Small Business

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A Holiday “To Do List” for Small Business Owners

How To Show Your Client Appreciation

We’ll all feel better if we just get it out there, so I’m going to go ahead and say it – Today is December 1st (Dramatic pause).  You might be trying to ignore it – but if you turn on the radio, visit a store, look out the window, or basically do anything human – you can’t anymore.  The Holiday season is coming, and will be here before you know it.  Some might even say it is already here. Personally, I LOVE Christmas, but it sure can STRESS ME OUT!  On top of everything else that I have to do as a small business owner in December to close out the year (accounting/tax prep, employee reviews, planning for next year, etc…), Christmas throws a whole other heap of things onto my To-Do List.  And as a small business owner, I am one of the lucky few that gets to do all of these holiday tasks TWICE!  Once at home and another time at work.  Don’t get me wrong I know I don’t have to do these things, I take them on willingly.  It’s one of my many sicknesses.

Whatever you are celebrating this holiday season, I know you have a A LOT to do at home in these next 4 weeks, in addition to running your business.  But I’m going to ignore that part and instead focus on some things you can do in your business to make the most of this time of year.  Trust me, you don’t want my advice on managing your home priorities anyways.  There are lots of fun and meaningful things you can do for the holidays at your small business – at PPM, my As-Built Surveying company, we like to focus on these “CHRISTMAS BIG 3”:

1. The Christmas Card

Why should I do this?

The Christmas Card (or Holiday Card) is a wonderful way to connect with everyone that means something to your business, to thank them for supporting you, and to wish them well in the year to come. Plus it’s a great way to update your addresses when 10% of them come back undeliverable. We send them to clients, vendors, partners, even competitors!  If you have received a Christmas Card from us, you know that we take them VERY SERIOUSLY at PPM.  Over the years our themes have ranged from the Peanuts Gang, to Photos with Santa, to Home Alone, to Where’s Waldo (coming soon…)  But I don’t know if we’ll ever top my personal favorite…

2012 PPM Christmas Card.  “Turtlenecks on the Beach”.  Yes we did.

Prep Needed:

 

  • Take the photo. (For extra credit, have a themed design made up with it)
  • Make a recipient list. Determine quantity needed.
  • Have cards printed.
  • Sign/write note, stuff, print labels, stamp, mail

2. Client Appreciation Gifts

Why should I do this?

Your clients give you so much – You literally wouldn’t be in business without them. Take the opportunity to send them a little extra holiday cheer for all they have done for you.

Prep Needed:

  • Establish your Budget. (I set aside a % of revenues each month)
  • Make a recipient list. (I don’t do all clients – I narrow it down based on business history. Based on quantity, you can set a budget per person)
  • Choose gifts (we like gift baskets filled with a variety of treats. And wine)
  • Deliver to clients (Double extra credit if you can drop off personally)

Client Gift Basket idea.  Wouldn’t you love to get one of these?  We use a vendor to prepare and ship.

3. Christmas Party

Why should I do this?

Seriously? Please don’t ever ask me that question again.  OK just in case you aren’t immediately convinced…  As small business owners, we have a tendency to constantly be looking forward.  It’s important to remember to take a break and celebrate all that you have achieved.  Plus, some of the best company stories will come from this event:  “Remember that time Mike fell in the koi pond?”

Prep Needed:

  • Establish a Budget. (I set aside a % of revenues each month)
  • Choose a Date. (more important to set this EARLY the more people you have)
  • Choose a Venue. (we have done restaurants, my home, the office, a boat)
  • Create Invite List. (just employees? Include spouses/significant others? Vendors/Partners?)
  • Event Details (this totally varies based on what you are doing. If it’s at your house you’ll have a lot to prepare, if at a restaurant then not so much.  One thing I like to do no matter where is to prepare gifts and hand them out publicly at the event to each employee, along with some kind words on how much I value them and their contribution to PPM)

2014 PPM Christmas Party.  Not pictured – somebody saying something really funny

Same party.  Cameron couldn’t make it so we brought a cardboard version instead. We liked this one better.

Hope this article helps you with some ideas for your own Holiday planning for your small business.  You still have time!  But if not… don’t worry Holiday season 2017 is just around the corner….

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Why it’s important to Win (or at least try to!)

Teamwork and the Importance of Winning.

I participated in a couple of seemingly different events last week that got me thinking about the topics of teamwork and winning. The connection between the two might not seem obvious, but by the end of the week I could definitely feel the similarities – see if you can relate…

It all started on Monday with a last minute trip to San Francisco. If you know me, you know that I am a HUGE baseball fan, and that the Giants are my favorite team. The Giants were hosting the Chicago Cubs for a playoff game and so my dad and I flew up to watch the game. Playoff sports are always exciting, and I could feel the energy in the city from the moment we stepped off the BART station on Market St.  San Francisco is never short on buzz, but the atmosphere was downright electric as we walked to AT&T park surrounded by other fans. Sitting in the left field bleachers (where the best fans are) throughout the game, we all cheered together or groaned together depending on the circumstances on the field. If you are a sports fan I assume you know this feeling – as if YOU are actually on the team yourself, and a win for the team is a win for “Us”.


