5 days, valet parking, personal and sundry items, etc.

For a comprehensive travel analysis, policy creation, approval systems or other expense policy needs, contact Steve at Solutions Business Consultants steve@costavoidance.org

Use the current economy to your advantage December 11, 2008

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Business Improvement, Increase Profitability, Procurement.
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The current business downturn can be used to your advantage in analyzing your vendor pool and encouraging greater competition.
Take a look at your procurement processes. To begin, generate a quick flow chart on how goods and services are being ordered.
1) Do you have a procurement card system – how is it structured, monitored and audited?
2) Is 85% of purchases competed and approved in a hierarchial manner and does the procurement department have veto power? Are all big ticket items, $5,000 or more competed on a regular basis among seven or more suppliers and approved by the procurement department.
3) Is there an ROI generated on all capital purchases.
4) What percentage of purchases are turned down.
5) Is expense reimbursement conducted according to a defined company policy and IRS rules.
6)Do executives utilize their credit cards in a responsible manner (see #5 above)

If you no on any of the above questions, you have (or will have) problems in the future. There are additional questions which can also be asked and independent oversight needed –  I recommend both an independent committee (audit committee) as well as an outside consultant.

The independent committee allows financially minded people to vaidate the company is not only focusing on their stated strategic direction but also is being fiscally responsible doing it. The consultant allows an independent perspective unbound by internal business politics or the “boss” pressure.

Take advantage of the current economy by validating spend and resources. In the long-term it will be the wisest investment you can make.

Solutions Business Consultant specializes in maximizing the efficiency of your company. Fees are reasonable and are based on your specific goals. Send us an email today at steve@costavoidance.org.