How Do You Manage Superstar Employees?

Superstar EmployeesWe label popular athletes as superstars. Ditto using the same expression for entertainers. Yet in every business there are superstar employees, those who drive the growth of the company. For a CEO the question is – how do you manage them?

The task for Andy Blankemeyer, CEO of Beacon Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, seems to be extra challenging since the superstars happen to be the business owners too – the doctors.

It requires a management style and attitude that is applicable to any group of high performers like lawyers, architects, real estate agents or superstar sales people, engineers, etc.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM ANDREW BLANKEMEYER: BEACON ORTHOPAEDICS & SPORTS MEDICINE

WHAT IS THE MANAGEMENT STYLE YOU EMPLOY FOR WORKING EFFECTIVELY WITH YOUR GROUP OF PHYSICIAN OWNERS?  (1:50 in)

In Andy’s words – It’s like managing a shopping mall. You’ve got a wide range of stores selling different products. My job is to make sure that each of those stores remain successful and that way the mall itself continues to grow and to be successful.

Insight – Management of a group of type A personalities, superstar employees, is possible if they agree to adhere to a strategic plan they all agree to upfront.

HOW DO YOU MANAGE BEACON’S GROWTH? (3:32 in)

In Andy’s words – We don’t want to grow just to grow. We have to have a strategic reason. 

Insight – Look at growing into new markets, new service or product sectors so as not to cannibalize already what you have or to upset your business culture.

HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HOSPITALS WHO ARE BOTH COMPETITORS AND PARTNERS? (5:55 in)

In Andy’s words – It’s having like-mined leadership on both sides of the table. If the two sides both understand the value of each other we seem to have good relationships with our hospital partners.   

Insight – By seeking to identify how both parties can benefit from a relationship, a competitive association can be mutually valuable.

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO TO BE AN EFFECTIVE ADVOCATE FOR BEACON WITH INSURANCE COMPANIES? (7:50 in)

In Andy’s words – I see our relationship with insurance carriers as a true partnership. If they are looking for a way to provide value to their members and we work together on rates, programming and plan design, that’s how they can save their members money.  

Insight – Sharing of data about cost containment and operational efficiencies between the parties helps them find beneficial solutions.

HOW DO YOU KEEP COMPANY STAFF SPREAD OUT OVER MULTIPLE LOCATIONS INFORMED OF WHAT’S GOING ON? (10:03 in)

In Andy’s words – We use Email a lot. We have update meetings from management teams on a monthly basis.  

Insight – If you’re in an industry like healthcare where government regulations and policies change often, ongoing education via the company’s preferred communication channels is necessary.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PREVENT PHYSICIAN BURNOUT? (13:02 in)

In Andy’s words – My job is to let them be doctors and let me run the business. The more I can let them come in, treat patients well, have quality outcomes on their surgeries, and get home to see their families, that’s my way of contributing to lessen physician burnout.

Insight – Your superstar employees will be most effective when their daily lives aren’t consumed with peripheral collateral duties that divert their attention away from their primary job.

DO YOU DEVELOP WITH THE PHYSICIANS THE GROUP’S STRATEGIC PLAN OR SIMPLY EXECUTE IT? (14:40 in)

In Andy’s words – We work hand in hand. I have a good handle on market trends, where government trends are going, where orthopedics as a whole across the country is going.

Insight – When all of the key players are involved in the strategic planning process, buy-in and execution of the plan is much more likely.

How to Find Unfindable Employees

Finding Unfindable EmployeesThe volume of job openings in the U.S. is high, about 6.2 million. The unemployment rate is low, 4.4% in August. These statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that it’s hard to find unfindable employees.

Some companies like McDonald’s are getting creative. They’re tapping their own customers to help them. Tom Johnson of AO Consultants believes that to find unfindable employees and to retain them, the best employers look at themselves before trying to reach out to others.

