2010 March (2)

Browse Month: March 2010

Inhuman Resources At Small Businesses

If you are a small business owner and you are not watching “Kell On Earth” on Bravo TV – you definitely should. It’s a show about one of the well known PR people in fashion industry – Kelly Cutrone and her PR company, People’s Revolution. Of course, it’s just a show, done for and by one of the toughest PR people in the industry, so don’t believe everything you see there. But last few episodes are quite a good example of what NOT to do if you have any plans on keeping people who work with you today around longer than until tomorrow. Or if you have any kind of long term strategy at all.

One of the highlights of last three episodes are that assistants to Kelly, Robyn and Emily (business partners at People’s Revolution) burning out and quitting or being on the verge of it.  The quitting intrigue has made well over 70% of each episode’s trailer. Point is – all three partners (at least on the show) are overloading people with responsibilities and attitude. They just burn through assistants. Now, “Kell on Earth” is, effectively, a show, so they can show whatever they want to show there. However, being a small business owner and having at least a couple of company development ahead of you – you should probably act different.

First of all – people do burn out. Once they did and you throw them out for being useless – you need to hire new people and train them. That takes away from your time when you could be making money. Don’t train newcomers and they will have a higher chance to mess up stuff. It’s a vicious circle.

Second – unless all your clients are your personal connections the word will get out and people will be concerned of doing business with you. Meaning – how can I trust you with my business if you don’t value your own people. Besides, there’s a chance that my order (or whatever I want from you) will land on that time when you got rid of old people but haven’t got any new ones yet. Which means now I, as your client, will have a higher chance to get my stuff messed up by you.

Third – unless you can hire people a dime a dozen, people are your greatest asset. They make things happen, they spin the wheels, they push the buttons, they man the phones. One person can do more damage to the company than an exploded bomb ever can. Likewise, one properly answered phone call just may elevate your company to a totally new level.

The show is just a show – nothing more, nothing less. Your company is, on the other hand, something that feeds you, your family and, most likely, a bunch of other people. As I have said before – the people are the ones who make things happen at your company. Or, in other words, people are the ones who make your company happen. Keep that in mind.

Small Business Problems – Part II

This is a second part in series. First part can be found here: Small Business Problems – Part I

Issue 2: Sales and Marketing
The partner who runs the business believes he knows the market. Not only he is further from the truth as he is from making his first million off this business, he also misses any feedback his own employees providing from their workings with clients. Which, to recall his trust issues, isn’t really surprising. Business’s web site is a single image with outdated address (he moved two times already after that), obsolete prices and graphics circa year 1999. However, this doesn’t prevent him from spending some significant amount on pay-per-click advertising to lead prospective customers to that awful site. Additionally he runs some commercials on TV and Citysearch. Obviously, he has no idea which channel brings him people who call company’s number, so he’s throwing all he can to everything he can cover.

Once the call is through to the cell phone and given it won’t drop, the employee who handles the phone this week is scheduling a free consultation. This is essentially is a sales session, but since the procedure concerns various places of (mostly) women body it has to be done in private. However, the managing owner had entered the room on numerous occasions when consultation was in progress under various false pretenses. One of the examples – he wanted to post his employees’ certificates on the wall, so he came in with hammer and nails and started hammering away while sale was in progress.

Seeing low prices as his only competitive advantage, he sets them extremely low. The way the commissions are distributed leaves his employees with pay rate per hour only slightly better than minimum wage. Given that average hourly rate for these procedures is somewhere in the vicinity of $25/hour or more, it’s not hard to imagine how happy his employees are to sell their services at those prices. It’s not uncommon that they just cancel people’s appointments because it’s not worth for them to travel to place of work and waste a few hours of their time to earn $20 for the whole day.

Small Business Mistake Study – Part I

Recently I was introduced to yet another small business with whole bunch of small business issues and the owner team who just don’t know any better. They, however, don’t believe it, so before this business perishes into nothing, I have a chance to study all the mistakes that were made and are being made. Here’s your chance to learn, too.

The scoop is as follows. It’s a service oriented business – think very niche cosmetic service with extra expensive equipment. It’s a startup – business isn’t even year old yet. Two non-working partners, one provides the equipment, another one is actually trying to manage the business (he never worked in this business before). Two workers, both part-time, who are only paid commissions for cosmetic procedures they perform on clients. Cell phone to take client’s calls. Company is renting a room at another salon to perform procedures.

Issue 1: Human Resources
This one is first, because it’s the most major issue in the business. Since this is a startup, everything rests upon the shoulders of people who work for business. Now, the partner who runs the business spends enormous amounts of time to watch the two people who work for him. Being technologically challenged, he calls whoever has the company’s cell phone for 20 times a day to check how things are going and if there are any appointments made. He also made a deal with salon owner to check how many clients come in every day when one of his people is working. He clearly has an issue with trusting his own employees (those who work on commissions only because business hasn’t got up on its feet yet) and doesn’t bother to hide it. This, however, didn’t prevent him from demanding that they would take phone calls on their personal phones (they declined it), that they come up with better ways for him to track their performance (they ignored it) and that they take incoming calls throughout the whole week on their personal time outside of work (they agreed because that’s the only way they can book enough appointments to make it worth working in this business). All appointments are written into the journal, so every time the shift changes (each part time employee works a few days every other week) both workers have to find ways to transfer the journal and cell phone to each other.

Of course such treatment from the managing partner doesn’t win employees’ hearts. Aside from openly despising their manager, employees don’t particularly pay much attention neither to quality of the services performed nor to a higher level of customer service. In a market where customer services is by far the most significant competitive advantage, it’s completely lost on this company. Additionally, given that employees are only paid commissions for performed procedures, they have zero incentive to work an extra minute, so they always stuff as many appointments as possible into as little time frame as they possibly can. Given that clients oftentimes don’t show up it proved to be a worthy tactics, but on the days when everyone shows up on time – it gets a bit messy.

(To be continued)