January 16th, 2015

Waiting is Not a Winning Strategy

Oliver Wendel Holmes quote about time running outThere is an old saying that goes something like, “Good things come to those that wait”.

My experience, certainly in the business world, is that if you want something to happen then you had better drive that outcome!

“Don’t just stand there.  Make it happen.”  Lee Iacoca

Here are 5 reasons why waiting is a bad idea:

  1. Waiting is a passive state … it cannot affect the decision. Doing something is always a better alternative.
  2. If you are waiting for a client decision, then you can assume your competition are influencing that decision … that is what I would do!
  3. If you wait, then get the wrong decision you will never know if you could have influenced it. If you act then at least you know you did everything you could.
  4. If you are waiting, hoping that time will provide you with something of value then likely you will be disappointed. If you want something of value, develop a plan to get it … and execute on that plan.  Fate might be kind to you, but giving fate a push improves your odds.
  5. If there truly is nothing else you can be doing to affect that outcome then use the time to influence some other outcome … don’t JUST wait. If you are in sales you should be working your next deal (and the one after that).

Waiting is not just a  bad idea in business, the same applies in all aspects of our lives.

“We are always getting ready to live but never living.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Here are a few thoughts about waiting …

Don’t wait for someone to come along, get out there and meet people.

Don’t wait for the right opportunity, make your own opportunity.

Don’t wait until the timing is right, find a way to make it happen.

Don’t let life pass you by because you are waiting!

“You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make it.” Charles Buxton

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Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are?   Visit the Eagle Job Centre!
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December 15th, 2014

5 Reasons Salespeople Should Finish Strong!

Finish StrongWhen I was much younger I used to be a sprinter, and my distance was the 220 yard sprint, although I also ran the 100 yard race.  These days of course, those races would be 200 and 100 metre races.

One of my lasting memories of this sport was my coach shouting, “Finish strong”, whether it was during training or while competing.

I have also been a soccer player for most of my life and it seems to have always been a popular phrase during training sessions.

The driving force for this sentiment is that races, and soccer games, are not over until everyone is done or the referee has blown the whistle.  It is therefore critical that participants compete “through” the finish, and not “anticipate” the finish by easing up as the end approaches.  A large number of races and games are won and lost right at that time!  How many times have you seen a runner “pipped” at the post, or a game decided by a final play?

“Are you going to Finish Strong?”  Nick Vujicic (of “No arms, no Legs no Worries” fame)

In the business world this same mentality applies to the sales profession, most particularly at this time of year.  There is a strong motivation to ease up on the activity levels, to perhaps “cruise” through the final two weeks.  We will tell ourselves that the clients are easing up, that they are not going to make spending decisions during late December or that they are more focused on things other than work.

We make excuses to focus on “busy work” or perhaps some personal activities.

We might socialize a little more with our more popular clients, which is not a bad thing as long as nothing is slipping as a result!

Just like those races and soccer games, it is very easy to lose because others are working hard when you are easing up!

I would suggest that this time of year, more than most, is a time for salespeople to work harder than ever.   Here are five reasons why you need to Finish Strong!

  • SOME of your clients might slow down, but that means you have a better chance of getting their attention.
  • Some of your clients will have year end budget that they need to use.
  • Some of your clients will be planning for next year, and you can understand their needs early.
  • Some of your clients will have extra time, and this you can get face time easier than at other times.
  • For many of your clients it will be business as usual, so don’t miss your opportunities.

 “It’s supposed to be hard!  If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it.  It is the hard that makes it great.”  Jimmy Dugan

 Don’t get caught out, push through to the very end … and then enjoy a little time off!

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Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Gain a competitive edge!  Join Eagle’s Executive Consulting Network!
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December 11th, 2014

10 Tips To Get Employee Input

Vince Lombardi quote about team versus individualIf you are of the opinion that nobody knows the answer better than you, then you might disagree with the premise of this article.

There are certainly people who think they are smarter than everyone else, and they will discount all opinions beyond their own.

