Are You a Boss or a Friend? How To Manage Your Work Relationships

One of the most unexpected challenges that small business owners must face is managing their employees, especially when they hire friends or family members. Without the traditional HR structure, or if you embrace the “everyone does everything” mindset, lines can quickly become blurred between boss and friend. Your first instinct might be to keep things casual, but this can actually inhibit the growth and profitability of the business.

While of course you want to remain friendly and kind with your employees, it’s important to keep your role clear. Otherwise, it will be nearly impossible to deal with already tough decisions, such as salaries, promotions, and firing employees. You must always be the employer first, and the friend second.

If you don’t maintain this separation, your employees will walk all over you. If you have someone who consistently shows up late or performs unsatisfactory work, they’ll have the opinion of “what are they going to do, fire me?” Keeping employees on your payroll who don’t respect you or your business, even if they are a friend, will not make you a successful company. Before things get out of hand, you need to set boundaries and create a healthy boss-employee relationship in the office.

Consider Who You Hire

Before you begin hiring someone, rethink if you’re adding them to the payroll just because they’re a family member. Hire someone who is best for the job, not just Uncle Billy because he needs a job. Feelings may get hurt, but if they are not qualified, they can do more damage than good when it comes to the success of your business. It’s worth in the long run to find the best employee possible.

Be Direct

You need to have a direct conversation with each employee with whom you have a personal background about the nature of your business relationship. This means being clear about what the goals are, how your employees are to help you accomplish them, and what they can expect from you. Make sure that everyone has a role and responsibilities that are spelled out and are very clear to avoid conflict later on.

Keep it Confidential

Confidential work information like salaries, hiring and firing decisions, and quarterly earnings must never be shared with someone who should not have the information, or you’ll lose credibility. If your daughter is the secretary, she should not have more Intel about the business than someone with more seniority.

Follow the Law

As a small business owner, you might think some employee laws and regulations are only for those with more workers. However, there are laws that kick in even with your first hire. Plenty of small businesses have been completely destroyed by a lawsuit when an employer thought the law didn’t apply because the company was too small or because the owner assumed employees would never “betray” the company by suing. Be informed from day one, and follow the rules.

Stay Friendly

Many employees nowadays, especially millennial, are interested in having a personal relationship with their coworkers and managers. You shouldn’t let your position of power keep you from being friendly, kind, and encouraging open communication. You don’t need to invite your employees over for dinner, but asking how their weekend went or hosting office-wide events can help you connect on a personal level without going too far.

Be Open

Make sure your team knows they always have a safe space to share their ideas and concerns, and make sure they know they are being heard. You never know where your next innovation might come from, plus an encouraging environment builds trust and positive morale.

Keep Work and Personal Life Separate

If you do work with family members or close friends, keep things separate. It could be that you don’t talk about work after 6 pm, or you take separate rides to work so you can unwind. It’s important to plan things like family dinners or vacations that allow you to reconnect as family members, so you don’t only become business partners.

these are some valuable lessons I learned in the MSP’s that I worked in or was an executive.  I hope you found these thoughts valuable;e.  Want to talk about your experience, give me a call, email me or make a comment below.

Marketing Work-Life Balance in Your Business

One of the single best things you can do for your employees is create an environment that encourages work and life balance. This will increase the happiness, health and productivity for your employees, making your business more efficient. Companies that gain a reputation for this balance tend to enjoy higher employee retention rates, and draw a valuable pool of candidates for new job openings.

Employees need time to spend time with family, focus on their personal health, and have opportunities to pursue hobbies. This environment starts at the top. As the employer, follow this guide to promote a healthy work-life balance for your team.

Ask your employees what they need

You can’t create an effective plan if you don’t know what works for your employees. Ask your team to fill out a survey that covers various balance-related factors, including hours worked, flexible scheduling, support for working parents, interest in remote work, etc. This will help you identify which areas your company needs to improve, so you can focus on implementing solutions for problems that actually affect your employees.

Set communication standards

Nowadays, everyone brings their work home. Encourage your employees to “unplug” from work emails when they get home or after a certain time. As the boss, you need to follow this rule personally as well. An employee who receives a late-night email from you is likely to feel an obligation to respond. Use a tool like Boomerang to draft after-hours emails that are sent the following day.

