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3 common issues that are slowing down your business

(BUSINESS NEWS) Looking to expand your organizational growth? Identify your weakest link to pinpoint what may be slowing you down.

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The weakest link

A highlight of my recent vacation to Costa Rica was a guided nature hike through the jungle of Manuel Antonio National Park. Danny, our guide, was dressed like Indiana Jones and armed with a long-range spotting scope mounted on a tripod. He guided our group of ten “turistas” on a four-hour hike through numerous trails, occasionally stopping to set up his tripod and point out the amazing wildlife, including monkeys, sloths, birds, iguanas, insects, and more.

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Overall, the excursion in the jungle was enjoyable, but spoiled by one annoying dynamic in our group – the youngest couple in the group was lagging behind at every stop. Almost every time we restarted our journey down the trail after a stop, Danny would realize that he was two turistas short in his group. He’d then have to go back to the last spot and wrangle up the stragglers.

The young couple was typically taking pictures, or exploring side paths, while the rest of the group was waiting impatiently on the trail. The tour of the national park took longer than planned and we ultimately got caught in an afternoon storm while leaving the park. I was soaking wet when we arrived at the bus, and I wondered if our group would have avoided the storm if our laggards had kept up with the tour group throughout the morning.

In organizations I coach, it’s not uncommon to see similar situations: The team can only move as fast as the slowest or weakest link.

The drag on your organization could be a team member, a manager, an entire department, an equipment or a process.

The key to a fast-growth organization is to constantly identify what’s holding you back and create a plan to fix it. A quarterly planning meeting is an ideal place to address constraints slowing down your company.

Based on my coaching experience, here are the three most common issues that slow down organizations:

1. Ineffective internal communications

The number one issue restricting many organizations is poor internal communications. The problem can manifest itself in many ways, but it almost always starts at the top.

If the leadership team is incapable of communicating a clear vision on a consistent basis, it is impossible for the team to follow. Once the leadership team has a clear and consistent vision, the next communication breakdown typically has a regular rhythm for communicating amongst the team.

Organizations need a daily huddle that allows every team member a single channel to participate in sharing relevant updates about clients, obstacles, and accomplishments.

Another example of poor communications is when teams are incapable of participating in constructive debates, typically due to a lack of trust or a misunderstanding of individuals’ communication styles.

2. Disengaged team members

According to a recent survey by Gallup, only 13 percent of people working at companies today have any strong emotional commitment to work at their company. Some of these other 87% of team members are not just disengaged – they’re actively destroying the company from the inside.

The first way to address this problem is to have a structured and stringent hiring process, like TopGrading, to ensure that you only hire team members that fit your culture.

And second, your leadership team and managers must actively build a culture of accountability. Team members that regularly fail to meet their commitments must be trained or removed. I always remind my clients that the biggest thing holding back your top team members, the “A-players,” is the disengaged employees.

3. Poorly documented systems and processes

Early in my entrepreneurial journey I had the delusional belief that I could just hire good people, pay them well, and they would know what to do without any oversight or management.

And while you might get lucky every now again with hiring a unicorn, it’s not a scalable approach to building a high-performing team.

All organizations should identify their key processes and systems, document them thoroughly, and then consistently refine and improve them.

A related challenge is a company that’s not committed to continuous learning and development. The world and technology are rapidly changing, so don’t assume that the systems and processes that work today will be competitive tomorrow. As Edward Hess documented in his great book, “Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization,” to survive in today’s world a company must become a high-performance learning organization.

If your company’s journey to the next destination is taking longer than expected, ask yourself, “What or who is slowing us down?”

#weakestlink

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Certified Petra Coach Rob Simons draws upon his 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur, brand expert and business coach. Rob founded PixelWorks Corporation in 1993 to serve the interactive advertising industry and in 1996 he founded Toolbox Studios, Inc., one of the most respected branded content marketing firms in Texas. Rob sold Toolbox Studios in 2015 to focus exclusively on business coaching, which includes certification as a Gazelles International Four Decisions™ coach. An active member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), Rob is currently a “Master” EO Strategy Summit Facilitator and an EO Accelerator Instructor. In 2007, the San Antonio Business Journal named him one of San Antonio’s “40 Under 40.”

