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Create an environment for motivation August 31, 2007

Posted by rickbron in Motivation.
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p5130012.jpg  Motivation means improved productivity which means improved profit! The Big Dogz know all about motivation. When people talk motivation, they always talk about money. Now, money is important, but in most jobs you can not give the people more money unless they change the way they contribute. I am all for people making the most money possible. There are other ways to motivate people besides money. 

Another point about  motivation that I believe is important for the Big Dogz to understand is the fact that you as the manager cannot motivate anyone other than yourself. Motivation is a personal choice. Your job as the manager is to provide an environment where a person can choose to be motivated. What I propose is that you build an environment of motivation based upon factors you can control. Here are the essential building blocks of that environment: 

Motivate yourself

This is the first step in having a motivating environment. If you are not motivated, it is really difficult to ask those you lead to be motivated. I am sure you have traveled by air. As part of the safety briefing, the flight attendant informs you that oxygen masks may drop down in front of you. You are advised to put your own mask on first before helping other who may be traveling with you. The reason for this is obvious. The same is true of motivation — apply the following principles to yourself first before investing in the motivation of your associates. 

 Create a custom motivation plan for each associate

A major mistake some managers make is providing what motivates them! Not everyone is motivated by what motivates you and in fact most people have different motivation factors. In the attached file, I have provided a list of 36 potential motivation factors. I am positive this list is not exhaustive; you may discover new motivation factors to add. Before reviewing the list with your associates, make sure that you can provide the motivation factors on the list. If you can not provide a factor, remove it from the list. Sit down with each associate and ask them to identify the three most important motivation factors from the list you have created.  Do the same thing for yourself. You are on your way to having a motivated team.

Seek out and motivation opportunities

Now that you are aware of what motivates an associate, seek out those opportunities. That challenging assignment can now be directed to the associate who values challenging work as a motivation factor. Opportunities to learn new skills can be aligned with the person who is motivated by this factor. Who to send on that business trip is now a no-brainer. With the motivation needs of your associates identified, it will amaze you how frequently you will be able to direct activity to the person who values it highly. Also, be on the lookout for those activities that will motivate you. Start a motivation factor distribution log to keep track of how you are directing motivation opportunities to those around you. Be fair and make an effort to deliver opportunities to everyone. 

Acknowledge your efforts

When you are successful at identifying and delivering a motivational opportunity, let your associates know you are making the effort to provide them an environment where they can choose to be motivated. You might say to an associate, “Jim, you said that being consulted about new projects was important to you. I am getting ready to implement a new project and would like to hear your views on how it might be set up.” Providing this type of insight allows the associates to know that you are paying attention to their motivation and you are a person of integrity. If the associate does not respond positively to your efforts to motivate them, it may be time to revisit the motivation factors. 

Periodically adjust

Once your motivation program is in full swing, you will want to evaluate how effective it is. Even though you may be providing exactly what the associate said was important, you may experience less than optimum response. One of the key factors in creating a motivating environment is to keep up with what motivates people. As people achieve new skills or responsibilities, their motivation may change. I suggest that once a year, you have the motivation discussion. Of course, any time you see a marked change in performance, check to see if motivation factors are involved. Paying attention what motivates people and customizing your approach to motivating can yield huge results. Many studies show that motivated associates out perform their de-motivated colleagues. If nothing else, it will make working with motivated people more fun and less stress for you. Over the next 30 days, get started on becoming one of the Big Dogz by creating an environment where your people can choose to me motivated. 


Craigslist for Expanding Sales & Services August 25, 2007

Posted by David Dirks in Sales Tactics, Small Business Advertising.
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dirksphoto.jpgHow can I advertise locally and without great expense to get the word out on my goods and/or services?

While sites like EBay can help improve sales, grow revenues, and increase profitability, a site like craigslist (small ‘c’ is how they brand it!) can help do the same. If you haven’t seen or used it (www.craigslist.com), craigslist is an online service that provides FREE local classified ads and has nearly 25,000,000 visitors each month and growing. They make their money on selling help wanted ads but all other ads are free.

This morning I went on craigslist to see what was being posted in my area for goods and services. On craigslist, you can click on your state, then find your local area, and then select what you’re looking for from a broad list of categories.

I clicked on ‘creative’ and found one enterprising person who just opened her own PR shop with an ad that announced her services. Excellent! She’s using craigslist (and surely other online and offline ways) to market her services. My point would be: you need to utilize every possible way to get your name in front of people in your local market. That said, craigslist is somewhat mass market so you don’t know who’s really looking for PR services but hey, the ad is FREE. So who cares?

If you have merchandise you want to move or services you want to sell, then I would give craigslist a try. The key is it provides another local avenue for you to get the goods or the word out.

Using EBay to Create More Sales and Profits August 22, 2007

Posted by David Dirks in Increasing Your Profitability, Sales Tactics.
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dirksphoto.jpgHow can I move inventory that’s tying up my cash flow? Easy. Sell it online. The Big Dogz have long learned that the best way to get cash flow moving and get rid of inventory that is sitting around collecting dust is an online auction. Ebay is one of the largest and I think the best. Given that you can sell to the world, why not?

