The Value of Home

Turning new employees into future leaders

 

The induction. Talk to any HR Professional and they will advocate a well-structured and comprehensive induction for all new employees. Some of us do it well, some do it poorly, or sometimes not at all depending on resources, circumstance, and our individual business culture. But, what can we do (no matter what) to increase the chances of a new employee becoming a long-term success?

In a time when Culture is King, many are grappling with how to translate culture into practical commercial success that is both meaningful and sustainable. It can quickly turn into a buzzword-centric topic which is forgotten completely in day-to-day interactions with peers and customers a-like.

The answer seems to reside in the value of making people feel safe and “at home” right from the start. This is a powerful trigger every single leader in a business can utilise to gain long term performance and loyalty out of new employees (and seasoned ones too!)

Daniel Coyle details an experiment in his book, The Culture Code. Coyle discusses an Indian Call Centre called WIPRO that was experiencing costly staff attrition rates. They took a group of new recruits and simply spent one-hour talking to them about their individual needs to perform better. They also gave them a WIPRO shirt with their own name on it. They found that the people in this group were 250% more likely to still be at the company seven months later compared to those that did not have the “one-hour chat”.

This demonstrated that people valued being treated as an individual and being heard from the start of their employment. It displayed that a business must show that they are there to “Serve You” just as much as the employee is there to “Serve Us”. The results spoke for themselves with staff serving longer and at a better performance level in a notoriously high-turnover environment.

When we feel at home, we feel safe. And when we feel safe our concentration levels are elevated due to less distraction and wariness. It’s like your first day at kindergarten – it’s a scary day with lots of anxiety. But if the teaching assistant relaxes you with warmth, attention, and care then it can turn out to be the best fun you’ve ever had.

Recently, I was struck by this idea when watching a Friday Night AFL match between Sydney and Hawthorn at the MCG. It was a cold wet night where Sydney won in a very close contest. The story of the night was that of Ben Ronke. In his third game, this little fresh-faced recruit kicked a game winning 7 goals and made 10 tackles – a new all-time record for the league. Not only is it almost unheard of for a small-forward to kick this many goals in a game, but no one had ever statistically done this in the history of the league!

The impressive part was in the post-match interview. Ronke was asked “What is it about this club that keeps producing such great young talent?”

He responded by saying “It comes down to the Leadership group, and even the up-and-coming leaders. You go to the club and you just feel at home straight away. They make you feel like you’re at home. That takes the pressure off of you and makes you feel comfortable, and with the support of the older boys – it goes a long way”

Wow! In a moment of pure honesty, this young athlete summed it up beautifully.

Photo: Sporting News

If we don’t invest individual effort into an employee we run the risk that they will merely exist in their role, and there is only a small chance of them becoming long term successful performers. To take this further, when a recruit is made to feel comfortable, but without an individualised approach then performance will ease off very quickly and revert to a relaxation mode. This is not sustainable either.

Leaders that show even the smallest of gestures that the business is there to serve the employee as much as the other way around, create an experience that is both comfortable and inspiring. This becomes a potent combination feeding the feelings of belonging. In turn, this creates performers that not only excel, but do it for a long time to come.

Paul Farina, Team Performance Specialist

Paul has spent the last 20 years building and leading teams that persist. Not only commercially savvy, but completely obsessed with a people focused approach to building a “Team First” Mentality. As a Speaker, Mentor, and Facilitator Paul has worked with operational teams across multiple markets for long term successful outcomes.

 

Do you want to discuss how Paul can help you and build a team to usher in a Dynasty of Excellence for your organisation? Book a call here .

 

What is the FES Logo all about? Our Brand Story

Logo’s are funny things. Their job is to tell a story about the business they represent. Further to that, they are a central factor to building a brand. Now, put your hand up if you know what “building a brand” even means…?

In simple terms, a brand is something that a consumer feels connection to. A strong brand not only helps us recognise a business, it also give us an instant hit of emotion and feeling towards the business. This becomes more relevant as businesses become bigger and bigger, especially as small businesses simply does this best via a personal connection with the owner and individuals in the business. That’s why it is not really important for small businesses to invest too heavily in Logo design – it doesn’t make much difference.

The important part is that every aspect of the business seen publicly needs to be consistent. This is harder than it seems. Using the same type-face, colours, language, and style all need to sync. Across online sources, social media, in-store, and printed material. It all helps a business to be recognisable and stand out as unique, and even more importantly, be memorable.

