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Issue #1

In these times of cutbacks, downsizing and restructuring of expenditures, in order to remain viable, everyone is looking for the best ways to manage the staffing issue, as it relates to the bottom line.  The news regularly reports that literally hundreds of firms are laying off workers, consolidating jobs and reducing hours to manage overhead.  While these measures may seem logical, they often have a serious backlash effect that can actually reduce business in the key areas of ticket average and customer loyalty.

 

Yet, there are firms that are taking a fresh look at some better ways to control and even improve staffing, distribution of workloads and bottom line profit.  Companies that are finding the best return on their investments are focusing on two critical business elements.  And those may not be what you think.

 

It makes sense that firms conserve on overhead wherever possible and a common reaction to that need is to cut costs in the areas that can be streamlined.  Salaries are often the first target, and so there begins the strategy of reducing overhead by laying off staff.  The flawed logic here is that the same amount of work may be able to be done by fewer people.  Commonly, the ones who are released, outsourced, laid off or terminated are those who are making the most money in salary and benefits, since the logic is that fewer people will have to go, in order to make the numbers that way.

 

That logic could not be more wrong, for several reasons.

 

In many cases, the staff with the most complete knowledge of the work and the procedures to get it done right are exactly those who may be making a larger salary or hourly wage.  While downsizing those people may save money in the short term, the workers who have to take up the slack of those highly qualified people may be those who are the least capable of doing so, while maintaining the work they were already tasked with doing.   The result is often more stress in the workplace, more mistakes, cramped deadlines, lower customer satisfaction, slower work pace and reduced efficiency.  All of these lead to lower sales and profits.

Companies that are making the best gains, or suffering the least losses, are those that take the approach of investing in their people in two key areas:  Training and development of staff and management, and using the guidelines of lean business practices to wring the greatest efficiency out of their operations.

This has to start at the top and flow our through the entire organization if it’s going to work. 

 

One global, northwest-based retail sports gear company did a brilliant job of finding the right path.  The key c-level team took a look at ways to reduce overhead and increase profitability, but, instead of just cutting staff, they re-organized the map of the company.  They looked at all of the divisions and identified those with the best track record for success, and those where business had fallen off and goals were not being met.  For each division, they further identified what functions were necessary within the division and only then did they begin to make staff adjustments.  Their strategy was to look across the firm, in all divisions, and choose the best talent for each position, regardless of where that talent had been assigned.  If they could fill a position with the right individual from in-house, they did.  Staff reductions were engaged when all positions were filled with the best people, and they concurrently began to hire from outside for those positions left to fill.

 

The result was a much leaner organization, yet one that retained a large percentage of higher-salaried key players, because they were the right people for the job.  The company was still able to reduce their overhead significantly without making sacrifices in customer satisfaction or increasing errors in process.

 

That is a win, in any language.

 

In an economy where every dollar spent is carefully weighed and even more carefully released, by budget-conscious consumers, there are very few products or services that are unique and necessary at the same time.  Right down the street is another store front, selling similar products or services, at competitive prices.  The art of the deal is being practiced by your competition, and the ability to convert every new customer to a repeat customer is not dependent on price, but on something even more precious to the client:  Service.

 

Sam Walton said, the Golden Rule of Customer Service is “Treat every customer as if he or she is the boss.  They can literally hire or fire you, simply by taking their business somewhere else.”  Firms that invest in training their people are winning across the board, in these frugal times.  Along with smart advertising, a well-trained, knowledgeable and professional staff is the best possible hedge against lean times.  Consumer research bears out that customers are many times more likely to return to a place where they feel like they are well treat, valued and appreciated, even if the price is slightly higher.  But that treatment MUST be consistent.  You cannot do it for awhile and then stop.  Consumers are sophisticated enough to recognize the ‘flavor of the month’ service slogan, and firms that merely give lip service to  the concept are quickly dismissed.

 

Brady Wright is a business learning solutions expert and consultant, based in Seattle

© 2011 – All rights reserved


Issue #2

An Introduction to your next Success!

In this economy, the decision to add staff or fill a key position is always motivated by the desire to increase bottom-line profitability for the firm.  The key way to distinguish any company from its competition has nothing to do with location, stock, products or merchandising: It's about your PEOPLE, and how they treat your customers.  If that's not a dedicated focus, every day, you might as well take a seat and watch the parade go by.

