A formula for building up sales


We haven’t had good experience turning things over to salespeople. We give them leads and they don’t turn that into business. Later on we find out that they didn’t do a good job on following up. Or they followed up but couldn’t turn the lead into a sale. Not sure how to better manage this.

Thoughts of the day: Your job includes managing both salespeople and sales activities. Make sure that you have the right people in place doing the right job. Save time and effort by knowing the profile of who you want to sell to. Get salespeople involved in the effort so that they place greater value on the leads. Check out the ROI on sales activities.

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Rebranding business takes thought and preparation

It’s time to rebrand – at least I think it is. We’ve been through a lot of changes the last few years in terms of customers, markets, services and employees. Time to do a reality check on what we stand for. Any suggestions on do’s and don’ts?

Thoughts of the Day: Make it clear what your company stands for in order to pull in the right customers, employees and market opportunities. Make the look of the brand reflect the tone of your company. Appeal to emotion – which means taking into account colors that reflect the tone. Include all brand components.

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Good Accounting Practices Must Be a Top Priority

Office staff doesn’t know enough about our accounting system, or accounting in general. The accounting department says they’re overwhelmed. If anyone in that department is out sick, they get really behind. Space is very limited in accounting, and they’re dealing with a lot of interruptions. We could be doing a better job with the numbers side of the business. Any suggestions?

Thoughts of the day: Pay attention when accounting says they’re overwhelmed, as their performance is essential to a healthy business. Putting accounting in an area where they can’t be easily disturbed is a really good idea. Look for opportunities to involve people from around the company in accounting functions. The more your people understand what makes the numbers work, the more they can help ensure a profitable year.


Family Businesses Need Succession Plans

We’re dealing with a family member who should be retiring. Unfortunately she still owns the stock and is very controlling. We want to take the company forward, but don’t have the authority to do that. She has done some estate planning with experts who don’t seem to recognize that control of the stock is essential for getting on with building the company’s future.

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: Most small businesses don’t survive the first generation. Use shares to invest the next generation now. Figuring out how to secure the senior generation’s retirement can be a challenge. For business owners who have spent a lifetime managing their company’s profits in order to avoid paying taxes, tax planning can take on outsized importance. Confidence in the next generation’s ability to perform has to be earned.

Not having a succession plan for the business to survive its founder is a recipe for disaster. While 50 percent of business owners plan to pass the business on to the family, only 15 percent go from Gen 1 to Gen 2 and only 5 percent make it to Gen 3. Thirty percent plan to sell to employees, only 5 percent do. Forty percent of businesses close or liquidate.

It’s time for every owner to work out a solid business transition plan, while they still can.

Sharing ownership and control empowers and engages people. Use it to your advantage. Passing ownership to the next generation can be a loaded topic. For owners who have spent a lifetime running the company the way they wanted with little interference from anyone, giving up control is tough. Do it anyway.

Transitioning ownership is fundamental for the company’s long- term survival. Find people who want the business. Give them a stake in the future. Work up to giving them full control, using a timetable and a set of agreed-upon conditions.

Many worry they won’t have enough to live well in retirement. When the company has been the major source of income and assets have been plowed back into the company to keep things running, there may not be enough funds for retirement.

Build a plan to grow company revenue and profit significantly, to pay for Gen1’s retirement and Gen 2’s additional costs. Figure out what the senior generation actually needs to retire. Buy time by elongating the horizon over which those funds must be assembled. Budget funds for your primary task: securing retirement, building the company and transitioning ownership.

For business owners who have spent a lifetime avoiding paying taxes, it’s hard not to focus on the tax bite of transferring ownership. That concern may be overblown. When it comes to tax planning, things keep changing. Estate plans set up before 2014 need to be reviewed. Increasing amounts of value can be transferred tax free — more than $10 million per couple as of today’s writing. Even if taxes are due, it’s better to grow and pay taxes than to let the business fail trying to avoid them.

