Lessons Learned: Invest in Your Team

I took the COSE Strategic Planning Course in 2005/06; the impact on my company was immediate and dramatic. Over the next 6 years our sales doubled and our profit levels more than doubled. The course was exactly what I needed to help me understand the unique value that we offer and how to find customers that appreciate it.

Lessons Learned Invest In Your Team

I returned to the course year after year, always gaining new insights and happy to be able to contribute to the SPC community as a learning partner and later, a member of the planning committee. I came to look forward to the start of SPC every September and it is now as much a part of my seasonal clock as raking leaves and cleaning gutters.

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    Starting in 2012, as our eight person staff grew to a dozen as young, energetic people replaced retirees. I came to the realization that those who were going to help me run and grow my company needed to have the same business perspective that I did. I concluded that having my team experience SPC was an excellent way to accomplish this.

    While the Strategic Planning Course is primarily intended to help business owners grow their firms, become more profitable and plan their exit, there are many benefits to putting key employees through the course as well. Doing so builds knowledge, skills and accountability into the team members – apart from the owner – and therefore increases the value of the firm to most potential buyers.

    As of this spring, five Wecall employees (including myself) have graduated from the course and I expect this trend to continue. I’m convinced that this is one of the best investments that I can possibly make in my people. 

    The following are what I see as the significant benefits: 

    Skills

    Going through the analysis exercises that make up the first three sessions provides the staff member with a deeper understanding of where and how the company earns its profits and may even result in new insights to the owner, by virtue of a different set of eyes looking at the same data, or perhaps the data has changed substantially since the owner took the course.

    Culture

    All participants in the Course are paired with a mentor/learning partner who has been through the course. The SPC mentor community is filled with business owners and senior managers who understand the strategic power of a strong company culture and freely share their experiences. Seeing how this has enabled the success of these other companies reinforces staff commitment to building our culture and empowers them to act on their own.

    Professional Growth

    Working with other business owners and building their own professional networks provides your team with confidence to use their own judgement and even challenge the owner to stay focused on the company mission.

    Entrepreneurial Mindset

    Seeing firsthand how other businesses grow, evolve and succeed has great potential to help team members develop the confidence to experiment with new problem solving approaches and take risks. This learning will help them contribute at a higher level in their current position and will serve them well in future roles.

    Paul Doherty is the president of Wecall Inc. Wecall Inc. manufactures specialty fasteners which are used in bridges, buildings and heavy industrial applications. Wecall products are sold worldwide to bolt manufacturers, fastener distributors, steel fabricators and general contractors. Wecall was founded in 1980 by Paul’s parents. Paul joined the company in 1997 after spending 13 years with General Motors in engineering and sales roles. Paul purchased Wecall Inc. in 1998 and now serves as President. Paul has been actively involved in the COSE Strategic Planning Course for 12 years. To learn more about how the COSE Strategic Planning Course can transform your business click HERE.

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    Next up: Life Hacks: 12 Easy Ways to Master Your To-Do List, Find Time and Simplify Your Life

    Life Hacks: 12 Easy Ways to Master Your To-Do List, Find Time and Simplify Your Life

    From simplifying your inbox to making your nightly routine as efficient as possible, here are a dozen life hacks that will add time back to your day.

    I am sitting on a flight home right now, writing this article, and I can’t help but wonder what my fellow passengers are doing. Some are sleeping, others are watching TV and a few are typing away on their computers like me. I just noticed the guy working on his laptop across the aisle from me has about 32,000 emails in his inbox. At least he’s working on the flight, I’ll give him credit for that, but I could really help him get control of his overflowing inbox. 

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    In this article, I’ll talk about ways to keep yourself organized, so you can find more hours in the day and leave more time in your life for what truly matters most to you. I’ll show you how I use Outlook to master my to-do list, how I have created daily routines that open up more “found time” in my busy days, and finally ways I keep things simple in a complicated world.    

