The 6 Behaviours of Successful Business Owners

The 6-Behaviours of Successful Business Owners

In tonight’s blog post, guest writer Bruce Baker shares the 6 Behaviours of Successful Business Owners. These key behaviours can make the difference in keeping your business thriving.

You have undoubtedly heard the depressing statistics of how many businesses fail within their first few years. I am one of the many who talk about the causes of failure and what to do about it and have the privilege of looking from the outside-in and the inside-out. I to have and continue to have my own experiences and understand why some business owners succeed and others fail repeatedly. Business owners only succeed because once they know what they want, they:

  • First, accept the challenge and work that builds their success and the failure that naturally forms as part of these efforts.
  • Choose to partner with those that have been successful not because of their “success” but because of what they learned from their “failures.”
  • Relentlessly execute to achieve what they’ve set out to do but not at their demise!

Human beings only make progress because of adversity and their insistence and commitment to execution – nothing more, nothing less. I wrote an article several years ago trying to explain (and justify, I suppose) how business owners fall in love with their goals but out of love with the actions that make these goals a reality.

The notion that business owners/CEOs would not grab what was staring them in the face to ensure success was mind-boggling.  I asked myself, “are people lazy?”; “are people this complacent?”.  Many are guilty of laziness and complacency when they don’t execute and fail as a result. Still, many also act out like a “wounded animal,” blaming everything they can other than themselves. Why? Because they become driven by their goals first instead of being aware and committing to the concessions they will have to make as part of achieving success.

Business owners I work with achieve their success because they choose to think and behave differently in the following six ways:

  1. They decide what they want but become excited by what they must do to become successful, regardless of whether it’s gaining or sacrificing.
  2. They expect and plan for failure.
  3. They seek out those that are successful as a result of their failures.
  4. They map out their plan and system(s) they will use to respond to inevitable failure that they will use to achieve success.
  5. They will succeed and be motivated to succeed again.
  6. They will fail and be motivated to fail again in the name of increasing their strength and resilience.
  7. They will not point fingers to justify their failures but identify the reason for failure and use it as a reason to continue to succeed.

I would love to take credit for their success, but realistically, I can’t. I provide business owners guidance and best-in-class business practices, but only they can decide if they want to succeed. I experience their successes and failures with them, but the successful ones see their failures as building blocks, not obstacles to their achievements.

You don’t need to be an expert Accountant or have a post-graduate degree in business to be successful. What you need is resilience, drive and a sense of humour!

Do you truly understand yourself?

  • Do you know exactly what your natural behaviours are that are either driving your success or holding you back?
  • Can you identify and take advantage of what drives you and what demotivates you in building your business and know what to do about it?
  • Do you know what the core competencies you need to develop to enhance your chances of business success?

If any of these questions resonate for you, send me an email at bbaker@4workplaces.com letting me know why they resonate with you. I’ll send you a complimentary assessment to complete so you can start discovering what you are not aware of about “you”! Once you become aware, your world opens and your mind is officially blown!

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How Do You Build Trust with Your Employees?

How do you build trust with your employees?

This week, guest writer Sonya Law walks us through the critical importance of the employee performance review in part two of her series. In “How do you build trust with your employees,” Sonya shares the methods of trust building we can all use in our businesses.

The irregularity of the sometimes twice a year Performance Review at mid-year and End of Year (EOY) does not lend itself to building trusted relationships.

What is going to build trust is:

  • Approachability – for some this is an open-door policy that physical signal that they are open for business. Others they like to walk the floor and talk with people and be seen.  Either way both methods work and encourage people, employees to come and talk with you.
  • Congruency – for some managers they may have an open-door policy and walk the floor but may give off a signal that they are not approachable. This is where emotional intelligence is important in leaders to have a self-awareness of their body language and tone when talking with employees to ensure that they are also presenting themselves as open and approachable.
  • Regularity – the consistency and regularity of these exchanges with employees encourages people to open up and builds trust.

As human beings we are wired to detect if people or situations are threatening and are constantly picking up on cues in our environment and behaviors of others.  To assess whether a person or situation is psychologically safe, the workplace is no different.  When we build an organisation that is built on trust and it’s not just a token value but a lived experience, we experience greater levels of:

  • Innovation – feeling safe to share ideas without them getting shut down without a fear of making mistakes, which enables learning.
  • Collaboration – when ideas flow freely amongst the team, in a collegiate way this balance of power ensures that everyone is heard and the focus is on a better solution.
  • Problem Solving – this collegiate environment encourages the team to solve problems together rather than a focus on individuals.

