Patricia Adams

Monday, 03 December 2012 17:04

8 bad work habits to avoid

In our world of quick text missives, sharing the daily joke via inner office email, and generally more relaxed workplaces, informality can become a workplace hazard. Studies show that employers and managers often assess an employee’s career potential based on how that employee carries himself or herself in the workplace. None of us wants to be judged by the externals, but our respective “book covers” matter.

Poor manners at work – however unintentional - can lead to workplace conflict because they distract fellow employees from working or, in the worst cases, offend co-workers who have differing viewpoints and cause potential legal liability for the employer.

Therefore, it’s ideal to avoid these 8 bad work habits:

  1. Talking loudly on telephones and in person in common areas.
  2. Interjecting comments into conversations between other employees, unless your opinion is solicited.
  3. Taking supplies – even if they were bought by the office – from other employee’s work areas without getting prior approval.
  4. Wearing perfume that can be smelled even after you leave an area.
  5. Gossiping about co-workers or people outside the workplace.
  6. Sharing racial, religious or sexual jokes in any format.
  7. Arriving late to meetings.
  8. Regularly using large chunks of work time to resolve personal and family matters.

Most employees want to be viewed as valuable, contributing members of the company team. Thus, it’s worthwhile to periodically assess our workplace demeanor and, perhaps, adjust our behaviors, to help convey that image. Your future with your employer likely depends on it.

Patricia Adams is the CEO of Zeitgeist Expressions and the author of “ABCs of Change: Three Building Blocks to Happy Relationships.” In 2011, she was named one of Ernst & Young LLP’s Entrepreneurial Winning Women, one of Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year Award and the SBA’s Small Business Person of the Year for Region VI. Her company, Zeitgeist Wellness Group, offers a full-service Employee Assistance Program to businesses in the San Antonio region. For more information, visit www.zwgroup.net.

Roadblocks abound in business. Most business owners have been told, “No, we won’t fund your great invention.” Most executives have been told, “We’re not ready yet” to enter that wide-open, new market. But how they respond to those obstacles, the “no”s that are inevitable, is often a good indicator of who will ultimately succeed.

The first step is to step back and assess the causes of the opposition. That likely requires asking probing questions to get insight about the reasons and reasoning behind the rejection. The banker who rejected your idea may have valuable insight into your industry sector, information that could affect how you choose to proceed.

While data gathering, also probe for guidance on how to make your proposal stronger, when to re-pitch your proposal and who else may have decision-making or decision-influencing authority.  The goal should be to identify possible avenues for future appeals.

Armed with the new information, it’s useful to then take a look back at where you are in relation to your goals for the project. Review and celebrate your successes. It will give you the energy to continue onward. But measuring your results, as well as who helped you accomplish the past results, also may shed light on who may be able to guide or assist you in your next steps.

Now, modify your strategy. Every rejection should be viewed as an opportunity to improve. Your planned adjustments should be listed and scheduled. Then, as you progress in making changes, you will be able to see your accomplishments and have a record of how you responded to different scenarios for future reference. It also will give you a clear return on investment in time and energy spent and keep you centered on progress.

Patricia Adams is the CEO of Zeitgeist Expressions and the author of “ABCs of Change: Three Building Blocks to Happy Relationships.” In 2011, she was named one of Ernst & Young LLP’s Entrepreneurial Winning Women, one of Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year Award and the SBA’s Small Business Person of the Year for Region VI. Her company, Zeitgeist Wellness Group, offers a full-service Employee Assistance Program to businesses in the San Antonio region. For more information, visit www.zwgroup.net.

A good board of directors can be a great support for a top executive regardless of company size. The most common type of board offers advice; however, other boards act as fiduciaries, which have legal liability for the company’s practices – and thus are much more actively involved in overseeing the company. In either scenario, before establishing a board of directors, a small business owner needs to be clear about why he or she wants a board and what the owner is prepared to do to get maximum value from a board.

These steps can help with developing your board of directors:

1) Get prepared. Write down what you want them do, how much time they will need to commit monthly, how long you want them to serve, where you and the company need the most advice, and what are you willing to provide as compensation to board members – if anything. Many nonprofit boards don’t offer payment beyond lunch, but for-profit entities typically provide a quarterly stipend or payment.