Listen to see if you agree.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM TOM JOHNSON, PRESIDENT OF AO CONSULTANTS

IS ONE OF THE BARRIERS TO FINDING EMPLOYEES WRAPPED UP IN THE POLICIES, ATTITUDES, OR PRACTICES OF THE EMPLOYER?  (1:40 in)

In Tom’s words –   Sometime the reason people have difficulty in finding people for positions is not so much a lack of talent out there, it could be a perception of the business itself.

Tip – Make sure you are positioned correctly to attract people and be open to consider candidates that don’t fit the perceived perfect profile.

WHERE SHOULD YOU BE LOOKING FOR NEW EMPLOYEES? (3:11 in)

In Tom’s words – I’m a real believer in networking. The stronger your network, the better off you will be in finding people to come work for you.

Tip – Cast a wide net by using social media, your website, job boards, etc. in addition to your network.

WHEN SHOULD YOU USE A RECRUITING AGENCY? (5:34 in)

In Tom’s words – If you have limited resources, they can provide you with a stream of people for you to decide on. Staff up quickly is another good use. Highly technical type positions or a leadership position.

Tip – Determine how much time not working on the business may be lost by recruiting. Hiring temporary people for a full time tryout may also be useful in select circumstances.

WHAT ARE THE KEY BENEFITS WORKERS ARE LOOKING FOR? (9:15 in)

In Tom’s words – It kind of depends on the generational group. They’re offering almost a cafeteria based upon different people’s needs.

Tip – See if your benefit package is appealing to all people at different stages of their career. Consider offering volunteer benefits, benefits that don’t cost the employer, as well as a choice of benefits.

IF THERE IS ONE BEST PRACTICE FOR HIRING AND RETAINING EMPLOYEES WHAT WOULD IT BE? (15:29 in)

In Tom’s words – Have the strength to let those people go that aren’t going to move you forward.

Tip – Take time to fully understand the skills and qualities of people that make your company go and how you can equip them to be successful.

 

Why Manufacture in China?

Manufacturing in ChinaChina may be a communist country politically, but capitalism is thriving there. In fact, it is the world’s largest producer of manufactured goods.

It’s been the ideal place for Rich Heidrich, President/CEO of Designs Direct and his two partners to manufacture interior home and commercial products.

If you’ve never been there, your perception of China, its people, and the government’s influence on business is probably very different than the experience of Designs Direct over the last 16 years. Take a listen.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM RICH HEIDRICH, PRESIDENT/CEO OF DESIGNS DIRECT

HOW RECEPTIVE IS THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT TO U.S. BASED COMPANIES MANUFACTURING THERE?  (4:27 in)

In Rich’s words –  We had very little dealings with the government. Our first introduction to China was through a Taiwanese agent. The Chinese government was very receptive on our second trip because we weren’t really interested in doing business the easy way.

Tip – Connect with someone who has experience doing business in China.

HAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP CHANGED WITH THE LOCAL AND NATIONAL GOVERNMENT OVER THE YEARS?  (6:22 in)

In Rich’s words – We really don’t have much interaction with the government. Some of our factory owners do. Most of the interaction we have today is through social engagements.

Tip – Find reliable in country partners to manage most government relations.

CAN YOU SAY YOU CAN OPERATE THERE IN A SIMILAR WAY TO WHAT YOU CAN DO HERE?  (7:43 in)

In Rich’s words –  I would. We feel the brunt of the government, but it’s all for the good. We don’t feel it directly.

Insight – Manufacturers have an obligation to adhere to government regulations and client standards concerning the manufacturing process, labor laws, environmental standards, etc.

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES TO MANUFACTURE IN CHINA?  (9:11 in)

In Rich’s words –  Biggest challenge would be speed to market and maintaining secrecy about our designs and intellectual property.

Insight – Retailers are now expecting delivery in half the time they used to receive it.

