Be the brand

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Starting on Monday 12th January 2018 I am going to engage a polling company to identify how well my business is known in Scotland and how well thought of it is. It will be slightly more scientific than that but you get the gist.

Most of us need to plan ahead but that probably seems weirdly precise. It is, for good reason. I have a goal. To make my brand the No1 in our field in Scotland. So we need to measure it.

This goal is the most important decision I have ever made. We now have a reason to exist (the business, not the people.) Everything we do can be measured by how it contributes to our goal.

There is a famous quote by a wise person you will have heard of.  “How do you know if you are getting anywhere if you don’t know where you are going?”

Any idea who said it?

Winnie the Pooh.

Without that specific goal in 2018 we are just slogging away every day with no idea of why, it is just a treadmill.

I haven’t shared this goal with my team. Why not you cry in horror? Because I only just made it up. I will share it and I will put some decent bonus behind it if we are the best known, most respected brand in our field in Scotland.

What is your goal? Feel free to share in the comments.

 

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New for old

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We have recruited a new store manager. This hasn’t been as easy as you would think as we need experienced sales managers but they need a couple of other rare skills most other retail stores don’t need. We decided to try something different. We put out a unique advert on various job sites through an agency and put an advert on Facebook with a £100 boost behind it. It was humorous but focused on the type of person we wanted.

The job site applicants were asked to send in a 3 minute video of themselves. This was designed to filter out the half hearted. And it worked. Out of 180 job site applicants we got 3 videos, 1 made it into the final 6. From our Facebook applicants, 3 made it into the final 6. It was an interesting mix. The final 6 had a phone interview to filter out the CV exaggerations. All 6 made it through.

That was the functional bit. Now the fun begins. We brought the final candidates into the store one evening. All the store and installation team were present and running different sections of the evening. The store and install teams were given scoring sheets so they record their opinions of each potential store manager. This really piled on the pressure.

There were 3 key areas of the evening to pile on the pressure, ALL carried out in front of everyone present.

Each candidate had 60 seconds to introduce themselves, what they do and why they should get the job.

Then all candidates were given a team exercise to come to a majority decision on. They had 15 minutes to decide who they thought the final 2 candidates should be. Yip. You read that right. The sound of their jaws hitting the deck was amazing. The results for us was spectacular. The favourite at this point crumbled. He was aggressive and petty. The other favourite barely spoke. I highly recommend this process.

The final stage was speed dating. 6 members of my team, 12 questions in total, 2 rounds. Who needs long winded interviews.

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening but the real rewards came when I sat down with my team. Wow! Their insight and understanding of what we wanted blew my mind. Things I had missed or hadn’t thought of was surprising. The team’s pleasure in helping chose their next manager was wonderful. Our new store manager is going to be amazing.

Try this next time you recruit, it is quick, easy and very effective. Simples!

PR Disaster

PR Disaster

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I was recently called a f***ing a***. That isn’t the interesting part. Those who know me will know that isn’t all that unusual. What was interesting about it was that it was by a uniformed employee of a company, carrying out their company business while driving a fully sign written company vehicle. The bad news for him was that I videoed it on my phone.

Long story short; one of the pointless mutts that pollute our house escaped and was running round a parked up Thomas Ash Recovery truck. The driver had just finished loading a breakdown. The “Premier Recover operative” was sitting high up in his cab, looked down and started loudly shouting and swearing at the dog then at me when I ran to fetch her in.

His behaviour was so extreme, he would have been arrested on the spot. He was obviously having a really bad day or had an extreme fear of dogs etc.

As I would hope anyone would do with my team if they screwed up, I called his employers, Thomas Ash Recovery, and they were totally disinterested. This is where it gets interesting.

I shared the video I had taken on my personal Facebook page. He was still shouting at me and swearing but had calmed down a bit. I was just so annoyed at the companies lack of interest. It has been viewed over 1000 times, and still going; 1000 people who mostly live within 30 miles of his customer base.

