It costs 10 times more to gain a new customer than it does to keep an existing customer.
Women Entrepreneur - Time to Fire Your Client
Time to Fire Your Client
When the relationship's not working, it's time to cut the ties.
By: Nina Kaufman | 10/29/2010
It's 11 o'clock on a Friday night, and you're furious. Once again, a major client has called at the last minute and needs you to finesse a campaign. A campaign that absolutely, positively has to launch on Monday.
Come Monday, the campaign is done and the client is pleased. But you're not. You muse over strong coffee, "Is it time to fire this client?"
When to Fire
Deciding to fire a client is never easy, but the reason is simple: You're deeply unhappy. Dissatisfaction can stem from several factors:
No. 1: The client owes you money or repeatedly pays v-e-r-y late. 'Nuff said.
No. 2: The client drives you crazy. Like always calling at the last minute. Or mismanaging his business. Shilonda Downing, who runs Virtual Work Team in
Micromanagement is another sanity challenge. Angil Tarach-Ritchey, RN, deals with both clients and their families in her private-duty home-care agency, Visiting Angels. "One adult son demanded our experienced caregivers follow his minute-by-minute instructions for his elderly mother's care -- regardless of her needs." Crazy-making can include dilly-dallying or shifting priorities.
Data-Scribe's Leila Johnson tells of a client that changed its focus eight months into a project and couldn't deliver the 20 percent of content needed to complete it. "This project should have been completed in four months; one year later, we still couldn't finish."
No. 3 is abuse. When Sara Shake of Exposed PR and Events received an errant text message, all bets were off. "The client sent a message -- intended for another --bashing me and my company with explicit language and name-calling." She got even (and out of the relationship) by forwarding it to his business partner ... who just happened to be his wife.
Delivering Bad News
Although business owners differ on the medium (in person, by telephone, in writing), they agree on the message: Your business and the client's are no longer a "fit."
Misfits may be financial: You're raising your fees and are no longer in the client's budget, a tactic that Laura Posey, CEO of Dancing Elephants, has used. "It lets clients feel that I'm the one changing, not that they're at fault. In truth, my business is changing. I no longer work with people like them without a steep fee increase to make it worthwhile," she adds.
Jan Zobel, tax preparer and author of Minding Her Own Business: the Self-Employed Woman's Guide to Taxes and Recordkeeping, fires clients when a new edition of her book is published. "I know the publicity I'll need to do during tax season makes it harder for me to prepare as many returns."
When you do break the news, keep it brief. "Be careful not to be apologetic or long-winded," says Angelique Rewers, who coaches women entrepreneurs to be "Richer. Smarter. Happier." "Says Rewers, "This isn't a negotiation. I made a decision and need to communicate it in a kind, clear and professional manner." She recommends practicing what you will say before delivering the news. "Show appreciation for the work they've entrusted to you, but let them know you are no longer available going forward," she notes.
Both Posey and Rewers offer to introduce clients to competitors. Rewers adds, "Clients appreciate the recommendation to other resources." Zobel, who uses "firing letters" to break the news, provides contact information for two to three other tax preparers. She also carefully times her news. "I give them plenty of notice, so they're not left in the lurch," Zobel says.
Written Agreements Make It Easier
While some business owners don't have written contracts, those who do say it makes the firing process much smoother. Jimme' Peters, head of 24-7 Consulting, was grateful for the "out" in her agreement. "When we chose not to renew, we could gracefully finish the term of the contract. The fired client is one of our references for new business, as he still wants us back."
The prospect of firing a client can be daunting in a tight economy. However, for home-care provider Tarach-Ritchey, keeping great staff far outweighs the monetary benefit of any one client. Posey notes that "in the long run, a poor-fit client will only be unhappy and tell lots of people about it. I'd rather free up time to work with someone I like." Dianne Durkin of corporate training company Loyalty Factor agrees: "It's much better having happy clients who will speak highly of you with honesty and integrity than clients who are upset, bitter or angry."