HOW MUCH TIME TO YOU DEVOTE TO MANUFACTURING VERSUS OTHER ASPECTS OF YOUR BUSINESS?  (10:40 in)

In Rich’s words –  We have great partners that we work with in China. I don’t have to spend as much time on manufacturing as you might think.

Tip – Having good partners and good relationships makes the difference.

ARE THE SKILL SETS OF THE PEOPLE THERE READILY AVAILABLE?  (12:00 in)

In Rich’s words –  No. That’s an ongoing problem. It’s not too unlike the United States. Children (now grown up) don’t want to work as hard as the parents.

Insight – It’s an ongoing challenge to find and train people, fill the order pipeline, and ensure that the end product is produced on time.

HAVE YOU FACED STEALING OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY IN CHINA?  (14:16 in)

In Rich’s words –  We have. We continue to. We have built really strong partnerships with some of the factories that we work with. They recognize that should they release our images, share our designs with others that would affect their business.

Tip –  The best deterrent is having trustworthy partners.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO MANUFACTURE IN CHINA?  (15:10 in)

In Rich’s words –  Find someone who has been doing business there for at least five to ten years. Find a company that’s been there, done that, recognize the pitfalls maybe you’re not going to here from a government introduction.

Tip –  Watch out for the person who is just looking to make the quick buck.

 

 

Turning Customer Relations Into An Advantage

Customer RelationsIf you’re like many people, you may have a car that is at least 12 years old. If it’s been that long since you have bought one, you might be surprised that your next car buying experience may be shorter and more pleasurable. That’s because customer relations has changed.

Mark Sweeney, President of Mark Sweeney Buick GMC, shared with me his perspective on how to treat customers and why it is so critical to his business.

After listening to his insights, it may make sense to assess how you are handling customer relations for your business.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM MARK SWEENEY, PRESIDENT OF SWEENEY BUICK GMC

HOW DO YOU ADJUST TO CHANGING CONSUMER PREFERENCES?  (1:45 in)

In Mark’s words – Even though things have changed, the customer really hasn’t. We try to make them feel at home. It’s an atmosphere where they won’t feel any pressure from the sales people or the managers. We realize that it is a more educated buyer.

Insight – The more educated buyer makes more informed decisions quicker. The mating dance to a sale is quicker. Today’s sales are made by facilitating information rather than hard selling the buyer.

IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU TRY TO EXCEED CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS? (3:02 in)

In Mark’s words – Free loaner cars, car washes, valet pick up and drop off, after hour sales to cover all bases.

Insight – By doing customer relations the right way, by making it easier for customers to do business with you, the more business you will get from them.

HOW HAS THE INTERNET CHANGED YOUR SALES PROCESS (3:31 in)

In Mark’s words – The buyers are more educated so it makes it easier for us to make the sale. Just ask qualifying questions in terms of how they found the vehicle, how they found us. If they saw it on an internet site, we know that they know the pricing.     

Insight – Decisions are made easier when the buyer feels comfortable and trusts the seller. Sweeney creates a casual atmosphere, including having dogs on the premises, to make the buying process a more pleasurable experience.

HOW IMPORTANT IS INTERNET ADVERTSING TO YOUR BUSINESS? (7:27 in)

In Mark’s words – We have found definitely the internet is the place to be. Seventy-five percent of our sales are generated through the internet.

Insight – Although the internet is paying off in a big way, the dealership realizes that traditional advertising on TV, radio and through events is important too for product and dealership awareness.

HOW MIGHT THE INTRODUCTION OF A NEW BATTERY OPERATED CAR AFFECT YOUR BUSINESS? (10:37 in)

In Mark’s words – Anything new does help but you have to stock more cars. Technicians have to be trained. Anything new like that is a learning process.

Insight – With any product addition or subtraction, it’s important to consider all of the other aspects of the business that may be affected – logistics, personnel, advertising, marketing, sales, finance, etc.