Allow flexible hours

Create a schedule that gives your employees opportunities to work when it is most convenient for them. There are several ways to do this:

  • Provide a weekly hour requirement, but allow them to space the time out however they choose (10 hours on Tuesday but 6 on Wednesday, etc.)
  • An hour range, such as 35-40 hours per week
  • No requirement, as long as the necessary work gets done.

Consult the survey you completed with your team to discover what works best for them. This allows employees to easily attend appointments, children’s performances, or take a visiting friend to lunch. This relieves a lot of stress from counting sick hours, or asking permission for every small absence.

allow telecommuting if appropriate

Create a remote working option

If possible, allow employees to work from home 1-2 days a week, such as on Fridays. This can be particularly desirable for those who are taking care of children or elderly parents in their home. Of course, this does not work for all businesses, but it could be worth experimenting with. Some employees may find they are more productive while at home, eliminating distractions from chatting co-workers or small menial tasks.

Sponsor office events

Putting on office-wide events that allows employees to bring their families or significant others helps build a connection between home and work. Picnics, outings to bowling alleys or fairs, or seasonal parties are great ways to provide social events for employees. This after-hours bonding time will strengthen your team and build excitement for your business.

Promote Health

Encourage healthy living in your employees with onsite gyms or discounted gym memberships. Encourage a weekly office-wide yoga class, or cater a healthy lunch (i.e. not pizza!) during the next company meeting. Participate in a 5k as an office, and provide rewards for the most miles run during training. Employees will appreciate that you honor their health as much as they do.

Lead by example

Your employers will only give themselves as much of a break as you do. Therefore, show them the power of a great work/life balance. If you want employees to utilize flexible hours, make sure you leave the office by 5pm once a week. Share your hobby with your employees, or encourage a long lunch break. Create a supportive environment and you’ll have a company that people will be dying to work for!

Using email newsletters to stay in contact with leads

Email marketing is still one of the best ways to reach your customers with a 3,800 percent ROI and $38 made for every $1 spent, according to Constant Contact. It’s easy for messages to get missed on social media or traditional marketing, but in email, it’s always sitting in someone’s inbox, waiting to be read. So before you start complaining about your lack of customers from social media, maybe it’s time to put more effort into an email newsletter campaign.

Creating a powerful newsletter that drives clicks and website visits can increase your sales and grow a customer base that’s looking forward to your news and content. Staying in contact with leads via email marketing is the best way to eventually convert them into customers.

With email, you can personalize your message to each individual contact. You can trigger specific emails based on specific information allowing you to send the right message to the right person at the right time. With email marketing campaigns, you can break down your lists by demographics and previously recorded behavioral data. Some emails may promote sales, others with educational content, or reminders of what the customer looked at on your website. Depending on whether someone signed up for your email newsletter, requested a quote, or downloaded an ebook, you can personalize your emails to them.

Here’s what to do once you have their information.

If a customer visited your website but doesn’t make an inquiry, here’s what to do:

First, capture information from a program called connectmyPSA MyVisitor, which tracks the information of your website visitors. Those suspects are prime recipients of automated emails that deliver specific messages to convince them they need your service. Armed with those leads, set up an automated email workflow. This automatically sends emails to people at different levels of the sales funnel.

Automated email workflow consists of a pre-determined set of emails that are sent out at specific intervals. It allows you to stay in contact with leads without needing to spend hours on the phone. These reminders of your business will keep you top-of-mind when they do decide to purchase a service. A schedule of emails sent every few days could look like this:

  1. A thank you for them requesting the info/quote/etcetera.
  2.  Providing more information about your business
  3. Educate leads on why the problem they came to you about in the first place is worth solving.
  4.  Explain why your business is the best at solving the above problem
  5. Offering a discount or other freebie, such as a white paper.

Your emails should be a mix of promotion and educational content. If all your emails do is bug your leads to purchase service from you, they’ll likely unsubscribe or stop opening your emails. If after the fifth email they have not made a purchase, add them to your email newsletter (described below).

If you have an existing customer on your email list:

Email can (and should) be used to stay in contact with them to continue to do business with them in the future via an email newsletter. This newsletter could include:

  •  Company updates
  •  Industry news
  • Your recent blogs
  •  Case studies

Staying in contact with these customers lets you keep the relationship, and adds personality to your business. Providing valuable content that people want to read will make them excited to open your emails, and continue to do business with you. They’ll continue to trust you, and have confidence in your position as an industry expert.

If they purchase a one-time package, check in down the line (after an appropriate amount of time) to see if they need your service again.

