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Tip Sheet

Channel Your Fury Before you Go Nuclear and More Tips for January

Plus suggestions for getting in customers’ heads and making them talk.

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COMMUNICATIONChannel Your Fury

If you find yourself in a rage about a mistake someone has made, draft your angry missive in Notes or Notepad so you can’t immediately send it. If possible, wait at least 12 hours before you act. If you’re still angry and think it’s still the best option, go nuclear. We’re guessing most times you won’t.

PRODUCTIVITYTalk to Your Staff

Tony Hsieh, the tech entrepreneur who died suddenly last month, was as well known for his efforts to foster company culture (a $2,000 payout for new hires to quit if they weren’t happy) as for his companies (Zappos). To boost staff engagement and productivity, he offered a simple tip — “just talk to your employees. Ask them what would make them happy.” That focus on worker welfare built a billion-dollar company renowned for exceptional service.

SALESGet In Their Heads

A recent New York Times article about the persuasive power of mimicry cited the example of legendary auto-parts salesman Veldon Smith. “I would learn as much as possible about a client before I visited, what their problem was, what they were worried about,” he told the paper. “Then I would go in with a story about myself being in the same predicament. So when I walked in, I was in exactly the same frame of mind as the customer… Everything else … flowed out of that.”

MANAGEMENTSet Blackout Dates

Before the new year gets much older lay out a calendar for your team of blackout dates for vacations. These can include in-store events, holidays, and other dates when you need everyone present. “It is important to provide this in January to let your team know you are aware they have lives outside of work” while also locking in staffing resources, says Megan Crabtree of Crabtree Consulting.

MANAGEMENTPraise Quick & Often

Guessing performance would improve if workers received more immediate feedback, researchers at Appalachian State University configured the handheld units of 23 stock replenishers to show them how they were doing against labor standards at the end of each task. The result: Employee performance leapt 24 percent, as cited by Modern Materials Handeling (yes, we’re regular readers). What’s it mean for you? Be on the lookout for positive staff behaviors you can reinforce.

GROWTHPick the Small Fish

Successful businesses often pursue ever-more lucrative customers as they become more established. The best customers are usually at the high end, and it pays to develop a model that responds to their needs. But it also means other customers get left behind. If you have a competitor in your area who is more upmarket, why not ask for the names of its “inactive” clients? Offer to buy the list or share profits if you make a sale. This could give you access to customer lists built up over decades for basically nothing, says marketing consultant Jay Abraham.

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MARKETINGMake ’Em Talk

Every business guru seems to be touting word-of-mouth marketing. But few suggest how to actually generate it. Made To Stick authors Chip and Dan Heath come closer with their “105 percent rule.” The 5 percent refers to the little things that make you stand out. In a Fast Company column, they cite examples, including: Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, OR, whose voodoo-doll-shaped doughnuts bleed jelly when stuck with a pretzel pin; and Innocent Drinks, a British smoothie maker that hires grannies to knit little hats for its winter drinks (so they don’t catch a cold). Give ’em something to talk about.

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