Bad Systems Make Even Great Teams Look Bad.
Life Lesson: “The entrepreneur builds an enterprise; the technician builds a job.” –Michael Gerber
**This article was written by nationally recognized motivational speaker, U.S. SBA Entrepreneur of the Year, and Las Vegas Motivational Speaker, Clay Clark.
And so yet again, I found myself having a nervous breakdown. Josh was showing up late nearly every day. Achilles and Aaron were on the verge of killing each other. Lloyd was running around Tulsa ripping people off and telling them that I was working with him. Andy’s “chew-spitters” (a.k.a. cups) were being spilt in our home. Blake nearly blew up our mower when he decided to bevel off our concrete patio while mowing, and money was coming in and out of DJ Connection at record levels. And then something non-specific and probably trivial happened that sent me into a nervous breakdown that left me literally lying alone in the dark with a pounding migraine headache in our walk-in closet completely unable to deal with the pressures associated with running a medium-sized business without duplicable processes in place.
I was going crazy, and I was ready to quit. I was ready to sell DJ Connection to the lowest bidder, and I was willing to put my head in a blender if it had the potential to kill me. In all sincerity, I have never been suicidal, and I never would commit suicide because I think that it is weak sauce, but I felt like Michael Douglas’s character in Falling Down: I felt as though at any moment I might just involuntarily haul off and punch the culprit of the biggest current abomination. The next guy who I found smoking weed was going to find a speaker stand jammed up his ass; I was going crazy.
Anyway . . . after spending literally twelve hours alone in our dark closet (thank you, Andy, for filling in for me that day), I emerged well-rested. I was able to come to grips with the fact that something had to be done. And so I scheduled an appointment with Brent Lollis, a highly successful entrepreneur who started a web development company called www.triadims.com that had developed the DJ Connection website. I determined that I was going to talk to Brent about selling my business and to get his feedback on the whole thing.
When I arrived at Brent’s office, I had no idea that I would leave with yet another book that would change my business life. I went into that meeting in the same way that Luke Skywalker went into his first encounter with Yoda. I was eager to meet the little green dude, but I was kind of freaked out by his Jedi power. I knew that Brent had the full use of “the force” and I wanted to get some good nuggets from him.
After Brent and I talked, and after I had unloaded my trail of tears on him, he surprisingly gave me The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. The book seemed simple and pretty readable because it was so small, so I was excited to read it later that night. As I read the book, I immediately related to the main character. The main character in the book is a cake maker who makes great cakes, and thus she feels as though she will also be able to make a great company (which is the “entrepreneur’s myth”). Over time, she develops a loyal following and a business that controls her. SHE MERELY CREATES A JOB THAT KNOW ONE ELSE WOULD WANT—A JOB THAT IS NOT DUPLICABLE.
Because of her unique talents, she creates a job for herself that is 100 percent dependent upon her own efforts, and thus she does not create a business or an enterprise; she just creates a horrible life for herself where she gets the pleasure of working for a brutally demanding boss (herself). The more her business grows, the more she begins to break down mentally and physically due to the workload. She has employees, but no one can help her because they do not know what to do or how to help her. Michael, the book’s author, goes on to teach her how to make standardized and duplicable systems that will allow her to exponentially grow her business while exponentially decreasing the hours that she has to personally spend working at the business. Michael shows her how to tap into her knowledge base to create these systems. He shows her how to work on the systems found within her business rather than actually working in her business making and delivering cakes all day.
This book freaked me out, fired me up, and set me straight. Reading this book really questioned the way I thought about business. This book asked me why I had started the business to begin with. This book asked me what my exit strategy was for my business. This book made me realize that the DJ Connection business was just my vehicle to help me achieve my life goals; it was not my life goal (unless I wanted to die early and alone after my wife and kids left me).
As you could imagine, reading a book like this produced quite a to-do list for an action-orientated, type-A personality such as myself. And to help save you the time that you would normally spend reading this book and various other books about workflows, I have put together a checklist and questionnaire that reading the book spawned in my mind at the time. If you take the time to sincerely answer the questions listed below, I know that your organization will greatly benefit from your application of the insights that you gain:
What is the purpose of your business?
