Everything In Its Right Place – How Disorganization Impacts Efficiency & Workplace Stress Levels

Have you ever walked into one of your kids’ rooms and thought (or said aloud) “It’s a wonder you can find anything in here?” Teenagers are notorious for having rooms that look more like war zones than habitable places. But aside from the anxiety it causes you to see a room in such disarray, your teenager’s messy room probably isn’t going to do much harm. Sure, he or she may waste a lot of time looking for matching socks, but it’s not the end of the world. The same can’t be said for business — in business, disorganization can lead to a loss of time, money, and productivity and an increase in stress. While there are multiple areas of business that require excellent organization, the focus of this post is the warehouse and the service truck. Let’s take a trip to the imagination station…

The Warehouse

Imagine you’re the owner of a service area business and you’re trying to get all of your service technicians in their trucks and out on the road. Like all home service industries, time is of the essence with your company, and whether your team is at their first appointments of the day or still running around back at the warehouse, you’re paying them for their time. Is everything in its right place so your team can get off to a stress free and productive start or will they waste time trying to find what they need to start the day? disorganized-and-messy-toolstools-organized-neatly

We brainstorm ways to cut costs and raise profit, but many of us forget just how important organization is to that cause. When your technicians have to hunt down a part or tool or weave through a messy and disorganized warehouse before hopping in the truck and heading to an appointment, time is wasted and stress is heightened. All it takes to ruin the attitude and day of a service professional (or anyone for that matter) is a late start and a frustrating morning. Why not take the time up front to make the start of every day easier, less stressful, and more productive for your team by organizing your warehouse in a streamlined, logical, and easy to maneuver way? Analyze and observe a typical morning, ask your employees for input, and determine how things could be better organized. Even a few extra steps adds up, so consider layout and figure out the smartest setup.

Of course, if you’ve ever organized your closet, you know all it takes is one day when you’re too lazy to hang that sweater or fold that shirt to undo all your hard work. To prevent this from happening with your warehouse, take a few minutes at the end of each day to make sure everything is neatly put back in its right place and ready for the following day. You can make this the responsibility of one of your team members or all of your team members — it’s up to you.

The Service Trucks

Time waste and frustration doesn’t just happen in a messy warehouse — it can happen in a messy truck as well. Our friend Chuck Roydhouse, a former firefighter and the owner of a chimney service company in Anne Arundel County knows just how important a clean and organized truck is. His service trucks have a place for everything and he put in the effort and time to build shelving and organizational compartments that reduce time waste and frustration for his techs and his customers. Not only will an organized truck allow your techs to easily find the tools they need and get the work done faster for your customers, but it also communicates something to your customers. If you think I’m crazy, listen to this quote from a review of an actual service business:

“His work truck was neater than our family vehicle — and that is saying a lot.”

We often forget what mess communicates: it communicates that you don’t care. Make sure your employees and your customers know that you do care and that you take pride in operating a clean, efficient, and professional company that meets the needs of your community.

3 Things You Can Learn From Your Competition

The thought of your #1 competitor may make you tense up, but if you can see past the red, there’s a lot you can learn about running a business and attracting more customers. Take some time to look over the competition and see what you can glean from them. What exactly can they teach you?Little-Boy-In-Front-Of-Chalkboard-With-Lightbulb-Above-His-Head

#1 What Your Target Customers Like And Don’t Like In A Company

We hope you’re already reading your own online reviews and responding to all of them (positive & negative), but there’s a lot to be learned from your competitors’ reviews as well. What are their customers saying about them? What are the good things that come up again and again? The bad things? Use that information to identify what you could implement or focus more on to entice those customers to consider your business. If your competitor’s customers always rave about how good their cleanup is, make your cleanup process and the lengths you go to to keep your customers’ homes clean a focal point on your website and in your marketing. If your competitors’ customers give low ratings because of poor scheduling experiences, make sure your scheduling process is easy and pleasant for each and every customer.

Listening to your competitors’ customers will give you insight into what to do more of and what not to do. And because very few business owners take the time to really reflect on what their customers are saying and implement change, you can likely count on your competitors to keep making the same mistakes in their business. Let them make those mistakes while you learn from them! You’ll end up with a better business and happier, more loyal customers.

