Friday, December 28, 2007

Professional Resolution

The process of establishing a New Year's resolution is very similar to the goal setting process. Two key aspects of developing a resolution are writing it down and the fact that it is time sensitive. New Year's resolutions are typically personal in nature, but I have found that using this process in business can be an effective means by which to lead individuals to establish personal work-oriented goals.

If you are in a leadership position, you can resolve to mentor or work on the development of the individuals that you lead. You might also resolve to improve one area of your leadership skill set to a new level. This could include the improvement of listening skills, organizational skills, presentation skills, writing skills, etc. If you lead a sales team, you can use this exercise to have each member of your team establish a resolution that would be activity based. Agree to be your sales team's income coach throughout the year to keep each person on track to hit their personal income goals by measuring activity. This can be broken down into individual resolutions in the areas of increasing the number of sales calls being made, number of prospects being called or improving his or her ability to execute a sales call from the opening to wrapping up the sale, etc. This will not only demonstrate your interest in his or her success but your commitment to helping in the obtainment of their income goals. Weekly one-on-one meetings with your team can have a segment in which you analyze each team member's progress towards staying on track to achieve their income goal. This will mean establishing new activity-based targets throughout the year to act as a road map to success against the backdrop of, say, “If you do this you will be on track to hit your income goal for 2008.”

A side benefit of this process is in the fact that each member of your team has a vested interest in following your direction. Weekly coaching sessions do not include, "Your activity levels are too low...make more calls," which in my mind is a lot like a track coach running behind a runner yelling "run faster" (doesn't work). Instead, your coaching sessions now sound more like, "Your goal is to make $90,000 in 2008, and based on your sales and activity levels, you are not on track to hit your goal. However, let me show you that if you increase your efforts (here and here) you will get/be back on track." This is a great example for sales representatives, but this process can also be imperative in developing goals for those in leadership positions who (verses higher commissions, etc.) might aspire to achieve higher levels of responsibility. Therefore, developing a resolution that is focused on their professional development over the year could make this individual a better candidate for any promotional opportunities that might arise in 2008.

I have yet to finalize my own resolutions (professional or personal) for 2008. Professionally, I do know that I am going to continue to be a student of leadership and continue working on my own professional development. Reading a book each month on leadership is a good option and one that I am considering. Attending seminars on leadership is another good option. Personally, I am giving some thought to training for and running in a marathon. I completed my first half-marathon in 2007 and feel as though this could be the year that I could cross "run a marathon" off of that proverbial "life list." I only have a couple of days left to make a decision. The Chicago marathon in October could be the ticket...

What is your professional resolution for 2008? How about your personal resolution? Have you ever used this process in the establishment of goals for those that you lead?

Happy New Year!

Best regards,

Jeff Littlejohn
Vice President and General Manager
The Employment Guide

Friday, December 14, 2007

Finding Y-our Focus

In a changing business landscape companies are routinely challenged to develop new products to better meet the needs of their current customer base while continuing to expand their ability to acquire and retain new customers. Many businesses will tackle this process by adding new products or brands to the current offering. Typically these brands are overseen by a brand manager or business development manager while utilizing existing infrastructure and resources to deliver new products to market.

The recruitment advertising industry is not exempt from this process. Our business, The Employment Guide is also not exempt from this process. As we enter our eleventh year of business we are a much different and diversified organization than we were in 1997. We have added to our product offering through the development of our job fair business and our award winning website We have also added our targeted niche product offering to the transportation recruitment industry and as of yesterday just released our newest member of our product family All of this change is due to the changing needs of our customers and emerging needs within certain industries that are the fastest growing areas of within the recruitment industry.

So what does this mean to the leaders within our organization and the individuals that they lead including our sales personnel? What is or should be our focus? At first glance the thought of this question can appear overwhelming. How am I going to sell all of these products? How can I get my staff to sell this and this and this...? Where do I find the time? When do I spend time selling this or that? It can become a daunting task if not properly managed.

Realistically, from a leadership perspective, we are not asking our sales teams or leaders to do anything different. We continue to ask our sales personnel to focus on calling existing customers and prospects to discuss their needs and to match the best product or combination of products from our portfolio that will satisfy those needs while developing their overall skill set and knowledge base. Nothing new. The line-up of products that we have today affords us an increased ability to expand our total customer count by satisfying a wider array of needs. Once we earn a prospect's business and they become a customer; it is then up to us to work on retaining that customer by exceeding their expectations while providing award-winning customer service. Basically, our expectations of our sales teams and where they focus their efforts will not change. Do they need a broader range of knowledge and skills due the fact that they are talking to a more diverse group of prospects and dealing with new technology? Yes. Are we asking for these individuals to do something outside of their core responsibilities and focus? No. We cannot nor will we ever be all things to all people. It is important that we are the right things at the right time to the right people, which equates to providing the right combination of products and services to meet the need of the customer or prospect on whom we are focused at the particular moment in time.

Businesses can grow by adding products and customers or selling more to existing customers, or they can grow through acquisition (buying new customers). The way that a company stimulates progress and the ability to grow can come in a wide range of packages. We have expanded our product offerings, which in turn offers us as an organization to meet the needs of an increasing number of prospects and customers. The purpose of this expansion is to meet specific needs within targeted markets in the recruitment industry while adding to our overall customer count. We are working towards accomplishing this in a way that has allowed our business to remain true to our roots in the fact that all of our products are niche in nature and are in line with the core ideology of our organization.

In my opinion, customer acquisition and retention must always be the primary focus of a business. A successful company will always be customer oriented. How a business chooses to tackle this task should be based on their core values and purpose. The road map will always look different from business to business and leader to leader, but the goal of customer acquisition and retention will always be an underlying part of a "for profit" company's purpose.

What are you doing to increase the focus of the individuals that you lead in the area of customer acquisition and retention?

Have you found any specific time-management techniques that have worked for you or those that you lead?

Best regards,

Jeff Littlejohn