By: Kathy Kent Toney, President of Kent Business Solutions
Help Your Employees Love Their Jobs to a Profitable End
I recently spoke to a client about his anticipated return-to-work. As a VP at his company, he was working 60-70 hours a week prior to the shutdown. He’s really enjoyed working from home—interruptions have been minimal, he’s getting more work done, and it’s been nice to not have to get dressed for the office every day, like this guy hilariously demonstrates.
Now that my client is back in the office, he’s not only facing the same old challenges, but a whole new set as well. And with things changing every day, it will continue to be like that for a while—for a lot of us.
With so much uncertainty these days:
Here are four things you can do to help with that:
1. Create Clear Connections
Most people crave a sense of belonging and want to make a difference. Employees that see a direct linkage between what they do and how it impacts the organization, and society in general, are going to be more inspired and productive.
Companies that can step back from their everyday way of doing business to assess how they can make clear connections between individuals, their jobs and the organizational purpose/mission will most often come out ahead.
2.Expand Workforce Development Efforts
A lot of organizations have been guilty of just placing workers in roles based on what they’ve always done in the past, because it’s a tried-and-true approach. Many of these employees feel pigeon-holed and frustrated by this. Countless employees are capable of so much more!
Organizations now have an opportunity to re-evaluate how they encourage and offer more opportunities for employees to fulfill their potential. This is not the time to pull back on workforce development efforts! Companies that encourage employees to fulfill their potential have a greater chance of building a more resilient workforce that can more effectively weather difficult times like we’ve been experiencing.
3. Maximize the Relationship between Employees and Technology
COVID-19 has challenged the idea that machines can completely replace humans. Just look at the evidence of non-essential, robotic-based factories being shuttered for weeks on end! Interactions between workers and machines are so much more powerful together than on their own.
Organizations that embrace the idea of finding ways to integrate teams of employees and technologies will be the most successful in the long run. They’ll not only be able to streamline costs, but provide greater meaning for the workforce.
4. Leverage the Power of Knowledge Management
During this crisis, people’s hunger for information on the pandemic reached epic proportions. Could there be a way to carry over a thirst for knowledge and translate it to running a business more effectively?
The answer is “yes”. Companies can encourage a culture where knowledge sharing and creation becomes an everyday occurrence. That way, when a valuable employee walks out the door, all the knowledge he has accumulated in his or her brain doesn’t walk out with them.
If you want to grow in any of these areas, I would love to help! The areas I’m really focusing on right now are People/Technology Integration and Knowledge Management. I’m becoming more fascinated with ensuring a more seamless experience between the two, with an emphasis on IT systems and Artificial Intelligence.
And I’ve partnered with someone to help with that!
In my previous LinkedIn article about Accelerate, Michael Cantu’ talked a little bit about this. And I’m excited to announce that we’re partnering to help companies who want to prepare their organizations for success—to streamline and automate their business processes as a means to increase efficiency and profitability.
If you’re interested in learning more about preparing your business for the future, we’d love to have a chat with you! Click here to schedule a 1:1 discussion.
By: Kathy Kent Toney, President of Kent Business Solutions
How many of you have been feeling a bit overwhelmed and maybe aren't making the greatest progress as you'd like these days?
How many feel like you're slogging through the mud some days?
It's not surprising at all--this pandemic has thrown everyone for a loop!
I know it's been a challenge for me. My cup is overflowing with juggling client work and just "taking care of business." In fact, for that very reason, I haven't made the progress I'd like on my next email series.
While I dream that up, I still want to share with you some valuable content. So today I was on the lookout for something I could quickly grab to include in this newsletter. And there it was...a graphic on how to make more progress. Boy, did that really hit home! I thought I’d share it with you, since it really spoke to me.
I looked over the list to see the things I was already doing. Here's just a few:
Here’s what I plan to do more of:
How about you? Did this graphic speak to you? Is there anything on this list you'd like to tackle?
I'd love to hear about it! Feel free to comment with your answers!
By: Kathy Kent Toney, President of Kent Business Solutions
A Four-Part Series: Part 4
How many of you, working remotely for the first time, are encountering a lot of challenges?
How many of you frequently have not had what you’ve needed at your fingertips?
How many of you are wishing for a day at the beach instead?
If you’ve been like a lot of people, you had to email multiple people for multiple reasons instead of running down the hall to talk to them. Or you needed something signed, had to scan the document, upload it and send it off. Or you may have experienced all of the above, multiple times!
Well, I’ve got a treat for you! I recently interviewed Michael Cantu’ of Accelerate about a cost-effective solution, his Accelerate platform that makes remote working a much easier, more productive process.
Using it may not compare to a day at the beach, but it could prove more enjoyable than your status quo!
And for those of you who don’t know, I’m a Principal Process Consultant with Accelerate. I offer Accelerate solutions as part of my service offerings for my own business. So I’m really looking forward to sharing with you the good things Accelerate can do for your business!
Now, onto the interview…
Kathy: thanks for joining me, Michael. First of all, what is Accelerate software?
Michael: It’s workflow management software that connects disparate systems, people, data, content, and workloads together to Accelerate your workforce. It streamlines your work, enabling you to have at your fingertips what you need to do your job so you can do it more effectively and efficiently.
