When learning and camaraderie bond

September 15, 2008 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Many of you are familiar with our Strategies Business Series/4.0. Better known around here as SBS/4.0, this learning experience is comprised of four training sessions, three days each, held at our Business Academy in Connecticut. But, when we started our tenth SBS/4.0 group earlier this year, little did we realize how dynamic this group of 45 owners and managers would become. The structure of SBS/4.0 spreads its four training sessions out over ten months with e-mail updates every Tuesday to the entire group. This progressive learning and interaction naturally creates camaraderie and sharing – but Group 10 rapidly took it to a no-compromise level.
From the start, there was something unique about Group 10. They shared business information, manuals and successful strategies freely. But things really got interesting when they began leaning on each other for support. The Tuesday e-mail updates quickly became their lifeline. When a couple of owners encountered some serious and unexpected problems, group members rallied with encouragement and solid strategies. As entrepreneurs, we all know how vital it is to have fellow business owners bring their strength and belief in your ability to succeed when the road ahead is dark and uncertain. Over the past seven months, I’ve watched with pride as this group collectively advanced their no-compromise leadership thinking and behavior.
In three weeks, Group 10 will reconvene at the Strategies Business Academy for their third session. This time, a number of owners are bringing partners and key staff members to share the experience and energy of the group. One spa owner actually had four key employees request that they too attend SBS/4.0 with her. When she said, “Let me figure out how we’re going to pay for the added expense and travel,” they replied, “We already paid for our own tickets.” That’s what I call inspiring.
Lisa Cochran, who we fondly refer to as Miss Mississippi, called me to ask if the town allows campfires on the local beaches to do a New England clambake. When I told her fires aren’t allowed, undaunted, Miss Mississippi called the local Chamber of Commerce. On her own, she organized a clambake through a local caterer to be held on Captain Mark’s charter boat, RiverQuest, on the beautiful Connecticut River just a mile from Strategies headquarters. Now we’ve got husbands, wives and children joining the group.
The point of this story is to express how essential it is for all business owners to come together every three months to learn, share and inspire each other. We designed SBS/4.0 as a venue for just that purpose. Over the years, we’ve refined the course content to achieve that special balance of learning and interaction. With Group 10, we perfected our “secret sauce” to teach no-compromise leadership both in the classroom and in between sessions.
We have another SBS/4.0 beginning on October 12th. If you want to truly raise the bar and learn what no-compromise leadership is all about, consider joining Group 11. Click on this link for more details.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

Many of you are familiar with our Strategies Business Series/4.0. Better known around here as SBS/4.0, this learning experience is comprised of four training sessions, three days each, held at our Business Academy in Connecticut. But, when we started our tenth SBS/4.0 group earlier this year, little did we realize how dynamic this group of 45 owners and managers would become. The structure of SBS/4.0 spreads its four training sessions out over ten months with e-mail updates every Tuesday to the entire group. This progressive learning and interaction naturally creates camaraderie and sharing – but Group 10 rapidly took it to a no-compromise level.... Read More

Many of you are familiar with our Strategies Business Series/4.0. Better known around here as SBS/4.0, this learning experience is comprised of four training sessions, three days each, held at our Business Academy in Connecticut. But, when we started our tenth SBS/4.0 group earlier this year, little did we realize how dynamic this group of 45 owners and managers would become. The structure of SBS/4.0 spreads its four training sessions…
Read More

Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up

What does “working on your business” really mean?

