Norma Walton, Not Your Parents’ Workforce

One of our businesses was growing and we were looking for someone to work 16 hours every weekend. I had been doing the work myself while growing the business, but the business had become busy enough that it could afford to pay someone to do that work.

First I chatted with my friend’s husband. He works during the week and is saving up for an apartment for his young family so was keen on weekend work to supplement what he earned from his regular job. He is 27 years old. He did an excellent job for me for a few weekends then told me that he had decided he could no longer work after 5 pm…ever.

Next, I chatted with a hard working woman with whom I work from time to time and I mentioned that we had this position available. She told me her son Mitch was desperate to make money and that she was sure he would love to do it. Mitch is a nice single 35-year old guy whom I knew and liked. I immediately offered the work to him. He thanked me for thinking of him but explained that he never worked on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

The third was a 32-year old Uber driver named Nur whom I met when he drove me home. A former fighter pilot, he had emigrated from Afghanistan via America. He told me he needed to make money. He did the work one weekend, collected his money, then he just didn’t show up for work the next weekend. It was obviously beneath him. I haven’t heard from him since.

Fourth time lucky. The fellow who now works with me on the weekends is from Barbados. He emigrated to Canada a year ago because it was impossible to make a good life in Barbados unless you were a member of the police or the military and he didn’t qualify for either. He loves Canada because if you work hard, you can create a decent life for yourself. He came here a year ago. He has found opportunities through keenness. He obtained his forklift truck driver’s license. He then started working for an agency each week while working to upgrade his license. He works with me on the weekend and is saving up to secure his own studio apartment near York University and then to afford a car. He is 27 and so far very reliable.

Back when I was a teenager into my early 20s, I was always interested in making money if I could fit it into my school and sports schedule. I began working when I was 13 years old and secured my license the day I turned 16. I was not unusual among my peer group. We all wanted to make money, play sports, drive cars and get our own place. Leisure time was what you grabbed late at night or over a couple of hours on the weekend, if you were lucky and had finished all your chores at home.

In my (now dinosaur-like) experience, if you wanted to make extra money, you needed to work evenings, weekends, nights, mornings, afternoons – basically, anytime anyone would pay you. You needed to show up for work when you were required. Keenness was critical. Asking for more work was important. Basically, everything else in your life took a back seat to making that extra money you wanted so you could accomplish whatever objective you had at that time.

The type of work was not as relevant as how much you were being paid per hour and how many hours you could secure. Being fulfilled at work was not even a consideration. I remember working three summers in a row on the line at Ford putting hood covers on because 27 years ago they paid $25 an hour. I can still do that specific job in my sleep because I put 60 hood covers on every hour for 48 hours a week for three summers in a row…138,240 hood covers. The job was mind-numbing but that money helped put me through school and paid for my car expenses. Needless to say, I had very little leisure time those summers.

My values are no longer prevalent. In seeking to fill this weekend position, it became apparent to me that the workforce has changed since I was a girl. Work-life balance in your 20s and 30s is now valued far more than money. People say they want to make extra money, but they mean only if it does not inconvenience them in living their best life. Hence a lot of people in their 20s and 30s are living with their parents, with siblings or with roommates. They don’t drive. They value leisure time more than making money.

For better or worse, while trying to hire someone for weekend work, I realized that this is not my or my parents’ workforce.

The Importance of Matching Responsibilities with Skill Sets In Team Management

From my experience in managing and leading teams, one of the most important lessons I have learned is that, as a team leader, it’s imperative to provide a good match between the responsibilities assigned to a team member and their skill set. If you delegate responsibilities to a team member who lacks the required skills or, just as important, feels unprepared to take on the assigned tasks, you will end up with a dissatisfied team member who produces suboptimal work.

It’s always worth the time it takes, as a team leader, to understand the skill sets of your team members, and sometimes it takes a different mindset, as a leader, to achieve the right results.

Thinking about tasks and responsibilities in a functional way

Team managers will often assign work and responsibilities based solely on their understanding of certain pre-existing roles on the team. For example, client or customer service interactions might be delegated to someone who occupies a sales role, since that person has experience with those types of responsibilities. This type of delegation follows the pattern of assigning work according to position title or organizational culture and norms.