Whatever the reason you need to fire a client, have courage and do it. When asked how they'd handle the situation differently in the future, Rewers, Johnson and Durkin all responded, "I'd fire them a lot sooner."
INC - 10 Things You Should Never Micromanage
10 Things You Should Never Micromanage
Hey, go-getter. Yes, you could do it all,
but there are times it's best to step back and stop stifling
your team's productivity and creativity.
By Darren Dahl | Aug 13, 2010
By their very nature, entrepreneurs are doers. While other people may scheme or dream up ideas, entrepreneurs prefer to take action. That’s how companies are born. The rub, however, is that the drive to do things can often become a hindrance for an entrepreneur over time.
"As companies grow, many entrepreneurs have trouble moving from the doing phase to the leading phase," says Stephen Harvill, founder of Creative Ventures, a consulting company in Dallas, Texas. "It's understandable since many times the small business person did just about everything to get the business started. But, as the business grows, they don’t shift their mindset from doing to leading." In other words, many entrepreneurs get stuck micromanaging tasks that should be delegated to others inside or even outside the company.
A case in point is Mike Faith, CEO of Headsets.com, an online retailer based in San Francisco, who says that giving up doing things can be like breaking a bad habit. "Many entrepreneurs have an addiction to making sure things get done 'just right'" and there's no reason to give that up, says Faith. "That's often how they became successful, by having higher standards to get things right than others around them, sometimes even obsessive standards. I'm one of those people."
The truth is, however, the more a CEO micromanages his staff and subordinates, the less productive everyone becomes – which can lead to a death spiral for a nascent enterprise. The answer, then, is to hire the kinds of people you can trust to get the job done all on their own. "Employees need to be given responsibility and continually challenged to grow so that their jobs do not become routine and so that they personally feel invested in their role and the organization as a whole," says Ryan Peterson, founder and CEO of OCZ Technology in San Jose, California. "It is important to start delegating tasks immediately and just as critical to make sure that the right tasks are begin delegated."
In that spirit, Inc. asked dozens of entrepreneurs and small business experts to list what they thought were the top 10 items that, despite every temptation to do so, they should not micromanage. Here’s how they responded, in no particular order:
There's no doubt that understanding the numbers behind your business is critical to the success of your business. But you should still steer clear of tackling the day-to-day tasks in assembling them. "Outsourcing payroll is cheap and easy, even large corporations do it," says Cliff Holekamp, a professor at Washington University’s Olin School of Business in St. Louis. "Don’t bother with this time consuming task." A lot of entrepreneurs also spend time handling their own bookkeeping and paying bills when they should be hiring a bookkeeper, activating online bill pay options, or trusting an internal resource to handle it for them, says Scott Gerber, managing partner of Gerber Enterprises, a brand development company in New York City. "This is a time-sucking activity, and while it’s important for the IRS to get the right information come tax time, there are more than enough resources, either internal or external, that can be trained or hired to handle such an activity," he says.
2. Human Resources
Every CEO owes the success of the business to their people. But, digging into the details of the health care package or employment law is better left to a specialist. Just as importantly, CEOs should stay out of the hiring process until they are truly needed. "Many times business owners want to focus on building a team of people they feel they can trust and depend on," says Adrienne Graham, who heads up two companies in Atlanta, Empower Me! Corporation and Hues Consulting & Management. "But they often let their own personalities, preferences and idiosyncrasies get in the way of making sound hiring decisions." Similarly, CEOs should delegate tasks associated with on-boarding and training new employees, says Joe Crisara, founder of Contractorselling.com. "Assigning a mentor to a new employee is a double win” he says. First it increases the esteem and value of the employee mentor. Also, it allows the new employee to see how things are really done instead of they way the boss thinks it is being done."
