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Calibrating your self assessment July 30, 2007

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Self assessments.

p5130012.jpg Self improvement begins with self assessment. Most people are not very effective at self assessment. They do not perceive themselves like others perceive them. We tend to overestimate our skill or to underrate ourselves. The Big Dogz know how to calibrate their self assessment. Over time, the Big Dogz are very accurate with their self assessments. Here’s how to develop outstanding self assessment skills.

  1. Make a copy of the self assessment before you begin.
  2. Take the self assessment
  3. Select three people using this criteria:
    1. They are in the same environment as you. If you want to know how you are at work, then select three people from work. If you want to know how you are outside of work, then select three people from that environment. Having someone from your social club provide an assessment is not useful for how you are at work.
    2. These are people you can trust to give you an honest assessment.
    3. Do not pick people who will flatter you — your mom is not on the list!
    4. Do not pick people who will belittle you — your mom is not on the list!
  4. Give the assessment to these three people and ask them to assess you.
  5. When they return the assessment, you say two words, “Thank You.” Do not tell them they are wrong or don’t understand you.
  6. Compare the assessment of the three people to your assessment:
    1. If all three agree with you, you are an effective self assessor.
    2. If one of them disagrees with you, this is called an opinion and is nothing to be seriously concerned about. Your assessment skills are generally effective. Of course if the difference is a large one, you may want to examine your actions with this person.
    3. If two of them disagree with you, this is called a trend and is something to be seriously concerned about. Your self assessment skills are lacking and you need to take the self assessment again with a more open mind about yourself.
    4. If all three of them disagree with you, this is called a fact! You have been kidding yourself and have placed a major roadblock in front of your self improvement effort.

Repeat this process for all self assessment you do. You will find that your skills as a self assessor will be quite good. You will become accurate in determining how you come across to others. Being able to do an accurate self assessment can help you resolve those pesky “personality conflicts” you may be having. You may think you are an effective communicator while everyone around you thinks you are the worst communicator. I have attached a quick communications skills self assessment. Use the self assessment calibration process above to see how close you are.


The Power of Yelp July 24, 2007

Posted by David Dirks in Building Foot Traffic, Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff.
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dirksphoto.jpgProbably the greatest trend and potential friend for small business are the web-based social networks. The growing trend is for localized data about businesses in almost every geographic area. Google and Yahoo are certainly on the front end of providing local business information in a strictly data-only format. They give good directions, link you to websites, etc. Having your business found on the web in very localized way is just the next step in the non-stop expansion of e-commerce. It’s all good.

The latest trendsetters are those sites that give reviews of local businesses by the people who frequent them the most: customers. Yelp.com is one of the most noteworthy of this trend.

Yelp.com is an online guide to local businesses of all types. I went on the site and looked up ‘salons’ in my local town and found that more than a half-dozen were listed and…reviewed! All of the shops were within a five-mile radius of my home. With a simple click, I could read the reviews of customers who have had their hair done in each shop.

Fortune magazine recently had a feature article on the founders of Yelp. Interestingly, the article noted an example of how a site like Yelp is helping small businesses. A hair salon owner in Los Angeles had received reviews from customers. Those reviews led to more and more business. The fellow who owns the salon has to pack his hands in ice each weekend because he’s so busy and his hands swell! Ouch.

Yelp is the e-commerce version of ‘word of mouth’ advertising. You might want to check to see if someone on Yelp has already reviewed your business. Go check it out for yourself at http://www.yelp.com

No Thanks, No Business July 20, 2007

Posted by David Dirks in Keeping Your Customers.
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dirksphoto.jpgWhat can I do to keep my current customers? There are lots of things you can do but one of the most underutilized strategies is also one of the simplest. The two most important words you can use are ‘thank you” and making sure they know it.

Now I’m not just talking about when they leave your store or office, and you say “thank you”. Most people can remember to do that (although I’ve more than a few who just can’t say those two words!).

Recently, I received a ‘thank you’ card in the mail. A local business owner in my town sent it to me. This is as lo-tech but high-impact as you can get. We bought some of their products and they wanted us to know how much they appreciated that. It’s simple and low-cost. And they took the time to handwrite the note too!

