Tag Archive | "Organization"

5 Minutes Early Is On Time; On Time Is Late; Late Is Unacceptable

I have a magic pill to sell you. It will help you make more money, be happier, look thinner, and have better relationships. It’s a revolutionary new pharmaceutical product called Late-No-More. Just one dose every day will allow you to show up on time, greatly enhancing your life and the lives of those around you.

All joking aside, being late is unacceptable, reports Forbes. While that sounds harsh, it’s the truth and something that should be said more often. I don’t care if you’re attending a dinner party, a conference call, or a coffee meeting – your punctuality says a lot about you.

Being late bothers me so much that just thinking about it makes me queasy. My being late, which does occasionally happen, usually causes me to break out into a nervous sweat. The later I am, the more it looks like I’ve sprung a leak. Catch me more than 15 minutes late and it looks like I went swimming.

On this issue, I find myself a member of a tiny minority. It seems like most people consider a meeting time or deadline to be merely a mild advisory of something that might happen. I’ve been called uptight and unreasonable, or variations prefaced with expletives. In a world that feels perpetually late, raising the issue of punctuality isn’t a way to win popularity contests and I’m ok with that.

There’s a reason we set meeting times and deadlines. It allows for a coordination of efforts, minimizes time/effort waste, and helps set expectations. Think of how much would get done if everyone just “chilled out” and “went with the flow?” It would be the definition of inefficiency. It’s probably not that hard to imagine, considering just last week I had 13 (yes, I counted) different people blow meeting times, or miss deadlines. It feels like a raging epidemic, seemingly smoothed over by a barrage of “my bads,” “sorry, mans,” and “you know how it goes.” The desired response is “it’s all good,” but the reality is that it’s not okay. Here’s what it is.

  • Disrespectful: Being on time is about respect. It signals that you value and appreciate the other person. If you don’t respect the meeting’s participants, why are you meeting with them in the first place?
  • Inconsiderate: Unintentionally being late demonstrates an overall lack of consideration for the lives of others. You just don’t care.
  • Big-Timing: Intentionally being late is about power. It’s showing the other person, or people that you’re a “big deal” and have the upper-hand in the relationship. It’s also called being a dick.
  • Incredible: No, not in the good way. When you miss meeting times or deadlines, your credibility takes the trajectory of a lead balloon. If you can’t be counted on to be on time, how could you possibly have credibility around far tougher tasks?
  • Unprofitable: Let’s consider a scenario where five people are holding a meeting at 2 p.m. Your sauntering in ten minutes late just wasted 40 minutes of other peoples’ time. Let’s say the organization bills $200/hour. Are you paying the $133 bill? Someone certainly is.
  • Disorganized: If you can’t keep your calendar, what other parts of your life are teetering on the edge of complete disaster? Being late signals at best that you’re barely hanging on and probably not someone I want to associate with.
  • Overly-Busy: Everyone likes to equate busyness with importance, but the truly successful know that’s BS. Having a perpetually hectic schedule just signals that you can’t prioritize, or say “no,” neither of which is an endearing trait.
  • Flaky: Apparently some people just “flake out,” which seems to mean that they arbitrarily decided not to do the thing they committed to at the very last minute. Seriously? That’s ridiculous.
  • Megalomaniacal: While most grow out of this by the age of eight, some genuinely believe they are the center of the universe. It’s not attractive. Note, this is also called Donald Trump Syndrome. Do you want to be compared to Donald Trump?

As I said earlier, I’m occasionally late. Sometimes a true emergency happens, or an outlier event transpires. When it happens, I try to give a very detailed account of why I was late, apologize profusely, make sure the other person knows that I take it very seriously, and assure them it won’t happen again.

Paying attention to punctuality is not about being “judgy,” or stressed. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It makes room for the caring, considerate, thoughtful people I want in my life, whether that’s friends or colleagues. Think of how relaxing your life would be if everyone just did what they said they’d do, when they said they’d do it? A good place to start is with yourself and a great motto is something I was taught as a child:

“5 minutes early is on time. On time is late. Late is unacceptable.” 

