Employee Morale

By Jennifer E. Goldman, President

 

It’s amazing to me how many places of business continually suffer from low morale. These are typically the companies that also provide low levels of customer service and either extremely high or low employee turnover rates. What I don’t understand is how the owner or upper management is completely blind to it.

 

What it really boils down to is a breakdown in the company culture. It isn’t that upper management is blind to it, it’s that they’re the ones who created it.

 

Have you ever noticed the difference in how people interact with you (or avoid you) when you’re in a good mood versus when you’re down in the dumps? That’s the affect owners and managers have on their staff, and over time it’s what creates what we call corporate culture.

 

When owners and managers have positive attitudes, are efficient workers, empower those around them to make decisions, allow their employees to make mistakes, regularly show appreciation and generally treat people fairly it creates a positive corporate culture.

 

When owners and managers are negative, expect more from others than they are willing to do themselves, demand that everything be done their way and are quick to criticize, it creates a negative corporate culture.

 

There are many more factors, however, that can affect corporate culture and thus employee morale.

 

What’s worse is that it began with the leaders, and although they may notice that their staff isn’t happy or behaving the way they would like, they don’t know what to do and ultimately wind up behaving in a more unsatisfactory way themselves. It’s a vicious cycle.

 

Sometimes the problem is that the person at the top is too removed now to notice. Sometimes they don’t have the authority they feel they need to make the decisions they think will change things.

 

So how you can turn bad morale around? Well, like everything else, the first step is admitting you have a problem.

 

One easy way is to invite someone you know will be completely honest with you to basically just wander around your place of business, strike up random conversations with employees, make observations, and ask absurd questions. Retail and restaurant businesses do this all the time, they call the spies ‘secret shoppers’.

 

Another way is to hire consultants who provide services that include keywords like employee relations, change management, process review, or human resources/relations. These consultants can offer data driven reports to help put the problem into perspective for absentee owners, removed boards, or oblivious managers.

 

Once the report is digested, it’s time to make a plan. Those same consultants can likely offer recommendations, best practices, implementation plans and strategies, and other assistance.

 

What can you do if you’ve noticed bad morale in your workplace but you have no authority? You could request a closed door candid conversation with your boss, you can take notes and make a report of your own that you share with the “powers that be” at your company, you could locate consultants in your area who may be able to help and find a way to discreetly introduce them to upper management, and ultimately you could decide to leave in search of a job in a better environment. But do me a favor? On your way out, tell them the truth about why you’re leaving. It could just be the wakeup call they need.

Networking Shouldn’t Be Work

By Jennifer E. Goldman, President 

Who doesn’t love a networking event? They typically include food and drinks, friends and colleagues. Very attractive.

But how do you network? I love to be a fly on the wall, a silent spectator…for a few minutes. It’s always interesting to me to watch how different professionals handle a room full of people at a networking event. Some of them are socializing, some of them are wallflowers, some of them are working hard, but some of them, a rare few, are actually networking like a pro.

The next time you walk into a networking event, take a look around and see if you can spot which people are really doing what networking is meant to do. It’s probably not difficult. They look confident and people are waiting in the wings to speak to them.

The point of networking is not to put a business card into the hands of each individual in the room. It’s not about telling everyone what you do. Nor is it about leaving the event with new clients all lined up.

Networking is a two way street like most communication; it’s about starting new professional relationships. Who wants to be in a relationship with someone who talks constantly and never listens, or with the person who’s interested in you only until the next person walks into the room?

It’s pretty easy to network properly, and it’s a lot of fun. The better you get at it, the more enjoyable it is. The next time you go to a networking event try this: plan to introduce yourself to 3 people you’ve never met, or whom you’ve met but don’t know what they do (when you get better, try 5). Do NOT hand them a card as you introduce yourself and DON’T launch into your elevator pitch. Shake their hand, look them in the eye as you tell them you’re name, ask for their name and immediately ask about what they do. Ask a couple of follow-up questions to better familiarize yourself with what their company is all about. During your part of the conversation relate what they’re telling you to something or someone you know. (Not about your business, but as a way to show that you’re listening, absorbing, engaged.)

If the person you’ve introduced yourself to is a good networker, the conversation won’t go on for too long before they ask about your company and what you do. I would still stay away from the elevator pitch – you’re not trying to make a sale. Just have a conversation. As you explain what you do, relate it back to how someone in their profession might use someone like you, or tell your new friend about a project you’re working on.

