Inbound marketing: A new way of marketing

63 percent of businesses now report that generating traffic and leads is one of their top marketing challenges. A few decades ago, it was commonplace for consumers to rely on advertising that was sent to them — television and radio advertisements, physical mailers, and even billboards. In the early days of the Internet, marketers sought to replicate the impact of this type of advertising through pop up ads, banner ads, and interstitial ads.

But very quickly, an entirely new way of marketing has emerged — inbound marketing.

In inbound marketing, customers are targeted with great content so they are directed to the business themselves, given that it can provide them with the information and insights they need.

 

What is Inbound Marketing?

Commercials, physical mailers, and magazine ads are all forms of “outbound” advertising. Companies send these highly promotional advertisements to customers with the express purpose of getting them to commit.

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is marketing that promotes great content and makes it available to customers in a way that points them back to the company. Inbound marketing encompasses corporate websites, social media accounts, blogs, and other content repositories. Inbound marketing is notable primarily because the consumer is entirely in control of the whole interaction. Brands give them the data they need so they can choose the brand themselves.

Let’s check out how inbound marketing works when buying a car.

Decades ago, consumers were fed with various advertisements for local car dealerships — this is how they got to decide which dealership to go for and select from the cars they have available.

Today, a consumer is more likely to google different car models first before deciding on what car to buy for themselves. They will then do an independent research on car dealerships available in their area, read online reviews to check for trustworthiness and reputation, and then check if they have the car of their choice available.

To appropriately capture inbound marketing, modern companies need to be aware of both buyer personas (representatives of their key demographics) and buyer journeys (the process of purchasing that a buyer undergoes). Learning more about your buyers personas and supporting them as they go through the buyer journey is a key way to improve conversion and engagement.

 

The stages of Inbound Marketing strategy

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Attract: In an inbound marketing strategy, the goal is to attract consumers at the very first stages of the buyer journey. When looking for new products and services, 65 percent of smartphone users search for relevant information first — regardless of where it comes from. In real estate, a real estate agent may want to attract buyers who are looking into home financing or sellers who are looking into remodelling a home for sale.

Convert: Once you’ve successfully attracted the consumer’s attention, the need to promote great content is essential to drive them to convert. Through a great content strategy, marketers will want to showcase how their product is superior to others. From the scenario above, a real estate agent can do this by establishing trustworthiness and authority through timely and valuable content.

Close: Marketers are often only able to directly engage with consumers when closing. All content must be tilted towards a clear and concise call to action. The call to action directs a consumer further along their buyer journey, ultimately leading to closing a deal. Using the same example, a real estate agent would urge ready buyers and sellers to connect with them directly.

Delight: With consumers given more control, retained customers have become even more important. After closing a sale, marketers need to get in touch with their clientele to make sure they have everything they need and check if they were fully satisfied with the process. By driving customer loyalty, you ensure repeat business.

 

Channels used for Inbound Marketing

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Social media: Consumers enjoy interacting with brands directly. Social media accounts can be used to distribute content, engage with consumers, and actively respond to any questions and concerns.

Blog posts: Blogging is an effective way for companies and professionals to build up a repository of great content. 53 percent of marketers report that blog posts are their top inbound marketing strategy.

Word of mouth: Consumers often ask friends and family for advice when looking for big ticket purchases. In fact, 64 percent of marketing executives believe word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing. An effective word-of-mouth strategy nearly always come from previous clientele.

Search engine optimisation: Consumers need to be able to find a business to interact with it. When consumers have questions in mind, SEO directs them to the right answers. An SEO campaign relies upon keywords and high-quality content to promote brand and businesses.

Online video: There are many third-party platforms dedicated to online video, which provides a mix of social media engagement and an engaging video content.

Email marketing: Consumers are often interested in further information from brands and companies they trust. Signing up for an email newsletter provides consumers the opportunity to learn more about the brand and in turn, gives companies direct access to consumers on a regular basis.

 

Building an Inbound Marketing strategy

There are many types of inbound marketing strategy — and different types of strategy work well for different companies, industries, and demographics. Building an effective strategy that is universal and can be used in a massive scale is impossible. Everything needs to be tailored to the customer’s needs. Marketers, instead,  need to ensure that they have a strategic plan and that they are able to adapt to this plan as needed.

A marketing plan should consist of a clear goal, solid metrics, and methods of optimisation. Goals may range from improving engagement to building sales revenue, depending on the company’s current advertising strategy. Metrics must be directly related to goals to track the performance of the strategy and optimisation must be completed on a regular basis to ensure that the strategy remains effective.

 

Not sure whether your business is in need of an inbound strategy?

  • Do you use your website to sell your product or service?
  • Does your target audience use the internet to research topics related to your product or service?
  • Do you want to expand your customer base beyond your company’s geographic location?
  • Do you have expertise to share?

Marketing is continuously evolving and businesses need to keep up in order to stay relevant. CEOs, entrepreneurs, and high-level professionals must be well-versed in these new marketing strategies if they are to survive the technological disruption and consumer revolution that is to come. Modern consumers are now looking to make more intelligent choices on their purchases, giving tech-savvy companies an opportunity to grow and an opportunity to outpace slower competition.

But when something as intrinsic to a business as marketing strategies change, there may be a myriad of other adjustments that need to be made as well. Consulting with other key stakeholders within your industry is one of the best ways to learn how to adjust your strategy and avoid common pitfalls.

TEC provides access to a strong peer-to-peer network of executives, entrepreneurs, and professionals that offer peer-to-peer consulting on the massive changes that are impacting businesses today. Contact TEC now to find out more. 

How to receive feedback when in a senior position

As CEOs or managers, you can benefit from constructive feedback. Everyone has areas in which they need to improve, and listening to others can impart valuable information, even if it’s only regarding how others perceive them.