My point is this (finally!) and it was a blinding flash of the obvious. How do I know my own install team aren’t like this? If no one phones or another member of staff takes the call, makes the right noises and doesn’t tell me, how do I know. No news is good news; right?

I do trust my team but a wee clarification with them is in order.

Do you trust yours? Based on what?

Seeking bad news

 

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At our network meeting we take it turn about each week for one of us to run a 5 minute training session. Our financial advisor member asked us all who calls our customers after the job is completed to make sure the customer is happy. Only about 50% of us do. We then discussed what we asked our customers. Most of us said something along the lines of, I just wanted to check you were 100% happy with everything?

This is a good way to go but human nature is to agree with a question, we are pre-programmed to agree with people, not disagree.

Our financial adviser suggested a tweak. Ask your customer if there was anything they weren’t 100% happy with. Interestingly most people do tell you if anything wasn’t totally perfect when asked this way. When we tried this, we began to get comments along the lines of ‘There was a slight ding on the back edge of one of the items but it is hardly noticeable so I didn’t bother mentioning it’.

We immediately insist on resolving this issue and the customer is impressed. They like that they don’t have to kick off to get action. In fact, most customers will be amazed to be called at all!

Try it, you might be surprised. Don’t be scared of bad news; better your customers are telling you not other people.

Onwards and Upwards

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I conducted a straw poll at my network meeting and they backed up my general feeling that business is looking up. We are 30% up on last year so business is good.

I was very nervous about the last quarter as we have a very new team. The store manager is new, her first management role. We then have three sales guys with less than 6 months experience. (It takes 3 to 6 months to learn our product.) Another manager is working his notice having indicated he was going months ago ago. I mentioned Bob before in a previous blog. He is the guy that told me to stick my job, He did it in a nice way but left me in no doubt that he didn’t like the way the business was run. The only consistent is our part timer who works 3 days. She is a rock. She was only 18 when she started with us and it is rare to find that degree of maturity in someone so young.

So given the inexperience of the team, I could be forgiven for being secretly concerned about sales for the short term. Once again I am proved wrong but why?

We used to be very good at keeping people in the business, to a fault. We have become much tougher. We help, support and train but if someone isn’t performing you have to cut your losses and ‘offer some alternative career advice’. We have given notice to more people in the last 2 years than in the 8 years before that. The end result is that after kissing a lot of frogs we find our prince’s. The people we have now are clever, ambitious guys, once they really get up to speed, 30% up will be small potatoes.

It Ain’t What You Do But The Way That You Do It.

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I have been asked to give a talk at a business meeting on how I turned my business round from a loss to a fairly healthy profit. I wasn’t keen initially as it seems to be tempting fate. An ex business partner that isn’t doing well at all will also be at the meeting and I’m not happy ‘rubbing it in’. Then I began to think about it; what did I actually do to turn my business around? The answer is, basic common sense.

  • The right team with a spread of skills who are given the freedom to manage their own workload.
  • A very clear set of targets for everyone to meet.
  • Low tolerance to anyone not hitting target.
  • High rewards to those who are hitting targets
  • Staff given freedom to do what they feel is right to resolve customer issues
  • A real focus on avoiding discount. (Most customers respect us sticking to our guns)
  • Big chunk of luck in having a core team that care as much about the business as I do.
  • A willingness to listen to these people, I do not always know best.

I am quite keen to give the talk, if I can give one good idea to anyone that helps improve their business then it is a worthwhile exercise.

Miracles do happen

Law

At my network meeting this week one of the solicitors gave a talk on his attitude to his customers. I have never been so impressed by a lawyer before. Stuart is quite a quiet guy. So when he does speak, you listen. His point was that Lawyers like many retailers have lost their way. Retailers are all about the sale, the margin, company policy etc. Stuart suggests that most Lawyers are so focused on billable hours, they have totally lost any customer focus.

Stuarts solution is simple. He agrees a price for a job upfront. He then sticks to it. Amazing isn’t it. He says he does sometimes get it wrong and under quote but he stands by his price as his credibility with his client is more important to him for the long term success of his business.

I know who I will be using for the next part of my expansion plan!