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Kenneth W. Keller: Summer is over, here’s how to get back to work

Inside Business

Posted: August 11, 2009 4:21 p.m.
Updated: August 12, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Labor Day officially marks the end of summer. Yet those in Entrepreneurial America know that it is past time to get back to work.

Thoughts have already turned to achieving the goals set at the beginning of the year.

There are four-plus months left, still plenty of time to turn things around and make the numbers before the end of the year. Here is the recipe for doing just that.

n First, get employees back on the schedule. Summer means more flexibility; people arriving late and leaving early; taking days off and vacation time. Reinforce what time work starts, how long breaks are, what the lunch schedule is and when leaving time. This includes management and sales; chances are they took advantage of the summer too.   

n Second, in the next two weeks, make sure that each employee has had a short, to the point performance evaluation. This means a quick but serious conversation about what the employee is doing well, what needs improvement, and what the employee needs to be doing to improve.

Be specific  
  • Third, get crystal clear about expectations for the rest of the year. Sit with each manager (and each manager with each of their employees) to communicate and agree on specific objectives to be achieved by the end of the year. The owner has to be clear about what they want before any meetings can take place; otherwise every meeting will be a waste of time.

  • Fourth, calendar regular meetings with managers and ask that your managers hold regular meetings with their direct reports.

Verify these meetings are being held by asking for a schedule. Tell each manager that you will be sitting in on at least one meeting they have with their direct reports each month to make certain they are being held.

  • Fifth, review the list of lost customers for the first seven months of the year. Assign someone to verify why the customer is no longer buying. It could be that the company went out of business or that their buying cycle has increased in length but until it is confirmed they can no longer buy, proceed with the idea that they can buy but haven’t. Find out why.
  • Sixth, review the prospect pipeline. This is where many companies fall down during difficult times; they make the guess that no one is buying when in fact many companies are still doing fine; they just have not been contacted by your company.
  • Seventh, start a sales training on prospecting. Every company needs more prospects for new business. One of the best ways to learn something is to have to teach it, so have the entire sales team take one aspect of the sales prospecting cycle and create a lesson to teach the others in the department.
  • Eighth, take time to review profitability by customer. Each customer should be categorized; most companies have a ranking system of A, B or C depending on various criteria. Each month take time to review those customers in each category and see what can be done to improve profitability. One way to improve profits is to find additional products or services to sell to existing customers. This requires broadening the base of advocates within a customer organization, not always easy but essential.
  • Ninth, every organization leaks money. Reducing unneeded outlays pays dividends for years. Saving $100 a month on seldom used telephone services, as an example, saves $1200 a year for every year going forward. Set up an incentive program for employees to share in the savings. Every dollar saved goes right to the bottom line.
  • Tenth, focus on alignment. The job of a leader is to get everyone focused and moving in the same direction. People need to know what the company goals are. Tell them. Be specific. Make it measurable. Ask how they can help achieve company goals.

Listen. Appreciate the answers. Communicate the goals. Hand goals to people in writing so that they know what the goals are.

Remind them every day until they are tired of hearing it.

Let these words be your driving force for the rest of the year: What we have is based upon moment-to-moment choices of what we do. In each of those moments, we choose. We either take a risk or move toward what we want, or we play it safe and choose comfort. Most of the people, most of the time, choose comfort. In the end, people either have excuses or experiences; reasons or results; buts or brilliance. They either have what they wanted or they have a detailed list of all the rational reasons why not.

Ken Keller is president of Renaissance Executive Forums, which brings business owners together in facilitated peer advisory boards. His column represents his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.



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