HOW MIGHT THE INTRODUCTION OF SELF DRIVING CARS AFFECT YOUR BUSINESS? (12:11 in)

In Mark’s words – It will be a small percentage of the market. It’s hard for me to imagine that someone doesn’t enjoy driving a vehicle.

Insight – Having an ear to the ground on how consumers respond to this change early on should give auto dealers sufficient time to adjust to any significant new trends.

 

Why Use an Advertising Agency?

Why Use An Advertising AgencyHere’s a question that crosses the mind of many small business owners. Should I work with an advertising agency for marketing my business?

The answer is in your response to these questions.

Are my marketing activities working for me or not?

                 Am I more comfortable collaborating or being the lone ranger?

The avenues for reaching consumers today is much broader and more complex. Expectations of clients have changed and the services agencies provide now are more comprehensive.

Listen to Bryan Holland of Holland Advertising: Interactive discuss the value of a client – agency relationship and what’s the difference between one that works versus one that falls apart.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM BRYAN HOLLAND OF HOLLAND ADVERTISING: INTERACTIVE

WHAT FUNDAMENTAL THINGS SHOULD BUSINESS DO TODAY TO MARKET THEMSELVES EFFECTIVELY?  (3:26 in)

In Bryan’s words – You’ve really got to figure out your strategic brand story. Marketing one on one is differentiation. Why choose your brand, your company from the competitors.

Insight – Determine what is your unique selling proposition and what you want to achieve. Make sure you are telling this story on your website and through the use of other marketing tactics.

WHEN HIRING AN ADVERTISING AGENCY, WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD I BE ASKING? (7:26in)

In Bryan’s words – First and foremost is chemistry. Do you like this person? Is your mission in alignment with theirs? Do they have success stories? Have they handled problems similar to yours?

Insight – Seek to find the agency that puts your priorities ahead of theirs.

WHAT EXPECTATIONS SHOULD CLIENTS HAVE OF AGENCIES? (8:18 in)

In Bryan’s words – We’re going to be able to let them know whether (their goals and objectives) are realistic or not. We’ll help guide and direct them.   

Insight – Seek to find out what can be accomplished for what you have to spend.

IS THERE A PERCENTAGE OF BUSINESS REVENUE THAT OUGHT TO BE PUT INTO MARKETING THE BUSINESS? (9:05 in)

In Bryan’s words – Yes. There are industry averages. So depending upon the industry there is a rule of thumb.  

Insight – Assess how aggressive you want to be in marketing your business. What the industry norm is may not fully address your goals. The clearer you can be in what you want to accomplish will help the advertising agency in right sizing a budget.

HAVE YOU EVER HAD TO FIRE A CLIENT? (11:23 in)

In Bryan’s words – We’ve done that several times. The client had unrealistic deadlines. They expect results and if we in our heart doesn’t feel it’s going to work, we’ll walk away from it.

Insight – Synergy between client and agency on goals, strategy, tactics, and deadlines are critical.

WHAT DO YOU SEE THAT’S MISSING IN THE MARKETING EFFORTS OF THOSE BUSINESSES WHO GO IT ALONE? (13:17 in)

In Bryan’s words – Thinking strategically about a brand tagline that differentiates why choose your brand and what are the key points that make it authentic, credible, believable.

Insight – By developing the right brand identity, the message and materials used in selling become easier to create and communicate.

Five Steps to Shape Business Culture

Business CultureWas there a time in your life when you hated to go to work? The business culture was uncomfortable. Rather than finding your work and association with colleagues engaging, you were looking for the way out.

A few years ago the co-founder of Whole Foods, John Mackey and global business professor-founder Raj Sisodia released a study on the performance of companies that sought to work for values, not just profit.

In that study 28 companies labeled as practicing “conscious capitalism”, outperformed the S&P 500 by 14 times during the period from 1998 – 2012. Is there a message here today about culture?

Brad Brezinski, Founder and Chief Strategist at Strategy2Action, shared with me a personal experience and a definitive series of steps leaders should take to shape or turn around its business culture.