So, at FES, we have spent the large sum of about $100 or so to develop our logo over the last 4 or so years! I mean, we probably don’t even need one because we are so small, but there is a little pride taken from seeing it develop and become known to our little club of followers.

But, what does it actually mean? What does it signify? And why have we changed it recently?

 

The Original Brief

Lets start with me. As the founder and principal facilitator, the way I deliver the product sets the tone for the business. We spent a bit of time describing the effect of my training and we ended up with some key points:

Positivity – Being analytical and having high expectations is one thing, but as a manager and mentor I always aimed to be supportive and utilise “above the line” thinking. Positivity increases energy, helps people gain momentum, and is the basis of enjoyment within your role.

Energy – To a fault, I will inject energy into a training session, conversation, or any work done to make the difference. Sometimes to exhaustion. There is also an excitement here. I get carried away and excited with possibilities and the process of building sales and opportunities out of thin air. Also, our training is always going to be for people that have a challenge (otherwise why would they need training?) And, these challenges can be draining. So injecting energy into our work is critical to the overall experience.

Partnering – I learnt this when I was in wholesale. If we are going to do Business to Business (B2B) work together, then for us to have a strong long lasting relationship we need to work together. Just because you are buying off of me, doesn’t mean the relationship is transactional. That is so limiting. We always set out to deliver training which takes an interest in our client’s business. To invest in their success. It is not a concept that is too hard to figure out. If our clients are being successful then we are too!

 

Our Personality

Most of our public imagery revolves around my mug, and the people we work with. Simply put, this is what the consumer engages with. Not a logo. But, we apparently needed a logo “to be professional”, so if we were going to have a logo, then it needed to have a bit of US in it!

Jana, my wife is a big part of the business (she takes care of all legal, proofing, and accounting stuff – thank god!) FES is just as much her’s as it is mine. She is also the poor sole that has to deal with me on a daily basis… So, the logo had to have plenty of US in it. One thing our friends will know about us is that we love food, wine, and dance gigs. So, what was one thing that we could use in the context of the FES logo?

Well, we couldn’t use the image of a bottle of wine… that wouldn’t quite convey the message of our brand in an effective way. Music and dance party imagery would also be tough to assimilate into something that made sense. So, that left food. As lovers of Thailand and Thai food. We have holidayed there many times and even got married there! We started thinking about that spicy tangy food Thailand is known for. And, one ingredient we both love is fresh lime. It makes soooo many dishes.

That was it. Lime is fresh, zesty, energetic, summery, and shakes things up. In one fruit, we had something that would be unique and symbolise a lot of who we are.

 

The Logo

We put together the brief, and after working through the usual design process (even though this was on a strictly tiny budget), we came up with this:

The Original Fresh Eye Solutions Logo (2013)

The colours were based on that of a lime, and the helix effect symbolised the partnering and positive spiral we want to build when working together with a client. We felt that the image was simple enough to stand alone and would work in a monochrome situation too. Without fussing over it too much, we signed off on it and away we went. That was about 4 years ago.

 

The Problem

There are a few problems with this logo, that haven’t hurt our business as much as they annoyed us. You can probably guess them for yourself:

  1. It doesn’t look like a Lime. Instinctively, at the time of signing off this design, I knew it. But, I was too busy being polite and being too rushed. Lets all be honest – it looks like an apple. If there is one fruit that has been taken in the business world it is The Apple. This made no sense and just looked like we had no creativity.
  2. We have this design with a white background, but the black one ended up being used so much more. Either way, the comment we heard back is that it looked like it was a part of the Aussie supermarket giant, Woolworths. Being a part of woolies is the last thing we wanted to be associated with for no other reason than it had zero to do with what we are about!
  3. It lacked versatility. We had the shaded version (above) and the 2-D version, but they were limiting. We didn’t have a variety to signify different products, so we either had to invest a little more into this design, or change it. We decided to change it!

 

FES Logo Mach II

We decided to introduce a colour system into our business. Loosely based on the rainbow, but also on the idea of the fruit ripening. This symbolises the development of our clients as they go through their training journey with us. We also had to “Lime’ify” our image so it didn’t look like an apple! The result was this:

The First Draft of the new logo (2017)

 

The shape was spot on – no more mistaken apple nonsense!!!

It’s also loud and proud. Probably too much, right? When we showed it around to clients and friends of ours the first reaction was that it represented the gay community and had similarities to the Pride Flag. Once again, this had nothing to do with our training and wasn’t the message we were trying to convey. So we had to take the update further.