Is your business merely in business to make a lot of money?
What is the purpose of accumulating large amounts of money?
Why are you willing to exchange 40 to 60 of your best waking hours per week in the pursuit of money?
With a precision focus and intensity, write down the purpose of why you are earning money, and make sure that your business never deviates from this purpose.
Example of what not to do: When I started DJ Connection, I started it because I wanted to become a millionaire by age thirty with everything else being damned. I was willing to exchange my time, my money, my health, my relationships, and everything for $1,000,000. But after I thought about it (five years-plus in to the process), I determined that the reason why I wanted to earn $1,000,000 is so that I would not be poor, and so that I could enjoy life to the fullest with my wife, my friends, and my family. As DJ Connection kept growing and growing, I kept realizing that I was having less and less free time to spend with my wife, my kids, and the people I cared about. As the business grew, and as the resulting awards and accolades kept rolling in, I began noticing that I hadn’t had the time to celebrate New Year’s Eve with friends or to attend anyone’s birthday (other than my kids and a couple of their friends) in eight years. I began noticing that I hadn’t looked up to notice a full moon since 1999 until my three year-old daughter Havana pointed up at the sky and told me that her imaginary friend Moonie was out tonight. It took me six years of super-intense business operations to understand that my purpose for running a business was not to create fifty jobs for local Tulsans. My purpose for running a business was to enjoy a standard of living with the people I love that I could have not afforded as a kid. And thus I consider myself to be a prime example of what not to do.
What does your business (or potential business) do in a great way? (What industry or line of business can your business become the top 10 percent of?)
**If you can’t be the best at what your business is doing, I recommend not doing it. Nothing stinks more than finishing fourth place at every basketball tournament and eighteenth place in your industry every year.
Where do your current customers and your target customers live (what part of your town, country, or city)?
**If your customers live in a particular area of town, it does not make sense to buy Yellow Pagetm ads and television commercials that charge you to broadcast your message in a shotgun-style approach all over your town. Look in to doing direct mailers, door hangers, or flyers.
What forms of literature do your customers read?
**If you are marketing to an affluent crowd who is fond of reading only Wall Street Journal and Investor’s Business Daily-type literature, then all the advertising that you are spending on bottom-tier local newspapers is wasted money. Thus, I would highly encourage you to only advertise in the forms of literature that your customers read, regardless of what propaganda and information the local magazine sales force shows and tells you.
What television programs do your customers watch?
** When you know what your customers watch, you begin to fully understand them. And if you can fully understand them, you can know what shows that you should potentially advertise your product on in the future and what pop-culture references, styles, and products that your customers relate to. To be successful in business, you have to understand your customers’ perceived needs, and your product must meet them. If you are out there trying to invent a product that you will then have to convince the world to use (such as the iPodtm), then you are a sick freak with much more patience and ambition than I have. My recommendation to anyone reading this is to look for a need and to fill it with a product or service that you are passionate about. Because you are passionate about it, your new service will exceed your customers’ expectations.
Where do your customers shop?
**If your customers do not shop in the hood, get the hell out of the hood. If your customers do not shop in the woods, get the hell out of the woods. Get where your customers are. Make your life easy. It’s all about location, location, location. Do not use a run-down, “affordable” building located in the middle of the woods near some former nuclear-testing site.
Where do customers go to look for your products and services? (Get there quickly if not sooner.)
Create a system for tracking where your business comes from, and use it on every customer every time.
**Just to clarify here. If you only ask your customers how they heard about you 10 percent of the time (or only when you remember), then you do not have a systematic approach in place or in mind. You must ask every customer how he or she heard about you EVERY TIME. This gives you power over your marketing dollars and will allow you to increase your spending on the advertising that works, while cutting the advertising that drains money from you like that one guy at work who is always trying to borrow a “5-spot” to pay for his lunch.
Create a system documenting how your employees are supposed to answer the business phone.