Have I got your attention?

Successful talent development is rooted in the ability create and produce information that enhances the most important asset you have: your staff!  If your training department or manager is not getting those results, or keeping an eye toward implementing that type of process, it is critical that you look hard at re-tasking those efforts.

A successful Training Department function must be recognized as having a passion for creatively rethinking ways to maximize corporate profitability through training and workforce development.  Training and development solutions require a knowledge of the primary mission, business conditions and the entire prodiuct or service line, as well as PR and Marketing inside out.  Your investment in staff deve
lopment and successful training is the one, positive means of setting your company apart from the rest.

Brady Wright is a business learning solutions expert and consultant, based in Seattle

© 2011 – All rights reserved

Issue #3

The new year is upon us and businesses everywhere are looking at the most effective methods for regaining or building new profitability.  A piece of conventional wisdom tells us, "It costs five times more to bring in a new customer than to service a current one."  While the raw numbers can be supported, businesses that stick to this flawed logic are dropping like flies all over the country.

Here's why:

The cost of advertising and promotion is static:  it costs the same to advertise, no matter who you are aiming at; new or existing customers.  But the flaw is that many businesses believe that a current, (captured) customer needs less advertising or promotion than a new one.  So, in an effort to save money, they may reduce or drop advertising and PR expenses, as well as staff development budgets.  The mantra is, "We don't have money to train or advertise, we'll just focus on the customers we have."

The problem with that thinking is that you will always have attrition and erosion of your current customer base.  Always.  If you are not catering to your current clients, through constant promotion, advertising and exemplary customer service, those people will leave you for a competitor that IS.  And you then find yourself behind the curve, trying to attract new clients, in a state of panic. 

This is avoidable and simply addressed by the most basic solution:  Invest in TRAINING.

Money spent in staff development and customer service training virtually guarantees that your clients will remain completely satisfied doing business with you.  They will likely tell their friends how well taken care of they are, and that amounts to free advertising.  You can then tightly focus your ad, promo and PR dollars where they will do the most good:  finding new customers to replace those who, inevitably drop off.

Smart businesses like Nike, Starbucks, Home Depot and Best Buy are gathering success stories by following these guidelines and you can do the same.  You can get specific information for your business by calling for a consultation and assessment.

Results are 90 days away!

Brady Wright is a business learning solutions expert and consultant, based in Seattle

© 2011 – All rights reserved

Issue #4

Why are so many companies missing the point?  Is your company one of them?

This missed opportunity is happening every day, across the country, and it's so simple to fix, I am amazed that the solution is not more widespread.  Smart firms, whose lives depend on being the primary destination for their customers, have come to ralize that, even in a marketplace where price is king, the goal of keeping customers from moving on is not so much about price as it is about satisfaction.  Your customers absolutely MUST be totally satisfied with each and every transaction, every contact they have with you.  Or they will simply go where they find that feeling.

But, what about the super-retailers and firms that can undercut your prices through sheer volume buying power?  A valid concern, but not, as it turns out, the most critical one.  You may never price your goods or services lower than the Wal-Marts of your world, but investing in hiring the best people you can afford, and in training those key contact players to MAXIMIZE EVERY CLIENT ENCOUNTER, is the best insurance you have.  A person who feels like they are appreciated, wanted, needed and cared for, is a person who will come to you repeatedly, even if your prices is not the lowest. 

It's a question of perceived value, and one that's based on how they feel when they are in your store or interfacing with your people.  It just cannot be overstated:  Employees are your most important asset, when it comes to customer retentioin and growth.

If the budget for your next three quarters does not include an allowance for updated, upgraded staff development and learning programs, all the advertising, marketing, sales promotions, direct mail, radio, television and print in the world will only be effective in the very short term.  The money you've spent on branding or image is wated, if you cannot deliver a great experience to the customers you bring in.  In fact, your brand suffers without training and development.

If you have an internal training program or department, strategize with them to focus on this goal.  If you donot have one, make time to network with a consultant or an outsourcing firm, or take a long look at bringing your training in house.

Your customers will make you their first stop.  New clients will hear about the experiences of those customers and THEY'LL come to you as well.

It works.


Brady Wright is a business learning solutions expert and consultant, based in Seattle

© 2010 – All rights reserved

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