Another great way to start the conversation after introducing yourself is to ask, “So, if you could work with anyone in the world, who would be your dream client and why?”

Keep in mind that everyone’s time is precious and don’t monopolize it. Keep the conversations fairly brief – don’t rush people off as if you have someone better to talk to, but thank them for their time and tell them that you don’t want to keep them from meeting more people. At THIS point hand them a card and ask for theirs, if you think you might like to keep in touch.

At the end of the event you’ll have a few business cards from people you just met and hopefully a couple of them are people you can see yourself maintaining a professional relationship with. They won’t all turn into clients and you won’t turn into one for all of them, but that’s beside the point – you’ve made new contacts that you may be able to refer people to and who may be willing to send people your way as well.

But what will you do with the business cards? Attend a couple of these events a month and they start to stack up!  #1 on the No No list: do NOT go home and add them to your Constant Contact/eBlast list! The best thing I’ve found (and it wasn’t me – it was a man I met at an event who made my networking skills look pale by comparison) is to contact the professionals you’ve met that you would like to keep in your trusted circle of allies within 48 hours…on the phone. Call and tell them how great it was to meet them and set up a one-on-one casual meeting so you can find out in greater depth about their business and possible future opportunities that will mutually benefit both your businesses.

In the end, it isn’t about building a business card collection (unless you’ve got an office wallpaper craft project going), it’s about finding other professionals you trust, respect and are comfortable doing business with, or to whom you can refer other professionals who trust you.

 

Business: It Is Personal

By Jennifer E. Goldman, President

Have you ever heard someone say, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.”? Typically what they mean is that the person they’re speaking with has put too much personal emotion into the workplace. Business is definitely a place where professionalism should be at the forefront, however without making business a “personal thing” it can become cold, hard, grueling and, in the end, repel both clients and employees.

A business with no heart will find itself with no support ere long. Too many business owners and top level managers believe that what makes them successful is doing just that – showing no heart. Truth be told, there may have been a time in this nation where that type of leadership had its place. I believe that time has long since passed.

In this day and age the general workforce has become much more conscientious; driven mostly, in my opinion, by Gen Y. They look for companies, whether it’s doing business with or for, who take a responsible, active role in the community. And it’s spreading. Think about how much more prevalent the idea of shop local is right now than it was 10 years ago, and how far corporate responsibility has come. People are now much more apt to take a deeper look at the companies they do business with and work for. The general population has attached earning and spending dollars with feeling good about the businesses who provide those opportunities.

Is your company one of those businesses? Do people feel good about giving you money for the goods or services you provide? Do your employees feel good about earning their paycheck from you?

Employee morale and turnover is one good measurement of this. If someone asked one of your staff members about their job, how would they answer?

The way a business treats their employees and the community surrounding them speaks volumes. One of the easiest ways to improve relations with both is to put more heart into your corporate structure. Make it personal. Most businesses give paid vacations and sick days, some even give a little paid time off in the name of ‘personal days’. What if you gave your employees four hours (one-half day) each month of paid time to go volunteer at a local organization of their choice?

Chances are, many of them would take advantage of this. Several of them probably already do volunteer work, whether it be for their children’s school, their church, a scouting or youth organization or some other local charity. This is a great way for you to show that you care about what your employees care about and also show that you’re a community-minded organization.

Sure, you’ll be spending money on salaries for time that offers your business zero productivity, but you have to look at what you gain instead:

  • Improved employee relations (which typically increases their rate of productivity on the job and decreases turnover),
  • Improved community relations; word will spread that your company offers this to its employees, which encourages and increases volunteerism in your community and helps gain consumer loyalty,
  • Sense of philanthropy and heart in your business ,
  • Multiple community organizations will be more familiar with your business and begin reaching out with offers to become more involved in the community.

The more you give, the more you will see in return. As a business owner, you’ll need to assess the cost to your business for any given program, offer or employee benefit. However, don’t overlook the long term benefits that will be reaped by your business as it gains awareness and loyalty by the community.

Flight Visibility

By Jennifer E. Goldman, President

Have you ever heard the term ‘flight visibility’? According to the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association it is determined by the pilot in the cockpit”. If you’re a small business owner, that’s you! You are the pilot in the cockpit; defining the visibility of your path forward. The heights you’re able to soar is completely up to you. It’s a very powerful feeling, but it can also be overwhelming.