Top leaders — those performing in the 83rd percentile — ask for feedback the most frequently. Upward feedback incorporates feedback from employees in managerial reviews; it gives critical information regarding your relationship with employees. There is no doubt that feedback from employees and colleagues are helpful, but this doesn’t stop the fact that CEOs and managers often receive less feedback and have greater difficulty accepting that feedback.

Major sources of feedback for those in a senior position

Subordinates, colleagues, the board of directors, and even internal measurement systems can all be sources of feedback for you. But all of these sources of feedback are not the same. It’s important to understand how these sources can be best used and how they may sometimes be skewed either negatively or positively.

  • Subordinates. Subordinates are some of the most familiar with your performance because they work directly with you. That being said, they may conflate your performance with management as a whole. Some of their complaints may directly relate to their work rather than relating to your personal leadership style.
  • Colleagues. Colleagues have a significant amount of interactions with an individual but may not be truly objective. In order to continue a solid working relationship, colleagues may be hesitant to offer negative feedback, even if they are assured it would be confidential.
  • Board of directors. A board of directors see the results of your managerial style and can only give you feedback on your chosen business strategies. Because they aren’t privy to day-to-day operations, they may not be able to give accurate criticisms. When an organisation is doing poorly, they may see this reflecting upon you.
  • Internal measurement. Internal measurements such as those provided by enterprise resource planning solutions can give direct information regarding your productivity and success but may not be otherwise accurate, especially in relation to soft skills.

You need to use all these avenues of feedback to create a complete picture of your performance. This is why it becomes important to court feedback from multiple sources as it’s the only way to obtain a full and complete picture of both yourself and the current managerial environment.

Scheduling one-on-one meetings

One-on-one meetings are often the most effective way to get detailed feedback from employees and other colleagues. Though they may at first be hesitant to share any reservations, once they begin talking, you can then explore the issues in detail. Positive feedback also helps, as it can become easier to identify an employee’s or colleague’s values and what matters most to them about their working environment.

For employees, a one-on-one meeting gives them the chance to air out any of their concerns. In many cases, employee concerns can stem from a lack of transparency; they may not understand why processes are in place or the decision-making process behind these processes, as it has never been explained to them. Employees are also heavily involved in the day-to-day processes of an organisation and may see issues that are simply invisible from a CEO or management perspective.

For colleagues, a one-on-one meeting will often reveal how working better together would look like. There may be issues that are not apparent to you as your colleague may operate in a slightly different space and have an emphasis on different aspects of the business. Together, you and your colleagues can find solutions that benefit the business as a whole.

Getting anonymous feedback

Understandably, much of the challenge related to one-on-one meetings involves a hesitance to give direct criticism. Employees are often fearful of their jobs while colleagues may be worried that they will create a combative working environment. Some may not have any work-related concerns but may simply feel that it’s overly stressful or impolite.

Anonymous feedback can resolve some of these issues. Through anonymous surveying tools — such as Survey Monkey or Google Forms — employees and colleagues can evaluate individuals without having to attach their name. In an ideal scenario, this gives them more room to be honest and direct.

However, it’s also not without some issues. In close working environments, it can be impossible to give anonymous feedback without implying who gave it. Because of that, the feedback may be vague enough that it isn’t useful. At the other end of the spectrum, anonymous feedback can embolden certain members to give unnecessarily harsh feedback. Though this feedback may still have a core of truth, it’s important not to take it to heart.

Finding the right approach

Often both types of feedback can be necessary to create a well-balanced picture of your own performance as a leader. But you need to take some time to educate employees regarding the type of feedback that you’re looking to acquire. An emphasis should be on providing constructive feedback; rather than simply stating things that you’re doing right or wrong, employees should focus on how they would like things to be and whyThis gives you actionable information to work with.

Some structure to feedback can be desirable — such as asking employees to give you feedback on specific areas of your leadership: communication, decision-making, efficiency, and interpersonal skills. Employees are more likely to give useful feedback if they’re aware of the areas that you are seeking to improve and the type of feedback you desire.

Additionally, it can be important to separate yourself from the rest of the business and its management. Be specific about needing feedback regarding yourself and your own performance, rather than management as a whole. Otherwise, it can be too easy for both colleagues and employees to conflate you with the business itself and its processes.

When in doubt, ask direct questions, such as the following:

  • How can I better support you and facilitate your work?
  • Is there anything that I am doing that disrupts your work?
  • Have you received enough feedback regarding your work and your position?
  • Are you being given the opportunities to use and develop your skills?

If there are certain areas in which you want to improve, you can also ask your employee to keep an eye out for them. Some examples include the following:

  • Am I appropriately delegating work?
  • Do you ever feel as though I am micromanaging?
  • Are there tasks I give that you feel are unachievable?

Taking steps towards improvement

Whether or not you believe that the feedback was valid or useful, it’s important to acknowledge that it’s been received, understood, and — above all — valued. Whether feedback is negative or positive (and whether you believe it’s accurate or inaccurate), the process of giving feedback is something that you should encourage or reward.

Of course, once you’ve acquired that feedback, you need to process it into action. Feedback has to be assessed — both individually and as a whole. If there are areas that are frequently coming up, such as a lack of communication, then these are issues that you need to work on. If there are issues that are only coming up with a single employee, you may need to assess your professional relationship and whether the feedback may be valid or may be an idiosyncrasy of the individual.

Ultimately, collecting feedback not only gives you the opportunity to grow as a professional, but it also improves an employee’s relationship with the business as a whole. Through meetings with both employees and colleagues, you can develop relationships that are built on trust and work towards making them more functional and efficient. Remember: negative feedback doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing something wrong; it could mean you’re doing something that isn’t effective for that particular individual.

Collecting feedback doesn’t always mean engaging with employees and colleagues, either. You can also get input and advice regarding your feedback from others who are experienced within your field. Mentorship and peer-to-peer exchange is an excellent way to get more insight into your performance as an individual. Contact TEC today to join a highly qualified, experienced, and professional network of leaders across the globe.

4 types of stress: Do you know what is causing yours?