Email allows you to build trust, which is a key ingredient to establishing long lasting customer relationships. Every message you send is a chance to build on that trust, and prove to that customer that you are worth their business. The quality of the content, language, design, and how you handle feedback or questions from customers will result in a positive or negative conclusion in their minds. Use email to build a relationship with leads that will eventually turn them into customers!

Intro to Inbound Marketing

It’s time to get proactive with your marketing strategy and bring more customers to your site. The first place people look for an IT company is likely online. Inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that increases your search engine rankings and brings the right people toward your business.

The first step to inbound marketing is bringing the right traffic to your site. You want the people who are most likely to become leads and ultimately, reliable customers, to be visiting your site. In order to attract these ideal customers, you need to zero in on who exactly these people are, so you can create content that appeals to them. You can achieve this by analyzing what the buyer persona is of your ideal customer. Personas include the goals, challenges, common objections to products, and personal and demographic information shared among all members of that customer type.

Armed with this information, you can implement these tools to attract them to your site:

Website Pages

Your website is the first impression a new visitor gets of your company, so make sure you put your best foot forward. Look at your site as an outsider – is it easy to navigate and appealing to your ideal buyers? A few tweaks to your website is all it could take for a customer to make a purchase – or you risk them running to your competition. Start with a clean theme and the most important content that will answer any questions a customer might have about your business. Little things like font, color choices, images, and load times can make all the difference.

Search Engine Optimization

Once your site is looking great, the content needs to be optimized for search engines. In order to appear higher in search results, your site needs to include the right keywords that real people are searching. Perform keyword research by looking at your competitors, and using tools like Google Adwords Keyword Planner and Moz to create your list. Once you’ve got 5-10 keywords, sprinkle them throughout your site, create content that covers those topics, and build links around the terms. Stay up-to-date on keyword trends to make sure you optimize to your changing industry.

 Blogging

 Blogging is the base of all inbound marketing.  If you create valuable content that speaks to the right prospective customers, they will find you. Use the keywords you found to write blogs that target those specific topics. If your blog offers great content, customers will keep coming back to it, and will eventually make a purchase. Blogging gives you a chance to prove that you’re an expert in your industry – and also that you have a personality! Show your customers who you really are by highlighting company achievements, while sharing industry news. These blogs can also be used in email newsletters, and shared on social media.

Social Media

The best way to get your amazing content out there is to share it! Sharing your content on social media gives a human face to your brand, and allows you to engage with potential customers. In addition to posting your blogs or links to your site, sharing industry news, interesting images or videos that showcase your company, or just a funny gif can increase engagement and make customers excited to follow your page. You can interact in real-time to answer questions, promote sales, and keep an eye on what people are saying about your company. Silence is deadly on social media, so take advantage of the opportunity to connect.

Inbound marketing is the future of business development. By creating a solid digital marketing strategy to integrate all these elements, and consistently post or update them, you’ll build a great online presence that will lure customers to your site.

There are a number of things to consider when reviewing a sales resume

Resumes are marketing documents. Some entrepreneurs assume that resumes contain the gospel truth when it comes to a candidate’s background and experience. The truth of the matter is that resumes are engineered to highlight (even embellish) strengths and accomplishments while omitting clear and obvious failures. Think about it – have you ever seen a resume that read, “Hit 56% of target sales target due to my inability to set appointments and unwillingness to consistently make cold calls”?

Treat resumes like you would any other piece of marketing collateral. They serve to tell you the features and benefits, but come up short on the deficiencies. That’s where a keen eye and experience come into play.

It takes a salesperson 6 months to become productive. With rare exceptions, I advise customers to expect a six-month ramp-up period when hiring new sales staff. The first 90 days are a write-off from a production standpoint, and the next three should yield slow but steadily increasing progress. By month 6, they should be in full-on selling mode. Within the year they should be consistent. This timeline affects the lens through which a manager should look at a sales resume.

For example, if a salesperson has been at their current employer for less than 6 months and is looking for work, that’s a major red flag. What that tells me is that either this person is failing miserably and knows it; or they made a huge mistake in accepting the position and they want out. People make mistakes, and I’ve seen a number of cases where great candidates have taken a job only to realize that their new employer is headquartered in the Arctic Circle.  Most of the time I find that the reason they’re leaving is because the feel like they’ll fail in the job, and are cutting their losses early.

