The Best Way to Improve Client Relations & Manage Employees

We all know how important customer service is in every business. But how do you instill the importance of respecting customers into your employees? Company culture. Your company’s culture is a large factor in the behavior of employees on the job. If you feel you must always look over your employees shoulder, or micromanage them, they may not be the ones to blame. Marissa Levin of Inc. illustrates this concept in her article about a poorly managed restaurant.

“Not many other jobs teach a strong, collaborative work ethic like waiting tables. It is an amazing training ground for future jobs. It requires servers to work with all kinds of people, to adapt quickly, to read people accurately, and to work as a team. It requires high emotional intelligence.

Every team member  – servers, hostesses, bartenders, busboys, dishwashers, cooks – impacts the overall customer experience.

Owning a restaurant is also one of the hardest entrepreneurial ventures. 60 percent of new restaurants fail in the first year; 80 percent don’t make it to five years.

Two of the main reasons restaurants fail are bad people management, and spotty customer service.

Imagine my surprise when I read about the deplorable behaviors of the wait-staff at one of Arlington, Virginia’s top Asian restaurants, Peter Chang.

The waiters added disparaging comments about the customers onto the check, and then forgot to delete them when they presented the check to the customer. When caught, they were not apologetic. They found it to be funny.

That’s not the shocking part of the story.

I was stunned to read that this behavior is accepted at this restaurant, and that the leadership team does nothing to stop it. There is no accountability for offensive behavior, which basically grants approval and permission for this behavior to continue.

This incident conveys that the organizational culture tolerates customer disrespect. Manager Qien Chang said that servers had been previously warned about leaving offensive comments on checks. “They always do that. I’ve told them so many times.”

Peter Chang’s culture is not a culture of accountability. It is a culture of disrespect.

In cultures of accountability, every team member commits to meeting or exceeding the company’s goals.  Employees understand their connection to the organization’s success.

I completely understand that the servers saw no real harm in their actions. And, really, it’s not their fault. They’ve been poorly trained by a management team that did not convey the importance of customer respect. This has nothing to do with age or experience. This is a direct reflection of leadership.

Ultimately, leadership dictates the core values and the culture of an organization. They must model the accepted behaviors, and institute firm consequences for those that challenge the values system.

Customer respect is a learned behavior, stemming from the top.  Qien Chang could learn a few things from Troy Guard, chef and owner of TAG Restaurant Group in Denver, CO. One of his 7 values is Caring. “This is so important–not just for the restaurant, but for life. You need to care for yourself, care for your team, care for your guests, care for your community.

If you don’t care, why should anyone else?”

P&L: What You Should Be Looking At

The question, “What is a profit and loss statement and why do I need to look at it?” comes up often enough that a brief explanation is in order. One thing that I’m always amazed by is the willingness of hearing healthcare professionals to open a practice with very little formal business training. Your passion for helping others probably got you into this business, but your ability to run your businesses successfully is what keeps you in business.

Many owners may be in business for years before they see a profit-and-loss statement. Even if someone else is taking care of your bookkeeping or accounting, it is vital to understand this tool. It’s your gauge for knowing how successful the business is, and it provides great information for setting goals. It can show trends that warn when the business is failing. It can also give you clues about how your business can grow.

The most basic function of a profit-loss statement is to determine your gross profit and net profit. Gross profit is the difference between cost of goods sold and total sales. Net profit is the difference between your gross profit and total expenses. Net profit is the bottom-line dollar amount that the business earns at the end of the day.

A profit-and-loss statement can usually be generated electronically through accounting systems such as QuickBooks or Peachtree. Your accountant can also generate one based on the information you provide. Usually a profit-and-loss statement begins with your income. Details are helpful here. For example, you can break down each sales category separately to serve your needs. I suggest creating categories for hearing aids, hearing tests (sub categorized if your office provides specialty testing), ALDs, Ancillary Care Products, Repairs.

The next category is the cost of goods sold. This is how much you pay for your products for resale. The breakdown of your cost-of-goods-sold categories should mirror your sales categories. That way you can calculate individual gross margins for each category.

Again, subtracting the cost of goods sold from your total income will leave you with your gross profit. This is how much money you have made before expenses.

It is extremely important to list all of your expenses. Some of your basic fixed expenses will be utilities, rent and insurance. These are expenses that should remain consistent and that you have limited control over.  It is also important to have your variable expenses listed. These are expenses that in many cases you can control. Some of these would be advertising costs, travel and entertainment, and charitable contributions. By tracking your variable expenses, you have the ability to help your company be more profitable. If the practice’s gross margin declines for some reason, these expenses can be reduced.

Some of the other standard expenses that will show up on a profit-and-loss statement are labor costs, professional fees and office supplies. These again are expenses that can be reduced when the practice’s profits are not in line with the owner’s goals.

Last but not least, don’t forget to create categories for any additional expenses that come through the business such as licenses, dues and subscriptions, and postage and shipping. Interest on loans that you pay, or bad debts you can’t collect, should also be added to your profit and loss statement.