Globalisation, managing a business in a VUCA environment, and an increased feeling of isolation have made being a CEO more difficult than ever. In fact, two-thirds of CEOs are currently struggling with stress and exhaustion. But they don’t have to be. CEOs need to work harder to rise above it, identify the cause of their stress, and proactively manage it.

As a leader, stress can impact both your mental and physical health. It can also lead to poor decision-making and inefficient work. If you want to be the best that you can be, you need to control your stress effectively and ensure that it doesn’t control you.

This process begins with a better understanding of stress, how it originates, and how you can mitigate it. There are four major types of stress: time stress, anticipatory stress, situational stress, and encounter stress. Each of these has its own nuances, drawbacks, and even benefits.

1. Time stress

The clock is ticking and there’s no way you’re going to be able to accomplish everything that you need to do. As deadlines loom ahead, you start to wonder whether you’re even capable of fulfilling the duties of your position.

Time stress involves the pervasive feeling that there’s never enough time in the day. This type of stress tends to occur as deadlines approach. CEOs are responsible for a tremendous number of deadlines, and realistically they can’t all be met. A CEO may find that they simply cannot achieve all their goals, and this can lead to feelings of failure.

But time stress is also one of the easiest types of stress to handle as it’s related to something tangible and immutable. Though you can change your habits, there’s nothing you can do about time itself. Because of this, being realistic about your goals is one of the most critical aspects of relieving time stress.

  • Brush up on your time management skills. You may not have enough time because time is simply slipping away unnoticed. Pay attention to how you’re spending your time and work to optimise it.
  • Delegate your tasks intelligently. You may actually not have enough time in the day, especially if you have been trying to handle everything yourself. If a task can be handed off, it should be.
  • Be realistic about what you can and can’t do. Don’t take on too much. Part of being a leader is ensuring that you aren’t put in the position of over-promising and under-delivering.

The more control you have over your time, the less stress you’ll experience. After all, you’ll already know what you can and can’t do, and you’ll be able to avoid over-booking yourself. Here is an article on how to effectively delegate tasks in order to free up time in your day.

2. Anticipatory stress

The new expansion seems to be going great, but there’s no way of really knowing until the doors open. Are you going to be prepared?

CEOs may begin to experience stress before a major event, especially if the results are uncertain. This is natural; it’s that fight-or-flight instinct kicking in before an upcoming ‘battle’.

Since you don’t know what you should prepare for, all you can do is wait and worry — and that, in itself, can become damaging. Anticipatory stress is one of the most insidious forms of stress because it can be constant. After all, there’s almost always something new around the corner. Anticipatory stress also conveys no true benefit: worrying about a situation that you can’t change doesn’t help.

  • Prepare yourself. The better prepared you are for upcoming events, the less you will have to worry about.
  • Be confident in your decisions. Though you may not always be able to make the right decision, you should be able to make the best-informed decision. You are, after all, still human.
  • Focus on tangible actions. Rather than worrying, look for something that you can investigate or improve. This allows you to take control over the situation in a functional way.

3. Situational stress

All the data is gone, and the backups are nowhere to be found. Could this spell the end for your business?

Even the best-prepared leaders will occasionally face an emergency. The emergency above — data loss — has happened to nearly a third of all organisations at one point or another. This type of stress is generally blended with panic, and that can lead to exceptionally poor decision-making. Emergency situations often require immediate action, and they can have devastating consequences. CEOs will often feel under pressure to quickly make the right decisions to steer their business out of danger.

  • Take a breather. Even in an emergency, you need to take the time to think things through; otherwise, you could simply compound your problems.
  • Seek out advice. A knowledgeable mentor or experienced business partner may be able to reframe your perspective and give you some useful tips.
  • Remove yourself from the situation. If it’s a specific environment that is triggering your stress, remove yourself from it to fully consider your options.

4. Encounter stress

It’s that time again — downsizing. You know that it’s part of running a business, but that doesn’t make the meetings any easier.

CEOs need to deal with people, and not all of those dealings are pleasant. From employee reviews to firings, there can be many social encounters that are less than pleasant.

CEOs may feel stress when approaching negotiations, dealing with angry customers, or having to censure their own employees. Encounter stress can also simply arise from having to be in constant contact with many individuals, as having to be social and ‘on’ all the time can be exhausting. This can lead to a feeling of brain drain and impact a CEO’s ability to work.

  • Remember to make time for yourself. It’s important to get some alone time in every day so you don’t always feel as though you’re performing your duties as a CEO.
  • Develop your emotional intelligence. Learning more about why people feel a certain way and how you can have positive interactions with them can help put you back in control.
  • Don’t take it personally. You can’t please all the people all the time; learn to accept the fact that sometimes people will walk away unhappy.

Ultimately, you aren’t going to be able to eliminate all the stressors in your life — but you can turn them to your advantage. CEOs need to be extremely mindful when managing their stress levels, as stress can come from all four corners at once. A little bit of stress is motivating, but a lot of stress can lead to poor decisions and negative social interactions. As long as you can identify why you’re feeling stressed, you can work to alleviate that stress.

A supportive network of peers and mentors can help a great deal. For the most part, stress is unnecessary; it only serves to cloud the mind. Through TEC, you can access a supportive CEO peer-to-peer network where you can learn stress management techniques from other leaders. Sign up for TEC today to begin building a path to better decisions.

Staying relevant in a disrupted industry: Lessons from Eckersley Group

Businesses need to move with the times, something that Tom Eckersley quickly realised when he took over his father’s company, Eckersley Group, with his brother in 1991. Providing a broad range of printed materials to businesses across Australia, the introduction of the digital age has meant Tom’s had to update his product and service offering frequently in order to remain relevant.

Keeping pace with digital transformation

“The advent of digital technology has completely changed the way both our customers and we as a business look at printed products,” explains Tom. “Marketing has undergone huge transformations – our clients are connecting with their customers in completely different ways, everyone is trying to decide on the best medium to communicate through, and there’s now a far greater range of products to choose from.”