**If your employees are answering your business restaurant phone by saying, “Yo Greg, what up? Oh, this isn’t Greg . . . .uh, sorry. Yeah, thank you for calling Steve’s Subs. What up?” this is not a good situation. And I am telling you from personal experience, if you leave anything up for interpretation, it will come back to haunt you. At DJ Connection (before I implemented the standardization of everything), we had dudes answering the phone with less conviction and sincerity than an O.J. Simpson apology. It scared customers away. Do not allow your frontline people to kill your prospective customers just because their ideas of how to answer the phone is not congruent with the goals and levels of professionalism found in the other areas of your business. When your people answer the phone, you must literally have all the words written down that you expect your people to say every time. Common sense is not common. Write down your expectations and do not accept anything less from your staff and your people. Remember as my former pastor Carlton Pearson used to say, “You must inspect because you can’t expect.”
When someone calls to ask the proverbial, “How much do you charge for your service?” You must develop a systematic and custom-tailored presentation outline that will turn every one of those calls into a closed deal or a tightly set appointment for one of your specialists (who will close the deal).
**You must create and give your employees a duplicable sales outline that you expect them to follow every time. Do not be one of those super-weak, excuse-providing, disgruntled, small business people that I run into at networking events who always says, “Well, the reason why I can’t grow my business is that I can’t find good salespeople.” This is weak. You must create an easily duplicable process and sales script for your people to follow each time that they answer a call. Broadway actors have to memorize their lines. Disneytm requires that all of their entertainers know their lines and roles for each one of their legendary performances. You must operate your business in the same manner if you are going to be successful. If you allow your people to find what works best for them, you will quickly find your salespeople getting frustrated or burnt out. If you do not transform your personal sales skills into easy-to-follow duplicable processes, you will not ever grow your company.
After you have written the original script; add anecdotes, descriptions, HUMOR, and nuances to your sales presentation to add value to every call. Trust me on this. I have done it the wrong way and the right way. And the right was is much less stressful and more profitable.
**In Steve Martin’s legendary autobiography entitled Born Standing Up, he explains in great detail how he took the better part of a decade to create a comedy routine that was consistently funny each time he delivered it. He then goes on to explain how he would ad-lib little nuances to adjust to the unique crowd and atmosphere of each venue. The point is he never deviated from his core routine because he was disciplined enough to track people’s reactions to its delivery early on in his career. This built his confidence in the overall quality and the humor of his final refined masterpiece comedy routine. My friends, the reality is that your people will never be more committed to your business than you are. And thus, you are going to deal with more rejections to your initial presentations than they ever will. So take the time now to create a sales presentation that you have tested on your customers so that your salespeople can deliver your presentation with faith and conviction knowing that it works every time because you’ve tested it.
After you have revised your presentation again, add a “call to action” to the end of your sales presentation because you can’t deposit the phrase, “Hey, I will get back with you once I make a decision” at the bank.
**If you are like most entrepreneurs and self-employed people, you will find yourself going for the close more often than your people because you do not want to starve and because you probably have more at risk than your people. For some reason, most people who have their financial futures on the line with each and every call tend to be slightly more proactive about closing the deal than the sales guy you just hired on Thursday. Thus, you must make sure that your super-refined sales script factors in the following:
Initial rapport-building questions with your client.
Initial establishment of your client’s unique needs, wants, and desires.
An accurate, compelling, humorous, and emotionally moving description of your products and service benefits meets your customers’ needs.
A credibility establishing description of your company and what sets you apart.
A “call to action” that will result in your salesperson setting up “tight appointments” within forty-eight hours of the initial conversation or phone call.
If your people are not setting up tight appointments, they might as well ask your customers, “Would you like to just go ahead and hang up on me to save us some time?” as an initial rapport-building question to help you reduce your phone bill.
Create and implement quality on-hold music.
**Most people hate being put on hold. You hate being put on hold. I hate being put on hold. So for the love of all that is holy, if you put someone on hold, at least get some high-quality, interesting, sales-generating, humorous, informative, and enjoyable on-hold music to make the on-hold time bearable.