Finally, get into the habit of viewing your P&L at the beginning of the month, mid-month and at the end of the month.  Doing so will help you to use your P&L to accomplish three very important things.

  • Plan
  • Problem Solve
  • Analyze

Reading this was probably a painful process.  There’s only so much humor you can inject into any article related to Accounting.  I hope you made it all the way to the end and I hope when you’re done reading the article, the very next thing you do is go look at your P&L.

5 Ways to Handle Problem Employees

Problem employees. Every manager has or will have to deal with them. Managers need to understand that a negative employee is not just a problem between them and that employee. The air of dissent affects everyone who’s around it. Even though dealing with “problem employees” isn’t a favorite task for most managers, it’s part of the job. You will have to deal with the employee, and better sooner than later.

The unfortunate thing is, most managers get held hostage to these folks, spending a disproportionate amount of time, thought and emotional energy on them. Often hovering on the verge of letting them go for years, but never quite being able (for a variety of reasons) to pull the trigger.

Here are five tips that great managers do when confronted with a difficult employee – things that keep them from getting sucked into an endless vortex of ineffectiveness and frustration:

1. Don’t Ignore the Problem

No one enjoys confrontation, but allowing a difficult employee to wreak havoc on your workplace is bad for business. A problem employee can lower morale and productivity in your office. If they’re interacting with your clients they could even lead to loss of business. Don’t ignore the problem and let it get worse.

Are you setting your business apart?: Tips to effectively sell

2. Give Feedback

You may complain about your problem employee all the time, but do they know what they’re doing wrong or what they should do differently? It’s never fun to give critical feedback, but great managers learn how to do it well and actually follow through. Give your problem employees specific information they need to improve and let them know what an improvement would look like.

3. Be Consistent

If you say you’re not OK with a behavior, don’t sometimes be OK with it. Employees look to see what you do more than what you say. If, for instance, you tell employees that it’s critical they submit a certain report by a certain time, and then you’re sometimes upset and sometimes not upset when they don’t do it…the less-good employees generally won’t do it. Pick your shots – only set standards you’re actually willing to hold to – and then hold to them.

4. Set Consequences…And Stick to Them

If you’ve let your employee know what they need to do, but you’re still seeing no improvement, it’s time to get very specific. Lay out your expectations on a timeline and set the consequences for not following through. For example, you could say, “I still believe you can turn this around. Here’s what turning it around would look like. If I don’t see an improvement by this date then here’s what will happen (i.e. you’ll be fired or you’ll be put on probation, etc.).

5. Document Everything

Many managers have a difficult time letting problem employees go because they have no record of his or her bad behavior. Whenever you’re having significant problems with an employee, DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. Write down the key points or put it through the proper channels in your organization. All too often a lack of documentation arises out of misplaced hopefulness; managers don’t want to be ‘too negative’ about the employee, as if it would all magically go away if they didn’t write it down. But good managers know that documentation isn’t negative – it’s prudent. Remember, if you’re able to solve the problem, you can just breathe a sigh of relief and put your documentation in the back of the drawer.

Don’t allow problem employees to disrupt your business. Problem employees don’t just affect their managers, they affect the morale in the office, the productivity of their peers, and ultimately, your business’s bottom line.

Read our blog post of the one factor that will improve your SEO, conversion rate, & your bottom line.

It’s Do or Die When It Comes to Following Digital Leads

For your small business, following up leads is everything, especially internet marketing leads. Digital marketing is a big shift for small business, but it’s a leap you need to make in order for your business to survive. Grant Cardone from Entrepreneur.com explains further below.

Digital-media advertising is now bigger than national-TV advertising and is expected to exceed total TV advertising spending by 2018. This shift to digital is driving an unprecedented number of customers to websites and landing pages. This is also creating new problems and bigger opportunities for entrepreneurs that can figure out how to effectively respond to these prospects.

How big is the opportunity? Well, have you ever reached out to a business’s website, filled out a form showing interest only to be completely ignored? Of course you have. In fact, 65 percent of all companies admit that they have no process to nurture leads.

Not sure about where to start with digital marketing? We’re here to help.

This is a huge follow-up problem. Did you know 44 percent of all sales people give up after one follow-up call? Who allows this to happen? Companies that nurture leads have 47 percent higher profit margins than companies that do not. This means prospects put the value on quick response, not on lowest price.

Smaller businesses and solo entrepreneurs often point the finger to limited infrastructure to handle follow up, but the reality is if you are a small-business owner, this is where you need to invest in order to survive.

Why do salespeople and companies fail to follow up? Many common reasons they don’t follow up are: because there are too many leads, leads are cold by the time they get to them, and there’s no organized process for follow up.

The reality is there is no commitment to follow up. The culture of your company has made it OK not to follow up. Now, in defense of the sales team, if your salespeople don’t know how to effectively follow up, what to say, how to text, when to email, when to call, when to offer more information or simple things like how to get the lead on the phone, then how can you even make a second call, much less the five to 12 calls necessary to convert the Internet lead to a purchase?