There are people who will only accept input, advice or opinion from a certain group of people that they trust.  While that is better than thinking they have all the answers themselves, it is still an artificial limit on potentially valuable input.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Helen Keller

I believe that there are always multiple views on any given situation, and if you only look at it one way then you are missing an opportunity.

You do not need to agree with everyone who provides input … but you really should give it serious consideration.  Even if one small aspect of their argument gives you pause, then you have received value.

“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” Ryunosuke Satoro

One of the fairly standard approaches of new leaders (or leaders new to their position) is to gather input from as many people as possible.  It might be part of a 90 or 100 day plan, or something less formal.  It might involve talking to fellow executives and managers, or more valuable is to include conversation with the people actually “doing the job”.

Leaders, by nature will have egos, but ego should never factor into doing the right thing.

If you are a leader (new or old) make sure that you take advantage of the collective brainpower in your organization.  The breadth of thinking, the differences in opinion and the multiple views will provide valuable information from which you can make informed decisions.

10 ideas to gather valuable information from your team:

  1. Create both formal and informal means of getting input.
  2. Act on the information … it does not mean you need to implement every idea, but people need to know you listened.
  3. Try “Ideas boxes” … they can be physical or electronic, just a means for anonymous feedback (sometimes needed).
  4. Build time into your schedule for staff meetings … group lunches, individual chats, coffee with the boss.
  5. Ask good questions.
  6. Listen … and be seen to be listening!
  7. Give information back … people want to know what you are thinking, where the company (division) is going, what management thinks.
  8. Involve your fellow executive/managers … from all areas of the business.
  9. Give credit to people who have good ideas … never take credit yourself!
  10. Encourage people to talk to you … open door management.

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” Henry Ford

If you think you have all the answers you will quickly find yourself alone … and that is not a good place to be!

________________________________________________________________
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Gain a competitive edge!  Join Eagle’s Executive Consulting Network!
Find Canada’s top hot jobs, updated in real-time!  Visit Eagle’s Job Centre!
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December 9th, 2014

Making The Most of Your Sales Meeting Time

Zig Ziglar quote about using time effectivelyIf you work in any large city, or your sales territory is large, then you can find yourself spending a lot of time travelling to and from meetings. Obviously face to face time with clients is critically important but you also don’t want to kill your productivity for a day, or half a day because of that meeting.

What can you do to be productive when you have to accommodate a fair bit of travel into your schedule? Here are some tips:

“You win not by chance, but by preparation”. Roger Maris

  1. This may seem obvious but plan your schedule as effectively as possible… you don’t have to accept the first time that your client suggests.
  2. Think through what times work best for you… for example, on your way into work, or on your way home might be most effective.
  3. Try to avoid prime “calling time” when you can be on the phone with other clients and prospects.
  4. Can you use the travel time? I would not advocate tough business calls while driving, but with hands free technology and a little preplanning you could make some of your “catch up” calls while on the road.
  5. If you can use other transport, like public transport, then you can work on other things while you travel.
  6. Plan your time so that the activities you can do while out of the office, are saved for those occasions… catch up reading, short emails, writing cards etc.
  7. Schedule other client meetings in the area that you are visiting, maximizing the “travel time per meeting”. If you travel for 60 minutes to have one 60 minute meeting, it is not very efficient.
  8. Try to meet multiple people at the site you are visiting, there are typically multiple people who would be worth meeting. The accounting people who pay your bills, the EA who helps set up meetings, the purchasing person who handles contracts etc.
  9. Make the most of your meeting time! Have a clear agenda, so you get all of the information you need in one go! Take good notes so you don’t miss anything!
  10. Make sure that you use your calendar and everyone who needs to know your schedule does know it. That way they can slot in other meetings for you, even if you are out at meetings.

“Day by day, what you do is who you become.” Heraclitus

Some salespeople are lucky, and their clients are all close by, but even then there are many things we as salespeople can do to maximize our time. A little planning, some forethought and a focus on the fact that time is a precious resource will go a long way to increasing our productivity and success!

