Mark Wardell’s 10 Tips for Making Your Business More Effective

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1. Become an expert on your customers

Reaching new customers is always more challenging than getting in touch with the ones you already have. If you connect in new ways with your current customers, you will quickly discover why they do business with you and potentially, what would lead them to doing more business with you.

2. Systemize your business

Create manuals that document all the procedures involved in your operations including hiring employees, employee job descriptions, production procedures, production work-flow, sales and marketing, accounting and customer service. As you create these documents, you will develop a clearer picture of what you should be doing to ensure your business is running efficiently. Building accountability into your procedures will motivate employees, and develop a culture of effectiveness needed to take your business to the next level.

3. Empower your employees

No matter how hard you work, you simply can’t do it all yourself. Quit being such a “control freak” (yes, you) and start empowering the team around you to be responsible for the day-to-day tasks involved in managing your company. You will be amazed at what they can do without you.

4. Retain great people by not taking them for granted

If you have invested time into building a valuable team of employees, learn to appreciate them and acknowledge their efforts often. Say “thank you”, and mean it. It’s a little thing that goes a long way towards turning a group of individuals into a loyal and motivated team.

5. Create a “word picture” of what your business will look like in 3 – 5 years time

If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you tell if you’re heading in the right direction? It’s impossible, of course. The solution is to write a detailed description of the future of your company so that you know what you’re working towards. Next, regularly sharing your vision with the team who will help take you there. This will engage them in the dream and help make the journey significantly smoother.

6. Measure your marketing results

You know you need to invest in marketing, but how can you be sure it’s “working”? There are many different ways to approach marketing, including online social networking, advertising, blogging, and media relations. Whichever you use, you should install measurable strategic indicators so that you stay focused on your goals and retain a picture of which marketing strategies you should focus on.

7. Hire the best business professionals you can afford

Getting your business to the next level will require a team of leaders with a proven track record and excellent reputation: a more expensive team. When you hire the best you can afford, you can rest assured their higher salaries will be more than worth it.

8. Give regular, honest feedback to your employees

If you are involved enough in your business to be able to give your employees regular, useful feedback, you’ll go a long way toward fostering a more productive environment. I’m not saying become a micromanager, but you need be aware of the key projects underway, the lead roles and responsibilities, and the potential challenges your staff is facing, in order to keep your team focused on achieving the goals of your business as effectively as possible.

9. Solve problems rather than alleviate symptoms

It doesn’t take long to recognize problematic pattern – they are inherent in every growing business. Avoid the costly mistake of slapping a Band-Aid on a surface issue and instead address the source from which the problem is stemming. For example, don’t just resolve a customer’s complaint with a refund, do something to ensure it can’t happen again. This approach will save you time, money and morale in the end.

10. Use a gatekeeper

As a business owner, there is never enough time in the day to accomplish everything you need to do. If you install an assistant to manage your schedule, you’ll double your productivity, which means you’ll have more valuable hours for more purposeful work. It more economical to get help  than trying to do it all yourself.

Mark Wardell’s Top 10 Tips for Finding and Hiring Great People

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1. Share your dreams with your employees

World-class people are attracted to world-class opportunities. As an employer, you need to share your plans for the future with new (and existing) employees regularly. By inviting your whole team to take part in building your company with you, you create a motivating environment which is exactly the type of place great people chose to work.

2. Find great people by asking your best employees who they know

It’s a universal principal that “like attracts like”, so your best employees are likely to know other people with similar qualities to them. Ask them to help you build a world-class team. Some companies even offer incentives to their employees to facilitate this process.

3. Ask your suppliers who they know

Your suppliers likely have an inside edge to some great future employees. Ask them if they know the type of person you are looking to add to your team. As you have a business relationship with your suppliers, they are likely to be discriminating with any referrals they make.

4. Use the employment classifieds as a last resort

If people are out of work it’s often for a good reason, especially in a labour-shortage market. Although there will always be a few jewels in the haystack, it’s an enormous job to separate the wheat from the chaff. If you must take this route however, you can improve your odds by making your advertisement as specific as possible. For example, if the job involves cold-calling, say so. It is  better to get a few on-target resumes than a whole stack that don’t fit.