Rather than seeing the digital transformation as a challenge to overcome, Eckersley Group chose to work directly with new technology to provide a range of innovative, highly relevant products. These mainly focus around targeting printed media to increase engagement. “Instead of printing a generic brochure that goes out to 100,000 people, we’ll now produce 1,000 but they’ll be aimed at a specific sector or group. We’ll use data to individually personalise content, and through this we’ll increase engagement.”

From the business end, the technology Eckersley Group uses to produce material has changed dramatically over the years. Tom’s invested in a range of new technologies to keep up with this, particularly digital production equipment. “We decided it was best to concentrate on a few core activities rather than a broad range of service offerings. This has meant we’ve been able to carve out a niche slice of the market without over-stretching ourselves.”

A dynamic duo

The print industry is one where, as Tom explains, dynamism is key. “We need to be incredibly responsive to the market, we can’t work on one model from yesteryear, we need to change our business model constantly in order to keep up with the pace of technological transformation.”

Tom and his brother realised that, in recent years, there’s a clear need for an end-to-end supply solution in the print industry. Eckersley Group responded to this by focusing on logistics. “We’re no longer just providing the product. Instead, we’re looking at end-to-end solutions, including supply, warehousing and distribution into our offering,” says Tom.

It’s this dynamism that’s gotten Eckersley Group to where it is today – a highly successful business that’s developed and grown over the years, taking on a number of other printing companies and adding them into the core. This has enabled Tom and his brother to receive acclaim from the print community, winning Craftsman Awards consistently for the quality of work they produce.

An outside perspective

In a family business like Eckersley Group, where meetings can take place around the dining room table as much as in the office, it’s essential to get an outside perspective. For Tom, TEC was able to provide that objectivity. “I met someone many years ago who was having a similar experience to me in terms of running a family business. He mentioned TEC and suggested that I go along to one of the meetings. From there, I never looked back. TEC’s given us that broader range of input and objectivity that we needed. When you’re in a family business, you’re so involved with everything and you have been all your life, so it’s important to get some perspective.”

As well as talking over issues around the table, Tom also enjoys hearing from the public speakers that TEC brings in. “The speakers bring a different dimension, they bring a lot of expertise to a particular topic, whereas with the group we can get that broader advice. Both have worked really well in improving my decision making at Eckersley Group.”

Fast Facts:

Established in: 1971 (Tom and his brother took over in 1991)

Industry: Printing

Size: 30 staff and around 1,000 clients

Markets: Australian SMEs, corporates, governments, some individuals especially book publishers

Product range: 1,000s of productions over 100 different categories, covering all marketing materials, printed matter and business stationery, both from a digital production and a traditional offset production point of view

4 tips to running effective meetings

From stand-up scrums to sit-down sessions, meetings take up a large portion of time for any organisation. When managed effectively, a meeting is an opportunity to optimise business operations. But when managed poorly, meetings become disruptive and distracting.

It’s estimated that $37 billion a year is wasted on meetings that are unnecessary — and meetings themselves can offer a false sense of productivity that gets in the way of legitimate accomplishments.

What’s the difference between an effective, powerful meeting and a waste of time? It often comes down to leadership.

Leaders are what set the tone and course of a meeting; they are the ones who decide whether a meeting is necessary, what format the meeting should be in, and how long the meeting should take.

As a leader, you need to take steps to make sure your meetings are living up to their potential.

1. Create a highly structured agenda

Meetings tend to bounce from one topic to another as related concerns arise and an extemporaneous discussion begins. While this type of exploration can sometimes be useful, it’s more often distracting.

Creating a highly structured agenda will keep your meeting focused on the issue at hand. When creating an agenda, ask yourself:

  • What are the goals of the meeting?
  • Who is necessary for the meeting?
  • When is the best time for the meeting?

Expand on your agenda with a thorough outline of the meeting’s discussion topics. A narrow, specific agenda is the most useful agenda; the broader your meeting topics are, the less likely you are to be able to get anything substantive done.

2. Only invite those who belong to the entire agenda

A shorter, smaller meeting is almost universally desirable. Additional members will only expand the scope of a meeting, encouraging it to run longer and reducing its capacity to focus.

Meetings should be as short as possible and should be limited to attendees who are necessary. If team members feel that the meeting is not relevant to them, they will often become distracted. They may even derail the meeting entirely, in an attempt to bring it towards topics that are more relevant to them. Even if they remain silent, their time will still be wasted.

Irrelevant meetings burn out employees — and over time, they encourage employees to ‘zone out’ during meetings even when they are relevant to them. Improving the relevancy of your meetings is the first step towards ensuring that employees are attentive and alert.

3. Stick to the agenda

It’s easy for unexpected issues to arise during a meeting. After all, team members may find themselves suddenly in the room with a large number of people who could solve the problems that they’re currently encountering.

This encourages them to discuss issues that are relevant to their current tasks. But for a meeting to remain efficient, it’s important to avoid being side-tracked.

When an issue that’s not on the agenda does arise, acknowledge it and have it recorded. Make it a point to discuss it in subsequent meetings.

Ensuring that the issue is properly acknowledged is important; otherwise, team members may feel as though they have been brushed off.

Likewise, it’s important to schedule a meeting to discuss the issue if it is a valid one, as otherwise people could forget about the issue.

4. Debrief and follow up

Once the meeting is over, give an overview of the key points the team has discussed and the information that has been gained throughout the meeting.

If it is desirable to get undirected feedback, set aside a time at the end of the meeting for meeting members to address any of their additional concerns.

A report should be compiled to include the meeting’s minutes, and team members with newly assigned projects or tasks should be followed up to make sure they’re on track.

Ideally, every team member involved in the meeting should walk away understanding the issues raised, the solutions presented, and their role in implementation. Written documentation will further improve the process as team members will be able to refer back to the documentation later.

As a leader, you have the unique ability to direct the meeting — and an effective meeting is all about direction. Keep your agenda close, and you’ll be able to keep the meeting on track and moving swiftly.

