Getting your staff and family into chutzpah marketing
What is chutzpah marketing Pronounced huts•pah
A common business saying is:
A camel is a horse designed by a committee.
(Proceedings Regular Meeting, Ohio Valley Transportation Advisory Board, Pacific Northwest Advisory Board, 1952 pg. 24: “A camel is a horse designed by a committee, so we hope that this committee will—and I think it will—function appropriately.”)
Which means that even with the best of intentions, often a group can lose track of its goal.
Over the years, I have worked with a lot of mom and pop owned companies where both Mom and Pop are entrepreneurs, doctors, or lawyers. More often, I have worked with an individual professional and a passel of family support staff. Typically, a family member runs the reception area, bookkeeping, or accounts receivable part of the company.
In both situations, the company can grow and thrive as long as the business plan is followed.
The biggest problem with most family run companies is that they do not develop, and follow, a chutzpah business plan. They have the best of intentions, but feelings get in the way. Often family members present feeling and/or opinion as fact and derail the business goal before it is even started. Other times, family members use the business as a fix for family conflicts.
Dr. Tom Marrow called and wanted an urgent get-together. “I need your help right away, my daughter is killing my business.” Tom and I had developed a solid business plan about a year prior, so I was curious about how his business was “being killed.”
When we got together, he showed me the books. He was so upset he was fighting tears. The books were miserable, income had steadily dropped off over the last six weeks. This six week observation is typical. Usually, it takes about this long for a change to show up in the books, whether positive or negative.
“So Bob,” I asked, “what changed about six weeks ago?”
Bob grabbed his stomach and leaned back in his chair, “I hired Elizabeth!”
“Your daughter?” I said. “To do what?”
“She is supposed to be calling the next day’s patients and confirming their appointments,” he said as he slumped further into his desk chair.
“And?” I asked.
“She says she has been doing it, but I don’t think she has. She shows up when she wants and…”
“When is she suppose to be here?” I asked.
He sat up, “Now actually.”
“Great, where is she?” I asked.
“Ah…,” he fumbled with his pen. “She came in a half hour ago and took $20 out of the cash drawer and went to Starbucks.”
“What’s going on Tom?” I asked.
“She owes her mother and me $6800 for damage to the car, so I’m trying to teach her responsibility.”
As it turned out, Tom’s back office staff was one person short due to maternity leave. Tom and the office manager were spreading the work among the other employees. When the car problem arrived, it seemed like a good idea to give Elizabeth the re-care call job. The problem was that Elizabeth was not qualified to do the job. After $18,000 in lost income, Tom had to fire Elizabeth.
The biggest problem with employees (and family members) is that they are people.
WARNING REALITY CHECK AHEAD: Most businesses that reinvent themselves, and strive towards being professional and profitable, will lose many of their employees during the first year.
The reason is, the employees were comfortable doing things the old way. They came in, did their work, and went home. Every two weeks they got their paycheck. The employee may have asked for a raise, but they were not asking for change. The owner of the company was motivated toward change. This motivation was probably because her paycheck was too small, and her hours were too long. Remember, everybody: employees, vendors, and the tax man get paid first. The owner gets whatever is left.
Employees and family members have different motivations than the owner.
I tell business owners regularly, “You are not a real adult until you have had to make a payroll during a bad quarter.” It is lonely at the top.
One nice thing about being the boss is that you are the boss. One really bad thing about being the boss, is making yourself follow the business plan.
Let me tell you another story about the six week rule.
I was contacted by the secretary at a large wellness clinic. I had not worked with this group for over five years, and was startled to find out that they were hemorrhaging money.
When I was escorted into the owner’s office, I was surprised to see him dressed as a sea captain: white shorts, white shirt, and a captain’s hat.
“I just got here myself,” he said as he shook my hand. “Glad you could come in on such short notice.”
He walked me over to a wall in his office and started explaining the pictures.
“Isn’t it a beauty?” he said, pointing to the center picture of a huge boat.
For the next ten minutes he pointed out boat parts and tossed nautical jargon at me. I had no idea what he was talking about.
Finally I interrupted him, “I thought there was a problem, what’s going on?”
Over the next hour, Dr. Magellan ran down a litany of concerns. We looked over the profit and loss statements, and scrutinized receivables. Then Dr. Magellan looked at me and said bluntly, “How come your business plan ain’t working anymore?”
“How long have you had the yacht?” I asked.
