Employee Performance

Clients have had a rash of issues lately with performance challenges with their employees. The biggest problem that I have seen with this is that employers become "frozen" when this happens. They are not sure what to do. So, I want to provide some simple advice. For all performance, whether good or bad, timely feedback is what is best. Don't wait to either correct an issue or give a pat on the back. By linking your response to the performance, the feedback is more powerful. In particular with poor performance, it is best to get it corrected right away. If it is not, then the employee assumes that what they have done is okay and may do it again. So if you want to make sure that things are done right in the future, make sure that you fix the problems today. The same is true of great performance. You want people to know that you noticed and appreciate great work. That way they know to repeat it in the future!

The second piece of advice is to be specific. Don't be general and say you are doing good or bad. Tell them exactly what is wrong and tell them what you want them to do instead. This removes the person from the equation. You are talking about their action, not about them as people. Again when you are specific about good performance, you can demonstrate how they have stood out from the crowd. Your employees want your feedback. If you want them to remain, then give it to them straight. This is one reason it is easier to manage Sales than most other things. In Sales, it boils down to quota. It is a cold number and you either met quota or you didn't. See how specific that is and how easy it is to talk about. If you and your employee could judge their performance based on a number that you both agreed to, it would be easy to give performance reviews right?

Finally if it comes time that somebody needs to exit, don't make it a surprise. You want to have a trail of written evidence that you have worked to try to change the employee's work to suit your needs. That way they will not have a leg to stand on if they retain an attorney. It is cheaper to settle than to go to court even in an At Will employment State. It is even less expensive to document performance so that people do not have a leg to stand on.

Have a great day! Jim Sackman Focal Point Business Coaching Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

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Net Neutrality Friday

You have probably noticed my silence on Net Neutrality of late. There is a reason for that. Not much has really been happening. The question we need to ask is that good or bad? On the positive side of things we have stability. People should be no less happy with the state of their Internet Service than a year ago. But they were complaining then about prices and speeds. So, are they happier? Not sure. Given all the stuff that is going on in the world from Shooting to Brexit to ISIS to the US Presidential Race to the Zika Virus, Internet Service issues has fallen pretty far down on folks radar. That is the way of things. Especially today, we move from Crisis to Crisis in the News cycle. It wasn't that long ago that the world was going to fly apart because of Brexit. Now that doesn't even make the news. What does that have to do with Net Neutrality? It is mostly that I want people to be thoughtful when we have the News Cycle. Our current changes on Net Neutrality left a lot of things unsolved. Top of my list is Universal High Speed Broadband in the US. However, it will likely be years before we get a shot of enough visibility to do anything about it. We spent our energy last time on Net Neutrality. Nothing against it, but I thought it was the wrong fight. Not because I don't want fair access, but because universal access is more important in my mind. I don't have John Oliver behind my issue, so I lose out. The worst part is what he said on his episode that caused Net Neutrality to be a thing was wrong. And nobody questioned him on it.

Why is that? Hey with all respect to John Oliver and John Stewart, they are not experts in the fields that they bring to light. Some of the issues that they talk about are much more nuanced than was discussed on their shows. They only have at most 15 or 20 minutes to bring people up to speed on something that people spend years studying. They make a few smart comments and present a point of view. It is hard to be on the other side or somewhere in the middle as you don't have the platform.

If you think that kind of simplification is okay, let me point out that this is the same complaint that the general news market has about the way that Brexit went or that the Trump campaign is going. The Internet has a large number of technical, business and social challenges. We have to face them in a way that will not make everyone happy. But we do need to understand the issues of others so that we can come up with an effective solution that works for as many people as we can.

Have a great weekend!

Jim Sackman Focal Point Business Coaching Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

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Sonoma County: News and Notes

  I hope everyone had a happy 4th of July. It is beautiful here this time of year and I hope you have had a chance to enjoy it.

I wanted to start with an announcement. I have published my first book titled: "Branded!". It is a guide to Branding for the Small Business Owner. It is available via Amazon HERE. It is also available via Kindle. The goal of the book is to provide some guidance to how to think about Branding as it relates to your business and how it extends beyond your logo and your tagline. If you have any questions on this topic, you can let me know!