But meetings aren’t just about structure and process; they’re also about practice and experience. Connecting with other leaders is an excellent opportunity to acquire tips from others. Contact TEC today to find out more about connecting with a peer group of thousands of leaders, entrepreneurs, and mentors.

Making decisions with disagreements

When it comes to business strategies and problem-solving, not everyone shares the same perspective. Before a decision can be made, it’s not uncommon for a disagreement to occur. As a leader, it’s your role to manage these disagreements without letting them disrupt the flow of your organisation.

Sometimes, it’s not always important, or even possible, to make the best decision when you don’t have all the information regarding a certain issue. It’s more important that the decisions are made and that they are made with due consideration. You can achieve this by creating a decision-making strategy and by following these best practices:

Leave emotion out of it

A disagreement can easily become personal. After all, each professional is defending their own point of view, which stems from a combination of their own knowledge and experience. But everyone has their own perspective and no single individual can understand all aspects of a situation. It’s important to remain professional and to leave emotion out of the decision-making process.

Not only can introducing emotions ultimately confuse issues, but it can also reduce the impact of any points you are trying to make. Being clear on facts and clearly justifying your decisions is necessary not only for the best possible outcome, but also to ensure that employees understand your reasoning and do not feel ignored or pushed aside.

Appreciate all suggestions

It’s very easy to dismiss suggestions either as being outlandish or something that you’ve already considered. But rather than making a quick decision and potentially undermining your employee’s confidence, you should instead explore the idea and walk them through your own thought process. Be open to ideas that you might have otherwise dismissed; there may be some components that you haven’t considered.

By being a good listener, asking questions, and trying to see everyone’s point of view, you can create a positive and cooperative atmosphere. Employees will be more willing to share ideas, and ideas that are truly innovative and creative will be more likely heard. Being a primary decision maker is often like being an investigator; you need to explore all of the data before drawing a conclusion.

A failure to consider your employee’s ideas, even when they are truly unsuitable, can eventually lead to frustrated employees who feel unappreciated. When employees offer their ideas, they are trying to help. When that help is ignored, they often feel personally rejected. Moreover, it can make employees hesitate when they truly do have a good idea, as they may feel as though they won’t be heard.

Keep the consequences of your decision in mind

By necessity, each suggestion during a decision-making process needs to be explored to its conclusion. Once the brainstorming is over, each potential decision should be thoroughly outlined, and the consequences of that decision should be thoroughly investigated. The following questions should be asked:

  • What are the potential results of this decision?
  • What complications could arise due to this decision?
  • Who will this decision affect positively or adversely?
  • What will be the ultimate cost, in time and money, of each decision?

It’s possible that you may not know which decision will perform better. It may be something that is truly unknowable, such as a scenario that relies on too many factors, or it may be a decision that requires additional information before it can be made. Either way, if a decision must be made at this time, then the potential consequences not only need to be acknowledged but they also must be prepared for.

In business, it is possible that a decision may need to be made without all of the information present. Because of this, you may need to simply choose the best out of all possible solutions and plan contingencies in the event that there are negative consequences.

Compromising often doesn’t produce the best results

When we were children, we were often taught to compromise. It made sense because compromising is a fantastic way to build relationships with friends and family. But compromise is not a fantastic way to run a business. As a CEO, you need to make decisions that are optimal, not acceptable. Compromise ultimately results in both parties getting a little of what they want and a little of what they don’t need. Compromise leads to two dissatisfied parties and a weakened overall strategy.

CEOs may feel the compulsion to compromise when it comes to important business decisions, especially if tensions and emotions are running high. But when it comes to business, it’s almost always better to set a solid course rather than trying to split multiple strategies. A CEO needs to carefully study when compromise is and isn’t appropriate, and practice mediation in lieu of compromising their decision-making process.

Make better decisions through positive leadership

As CEO, you have already been selected to lead your company. Your company has put its faith in your decision-making abilities for a reason. Part of that reason is because you make well-considered, well-crafted decisions. As long as you are not making every decision in the company, it’s your prerogative to override others.

But it isn’t always that simple, especially when tensions run high or the right decision may not always be obvious. During those times, you may want to reach out for mentorship. TEC provides direct access to leaders and business owners who have experience moderating the decision-making process and ensuring that the right decisions are made day after day. Contact TEC today to find out more. 

The art of defining a market for business: Lessons from Norwest Recruitment

60% of Australian small businesses will fail within the first three years. When polled, 44% of failed Australian businesses suffered from ‘poor strategic management’ and 40% ‘fell victim to inadequate cash flow.’ Many of these businesses failed not because of a lack of opportunity but because they were not able to properly define their market and execute related strategies. In fact, small businesses have been opening m­­ore often throughout Australia due to favourable economic conditions; though all the components for success may be there, the focus and the market research is not.

Since 2002, Norwest Recruitment has operated with a simple goal: connecting businesses to the talent they need to grow and thrive. With over 20 business awards — and a ranking of 47th on the BRW Fast 100 — Norwest Recruitment has been a clear success in the competitive market of permanent and temporary employee recruitment. Erica Westbury, CEO of Norwest Recruitment, has achieved this success not only by identifying the commercial and residential growth within the North West but by also committing fully to the opportunities it represented.

Embrace the challenge

In Australia, recruitment services is not a growing industry. In fact, it experienced a downsizing of -0.4% between 2012 and 2017. This is significant, as nearly all sectors experienced growth. Since 2002, the unemployment rate in Australia has been generally falling, with a peak in 2009 and again in 2015. With this information in hand, it might be easy to think that a recruitment agency wouldn’t be able to succeed.

But it was a thorough understanding of the local market that led Erica to her conclusions. Erica realised that the recruitment agencies that already existed in Norwest Business Park weren’t offering premium-level professional services. Recruitment services were being ignored because they offered both poor customer service and a substandard talent pool. Recruitment services had developed a bad reputation.

