Business Owners: Your Sour Attitude Is Killing Your Business!

Being that this is the first post on my blog I figured I would start with the one who started it all, the owner!

Businesses wouldn’t exist if they didn’t have an owner. A business needs someone who holds a vested interest in the success or failure of it otherwise it would run completely out of control. The owner is the one that has his/her neck out on the line everyday; legally, financially, and even their public image. Yes, not all business owners are present at the business everyday, but in some way, shape, or form they typically check in for updates on the business. Ok! Yes there are some owners that just don’t give a crap about their business but I’ll leave that rant for another post.

So let me ask, are you the owner from hell? Does your business dread having u around? You might be surprised the damage you’re doing to your business day after day.

Despite the fact that the business owner is the one who has the most to lose, he/she isn’t always the most beneficial person for the business. Have you seen that show “Bar Rescue” with John Taffer? It airs on Spike Sundays at 9pm and is a “reality” show about failing businesses that are at their breaking point and have, as the show says, agreed to “pull back the doors, bust open the books and make the call for help to Bar Rescue”! The whole reason I brought up this show is that more times than not you’ll see that the failure of the business and the on going problems of the business are caused by the owner. This doesn’t seem to really make the most sense since the one who’s neck is on the line seems to care the least. But as the show progresses you see John start to peel back the layers of emotions that really cover up the “true owner”; the owner the business really needs.

Back to where it started!

So, you started this business! Maybe it was for the Benjamin’s, maybe it was for freedom from corporate prison, or maybe you saw a need and wanted to show others in your community and beyond how much better your idea or business was than the other schmucks out there! The point is that you once cared deeply about your business and you were on fire for success. You worked 7 days a week, 18 hours a day, and never shut up about what new product or feature your business was coming up with. What happened? Where did that passion go and why is your motivation about as dried up as the Mojave desert? Whatever the reason is I challenge you to get out of your funk and start living your life once again. I could spend hours writing on the many reasons why business owners seem to hit a wall and go down a slippery slope of progressive failure, but honestly I think you just need to start with some self-reflecting. Here’s a few tips that will help you get a better understanding of you and why you’re in the situation you’re in.

  1. Write down the last time you remember being in a good mood and happy, for a solid month, to be at work. Now write down two possible reasons why you were in a good mood whether they were work related or not.
  2. Write down the last time you remember being frustrated, depressed, and annoyed that you had to go to work.
  3. Write down two reasons why you started your business.
  4. Write down why you are still at the same business.
  5. Lastly, write down the one thing you wish your business could provide for you.

Take a look at what you wrote and see if you can find a rhyme and reason to your misery. There’s always an answer out there to every problem, but it usually is just a matter of finding it. Write me or post a comment and tell others what you came up with. You might find that you aren’t as alone in your situation as you think.

Where did that passion go and why is your motivation about as dried up as the mojave desert? Whatever the reason is I challenge you to get out of your funk and start living your life once again.

Your Sour Attitude

Ok! So we know why you started your business and hopefully you have some idea as to why you now hate your business. Or at least hate doing what you’re doing at your business. Let’s talk for a minute about why you might just be the business owner from hell.

Let me say, I hate the flu. It’s been a good several years since I’ve come down with it, but I figure I’ve made it through a good amount of flu seasons unscathed because of precautions I’ve taken. I do have an immune system of steel, but like Superman and kryptonite, I have my weaknesses. 😉 Back to my point! When flu season comes around I make sure to keep a good eye on who is sick and stay clear of them. Being trapped in a petri dish of a room with sick people is just asking for trouble. I also make sure to wash my hands several times throughout the day. This really helps decrease the chances that I will be infected by any others. Lastly, I take some extra measures and keep up on the vitamins.

Why the story about my fears of catching the flu? Well, I think the effects the flu can have on the work place is very much the same that an attitude can have. A negative attitude is contagious! It will inevitably rub off on others around you and if they don’t take precautions themselves on staying emotionally and mentally healthy then they run the risk of becoming negative as well. You might be surprised on how much your attitude effects your staff. You are supposed to be their leader and they look to you for direction. Just like you would your own children, you need to set an example for them on how to treat each other, customers, and vendors. The whole dynamic of your business starts with you and how you handle your days. What do they think of you? Do they think all you care about is money and the bottom line? Maybe they feel used and only good for what they do for the business and not what the business does for them. When is the last time you’ve thanked your employees? Maybe write them a card telling them how much you appreciate them and what they do. Include a gift card as well just so you don’t seem stingy. This will help break through the walls they’ve built up trying to keep you and your insanity out.