    I consider travel time to be found time and airplanes are the last bastion of peace on our planet. On flights, my phone doesn’t work, so I’m not constantly getting pinged. I like to put on my headphones and do my “thinking work.” It’s a few uninterrupted hours where I can really focus. During the week, I’m hopelessly trying to multi-task, return phone calls, and running between meetings. Planes are my only time for writing articles and crafting thoughtful responses to complex emails. 

    Travel time allows me to complete tasks so I can enjoy other times in my week. I’m busy just like everyone else. I own two businesses, travel at least twice a month, my wife is a full-time professional, and we have two young girls (Caroline and Anne Penney, six and four years old). If I get my work done while I’m flying then when I get home I can be present for my kids. If you ever happen to see me on a flight, you’ll know exactly what I’m doing because I’m about to tell you. 

    Let’s talk about my to-do list first.

      

    Become one with your email

    I use Outlook as my to-do list and I have spent years perfecting my systems. Some people use handwritten lists, or day-planners, or other email programs, but Outlook works well for me. I am self-diagnosed as having a condition known as E.A.D. (email anxiety disorder). This disease is marked by the relentless pursuit of “inbox zero”; the highly sought after condition where one’s email inbox is completely clear. 

    Let’s turn our attention to some real world apps that I use to amplify Outlook’s natural abilities:

    1.  Sanebox.com is a Web-based service (works with any email program) and it filters your email before it arrives in your inbox. It uses artificial intelligence to move your receipts and newsletters into a separate folder called “SaneLater” which gathers all your unimportant emails so you can focus on the most important emails. Once a week, you can open up your SaneLater folder and review the emails, which almost never need follow-up. Sanebox prevents me from being pinged constantly by unimportant emails and thusly returns sanity to my inbox. 

    2.  ClearContext.com is a great email plug-in because with one click in Outlook, I can defer an email until a later date. ClearContext removes deferred email from my inbox and then returns them on the chosen date.  There are several reasons this is helpful:

    • Remembering important stuff. If I need to remember to get something done this weekend, I defer the email to Saturday. I know I could use reminders and to do’s but nothing gets my attention more than a fresh email at the top of my inbox.
    • Holding people accountable. If you email me and promise you’ll get something done by Aug. 22, I simply take your email and defer it until Aug. 22 and it automatically reminds me to check in on the project.  People I work with always wonder how I seem to remember everything. Hopefully none of those people ever read this article and learn my secret!

    3.  MailMyself is an app that I keep on the home screen of my phone. When I touch it, it opens up a blank text field, and whatever I type becomes the subject line of an email to me. Whenever I have a thought or an item to get done that I don’t want to forget, it makes it very easy for me to quickly create a “to-do.”

    4.  YouMail is another app that I love because it listens to all of my voicemails, transcribes the audio (humans do the transcribing, which is why I prefer YouMail to using the iPhone’s built in voicemail transcriber; it’s more accurate), and the text is emailed to me. I no longer have to waste time listening to voicemails and I never forget to call people back because there is an email reminder in my inbox.     

    As long as I run through my inbox at the beginning and end of each day, I know all of the really important to-do’s in my life will get done. I have one place that I store all of my tasks, calls, and notes, which means nothing falls thru the cracks.

    Play hide and seek with time and win

    Now, let’s discuss practical tips I’ve implemented to simplify my life and find more time every day. These ideas might not work for you, but I am hoping you can try to adapt some of them to your own life.

    1.  Create routines. When I get home each day, I have a routine. There is a specific place for my keys and wallet (hook and bowl by the door). Then, I always open up the mail and packages, take the papers out of my bag (notes I’ve reviewed, bills I’ve paid) and I file them away. 

    2.  Go Paperless. I mercilessly throw away any paper I don’t need.  The goal is to keep as little paper as possible. Often, I will scan it (buy a Fujitsu Scansnap and it will change your scanning life. I know it’s $400 for something that your multifunction printer probably does, but it does it so much better it’s worth the investment). 

    3.  Get Organized at Night. Each evening, I spend a few minutes making sure my bag has everything in it I need for the next day so I can “shut it down” for the night, enjoy my family, and wake up the next morning ready to work without spending time in the morning getting organized. For more on creating your own routine and getting organized, I highly recommend reading: “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. 

