Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Goals and Intentions

Now that I have had a chance to settle into 2013, which many of us have been looking forward to, I am ready to start sharing with you again.  I have been reading many business blogs as of late.  They tend to be dry and full of information and not a lot of personality.  I realized that this is not who I am.

I spend my days with clients getting to know them and their business, what drives them in their intentions, who they employ and why and help them take back ownership of their business with a new found strength.  That is all very personal.

So I decided that one my intentions this year was to speak to you virtually as if we were having coffee.  Although, I will admit that I prefer having you talk with me face to face.  That leads me to a perspective that I want to share with you:

                                                      Goals versus Intentions

 As happens around the start of every new year, I start thinking about my goals for the year and what I want to accomplish.  While I make a list of these, I rarely accomplish them and lose sight of them after awhile.  This year, I began reflecting on why this happens.  I came to the conclusion that it is the idea of goals versus intentions.

A goal is "the result or achievement toward which effort is directed".  An intention is "an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result."

As I thought about these two definitions, I realized that goals feel very tunnel visioned to me. You chart a clear path and that is where you go.  There is not much room for change or redirection.  I also realized that they don't bring out the best in me for the long term.  I have a very competitive side to me and when I have a goal to accomplish, I think of nothing else but achieving it and don't take into the consideration the other things happening around me.

I started thinking about the difference of an intention and I felt like they have more room for transition and redirection when needed.  In general, they seem a bit more forgiving.  While you continue working toward your intention, it feels like there is room for things to come up and possibly alter your intention if that is to your betterment. 

That being said, this year I am choosing intentions and I will see where that road takes me.

Here are a couple of my intentions:

I intend to be more present with people and give them the time they deserve.  I am almost always doing multiple things at once and have realized that it is not considerate of the people that I am spending time with so it is important that I work more efficiently to give the required attention to each situation and don't miss something amazing.

I intend to care for myself better.  Many of us tend to put ourselves last and eventually, it all catches up to us. It is hard to remember that we are as important as everyone else in our lives.  It is also important as we are small business owners and when we are not at our best, it affects our business too.

What are your intentions for the year?


Friday, October 19, 2012

Let’s start interviewing!

Now that you have posted your great ad and the applications have started coming in, what do you do?

Have no fear…the next steps are here:

Look through your applicants and ask yourself these questions:
Did they do everything that you asked of them?

Does their cover letter or letter of intent give you an idea of how they may fit into you company?  
Beware of those who regurgitate their resume.

If the answer is no to either of these, file them away.  If individuals are not willing to do what you have asked of them prior to being hired, the chances of it changing once they are hired is very slim.

If the answer is yes, then it is time to schedule interviews with them.  If you haven’t had them fill out an application yet, have them bring it filled out to the interview.

Getting Ready:

The questions: Create a list of questions that are open ended and leave room for the applicant to talk.  Ask about their struggles and challenges as well as their strengths and accomplishments. 

Reference checks:  It is always good to check the references.  It may not give you a lot of insight into the person yet you may find out something that is really valuable. Previous employers need to be very careful about what they say that might be negative about a past employee so don't be surprised if you don't get a lot of information.

What to ask:

Verify dates of employment and position held.  You can also verify the final salary.

Ask if they are eligible for rehire.

Ask what else the employer would like to share with you. 

The Actual Interview:

Call and schedule an in-person interview. 
I prefer to have one person do the first interview and another member of the management team to do a second interview.  It is amazing what you find out about a person when you compare what they have said to two different people. 

Some people are fans of phone interviews and I only use them if there is not another alternative.  I prefer Skype interviews over phone interviews so that I can at least see the person to whom I am speaking and can somewhat read their body language.

Interview day:

Interviewing is a two-way interaction.  The applicant is interviewing you as much as you are interviewing them.  The intent is to establish whether or not this could potentially be a good working relationship.   You are not here to "sell" your business any more than they should be "selling" themselves.  It should be a fairly comfortable conversation around the position, the potential applicant and your company.  Don't be afraid to share the not so great parts of the position as they will have to deal with these too if you hire them and knowing how they might react in a difficult situation is really important.

First impressions matter.

When you meet them and introduce yourself, be aware of their body language.  Are they open and engaging?  Are they over exuberant or shy and reserved?   

Notice their attire.  Are they dressed neatly and professionally? Or are they dressed as if they just got done working in the yard?  It doesn’t matter what type of establishment you are, applicants should arrive looking professional and clean.

As you begin to ask your questions, notice things like their eye contact and whether or not they answer the questions that you ask.  Make sure to let them have the time to answer the question and don’t be afraid of moments of silence.

If the interview is feeling awkward and you can tell that this is not the person that you are looking for, don’t be afraid to end the interview quickly.  You are not obligated to continue.  Continuing wastes their time and yours.

Signs that it is not a good fit:

Your gut says something is not right.
The conversation feels really awkward.
They have no challenges or questions for you.
They share their entire life story.
Their focus is on the money and the benefits.
Their answers seem really jaded and defensive.

Make sure that you leave room for the applicant to ask questions.  I get a bit concerned if they don’t have any.