How do you handle problems that arise at work? Do you get stressed out and start to yell? Do you take it out on your employees right then and there without first processing the situation? If yes, then you are only doing damage to your business. Learning to deal with stress is one of the most important things to master as a business owner. There is too much to loose to not be able to handle stressful situations CORRECTLY so you need to get a handle on this if you lack in this area.

The Road to Freedom

Just like a negative attitude can kill the mojo, a positive attitude WILL nurture growth, cause positive change, and create an all around healthy work environment. Which environment will breed growth and ultimately increase your bottom line? I’m putting my money on the positive, mojo enhancing, attitude.

Let me challenge you to do a few things that will help turn your work environment into a positive one:

  1. Learn to respond, not react! When something bad happens just take it in, think about it, and thoughtfully and caringly work towards a resolution. If you have a manager, get their advice for how to handle the situation.
  2. Be a leader! If you have a manager, teach them how to lead your staff. Delegate responsibilities so you’re not doing it all. Don’t let your business be a free-for-all. Control can be maintained with compassion and a positive attitude. A loud voice only goes so far.
  3. Have a shoulder to lean on. Well, at least someone you can vent to. Having a positive attitude every second of the day just isn’t realistic. Sometimes you will need to blow off some steam, but just make sure it’s to someone that isn’t involved in your business. If you are married, I would recommend to have a friend that you can also talk to. There are just some days that venting to your spouse will only create more problems rather than helping you be free of them.
  4. Lastly, treat your staff with respect and make sure they know you appreciate them. Even if they only come in a few hours a week. If they do a good job for your business then they deserve a thank you. An employee that feels appreciated is usually one that will bend over backwards for their boss. They will go to bat for you when you really need them and most importantly, when they move to their next venture they will always remember the positive impact you made on them.

Thanks for reading. I hope this post helps you get a start at living the life you should be living. Free from depression, stress, and anger. You worked hard to start this business, so why not put in some work to clean things up?

Follow my blog if you’re not already! I will be posting regularly and things will only start to get good as people start to interact with my posts. Good, bad, and the ugly I want your comments and I look forward to giving you my replies.

Building to sell: Don’t sell yourself short!

Are you hoping to retire someday? If you’re like most people you’re looking forward to the day you can hand over the keys, shave a few strokes off your golf game, and finally enjoy your favorite cocktail, beach side. Being that you are a business owner, you are supposed to be living the “American Dream”. Making your own hours, being your own boss, and getting privileged with early retirement. The sad thing is that for most small business owners this just isn’t the case. Small business owners are usually left working long hours, for little pay, with a lot of liability or even debt. And unfortunately, a business isn’t something you can just walk away from without consequence.

Being organized is a necessity! It doesn’t have to be complicated. Simplicity is key for scaling.

Enough with the negative talk! Let’s figure out how you’re going to gain that sense of freedom that being your own boss is supposed to give. The day will come when you will need/want to sell your business and having it completely under control is going to play a huge part into how much bang you will get for your buck. Stay with me for a few more paragraphs and I’ll help you turn your business from an energy sucking black hole to a profitable and fun adventure.

Operational Manual

Start doing everyone a favor and get your brain on paper! Too many business owners treat their place of business as a second home. They get too comfortable being there and they forget they are running a business, not organizing a sock drawer. You have a certain way of doing things and I’m sure there is some sort of method to your madness so you need to start writing down the steps you take to handle each situation. Each business is obviously different so there’s really not one way to write an operational manual. There can be a lot of variables, but just start with the easiest ones and the rest will come more naturally.  An operational manual will not only make it easier to train employees, but it will help to train the new business owner when the time comes to sell.

You can always reorganize the order of the steps at a later time so don’t feel like it has to be perfect right off the bat. Remember, DON’T be overwhelmed when you start this. It really is just one “long” document made up of many small ones so it’s more about consistency over time and not about endless hours of writing. For tasks that are better explained with pictures you might consider training videos or step by step screen shots. See the resources section for some helpful software that will help you achieve this.

What to include:

  • Opening and closing procedures
  • Your return policies
  • Important phone numbers
  • Sales:
    • Entering a new customer
    • Pricing out material
    • Writing up/taking a sale
    • Giving discounts
    • Shipping/Freight quotes
    • Processing returns
    • Placing orders with vendors
  • Warehouse:
    • Shipping orders
    • Receiving orders
    • Regularly stocked items

*Any other repetitious tasks that can be listed in a step by step or short paragraph layout. Remember, if you don’t train them on it you can’t be mad at them for not doing it.