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Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Gain a competitive edge!  Join Eagle’s Executive Consulting Network!
Find Canada’s top hot jobs, updated in real-time!  Visit Eagle’s Job Centre!
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December 1st, 2014

Thinking Ahead

Preparation quote from Ben FrankllinFor a short period of time, during my school years, I took chess lessons. While I enjoyed the game I did not keep it up, probably because I was more inclined to less cerebral activities like football (soccer). The aspect of chess that I found most interesting is the need to think multiple steps ahead, to think through the implications of your next move and your opponent’s likely response… and beyond!

I try to apply the same thinking in my professional life. If I can think ahead a few moves then it means I can be better prepared for whatever might come my way. Obviously there are no crystal balls, but too often the future is very obvious and yet there are people who somehow always seem surprised!

“A first-rate Organizer is never in a hurry. He is never late. He always keeps up his sleeve a margin for the unexpected.” Arnold Bennett

Can you see yourself in any of these situations:

  1. The salesperson has one key contact in a client who gives them a significant amount of business. That person leaves, or retires, or gets promoted, or moves role… and “Surprise” the business dries up!
  2. The company relies on its technology to be its differentiator… but at some point someone else innovates faster. Surprise! The market for their solution is no longer popular.
  3. You have monthly work commitments and you have an upcoming vacation that will impact your ability to deliver. Surprise… you suddenly have to get the work done, at the last minute, before going on vacation!
  4. I make a commitment to deliver a speech at an upcoming conference, but procrastinate in writing it until “Surprise” the conference is in two days!
  5. You want to lose some weight and get fitter before the warm weather arrives. You lay out a plan but there are so many “exception occasions” that “Surprise” your weight is not going down and your fitness not improving!

If you take time out to plan then you are far less likely to get surprised. Thinking ahead, or “planning” is critical for individuals and companies.

“A man who does not think and plan long ahead will find trouble right at his door.” Confucius

In sales you need “account plans” that will meet and exceed your quota targets with built-in allowance for anomalies. You need to ensure adequate account coverage, an understanding of the “players”, competition, opportunities and threats. Good account planning should result in few surprises.

As a company you need strategic plans that will map out your future, taking into account external and internal influences such as competition and regulatory change. You should collaborate with your management team, and consider using external advisors in the creation of these plans.

As an individual you need to plan your time, ensuring that you get to complete the things you both need, and want, to do. A good plan will allow for both work and personal goals, assuring the right kind of life balance that suits your situation.

If you let your days drive you, instead of you driving your days you are bound to get more surprises than necessary!

________________________________________________________________
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Gain a competitive edge!  Join Eagle’s Executive Consulting Network!
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November 27th, 2014

10 Tips To Help Your People Be More Autonomous

Give a man a fish or teach him to fish proverbI have written many times about “Time Management” and “Personal Productivity”. I have extolled the virtues of “To Do Lists”, “Goals”, using calendars effectively and setting priorities.

I have talked about delegating and about focusing on high return activities.

“Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.” Peter F. Drucker

One area that I have not focused on, but is incredibly important if you are a manager, is in getting people to be respectful of your time. Your job is to manage, to mentor and to coach. You are expected to provide advice when it is needed and you certainly want people to feel like they can come to you when they need advice.

“The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.” Tom Peters

The down side is when they come to you so often that it impacts your ability to get things done. You find it hard to concentrate on your tasks for extended periods of time without someone on your team interrupting.