Systematically create a daily checklist that will ensure that your office smells good, looks good, feels good, sounds good, and creates the overall first impression that you want your customers to experience when they first encounter your business on the Internet, via the fax, through your mailers, through your business cards, over the phone, or in person. A checklist ensures that anyone can obtain the needed results, not just you! That is the beauty of building systems.
**I will never forget the moment in 2005 when I came back from a refreshing one-week vacation with Bird (my wife) and Havana (my daughter) only to discover that one of our DJs had spilled his spitter”(which is code language for a plastic McDonald’s cup filled with chewing tobacco spit) on our super-plush, super-nice, upstairs, office carpeting. Oh, this pissed me off. And thus I went to clean it up, which is a lot like trying to brush a grown man’s teeth while he is currently chewing. As I proceeded to go to the trashcan to grab a trash bag, I opened the trash container only to discover that a swarm of fruit flies was waiting for me. As soon as I opened the container, they came out with reckless abandon like a biblical plague of locusts. They were furiously buzzing everywhere. Oh, I was super pissed. So I went down to the garage to get all the cleaning supplies I needed.
And once I entered the garage, I found that the trash had not been taken out for an entire week, and that it was filled with fast-food containers, chewing-tobacco spit, half-eaten fruit, and funk. MAN, I WAS IRATE! I would have killed one of those dirty, trash-creating DJ bastards if it were not illegal. But luckily, I chose instead to use a new calming method (cursing and yelling at no one in particular) to calm myself down. After I finished the one-hour process of cleaning up their funk, I hopped in the DJ van only to discover that the van was being used as a mobile trash container and that it was littered with Redbulltm cans, beer cans, fast food containers, spitters, magazines, wrappers, napkins, and a small landfill of crap. Just writing this is pissing me off! But the point was, everything was dirty all the time because I had never taken the time to write down a daily checklist of what my expectations were and who was supposed to make these expectations a reality.
I just thought that out of a basic sense of decency, they would take out the trash once during the entire week I was gone. I just figured that with eight guys, one of them would take the initiative to take the trash out, but when I asked them about it, everyone just said, “Oh, we weren’t sure who was supposed to do it.” And although I was mad, I have since determined that most employees (in good economic times) will only do what they have to do. Thus you cannot expect your people to do anything. You have to clearly outline what they have to do, and YOU or their manager must INSPECT everything they do. The very concept of having managers to begin with proves my point that if everyone did what they were supposed to do without a need for inspection, there would not be any managers.
Sit down and create pre-written e-mails to deal with every conceivable customer-service-related and sales-related scenario possible.
**Doing this will save your sales team, your business, and your brain countless amounts of time and frustration. I am telling you, you have to do this now if not sooner. To improve the accuracy of the information that you are sending out about your products or services, and to save your salespeople countless hours of time, this must be a priority to you. Your e-mail scenarios should include (but not be limited to the following): directions to your office, a customer expectation list, a customer-service guarantee, a review of your products’ benefits and unique qualities, a follow-up, a receipt, a frequently asked questions e-mail, etc.
You must think like Walgreenstm by creating receipts and contracts that incentivize and encourage your customers to revisit your store and to reuse your products and services in the future at a discounted rate or as part of some promotion offer. Next time you go into Walgreenstm, really look at the receipt they give you. That baby screams, “Come back and buy more stuff and save 25 percent off your next purchase!”
**Ask yourself, “What would Walgreen’stm do? What would Victoria’s Secrettm do here? What would Bed Bath & Beyondtm do here?” These companies are geniuses with generating repeat customers and referral business. Mentally marinate on what you can do today to drive repeat business via the vehicle of sales receipts and contracts.
Create a DATABASE SOFTWARE that your salespeople and office staff use to keep track every time of your customers’ information, needs, and history.