“I ordered it about two years ago, just got it delivered last month.”
As it turned out, the captain and his wife had spent most of the last six weeks enjoying their new dream boat and hiring a staff of five to maintain it. That is all fine and dandy, but the captain’s wife had abandoned her post. Madge was an amazing lady, she worked for a government agency as a comptroller, and managed the books for the captain at night and on the weekends.
For twenty years, as they grew the business, Madge had tenaciously billed everybody.
After a little investigation, Madge figured out the problem. No one was reconciling the dailies. The wellness clinic was running smoothly, but the receivables were not being logged correctly, so they didn’t show in the receivables column. Since they weren’t in the receivables column, no billing statements were being mailed. Thus, the only income was from the computerized insurance claims. The business income was down almost fifty percent.
I have seen this type of problem a lot. When the business has matured and is finally bringing in real money consistently, the owner starts what I call an “I deserve” project.
An “I deserve” project can be building a dream home, extensive traveling, painting, woodworking or an affair. All the energy that used to go into the business, is now going elsewhere, and as a result the business suffers.
So beware of the “I deserve” project. Remember, as the owner you are the number one employee, cheerleader, and all around bottle washer.
Employees need constant nurturing. When I say this to business owners many argue, “Not if you hire the right employee.”
This sounds good, but I haven’t seen it in the real world. Employees need constant support and training. They need motivation and reminders. If they didn’t they would be your competition.
It is the responsibility of the business owner to give a foundation to the business. When this isn’t understood, major problems occur.
Please allow me to share an example. I will often suggest to a entrepreneur that they keep close control of the receivables. If a customer is past due, action should be taken to correct the lack of payment professionally. When I suggest the best way to rectify payment issues is to contact the patron personally and ask for payment, many entrepreneurs respond with, “Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. We should implement a plan. I will have the receptionist call outstanding customers, Ah… every Friday?”
When I suggest, “How about you call any customer who is ten days overdue?” many entrepreneurs have lots of reasons not to make that call. You may be thinking of some of them right now.
Because you are the boss, it is easy to pass the job onto someone else. That doesn’t always mean that it is passed on to the correct person.
It is lonely at the top.
Your goal should be to make it easy for your staff and family to refer patients into your company.
Dr. Hanson, my friend the dentist, thought nothing of saying, “Open up, let’s take a look,” to people he ran into. He peered into mouths at restaurants, or while waiting in line at Costco. Once, while waiting in line for popcorn at the movies, he explained to me, why a lady’s back molar was so troublesome.
This middle aged woman contorted herself so he could peer way back, and she held that position while he showed off his work to me. Then he said, “You should call my office first thing Monday, I need to take a better look at that.” The woman went off to the movie feeling well cared for by her dentist.
After she left, Dr. Hanson said with a twinkle in his eye, “Those Milk Duds cost her a thousand dollars, her bridge will have to be rebuilt.”
In this situation, the dentist self referred.
Theoretically, staff and family members should be referral sources for your company. If a dentist’s wife hears that her friend’s sister has a toothache, she can simply say, “She should go to see my husband.” This suggestive referral is comfortable for all concerned.
Encourage your staff and family to shout the name of your company from every corner of your community. A few ways to encourage this:
One entrepreneur I worked with liked having low cost raffles at public events. (Health fairs, book readings.) Her goal was to capture potential customers’ home addresses. She would raffle off an item worth around fifty dollars. (A nice radio or lunch for two.) Her employees were encouraged to write their name on free raffle tickets that they could distribute to friends before the event. The employee with the most returned tickets also got a prize (Paid lunch for two or Friday afternoon off with pay). As her company grew, she started to offer first, second, and third employee prizes. She kept the whole thing very uplifting and fun.
Chutzpah show and tell
The enthusiasm for your company must flow from you to your staff and family. You are the leader, and as the leader, your staff and family look to you for social interaction cues.
This may sound basic, but it is a fact often missed by professionals I work with. If you walk around with your shoulders slumped, your staff will emulate you. If you smile when you answer the phone, your staff will see that as normal and copy you. If you shine at public events, your staff will reflect your shine.
So, I share with you this professional admonition: Do not talk negatively about your company. You may say something as innocuous as, “Man, I hate the Yellow Page bill!” and your staff hears/feels, “I’m on a sinking ship… how will I pay my rent… what about summer camp for the twins? I can’t afford to lose this job.”
As the leader, “Blossom where you are planted.”
Back to Business and money index