See if you agree with Brad’s recommendation. Because culture can have a significant impact on business performance, they’re worth noting.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM BRAD BREZINSKI, FOUNDER & CHIEF STRATEGIST – STRATEGY TO ACTION

WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF COMPANIES THAT HAVE A STRONG BUSINESS CULTURE? (2:27in)

In Brad’s words – An organization that communicates better, that’s going to innovate better, they’re going to problem solve better, and they’re probably going to have lower turnover.

Insight – Ask the question, how engaged are my employees? Chances are that if they are fully engaged, they have a clear understanding of the charge given by leadership.

HOW IMPORTANT IS THE CEO IN SHAPING THE CULTURE? (3:50 in)

In Brad’s words – Ultimately the CEO has full responsibility for the culture. The exhibited values of the leadership team are what shape the behavioral norms, are what shape the decisions that guide the culture.

Insight – Think about your decision making processes, how decisions are made, who makes them, who is recognized for the decisions made and how are people held responsible for decisions.

HOW IMPORTANT IS CULTURE TO A START UP COMPANY? (6:57 in)

In Brad’s words – Don’t think in terms of culture, think in terms of your values. Roy Disney said when your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easy.

Insight – In hiring, make sure that your values, the values you want the organization to hold and those of the people you’re seeking to hire are aligned.

WHAT UNDERMINES BUSINESS CULTURE? (8:56 in)

In Brad’s words – The first one is hollow values. These one word ideas (in wall art displaying the word – teamwork, for example) that no one can wrap their hands around. The second quite simply is weak leadership. It’s the responsibility of leadership to exhibit (values) day in and day out.

Insight – Back up values with actions and behaviors that are applied daily.

HOW HARD IS IT TO TURN AROUND THE CULTURE OF AN ORGANIZATION? (13:52 in)

In Brad’s words – I don’t think it’s hard if leadership will commit to doing it. The pace of change is four levers – articulate, communicate, demonstrate, and tolerate.

Insight – Articulate the kind of culture you want. Communicate this to everyone in your organization. Walk the talk. Don’t tolerate actions at any level of the organization that are inconsistent with the culture and values you’re working to establish.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO BE AWARE OF IN A MERGER OF TWO CULTURES? (20:10 in)

In Brad’s words – You can’t really assess culture but you can articulate the values. Then you’re looking for what values are incongruent with one another.

Insight – Determine if the values of both companies are aligned or not as it relates to its handling of employees, how it treats customers, what is its risk tolerance, etc.

 

Your Mobile Website May Be Costing You Business

Mobile Website FitnessAdmit it, you and your mobile phone are now inseparable. You spend more time surfing the internet with it than you do on a laptop or desktop. You’re using it while watching TV, videos or dabbling in other activities. Your willingness and trust to purchase products from a mobile website by way of your phone or a tablet are soaring.

What does this mean for your business? Your mobile website better be up to snuff. But it’s possible that the integrity of it is lacking to the point where you are losing prospects and losing sales.

Listen to an expert on mobile website development to ensure you aren’t letting business opportunities slip through your fingers.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM JACKIE ERRICO OF RIVERWORKS MARKETING

HAS THE PROLIFIC USE OF MOBILE DEVICES CHANGED YOUR WEBSITE DEVELOPMENT PRIORITIES?  (2:13 in)

In Jackie’s words – Absolutely. When users come to a website, you want to be able to feed them everything they might be looking for at that split second. Speed is of upmost important in making sure that you connect them to what they’re looking for.

Insight – Do some research into what your customers want, whether it’s information, location, merchandise to purchase or something else. People are making more decisions while spending less time on mobile websites.

DO YOU WORK ON MOBILE OR DESKTOP SITES FIRST? (4:55 in)

In Jackie’s words – They’re equally important. We’re starting with the bigger picture and then pairing it down for a mobile site. We’re still using responsive design but our developers, when it comes to paring it down for mobile, they’ll remove elements that aren’t necessary.