    4.  Get up an Hour Earlier. I wake up at 5 a.m. as often as I can during the week and get my day started early. I use that precious extra hour in the morning for thinking work because research shows the peak time for our brains is shortly after we wake up.

    5.  Shopping Ninjas. The only stores my wife and I enjoy going to in person are home improvement stores (Home Depot just smells so good), clothing stores (it’s too hard to buy clothes that fit well online), and toy stores (it’s worth it to see the looks on our kid’s faces when they get a new toy in person).  For everything else, we use Amazon to automate our purchasing. Amazon makes it possible to set up all the recurring items we need (i.e., paper towels and coffee) for automatic monthly delivery.

    6.  Grocery Shopping. Growing up, we went to the grocery store once (sometimes twice) a day. I’ve now gotten it down to once every two weeks! I know this shopping behavior is unusual because we always get comments at the register about the large size of our orders.  (Note: I tried stretching it to one grocery visit a month, but we ran out of fresh fruits, vegetables and milk by mid-month and got tired of eating dry cereal and frozen vegetables!)

    7.  Simplify Your Wardrobe. In the mornings, I used to spend a lot of time picking out my clothes for the day. Then I discovered pants by Bonobos called “Weekday Warriors.” With the days of the week stitched into the waistband, I no longer have to spend time deciding which pants to put on in the mornings! 

    Plan Your Life or Life Will Be Planned For You

    My wife and I decided a long time ago it’s important to enjoy our downtime, so we’ve worked hard to craft our lives accordingly. The decisions we’ve made in planning our life together are really enough to fill another entire article (foreshadowing?), but I want to share one of the most impactful ideas in our life plan with you while we’re on the subject of creating more hours every day. 

    Live Smaller. We’re not sold on the tiny house movement, but my wife and I have chosen to live in a moderately sized house (2,500 square feet) so we can afford luxuries such as a housekeeper and a lawn service once a week. We used to spend at least two to four hours a week cutting the grass and cleaning the house (neither are favorite chores of ours) and now we spend those hours exercising (can’t hire somebody to do workout for you), getting to know our kids better, and drinking good wine.

    Hopefully, you’ve picked up an idea that will allow you to enjoy more time with your family or to spend more time perfecting your preferred hobby. Send me an email with your best life hacks and maybe I can share them in a future article or speaking engagement. I’m always looking for ways to improve my skills and find more time in my days. After all, the more efficient that I can be with work by leveraging technology and better organizational habits, the more time I can spend enjoying the fruits of my labor and isn’t that what this article is really all about!

    Jonathan Slain works with business owners and their executive teams to get control of their lives. For a FREE meeting to discuss your business, he can be reached at jpslain@gmail.com or 216-870-4219.

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    NEOSA Sales and Marketing Seminar - Selling to the CFO

    NEOSA hosted executives from Cisco, Stratavant and Shark Finesse who shared their expertise in how to best position a technology company and its solutions to CFOs.

    NEOSA hosted executives from Cisco, Stratavant and Shark Finesse who shared their expertise in how to best position a technology company and its solutions to CFOs.

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    Next up: NEOSA Seminar Selling to the CIO without being DOA Part 1

    NEOSA Seminar Selling to the CIO without being DOA Part 1

    Selling to the CIO level in an organization can be agreat tactic, but how do you ensure you're approaching them the best way? Our panel of CIO's share their insight...

    Selling to the CIO level in an organization can be agreat tactic, but how do you ensure you're approaching them the best way? Our panel of CIO's share their insight...

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    Next up: NEOSA Seminar Selling to the CIO without being DOA Part 2

    NEOSA Seminar Selling to the CIO without being DOA Part 2

    Selling to the CIO level in an organization can be agreat tactic, but how do you ensure you're approaching them the best way? Our panel of CIO's share their insight...

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    Next up: NEOSA Seminar Selling to the CIO without being DOA Part 3

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    Listen here.

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