2) Choose broadly. Many business owners draft friends and industry colleagues to sit on their boards initially. However avoid picking carbon-copies of yourself. Look for board members with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. It is useful to have board members from a wide range of fields, including legal, finance, accounting and marketing. Organizations such as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s SCORE program of retired business executives and The Alternative Board can connect groups to potential board members.

3) Orient the board. While board members may be familiar with your organization or products, they may have only a broad understanding of your operations. Therefore, it may be useful to provide orientation for incoming board members to cover organizational structure, functional duties for each division and division head, a brief description of each product/program/service that includes its target market, as well as pie charts that display major revenue streams and expenses.

4) Share authority. Many entrepreneurs conceive and build a company according to their liking and their understanding of the customer. Owners and managers should run the day-to-day operations in alignment with the board policies. A good board will encourage the development of processes for rationally researching, analyzing and assessing all aspects of the company. Moreover, few board members want to give up their time to meet to essentially rubber-stamp every executive decision.

5) Reassess your board periodically. What you need today to help your business flourish may not be what you’ll need in three or five years. As you periodically conduct mid-term strategic planning, you should review the skills and resources presented by each board director in light of where you want to take the company. Don’t be afraid to disband and redesign your board.

Patricia Adams is the CEO of Zeitgeist Expressions and the author of “ABCs of Change: Three Building Blocks to Happy Relationships.” In 2011, she was named one of Ernst & Young LLP’s Entrepreneurial Winning Women, one of Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year Award and the SBA’s Small Business Person of the Year for Region VI. Her company, Zeitgeist Wellness Group, offers a full-service Employee Assistance Program to businesses in the San Antonio region. For more information, visit www.zwgroup.net.

In business, as in life, there’s a benefit to having guidance that’s tried and true. Most successful business owners can cite mentors who have directed their paths along the way. As companies grow, those informal relationships are usually replaced by formal boards of directors. A board of directors is a very useful method for allowing significant shareholders to feel they have a say in the strategic planning for the company.

It’s my opinion that all companies – regardless of size – need to have a board. In this two-part series, I will explore the benefits that a small company can gain from having a corporate board and how a small business owner can establish a board.

First, let’s examine the benefits:

1) A good board of directors will do what employees often are afraid to do: challenge the leader. Most employees don’t feel empowered to speak up when they think a strategy is misguided or out of sync with customers or a target market. Board directors should be willing to openly question ideas and the assumptions that guide strategic planning to help the president or CEO suss out their soundness.

2) A board can provide accountability – particularly in family-run businesses where it can be hard for an unbiased assessment of the business without familial issues clouding judgment.

3) Boards can help with recruiting, evaluating and selecting top job candidates, as well as setting compensation criteria that are fair and transparent. Since directors are removed from the daily running of the business, they can help with succession planning.

4) For companies considering a public offering, setting up a board early can help acclimate the owners to the enhance scrutiny that they will face once the company is publicly traded.

5) A board of directors is legally required for registered corporations.

Next column: How to create your own board.

Patricia Adams is the CEO of Zeitgeist Expressions and the author of “ABCs of Change: Three Building Blocks to Happy Relationships.” In 2011, she was named one of Ernst & Young LLP’s Entrepreneurial Winning Women, one of Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year Award and the SBA’s Small Business Person of the Year for Region VI. Her company, Zeitgeist Wellness Group, offers a full-service Employee Assistance Program to businesses in the San Antonio region. For more information, visit www.zwgroup.net.

Human beings find comfort in routine. As children, we gain a sense of security from knowing what will happen, when it will happen, for how long and how we are expected to react to each situation. As we mature, knowing that home and family will be where we left them allows us to go out and explore the world as young adults, secure in the knowledge that we can always come home if we need. However, as we age, this penchant for sticking to the routine can work to our detriment.

We begin to settle in at home more and more, often opting to camp in front of the television rather than venture into a new neighborhood or to try a new vocation. Our sedentary ways can have damaging health consequences, most significantly for that muscle that drives the body: the heart. To stay strong, the heart needs daily movement that includes periodic challenges (to force it to pump more oxygen than normal), foods that declog blood vessels and keep them flexible, limited preservatives and refined foods, and regular activities that relieve stress. But, once sedentary, inertia can make it seem as if changing our habits is an insurmountable task.

However, with concerted effort in three areas, what I call affect, behavior: and cognition – the ABCs of Change - we can break the cycle and embrace good cardiovascular practices.

