Category: Outside-In®


Be Vulnerable, Be Curious

June 10th, 2015

Outside-In Companies are working on the value of being Open Book. To be clear, Open Book is the concept of opening your books to your shareholder(s) and employees so that they may use the information to improve or enhance the way the business is run. Not everyone likes or even grasps the financial concepts that make up financial statement, balance sheets or cash flow statements. BUT, if all see profits and losses and understand how their performance and decisions affect the numbers, then they can play a big part in impacting the success or failure of the business. There is strength in numbers, as they say.

Open-Book-FishLast week we celebrated our Open Book Values Holiday with some symbolism. To illustrate the meaning of Open Book, team members adopted a goldfish for the Outside-In office. We call him Vulnerable and he swims centrally in the office in a fishbowl for all to see. Vulnerable’s fishbowl represents the transparency and clarity you should expect from an Open Book company. Share, share, share it all! All of us should be willing to open our office doors, let customers into meetings, or share information about the state of the business freely. This requires the information to share. And it requires a culture that encourages, craves, even demands insights and information into running the business.

Having no information usually equates to risky decision making. More information gives you a real advantage or leg up on the competition. Most don’t bother, we prefer to take action rather then back up our thinking and really get clear on what the information is telling us!

We are far from great at being Open Book. This is an ongoing work in progress. For example, in order to be open book we must do a better job of encouraging critical thinking and information gathering by all. We must be curious. This concept must be led and encouraged by the leadership. We must teach and insist that all learn to gather information to make good decisions. And we must create opportunities for teammates to learn the financial concepts as well! We must appreciate the curious and insights that make ideas happen.

As we provide information on the business, we want it to spur further questions, which creates the need for more information, more reporting, and so on and so on. This is a never ending, self-perpetuating cycle right? We must be structurally ready to handle this need for reporting and information! We must be able to provide reports and data when needed so all can run their small business.

Our journey with Open Book is just beginning. I think we have much to do to maximize its potential on our companies. Do you work in an Open Book company? Jack Stack started all this with the Great Game of Business over 20 years ago. There are few concepts more polarizing and challenging to implement. However, if done well? Few values can create such far-reaching organizational value!

Outside-In® Chronicles: Summer Reading List

June 3rd, 2015

ID-100249568Summer reading is a part of the fabric that defines my free time as well as my summer vacation. The challenge is to decide how to recharge and rejuvenate with that precious time off. Do I really want to read an industry publication or study for that upcoming webinar to keep continuing education credits flowing? It’s not that I don’t like my industry or chosen profession, I just need space and time to decompress. The more space I can create or make more time to think, the more likely I am to find new ideas and thoughts that help with my day-to-day work!

However, sometimes it’s hard to get away without our smart phones tethered to our hand 24/7—we all have to find some compromise, right? The very device that lets you order pizza while on vacation or text the teenagers to find out when they will be home is the same piece of technology that pings every time there is a new email and some work issue that either ruins your vacation mood or requires immediate attention!

I once heard the pile of unread business magazines, articles, books, and white papers on your nightstand or work station referred to as the tower of guilt! I, for one, feel good when I take that pile of work and plow through it. Sometimes I read three or four books at the same time in rotation just to change topics for the sake of staying current. However, this is not the approach I like to take for summertime reading.

So if you’re trying too hard to work and want to recharge while coming back with a new perspective on your business, here are my top three must reads:
1. Anything by Gladwell. Malcom not only sees the world differently, but he does the research to back it up. Try The Tipping PointWhat the Dog Saw, or my all time favorite, The Outliers. If you want to think about your business place in a different way, try escaping to the world that Malcom creates!

2.  How to Win Friends and Influence People. So many smart people know something about their field of study or the technical aspects of their profession yet few invest in their relationships.  No books exists that is more time tested for helping you with tools and tips for great human relations skills!

3.  Zen and the Art of Happiness. Everyone gets down in the dumps from time to time. As Dale Carnegie is for great human relationships this book is for realigning your perspective on your daily life. Things happen to us each and everyday, it is what we do next that matters.

If you have a book that recharges and lifts your energy while helping you reflect and improve your business or your leadership persona please let us know!

The Practical Guide to Implementing the Value of Defined by Three Customers

May 27th, 2015

First things first, we all know there is only one paying customer. For the purposes of our value, specifically the way we think, we define our three customers as employees, paying customers, and vendors.

3Customers-01-150x150Defined by Three Customers is about balanced thinking and decision making for all three customer subsets. This is a compass designed to help guide us—it’s not foolproof nor perfect. However, it’s much more balanced than an equation where no thought or care for one “customer” comes into play.

Are you wondering if/how this is relevant to you? I can prove it to you! Did you ever work for the manager that never let his or her people leave the department or post for other positions? The manager’s needs in their job tend to get in the way of the needs of employees or the employer.

