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Should I Have A Policy For That?

Should I Have A Policy For That?

Policies are like your company’s “rules of play.” They provide context, constraints and direction for your business and all the players on the field. And for practical reasons, it’s imperative to have those policies written down.

It’s a reality that many policies are developed after something unsavory happens—accidents, performance problems, poor judgment. However, often times these situations could have been avoided altogether (along with their associated cleanup and negative impact on productivity, resources, etc.) with some time and intentional foresight put into defining and documenting standards and expectations upfront.

You want to avoid fire-fighting policy writing. Trust me. It’s more satisfying and effective to have the right policies in place ahead of time—and the peace of mind is nothing to sneeze at, either. If you want to take a bigger step back from your business, delegate with confidence and know your staff has the information they need, well-written policies will play a crucial role.

And now, the $10,000 question: how do you know what needs to be documented in a policy and what doesn’t? If you were really ambitious, you could write 100 policies and still have more in the queue. So how do you know which policies are really necessary?

Keep reading and I’ll spell that out.

To get started with a basic, no-strings-attached overview, this article will leave you thinking in the most practical terms possible to get the policies you need.

 

An Ace Up Your Sleeve

ace up your sleeve to write policies for your businessIt starts with the question, “Do I need a policy for that?” And to keep it simple, there are several policies that are an immediate and emphatic “Yes.”

These include some of the key HR policies you may already have written out. For example:

  • Workplace health and safety policy
  • Equal opportunity employment policy
  • Code of conduct
  • Leave of absence policy
  • Employee disciplinary action policy

If you have yet to write two or more of these, check out this Inc.com article about fundamental business policies and how they’re written.

And whether you have one or all five of these key policies drafted, they will provide you with an insightful place to start for the rest. Because these are such fundamental policies, they can act as templates for other policies you need written out.

To get the wheels turning on additional policies your business needs, think about the answers to the following questions:

  • In order for team members to be safe and successful in their roles, what underlying rules must they play by?
  • In order to deliver on promises to clients/customers/patients, what must happen every time, without fail?
  • In order to maintain legal, financial and industry compliance, what regulations exist and must be clearly communicated?

Remember, putting company policies in writing makes them official. It’s how employees know what the business takes seriously and what the rules of the game are. Your business will function better when everyone knows exactly where they stand.

 

Do I Need A Policy For That?

Having the right policies in place starts with a deeper look at the typical buckets policies fit into. I’m willing to bet that, when reading this list, a policy you have (or think you need) will come to mind in most, if not all, of the categories described.

1: Organizational Mission And Structure

Documents like your mission, vision, core values, job descriptions, organizational structure and decision-making matrix form your organizational policies. They set the context for who plays what role in the organization and how the roles work together. At the same time, they describe the fundamental culture of your organization that is part of everyone’s experience.

2: Administrative Policies

If you have regulations for in-office printing or want to set clearer standards for social media and internet use, you’re on the way to some decisive administrative policies. These are the policies that outline how resources are to be used. These policies also have ensuing impacts on other aspects of your business.

3: Facility Management

If you have client or employee parking, have standards you try to keep for the appearance of office space or need to carefully manage the use of office supplies, it’s important to get these details down in facility management policies. A lot of these concepts might be “duh” points for some workers, but with policies in place you can hold staff accountable so that those standards don’t slip.

parking policies for small business

4: Client And Client Records

You’ll probably have multiple procedures relating to lead tracking, client communications, project management and the like. Client policies are the backbone to those more practical procedure documents. I’ll put it this way: by clearly outlining how clients are to be treated, what the priorities are (from regular service to escalated cases) and how client information must be handled, your staff will have clear guidelines to follow consistently.

5: Employment And HR

This bucket gets into some of the must-have policies we discussed above, including equal opportunity and disciplinary action policies. The HR category of policy writing is generally the most complex, covering topics like your hiring process and job descriptions, personnel files and access to employee records, wage and pay information, benefits and insurance and more.

6: Workplace Health And Safety

This final bucket of popular policies includes things like workers’ compensation, employee health and well-being efforts, accident reporting and more. These are some of the most important policies to have out in the open, too, because your staff should be kept aware of their benefits and rights as well as the necessary action in the case of a safety or health-related incident.