Some organisations value technical skills the hard skills; over leaders who are more approachable and collaborative as these are seen as soft skills.

48% of employees in workforce in USA are looking to change jobs, for more flexibility, to align with cultures and leaders who display these soft skills and clarity of purpose.  Cultures who truly engage with their people in an authentic way. Leaders who are self-aware, open, transparent in their communication and vulnerable, win the hearts and minds of employees and extract the discretionary effort that hits the bottom-line time and time again.

Most organisations know what they do, how they do it but not why, these workplaces are stuck in fire fighter mode, directionless and leaking talent, innovation and in most cases money.

So where do we go from here?

Make feedback and performance reviews a habit, stack it with best practice:

  1. People being aligned with the STRATEGY
  2. Remind employees of your WHY
  3. Connect people with your PURPOSE

The business landscape is rapidly changing and the nature of work and skills required are different.

Businesses need to reflect back to inform their strategy of what is needed to achieve business growth in the following areas:

  1. Continuous improvement
  2. Remove road blocks
  3. Market intelligence – competitor activity
  4. Customer intelligence – customer buying behavior
  5. Pandemic fatigue – shift towards holistic view of employee wellbeing
  6. AGILE – how can we become more agile
  7. Scalable Technology – how are we using technology to solve societies problem of social connectedness and remote work.

In effect how are we building a culture of feedback, performance and innovation, that is engaged and with a common purpose and a spirit of connection, belonging and community.

Humans are the greatest adapters:

In an article titled, Humans May Be the Most Adaptive Species, Scientific American:

“Constant climate change may have given Homo sapiens their flexibility.  Man had two key advantages: our brains and our capacity for culture.  Our brains are essentially social brains. We share information, we create and pass on knowledge. That’s the means by which humans are able to adjust to new situations, and it’s what differentiates humans from our earlier ancestors, and our earlier ancestors from primates”.

If we take care of the people we work with they will share knowledge, pass down knowledge and innovate and be agile, our role as leaders is to provide an environment that fosters trust for them to thrive.

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Five First Tasks to Becoming the Digital Dealer

Five First Tasks to becoming the Digital Dealer

Guest writer Mets Kramer continues his series on the Digital Dealership with today’s post: Five First Tasks to Becoming the Digital Dealer.

When I started as a service supervisor, part of my job was closing invoices.  On average, I probably opened (and therefore should have closed) 2 work orders per day.  Yet my metric target was 9 days average invoicing cycle   That meant 9 days between the last day someone worked on the machine and when the invoice was sent.  At the time I thought that seemed quite reasonable.  There were always some outstanding items on the work order, or more commonly I was too busy to close them faster.  The metric was an average number of days, so some work orders were much slower to invoice.  Unfortunately, as we all know, invoices sent well after the end of work are more likely to be disputed and less likely to be paid.

Years later, now responsible for all service operations, I started to ask myself where the 9 days came from.  Why not 10 or 8 or 7 or any other number? There was always some reason to be found why an invoice couldn’t be sent yet.   Then I started wondering why, when I send my car in to get work done at the dealership, do I get an invoice right when I want my car back.  Why don’t they wait 9 days to send me my bill?   I came to realize the reason was because the car dealership had figured out how to make sure every part and charge was on the work order before the work was done.  They do this because they won’t get paid if they give your car back before they send a bill, and they can’t hold your car until the bill is ready.

The car dealership had done the work and created tasks to remove all the problems that delayed getting everything on the work order on time.  So, I started the same process at the branches.  Finding out what stopped invoicing the same day and found ways to remove the hurdle.  It included using purchase orders with confirmed values, real-time digital service reports and even just better vendors. We even changed the metric on invoicing cycle. 75% of work orders had to be closed within one day, 25% could average up to 5 days.  This new metric created tasks for people to figure out how to prevent delays and we showed it was possible to invoice same day in almost all cases.

It’s what Ron calls the Art of the Possible.

In 1993, I got my first dial up internet access, via my 14.4 modem, on my IBM ThinkPad 700.  That’s almost 30 years ago.  Clearly the internet has been around for a long time.  Now, in 2021, here we are talking about the digital dealership and still have open tasks and reasons why we aren’t as digital as most other industries.  The truth is, it is possible!  Possible to have our dealerships capable and positioned where we want them to be.