How about the salesperson who seems to never hit their plan because they are telling the marketplace and their prospects that they have a monthly quota to hit? They don’t do it intentionally, mind you. They show it in their actions—they are not balancing prospect needs and wants with their own needs.

How can you live the value Defined by Three Customers?

  1. As an employee taking care of your customer who will eventually take care of you, do things for your customers to add value and they will come back!
  2. Challenge (in a good way) and get to your vendors. You would be surprised what they can do to help if you share where you’re taking your business and what value they can bring to you get there!
  3. Sometimes one “customer” wins and another loses in the short term. We must have a long-term view. We can’t always get the employee the raise nor the feedback they crave. A vendor can’t always give favorable terms on their business. A leader can’t always make a balanced decision—their short budget depends on the quick hit. The key is to stay focused on the doing right things right everyday and we will balance the scales in the long run!
  4. Defined by Three Customers is an equal number of debits and credits in the relationship bank account. Make sure you’re taking care of your stakeholders all of the time!
  5. Think longer term. Think about taking care of all groups. Imagine you will break bread with your three customers on a regular basis. When we think about long-term relationships, we moderate our short-term needs and wants!

CBI Way: Getting Your Pipeline Started

May 20th, 2015

By Outside-In® Team Member Alex Patton

Having the ability to tap your own pipeline of talent when trying to fill open positions can be a game-changer. As discussed in the last CBI Way Blog, talent pipelining is about preparing for future openings, and easily identifying quality candidates quickly, reducing critical metrics such as time to fill. As you can probably predict, creating your pipeline starts with a familiar topic: engaging passive candidates.

CBIWayEngaging passive talent can be an incredibly effective way to encourage your pipeline’s success. First, identifying the profile and skillsets needed for future openings is going to help point you in the right direction for engaging those ideal candidates. For example, perhaps you want to build a pipeline of electrical engineers, knowing of a large project kicking off next year. You might be able to get a decent amount of names from LinkedIn, FaceBook, or old resumes on job boards. But more likely, the most effective source for building your pool of electrical engineers is going to be associations, niche groups, and seminars or events where candidates with the skillset you seek meet, interact, and engage one another. Gathering as much information possible about your pipelined candidates will take in-depth research and cross-referencing, but will pay dividends for the long term approach. Emails, telephone numbers, and social media profiles can all help bridge the gap to engagement.

Identifying the sources to generate passive candidates is an important step. But perhaps just as important is engaging that talent, and building relationships to foster interest and help drive referrals. In the next CBI Way blog, we’ll discuss some common strategies to produce success when attempting to engage your newly built talent pipeline.

Have you heard about our talent pipelining service, talentSOURCE? Learn about the sourcing service and benefits by downloading the talentSOURCE PDF.

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Do You Choose to Act Like a Temporary Employee or an Entrepreneur?

May 14th, 2015

temporentreWhat would you do with yourself if you realized that the world of work has changed dramatically and that we have a choice to make? We are basically temps OR we are entrepreneurs that must choose ourselves. That is my interpretation of a wonderfully honest book by James Altucher called Choose Yourself!

We are temps in the sense that we go to work, do our jobs, and collect our paychecks. We don’t love what we do, however, we don’t even really know that there is another option. We don’t put a whole lot into our career when we act like a temporary employee. The career is simply a means to an end. I get paid and I am waiting for someone to tell me what to do and how to do it—that is the extent of the contract.

However, we are all, in essence, rented for a period of time (even though the job is not a true temporary position). Time is relative. If the average tenure of a public CEO is thirteen months, I could make the argument that it is a temporary assignment. It is our attitude, level of engagement, lack of drive to learn, and inability to grow or find ways to become more of an asset that often catch up with us. You act temporary and you don’t know any better!

Or maybe it’s not your fault at all and it’s simply the realities of today’s workplace that did it to you. No company or job is forever, right? The economy, markets, your company, and its industry, all play a key role. I think that is the point of the title of choosing yourself! You are responsible for you. No one else, let alone your current employer. You must own your skills and development and how you monetize what you are capable of! A job simply might not cut it anymore! Or perhaps it just part of you how monetize your time and capabilities?

Being an entrepreneur? Well, I think this is both literal and figurative. All of us must be resourceful, creative, hard working, productive, a risk taker, and a learner. We must find ways to create revenues for our employers and for ourselves on the side. This could be cottage industries, extra jobs, writing blogs or books. We are responsible for our own careers and for inventing ourselves!

The key to NOT being a temp? Act like an entrepreneur. Frankly, the book itself is full of implementable ways of choosing yourself and finding a way to own your income and your career. The magic is in being and thinking differently while you’re employed. Most businesses crave entrepreneurial thinking. Culture and external environment may dictate terms, but it starts within! I, for one, have supported many employees to become entrepreneurs. I have supported side projects and reviewed their cottage industry ideas. Quite frankly, I buy from them, too! This is how you choose yourself.