Posted in Small Business TipsComments (0)

7 Tedious Office Tasks You Can and Should Automate

Why work harder when you can work smarter instead?

Several office tasks are perfect candidates to automate — without sacrificing the well being of your business, reports the Small Business Administration.

In fact, some of these tasks not only save time, but also can actually be done better through automation. Automation makes it less likely that (a) you’ll forget; (b) tasks will fall through the cracks if an employee leaves; (c) mistakes will occur through repetitive entry of information.

Here are seven tasks that you can and probably should consider automating to get things done faster and more reliably:

1. Paying Bills

Instead of spending your limited time paying bills each month, use a service like Bill.com to manage all of your payments.

The service works with any bank and even integrates with Xero and Quickbooks. You won’t have to go cut checks or manually enter them into your accounting system.  You can manage all of those payments online in one place. Bill.com claims that it can cut users’ bill-paying time in half.

Or, just check directly with your bank.  Many now offer bill payment services, sometimes at no extra charge.

2. Delegating Customer Support Issues

Handling customer communications via email can become a nightmare as your business and the volume grows. Instead of letting one employee’s inbox get buried in messages, while other members of your team are in the dark, employ a ticketing system or online help desk like Groove or FreshDesk.

Help desk solutions provide a central place to access customer issues and communicate.  Set up a contact form on your website, and route communications by type to central inboxes, where assigned individuals on your team can answer them.  These solutions also help you create a knowledgebase of commonly asked questions. This becomes a self-serve portal for customers, eliminating the need to answer many questions individually.

3. Managing Marketing Communications

Those who successfully use marketing automation report that it’s like having another employee or two in your business.  Marketing automation software like Infusionsoft and Hubspot gives you a way to automate large chunks of your online marketing, by establishing a series of steps for generating leads on your website, and then designating follow-up activities. For instance, you can send a series of follow-up emails to people who have visited your site and filled out a lead form for one of your free downloads.

4. Filling Out Online Forms

This is a personal productivity enhancer. Inputting your name, company, address, and contact information time after time in online forms can be tiresome. A software program like Roboform stores your data so you don’t have to manually enter it each time you come across one of those pesky online forms.  Or simply use the similar functionality built into browsers such as the Chrome.

5. Backing Up Data

Despite our good intentions, too many of us forget or put off this important activity until it’s too late.  And it’s not just us — what about our employees?

Today there are so many inexpensive tools on the market that automatically back up data at scheduled intervals (example: Carbonite), that there’s no excuse for data loss.  Or if your company’s data is mainly in the form of documents, pictures and similar files, use one of the central cloud storage platforms, such as Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, or Apple iCloud, to store everything in the cloud.

6. Scheduling Meetings

When scheduling meetings with many people, finding a time good for everyone’s schedules can be a daunting task. Instead of going back and forth in a long email chain, set up a scheduling app like ScheduleOnce to simplify the process.

ScheduleOnce allows users to connect their existing calendars from sources like Google or Outlook. So when you need to schedule a meeting or appointment, you can invite others to view available dates and choose an open time that works for them.

7. Managing Your Inbox

Email can be one of the most time consuming tasks on an office worker’s daily to-do list. When it comes to sorting emails, you can set up labeled folders for different types of emails, like newsletters and communications with clients. You can even enable Smart Labels within Gmail, so that the platform will automatically sort some of your emails, like promotions and social notifications, into separate folders.

When it comes to responding to emails, there are likely some responses that are going to be the same or at least similar. Set up canned responses in Gmail or email templates in Outlook instead of re-typing those messages over and over again.

Posted in Small Business TipsComments (0)

Building a Business Within a Business

I look at the Finance and Insurance office in a dealership as an opportunity to exercise an ambitious spirit for running a successful business within a business. Being in business for yourself is the “American Dream.” It offers the opportunity to develop repeat and referral business that translates into growth and personal success. The harder you work, the more reward you can expect to see. The more you prepare yourself for the challenges, the more you can establish solid and obtainable goals in your finance office. This position carries not only legal, but also ethical responsibility within the dealership. It requires knowledge of local, state and federal regulations, which encompass the retail automotive business. It requires the understanding of lender criteria in order to create efficiencies in the finance office. It requires knowledge of products and how the contracts work. With the position comes a lot of responsibility, but it presents the opportunity for much reward as well.