Kathy: That sounds like it would be something really good to have right now during this pandemic, especially with so many employees having to work remotely! And I know there are great benefits to this software. What would you say are the top four?
Michael: the first I would say is...
1. Increased Productivity
A lot of people these days are working in siloed IT systems that don't communicate well with each other, and are expensive and costly to integrate together. So what we’ve focused on is creating a system and platform that easily connects to other systems.
Here’s a good example: Many new employees not only have the big challenge of learning how to do your job, they also must learn all the different systems and remember different login credentials. And then, most people are working out of their email. What we’ve done is connect these all together, bringing the work and the work items together so the employee can do all these things together with only one interface.
Kathy: It sounds like they have everything at their fingertips in one system to do their job, right? That would make learning so much easier, I would think. And even longer-tenured employees would have higher satisfaction levels as well, right?
Michael: Right, that’s been our experience with our clients. And that leads to the second benefit:
2. Better Customer Experiences
If the employees are happier, that ultimately results in better customer experiences. Here’s a good example. Sometimes you need to call a person who owes you something, because you need to know where they are at in the process in order to make a decision. We’ve all been there. And that's what's nice about Accelerate—the visibility into where things are going on in the process.
For instance, a customer can call in to find out the status on an order. With Accelerate, you can drill down to that order, find out who is handling it, and you can chat with the responsible person real-time—in one system. You can be fast, expedient and consistent with your customers, and at the same time, hold employees more accountable for their actions. Your customers see you as people that can be consistent, so when they need something they get it. I think that is the best and the most phenomenal part of Accelerate.
Kathy: Yes, that sounds great! I know that would make me real happy if I could find out something right away what's going on, especially if I was a disgruntled customer.
So what’s another benefit of Accelerate?
Michael: I would have to say...
3. More Effective & Efficient Remote Working
We are rolling out a solution this week that will empower an organization’s employees to master the art of working remotely. A lot of times we spend too much effort going back and forth with email, and work can be so disjointed. With this new solution, project managers can allocate work, employees can schedule what needs to be done that day and the system can auto-assign tasks to employees. The system will even text you notifications for items that are high priority. With this new system, you can just log in and see what you need to complete for the day. And it has all the information you need at your fingertips.
There is even the ability for companies who have daily stand-ups to do away with them (if so desired), because everything can be visible on what team members are working on. Once you take on any work in the system, you can then communicate with everyone involved with that item of work as it progresses. So, it makes working outside the office a whole lot easier.
Kathy: I think that would be just amazing for remote workers, because it's been new for a lot of people. How wonderful would it be to just boot up your computer in the morning and see what you need to accomplish that day just right there in Accelerate! That would be amazing. I can see how this would improve productivity and in turn, overall customer experience.
Could you give an example of some work you've done for a client that has done both—improved productivity and ultimately created happy customers?
Michael: Sure. We have clients in transportation, finance, and healthcare in the areas of compliance management and process automation. One healthcare company has a requirement to track between 50-60 audits a month that are done around their company with a need to report regularly to their State office. It involves a lot of collaboration.
Prior to their Accelerate implementation, there were a lot of manual steps involved in tracking audits—managing multiple texts and emails, manually filling out compliance forms and scanning them, creating digital files, etc. With the 50-60 audits happening a month, it resulted in hundreds of emails and texts.
Now with an automated audit tracking process, everybody logs into a system and they see only what they need to see. Electronic files are more quickly created so they can be submitted to the State more quickly. You can even see all of the compliant audits versus the non-compliant audits. They can also see how things are progressing for all 60 audits.
Post-implementation, it was the equivalent of a full-time job reduction in workload. That’s a testimony of what Accelerate can do with compliance management. This made their residents happier, as more time could be spent improving the cultural life of the residents instead of tracking down audits and paper trails that didn’t directly add value to the overall experience.
Another area is medical billing. We're getting ready to launch this, which will result in a reduction of a four-person workload to one person for this one company. In some areas the tasks have been completely removed, so they can shift others around and are able to take on other items at higher volume.
In both cases, this doesn’t mean they’ve laid or will lay off people. It means they are able to take on more sales and grow their companies.
Kathy: Wow, that sounds phenomenal! I’m sure customers are really reaping the benefit of the improved productivity.
What’s another benefit that Accelerate can provide?
Michael: there’s actually two that are closely related...
4. Quicker Implementations & Increased Ability to Innovate
With Accelerate, we can more quickly roll out automated processes to our clients to fix their problems. We do this through prototyping a potential solution so our clients can really see what they will get before they invest their dollars. That way their investment results in getting exactly what they want.
Another thing we’re seeing is an increased ability for companies to innovate, based on the lower costs and quicker time frames they’re experiencing with Accelerate implementations. We’re seeing that companies who want to innovate through software solutions don’t need to put off potential projects any more. Some of the line items that may have been on their list of projects they wanted to tackle, but were at the bottom of the list, we’re able to help them with. They’re getting bigger bang for their buck. I think that's a theme we're going to be seeing more in the future.
Kathy: That makes sense. So, here’s our last question: Do you have any more examples of how you’ve saved your clients money?