 

What’s A Policy vs. A Procedure?

Did you notice anything missing from that list of “policy buckets?” How about all the day-to-day tasks, instructions and standards that actually make your business do what it does?

Having clear and well-documented policies is essential to running your business. And you need equally clear procedures, too, so it’s worth taking a moment to differentiate:

  • Policies are documents setting standards and providing core information for employee and employer rights, responsibilities and values. For example, organizational mission and structure documentation; policies related to client records; employment and HR issues. Policies are generally more applicable to the whole business and staff.
  • Procedures are the “how to” documents for everything from a position’s responsibilities to instructions for specific tasks. Many procedures will be shared across teams, and the rest will be specific to certain roles or responsibilities. Procedures include the step-by-step descriptions and requirements of how to keep the business running and doing what it does.

Where policies set things like KPIs and company values, procedures outline how those KPIs and values are met.

policies vs procedures what is the difference

I’m passionate about policies and procedures. They act as load-bearing building blocks in your company’s stable growth and success. And I have so much to say, in fact, that I answer these questions about documenting procedures in greater depth in my new self-guided online course, DuplicateU. Be sure to check it out.

 

So, Do I Need This Policy?

You’ve taken a good look at the different buckets of policies and how existing policies can inform new ones. I’m willing to bet this left you thinking about one or more policy that you don’t have yet.

So, how do you know if you really need that policy? Every business is different, and not every company is going to need the same policies. A digital marketing consultant, for example, won’t need the same “client home and property policy” that a handyman provider would.

It comes down to the biggest accountabilities for your business, which in turn are also generally the biggest areas for risk. Policies establish boundaries, guidelines and best practices for acceptable behavior. Is your staff falling short of a specific “acceptable-level” of conduct? If so, then that’s the first policy you need to write. Do you have another positive behavior you want to promote and normalize? That’s the next policy you need to write.

Writing policies is about more than putting out fires. It’s also about creating a self-sustaining business with the standards you want your whole team to uphold.

Do you have a specific policy you’ve been thinking about? Or a behavior you want to shape, and you aren’t sure what policy would effectively do that? Contact me today! With the DuplicateU self-guided online course newly launched, I’ve been deep in the weeds on this and related topics recently, and I would love to make your question a part of the conversation.

Find, Train and Retain Rockstar Contractors

Find, Train and Retain Rockstar Contractors

You can’t do it all. And this becomes especially true as your company grows to serve more customers. With growth come more relationships and projects to manage, as well as more expansive and complex administrative functions. You need help to build a sustainable business, and we live in a time when there are more options for help available than ever before.

With benefits to your business like less paperwork, lower overhead for office space and skipping the benefits package, independent contractors can be a great option for businesses that don’t need full-time, dedicated on-site support for a specific function, project or initiative.

The notion that outsourcing is only done to leverage lower wages overseas has gone by the wayside, and in has stepped the boom of independent professionals who provide services under the contractor model stateside. Forbes estimates that half of the American workforce alone will be freelancing by 2027.

Maybe you already outsource your bookkeeping or your social media. The contractors you use are an essential piece of your operations, allowing you to let go while still building your business. Maybe you haven’t used contractors yet and are considering when is the right time and how to bring them on board successfully.

The vital question is how to find, train and retain the right contractors.

Let’s dive in.

Finding The Right Contractors

The contractor world is growing, and finding the right contractor starts with a few keystrokes. If you’re looking for an independent contractor in your geographical area, it’s quick and easy to start the search on Google. If you’re looking for an independent professional within a wider radius, websites like Upwork.com and Freelancer.com offer thousands of professionals to choose from. There are dedicated websites for freelancers providing specific services, too, like Textbroker.com for copy writing.

I already mentioned some of the benefits to contracting specific tasks out. Another added bonus is that contractors often have deep experience in a specific skill set (say web development or recruiting). Look for the specific experience a contractor brings to the table—the companies he or she has worked with, his or her portfolio of work, etc.

