“Undercover Boss” Uncovers Bad Leadership

by Lisbeth Calandrino - February 28th, 2015

After watching season after season of “Undercover Boss” I’m thinking we need a show called “Undercover Employees.” They could find out what their bosses are doing.

“Undercover Boss” is an American reality television series, based on the British series of the same name and producted by Studio Lambert in both countries. Just as the title suggests, the boss goes undercover to see what his entry-level employees are doing.

Two things that seem glaring; there is little customer service training and “bosses” don’t know what’s going on in their businesses. In fact, most of the bosses are amazed at what’s going on!

I was watching the “Undercover Boss” last week and was disturbed by the boss’s decisions. He was very generous with the employees he worked with, giving them large sums of money. The problem, as I see it, is that people were getting money to help with their “troubled lives” but weren’t asked to “better themselves” or attend schools, so they could obtain leadership positions.

My hunch is the people will spend their money, have great vacations or new toys but what will they have learned? I believe that people will be more apt to change if there are some conditions to these generous gifts. In fact, I feel so strongly about it, I sent a letter to the “Undercover Boss” and sent some customer service books. I don’t know if I’ll get an answer, but maybe the letter with my suggestions will get read! My biggest gripe, where in the business world do people get free handouts with no “strings attached?” And what’s the point if the gift isn’t connected with your business?

One great thing about the program is that bosses get to understand their employee struggles and help them grow. One of the best ways to help them grow is to provide opportunities for them to advance within the organization. Promoting good employees is essential to their learning.

In order for a business to perform adequately the “boss” must be able to communicate with his employees.

There must be a way for the boss to know what their employees are doing without spying on them. This reminds me of mystery shopping; another task that I think is ridiculous. If you think your employees are not acting appropriately they probably aren’t. This problem usually starts when a company doesn’t have a suitable training and accountability program. Teaching and training is one thing, if you don’t hold people accountable for what’s expected to don’t waste the training program. CEO’s must create a business model that is in line with the customer’s and employee’s needs.

Everything goes back to customer service and how customers are being treated. Front line employees are the ones who need the training and usually get the least amount. Because they’re not seen as the ones who “bring in the money,” they typically don’t get best training.

So far, 100% of the companies have leaders who have no idea of what’s going on in their businesses. How sad.

Many of the problems could be avoided if the leader spent time reading employee evaluations and staying in touch with their businesses. No matter what business you have, the only thing that makes it work is the customers. The first customer of any business is the employees.

Lisbeth Calandrino
Fabulous Floors
Associate Publisher & Director of Consumer Research
lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com

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35 Great Business Questions

by Dan Lacy - January 28th, 2015

One of the biggest questions that is continually in the forefront of a business owner/managers mind is – how do I become a better ____________ (you fill in the blank).

So how do we become better? Not long ago, I had a learning break-through. I was in a training session and the leader (Aaron Prickle at Lushin) made this comment: “it’s not the statements you make, it’s the questions you ask.” Aaron was specifically talking about selling, but this applies across the board to just about everything.

Questions ignite imaginations, avert catastrophes and reveal unexpected paths to brighter destinations. Inc. magazine, in the April 2014 issue, has compiled a list of 35 questions from great business leaders that will stimulate your thinking about your own business.

1. How can we become the company that would put us out of business?

2. Are we relevant? Will we be relevant five years from now? Ten?

3. If energy were free, what would we do differently? Or if not energy, then choose another key word that drives your business (labor, storage, fuel).

4. What is it like to work for me?

5. If we weren’t already in this business, would we enter it today? And if not, what are we going to do about it?

6. What trophy do we want on our mantle? Is growth most important? Profitability, stability?

7. Do we have bad profits? Some products/services look attractive, but are they taking the company capital and focus away from its main line of business?

8. What counts that we are not counting? What tangible and intangible assets truly differentiate your business that you currently have no means of measuring?

9. In the past few months, what is the smallest change you have made that has had the biggest positive result? What was it about that small change that produced the largest return?

10.Are you paying enough attention to the partners your company depends on to succeed?

11. What prevents me from making the changes I know will make me a more effective leader?

12. What are the implications of this decision 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 year from now?

13. Do I make eye contact 100 percent of the time?

14. What is the smallest subset of the problem we can usefully solve?

15. Are we changing as fast as the world around us?

16. If no one would ever find out about my accomplishments, how would I lead differently?

17. Which customers can’t participate in our market because they lack skills, wealth, or convenient access to existing solutions?

18. Who uses our product in ways we never expected?

19. How likely is it that a customer would recommend our company to a friend or colleague?

20. Is this an issue for analysis or intuition? If it’s a decision that’s important, recurring, and amendable to improvement, you should invest in gathering data, doing analysis and examining failure factors. If it’s a decision you will only make once, or if you cannot get the data or improve the decision making process, you might as well go with your experience and intuition.

21. Who on the executive team or the board has spoken to a customer recently?

22. Did my employees make any progress today? Forward momentum in employees’ work has the greatest positive impact on their motivation.

23. What one word do we want to own in the minds of our customers, employees and partners?

24. What should we stop doing? Peter Drucker is famous for this question; he was also a great teacher and he always re-enforced the importance of asking questions.

25. What are the gaps in my knowledge and expertise?

26. What am I trying to prove to myself, and how might it be hijacking my life and business success?

27. If the board brought in a new CEO, what would he/she do?

28. If I had to leave my organization for a year and the only communications I could have with employees was a single paragraph, what would I write? Pat Lencioni states that “determining the substance of this paragraph forces you to identify the company’s core values and strategies, and the roles and responsibilities of those hypothetically left behind.”

