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Are You Part Of The Accountability Epidemic?

Are You Part Of The Accountability Epidemic?

Picture a world where business goals are murky and employees have little-to-no clarity on the key results they’re accountable for. The confusion results in delays and under-performance. Dissatisfaction runs rampant and stagnation persists.

This is the world many organizations operate in – the “accountability epidemic.”

I hope you’re not envisioning your organization, but there’s a good chance you are. The numbers are stacked against you. Research by Vitalsmarts—recently discussed by the Harvard Business Review—found that only 15% of organizations feel that “results are clearly defined in a way employees at all levels can engage.” Employees have a hard time addressing accountability issues with their colleagues when they come up, too. The same Vitalsmarts research found that 69% of avoided confrontations have to do with accountability.

November was a time for gratitude. The practices I wrote about in my last article are ones that, if made routine, will encourage a rewarding company culture. The next step, now that we’re staring down 2020, is to think about the measurable results you want to see in the new year. December is the perfect time to evaluate progress, specifically where you met or fell short of goals.

Evaluating The Impact Of Accountability

Evaluating your progress means identifying and articulating the factor(s) feeding into each success and shortcoming.

Looking at another Vitalsmarts study, 93% of business owners and employees surveyed said they have at least one coworker who “doesn’t do his or her fair share,” and one out of four reported putting in 4-6 hours of additional work a week to make up for those coworkers.

Can you imagine any number of your employees putting in extra hours due to lack of accountability elsewhere? Accountability is one of the biggest reasons a team (or an individual teammate) doesn’t follow through on what they say they’ll do. Shoring up for the coming year on accountability and getting at the root of why a goal wasn’t met will help you build team buy-in and engagement.

Want to know “how?”

That’s what I’m here for. Let’s begin.

What Is The Accountability Gap?

Business owners and organizational leaders know that you can’t micromanage your way to accountability. Instead, the idea of the “accountability gap” gets into the very real need for team alignment with your company’s vision, mission and core values. When team members care about a vision and see themselves as part of it, accountability is the natural response.

Leadership is so much more than managing, and you know that. Though, while the idea of creating accountability through organizational alignment sounds great, actually doing it is another thing.

I’ve worked with many clients on this very challenge, and the system I’m about to explain is one that has made a real difference for them. I know you’ll find it valuable, too. It’s an outline to create accountability through real employee buy-in, thereby setting you up for success on individual, team and organizational levels.

Accountability starts with you. To model the behaviors you want to see on all levels, you have to walk the talk—and your team has to see it. By following the “three Cs” I outline below, your team will see it, feel it, and be better equipped to follow it.

1 – Care

At its core, accountability comes down to what you (and the team) care about. This drills right down to that engagement I spoke to above. Whether overtly or subconsciously, if your team doesn’t see the deeper value of something assigned to them (as it relates to something they care about), it gets put off.

What do you care about?

It seems like a simple question, yet it’s hardly ever asked. Ask yourself that question, engage with it and use these last few weeks of 2019 to integrate it into your day-to-day. What you care about is ultimately what brings you meaning, value and satisfaction.

What you care about also shapes the energy you bring to work every day. And it’s no different for the members of your team. So open conversations with them about what they care about. And really listen.

When a team shares a purpose (their care), this serves as the “North Star” that will guide conversations, actions and ultimately accountability. I spoke about this in greater detail in a recent article for new managers.

2 – Commitment

Commitments are the promises you make to yourself and to others. They’re most powerful when connected to what you care about, because accountability is built around commitments that you and your team mutually trust.

Trust and commitment go hand-in-hand when building accountability. Your team needs to feel confident that you’ll fulfill what you say you will—and herein lies your biggest opportunity to model the behavior you want your team to repeat. Trust also feeds into transparency; where something changes and you can’t fulfill a commitment, you open a conversation about why and how to recover.

All actions are shaped by commitment. Without commitment, tasks and to-dos are either set aside or not done with full engagement.

The probability of meeting a goal when a teammate first hears an idea barely reaches 10%. When that teammate decides he or she will do it (making an internal, mental affirmation), that probability comes up to 40%. Once that teammate starts planning how he or she will do it, the probability of completion creeps up to 50%. And when a teammate commits to someone else that he or she will do it, probability comes up to 65%—a far throw from the original 10%.