One of the things that I have been dealing with lately is a number of clients who are having trouble attracting high quality employees. The labor market here is tight, especially for skilled labor. The housing market being tight does not help with this, as it is hard to get new employees to settle in Sonoma County. I know that Napa and Marin are feeling the same pinch. We had such a loose job market for so long, it has been troubling for people to think about what they need to do. I don't think we have seen things this way since the late 1990s. So, I want to provide some thoughts to people that are recruiting for the rest of this.

In my last few corporate jobs, I was introduced to annual review systems that wanted to automate the text writing required. I deleted any provided text and always wrote my own. Why? It seemed to me that if I could not spend an hour a year to write down information about my employees' performance than I was a pretty poor manager. My question to you, my readers, is what do you do to work with your employees? Remember, employment is a business transaction. The employee is trading time, effort and skill for money. There may be other parts of the deal including things like benefits and training. But at the end of the day, it is still a transaction. How are you positioning your transaction against other employers? Do you have a Unique Employment Proposition? Are you just a paycheck? Don't get me wrong, both are okay. You have to know who you are in the employment market, just like you do in the market for products and services.

So, who are the competitors for your employees? How do you compare? You can not keep current employees working for you if they want to leave, but you need to make sure that the gains they would get from being elsewhere don't motivate them to leave. You can not get them to come to you without a better deal than they get other places. Are you a good boss to work for? Can you help them move up in their career? Unlike a short time ago, you need to think about hiring as you plan your future business.

If you are stuck on this, feel free to contact me for a free initial consultation. I am doing a lot of that these days! Jim Sackman Focal Point Business Coaching Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business - Change Your Life!

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Planning on the 4th of July

I like to make posts around the Holidays that have at least something to do with the Holiday that we are having. In this case, next week is the 4th of July. For those that know me personally, they know I was raised near a little town called Schuylerville, New York. Back during the time of the American Revolution, it was known as Saratoga. For students of American History, my little home town is where Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne surrendered his Army. We used to play Little League Baseball on the Surrender Grounds. It was a huge turning point in the American Revolution and a study in what can go wrong in planning and execution of a plan. The British Plan for that year was intended to be a 3 pronged attack in New York designed to separate the New England States from the rest of the Colonies. There was an attack down the Hudson River led by General Burgoyne. There was an attack eastward through the Mohawk River Valley by Barry St. Leger. Finally, there was to be a thrust North from New York by General Howe. First thing you should realize is that this plan was complex. The attacks were spread over 100s of miles of pure Wilderness. Communications and coordination between the forces involved would be very difficult if not impossible. That in itself is a downside to this kind of plan. Complexity across wide spread fronts is a good way to be defeated in detail.

The plan went well to start with the British taking Fort Ticonderoga without any challenge. But then things began to go downhill. The Americans turned back the force under St. Leger in August. They also took steps to make the route South difficult to travel. This cost the British Forces time and resources. To get back resources, the British attempted a raid on Bennington but were defeated by local militia. On top of that, General Howe had used the bulk of his forces to take Philadelphia and the remainder had not started North to meet Burgoyne in Albany.

Now if you are going to make a plan at least make an attempt to follow it. Howe's failure to move North doomed the campaign to failure at that point. Without pressure from the South, the Americans were able to dispatch forces West to defeat St. Leger and then concentrate forces to stop Burgoyne. Even if Howe did not make it to Albany he could have tied down valuable troops by being active and in the field. So now we have bad communications, complex coordination and failure to follow the plan.

Burgoyne made the situation worse by not adapting his plan to the changed situation. He attempted to stay the course in light of so many negative facts and tried to make his way Southward. He was defeated about a week before what was his drop dead day to turn back. One thing to remember, this was a Wilderness Area and Winter was Coming. The Winter of 1777 was harsh (see Valley Forge) and that was normal during the middle of the Little Ice Age. It would have been hard to return north with Americans pursuing them at the time, so better to break off early and retreat. There was nothing to be gained by staying. You have to know when to change or abandon your plans if you are not getting the results you expect.