Me on the right, my dad on the left, and our friend Lon in the middle.  Go Giants!

Then at the end of the week on Friday, PPM had our Quarterly Staff Meeting.  This has been a ritual of ours since at least 2008, where we all get together to review how things went for us over the previous 3 months, and talk about our goals for the next 3 months.  We eat a catered lunch, review our financial results, talk about any challenges we faced or processes we improved, and if things are well – we make sure to celebrate our success as a team.  It is a feel-good event where everyone can feel proud of themselves and their teammates for what we have accomplished, and motivated about the improvements that we plan to make in the next quarter to become a better As-Built surveying company for our clients, vendors, and employees.

Question:  What do these events have in common?

Answer:  Teamwork and the power of winning!

As weird as it may sound, I got the same feeling at the company meeting that I got at the baseball game.  It was a feeling of comradery and shared purpose – that we all had the same goal, were all in it together, and all wanted to Win. It is why complete strangers at a ballgame will high five or even hug when something great happens for their team, or why 20 people at PPM will start cheering when I announce that we acheived our As-Built program delivery goals for the quarter.

People want to feel like they are playing for something. In sports, the goal is usually simple – to score more points than the other team.  In business it’s not usually that easy – there are no end zones, home plates or finish lines.  So you have to define your own goals so that your team will know what they should be striving for, and if and when they have won.  But the best part about winning in business is that you can ALL win together.  Unlike in sports, you don’t have to also have a losing team.  You can all be cheering together!

Here’s a few things we’ve done to bring the concept of winning into our business:

  • Define the goals.  Every year and every quarter we set goals for things like revenue, client satisfaction, employee engagement, systems to improve, etc…   They should be ambitious, but realistic.
  • Track and announce progress.  Just setting goals isn’t enough.  You have to track them and talk about them regularly.  In sports, there is a scoreboard there at all times so you always know how you are doing.  You need the same thing in your business.
  • CELEBRATE!  Give everyone an extra incentive to want to win – it needs to be fun!  The danger of not celebrating is that your goal starts feeling more like a punishment if you fall short, rather than a reward when you win.

Our tracking sheet for Q3 Goals.  The reward for achieving them all? Employee Racing Event at K1 Speed!

Getting your team aligned behind the company goals is one of the most impactful things you can do as a leader in your company.  So take a lesson from sports and harness the power of teamwork and Winning!

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Starting the day off right – the Bustation Declaration!

How We Get Fired Up To Make A Fantastic As-Built Survey For You

HOW IT STARTED:

We have always liked to think of ourselves as a fun company.  Whether it’s company parties and events, office jokes and pranks, or just the lively discussions and laughter that you hear on a daily basis, it’s clear that the people at PPM have a good time at work – for the most part.  But as we have grown to 20+ people, we’ve found it hard to keep that same spirit and positive energy – particularly in the mornings.  See for yourself with this “before” photo of Alyson:

Before. Lethargic and low energy. Not ready to Bust.

One of our favorite words here at PPM is “Busting”. When you “Bust”, it means you are giving your full focus and energy towards whatever you are doing, and you’re in a good mood while you do it. A typical conversation with one of our As-Built Surveyors might go something like this:

Me: “How did that project go today?”

Surveyor: “It was great.  Came out perfectly.  I totally busted it.”

Me:  “Awesome.  Nice busting.”

In fact, we like this word so much that we made it our very first Core Value

BUSTING IN THE OFFICE:

It’s fairly easy to Bust in the field – you get to the jobsite early, you have a finite amount of work to get done, and besides measuring buildings is FUN! But in the office it’s a little harder to get fired up sometimes.  It was in response to this problem that the Bustation Declaration was invented at PPM.

THE BUSTATION DECLARATION:

  • At 8:45AM sharp, each morning, the entire staff at PPM stands up and gathers together (either indoors or outdoors)
  • The Leader will choose a 3-5 minute activity to get people engaged (we’ve had stretching, exercises, dances, word games – “would you rather” is a favorite).  The purpose here is to bring up the energy level and get people smiling.
  • Announcements are made (anything interesting that happened to anyone last night/this morning, any events happening at office today, etc…)
  • 3-5 people will speak up and make their BUSTATION DECLARATION!  This is where you DECLARE how you are going to BUST that day.  What are you going to get done?  What are you excited about?  What is motivating you to BUST today?  (usually something personal like a fun event happening that night or weekend)
  • A high energy closing.  We like the slow clap, wave, sports cheer, high five line, or something along those lines.
  • When the day is over and people are heading home, those that have successfully Busted that day and reached their goals can ring the “Li-BUST-y Bell” on their way out, which is basically just a blue cowbell.  Everyone else stops what they are doing and Cheers!

After.  Look at Alyson now!  High energy Busting!

I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.  Anyone else do something similar at their company?