When someone has a specific accountability appointment with a person he or she has committed to, the probability that the goal will be met increases to 95%. So how do you get to that 95%? The “care” factor I discuss above is what inspires this commitment, and the capacity (discussed below) is what assures it.

3 – Capacity

Without the capacity to fulfill commitments for the sake of what you care about, accountability withers and dies. Capacity in time and space must be available to actually get the work done.

Capacity and commitment are intertwined, because you can’t make a commitment without knowing if you have the capacity to fulfill. Part of that capacity is setting boundaries and sticking to them.

You are only human. There’s only so much you can take on. Saying “yes” to everything is a quick path to feeling completely overwhelmed.

Again, this comes back to modeling the behavior you want your team to repeat. Be honest with yourself and with others. Start by assessing what level of demand is coming across your desk compared with your realistic capacity.

This takes practice and courage, especially to speak up and exercise anything other than a “yes.” As a leader, this skill is crucial, because it’s also your responsibility to make promises on behalf of your team. Model the behavior you need from your team so you can keep a real pulse on their capacity, or else the promises you make on their behalf will quickly fall out of alignment.

Stepping back for a look at the bigger picture, “organizational capacity” is your business’s ability to manage resources to gain advantage over the competition in tandem with its ability to meet customer demand. By studying your own business’s capacity along with your own and your team’s, you will be able to make realistic commitments and achieve what you care most about.

Addressing accountability within this ecosystem of the “three Cs” is game changing. I’ve worked with many organizations to implement these principles, and at the precipice of 2020, your business could be next. Reach out today to get into position for a stellar 2020.

The Shift From Performer To Manager

The Shift From Performer To Manager

A promotion is exciting—and stressful. According to a recent study by DDI (an HR consultancy firm), 60% of managers felt that their initial promotion to management was the second most stressful time in their lives (second to divorce, for those who had experienced that, too).

The shift to a management role means the shift to a role as a formal leader. Sometimes this transition happens with promotions, and sometimes it happens with the natural progression of the “technician-turned-business-owner” where you go into business for yourself and are suddenly running the show.

How can you make this transition successfully and smoothly? I’ll give you a hint: what got you here isn’t going to get you there—that is, firmly planted as a respected and effective manager.

I’ve coached many people in this position. It’s a demanding time, and as stressful as it can be, there’s also an innate excitement to embrace the challenge, expand your skillset and have an even bigger impact. Let’s examine the three must-have skills to make this transition as rewarding as possible, for you and everyone you’re leading.

When Does This Transition Happen?

I’ve seen it so many times. The high-performer, go-to and trusted worker gets promoted and finds him or herself leading a team. Oftentimes, people in this position have no formal management training, and even more often they have no formal leadership training. They struggle to adapt to their new role and continually get pulled back into doing the work themselves.

This is one way it happens.

In other cases, someone in a technical, do-the-work role has performed outstandingly, and then has the opportunity to “go it solo.” Sometimes these people have grown out of the business they were formerly employed at. Almost always, these people are hungry to create and expand their own organization. And then, these folks find themselves in the position of leading a team and growing a company.

Whichever is the case for you, the transition from performer to manager requires a different conversational skillset. And yes, it comes down to conversation—because now you’re coordinating the work instead of doing it. Here are the essential communication steps you need to take now:

Step 1: Clearly Establish The Foundation:

  •  What the team cares about

Teams exist to make promises and deliver on those promises. These promises must be grounded in a common purpose/vision that the team lives day in and day out in order to organize and operate effectively together. This shared care is like your “North Star” – it guides the decisions you make as a team, the work you engage in and how you measure success.

  •  What shared language the team needs

Before you start throwing words around, it’s vital to establish what language you’ll be using as a group, and what that language means. “Customer satisfaction,” “revenue” and “team” are all examples of terms that need to be clearly defined to ensure everyone is working with the same understanding of their meaning. Without this shared understanding, team members could think they’re on the same page as you when, in fact, they’re not.