The colours were great, and the ripening effect was there, we just needed to utilise them in a different way.

So we looked at the bottom of the image – a bluey teal colour. Cool and raw. Perfect to represent the starting point of our training programs. The Purple would be the next stepping stone. Red the next, Orange the next, and Green represents the top of the tree. When a client reaches to elite levels of our work together.

We also thought that, since our training covers four distinct pillars, we could use four of the key colours to represent each pillar. They are:

Operations – the front line pieces that make up the customer journey and delivery of a business’ products.

Team – the critical opportunity of every business. To gain results through their people.

Marketing – the last frontier for SME businesses. This is the bridge to scale or the roadblock to stagnation.

Expert – the training which focuses on techniques to chase larger challenges and passion projects.

So the result was this:

 Introductory Courses (2018) – the initial training to find your feet and understand how we work.

Inception Courses (2018) – the first training to test your current ways of working.

Mastery & Mastermind (2018) – Deep dive longer form training.

Facilitation & Workshops (2018) – Conferences and Strategic Workshops.

Coaching & Consulting (2018) – One-On-One implementation and instructional Programs

The one to rule them all (2018) – the lead logo used as an umbrella for all

That has been our logo journey so far. I hope you’ve enjoyed the story behind the design process. I am sure there will be further changes to come in the years ahead. But for now, we think it is kind of cool and helps us categorise our products. We still have some work to do to bring it all together and make sure everything is consistent across our media, but at least we don’t represent apples in Woolies anymore!

Cheers,

Paul Farina

Founder, Fresh Eye Solutions

 

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How to bust through the Natural Settling Point

We all know what Einstein said about the definition of insanity. And, retail businesses it is very common for people to remain at the same size or same level of profitability year-in-year-out. Every year brings with it similar ebbs and flows, as well as similar results.

This is what I have phrased The Natural Settling Point (NSP).

 

Here is the formula:

Location + Skills + Personality + Loyal Follower + Default Activities = NSP

 

There is a lot to digest in this formula, and hopefully it is clear to see how many variables there are to play with to pull yourself and your business out of the NSP you may currently be in. There is no need to pick each aspect apart, but this formula does hint at what to do to bust through your current settling point. Some tried and tested options are listed below.

 

  1. UPSKILL YOURSELF (AND YOUR TEAM)

Plan a self-development activity every 6 months for each person in the team starting with yourself. It may be as simple as reading a book on a topic that will help you implement a new initiative. Or you could attend an evening or one-day seminar. A weekend conference. Maybe enrol in an online training course. Or, maybe you are ready to go for something bigger like a certificate course. Whatever you choose to do, the name of the game is to pick the topic carefully and be sure to set a trackable goal off the back of the education you have received. This will ensure that the training pays for itself (many times over hopefully) and encourages positive change in the business. The same rules apply to team members.

 

  1. SCRUTINISE THE USUAL MARKETING

Is your marketing working? Really? Maybe they are… or maybe they need to be re-energised, or revamped, or maybe they need a major overhaul. One of the most common reasons retail business owners do not do meaningful marketing promotions is that they feel it is a waste of time and money. It is very common for people to give up before they have started, and revert back to old school methods, and activities which end up being quite ineffectual. At the very least, calculate the costs and sales from all of the past activities and if they are performing poorly, then stop doing them all together. No activity is better than bad activity – it costs less time, less money, and less heartache (none of which are going spare for most of us).

 

  1. A LITTLE FROM EVERYONE ADDS UP TO A LOT

If you have a small team, say its yourself and two others, and each of you increased your own sales, or average spend by 10%, that would add up to a big dent in sales results. If it was achieved over a full year, then the NSP would be smashed to bits. Let’s look at it another way. What if the weakest sales day of the week was focused on to make it a little stronger, or a product or product range was focused on to gain extra sales? In a salon business I worked with, the retail sales were hovering at approximately $50 per week. There were reasons for this, but it was quite weak. We set up a plan including an incentive, education from the Sales Rep, and weekly performance tracking by the manager on product sales. If the team achieved their incentive 80% of the time, we would generate over $500 in sales a week, and over a 14 week period (which was the remainder of the calendar year at the time), this would bring in an extra $6300. A big impact from a very small change, which the team ended up achieving. It also showed us how much money the business was “leaving on the table” so to speak. What is the little change you can make in your business that would add up to a lot?

