The Little Things Add Up: It Pays to Become Conscious of Your Reason for Being in Business

Little Things Add Up: It Pays to Become Conscious of Your Reason for Being in Business

by Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS

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“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.” –Maya Angelou

 

Standing in line at my local coffee shop this morning, I contemplated the fiasco unfolding before me – the same fiasco I have witnessed each day since they opened their doors several years ago.

Today, there were four people behind the counter preparing orders and taking payments, fifty percent more staff than usual. One would think that this increase in help during the morning rush would be a good thing. Well, only if the additional people know what they are doing. They did not. This is, of course, not their fault. The owner’s idea of training is to run through quickly with the new hire how to operate the machinery and heave them into the fray, bewildered and terrified by the throng of commuters clamoring for their liquid defibrillators, their quad-venti-caramel-macchiato-jolts-of-life to begin their commutes to work (for which they are already late).

Between the shortage of baked goods (the baker’s tantrum heard more clearly throughout the store as it persists), the constant turnover in staff, the slightly inconvenient hours, and the owner’s blatant lack of social skills, I am amazed at how long this business has survived. It is clear, listening to the others in line, that people want to see this owner succeed because there is the potential for something truly special here. The owner is a wonderful and fascinating person, the food is of the highest quality and inventive, the coffee is fantastic, and the space is cozy. With some reworking this place could be a center of local activity.

The core of the problem seems to be the owner’s attitude. She really doesn’t like the business. She is more comfortable in the large corporate environment from which she came, being told what to do by a supervisor. She hates being in charge. She prefers solitude in which to be left alone to work. She doesn’t do conflict. And coffee? She can take it or leave it.

In becoming a successful business owner, it is critical that you be able to articulate what it is about the work you do that sets your heart aflutter, as well as the aspects of the business that sends you running, screaming into the night. Unless you can explain your passion, you will never be able to relate it nor convey it to your staff and customers. How can you expect your employees and customers to care about your business if they think you don’t care.

I once worked with a client whose contentious employee relations were spilling over to his customers. His employees couldn’t stand him, he couldn’t stand his employees, and his customers were paying the price in constant turn-over, constant mistakes, and added stress due to poor treatment. Working with him, I asked, “If things are at the point where you hate coming to work every day, why do you stay in business?”

What followed was a passionate discourse on the effect his services had on his customers’ lives and how he felt privileged to be a part of changing lives for the better. He was angry all the time because his employees didn’t care, they took no initiative, and made no personal connections with customers.

   “Do your employees know this?” I proffered. “Do they have any understanding of how much a part of this mission they are? Can you see how they could misunderstand your frustration with the situation as your being angry with them even when they do what you tell them to do?” Once he saw all the little things that added up to the colossal mess he was dealing with simply because he had never put words to his passion, he was able to communicate this to his staff and instill in them the same passion, which in turn they passed on to their customers.

Articulating your passion helps keep you focused on the passion – which makes it easier to keep problems and the less savory aspects of the business in perspective. During this month dedicated to expressions of love, send yourself a Valentine. Take the time to write down what it is you love about what you do, why you are so passionate about it, and how you can declare your undying love to your staff and your clients.

If you don’t love the work you are doing, explore the things you do love to do. Start a relationship with them and see which one is your one true love. Like all true love stories, the rest will sort itself out.

 

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

The Unseen Value of Superior Client Relations

The Unseen Value of Superior Client Relationships

By Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS

How often, as a client, have you experienced the sense of disconnection with the particular company you happen to be dealing with at a particular moment? How often do you become frustrated when you just can’t seem to get the company’s representative to deal with you on a personal level, to break away from the official script and listen to what you are asking? How often, as a business owner, do you apply these experiences to the way your company provides service to its clients? 

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More times than I care to mention, I have been in the same position and experienced the same frustrations. Oftentimes I just bear it (grinning never entering into the equation) thinking that there is no point in taking my business elsewhere as “they’re all the same”, biding my time until someone else comes along with a better offer that will make the lousy treatment somewhat worthwhile.

