Is It To Hard? 0

“If you are doing something and it’s to hard, then you are doing something wrong; ’cause things are made to be easy” My friend Ian

If you think of how a river develops, you can see this concept in action. The river begins as a stream, usually fed from a spring. The spring pops up through the earth and water begins its journey towards its ultimate destination, the sea. As the water moves along, it searches for the easiest path, the path of least resistance, the lowest ground. It also joins forces with other streams fed by other springs, collectively heading towards the ocean.

Once enough streams join together, a river is established. Rivers usually start with many twists and turns, taking the easiest course. Eventually some of these twists become so extreme that they meet, creating oxbow lakes. Eventually, the river takes a shortcut and bypasses this section, making the path to the sea easier.

If you draw a straight line from Canada to the Gulf Coast, that is the Mississippi River today. It took millions of years to develop. Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of smaller rivers, streams tributaries, creeks, rills and brooks are all joined together in a single body by the time it reaches the Gulf of Mexico.

Before applying this concept to your business, think about your daily routine. Are you making things easy or are you making things hard? My friend Ian and I were talking about productivity in the workplace. He was noticing how some managers could “see the easy way to get something done.” As we talked I realized that Ian wasn’t saying that they were taking short-cuts, but that they could visualize a more productive way to get the task done. Accomplishing something in a productive manner may only mean taking a moment to make sure that the employee has all of the tools they will need before you send them out to start a project. Or that you have your employee repeat back to you what you want them to accomplish, so when you check with them later, they are actually working on what you need done and not what they thought you wanted.

Your efforts in your business require all of your employees to work together in order for them to be most productive. Being successful means everyone must be seeking the “easiest path”, the most productive path. Your individual branch offices must align if you are going to grow. Each part of your supply chain must mesh or you end up with parts of the company cut off from the rest, totally isolated and unproductive. Each department within your company must do what is best for the company, not protect their own interests at the expense of the organization.

The idea that “if it’s too hard, then you are not doing it right” is a marvelous gauge you can apply to see if you, your employee(s) or your business is as productive as it could be. Chances are, if it’s too hard, you’re not doing it right

You Never Know 0

All businesses have customers. Without someone purchasing the services or products that your company produces, there is no profit and no incentive to continue. Even in the non-profit sector, there are end users of the services provided by the organization and if you do not meet the needs of that group, they will leave you and find someone who will fulfill their needs.

Every day my managers, employees and I interact with our customers and work to give them the best possible experience. We give of our time willingly, proud of the products that we offer and proud of the company we work for. And because our company does a lot of business around the world and has a great reputation, we see a huge number of customers every day. So there was little time to think that what I did or said that Tuesday morning at 10:17AM would come back to me five months later.

It started out the same as any Tuesday. We opened the door a little early and made sure that everyone was ready to greet the customers. Then it was, “do you carry this?” and ” I saw this product in another of your locations, do you have it?, and “several months ago you had this product, I don’t remember the name, but it was really good, are you getting it again?” At 10:17AM I was making my way from the back of the store. As I passed the register area, I noticed a man standing near the entrance to the office. I approached him and asked if I could help.

He explained that he had purchased a product from one of our other locations and it was defective. He had returned it to that location only to find out they did not have any more. Really wanting the same item, he had asked if any other location had the same item and was told that my location stocked the product. So he packed a lunch and drove the 40 minutes from his home to see us. After researching what he had purchased, it turned out that we did not have any more of this item. Not wanting to disappoint this customer any further, our team found a slightly more expensive item that was in stock that would meet his needs. So we rang him up at the same price he had paid for the original item, loaded him up and away he went. The customer left happy and that’s the end of story. Or so I thought.

Five months later, a co-worker from another location, Debbie was riding the New Jersey Coast Line train into New York to see a matinee performance of a Broadway musical. Debbie was seated with five other employees talking about the show they were going to see, about their families and just generally making conversation as the train approached the tunnel into New York. Seated across the aisle was the customer I worked with 5 months ago. He was quietly listening to the conversation my co-worker and her employees were having. When someone in the group mentioned the name of our business, this customer’s ears perked up. He turned to Debbie and said “It sounds like you work for “my favorite store”".  She said, “yes”. He then asked “do you know Joel?” “Yes” was the reply, “we have worked in the same building in the past and I have known him for years”.  So he related to her his feelings about that day 5 months ago.

He told her that by the time I spoke with him he had been disappointed 3 times. He told Debbie that at the very moment I had approached him, he was actually preparing a very strongly worded complaint letter in his head and had every intention of never purchasing anything from our company again. But, by the time he left my location, we turned his thoughts around 180 degrees. He told my co-worker that he is now our biggest fan. We took a frustrating problem for him and turned it into a positive experience. By taking the time to hear him out, seeing what he needed and then meeting that need, we unknowingly won a loyal customer.