A metaphor might be helpful here. Let’s look at cloud technology. The idea of running programs on shared servers has existed for 50 years, but until recently it required each business to buy all the related equipment to store in-house. You know—the computers that filled rooms, plus multiple servers to boot. Today, cloud services are offered over the web, meaning the servers and other hardware are stored in one place that now serve thousands of businesses at a time. And none of those businesses have to buy the equipment or devote resources to the IT required to run it.

How to hire freelancers to take tasks off your plateHiring contractors to get specific tasks off your plate works the same way. If you find the contractor with the experience and the client book that demonstrates they’ve worked with businesses like yours before, that means less training you have to do and fewer resources you have to devote. We’ll get into proper training below (because there will be some), but working with a professional who’s doing the kind of work you need in bulk points to a more efficient economy for all of us.

If you’ve dabbled around on freelancer sites but aren’t ready to reach out on those platforms yet, you can also look for contractors by:

  1. Getting referrals from other businesses, in and out of your market
  2. Checking out trade or professional associations
  3. Searching Facebook or LinkedIn for groups devoted to the work you need

Expert tip: to find the right contractor, you also have to know what you need in very specific terms. Start the search after you have your scope of work tightly defined.

Training Your Contractors

Because of the expertise independent professionals can bring, training your contractors or freelancers can be easier than training full-time hires in your office. Just be sure to keep in mind that training contractors will be a little different.

For one, you expect contractors to come in with specific knowledge, so your focus in training can ultimately be around the operations the contractor will be a part of and what you expect the contractor to deliver.

Training a contractor should naturally take on a sense of your bigger business culture, too. In fact, independent contractors who come on for single projects frequently end up feeling more invested in the hiring company than the project at hand. Start by communicating your standards to new contractors and encourage them to keep those same standards. By taking training beyond tasks to this bigger cultural training, you’ll be better positioned to see your outsourcing ultimately reduce your operational costs.

On top of explaining your business, your expectations, your needs and goals (and giving your contractors the operational materials they’ll need to learn and perform their jobs), training will also come in the form of your active feedback. Give feedback with specific examples as deliverables start to come in, and the right contractor will be quick to learn.

Top tips to effectively train independent contractors

And do take note that there are some rules around training contractors that any business owner looking to independent professionals should be familiar with. Consulting with your attorney is a good place to start, especially to understand the legalities around a W2 versus a 1099.

Retaining Your Contractors

Retaining your contractors starts with a clear service contract that outlines all the details about the relationship they’ll have with your business. What is the term of the agreement? How can it be terminated? What are the specific services you’re contracting, and for what compensation? How will intellectual property be protected and who owns it? Do you need a non-disclosure?

Expert tip: email me if you have questions about what else should go into a service agreement for a contractor. If you do select someone through a freelancing website, this may remove the need to craft an agreement yourself, as these sites have standard agreements that both parties sign.

When it comes to keeping your contractors happy, good communication is the name of the game. If you do work with contractors over the web, consider videoconferences whenever you can. It’s important to build a strong relationship, and there’s no better way to do that than seeing one another eye-to-eye.

Expert tip: remember that you aren’t allowed to control how an independent contractor does his or her work. You can, however, communicate proactively with your contractors regarding timelines and milestones to gain commitment on when they will have specific projects done. Deadlines must always be a part of your negotiations, and it helps if you make yourself available as quickly as you can to answer follow-up questions when a contractor has them.

Managing your contractors does take some work. It won’t be as easy as shipping a task off at the click of a button. Managing contractors is, however, almost always less time-consuming than managing employees.

Outsourcing can add steam to your organization’s engine with lower operational costs if you find, train and retain the right contractors. Do you already use an independent contractor for your administrative tasks? How about your marketing strategy? If you’d like to contract more tasks out, leave me a comment here or get in touch—I might even have a referral for exactly what you need.

To Automate or Not to Automate? That is the Question!

To Automate or Not to Automate? That is the Question!

The idea of automating just about any task is an attractive one. You can save time, sometimes hours a day, for you and multiple members of your team.

But then, in the face of changing a routine, finding an automation tool and setting up a new system, you have to ask: is it worth it?

Knowing whether a task is worth automating first requires taking a look at the total time, energy and trouble going into completing it the way it’s done today. From there, you can explore what tools are available to address concerns.