**If you are like most small business owners, you know all of your customers personally. You are the “lord of your sales dominion,” and you take pride in knowing everything about every one of your customers. And this is not cool because if you get hit by a bus and you go into a coma for a week, nobody knows who your repeat customers are, what they need, and what unique pricing structures they all have. And if you ever wanted to sell your business in the future, the next owner is not going to be too excited about having to rehire you full time because you are the only one who knows anything about your customers. If you are like most semi-successful small business owners, you probably have a salesperson that is really good and whom you depend on (too much) to generate your company’s sales. Basically, if this dude leaves, your sales are going to really hit the fan. And if this dude decides to take your customers with him when he leaves for that next “career opportunity,” you are really screwed. This is not cool either. And finally, if you are like most small business owners, many of your loyal customers will grow increasingly frustrated with you and your service the larger that you get. The more customers that you add to you repeat customer list, the more your old loyal customers will get frustrated. This continues to be un-cool. However, this does not have to become your reality.
If you use a unified sales and lead database for all of your customers, these issues will almost all go away. I highly recommend that you use the sales program called ACT! by Sagetm. This program, and other ones like it, will allow you to keep track of your customers, their phone numbers, e-mail addresses, physical addresses, occupations, desires, account history, buying tendencies, feedback, and all of the information that your company needs to know about every customer in order for you to offer that custom-tailored customer service and product delivery that everyone loves. And thus if you do hit your head on the toilet seat while you are attempting to create the flux capacitor, your company and your company’s sales and your livelihood will still be intact (as long as your wife can point you to the ACT! software). And if your top salesperson decides to become an egotistical, type-A, terrorist-style employee (as one of our top sales guys did), you can fire him like a cub scout’s bonfire. Your customers (and your company balance sheet) will not notice the difference.
Create a service and product delivery checklist to ensure high quality every time.
**You basically have to create a checklist that documents everything that you expect your people to deliver to your customer every time and how it is to be delivered with very specific detail. If you do not document your expectations for your product and service delivery, your people will only be able to hit this ambiguous and murky target occasionally, and you will find yourself making previous customers disloyal through the randomness of your inconsistency. People on family vacations generally do not pull off of the interstate to experiment with their lunch dollars at some oddball and shabby-looking diner. They generally pull off the interstate to eat at a brand of restaurant they know and trust such as Subwaytm or McDonaldstm. Although Subwaytm and McDonaldstm might not offer the best food ever, they do offer the most consistent food ever. Thus, people are buying lunch based on the predictability of the good-tasting food, not the great-tasting food. Your delivery system must build your reputation with each customer you service. Your company must strive to get it right every time, not 50 percent of the time.
Create a merit-based pay structure, and relentlessly pay all your people based on the quality of their job performance and not based on the number of hours they work. Tie your merit-based pay structure to a mystery-shopper program or to a quality-control survey completed by your customers.
When it comes to quality control, I have found that all the pep talks, charts, and illustrations do not mean anything unless you praise and punish your employees in their wallet (where it counts). With a properly implemented merit-based pay structure, your top employees will feel appreciated through higher wages, and your poor performers will either feel as though they need to improve or quit. Either way, with a merit-based pay structure in place, your company will never be stagnant; and you will create the “intentional turnover” of the bottom one-third of employees that all great companies need.
I will never forget the reactions on the faces of our disk jockeys when I finished reading The Service Profit Chain and Built To Last; and then I announced our dramatic and immediate move to a merit-based pay structure. Under the old structure, every DJ made a 33 percent commission on all their shows (with $575 being the average price tag). However, under this new system, our average price tag was going to move up to $675 (larger and higher-end events), and each DJ would make a guaranteed 25 percent commission on all DJ shows while he stood to benefit by about 10 percent for each favorable customer-service survey he received. Under this new system, every DJ would be meticulously reviewed and rated by his past performance. Disk jockeys who were found to be in the top 10 percent of our staff would be paid a guaranteed 35 percent (as opposed to the guaranteed 25 percent the other 90 percent earned) with an ability to earn a 10 percent bonus based on their reviews. Essentially, the disk jockeys who were not performing to our standards would be paying for the bonus checks of our top people. It was Robin Hood in reverse. The underachieving DJs were going to be paying for the increased bonuses of our top people. This system really irritated some plankton-eating, bottom-feeding carp disk jockeys, which I was glad to see.