However, in assigning responsibilities, a team leader should also consider the scope of the work that needs to be done on a project or an initiative, and, from that understanding, find the best match of skill set and division of duties to accomplish that work.

If there is a member of your team who would provide a great fit between skill set and responsibility, you should consider assigning that team member to the task, even if that person might not have been customarily assigned to that role previously. This is a more functional way of thinking about the delegation of work and the assignment of duties.

Analyzing the skill sets on your team

There are different methods you can use to understand the skill sets of your team members. One way to do this is through formal assessment and through tests and skill analyses. Through assessment, you can inventory the skills and knowledge that your team members possess and gain valuable data regarding the areas in which your staff might need additional training. This can also help you decide how to delegate work in such a way that you align your team members’ skill sets with the responsibilities they are assigned.

Behavioral interviewing (conversations) may also be useful. This technique involves asking your team members to discuss a situation when they executed their work using certain skills. For example, you might ask a team member about how they resolve a complex problem to better understand their critical thinking skills, or how they collaborated with colleagues to achieve success under pressure. These types of questions can reveal much about a team member’s skills and capabilities.

In my experience, properly matching the skill sets of team members with their assigned responsibilities can increase productivity and lead to higher levels of team cooperation and confidence.

Start-ups: reward over risk

There are many tales of entrepreneurs who started their business in their bedroom or garage and grew them to be multimillion dollar companies. However, they didn’t just get there by luck. It was down to incredibly hard work, long hours, and an unswerving belief that their original business idea was going to work.

In many ways, it’s easy to start your own business, but you will face challenges that larger and more established organizations don’t have to worry about. Your resources will be limited at the start, and you won’t yet have a reputation. Your cash flow is likely to be a concern at the beginning, and unless you have done some effective, targeted research, you might be uncertain about your target demographics.

There are plenty of risks for a start-up, but always remember that the big, successful businesses all had to start somewhere before they became flourishing entities. There’s no reason why you can’t look forward to reaping the rewards of your own entrepreneurship.

Why start a business?

A word of warning to begin with: many businesses go under in the first few years, not because they were bad ideas but often because the planning was not done properly or sometimes because economic downturns have affected the market.

With that little caveat out of the way, you can start to think through the positive things that come from owning your own business and what you need to do to get it up and running.

Despite the hard work ahead and often uncertainty about what’s going to happen in the future, running your own business gives you tremendous independence, both financially and in terms of operation. Initially, it’s you that will be making the decisions on something that you are passionate about, and as you grow, you will have people in place who share your vision and want to help you make your company grow.

Being your own boss is a liberating experience – in a way, it’s you against the world, but a world that you can persuade to buy your goods and services. It’s exciting as you work your way through the many things that you need to put in place, and especially satisfying as you see the risks that you’ve taken gradually turning into a business with a burgeoning and positive reputation and hard cash coming into the coffers.

Imagine, you could be someone like David Kiger, who started the global logistics company Worldwide Express from his spare bedroom with only a few thousand dollars of start-up money, building it into the largest logistics company of its type in the US.

Advantages of start-ups

When you’re a small business, you can move much more quickly than big companies if there is a shift or disruption in the market, a new competitor, or a new technological development. Big businesses have structures that can be cumbersome, not always allowing them to react quickly to changes. You, on the other hand, will have a structure, but you don’t have to stick to it if circumstances become different. You can move rapidly, change direction if required, and be ready to rebuild from the ground up if necessary.

Bureaucracy is frequently the hallmark of large companies, where decisions have to go through painstaking evaluation by many people in many different departments, slowing decision-making down to a crawl. Naturally, it’s important to have safeguards in place, but the wheels of bureaucracy tend to grind very slowly. You, on the other hand, will have some firm rules in place together with formal processes, but without the layers of management your start-up can be considerably more agile, making decisions faster and working more efficiently because of that freedom.

Planning ahead

A business plan is only as good as its implementation, so even if you’ve done your market research, sourced initial finance, done your strategic vision, and pulled a realistic budget together, don’t put it on a shelf and ignore it. Business plans evolve depending on the circumstances, whether it’s economic downturn, financial constraints, the need for capital investment, or a requirement to expand the number of employees. You should regularly revisit your business plan to ensure that things are on track or to change emphasis where needed.