I am no shrinking violet, however. I have no qualms about taking my business to a competitor who will treat me properly; with the respect I deserve (reporting my dissatisfaction to the Better Business Bureau, et al). I am the client who silently slips away, because experience has taught me that:

if someone will not listen when they have my attention, they will not listen when they’ve lost it. A company that will not treat me with the respect I deserve 1.) will not notice that I have taken my business elsewhere, and 2.) will not care why.

Experiences such as these have made me keenly aware of the level of service I provide to everyone I meet. As business owners, it is ever more critical to pay close attention to the service provided by one’s company.  It is critical that, as business owners, we continually place ourselves in the shoes of our clients in order to keep a loyal client base by paying attention to, and meeting, their individual needs. As noted in an article in Spoken Communication (http://blog.spoken.com/2010/10/cost-of-acquiring-a-new-customer-6-to-7-times-more-than-keeping-exisiting.html), the financial benefits alone are incentive enough to build strong, working relationships with each client. The most staggering statistic of the bunch was the phenomenal increase in profits that come from increasing client retention by as little as five percent – a five to ninety-five percent increase in profits.

According to the article referenced above, it costs up to seven times more to attract a new client than it does simply to hold onto a current client. Client Acquisition Cost = Total Acquisition Expenses /Total New Clients. In order for you to get a clear picture of how valuable your current clients are to you, look at your Client Acquisition Costs in relation to how much revenue each new client brings in and how long new clients generally stay with your company. Now compare that to the revenue your existing clients bring in (not forgetting the value of their Word of Mouth advertising and referrals) as well as their longevity with your company and the amount of money spent on retaining them. In today’s economic environment, how much sense does it make to throw money out the window chasing possibilities rather than keeping the same money in the bank maintaining tangible assets? This is not to say that attracting new clients is unnecessary, as that would be foolish. This is merely to demonstrate how easy it is to overlook the true value of the clients your company has already acquired. Look at your own numbers  and see how much you could actually be doing to build your business with the savings.

A key to superior client relationships is the motivation behind the relationship. If the motivation is strictly financial (and, clearly, this is a strong motivator), the authenticity of the relationship will be lost and the lack thereof will be immediately noticeable to one’s clients. Another critical factor in establishing and maintaining superior client relationships is that the motivation, desire, and initiative in doing so comes from the very heights of the company and filters down through every person in every department.  In this way, the authenticity of the relationship is maintained at every point of contact, building confidence and trust with each client. Confidence and trust are key components of client loyalty, which as we have just learned, is a truly valuable asset.

Feeble, Foolish, Wise, or Skillful

“Feeble, Foolish, Wise, or Skillful”

By Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS

 

“The feeble tremble before opinion, the foolish defy it, the wise judge it, the skillful direct it.”

– Mme. Jeanne Roland –

 

Today’s issue of The Rossiter Report is simple and straightforward – a meditation for the week. Take this week and gauge your reactions to other’s opinions (clients’, coworkers’, everyone’s) in comparison to the quote above. Once you see where you stand, determine if there is some other place in the spectrum you would rather fit, then work towards that goal. If you seek, truly, to build a team that has a great, positive impact on your company,  your success in this endeavor will be directly related to where you fall, ultimately, in the line-up.

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Copyright © 2014 – Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS

All rights reserved. It is strictly prohibited to copy, redistribute, republish or modify any materials or software contained on the cerossiterpcs.com website or in subsequent support without the prior written consent of Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS.

Multi-tasking Musings

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“Multi-tasking Musings”

By Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS

 

“One’s action ought to come out of an achieved stillness; not to be a mere rushing on.” – D. H. Lawrence

It’s really quite lovely. Aquamarine bordered in navy with an inner border of swirling peacock feathers. A beautiful repository for the twenty or so tasks I must accomplish this morning, my To Do List sits patiently on my desk waiting for me to reduce it to nothing.

Waiting…waiting…waiting…

For someone who is decisive, organized, industrious, the To Do List is both friend and foe. More often than not, a friend who keeps me on track, helps me to focus, and allows me to accomplish many tasks in a given time frame. Some days, like today, my To Do List is a foe, a swarm of butterflies fluttering before my eyes, impossible to catch.

As I sat here struggling to corral the butterflies, exhorting myself to end the procrastination, I couldn’t help but remember me in college. Back then I had a tremendous capacity for concentration, prioritization, and quickly completing whatever needed to be done in the allotted time. I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to that version of myself over the years.