  •  What standards the team holds

Standards left assumed or unspoken are unfair and unrealistic. Communication breaks down if you don’t establish standards clearly from day one and then continue reiterating them. These standards include how the team coordinates work together, as well as how it interacts with internal and external customers. These standards also provide a shared understanding for how performance and outcomes will be assessed. Everyone needs to be clear of the rules of the game they’re playing, and when something is unclear, take the opportunity to open a conversation to bring clarity.

Being responsible and accountable for managing your team’s capacity and outcomes (not to mention the satisfaction of clients affected by the results) starts with establishing these three pillars of effective communication. Read more about each in this article on shaping the future of your business.

Step 2: Coach People Effectively

Coaching your team means helping them find the answers, not giving them the answers. Often, new managers fall into the story that it will take less time to simply provide an answer than to coach a team member through the process of arriving at their own answer. This approach stifles the team in a number of ways:

  1. It inhibits the growth and development of the team member, since he or she is not being challenged and supported to solve problems.
  2. It keeps the manager in the cycle of doing the work, which leads to capacity issues.
  3. It assumes that the manager has the best answer, which in many cases is not true. Stifling creativity and different ways of thinking short-circuits the team and the organization.

The metaphor goes that, if someone comes to you with a monkey on their back, they have to leave with the monkey (not leave it with you). That monkey might be a problem to solve, a deliverable that needs to get done, or even a simple question. Your team will not grow if you let them dump things on you. (And it won’t be good for you, either.) Instead, help them think through what options there are, evaluate those options and determine a course of action.

coaching employees

Helping your team find the answers and forge a path forward isn’t inherently about tough love, either. Rather, it’s an empowering force. When your team members are challenged, they ultimately feel more useful. This and other tips on things NOT to do to team members were written about recently on Inc.com.

You’ve heard about helicopter parents who hover so close to their children and remove all obstacles in their path that the children miss developmental opportunities. Delegating appropriately is another “must” to make sure the same doesn’t happen to people you manage.

Step 3: Make And Fulfill Promises

As a manager, it’s your responsibility to make promises on behalf of your team that they can fulfill to the standards the team has set. Doing so requires some key elements:

  • Manage the team’s capacity

Now that you’re responsible for more than just your performance, you must stay in-tune with what the team can take on. Being in a default mode of saying “yes” to everything that is asked of you and the team is a quick road to dissatisfaction and burnout. It can also lead to the disappointment of customers and others when the promise is not fulfilled. Rather than jumping to “yes,” open a conversation with your team as a whole, or specific team members, about what’s possible—and then respond. That shared care comes into play here as well. Staying in alignment with that purpose will ensure you’re supporting your team in pursuing the activities that matter most.

  • Hold yourself and team members accountable for the promises you (and they) make

When you make a promise, fulfill it, and expect the same of your team. Following through on promises made is the best way to build trust. I encourage teams to establish weekly action meetings where specific work/deliverables are committed to, and the following week must be reported out as done or not done. If there’s a recurring “not done” report by a specific team member or with regard to a specific task or project, it’s time to dig in and see what’s going on.

  • Coordinate when there are breakdowns

Breakdowns are a regular occurrence in organizational life, and life in general. When the situation shifts, new information becomes available or any other change leads to a disruption in the normal course of action, call it out. Bring the breakdown/issue/red flag to light, and encourage your team to do the same. Doing so opens the conversation for how to respond/recover.

Congratulations for your promotion or for your leap into self-employment. I hope your own priorities, standards and outcomes are aligned a little clearer after reading this article. If you do have more questions, don’t hesitate to send me an email directly. I love supporting managers and teams in establishing these routines to have maximum impact and maximum satisfaction.

Three Business “Do Or Dies”

Three Business “Do Or Dies”

The barrier to entry to start a business in this country is extremely low. Have an idea? Think you can do something better or different than others who are doing it? Than start a business! File some simple documents online, and you’re official.

But that doesn’t mean that you can run a successful business.

When it comes to running a business, there are three core functions that you absolutely must have. These apply across every business model and industry without exception. These are mission-critical, and without all three, failure is inevitable.

I talk about these functions seriously because they are that essential. You can develop these functions internally or you can outsource them, but you must have them covered one way or another.