In the end, your start-up will be as successful as you want to make it, together with your working colleagues. There is no harm in being imaginative and go-getting. That way, you can not only enthuse your employees but also, down the line, your clients and customers.

Ed Rempel CFS

Ed Rempel Top Key Note Speaker at The Canadian Financial Summit

Ed Rempel is a well known Canadian “Financial” Keynote Speaker and shares his enthusiasm and many years of experience to primed financial audiences that want, need and deserve more and better insight and information. Join Ed Rempel a senior financial industry expert with a host of other top speakers at the Canadian Financial Summit. www.canadianfinancialsummit.com September 13-16 Online Event.

 

 

Why Conscious Leaders Inspire Enhanced Productivity

The workplace is rapidly evolving and it’s more important than ever to ensure your employees are content. A happy employee, after all, is a more productive employee. Research has proven that when staff is actively engaged in their work, companies benefit as workers accomplish more and perform more effectively. They are also more likely to come up with innovative solutions to problems, as they feel personally invested in the organization’s success.

So, the question for employers is how do you keep your workforce engaged so they give you their best effort?

One answer is to strive to be a conscious leader, one who inspires their employees to go above and beyond average effort to exceeding expectations every time.

Before you can be a conscious leader, you need to understand the concept. A conscious leader is always thinking about how their supporters perceive them, and they work to ensure that perception remains positive. They acknowledge that they have strengths and weaknesses, and that others may have knowledge and skill sets they may not possess. They listen actively when others speak, and are open to new ideas. They treat those in their employ as people, not robots, and they understand that people at all levels are the heart of any organization.

In short, conscious leaders know and understand that the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

Not every executive is a conscious leader, but with practice, they can transform themselves into one.

Perhaps the most important step leaders can take is to understand the employee experience from the worker’s perspective. This requires a high level of objectivity on the part of organizational leaders, but it’s an essential first step. If leaders don’t understand how a workforce views their jobs or the organizational leadership, it’s impossible to improve the staff’s unique situations and subsequent performance. One has to be willing to come down from the safety of the executive suite and look at your company through the eyes of everyone working there. No role is too small to consider, as everyone plays a part in the success of a business.

A conscious leader is also increasingly self-aware. They regularly take personal inventories of their own goals and accomplishments, and allow themselves to honestly assess their own shortcomings. They’re not afraid to consult others for help or advice, and they don’t hesitate to transform their leadership styles when needed. In fact, many conscious leaders may work regularly with a professional coach.

Conscious leaders are likeable people who establish a corporate culture where their employees can thrive. They exude positivity and they encourage others to achieve and excel. They incentivize performance by offering appropriate rewards, and provide opportunities for their employees to grow and advance in their careers. They understand the value of investing in their workforce, whether it’s through specialized training or professional development.

A conscious leader is more than a capable manager, they’re an inspirational force that drives their company’s success.

On Organizational Silos and How to Surmount Them

It’s been 25 years since Jack Welch, the iconic former leader of General Electric, encouraged a different way of looking at how businesses are organized and managed.

He advocated for the “boundary-less” organization, marked by faster decisions, greater employee engagement and stronger collaboration. He brought it to life as the “GE Work-Out Process,” and the underlying philosophy – the need to remove the hierarchies and silos and fragmented processes and cultures – has been popular among management gurus ever since.

Still, 25 years later, everyone seems to have a recipe for making the Kool-Aid. But why aren’t more organizations drinking?

From my perspective, Jack Welch is an excellent role model and this particular flavor of Kool-Aid is one that should go down well. In growing a 200-plus employee organization that’s a leader in construction and construction management, my firm, MBM Consulting, couldn’t have earned its reputation for innovation and quality had we been mired in a rigid and controlled environment with a trickle-through communications style.

That isn’t to say that organizational silos don’t have their place. Especially in larger organizations, they offer structure. They provide a place for specific areas of expertise to flourish. And they allow some measure of control to be exerted over the flow of information up and down the organization.

But, when the walls are too high, there’s a price to be paid. Alignment of priorities goes off-kilter. Bottlenecks occur and stifle the information flow. And decision-making in a vacuum occurs, with long-term negative implications for the business.

So, how can organizations do a better job of, if not dismantling their silos, at least reducing the height of the dividers between them?