The Art of the Possible, is about completing the tasks you know exist, to achieve your goals.   It might be a matter of getting some additional help to complete the task.  Either because of manpower, knowledge, or technical limitations.  Sometimes it’s as simple as implementing what you already have in existing systems.   Many of you will agree, you have software systems in the dealership with capabilities you don’t use.  Even though it would make the dealership better.

We’d like to help. Make some time to send Ron Slee or myself a list of 3 – 5 tasks you want to complete. These tasks should be oriented toward a goal aligned with becoming a Digital Dealership and from any department. Examples can include “I’d like to allow customers more flexible ways to communicate with us” or “I’d like to store and use information properly to drive sales”.  Send us your open tasks and we will help you work through implementing them.

A few years ago, I went to see a dealer after my presentation at AED.  I presented on using customer fleet data to predict sales and drive sales activities.  This dealer had all the capacity to implement this concept, and even agreed they should be doing it, but it was still an open item on their list, for the last 20 years. Don’t let small hurdles get in the way of being a better dealership for your customers, don’t let a list of POSSIBLE tasks stop you from becoming a Digital Dealer.

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Why Do I Do What I Do, Part Two

Why Do I Do What I Do, Part Two

In tonight’s blog post, guest writer Ryszard Chciuk brings us a sequel post: Why Do I Do What I Do, Part Two.

It is a very sad fact; most people have no idea about the meaning of their lives. This is because it is really hard mental work to find it out, and people do not like to overload their brains. As Victor Frankl mentioned in Man’s Search for Meaning, those people are caught in the “existential vacuum”. “They do not even know what they wish to do. For such a man No instinct tells him what he has to do, and no tradition tells him what he ought to do; sometimes he does not even know what he wishes to do. Instead, he either wishes to do what other people do (conformism) or he does what other people wish him to do (totalitarianism)”. Those poor people are very close to you, maybe in the organization you are working for.

During the lectures in Vienna in 1946, Victor Frankl listed the four main reasons a man wants to kill himself. One of them is the lack of faith in the meaning of the rest of life. Such a person can be very near to you.

As I declared in the article Why I do what I do, I believe the person searching for the meaning of his life can be inspired by the mission of the team he is a part of and will adopt it as a kind of response to his problem of not knowing that. And those who already have a sense of meaning will realize that working for the team is helping them to fulfill their lives’ missions.

Following that concept, around twenty years ago, I decided to start the creation of a new after-sales department for Volvo CE in my country by presenting my own professional mission to my new colleagues. I told them:

We provide machine users with the highest machine availability at the lowest cost of operation, by delivering service works exceeding customers’ expectations, and keeping profitability on the level assuring steady development of the service department and securing financial liquidity of our dealership in a downturn in the economy.

When you read my department mission, you could say:

  • They are devoted to the well-being of their customers.
  • They think customers’ priority is the highest machine availability and the   lowest cost of operation.
  • They are going to satisfy those needs by lowering the cost of machines’   operation by providing customers with excellent services.
  • They are also devoted to the well-being of their dealership.
  • They want to earn enough money to develop their service potential and to   survive in the market turmoil.

You can ask: and what about employees of the aftersales department, what about colleagues working for other silos? What you are going to do for your suppliers and local society. Will you respect the environment?

I was also not very satisfied with that definition. It was already too long to memorize! We could remove part of the definition regarding earning money, but I wanted to be honest with our customers and also, I wanted to keep our owners as my friends.

It was not the best expression of the idea I lived myself with, expression of my WHY I do what I do. My life’s meaning, my mission was ­— and still is — to make the world a little bit better than it was when I was born. Despite our saying “with the good intentions the Hell is cobbled”, I immodestly or naively believe it is possible.

That’s why it was a must to develop our vision and the main principles (values). We also had to work intensively on the organizational culture.

As I mentioned in my post Principia for After-sales, Part Two, it was necessary to present the whole idea simultaneously. I used to do it myself in the course of the introductory training for all new employees.

Then, most importantly was to prove to all my direct and indirect subordinates that I would treat those fancy words seriously, despite my personal cost, all the time. Unfortunately, it was rather common within our corporation, that so-called shared missions were not very popular. Other departments did not define clearly their shared missions, visions, and values. As it appeared in the future, it was an overwhelming obstacle.

Let me close by asking you some serious questions please.

  • What is your life’s mission?
  • What is your purpose?
  • What is your WHY?
  • Have you already found the meaning for your life?
  • Do you intend to spend half of the rest of your life working for an organization without a mission you could share?
  • Do you know why some of your subordinates and coworkers do not work with passion and engagement? Will you help them?