Create mechanisms, rewards, and penalties to incentivize every aspect of every job in your business.
In order for this system to work, you must mercilessly penalize lateness and religiously praise promptness. You must celebrate quality like it’s the best thing in the world, and you have to make dramatic examples out of those who intentionally and consistently deliver poor performances. Telling people they should try harder because it is the right thing to do is about as bogus as telling a sophomore in high school that they have to sit in the timeout chair if they don’t behave. If you want your team to see what you value, reward and penalize all behaviors financially. I believe that one third, if not more, of all pay should be merit-based. If your bookkeeper is saving your company thousands, show him appreciation by offering to pay him a percent of all the additional money that he saves your company. If your HR guy is phenomenal, you need to reward him (or her) with bonuses for each new recruit. However, if your HR guy is underperforming and consistently not delivering, you have to show him that it matters by setting up financial penalties for lack of performance. Pay everyone with performance-based pay scales, and your company will always be profitable. If you start guaranteeing everyone hourly wages (except for yourself), you are going to find yourself yelling at and pleading with lifelong underperformers. Praise your top people, and fire your bottom people . . . repeat as needed with a sense of urgency. Warning: your bottom feeders will get mad (which is good).
Build an operations manual for every aspect of your business.
If there is any aspect of your business that only you know how to do, you must make an operations manual to document how you do what you do and how others need to do this process as well. Build an operations manual detailing how to hire, how to fire, how to train, how to recruit, how to market, how to sell, how to deliver your product, and how to do your favorite sexual move (leave the operations manual on how to do your favorite sexual move at home, and only use it in the context of marriage).
Create a linear workflow chart that clearly shows from beginning to end the way that you want your customers to be treated from your first attempts to market to them until you have your final interaction with the customer.
Over the years at DJ Connection, it became blatantly obvious to me that it was impossible to fight invisible and ambiguous quality meltdowns. However, once I had taken the time (after years spent fighting invisible ghosts in the dark) to make a linear workflow chart, I found that everything became manageable and easy to fix. Whenever something great happened, I could point to where in the system we went right, and if something ever went poorly, I could point to where the problem was stemming from. It always frustrated me when I would hear a bride say, “You guys just aren’t what I am looking for,” when they did not give me any specifics on what we could have done better to earn their business. However, now with the workflow in place, we have choreographed nearly every aspect of our interaction with them to the point where our whole team now knows where we went wrong (which we rarely do now).
Once you have completed your linear chart, relentlessly ask yourself, “Does my workflow chart systematically exceed my customers expectations?”
If it does, you are on the right track. If it does not, you need to keep tweaking your workflow until (in theory), it systematically exceeds your customer’s expectations every time.
Build a system that is designed to hold everyone accountable for his or her actions and deeds.
For an incredible example of what not to do, we can look at the DJ Connection 2004 version. During this time, the sales guys were allowed to tally up their own commission totals in a way that was designed for each guy to hold himself accountable without any checks or balances. President Ronald Reagan was famous for encouraging America to “trust but verify” when dealing with people; and I would recommend a similar course of action when dealing with your employees. Do not ever allow your people to be put in a situation where there is zero accountability. Do not ever allow yourself to get in to a position where there is zero accountability. Accountability prevents good people from turning to the dark side. There are enough Darth Vaders out there as it is; we don’t need to be out there enabling and creating them by leaving your light saber closet unlocked every night (I think I took that analogy too far).
Build a hierarchy chart that clearly outlines who is in charge of who and what their responsibilities are.
For me, writing this hierarchy chart seemed a little tedious and ridiculous at first. We only had fifty DJs at the time, and I kept wondering what the point of building a management chart was in a small organization. But as I went through it, I noticed that there was no system in place; and through default, everyone felt as though they needed to report directly to me. This was frustrating, but as I was making the chart, I started realizing that it would frustrate me if I worked for me. Without someone to report back to, how were my people supposed to know if they were doing a good job or not?
