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Tip Sheet: Take Consistent, Small Steps To Finish That Big Project

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Divide Job

Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs. Henry Ford said that 100-odd years ago and it remains true today, whether you apply it to a big project at work or self-improvement. The Japanese call this Kaizen, or change for the better. Spring is the perfect time to try this concept — so for the next month, commit to devoting just 15 minutes a day toward small steps on a big project. Divide, conquer and watch your business bloom.

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 edition of INVISION.


MAKE IT A GAME

The most successful salespveople have a knack for remembering people. As a consultant for a major brewing company, author and consultant Marcus Buckingham devised a program to test a critical skill for a good bartender: remembering customers, by face and by their favorite drinks. Bartenders who could remember a total of 100 different customers and their favorite drinks were named members of “The 100 Club,” with a cash prize and a special button to wear on their uniform. There were additional levels, rising up to the world-class “500 Club.” But Buckingham underestimated — eventually, an English bartender surprised everybody by becoming the first member of “The 3,000 Club.” Could you come up with a similar program for your business?


TALENT SCOUT

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Do you think of your staff as “payroll,” “employees,” “human resources” or “talent”? Author Seth Godin thinks you should view them as “talent,” arguing that such an understanding holds the key to success in today’s skills-based business environment. “What if you started acting like the Vice President of Talent? Understand that talent is hard to find and not obvious to manage,” Godin writes on his blog. “Talent is too smart to stay long at a company that wants it to be a cog in a machine. Great companies want and need talent, but they have to work for it.”


EVERY MESSAGE IS A BRANDING MESSAGE

“Oh, it’s just a ‘help wanted’ ad. The only people who are going see it are people looking for jobs.” Wrong way to think. You need to view every type of business activity as a chance to engage people and seed your story. That means doing things like adding your company slogan and Web address everywhere and making the extra effort to ensure that your company logo appears correctly. You might even spend a few extra dollars for the featured ad option. Make sure that every place your brand can be seen, no matter how small, sends a message of quality.


FIND THE RIGHT COMBINATION

You’re always looking for a way to incentivize a purchase of an annual contact lens supply. Annual supplies make things easier on you and your clients. For example, the Clinic For Vision in Albertville, Alberta, Canada, offers a $25 discount on sunglasses with any annual contact lens supply.

BECOME A MEETING MISER

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Meetings are an invaluable part of any successful business, but they can also be tremendous time-wasters. And since time is money, well, you get the point. To get an idea of how much a one-hour meeting costs your business, use the meeting cost calculator at Meeting King (invmag.us/meetfast). Multiply that number by the number of meetings you hold weekly, monthly or annually, and you’ll see quite a large number. Don’t get us wrong — meetings are absolutely essential. But they’re also filled with wasted time and effort. Having a firm grasp of what each meeting costs should inspire you to trim the fat.


HAVE A SIT-DOWN

From Seth Godin’s The Big Moo, take a cue from entrepreneurial hotelier Chip Conley of Joie de Vivre properties. Make it a habit to sit down with your new hires after about three months. But don’t give them a performance review — ask them to give your operation a performance review. After three months, they’ll have been on the job long enough to know how things work, but their eyes are still fresh enough that they’ll be able to see things you’re missing. Odds are good that they’ll have a few great ideas to contribute, Godin says.

 

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How to Get the Best Employees and More Questions for May

Plus, how to get that chatty, great employee to actually close the sale.

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What’s a good way to sell our company to prospective employees — particularly top salespeople?

Just about the most valuable skill a businessperson can have is the ability to recruit and retain good people and yes, it all starts with that job posting. “When the right people read your ad, their hearts will whisper, ‘These people are like me, and I am like them,’ says Roy H. Williams, author of the business bestseller The Wizard of Ads. Bullet point what the job entails, what kind of inventory they will be handling, and the benefits, but the core message should be about who you are as a company, your reputation and your goals. The best salespeople often don’t have a sales background so go easy on the requirements. Your message should be more about culture than qualifications.

