Show thanks for free enterprise on Thanksgiving.

I am not fond of Thanksgiving, it is one of my least favorite holidays and if we were to take it off of the calendar all together I would not complain.  I don’t like the food; I absolutely detest turkey and the smell of cranberry sauce makes me nauseous.  I also think it’s somewhat of a shameful holiday because I always ask what are we celebrating? The settlers came over here, had a peaceful meal with the Indians, and then we slaughtered them, stole their land and having been screwing them ever since.  My kids know my thoughts on this and my 13 year old daughter said to me last week, “Dad you can make Thanksgiving about whatever you want, it doesn’t have to be about the pilgrims and Indians, it can be to just be thankful for what you have”.  This got me to thinking that she was absolutely right and I do have a lot to be thankful for.   From the mouth of babes right?

In the United States as well as many other countries we are blessed with many things; one of those is the ability to start a business and engage in commerce.   While we take this freedom for granted there are many places in the world where this is not an option.  Countries like North Korea keep their people oppressed and while I obviously have never been there and don’t have any firsthand experience of what it’s like to live there, I am fairly sure that entrepreneurship is probably not encouraged.  Countries like North Korea and Cuba survive by keeping the people down.  In America I can start any legal business that I want, I am free to engage in free enterprise and capitalism, to start a company and build my dream, which is exactly what I am doing.  Sure I sometimes complain as I am sure we all do about the down trodden economy we are currently living in, but at the end of the day I have something that many in the world don’t.  Personal freedom.  Freedom to get up and go to work each day, freedom to build my business, and at the end of the day I get to go home and know that I am building a better future for my kids.   This is something that I am truly thankful for.

So tomorrow while you are eating your turkey and cranberry sauce (gag, yuck) take a moment to be thankful that you live in a country where free enterprise is encouraged and that you are free to  utilize the talents that God has given you.

Happy Thanksgiving.

If I would have known this sooner, things might be very different. – Guest Post – Karen Post

My life is no 1990 mini van. In fact, I’d call it a pretty luxury, high performance sports car. I’m independent,  spontaneous and usually driving in 5th gear in the fast lane. I’m grateful for all that!

  • My boss is me.
  • No one, but me limits my pay check.
  • I like all my clients and friends a whole lot, or I kick em under the bus.
  • And I can have fun every single day.

All of this is a product of choice and being a very happy entrepreneur.
If you are not experiencing this, here’s four key mindsets I’ve been embracing that are making a huge difference in my pile of fruit and enjoyment of life.

The sad thing is I don’t remember any teacher, school course or professor ever telling me about them.  If they would have and I jumped on them 20 years sooner, my life might look different. Maybe I’d be just playing tennis, going to movies, writing screen plays in the sand and depositing checks from all my passive income.

These mindsets are as important as understanding accounting,  mastering operations and being a marketing maniac.

1) Leverage everything you can.
Every contact, every hour, every ounce of brain juice you haveLeverage means maximize the outcome from the investment.

Is there a contact you have who can open a door, ask them!
Is your price too low because you don’t believe your worth it, change that!

2) Recycle and repurpose everything you can.
Every idea, every experience, every proposal, every block of content.

Got an old idea, spin it differently!
Got a proposal for some work you didn’t get, 
modify it and pitch someone else!

3) Be your own best friend.
Take care of you and everyone will benefit too. This is not selfish, it’s smart. Treat yourself, pay yourself, don’t put up with stuff you don’t like, change it because you deserve the best and nothing less.

Get a massage, low on cash,  find a massage school, it under $20 bucks!
Take a mental health day and celebrate it like they named a national holiday after you!

4) Be you. No matter what.
Who cares how other people do it or what they believe. That’s their story and their world, not yours. Don’t break laws, do pay your taxes and be respectful.

I get turned on by calculated risk. I don’t like holidays, I don’t eat mushrooms and will not tolerate whinny/poor me people. I won’t go to a baseball game, so don’t invite me. I like the sport, but not the idea of a ball flying at my face.  I have a high standard for my quality of life. I love being around great design, eating sushi and meeting and paling up with inspirational, smart, creative minds.

That’s a little about me. Who are you?

Make it a great day!

Why your CSR’s should be trained in Public Relations.

A few months ago I was looking to hire a new sales person and I called Monster.com and spoke to a representative.  I told him exactly what I was looking for and explained I only wanted to hire one person and asked him to explain the various options that Monster could offer me.  He told me that he would email me the various packages at my disposal within a few minutes, which he did.  I felt that the cost was too high for only hiring one person and that we would be better served elsewhere and I called him and politely told him that we decided to go with another company this time. His response was “I’ll talk to you when they don’t work out”.  I found this to be extremely arrogant and rude.

Based on this comment my perception of Monster.com is not a good one, and I have no desire to do business with them based on this experience.  We are a growing company that will most definitely be using employment services in the future and that should have occurred to this guy, instead he burned a bridge with a potential client who would have been worth thousands of dollars of revenue over the years, both directly and indirectly.

