Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Could Your Staff Be Ruining Your Business?

"Hire tough so you can manage easy", is the thought that repeats itself through most business books, essentially. We, who are business owners, can all give mental assent to that ideology, but essentially, are we putting into practise what we truly believe? When the rubber hits the road, what's really going on?
The first point of contact many businesses have with their clients, believe it or not, is still the lowly phone.
If that person who is "the gatekeeper" has little to no social and phone skills, the business owner can expect their sales and their reputation as a company to plummet. Maybe you have the best product or service out there. Maybe no one can do it better than you- but yet, if you've mistakenly placed Mrs. Whiggins in charge of compelling that consumer to fork over hard earned, cold hard cash, in this economy, you are going to be in a world of hurt as a company.
For example, let me give you two exact businesses with two completely different out comes.
As you know, Eliot (my Yorkie) was not well yesterday. I first picked up the phone to give the business to a vet who is in the Chamber of Commerce with me. His name is John. John owns his clinic and his receptionist answered the phone using the following:
"Hello. This is Blah Blah Animal Clinic. This is Diane. How may I help you?"
When I, with fear and trepidation, explained to Diane what was going on, she thoroughly listened to me, asked questions, and gave me the information I needed, pronto. She further instructed me not to hesitate to call back if I needed anything or had any further questions.
The only reason I did not book with John was because he was out of the office as it was late in the afternoon, nearly the close of the business day, and he was on call. I felt bad to have him be called back to the office- so I called my first vet who I had established before John joined the Chamber. Wisely, John has Ms. Dreamboat answering his phones. She made me feel valued, and isn't that what we all want?
Calling vet #1 was an entirely different scenario. This receptionist could barely muster up enough vigor to say, "Hello"! And you could tell even that much was putting her out! Part of me wanted to say, "Never freakin' MIND." But Eliot was really ill and I needed him seen right away.
The vet I finally got into see (even at yet another hospital because that vet #1 was also gone for the day) was absolutely wonderful, kind, reassuring, gracious and honest. Plus he spoke with the most darling British accent. I have to say though, his receptionist was only a tad better than the one who was a real stinker-oo, and if I was not in a pinch, I would not have booked!
Don Preston is a first class business guru. One day we were talking and he was saying, "The Mission Statement of the business has to be so clearly and thoroughly articulated to the staff, that even without you being there, they make decisions in keeping with the integrity of that mission statement. Everyone has to know the intrinsic value of the business and what it stands for and how to carry that out day to day."
I own a business who's tag line (as it is a business to business enterprise) states;
"Our REAL business is getting people to YOUR business!"
I have to say- this one particular client of ours has everything going for it. Fabulous location. Fabulous atmosphere. Fabulous product. What they don't have, tragically, is a staff that has a sense of urgency regarding customer's needs. We have seen people walk out the door upset; and you know they are not coming back! Plus, have you heard that when people encounter bad service, they go and tell TEN of their friends? "Yeah, you know that place? Yeah, don't go there."
So as fast as we get new people over there, their inept staff is losing them!
I'm reading the book anew- "When You Say 'Yes' but Mean 'No'- How Silencing Conflict Wrecks Relationships and Companies...and What You Can Do About It." Leslie A Perlow- Harvard Business School
That title is loaded with wisdom. There is a way, however, to be diplomatic and sensitive in dealing with problems. Because, if you are in business, you are going to have problems; solving problems is what you're paid to do. Certainly I am not going to go to my clients and accuse unmercifully, "Are you guys absolutely clueless!? Don't you see what's happening?! Are you going to let these goobers sabotage your company and then you can't pay back your SBA loan and wreck your retirement and your entire future? Do you want to live in the projects? Be on welfare? Oh my God!" (Well, I articulated that so easily, I hope I don't burst out and blab that to them.)
Entrepreneur Chick believes that these two things are non-negotiable.
(1) Hire people with integrity, a good set of social skills, and a good work ethic. Hire tough.
(2) Teach those people what you expect, with clear and easy to understand protocol~ which exemplifies who you are as a company and which sets you apart from your competitors. Give them superior training.
Anything less than this mindset is as precarious as Lindsey Lohan's sobriety on New Years Eve.


  1. Great advice. It is more difficult than said, but managable. My advice is post ads asking for the desired characteristics and desired integrity first and skill set second. Skills can be taught, but character and integrity rarely change. Bring in the candidate and spend 30-45 minutes talking about your company vision, culture and how people are expected to behave. Give them a reason to leave at this point. If they stay, then you are headed in the right direction. Now talk about expected duties. If they are still interested have them come in for a day to do a trial. You will learn more about the individual that day and how they would fit into your culture than any interview would permit. If you have multiple candidates have them all come in at the same time and go through the same process. Sounds odd, but will save you numerous hours of interview time and let them know it is about your company and not their jobs.

  2. That is excellent advice! As a matter of fact, I'm going to print that out so I can keep it.
    Let me ask you though- what's your thoughts about hiring people you know versus running an add? We have an excellent staff this year because everyone came to us on the basis of someone else's belief that they'd be good.
    However, I have one particular company in which I'm hiring sales reps. I hired someone who I knew, yesterday. But to go where are vision is- I think we might need to run an add just for the sheer numbers of it. Which do you think is better?

  3. uh.. didn't spell check. That's "ad" and "our". It's the blond hair.