As Ron says, the time for your answers is now.

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The Digital Dealership – Digital Data Triggers

The Digital Dealership – Digital Data Triggers

In tonight’s blog post, guest writer Mets Kramer brings us to the bright side of technology in the Digital Dealership – Digital Data Triggers.

One of the best things about computers is they do the boring tasks of wading through data.  It’s a concept that is generally well understood, yet too many dealers are not applying this capability.

For all the years I spent running departments at dealers, I was never a fan of reports.   Reports, to me, are long lists of printed out or on-screen data that I need to read through to determine if there are any actionable situations.  It’s time consuming, especially if done on a regular basis.  I’ve always preferred getting the reporting system to do the work for me.

I LOVE indicators, indicators are the action items you get from a long boring report.   Indicators are the result of analyzing the report data and determining what we should do.  A great example is a customer account balance statement, where we look for people over their credit limit or with aged invoices.   Rather than read the whole list, we often just print the over limit customers and hand them to a credit manager or sales rep to call the customer.

In the same way, the Digital Dealership uses its data, computers and an analyst to create actions from data.  These action items are pushed out through various methods to improve the business or support the customer.

There are 2 main types of actionable data.  First there are activity or event triggered actions and the second are analysis or derived actions.

Activity or event-based triggers are implemented often to follow up on past events.  Great examples are notification to the sales rep 30 days after a customer purchased a machine to schedule an initial service or follow up on performance. Similar triggers are post rental follow up, to find out how the customer’s rental experience was.    The Service department can do a similar follow up after a customer receives their maintenance inspection check list with quoted items found during the service.   If the customer declines them initially, the Digital Dealer follows up to make sure they got done, frequently gaining that work.

The second type of trigger is derived from data or rather the analysis of historic data.  These are often more complex and look for changes in the historic norm to determine if something has changed, which would require action.   This is something we all do in the parts business, for example.  As sales of a part drop off, we analyze the data and, if the part is used on an old model, we determine the need to stock less of them.

Triggers based on data trend analysis often let us get ahead of a problem.   Think of a customer who normally purchases every 6 weeks but has shown no activity in the past 8.   The Sales Rep should be able to connect with that customer and find out why.   What about a customer who was spending $100K per year on service labor, but in the past 6 months it’s been $25K?  In these cases, it’s likely important to understand what’s happening.

Triggers, from analyzing data history or events and put in front of the right person, lead to action.  These action triggers can be as simple as an email notification, or, preferably these triggers are listed as exceptions on a digital platform such as your CRM.  In a CRM the indicator can easily lead to a page listing the customer’s contact information or even instantly connect the call.  Once the call is done an activity is created capturing the story from the customer, and possibly generating a new sales lead.

One of my favorite indicators in Vizybility is “Customer that need follow up”.  Set a contact frequency for an existing or target customer, and the CRM reminds you to call on that interval.  These are great to avoid missing sales for a low volume customer.

In all of these scenario’s computers do what they do best, track and analyze data.   Analysts learn from the data and, in conjunction with a manager, create triggers when certain scenarios are seen.  These actionable decisions, or triggers, are fed to people in the operations through CRM or other systems to support customers, avoid problem.

Next time you’re reading through a long report list and deciding what to do, think about how you could create automatic triggers in your Digital Dealership.

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It’s Lonely, and I’m My Worst Enemy!

It’s Lonely, and I’m My Worst Enemy!

In tonight’s blog, guest writer Bruce Baker shares with us about the destructive mindsets that can lead many small businesses to fail. We hope you find a valuable resource in “It’s Lonely, and I’m My Worst Enemy.”

We only start living when we stop defending ourselves.

There is never a day I don’t hear someone expressing the dire consequences they face if or when they fail.  In a previous article, I explored the unhealthy mode many of us business owners and leaders are in – the mode that almost anything these days is a catastrophe if it is not solved within a few minutes or, G-d forbid by the end of the day!

This destructive mindset is why most small businesses fail, not because of the lack of tools and resources but due to being trapped by their self-destructive thoughts. Never has there been a time I have either helped a business owner scale up, start up or fix up their business because of the tools and solutions I worked with them on. It was first because of a reshaping of their mindset that brought them sustainable success.