So, without further ado, these three necessary skills for anyone running a business are:

  1. Generate and convert leads.
  2. Read and interpret financials.
  3. Create and put processes in place.

These are each make-or-break, and it’s not just your business that’s at stake—it’s your life. Keep reading and I’ll show you not only why, but also how, to effectively master all three.

1: Generate And Convert Leads

Your business will fail if you don’t have leads coming in. Right? At least, that’s what all the digital marketing companies are telling you. And it’s the truth, but not the whole truth.

Lead lists and how important it is to convertYou do have to be growing your lead list, that’s for sure. I’ll take it a step further, though, and say that your conversion rate on those leads is even more important. If you need nine new clients a month and are only generating a dozen leads, but converting nine of them, you’re right on track.

Your conversion rate will depend on a multitude of factors, and business-to-business those factors will vary a lot. Identifying the right KPIs will help give you direction on where your numbers should be.

Maybe you’ve already identified those KPIs. Maybe you already know where your numbers are, and you’re painfully aware that you desperately need more leads—and a much higher conversion rate. To get to the heart of this, I’ve outlined the steps to get going in the right direction. This is something you have to work on immediately, because without generating and converting the right number of leads, it’s just a matter of time until your business is toast.

Step 1 – Identify Where Your Ideal Clients “Live”

You’ve probably heard and read about this many, many times. Your ideal client, or avatar, is the profile of the client you best serve.

As much as you might know about your avatar (their gender and age, where they are located geographically, what they do for work), do you know where they hang out? Do you know what percent of that audience uses one social network versus another? Can you name a book that multiple people in your audience have read? Do you know what their favorite websites are? What magazines they read? Where they go for fun? What they really care about deep down?

You can get these answers through interviews of your ideal client. This will help you know where to go and what to talk about to attract and convert more leads.

Step 2 – Make A Valuable Offer

We’ve gone over how you’ll have a much easier time reaching your ideal client when you know where they “live.” You’ll also have a better understanding about what makes them happy, sad, scared, relieved—and make an offer to them that’s valuable and alleviates their concerns, helps them realize their dreams, etc. In essence, that takes care of what they care about. Anything that can bring real value to your avatar (while speaking to the “need” and emotional backdrop you know is there) will help position your offer as the solution.

Step 3 – Follow Up

Let’s say you’ve done all the work up to here. To tap the well and convert even more leads, you need a system in place to easily (and, ideally, automatically) follow-up.

Sometimes called “touch programs,” “top-of-mind awareness” and “drip campaigns,” this refers to the marketing and messaging you push out to warm leads who already contacted you but didn’t bite. This is the segment of your target audience that knows who you are and knows you provide a solution they need. Generally, two thirds of this segment learned about you before they were ready to buy, and following up is your ticket to staying in the picture until they are ready to make their decision. Without following up, it’s dangerously unlikely that decision will be made in your favor.

Building a system for following up also generates content that’s often sharable and repeatable, and helps bring new leads in—and thus the cycle continues.

Take these steps seriously, and remember that even a mammoth lead list won’t do anything unless you both generate and convert leads consistently.

2: Read And Interpret Financials

Your financial statements are commonly referred to as “the scorecards for business performance.” I love talking about the KPI scorecards I help Kleriti clients build, and financials are always a big part of those. This acumen is so essential to your business that, if you aren’t on solid footing in reading and interpreting financials, you truly need to solve that now.

Financials and how to read financial reports

The Balance Sheet

The balance sheet gives you a “snapshot in time” of:

  • Assets
  • Liabilities
  • Shareholder equity
  • Net worth

This sheet is the quick overview of the health of your business. It’s also used to calculate things like your business’s capital structure and rate of return.

The Income Statement

The income statement, also called the profit and loss statement (or P&L), reports the money in, out and owed over a specific time period (rather than the balance sheet, which is a snapshot at a specific point in time). The focus of the income statement includes the net balances of money in and out.

Cash Flow Statement

We all know what cash flow is, and the cash flow statement is an equally essential concept to understand. This reports the operating cash flow as well as the financing cash flow, and—if you have investors—also includes the investing cash flow. Knowing what cash you have on hand, where it’s coming from and at what cost, is essential for assessing any business’s liquidity.

After you know what these financial statements are (and how to read them), knowing how to use that information is the next crucial hurdle. The good news is that this essential, do-or-die task is one of the most practical to outsource. Or, who knows, maybe it’s time to upgrade to a CFO?

