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Friday, November 02, 2007

A year in the life of this blog

Our new design will be implemented next month

It's been a year since I set up this blog on the site. Here is the first entry:

Looking back, of course I can see how some assumptions and projections were wildly optimistic. But the general gist of the entry -- that the business had survived a tumultuous turning point and would soon be thriving, has proven itself true.

We are growing again. Today, the company will sign an employment contract with Ken Lancastle, who will be our new full-time staff writer/editor, and we are moving forward to hire a third Canadian sales representative/associate publisher. Our websites still need serious work -- but our success in rebuilding other parts of the business and this blog have given me confidence that, when we start work on that project, we will get it right.

More than ever, I appreciate how important individuals and attitudes are to a business success. On Wednesday night, I discovered an old file, dating back to 2003 -- two years before the "old" business almost disintigrated. It contained correspondence and notes regarding a former employee's disgruntlement and hostility -- she had kept her thoughts under wraps but I accidentally found about them (the stuff proved to be so sensitive I decided this file needed to be kept at my home, rather than in the office.) Rereading this almost-forgotten document, I can see how negativity had infected the business and would, in the following couple of years, almost destroy it.

Of course no business owner can or should micromanage people; and I certainly don't want to invade my employees' privacy. But the attitudes reflected in that file contrast sharply to our brief weekly sales update meeting yesterday -- where employees contributed ideas and thoughts that added insights and created opportunities for everyone.

Lessons learned:

  • Regular meetings are essential. We have a general weekly staff meeting and second special sales meeting. These are timed and managed to minimize disruption and waste -- and never go beyond an hour (usually we are done in 30 minutes or less.)
  • Employees need to be part of the systematic planning process -- they accordingly participate in our twice-yearly planning and budget meetings, which each require at least a full day of undivided attention.
  • Solid hiring systems are essential. We have protocols for employee selection designed to avoid the stereotypical "read resume, interview" mind-set (which really, if followed, just tells us who can write a good resume or 'interview well'. We don't want to fill the spot with someone who is just "okay" -- the new employees must really be right for the business.
  • Our clients deserve really good service and value. This comes directly from our products and values -- but ultimately it is the interaction between our employees and clients that determines the relationship success.
  • You don't need to push, intrude, be disrespectful or a pest to succeed in business. In fact, conventional 'hard rock' selling is better replaced by Permission Marketing; where the important thing is truly giving rather than trying to sell stuff. This blog reflects these values. (I see other cases where someone trying to sell uses the blog, surveys, and e-letters as not so thinly disguised selling ploys. These approaches may work, some of the time, but I doubt are sustainable or truly effective long-term.)

So, where will we be one year from now?

Our operating business plan is confidential but I am confident we will be publishing in several new communities and the websites will be fixed and contributing dynamically to the industry. I think we will grow by 50 to 100 per cent -- this may seem wildly optimistic, but this growth will simply bring us back to where we were in 2003. The difference this time around is we will follow effective systems, use common-sense, and respect and encourage employees to share and contribute in the experience.

1 comment:

Sonny Lykos said...

A "choice" column, Mark. A lot of wisdom and leadership is shown. And I agree about Permission Marketing. I own the book also. Great read.