First, start by tracking your moods, your activities and your thoughts in relation to heart-healthy activities such as walking, jogging or any other activity that works up a sweat. Jot down on paper how you are feeling and what you are thinking at the moment when you decide to engage in any act that undermines your heart.

Next, write down how you will change your behavior each time you feel yourself slipping into the unhealthy mindsets that precede unhealthy behaviors. Now, write down what things inspire you to get up and move or to make heart-healthy decisions.

Then, commit to doing at least one heart healthy activity each day and to modifying your environment as needed each time you feel yourself sliding into unhealthy practices.

Last, give yourself time. Generally, it takes 21 days of repeat activity to develop a new habit; however, you may slip up. They key is to review your strategy and recommit each time you fall. Ultimately, your heart will be the better for it.

Patricia Adams is the CEO of Zeitgeist Expressions and the author of “ABCs of Change: Three Building Blocks to Happy Relationships.” In 2011, she was named one of Ernst & Young LLP’s Entrepreneurial Winning Women, one of Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year Award and the SBA’s Small Business Person of the Year for Region VI. Her company, Zeitgeist Wellness Group, offers a full-service Employee Assistance Program to businesses in the San Antonio region. For more information, visit www.zwgroup.net.

Friday, 01 June 2012 09:58

Why do projects fail?

Launching a new venture is probably one of the most thrilling moments for any entrepreneur. It’s a birth that often brings forth a long-standing dream for the founders and is steeped in joy, pride and egotism. However, for many new captains of industry, the dream vanishes like smoke shortly thereafter. In fact, just half of all businesses survive the first five years, and only one-third survive 10 years, according to U.S. Small Business Administration statistics. Thus, it’s worth investigating why projects fail.

In a large majority of cases, the business owners failed to raise sufficient capital to fund the labor, marketing, taxes, insurance, legal expenses, bookkeeping, supplies and costs of goods for the business. Oftentimes, they underestimated expenses and overestimated how quickly revenues would increase. In other cases, they knowingly entered the market with insufficient cash because of limited credit and savings.

Other failures are caused by an implosion from within. Specifically, the founding partners reach a point at which they disagree on how to build the business and then fail to come to a consensus that leaves all parties feeling invested in the project. Or the business develops naturally in a way that calls for the founding partners to take on roles they don't want to assume. In either scenario, the remaining partners must buy out the exiting partners in order to stay in business or fold up shop.

In the worst collapses, the venture was just poorly conceived. The founders developed a business concept based mostly on their own personal experiences or anecdotal evidence. They failed to conduct or acquire scientific research on whether there was sufficient demand for their proposed products or services. They made a cursory study of the competition. Or they made assumptions about what drives potential customers to buy when designing marketing campaigns, rather than collecting data that revealed true trends in buyer motivations.

In these cases, the founders could have mitigated their chances of failure with some thoughtful planning before the shingle was hung. Would-be entrepreneurs should clearly write out their vision with detailed specifications and the cash that will be needed to complete it. They should plan contingencies for overcoming potential obstacles.

They also should identify the strengths and weaknesses in any potential management team and seek out individuals who can fill the holes. For instance, a visionary leader who prefers to focus on the big picture will usually need someone on board who loves the details in order to ensure the project is thoroughly vetted and structured.

Patricia Adams is the CEO of Zeitgeist Expressions and the author of “ABCs of Change: Three Building Blocks to Happy Relationships.” In 2011, she was named one of Ernst & Young LLP’s Entrepreneurial Winning Women, one of Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year Award and the SBA’s Small Business Person of the Year for Region VI. Her company, Zeitgeist Wellness Group, offers a full-service Employee Assistance Program to businesses in the San Antonio region. For more information, visit www.zwgroup.net.

In a growing business, the myriad daily tasks of getting whatever a company produces “out the door” can be all-consuming. Lots of energy is typically focused on cash flow management, finding and training new employees, meetings, sourcing supplies, deadlines, etc. In the hustle and bustle, your staff can forget the most important factor of any business: the customers. However, without what our firm refers to as “Level 5 Customer Service,” growth can stall or collapse completely.

In studies, 70 percent of why most clients leave is due to poor customer service. As managers, we need to constantly be reassessing why customers prefer our products or services over the competitions’, whether we are exceeding customers’ expectations, and how we show gratitude to our customers.