The most important lesson from this is that you never know. What my team and I did, we do all the time. I can’t remember thinking I’ve got to do something special or that I may run into him in the future, it was just taking care of the customer. When I  spoke to the customer on that Tuesday morning, he did not say anything about how frustrated he was or that he was thinking of boycotting our company. He was just a customer with a problem and we set about solving it. Having the positive ending come back to us 5 months later through a random meeting on a train going into “the city” was just proof that every encounter with your customers is the most important.

Most of the time you will never even be aware of the impact you have had on your customers. But every so often, the hand of fate gives you a glimpse. So do the right thing at every opportunity because… you never know!

think and speak on your feet – part two 3

In part one I said that the ability to “think and speak on your feet” is an important skill that often determines your success in job interviews. And once you land the job, many kinds of careers and occupations require this skill. To practice for your upcoming interviews try this exercise.

The exercise had you: print out a list of questions before you read through them. Cut them apart and put them in a jar. When you are ready to practice “thinking on your feet”, stand in front of a mirror, pull out a topic at random and talk to the mirror for two minutes about whatever is on the paper.

Now I want you to do the same exercise, but this time with real interview questions. It’s ok to look at them before you cut them up and put them in the jar. In fact, I would suggest you write notes  for yourself about each question before you begin the exercise. When you actually practice your responses out loud, do not use the notes, as you won’t be able to do that in the actual interview.

Interview Questions

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • What is your greatest strength?
  • What is your biggest weakness?
  • Can you give me an example from a previous job where you have shown initiative?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • Are you a team player?
  • What qualities do you find important in a coworker?
  • Can you think of a time when you dealt with a customer problem? What was it, what did you do to resolve it and how did it turn out?
  • How does your previous experience relate to this position?
  • When can you start?
  • Do you have any questions for me?

 

If you have been on interviews and were asked questions that you had trouble with, be sure to add them to your list so you will be better prepared the next time. And feel free to post those questions in a comment so I can share them with other job seekers.

The more you practice, the easier the next interview will be. Let me know when you hear those wonderful words, “you’re hired!”

How’s Business? How do you answer? 1

I ask this question as often as I can. Generally I get three types of answers.

  1. “It could always be better” – This type of person is never satisfied with what he or she has. They are always striving for more. But they are avoiding the question, the actual question of how is your business doing today? Based on the response and body language associated with this answer, I think they are telling me that  business is not that great
  2. “It’s a little quiet right now” – This is followed by a because… because of the weather, because people are thinking about the Super Bowl, because of the Greek debt Crisis. This group is waiting for something to happen that will cause their business to grow again.  However  they got into the business and grew it to its current state, they are now resigned to waiting for improvement.
  3. “It’s damn fine, thanks for asking” – Now this person (and I met one at the Toms River Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours Event last night)  has a plan. They are succeeding because they know where their business is going. They know their target market. They know what their current customers need. They know how to ask for referrals. They know the importance of giving great customer service. They are aware of the big picture, the State of the US economy, etc., but they focus instead on things they can control. Their response to the problems facing their customers makes the difference in the success of their business.

I urge you to think about how you answer the question “how’s business?” If you aren’t saying “damn fine, thanks for asking”, then it may be time to re-think your plan.

Don’t Do it! Don’t Lie on your Resume 2

According to Hire Right, a firm that specializes in employee back ground checks:

80% of all resumes are misleading
20% state fraudulent degrees
30% show altered employment dates
40% have inflated salary claims
30% have inaccurate job descriptions
27% give falsified references

These are sobering statistics. The playing field is not level. Those that chose the path of un-truths or who stretch the truth run the very real risk of being found out. Most employers have a clause on the application making you verify that what you are saying is the truth. And when you’re information is found to be untrue, they will fire you.

Make the most out of what you have done, but don’t feel you need to embellish to the point of lying. No job is worth that.

think and speak on your feet – part one 0

The ability to “think and speak on your feet” is an important skill that often determines your success in job interviews. And once you land the job, many kinds of careers and occupations require this skill. To practice for your upcoming interviews try this exercise.

Print out this list of questions before you read through them. Cut them apart and put them in a jar. When you are ready to practice “thinking on your feet”, stand in front of a mirror, pull out a topic at random and talk to the mirror for two minutes about whatever is on the paper.

  • If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go first and why?
  • If you could have only 3 electrical appliances in your house, what would they be and why?
  • Why does glue not stick to the bottle?
  • What nocturnal animal would you be if you had to choose and why?
  • If Abe Lincoln and George Washington got into a fight who’d win?
  • If you had a snail that could magically grant wishes, what would you name it?
  • If you had the chance to go back in time for 24 hours, where and when would you go?
  • What’s your worst/best memory of high school and why?
  • What was your favorite pet you had as a child and why?
  • What is the most rewarding experience you have had and what made it so?
  • Who or what inspires you and why?