 

  1. GET A BIT WEIRD

This one makes everyone really nervous! I know, I get nervous myself, and for good reason. It is scary as hell! Its scary because there is all types of risk – financial, or even reputational. Sometimes, we’ve got to be open to doing something a little crazy. Make a concerted effort to try a different approach, or have some fun with a topic or an event. Only by taking some risks can we find unique and brilliantly interesting ways to move our business forward. Because there is risk involved in this, it is important to mitigate the risks by doing lots of research, only trialling things before committing to longer terms, and pledging low resources to an activity initially. Go for it, but there is no need to take huge leaps of faith packed with high levels of risk!!!

 

  1. WHATEVER YOU DO, GO ALL IN!

Small half-baked initiatives and actions need to be banished. If we are truly going to leave the NSP behind once and for all, then doing many things in a mediocre way will need to be completely cut out. New Year’s Eve is not the only time to make a stand and commit to new beginnings. We can decide to do this today. Commit to a structure and work within it every day. Aim to be consistent before everything else. If you lead an activity 100%, you have a very good chance of getting the team to follow.

To wrap this up, it is wise to choose only one of these actions to implement at a time. Trying to do too much will probably land you back inside the NSP. Also, no matter what you do, there will be ups and downs, so be willing to adapt. Tweaking and adjusting as we go is not always easy, but will often be necessary.

The one guarantee is that that NSP is distinct in all of our businesses, and if we can recognise it there is a good chance that it can be left behind with some new and exciting activities.

 

If you need help to get out of the NSP trap, then click through to our checklist and I will be happy to have a brief 30 minute FREE chin-wag to discuss steps you can take to get the ball rolling. Click here http://bit.ly/2hrfvji

 

What are we so scared of?

The dilemma we put ourselves in when we perceive threat instead of possibility

It was an important meeting. A meeting that would be the beginning of beautiful and important things. We would hatch fun and creative plans together. We would make an impact on the community. We would grow our businesses. The limits were endless.

We would talk all things of mutual benefit. Quoting big numbers, and breaking them down into practical milestones, and then into bite sized chunks we could then divvy up and assign to each other. Then, we would have further meetings, do work with each other, plan events, continue to build our relationship, and build a new world. A world of laughter. A world of success. A world of joy.

But alas, this is the meeting that never happened. It is the possibly that was shut down within minutes when the fear got in the way.

The fear of people stealing from us. The fear of people using us. The fear of being sold to. The fear of getting the raw deal. The fear of being inferior. The fear of failure. The fear of success.

Maybe it is all of these things, or maybe what has been proposed to us just isn’t interesting. It is not compelling. It is not useful, or of value.

This situation is such a tough one to crack. When working with other businesses (B2B), it astounds me how much push back there is to enthusiasm. When a small business, or a solopreneur approaches another business to do some simple cross-promotion, or to join in a partnership of some description, there seems to be a fear, or a scepticism that is stronger than any other force. But why? What is this fear? Where does it comes from?

The answer to this is probably quite complex. There are perhaps Ted Talks and Harvard Business Review articles proclaiming to tell us the core of this phenomenon. But of interest to me is the sheer volume of people that can’t see a good deal in front of them when they see it. The definition of strong business to me is strong community.

If I can help my next-door neighbour be a stronger business then that is good for me. If I can help my industry be stronger then that is good for me. Isn’t it?

The need to rid our instincts of fear is vital. The only way forward is to be brave. Be bold. Listen to offers. Be willing to be sold to. Be open to doing something new or different. Be ready to put a little extra effort in to try something new out.

This does not mean that the rules are off and a free-for-all is now the norm. No. All business decisions need to be analysed and every opportunity still needs to be deconstructed for fit and purpose. But, instead of rubbishing an idea, or an activity straight up, we need to propose ways we can do something. How about, we ask “how can this work?”

It is amazing where this sort of thinking can take us. It can even take us to a point where we realise that the person sitting opposite us cannot help us at this time, and we cannot help them. By exploring possibility and investigating the up-side, we can even say no, and shake hands with genuine pleasure and friendliness. Yes – it is possible!

We hear of luck in business a lot. We all need a little bit of luck along the way, right? This is countered by the argument that hard work and persistence brings more opportunity and therefore more luck. I feel that this sort of argument is bogged down by semantics. The core of it is that there are multiple opportunities which come to us every day. Opportunities to grow our business. Opportunities to answer our needs and help us smash through our obstacles.

The question is, will you let that fear drive your actions, or will you ask, “how can this work?”