Make a place for everything (including the scissors).
In 2006, there was one day in particular when I felt a meltdown coming. Maintenance had not finished on time fixing all the karaoke systems from the previous week’s repair list, and thus 4 of our 8 karaoke systems malfunctioned on the same weekend. Customers were calling in to complain and to “talk to the owner,” which was not fun. One by one they were ripping me a new one, and I knew it was 100 percent my fault because I was not being hard enough on our underperforming maintenance guy. After being chewed out verbally by four consecutive customers and finding out my e-mail was not working properly either, as luck would have it, the last straw was . . . I couldn’t find my scissors! I don’t remember why I needed scissors (probably to kill myself), but I do remember that I could not find them, and thus I was super pissed. I started yelling out (I wish I had a more descriptive vocabulary at the time):
“Holy shit! What the hell is going on with those karaoke systems? What the hell is so DAMN HARD about repairing a F&*$ing karaoke system? Are those guys idiots? And where the F%$& are my scissors?”
For some reason, as soon as I went nuts about not being able to find my scissors, it occurred to me that there was not a place for everything. That night I stayed up ALL NIGHT reorganizing and labeling everything. I was riding a wave of anger and frustration, and I did not want to miss out on this ambition surge. The next morning when everyone arrived at work, they found a neatly organized office and a delirious, yet oddly cheerful, eccentric boss waiting for them with the good news that “everything is now organized.” My friend, your time to label and organize everything is now. Go get some RedBulltm and start tonight.
Make a company culture checklist.
You must have mechanisms in place to keep the continuity of your office culture in place as you transition from one employee to the next. Over time, your people will change, but the consistency of your product and service cannot if you want to maintain viability. At DJ Connection, our number-one export is sincere “humorous enthusiasm, adaptability, and over-deliverance.” That is what we are known for, and that is what people want. If Mr. Somber wants to come to work for us because he hears that our pay is good, that is ok; but he must change because we will not. Your people must know your company mission statement, and they must live it every day. I doesn’t matter whether they know the slogan or not; it matters whether they live it or not. At DJ Connection, we make fun of each other and with each other; we crack jokes; we do not take lunch breaks; and we get stuff done quickly. At your company, you must figure out who you are, and you must relentlessly talk about it, celebrate it, and encourage it every day in every way. If your current culture is falling short of your mission statement and your ideals, you must work tirelessly to force your reality to conform to your ideal.
Make a previous-customer follow-up system, and stick with it every time.
Although it might be a blow to most of our egos (as entrepreneurs), the reality is that most people are bombarded with mailers, calls, flyers, and e-mails; and they don’t always read what you send them. Thus, your company must develop a way to cut through in a real, memorable, and sincere way the sensory overload caused by mass marketing. How? I do not know what will work best for you, but you must stay in touch with your former and currently satisfied customers. And if you ever make a customer mad (and you will at some point), then you must rush to recovery so that you can take the blame, make it right, and find out what you can do to make sure that this type of mess up does not ever happen to someone in the future. For the record, if you show me a businessperson who has never accidentally upset a customer, I will show you a businessperson too afraid to ever earn new customers. Boo!
Make you marketing calendar based on the seasonal aspects of your business and the American culture.
If you are in lawn care, don’t do a huge marketing push in the dead of winter for your spring clean-up services. However if you are a landscaper, you might want to market your Christmas-light installment services on the week before Thanksgiving every year. The point is, as an entrepreneur, you must analyze your market and determine what the best marketing programs are and when the best time to implement them is. Don’t be an idiot like I was and mail a ton of schools about your prom packages are while all the teachers are on break. Don’t be a moron like I was and spend all of your marketing dollars airing radio commercials throughout the summer to book weddings (when very few people are getting engaged during this time). Sit down, brainstorm, and get specific about what products and services you should be marketing in which months. Poor returns on marketing campaigns are an “idiot tax” on people like me who did not take the time to think before spending those marketing dollars. Almost all business owners and entrepreneurs quickly find out what promotions and types of advertisements work and at what times of the year they work best.