By understanding the challenges facing the recruitment industry — one of poor reputation and a flooded workforce — Erica was able to position Norwest Recruitment in an area of the market that was not yet filled. By offering premium temporary and professional talent, she was able to sidestep issues related to low unemployment rates and a stagnant market. Norwest Recruitment became a resource through which HR departments could find the best professional talent. And this was something businesses would always need, even when the market was flooded.

Do it better

When asked about competition tech entrepreneur, Elon Musk, once said, ‘If other people are putting in 40-hour work weeks and you’re putting in 100-hour work weeks, then even if you’re doing the same thing, you know that you will achieve in four months what takes them a year to achieve.’

Businesses need to view their competition as a benchmark and should always be attempting to improve upon their work product. For Norwest Recruitment, it wasn’t just about providing a better talent pool. It was also about providing a better experience, refining processes, and reducing overhead. Businesses today need to be able to stay ahead of their technology, pivot when the market changes, and understand their customer’s needs. Often, a business will even be called upon to anticipate market and customer changes long before the change occurs.

Erica knew that in order to break into the market of recruitment and employment, she had to be able to do it better. There are hundreds of options available for companies that simply want access to a talent pool, but it was better customer service that many HR departments were looking for. By improving upon customer service and putting clients first, Erica was already a step ahead in the game.

The risk in decision-making

As a CEO, you’re faced with difficult decisions every day. Making challenging decisions can be the difference between success or failure, it could even change the entire course of your business. It is easy to fall into the habit of choosing the safest decision to achieve expected results and avoid the risk of being wrong. This may decrease risk but it does not improve results.

It is essential, as a business owner, to remain committed to your choice and be aware that no matter what option you choose, your efforts to support the success is far more important than the cost of being ‘wrong’. Erica’s decision to build a business in a saturated market was associated with great risk. The focus was not on whether this was the right decision to make – rather Erica did everything she could to ensure that her decision turned out right. The success of this is reflected in the 15 business awards won by Norwest Recruitment, including the 2014 Hills Local Business Awards, the 2011 Fairfield City Local Business Award, and the NPAWorldwide Australia/New Zealand Top Revenue Achieved Award.

Learn from other business owners

Business owners must never stop learning. Not only is there a wealth of knowledge out there available from other business owners, but the market itself may change with the times. Business owners need to stay on top of new technology, need to refine their leadership skills and learn new management techniques. They must understand modern accounting standards and have the strategy skills necessary to grow and expand in often challenging marketplaces.

Through TEC, Erica was able to reach out to other business owners, entrepreneurs, and professionals. She was able to listen to experienced and accomplished TEC speakers and connect to a like-minded community that could offer her support and resources. Through this professional community connection, Erica was further able to build her knowledge and confidence as a leader. It’s time you belong to a peer network and learn from the best. Get in touch with TEC today.

The task of delegating tasks

Only 28% of businesses offer any training regarding delegation — even though half of them are concerned that delegation is not being handled effectively. For CEOs and managers, delegation skills are not optional. In fact, these are the only way to progress.

The process of delegation is the process of prioritisation — letting go of tasks that you can allow others to handle so that you can focus on the tasks that only you can handle.

Through appropriate delegation, CEOs and managers can free themselves up for the most important tasks while also giving their employees the benefit of additional experience and advanced skills.

Nevertheless, there are some definite psychological and practical barriers to delegation that can cause CEOs and managers to hesitate. It is these barriers that need to be cleared to achieve more effective business processes overall.

1. Identify the tasks that can be delegated

Delegation should always begin with the simplest tasks and work its way upwards to the more complex ones. In a well-run business, every task is important — but some tasks are less complex than others.

A good candidate for delegation will be a task that is routine, repetitive, consistent, and teachable. This is a task that is easy to explain to an employee and that they have the skills and the capabilities to complete. This is also a task that does not change often and does not require any special access or permission to complete.

It isn’t always easy to identify a ‘simple’ task. For instance, there may be interactions with vendors that appear to be simple mechanically but would require your personal social interaction to complete. So before delegating, ask yourself whether an employee may encounter any roadblocks during the task that you yourself may not, such as not having in-depth knowledge of a customer or a business process. This doesn’t mean that the task can’t be delegated; it merely means that additional work may be needed.

2. Match the task to the employee

It is important that you hand over tasks to employees who have some level of competency within the area. As a leader, it is likely that you are handling many different tasks that utilise different skills, ranging from business knowledge to interpersonal communications.

So knowing your employees is the first step towards understanding which tasks they are best suited for — though you also shouldn’t hesitate to give a capable employee a chance at something that may be a little outside of their skill set.

When delegating, it often becomes the case that a CEO or manager will discover that one employee is highly competent. These are the employees that often begin to take on more delegated tasks and processes, and it should often be the goal of the leader to find these employees. Once you have found your highly competent individuals, you can then begin mentoring them into more advanced roles within your organisation.

3. Introducing the task to the employee

When an employee has a task delegated to them, it’s easy for the task to be seen as ‘more work.’ Framing the delegation appropriately can be the difference between an excited employee and a hesitant one.

A delegated task is not a punishment; it is an opportunity for growth and development. If the employee does well at the task, they should be able to grow with the company and eventually enhance their own responsibilities. This is something that is very important to modern employees, who are found to have an eye for consistent career advancement.

Employees should be made aware of the task itself and why you chose them for the task — this is in addition to the skills and experience that make them an ideal candidate. Through this, the employee will be aware that you are looking at their performance and paying attention to their own career goals. They will have more motivation to not only complete the task in a timely fashion but also to do their best at it.

If the task relates to a vendor, customer, or other individual, introductions should be made at this time so that the delegation will flow smoothly.

4. Provide instructions

It’s easy to become an indispensable resource over time simply because others would not know exactly what you did or how it was done. The difference between a successful delegation and a failed delegation often comes down to documentation.

It can be easy to become frustrated about things that you believe ‘anyone should know’, and it can be easy for an employee to become frustrated that they are expected to ‘read your mind’. Giving clear instructions from the outset bypasses these potential issues.