29. Who have we, as a company, historically been when we’ve been at our best?

30. What do we stand for – and what are we against?

31. Is there any reason to believe the opposite of my current belief?

32. Do we underestimate the customer’s journey? Matt Dixon explains “often, companies don’t understand the entirety of the customer’s experience; how many times have they searched for a solution on our web page, only to go to the Contact tab out of frustration, which is where the company thinks is step one for the customer?”

33. Among our stronger employees, how many see themselves at the company in three years? How many would leave for a 10 percent raise from another company?

34. What did we miss in the interview for the worst hire we ever made? (Here’s one I learned – if you are looking to hire an organized highly detailed person, walk with them to their car after the interview and look inside.)

35. Do we have the right people on the bus? This is very important – your key people could be in the wrong seat.

Dan Lacy
Growth & Profit Coach, Financial Strategist, Cash Flow Doctor, CEO Mentor
dan@dynastybuilder.com
phone: 765-644-8887

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Five Effective Ways to Appreciate Your Best Customers

by Tony Rubleski - December 29th, 2014

#1: Hold thank-you events. When you show appreciation and sponsor or host an event, it’s a great way to not only meet with your best customers, but also catch up on how they’re doing. I’ve always been amazed that more people don’t employ this strategy. The amount of goodwill, fun, and positive word-of-mouth far outweigh the costs to host the event.

#2: Send birthday cards. This is old school marketing 101 that so few businesses employ. When someone gets an unexpected card in the mail it leaves a huge impression. In the age of email, texts and Facebook, the temptation is to choose the easiest path. Good old-fashioned birthday cards still go a long way to building goodwill.

#3: Thank customers for their referrals. Referrals are powerful. I’m an advocate that you should not only track where referrals come from, but more importantly thank the person who sent them to you. I love hand-written thank you notes along with a small gift such as a box of cookies, a book, or gift certificate. In addition, a phone call is always a smart idea.

#4: Send them business. Besides doing business if possible with your best customers, you should always be seeking ways to help them grow. By getting to know who they work with, you can often think of and refer people in your circle of influence to them. I do this a lot. It not only show that I appreciate them, but that I believe and trust them enough to send people I know their direction.

#5: Offer them new products and promotions first. People love the feeling of being exclusive and special. Anytime I roll out a new service, talk, event, or book I bring it to my best clients first. In addition, as a thank you I include special promotions just for them as a thanks for their ongoing patronage and referrals. It’s amazing to me how many businesses create special promotions for new customers only and then completely skip over their current ones. This to me short-sided thinking and foolish.

I hope this short, yet effective list, has inspired you to make appreciating your customers a priority now and in the future!

Tony Rubleski
Mind Capture
616-638-3912
www.mindcapturegroup.com

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Current, Former Carmel Signarama Owners Both Come Out Ahead

by Jason Sophian - November 17th, 2014

Carmel Signarama owner Jay Patel

Carmel Signarama owner Jay Patel


(Carmel, Indiana)—One of the most basic axioms of a successful business deal is that the smoothest transaction is the one which leaves all parties happy. Current Carmel Signarama owner Jay Patel and former owner Joel Hall can both tell you firsthand how true that statement really is. In March, 2014, Patel purchased then-owner Hall’s successful Signarama business where he has since worked to both maintain business continuity to keep existing customers happy, while also putting his own stamp on the business as he seeks continued growth.

From his side of the transaction, Joel Hall, the store’s previous owner, found the process to be just as painless. “I worked hard to build a solid business and increased the value of this location by 400%,” says Hall. “United Franchise Group, the parent company for Signarama, values the overall business ownership process as an exit strategy.”

That’s the purpose of Signarama’s Mentor Program, which Hall headed up for the world’s largest sign franchise. “We found that experienced business buyers value the mentor program. Franchisee peer support and transition planning comes from our group and the new franchisees benefit greatly from taking part in it during a resale such as ours,” Hall adds.

In fact, Hall enjoyed his part in the Signarama Mentor Program so much, it was one of the reasons he sold his business and says, “This is the Best Exit Strategy One Could Have.” He is now pursuing his passion of educating college students on entrepreneurship and owning a business or a franchise.

Former Signarama owner Joel Hall

Former Signarama owner Joel Hall

Patel is working to keep—and grow—upon Hall’s success. “First and foremost, I placed an emphasis on keeping the customers that have been coming here for years,” says Patel. “It was nice to own a business that had already proven to be successful.” No stranger to entrepreneurship, Patel has business acumen gained from over 18 years of successful ownership experience, beginning with a single dry cleaning company which expanded to five by the time he sold the operation, as well as experience as the owner of a non-emergency medical transportation business.

For his part as both a former owner and reseller, Hall shares his advice for the next-generation of franchisees. “There is an incredible amount of work that needs to be put in to running and growing a business. At some point the business will transition into new management or ownership and many owners worry about ‘what am I going to do?’ after the business sells. During my ‘journey’ I found out that I like to teach. So, after 14 years of building a successful business and then selling it, I now teach full time and love it. The hard work does pay off.”

ABOUT SIGNARAMA
Signarama, www.signarama.com, the world’s largest sign franchise, offers branding and messaging solutions in addition to comprehensive sign and graphic services to consumers and commercial customers – from business signs, vehicle wraps, and digital signs, to advertising and marketing services. Signarama is part of a successful system of business-to-business franchise brands and development services under the United Franchise Group. As part of the $49-billion-plus worldwide sign market, Signarama has been at the forefront of the sign industry for more than two decades. Approaching 900 locations worldwide, the company expects to have more than 1,200 locations worldwide by the end of 2016.

For additional information, contact:
Jason Sophian
Sanderson & Associates
jason@sandersonpr.com
312-829-4350

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