Thus, it is time to take the randomness out of the equation by taking the time to make a marketing calendar that can be used every year to maximize your marketing efforts.
Make an “Armageddon checklist.” If you get hit by a bus, who is in charge? If you get hit by a bus, how will your spouse or significant other pay the bills without you (life insurance, business plan, etc.)?
**I realize that this is not a fun topic, but we’ve got to get over it and get to working on it. Think through all the what-ifs, and make a plan for everything. If your building is on fire, who grabs what and how are your information and your systems backed up?
Make an employee review calendar.
**If you are going to be implementing a merit-based pay system with your employees, and if you are going to be serious about rewarding your top people and removing your bottom people, you must set up a calendar for those infamous employee reviews so that everyone will always know where they stand, how they got there, and what is needed to improve. Those who are willing to improve will love the candor and the sincere feedback; and those not wanting to improve will love arguing with you one last time for old time’s sake. If you would like great additional reading on the subject of employee management, I HIGHLY recommend Jack Welch’s autobiography entitled Jack: Straight from the Gut.
Create a web-optimization and web-presence calendar.
It is simply not good enough to only work on your website and Internet image every three years when you think about. You must have a system in place that will keep your Internet presence on top of your competition and in front of your customers. We work on our website every Monday morning at
6:00 a.m. What time will you choose?
Create a company budget (and stick to it).
Individuals and businesses that operate on a budget spend less bottom line. Take the time to determine your annual company budget, and cut as needed (unlike the federal government who is fond of simply printing more money whenever they exceed their budget constraints). Big shout-out’s to nearly all former presidents, Congress, and the Senate in reference to your incredible deficit-spending habits. Someday you will have to explain to me how my wife and I can spend five times what we bring in while still remaining economically viable by secretly imposing inflation on all my neighbors to make up for our love of spending more than we have.
Create a “customer differentiation” program and operations manual that details how your company will differentiate between apostle, loyalist, mercenary, hostage, and terrorist-style Jihadist customers.
**Anyone who has ever worked a day of their life in a service or retail industry will tell you that there are some great customers, and there are some horrible customers. However, very few businesspeople and companies take the time to systematically sort their customers into groups. And why would you want to sort them into groups? We all need to sort our customers into groups because our TOP 20 percent of customers (apostles) are the ones that usually bring in 80 percent of our business revenue, while the bottom 20 percent of our customers are usually the ones who haggle with us for half of an hour about price, express no loyalty, and tend to frustrate all of our employees.
Thus, if you have too many bottom-20-percent (terrorist) customers, you will quickly find yourself without any profits (as these people always haggle and want refunds) and without any quality employees (as quality employees only have a limited tolerance for companies that market to and cater to mediocre customers). Taking the time to differentiate your customers will allow you to spend your marketing dollars on retaining your top customers, instead of spending your hard-earned money constantly marketing to new ones. To save you the time, just remember this, every dollar that you spend on keeping your current customers happy will usually net your business two dollars of profit. Ask yourself today, ”How will I systematically differentiate my loyal customers from my terrorist customers? Will I enter all my loyal customers in a database after I deliver my product and service to them?
Create a “Family Time and Family Vacation” calendar.
As a small businessperson, you can oftentimes find yourself working all the time, which is great for business, but bad for “business time” with your significant other and “family time” with your family and loved ones. Take the time to write out (with great detail) when you will work and when you will not. Take time to schedule times for nothing to be on your schedule. Your family will love knowing when the next family vacation will be and when daddy or mommy is coming home. Havana, Aubrey, Angelina, and Bird” I apologize for not having discovered this earlier in my working career.
“Knowledge without application is meaningless.” – Thomas Edison
Help keep this chapter from becoming as meaningless as three-fourths of the content found in pop rap songs by seriously and thoughtfully completing the 37-point assignment listed above.
(Pictured above are Satan and I discussing the idea of partnering together to create synergy and profits.)