Insight – Realize that an effective mobile website is probably not a duplication, but a streamlined version of the most important content people seek access to through their smartphone or tablet.

GOOGLE ANNOUNCED THE DEVELOPMENT OF “AMP” OR ACCELERATED MOBILE PAGES THAT WILL BE INTRODUCED LATER IN 2017. WHAT IS THIS ALL ABOUT? (6:55 in)

In Jackie’s words – It’s essentially just adding a few important elements within the markup or Javascript to help the site load as quickly as possible.

Insight – According to Google 40% of users click off the site if it isn’t loading in 3 seconds.

ARE THERE CERTAIN SITUATIONS UNDER WHICH A BUSINESS SHOULD CONSIDER DEVELOPING A MOBILE APP? (9:15 in)

In Jackie’s words – It would have to be a business where the consumer wants to receive notifications. They’re providing a value or service that consumers want to log in and put in information that might track something.

Insight – If your website offers the same content or service that an app would provide and you’re able to serve that content to the user expediently, development of an app may not be necessary. People download many apps onto their phone. But only 3 or 4 are used regularly.

IF A BUSINESS WANTS TO CHECK THE FITNESS OF THEIR WEBSITE ON MOBILE DEVICES, HOW SHOULD THEY GO ABOUT DOING THAT? (11:10 in)

In Jackie’s words – One great (free) tool that Google offers is http://testmysite.thinkwithGoogle.com. It will give you a lot of good information about what your developer may need to tweak to make it more efficient.

Insight – The test will give you information about your load time, potential customer loss, and comparative data related to your industry.

WHAT IS YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON WHETHER SITES OUGHT TO HAVE SECURE CERTIFICATES? (12:35 in)

In Jackie’s words – Any security measures are very important. The environment of where your site is hosted is very important as well. Any ecommerce or exchange of money, it’s required.

Insight – Know that if the cost of hosting your website is $10 or less, your website may be more vulnerable to security issues or slower to load because you’ll reside on a server with thousands of other websites.

ARE THERE PARTICULAR CHALLENGES AN ECOMMERCE BUSINESS OUGHT TO CONSIDER IN DEVELOPING THEIR MOBILE WEBSITE? (15:25 in)

In Jackie’s words – Speed of the site is going to be critical and in taking people through the checkout process you’re going to want to make that as streamlined as possible.

Insight – Avoid use of popups, annoying ads, oversized images, and minimize the use of third party applications.

Why Remodel Your Sales Force?

Remodel Sales ForceThere are times in the life of every business when bold decisions are required to move forward rather than back.

Such was the predicament of GenTherm’s medical division CSZ (Cincinnati Sub Zero). In order to meet the performance expectations of their company parent, they completely changed the personnel and organization of their sales force.

Gary Price, Director of Global Sales and Marketing for CSZ tells us how he did it. The lessons here apply to hiring a single sales person or a new army.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM GARY PRICE OF GENTHERM’S CSZ – CINCINNATI SUB ZERO

WHAT LED YOU TO RE-ORGANIZE YOUR U.S. SALES ORGANIZATION?  (2:23 in)

In Gary’s words – The healthcare market is under tremendous cost pressures and there is a lot of competitive pressure. Many of these organizations (competitors) have multiple divisions or reps. We were lucky to get one or two sales calls a week and they’re getting several calls a day. The level of expertise on our products was not there as well.

Insight – Assess the depth and quality of the sales calls and service of your sales force.

WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF YOUR NEW SALES FORCE? (3:24 in)

In Gary’s words – Have our reps represent themselves as a trusted adviser. Reduce territory so they could get better penetration.

Insight – A consulting sales approach is known to be better received by customers than hardball tactics.

