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No, No… Not Me, Not Networking

Research consistently shows that it is the entrepreneurs with the extensive network who are most likely to succeed. Yet many small business founders do little to grow and enhance – or even use – their network. How about you?

A real value of a good network is the connections it allows you to make to ideas, services and support you need to develop your business and succeed. You want people with technical and business expertise that complements yours. Add those with wide-ranging interests and specialists – both help you with the future. Plus friends for support and peers for inside info. Attending professional events, including those the Alexandria SBDC offers, is an easy way to meet new people who may be valuable in your network.

When you need to hire employees, your network can often provide referrals who match your needs far better than an ad or job posting. The trick here is to be specific about what you need, what results you expect from the new hire, and what your company offers and expects. Clearly communicate all that to your network and ask for help. The candidates you receive this way are generally better qualified in terms of the job and a better match in terms of your culture.

The same process is useful when you need outside services, advisors, or referrals to competent attorneys, CPAs, consultants, etc.

Network Effectively

Start by carving out a bit of time daily over two weeks to look the people you know already. Decide how to connect or re-connect. Will you use LinkedIn, another online tool, the phone, or what? Improve your most relevant connections first. What do you want and what will you give in return? Don’t forget your community or personal contacts, they offer a lot more […]

By |September 4th, 2013|networking|0 Comments

Welcome to the new SHR website!

Have you thought about the impact of smartphones, tablets, and such on your website? I have – and it took me far too long to get around to changing to a responsive design.
What does that mean to you?
If you are selling products or services, many of your potential and existing customers are using mobile. Does your website make that easy or not so much?
If you are hiring, more and more people are doing their job search on their smartphones and tablets. Are you losing such applicants because your site is not friendly? Or your organization appears behind?
From sales to donations to talent management, mobile is growing in importance. Don’t be as slow and confused as I was, make your move!
Now, about our website
Our new blog will carry regular information on people issues you need to know. Look for a combination of posts, links, and hot topics here.
Other resources to help you manage effectively are still on site – check out our articles, newsletters, and case studies.
We have simplified the sections which tell you about us, our FAQs, and other background information. And added multiple ways to contact us.
Your feedback is welcome – good, critical, new ideas, or just say hi.

By |August 14th, 2013|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Missing Link: Listening Skills

Probably you have not been told to ‘shut up and listen’ lately…but do you really know if you are a good listener? Or why that is important to your own and your organization’s success?

The old line that ‘god gave us two ears and only one mouth for a reason’ reflects the common problem: most of us do not listen well. Research shows that in the USA a far higher percentage of managers are extroverts than is the overall workforce. And many extroverts are better at talking than listening.

Listening well is a critical skill: good listeners are

more likely to learn of potential problems and solutions early;
better at assessing employees, job applicants, and potential partners or vendors;
more aware of changes which may affect them.

Good listening skills require some attention and effort to learn and use. They take an effort to turn off one’s own internal discussions, to think about what one is doing in a conversation, to ignore one’s phone or other distractions, and to change one’s talking habits. But your listening skills can be improved. And this will help with your personal life as well as your business!

Tips for more effective listening include:

listen for understanding of both what is said and what underlies the words or tone.
turn off your tendency to be defensive or think of your reply while the other person is speaking.
engage yourself fully in listening: make eye contact, say an encouraging word or nod periodically, take notes as needed.
ask relevant questions: for further information and to clarify your understanding of what you think you heard.
don’t interrupt or assume you know what the rest of the statement will be.
don’t give advice unless asked to.

Start by making a real effort […]

Oh, no! Spring Cleaning! Oh, yes! Productivity Jumps!

Okay, maybe you don’t react to the first signs of Spring with a “Wow, let’s get rid of the clutter and mess!” moment. Not my first thought certainly! Mine runs to the beauty: trees turning every shade of green, flowers poking up, and the rainbow which flowering trees and shrubs add.

But clearing out the clutter is well worth a bit of your time and effort.  At work, spring cleaning can be a great way to re-focus on what is important. Whether you do a marathon clean one day or 30 minutes each morning for two weeks, you can enhance your effectiveness and productivity.

I just got rid of three boxes of old paper files –the client sold his company in 2005. And a fast review of those piles around my desk resulted in more things going into the recycle bin than the action box. My vice is paper – books, articles, research papers, clippings. Yours may be all the stuff you get at trade shows, business cards from meeting, or the business development ideas you have stuffed everywhere. Clean it all out! Either take action or make it go away.

Most offices have duplicate copies of files, business records, and client information. Keep a master, as needed.  Get rid of all the copies. Then treat yourself to a small reward. If you have staff, you can make it a game. Offer a prize for the most paper put into recycle boxes. Sure, you need to have some guidelines so that you do not lose some valuable information but simple ones will suffice. And everyone will have an easier time finding what they need, storing the stuff that they currently are piling up, and getting on to important achievements. One 20 person client did that […]

Common Small Business Problems Hinder Success

One of the advantages of consulting is that you get to see others’ mistakes. And learn from them. I have made more than my fair share of mistakes. Yet, I still am surprised by how often the basics underlying how you run your operations are the most common small business problems.