Here are some thoughts:

  1. It is usually better to start with people coming to you more than they need to, rather than for people to run off “doing things” incorrectly.
  2. You should set a goal to improve the autonomy of your people over time… it could be a reduction in calls per day/week; or in minutes spent talking.
  3. You should give regular feedback with clear direction about what should be discussed and what decisions they might make themselves. Over time this should create more autonomy.
  4. You should instruct them in the difference between Urgent and not Urgent; Important and Not Important. You should only be interrupted for Urgent/Important issues.
  5. Train your people to have a means of collecting issues… it could be electronic or paper, just a handy way for them to collect items for your next meeting. This will discourage them from phoning you every 15 minutes when something pops into their heads.
  6. Organise regular meetings with your reports. They should probably be more frequent at the start, and backing off over time. Both you and they should feel comfortable that they are often enough, but not too often.
  7. Have a structure to your meetings. An agenda to which both contribute is a good idea. It will help keep the timing efficient.
  8. Set goals for the meetings. What does each want to achieve? Every meeting does not have to be exactly the same. For example the meetings might be weekly with different agendas on alternating weeks, or a monthly meeting focused on proactive agenda items rather than reactive items.
  9. If you have multiple direct reports then don’t assume the same format works for each… be flexible in accommodating different styles, different needs and different speeds of learning.
  10. Build time into your calendar during which you are not to be disturbed! This is a classic time management technique, but one way of finding time to get things done without interruption.

“The essence of self-discipline is to do the important thing rather than the urgent thing.” Barry Werner

What ideas do you have about managing multiple direct reports (who may also be managers) and still getting “stuff” done?

“The men who succeed are the efficient few. They are the few who have the ambition and will power to develop themselves.” Robert Burton

________________________________________________________________
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Gain a competitive edge!  Join Eagle’s Executive Consulting Network!
Find Canada’s top hot jobs, updated in real-time!  Visit Eagle’s Job Centre!
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________________________________________________________________

November 25th, 2014

Do You Really Need Another Holiday Card or Company Swag?

Quote about generositySeveral years ago my company made the decision to take the budget we had been spending on holiday cards, postage and small client gifts and instead donating that to charity. We felt that this was one more way that we could demonstrate our commitment to the community, with the help of our clients.

The overwhelming response from almost everyone that we talked with has been extremely positive.

“Who needs another card anyway, it’s nice to know others are benefiting.”

“What a great idea. I wish our company did that!”

“It just makes a ton of sense.”

These were the kind of responses that I and my team received from our clients at the time, and every year since, when we announce how much we are donating to charity. I think that most people recognise this as a great way to support those in need.

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill

There are plenty of people who need a little help, particularly at this time of year. People fall on hard times through no fault of their own, whether it is unemployment, illness or just some bad luck they find themselves without resources and inevitably it is the children who suffer most.

Donations and volunteer efforts make a big difference to these people. Whether it is gifts for the children, a hot meal or some clothes to help them through a Canadian Winter it all adds up to helping those who are less fortunate than ourselves.

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” Muhammad Ali

I’m certainly not trying to put the card companies out of business. We have cards that we send all year round to thank people for their business, to congratulate people on their achievements or just to keep in touch. I just don’t believe businesses need to drown their clients in cards once a year.

I’m not advocating that company swag should not exist either, over the years we have given more than our fair share of mugs and pens etc. to the market. Swag all year round = cool, extra swag this time of year = non needed!

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” Martin Luther King Jr.

What I am advocating is that at this time of year, when the frenzy of buying is all around us, take a few minutes to think of those who don’t have the means or ability to indulge themselves and their loved ones. Find a way to divert some money to make life a little better for those who need a hand. If you can couple that with some time donated to help out then you can make a HUGE difference.

Give rather than take. It will make you a better person, and your community a better place to live!

“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” Albert Pike

________________________________________________________________
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Gain a competitive edge!  Join Eagle’s Executive Consulting Network!
Find Canada’s top hot jobs, updated in real-time!  Visit Eagle’s Job Centre!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) VirtualRecruiterservice?
________________________________________________________________

November 24th, 2014

11 Tips to Travel Like a Business Owner. Frugally and Productively!

Productivity quote from Paul J MeyerPeople who don’t travel much will often think that business travel is exotic. Interesting cities, nice hotels, restaurant meals all seems so much better that the everyday “humdrum” existence they live!

