Why hire an expert if you are going to ignore them?

I have seen many businesses engage with an expert who undertakes some form of analysis and tells the business how they can improve in the expert’s particular area and skillset.

Very often, the business will take the recommendations from the expert and add it to the “to-do” list. What is very rare is for the business to fully engage with the expert and seek their help implementing the recommendations.

There are circumstances where not continuing with the expert is appropriate, but I’m not sure that is really what is going on.

Not using the expert is appropriate:
1. If the recommendations are not going to result in sufficient reward
2. If you don’t trust the expert and/or don’t think they really are an expert.
3. If you have the skills in-house to implement the recommendations yourself in a timely manner

I believe many business leaders justify the decision not to continue the experts’ engagement based upon the 3rd reason, but actually. they are kidding themselves.

You almost certainly don’t have the skills in-house. If you do, why did you engage the expert in the first place?

You almost certainly don’t have the time to follow through.
Let’s say that you have some of the skills required, but there will be a learning curve. It will take you and your team much longer to implement than it would the expert.

What’s really going on is that both the expert and the business are missing an opportunity. The expert, when they “pitch” for the first piece of work, are really clear and specific on the costs and the benefits the business will receive.

The business engages the expert on this basis, without thinking of the follow-up work that might be required. The expert doesn’t mention it – they are trying to make the buying decision really easy for the prospect. Talking about follow-up work might put the prospect off.

When you do get to talk about the follow-up, the business only sees the costs. There’s no investment analysis going on. The expert is thinking. “Well, I’ve shown them all the things they need to so – I’m sure they’ll need my help” without recognising that the follow-up needs to go through another round of investment appraisal.

Next time you engage with an expert, make sure you undertake a cost-benefit analysis for each stage of engagement.

It’s time to make yourself redundant!

The percentages vary but everyone involved in buying and selling businesses knows that the vast majority (75% – 80%) of businesses that try to sell fail to do so. One common reason is that the owner is too involved in the day to day operation of the business – take the owner away and there is no business left.

If you would like to be promoted from your current role your boss can easily have a similar problem. “How can I promote X, they are the only person who can do that job?”

The answer in both cases is very simple – make yourself redundant!

A good starting point is to look at your diary or even better your “to do” list and create a list of those things that only you can do. That doesn’t mean only you in the sense of there’s no one else in the business who can do it, it means only you with your particular set of skills and experience can do it.

There should not be many items on the only-me list.

Take the remainder of the to-do list and delegate (or dump) each item.

When you delegate something, talk about the result you want and try using language like

“Let me know what you need to achieve this?”

That helps the person taking on the responsibility recognise that help is available and it is OK to ask!

If you can’t delegate it internally, can you outsource it? Sites like Odesk and Fiverr connect an army of contractors to potential customers and many of them are available at very low hourly rates.

The items that appear more difficult to delegate may require some further thought. Can you break them down into steps, and delegate some of the steps? Perhaps some can be solved by training?

Now take a look at the only-me list. What’s on there that you really cannot apply the same process? Yes, it may take time – I have forgotten how many times I’ve been told “I can’t train someone – I don’t have the time!”

Your objective is to come to work, look at your diary and think “Great, now what shall I do today?”

The answer to that is “work on the business, not in the business”

Sometimes we get it wrong

Sometimes we get it wrong and when we do there isn’t much choice we have to go and apologise.

It might be that you jumped a little too hastily at somebody when they gave you some bad news, but if you don’t apologise the following day or even earlier if you can you create a sense of resentment and a real problem for the future

They say it takes a big man (or a big woman) to apologise but actually, I think you just need to be honest. Say “I made a mistake” and move on.

You’ll have the respect of the other person – they will respect your openness and will tell everybody else. Your reputation won’t be damaged by that momentary slip of your attention or that unwarranted reaction. Your reputation will be enhanced by the recognition from your team that you are big enough to say

“Sorry guys I got that one wrong”

If you don’t admit the mistake the team know that you made a mistake they know that you reacted hastily and your reputation is diminished. The level of trust the team will give you is reduced and if you’re not careful the team will stop sharing with you and you will lose out.

There’s no protection or face saving in hiding from the facts.There’s no point pretending to the customer that everything will be fine when you know the delivery will be late or the project will overrun. They won’t thank you for avoiding the issue and giving them a nasty surprise.

In the same vein, if something has gone wrong with your department or your area of responsibility, tell the boss – sooner rather than later.

Honesty really is the best policy

What are the best ways to keep your customers?

It’s much easier to sell to an existing customer than it is to a new one, but many businesses don’t have a formal program to retain their customers.

When you measure all the effort that goes into winning a new customer, all the money and management time you spend acquiring those new customers, compare that to the amount of time, money and effort you devote to keeping your existing customers.

If there is no formal program or incentive, or if you are not measuring your customer retention, the chances are that no one is focused on it. What’s measured is managed.

If you compare that to the pay TV industry, businesses like Sky have separate departments devoted to customer retention. They don’t call them that – it would be a bit too obvious – but if you want to negotiate your contract and reduce your fees, tell Sky you are thinking of leaving and you will probably end up talking to the disconnection team. They have the authority to offer you special deals to keep your business!

Giving an existing customer a special deal is a great way of hanging on to them, but the special deal doesn’t have to be money!

You might offer early access to a new product or service (that’s a great way of testing something new as well, by the way) or perhaps you’ll invite them to join your dedicated knowledge area, where they can learn more about your business.

If you can foster a sense of community among your customers, that will help. People love to belong to a club.

Probably the most important part of keeping customers is communication. If you don’t keep your customer informed, you are saying that you don’t care about them. If all you do is transact with them, they will never be a fan or an advocate for your business.

Whatever else you do, communicate!