Archive for August, 2011

How to Recruit The Right Person… The First Step

…get the first bit right and often the rest will happen much more smoothly! :-)

I was surprised to read that a survey of 2000 micro businesses (those with less than 10 staff) by the British Chamber of Commerce showed that

  1. 55% were looking to increase the number of people they employ
  2. But 50% are having difficulty finding the right ‘fit’

One reason for this, according to Dr Adam Marshall, BCC director of policy is that “There is a real mismatch between business needs and local skills supply, with many businesses unable to find school leavers or even graduates with the right mix of skills”.

That may well be the case amongst some younger people wishing to join the workforce but I don’t believe it’s anywhere near the whole story… and anyway what about all those qualified and experienced mature people who are looking for work?

Be clear about what your company needs

This may sound so obvious that it should be as plain as the nose on your face – but that’s not always the case! Working on the sales & marketing communications training side with many micro companies over the years I’ve come across more than I’d care to say who’ve more than once taken on the wrong person for the job at hand – and then moaned about them.

And so from my experience in having to ‘pick up the pieces’ of mis-hires, to be honest I’d say: You can’t blame it all on poor quality applicants! There’s a duty of the would-be employer to get their bit right, too.

Yet if we’re fair, when we stop to think about it, is it really so surprising that business owners often get it wrong? We are largely not trained in the finer arts of recruitment so many, otherwise savvy businessmen and women whose company has so far grown organically may struggle when faced with a blank sheet of paper to put together a decent job spec, let alone a person spec… and that’s the very first thing we need to do.

One thing we need to remember is that we’re about to embark on a buying process and most of us know that, for anything other than a commodity, that process will be swayed ultimately by our emotions.

Put this into perspective in the recruitment process: If we haven’t drawn up the role’s essential requirements along with some nice-to-there’s a much stronger danger we’ll follow our inclination to give the job to the person we like best, conning ourselves that they have the necessary skills, and then feel let down when they fail to reach our expected standards… And whose main fault is that?

There are other steps, of course but I believe this is the first we must discipline ourselves to take and you know what? Each successive job and person spec is that much easier to craft :-)

PS If you want a bit of a laugh why not head on over here for 10 Tricky interview questions from Lynn Tulip… 😉

Late payments: How Safe is YOUR Business?

How vulnerable is your business to late payments and non payments of bills because you don’t have your own house in order?

It’s bad enough having to chase late payments from those who’ve received your products or services and are deliberately avoiding contact with you; having to do it because of sloppiness in your own organization that you’ve allowed to seep in is not far short of criminal. Especially when you realize that more companies go out of business through cash flow problems than for any other reason…

Remember: Nothing is ‘sold’ until you have the cash in your account, so let’s check out rules you can easily apply upfront and then look at simple ways to deal with late payment! :-)

6 Rules for New Customer Accounts

  1. Be clear about who can authorize payment for any products or services you provide
  2. Know what needs to be signed or how they confirm an invoice is due to be paid
  3. Establish where the invoice should be sent
  4. Know whether reference to a purchase order needs to be made
  5. Make sure accurate invoices go out on time
  6. Make sure your payment terms and conditions are crystal clear and understood

If you’re at all unsure of how closely the above rules are applied in your organization, just turn each one into a question – you’ll soon find out from the answers how tightly (or otherwise) your particular business ship is being run…

Chasing Late Payment of Bills

Provided you’re satisfied everything is in order and there is no reason from your point of view that payment should not be immediately forthcoming, you need to get onto customers as soon as they are outside those agreed terms of yours.

The best way would be to avoid the necessity of chasing late payment altogether by only providing the product or service on receipt of money, or offering attractive discount savings to encourage prompt payment.

However, if neither of these options is available to you or applicable to your business, ensure that you make one to one contact: Communication from a ‘faceless’ company is much easier to ignore or give the runaround to.

The telephone can be a very useful tool in this situation, second only to presenting yourself at the customer’s premises – and you can get through at least 5 times as many phone calls in the time it would take for a visit!