Some small businesses have figured out that places like Ebay can become another way to distribute your product. Whether you do a fixed-price sale or you place inventory into auction, price it right and it will move.

I’ve been doing EBay as a buy and seller for many years now. I’ve learned a few things that can help you make an online auction a place to create bling.

• Always have a good, clean, and crisp close-up of each item you sell. If you couldn’t see it, you wouldn’t bid or buy it either. Best to use a digital camera and take several photos’…make sure the lighting makes the item look good. Pick the best photo and use it.

• Write description copy that sells, not bores. This is where many go wrong. You want to describe your item in ways that provides the buy with full information. Most important is your ability to fully describe the features and benefits of the item.

Want to see this in action? Go grab a recent mail order catalog or a few of them. Look at how they describe sometime the most basic things. I get the Harry and David fruit catalog and after reading any description, my mouth is watering for the fruit. The words they write are actually a better descriptor of the product than the picture itself.

• Always offer a full refund on anything you sell. You can specify a reasonable period of time for refunds. I use seven days after receipt of delivery. No questions asked. Never had anyone take me up on it.

• Be truthful and honest. Of course you would but it’s more of what you leave out of the description that can come back to bite you. Every customer that buys from you can leave feedback on how they felt the transaction for them went.

• Price to sell. If you decide to sell your items in a fixed-price sale, then price them to move and still leave you a reasonable profit after selling expenses (EBay charges, shipping/handling, etc.). In an auction sale, set the lowest minimum bid price you can. Note: use auction sales for one-of-a-kind items or large lots. Expect to make much less than you originally wanted but enough to create positive cash flow for your business. That’s the point, isn’t it?

• Make it a goal to move slow selling (or non-selling) inventory monthly. Every month, find something to get out of the back room or off the shelves.

Auction sites like EBay will not solve all of your cash-flow problems but they can serve as a key sales distribution point for your business. The Big Dogz do this to clear out inventory, create cash flow, and most importantly, create profits!

Self reflection for the Small Business Owner August 20, 2007

Posted by rickbron in Self reflection.
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p5130012.jpg One of your greatest assets for improving your leadership skills is yourself! The Big Dogz understand the importance of self reflection. Every successful leader performs some type of self reflection on a regular basis. The three most common methods of self reflection are:

  1. Self assessments
  2. Journal writing
  3. Self interviewing

 Self assessments

There are many free leadership skill self assessments available on the internet. Almost every book on leadership includes some type of self assessment. If you can not find a self assessment that meets your needs, you can custom build your own. Identify some leadership skill, like active listening and a range of evaluation — usually a number from 1 to 10 where 1 is low and 10 is high.  Compile a set of these skills, around 10 is effective, but choose what is best for you; and perform a regular self assessment of how well you are doing. For those skills that need improvement, articulate an action plan that you will execute to increase your score. Keep a record of your scores and re-assess yourself at least once every three months.

Be sure to include an identification of specific actions that make you feel that your evaluation is correct. Once you have established your set of skills for assessment, make sure you validate your self assessment. To do this, please see my previous entry on calibrating your self assessment.


 Journal writing

A very effective technique used by many leaders is the writing of a personal journal. What you write is not as important and writing regularly. The concept is that you will write about those events and people that shape your leadership actions. As you write over time, there will be trends that arise. Set aside a minimum of 10 minutes per day for your journal. Some experts suggest that writing your journal by hand is more effective than entering your journal into computer based software. You can be flexible with how you do your entries. Be careful to avoid going back and revising previous entries! Using software does have its advantages — you can search for specific words, phrases or names. The tool is not as important as the doing.

It is effective to make a commitment to writing your personal journal for a significant period. I would suggest a minimum of 25 days. After you have 25 entries in your journal, read through the entries to get an idea of what is important to you. Your basic leadership style and responses to situations and how you act as a leader will emerge. Once you can discern theses actions, you can decide if this is how you want to act as a leader. You can then develop action plans on how you will change your behavior to be more effective. If this method of self reflection is working for you, continue doing it.

 Self interviewing

Some leaders do not have the discipline to write daily in their journals. For this person, the self reflection interview is a reasonable alternative. The self interview focuses on a particular leadership skill that you are working on improving. Usually the interview lasts about 10 minutes and consists of asking yourself these three questions:

  1. What am I doing that I want to continue to do?
  2. What am I doing that I want to stop doing?
  3. What do I know about that I want to start doing?

As a result of answering these three questions, you can create an action plan for yourself to accomplish before your next scheduled self interview. Although there are no set intervals between interviews, a good rule of thumb is once a month. However, when first using this technique, you may want to schedule it weekly. This makes it regular and easy to set up on your calendar. For those leaders who have dependable feedback sources, these questions can also be used as guidance in getting feedback.

Self reflection is a powerful tool used by the Big Dogz to improve their leadership skills. You can select one or more of these techniques and be on your way to becoming a more effective leader.