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. John

    July 20, 2017 at 11:11 am

    Listen Rob, we are a young couple in love. Don’t be such a grump next time. It’s just a little water.

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How to handle an acquisition like a boss

(BUSINESS NEWS) One way to grow your company is to be acquired. Here are some tips on how to not blow an acquisition.

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Acquisition

One way that a small business can become a big business is by being acquired. Maybe your business plan has always been to sell, or maybe it has never occurred to you.

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But if you find yourself being wooed by a potential suitor interested in buying your business, John Warrillow at Forbes.com has some advice to make sure you don’t blow it.

No harm, no foul

He says that, whether or not you are ready to sell your business, there is no harm in meeting with a potential buyer. Even if you don’t think you’d like to sell at the moment, the meeting could be useful for gaining “competitive intelligence” that could help you negotiate later.
For the most part there’s not much too lose and much to gain from meeting with a potential buyer, but Warrillow does warn against a few rookie mistakes.

First of all, he says, like a teen hoping for a second date, it’s important not to appear too “eager.”

Even if you’re desperate to hand over the business, play it cool, and insist that your company is not for sale, but that you are willing to meet for “a strategic discussion.”

Strategery

During said discussion, “let them do 95 percent of the talking.” Warrillow suggests writing out and rehearsing a list of questions so that you can control the conversation and get more information out of your suitor than they get out of you.

Part of holding your cards close to your chest includes refusing to name a price.

No matter how much they insist, hold true to your claim that the business is not for sale, and don’t give them even an estimate of the price range you’re looking for. Wait for them to name a number first, in a formal expression of interest.

Once you’ve received the expression of interest, hire an intermediary broker to help you with the deal. And whatever you do, don’t sign a Letter of Intent that prevents you from shopping around for other competitive offers.

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So you were asked an illegal question in an interview, now what?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Interviews are nerve racking enough without having to wonder if your potential employer is playing by the rules. Be aware of these tips in case you find they aren’t.

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Under pressure

Interviews are universally nerve-wracking. You’ve got the resume, the references, the outfit – but you never know what your interviewer(s) are going to throw at you.

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You expect questions relating to your skills and your ability to do the job, but sometimes a question comes out of left field and you’ve got to scramble for a coherent answer.

Interview questions

“If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors,” asks Apple. And Gallup wants to know, “What was the last gift you gave someone?”

Well, when I ordered a pizza last night, I tipped the delivery person with scissors . . .

Unfortunately, some questions that seem just wacky, or harmless and friendly, are not just inappropriate to ask in an interview, but are actually illegal.

Illegal questions are generally those that request information irrelevant to the job description. Here are the most common categories of illegal questions, shared across all states:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Sex/Gender/Orientation
  • Military discharge
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Birthplace
  • Age
  • Disability/Health status
  • Marital/family status

Watch out for tricks

Any of this personal information could be used, intentionally or not, to discriminate against them. A direct inquiry regarding any of these topics is obviously off-limits, but sometimes the question might come from a tricky angle.

“When did you graduate college?” = “How old are you?”

With this information, employers could decide you’re too young or old for the role, no matter how qualified you may be.

“Orizaga is an interesting surname – is it Spanish?” = “Are you Spanish?” A biased interviewer could use this information to determine that you are or aren’t a “good fit.” Similarly, “Is English your native language?” = “Are you from an English-speaking country or not?”

“Is that your maiden name?” = “Are you married?” And so on.

These questions are often asked innocently, by untrained interviewers looking to make conversation. Nonetheless, you don’t have to answer them, and your best bet is to tactfully avoid the question without demanding your constitutional rights in the middle of the interview.

Handle the heat

Tone is everything, but if you respond to an illegal question with something along the lines of, “Is that relevant to this role?” in a calm, mild voice, most interviewers will take the hint and move on.

If the situation allows for it, you can keep your answer nice and vague without avoiding the question.

For example, if you’re asked about your college graduation date, you could say, “It’s been a while, but I still view college as one of the best experiences of my life.”

