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Build a high performing team May 21, 2007

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People.
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Teams accomplish extraordinary results! Although you may be more compact than the Big Dogz, you can still take advantage of teamwork. The Big Dogz know how to put together a team and you will too, as soon as you finish reading this entry. Here are the steps to building a high performing team:

Create the team mission  In order for a team to be successful, it must have a clear goal. Use SMARTER as a guideline to help you identify what you want the team to accomplish.

Take inventory of the skills — Each member of the team brings something to make the team stronger. There are three questions to ask each team member.

  1. What skills do you have that will help us accomplish our mission?
  2. What other skills do you have?
  3. What skills would you like to develop as a result of this team?

Assign roles — Once you know the mission and the skill set of the team members, decide what roles are necessary, then make sure each person on the team knows their role as well as the roles of each other team member. For each role clearly describe the responsibilities of that role, Doing this will save you time and will facilitate coordination amongst the team members.

Establish the operating environment — Make it clear to the team what resources you have established for them. Where will they meet? When will they work on team activities? How will they communicate with each other? Are there any restrictions on the operation of the team? What are the schedules and milestones?

Set goals for each team member — Sit down with each person on the team to clearly identify what is expected of them. Make sure each person on the team has an opportunity to make a contribution that is viewed as significant by all the other team members. Again, use SMARTER as a guideline to create these goals.

Close the skill gaps — If you have identified any skill gaps as a result of your skills inventory, identify how these gaps will be closed. Will the person attend a class, watch a video, got coaching from a more experienced person or will you use trial and error to learn the new skill. Set up the opportunity for the team member to close the gap.

Host the status meeting — Clearly articulate how often you want status from the team. Indicate the format you want status. Failure to indicate the form of status could result in you getting status in a way that is meaningless for you. It is your responsibility to make sure the location for the status meeting is ready when the team is ready to present status to you.

Cheerlead the team — The team will be looking to you to provide incentives, recognition and encouragement. Look for opportunities to celebrate success. High performing teams have lots of celebrations. These do not need to be extensive, but effective leaders celebrate often!

If you follow these steps, you will have a solid foundation for your team.

Where can I find this thing called ‘innovation’? May 17, 2007

Posted by David Dirks in Innovation: Not Just for the Big Dogz.
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dirksphoto.jpgInnovation. Innovation. Innovation. Find any business magazine today and their telling you it’s all about innovation. True, like I noted in a recent post (April 23, 2007), innovation is important to business success to one degree or another. Apparently, the Big Dogz are all over this. Got to have it. Need it. Want it…badly.

Small business needs some level of innovation as well. But where does true innovation come from? How is it born? It comes from all sorts of places. For example, innovation (service or product) can come from your employees. But you won’t know it unless you ask them and take their suggestions seriously. Your competitors might be another source. What are they NOT doing that you should be in order to give more value to your customers?

Probably your best source for innovation is your customer base. Who better to tell you what you could do to improve your product or services? I don’t care what small business you’re in, you should be checking with you customers, especially your top customers, and ask them.

You could even make a contest out of it. For example, let’s say you’re a small, regional manufacturer of fishing lures for bass (ok…I’m a fishing nut too!). Why not hold a contest for the most innovative and fish-catching lure design? You could award a series of prizes for the best designs that actually catch fish. And think of all the free publicity you’d have! Outdoor editors would eat this story up!

Or you could bring several top customers to an ‘invitation-only’ dinner event where part of the evening is spent discussing your products/services and how to improve them.

If you have a service business, your innovation might be in how you package and deliver those services to you customers. What if you could deliver your services via internet? Your customers might tell you how to package or bundle your services for more effective use and delivery.

Product or service innovations can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The key is to always be on the look out for those innovations that your customers will desire.

Customers don’t buy product or service innovations just because they are available. You’ll keep your customers coming back for more if you tap into their ideas on improving the products/services you offer and they use.

When was the last time you were asked by a small business owner for your suggestions/ideas on product or service improvements? You haven’t? See, there’s the opportunity.

Summer Interns Make $ense! May 10, 2007

Posted by David Dirks in Summer Interns.

dirksphoto.jpgOne thing many of the Big Dogz do is find top notch and inexpensive new talent. Of course, they do this do that they can identify potential new hires well before graduation day. The better Big Dogz find ways to make their summer interns productive and profitable by assigning them meaningful projects and work assignments.

You should be tapping into this resource as well. Want to get your finances organized better than they are today (you know how you like to keep you finances current…ugg!)? Want some extra thinking on some creative projects that have been languishing around the office or store? Your resource and solution is not far from your place of business.

Do you have a community college nearby? Four-year university? Then you have a way to tap into some excellent talent who can really help you improve your business.

There are a couple of things you’ll need to do in order to make the experience rewarding for both you and your intern.

1. Check with your local colleges and see what internship programs are already being offered by local businesses. Find out how the college/university helps to promote summer internships and promote them on campus.

2. Give you summer intern some really meaty things to work on. Don’t expect them to be too motivated if your only wish is to have them do filing and clean the bathrooms. Interns will be attracted to your posting if they know that they’ll be able to really gain some valuable work experience.

3. Match projects and work assignments to their college interests. Hiring a marketing major to work on projects that are not even remotely connected to marketing is a waste of your time and theirs. Finance majors might be interested in working on a new bookkeeping system for you rather than something unrelated. Take advantage of that college education that someone else is paying for!

4. Interview all candidates carefully and fully. Make sure that you are hiring the one(s) who have the best aptitude

5. Don’t be cheap and pay them competitively. While hiring an intern is generally less expensive than hiring someone and paying him or her benefits, etc., don’t cheap out on the summer wage. Not only are they working for the experience, but they need the money too!

6. Make your intern feel special during their time with you. Take them out to lunch once in a while and be sure to celebrate their successes as they complete work assignments. You may want them back the next summer and a great work experience will make them eager to come back again.

Creating valuable work experiences for talented college interns is a great way to enhance our business without spending a fortune on talent.