#2 How To Differentiate Yourself

Take a look at your top three competitors and make a list of their similarities and differences. Is there something they all do right? Something they all do wrong? Spend some time thinking about how they look from the outside, how you compare, and what you could do to differentiate yourself from the pack. Use that in your marketing and on your website and make yourself stand out!

Note: You never want your customers to choose you solely because of price, so make sure that what you choose to focus on is not price-related. As a generalization, price-driven customers are not loyal, and what you want is loyal customers with high customer lifetime values.

#3 Just How Good You Need To Be

Many entrepreneurial minded people have a desire for things to be perfect. We want every little detail to be just right before launching a business, service, or product. But guess what: your competitors can show you just how good you need to be, and spoiler alert, you don’t have to be perfect. Look at your best competitors and make a list of things that are important in business — things like customer service, timeliness, cleanliness, and quality. Give each competitor a grade for each factor and figure out how they rate. Do they get a C for timeliness? Then you can start by making sure your timeliness score is a B or higher. Do they get a B for customer service? Then you’ve got to get your customer service up to an A.

Always strive to be your best and offer your best, but start by being better than your competition. Three in five Americans would try a new brand or company for a better service experience, so make sure you’re delivering a better customer experience than anyone else, and keep working to make it better and better.

Go Forth & Conquer

Some of the greatest secrets in life are learned through our successes and failures — but why not learn from those around us? Spend some time reflecting on and learning from the mistakes and successes of your competitors and you’ll reach your goals faster and with less hiccups. It’s a win-win for you and your company!

Why You Should Invest In & Get To Know Your Employees

I get it, keeping distance between you and your employees makes things easier because you’re able to remain unattached and cut ties when needed. It’s true, relationships mean work and sometimes they mean problems, but by keeping your employees at a distance, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to increase employee loyalty, purpose, and production; find greater purpose and support for yourself; and improve the customer service you deliver. Here’s why:Employees-In-A-Circle-Looking-Down-At-The-Camera-And-Smiling

If you don’t take the time to get to know your employees,

You won’t be able to easily identify their strengths, passions, and where they might better fit in your company (or outside of your company).

We know a business owner who thought he had a lazy, problem employee on his team. But what he one day found out is that his employee was bored and wasn’t able to engage in what interested him. He had this incredible passion and ability to innovate and craft new pieces of equipment that could make the team’s job easier, but if the business owner had just fired him for being lazy and problematic rather than getting to know his interests and strengths, the entire company would have missed out on the amazing things this employee had to offer. You could have a similar issue. You could have an underperforming employee who is bored out of his gourd and just waiting for an opportunity to do something that he’s passionate about, but if you don’t invest in getting to know him, you’ll never know where he could best use his strengths.

You may even find that you have an employee who would really thrive outside of your business. We’ve had to let people go because the more we got to know them, the clearer it became that they were miserable in their job and that they had other passions and opportunities that would better suit them As the leader of your company, you may need to help uncover that for an employee and have that conversation.

You won’t know what motivates them.

As the leader of your company, one of the most important roles you have is that of the cheerleader. You have to keep your team motivated and inspired, but not everyone is motivated by the same things. If you don’t know your employees and which ones are driven by perks, praise, public recognition, money, etc., you won’t know how to motivate each individual. And if you don’t understand what motivates your employees, you can’t be the effective leader you want and need to be.

You’ll isolate yourself.

Support and motivation goes both ways. If you isolate yourself in your business by refusing to get to know your employees, you eliminate the possibility of your employees supporting and motivating you. On the flip side, by developing relationships with your employees and being transparent with them, you just may find that you enjoy the support and sense of community you have at work and that your position as the leader of your business is a lot less lonely than it was. 

Your employees won’t be as loyal.

Loyalty is a big issue, especially given the cost and time associated with onboarding a new team member. But how can you make your employees stick like glue? One of the best ways to get someone to invest in you is to invest in them. If you’re not willing to invest in your employees, what makes you think they’ll be willing to invest in your company?

When you take the time to get to know your employees, find out what motivates them, what their personal and professional dreams are, what their family is like, etc., you show them that you’re invested in who they are and who they want to be. You show them that they aren’t just a cog in a machine — they are an individual that you value as a part of the team. And when an employee feels like a valued member of the team, he or she is less likely to just up and leave at the first sign of a better salary or better benefits.