DESCRIBE YOUR RE-ORGANIZATION PROCESS AND THE STEPS YOU TOOK? (4:28 in)

In Gary’s words – We engaged a company to help us analyze the market potential. From there we chose the top 33 cities we needed to make an investment and put a direct rep in. Then what size territories are to get the penetration. Then what’s the profile of the rep we want. We put together a recruiting and interview plan.  

Insight – Consider using a company / sales assessment tool to uncover things you don’t necessarily pick up in an interview. Obtain competitive information on what competitors are paying sales reps.

HAVE YOU BEEN PLEASED WITH THE PROCESS AND THOSE YOU’VE HIRED? (8:45 in)

In Gary’s words – We have. It took about 7 months to get them hired. We’re starting to track the activity metrics, the pipeline growth. It’s all very encouraging.

Insight – Once the new team is in place, CSR isn’t leaving its sales force to fend for themselves. Monthly training activities are in place to sharpen sales skills and deepen product knowledge.

DID YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR MARKET SHARE WAS BEFORE YOU DID AN ANALYSIS? (11:36 in)

In Gary’s words – We did not. It gave us some really good data.

Insight – The assessment of market share and competitor standing helps CSR with developing their sales targets.

IF YOU HAD TO GO THROUGH THIS PROCESS AGAIN, WOULD YOU DO ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY? (12:25 in)

In Gary’s words – The biggest challenge is trying to estimate what the return on investment is going to be, meaning how much lift are you really going to get from an indirect to a direct sales force. Modeling of expense and lining that up with revenues is probably the most challenging part.

Insights– It may take 90 days or more for even seasoned sales reps to begin to generate sales at the level you want.

YOUR ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE FOR INTERNATIONAL SALES IS DIFFERENT, ISN’T IT? (15:49 in)

In Gary’s words – We have about 80 some distributors around the world. They’re their own businesses. They buy at a wholesale price and sell at whatever the market will bear in their country.

Insights – This arrangement works well to overcome language and cultural barriers and well as for handling compliance with government regulations.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE ELSE LOOKING TO RE-MAKE THEIR SALES FORCE? (17:43 in)

In Gary’s words – Be very clear on your goals. Invest in the planning upfront.

Insights– If you have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish, going through the planning process and executing a plan to get there is easier to achieve.

Can Partnering with a Virtual Office Improve Productivity?


Virtual Office ProductivitySince 1995 the number of people working untethered, in a virtual office environment is up four fold. Are you one of them? I recently caught up with Kipp Siedl, franchisee of Intelligent Office about what was happening in the world of virtual offices.

While he told me that expectations are different for long time professionals versus young entrepreneurs, what’s trending now is how his clients are served – as partners.

Listen to how he’s taken businesses that didn’t know what they wanted and helped them become more successful by using a virtual office.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM KIPP SIEDL, OWNER OF INTELLIGENT OFFICE, CINCINNATI

WHAT ARE YOUR CLIENT’S ASKING FOR MOST OFTEN?  (1:44 in)

In Kipp’s words – One of our most popular solutions would be our intelligent assistant. We direct phone calls to them offsite. We answer frequently asked question about their business. It’s far more than an answering service. We also become their office. We want to maximize their productivity.

Insight – This type of arrangement is particularly useful for people who need a business address, occasional meeting space, and can free themselves of most phone activity for scheduling, feedback, appointment confirmations etc.

HOW HAVE THE SERVICES YOU OFFER CHANGED IN THE LAST 7 YEARS? (6:52 in)

In Kipp’s words – We were more of an answering service. Customized services weren’t in place to the degree they are now. Clients will partner with us now. We’re a leading indicator as to how successful their marketing programs are and even their business revenue.

Insight – Ask yourself whether outsourcing certain tasks that allow you to focus on more productive activity will improve business performance.

IS THE REQUEST FOR OFFICE SPACE DIFFERENT DEPENDING UPON THE CLIENT’S GENERATION? (9:52 in)

In Kipp’s words – Typically an older generation person is used to having an office, not working from home. A younger generation person is talking about the co-working space.

