As if the holidays didn’t impose sufficient stress upon normal human beings, those in management must also cope with the added burden of managing not only their own stress but also the stress of those who report to them. After all, that’s what good bosses do. They make every effort to reduce the stress of those who work for them.
New Year’s Day imposes even more stress with its tradition of making promises that (1) most of us know we won’t fulfill and (2) simply aren’t realistic, thereby inviting failure. Don’t fall into that trap and don’t drag your employees into that quagmire with you.
Corporate culture starts at the top and trickles down to front-line employees who follow their bosses’ actions. After all, the boss who claims no employee has more work than he or she can handle within a 40-hour work week and then proceeds to work 60 or more hours a week gives lie to those words. Not only do employees infer that 40 hours of work a week as inadequate, but they immediately learn that the boss’ can’t be truthful and, therefore, can’t be trusted.
Therefore, the good boss models the behavior, attitude, and action that he or she wants employees to emulate, not only for their own good, but for the good of the business. Let’s face it, disgruntled, tired, cynical, exhausted employees–and bosses–can’t be productive. So, instead of declaring New Year’s resolutions that directly address the bottom line, perhaps focus on resolutions that cater to the wellbeing of the people who work there and let the bottom line improve as a result of a happier, more energetic, more productive staff.
So, after you’ve wiped the sweat and holiday glitter from your brow, how do you do this?
Not every request by a client or by a superior higher up on the corporate food chain needs immediate attention, immediate fulfillment, or even satisfaction. Fox News, Forbes, and Entrepreneur all offer similar advice to handle last-minute or unreasonable requests.
There’s a lot to be said for the Serenity Prayer, which advises learning the difference between what you can control and what you can’t. This simple wisdom serves as a launching pad for action, which asserts control.
The simple directive to act entails other choices and stress management strategies, such as taking a few deep breaths to restore composure and eliminating those infernal interruptions that distract you from your work. Managing interruptions may be as simple as telling your assistant to hold your calls or ignoring the constant barrage of email messages until you’ve completed the task at hand.
Both Business Insider and Psychology Today agree that not only is multitasking inefficient, but it also interferes with productivity and reduces capability. No one’s truly good at multitasking anyway. Although research has long since proven the fallacy of multitasking, most businesses still tow that party line from the 1990s.
You’d think business could find a new fad to follow. Or perhaps your business could start that new fad called “focus.”
Everyone knows the importance of a proper diet and adequate rest. That doesn’t mean everyone acts in accordance with such knowledge. People who disconnect from the job, eat properly, get adequate sleep, exercise, and make time for personal priorities, enjoy better health, job engagement, and higher productivity. Take care of yourself and your family as a model for your employees to follow so they can take care of themselves and their families. The resulting benefits to them will culminate in a positive effect on the corporate bottom line.
Resolutions are not bad. Sustainable business growth depends upon goals and the processes to achieve them. Heggen Group will help you define the right goals for your business and then help you develop a feasible path to achieve them. Contact us to learn more.
Corporate culture and strategy follow the truisms of plumbing. Like water, communication always runs downhill. In other words, business success begins at the top and flows down through the ranks to the people who actually do the work of carrying out the business. All too often, the folks sitting in the leather chairs in the C-suites forget that their businesses rise and fall on the bottom-rung receptionists who answer the phones, counter clerks who face customers all day long, and waiters who take and deliver the orders in dining establishments.
If the workers with whom your customers interact don’t understand the corporate goals, don’t have the training to support those goals, or don’t trust in the managers who impose those goals upon them, then two things can happen: customers stop buying your products or services and at the same time good employees quit. Either consequence results in a cascade of poor morale, poor performance, and eventually business closure.
Once you (and your executive committee, if you have one) have determined the vision and mission for the business and plotted out the organization-wide strategies for accomplishing those grand ambitions, it’s time to inform every single employee. If the size of the corporation prohibits direct communication of executives to front-line employees, then more work may be required to phrase or explain the goals and strategies so that directors, managers, and supervisors can convey the information and expectations clearly to those employees who report to them, as well as answer their questions.
Writing for Business Performance, Leslie Allan AIMM, MAITD, recommends that executives use all the tools available within the company to communicate with all employees. Effective communication requires a strategy, as well as methods, for delivery. Allan also emphasizes the importance of direct, personal communication:
[T]he most crucial communication about objectives comes from each employee’s direct supervisor or manager. Without this conversation, the employee’s efforts will weaken, as they perceive their immediate manager to be driven by other priorities.