One of the greatest gifts you can give your small business is visibility. People can’t hire your business if they don’t know it exists. The tricky part, though, is determining the best way for your business to be visible. It isn’t possible to participate in, attend or be a part of every opportunity that exists. So which ones should you choose?

Trial and error is probably your best bet. But when you try something that works really well you will know it right away. And it’s exciting.

One of my former clients was a winery. This particular winery is located on an old Army post that was so covert through the 1990’s that GPS and mapping systems still don’t have all the streets listed. Aside from getting bigger and more signs, I had to figure out how to make the winery more visible to the community.

I signed the winery up to participate in community events. What I found was that the winery didn’t make a lot of sales, had to pay for additional off-site staffing and it wasn’t getting more people to visit the winery.

My next attempt was signing up for a state-wide wine program. It cost the winery nothing to register and it put their name, logo and information on the Internet, along with dozens of others across Virginia, with a discount offer. The next day they got one phone call about it and one customer on-site. The next week a handful of customers came in to take advantage of the offer. That was a win!

My own business is very different from the winery, though. Right away I joined committees for two local nonprofits thinking that it would give my business visibility and me some great networking opportunities. It was definitely worthwhile giving my time to great causes and working with some great people, but it wasn’t really a visibility opportunity for my company and, because I had joined more than one, it was taking a lot of my time.

I then began attending professional networking socials. By joining groups close to home, and one or two not-so-close, I was able to spend a couple of hours every couple of weeks talking to dozens of professionals about my new business. It gave me an opportunity to flex my networking skills and develop a way of determining, more quickly, which professionals in a room are more apt to be prospective clients.

For me, this was the perfect flight visibility. It only cost me the price of admission to the socials, the price of a drink, and a couple hours of my time. What I gained, however, were numerous introductions to professionals in a wider circle and time to foster existing business relationships in my own community.

Alternative visibility opportunities include things like sponsoring events, donating goods or services to local causes (a good one I’ve found is funding the printing services for community theatres or school art and music programs with your name/ad on the back), social media marketing, hosting an appreciation event or coordinating a free workshop or seminar.

Visibility is important and there is no shortage of approaches to getting there. Keep trying new and creative ideas. The sky’s the limit.

Narrow Your Focus: Expand Your Possibilities

By Jennifer E. Goldman, President

 

I began 2017 with fewer clients than I had at any given point the previous year. And, obviously, less income. Not exactly the bolster to my business mind that I was hoping for. I was sure I was on the brink of expansion; this would be my year for having so much work I would have to hire, partner, bring in contractors to be able to handle all the projects being handed (hand-over-fist, I was sure) to my company. It was a little disheartening. Instead of forging forward, anyway, I decided instead to take a step back. What was I doing wrong? Or, more likely, what was I neglecting to do? Why wasn’t I where I thought I’d be at the turn of the calendar?

 

Resonating in my head were the all-too-common comments I’d heard over the past year when describing my business to people: “Government and Community Relations? What IS that? Exactly what do you do?”

 

People had a fuzzy notion of my business because, even after two years in business, I was trying really hard not to be too narrowly focused. The last thing you want to do in business is not gain clients because you won’t do certain things. I wanted everyone to have the vague notion that I could handle anything they needed. And that’s exactly what happened – it was all too vague, for everyone.

 

It hit me like a ton of bricks, as well it should have; I know these things, I have a marketing background. I tell other people the same thing that I was ignoring in my own head: NOT EVERYONE IS YOUR CUSTOMER. NOT EVERY SERVICE IS YOUR SPECIALTY.

 

While it seems counter-intuitive to look for a smaller set of clients, to offer a smaller set of services, it’s exactly what will help define your company. Narrowing your focus allows you to market and engage more effectively with the people and businesses more likely to hire you; to offer a smaller set of services that you are most effective and expert in delivering. Being a well-defined business with a narrower scope is how you find your niche, your target market…your people, your tribe.

 

All it really takes is a shift in your mind, which allows you to speak more directly and confidently. Once I tightened my focus in my mind, conversations I had with colleagues and local business people become more productive. In the past two weeks every single meeting, networking event, or other business function I’ve attended has resulted in at least one person asking if we could set up a private meeting to talk about a project they’d like to hire my company to work on.

 

Never be afraid to say what you do, what you excel at, what your preferred projects are, who your ideal clients will be. While you may be turning some people away because they don’t fit your description, what you’ll be left with are all the right clients who have all the best projects. And, hopefully, a lifetime of fulfilling work, a strong business and a lasting legacy.