3. Social Media
There is a temptation among many entrepreneurs like Samantha Salven-Bick, the founder of Los Angeles-based Samantha Slaven Publicity, to micromanage every outward bound email or piece of correspondence – including Facebook updates. "Trying to oversee every word that leaves the office is time consuming, frustrating and perhaps a bit control-freaky," she says, adding that she edits all email sent by her junior staffers. That’s a mistake, says Ellen Thompson, CEO of 4 Walls, which manages several online property websites out of Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, especially when it comes to social media applications. "Most entrepreneurs would be better off leaving social media management to younger employees that 'get it,'" says Thompson. "Social media is by its very nature very informal and it requires a large volume of ongoing work. Micromanaging the messages will make social media campaigns sound inauthentic. In our experience, you can’t censure every post without seeing your social media campaign ground to a halt."
4. Busy Work
When they start out, most entrepreneurs pride themselves on their ability to do anything to save money – including sweeping the floors and cleaning the bathroom when needed. But, as the company grows, they need to hire an operations staff or office manager capable of staying on top everything from ordering office supplies to answering the phone and filing expense reports, says Dianne Durkin, an entrepreneur and author of The Loyalty Advantage. Orit Pennington, CEO of TPGTEX Label Solutions in Houston, says she not only delegates the answering of her cell phone, she also asks a staff member to read and sort the company’s mail, bringing her only the most critical pieces with the relevant information already highlighted.
5. IT Issues
Knowing everything about your business may be a source of pride for entrepreneurs, but when it comes to fixing a bug or downloading a virus patch, call for help. "When there's a computer issue, I don't hesitate to pick up the phone and call my IT guru, who has been working with computers for most of his adult life," says says Laura Stack, a productivity consultant and author of SuperCompetent: The Six Keys to Perform at Your Productive Best. "I’m sure you could probably learn to troubleshoot errors, write HTML, create WordPress sites, and more, but it's not worth your time and frustration to figure it out."
6. Customer Concerns
There’s no doubt that any business owner needs to spend time doting on their key customers – to a point. But the more a CEO steps in to handle a complaint from a dissatisfied customer, the more they can disenfranchise their employees. "You cannot look over the shoulder of your client relationship managers," says Gary Bahadur, CEO of KRAA Security, which is based in Miami. "This assumes you have hired someone who knows what they are doing. If so, then you cannot confuse the client or the manager in how to deal with the client. This does lead to having to put out an occasional fire. But the benefits of letting that manager really get to know the client and build trust with them outweighs the risks."
Meetings are another area where entrepreneurs tend to get stuck looking at the trees instead of the forest. Rather than attending strategic meetings, they are too often tempted to attend tactical ones as well, says Steve Schmieder, CEO of s2, a marketing and communications firm in Chicago. For instance, Barbara Roch who is an executive coach and lecturer at Wharton, refers to an entrepreneur client of hers who will not let his team hold a project meeting without him. Yet, he comes late, wants to be caught up, and then dominates each agenda item. "The progress on the project is slow at best and he can't see that his involvement is to blame," she says. "When I bring it up he says that the team doesn't fully understand what he wants, how he wants them to go about it and that if he is not there then they will get stuck." As a solution, she is trying to get him to agree to receive a briefing by the project leader every week and only to sit in on meetings once a month.
Many entrepreneurs like to express their creativity by participating in things like brainstorming sessions or dabbling in graphic design. But by doing so, they may in fact be stifling the creative output of their employees if they get too involved. "Once you shoot for more creativity in your business, you must allow your team to deliver this creative juice, their own ways, untouched, unpolished at first," says Armelle Cloche, founder and CEO of iStayYoung.net in
9. Purchase Decisions
Keeping tight controls on costs is essential to the success of any business, especially these days. But micromanaging every purchase decision can easily alienate your employees. The alternative, then, is to figure out what dollar amount you’re comfortable with and allow team members to make financial decisions on their own as long as they stay within that bracket, says Tania Luna, co-founder of SurpriseIndustries.com in New York City. "This means you don’t have to be involved in selecting things like toilet paper, and your team members will feel good about their independence and your trust in them."
