One of the 13 Fatal Mistakes That Small Business Owners Make and How to Avoid Making it

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Mistake #1 That Small Business Owners Make: They don’t communicate with their managers and employees on a regular basis. by Tom Borg c.2006 Your managers and employees are the eyes, ears, nose and mouth of your business. More importantly they are:“The final five yards” For example, in the game of professional football the offensive team can bring the ball all the way down to the five yard line of their opponent, but if they can’t get it across the line - they don’t score a touch down. The same thing goes for your small business, you can do all the advertising and marketing, and get that customer to come into your store or call you on the phone or visit your website, but unless the manager or employee responsible for closing the transaction does the right things to complete the sale – it can all be for naught. Whose fault is that? Unfortunately it is ultimately the small business owner’s. Communication can go along way in preventing the above from happening. I have witnessed small business owners obstinate and entrenched in their prehistoric ways of running a company, flatly refuse to hold regular meetings with their employees. Why wouldn’t they communicate with every one of them on a regular basis? One excuse is they don’t have enough time. Bzzzzzz – wrong answer! The truth is THEY DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TIME NOT TO COMMUNICATE WITH THEM. One small business owner I knew made it a point to publicly proclaim that face to face meetings or telephone calls to individuals or with the members of his company would rarely be held. He would substitute infrequent e-mails in their place. Here was an excellent example of how NOT to communicate with your managers and employees. It stands to reason, that our managers and employees are the closest thing to the client. They talk to the client. If they are listening, they hear what the client likes and dislikes. They hear what the client wants. They hear what the client does not want. They are an extremely valuable and important link to your customer/client. In all the consulting, coaching and training I have done over the last 24 years, this remains the “numero uno” problem. I see time and time again. Let’s face it, as small business owners, they are juggling many balls up in the air - all at once – much of the time. So it stands to reason they won’t make communicating with their managers and employees as high of a priority as it should be. One reason is that there are too many fires to be put out. This type of thinking is not for you or any of my clients. You are far too alert to fall for that bad habit – any more. Remember the ancient Chinese saying: Bad habits – easy to form – hard to live with. Good habits – hard to form – easy to live with. So how do we form the good habit of communicating with our managers and employees on a regular basis? Let’s take a look. The first thing we have to do is remind ourselves of the reasons why we would want to communicate with our managers and employees on a regular basis. From what I have learned from my research, the successful clients I have worked with and from my own personal management experience here are some very good reasons to make it a point to communicate with your employees and managers on a regular basis. 1. It builds trust and respect 2. It prevents pent up frustration 3. It prevents problems 4. It saves time 5. It gets things done 6. It is vital to making your company profitable What are some of the ways we communicate with our managers and employees? Here are just a few: 1. individually - face to face 2. in group meetings 3. e-mail 4. hand written memos 5. telephone and cell phone 6. (add your own) The second thing we have to do is make regular communication with our mangers and employees a top priority. A common mistake by small business owners is that they simply don’t make it a top priority. As Confucius, the ancient Chinese philosopher once said: “Faintest ink – stronger than best memory” That means writing it down and scheduling the meetings in our daily planner or on our computer program or palm pilot. These daily, weekly, monthly or semi annual meetings could include: 1. face to face with individuals 2. face to face group meetings By writing it down or scheduling it in our computerized system does two things: 1. It makes it an internal priority 2. It prevents us from procrastinating – another words our scheduling system sets us up to succeed – not to fail. Now all we have to do is use it. When a meeting has been scheduled we need to be prepared for the meeting. Nothing fancy or complicated here. All we have to do is have an outline of what we want to discuss. Making up a standard form with room for flexibility is a good way to do it. Here are eight basic things to keep in mind during the communication process: 1. Keep good eye contact. 2. Be aware of your own and the other person’s body language. 3. Ask open ended questions – these are questions that take more than one word to answer. i.e. How did this happen? How did you feel about this? What happened next? Ask close ended questions – these are questions that usually require only a yes or no answer i.e. Did you finish on time? Did the customer pay you? 4. Listen – truly listen to the other person. Be as unbiased and non-judgmental as possible. 5. Wait until the other person is finished speaking before you begin speaking. 6. Don’t abruptly change topics – wait until the time is right. 7. Be aware of your tone of voice – use it properly. Don’t intimidate others. 8. Remember that people have feelings respect theirs – and they will probably respect yours too. Wise business owners knows that it is important to set the relationship up with their managers and employees so that it is ok for another person to disagree – as long as it is done agreeably. If not he or she and their business is headed for trouble. Remember the saying: “No one is smarter than all of us” What good is it if we discourage any and all suggestions other than our own to solving the problems or issues before us? Yes, there are times when we must make a decision that may differ from everyone else’s opinion or recommendation – but why not keep an open mind on your way to making that decision? As a business owner, we must remember to keep our ego under control. It does no good to squash the ideas and enthusiasm of our employees. Two of the top reasons why employees and managers leave their position in a small business is because: 1. they are not listened to 2. they are not appreciated. One more idea that is worth using: Use an Employee Suggestion Box It’s no surprise that many of the answers to the client service problems or product sales you face in your business can come from your managers and employees. In many of the businesses that we surveyed that had a suggestion box, the biggest response showed it was seldom used. It’s probable that the suggestion box was not given enough support by management, resulting in an attitude of “Why bother?” If you are going to use one - use it right! The important thing to remember is to make sure that all employee suggestions are responded to and the best ones implemented. In some companies, rewards are given to the people who made the suggestions that are used. The reward could be something quite simple, such as mentioning their name at the next meeting and giving them a certificate of appreciation or perhaps a gift certificate to a local restaurant or a popular retail store. It’s extremely important to let them know you appreciate their willingness to offer their suggestions. It’s a real de-motivator for any employee to have a carefully constructed suggestion ignored by management. Remember, if all suggestions are acknowledged, it will positively reinforce the idea of giving suggestions. One note of caution: never openly criticize any suggestion offered. That type of action will only discourage others from contributing their ideas. There is much more that could be discussed in this section but that is all we can l cover for now.

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