Although the above is just one of many destructive behaviours, what amplifies them is attempting to resolve their challenges in isolation. If an individual has a challenge to solve, the intellectual part of the solution is simple for the most part. Still, the emotional component is where complexity rears its ugly head.  We all can identify where we were trying to solve a problem, only to be paralyzed by decision fatigue or simply indecision. Some of the regular comments I hear from business owners are:

  • I know what needs to be done but have to think about it a bit more.
  • I know it’s the right thing to do, but I am worried about….
  • I need to look at a few more options before I make my decision.
  • Oh well, another day, just a different pile….

The last statement is of particular importance because this is the one, I hear when business owners have finally shut themselves down to those around them.  The challenges are not isolated to business concerns but a mix of business and personal/family-related issues. We are taught not to mix business with personal life or to ensure a “work-life balance.” Let’s not fool ourselves. As business owners, these two entities, for many if not most, are interlinked and to try and fully separate these two emotionally is almost impossible. The consequences are catastrophic, not only in terms of business failure but losing what is most dear to us personally. The challenge now becomes insurmountable, and everything seems to be crumbling around us until we change one thing.

Being open to identifying and engaging with a like-minded individual or group to rely upon is by far one of the most powerful solutions any business owner has in their arsenal. The need to be in control is a critical foundation of our success and to be in control means we need to be connected and being connected makes us comfortable. Being comfortable allows us to share the strong emotions and stories we must tell. The power is not just in what we tell but the realization that we are not alone and many if not all have experienced the same emotions and the challenges they bring to their businesses.  The big difference is that many have resolved these challenges and have become successful in all spectrums of their lives, including building outstanding companies!

Most challenged business owner I engage with initially resists this notion when I first suggest it. Some say it sounds like a therapy session, others say it sounds like they are attending an “Alcohol Anonymous’ group session.  “How on earth are you going to help me grow my business by fixing my emotions?” said one business owner to me.   His reaction was simply self-preservation, the need for self-reliance and ensuring others to know “we have it under control”. Plainly put, the resistance for many comes from the downright feeling of embarrassment. The embarrassment comes from thinking others may consider you incapable or questioning your ability to build and run a business or telling others that you are not someone to do business with.

All this false talk prevents us from taking advantage of this powerful opportunity that we all have available to us! The more we remain in this state the more we isolate and rely on the “emotional mess” that’s we’ve created for ourselves.

I have and continue to have the privilege of working with business owners individually and in groups where we work through their challenges, both professionally and personally.  This hybrid solution consistently creates business success because challenges are solved and built upon successfully, not just because of introducing new systems and solutions in their businesses but also overall life solutions that are the primary driver of success in building a business.

Consider how much hardship you cause yourself and the great need you may have in defending your actions and decisions. The amount of unnecessary energy you spend is exhausting, and you deserve better!

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How Critical is it to Review Employee Performance? Part One

How critical is it to review employee performance? Part One

This week, guest writer Sonya Law walks us through the critical importance of the employee performance review in part one of a series.

It is very critical: you need alignment between the people and the work that needs to be done to achieve the strategy.  Your people are your number one strategic competitive advantage. When businesses can unlock potential of all people it has a multiplier affect to the bottom line.

Its very important to have a business whose people are performing and heading in the same direction.  It’s an obvious thing you can’t get anything done without the engagement of your people.

There are a number of factors for that too, which exist in today’s organisations:

  1. No clear direction: Often what happens is there is not clear direction from leaders.
  2. Feedback loop: There’s not always a feedback loop between the manager and employee on a regular and consistent basis.
  3. Celebrate achievements: Also, one of the things organisations don’t do very well is celebrate their achievements.
  4. Value your people: And the valuable work that employees do over the last 6 to 12 months is not recognised and highlighted in their mid-year or end of year review (EOY) or at all.
  5. Re-engage: Recommitting your people to the purpose and the strategy and their role in it is not something that is commonly practiced and should be.

As leaders, we get caught up in operations, in our own role, blinkers on, it’s very easy to fall into that trap especially during the pandemic, where for a lot of leaders it’s about keeping your head above water.  It is the role of management to let people know what their contribution is and what their value is to the team and the organisation.  Most people join organisations because they want to be part of something bigger than themselves.

So, it’s a really good opportunity to acknowledge those things as well as ASK your employees at the End Of Year (EOY) review:

  1. What are the roadblocks you are experiencing in your job?
  2. What are their ideas in terms of efficiencies and continuous improvement?
  3. Ideas on how they could do their job better? Innovation?
  4. Ask them if they would like to do more training, learn something new, that is going to help them to do a better job?
  5. Open up a feedback loop: Say to the person how can I as a manager, help you to perform in your job?
  6. Ask them are they open to opportunities for challenge and stretch goals?