I’m going to break down these three major factors so you can apply them to whatever tasks you’re thinking about automating. Any one of these alone can make it clear that it’s time to automate a process. If you aren’t compelled by one factor, look at the sum of all three. And if you still aren’t sure, apply the questions I’ve listed at the bottom of this article to fully assess your path forward.

Factor One: Total Time

This factor is easy to assess since is quantifiable. For any task you do on a regular basis, there’s usually an opportunity to automate all or part of it, especially since these tasks are almost always repetitive.

For anyone who owns a business, the more tasks you have that require daily or weekly attention, the harder it is to take that vacation you deserve or step back from the daily grind.

My two cents is that any task you’re doing daily can probably be automated to cut the time it takes in half, or eliminate the need for a daily recurrence all together. I’d say the same for many weekly tasks, too.

Here’s a table you can use when assessing how much time you’re really spending on a regular task. Look at the time you could save after migrating that task to an automated solution. Not every task will have an obvious automation solution, and many will depend on other factors like what software is easily available. At the very least this can start to put daily and weekly tasks into perspective of the total time invested.

Table to see how much time you really spend on a repetitive or regular task

Start by jotting down how much time you spend doing regular and repetitive tasks. Especially those that are stressful when you’re out of the office. Better yet, keep a time log for all of your regular tasks to identify room for automation. You might not even realize how many times you’ve performed a single task until you look back over the course of the month.

Expert tip: This concept is so important that it’s discussed in greater depth in the first module of our new online course, DuplicateU: Lay The Foundation. To get additional guidance on this step and what it can mean to you and your business, learn more about DuplicateU here.

Factor Two: Energy

This is where we get into the more open-ended assessments. The energy you spend doing a regular or repetitive task should be a major consideration when looking at automations—after all, you have a lot of responsibilities requiring energy throughout the day. And energy is a finite resource that must be managed with intentionality. If any recurring task is taking energy away from important business functions like strategy and planning, marketing and sales, or financial oversight, it might be worth looking at another solution.

A task can take little time and still be exhaustive mentally/emotionally. Take financial management tasks, for example. One question I answered recently is whether it’s time to upgrade from a bookkeeper to a CFO. If it’s not time to take that step yet, and you’re trying to do away with a few regular data entry tasks, a simple spreadsheet automation might save you energy spent entering sensitive information and validating data fields.

If you’re not sure how much energy a task really requires, ask yourself how you feel after the task is done. Are you able to jump right into something else, or do you need time to “recover” before tackling the next thing? If your answer is the former, it’s likely that task gives you energy. If your answer is the latter, it’s likely that task depletes your energy, and reducing the amount of mental/emotional energy it takes should be a priority.

Factor Three: Trouble (Frustration)

Frustrating tasks and how business owners can automate themThe frustration factor comes down to a little self-awareness. Do you complete certain tasks grudgingly? Are there recurring responsibilities that you put off and put off and put off until absolutely the last minute? Do you have to push yourself to get them done with several pep talks? If a regular task is causing you grief or if it feels like you’re “going to the trouble” to get it done every time, that’s a big flag to consider properly delegating or looking to an automation.

If you feel resentful toward a task, or even hateful of sitting down to do it, it’s probably time to get that task off your plate.

Expert tip: Remember that toxic tasks can weigh down your employees, too. While delegating can serve as a short-term solution, an automation is often the better way to go for repetitive tasks with a high frustration curve.

A final pointer regarding these three factors:

While any one of these factors can illustrate what tasks can be automated, sometimes it’s the sum of all three that point you in the right direction. Imagine an equation: Total Time plus Energy plus Trouble. Label each factor as “high,” “medium” or “low,” and you will feel that much more empowered to invest a little time upfront to move to an automation that will save you time and boost morale in the end.

Questions to Ask if You’re Still not Sure

Automating tasks sounds great. But doing so often require time you feel you don’t have just to get a new system up and running!

If you’re thinking about a specific task and still aren’t sure, or need a few more reasons to justify the time or budget invested in making the switch, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. If you delegated this task instead of automating it, would it be a headache for the person taking it on?
  2. Is the task prone to human error? (Great examples would be bookkeeping and setting appointments.)
  3. Could automating the task improve the quality of work?
  4. Do you know others who have implemented this kind of solution before?