Good administrative processes will support and enhance your ability to grow and succeed. Set them up early and properly to be effective. Boring work, probably. Critical, yes!

Financial literacy is quite low in the US.

Whether you are a financial whiz or barely understand cash flow, you need effective financial processes in your business. You need a system that is right for your size and work. But you also need to understand and use it. Get basic training. Or hire someone to help you set up your own chart of accounts and understand what your system can do for your business. Then add help to maintain it as needed.

Your ability to manage your cash flow is critical to your success. And your tax returns are far easier with a good system. So is your planning!

Yet… recently it was a long-time business owner whose bank account was overdrawn before he realized he had not seen his outside book-keeper in months and his employee was not entering everything correctly. Last fall it was a CEO who had not made payroll on time – again; but thought employees should understand good intentions!

And don’t even ask me what happens to firms which do not pay employee tax withholding on time – think locked doors, seized bank accounts, personal assets at risk.

How are you hiring and paying for services your business needs?

Do you have employees? Independent contractors? Contractors or consultants? Interns?

Tax and labor laws […]

Growth Starts “At Home”

Many of us understand the importance of building the capacity of our business, but ourselves? Not so much. Developing your skills and knowledge are important. Developing your personal capacity for resilience is critical.

Resilience allows you to push past difficulties, cope with tough times, and maintain your health. All those are vital to any entrepreneur, not to mention to most humans!

Sure you already know what you should be taking care of (yourself, your health, and all those new year’ resolutions)… so how do you understand and build your personal resilience quotient?

First, learn how your brain works.

Do you understand how you react to challenges? How your temperament influences your actions? I see executives all the time who are so tied up emotionally in some problem that they are sense-less or crazy-making.

Understanding personal style and temperament can help you be more effective – and resilient. If you understand these, you can choose to change when you need to or to cope better with issues that you face.

If you know that what drains your energy and what bolsters it, for example, you can work smarter. One easy introduction is the free Keirsey Temperament tool. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is another.

Read the amusing economics book “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely to see how and why we so often over-estimate small risks and are not rational about our decisions. It will help you think smarter the next time you are making a business move, hiring staff – or buying chocolates.

Brain science is rapidly developing—a little attention and you can use yours to help you grow, to develop greater capacity, and to be resilient.

Second, evaluate past experiences.

We rarely use our past difficulties to inform our present. You’ve had times where you overcame an obstacle or dealt with something you […]

Retire? Me?

Retire? That’s a discussion for others……… isn’t it?

A century ago, we worked until we died or became disabled. The Depression and WWIIgave us Social Security and pensions. Now we have folks fearing they will never be able to retire – while many losing their jobs in the recession are involuntarily doing so.

Personal capacity building

Have you actually thought much about retirement? Do you, like many, intend to get around to thinking about it …. sometime? Do you love your work so that you fool yourself into believing that you will never retire? That your circumstances will never change? The most common predictor of early retirement for men is illness or job loss. For married women: the disability or illness of their husband.

 
Retirement
Retirement has both financial and personal aspects. Many of us don’t plan for either. And real planning should begin early, at least five years out for both.

Do some personal ‘what-if’ planning. Studies show that women still are more likely to be the care-givers. And this may mean that you will, as I have, end up caring for several older relatives in their last years. Dealing with the medical, emotional, and housing issues is not easy. All these and others related to aging family take far more time and energy than you expect — even if you can afford good help. And this hits your business directly, often disastrously.

Retirement and disability issues are all more difficult if you are a business owner. You can stockpile large emergency funds, buy key-man insurance, have disability insurance and a retirement plan for yourself, take other steps, or do all of these. But you still need to discuss what might happen with your family, your partners, your lawyer and CPA and other advisors – and plan!

For those of us […]

By |December 11th, 2012|Business planning|0 Comments

PROBLEM EMPLOYEE – OR GREAT ONE WAITING?

Dealing with performance issues is a critical component of any founder or manager’s job. Since this often involves conflict and difficult emotions, many people put this off. That often means they do not deal with problems until it is too late to effective solve them. Firing and replacing staff is disruptive and expensive at best. Often you can avoid getting to that stage by more effective performance management.

Remember: your success is directly related to the performance of your staff.

What causes inadequate performance?

Far too often, it is failures in the system rather than the person. Management experts from Peter Drucker on, list the most common causes of inadequate performance as:

* employee does not know what is expected
* employee does not know how to do the task
* work processes interfere with good performance
* feedback on actual performance quality is not given to the employee
* there is negative consequence for good performance

These issues must be addressed first if they exist. It starts with hiring the right person for the right job. Orientation to your workplace, systems, and expectations is important too. Looking regularly at how your processes and systems work  to see that they are efficient for your current needs is vital. And so is regular performance feedback.

When an employee does not perform to expected levels, you can succeed in improving the person’s performance if you address the issue as quickly as it is first identified.

Here are some basics on how to do this well.

* accurately identify the problem and the behavior change you desire
* give specific details of the behavior that creates the problem and the impact of the problem on the function or business
* involve the employee and ask for his/her solution

Once the employee has accepted responsibility and you […]