No matter the reason, what a duration of less than 6 months on a resume tells me is that the salesperson didn’t do enough fact-finding during the interview process to make a good decision, or that they’re not cutting it and are afraid for their job (or were fired). Both insights tell me that they’re not at the top of the game, and that I should keep looking. I have made some exceptions to this rule, but only after really digging into the facts.

Are you so desperate to throw your company’s money at a salesperson that you’d hire someone whose resume creates doubt before they’re even in the job? Someone better is out there, with less baggage – Take your time to make the right hire.

Great salespeople don’t leave jobs where they’re making money. It’s human nature. If you’re earning a cool $250,000 a year selling cloud solutions and crushing your quotas in the process, chances are that you’re a hero at your company. Praise flows freely, and you get sent on trips where you sit on a beach with your family and drink rum cocktails. You’re probably happy. Well maybe a slight exaggeration, but you get the point!

What you emphatically don’t do is actively look for another job. I can’t stress this point enough – great salespeople don’t leave great jobs. Great salespeople leave that great job when the company decides to cap their earnings, or because they get acquired and the new regime wrecks what was working. They don’t want to start over working for you and your giant question mark without a major upgrade to compensation potential.

Here’s what it all means for you as the hiring manager with regards to the resume review: If a salesperson is looking for a job that should immediately makes you wary. If this person has stints of less than 6 months on their resume, that’s a warning that there’s something more to the story. Why? Because it takes at least 6 months for even a great salesperson to get to a consistent, quota-reaching level of production. Make sure you know why they’re looking for a new gig. The answer, “because I’m looking for more opportunity” typically translates to “I’m not making my number.” You need to find out why.

What’s been your experience? Chime in and let me know your thoughts.

Are Your Interview Skills Ready for Today’s Candidates?

Over the years we have helped many organizations hire sales or operations personnel.  During that time we have found many qualified candidates that see to evaporate when the organization is finally ready to actually hire the professional.

Why did they evaporate?  This is the question that many hiring managers ask us.  Basically it is due to a lack of communication or hiring practices.  Here are a few items to think about removing from your hiring practice

  • Going Silent – Many of you are running a busy business and are extremely bad at answering a phone call or returning one. If a candidate has an expectation that was set during the interview, expect them to follow up (a good candidate would).  If you don’t return the call, then what do you think that tells the potential candidate?
  • Focus on a Past Position or Salary – Stop focusing on the past, present them with real live situations to see how they solve your problems. The past is what got them to the interview, presenting how to solve your issues are what will secure them the position.  Compensation is important but if they can solve your problem, then compensate properly and they will be happy to be part of the team.
  • Pre-employment Tests – No doubt a tech test or a ride along can uncover many things, but who has the time to put in all the energy for a test and then have you go silent. There are plenty of ways to find out if someone can perform using a Disc or Motivator.  They are quick, easy and provide insight into the person and how they will mesh with your team.
  • Lack of Information at the Interview – Many times you have a great candidate but you have failed to provide some very critical information to help them and you during the conversation. At a minimum you may want to provide a printout of the position notification and detailed position decryption to ensure that a discussion on the items are all discussed and any questions can be ironed out.
  • Not Being Prepared – Spend the time in the interview digging into problems and solutions. So many hiring managers show up and read the resume in front of the candidate.  This demonstrates your lack of preparation.  Read the resume, go on LinkedIn or other social medial and know a little about your candidate.  Have 10 -15 questions ready that help you dig in to how they solve problems and show them that you took the time to learn about them, just as you would have expected them to do the research about your company.

By being properly prepared and focusing on the future, both parties should be able to conclude what the engagement would look like.  Provide realistic expectations and ensure that you nurture the candidates in the pipeline so they stay engaged.  It is OK to let them know that they are not a fit for the position at the conclusion of the interview, it may also relieve setting an unrealistic expectation for follow up.

6.5 Rules to Qualify Your Sales Prospects

Sales ProspectsRules are at the foundation of qualification.  The ability to understand and deal with the prospect should be short and powerful.  Here are the 6.5 rules

  1. Gather your top questions that make your company different than the next TSP (technology service provider). They will help you gain important information. Don’t forget to rehearse them so you are comfortable and confident in front of the prospect.
  2. Plan the conversation to include issues that concern the prospects true concerns and relate it to business success. Always remember you are in charge of the conversation, so steer the client in directions to tell the story.
  3. Pre-Call research is a great way to break the ice. Ensure that you learn about items facing their industry, their business, competitors and the person you meet with. Proper preparation shows you care, are knowledgeable and want them as a client.
  4. Tour their office or facility. Ask questions as you tour about trouble areas, competitive advantages, goals, etc. this will help you in your business discussion and further help solve a problem.
  5. Solve problems! Company executives are not interested in speed and feeds or how great your company is.  Sell based upon similar situations that a prospect can relate to providing them with a visual of how their business can get better with your solution
  6. Provide testimonials from like companies or ones that shared a similar problem. This provides proof that you have delivered in a situation similar to theirs.