I hope you do. It will most likely open many doors that were not there before. Just like magic. It’s exciting. Join the party.

 

How to turn dysfunctional individuals into a Dream Team

Yesterday, I had a training session with a client of mine. He was struggling with communicating his marketing and sales objectives to his team. Mainly because they are all different, and on their own agendas. Sound familiar…?

It struck me that this topic is very common, so I thought I would share a few key points I use to turn this scenario into an advantage.

Difference equals diversity, and this is a great base for a great team.

In team sport, you can’t have the same type of player across the whole field. Eleven Lionel Messi’s sounds mouth-watering, but who is going to lay the tough tackles, or be the huge presence in goal? What about the emotional side? If you have eleven stars, then how are they all going to get the limelight? They would rip each other apart within the first few weeks of a season!

Whenever I have taken over a team with large diversity, I have seen the disconnects and range of talents as an opportunity rather than a horrible stress.

No matter what the scenario, these same steps can be used to great effect:

  1. Start with you, and what you need to do – Before giving direction to any group of people the manager needs to be crystal clear on what they are trying to achieve. An obvious start is with commercial goals, sales targets, and particular brand focuses important to the business in the next six to 12 months. Also, think about the customer experience that your brand is trying to achieve. Or, what you are setting out to achieve in your role over the next 12-24 months? Goals can come in many forms, but before any direction is given to the team, these goals must be set into SMART goal language.

 

  1. What is their story? It is common to take employees out for a coffee or lunch and get to know them. Check in on them. Tell them about yourself. This is all very nice, but there are key points to cover here and one must always be prepared with an agenda, even when the tone of the catch-up is largely informal. Key areas to understand with each individual are:

a. What have they done (some info on their past)

b. What do they need and want now (both personally and professionally can be relevant, as well as physical and emotional)

c. What do they want to do/achieve/learn/gain in the next 12 months?

Let the conversation flow. Be curious. Get a full picture of the person.

 

(NOTE: Want to hire superstars in your retail business? Use the battle-tested 10 Simple Recruitment Tactics You Need To Hire Superstars And Build Your Very Own FIRST-CLASS Retail Team (Without Employing a HR Manager). Learn more now!)

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  1. Divide and Conquer – I know it sounds a little over the top, but this is one of the biggest mistakes I see seasoned (and junior) managers make with their team. If any of us try and set out new directives in a team environment with no warning or consultation, there is HUGE risk of Mutiny.

It is not a risk worth taking.

Investing some time into consulting each individual with what we want them to focus on is going to be a very powerful and positive discussion. Give context within the larger project that you want them to contribute to (i.e. set the vision). Highlight how this leverages their strengths, and gives them exposure to the things they want to learn and develop.

Also, be willing to be flexible and listen to any changes the person thinks would make the directive better. There is no need to be stubborn, or to set everything in concrete. In fact, the more that it seems like their idea, the more buy-in you will get to the overall strategy. WIN-WIN! Whatever happens, come to an agreement with each individual. Set the expectation clearly, and get ready to move to the next step.

 

  1. Turn the troops into Lieutenants – No one wants to be a number. A part of the pack. A worker bee. It’s not fun. Turn your beautiful bunch of misfits into leaders. Each one of them will be a specialist, a department manager, an owner of a task or key element of the business. They can have a title. They can have status. They can lead the discussion, or give education, or command a section of the team meetings. It always astounds me how much people step up when given extra responsibility. An opportunity to contribute can be more valuable than cold hard cash to many of us. This is a great strategy for tapping into the wants and needs of the individuals while aligning this with the overall business goals that need to be achieved.

 

  1. Round them up and take off – Now is the time to get the group together and openly talk about the new directives, what everyone’s role is going to be, and how progress is going to be tracked. As there are no surprises because of the individual meetings, the team will be ready to advocate the changes you are discussing. All the processes and systems can be made clear, trained in, and discussed. The initial meeting will provide a platform to gain momentum and buy-in from the group. This is built-on even further, again-and-again in future meetings.

 

I love under-performing, unfashionable, even rebellious retail teams. I love working with them, and turning them into monster success stories. Having said this, I know it’s tough. There are the big characters that aggressively push against your authority. Then there are the unmotivated “clock punchers” that seem impossible to talk to. Or the passive-aggressive’s. Maybe you have the “been there, done that” veterans that aren’t open to change. Or the young-hot-shot-know-it-all that is getting under everyone’s skin. It seems like every team has the hard-working unsung hero too, which can sometimes be harder to manage than it may seem.