Question: When was the last time anyone your bought services from sent you one? My guess: you can’t remember because most businesses don’t bother going the extra mile to say, “thank you”. It’s “next customer, please” instead.

You can say thank you in any number of ways but nothing says it better than a handwritten card from you. You don’t have to send one every time your customer buys. Sending one on a regular, consistent basis tells you customer that you really do care.

Worst thing: Sending a card or note that is pre-printed and pre-signed. Most awful: Not thinking your customer is worth an occasional note of thanks. Only the Big Dogz do it and do it well.

When was the last time you thanked your customers?

Understanding Power July 19, 2007

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Power.
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p5130012.jpg  Profits flow from power! The Big Dogz understand the nature of power. In this entry, you will be able to identify two types of power and to create your own personal power profile. The type of power associated with being the boss is called position power. This type of power is used when you can not influence another to do what you want. When you use position power, you issue commands or directives. You do not ask. Position power yields compliance. Position power is given to you by the organization; it does not travel with you. The other type of power you can use is called personal power. This type of power is associated with you as a person. This type of power is used to influence others to do what you want. When you use personal power, you ask another person to do something. You do not issue commands or directives. Personal power yields commitment. Personal power is not given to you, you earn it and you re-earn it every day. Personal power has nothing to do with your position, and it is portable across all social organizations. The Big Dogz know about acquiring personal power. This power is derived from personal qualities that a person has. Some of these are:

  • Integrity
  • Charisma
  • Knowledge
  • Courage
  • Humility
  • Trustworthiness
  • Visionary

Some of these sources of personal power are more important than others. Here is how the Big Dogz generate a personal power profile:

  1. Identify the salient sources of personal power in their sphere of influence
  2. Rate the importance of each of these sources on scale of 1 to 10 (10 high)
  3. Rate their demonstration of each of these sources on a scale of 1 to 10
  4.  Identify those sources that are rated high in importance and low in demonstration
  5. Create an action plan to demonstrate these sources
  6. Periodically review their progress toward achieving higher levels of personal power

You can use the attached Personal Power Self Assessment form to do what the Big Dogz do. I have listed over 40 potential sources of personal power. Feel free to add your own. 

Start working on your personal power profile in the next 30 days!

Personal Power Self Assessment  

More on Sales Metrics July 17, 2007

Posted by David Dirks in Sales Metrics.
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dirksphoto.jpgI’m pondering sales metrics again. Whenever we talk about sales metrics in this blog, let’s get one thing straight now: sales metrics are designed to get you to ask more questions about what they tell you and why.

Sales metrics by themselves cannot provide “the answer” to a downward or unfavorable trend. Likewise, positive sales metric trends make you feel good but what we need to understand is this: what is creating this positive sales metric trend?

Sales metrics are designed to help you peel back to ‘layers of the onion’, so you can be sure you understand the key drivers for a positive or negative trend. The Big Dogz are excellent at getting to the root causes of sales metric trends. They isolate key sales and profitability drivers AND make sure to keep the good ones and eliminate the bad ones FAST.

Here’s another one worth taking a hard look at: X by employee. The ‘X’ factors I would look at are: sales and expenses. Let’s look at ‘sales by employee’ first (if you have no employees other than yourself and/or family, then count each person that is at least 50% active in the business…you are the employees, right?).

This is simple enough to calculate. Take total sales by month, quarter, and/or year and divide by the average number of employees you have.

Example 1:

$500,000 2006 Sales divided by 6 employees = $83,333 per employee.

Doesn’t mean much unless you compare it to previous timeframes. So let’s break it down with another example.

Example 2:

1st quarter 2006 sales per employee: $30,000.

compared to:

1st quarter 2005 sales per employee: $45,000.

Questions to ask about example #2:

• What are the reasons that my sales per employee are down in the year-over-year comparison?

• Did I hire more people in the 1st quarter of 2006? Why?

• Did I expand hiring too fast?

• What key drivers do I control that will help to keep sales per employee growing?

It’s the same thing with expenses per employee. Add ALL of your business expenses for one quarter and divide that amount by the average number of employees you had in that quarter. Now compare it to month-over-month (same period).

