Business planning

Millennials and Our Future

I am not a big fan of business books. So many are one small idea blown into a book and poorly written too. But I recently read a book with some ideas useful to any small business or non-profit.

When Millennials Take Over by Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant

This is an optimistic look at the future of business. It is a short, easy read. Better yet, you may already being doing parts of what they suggest is the future of business – to be digital, clear, fluid, and fast. As you know if we have met, I am not a big fan of the hype surrounding the millennials. They are not so different or so bad but are much like past generations were in their 20-30s. What they do bring is a different view of many technologies and of data-gathering. The book recognizes the hype early but uses them to organize its premise of the changes hitting most organizations over the past five to ten years and how millennials expectations can offer some solutions.

Digital refers to ‘organizing and working in ways that leverage’ the possibilities of digital technology.
Clear refers to the ‘value of clarity’ inside organizations. And many small businesses do this just to stay in business and grow.
Fluid refers to how the ‘heirarchy shifts and morphs decision-making’ as needed to be most effective.
Speed refers not to incremental steps but to the mindset and practices that allow your to leap forward as needed.

The book helps you make sense of ways to reduce the administrivia that stops many people from contributing all which they can. It not only demonstrates the critical aspects of your organizational culture to your success but also shows how that impacts the […]

By |December 29th, 2015|Business planning, Policies and Practices, Small Biz|Comments Off on Millennials and Our Future

Veterans, Veterans Day, & Your Business

Locally there are many official and area celebrations of Veterans Day and many military installations, so it may mean more to us than just another ‘sales holiday’.  Obviously, it means more to me.  But what could it mean to your business or organization?

It could mean that your business thrives by hiring veterans as well as providing services or products to them. There are many local resources to help you in attracting and hiring veterans. Veterans offer you:

a wide range of technical skills,
ability to deal with high-change environments
experience in demanding and fast-paced environments,
commitment to your mission and values, and
in-depth training and experience in supervisory and interpersonal skills.

Military spouses and family members also form an excellent labor pool to draw from. You can work with the family center offices at area military bases to attract both veterans and spouses. These include both the Employment Readiness Program and Transition Assistance Program at the centers, named as below
Army: Army Community Service
Navy: Fleet and Family Support Center,
Air Force: Airmen and Family Readiness Center,
Marine Corps: Marine Corps Readiness Center, or
Coast Guard: Coast Guard Work Life.
These programs usually accept job postings. Many run employer days and job fairs. Contact the installations closest to you.

The US Department of Labor has an excellent guide to help you in the process of developing your ability to hire transitioning military effectively – “Hiring Veterans – Step by Step Toolkit for Employers”

An excellent toolkit for hiring veterans, based on extensive private sector research, is available from the Institute for Veterans and Military Families.

In Virginia, ‘Virginia Values Veterans’ is a training and certification program on hiring veterans available here

Maryland also offers support for employers seeking to hire veterans  here .

So this year, when the anniversary […]

By |November 8th, 2015|Business planning, hiring, Smart practices|Comments Off on Veterans, Veterans Day, & Your Business

Should You Hire? 3 Common Mistakes

Hiring employees or independent contractors is an on-going challenge to many small -mid-size businesses. When, who, what can I afford – all come into play. These are among the most common mistakes I see.

1. What skills and experience do you really need?

Classically, smaller employers want folks to wear multiple hats. There are some people who love doing a variety of types of work each day. But the work combinations must make sense and be right for your organization’s needs.

There may be a terrific sales person who is happy to be doing administrative work half of the time – but I have not met such a combination of attributes.

Two part-timers or outsourcing each area to experts or some combination makes far more sense in situations where the work needs are very different.

2. I hate to do sales… and other tasks you dislike

I often see founders who really dislike marketing and sales work. I am not too thrilled with it myself. But in most cases, the best business developer for the business is the founder or top executive. Potential clients want to know you before they will consider hiring your firm.

This can be true of other critical business aspects as well. If your business is highly technical, clients want to see the that founder or CEO knows the technology.

And are you really ready to give up these responsibilities? Many aren’t when it comes down to doing so – and they micromanage and wonder why they are not getting their own time back or the results desired. Giving up critical parts of your job is often more difficult than you expect.

In these cases of things that you dislike doing , you may need to hire support. But […]

May’s WWII and Military Lessons for Your Organization

May is the month we recognize and remember several aspects of our military:

VE Day (70th Anniversary – May 8th) recognizes victory in Europe in WWII.
Armed Forces Day (May 16th) recognizes those currently in service.
Memorial Day (May 25th) recognizes those who died in war.