What does it take to open a business today? The first and most important aspect is to have working capital. The number one reason for failure in new business startups is being undercapitalized. Therefore, you’re put into a position to raise capital either by borrowing and/or leveraging the assets you have worked hard to accumulate. You can go to family and friends to borrow or you can take on a partner with capital to help. The next step is to establish a marketing plan that ensures you have customers. Time and energy is a real commodity in this area and the ability to leverage yourself becomes very challenging. Investment in technology, office equipment, and help can cut into your marketing budget if not calculated correctly.  I could go on and on, because I haven’t even mentioned the paper work required for licensing to go into business, or hiring an attorney and accountant to keep you on the legal side of state and federal requirements. Needless to say, there is risk and work involved in taking on a business adventure. We have that opportunity in the finance office without the downside of the personal investment needed to go into business. We have a business within a business.

Understand that the finance and insurance office presents efficiency, consistency and legality to the customer and to the public Those guideposts enable a finance office to be perceived as credible and performing with integrity. When we talk about efficiency, it is important not to hurry customers along, but to ensure that their experience is informative and beneficial in choosing financing or leasing options, along with the protective products you are offering them. Most customer information presents itself during the discovery step. By using information shared by the customer during discovery, we can begin building amicable finance and protective packages that are suitable to each customer. By repeating this process without omitting critical steps to the sale, you become more efficient in your processes, thus creating more time for presenting features and benefits and answering questions. The sale should never be a struggle; it should be consultative selling that offers solutions to customers’ real wants and needs.

Bringing consistency to your business allows everyone you rely on daily for your business (sales staff and management) to be aware of your processes and time. The real market for your business is your sales and service departments. They provide you with customer opportunity daily. It is important that they know what is being asked of the customer and what is being said to the customer. This will build their confidence in your ability to treat the referral with courtesy and in a professional manner. If your referral sources do not know what you sell and how you sell, it can become a nuisance instead of an asset. Educate your resources on the virtues of your products and how they work. Their understanding will enhance your opportunities.

You have to be an active participant in building and maintaining a solid finance office. Your business also depends on your ability to access and communicate information. Blame is not an option. If you are confronted with difficult employees, you need to sell them the reasons why customers are willing to include protective products into their transactions. If your resources (sales, service and parts) don’t understand the features and benefits of the products offered in F&I, they will not be enthusiastic about introducing their customers to you. Do not take anything for granted. Help your resources succeed and in turn, they will help you as well.

How can I help my sales resources with their business? Everyone in the retail automotive business seeks to build a business that will yield additional income each year. Sales people look for repeat customers, referral customers, and walk-in customers. How can you help? Each customer who finances an automobile is required to fill out at least two complete references. It’s a wonderful time at the end of paperwork to ask, ”Did Joe do a good job and explain everything to you? Did he answer all your questions and address all your concerns?”

The answer should be “yes” because they just completed all the paper work. Give them an opportunity to share the referrals on the credit application by sliding a post card in front of them that says, “Joe did a good job and we recommend visiting him at the dealership when you have transportation concerns.”

If the average sales person sells ten vehicles a month and six of those customers are financing, you should have at least 144 post cards going out a year for your sales people. You are helping create a marketing campaign for your sales associates and monitoring customer satisfaction at the same time. Reciprocity makes the world go around; providing opportunity to others will bring you more opportunity. The law of large numbers will procure customers and ultimately more profit for your finance office.

So look at your opportunity as one that has no ceiling, no obstacles and plenty of resources that can help you build a successful business within a business. It’s an opportunity to build and prosper; it all depends on how well you organize your business.

Posted in F&IComments (0)

Page 2 of 212