The only explanation I could come up with is that my decades spent in the corporate atmosphere, with its expectation of constant multi-tasking has trained me to flitter from task to task as each one presents itself. Particularly in a call center or customer service departmental scenario, new crises present themselves constantly.

I recall the substance of an article I read a few years ago (yet sadly am unable to find the article to share it with you here) that stated that multi-tasking is not a natural Human trait. The article states that multi-tasking was invented for computers to be able to perform calculations and function properly.  It makes sense that as employees are continually asked to do more, to be more productive, put in longer hours – essentially to be more machine-like – that we would develop machine-like traits.

Yet, how good is the work that is produced under these conditions? Certainly it is good enough to get the job done. In order to rise to the level of Superlative in our businesses (specifically in relation to the service we provide) we must strive to produce work that is better than Good Enough. One way I have found to produce superlative work in a limited timeframe is to follow these steps:

  1. Compile a working Master List of the tasks you need to complete, categorizing them as Complete Today, Complete This Week, Complete This Month.

  2. Within each list, prioritize each task or project.

  3. Gather everything you need in order to complete each task in one place (my favorites are the plastic, Velcro-closure, expandable project folders), label it, and store the folders in order of priority. Sticky-tabs with the priority number are a good visual aide.

  4. When it comes time to work on the next item on the list, take out only that project folder and get to work. Oftentimes, the visual clutter of more than one project is a distraction.

  5. If you have conflicting priorities, give each top priority a specific, set amount of time to work on it. This helps keep you focused and moving forward.

  6. Re-prioritize as necessary.

  7. Keep a status sheet at the beginning of each file to make it easy for you (or anyone filling in for you) to not waste time figuring out what has been done already and where to start. Update the sheet at the end of your time limit. File. Then start on your next task.

This method has produced consistent results for me over the years. It replicates the productivity of multi-tasking while dramatically improving the quality of the final product , reducing stress, and conserving your energy for when you really need it.

 

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The Rossiter Report – V2;N2 – “Breaking Out of the Chicken Farm”

The Rossiter Report – Volume 2;Number 2

by Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS

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“Breaking Out of the Chicken Farm”

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Ginger: So laying eggs all your life and then getting plucked, stuffed and roasted is good enough for you, is it?

Babs: It’s a livin’.

Recently, I have been hearing a great many business owners expressing the dire need for employees who “think on their feet” regarding the jobs they were hired to do. These business owners are dumbfounded and frustrated at the fact that their employees (most of whom are long since out of high school) take no initiative and will not think beyond the immediate task at hand, as if they are working from a script and have no thoughts or words beyond that.

More and more, business owners are faced with a workforce who is looking to be told what to do at every turn. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that the generations of children that have grown up being shuffled from one scheduled activity to another, constantly told what happens next, what to do, and how to do it are becoming the bulk of the people in the workforce at large. Perhaps it has to do with the way the corporate world has functioned for the past several decades – where employees are told that their input matters and are encouraged to contribute, yet penalized in a variety of ways when they do contribute. This experience leaves the workforce to interpret this message as proof that the only way to move forward is to put one’s head down and wait for the next instruction.

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Regardless of how we got this way, it is critical for us to break out of this prison, taking the initiative to risk change. With the economy in the state it is currently, people are afraid to make waves and risk losing their jobs. Believe me when I say, “I’ve been there. I understand”. The problem that arises because everyone takes this point of view is that things never stay the way they are, they only get worse. We simply get used to the new norm and tell ourselves that things are the same. This is what Ginger the chicken in the movie Chicken Run is trying to get her fellow inmates to see. The quote referenced at the beginning of this article was prompted by Ginger recognizing the signs that something much worse was on the horizon for them.

For those of you who have never seen the movie, I not only recommend you watch it (if only for the pure entertainment value), but I will summarize the plot for you. Ginger is a chicken living on a chicken farm that is run like a prison camp (think Stalag 17 meets Hogan’s Heroes). Ginger’s only thought is to break free of the tyranny and live a free life, beyond the hills – with grass and sunshine; with the freedom to live the life she decides, the freedom from fear, boredom, and abuse. Her difficulty, and challenge, is in trying to convince the other chickens on the farm that the way things are is not how they were meant to be – that there is a better, happier way of living. Ginger could easily escape on her own, she had done it many times, but she cares enough about the other chickens that she will not escape unless they all can.