Start distributing ownership to those who want the business while you’re able to participate in the process. Limit ownership to people inside the business. Use insurance plans to care for family members whose interests lie elsewhere.

A business with a future has a broad, well-trained, highly invested management team. Most owners think it’s even better if some of that team comes from the family. Be certain the kids want the business before you begin a succession plan.

The family’s next generation faces big responsibility and takes big risks when they enter the business. They must match and then beat, the outcomes of their elders. They have to learn the business, plan for the future, take action, face risks and be accountable for outcomes. They must prove themselves worthy by demonstrating increasing skill at running the business. Confidence in the next generation’s ability to perform has to be earned.

Use a development plan with hurdles and rewards that defines how stock is transferred. As the next generation steps up, avoid decision making stalemates by making it clear through ownership who’s running the company.

Looking for a good book? “Small Business Ownership Mistakes: What You Don’t Know Will Destroy Your Business,” by Amy Rose Herricki.



Eliminating Disruptions in Shift Work

We run a couple different shifts most days. We’re finding information doesn’t get shared. We end up duplicating effort as one shift re-does what another shift was supposed to take care of. Not everyone gets here at the same time, so it’s hard to have a meeting. What suggestions do you have to make this work smoother?

Thoughts of the Day: Plan out the work schedule. Plan out what to do when someone inevitably doesn’t show up for a shift. Use notes that turn into checklists to document what’s been done and what still needs to be done. Assign shift supervisors with overlapping check-in and checkout times who must clear up any issues before heading home. Finally, think about a different approach.

Scheduling is both art and science. If possible, buy some scheduling software. Most industries have systems that have been customized. Check with your national industry association to see if they have any recommendations.

Have a go-to person who oversees and approves all of the schedules. It’s this person’s job to match workload and personnel. Make sure this person is good at providing write-ups of what has to happen since they won’t always be on site and the shift supervisors need direction on what work they’ll have to handle.

Put one person on each shift in charge of quality and compliance and another person in charge of inventory. These two also need to be able to work with software to track and report. If possible get an inventory system in place that the scheduler and inventory manager can both look at to know what’s in stock and what needs to be ordered to help them plan out what each shift needs to work on. The quality manager checks that work is completed on time, is error free and provides feedback to shift supervisors. Make it clear what has to happen if employees want to swap shifts. Who do they go to for permission and how does permission get recorded so everyone is on board? What do replacements need to know and how are they informed? Is there any specific training /certification needed for a replacement to be eligible? What does the original shift worker have to do to ensure their work is properly covered?

Keep a schedule that everyone can access. If everyone doesn’t have access to a computer, post a daily roster — looking ahead at least two weeks. Show replacements by crossing out the original worker’s name, so that everyone knows who is responsible for ensuring the shift is covered.

In case of breakdown, make it the original shift worker’s responsibility along with the person who agreed to cover the shift to diagnose and prevent problems in the future. Meet with both to discuss the breakdown and ask them how they could have avoided the problem. Put suggestions in writing and make them part of the policy manual, which gets distributed to everyone.

Set aside time to cross train people so they can step into each other’s jobs. Have day-shift people train on the evening shift, and vice versa, as there’s a different boss, rhythm and set of tasks that have to be dealt with on each shift.

As much as you want teams to be self-managing, you still need points of contact. Make shift supervisors the primary point of communication between shifts. Everyone feeds them information about what’s going on before, during and after each shift. It’s their job to work with their teams and each other to smooth out disruptions.

Any time there is a change in shifts, that’s a disruption to work flow. Disruptions equal loss of productivity. Investing in equipment necessary to have more people work at one time may be less costly than dealing with constant interruptions from shift changes. Think about asking employees to work longer hours but fewer days — people may enjoy having more days off during the week and can be more focused during the concentration of work days.

Looking for a good book? Try “Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead” by Laszlo Bock.