5. Commit to only hiring people who fit with your corporate culture

First, you need to know who you are in order to communicate the culture you are offering to your team. Excellence comes in many forms. Whether you’re a fun, energetic team of graphic artists or a cautious group of detail-oriented accountants, you need to be as explicit as possible when you’re seeking to build your team, so that you don’t waste time meeting people who won’t fit in.

6. Be careful about hiring friends and family

This does not mean never do it, but you do need to exercise a lot of caution in this regard. The worst-case scenario is having to “let go” of a personal relationship or any perception of nepotism among other staff. Ensure you screen every individual in a systematic way to avoid perceptions of favoritism.

7. Get your employees involved in the interviewing process

In many cases, your employees will be more in tune with the type of attributes required of their future colleague. Also, because you want your employees to work well together, if they are given input in the process, this will be more likely.

8. Promote your company’s unique attributes

There are people in the marketplace who are a perfect fit for your organization. The problem is they don’t know it yet and a recruiting ad that only states your company name and the position you’re looking to fill isn’t going to change that. Get a little creative and show off your true colors. Promote the unique attributes that set your company apart from your competition. This might include things like flexible work hours, a fun-loving atmosphere, professional development opportunities, and so forth.

9. Be up-front about potential challenges

When hiring, don’t hide potential challenges. If you’re trying to attract a dream candidate, the best way you’ll ensure they are the right person for the job is to be as honest as possible about the “down-sides”. If you have an out of the way location or  challenging aspect of the job, such as cold calling, be transparent , both in the interview and  in any recruitment activities you use. A good ad should repel unqualified candidates as much as it attracts qualified candidates.

10. When hiring, focus on qualities first and skill sets second

Most people do this in reverse and then wonder why they can’t find great people. You can’t train someone to have drive, or a team-player, but you can train someone to learn a program or two. Narrow your candidates down to the two or three with the best qualities and then hire the one with closest match of skills sets. If they are quality people, they will easily develop most of the specific skills required.

Mark Wardell’s Top 10 Tips to Make Your Market Offering More Effective

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1. Consider expanding into foreign markets

North America isn’t the only market in the world. Even a small business, in many cases, can expand their sales reach to include foreign markets. To determine if this is a wise option for you, begin by developing relationships with export centers and other associations specializing in reaching foreign markets.

2. Reach out to new market sectors

Very often a company can sell an existing product to a new target market with little more than a shift in market positioning. Some companies can significantly increase their customer base by doing this. For example, Nintendo successfully expended their share of the electronic game market with the Wii product by promoting video games to the previously untapped market of middle aged women. So ask yourself, who else might be interested in your products or services?

3. Expand you product/service offering

Ask yourself, what products or services do your customers already consume in relation to your existing product/service offerings? Can you add any of these to your product line? For example, a client of Wardell who manufactures kitchen cabinet doors has employed this strategy to become a wholesaler for an exclusive line of hardware. They have had excellent results.

4. Streamline your product/service offerings

Conversely, consider ways that streamlining your product/service offerings will help you become more profitable. Make sure you are aware of your margins for each of your products and consider dropping or replacing those that don’t make enough profit. Too many business owners only pay attention to their income statement as a whole (if at all) and don’t take the time to drill down into the details, effectively leaving money on the table that should be theirs.

5. Offer self-serve options to your customers and your vendors

Implementing DIY services is a great way to meet the needs of people who prefer self-directed options. At the same time, this alleviates pressure on customer service, and has the potential for significant cost savings. Today’s customers and vendors are no longer afraid of doing their own orders or checking out themselves. Self-check-in at the airport is a great example of how this option can be a benefit to all involved.

6. Improve your level of customer service

Your customers will spread the word about your business for only one of two reasons; they either have a bad experience, or a fantastic experience. It pays, therefore, to put the effort into giving your customers an experience worth talking about. Your customers are your best source of new business, and customer service is your most powerful tool for generating that business.

7. Clarify your market position

Ask yourself, do your customers clearly understand why your business is unique and why they need you? The answer to this question determines if they will continue to do business with you. Conversely, if you are seen as part of a homogeneous category of business, your selling prices will be dictated by your competitors- not a good thing in our current economic times.