September 1, 2008 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

“Are you working on your business, or in your business?” This working “on or in” your business statement has been bandied around for years. For the leader of a business, it just makes sense. If you’re spending the majority of your time doing “the work” of the business, who’s plotting the course for growth and continued success? Who’s making sure the business has the resources, money, talent, systems and a rock-solid culture to ensure continued success? Who’s ensuring that everyone is focused and accountable? When all these “who’s” have a leader’s name attached to it, the result is what I call “the No-Compromise Company.”
For salon and spa owners, this “working on your business” typically means, “not doing services on clients.” For non-technician owners, it typically means, “being able to work in the office.” No matter what your interpretation of “working on your business” is, the big question is, what are you actually working on? Furthermore, does what you’re working on really qualify as “high-value stuff.”
To help clarify what working on your business really means, my friend Jack Stack says, “If you’re making decisions today that will affect your business in the next 30 days, you’re making the wrong decisions.” As leader, working on your business means that you are not getting bogged down in the day-to-day running of the business. Your focus must be on the opportunities and potential dangers down the road – not on the immediate activities.
When your systems are well designed and there is company-wide accountability to execute those systems with consistency, you are free to work on your business. You’ve got a leadership team and other staff that are much closer to the details of the work. Given this, your leadership team and staff should be capable of making the best operational decisions – if you let them.
Here is a hit list of do-it-now strategies you can use to ensure that you truly are working on your business:
* Redefine your role as leader. If you’re the leader of the company and you’re spending the bulk of your time servicing customers and stuck in the day-to-day operations, it’s the perfect recipe for stagnation. Start with a clean slate and redefine your role with a focus on vision and creating organization excellence. Plot your company’s course on a journey worth taking – and lead it there.
* Let go of the controls: If it’s only done right when you do it, you’re stifling the growth of others in your company. Owners that refuse to let go of the controls are forever bound to their companies, as they only function well when they’re present.
* Levels of authority: Design a system that clarifies levels of authority. This means that clear guidelines for decision-making exist at all levels of the company – and keep it there. For example, a front desk manager is responsible for all daily operational decisions that involve the front desk. The leader or general manager is not called in to solve the “double-booking error.” If the computers blow up, then they’re called in.
* You can’t be the main sales engine: If the revenues you personally generate are so vital to the financial integrity of your company, you’re stuck. You’ll never be able to work on your business. Working on your business means creating the right environment and culture that inspires all team members to contribute and grow.
* Build value to your company: As leader, your prime responsibility is to build value in your company. That means leading a finely-tuned company that adheres to no-compromise thinking and behavior. You can only build value by working on your business.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

“Are you working on your business, or in your business?” This working “on or in” your business statement has been bandied around for years. For the leader of a business, it just makes sense. If you’re spending the majority of your time doing “the work” of the business, who’s plotting the course for growth and continued success? Who’s making sure the business has the resources, money, talent, systems and a rock-solid culture to ensure continued success? Who’s ensuring that everyone is focused and accountable? When all these “who’s” have a leader’s name attached to it, the result is what I call “the No-Compromise Company.”... Read More

“Are you working on your business, or in your business?” This working “on or in” your business statement has been bandied around for years. For the leader of a business, it just makes sense. If you’re spending the majority of your time doing “the work” of the business, who’s plotting the course for growth and continued success? Who’s making sure the business has the resources, money, talent, systems and a…
Read More

Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up

Simple systems drive customer loyalty

August 25, 2008 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

A quick Neilism: “Systems set leaders free.” If you want consistency in customer service, satisfaction and retention, you must use systems. A football coach has his playbook – a collection of systems designed to produce specific results. What does your salon/spa’s playbook look like?
Customers are on the receiving end of your systems. If those systems are designed well and your team follows those systems with discipline and resolve, you have the best chance of achieving consistent and predictable results. If you’re lacking systems, or they’re poorly designed and not adhered to, your customers are on the receiving end of compromise. Your company phone won’t be answered correctly. Customers will be on hold too long. Problems will take longer to resolve. Retention will suffer.
Simple or complex, customer loyalty systems just make work move smoother. I stopped at a diner for breakfast with a client. It was one of those popular and very busy local spots with lots of character. The waitress would come by and pour some decaf for my client and some hi-test for me. She had a lot of tables to take care of and I began to wonder how she could remember who had decaf or regular. I decided to ask. “It’s simple,” she said, “the decaf cups have two red rings around the top and the cups for regular have one black ring.” Duh. What a simple and efficient system.
Here is a hit list of do-it-now strategies you can use to implement systems to drive the customer loyalty business outcome:
* Go critical. Begin identifying the critical areas in your business that have the greatest impact, positive and negative, on customer loyalty. Prioritize this list and assign teams to design, test and implement the new systems.
* Set time standards for all points of contact with customers including: answering calls within three rings; greeting and acknowledging customers within thirty seconds; never leave a customer on hold for more than two minutes, etc.
* Connect the dots. Tie your critical numbers for customer loyalty, specifically your first-time retention rate, as one of the qualifiers for a bonus payout. This sends a clear message to employees that if the company can’t maintain satisfactory retention rates, it can’t afford to pay bonuses. We have a coaching client who bases 50 percent of the bonus payout on his company’s ability to maintain a first-time retention rate of 50 percent or better. He’s been working this for over a year and his first-time retention has never dropped below 54 percent.
* Collect key data. Are you collecting data on customer preferences, order history, birth date, what their favorite sport is, or any other data that can help your company personalize and customize each customer’s buying experience? What are your systems for collecting this data and getting it into a central database for service providers, sales and customer service representatives to access? If you allow client data to reside in the memory cells of your service providers, don’t complain when clients follow them when they leave. To build a company relationship with clients, you’ve got to work at it.
* Dealing with customer problems. What’s your system to ensure that problems, even the smallest concerns, are documented and reported so follow-up actions can be initiated? What’s the paper or document trail? Who follows up with the customer? When?
* Identifying and filling customer needs. Is there a system for your sales or customer service staff to follow to design the best solutions? The last thing you want in your business is an “order taker.” Taking an order is ordinary. Customizing a prescribed service and product regimen to truly satisfy a customer’s needs is extraordinary.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