Michael: Yes. One thing we’ve seen with non-software development firms is this: when considering investing in a software solution, they have to ask themselves this question: “Do I want to build and own my own software, or should I license an existing platform?” Of course, it depends on what their needs are. If it falls within our wheelhouse, we’ve seen the value in licensing our software for what it brings to a customer.
For instance, one company we worked with was given a bid for over $1M for a custom process development project. After they selected us, what would have cost them a $1M to build, we were able to build for only a $15-25K dollars, plus license fees.
Kathy: That’s incredible, just incredible! That's a ridiculous amount of savings! So not only can you improve productivity, but you can give better customer experiences and enable more effective remote working. You do it all at a good value.
Michael: that’s right!
Kathy: well, even I learned some things today! Thanks for joining us, Michael. I think my readers will appreciate some of the things they've learned about Accelerate.
Michael: My pleasure.
Thanks for joining me for this four-part series. Stay tuned for future blogs I’ll be posting!
By: Kathy Kent Toney, President of Kent Business Solutions
A Four-Part Series: Part 3
Meeting Immediate Needs is the Name of the Game
How many of us who are in Sales roles are stymied on how to sell our services during these crazy times?
What to do?
Breandan Filbert, Managing Partner of SalezWorks, has some great tips for us. And Breandan knows her stuff! If you’ve been enjoying my newsletters, you can thank her in part—as my Sales coach, she’s been the driving force to help kickstart my prospecting efforts in high gear!
You may be thinking—“Sales, that doesn’t apply to me.” If that’s you, I encourage you to hang in there with me. All of us, at times, are selling our capabilities or our ideas to others. So, these tips can work for anyone!
Kathy: Breandan, thanks for joining me today! What can companies do right now to not only survive, but thrive during our current economic climate?
Breandan: there are three things I think that are really important:
1. Stay Close to Your Current Clients.
Try to understand and serve their needs. It’s almost guaranteed that something has significantly changed in how they do business to keep their customers safe and continue business operations. Find out what those necessary changes are and serve them during those changes.
2. Uncover the Necessary Pivot
Find alternative products or services to offer current clients rather than to start from scratch with new prospects. Cash flow is of vital importance right now, and getting to the bank quicker with each opportunity should be the first priority with any sales attempt.
3. Recognize Everything is a Campaign
Getting an instant sale when you reach out isn’t often reality. Cultivate your prospects by identifying issues, proposing solutions and then continuing to solve problems for them through your services. Each interaction should provide value and be part of your campaign to solve problems in their organization.
Remember to keep in mind when you’re doing this: the buyer journey normally takes 8-22 interactions with your brand or business prior to doing business with you.
Kathy: Wow, that’s a lot of touches. But reflecting on my “wins” I’ve had, I’ve experienced that myself.
I really like the idea that interactions can be a campaign in itself, and also the importance of pivoting to fulfill immediate needs. Do you happen to have any examples of combining the two—how pivoting your offerings can result in a great campaign for a company?
Breandan: Yes, there are a lot of examples out there right now. I like the story about one local company that typically manufactures in-store shelving for retailers. As you can imagine, retail has been hit hard right now. Retailers aren’t really thinking about upgrading their shelving or display units—they are more concerned with protecting their frontline workers. So, they pivoted their operations to manufacture sneeze guards for cash register workstations and PPE for healthcare and frontline workers.
They started this whole new effort by first volunteering to make PPE for health care workers. This resulted in a lot of great press for them—their brand interactions happened with customers who heard about the good things they were doing in their community. This is all about building emotional equity with others who want to do good things as well.
The end result? They are now servicing the healthcare vertical, which is a new avenue for them.
Kathy: I love that! Not only are they helping their business in the short-term, but they’re building potential for future business through positive press.
Do you have any closing comments?
Breandan: Yes, I always like to challenge people to take action based on what they are learning. My question for you is this: what will YOU do to maximize opportunity during this downturn?
If your readers would like more insights, email me at email@example.com or connect with me on LinkedIn.
Kathy: Thanks for your advice, Breandan! I think my readers will really benefit from it.
Breandan: I appreciate the time invested in reading!
Stay tuned for next week’s topic on Digital Transformation.
With the fall-out of stay-at-home orders on organizations and uncertainty around how businesses will operate in the future, it’s so important to begin shifting the way we do business towards more online platforms.
You don’t want to miss my interview with my Alliance Partner, Michael Cantu’. He’ll share best practices on doing that!
By: Kathy Kent Toney, President of Kent Business Solutions
Chris Motley (2nd on the left) around the time his band signed a record deal.
Did you know that now is the best time to ramp up your marketing efforts? Here’s proof: In 2008, McDonald's cut their advertising while Pizza Hut and Taco Bell didn’t. McDonalds lost 28% of the market share; Pizza Hut increased sales by 61% and Taco Bell by 40%.
But how do we go about doing that, with all the craziness going on right now? What do I DO? What DON’T I do?
I recently interviewed Chris Motley to get answers to these questions.
And he’s a Rockstar in his own right, literally. In his past life, he toured the country with several rock bands. Take a look at this video for a recent taste of his music. And that’s him in the picture above (second on the left) around the time his band signed a record deal.
Now he’s turned his creative mindset toward marketing with his own company, Motley Creations.
I think you’ll love Chris’ insights, so grab a cup of coffee and enjoy!