Good Vibrations

By Jennifer E. Goldman, President      

Have you ever approached a business from the outside and immediately felt a sense of sadness, stress or doom? Maybe it wasn’t until you reached the interior. You may not have known what it was, and most likely ignored it; continuing on with your meeting, appointment or shopping…but you didn’t feel great about it. These things happen and so many of us never really know why, we just know on some level it was dreadful.

Some people, however, are more sensitive to feelings like this will turn and leave promptly.

The owners of these buildings and businesses, are rarely (if ever) aware that this is happening. For some reason they have become desensitized or accustomed to their surroundings and unfortunately it’s affecting the level of success of their business. It’s one thing to have not-so-great curb appeal. It’s quite another to suffer, for lack of a better term, a case of bad juju!

A good example was a stop I made last week to a local business. I was coming unannounced, but during their normal hours of operation. There was a cute little garden and a welcome mat next to their door but as I approached I noticed a sign sticking out the garden that read “No Trespassing”. I found this odd not only because the plot was only about four foot by four foot in size, but also because this business is one focused on health and healing. As I passed the garden and headed for the door there was a sign on the door that read “Please Use the Other Entrance”.

At this point I was a little put off; I’m feeling like a trespasser and the entrance that, on first glance, seemed the most welcoming is off-limits.

I walked back out to the sidewalk and down to the other entrance. Feeling more confident, I strode up to the door and turned the knob. Nothing. Locked. Then I noticed the Post-it note. “Out to Lunch”. It was 2PM.

“Boy, are you ever,” I thought.

Truth is, I was there to conduct an impromptu interview and snap a few photos for a Mother’s Day gift guide I was putting together – it was free publicity for them. Or it would have been. Even though I realized I would probably never become a customer I decided to make all my other stops and cycle back to this business later.

An hour and a half later: same story. Door locked. Post-it note. Still “Out to Lunch”. I decided I wouldn’t use them ever and I would also not be including them in my article or referring people to them. As I walked back to my car, a couple approached the “wrong” door and then the other door and then left as well.

Bad juju and bad business practices can be so damaging to your business and you may never even know it.

What can you do to find out if your business has bad juju? Try taking a walk-through, from the front entrance, all the way through the building and look at it as if you’ve never seen the place before. If possible, bring your employees, or friends, or hire an outside consultant who will give you unbiased feedback and make positive professional suggestions. Ask them to be honest with you and be honest with yourself. What things look or feel negative?

The good news is, it’s really easy to turn your bad juju into good vibrations. Here are some easy tips:

  • Take away any signs that have the word “no” in them
  • Don’t use paper signs, but if you must, at least frame them
  • Additional lighting can do tremendous things, sometimes it’s needed outside, too
  • Pick up any litter around your walkways, entrance and parking lot
  • Add plants and flowers and maintain them

 

 

Business Shards

By Jennifer E. Goldman, President

 

It just hit me the other day: I hate business cards. I don’t mind the expense of them or making sure I have enough with me when I am networking. What I detest is receiving them; not the act of someone handing them to me, but the fact that I stash them away, or worse carry them in my work bag and never look at them again.

They are clutter, and I’m one of those people who can’t think straight when there is clutter around me. Just as I realized my strong dislike of having these cards cluttering my desk drawers, my purse pockets or the bottom of my work bag, I realized I don’t have to keep them! They are little shards of other people’s businesses and they have become a negative in my mind, keeping me from the ultimate purpose of why I received those cards in the first place: to build a stronger network of professionals.

I couldn’t bear to just toss them. People paid good money to have them made. They went out of their way (at least a tiny bit) to introduce themselves to me and tell me about their work and why it’s important to them.

If I was really going to take my networking to the next level, those cards were a reminder that continual interaction and connection was the key. I quickly gathered all the business cards I had collected, from every corner of my office, and sat with clear intentions in front of my laptop, LinkedIn on screen.

I diligently went through the entire stack of cards, searched for the person who gave it to me on LinkedIn, requested they connect with me there and sent each one a personal note mentioning where I had met them (or being honest and asking where we’d met, apologizing for taking so long to connect) and expressing well wishes for their business.

What I realized is that we are all fairly easy to find in this age of technology and information. If I really need to contact any of the professionals I’ve met, I don’t need their business card. What I need is to feel more connected to them than a 2”x3” piece of paper will offer.