How communication takes place affects comprehension. Although one should never assume that the rank-and-file workers are stupid, executives must remember that those same workers are not privy to the discussions leading up to the finalized vision, mission, and strategies. Writing for Harvard Business Review, Georgia Everse suggests keeping the message simple. Simple means neither shallow nor easy. Simple effectively carries deep meaning and that meaning must be made relevant to employees “in a way that makes them care more about the company and about the job they do.” Every message must imbue that deeper meaning to keep workers connected to the overarching objectives of the company–the company’s purpose and how to achieve it. Employees who do not understand the information conveyed cannot be expected to carry it out.
Corporate messages exist for three purposes: to inspire, to educate or inform, and to reinforce. Content and tone convey the purpose of each message, so executives and managers must take care to exert all effort to avoid misunderstanding and misinterpretation, which can ruin the message and sow discontent and confusion. Be sincere and make a genuine effort to open a dialogue with employees. The “fake it ’til you make it” mantra doesn’t apply here.
The process of communication requires that you keep in mind the following: the audience, the purpose of the message, the timing of delivery, and the method of delivery. Creativity, relevance, and sincerity will improve understanding, acceptance, and execution.
What makes your business unique also gives it a competitive advantage, regardless of your industry niche. Take a look at the biggies, like Walmart. This enormously successful discount retailer built its empire on low prices without regard for product quality, customer service, or even living wages for rank-and-file employees. Catering to a buying public trained to seek the lowest cost option, the strategy proved wildly successful and drove many small businesses out of business because they couldn’t compete with the cutthroat business practice.
Instructor Jennifer Lombardo’s class on competitive advantage with Study.com, which offers online business courses, states that competitive advantage comes in three basic varieties: cost, product/service differentiation, and niche strategies. Companies enjoy cost advantages when they control and reduce costs, thus enabling them to offer their products and/or services for a lower price than their competitors. Product or service differentiation arises when a company offers its market that its customers perceive as unique and deserving of their loyalty. Customer loyalty often hinges on perceptions of esteem, which wax and wane with the rise and ebb of popularity. Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Co leverage that strategy with their branded soft drinks: you’ll seldom find a Coke aficionado who willingly chooses Pepsi over his preferred beverage. Niche strategy as a competitive advantage basically means the company offers something not already available in the market. The company then demonstrates the value of the new product or service, thus creating and building demand.
The beauty and the bane of these three garden varieties of market success is that other companies soon see the brilliance of the strategy and hop on the bandwagon. They often improve on what the innovator did, which can then shove that first company out of the market unless it continues to innovate and improve.
Small businesses, such as consultant firms, must go beyond the garden variety strategy to capture enough market share to sustain operation. Some businesses can take advantage of geography. After all, the only theriogenologist in a rural county probably won’t have much competition from other veterinarians who don’t have the exalted certification. A home remodeling contractor must prove his value within a limited geographic area, unless he rises to celebrity status like the Silva Brothers of This Old House or Mike Holmes of Holmes on Homes.
On the other hand, some service-based businesses don’t depend upon geography. That, of course, confers both benefits and challenges. That business’ market grows exponentially, but so does its competition. That means the business owner (or entrepreneur, if you wish) must find something that distinguishes his or her business as unique, special, and eminently better qualified than any other business. Such distinctions may focus on certifications, awards, a famous clientele, or an extremely narrow niche that speaks to highly specialized knowledge.
Uniqueness often works in a young industry. Industry maturity results in a crowded playing field. According to Alexander Kandybin and Surbhee Gover writing for Strategy+ Business, “To succeed in a mature industry like consumer products, the trick isn’t being first — it’s being hard to copy.” When a mature business struggles to maintain or grow market share, marketing and advertising step in to identify what the market wants and then to build demand through the injection of new ideas generated to appeal to the customer base. Those ideas might be a new focus, new flavors, new features or technologies, or even a new line of products or services. Mature companies that rest upon marketing and advertisement usually see small, incremental improvements and changes rather than true innovation.
The concept of a competitive advantage, says Martin Zwilling in his article for Business Insider, “should be taken broadly to include alternative ways that people might solve the problem you are addressing.” Advantage, he says, “needs to be measurable and significant.” This requires a degree of abstraction that can be codified with a “How-Why” process such as used by value engineers. Once you complete the process and reach a viable definition, your business is on the way to capturing operational sustainability.