Too often, these tough teams become a burden. They can fill us with dread and even despair. I get it – I’ve been there many times before. But, with a good solid plan, some determination, and a sprinkle of patience, these “Motley-Crews” can be turned into teams we love to work with that also deliver.

 

Need a little help with implementing changes in your team? You can start a conversation HERE.

 

(NOTE: Want to hire superstars in your retail business? Use the battle-tested 10 Simple Recruitment Tactics You Need To Hire Superstars And Build Your Very Own FIRST-CLASS Retail Team (Without Employing a HR Manager). Learn more now!)

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How to do negative

It’s one that can make us squirm more than Stephen King’s last horror story. You know, that chat you need to have with one of your direct reports where you have to point out a big fat negative in their work. Why is it so hard? I’ll tell you why….

  1. You hate the fact that you always have to be the bad guy.
  2. You can’t believe they have made the mistake after you clearly told them how to do it correctly.
  3. You are a nice person. They are a nice person. I don’t want to hurt their feelings.

Giving bad feedback is not an easy thing to do. If anyone says that they find this easy, they are either lying, or maybe they enjoy it a little bit too much. I am guessing you are neither.

No, giving negative feedback is a hard thing to do well as you are potentially hurting your relationship with the person in question, or you are disrupting the positive culture you are trying to create. There are so many aspects of this conversation that can go wrong, and that is never an easy situation to manage. But, there is a big BUT (that didn’t quite come out right… Anyway, here it comes.

BUT, being able to give negative feedback well is an absolutely critical aspect to being able to manage a team well. This is one of the key tools that you need to use to be able to build ability and confidence in your team. There are other great benefits including building trust and increasing closeness in a relationship. Here are some ideas on how to get better at delivering a negative.

  1. Earlier the better – delaying your feedback will reduce the effectiveness of your conversation. Details will be hard to remember, and the person will be less receptive. The term nip-it-in-the-bud can be utilised here. This also stops feelings festering inside of you which can build tension and increases the likelihood of the negative feedback becoming emotionally charged. Giving the feedback swiftly is the best way to go.
  2. Ask instead of tell – Allowing for self-assessment can be a great way to instil learning in the situation and disarm any backlash from the feedback. I find that if I point out faults all the time, it can beat people down, and then as the manager you can labelled as a tyrant. Instead, get the person to do a self-evaluation by asking them “what is out of place with this/what you did/how this turned out” or “how could have this been done better” or “I can spot a problem with this. Can you see it?”. This invites discussion, and gives the person a chance to figure it out themselves, rather than being told what they did was incorrect. It is a great way to turn a potentially negative conversation into a positive one.
  3. Specifics are critical – when giving negative feedback you will cause yourself a world of pain if you are being vague and inattentive. There is a lot of room for misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and confusion. We want to avoid all of these at the best of times. Critically when someone is completing a task poorly using details and examples is essential so be sure to have your facts straight. Preparation is your friend, as per any management discussion.

There are many more tools and ways of delivering negative feedback, but I feel that these are a good start.

One common requirement that needs to be used with any technique in this situation. It is acknowledging THE WAY we deliver our feedback is more important that what we actually say. So be sure to be respectful, keep the feedback as private as possible (no public shaming), and use an appropriate tone.

A positive intension will carry you through most of these important conversations, and like many things – the more you do it, the better you will become at it.

Want to take the heart-ache out of people management? Take our diagnositc here:

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How to invest in saving time – start with your team

This may be a familiar situation for you. The week starts with a vigour and a mindset of positivity and a list of actions you are going to achieve. Then within less than ten minutes of walking into work, you are ambushed with all sorts of unforeseen problems that you need to attend to.

Time. Having more of it. I can’t say that I have the answer, and there are may tools out there which help. Some work for some, some work for others. But, one thing I like to focus attention on is how your team views and uses their time.