Here are three suggestions that I’ve adapted to my own organization’s purposes.

1.     Establish a top-down culture of communication and collaboration. It takes leadership commitment, people at the top who walk the talk. I try to personify the behaviors that I want to see in my teams. It takes time and commitment to grow a culture where opinions and input from across the aisle are solicited and valued. To a significant extent, that also takes articulating that commitment in meaningful vision and mission statements that everyone trusts.

2.     Borrow from Jack Welch’s “work-out” process. The bigger the organization, the more difficult it is, of course, to coordinate across a fragmented and geographically dispersed structure and functions. A fairly simple solution is to fashion your initiatives as regular forums designed to improve cross-functional and hierarchical communications and, ultimately, push for faster decision-making. Team leaders for a tech company, for example, successfully brought together its R&D and business areas, whose combined input led to a faster process for product commercialization.

3.     Share the successes. When you’ve surmounted the barriers and joined disparate teams and disciplines together to tackle the big challenges that can affect your productivity, growth and financial performance, give credit where it’s due. You’ll strengthen the bonds of your organizational fabric and also motivate others to want to play a role in this collaborative environment.

The fact is that whether you’re the chief executive or project manager or IT troubleshooter or marketing specialist, everyone has shared goals in pushing for the future success of your organization. The more effectively you can remove the barriers from collaboration and communication, the greater your measure of success will be.   

Four Guidance Points to Building Successful Family Business Governance

A 2014 survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that 71 percent of family-owned businesses didn’t have procedures in place to resolve conflict issues.

Statistics such as these make it all the more imperative that family members in business together set up a clear and agreed-upon structural plan, a constitution for business governance as it were.

Items in this structural plan can include mission and vision statements, an employment policy, strategies to develop the next generation of leadership for the business, a liquidity policy, a succession plan, and information regarding any shareholder meetings.

Understandably, the details of what is relevant when it comes to successful family governance can change from business to business.  With that said, the below guidance points can prove useful for a wide range of family-run organizations. 

Independent Board of Advisors

Many family businesses have boards of directors comprised mostly or entirely of family members. Although boards of directors with this kind of composition can be successful, independent, non-family-related directors do bring value. 

Some family businesses ensure more balanced boards of directors through policies that limit the number of family directors.  Some also compliment their family board members with non-equity holding directors. If the governance structure doesn’t allow for outsiders on the board, setting up an advisory committee to the CEO that is composed of individuals recruited from outside the family may bring fresh perspective and expertise.

Avoiding Conflict During Management Changes

Policies that encourage meritocracy are certainly beneficial to any family-run company, especially when it comes to setting boundaries and avoiding conflict during times of management change.

The reality is that leadership change happens in most businesses.  Intelligently-run organizations understand this reality and plan ahead to make leadership transitions as smooth as possible.

To build on the previous point, outside directors and advisers can help make management changes smooth, after all non-family related advisors or directors can provide both the perception and the reality of objectivity during leadership selection decisions.

Regardless if a business is hiring new management from within the family or outside of it, new management should be in line with the organization’s culture and should be evaluated based on core leadership qualities like respect, integrity, quality, humility, passion, modesty, and ambition.

Transparency

To prosper, businesses need to raise financing from time to time and if a company is still private, that usually means depending on a bank to provide a loan. Family-run firms that insist on maintaining a veil of secrecy over their affairs will find it difficult to raise the financing needed to grow.

The so-called “family premium” — the idea that family-owned and -led businesses are stricter when it comes to standards, capital distribution and governance — is typically only applicable to entities with high levels of transparency. Conversely, opaque firms trade at a discount because investors simply don’t know enough about that business, especially those firms with governance practices that may be questionable in other respects.

A Well-Organized CEO Succession

When examining large family-run corporations that have failed in the past, CEO successions, or rather failed CEO successions, have played an unfortunate pivotal role.  When considering the integrity of their own CEO succession process, businesses should ask three questions: one, how vigorous is their candidate selection process and does it allow for the inclusion of multiple candidates?  Two, will all family members who are significantly part of the business be involved in the selection of the new CEO?  Three, what is involved when it comes to integrating and developing the successor in his or her new role as CEO? 