If cold calls don’t work, change your plans. If the product doesn’t sell, sell something else. If the meeting did not go well, then try again. This is what entrepreneurs do—and it is what great entrepreneurial employees do, too!

Want to meet great entrepreneurial employees? I have a few that get what it takes to chose for themselves! Mary Schaefer (left) is one of our Career Coaches at Barton Career Advisors, and Kelly Hocutt (right) is our Marketing Team Leader for the Outside-In® Companies.

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Outside-In® Chronicles: Three Things Grandmom Rose Taught Me About Leadership

May 6th, 2015

photo-2-223x300With Mother’s Day just around the corner, I wanted to revisit this blog about my Grandmom Rose and her significant influence on my leadership style.

My Grandmom Rose was an amazing person. When she was young, she absolutely loved to dance. When she was older, during a time when marrying those of another religion was uncommon, she left her Jewish faith to marry a man of a different one. And for decades, she fought for the underdog through volunteering for the rights and privileges of the blind here in Delaware. She lived to be well over 102—but her wisdom remains infinite. Although Rose died a few years ago, I think of her often. How could I not? Whenever I was sick as a child, Rose played 97 straight games of Candy Land with me. Imagine that. I think she let me win every time, too.

Today, I thought I would share a few thoughts on Rose’s lifestyle that I think translates pretty darn well into reminders for all of us in leadership positions.

1. Have a sense of mindfulness. This is a hard one. Are you centered and focused on the moment or the task at hand? Are you in the meeting you’re in? Or are you messaging others on your cell phone and trying to keep up with the rest of your day? Rose never knew technology and its advantages, but you always knew she was focused on you when you were sitting in front of her. As a leader, are you giving 100% to the team or person in front of you? Or do your distractions show? Does your lack of attention send the message that your time there is not important? Value the face time.

2. Ask valuable questions. If you’re in a sales, leadership, consulting, or frankly any role in life, there is nothing better than the ability to invest in others through asking questions. If you knew Rose she could ask some humdingers. They would just keep coming, too. They were good and stimulating questions. She genuinely cared about you and life—this showed through her investment in you. As a leader, how many times do you catch yourself talking, maybe dulling out general advice because it’s easier and feels good. Certainly easier than asking the style of questions that help people work through their own challenges and opportunities. Staff members want more than answers. They want skills they can use again and again. Does your leadership style involve a healthy sense of curiosity and frequently asking questions? Or are you too busy to lead and simply give out answers just to keep the day moving along?

3. Do one thing at a time. This sounds so…well, impossible in today’s world. Rose was really great about doing one thing at a time. I think she just wouldn’t understand why we think it is a good idea to multi-task to the point of exhaustion. Leaders get that adrenaline rush. Fight that fire. Answer that email. Text that message. All of these are signs of a normal, hectic day. However, before we know it the day is done. Did you accomplish your most important task? Did you finish what you started? It may seem old fashioned, but there is something to working on the hardest thing first and working on it until it is completed. It’s even more impressive if you do so without succumbing to the constant distractions of smart phones, tablets, and laptops!

When I was young, Rose took me to Gino’s for lunch every week for almost a year to collect that week’s plastic NFL football helmet. Each time she would laugh as I would eat one giant burger and then ask for a second one! Rose knew what was important in relationships. She knew what to bother with. If you see me turn off my phone, close my laptop, or shut the door to focus, know that in some small way, it’s my ode to Rose!

What Would Happen if We Stopped Taking Risks?

April 29th, 2015

Lets start with the obvious, avoiding taking any risk is actually a pretty serious risk all by itself! This requires us to avoid phone calls and interactions with customers and associates. We need to skip team meetings and duck out of the break room, too. The longer we stand still and stay status quo the more likely we are to fall a step behind or even lose altogether—all while our competitors and peers march forward.

The Outside-In® Companies believe in our value of taking risks. We definitely don’t steer around or away from it, but why does it matter for our employees to live this value? Who really cares anyway? In fact, why should any service company encourage risk taking?

ID-100309958First off, risk taking is really about decision making, the lack of perceived authority, task discretion, and reward for doing so. Employees that do not make decisions often do so because their company’s culture discourages it. This is cultivated through the management team and their practices. This is quite often an unexpected negative outcome of a company that lacks a cultural plan to encourage customer centric actions with those that have direct customer contact.

Employees that don’t make decisions have little or no choice but to get the answer for a customer from those that have the power or information. Usually, the power lies in controlling that information and it is intended to be a business control that simply hedges risk. However, in this case, it kills the customer! This can be because of a lack of training and knowledge or a matter of policy and the preferred hierarchical nature of the company.