6 Tips

  1. Be prompt in chasing – you’ve already provided the service or product
  2. You are entitled to the money by the agreed time
  3. The longer you leave it to chase your money, the further down the queue you’ll go when any bills do get paid
  4. If you are getting the run around from the customer company, the person who made the sale should speak initially to the Decision Maker who bought from your company – three reasons for this
    • This is the person who values the purchase
    • This is the person with whom your company is building an ongoing business relationship
    • In short, this person has a vested interest in keeping you sweet – I can remember numerous occasions when I’ve been on the buying side of the equation and stood over Financial Directors and made them write out a cheque after I’d received a telephone call from a totally fed up supplier!
  5. Don’t back down – be prepared to state your case to the top man or woman
  6. Be pleasant but firm – no-one wins if a slanging match is allowed to develop

I’ve always found that if you know your customers and build a strong business relationship with them, apply the 6 Rules, and follow the 6 Tips, you rarely need to go the legal route.

Still, late payments are affecting more and more of us so please share any ideas, systems, practices that you’ve tried and made work for you! :-)

Do you know YOUR ideal client? 95% of companies don’t!

If you think that’s an exaggeration, not so according to Murray Smith, successful businessman and author of the New York Times best seller ‘The Answer’. Before you switch off, perhaps thinking “This will only apply to the American market”, why not stick with it because what he was talking about was, I strongly believe, generic, not country- or culture-specific.

In an interview I saw recently the host introduced a budding entrepreneur businesswoman to Murray Smith and asked her what would be the one gem she would like to learn from him. The answer was how to get more clients – no real surprise there, then and Mr Smith opined that there are two things that apply to all businesses:

  1. They all want more clients and more income
  2. They each recognise the belief they’re different and unique

He took the second point first and asked the guest to describe what she did in order to help him decide his strategy for her.

Defining the offer

Without going into detail his incisive questioning enabled him to elicit from her that, over and above being a business coach – which anyone could claim to be – and improving interdepartmental communications in larger companies – which she started out by saying, what she actually did enabled her (business/ corporate) clients to ensure that not only did they have the “right people on the bus” but also that they were on the right seats on the bus. Now that, Mr Murray said is crucial for an organisation’s success and growth.

And that positions her work squarely under the heading of profit centre as opposed to cost centre and already distinguishes her from 99% of business coaches… The host admitted that whilst she’d known her guest for some time only now did she really ‘get’ what she did!

How do you describe what you do?

Who do you do it for? AKA your ideal client…

Now this guy has worked with some big Fortune 500 companies and this is where he dropped the killer clanger – that 95% of them don’t know their ideal client. :-(

To illustrate this he tells the story of an American restaurant company with a failing Canadian franchise. They’ve spent millions of dollars over three years targeting 25 – 40 year old males, trying to improve custom. Mr Smith discovers within minutes that the decision makers (in Canada, anyway) were in fact 35 – 50 year old females… and the story has a happy ending of reversal in fortune :-)

Returning to our budding entrepreneur, Murray Smith next asked her to describe her ideal client, which she happily did, drawing on a current one, using traditional demographics such as company size, industry and location.

A perfectly acceptable approach except that the company’s psychographics were much more important and relevant to her. Murray Smith redefined her ideal client for her roughly as follows:

A solid, successful company, affected by the economy; wants to change; looking for innovative, creative ideas – and will pay…

As she could currently only handle another one or two clients, he said he wouldn’t even consider demographics.

How would you describe YOUR ideal client?

As Murray Smith says – the sales process is unique and different in each case but for our budding entrepreneur it’s pretty simple:

CEOs and executives know other CEOs and executives… She should go to her current client and ask for referrals… 😉

Would the budding entrepreneur have got there on her own?

Not easily and maybe not for years, if at all. Yes she is a business coach but her expertise is self-admittedly not in getting clients! Can just anybody do what he did? No 😉

I’m a firm believer that we all need help with different aspects of our business from time to time, and struggling alone with the likes of the two key issues addressed here just doesn’t make any kind of sense to me…

The video of the interview is Simple Steps to Business Success on

Your comments on this post and/ or the interview, as always much welcomed… :-)

+44 (0)20 7209 1284

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

"I was very impressed by Linda's determination to help and the constructive, but persistent, manner in which she identified issues and then tried to resolve them. After recent progress I was again reaching a stage where I seemed to be spinning my wheels, and she has given me fresh impetus to start moving forward again."