It’s good to, in that conversation talk about challenges and stretch goals.  What I am hearing from a lot of people lately that they are in a job, where they are somewhat happy, well paid, and it’s kind of easy and they are not really being challenged or stretched.  So, they actually want to leave their organisation for an organisation that challenges and stretches them.

This is the responsibility of the manager to unleash that unrealized potential or capacity within the organisation and when we don’t capture potential it really hits the bottom line.  In terms of productivity and efficiency, and revenue per headcount, so it is the role of the manager to always be thinking about how can I unlock the potential of my people. It starts and ends with potential.

Bias is a block to unleashing the Potential of employees?

As leaders, we experience bias in our decision making all the time, we put people in boxes because it enables us to make sense of the world and provides certainty something that still plagues us during the pandemic.  Or we are too lazy to think about what that person’s potential is within the organisation.  Managers who are disengaged have a detrimental impact on the overall performance and wellbeing of their team and organisation.

What can we do as leaders to overcome this bias?

To be aware of how limiting it is when we put people in a box, when we sit down at EOY review we need to appreciate that they are not the same person as they were when they started in the role and with the company.

Important preparation tips for Managers:

  1. Awareness of our own biases
  2. Look at your employees with fresh eyes
  3. Go in with the mindset like you are interviewing them for the first time
  4. Don’t assume, that their past performance is a reliable indicator of future performance.

We need to go into the EOY discussion with the employee as if we don’t know them because, our biases, and our assumptions, and experiences overpower where that person is.

This practice will ensure a successful EOY review on both sides.  With the knowledge that people grow and change as people within an organisation.  Consciously or not, we are putting people into boxes that underutilizes our Human Resources.  By holding a space for employees, it enables you to assess their performance.

Exert from a Candid Conversation with Ron Slee:

(www.learningwithoutscars.com Podcast button)

Ron: The EOY and mid-year review is all about the employee, its not about the manager, and many times, most times, I don’t believe the manager knows how to do it?

Sonya: This is true.  Some managers don’t want to do it, they find it intimidating.

Ron: Have you seen that?

Sonya: Yes, they just want it over and done with and tick the box, and send to HR. Often it comes back with limited feedback or comments. Yes, they talk with the employee and tick it off and go back to their job.  They are often uncomfortable with having conversations about barriers they might be experiencing, professional and personal development questions, conflict in workplace and delivering feedback.  Those skills are important but a lot of managers don’t like to do it, or want to do it.

Ron: Why?

Sonya: It opens them up, they won’t always have the answers.

Ron: We have to be vulnerable to each other.  If I asked what I could do to improve my relationship with you as a worker of mine, that employee has to trust me explicitly, implicitly if they are going to tell me the truth.  I don’t know that, that kind of trust exists? I get a paycheck, I don’t want to do anything that is going to jeopardize that paycheck, I need the paycheck.  The employee is coming to the discussion nervously and anxiously, and the boss thinking what a pain in the neck.  I am busy don’t they know that. We’re on the wrong foot from the start?

Sonya: True, there is also a power disparity which makes it difficult, in the workplace, often if face to face in the bosses’ office, manager title on the door, its intimidating.  The employee just wants to get home, take a paycheck and goes into survival mode, which is quite common.   Fear kicks in and fight or flight depending on the degree of trust.

In my next article we will explore this more on how to have a successful End Of Year (EOY) review in

Part Two: How to build trust and get the most out of the End Of Year (EOY) review. 

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The Digital Dealership: Information is the Core

The Digital Dealership – Information is the Core

At the core of the digital dealership is information. Tonight, Mets Kramer shares more about the key information you need.

Perform an Information Audit to develop your Digital Dealership

 

In our last podcast about the Digital Dealership, Ron and I discussed what some of the first steps are that any dealership should take to become a dealership of the future.  Since the basis for the digital dealership is the complete use of information, I suggested the first step should be to review how the dealership is currently storing and using key information.

Key information, in the Digital dealership, revolves around the customer and equipment, and especially customer equipment data. To become an integrated dealer, making the most out of the information available, information needs to be collected, analyzed and shared among all areas of the business. It’s important that areas of the dealership don’t become information silos. It’s especially important that the different areas of the business don’t operate on disconnected versions of the same data.