6.5 Relax and enjoy the meeting, building relationships is a huge success factor when selling, relate to the person and their situation, view their office belongings and draw correlations.

I am sure that you may view this blog and say these are obvious things, but if you honestly measured yourself or a rep, I would venture to say that half of the rules are cut out and change the acquisition of a net new client.

want to chat more, contact us

How can an Explainer Video help you enhance SEO?

Have you ever wanted to make an explainer video? You know, one of those animated videos that explains what your product or service does and why people ought to buy it? You see them everywhere… and companies are using them to explain what their product or service is in hopes that it will boost their conversion rate.

So, why not to create one of these explainer videos for you site? If it works for Dropbox, and even hosting companies, it must work for you, right?

You may also have heard that YouTube is one of the biggest search engines and enhances your organic SEO when you have your own channel.  So why not kill two birds with one expenditure – a video channel with an explainer video(s) and then embedded video from your YouTube channel into your company website enhancing your ability to increase SEO at an affordable price for various services your MSP provides.

Lets get the ugly expectation out of the way.  Most explainer videos won’t boost your conversion rate or make you more money.  It isn’t because the idea is bad, but it’s because you are likely to take the wrong approach to making the video.

The most important part of a video is the script and not the actual video quality. Whether you have a high quality video or a mediocre one, if the script isn’t good, it won’t convert well.

The goal of the video is to answer all of your potential customers’ questions and concerns. If you can do that in a short video, you’ll see an increase in your conversions. If you can’t, you won’t see your sales increase.

To explain how to write a script, I’m going to show you the order we used to create the Equilibrium Consulting script.

  • Intro to your company or service/product
  • Explain the problem to your potential clients
  • Create a transition
  • Show off your features
  • Call to action

The script won’t be perfect at first, and it will take a few revisions before you get it just right. When you are writing it, keep in mind that 70-80 words roughly translate into 30 seconds of video. Ideally, you want to keep your video to less than 2 minutes (ours is approximately 30 seconds).

If you want to create an explainer video, you have to take the time and do your homework, then give us a call or drop me an email at pete@equilibriumconsult.com.  We can help you get it created within about a week.

Live Webinar – MSPros Tuesday Talking Points With Carrie Simpson and Peter Busam

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LIVE WEBINAR
Tue, Mar 15, 2016 1 PM ET
MSPros Tuesday Talking Points: Carrie Simpson, Managed Sales Pros and Pete Busam, Equilibrium Consulting

Join us as we are a guest on Managed Sales Pros Talking Tuesdays.  Equilibrium has spent years creating a marketing tool that identifies who is visiting your website. Now that tool is available to MSPs, and it will feed the site visit leads directly into the PSA or CRM of your choice. Join Carrie Simpson, CEO of Managed Sales Pros and Pete Busam, Chief Balancer at Equilibrium, for a discussion on why you should be tracking site visits, and how to capitalize on those leads quickly. Carrie and Pete will also reveal their new joint marketing program! This is one you won’t want to miss if you’re an MSP owner looking to grow your business with a very conservative marketing budget.

 

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We’ve worked with Pete and his staff for a couple of years now and have greatly appreciated his insight in developing and executing our sales and marketing efforts. Leveraging Equilibrium as our marketing department has helped us to implement and improve all of those projects that we just weren’t able to move forward with in the past, which has been invaluable to our continued growth. I highly recommend their services for any company looking for realistic, actionable steps that they can take to move the ball forward!

- Jeff Altom Principal – Core Vision IT Solutions

One of the best IT Industry exec’s I knew. Pete is a dynamic individual who has both a keen intellect and superb instincts for the buisness. I regularly went to Pete to bounce ideas off of and always received thoughtful and insightful feedback. Few people in the industry net out a situation as fast and accurately as Pete. In addition, he builds longlasting relationships and is well connected in the industry. Net net is Pete’s a winner.

- Kevin Gilroy, Executive Vice President – Samsung Electronics

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