Kathy: You’ve been in the marketing field for several decades now, so you’ve experienced first-hand the ups and downs of the business world. From your perspective, what are the Do’s and Don’ts of Marketing?
DON’T: Panic Or Get Stuck In Your Head
What you shouldn't do it is believe the negative talk in your own brain.
DO: Reduce Anxiety Levels
Take time for yourself when you get stressed. A few days ago, I got some bad news. For me, I have to believe in something bigger than me. I have to have some kind of faith to get through this kind of stuff. So, it was three o'clock in the afternoon and I just shut off my computer and meditated a little bit, prayed and then took the rest of the day off, which I think is OK. But if you're doing that every day, that's a problem, right? You cannot lay down and wait for opportunity. Don’t get stuck in your head.
You also want to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Get whatever financial aid you need, start addressing all your clients and look at it from other angles. What else can I do for them? If there's nothing there, then think what else can I do to make money. I heard a quote just recently something like: there’s no such thing as downtime or free time. There's just time. So get going. I needed to hear that.
I have people in my life that keep me accountable. They're the kind of people who will tell me the truth, and it’s not always what I want to hear. And I have to have that. Anybody in business should have that, maybe a coach or a mentor. It’s OK to feel sorry for yourself for ten minutes. Then get over it.
Kathy: I’m laughing, because I so relate! I have a couple of mentors who keep me on track. I definitely wouldn’t be moving forward in my personal or business life without their help!
What’s another DON’T and perhaps a DO associated with that?
DON’T: Stop Advertising
Don’t do what one of my clients wanted to do. They were going to stop sending out newsletters and doing this and that. And you don't want to stop all that. You still want to fill the market. You don't want someone else to fill that need for your content.
History has proven that down times are a great time to advertise.
DO: Pivot Your Advertising
It's a different kind of advertising. You're not saying how great I am. You're trying to address the person, not the company. “This is who I am. I’m an expert in my field. I'm going to be the voice of reason for you.”
Since not very many people are advertising right now, my business has tailed off. So you can do something like what I'm doing. I’m partnering with another person to do webinars on how to have coffee meetings online. It’s not generating the money, but it's basically presenting me to these people so that when times get better and they're ready to spend money on marketing, I'm going to be one of the first ones I think about. It's going to swing back. The pendulum will swing back.
Kathy: I agree!
What are some more DO’s?
DO: Change How We Communicate With Customers
There are a lot of scared people out there. We should be the ones to step up and be the voice of reason right now. For example, two or three of my clients are terrified, just terrified. And I've spoken to them over and over and have sent encouraging emails. And I told him, “I'm not charging you for this and I'm trying to encourage you to be an expert in your field.” Because human beings, God bless them, human beings get scared. And what they do is they buy up all the toilet paper or all the hand sanitizer or all the masks so that the people who are actually needing them can’t find them. And God bless him. It's just beer. Right? So what I've told my clients is this—it’s your job to be the voice of reason.
This is what I tell them: “This is what you should do. Calm down. Just do this right now and breathe. This will pass.”
This builds an underlying foundation of trust. I've had clients for decades, and the ones that stay with me are the ones where something went wrong, I’ve done this: “Yeah, it’s my fault. How do I make this right?” And I extend them a discount window. Those people are the ones who are loyal. They may start price chopping, but hopefully they'll come back, saying, “You’re not the cheapest, but you’re the best.”
So it's the same kind of principle. If you help them in times of duress, that’s the best marketing there is, because you’ve marketed to the person’s needs and not the company’s.
Kathy: I agree! What’s your next “DO”?
DO: Change the Way We Address Potential Prospects
The world needs helpers right now. It’s not time to be the super big moneymaker. If you're in a financial sector, tell them what they should do with their money. If you're in the exercise sector, show them ways that they can work out with their husband or wife or children. Parents and children are stuck at home, so any kind of content you can put out there to help, that meets them where they are at, is good.
It'll all come back. Just stay at the forefront. You stay in people's minds. When it breaks, and it will, it’ll be like a pendulum that’s going to swing way back. And if you help the person, that person is going to definitely want you to help your business. People are going to be like: “Let's go, let's go, let's go, let's go.” And you want to be at the front of that line when they start making those decisions, right?
Kathy: Exactly! So when they are ready to start working, they’re going to call Chris Motley or Kathy Kent Toney.
What’s your next DO?
DO: Take Time to Get to Know People
One of the things that I've learned to do, especially with meetings like they are now, is looking people up online. Take time to get to know the person if you don't know them well. This is research, in a large way, because we now have a huge digital footprint. And it's getting larger, because nobody can leave the house. So if I have a meeting with a potential prospect, I'm going to go look on their Facebook, at their LinkedIn—whatever I can find on them. And then talk to them as a person instead of sell, sell, sell, sell. And that's way, way different for me now, because I'm used to paying attention to body language when I meet with people in person.
Kathy: Yes, we’ve all definitely had to adapt how we interact with people these days. So, if you had to come up with a final DO, what would that be?
DO: Be Agile
In the book Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about business being a giant flywheel. You have to get that thing moving. And once it's moving, it’s easier just to keep it moving. If it stops again, it takes all kinds of effort to get moving again, so don't let it stop. If it slows down, that's OK. Just keep it moving and adapt.