The latter point should be particularly emphasized if a new CEO is being introduced into the business who is not part of the family.  After all, this will be a leader who will not only have to efficiently and successfully integrate into the company, it will also be someone who will need to integrate into the family business dynamic and navigate the occasionally choppy waters of inter-family relationships.

Sole Proprietor Vs. LLC From A Money Management Perspective

A growing number of Americans today run their own business. Between 1980 and 2010, the number of sole proprietorship businesses in the US grew from around 10 million to more than 23 million. For perspective, the corresponding number of C corporations, partnerships and S Corporations put together account for not more than 8-9 million.

It is easy to start a sole proprietorship business. In fact, there is no formal action required from a business owner to be a sole proprietor. Limited Liability Corporations (LLC) on the other hand, need to be registered as a legal business entity. However, this incorporation lets them add members to the organization. This may be essential if you have more than one founder. Members of an LLC shall continue to file profits and losses in their individual capacities, much like a sole proprietor.

So if you are the sole founder of a business, does it still make sense to register yourself as an LLC? Here are a few things to consider.

Business Expenses

There is little to no difference when it comes to accounting for business expenses. Buying a phone to handle customer calls counts as a business regardless of whether you buy it in a personal capacity or as an LLC. Similarly, buying gifts for your clients can be written off as a business expense no matter how your business is registered. That being said, it should be pointed out that the IRS does tend to look closer into sole proprietors writing off regular visits to a restaurant or a coffee shop as business expense. You may need to have proper documents for your business lunches and gifts to avoid tax liabilities in future.

Losses

Businesses tend to allocate a healthy chunk of their profits into marketing their business. All of this is classified as business expense and is tax deductible. A good accountant may advise you on the best way to optimize your tax liabilities while ensuring a healthy profit for your business. This is true with both sole proprietorship businesses as well as LLC. Where they differ however is in loss liability. When your business truly suffers a loss and you are unable to pay back your loans, a business registered as an LLC would limit personal liability of its founders. This means that banks and other lenders may not seek to recover their money from the sale of your personal assets like house or car. This is not the case however with a sole proprietorship business. Lenders, in this case, are legally permitted to seek recovery through the sale of your personal assets.

Tax Filing

Filing for taxes can be a painful process no matter what type of business you hold. It is always a good idea to hire a CA to help you with the process. You may write off their fee as a business expense in any case. Both LLC and sole proprietor businesses are required to file for taxes in a personal capacity. This should not have a bearing on the type of business you form. LLC business owners must still pay the self-employment tax.

These are just a few of the many factors to take into account while launching your own business. The rule of thumb is to always limit your personal liability. So unless you have a strong case against LLC, it is always preferable to form an LLC over running your business as a sole proprietor. That being said, none of this should be considered professional advice. Consult a professional before you move ahead with your decision.

5 Ways To Find Money For Your New Business

When it comes to trying to start a new business, the toughest part, without fail, is going to be trying to get the necessary money in order. Typically you won’t be making any money before you start, which mean you need to get an initial sunk investment into the venture, and that means pulling cash out of thin air in most cases.

But, there is a method for this procurement of thin air when you begin to look more closely at the possibilities. Common ways include working to get a credit line, asking friends and family for an investment, minimizing and selling belongings you don’t need, looking into getting grants (if you’re a non-profit), or looking for sponsorships from established companies or brands.

Getting a Credit Line

If you don’t automatically have all of the cash you’re going to require to run and maintain your business, your next best bet is to start getting a business credit line. This is going to involve a few steps, and it’s important that you have things in order in advance like having a separate bank account for business transactions, and all of your licenses in order as well.

Asking Friends and Family

Especially if you don’t have a lot of collateral, or maybe you don’t have a lot of experience in the business field, your friends and family can potentially be you best early financial collaborators. Now, there are definitely best practices for asking for money from family and friends, because you don’t want to get in legal or familial issues because of details that weren’t discussed when the initial lone happened. Families can either succeed together in business deals, or get torn apart.

Minimizing and Selling

Sometimes the problem with trying to find new money is that you haven’t totally exhausted your available resources. And by this I mean, before starting a new business venture, you should minimize your personal stuff, selling anything valuable you have that you don’t need or use anymore. You’d be amazed at how much upfront cash you can get for things like unused electronics, video games, music, or exercise equipment.