More importantly, documentation is an investment; it can be used when these tasks are delegated in the future and ensures that you are not burdened by ‘hit by a truck’ scenarios.

In addition to providing clear instructions, it may be necessary to complete the job with an employee a few times. When the task is finally handed over, the employee must be clear regarding the desired results of the task and when it needs to be completed by.

Not only will this take a burden off you as the leader, it will also empower your employees to take ownership and initiative. This is further discussed in “How to create a culture of accountability“ by the established business leader and HR professional Trudy MacDonald.

Delegation is a skill, and it’s a skill that will serve a leader for some time to come. The best leaders are the ones that are most effective at delegating; they trust their employees can handle the day-to-day operations fully while they’re focusing on the bigger picture.

You can master your delegation skills through practice, experience, and mentorship. TEC gives you access to experienced, successful leaders, with which you can discuss the art of delegation and the process of integrating delegation effectively into your business culture. Contact TEC today to find out more.

CEO confidence on Australia’s SME growth

the executive connection

TEC’s Confidence Index Report (CIR) paints an optimistic future for Australia’s businesses, even if there may be some challenges ahead. The CIR outlines not only some of the positive aspects of the Australian marketplace but also some of the most pressing issues CEOs must address if they are to succeed. With a well-developed strategy, business owners should be able to leverage this coming year for sustainable and aggressive growth.

Australia’s economic outlook is bright

82% of CEOs believe the economic conditions of Australia will either grow or stay the same. This stability is incredibly important for businesses that expect to begin building their growth in the coming year. Even a stable economy ­­­— without growth — is a boon to a well-managed business.

Though a well-run business can succeed at any time, a strong economy improves upon all factors, from the cost of customer acquisition to the cost of goods. Businesses will be investing more in their own infrastructure, which in turn will contribute more to the growth of the economy overall. Even a perception of a stronger economy can have a resounding impact, especially at a local level.

Business owners expect an increase in sales revenue

78% of business owners anticipate an increase in sales revenue in the year ahead, and this is going to encourage business owners further to continue investing ­— not only in themselves but also in products and services from other local companies. An anticipated increase in sales revenue is due to an increase in customer spending, which naturally occurs when the economy is doing better.

At the same time, low consumer confidence may require that business owners become more creative and aggressive with their marketing techniques. By coming up with innovative ways to captivate their customers, leaders will be able to separate their companies from their competition. In fact, they will have to if they want to leverage the current economic conditions.

Businesses will be featuring new products and services

72% of business owners are citing new products and services as a part of their growth plan. As businesses grow, investing in a product base is a solid strategy as it gives consumers something new and exciting to be interested in.

At the same time, investing in new products and services can also be a risky bet for an entrepreneur. Without substantial market testing, companies can find themselves extending too far financially on products and services that they aren’t able to move.

Though market testing cannot eliminate this possibility, it can reduce the risk. New products and services can then open up brand-new markets for the business and aid them in development and expansion.

Altogether, the CEO outlook is an exceptionally positive one. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of work to be done. Though CEO confidence is high, consumer confidence is not. And CEOs are finding many challenges along the way, such as time management, skill development, and innovation.

Read the full Confidence Index Report Q2, 2017 

How to build a foundation for exponential business growth

Growth is a balancing act. Grow too quickly, and you run the risk of over-extending your organisation. Grow too slowly, and you may be eclipsed by the competition.

Growth is critical for an organisation to survive, yet two-thirds of the fastest-growing companies will fail. This is because growth operates as an accelerator: all the positives and negatives of a business are amplified during a growth phase, and businesses that are not prepared for rapid growth will quickly find themselves falling apart.

Limited resources, exhausted employees, and a disruptive work environment can all eventually take its toll, even on a business that appeared to have strong fundamentals.

In order to handle growth, a business needs to start with a firm foundation.

Training and retaining your employees during growth

Employee retention is the top concern for employers in 2017 — and rapid expansion only compounds this problem. Not only are human assets the foundation of any business, but losing human assets during the process of expansion can be exceptionally disruptive. The cost of training a new employee can be many times that employee’s monthly salary, and cycling through employees during a growth cycle is a fast track towards business disruption.

During expansion, employees may find themselves having their day-to-day tasks interrupted with a continuous flow of challenges. They may not feel as though a structure is in place to adequately reward them for meeting these challenges — and ultimately they may find themselves fatigued. During aggressive expansion, employees may also wonder what their position will be once the structure of the organisation changes, and they may feel uncertain regarding their future with the business.

To counter this, employees need to be trained specifically to handle growth phases. Management must be clear and transparent regarding the changes that the employee will experience — and management should further go out of its way to identify and reward its star employees.

Constantly foster innovation

Regardless of industry, innovation is considered to be the key driver of business growth. It may not always be possible for a business to have superior resources than its competition, but it is always possible for a business to find a way to do something better.

Businesses can only gain an edge during rapid expansion by fostering innovation and looking towards improving upon their operations, processes, products, and services.

Innovation can be best fostered in a business by encouraging employees to explore new ideas. Creating a company culture of openness and creativity can naturally lead to innovation, even during times of aggressive expansion and growth. A culture of innovation will additionally keep employees engaged and constantly improving, thereby also improving upon employee retention.

New business processes, new products or services, and new ways to service clients all fall under the banner of innovation, which is critical for business survival today. An innovative business is an agile business and a business that will be able to evolve with its growth.

Streamline business processes

Everyone knows that small businesses have a tendency to fail during expansion due to a lack of capital. But what is less explored is why large successful enterprises fail. This is usually a matter of a lack of innovation and optimisation. As businesses become larger, they become set in their ways and processes become entrenched — even if they may not necessarily be the most ideal.

Businesses need to be open about identifying bottlenecks, finding solutions, and validating their own assumptions. Well-designed business processes must be documented and analysed, and a business process should be available for every task. Otherwise, a business can quickly fall apart as it grows, as employees will not be able to follow direct strategies for handling customer complaints, processing orders, servicing clients, creating products, and more. As growth rates accelerate, these processes become even more important.