(Expert tip: Making time for a single conversation with a peer or consultant can save you hours of googling, deciphering software features and price-comparing.)

If you answer “yes” to any of the above, that’s a strong indicator that automation could save you time, money and strife.

Looking Toward the Future

Instead of living with frustration or feeling the burnout bubble up, make a move now to automate recurring tasks in a way that is intentional and well planned. These moves will pay off not only in time and energy savings, but also in opening up opportunities to scale your operations. The sooner you have automations in place, the more seamless your ramp to growing your business will be.

Automations often require new software and subscriptions, so weigh these expenses with the benefits these solutions bring and move decisively. If there’s one epiphany that business owners come to time and time again, it’s that we can’t do it all.

Start a time log today to look for tasks begging for automation, or drop a comment here if you already have one on your mind. I’ll reply directly with tips and will be available to point you in the direction of solutions that can help you survive today and scale tomorrow, like the new self-paced online course DuplicateU that will start by working through this exercise. Learn about new automations today to set your business up for a self-sustaining future with lower stress and bigger returns.

You Know An Employee Is Ready To Take Responsibilities Off Your Plate When…

You Know An Employee Is Ready To Take Responsibilities Off Your Plate When…

As a business owner, one of the most important things you do is delegate. After hiring the right people and setting standards for each role, you’ll be faced with new opportunities on a daily basis to delegate tasks and projects, and help employees move to new heights in performance and skill.

It’s satisfying to see an employee grow. So how do you know when someone is ready to take on more responsibility?

One of the first signs that an employee is fully invested in your company (and ready to take more responsibility) is when his or her vocabulary shifts from “mine” and “yours” to “ours.” It’s not just about the employee’s success, and it’s not just about the success of the company. It’s about “our” success together.

This sounds great, especially with that goal in the back of your mind to get to a place where you can let go of the day-to-day and watch your business run itself. You want your hard work to pay off in a self-sustaining way. The specifics of “when” and “how” come down to human resources and recognizing when an employee’s growing skillset can mean bigger opportunity for your business.

Here, I’m going to break down how to identify when an employee is ready to take on more responsibility and carry your business forward.

When an Employee is Ready and Knows it

An employee who is ready for more responsibility and shows it

There are employees who are hungry for more responsibility and make it known to you and your team.

Naturally, any employee you’re considering handing new responsibilities off to will have excelled in meeting his or her current accountabilities. Take a look at any energetic or ambitious employee against the key performance indicators (KPIs) you have in place to ensure that existing tasks are being completed consistently and correctly.

Then look at the telltale signs below that signal an employee is ready to take on even more:

  • Ingenuity: If an employee actively looks for solutions to problems, this demonstrates a drive to exceed expectations, play to the success of the business and ultimately take on more responsibility.
  • Prioritization: Taking on new tasks requires excellent time management practices. In the face of new responsibilities, an employee has to know how to stay on top of current duties and work new ones in while keeping priorities clearly outlined.
  • Managing deadlines: Hand-in-hand with prioritization is the employee’s ability to watch deadlines and take charge of follow-up. Meeting deadlines, and proactivity communicating when a deadline may not be met, are key practices that become more essential when the employee’s plate is even fuller.

When an Employee is Ready and Doesn’t Know it—Yet

An employee who is ready for more responsibility but doesn't know it yet

Maybe you have an employee who’s showing signs that he or she is ready for more responsibility, but lacks the spark to ask for additional tasks proactively. In this case, get curious and speak with the employee about what’s going on. It’s possible he or she has a concern about biting off more and being successful, or simply isn’t aware that there are additional ways he or she could bring value to the organization.

It’s your job to see the possibilities for this employee’s skillsets and strengths and match them with organizational needs.

These are some of the signs that an employee is ready for more responsibility, whether or not he or she knows it:

  • Excelling in existing responsibilities: This is the basic metric when thinking about handing off more assignments or tasks. If your employee is excelling in tasks on his or her plate now, it may be time to start building that employee up to bigger things.
  • Strong performance reviews: If your recent reviews of the employee outline strong adherence to KPIs, that’s one sign that he or she is ready for more. And if your reviews include any type of self-assessment where the employee has shown confidence in work done, that’s an even bigger push to start giving that employee more to do.
  • Acting as the go-to: If other teammates are reaching out to this employee for help with technical or theoretical questions, and he or she has the answers, this may signal that the employee is ready to take on more.