Have A Reason for Your Choices

We all know you think you have a method to your madness, but chances are some of your methods are in need of serious help. Have you ever actually thought through why you handle situations the way you do? Not necessarily problems or stressful situations. I’m talking about what you just wrote down in your operational manual. Why do you charge freight the way you do? Is it really the easiest way to do it? Is it really the best way to do it? In this section I challenge you to really think about why you do what you do. I’ve learned that putting the extra thought into my ideas before I implement them gives me a far greater result than if I were to just wing it!

I own a tile store so it’s really easy to let things get cluttered in the showroom. We get hounded by sales reps every day trying to get us to carry their products and it honestly gets tiring saying, “No”! There must be this unspoken belief among salesmen that small businesses should just throw any and everything into their business if it’s at a good price. I know some good wholesome business relationships can get started this way, but most of them are just fly by night companies that really have no business deciding what goes into my showroom. Think with me for a second. How does a grocery store decide where to put product? Do you think they just wing it and decide to put the Cheerios on an end cap because they have no other place for it? Heck no! Brands pay a lot of money for prime floor and shelf space. Grocers spend millions of dollars on product placement analytics. They know exactly what areas in the store are going to sell the most and they organize their inventory as such. I’m sure you don’t have that kind of capital to spend on analytics, but we can use common sense, some basic organization skills, and a little research to figure out what product will sell best where.

Change the layout of your business every few months. If you own an online business you should be updating things a lot more often since you have more analytics at your fingertips.

Test, test, test! You won’t know how something will sell if you don’t try a new way of displaying it.

Look for patterns of extra attention or little to no sales. After changing things around, see how it effect your sales.

Pay attention to the questions your customers ask. If you hear the same question more than once in a day you might consider adding a sign or flyer that will answer those questions.

Lastly, DON’T get emotionally attached to your products and displays. Remember, we’re not organizing a sock drawer. If a product hasn’t sold in a long time and it is taking up valuable space in your business then GET RID OF IT!
Using Software to Your Advantage

Today we live in an age of technology where we are expected to have answers quickly and efficiently. Email was just the beginning of quick replies and text messages have only made it worse. There are pros and cons as to what technology has done to and for our society, but if implemented correctly it can enhance your customer experience ten fold.

We check out tile samples to our customers for free so we have to constantly follow up with them to get the samples back. We take on this burden because it curates a more personal experience for the customer and gives us an advantage over the “big box” stores. But because of this we have to make this process easy to manage. A simple to do list, Toodledo, has done the trick for us for a few years now. Each staff gets their own reminder to follow up with their customer and there’s a place to take notes on each interaction too. Being that the previous owner was using a pen and paper, this was definitely a step up for us. Another software we use that has become a Godsend is Smartsheet! We use this web based spreadsheet on steroids to manage our purchase orders. It has more features than I could write about and really has increased our efficiency. Both of these softwares are used to manage a large chunk of my business and the crazy thing is they cost me less than $50/month together! When I took over this business it was in a significant amount of debt so I had to figure out ways to improve efficiency without breaking the bank. We’ve now grown to the point where a CRM, customer relationship manager, is much needed so we’ll see what new features are in store for us over at VTiger CRM! Remember, the software you choose doesn’t have to be the shiniest of them all. If it meets the needs of your business then it will be a great first step.

Labels & Charts: Why I love em’!

I’ll tell you why I love labels and charts! It keeps things organized and makes life just so darn easy! 🙂 Labels and charts will empower your employees so they don’t have to ask you how to do everything. On the job training is great and necessary for a lot of tasks, but there are just some things that a simple chart or sign would fix in seconds and help reduce stress. We all know that one customer that comes in that can just suck the life out of you. They have a million questions that seem to be asked for no other reason than to hear themselves talk. To help keep you from getting angry and getting yourself a bad online review, I suggest making use of signs and charts so your days will become a lot brighter.

An idea that we’ve had great success with is our “showroom pricing guide”! We sticker each tile display with a certain color and the laminated pricing guide gives them a ballpark idea of the retail price of the tile. When we get slammed busy or have that one needy customer come in,  these guides are our saving grace. They allow people to browse freely and migrate to the area of the showroom that is within their price range or if they want us by their side they allow us to offer a quick reply when asking how much “everything”, I mean something is.

We also have a way of labeling samples that we bring in that has helped us track exactly where and when each sample comes from. This simple system helped save a $50,000 job. Seriously!

Another simple sign I put together that has saved us from having to read through the eye squinting credit card machine manual is a “how to” when running credit card payments. During a rush of customers this has taken what was ordinarily a big ordeal to something we can accomplish in a matter of seconds. Another smile saved!

In summary, I believe anyone can turn their business around with the right amount of focus and dedication. The above steps can really enhance the quality of service offered to the customers and the quality of life offered to yourself and your employees. Thanks for reading this one all the way through and don’t hesitate to write me. As always, best of luck and keep on keeping on!