All of those failures in planning and execution led to the involvement of France into the Revolutionary War. The rest is History. Don't let poor planning and execution lead to your downfall. Jim Sackman Focal Point Business Coaching Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

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Thoughts on Brexit

I was listening last night and today to all the commentators discussing Brexit. I then saw some highlights of a talk that President Obama gave today. He said that Brexit was a reaction to the challenges of Globalization. I think he is right. As I post now on my Youtube channel, I am working on a series called "Business in the Internet Age". One of the themes that comes out of that is the global audience and how this impacts a business. Many small businesses can not see the tidal wave of Global Competition coming to them and are not ready when it is. There are some professions that simply are not viable as a stand alone business anymore. You can get similar quality online at a fraction of the cost. It can be greatly upsetting to find that the thing that you spent 20+ years doing just doesn't cut it anymore. I can't turn back time, but I work with them to re-describe their business in a way that is profitable again. People in general don't have the kind of help that I bring to business owners. Some of them have reacted by not looking into the future and thinking about what might happen. They let the world pass around them and can't react when there are changes. They don't like the changes as it upsets the status quo of their life. You can't really blame them. What they have been doing to make their life better no longer works. They react and sometimes overreact. On top of that our confrontational style of looking at the events of the day have added to the burden that people have.

The unfortunate part is that this has become mixed with racism at many levels. But what I have found interesting is that two words have now taken on a negative connotation: Nationalism and Populism. The rise of Nationalism near the beginning of the 19th Century culminated in the end of the multi-cultural Empires of World War I. Wilson's 14 points have extended this and it has been a balancing act for all of us. What is a minority that is expressing self-determination and what is a terrorist group? Populism has been that streak of politics that has been against the elites, taking the side of regular individuals. The negative comes about when people are fed lies by demagogues. Not so long ago those words were used in a positive light.

What can you do? Educate yourself. Look into the future and see what changes are coming at you. Investigate the positions of leaders who want you to think one way or another. Think critically about what anyone says. I like define myself as an Extreme Moderate taking Moderation to the Extreme. But each of you must find your own way. All I ever ask is that you remember that just because someone disagrees with you doesn't automatically make them stupid or evil. If you start with honest disagreement, you can find that other's poking at your views can lead to better clarity in what you think and how you got there. Nothing wrong with that.

Let me use one example of where it gets odd. Companies in the US sell a lot of product into the EU. When they do, they have to obey EU regulations that apply. So, any notion that this is a special barrier because you are part of the EU makes no sense - whether the UK is out of the EU or inside it. What this means to me is that not much is going to actually change right away. There will be some turmoil because the news cycle craves crisis, but for the average person it won't actually mean very much in the short term. In the long term, there are always opportunities to redefine our path forward.

Jim Sackman Focal Point Business Coaching Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business - Change Your Life!

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How does Planning confuse people?

I have a number of clients that I am working with that struggle with Planning.  They express their challenges in different ways.  But the most obvious one is that they have not thought about what I am used to calling "The Win".  The Win is the state when things have achieved success.  I ask some pretty simple questions like: - How many customers will that take?

- Is your target market large enough?

- What is your pricing strategy?

I find the answers to these questions to be lacking almost all the time.  I know there is always a coaching saying to start with the end in mind, but the real notion is to figure out what the end means in absolute terms.  I would have revenues of $1M is one thing.  How many clients being charged what amount of money is the next level of detail. From there you can estimate what you would be able to sell for that amount of money.  If you are making a 3-year plan you will rightly conclude that any plan you make will be wrong.

So a lot of people stop because it will be wrong.  But the point of the details of the plan is not the actual result.  It is the magnitude of the change in what you are doing from where you are today.  I use our 2001 Business Plan from AFC as an example of this all the time.  We knew that to sell the company we needed a majority of our revenue coming from Tier 1 customers.  At the time, 80% of our revenue came from Tier 2 and Tier 3 customers.  Now, there is an added unspoken thought that needs to get added.  This is that the company is only valuable if the revenue and profits stay the same or grow and the customer mix changes.  The company at that time had about $350M in revenue.  That meant that we needed to grow our Tier 1 revenue from about $70M to about $150M or more than double our current number.

Stop and think about that.  Were we going to be able to double the market share of our existing products or would we need to introduce new products to fill that gap?  What kind of new products would we be in a good position to sell and what would our plan be?  Should we invent these products or buy companies who have these products?

You can see how questions just spawn from these simple analyses.  And that was a pretty simple starting point.  When you are asked to start with the end in mind, remember to think about the question to get to action steps.  The better your answers the more likely you are to achieve your vision!

Jim Sackman

Focal Point Business Coaching

Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business - Change Your Life!

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