    Expert tip: If other employees are going to one person with questions, this also signals an opportunity in your training program. Make sure team members are cross-trained and have access to the information they need to do their job well.

Align Appropriate Rewards

When an employee takes on more responsibility, consider what type of recognition is most appropriate. If the employee is up for a promotion or raise, celebrate the hard work that went into it. And if you hadn’t thought about a promotion or a raise yet, ask yourself what that employee would need to demonstrate in order for a promotion or raise to be appropriate, and share the criteria with him or her to build up that employee’s momentum.

That said, a raise isn’t the only way to show an employee your appreciation. You can also recognize your employee (and encourage the same behaviors from the rest of your team) using one of several reward approaches. Handing more responsibility to an ambitious and resourceful employee will be good for you, good for the employee and good for your team if done right.

Once you do identify an employee who is ready for more responsibility, the art of delegating is another practice you’ll want to master. And coupled with the recognition and rewards that will keep employees motivated in their new tasks, you and your team will be on the path to bigger things.

Do you have a specific case to ask about? Or an employee who’s shown some of these signs, but not others? Leave me a comment below with your question, or reach out here.

5 Steps To Train Staff To Work To Your Standards

5 Steps To Train Staff To Work To Your Standards

When applying for a new job or considering a job offer, “opportunity for growth” is the second most important thing people look for—right after salary.

When looking at the millennial audience, in particular, a whopping 46% of survey respondents said they left their last job for growth potential.

The point here is that your employees actually want to work to your standards. They want to learn and grow. They want to be engaged, and they want to get more involved over time.

You would think that this hunger to grow means that each new hire will, thus, always be ready to work and work hard—and even up to your own standards.

And yet, there’s a disconnect somewhere along the way. New hires choose to work with you, having measured what room there is to grow. So, why aren’t they growing? How can you motivate staff to work consistently to your standards? Where’s that hunger gone?

The short answer is: training. You have to train your staff correctly in order to work to your standards, or that expectation will never be met.

The long answer brings us to these 5 essential steps.

1. Know Your Standards

A funny thing happens when we communicate. Whether it’s a conversation, an email, or a job description, we have a very clear idea in our heads of what it is we want to transmit.

But then the receiving side doesn’t always picture what we had in mind.

If you want your staff to work to your standards, you must explicitly outline those standards. Start with a little soul searching to find the words, and take notes: what standards do you hold yourself to? What inspires you to meet those standards?

This exercise is a necessary starting point. Anything we feel or expect in life that’s even a little abstract only takes form when we put words to it. It’s how we catalogue our world. So, take a few minutes, close the door to your office and write out what standards you have. Get specific, and include the “why” and other motivators behind each one.

2. Communicate Your Standards

Now, you’ve done the soul searching. You’ve spelled out your standards, where they come from, and what they mean to you.

Next, ensure you have the right language and channels in place to communicate those standards.

When it comes to training staff, you need to have role-by-role key performance indicators (KPIs) in place, communicated openly to each employee. Your KPIs, when clearly identified for each staff member, can help you quantify and qualify those standards you want to train staff to work to.

To measure staff properly on your key standards using KPIs, harken back to the goals and motivations behind those standards. KPIs have to be as objectively measurable as possible, or you risk opening the floodgates of inconsistency that can undo your “standards metrics” altogether.

For example, let’s say it’s your standard to “go the extra mile” for clients. What does that mean? How do you measure it? That could mean a KPI of client retention, or of clients contacted just to “check in” during a given week.

3. Streamline Training

What a buzzword—streamline. What does that mean, “streamline training?”

Streamlining anything means locking in a system to make it happen. This includes an outline of what the process needs to achieve, the steps to get there, and the accountabilities to make those steps easy to follow for all players involved.

In training your staff to work to your standards, your system starts with those same KPIs we just talked about. What training does an employee need to meet all those metrics?

Now, list that training out.