Grants For Nonprofits

If you’re starting a business that can be considered non-profit, there are a ton of options that you have in terms of trying to get grants from state or federal governments. Especially if your company has anything to do with children or with education, see what your options are for requesting money or reduced interest rate loans.

Sponsorships

And finally, if your idea is good enough, you might be able to get some sponsorship money from individual donors or possibly even companies that are willing to invest in your concept. Sometimes you’ll have to give up some of your management independence, but having early financial support might be worth that consideration.

More than a boss: 9 qualities that make a great leader

more-than-a-boss-2

Being a boss, even a reasonably good boss doesn’t necessarily mean you are a good leader. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. As a good boss you may be able to get great results and accomplish company objectives. But that doesn’t automatically qualify you as a great leader. In fact, in most cases it doesn’t.

Most bosses are great at managing operations, but they don’t think strategically. They are capable of resolving short-term challenges, but don’t plan for the long-term. They can achieve end results, but they’re not fully connected to the people who help achieve them.

Far from the stereotype of a boss in his office barking out orders to a disincentivized staff, a good boss can appear engaging and supportive, as well as get results. But there’s more to a leader than just achieving results. A leader understands strategy. A great leader sees the bigger picture and knows how to engage and include others in a common vision.

So what qualities make a boss more than just a boss? What skills determine a good leader as opposed to merely a good boss? I’ve put together a list of 9 qualities and skills essential for great leadership, as part of an ongoing research project using sources from across the web, printed literature and a case study using Planday.com – a staff management software specialist.

  1. Vision

A leader doesn’t just look at the end result. A leader wants the whole team to embody a shared vision by empowering them and coaching them. He or she understands the complex relationships in a team and wants everyone to succeed and excel. A great leader sees beyond the self. It’s not about a bonus or promotion. It’s something bigger. They link the means to the end and beyond. They enable staff to see how and why their input matters.

  1. Trust

You can’t be a great leader without trust. That works on both sides of the coin. People who work for you need to feel you can trust them. Equally they need to feel they can trust in you. Trust also extends to customers.

Commitment from staff emerges from trust and openness, as does customer loyalty. Being accountable and not making promises that can’t be kept are essential for building trust. A good leader shows they are good at what they do, and they are passionate about it. They care about people and they operate with integrity.

  1. Respect

Too many bosses take their title and authority for granted. A good leader understands the need to earn respect and will take responsibility for their actions. A leader understands the effect their influence has on employees and on the company as a whole. Delegating tasks and trusting staff plays a big part in building respect.

Respect is something built over time, just as trust and loyalty are. Respect doesn’t mean a leader has to be friends with everyone. Not all leaders are well-liked, but you will usually find a good leader to be well respected. Leaders get respect for how they lead and how they make those around them better.

  1. Communication with an open-door policy

more-than-a-boss-3Creating authentic conversations is key to great leadership skills. A good leader is able to listen, and speak directly and succinctly. They manage direction and work, not people. They say thank you, and acknowledge staff often. And when things go wrong they don’t yell. They have the ability to retain perspective. They know when to admit they’ve made a mistake too.

  1. Engaged

A good leader will pitch in and help. They aren’t afraid to roll their sleeves up and get their hands dirty.

  1. Openness

Good leaders are open to input and different perspectives.

  1. Inspiring

A really great leader wants the best for those around him or her. They understand the importance of bringing the best out in people, even if that invites competition. They provide challenges and opportunities. They lead and they inspire.

  1. Caring

It may seem obvious, but good leaders care about people. They don’t assume anything about anyone. They see people as individuals without gender, generational or stereotypical differences. A good leader operates with compassion and always wants the best for people.

  1. Learning

more-than-a-boss-1A good leader never stops learning. They reach out to mentors to get feedback on strengths and weaknesses.  They know that understanding flaws and imperfections helps to overcome leadership blind spots.

There’s no such thing as a perfect leader, but a good leader will always be looking outside of the box. They want staff to develop and they know how to get the best out of people. They know their weaknesses and they aren’t afraid to delegate tasks they aren’t good at. Most of all, good leaders never stop learning – they are the product of a never-ending process of skill, character and relationship development.

A boss without leadership qualities gets lost in operational details. Great leaders embody a vision and they want those around them to embody that too.