When managing a team there are some key habits you can use to squeeze a lot more out of your team’s time, which can impact on your own time restraints. It’ll take some investment on your behalf, but the wins can be enormous:

  1. “I don’t have time” or “I have been too busy”. How many times do you hear this from your team when you are asking about a job they needed to do? If you kept a log of this, it would easily be in the high double digits every week. Let’s clear something up here – when one of your staff say either one of these phrases they are sending you a clear and loud message. The real message is: “I don’t care about it”. Or, to be more diplomatic, “It is not a priority to me”. Now, that you know what they are saying, you can now delve into the real issue – does this person have their priorities aligned with the business? This sets us up to have a great chat about improving the situation, and therefore saving you a huge chunk of time in the future.
  2. Less System is more. Processes and systems are so important. In retail, having simple but well drilled systems will be the difference between great customer service and fantastic sales versus inconsistency and frustration. However, before implementing new systems a great way to cut down wasted time is to audit your current systems and get rid of everything that is not efficient and effective. Minimising the volume of systems in your business will mean that you have a lot less to manage, communicate, and upkeep. Simple and strong is the name of the game.
  3. What are you going to do with it? As a manager or business owner, there are beautiful little windows of time that pop up. You know the ones. Its where everyone is set up, all customers are being served, you have your to-do list done, and you are free. You are actually free for 10 minutes, or 20, or maybe even longer! It doesn’t happen often, so there you are looking over everything, or sitting in your office, and you say to yourself “s#*@, what am I meant to do with myself!!!?” Because we are not used to this, it can freeze us, and because it is unfamiliar it can be really uncomfortable. So, be sure to have a plan. Jotting down a few key things you would like to do or work on if you had 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour to yourself a day, or a week is a great motivator and will also ensure that this time is used wisely – it’ll feel great.

Being buried in tasks can really hurt a retail business. Remember, you are the most influential person in the entire business. If you consistently run out of time to get everything done, or to enjoy your work, then it is not only tough, but it is also not going to be good for overall business. You don’t want that – it’s the opposite of what you want to achieve.

Using some easy to implement tools is the first step towards building a team with great capability leaving you with time to chase the fun stuff in your business.

Need some help getting to the bottom of your time management problems? Book yourself in for a Quick Win Chat HERE: https://calendly.com/fresheyesolutions/free-manager-quick-win

Strengthen your branding or move over

How quickly is the retail landscape changing? It seems that everyone is telling us that change has never been quicker. I am not sure how true this, but the one indisputable fact is that change is upon us. This change comes in the form of international business crossing boarders both on-line, and now in our shopping strips and malls. So with this cycle of powerful retailers hitting our Aussie shores, what is the number one defence that local retails can initiate?

To answer this question, I took inspiration from a recent trip to LA – the home of extremes. There are big gas guzzling monster trucks driving alongside eco-warrior electric cars. There is the extreme luxury and wealth of the Hollywood and Beverley Hills Celebs living next to droves of homeless in the adjacent streets. But, amongst all of this I noticed one clear distinction. The culture of service among the successful retailers wherever my wife and I dined and shopped.

From a customer point of view, it starts with the overall end-to-end branding experience that you receive. A strong identity that connects the product to the people, to the location, and the entire experience. An example of this was when we visited a super-healthy café near Venice Beach. LA is the birth place of the Superfood phenomenon, and I was blown away by their execution. Calm and rejuvenation were a part of the dialogue, but they went deeper than this. Their purpose was to engage the consumer with the art of connection. They used some creative ways to instill this branding like the naming of items of the menu – but they took it further. The WIFI connection password was iamconnected. To add to this our server took our order and left us with an exchange I will never forget:

Waiter: “Thank you for your order. Would you like to know today’s question?”

Me: “Yere, sure, why not…”

Waiter: “What is your mission?”

Before we could react, he was on his way to file our order and get on with serving the other customers. We looked at each other. Thought. Looked at each other again. Smiled. And then, something great happened. We started talking about the question. What he meant by it. What our mission was. What our mission for the day was. What our overall mission was.

Our actual mission is irrelevant so I won’t bore you with the discussion that ensued. The genius is that this café was all about health, and connecting with yourself and others. In asking this question, we were immediately engaged in a thought provoking and fun way. From a branding point of view, I was left extremely excited. Brilliant! Simply brilliant!!! The overall experience was aligned and faultless. The delivery was spot-on. The effect was memorable.

Now, this sort of thing can sound gimmicky, but when all aspects of your retail experience are aligned, you move from gimmicks to something else – strength. Having brand alignment in the customer experience across all aspects of your business adds up to a very strong brand presence. You become memorable, and your customers become advocates. This results in real business growth.

It is on this trip that it struck me! All of the strong brands in Australia (small and big), and all of the internationals coming to our shores all have strength in end-to-end branding. A strong Brand Image. A Brand Experience. As business leaders, we need to be ultra-critical of every aspect of our customer-touch points. Are they aligned? Do our staff understand them? Do our staff know how to deliver them? Are there any weaknesses along our customer service chain? Does our on-line match our off-line? Do we stand out? Are we using the best language?