Asking isn’t the most illegal part

It’s important to note that asking an illegal question is not equivalent to committing a crime. The information must be used in a discriminatory manner, as determined by a court.

If you believe that an act of discrimination has been committed, you should contact a labor attorney, or file a charge with your local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) office. Then order yourself a pizza and ask the delivery person about their scissors.

#Interview

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The 7 communication hurdles stifling your company’s efficiency

(BUSINESS NEWS) Whether communication is too little or too much, or delivered poorly, every company has room for improvement.

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One of the biggest sources of inefficiency in your company is going to be communication. It underlies almost every productive action within your business, whether it’s conveying instructions to a subordinate or disclosing your results to a client or investor; accordingly, even a small inefficiency in your lines of communication can result in a major loss of time/money.

Fortunately, knowing the key hurdles to effective communication—and learning to overcome them—can help you smooth out these problem areas and build a more efficient business.

How Communication Affects Your Efficiency

Ultimately, your business’s efficiency is impacted in three key ways:

  1. Message accuracy. If you convey the wrong information, or the right information in a confusing way, it can lead to errors and misunderstandings.
  2. Time consumption. Every message you send and receive is going to cost time from both the sender and recipient. If that time is excessive, it could result in waste.
  3. Cost. You also need to consider what you’re paying for your communication solutions, and whether each solution is worth it.

The Biggest Hurdles

These effects tend to manifest in response to these seven major hurdles:

1. Obsolete or unreliable tech. If you’re trying to save money by relying on old devices, or platforms that haven’t been upgraded in years, it could have a substantial negative impact on how you communicate. You might experience delays when making phone calls, missed messages in your chat logs, or a serious lack of mobility. Thankfully, making upgrades can make most of these problems go away. For example, investing in newer devices can dramatically improve your connection speeds and mobility, and switching VOIP providers can be a relatively easy transition to prevent delays and hiccups from interfering with your phone calls.

2. A lack of clear communication standards. How are your managers expected to relay instructions to subordinates? How are your subordinates expected to communicate progress to managers? How are your meeting recap emails supposed to be structured? If you aren’t sure of these answers, it’s a sign that you don’t have clear communication standards within your business. Formally documenting these expectations can keep communication clear and consistent for all your employees, in virtually all areas.

3. Inefficient modes of communication. If your employees aren’t using communication mediums correctly, it can also lead to problems. For example, if they frequently call meetings that could have been communicated in the span of a single email, it could waste hours of company time. If they use email instead of having a conversation over the phone, it could lead to confusion and unanswered questions. Each type of communication requires a different approach.

4. Departmental silos. Another major problem is departmental silos, which can make communication more difficult or nonexistent between two groups of people within the company. These silos tend to develop when different departments have different standards and expectations for communication, and when those departments rarely intermingle. You can correct this by integrating your departments more frequently, and getting everyone on the same standards for communication.

5. Unstructured meetings. Meetings are a major source of time waste in companies, since they involve many people at the same time, and often recur on a consistent basis. All your meetings should have a designated leader to keep the meeting on track, a specific intention or goal, and a time restriction to keep things tight and concise.

6. Poor listening. Listening is a vital skill for effective communication — and we aren’t doing enough of it. Too often in business environments, participants in a meeting or conversation are more focused on talking than listening, but listening is more effective for understanding and collaboration. To develop better listening skills, avoid distractions (like checking your smartphone during a conversation), allow time for the other person to speak, and use active listening tactics, like rephrasing what you’re hearing.

7. Overload. Too much communication can be a bad thing. If your employees are sending emails back and forth constantly, or if you’re paying for so many communication apps that you can’t keep track of them, it’s only going to result in confusion. In many ways, fewer, more concise messages are superior modes of communication than message bombardment—and you’ll pay less if you have fewer apps to worry about.

If you can overcome these seven significant communication hurdles, you can make your business far more efficient. While some of these changes may take a few weeks to settle in, others may grant you a positive change immediately — so inspect your company’s internal and external communication, and work hard to make things as streamlined as possible.

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