Within a few days my LinkedIn network grew by more than 30 connections. But more importantly, I became a better, more connected business owner to the professionals in my area. It did wonders for my previously fractured mind.

….and then I threw all the shards away.

 

Ain’t Mission You All

By Jennifer E. Goldman, President

I have a soft spot in my heart for nonprofit organizations. And a huge understanding of how they work…or don’t work, as is too often the case. There are so many things that can endanger the success of even the best-intended nonprofit. A poorly defined mission tops the list.

 

In some cases, as the organization is formed, a definitive mission is never clearly defined and the organization never even gets off the ground. In other cases, the mission is strong at the beginning as founding board members have a clear vision and purpose, but eventually erodes as new board members, who aren’t as personally tied to the original mission, attempt to redefine it over time.

 

Recently, I met with the leader of a 6-year old organization who wanted my company’s help with fundraising through community events. When asked what type of event she had in mind, her only response was, “The one that will bring in the most money.” As I attempted to find out what her budget was, what her financial needs were, what types of events would best relate to her mission; I accidentally drilled down to the root of the problem. She had lost sight of her mission.

 

As the conversation continued, I heard so many facets of that mission; each one making it a bigger, less achievable goal. While it was nice to hear how many issues she wanted her organization to solve – no one nonprofit organization can save the whole wide world. It’s altruistic, noble and sweet, but highly unrealistic and will turn off potential board members and donors.

 

The key to having a proper mission is similar to an elevator pitch; make it clear and concise, easily understood and, frankly, believable. Your mission statement should tell people what problem you plan to overcome or solve or what great ideal you plan to further. Following that, your vision statement should tell people how you plan to do this.

 

Want to know what makes a bad mission statement? Here are some fine examples: 9 Worst Mission Statements of All Time.

 

Now, take a look at some of the good ones: 30 Inspiring Billion Dollar Startup Company Mission Statements.

 

Sometimes it’s difficult to define all the wonderful things you want your nonprofit to accomplish. It’s like writing a résumé; you want to brag, but want to seem modest, but most of all you just want everyone to understand your strengths and believe in your abilities. It’s great if you and your board can achieve this together, but it’s also very common to have an objective outsider facilitate the conversation and help guide the organization to better define their mission.

 

You’ll be amazed at the excitement and additional support having a clear mission can garner for your nonprofit. The board and staff will be able to recite it more easily and others will understand it more readily, which means everyone starts to have a more immediate tie-in and buy-in.

The Terrible Two’s

By Jennifer E. Goldman, President

 

Something exciting happened this April Fool’s Day: my company turned two! But then I began to wonder: is this like raising children? The period where so many questions are asked, and even more boundaries tested, many of them completely shattered.

I quickly realized the unequivocal answer is yes. Yes, year two of running a small, but growing, company is exactly like raising a speedy toddler who is now mostly stable on his legs, zipping around the house, asking 800 questions a minute and getting away with whatever he can in the span of time it takes a parent to run to the restroom.

There is never a dull moment. It’s all uncharted territory; even if you’ve done this before, every company – like every child – provides a vastly different experience. It’s simultaneously thrilling and frightening in equal amounts.

Parents can testify: before your first child is born, you have certain assumptions about what you will be like as a parent…and how fantastically your child will confine themselves within the very fair, realistic boundaries you will set.

And then they’re born.

And then you blink.

And they’re off….

All of your illusions shattered.

The great thing about parenting is that this person you’ve brought into the world can’t be defined. You have no idea who they will become, but you get to witness and nurture the whole journey.

This is what I’ve learned in my two years with this fantastic new venture/adventure I began. I’ve created another being and it’s taken on a life of its own. The ideals I had when I formed the company were mere fantasy. Luckily, the reality is far more exciting and gratifying.

Not only has Resonance grown and become more familiar to the community, it has started to define itself in new and unique ways. The strength of its services has intensified as the definitions of what it can do and offer has been tightened and honed. Skills that I assumed would be a large part of what the business utilized have become secondary, making way for the expertise that seems to resonate more with clients and other business leaders.

Equally as gratifying as watching this two-year old find and define itself, is realizing how much it’s teaching me. The more confident and competent I feel about this company and the direction it’s taken, the less unruly it seems.

Just like with parenting, I couldn’t be more thrilled with the place this business has resided in my life and in my heart. And we will only grow and strengthen from here.

To all of my family, friends and fellow business people: thank you for the tremendous amount of support you’ve given and for helping me make it through the first two years. I’m looking forward to many more!