3: Create And Put Processes In Place

Processes know how to put process in placeYou know how your business works. In fact, you know it better than anyone. That knowledge transfer is fundamental when you bring more people onto your team—and having documented processes in place is how you transfer your knowledge (and your expectations) successfully.

Processes act to streamline and communicate recurring tasks, as well as to support improving them. So, how do you know what needs to be turned into a process? And how do you craft that process, document it and teach it to others? My new self-paced, online course DuplicateU teaches you how to do just that. And in the meantime, here are some basics to get started.

Step 1 – Determine Recurring Activities

Every business is comprised of predictable, recurring business activities. Since time is money, engaging in recurring tasks depletes your bottom line. The more you can automate, the more time and space you can free up to attend to more creative endeavors.

Step 2 – Document Everything

I can’t tell you how many owners say to me, “Don’t worry. It’s all right here,” as they point to their head. To which I respond, “That is precisely the problem!”

You see, our brains are not meant to keep track of mundane information. They’re meant for higher level functioning and problem solving. Yet, when we fill them with all these details, there’s no room for anything else. Do you ever feel like your brain is sometimes foggy? Or like it’s really hard to concentrate on one thing? This is why! Not to mention that brains are fallible.

Operating this way is not just risky…it’s reckless. Put everything on paper. This makes it shareable and teachable with others in an efficient, effective way. And it frees up your brain for more fun stuff!

Step 3 – Design Tools for Support

Every process has a set of elements (like templates, scripts and checklists) that support it. These are necessary to execute the process seamlessly and consistently every time. And these all need to be on paper so that anyone can follow/use them. The right tools allow you to automate the process, making each repeatable task easier to execute consistently every time.

Mission-Critical Means Immediate Action Needed

This article was a to-the-point description of the three do-or-die functions for business owners. As you can imagine, each of these is so important that I could devote not just a whole blog, but an entire course to it—like I did with DuplicateU, the course I designed to empower business owners to put the processes in place they need so their businesses can run without them.

There’s a lot of information out there on each of these concepts, and even some excellent tools to help you. For example, read what Lucid Chart has to say about process documentation, and you’ll see how their “idea board” SaaS is especially well-designed to help.

Whatever you do, don’t look at the end of this article as the end of the lesson. These three business tasks are non-discretionary for your business and for your own well-being. You need to generate and convert leads, you need to know how to read and take action on your financials and you need to have defined, documented processes in place—or your business will fail. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Start today, and check out DuplicateU. You’ll be happy you did.

How To Create And Use KPIs For Real Results

How To Create And Use KPIs For Real Results

Analytics today. How much data do we have available just a click away? It’s unreal.

Most of the data we can access today about our business, our clients and the market in general is downright fascinating. But the excitement of all that information quickly deflates when you find yourself neck-deep in data without any idea how to use it.

Not all data is created equal. You can end up with a ton of information that doesn’t inform you on your daily business functions and which quite frankly isn’t that useful.

Gain relevant and actionable insights by developing and using the right KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Easier said than done, right? It’s true that this will require some development. Well-crafted KPIs are worth it, though, when you see them clearly outline your business’s road map to success.

First, I’d like to back up to one essential KPI “pre-step.” The following section is a must read before starting strategic KPI work, because ultimately your KPIs will be based off of this basic ingredient.

 

Start With The Right Goals

the best kpis start with the right goalsYour KPIs, in essence, are the metrics to check your progress against your goals. So setting the right goals for your business is essential to later craft the KPIs that measure their status.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you just rebuilt your website. It seems obvious that increased traffic would be a goal, right? That means increased visibility, maybe even improved SEO or a better user experience bringing more people to each page. But is website traffic necessarily the right goal to know if your website is performing well?

Websites aren’t (or shouldn’t be) built solely to “get more traffic.” If the business’s goal is to get more business, then a more appropriate goal for the website would be to get more online conversions. Higher website traffic comes with more conversions sometimes (for sheer volume), but definitely not always. By looking at conversions instead, you’re encompassing all the other factors that ultimately lead you to your goal.