10. Tracking Time
Entrepreneurs tend to be hard workers, of course, which means they are often the first to arrive and the last to leave the office. But, making it your priority to check in on each of your employee's schedules is a mistake, says Steve Harper, a consultant based in Austin who's the author of The Ripple Effect. "One of the easy traps a business owner can get caught up in is tracking people's time – making sure they are showing up on time, doing what they are supposed to, not taking extra-long lunches, not leaving early etc.," says Harper. "There is no need to install temperature gauges in the chairs to make sure the live bodies are putting in their full eight hours. In fact, not micromanaging an employee’s time and placing the trust in them to appropriately manage their own time, workload and priorities often encourages the employee to have even more ownership in their work life. My experience has shown me when you give people the trust and the flexibility to get the job done they will usually end up putting even more hours in than they ever would have thought to do if you were micromanaging them."
IdeaMensch - Dianne Durkin President and Founder of Loyalty Factor
Passionate People Bringing Ideas To Life
Dianne Durkin – President and Founder of Loyalty Factor
Dianne Durkin is the president and founder of Loyalty Factor, a consulting and training firm focused on increasing corporate profitability by providing individually tailored consulting and training services that enhance employee, customer and brand loyalty. The firm has helped small and large organizations like IBM, Fidelity Investment and IKEA, by engaging all constituencies to drive improved customer relationship and management skills.
Dianne Durkin is a visionary entrepreneur and is author of “The Loyalty Advantage,” and the upcoming book, “Magnetic Leadership.” She is a thought leader with more than 25 years of experience in the field, having held top executive positions at Gulf Oil, Digital Equipment Corp. and Corporate Branding Partnership.
What are you working on right now?
Well, in addition to providing consulting services to many of my clients, I’m also working on “Magnetic Leadership,” my next book, which focuses on leadership styles, and specifically on leaders who have an irresistible force of good leadership and are differentiated from charismatic leaders. I’m defining magnetic characteristics as one which creates results of increased productivity and profitability. The book is based on my extensive research and firsthand experiences with leaders who have made a difference in their style of leading organization, and who have attracted, retained and transformed employees into engaged and loyal team members committed to the success of their organization. The book also provides assessments that help anyone determine their “Level of Magnetic Leadership,” as well as strategies and techniques on how to increase one’s magnetism.
3 Trends that excite you?
The new focus on leadership development.
These trends are changing the business world and the way businesses are managed and led.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I bring ideas to life by living and practicing them myself. I then take it to the next level and educate and coach people in the workplace — employees, managers, leaders, CEOs and everyone in between. This helps spread my ideas and the practice all around the world. It is amazing how infectious passion and belief can be.
What is one mistake you’ve made that our readers can learn from?
The biggest mistake I made was not releasing contract firms soon enough when they were not performing. I tend to become very loyal to the firms I contract with and view them as employees, and I always think that they will improve.
This happened with both a telemarketing firm and a public relations firm I had. In each case I should have stopped the contract at least six months before we did. Also, it’s important to note that in both cases this was not a contractual issue since the telemarketing firm had been with me for four years and the public relations firm for nine years.
In both cases the firms grew and expanded, and because of this, we were assigned more junior people with less experience. The result was that expectations were not being met. We discussed it numerous times and simply should have realized what was happening earlier and parted earlier.
When we eventually did part it was on very good terms.
What is one book and one tool that helps you bring ideas to life?
The Passion Test — Everyone needs to read and review this every six months.
What is one idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Never get comfortable in the business you’re in. Always look for new, innovative ways to grow and expand your business and redefine yourself.
If you are not continually growing personally, and in your business, you will most definitely lose ground.
What are your top three strengths, and what are you top three areas for development?
These need to be at the forefront of a person’s mind to continually learn and grow organizations. Clearly recognizing the engagement and empowerment of employees is key, and excellent leadership practice is the answer.
The global and creative thinking of organizations happens when those at the company are able to look beyond what they’ve always done to accomplish more and make a real difference in the world.
Have you taken any time for yourself?