Next, ask yourself, how much time will that training take? Just like you need to schedule in when you check email during the day (and how much time you plan to reply to messages), you need to put real numbers on how much training can be done with your staff and in what frame of time.

Last, and equally important, you have to gather the resources you’ll need for each part of training. For example, if you’re training a client service rep, do you have all needed training documents and tools in one place? Lead sheets? Call scripts? CRM training docs?

This is where most companies’ training stops. If you really want your staff to work to your standards, let’s see what comes next.

4. Offer More Training And Ask For Feedback

One of the standards I’m willing to bet you hold dear is the hunger to continually learn and grow.If you want to support this standard for your staff, the key is offering them opportunities to learn with purpose.

Ongoing training serves two purposes:

  1. It builds staff knowledge and skills
  2. And it keeps staff engaged

Once an employee is trained in and technically knows how to do their job, if you’re at a loss for what other training to offer, there are a couple directions you can go.

First, you can consider adding new responsibilities to offer more training.

Second, you can check in with staff for feedback on what they want to learn. This gives employees a stake in the training they’re about to receive, and emboldens them to view the world through the lens of “what else can I do?”

Share this nugget with your staff, too: asking for advice or training actually makes you look smarter, according to a recent study from the Harvard Business Review. Encourage the company culture where team members know they can come to you (or go to the right person) and ask for more training in order to live up to the standards you’ve set—and even surpass them.

5. Reinforce With Company Culture

This brings us to the hardest part: promoting the same passion you have and getting your staff equally interested in what they’re doing. But how can you get employees to work to your standards, the owner of a business, when it’s not theirbusiness?

For one, make sure you share company successes along with individual successes. You can permit yourself to brag a little if it opens an opportunity to talk about how awesome your business is, along with each of the employees who work there.

Permit me a minute on my soap box. There’s a big difference between confidence and conceit, right? With confidence, you strut and say, “I’m awesome.” But with conceit, you puff your chest out and say, “I’m better than you, and you, and you…”

Most of the time, we want to be confident, but not conceited.

In business, and to create the company culture that will promote standards of excellence, however, a little conceit is a good thing. Tell your brand story and make sure your staff knows the character roles each of them play. If you believe your brand really is better than the competition, how do you back that up?

One of the biggest factors is almost always the team that makes the company up. So make sure your staff knows that.

The right company culture will pay off in many ways. And combined with these other steps, you’ll finally be able to zero-in on that age-old question of how to train staff to work to your standards. If you haven’t already, get out your pen and paper and start with step 1 right now.

Questions? Leave us a comment below!

How to Know When it’s Time to Upgrade from a Bookkeeper to a CFO

How to Know When it’s Time to Upgrade from a Bookkeeper to a CFO

As your business grows, financial management turns into an increasingly delicate task. To stay on top of the books (and stay ahead of problems later), you need a rising degree of financial intelligence.

But you’re also running all other aspects of your business. To focus on more critical duties, and—ideally—take a big step back from the business so that it can start to run itself, getting those time-consuming financial activities off your plate is crucial.

You probably already have a bookkeeper, whether remote or in-office, part-time or full. So, when do you know it’s time to delegate all your financial responsibilities to a Chief Financial Officer (CFO)?

Here, we’ll explore the key differences between a bookkeeper and a CFO to understand which will have the biggest impact on your business according to your needs, right now.

WHAT DOES THE AVERAGE BOOKKEEPER DO?

You probably already have a bookkeeper or use a bookkeeping service, and here we’re going to review what their responsibilities generally include.

A bookkeeper is generally employed by a small-to-medium-sized business to record and track transactions and reconcile accounts, including but not limited to payroll, invoices and expenditures.

That said, a bookkeeper’s role isn’t limited to entering numbers into spreadsheets. Especially if you contract a bookkeeping service, their expertise and knowledge also include leveraging key accounting software to take care of things like:

  • Training you or other staff on accounting software
  • Cleaning up mistakes and validating accounting data
  • And streamlining all bookkeeping tasks

These responsibilities take an enormous weight off a business owner’s shoulders. However, you’ll see that these tasks still require someone to manage the bookkeeper and step in when it comes to more complex to-dos.

Spoiler alert: if it is time to upgrade to a CFO, you’ll have more accounting needs than those listed above.