To do this means a few things:

  • First, information should be kept in a single database or “single source of truth” for each type of information. Whether it’s customer, account, equipment or contact information, there should be one primary place to store that information, and no more. Whether it’s equipment information on work orders, customer information and contact data in CRM or unit number information in parts, they all need to draw from and update the same single source. This is especially true if the information is also needed in the other departments.
  • Second, information needs to be shared out to all departments to help make decisions. The Sales team should see equipment information on machines serviced by the shop, they should see parts sales by machine from the parts department. Service needs to know about machines sold to customers before they come in for their first service work, and everyone needs to know the engagement of customers on marketing and digital platforms.
  • Third, information should be enhanced with data from outside sources and inhouse analysis should be performed. When the sales team looks at a customer fleet list, they need to know how much should have been generated by each machine through parts and service, not just the actual numbers. Sales should be able to see market price on equipment when they review a machine, not have to ask the office to get this. Service should be able to see if customers have open quotes and deals on replacement machines when advising the customer’s techs about required repairs. The Marketing department should see what activities are generated from their marketing activities or customer engagement.

To prepare you for your dealership’s journey toward becoming a digital dealership the first step is to review existing systems, available information and the areas where information is missing.  This Information Review identifies what needs to be done, where the problems lie and what systems are limiting your dealership’s efforts. This review is often hard to do with in house people. Most people are too busy running the day-to-day transactions in your dealership, but it’s also hard to find the things you don’t know to look for.

If you’re looking for a detailed review of your information systems, a strategic plan of issues to resolve and initiatives to complete on your Digital Dealership journey, my Company Strategic Evolutions (https://www.strategicevolutions.ca)  can provide this service for you.  With a week onsite, reviewing your systems and talking to people from marketing to service, we’ll prepare a detailed presentation and provide recommended activities to make information an important driver in your dealership’s growth and future.

Are you ready to see your Digital Dealership grow?

Mets.kramer@strategicevolutions.ca

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The Digital Dealership: Change and Remaining the Same

The Digital Dealership – Change and Remaining the Same

In tonight’s blog, guest writer Mets Kramer continues to speak on the digital dealership with a look at change, and remaining the same.

I often hear, and most of us have said, the following word.  “The equipment business is a relationship business”, “Relationships make the difference”.

Nothing could be truer about this industry.   Our products create long term relationships because each of the products have a long-life cycle during which we need to engage with and support our customers.  Relationships make all the difference during many phases of the machine’s life cycle.  I first learned this lesson dealing with 330 Excavator issues.  This work horse machine was relied upon by many customers, just it had lots of issues.  Cylinders, pumps and final drives to name a few.  Having a strong relationship helped us navigate the problems with the customers and come up with workable solutions and agreements.  Through it all, we maintained the relationship and the next generation of the same machine still had lots of buyers.

So, this is often what I hear from dealers when talking about the development of the Digital Dealership. “Digital isn’t important, it’s a relationship business”. As if relationship is all it takes to maintain a customer. If that were true, we would all still have a roll of quarters in the truck and be looking for pay phones to get a hold of the office and the customer, rather than get a cell phone to get better.

The Truth is, while relationships matter, the digital transformation has supported it all the way and needs to continue to do so.  It’s naive or “old fashioned” to get stuck in the glory of the past.   Just like your cell phone caused the demise of the Pay phone because it allowed you to do things better. The rest of the digital world is there to support you. Not replace you.

This past week I sent my 4Runner in for service.  Just for fun I went online, found the nearest dealer, booked an appointment, chose my preferred communication method, got a quote for the service and discussed additional required services at my mileage. Then I got to the Dealership and talked face to face with the person I’d been emailing with. All my car information was entered, and we wasted no time.  I built a relationship with Jallone the Assistant Service Manager.  He looked after my needs and I tried to steal him from automotive to the equipment business, because he did a great job. When the service was done, he followed up with electronic invoices and discussion on open items.

The Digital dealership supports and improves your existing operations, it does not destroy the value of relationships, it only makes them easier to create and maintain.

Take this example I heard from Alex Kraft at Heave.co this past week. A contractor told him he’s been waiting for 3 weeks to get a quote from his sales rep.  All this customer wanted was a piece of paper (or electronic quote) for a machine, but the sales rep is too busy or the process too onerous to get a quote out. How is it helping that dealer and customer not to have the dealership invest more seriously in digital systems to provide quotes faster. In the end this contractor went to a new platform that exposed his needs to dozens of other dealers, who quoted him automatically or saw the Quote request and responded.

Digital supports your business; it doesn’t take away from it; unless you decide to implement it poorly.

How else does Digital augment your relationship?