customer-loyalty2A quick Neilism: “Systems set leaders free.” If you want consistency in customer service, satisfaction and retention, you must use systems. A football coach has his playbook – a collection of systems designed to produce specific results. What does your salon/spa’s playbook look like?... Read More

A quick Neilism: “Systems set leaders free.” If you want consistency in customer service, satisfaction and retention, you must use systems. A football coach has his playbook – a collection of systems designed to produce specific results. What does your salon/spa’s playbook look like? Customers are on the receiving end of your systems. If those systems are designed well and your team follows those systems with discipline and resolve, you…
Read More

Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up

Salon/Spa Behavior First – Numbers Second

August 18, 2008 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

In business, numbers are used to set targets and measure performance. You use business and industry benchmarks to compare how your business stacks up against the competition. You set goals for service providers and sales people. You run your financial reports in a myriad of formats to identify financial leaks and trends that signal trouble or success. Without question, numbers are vital to business. But there’s a catch. The numbers you use to guide and analyze your business performance are 100% behavior driven.
FACT: Behaviors make the numbers that you measure, celebrate and obsess over happen. Given this, why is it that so many leaders bypass the essential role behaviors play in achieving the numbers they want? Leaders spew out orders that sound like, “You need to get your numbers up,” and leaves the conversation believing those numbers are going to change. The problem is that the behaviors that produce the lackluster results are still intact. For the numbers to change, the behaviors need to change first.
From a company financial perspective, I’ve seen too many leaders build incredible cash-flow plans only to become frustrated that their perfectly formatted profit and loss statements and balance sheets are not showing improvement. The gap between the cash-flow plan and achieving the desired profits and value is purely behavior driven. With a system in place that creates and shapes financial disciplines, new and better behaviors will evolve. Financial performance will improve by changing behaviors to control spending and ultimately the management and use of financial resources.
Here are some red-hot strategies to make sure you get the behaviors right:
* Systems shape behaviors: A system is a series of processes that produces predictable results. Want an individual to produce better numbers? Provide them with the right system and skill development training to make those numbers move in the right direction.
* Understand the story numbers tell: Numbers simply tell a story. It’s your job to understand the story behind the numbers. What made this number a win? Why is this number causing a problem? If all you do is obsess over the numbers, you’ll never uncover the story that contains the lessons behind those numbers.
* Take responsibility and ownership: As a leader, all the numbers your business produces happened on your watch. They’re your numbers. If they’re numbers to celebrate, your leadership inspired the energy and the right environment for those numbers to occur. If those numbers are unacceptable, your leadership played a roll in that too. Blame does nothing to change the numbers you don’t like. Taking action and making the right decisions is all about behavior. Behavior first, numbers second.
* Your behavior needs to change first: Leaders are notorious for double-standard thinking. This means that the behaviors they expect in others aren’t necessarily the behaviors that they personally set the standard and example for. If the mandate is to sell more, do more, spend less, and you’re doing the opposite, you are the one who is compromising. You are the one who is preventing the numbers that you strive for to occur. No-compromise leadership is about accountability, execution and integrity.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

In business, numbers are used to set targets and measure performance. You use business and industry benchmarks to compare how your business stacks up against the competition. You set goals for service providers and sales people. You run your financial reports in a myriad of formats to identify financial leaks and trends that signal trouble or success. Without question, numbers are vital to business. But there’s a catch. The numbers you use to guide and analyze your business performance are 100% behavior driven.... Read More