WHAT DOES THE AVERAGE CFO DO?

As your business grows, managing your finances becomes too complex for a bookkeeper to handle. And without the right pieces in place to keep finances managed well, this can become a strain for future growth, particularly when it comes to investments and strategic planning.

This is your first sign that it might be time to hire a CFO.

But back to basics: a CFO is brought into a business as the bearer of all financial activities. The CFO not only has the knowledge and skills to handle accounting independently, but takes ownership in the success of your business.

Ideally, a CFO ends up becoming a right-hand man or woman for your company, with responsibilities such as:

  • Strategic planning to assess the operational and financial impacts of strategic business initiatives
  • Annual budgeting and quarterly forecasting, including recommending adjustments, as needed, to properly manage the business
  • Operational and financial reviews with actuals vs. budget forecasts and operational efficiency metrics to make better day-to-day and strategic decisions

A CFO will be responsible for everything from general accounting to protecting the financial future of your company, keeping a pulse on how stable your company is at a given time.

Though, as you can imagine, hiring a CFO is a big decision for any business owner and has to be done at the right time.

LET’S TAKE A MOMENT TO TALK OUTSOURCING

We can outsource just about everything these days. With a tap of the smartphone, we can open apps to communicate with freelancers and contractors around the globe who are playing an increasing role in capacity building and scaling for small and medium businesses.

Outsourcing is common, too, with bookkeepers. Whether it’s an independent bookkeeper or a service you contract, working from the cloud gives businesses the financial controls they need without having to hire in-office.

Looking for a bookkeeper online today is easier than ever, too, with multiple certifications you can check for and validate. For example:

  • Certified Bookkeepers (National Bookkeepers Association)
  • Certified Management Accountants
  • Certified Accounts Payable Professionals
  • Certified Accounts Payable Associates
  • Certified Payroll Professionals
  • Tax Certification

But did you know you can outsource your CFO, too? This is most appealing for businesses without a physical office, and for those who are aching to get the help a CFO can offer but still aren’t sure about finding and hiring someone local full-time.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IT’S TIME TO HIRE A CFO?

We’ve talked about the increasing complexity of business finances. So what are some of the triggers that might indicate it’s time to start thinking about hiring a CFO?

If any of the following are true, that will be a big flag that you’ve grown enough to start thinking about hiring this important team member:

  • If you have investors interested in supporting your business, they’ll want to see detailed financial statements and financial plans. This is something that almost always requires contracting a CFO, unless you want to be stuck doing all this work yourself.
  • If your company revenue has increased significantly or rapidly, it’s wise to look for a CFO to help manage your cash flow. Planning appropriate cash usage is another strategic “must” that a CFO can manage for you.
  • And, as your business grows, banks will start insisting on thorough audits of your financial statements when you come looking for loans. These types of audits can include digging into even the most minute details, and can be intimidating—not to mention a major time suck. A CFO would take care of this for you, also ensuring that financial statements are up-to-date without discrepancies before that audit even comes.
  • For any company that’s grown significantly beyond “what it once was,” understanding and managing risk becomes more difficult. Hiring a CFO gets you the insights you need for proper risk management, strategizing and protecting you against all the “what ifs” that are likely to occur.

Now that the wheels are turning on the “when” and “why,” the rest is up to your gut. You’ve made business decisions a million times before, and now you have some key considerations on a silver platter. So, what do you need? And what do you want? Do you have the time to handle finances on your own?

If it is time to hire a CFO, this will mean handing all that responsibility off to someone uniquely trained and positioned to not only handle accounting, but the necessary financial strategy to keep your business running successfully.

BONUS: HOW DO YOU HIRE THE RIGHT CFO?

Hiring anyone for your company is a delicate matter. Even the entry-level representatives answering the phones act as the face of your business, so there is no “small” job in your business.

That said, a CFO will act as an especially important player. Looking for talent isn’t as hard as you think, and so if it is time to hire a CFO, start looking now.

And then, pat yourself on the back, because your business has grown so much that you’ve arrived to a major turning point. This will be another day you remember.

Have a financial situation you’re not sure about? Want to learn more about what a bookkeeper or CFO can do? Connect with us today!