This problem is your opportunity and I know how to make it your new best friend. Follow these three steps:

  1. Share the facts about lead response and follow up with your team:

Average response time for an Internet lead is 44 hours.

65 percent of all companies don’t nurture the lead.

Only 25 percent of all salespeople make two contact attempts.

It requires eight follow up attempts just to qualify the lead.

80 percent of all transactions require five to 12 follow-ups.

If you include texting in your response, you increase your conversion rate by 40 percent. When effectively used, texting can improve conversion by over 100 percent.

  1. Make a commitment to follow up at your company. This is about your culture and can only be the decision of executive management.
  1. Give your staff a very precise schedule and actions for each follow up attempt using a variety of means. A schedule might look like this:

Automated response within five minutes. “Thank you. Someone will be right with you.”

Text message or email (text preferred) response with information overload and terms guarantee.

A same-day call from quality service.

Same-day email message. “Please call me immediately regarding your interest. I have a way for you to take advantage of great savings.”

The management call. “What can we do to earn your business?”

If you still fail to convert the lead, you must create an exact follow-up process from day two through the next 12 months. Don’t just write it off.

Stop struggling. Take advantage of this opportunity to differentiate yourself in today’s market. Create a solid follow-up system and make it part of your culture. Follow up or die out.

5 Ways To Make Your Tomorrows More Productive, Today

Do you walk into work feeling swamped before you even sit down at your desk? Do you not know where to start? Work gets busy and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. It’s tempting to just end the day at 6PM and think about everything else tomorrow. But with these five tips, you can increase your productivity and reduce your stress. By taking just a little time out of the end of your work day, you can set yourself up for success.

1. Review Your Calendar

Checking your calendar a few hours before you intend to head out mitigates the possibility of forgetting about a commitment that requires prep work. If your prep is a large commitment (use your judgment on this one), start on it today. Otherwise, make a note to prep for your meetings first thing in the morning.

2. Review Your To-Do List

With a few hours left in the work day, triage your to-dos. What can you realistically finish today? Then prioritize. What NEEDS to be done tomorrow, this week, etc. Are their non-essential items that you can be delegated or removed completely?

3. Update Tomorrow’s To-Do List.

At the end of the day, when you’ve finished everything you need to, take two minutes to review tomorrow’s to-do list. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do tasks need to be completed in a certain order?
  • What items do you absolutely need to finish tomorrow? (Rank these high priority.)
  • What items can you tackle later in the week? (Rank these low priority.)
  • Do certain items need to be completed by a certain time of day, and have you made note of this (instead of relying on your memory)?

4. Make as Many Decisions About Tomorrow as Possible

Choose what you’ll wear and eat, along with any anything else you need to decide tomorrow the night before. This will free up your brain and help preserve your willpower for the more consequential decisions tomorrow. With more brain capacity and better decision making, you’ll see your productivity and energy rise.

5. Sleep 8 Hours

You’ve heard it a million times, but it’s true. There’s no better productivity booster than sleep. When you get enough sleep, you can better focus on your plan for the day because you’ll have more self-control. Not only will you get more of the right things done, you’ll also notice your interactions with other people to be easier going. This is hard for those of you who do a lot. My advice is to see adequate sleep as one of your most important tasks to accomplish every day. Make it a priority.

Are You Setting Your Practice Up for Failure?

The success or failure of a business is dependent on a variety of factors.  By monitoring several key components of your practice, you can gauge the overall health of your practice on a weekly and a monthly basis.

Often times, practices do not reach their full potential for reasons the practice owner cannot clearly explain.  The problem with this scenario is that when the practice suffers a downturn, not only does the owner not see the downturn coming, but they’re also unsure why or how to resolve the problem if they can even identify what the problem may be. The other side is equally important. If you are reaching your goals but do not understand how or why then how do you know if you will reach them in the future?

For example, it’s the middle of the month and your goal is to sell 20 hearing aids, currently you’ve sold 5. There are a total of 10 hearing tests scheduled through the end of the month.  You know that the audiologist has a 70% closure ratio and an 80% binaural ratio.  What does all that mean?  It means that you can anticipate that those ten people will result in 11 hearing aids.

Is this an exact science, no?  But let’s say you had 3 hearing tests scheduled through the end of the month.  Based on the numbers above you could anticipate only 3 hearing aids to be sold by months end.  At this point you could pray for a miracle or know that something will need to be done to get at least 7 more people into the office by the end of the month.

This is when all the other programs begin to make sense.  If your recall program is working, let the recall person know that you need 7 more people. Or view your marketing data and drop an ad that has, in the past garnered 7 patients (keeping in mind your budget and any timelines).  Or ideally initiate a combination of the two programs.  Either way you are being proactive.

Sitting on the sidelines crossing your fingers and hoping it all works out may have been your mantra in the past, but in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace that’s not really a very good idea.