Memorial Day began as women, individually and in clubs, decorated the graves of Civil War soldiers with flowers. It became formalized, first in the North and then the South, as Decoration Day. Later, soldiers from World War I were added. Eventually it became a federal holiday in recognition of all our military members killed in war.

Leadership and Management Lessons

Military planning is the basis for strategic and business planning in most companies. While military leaders understand that all planning is overcome by events, they also know that smart planning is the basis for success. That is true for your organization as well! Too often we are so busy with reactive work and daily demands that planning drops to the bottom of a to-do list that we already never get to.

A plan will help you succeed faster and better. No small to mid-size organization needs some elaborate plan put together at great time and expense. Book an hour a week, preferably not in your office, and try to capture your vision of the future you want. A one-page summary would be a real achievement. And one that can be readily shared with employees, board members, or other stakeholders!

A recurring lesson, since President Lincoln replaced General McClellan after Antietam, is the importance of execution to success. Your ability to execute is what keeps your future positive. At far too many clients, I have seen the results of endless debates about next steps or conflict avoidance […]

RETIREMENT – MORE THAN A BUCKET LIST ISSUE

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?

For years I have talked to CEOs and organizations that did not see any reason to think about the changing nature of retirement. Anyone with relatives over 85 (the fastest growing demographic in the USA) caught on fast though.  What happens when our lifespans are commonly passing 80 years but our work-lives are barely half that? And our systems and many mindsets are still geared for early retirement with some years of play…. then simply disappearing?

A century ago, we worked until we died or became disabled. The Depression and WWII gave us Social Security and pensions. Starting in the 1970s, a ‘golden age’ of retirements was supported by personal savings plus defined pension plans plus Social Security – at least for those in larger companies and government.

Retirement has both financial and personal aspects: many of us don’t plan for either.

Most important: do some personal ‘what-if’ planning. Studies show that women still are more likely to be the care-givers. But anyone can, as I have, end up caring for several older relatives in their last years. Dealing with the medical, emotional, and physical 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.

For those of us fully invested in our work, planning the personal side is even harder than the financial. Yet it is critical too. […]

LABOR DAY

So what do you really think about when you hear “Labor Day”? Big sales? School starting? Last beach holiday? Last summer BBQ?

Labor Day is designed to recognize the contribution of labor to our society and economy. It has been around since President Cleveland recommended it in 1887!

All of us who work – at whatever job – are ‘labor.’ Yet recent research indicates over 55% of workers say they did not receive any recognition from their bosses in the past year. And nearly 3/4th say they did not receive any feedback. Which may be why 65% feel underpaid and nearly 70% are interested in changing jobs.

Labor Day may just be another three-day weekend to you.

But what if you harnessed the concept of recognizing the contributions it represents within your own organization? Which ways can you think of to do so which will reinforce the culture you want to have? What might actually matter to your employees?

Enjoy the Labor Day holiday. Take a bit of time off from all your electronics to do so.

Then, starting next week, put an hour aside weekly for two-three weeks and look at what you can do effectively to recognize the value of ‘labor’ to your success and future. Consider asking a few informal leaders for ideas – but only if you plan to actually do something. Or chose a small team – say a leader, a good employee, a rebel – to define some options.

One client CEO keeps a running record of employee achievements – things he notices, those managers report, client comments, and employee thanks to other employees. He includes one in each week’s memo to all staff. A continuous record exists too. They are highlighted in client communications, […]

COMPENSATION & CULTURE

Now is the time many organizations start thinking about the next year’s pay raises. Before you start the hunt for ‘market rates’, projected pay raise averages, budget or other data – think a bit about what you are paying for.

Very few founders, CEOs, or senior executives have thought about their philosophy of compensation directly. Fewer still have tied it to their desired culture.

And so, over the decades, I have talked about these issues with many senior folks. Often I also use a short quiz and set up the scenario:
You have two people in the same role, both are equally productive.
And I ask a series of questions about how one would calculate the pay raise for each. One question is: John comes in early and stays late every day, he works many long hours each week. Tom works his regular schedule but rarely puts in extra time unless asked to help others.

And nearly 3/4 say that they would give John a larger raise.

Do you see the issue? Most do not until I ask why they are rewarding the person who cannot get their work done in a timely manner over the one who does. Remember – the conditions were that both were equally productive. So Tom is doing the same amount and quality of work in less time than John.
As you think about your salary planning for next year, here are some questions to ask yourself. Pick the top three in each and rank order those.

1. Do we want to compensate for:
– individual productivity
– teamwork
– cost of living changes
– our financial success
– increased productivity
– market pricing changes
– seniority
– client growth
– revenue growth (funding growth for non-profits)

2. Will an individual be rewarded with a base salary […]