8. Get to know your customers

The more you know about your ideal customers, the better you can make their buying experience. Are they more interested in customer service or self-service? Do they want better prices or more value for their money? Do they want you to make them look good to others or do they want to feel good for themselves? Ask, observe, and experiment. And by relentlessly focusing on your customers needs you’ll develop an almost unfair advantage over your competitors.

9. Track and analyze your prospecting systems

By properly tracking both your lead generation and your conversion rates (leads that become customers) you can develop a clear picture of the pace of business coming your way. This is critical for several reasons. (1) It helps predict production rates, increasing overall efficiencies. (2) It sends up a red flag when a drop in sales is coming, giving you time to do something about it. (3) It supports the setting of sales targets, helping to drive top-line growth.

10. Change your pricing

Far too many businesses remain at the same price point because they fear losing customers. It’s worth your time to research a spectrum of your competitors ranging from lower to higher end versions of your market. For example, sometimes raising prices may help associate your products/services with a higher value. While in some cases, slightly lowering prices may place your products at a better competitive advantage.

Mark Wardell’s Top 10 Tips to Increase Your Productivity

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1. Don’t pass the buck

When things don’t go as planned, great leaders take responsibility for their own actions (or inactions). Do this consistently, and teach your people to do the same. Once everyone starts taking personal responsibility for their work, your productivity will climb dramatically.

2. Start working towards “open-book management”

When you share your company’s financials with your employees, you encourage them to behave more like owners. Many entrepreneurs worry their employees will think the company makes too much money, but most employees actually overestimate the company’s bottom line before they are exposed to it. It’s not an easy step for most entrepreneurs to take, but those that do typically find the benefits are worth the risk.

3. Do the tough stuff first

One of the simplest, yet most effective strategies for dealing with procrastination is to cross the tough stuff off your to-do list first. Teach yourself to do this and then train your employees to do the same. If you can stay committed to the process, you’ll build an incredibly productivity corporate culture.

4. Develop a company knowledgebase

In every business, new ideas are generated daily. Some are great, and some are not, but most are lost forever. To fix this, develop a company knowledgebase where good ideas can be stored for future use. This can be as simple as a folder on a computer or as fancy as a company wiki. Over time, this will become one of the most valuable tools you’ve got.

5. Take a break

Business should be fun. But life should still be about more than just business. Take a holiday and recharge your batteries. You’ll come back stronger and more productive than ever.

6. Revamp your organizational structure

The best people in the world are of limited value to a company if they aren’t organized to run your businesses as profitably as possible. To accomplish this, take a second look at the roles of your current employees, their responsibilities, their work-flow and accountability to one another. Everyone should be contributing to the bottom line in some form or another. Many times, revamping your organization structure can be the single most effective way to increase workplace productivity, not to mention the overall value of your business.

7. Implement a solid management team

You need to find managers who can make your business better—people who have already proven they can manage a business like yours as well as, or even better than you can. If they already work for you, you’re in luck. Otherwise, research the all-stars who have successfully transformed the state of peer businesses. Are they available? Ask industry colleagues, friends, suppliers, vendors and even recruiters if they know a potential candidate who matches your needs.

8. Transfer key relationships from the owner to the business

As long as your company’s key relationships are also your personal relationships, it will be difficult to convince outside investors your business is self-sustaining, not to mention the fact that, as the owner, it’s not the most productive use of your time. Start by introducing your personal contacts to the appropriate contact within your organization, and then slowly but surely pass more and more of your interactions on. The message you want to continuously deliver to your customers and vendors is that they will receive better service by dealing with the “right people” in your company, but that you are always available should they need you.

9. Use Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s)

Numbers are the most productive way to measure progress and raise red flags – before it’s too late. So, begin the practice of documenting and reviewing things like margin growth, inventory turnover and customer satisfaction levels. Then compile your results into a standardized format to help monitor how well you are doing at any given time. And finally, share this information across your organization. This practice will help your entire team stay focused on achieving measurable goals.