Then there are the people who actually travel for business, whose view might be a little different. Longer hours, no home cooked meals, miss their own bed, hotels are all the same when all you do is use them to sleep and shower, restaurant meals get old and then there is the time away from family. Not often mentioned but equally off putting is the exposure to germs and people you might not otherwise choose to meet! Too often you find yourself in an aircraft where invariably you are sitting next to a large person who overflows into your space, and has a very obvious cold!

Now that I have put business travel into context, it IS a valuable, and needed, activity for any business that has multiple locations or even just clients in multiple locations.

Business owners approach travel with the goal of achieving their business needs as effectively and as “cost effectively” as possible! Here are some business travel tips from a business owner:

“Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.” Benjamin Franklin

  1. Book ahead! Last minute travel is costly … and does not allow you to plan your days as effectively as you might.
  2. Look at travel options … don’t go with the same airline all the time just to collect points! In Canada I might travel on Westjet, Air Canada or Porter based on price, convenience and my travel needs for a given trip.
  3. Be frugal with hotel bookings. Generally it’s just a bed and a shower. You don’t need the most expensive hotel. I find a reasonable place, convenient to my meetings. I often use sites like Hotwire to get great rates and have friends who use airbnb.
  4. Limit travel in business hours. I get early morning flights when headed west, and late evening flights when headed east. This means I can maximize my time at my destination. For example if I leave Toronto at or before 7am I can arrive in Calgary or Vancouver around 9am local time, giving me a full day in that city.
  5. Look after your body. Eat well, get enough sleep and work out. You don’t even need a gym to work out! Pushups, ab exercises, squats, lunges, walking the stairs etc. are all good exercise that you can do anywhere.
  6. Travel with hand sanitiser. In the “germ environments” of planes and hotels it makes sense to act like a health professional. Wash your hands often!
  7. Travel with supplements. You will likely not get the nutrients you get with your regular diet so bring vitamins, ColdFX even some pain medication. It will help you stay healthier and hence more effective.
  8. Limit your alcohol intake. It is easy to let this get away from you when you are visiting colleagues and clients in other cities. Exercise some restraint, your body will thank you.
  9. Take materials with you that will make your travel time effective. Catch up on reading, create a reading file with photocopies or cutouts of articles. Put materials on your kindle, iPad or other reader.
  10. Travel light. Learn to pack effectively and think through your wardrobe … if you can travel with carry-on luggage only you will save time and aggravation. (Learn to us an iron … there is one in most hotel rooms).
  11. Spend like it is your own money. As a business owner it IS your own money! Tip appropriately, but not extravagantly. Choose reasonable but not crazy restaurants. Take the team for a couple of drinks, but don’t make a night of it.

“Entrepreneurship is living a few years like most people won’t. So that you can live the rest of your life like most people can’t.” Unknown

These are lessons I have learned over the last 18 years owning and operating my own business.

What tips do you have to share?

________________________________________________________________
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Gain a competitive edge!  Join Eagle’s Executive Consulting Network!
Find Canada’s top hot jobs, updated in real-time!  Visit Eagle’s Job Centre!
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________________________________________________________________

November 17th, 2014

Use Your “Out Loud Words”!

Assertiveness quote from Dr SeussToo many people worry too much about offending others with their opinions.

Too many people offer their opinions with no thought.

Somewhere between those two statements lies “perfection”… but in an imperfect world give me the raw unfiltered opinion rather than have nothing to say.

“Staying silent is like a slow growing cancer to the soul and a trait of a true coward. There is nothing intelligent about not standing up for yourself. You may not win every battle. However, everyone will at least know what you stood for-YOU.” Shannon L. Alder

We, individuals and companies, can only learn and grow if we know what the issues are.

The only way we get to know what the issues are is if someone tells us.

I might not like being told bad news, but it sure as hell beats finding out months later when it is too late!

So, tell your boyfriend that his breath stinks, or you hate the way he throws his dirty socks in the bathroom. He will likely not like it, but his reaction will tell you a lot about your future relationship! Not telling him will just make those issues BIGGER with time, until they become so BIG you either explode or just give up!