As an entrepreneur and business owner who has passion for what I do — and really wants to make a difference in this world – I can easily work 12-hour days and burn out. It’s important to learn your point of rest and relaxation and what you need to do to recharge, and then to do it!
CBS Moneywatch - When a College Degree Will Make or Break Your Job Search
When a College Degree Will Make or Break Your Job Search
By Matthew Rothenberg, TheLadders | Aug 12, 2010
The Government Accounting Office is getting tough with for-profit colleges, institutions the government claims have made a killing off of mid-career people going back to school. The GAO report found evidence of deceptive or aggressive marketing techniques at every one of 15 for-profit schools it surveyed, including
The Washington Post reports that Westwood, a career college company based in Denver with 17 campuses, has announced it will “implement a compensation policy more restrictive than the current regulations permit by converting its admissions representatives’ compensation to fixed salary effective August 21, 2010, thereby eliminating enrollment targets as a component of compensation.” The move is intended to assuage the accusations that the school is trolling the unemployed.
What will that college degree do for you on the job hunt? In a story titled “Finding a Job Without a College Degree,” Debra Donston-Miller talked to job seekers and career pros about the obstacles you may face without those letters on your resume.
Bruce Hurwitz, president and CEO of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, said he sees this issue come up regularly. “Every time I have tried to get a client to waive the college-degree requirement in light of the candidate’s exemplary work experience, I have been refused,” he said. “They almost always say that it is their policy that all employees have at least a college degree.”
Such jobs now account for most of the economy. Nearly 60 percent of American jobs now require at least a bachelor’s degree, according to “Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018,” a June 2010 report released by the Center on Education and the Workforce at
“I believe that employers want the right person for the job,” consultant Karla Porter, director of workforce development and HR for the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry, told Donston-Miller. “They’re not looking for a certificate, a degree, a piece of paper; they are looking for a solution provider. If there is a person who can do that for them and has a proven track record and can show what they’ve accomplished for other companies, I believe they will be considered.”
The key is structuring your resume to highlight your real-world accomplishments. “To replace the college-degree situation on a resume, the person needs to stress the results they have been able to achieve due to their extensive experience,” according to Dianne Durkin, president and founder of Loyalty Factor, a consulting and training firm.
Porter agreed: “Make sure the resume is very, very well done. “If it’s not, it will go to the ‘C’ pile.”
The Ladders -Finding a Job Without a College Degree
Finding Job Without College Degree
For many people who worked their way up, the lack of degree was never an impediment — until they lost their jobs.
August 9, 2010
By Debra Donston-Miller
But Sharon Willis is a more common example of the challenges to American workers who never graduated from college.
Since February, Willis has been the acting vice president for external affairs at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, a medical and health-sciences graduate school of 850 students. She will continue in that role until some time in the fall, when she will resume her position as deputy vice president. The VP role is one she wanted to apply for when it became vacant but couldn't, even though she had the experience and knowledge. Why? She doesn't have a bachelor’s degree.
Willis started at the university 28 years ago as a clerk typist and worked her way up through the ranks. She describes herself as the "go-to" person for just about everybody with whom she works. Willis has done the job of vice president, and the college president knows she is up to the task on a permanent basis, yet her lack of a college diploma — a job requirement – means she does not qualify for the position.
Willis has hit a professional wall at the university, and she realizes that things would likely not be different elsewhere.
"When we have vacancies here, I see the qualifications of the applicants, many of whom have master's degrees," said Willis. "I realize that if I were to leave here, I would probably rank at the bottom of the applicant pool because of my lack of a degree, despite excellent experience, job stability, a very strong work ethic and great references. It's disheartening."
What Willis suspects to be true about the world outside the university is only too real for many of the millions of people the recession unleashed into the job market. Many of these people started at a company in an entry-level position and worked their way up the ladder. Not having a college degree may not have mattered – until the time came to apply for a new position.
