I was in denial. My driveway needed re-sealing for quite a few years and I was really hoping the night fairies would come and do it for me. Alas, no. A couple of summers ago, I thought I’d do it myself: get the bucket of black goo and the roller from the DIY store and spend time in 35C heat rolling said black goo on my 2 cars wide and 2 cars long driveway. I never quite got around to it. I’m not a procrastinator but somehow I always managed to justify my lack of dedication to this part of home ownership.
About a month ago, a young man from 2 streets away knocked on my door and told me that he had a new business re-sealing driveways for the summer. He was studying accounting at university and thought this type of business venture would help him in school. (Great idea!)
I asked him how much to do the job and he said $195 tax in. I had to think about it – that’s quite a bit of money just to roll out a bucketful of black goo. I looked at my dismal driveway and thought woefully how long I had been putting off the task. I called him back to say that I would take him up on his offer. We scheduled the work for the following day.
My hero came over close to supper time the next day and while I was preparing the meal, I checked in on the progress by periodically going back and forth between the kitchen and the living room. The first thing I saw was him power spraying all the weeds out from between the driveway and the curb. I didn’t even think of that. The next trip to the living room I saw him power spraying the entire surface of the driveway. I would have swept the driveway; I didn’t even think of power spraying it. Then he taped off the entire perimeter of the driveway so that no black goo would get on the lawn. After that, he manually filled in all the cracks and holes (there were many). Only then did he roll out the black goo.
By the time he finished, that $195 was the best money I ever spent for value of work. Not only did he save me the labour of doing that type of work in the summer’s heat, he also provided value because he knew what he was doing. He’s done a lot of driveways and has a level of expertise that I will never have (nor wish to have). Sure, I could have done it, but outsourcing this task yielded much better quality results and freed up my time. Now I have this task off my to-do list.
There is value in everything we do, both personally and professionally; our expertise in what we do daily provides value to others. What do you need help with in your daily life? In my view, it’s worthwhile seeking out resources to help you get things done, things that you don’t know how to do, or have no wish to learn how to do, and free up your time on what matters most to you. Agree? Disagree?
Just a little reminder today that the art of the follow up is now easier than ever. Why? Because of our ever-increasing virtual world of electronic media, social media, video, audio, smart phones and goodness knows what else will be available tomorrow!
Add these resources to what were used even 10 years ago, and there really is no reason not to follow up with your donors and sponsors for their contribution and to keep in touch with your members.
It’s so easy for organizations to post to their donors’ and sponsors’ Facebook feeds: send them a text message, record a personal video or send an email. On top of this you can use Skype, Facebook or Google Chat or Hangouts to connect and have a virtual coffee break to check in. AND add to this the more traditional ways of keeping in touch with cards, notes and gifts in the regular “snail” mail, there’s no excuse not to keep in touch with your networks. Personally, I like to mail hand-written cards and gifts. From a marketing perspective, there’s nothing more alluring than ‘lumpy’ mail, so include a pen, a block of sticky notes or a little gift with a card; the chances of that piece of mail being opened will increase exponentially. Even if you just write thank-you (for your time, for your call, for your donation, for your sponsorship…), doing so will go a long way. The combinations you can use to keep in touch are endless!
While most organizations spend time recruiting potential members, sponsors and donors, what about your current members, sponsors and donors? Do you ever thank them, take them out to lunch or send them a birthday card or gift? Your current database of contacts are your biggest fans and the most likely to refer. Stay connected with them and nurture those relationships! It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money – it’s the thought that counts.
Being invited to speak at an in person or virtual event can be a wonderful honour given to the potential speaker by those who want to hear the speaker’s message and share it with others. However, for some, it can be a great cause of anxiety and fear, with the thought that all those eyes will be on them and focused on everything that’s said.
The ability to be a good speaker doesn’t always go hand in hand with the ability to do it easily. It takes practice. I have spoken with many who are fantastic speakers, but they are extremely nervous before hand to the point of being physically ill. Just remember, if you are in this group of uneasy speakers, you’re not alone! So, then what? What can be done to make this easier, or at least get you through it?
Keep these few things in mind when getting ready to speak to a group when you may be feeling less than confident:
Your audience is there because they want to be: For the most part, people attending a conference, meeting or lecture are there because they chose to be there, they want to hear your message and will be supportive of your efforts. Attendees tend to not be judgmental, are not making snap decisions about you based on your haircut, clothes etc. and are there to hear what you have to say, even if they’re there not by choice (perhaps they have been instructed to go by their boss), these attendees, will most likely just listen politely.
Change your worry to excitement: This is a tough one because you’re so focused on the negative aspects of what you think may happen. What if you switched your thought process and redirected it to excitement at the possibilities of doing a great job? Go into it with a positive outlook and understand that even if it doesn’t go the way you want, you still did it! You would have accomplished a major step in your own personal development and that’s awesome!
