By Donna West
Before any company can grow, it must have a strong foundation to sustain growth. Every employee should understand the company’s goals and buy into your dream.
Let’s begin at the top and define the role of the owner. If you are the owner of an answering bureau, ask yourself if you are the one that signs all the checks, generates all the revenue, takes problem calls, disciplines the staff, answers sales calls as well as answering the calls for the clients? The problem is, the owner wears too many hats. Here is a way to delegate authority, improve morale and keep your sanity.
Public relations: It is best to give the job over to the second in command. It’s a great perk for them. This job involves more company participation. If the owner does everything, it gives the impression that it’s a one person organization – that it’s a “Ma and Pa” business with no depth.
Customer service/customer care is a difficult job to give up. However if you are with a new client and an angry client gets on the phone and needs to talk with you, that will NOT impress the new client. Likewise, if you have someone tell the angry caller that you are with a new customer, you will give the impression that the current customer is not important. Assign this position to an employee who is level-headed and has lots of patience, care and concern for your customers.
Operations Manager: This job should be given to someone who is responsible, has an overall knowledge of your company and has human resource skills.
Accounts/Bookkeeper: How much of your time is taken in financial planning? It isn’t – it’s bookkeeping. You are NOT learning how to run your company better, you are doing bookkeeping. Give the job to someone else and you, as owner, should then review it.
Sales: This job should never belong to the owner- it belongs to the person who is responsible for the growth of your company. I believe in a sales department, not a salesperson. Salespeople are not expenses. Sales people are self funding revenue generators. Each time we add a new salesperson, the closing ratio goes up from 25% to 50%. Time is the key here. Time gives you numbers. If you are an owner making sales calls, it’s not likely you will have time to make call-backs. A single salesperson will probably make three to five call-backs. A department with a sales manager will make a lot more call-backs. It’s a numbers game. He who has the personnel to make the calls, gets the customers! In our experience, it’s the customers who only need one or two contacts that are the easiest to lose and pay the least. They are NOT the ones you want. The customers with 12 locations, or who have large medical clinics, etc. do not close in one or two contacts. Diligent follow-up is necessary in this industry. In one bureau, it was discovered that the customer who calls for service stays on your bureau less time than the customer you solicit.
To start a sales department, look within your company first. You can teach technique but you can’t teach “nice”. Look for self-starters, your “extra-milers,” the helpful employees. Give them all the back-up and assistance they will need but do not interfere. Develop sales, marketing, and presentation materials. Join organizations like the Chamber of Commerce. Help them establish goals and a time line to accomplish the goals. Let them own their job. We feel that pay should be based on a low hourly wage plus the whole first month’s receivable of the account they sell.
Strong, Cohesive Leadership is a Must: Think about this – If you are so busy putting out fires in your company, then you don’t have time to do the really important things- like reading, and planning your company’s future. If this is the case, then you need to step back and re-group. You need to be the thinker for your organization. You need time, otherwise your company may run away with you. You can’t determine your company’s future if you are down in the trenches.
Consistent Meetings with Focus: As an example, we have what we call a” futures” meeting at our company. Once a month, our key people meet and talk about the future of the company. We ask, are we on track from where we thought we’d be last month? What are we going to do for the next month, the next year and in the next five years? How are we reaching our five year goals by accomplishing this month’s goals? If you don’t have a goal, how are you going to know when you reach it?
If you take only one thing from this article, take away a new mind set and the rest is going to come. Strong cohesive leadership is the first requirement for a strong foundation. This does not just happen. It needs nurturing, it needs constant reinforcement and it needs the wisdom to know when to delegate authority.
Donna West is President of Focus Telecommunications, Inc.
[From Connection Magazine, July 1997]