Insight – Pick the work environment, whether it’s at home, in a single office or in a co-working environment that maximizes productivity.

IS PROVIDING LUNCH & LEARNS AND PERSONAL SERVICES LIKE PICKING UP LAUNDRY BECOMING A TREND IN THE VIRTUAL OFFICE INDUSTRY? (13:04 in)

In Kipp’s words – I think a lot of those things have been going on for a while, especially the lunch ‘n learns.

Insight – Co-working spaces attract the most interest in lunch ‘n learns. Ask if the service provider offers networking events. Personal service assistance varies among providers.

WHAT QUESTIONS WOULD YOU ADVISE A PROSPECTIVE CLIENT TO ASK? (14:35 in)

In Kipp’s words – Often people walk in here not knowing what they need. We stress that they come into our office so they can see our operation.

Insight – Through a personal visit, you can assess capabilities and identify whether there is a match with your business requirements.

HOW DO YOU ADDRESS MANAGING THE BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP WHEN PERFORMANCE ISSUES OF YOUR STAFF COME UP? (15:50 in)

In Kipp’s words – You can train us on how you want things done.

Insight – When assessing a virtual office provider, ask for examples of them being proactive in coming up with solutions to resolve communication or performance problems.

DO YOU THINK OFFICE AND SUPPORT SERVICES WILL BE THE SAME OR VERY DIFFERENT IN 5 YEARS? (18:36 in)

In Kipp’s words – The level of service is going to get more and more detailed.

Strategic Planning is Effective When…..

Strategic Planning

When you hear the phrase “strategic planning”, does your mind light up or does it give you a headache? There is clearly a right and a wrong way to initiate and carry out the process.

In my conversation with John Handelsman, CEO of Present Values, I realized that my previous employers approached this all wrong.

See if you agree with John on what components of leadership, teamwork, data and process are necessary to make the strategic planning exercise pay off.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN FROM JOHN HANDELSMAN, CEO OF PRESENT VALUES:

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A BUSINESS PLAN AND STRATEGIC PLAN?  (1:46 in)

In John’s words – Strategy is all about choices and planning is all about execution. A strategic plan is typically much longer term. A business plan is much more operational in nature.

Insight – Think of the business plan as how are you going to execute to achieve your high level strategic goals.

HOW SHOULD A COMPANY DEVELOP A STRATEGIC PLAN? (3:05 in)

In John’s words – It’s very important that the leader believes in the process. There needs to be data. The leader must learn to delegate responsibility. The responsibility and ownership of each part of it is shared.

Insight – Consider conducting a strategic planning “SWOT” analysis of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Data is needed from an analysis of the company internally and the competitive environment externally.

CAN YOU CLEAR UP ANY CONFUSION BETWEEN STRATEGIES AND TACTICS? (5:45 in)

In John’s words – Strategies are high level choices relative to direction for growth and management of risk. Underneath are initiatives, projects or programs that support strategies. Tactics are activities (of initiatives) that support strategies.     

Insight – Strategies are directives intended to achieve your objectives and material goals.

HOW MANY STRATEGIES SHOULD A COMPANY HAVE? (7:24 in)

In John’s words – The number depends upon what’s going on in your business and what is your team capable of executing well.

Insight – Keep the list to a minimum but don’t miss any opportunities. Data is critical.

WHAT CAUSES A STRATEGIC PLAN TO FAIL? (8:26 in)

In John’s words – One of the things most companies miss is, they don’t put in place a performance management tool.

Insight – To achieve your strategic goals, it’s necessary to keep a scorecard of the progress or lack of that is being made on a regular basis.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOUR STRATEGIES BE REVIEWED? (14:11 in)

In John’s words – The strategies should always be reviewed. However, the strategies should not always be changed or shouldn’t quit.

Insight – Giving up on a strategy too early is often caused by failing to discover and make an adjustment. Patience is required.