Practice and prepare: Practicing the presentation before hand helps a lot. Try getting a small audience together or even just practice by yourself. Give yourself a few days in advance to do this. Go through and read your presentation, re-write if you have to and make a few speaking notes for yourself as a guide. By taking these steps to practice and prepare, you’ll be more familiar with the material, therefore making it easier to engage in a conversational type of presentation and making eye contact with your audience, instead of looking at your notes. Another great place to practice amongst a supportive group would be to contact your local Toastmaster’s group.
Know the environment: If you’re in-person, make yourself familiar with the presentation venue and environment so you’re more comfortable before speaking. Arrive ahead of time, sit in various places in the room for a few minutes to get different visual perspectives and get settled in. Own the space.
Interact with your audience: If you’re worried about the audience getting bored, make sure to leave room for people to ask questions. Listening to their questions can give you a little break as well to take a drink of water and re-group as needed. This can also help you gain some extra time on your presentation if it seems to be too short. Remember to be welcoming of questions and stay calm.
Take care of yourself: Get plenty of rest, eat well and taking the time to pamper yourself a little before the presentation day provides a little extra boost and don’t forget to give yourself a little time to use the restroom before the presentation. Make sure you have some water by your side to take sips to avoid a dry mouth while speaking. If possible, make sure you’re already standing up a few minutes before the presentation, so you don’t have to maneuver around obstacles to get to your place.
Are you in the audience? Perhaps you are reading this and are not a speaker, but frequently attend presentations. Why not do what you can to make the speaker feel confident and perhaps let them know what you enjoyed in their presentation? We’re all in this together. No matter the size of the group you are speaking to, you can do it and there are people in your audience that are in your corner. Be excited for this opportunity – you’ll do great!
Individuals with high EQ (emotional intelligence) are most likely to be strong, effective business #leaders. They realize that trusting relationships built on diplomacy and respect is the heart of both individual success and business #productivity.
Success in business is greatly impacted – for better or worse – by the way in which we communicate. Happiness in our personal lives is also greatly dependent on this very same skill. Becoming a good communicator takes practice. It requires consistent attention and effort on your part, and it is a skill that we cannot afford to overlook.
Dr. John Lund, a lead researcher in interpersonal #communication and an author in identification studies, conducted a significant part of research involved in identifying patterns of speech and differences in how men and women communicate.
There is no doubt that we can all benefit from Dr. Lund’s tips on how to better approach people when we begin a conversation, as well as his advice that we “don`t communicate to be understood; rather, communicate so as not to be misunderstood.”
Take a genuine interest in others. Really tune in to what the other person is saying and don’t think up questions while they’re talking. Think about what they’ve said, ask thoughtful questions and provide considerate answers. Always make an effort to remember names, dates and important life events. If you’re not good at this skill, keep practicing!
Being “liked” or having a “wonderful personality” are highly prized attributes, especially in today’s electronic environs. Supreme communicators also have a keen ability to shift gears when the context calls for it; they respond accordingly to what current situations require.
Good judgment is a key people-skill that comes directly from learning, listening to others and observing the world around you. It allows you to wisely select friends and associates, determine reactions and responses and make sound decisions.
To create trust and respect in others, people need to know that their point of view and feedback will be considered and used. Being known as someone who keeps an open mind also makes you more approachable and easier to work with.
The saying “honesty is the best policy” is not only true, it’s essential in building trust among your peers and clientele. Once it’s lost, it’s almost impossible to regain.
Did you know that when someone else communicates with us, the way we interpret their message is based on three things:
55% is based on their facial expressions and their body language.
37% is based on the tone of their voice.
8% is based on the words they say.
Dr. Lund provides us with the above percentages which are the averages across both men and women together. If you looked at women alone they would even give greater weight to the facial expressions and body language and even less on the words. This tells us that it is critical that we become very self-aware of how our body language is speaking to others as well as the tone we use. A little test: next time you are on the phone look at yourself in the mirror to assess how your body language reacts to what you are actually saying. This will help you become more aware of how you are actually reacting to the conversation.
In order to break down the bigger picture of outsourcing your business tasks to a remote resource, let’s have a look at some of the ways to get started on the “how” of outsourcing (rather than the why, when or the where).
Starting with the basics, have a look at your business tasks and processes first, and look at your personal strengths and values (and be honest about it!) Ask people you know for feedback about you as a person. What do they think you are really good at? What things aren’t you so good at? Make a list and go from there, being brutally honest with yourself. Look closely at your list on paper – the pluses and the minuses – and determine what makes sense for you to do, and what is reasonable for someone else to take care of; it might be an ‘us and them’ kind of thing. Every business is different, so the first key to effective outsourcing is to identify exactly what you need.
Along with your ‘us and them’ list, start brainstorming and list all the things you will do to build your business once you have all that extra time that comes with outsourcing.
Recognize that outsourcing is a process that takes time and planning. It’s your business, and it’s your responsibility to ensure things are done and done right. Plan for your needs, tell people what challenges you might be having, always be on the lookout for exceptional people through your circles and networks and ask for referrals. Don’t discount family and friends, either, if you are comfortable having that kind of relationship with those closest to you; not everyone is so inclined! Take the time you need to find the right people for the right work. Hire slowly, fire quickly.