Here’s what I’m doing right now. Since business has slowed down for me, I am building a stable of copywriters in case people come to me to put out a bunch of content, which hasn’t been my focus in the past. I'm looking at a standard way to do it.
Here’s another example. I saw a documentary where a business owner’s business just stopped completely. They saw that this delivery stuff is very, very important now. So they put up a temporary website and the guy started making food deliveries out of his own car. He wears a mask and gloves, picks up food and brings it to people at their houses and things like that.
Businesses have to think like that now. Think about what's in front of you. And do what you can do.
Kathy: Yeah, exactly. Meeting customer needs. That's what it's all about.
Well, we’ve reached the end of our time together. Thank you, Chris, for all the great advice. I believe your insights will really speak to a lot of people today. Not just Marketers, but what you’ve shared can apply to anybody right now.
Chris: Glad to be of service.
Stay tuned for my next blog on how to effectively prospect for new customers during down times. Our special guest will be Breandan Filbert.
By Kathy Kent Toney, President of Kent Business Solutions
A Four-Part Series: Part 1
What am I supposed to do next? I’m sure many of us have asked ourselves this question during this new season of unknowns. If you're not sure what your next steps should be, you've come to the right place!
To help you find answers to this question, I'm launching a four-part blog series covering topics to help you thrive, not just survive, during these uncertain times. These articles will contain interviews of my trusted business colleagues on subjects such as Strategy, Sales, Marketing and Digital Transformation. The goal is to give you ideas that you can implement right away!
The first topic is Strategy. I recently interviewed Dawn Zerbs of Dawn Celeste, a firm focused on Strategy Execution, to get some ideas on how we can best navigate the days ahead. And she's well qualified to speak on this subject! Her background includes a broad range of functions including: General Business and Leadership, Change Management, Communications, Strategy, Operations, Technology Implementations, Marketing and Business Development.
Dawn's been a great help to my business as an Advisory Board member, so it was a no-brainer to choose Dawn for this week’s topic.
Kathy: So, what do we do next in our businesses, to not only survive, but thrive?
Dawn: There are a number of things, but I think the best approach is to look at three areas or “buckets”.
1. Determine What Your Customers Need
If you provide event rentals and glassware for restaurants (not in high demand right now!), listen, ask and anticipate what customers need during this time. They likely have needs that are completely outside of your business. That’s okay. Don’t bother them, but also don’t underestimate the power of being there and listening. Who knows, you may find that you know someone else that can meet their needs!
2. Focus on Your Core Competencies
Ask yourself how you might pivot your core skills to meet a current need. A great example is what some schools are doing right now since they’re not in session—offering free meals to low-income families. Many manufacturers and other businesses are pivoting to meet immediate needs as well. Get creative!
Kathy: I just saw a great example of this on YouTube today. A meat and seafood food supplier who typically supplies 90% of their food to restaurants is now selling single-serving portions to the public. It just takes a little bit of ingenuity!
Kathy: So what’s the last bucket?
Dawn: This is an important one--
3. Think About Your Team
How you approach this depends on what you learn from your customers and a review of your competencies. If you can’t pivot, think about how you can continue to help your people.
And here’s a bonus tip--look at your options. Start by talking to a banker to see if you qualify for programs or go check out available assistance programs through the SBA. If you don’t, figure out ways you can support your employees with a good dose of compassion.
One thoughtful way to support your team is find a great recruiter. For instance, one recruiter, Brian Price with Morgan Hunter is giving away free advice during this time.
Kathy: I love your “three buckets.” Any closing advice?
Dawn: Yes. Take the long view. This interim will be really hard, but think what the business will look like after this if over, e.g., do we start another business, pivot, etc. It’s so important not to not make decisions while in panic-mode.
Finally, give yourself grace. Take it easy on yourself as you navigate this new territory.
Kathy: We could definitely all use a little extra grace!
Thanks for your time, Dawn. I think this information will resonate with a lot of people.
Dawn: My pleasure!
I hope this was helpful! Stay tuned for a new topic next week. I’ll be interviewing a special guest who will discuss Marketing Do’s and Don’ts during the “new normal” we’re living in.
By: Kathy Kent Toney, President of Kent Business Solutions
When I was a kid, I was a picky eater. My parents didn’t usually force me eat certain foods, but one night, my mom made me eat cooked spinach, something I hated with a passion. She was determined to eliminate the waste of food she worked so hard to cook!
She told me I couldn’t leave the table unless I finished it, so my creative mind went to work. I certainly didn’t want to be there all night!
A container of Cool Whip on the table caught my attention. Hmmm, I wonder what Cool Whip and spinach tastes like together…
So I dolloped some on my spinach. It didn’t taste that great, but I finished it off.
I felt brilliant! I killed two birds with one stone. I solved my problem, and my mom was relieved she didn’t have to deal with my stubbornness!
What’s the moral of the story here?
Leadership in most organizations wants to eliminate wasteful activities (like my mom) to achieve lower costs.
Employees ultimately want to do the same thing. They don’t want to deal with inefficiencies that waste their time (think of my mom wasting my time!). If the disconnect isn’t addressed, the company can miss out on lowering costs and the employees will most likely continue to be frustrated. And as we all know, a frustrated worker is not a productive worker!