Sales personnel are most often on a commission or bonus structure and most of them are not looking much further than the potential sale in front of them, but a good sales person should be able to see beyond this one sale that they may or may not close.  Companies should be training their sales teams in the fine art of public relations because in a case like this not only did Monster lose my future business, but potentially anyone I know and anyone that I tell about this experience.  A company’s goal should be to utilize as many people as they can for public relations, the sales person, and the customer both.  Even though I did not use Monster that day, the salesman should have done everything he could to end that call on a positive note because then he would have not only increased the chances of having me call him to do business in the future, I potentially could have referred other business to him and the company that he is working for.

I have written many articles in the past about the pitfalls of having your sales personnel do anything they can to close the deal instead of actually listening to what the customer wants instead of just focusing on their commission.  I believe that companies need to do a better job of training their sales teams not just in sales but in the fine art of public relations because every customer and prospective customer that they talk to is a potential public relations vehicle and that is marketing that you can’t buy.

There might not be an “I” in team, but there is no team without individuals.

We have all heard the saying that there is no “I” in team and while that may be true, there is no team without individuals.   I have heard many managers and supervisors preach to their teams that the individual is not what is important, that it is all about the team, that personal agenda’s need to be put aside and the goals of the team need to be first priority.  While I do agree that the team’s goals are what are important and that those goals must be a priority, I disagree with the mentality that the individual doesn’t matter, because without the individual the team doesn’t exist.

One of the things that many managers do not have is empathy and the ability to see past the business of running a team.  While it would be great if people came to work and left all of their personal baggage at the door, it’s not a realistic expectation.  Those people that come to work are human beings with a life outside of work; they have marriages that are in trouble, parents with cancer, kids on drugs, problems making their mortgage, cars that need to be repaired… You get the picture.   To expect people to just turn all that off is unrealistic.  So that being said, a good manager needs to understand this and needs to have the ability of massaging those various personalities.  A good manager is not just leading the team in the business at hand, but also needs to be able to listen to the problems of the individuals under them.

I have found that a manager that is paying attention can see when there is a problem with someone on their team, and a good manager will take that person aside and ask them what the problem is, and if you are a manager that shows empathy you will be surprised at how open those under you will be, and sometime all you have to do is listen for a minute and give them a little encouragement and that alone can make all the difference in the world.  So remember while you may want your team to be one smooth operating machine, that machine is made of parts and when one of those parts is not operating at full capacity it is up to you to find out why.

Remember also that these individuals all have different skill sets and strengths and the most functional team is run by a leader that understands this and that seeks to expose those individual strengths and uses them to make the team stronger as a whole.  A good leader will develop an understanding of each team member’s skill and will learn how they best communicate, how their thought processes work and what motivates them as an individual.  Once you have figured this out and you understand how each part of the machine works best, then you will have a machine that is smooth running and effective.  Failure to understand this will create a dysfunctional team with subpar results.  So be sure that you get to know the individuals that make up your team, and that you understand what makes them tick, what motivates them, and what makes them an effective part of the team.

What to do about the call center attrition rate.

Anyone who manages a call center knows that the attrition rate in the call center industry is a huge problem and always has been.  According to some research the attrition rate in the United States is 50%, nearly 35% in the U.K. and a whopping 80% in India.  This is a huge problem for call centers because hiring and training a new agent is expensive and each time you lose an agent and have to train a new one. This is affecting the bottom line, and with high attrition rates, this is a huge financial burden for any call center.

What exactly is the problem in call centers that cause such a high turnover rate? Those that have never worked in a call center think it is a pretty cushy job, I mean think about it, you get paid to sit at a desk and talk on the phone all day, what exactly is the problem?   The problem is call center agents actually have a fairly stressful job because they are dealing with the public and customer service on a daily basis, and many agents receive a fair amount of abuse on the phone,  plus having to deal with quotas and the stress of “making the numbers”, and the same ole same ole day after day creates a high burnout rate.   Another big issue, and in my opinion the biggest issue, is agents getting credit for doing a job well done; in my experience agents like to be acknowledged for their accomplishments and the best thing a supervisor can do is to publicly acknowledge a job well done in front of the rest of the team.  People like to feel important and like to know that they made a worthwhile contribution and that it was recognized.

Another big issue in call centers is the lack of opportunity.  According to research done in 2008 by ICMI the biggest reasons for agent turnover is:

1)      Better opportunities outside the organization

2)      Better opportunities inside the organization

3)      Repetitive work

4)      Low pay

5)      Dislike handling complaints and problems

So giving agents the opportunity to advance in the company is a good way to help keep them, plus in my opinion agents make the best supervisors and managers because they have practical and hands on experience and can relate to the agents under them.

One of the best ways to find out what your agents like and dislike about their job is to simply ask them and by creating an anonymous questionnaire with specific questions aimed at taking the collective temperature of your call center agents can be extremely effective, assuming you are willing to change what needs to be changed in order to drive your attrition rate down.  I have found in my experience that the agents on the phone are the greatest resource of information available and this resource is often overlooked.