Tell that restaurant that their service was lousy or their food was cold or any of the other things that will stop you going there again. That way they have a chance to fix things, or not, but their response will be telling!

When you are struggling in your role because “stupid rules” or “old thinking” is getting in your way, speak up! Try to be constructive in your criticism. Try to think about why things are the way they are, but even if you just think your manager is stupid, let someone know that there might be a better way!

I had an industry colleague thank me for some advice I gave him earlier in his career. He was a little guarded in his comments, suggesting that we don’t always see eye to eye on every subject. That made me think! We have had different opinions over time, but neither of us backed off expressing our opinion and that is how things evolve. My “mistake” was in letting him feel that was a bad thing!

We live in a democratic society with political parties disagreeing on almost everything. It is by no means perfect but the alternatives are not even worth considering!

“You have enemies? Good! That means you stood up for something in your life!” Winston Churchill.

I would say there are two lessons here:

  1. ALWAYS voice your opinions, hopefully with some thought, but at least get them on the table.
  2. ALWAYS listen to the opinions of others, and try to learn from them.

I can choose to discount opinions that I perceive as “no value”.

I can choose to learn from others opinions.

I can live in a fantasy world of perceived perfection, if I get no feedback… but THAT is where the real danger lies.

“Give me the sting of an opinion that I disagree with over valueless silence any day.”

________________________________________________________________
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Gain a competitive edge!  Join Eagle’s Executive Consulting Network!
Find Canada’s top hot jobs, updated in real-time!  Visit Eagle’s Job Centre!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) VirtualRecruiterservice?
________________________________________________________________

November 7th, 2014

Is Your Company Making Time For Strategy

Planning quote from Richard WinwoodRunning any business can be all consuming, there is always so much to do. I don’t care whether it is a large public company or a small private company, the challenges are significant, if different, and the resources available to tackle them are also different.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin

One of the constants, regardless of size, is the need for strategy… which can come in many forms. It can be the company’s strategic plan, divisional plans or even account plans. At every level there is a need for a “roadmap” and a need to keep that “roadmap” current, which requires regular “checkpoints” to ensure the strategy is still good, and that the execution against strategy is happening as planned.

The problem executives and managers have is that, because they are so busy, it is easy to let these checkpoints slip, or to pay them “lip service”. The result is that companies operate in a very tactical manner… even IF they did the initial planning process well (which is often not the case). They become driven by their days and weeks, rather than driving the activity to meet a strategic objective.

“It’s easy to come up with new ideas; the hard part is letting go of what worked for you two years ago, but will soon be out of date.” Roger von Oech

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Do you have an annual planning process that REALLY looks at the strategy for the coming year? Or do you go through a pure numbers exercise, that looks the same every year?
  2. Do you set aside time to revisit the strategies throughout the year? Are they “rubber stamp” exercises or do they get very focused on the execution against the plan?
  3. Do you have measurable goals that are not just focused on the bottom line?
  4. Do you have account plans with regular reviews?
  5. How do you track you progress against plans?
  6. Do you hold people accountable for their goals?
  7. Do you help managers, salespeople and executives to find time in their busy schedules to actually plan?
  8. Are the management team, in your company, driven by their days, or do they drive their days?
  9. Do you get surprised by events at clients? Decisions, activity levels, competition etc.
  10. How comfortable are you that you have a roadmap for the next year… that has goals, action items, timelines and accountability?

“If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it.” Abraham Lincoln

It is tough to mix Strategy and Tactical execution… to switch between the two regularly is all but impossible. I believe you need to bring separation from the day to day tactical in order to focus on any strategic planning process.  Does your company have that discipline?

________________________________________________________________
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Gain a competitive edge!  Join Eagle’s Executive Consulting Network!
Find Canada’s top hot jobs, updated in real-time!  Visit Eagle’s Job Centre!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) VirtualRecruiterservice?
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