We have always done it that way

One of my favourite lines to hear when I work with a client and we are talking about some of the operating processes is 'we have always done it that way.' My first response to that is always, 'great, then we have a lot of work to do.' By never changing the way that your company operates, you are repeating the same errors over and over and not taking advantage of new innovations in efficiency and technology. I guarantee that there are opportunities for increased productivity when critically reviewing a process that has not changed in years.

Find something in your business where 'we have always done it that way' would apply and challenge the assumptions and the activities that form the basis for that process. What value are the activities bringing? Are there other, more productive ways to achieve the same outcome? In some cases, you will find that the process is completely unnecessary. Don't be afraid to challenge accpeted norms within your operating processes as this will allow you to improve your business.

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Out of our comfort zones

In a recent blog posting, Seth Godin said "If you’re not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you’re not reaching your potential as a leader." I think that sentence rings true these days. I have always believed that the best way to learn and to improve it to take yourself out of your comfort zone. That way, you are forced to deal with the discomfort of an unfamiliar situation and learn how to handle it. The more uncomfortable situations you put yourself in, the more you will learn and grow. This can apply to leadership or any other type of growth.

Sounds pretty simple doesn't it? Try it and see. Put yourself in an uncomfortable situation and see how good you feel after you have dealt with the situation successfully, or at least showed how you can push your limits even further.

What we tell customers

A client of mine who is a service provider brought me in to work with them because employees who worked in the same department were telling customers conflicting pieces of information. This was problematic for two reasons: it was confusing for customers because they did not know what the right answer really was; and it caused the organization and its employees to lose credibility as a provider of expertise for its customers. We needed to get that credibility back and ensure customers were not only satisfied, but overjoyed with the level of service and advice they were getting.

Do you know what your employees are saying to customers? Is it consistent across the organization? Do they all follow the same processes when interacting with customers? It is imperative that your employees are showing a united front to your customers and providing them with the same information. It is unacceptable for different employees to give conflicting answers on the same questions.

Recently, I was trying to upgrade my data plan with our local cell phone provider, and in speaking with three different employees, I received recommendations for three different plans. Three different recommendations from employees in the same company for a cell phone plan? As a customer, what am I supposed to do with that information? There is no consistency, no expertise being given, no one taking the time out to really look at what I need as a customer. Know what your employees are saying to your customers and make sure it is valuable information and consistent information. If you call customer service three times and ask the same question, you should get the same answer. Can you say that about your organization? My guess is no….

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The economy takes a turn for the better

Two articles I read this morning show that things are looking up for Canadians as we move out of the recession, depression downturn….whatever you want to call it.

The first article talks about how Canada's economy will be ranked 5th out of 17 developed countries in 2010. This is an improvement from 11th 2 years ago. The main reasons: our stable banking system and how government funding has helped stimulate the economy. This is important only in the fact that it shows that other countries will harder hit by the economic crisis, so we must be doing something right. This does not mean that all of the information is positive, but it means that relative to everyone else we are doing quite well. The article states that Canada is "better placed to weather the recession than most countries" so take pride in that.

The second article shows that Canadian consumer confidence went up in July, meaning that more people are thinking positively about the economy, which generally leads to increased spending.

This is good news for a Friday if you are a Canadian….our economy is becoming more solid and our citizens are coming out from under the rocks they have been under for the past 12-18 months. Maybe the economy, just like our late summer weather, is starting to warm up.

To sign up for my monthly electronic newsletter ‘What’s New in Business,’ which offers free articles and other resources to improve your business, click here.

Creating more synergy

What does it take to create more synergy within an organization? You need to align your processes, your people and your technology.

This sounds like a lot of soft and feel good stuff that is good for morale, right? What if I told you that creating better alignment within your organization could lead to myriad of opportunities and actually increase your company profits and customer satisfaction, would you believe me? Well, you should. Let me take you through some of the benefits of an organization that is aligned:

- reduced operating costs due to streamlined operations;

- increased flexibility and reduced time to market due to focus on value-added activities;

- increased productivity due to reduced time spent on duplicate work;

- increased customer satisfaction due to reduced time spent on internal issues.

Shall I keep on going? Well, the first four benefits are free. If you want to read more about being smart and ensuring that your organization is aligned, check out my white paper on the topic. Alignment is not just a good thing in a car, it is also very valuable within an organization.

To sign up for my monthly electronic newsletter ‘What’s New in Business,’ which offers free articles and other resources to improve your business, click here.

Take advantage of the summer months

Those of us who are in business for ourselves should be taking advantage of the quieter summer months to do two things: recharge our batteries and get in front of new clients. We need to recharge our batteries so that we go into the fall with new energy and vigour. Enjoy the weather, take a family vacation, get your mind off of the business for a little while. You will be surprised at how clear new ideas become when you step away from your business, even for a few days.

We also can use this time to get in front of new clients. The economy is picking up but the summertime tends to be a quieter time. This is a perfect opportunity to find and meet with new clients because they are going to start opening the purse strings and likely have some availability to talk with us. Executives are not yet hampered down with budgeting cycles and fiscal year ends, so now is the time. Try some new and creative things and focus on the results that you can achieve. People can argue about methodology but no one can argue about proven results.

The summer is a time when most people kick back and relax and turn on the auto-pilot so if you are one of those people that is working hard to satisfy existing clients and find new ones, then you will easily be able to differentiate yourself.

To sign up for my monthly electronic newsletter ‘What’s New in Business,’ which offers free articles and other resources to improve your business, click here.