What to do? Streamline your workflows with Lean tools.
Just what is Lean? Here’s a simple definition: It is used to eliminate waste in manufacturing and office processes. Lean creates more value for customers with using fewer resources. This in turn lowers costs.
But those aren’t the only benefits.
Streamlined processes reduce employee frustration as well. Through Lean activities, employees help develop the solution. Since they are involved first hand, this often brings a greater sense of engagement and job satisfaction (I know I was pretty pleased with my own ingenuity at 8 years old!).
The combination of reduced costs and more engaged employees ultimately contributes to greater profitability. And what company doesn’t want that!
So, with Lean tools, you can kill two birds with one stone: increase employee engagement and lower costs… that’s a win-win!
You don’t need to take my word for it. Here’s an example of a successful Lean implementation my colleague was involved in. Before they started the project, this Kansas City manufacturer recorded $18M in annual sales and employed 100 employees. Two years after their Lean implementation, they experienced these results:
Companies that embrace Lean principles aren’t the only party to reap the benefits—customers do as well. A key tenet of Lean is ensuring that only value-added activities occur regularly, those that a customer would be willing to pay for. When companies go Lean, customers experience higher levels of satisfaction and increased product quality.
You may be thinking: “these benefits are all well and good, but I don’t work on a factory floor, and I certainly would never add Cool Whip to my spinach!" Here’s some good news: Lean can be applied to any organization and to any discipline. Check out this video to see how Lean can benefit Sales and Marketing!
Interested in learning more? Here are some tips on how you can start a Lean-thinking attitude in your organization.
If you’d like to take it a step further, I’m currently offering a free ½ hour Discovery Call. I’d love to discuss with you any questions you have about Lean or any challenges you are experiencing with your business.
Click here to get started!
By: Kathy Kent Toney, President of Kent Business Solutions
Remember when we would get so excited about the launch of a new iPhone?
I remember my first iPhone I bought, an iPhone 5. What an amazing phone it was! I loved it! I never had any problems with it.
Having such a positive experience with my first purchase, I was really excited when I heard leaks about the upcoming iPhone 6. A bigger screen? Horizontal rotation? Wow, I couldn’t wait!
I loved my new iPhone 6 Plus at first, but after six months I starting having issues with it.
This was the beginning of multiple problems. I had it replaced two times, but I still had the same problems with the replacements.
Then there were the follow-on iPhone launches. When I looked at the price tags and the lack of new features, I stuck with my mediocre phone. Apple definitely lost my interest!
I’m in the same boat today. I’m only buying newer, but used versions so they’ll function and new bugs will already have been worked out (what’s up with Apple slowing down the older phones??? ggrrr…did they really have to resort to making their older phones function at a lower level to spur their customers to buy the latest model?
I began thinking recently…what has happened to Apple’s innovation edge? Even Forbes magazine is asking the question!
Obviously, Apple hasn’t suffered much at this point, but should the current trend continue, it will most likely be a much different story.
Like Apple, many companies experience a slow drift away from innovation. Perhaps you need an innovation focus or “recharge”?
If that’s the case, try these following tips to help get you on the right track.
1. Choose and Commit to an Innovation Path
There are three types of innovation: Product, Process and Business Model. Process is the least sexy of the three, but is the easiest to tackle first and can reap great dividends. It can range from updating a cumbersome sales process to revamping your assembly line. Such improvements can immediately capture benefits in speed-to-market and increased profitability. Here’s a great article that explains these concepts in greater detail.
2. Plan for Innovation
As we all know, unless you plan to do something, it most likely won’t happen. Think about including targets for new products and services in your business plan. Make innovation a part of everyone’s yearly goals.
It’s a well-known fact that if you don’t measure it, it most likely won’t happen.
3. Mobilize Your Employees
Try the following ideas to spark innovation with your most valued resource!
Be Approachable & Accessible
For your employees to be truly innovative, senior leaders and managers need to be regularly interacting with their teams. Being approachable and accessible makes all the difference in the world.
One of my clients does a great job of this. The CEO/owner interacts with all levels of employees in his organization. Every day you can see him on the factory floor, playing ping pong with the production workers. For this reason and for many others, they are now the leader in their market!
Inspire your Employees to Dream
What does innovation look like to your employees? Inspire a culture of openness to ideas.
A company called Atlassian has done just that. They have an awesome initiative called their “Fedex” day. Employees are gifted 24 hours to come up with fantastic ideas, new innovations or process improvements that can be implemented immediately. You can learn about it in this fun video about Daniel Pink’s book
Make Innovation the Norm
Take it one step further…let workers know how much you value their ideas. Make innovation a part of your company values. Talk it up during staff get-togethers. Hold regular ideation sessions.
And when your employees come up with great ideas and you celebrate that, other employees will be inspired to do the same. Publically recognizing them can spur on this type of behavior, which can only help the company.
This is truly a best practice for driving innovation forward in a company. For example: according to a study by employee motivation agency Maritz, 55 percent of employees strongly agree that the quality of their company’s recognition programs affects their performance, but only 10 percent of those polled are satisfied with these efforts.
Bottom line: encourage innovation efforts to be an everyday occurrence.
Reward Innovative Ideas
Take it up one more notch…reward, not just recognize, employees for innovative ideas.