A core aspect of the Digital dealership is the use of information.  As the equipment expert your customer relies on, you need to be seen as the trusted advisor, not a quote provider or order taker. Find ways to use digital information to be ready to support your customer with all the equipment related information you can. Specs, performance, analysis, operating cost and market pricing data. When you become the Digitally enabled Trusted Advisor, you’re always welcome.

Oh, and don’t forget to have inventory info at your fingertips and be able to price something.

Years ago, I had dinner with a colleague in Chicago during my only 1.5 years not in the construction equipment business.  He told me a story of being a young regional manager, sitting with his customer.  He proudly boasted about the improvement their business had made in delivery.  He told his customer “We can now ship any product we have in stock to you in a week”.  He was so proud of the giant gain in delivery speed.   His customer looked at him and laughed “You’ve got to be F@#%@ kidding me, from stock to out the door in seven days???”    Expectations are the point.  Your customers have a learned experience of what’s possible.  No matter how good you think you are, if someone is doing it better, that’s the new standard.

Creating a strong Digital Dealership, however that applies to your dealership, improves your relationship with your customer.

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Target Marketing

Target Marketing

In his guest post for this week, Ross Atkinson highlights the critical importance of technology when it comes to target marketing.

It is truly amazing how times have changed in the last 20 years! Dealerships have gotten larger through consolidation and spread further apart. The dealer is servicing more customers with less staff. Welcome to the world of running “lean and mean.”

The customers aren’t staying small either as they continue to expand in order to survive in this ultra-competitive world. As customers get larger, the likelihood is that someone other than the owner will be the one picking up or dropping off. The days of the customer grabbing a coffee, sitting down for a personal discussion and allowing you to get to know them better, is a faded memory of the good old days.

Technological advances can also be partly to blame for the lack of face-to-face interactions. It’s commonplace today for many transactions to be done without the need of talking to a salesperson by utilizing internet-based ordering systems. Let’s not forget, even if you do visit a bricks & mortar store, you may still have limited verbal communication with a human being considering the availability of digital lookup and self-checkout kiosks. And if the goods aren’t being delivered to your customer’s home or business, the conversation at pickup is trivial at best.

Even if we did have a need for human interaction, we have the next generation of workers who have grown up in an era of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s bad enough they don’t teach cursive writing or spelling in schools anymore, but with today’s youth spending countless hours in front of screens growing up, they are missing out on the opportunity to learn social skills with other people like their friends.

So as dealerships lose personal contact with their customers, they look to other means of communication and one of the few things available is technology. Using an automated, self-controlled method of recognizing certain conditions, a notification can be sent to the customer electronically or interactively. I call this “Target Marketing”. It is a term I use for targeting a single customer based on triggers or events that happen every day. Call it what you will, these kinds of systems are available today and can reach out to your customer through some form of digital communication like a text or email. It can let them know that their parts order has arrived or notify them when their machine is due for service. No more manually calling, no more busy signals, no more answering machines, and no more forgetting.

There are an endless number of “triggers or alerts” that can facilitate a communication to your customer. Words of warning though, do not go overboard. Ensure that the most important, time sensitive notifications take precedence. The last thing you want to do is alienate your customer by sending them 15 emails or texts a day.

Having this information sent to your customer’s fingertips can be very beneficial. The immediacy of the message sent to their phone or device allows them to take action right away. For the dealership, it eliminates the need for staff to take time away from their busy day to chase down the customer.

At the same time, the trigger and alert concept can also be used within the dealership to benefit the customer. When a work order is opened for a customer’s machine, wouldn’t it be important to know there is an outstanding recall?

Although the interactions between the dealership and the customer isn’t what it used to be, when you do get an opportunity to be face-to-face, take full advantage of the time to know your customer better. Wish them a Happy Birthday or thank them for their purchase. Ask them how they are doing and what’s happening in their business or personal lives. Your customers will appreciate the attention and interaction; you may actually learn something about them that will improve your relationship.

We should also consider what else computer systems can do to better understand and help the customers. With the collection and analysis of customer transactional data, you can get an understanding of specific patterns which may result in some form of target marketing for things such as bulk purchasing.

This same data analysis can also be significant for your dealership. It can help identify patterns such as peak order times so that you can staff accordingly or ensure that you have the appropriate stocking levels. It may even facilitate changes to your day-to-day business processes.

As you know, Ron’s podcast tagline is “The Time Is Now.” Well folks, if you want to keep in touch with your customers today, you better get on the technology bandwagon! The Time Is Now!

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