Identify the value in technology

Technology is a major asset to any organisation poised for growth. Through technology, businesses are better able to leverage their existing infrastructure, competing with businesses larger than themselves, and increasing their own stability. Businesses that do not invest in technology run the risk of being left behind; a decade ago, the cloud was virtually unheard of, yet as of 2015, over 90% of businesses had invested in some form of cloud-based infrastructure.

Enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, and logistics and shipping platforms are all designed to optimise and improve upon business operations. Ultimately, this also improves upon a company’s ROI, which is absolutely critical during the intense stages of business growth. Businesses need to start implementing these suites now rather than later, so that their organisation has already integrated them fully into their business practices as they grow.

When it comes to growth, firm business foundations are what make the difference between success and failure. As a leader, your primary goal is to make your business foundation stronger to sustain it throughout these periods of aggressive growth and expansion. If you want to learn more about reviewing and improving upon your business systems and foundations, contact TEC today. TEC can give you complete access to experienced professionals with invaluable insights into business growth and management.

How to manage your star employees

Employees are what drives a business — and that’s why businesses are always competing for the best talent.

Industry professionals have estimated that up to 90% of an enterprise’s value is driven by its intellectual capital, but you don’t need to rely upon such abstract estimates. It’s already known that the average employee costs six to nine months of their salary to replace.

With all this in mind, it becomes necessary for CEOs and managers to focus on both acquiring and supporting their best employees. Unfortunately, model employees tend to disappear beneath the problem employees, making them feel unwanted and undervalued.

It’s a CEO’s job to ensure that all employees feel satisfied and recognised — especially the ones that are doing the most for the business.

Foster your team relationships

The Pareto Principle tells us that the top 20% of our employees will complete 80% of the work. By the same token, the bottom 20% of our employees will take up 80% of our time. This is what can cause a solid employee to disappear under a morass of more difficult ones. But when you manage a business, you aren’t managing just the top employees or just the bottom employees; you’re managing them all as a team. There will always be overachievers and underachievers, but you need to work with all of them effectively.

When employees work together, they are more likely to feel rewarded by a task successfully completed. Team-building exercises and corporate events can be used to further deepen and build upon these relationships, in addition to the foundation that a strong sense of company culture provides. A sense of camaraderie and team spirit is often enough to make employees feel like a valuable member, but the danger is that they may also feel as though they aren’t being rewarded for their direct and unique contributions.

Recognise and reward individual employees

Creating a company culture of recognition is important. But rewards don’t necessarily need to involve money. In fact, both public and private recognition are often rated more highly. Employees don’t just want to feel directly recognised; they also want to feel as though they have a future with the organisation and that they will continue to develop their career. What’s more, while 24% of employees found recognition from their CEO the best, 28% found recognition from their direct managers preferable.

Communicate with your employees through bi-weekly meetings

Regular one-on-one meetings, even quick stand-up meetings to check in, are a great way to tell your employees what they’re doing correctly and to get any feedback on what managers may be doing wrong. Many companies are blindsided by employees who appear to leave suddenly, when the departure really wasn’t sudden at all. The employee was simply never given the opportunity to directly address their concerns. When given a chance, most employees will be straightforward about their own goals with the organisation and what the organisation could be doing to better serve them.

Training and development opportunities

Employees today are not loyal to their companies; they are loyal to their careers. If they feel as though their careers aren’t advancing at the rate they expected, they’re more likely to jump ship. The solution is to offer a steady stream of training and development opportunities. Employees want to be able to do their jobs well; this gives your top-performing employees their time to shine.

Training and development directly benefit the organisation itself. As employees become more effective, they become more efficient at their tasks and more capable of operating autonomously. Though the company may need to invest directly in these training and development opportunities, they will ultimately achieve a substantial return on their investment.

Employees may also be given the opportunity to engage in transfer of learning, through which skills are diversified and employees are able to cross-train in different fields. Employees who are able to train in multiple fields are far more likely to be effective, as they are able to quickly adapt to the positions that the company requires. Transfer of learning is how some of the top CEOs are able to be so effective. It is also instrumental in grooming top-performing employees for management positions.

By improving your employee retention, not only can you reduce your hiring costs, but you can also boost your employee satisfaction by up to 22%. Though this isn’t an easy task, it can be achieved by building a company culture of employee recognition from the ground up. As a CEO, managing your employees is a balancing act; you need to be able to reward your outstanding performers while still managing the employees who are struggling. Mentorship and advisement can help. Through TEC, you can connect with other entrepreneurs and CEOs who are facing the same hurdles and developing their own employee management strategies. For more information, contact TEC today.

Most popular TEC articles so far in 2017

TEC’s blog is comprised of an extensive list of resources suited to the eyes of SME CEOs and executives. If you missed one of our weekly posts, below is a list of our top blog articles thus far in 2017.

 

1. The guide to organisational structures (flat vs hierarchical) 

An organisation’s structure forms the very basis of its operations. As a company grows, the impact the structure can have is significant. Read the guide to choosing and changing your organisational structure to suit your business’s needs.

 

2. Authentic leadership and what it means for culture

Is your approach to leadership authentic? It plays an important role in shaping your business’s culture. Learn how you can be the most authentic version of yourself.

 

3. 5 leadership styles and when to apply them 

Are you one of the 36% of organisations that don’t have a formal leadership development strategy? The relationship between leadership styles and employees play a crucial role. Learn the five most popular leadership styles here.

 

4. Are you a manager or a leader? Three essentials lessons from Inspire CA 

Do you manage people, or do you lead the way for them? 46% of all startups fail due to general incompetence in leadership. Learn how to be a leader here.

 

5. Adding the why back into goal setting

Perhaps it’s time to revisit those New Year’s resolutions. Ensure the goals you set are driven with clarity and purpose. These tips will help you identify why these goals are important and how to set goals that you value.