As you end the interview, let the applicant know what the next steps are in the process.  Are you scheduling interviews with more applicants, second interviews?

After you have completed all of your interviews, evaluate the applicants with whomever you chose to do the alternate interview.  After this conversation, you should know who is the best person to join your company.  Always trust your gut.  If it says no, there is a reason.  The only times that I have been burned are the times that I have not trusted my gut.

Hire them!

Didn’t find the right fit?  Then it is time to repost, change your ad a bit and start again.  I never recommend hiring out of desperation.  It generally leads to many difficult situations down the road.

Stay tuned for: Wait!  Am I ready to hire someone?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The first step to hiring the right employees

Hiring can be one of the most daunting tasks that an employer faces.  Lately, I have met many small business owners that have been burned by hiring employees who weren’t the right fit.

Hiring doesn't need to be a daunting and frightening experience.  It has the potential to be exciting and relieving if done right.

The first step to hiring the right employees is to write the right type of ad.  Most of the ads that I read are dry and they list all of the computer programs or skills that the company wants you to have experience with and none of the behaviors or insight into the culture of the company. A good ad helps the prospective employee envision themselves working in your company.

Employees that are a good fit for a company share behaviors and values that align with the company culture.  Behaviors cannot be taught and skills can.  That is not to say that having the skills necessary to be effective in the job are not also necessary.

          Here are some tips to writing an effective ad:

Define the culture and values of your business. This allows the applicant to decide if their values fit within your culture. 

Talk about the behaviors that you are looking for.  Do you want someone outgoing, reserved, detail oriented, a visionary, with a love of modern design?
Stating these behaviors in the ad will also help the reader decide of they is a good fit. 

List the qualifications that are needed for the position. These should be the skills that are necessary to be effective in the position.

Define the opportunity that you are offering.  What skills would someone gain by working for you? Would they gain a greater knowledge of running a business, train to become a great manager, learn a new trade?

Share the facts: part-time, full time, specific days, location, and salary range.

Response and Application instructions:  How do they apply and what do they need to provide?   My preference is to ask for a cover letter or letter of intent and a resume.  I contact them either by email or telephone and ask them to pick up an application to fill out if I think they might be a good fit. 

The cover letter or letter of intent, if done well, tells you why they think they would fit well into your environment and what they bring to the table.

The resume’ is a timeline and summary of what they have done at the past jobs.

The application is a legally binding document on which the applicant’s statements and responses are required to be accurate.

Provide a deadline. State when you want them to apply by.  If the date comes and goes and you haven’t found the right person, you can repost.  Not giving a deadline takes the importance out of applying.

Once you have written the ad, think about where you should post it. 

Ask yourself:
Where would a person that shares your company’s values look for a job?
Would they attend the local art schools or colleges, are there local job boards that you can post on?
Are there weekly papers that they might read that you could post in? 
Have you met someone that you think might be a good fit? If so, give them your business card and ask them to call you.

There are a lot of websites such as Craigslist, Monster or Career Builder that you can post on also.

Next post:  The interview process

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Importance of Building Your Support System

Everyone, including small business owners, need a support system.  You need a group of people that are there for them when they are struggling as well as to celebrate their successes.  Have you built your support system or do you feel like you are flying solo? 

Too often small business owners think that they need to do it all.  In reality, you have skills that you are amazing at and ones that are a constant struggle.  It is impossible for you to excel at every aspect of running a business.

In building my support system, I realized that a life coach would help me keep myself accountable and on track, so I found one.  I also needed to be in a environment where I had the opportunity to listen and talk to people about business so I attend classes at the Small Business Development Center and Mercy Corps NW.   Additionally, I have a wide variety of small business owners that are friends and I try to get together with them regularly to talk about our successes and challenges.  All of this helps me to not feel so isolated as a business owner.


Support systems can look very different for different people.  Take some time to write down what areas you excel in and what your challenges are.  Do you have people already in your life that support you with these challenges?  What areas are missing from your support system?

If financial matters are an issue for you, find a bookkeeper that answers questions and shares information in a way that you understand.  You can also take classes to help you understand the financial aspects of your business.  Look for these at your local community colleges, community banks, or SBDC branch.

If marketing is a challenge for you, find a marketing person that understands your culture and what you are trying to portray.  One of my clients had a great person in house to do their social media and newsletter but needed someone from the outside to give them new ideas for marketing and to create those pieces.  Once they found the right person, they found a wealth of new ideas to expand their marketing efforts and in turn, it has made their in house person even more effective.

How can you find these people if they don’t already exist in your circle?   Attending networking events is a great way.  You may even meet people who you can trade services with.  After all, you may have expertise that they need too.  

Check out your local SBDC or community colleges.  They have lots of seminars and classes to help you.  Additionally, the SBDC may be able to set you up with an advisor.  I am always happy to help you find the people that they need to support them and have many resources.

Make sure that the people you choose to build your support system with have your best interest in mind and understand the culture of your business.  Remember too,  that they are advisors and in the end all of the business decisions that you make are yours.