10. Tighten up your receivables

Most invoices say “net 30 days”, so they are paid at least 30 days after the invoice arrives. Instead, take a lesson from the credit card companies and replace this vague statement with a hard and fast date. Something like, “due Sept 25th”. I’d even suggest moving the date forward by 5 days or so. Try it for a few months and you’ll be amazed at how well it works.

Mark Wardell’s Top 10 Tips for Motivating Your Employees

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1. You can’t actually motivate your employees

What??!?? I know this first tip seems a little counterproductive, but bear with me. You see, motivation is internal, not external. You can motivate people with carrots and sticks for a while, but it can’t last. Long term, people need to motivate themselves. You’re not powerless, however, because motivation comes from inspiration. So offer your people inspirational goals and they’ll take on the job of motivating themselves.

2.Create a motivating environment

What’s it like at your business? Do people hit the ground running on Monday mornings, or do they live for the weekends. Your working environment has a greater impact on your productivity than you may think. The thing is, every business has a culture. But most have evolved through happenstance and that’s far too risky a way to grow your company. Everything from your office décor to your meeting schedules will affect your environment, so evaluate the impact of every move you make on your culture and watch your productivity soar.

3. Involve your employees in decisions that affect them

Your employees don’t just want a job; they want to be part of something more. So let them. It’s a win-win scenario for everybody. Your employees win because their work becomes fulfilling, and the company wins, because it benefits from the contributions of more than just those at the top of the organizational chart.

4. Share your plans for the future with your employees and get them involved in the process

If inspiration is the key to employee motivation, then keeping your employees in the dark about your plans for the future is a sure-fire way to kill your company’s potential.

5. Hire motivated people

Brian Scudamore, president and founder of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, says “we don’t motivate our people, we hire motivated people”. Screen candidates carefully, and look for a history of productivity. Technical skills alone are never a good enough reason to give someone a job.

6. Encourage independent thought, creativity and initiative

At Wardell, we have a weekly meeting to discuss our progress as a company. Everyone is expected to participate and contribute. For example, one of our agenda items asks each consultant to teach something of value to the rest of the group. Not every idea is going to be as helpful as the next one, but by encouraging this type of “teaching environment”, we keep everyone growing in the right direction.

7. Profit share

In general, money is a poor motivator if you’ve got nothing else going for you, but it can be a great supporting tool once you’ve got your people on board. Profit sharing, of course, is only one of many ways you might do this, but used properly it can be extremely effective. Whether you offer your employees company shares, options, a bonus based on clearly defined goals, a percentage of your margin, or a percentage of your profit, what matters most is that they don’t feel powerless to affect its outcome. The goal of a bonus is to support your employees feeling of ownership for their work. As an aside, avoid the dreaded “Christmas Bonus” if at all possible. Any amount of money given in this fashion will be appreciated the first year, but will eventually be seen as an entitlement. Then, should you have a bad year and cannot afford to offer it, instead of understanding, you’ll get resentment.

8. Offer varied and interesting benefits

Benefits, unlike bonuses, form part of an employee’s compensation package. And as such, represent an opportunity to impact your working environment. Certainly, standard benefits such as medical and dental insurance can be part of the package, but think outside the box as well. For example, perhaps you can negotiate a discount for your employees at a local fitness club or restaurant. One of our clients has even negotiated a discount for his employees at a local golf course.

9. Fire unmotivated people

It’s as important to get the right people on the bus as it is to get the wrong people off the bus. It may sound harsh, but if you have anyone working for you that you would not re-hire given the opportunity, get rid of them as quickly as possible. It’s the right thing to do. If you’re not happy with them, chances are they’re not happy either. This is not to say you shouldn’t give people a chance, but don’t get into the trap of trying to motivate someone who simply can’t be motivated. If an employee is not inspired by a future with your company, free them to find a place that suits them better.

10. Thank your employees for a job well done

For a hard working, dedicated employee little is more important than genuine appreciation. Show them that you notice how hard they work and they’ll go to the mat for you each and every time. Never underestimate the value of a “thank you”. If your employees don’t feel appreciated, they’ll leave as soon as someone offers them more money, but if they really love their job, it will take more than a few dollars to lure them away.

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