Specific website conversion goals might include when users:

  • Register for an event
  • Submit a question
  • Make a payment
  • Fill in a form or opt in to something

Did you catch it? These goals all have a direct and measurable effect on our number-one business goal: growth. And by making it measurable, you naturally identify the KPIs that are worth watching to get where you want to go.

For some businesses, KPIs around things like employee performance feel harder to quantify—at first. Let’s work with another example. Is it the number of calls your front-desk employees are making that you want to monitor and improve? Or the number of appointments set with potential clients? By identifying the right goal, your KPIs will be easier to pick out.

How about business strategy KPIs? Client retention KPIs? See more examples and tips on choosing your KPIs in this well-done Hubspot article. Right here and now, I’ve got some more ground to cover to make your KPIs usable and effective.

 

Lagging Vs. Leading Indicators

It’s important for me to take a moment and talk about lagging vs. leading indicators. This is one important and fundamental way that performance management is broken down in business, and it’s also something I talk about with Kleriti clients and in my new self-guided online course, DuplicateU.

  • Lagging indicators are usually “output” oriented, meaning they measure something you’re looking at in hindsight. Think about financial performance, profit and cost metrics. These indicators are very easy to measure, while being more challenging to influence.
  • Leading indicators are the “input” factors in your business’s performance, meaning they measure something that’s in your control now. Leading indicators are measurable in the context of today or the immediate future, making them harder to measure but easier to control.

Want another example? Imagine a business that has some form of tech user support, like a SaaS start-up. They might have internal policies stating how to resolve client issues. Let’s say they even sold their clients on a commitment that they resolve all help-desk issues within 48 hours.

The output or “lagging indicator” is easy to measure—how many tickets are closed within a 48-hour window?

And how do you influence that lagging indicator? If tickets aren’t getting closed out, what KPIs are in your control? Maybe you see that incidents not touched within two hours are those that don’t get closed within 48. Your “leading indicator” could be the percent of incidents not worked at least once in a two-hour window.

what are lagging versus leading indicators in business kpis

For more examples, you can check out this accounting-specific article on leading and lagging KPIs.

 

Crafting Your KPIs In A Usable Way

So you have your goals and you have your KPIs. You even know how lagging and leading indicators work.

How do you ensure your KPIs are not only insightful, but also actionable?

An actionable KPI is an effective KPI, because the whole point of these metrics is to make smarter business decisions.

To spur action, your KPIs are effective and useful once you set targets for them. And describing the desired performance of these metrics is how your data will be interpreted later. This step defines good performance and bad performance along with thresholds for upper and lower limits.

And here we are at another “how:” how do you measure against those targets?

 

Establishing KPI Scorecards

how to establish kpi scorecards to track kpiOnce you have all these numbers clearly defined, the final steps are to set them up in a highly usable scorecard and establish a cadence for scorecard review.

The scorecard should include:

  • The KPI
  • The target
  • Who in the organization (team or individual) is responsible for driving it
  • How the metric is collected/measured (to ensure consistency)

Then establish a process where the scorecard is reviewed regularly (I recommend weekly) with a red light/green light report out so that corrective action can be taken as soon as possible to get metrics that have gone off track back on track.

For example, I work with the leadership teams of Kleriti clients to elect a set of 6-12 numbers that on their own give an absolute pulse on the business. These KPIs are formalized into a scorecard, data is collected and reviewed weekly by the leadership team and red light items are discussed with specific action items assigned to individuals to get them back in the green.

 

Ensure KPIs Are Understood And Used Across Your Organization

It’s essential that everyone on your team be aware of what you’re trying to achieve and how you’re measuring progress. KPIs form part of your business strategy decision-making across the board, and everyone should be clear on how their contributions affect major KPIs.

Communicating KPIs keeps your team on their toes and it also provides an opportunity to applaud success. People react to numbers, and meeting goals is something that can be shared and promoted company-wide when KPIs are hit out of the park.

Data and metrics are everywhere. For your business, only KPIs that are well designed and actionable will be effective in tracking progress to reaching your goals.

I spend a lot of time with Kleriti clients helping them define goals, identify KPIs and create the scorecards to assign responsibility and streamline the collection of usable data. If you have questions or want to know more about any part of this article, don’t hesitate to send me an email directly.

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.