In the quote above, Ginger is asking her fellow chicken inmates to think beyond the mechanical routine that leads to, in their case actual death. In the case of so many people in the working world/Corporate America, this life leads to a broken spirit and emotional death. Ginger is trying to connect with the thinking part of her fellow chickens to open them up to their reality as well as the possibilities that are available to them if they would only think about events as they unfold and take the risks necessary to obtain this new life of freedom.

So too the contemporary business owner.

This begs the question, “How does one get beyond this mentality in order to create happy, thinking individuals who take in the whole scenario, process it according to what is right to do in the situation, and take the initiative to go ahead and DO what needs to be done?”

Consciousness is the key.

As an employer, you have to be conscious of your own work habits and the example you are setting. I once worked for a woman who hounded her underlings (yes, that is how she thought of us) to be productive and would publicly scold and berate us if she walked by and we happened to be taking a breath because, in her eyes, we were slacking. Her behavior created extreme resentment in her staff because her workday consisted of nothing but slacking (i.e.; complaining about all of the e-mails she had to go through and that she had no time to deal with them. In the meantime she would spend 90% of the time she was not in meetings texting or telephoning her friends and family).  This same woman would consistently change the essence of the tasks she delegated without telling us, then berate us for failing at the task. The behavior that she was modeling was creating an atmosphere of insecurity and instability which resulted in our running to her for every detail and instruction so that she couldn’t say we didn’t do what she wanted. We stopped thinking for ourselves because, our manager’s behavior told us to, regardless of what words she used.

You also, as an employer, need to be conscious of the reason you are passionate about your business. Recently I spoke with a business owner who could not do this. He could not tell me why he devoted his life, sacrificing time with his family, to doing what he does (which he clearly loves doing). In order to be able to project your passion to your employees or colleagues, you must be able to express the Why behind the What. Oftentimes, employees do not care about their work because they cannot see the point to it. They interpret their boss’ passion as obsessiveness or inability to be satisfied. The result is that employees give up trying to satisfy their employers because their efforts will be wasted since their employers will let them know that the work should have been done better.

Another area employers need to be conscious of is the effectiveness of the training system in place. One business owner I spoke with recently had nothing in place beyond the functional aspects of the job. The new hires were essentially thrown to the wolves on the first day to be trained “on the fly” with all of their mistakes quite public. Additionally, since they were not trained in how to work with their customers, they had an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy and humiliation so they, again, ran to the owner for instructions on the minutest task. The employees are afraid to remember anything because, “What if I get it wrong in front of everyone?” This business owner does not realize that he has created a system of failure for his employees because he has not given any thought to the type and style of the training he is providing to his staff. This business owner does not realize the effect that not caring about the training program he puts in place has on

  1. the morale of his employees (“He doesn’t give a hoot ‘n a holler about us so why should we care about him or his stupid job?”),
  2. the way they treat his clients,
  3. the cost of continually replacing employees (monetary cost as well as time and effort), or
  4. his Bottom Line.

As employees, you need to be conscious of not falling into the prison of numbing your mind and stifling your abilities. You need to be conscious of taking risks to make change happen. You need to be conscious of the most effective ways to communicate your needs to your employer or manager in order to clear away the barbed wire surrounding your workplace chicken farm.

Again, I know from whence I speak. I have been a culprit of each of these errors in thinking and have learned the hard way that staying silent, trying to adjust to a new level of abuse or dysfunction does not change any circumstance for the better. It allows, and in fact encourages, circumstances to get worse. Therefore, if you are unhappy in your job, ask yourself why. When you arrive at an answer, ask yourself why you feel that way. Continue asking yourself why until you reach the core of the problem. If there is anything you are at fault with and can improve on, do so. Once you know the core of the problem, you will be able to find a way to properly address the situation.