Beating Late Summer Sales Blues August 14, 2007

Posted by David Dirks in Building Foot Traffic, Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff, Sales Tactics.
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dirksphoto.jpgMy local paper took a poll of business owners in the area recently. Their question was: Is your business’s revenues up from last summer? Nearly 73.7% responded saying that no, their sales were NOT up from last summer. About 26.3% said their sales this summer where up. Ok, it might not be the most scientific poll but it is telling. The majority of responders noted their sales were down this summer.

My question: What are you doing about it? That would have been a great follow-up question. How many would have said nothing, “just the status quo you know”? How many would have said, “well, I had a sale and it didn’t help”?

Business slumps will happen but the Big Dogz deal with it and attack it. There are no “easy” answers here. But there are a few questions that you can ask yourself to help you beat the late summer sales blues. The road to recovery is not far off.

For the retailer:

• What can I do to DRIVE traffic to my store? How about creating an “event”…something that creates excitement within your community. What event can I create that becomes the driver for a public relations campaign? Can I create an event that will appeal the larger community and get the local media involved?

• What can I do to move merchandise that isn’t turning over fast enough to create revenue and profits? You can have a sale but that’s boring and reaches only as far as your local marketing and advertising efforts will go.

My suggestion: Sell to the world instead of your neighborhood alone. If you’re local market won’t buy some of the stuff you stocked, then sell it on a site that can offer it to the world. Ebay comes to mind as a great way to move merchandise (in almost any season by the way). The big dogz have long figured out how to keep sales moving by employing other ways to keep the cash coming in…EBay is a key element to that and very cost effective.

• Have I reached out to all my regular customers and given them a reason to come into my store? A special customer discount perhaps? One that encourages them to buy what they have bought from you before? Encourages them to purchase more during this “special offer”. You do have detailed information on what your best customers buy right? You have their email address? Their mailing address? Let’s hope you do because now is the time to put that information to the test and make it work. If you don’t, this is a good time to start collecting that information.

Note: For more information on the above, check my postings on March 26, 2007: Harnessing the Potential of your Customers-Pt 1; April 7, 2007: 3×5 Customers; and April 9, 2007: 3×5 Customer Information: Basics

For the service provider, the questions are more around your existing customer base:

• What can I do to DRIVE more service business to NEW customers? Have you ask an existing customer for three referrals? I’ve been in sales and marketing for a long time now and I can tell you that most people DO NOT do what is obvious: ask for a referral from a customer right after you perform the service. And I don’t mean just hand out your business cards willy-nilly in the hopes that they might by chance fall into the hands of a new customer and not the garbage can (I’m betting on the garbage can). What I am telling you is to ask for NAMES. Nine times out of ten, most people are more than happy to give you the name of a friend who might use your service too. But you have to ASK!

• What are you doing every week…. month…quarter…to engage your regular customers? Do you have a newsletter packed with valuable information for them? Are you offering them special discounts to come back again? Can you contact them? You have that information, right?

• What services can you add that would be a natural extension of your current service packages? Are there any seasonal opportunities? If you do extend your service packages, just make sure it is a natural extension (makes some sense based on the services you currently offer), has some immediate demand level, and has a profitable rate of return.

• My comments to the retailer apply here too.

Summertime sales blues? Bah humbug. Oh…that’s a different season or is it?

Driving your P/T ratio for results August 12, 2007

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Management.
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What is it that a manager does? I have asked this question of hundreds of managers. Here are some of the most common responses:

  1. Define and assign tasks
  2. Communicate status up and down the organization
  3. Allocate resources
  4. Remove organizational obstacles
  5. Monitor budgets
  6. Organize projects
  7. Develop people
  8. Provide performance feedback

What is management? I think it is getting things done through people. That means as an effective manager, you need to spend time and energy in two dimensions — working on Task activity (T) and People activity (P). Where a manager spends time and energy is a good indicator of that manager’s effectiveness. If we examine the responses above, we can put them into one of those two dimensions; then we can compute a ratio that is a predictor of management effectiveness. Here’s how the responses above fall:

  1. Define and assign tasks — Task
  2. Communicate status up and down the organization — Task
  3. Allocate resources — Task
  4. Remove organizational obstacles — Task
  5. Monitor budgets — Task
  6. Organize projects — Task
  7. Develop people— People
  8. Provide performance feedback — People

Now we count the number of T’s (6) and the number of P’s (2). We compute the manager’s effectiveness by dividing P by T. So, the P/T ratio is 2/6 or .33. How do you think this manager is doing? Well, that would be correct! This manager is not one of the Big Dogz! The Big Dogz know that to be an effective manger, your P/T ratio needs to be 1.5 or more. Yes, that is correct — 1.5 means that you are spending 60% of your time and energy on People related activities and 40% of your time and energy on Task related activities. And, this is for a first level manger! The higher your level of management, the higher the P/T ratio needs to be for you to be effective.

Where are you spending your time and energy? Are you doing the work, or are you developing the people? The Big Dogz are aware of their P/T ratio by doing self assessments on a daily basis. It is not imperative that your P/T ratio be 1.5 every day, just over time. Take some time each day for the next 30 days to self assess your P/T ratio. As your P/T ratio increases, so will your effectiveness.