When great ideas emerge, bonuses are the most common solution for companies with a large enough cash flow. A cash reward is always nice, but there are many more creative options to reward employees in a meaningful way.
A company called Frima recognizes smaller ideas with a rewards system call Frima Points. When an employee comes forward with a fresh idea, they earn points which can later be traded for tangible gifts. Frima’s gifts, such as payment for babysitters, home repair services, and the like, emphasize work-family balance—a core value for Frima—while also fostering productivity.
Allow for More Margin
One great way to reward employees that deserves its own category is allowing more time for creative thinking.
This has proved very successful for one of my clients. Prior to their Scrum implementation I steered for them, their technical employees always had their noses to the grindstone, working hard at what needed to be completed that day. Their culture included inspiring them to dream, but due to their heavy workload, they weren’t allowing them the margin to dream.
Once they realized the disconnect, they hired additional engineers. With the additional help, it became second nature for them to creatively think—to have the time on a regular basis to dream up new, innovative products. And it’s beginning to reap big dividends for them…happier employees, more innovative ideas, and a more profitable bottom line.
4. Gather Feedback from Your Customers
There are lots of way to do this: listen to customer complaints, interview/survey them, run a contest for new product ideas, or monitor social media posts. Then consolidate feedback as a basis for your innovation efforts. Most importantly, act on what you discover!
Use Social Media
Use social media to your advantage by following trends and asking questions on Twitter and Facebook groups. Ask what people want to see in future products or what the big new idea will be. Many early adopters are active on social network groups and will happily respond with suggestions.
Frito Lay is a great example of company that has done this effectively in a very fun way. I’m sure many of you have seen the Do Yourself a Flavor campaign on social media awhile back, and it was very successful. By inviting customers to choose new flavors of Lay’s Potato Chips, they brought fresh appeal to a very mature product offering, and at the same time increased brand loyalty.
Observe Customers Interacting With Your Products
There is a whole field of study dedicated to observing customer interacting with products. Ethnographic Market Research uses insights gained through observation with the goal to develop products that customers will love. This is a great way to inspire the development of innovative products and/or services.
Here’s a great example: Levi Strauss began to market a new line of jeans based on what they saw customers doing with brand new Levi jeans. They were ripping them! So they started selling pre-ripped jeans with great results.
One of my clients did this with a prototype for a new product they had developed. They were all excited to show a contractor a prototype of a new product they had developed. They asked the contractor to install the product on a building, and it’s a good thing they did! My client discovered they had made a very serious mistake in the design that made it non-functional. If they hadn’t have done this, the product would have been put into production, and it would have been a very costly mistake.
5. Think Outside the Box
There a lot of things you can do to take your products to the next level. Here are a few ideas you can try out:
Examine Patents for Inspiration
Check through patents that apply in your field. What ideas can you put into practice from active patents that could achieve the same end goal? Are there any expiring that you could use that method? Are there some that you could license?
Transform Products through Add-ons
Try combining your product with something different to make something new, e.g. a cell phone with a flash light, a watch with linked cell phone technology, etc.
Eliminate to Innovate
Is there a way to remove something from your product or service to make it better? Dell eliminated the computer store, Amazon eliminated the bookstore, the Sony Walkman eliminated speakers and record functions.
Adapt a Product to a New Use
Think of different applications for an existing products. A good example of this is De Beers—they decided to focus on engagement rings when previously they had only produced industrial diamonds. It opened up a large, new market for them.
Borrow Ideas from the Past
Are there any methods, products or services that were in use years ago in your market space that could provide inspiration for developing something new? It has been said that Speed Dating is really a relaunch of a Victorian dance format where ladies had cards marked with appointments.
Is there another company you can collaborate with that provides great synergy? Through such a partnership, you can go where you can’t go it alone. It’s important, however, to have a similar philosophy to go along with different skills. That is what Mercedes did with Swatch when they came up with the Smart car.
7. Minimize or Maximize
If there is something that is standard in the industry, try minimizing or maximizing it. Starbucks maximized price and customer experience. Southwest minimized standard offerings, like serving meals. At the same time, they maximized customer service.
It is better to be different than to be better.
8. Bring in Outside Help
If your company lacks bandwidth, contract with someone for identified projects, or if you’re not sure where to start, think about bringing someone in who’s skilled in innovation consulting.
These are just a few ideas on how to spark innovation in your organization. Based on my experience with my iPhones, perhaps Apple needs to check these out as well!
What innovation efforts have worked for you? I’d love to hear what has helped your company to be more innovative! Or if you’re currently experiencing problems in this area, I’d love to brainstorm through some ideas of where you could improve your profitability and increase innovation. Click here to schedule a time and we’ll get something on the calendar!
By: Kathy Kent Toney, President of Kent Business Solutions
A Kent Business Solutions Two-Part Series
My last blog revealed the 9 Real Benefits of Scrum my client, Schier Products (Schier), experienced. I outlined 4 tangible benefits. Today’s article will dive into the 5 intangible benefits they encountered.
5 Intangible Benefits
1. Laser Focus on the Task at Hand
This has been the #1 intangible benefit for Schier. Prior to their Scrum implementation, team member attention was often divided among competing priorities, making it challenging to hone-in on any one project. Post-implementation, Schier really embraced FOCUS, a core Scrum value, and it’s paid rich dividends!