The number one caveat in all of this is to remember that outsourcing is not a “set it and forget it” way of getting things done. Dropping a task list in someone else’s lap and saying “Here, you do it!” is essentially business suicide.
The key to success is finding the right balance and developing a trusting relationship between you and the resource. It’s a very fine balance, too, and one that requires finesse and management. If you micro-manage your resource, they’re going to either quit because they don’t want you constantly in their face, or they won’t take initiative to get things done without your input. If you take a hands-off approach, and leave them on their own without checking in regularly, you’re setting yourself up for disaster, with tasks done wrong, a disregard for your timelines for completion or, worse still, tasks just aren’t getting done at all. All of these scenarios translate into spending more time that you don’t have, defeating the purpose from the outset. It pays to plan ahead and spend a bit of extra time finding the balance that allows you to delineate what they’re responsible for and what you’re responsible for, and also allows for how your remote resource likes to work and how they like to check in.
It’s your business and you’re responsible for managing the resources who work for you. Keep in mind that if you micro-manage your resources for fear of not being in control, you will miss the whole point of outsourcing. Commit to regularly checking in with your remote worker. You want to make sure they are doing the work as explained to them, identifying any challenges they might have, and ensuring that they understand that they’re expected to 1) report their progress to you, and 2) immediately let you know of any problems that arise.
If things aren’t going as smoothly as would be ideal, step back and ask yourself if you’re the bottleneck. Many business owners feel a commitment to their business much like a parent’s to a baby. They gave birth to the idea that grew into the business, they have all the business knowledge in their head and they have a need to do it all to ensure it gets done right. For someone like that, it’s very hard to let go and delegate
Having all the knowledge is critical; however, it’s smarter to get out of your own way and delegate the back office tasks so that your business can thrive and grow with you at the helm. By using remote support, your time will be freed up so that you can focus on high-growth activities effectively and get on with growing your business. It’s really more about mindset than it is about logistics.
One of the first things to do when talking about outsourcing to a remote worker is to state your expectations and requirements clearly from the outset and don’t assume anything. This holds true whether you’re hiring a Virtual CFO or a teenager to cut your lawn. The resource doesn’t know what you know and they are also looking at the task from a different perspective than you are. Opening conversations with a potential resource to identify deliverables is essential.
Have an open and frank conversation about what each of you expects in that relationship. Be clear in knowing how they operate, what their reporting style is, how they like to work, where they work, in a remote support setting. Remote resources can work anywhere, from a fully kitted out office in their house or from a dining room table. You really have to get into how they operate and what makes them productive and the circumstances that allow them to thrive in being productive.
The other thing to remember, in that open conversation, is that the resource doesn’t know what you know, as a business owner. Therefore, they’re looking at the tasks from different perspectives than you are. For example, as a business owner, you may know how an audit works. If the resource you’re hiring is going to do the bookkeeping, they may live for numbers and do their bookkeeping at lightning speed. However, if they haven’t experienced going through an audit, they’re looking at the bookkeeping from a different perspective and wouldn’t pick up on things an auditor would notice. This holds true whether you’re hiring someone to do your bookkeeping or someone to cut your lawn.
Ensuring expectations are clear begins with an open conversation that results in the business owner drawing up a specific contract that outlines exactly what was talked about and what the performance metrics are. The contract must outline exactly what is expected – remuneration, terms and conditions, confidentiality, security, who’s going to provide what – and will be as detailed as possible. Both parties can then carefully review and sign the contract before work begins. (It’s a good idea to have all business contracts reviewed by your lawyer.)
In this time of instant gratification, managing our frustrations when things don’t go smoothly is important, so get prepared and be patient!
Allow yourself – and your resource – time to transition. Letting go of tasks that you have always done yourself is not merely a matter of handing over a to-do list and walking away. A time investment by the business owner is essential for providing insight to the remote worker as to how things are to be done, as well as the time frame for completion. This can be as simple as open dialogue or a conference call with all stakeholders to discuss how and when transition is to take place, scheduling, etc. Once the handover is complete, let go and trust that all will be well.
If you have provided clear instructions (and it’s your job to do so), there should be no problems.
Be prepared for a learning curve on the part of the resource. Be patient and, with time, they will find their groove and you can let go of the task completely. Manage success by checking in at periodic and scheduled intervals.
The bottom line? It’s still all about relationships. The key to successful business is building and maintaining relationships in every facet of your operations. An absolute must for business owners is to network to build relationships and gain referrals. The same can be said for building relationships with outsourced suppliers: getting the right team in place, at the right time and for the right reason creates winning relationships and goodwill all around.
Keep these last few tips top-of-mind:
The lowest priced outsourced solution may not be the best; good people cost money and beware that even these days, you still get what you pay for.
Don’t outsource a task just because you don’t want to do it! There will be tasks that only you can do because they’re important to operations and your strategic plan.
Always strike a fair deal with your resources and treat them with respect. You’re relying on them to handle important tasks for you and your business so don’t take advantage of them.