Podcast: What the Heck is Marketing? And What Should ECPs Focus on to Attract New Clients?
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: What the Heck is Marketing? And What Should ECPs Focus on to Attract New Clients?

Podcast: More Ways to Motivate Your Own Eyecare Business Team
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: More Ways to Motivate Your Own Eyecare Business Team

Podcast: Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Is it legal for retailers to say they are selling at wholesale prices?

In short, no — unless they really are. Many states including Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Texas, California, New York, and Michigan have strict laws prohibiting the use of the word “wholesale” in retail advertisements. In some states, this is a criminal offense, due to the word’s ability to mislead consumers. Basically, if you advertise you are selling at wholesale prices it must be “the real wholesale price.” Some states define this as the price paid for the item from the supplier. Other states and the federal government say the price must be lower than the average price retailers would pay in the area.

We have a small store that is growing quite nicely. In fact, juggling rosters to avoid paying overtime is increasingly becoming an issue. I understand it can be tricky, but can we just move several employees to salaried positions? No more messy rosters. No more overtime. Right?

Likely very wrong. This is a strategy that “has been used so often to avoid paying rightful overtime, that it is written into the law through the Fair Labor Standards Act,” says Scott Clark, a lawyer and founder of the HTC Group. Yes, there are salaried positions for which there are exemptions from overtime rules, but they tend to be “true” management roles and jobs that require a college degree or technical training. They must also pay more than a minimum of $455 per week, and the salary must be the same every week (so if your employee wants time off to see the doctor you still have to pay his full weekly salary — no more docking wages for hours not worked). If it seems that the government is uncharacteristically protective of lower-income workers in this instance, never fear, it really isn’t. On the contrary, the government is very particular about all the taxes and Social Security that get paid on overtime. We’d say a better approach is to view your employees as an asset who make you money, not as an expense. Invest in your employees to make them more efficient, and they’ll make you even more money. Or hire the staff you actually need.

Where can I get hold of a good employee evaluation form?

As you’ve no doubt discovered, there are scores you can download to use as a model or template. Some, like those from educational institutions, are really quite detailed and cover every possible aspect of a job, while others are very basic. Our only advice when it comes to employee evaluations is that you not spend too much time on the whole process. While you may want the paper trail to protect yourself against lawsuits from former employees, there’s a growing view that reviews don’t really achieve much. Mary Jenkins, a co-author of Abolishing Performance Appraisals: Why They Backfire and What to Do Instead, advocates designing a system in which employees can seek feedback from people they work with, then draw up a skills-development plan with their manager — or you.

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Tip Sheet

‘Hate, Don’t Hate’ and More Tips for May

‘Squeeze, Release, Repeat.’ Don’t worry, it’s doctor approved!

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PRODUCTIVITYThe Mess Can Wait

If you feel the urge to tidy your desk before you start on meaningful work, The Guardian’s Oliver Burkeman has a simple rule for you and other “pre-crastinators” … reschedule. “If your job permits it, schedule a daily deck-clearing hour — but at 4:30pm, not 9am,” he says. “It’s time to abandon the secret pride we precrastinators feel in completing 25 small tasks by 10am: if they’re not the right tasks, that’s not … something to be proud of.” Instead, Burkeman recommends the time-worn advice to work on your most important project for the first hour of each workday.

sellingIt’s A Win Win

The stylists at Eye Candy Optical in Beachwood, OH, play a simple game called “hate, don’t hate” with their customers. “We used to say ‘like and hate’ but our customers found the word ‘like’ to be too committal,” say co-owners Steve Nelson and Anton Syzdykov. “If they ‘don’t hate it’ it stays in the tray. It’s that simple!” At the end of the game, the cream rises to the top and the customer can be certain they found the best frame, they say. Of course, the caveat is that it takes a very skilled person to lead this process. “They must know the person’s style, features, skin tone, color palette, occupation, and image they want to project. We are all psychologists, detectives, artists, and stylists.”