• Are expenses up, down, or flat?

• If they are increasing, is there a commensurate increase in revenues (or better)?

• What expense items increased or decreased more than 10% in the same period comparison?

• If they are decreasing, how does that compare to your sales per employee during the same period or month-over-month?

• If revenues are increasing and expenses are decreasing…why is that?

And so on…you get the point. Those questions beget more questions until you come to the point of getting grounded on what the key drivers are that are positively or negatively affecting your business.

Understanding the ‘what, when, why, and how’ of whatever my sales metrics are telling/showing me is critical. Remember, sales metrics serve one purpose: to keep you focused on asking more questions until you get to the core of 1) identifying what is working or not working and WHY, and 2) encouraging what works and quickly eliminating what isn’t.

Effective meetings July 7, 2007

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Effective meetings, Keeping Organized.
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  p5130012.jpg Stop wasting time in meetings! Just because you are a small company does not mean that you can afford to waste time and energy in meetings. The Big Dogz know and practice good meeting management, and you can too. Here is a tips list to help you get your meetings more organized: 

  1. Each meeting has just one purpose. Keep people focused on that purpose. If you do not know the purpose of the meeting, figure it out before you start the meeting. Ask “What are we trying to accomplish?’
  2. It is generally a good idea to leave rank at the door, especially in problem solving meetings. However, appoint someone in the meeting to be the facilitator. Experiment with using different facilitators.
  3. Create an agenda for your meeting. Put the most important topics first on the agenda. Provide time estimates for all agenda items, and stick to them.
  4. Use a time bank. Add 10-15 minutes at the end of the agenda. Use this time during the meeting to keep people on target. If you finish an agenda item early, deposit the time in the time bank. People will work hard to have time left in the time bank because it means they get out early.
  5. Send the agenda to everyone ahead of time so they can give you feedback and be prepared. Once the meeting starts, post the agenda or hand out a copy to each person.
  6. The first topic on the agenda is to review and adjust the agenda.
  7. Discuss general guidelines for behavior in your meetings. Something like “Only one person talks at a time.” These guidelines can be developed over time based upon the behaviors of people in the group.
  8. Use the parking lot to contain topics that are off purpose. Always ask permission to put a topic or question into the parking lot. Always empty the parking lot before the end of the meeting. That is, assign it to someone, make it an agenda item for another meeting or identify that the issue has been handled. Not emptying the parking lot will cause reluctance to put future items into the parking lot.
  9. Appoint someone to be a time keeper. This person also keeps track of the time back.
  10. Appoint a scribe. This person will take the minutes of the meeting. You can use the Meeting Documentation form attached to this entry. Before the meeting ends, have the scribe read the minutes to make sure everyone agrees. Update the form and distribute the minutes to all participants as soon as possible after the meeting.
  11. At the end of a meeting, do a group process discussion about how the meeting went. What did we do well? What did we do that was not effective? What ideas do you have to make us more effective?

 If you follow these tips, you will see that meetings do not need to be time wasters.

Meeting documentation form

Send an email to Rick: rbronder@gmail.com

Small Business Tactic: Record Yourself! July 6, 2007

Posted by David Dirks in Keeping Organized.
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dirksphoto.jpgHow many times have you seen an great idea, thought of a great idea, wanted to add another item to your small business ‘to-do’ list, but forget them soon after? It happens to me more often than I’d like to admit. To combat the problem, at first I would bring a pad/pencil with me. Well, that always doesn’t work well. Sometimes there isn’t time or it isn’t the place for a notation.

What I needed was a way to insure I was able get every detail of the idea or note. Problem solved: I bought a small, digital recorder (Sony ICD-B120). I’m not pushing the Sony brand. I’m pushing the idea that if you’re in the mix of working your business everyday, a small digital recorder will help.

Keep it in your pocket and when you need to make a mental note to yourself, you just hit record and speak away. I use mine all the time. It’s tiny enough to fit anywhere and not be a problem to carry. I can record hours of notes and play them back when I’m ready.

When your in your own business and in the thick of making it work, keeping track of your ‘things to do’ and ‘next great idea’ is one way to stay ahead…and keep your sanity.