2. Disciplined and Thorough Planning
Prior to Scrum, Schier often jumped into new product development efforts without much upfront planning. This frequently caused downstream problems, resulting in a lot of “I forgots.” The Scrum framework advocates more disciplined, thorough planning. Now that Schier has fully embraced this tenet, they have achieved outstanding results.
3. Scrum as an Extension of Lean Thinking
Schier is a Lean manufacturer, so they’re passionate about eliminating waste from all their processes. Unfortunately, their product development was riddled with waste. In fact, their CEO Luke Ismert wasn’t sure how to eliminate it. Talk about frustration! As Luke began to read about Scrum, he discovered that it’s not just for software development projects. He learned all about its successful use on manufactured goods.
Now their product development process runs as efficiently as their manufacturing processes. They’ve found that Scrum is a Lean product development process, and what a difference it has made in their business!
4. Increased Team Transparency
There are two elements of Scrum that Schier incorporated which have increased team transparency: the Daily Scrum and co-location. I’ll explain more about the Daily Scrum in future blogs, so for now I’ll mention that this meeting encourages daily identification of issues, i.e. “impediments”. Team members are encouraged to discuss mistakes and identify risks without repercussions. How refreshing is that!
As for co-location, Schier’s team members all worked together in one room. That way they didn’t have to run down a colleague to talk to them. They overheard other’s conversations as well throughout the day and absorbed information by osmosis, which tremendously improved awareness of project activities.
5. Final Solution Resulted in Very Few Mid-Stream Changes/Problems
As previously mentioned, Schiers’ “I forgots” became much less frequent once they started using Scrum. Better upfront planning and daily identification of impediments made all the difference in the world to decrease mid-stream changes and problems.
Schier’s case study is a great example of how Scrum can reap both tangible and intangible benefits, and there are many more that haven’t been outlined in this blog. Suffice to say, Scrum is a great approach to revolutionize a manufacturer’s product development process.
Would you like to learn more? I’d love to chat with you! I’m running a great special right now, a free one-half hour consultation. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org of times that work for you and we will get you scheduled!
By: Kathy Kent Toney, President of Kent Business Solutions
My last blog was about using Scrum to accelerate a product’s speed-to-market time. In that post I introduced you to my client, Schier Products (Schier). Today’s post will reveal the 9 Real Benefits of Scrum that Schier has experienced. The nine benefits are both tangible (4) and intangible (5). Today we’ll discuss the tangible benefits of using Scrum and in next month’s post we’ll dive into the intangible benefits.
Four Tangible Benefits
1. Increased Product Speed-to-Market
Let me share quantifiable measures on the “significant increase” I previously mentioned about Schier’s speed-to-market timeline. Their previous product took 24 months from design to deployment and by using Scrum principles, they reduced that to 10 months. And the 58% improvement is a conservative number, because their tooling vendor’s shipment was two months late! If we removed this delay, Schier’s speed-to-market time jumps to a 67% improvement...wow!
2. More Units Sold
Since their product reached the market much quicker than in the past, Schier most likely will sell more units over the life of the product.
3. On-the-Fly Design Improvements
Schier originally planned to develop a new grease interceptor* with stand-alone component systems, but using Scrum really expanded their vision. Through its use, they uncovered a larger product improvement opportunity than they anticipated. Instead of a stand-alone component for a single new product, Schier could design component systems to fit their entire product line, nine in total! This “modular” (or standardized unit) approach would increase production speed and lower costs for all their products, not just the new grease interceptor. Making the decision to use the modular approach was truly a no-brainer.
4. Lower Development Costs
Development costs were significantly reduced from previous product development efforts. The savings in development costs between a 24 month product development cycle and 10 month cycle is clear. This is just another additional tangible benefit of using Scrum!
Five Intangible Benefits
Schier also experienced intangible benefits. These can’t be measured precisely, but had significant impact on their business. These intangible benefits are:
5. Laser focus on the task at hand
6. Discipline and thorough planning
7. Scrum as an extension of Lean thinking
8. Final solution resulted in very few mid-stream changes/problems
9. Increased team transparency
The list isn’t exhaustive, but these five areas have produced the most powerful outcomes for Schier so far.
The 9 Real Benefits of Scrum -- tangible and intangible -- have been proven time and again in many organizations. Schier’s product development improvements are one example. And their Scrum journey was so successful that they’ve replicated it by launching two new Scrum teams. These teams will focus on New Product Development and Product Improvement, respectively. Imagine the benefits that will come from their expanded use of Scrum!
Schier couldn’t be more pleased with the results. In the words of their CEO, Luke Ismert says: “Kathy was just what we needed to get us started on Scrum and pointed [us] in the right direction. She methodically and professionally held me and our Scrum team accountable and made sure we were in-line with the tenets. Her start-up leadership helped us shave weeks off of the Scrum learning curve."
Stay tuned for my next blog where I’ll dive into the five intangible benefits. And feel free to contact me at 816-429-1042 or email@example.com if you’d like to learn more!
*Grease Interceptor: a plumbing device (a type of trap) designed to intercept most greases and solids before they enter a wastewater disposal system. These traps reduce the amount of fats, oils and greases that enter sewers.