Your customer service will suffer.

Another problem that arises when your employees don’t have buy-in and don’t feel invested in is that they’ll feel unfulfilled in their work. You may not think it’s your job to make sure your employees feel fulfilled, but have you considered how their sense of fulfillment affects the level of service your customers receive? When work is unfulfilling and meaningless, it’s hard to bring your best to the job you’re performing and to your customers; but when you feel invested in, empowered, and like what you do matters, you’re like a cup that runneth over. There’s no stinginess or need to protect and preserve yourself — instead, you’ll be energized and willing to bring your best to those you’re serving.

Two Tips To Get You Started

So if you’ve been hesitant to build relationships with those on your team, it’s time to break the ice. You don’t have to become best friends — in fact, you shouldn’t — but you do need to talk and, more importantly, listen. And if you’re wondering how you can get to know your employees without coming off as creepy, here are two suggestions:

  1. Beer Friday. Here at Spark Marketer, we occasionally indulge in Beer Friday. We wrap up a little early, grab a beer from the fridge, and just socialize with each other. We may talk about work, we may not; there’s really no agenda. It’s just a time to sort of unwind and get to know each other. If you go the Beer Friday route, just be sure to communicate up front that this is a relaxing end of the work week gathering and not a rager. If you have employees who are recovering alcoholics or who don’t drink, naturally you can remove alcohol from the equation and have a pizza lunch (something else we’re big fans of) or some other laid back gathering.
  2. 1 to 1s. We’re big advocates of having 1 to 1s, which are just brief, regular meetings with each employee, one on one. During these meetings, you may want to discuss any problems or challenges your employees are having, what they need from you to do their job better, and just what’s going on with them in general. Ask about their family, their goals, what they’re reading, etc. If you really listen to what they have to say, you’ll be surprised at how much can be learned from a 15 minute meeting once a month.

What are some of your favorite ways to get to know your employees? Let us know!

Is Everyone On Your Team Equipped To Sell?

Want to know a secret? Sales is not a position within your company — it’s every position within your company. The person answering the phones and serving as the initial contact point for your customers and the techs out in the field doing the work are just as responsible for selling the company as your designated sales person is. The question is: have you empowered and equipped your entire team to effectively sell?Sales-Tags-Hanging-From-A-Rope

Many business owners send their designated sales person to training and invest in their selling skills, but they leave the rest of the team high and dry. Here’s why that’s a big mistake:

The sell coming from your techs and office staff feels more organic and authentic. I’m sure your designated sales person can talk all day long about how great your company is and why your customers would be stupid to choose anyone else for the job, but they have a disadvantage that your office staff and techs in the field don’t: it feels like a sale. The interaction your office saff and field staff have with customers feels more organic and authentic, and gives your customers a better idea of what your company is really all about and how they can expect to be treated when they work with you.

Your sales person is not the one who will leave a lasting impression. Most of the interactions and experiences your customers will have will be with the women and men doing the work, scheduling appointments, and answering any questions the customer has. These are the touch points your customers will remember and the touch points that will determine what kind of lasting impression they have of your business. Two bad experiences here and they’ve already forgotten about how friendly and convincing your sales person was.

Your office staff and techs have more opportunities to sell. Being in front of the customer more also means more opportunities to sell. After all, the employees most frequently interacting with your customers have a direct pipeline to your customers; they likely hear the customers’ wants, needs, and complaints first and have the opportunity to swoop in and meet those wants and needs and solve problems for your customers. But if your team is unsure of how to do that or feels insecure in their selling abilities, they won’t have the confidence to take advantage of each opportunity. Instead, opportunities to upsell, identify needs, and solve customer problems will likely be wasted.

Seeing the direct correlation between one’s efforts and company revenue can be a boost to morale. Here’s the thing, everyone in every company wants to feel important and see the fruit of labor. But when you completely disconnect your office staff and techs from the selling process, you minimize their importance, limit their power, and obscure the direct impact they have on company success and customer satisfaction. By making it clear that everyone on your team has an equal responsibility and role in the selling process, you’re emphasizing the importance of each individual to the success of the whole.

So how can you make sure everyone on your team is equipped and empowered to sell?