In driving this brand strength, it is vitally important to also make sure we deliver on our brand and product promise. Another key question to ask is: are we style over substance? There is nothing worse than having a beautifully presented space and brand, but then the end result is a poor-quality product or poor perceived value (by the way, we experienced this many times in LA also – I question if these businesses will still be around by the time we return). In an age of Insta and photo filtering and infographics, the aesthetic of our branding is so important, but copy-and-paste the latest trend at your peril. If it does not match the overall goal or mission of your business and your people, then it may do more harm than good to your business.

I feel that in the coming years we are going to see large international monster companies come to our shores and successfully navigate the tough Australian market (unlike those that failed previously, i.e. Hollister, Starbucks, and more recently Topshop). The local retailer that takes their end-to-end branding to a memorable and sophisticated level will be the ones that stand up and push forward in the new Australian retail environment, no matter how quickly change is occurring in the retail landscape.

The new financial year started ages ago

Unless you have been living under a rock in the past few weeks, it is likely that you have seen and read the words “end of financial year” a few hundred times. We find ourselves in a mad rush to get all our tax information together, and then to interpret and understand this information to make good choices for our business. Simultaneously, there is usually a last-ditch sales effort to bring in as much revenue as you can before the curtain falls. It’s a tough time as the workload tends to spike, while client spend tends to lower (or diminish almost completely) during May and June.

But, one critical step during this period is the planning for Quarter One of the new financial year. If you work in the B2B sector (selling to a business), then this is so much more critical as the lead time for winning new clients, and re-winning existing client spend is usually longer than a week or two and can even take months. If you are in the B2C sector (selling directly to the consumer), then there is a little more room to be creative and activate some activity on a shorter time line. So, what steps can be taken to ensure sales soar during the first half of FY2018?

  1. Only chase Low Hanging Fruit in Q1

Unless you have strategically set marketing activity in place and have already activated it, then you are probably too late to go to market with a targeted campaign. But this is an opportunity rather than a challenge. The great thing about this is that you can write off the whole first three months of the financial year and allocate it purely to cleaning up all the bits that you never tend to get to. Some key activity could include the following:

  • Chase up all the leads and enquiries that you have received in the last few months. The biggest reason why sales are lost is due to a lack of follow up. So now is the time to e-mail, call, text, and meet with all of those people that have shown interest in your product, but that you never secured as a client.
  • Follow up with existing clients. It is a fact that it is easier and less costly to win more business from existing customers than it is to win completely new customers. Now is the time to engage with your client base and understand where you may be able to help them further, what other products do you have that they could gain value from, and what is the client’s pathway going to look like for coming months or even year using your product.
  1. Work on your product offering.

New products and services, associated products, complimentary products, additional services, new partnerships, new systems… Whatever it is, now is a good time to work on these sorts of things to build further revenue streams for FY2018. With a year of listening and observing your team and your customers, as well as the market you play in, there is no doubt that all of this learning can be utilised to open up new revenue streams for your business.

  1. Build your Marketing Assault

So, your budgeting and marketing planning didn’t quite happen before the financial year begun. No biggy. Start it now! You have about a month or so to build your marketing plan ready for execution in the coming months. Some best practice steps could include:

  • Analyse your business metrics, your client base, and your market to understand the areas of opportunity to gain revenue.
  • Decide on your target market. It is always a good idea to be as narrow as possible to ensure you cut through all of the marketing noise out there. In terms of your marketing messaging the old saying goes: “If you are talking to everyone, it means you are talking to no-one”
  • Schedule your marketing activity and what the execution is going to look like. For some businesses, it will be relevant to have a new marketing campaign every month. For others it may be quarterly, or even half yearly. No matter what your schedule is, be sure to have all of your activity synced across all off-line and on-line platforms so your marketing message is clear and strong.

I like to use wall calendars you get for free in the mail from your stationary supplier and scribble all over them to build my marketing plans. I like to keep it as simple as possible, with no more than one activity happening at a time to ensure the execution is effective. The last action is to make sure there is plenty of action! Once plans have been made then you and your team need to commit. Amplify your sales and marketing by talking a lot. That means picking up the phone, regular e-mailing, booking meetings, talking within existing meetings, utilising social media and your website, and even using snail mail. Be sure to always have your printed material at the ready whenever you are customer facing. Be sure to follow Up a lot and always aim to be proactive.

And, yes – in Marketing terms Christmas is here!