sellingKeep ’Em in Your Sights

Eye contact is important in any kind of sale. Jack Mitchell, author of Hug Your Customers, suggests asking your sales associates: “Do you know the color of your top customers’ eyes?” Quiz them on this once in a while. A customer’s eyes are the one thing they should remember. You are ECPs after all.

sellingGood Citizens

If you refer to potential customers as prospects or targets, Seth Godin urges you to stop and instead call them “citizens.” He says conventional “marketing-centric terms” don’t reflect the way power has shifted in the marketplace. “Citizens are no longer the weak, isolated pre-consumers in front of a TV set in 1971, with few options. Now, they appear to be holding all the cards.” Try it and “you can’t help but become a little more humble and a little more respectful,” he writes on his blog.

LEARNINGBrain Squeeze

This may sound a bit odd, but work with us, it’s doctor-approved. Dr. Allen Bradon, author of Learn Faster and Remember More, suggests bringing a tennis ball to work. When reading documents, squeeze the ball in your right hand. This will stimulate the left side of your brain, the side that processes words. If it’s blueprints or instructions with diagrams, switch to your left hand; the brain’s right side deals with spatial relationships.

sellingLike a Charm

Great sales mantra seen on the website of author and sales expert Jeffrey Gitomer at gitomer.com. A reader writes that while he is selling to a customer, he tells himself, “I am transferring enthusiasm, I am transferring enthusiasm.” That’s exactly what you should be doing.

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Tip Sheet

What’s the Title of Your Autobiography? And More Tips for April

Plus who doesn’t like a party? Especially when the ‘gifts’ are positive reviews for you business.

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planning Be an Idea Machine

Write down 10 ideas a day. “Do it for six straight months and see what happens. It actually turns into a super power,” says serial entrepreneur and author James Altucher. To collect his ideas, Altucher buys 1,000 waiter’s pads at a time from restaurant supplies websites (10 cents a pad). “They’re great for meetings because I have to keep concise lists, and they’re always good conversation starters.”

marketingThrow a Party

What month was your company born? Throw a birthday party and ask your customers to bring “gifts” of testimonials that you can use in your marketing. Including such third-party recommendations on your website and in your ads is one of the best ways around to convince others that your store is, indeed, the best place to shop, says Entrepreneur magazine’s Idea Site For Business.

managementThe Power of Perspective

When somebody gets down over a minor setback, ask them something in the vein of, “So that’s what you’re going to title your autobiography? I Had a Slice of Pizza and Spent the Rest of My Life as a Fat Blob?” And while sarcasm can motivate, best if you follow up with, “Hell no, you get back on track the next day as if nothing happened.” Our thanks to the Reddit diet community.

operationsDon’t Make It Weirder

Sign seen on the door of a store in Vulcan, Alberta: “No soliciting. Seriously, don’t make it weirder.”  Hat tip to Sarini Fine Jewellery for telling it in a tone that would warm the heart of Dr. Spock.

managementWhat Can I Do for You?

Once a month, make it a practice to individually ask each of your employees “What one thing can I do better for you?” After listening to and acknowledging the employee’s ideas, then tell them the one thing that they can do better for you that month. This helps build better communication, and keep both of you focused on continuous improvement, says Bob Nelson in 1001 Ways to Energize Employees.

salesNumbers Game

If quickly working out percentages, such as a 4% discount on a $75 item, trips you up, keep this hack in mind: It’s often easier to flip the sum, i.e. 75% of 4 (for which the answer is — and even we got this — 3!) 18% of 50, 14% of $300 (50% of $18, 300% of $14) … it’s a doddle, right?

communityShare the Ride

April brings us Earth Day (April 22), and if you’d like to do your bit to encourage a more sustainable way of living, take your cue from McCulley Optix Gallery in Fargo, ND, which gives credits to people who show a receipt for ride-share expenses to get to their office.

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