In business, numbers are used to set targets and measure performance. You use business and industry benchmarks to compare how your business stacks up against the competition. You set goals for service providers and sales people. You run your financial reports in a myriad of formats to identify financial leaks and trends that signal trouble or success. Without question, numbers are vital to business. But there’s a catch. The numbers…
Read More

Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up

Employees quit leaders not companies

August 11, 2008 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

Yeah, this is going to be one of those tough to read Wake-Ups. From the calls we’ve been getting at Strategies, it seems like the employee revolving door is spinning a bit faster this summer. It sounds something like, “My salon/spa lost $160,000 in sales because these technicians quit and went down the street.” And then there’s all the drama, ugly words and feelings of betrayal. It’s like that voice in your head keeps saying, “How could they do this to me after all I did for them?” These situations can get so out of hand that I was recently asked to be an expert witness in a lawsuit where an owner is suing his attorney for failing to properly calculate the extent of the damages. Yes, you’re hurt, frustrated and angry – but this isn’t about what the dearly departed did to you and your business, it’s about you taking ownership for the part you played in this saga.
Employees quit leaders not companies. Personally, every job I ever quit had more to do with quitting the leader than work itself. In fact, I once quite a job I truly loved and would have stayed at for years had the leader not compromised my trust in him. Likewise, I know and accept that people quit me because of my action, inaction or behavior. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but taking ownership in an employee relationship gone bad is part of being a no-compromise leader. The question is, will you learn from your mistakes?
Here are some red-hot strategies to make sure employees don’t quit you:
* Communication, dialog and understanding: Every employee wants and needs to know where they stand with you and the company. There is no such thing as communicating too much. If you have any employee who hasn’t had a thorough performance evaluation in the past three months, you’re part of the problem.
* Never avoid performance and behavior issues: The most serious relationship damage occurs when issues surface and conversations, because they may be tough to do, are avoided. Like any infection, performance and behavior issues only get worse – and often spread to other employees.
* Leave nothing unsaid: It’s difficult enough to engage in a fierce conversation, so why end it without getting everything out? Leaving things unsaid is simply giving permission for problems to continue. Read the book, Crucial Conversations, by Kerry Patterson. You’ll learn how to control tough conversations that become emotionally charged.
* Agreement on expectations and next steps: Never end a conversation without clarity on what the expectations and next steps are – even if that means parting ways. Set timelines and check-in points to coach, reinforce and ensure progress is being made. If you think that one crucial conversation is going to cure everything, you’re clearly part of the problem.
* Tunnel vision is short sighted: Leaders are notorious for charging forward or heading off on rabbit trails. They stop paying attention to what’s really going on. They become disconnected with their employees until something snaps. No-compromise leaders never disconnect from the people they lead and the customers they service.
* Culture is everything: A contaminated business culture fuels turnover. It makes it tough to come to work. It creates resentment. The no-compromise leader is the keeper and protector of the business culture. Is there contamination in your culture?
* Everyone seeks appreciation: “Great job.” These two little words can brighten someone’s day and inspire great performance. Make the time to show and demonstrate your sincere appreciation for a job well done.
* Sometimes, it’s just over: Employees come and go. Just like you, their needs and desires change and evolve. Sometimes they move on. Other times they quit and stay. As absurd as “quit and stay” sounds, if it’s over, acknowledge it and help them move on – even if it means walking them to the door. It’s all part of protecting your culture and keeping the drama outside of your company.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

Yeah, this is going to be one of those tough to read Wake-Ups. From the calls we’ve been getting at Strategies, it seems like the employee revolving door is spinning a bit faster this summer. It sounds something like, “My salon/spa lost $160,000 in sales because these technicians quit and went down the street.” And then there’s all the drama, ugly words and feelings of betrayal. It’s like that voice in your head keeps saying, “How could they do this to me after all I did for them?” These situations can get so out of hand that I was recently asked to be an expert witness in a lawsuit where an owner is suing his attorney for failing to properly calculate the extent of the damages. Yes, you’re hurt, frustrated and angry – but this isn’t about what the dearly departed did to you and your business, it’s about you taking ownership for the part you played in this saga.... Read More

Yeah, this is going to be one of those tough to read Wake-Ups. From the calls we’ve been getting at Strategies, it seems like the employee revolving door is spinning a bit faster this summer. It sounds something like, “My salon/spa lost $160,000 in sales because these technicians quit and went down the street.” And then there’s all the drama, ugly words and feelings of betrayal. It’s like that voice…
Read More

Categories: Monday Morning Wake-Up

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