Now that you have practiced thinking on your feet, you are ready to answer specific interview questions. Check back soon, I will post a list of interview practice questions that you can do the same exercise with.

Have an Attitude? 0

I was talking with my dentist recently, which is hard to do when he has his fingers in your mouth. We were discussing his office staff and I was remarking how well the office flowed. He said that it wasn’t always that way.

When he first began his practice, he hired based mainly on qualifications, degrees achieved and schools attended. He hired a very qualified staff. But he realized later that he didn’t hire employees who understood his customer service philosophy. This created tension between himself, his patients and the staff. Once he realized he needed to find employees who shared his ideas on office etiquette, thinks began to click. Ten years later, he has virtually no turn over and business is better than ever. It seems odd to say but it’s almost a pleasure to go to the dentist

When  looking for a position, attitude is key. The right attitude can get you hired.  So let your positive attitude shine and land the job you’ve been searching for.

Is your resume a list of your responsibilities? Then it’s wrong 0

Think about that for a moment. Anyone can make a list of job titles they have held, committees they have been on, even positions on local boards or volunteer agencies. But the biggest question to a future employer is what did you actually accomplish?

If you can’t get that across, it doesn’t matter how important the positions were you held. In order to make a lasting impression on an interviewer, they need to understand that you get things done. That you get things done in an efficient manner. That you get things done on schedule or even ahead of schedule.

And after you say that, then you must give a specific example of a problem at your last job, what action you took and most importantly, how the outcome was far better than your Boss had ever expected. The interviewer will remember that specific example and remember you.

As an example, when asked about your customer service skills you could say, “I’m a people person”. Or you could say:

As the Store Manager for Best Products in Hopewell, Va., I received a call one Christmas Eve from a customer about a ride-on toy he had purchased for his 6 year old son for Christmas. It was 8 PM when he noticed that the specialized battery for the car was not in the box. So I told him I would meet him at the store and we would get him the battery. I called my Assistant Manager (just in case this was a set-up) and I headed down to the store. We found the battery in another box and I sent him home, relieved that Christmas wasn’t ruined for his little boy.

Now that is a true story and it sticks much better than “I’m a people person”.

So as you prepare or review your resume, think about what you have specifically accomplished and the results you have produced. Then write that and be sure to share that in the interview. The results will amaze you.

Is the Trend really your friend in Business? 0

Is the Trend really your friend in Business?

To succeed in business, you must offer what your customer’s want at a price they are willing to pay.  It’s one of those intersection things; you make the sale at the intersection of their need and your solution.  And to stay in business for more than three years, you must understand what your customers will want. One way to do this is to monitor trends.

The trick in any business is to know which tend to monitor. For instance, tonight is the Super Bowl, a contest between the Patriots and the New York Giants. Checking Twitter for today’s trends reveals the New York trends are #SuperBowl and Happy Super Bowl Sunday, while http://whatthetrend.com/top10  reports that in the past 17 hours and 55 minutes, #10thingsaboutmyself has been the Top Twitter Trend.

By knowing your market, you can focus on the trends that will impact your customers. Living just outside of New York City, my focus today is the same as millions of my fellow Gotham area neighbors. You can see it in their dress as they shop for the parties they are throwing. You can hear it in their voices as they walk through the mall and stand in the checkout lines. In fact, after 10 hours of listening to conversations of shoppers yesterday, I didn’t hear one person talking about themselves, except in the context of the Super Bowl.

So, if you’re a global concern, you focus will be different. If your market is New York, this week has been about one topic. The trend can be your friend if you follow the right one.

Humor in the Workplace – even when the work is football 0

Humor in the Workplace – even when the work is football

NFL football is a business in the end. Stadiums are built, apparel is licensed and tickets are scalped for the big games. And when a business like the NFL mounts a huge year-ending project, such as the Super Bowl, it is easy for management and staff to take the whole thing very seriously.

As any business undertakes a major product launch or restructuring or adds new locations there is a natural tendency to bear down, to stay focused until the job is done. The extra stress associated with the responsibility is a good thing; up to a point. Finding appropriate releases for that stress is crucial to the long term health of the individual and ultimately the success of the project, whether it is a new product launch or this year’s Super Bowl.

Even during the worst times of the civil war, President Lincoln understood he had to keep the mood light. When challenged about Ulysses S. Grant being a drunkard, Lincoln famously said, “Find out what whiskey he drinks and send all my generals a case, if it will get the same result”.

My advice then, while you’re painting your face and getting the nachos ready for tomorrow’s game, is to find ways to relieve stress at work. Or, maybe painting you face and dressing in licensed sports apparel is your way of relieving stress!

Enjoy the game and these cartoons.