Bruce Hurwitz, president and CEO of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, said he sees this issue come up regularly. "Every time I have tried to get a client to waive the college-degree requirement in light of the candidate’s exemplary work experience, I have been refused," he said. "They almost always say that it is their policy that all employees have at least a college degree."
Such jobs now account for most of the economy. Nearly 60 percent of American jobs now require at least a bachelor’s degree, according to "Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018," a June 2010 report released by the Center on Education and the Workforce at
Resume and networking solutions
So is your dream job, even most jobs, out of reach if you don't have a college degree?
Not necessarily. Experts who spoke with TheLadders said solid, long-term professional experience and proven results can often supersede the need for a college diploma.
"I believe that employers want the right person for the job," said Karla Porter, director of workforce development and HR for the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry and a private consultant on human capital and new media. "They're not looking for a certificate, a degree, a piece of paper; they are looking for a solution provider. If there is a person who can do that for them and has a proven track record and can show what they've accomplished for other companies, I believe they will be considered."
All of this must be conveyed in a carefully constructed resume. "To replace the college-degree situation on a resume, the person needs to stress the results they have been able to achieve due to their extensive experience," said Dianne Durkin, president and founder of Loyalty Factor, a consulting and training firm.
"Make sure the resume is very, very well done," Porter said. "If it's not, it will go to the 'C' pile."
Tony Deblauwe, senior HR partner at Citrix Systems and founder of HR4Change, agreed: "Your resume has to be rock-solid. It has to demonstrate your experience, your skills, your accomplishments. You're promoting your best skills so that people focus on that and not get to the end and say, 'Well, where's your degree?' "
Cheryl Palmer, president of Call to Career, said she has worked with many people who have been to college but never got the degree. When writing a resume for a person in this situation, she mentions the college major and degree program but does not state that that he has a degree. "I'm being truthful, but not drawing undue attention to the fact that they don't have a degree."
This strategy will also help you get your resume past the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software that most companies use to screen resumes.
"If [a job description] says 'bachelor's degree required' and you don't have a bachelor's degree, your resume can say 'bachelor's degree not completed or not attained' so the system will pick up the keywords 'bachelor's degree,'" Porter said. "You don't want to say anything that is not true, but you want your resume to get in front of people. Make sure your resume contains the same keywords that the job description contains, and then rearrange them to how they fit for you."
All the experts who spoke with TheLadders emphasized the importance of describing any training, certifications or licenses you have to show that you have invested in some training for yourself. "I haven't found too many scenarios where people have done nothing," Deblauwe said. "They've at least taken some college classes or gotten some certifications or something to talk to. Or something internal from a previous company."
It's commonly understood that networking is one of the most important things you can do when pursuing a new job, but it's even more critical if you don't have a degree, said Palmer. "If you don't have a degree, the whole idea of networking is much, much more critical," she said.
"Employers prefer to hire someone that they know something about. They prefer people who have come referred. If you are trying to land a job in this very competitive job market and you don't have a degree, you really have to take that networking to another level, to get around the fact that most employers are looking for a bachelor's degree at an absolute minimum."
Along those same lines, strong recommendations from clients, former employers, co-workers and associations can go a long way toward making up for the lack of a college degree.
It's never too late
So, what else can you do if you don't have a college degree? Well, you can get one – or at least begin working toward one, no matter what your age.
Once enrolled in a program, you can write on a resume that a degree is "in progress," experts suggested.
That's just what the
A busy single mother of three, Willis is taking classes in business management in the hopes that she can break through the barriers put up by the lack of a degree. Willis said her boss is very supportive and is giving her whatever time she needs. In addition, because she works for a federal institution, she gets tuition reimbursement. All of this, along with flexible options such as online classes, has allowed Willis to start on a path she hopes will lead to a higher-level position.
"I think in the long run, people are much better off just going ahead and pursuing the degree, no matter how hard it may be," she said. "That's what everyone will be looking for. You do get to a certain point where you just can't go any further, and that's where I am right now."
Debra Donston-Miller covers work-life issues and difficult job-search situations for TheLadders.