Ignoring your customers can be like sitting on a landmine. For instance, prior to social networking online, the typical dissatisfied customer would verbally tell eight to 10 people about a problem with a vendor or service provider. In the post-Facebook-YouTube-Twitter-Interest world, that dissatisfaction is posted online in ways that can travel globally within hours. A single service disappointment can turn into the bomb that crashes sales.

However, Level 5 Customer Service can halt that exponential explosion in most cases. That’s because studies show seven of 10 complaining customers will do business with you again if you solve the problem in their favor.

Service expectations vary by culture. However in Western-educated societies, there are five key customer service practices that should be taught and re-taught regularly in any workplace:

  1. Greet the customer verbally and with a smile;
  2. Listen to understand the customer’s need;
  3. Explain features and benefits of products or services so customers have sufficient information to make decisions;
  4. Suggest additional items that may address their explicit needs, as well as possible ancillary needs they may not be aware of or may not have considered; and
  5. Thank the customer. Thank them even when no sale occurs. Thanks – like praise – go a long way toward generating goodwill.

Last, when presented with a customer’s concern or complaint, listen attentively, do not interrupt, be polite, apologize for the inconvenience and any error, and make a decision that resolves the issue in way that leaves the customer as warm and fuzzy as possible. When you provide a customer with more than he or she expects, you create a Level 5 experience. That experience reinforces customer loyalty.

Patricia Adams is the CEO of Zeitgeist Expressions and the author of “ABCs of Change: Three Building Blocks to Happy Relationships.” In 2011, she was named one of Ernst & Young LLP’s 2011 Entrepreneurial Winning Women, one of Enterprising W omen magazine’s 2011 Enterprising Women of the Year Award and the SBA’s 2011 Small Business Person of the Year for Region VI. Her company Zeitgeist Wellness Group offers a full-service Employee Assistance Program to businesses in the San Antonio region. For more information, visit www.zwgoup.net.

The beginning of a new year often comes with a sense of endless time and possibilities. We often make aggressive business plans for many months out and then wait to execute because we have so much time.

Every small business owner knows time can easily get consumed by the daily running of the business, leaving you with a well thought out plan that never materializes. As you start the year, now is the time to schedule business coaching sessions with someone who will energize you into action or renewed action on a regular basis. To get the most out of your coach:

Identify the right coach for you. Successful business owners focus on continual innovation to remain competitive. They often seek out and rely on advice from others who are more knowledgeable than they are. Similarly, you should seek a coach who has experienced what you are facing and who has triumphed. In business, they are often outspoken, leaders in industry and trade associations or policy researchers in government and university settings. In life, they are frequently counselors, pastors,and retired volunteers in non-profits organizations. By selecting a coach that fits your need, you are more assured your coach will impart guidance that is based on real business experiences.

Set a goal for each coaching session. Good mentors are invaluable and often in high demand. Decide which one to two items you want to address for each meeting. Determine what one key question you want answered on each topic in advance of the meeting. By being prepared, you will show your coach that you value his or her opinion and time, and you will find your coaching sessions are more productive and useful to your own business plans.

Reach out before you face a crisis. The best way to avoid a calamity is to head it off when possible. Call your coach as you see potential changes developing to strategize on how you might handle the changes, if necessary. Some of the best new ideas come from free-flowing discussions and debate about possible solutions when there’s no pressure to show immediate results.

Periodically reassess your coach. As seasons change, so do family, work and professional relationships. A good coaching relationship offers ongoing useful guidance. If your coach has provided all the support he or she can and seems to be recycling the same messages, consider whether you need to pay closer attention to your coach or if it is time to find a new advisor.

A successful coaching relationship requires careful preparation and opening yourself to critiques. But it is an investment that can help steer your business to greater profitability, exposure and success in 2012.

Patricia Adams is the CEO of Zeitgeist Expressions and the author of “ABCs of Change: Three Building Blocks to Happy Relationships.” In 2011, she was named one of Ernst & Young LLP’s 2011 Entrepreneurial Winning Women, one of Enterprising Women magazine’s 2011 Enterprising Women of the Year Award and the SBA’s 2011 Small Business Person of the Year for Region VI. Her company, Zeitgeist Wellness Group, offers a full-service Employee Assistance Program to businesses in the San Antonio region. For more information, visit www.zeitgeistwellnessgroup.com.