For example, if you find that the core of your dissatisfaction at work is that you feel that you are afraid to try or to think on your own because you have gotten the message that you will surely fail in the eyes of your employer/Manager(as in the case of the business owner above who was passionate about his work yet came across as impossible to please), then talk with your employer/Manager about this. By stating your case in terms that do not blame your employer/Manager, yet bring out the fact that you feel you are not able to perform to your best because of how you are made to feel and that you simply want to clear up any misunderstandings and expectations, you will go far in effecting the necessary changes that will allow you to do your best and love what you do.

If each person begins to make small changes, sooner or later great changes are made. I think you will find that sooner is sooner than you think.

Until the next time, I send you all my best wishes.

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Copyright © 2012 – Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS 

All rights reserved. It is strictly prohibited to copy, redistribute, republish or modify any materials or software contained on the cerossiterpcs.com website or in subsequent support without the prior written consent of Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS.

The Rossiter Report – Volume 2; Number 1 – “Soul Searching and Transformation”

The Rossiter Report – V2:N1

By Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS

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“Soul Searching and Transformation”

Good Afternoon, Everyone. It is great to be back with you at the relative beginning of this brand new year. As St. Valentine’s Day is a mere few hours away, I am taking this time to talk about the importance of putting into words what it is that makes you so passionate about the work that you do.

As I was meeting earlier today with the owner of a small, but thriving, business (I’ll call him Marc) looking for a way to help him with his staffing issues, I was sensing a high level of frustration with the fact that his staff just does not take pride in their job or the work that they do. Marc is truly passionate about his business and has been so from the start. After twenty years in business, he is continually expanding and is focused on providing the best quality products and service to his customers (whom he views as welcome guests and family), yet he cannot understand why his employees do not see things the way he does, why they will not learn to do the simplest aspects of their job, and why they take no initiative in solving problems. My heart was breaking as I listened to Marc’s dilemma because I knew the solution was so simple (hard work, but simple nonetheless).

How many of you have felt the same way? How many of you wish you knew the magic formula for completely changing people’s attitudes? Well, fret no more. I give you the same advice I gave to Marc. The answer is simple. If you have not taken the time to write (yes, write it down) the reason you are so passionate about your work, your business, and what you envision for your business, then you will not be able to convey that passion properly. In Marc’s case, the unnamed passion turned to frustration at the sight of sloppily done tasks and the general lack of pride and connection he saw in his employees.

Oftentimes, until we dig up the root of our frustration, we actually communicate the opposite of what we intend. In Marc’s case, by not understanding why he is so passionate about his business, he is instead conveying to his employees that he is angry at them all the time. Without being able to articulate what it is he is angry about, his employees can only assume (and we know where that leads) that Marc is angry at them personally. This is a perfect example of why my Three C’s of Superlative Service are invaluable. Unless and until we become Conscious of the world within and around us, we will not develop the Compassion we need to get to the root or core of the person we are dealing with (the passion that is driving them at the particular moment we encounter them), therefore, we are incapable of Communicating the truth of the matter at hand. If we are incapable of communicating, the relationship breaks down.

Another effect of not taking the time to write out what it is you are passionate about in your business, along with the “why” and including your vision for your business, is that this lack of clarity is directly transferred to your employees. What Marc needed to see was that without any clear delineation of (to use real estate as a metaphor) your property lines, your employees do not know where to put their feet. Your employees are left without solid ground upon which to stand, therefore remain adrift and insecure about what is expected of them. This insecurity takes their focus off of serving the customer because they have no clear understanding of what that means in the context of your business.

As the day comes to a close, do yourself a great favor and set aside some time every day (in Marc’s case, someone who is struggling to find time in his day for everything, I suggested taking fifteen minutes each day) to put on paper what it is you love about the work you do and WHY you love each item on your list. The “what” is essential, but the “why” is critical. Without knowing why we do anything, we will never have a full grasp on the “what”. Having had decades of practice in this art, I am able to say with certainty that you will begin to see a change in the people around you and how they relate to you. You will be unconsciously communicating your passion in the proper manner, in a manner that people will finally be able to understand without you having to utter a word (although, once you have the understanding of your passion, you may not be able to keep quiet).

Until next time, I send you all my best wishes.

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Coppyright, 2013 – Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS. All rights reserved. It is strictly prohibited to copy, redistribute, republish or modify any materials or software contained on the cerossiterpcs.com website or in subsequent support without the prior written consent of Cathleen E. Rossiter, PCS.