  • Start by letting them know that it’s everyone’s responsibility and privilege to sell the company and to be that point person who conveys the mission, values, purpose, and culture of the company to the customer being served. If you don’t verbalize this, your employees may not think it’s their place to sell, because they’ll likely falsely think of sales as a position within the company.
  • Next, provide your employees with scripts and practice scenarios, and ask them to identify a couple of missed opportunities in the last month or so. Give them examples and practice this often so they begin to see sales opportunities easily when on the job.
  • Emphasize that selling is not just beneficial to the company, but to the customer. Many people are uncomfortable with selling because they associate it with being pushy or deceptive. Clear the discomfort your team has by assuring them you only want them to sell when they feel it provides value to the customer or meets a customer need, and by showing them how selling can directly benefit the customer. For example, if a team member goes to provide an estimate for a carpet install and, while the estimate is being performed, the employee notices that the customer’s dog is aging and there are a great deal of pet urine stains on the existing carpet, he or she could use this opportunity to educate the customer on a pet stain resistant carpet. Sure, it’s an upsell, but it’s something that will very clearly benefit the customer and her enjoyment of her home. There’s nothing greasy or deceptive about that!

Sales training and webinars are also worth thinking about. But no matter how you choose to empower your employees to sell, encourage them through any discomfort and insecurity as they learn new skills. Selling is not something that comes naturally to everyone, so be patient and supportive. It will be well worth it for you, your customers, and your employees!

How To Define Your Target Market & Create Buyer Personas

So you know you want more customers, but have you ever asked yourself what kind of customers you want and what kind of customers want what you have to offer? Have you ever taken the time to define your target market and identify who they are, what they’re like, where/how you can most easily market to them, and why they want/need or don’t want/need the products or services you offer? Figuring out who you currently attracting and who you’d like to attract can help you better focus your marketing efforts and figure out creative ways to tailor your message — so it’s definitely worth doing. If you’ve never defined your target market or created buyer personas, here’s a six step guide to get you started.

#1 When figuring out your target market, the first things you want to look at are your current customer base and your customer wish list. Some of the questions you want to ask yourself is:

  • What are your customers like? Where do they live? What ages are they? What about their income level and education level? Ethnic background? Gender? Are they married or single? Do they have children?
  • Which customers bring the most business? What is that group of customers like?
  • How did your best customers come to you? Was it through a word-of-mouth referral, a Google Ad, local search, the newspaper, etc.?
  • Which type of customers would you like more of? Who is your dream customer? What are they like?

#2 Next, look to your competitors. What are their customers like? Who are they going after? If you really want to maximize your efforts, don’t go after the target market of your competitors; instead, choose a demographic or niche market that they don’t yet have in their pocket and go after those customers.

#3 Now take some time to look at the services or products you offer — what are the features and benefits? Why would anyone care about the benefits and features? How do they make life easier or better? It helps to look at your existing customers and ask yourself why they have come to you for your services or products. What problems are they trying to solve and how do you solve them?

#4 Once you’ve come up with a list of benefits and features, create a separate list of people who would want those benefits or features. Figure out who would care about the product or service you’re selling. Don’t forget to consider, not just who would benefit from your product or service, but also who would actually buy it. Do the people on your list have the means and motivation to follow through and purchase? This is another reason why it’s important to consider age and income level.

#5 Determine some of the finer details, like what the values, interests, and lifestyles of your existing customers and the customers you’d like to target are. How does your product or service fit with those values, interests, and lifestyles? And where would your target market likely look for what you have to offer? Do they look on Instagram, Facebook, in the newspaper, online, or do they look to their friends and family? Figuring out where your target gets their information will help you determine where your time, effort, and advertising dollars will be best spent.

#6 Now, take all of the information you’ve just gathered and create 1-5 buyer personas. A buyer persona is really just a fictional representation of the target customer you’ve defined. In a lot of ways, it’s a stereotype, but it’s the kind of stereotype that could benefit you. You don’t have to include everything you’ve determined about your target, but definitely include the basics. Here’s an example of a buyer persona:

Buyer-Persona-Card-For-Sara-Stating-Occupation-Age-Sex-Family-Status-And-Income

Once you’ve created your buyer personas, it’s time to get started on targeting and attracting those people so you can reach more of the customers who want and need what you have to offer. Good luck!