Close your eyes and remember when this happened to you, a roommate, someone from your household, etc. Is there anything more frustrating than when you’re on the phone with that utility, or in line at the retail store, or airport and the service associate needs a manager? All you needed was to make a return, change a seat, or get your bill in the correct name. The worst part is that the supervisor does not do anything fancy—they just need a stupid code or a key to take care of your return or to move your flight.

A culture that values its customers empowers and encourages risks that take place in the act of serving a customer!

Employees that are not encouraged to notice what their customers are actually saying and then do something about it are not serving the strategic purposes of the business. The front lines see and hear it all. How many times have you heard a clerk or phone representative say that they have told management about a customer opinion so many times but no one listens. Then their voice trails off and their interest and engagement level wanes day by day! If we listen to customers as employees they will tell you why they are angry about a program or policy change, what is never in the store, when service is slow, or when a product has been replaced that should not have been. We can always hear it as employees.

A culture that values risk taking creates an environment where employees have tools and formats to share what they hear and take action! This is customer centric and systematic cultural risk taking. What did you learn from our marketplace today? What did our customers challenge us with? What do they need and want from us? Ask employees for feedback often, give all employees a format to share, reward this flow of insights, then categorize it and teach what to do with it. Most likely your plan of improvement needs tweaking. Employees just need permission to open their eyes and be empowered to see what needs fixing. Empowerment and the confidence to stand up and share what might be the next product or service that enhances your company’s top line strategy are the keys to grow your business.

Risk taking is a cultural tool to encourage customer centric and entrepreneurial behaviors for all of your employees. You have a choice in your organization; you can either treat employees like leased resources, or you can act and create an environment that encourages entrepreneurial behaviors that enhance your customer’s experience with you.

Go sit and listen to your employees, have Outside-In® eyes and ears, and gather the information you need in order to decide how to encourage risk taking that improves the experience for your customer base. Or come visit our office and see it in action!

CBI Way: The Talent Pipeline Situation

April 22nd, 2015

By Outside-In® Team Member Alex Patton

ID-100248873When planning the direction of your company, one of the most important aspects must be the talent supporting the business. Proactively thinking about the talent that will help drive your business can be a difference-making strategy to be a step ahead of the competition. In turn, building long-term relationships with quality candidates for future hiring, or talent pipelining, can be a critical investment as the job market continues to improve, with another 126,000 new jobs added in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Previously, we’ve talked about the challenge with the growing number of passive candidates – 75% of all candidates, according to LinkedIn’s 2015 Global Recruitment Trends survey, which increases the difficulty of quickly identifying and hiring top talent. Constructing a strong pipeline of candidates in specific industries is a great way to be ahead of the game while also increasing the potential for quality referrals, by spreading the word of hiring inside your business. Instead of reacting to a new requisition by sourcing, screening, and interviewing; having a pipeline of talent knocks out at least the first step of the process, also reducing the time-to-fill.

Additionally, maintaining the passive pipeline by keeping the talent engaged and aware of company openings and happenings can help build your brand, keeping your business on the top of candidate’s minds if their situation should change. While it may be time consuming initially, building your pipelines will become a regular strategy to meet your talent acquisition needs and pay dividends as a long-term strategy.

Stay tuned for the next CBI Way Blog to learn ways to best build your talent pipeline in the new age of social recruiting.

Have you heard about our talent pipelining service, talentSOURCE? Learn about the sourcing service and benefits by downloading the talentSOURCE PDF.

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

 

Outside-In® Companies Announce Partnership with Delaware Association of Rehabilitation Facilities

April 21st, 2015

ID-100249468We are pleased to announce that we have entered into a new partnership with DelARF to benefit all of their members and offer talent management services in recruitment, temporary staffing, and outplacement.

DelARF is a statewide membership association of agencies supporting people with disabilities. Membership is open to organizations that provide direct services, advocacy and/or educational services to Delawareans with disabilities, their families and advocates.

“We know that talent can be a real difference maker in your company. We offer customer-centric talent services that can help you in the course of running your business!” says Outside-In® President, Chris Burkhard.

  • Do you have a need to hire key staff but don’t have the Human Resources staff to handle the recruitment process?
  • Have you considered using a temporary workforce to give you budget flexibility, but don’t know how to get started?
  • Do you experience highs and lows in hiring and need a steadier flexible recruiting stream that you can turn on and off as needed?
  • Is your company experiencing a reduction in force? If so, you need tools at your disposal to help your impacted workforce get redeployed quickly as you do the right thing for the community and for the brand you represent!

As a values-based company founded in Delaware in 2001, the Outside-In® team is committed to providing “Service to the Nth Degree”. If you are interested in learning more about these services, please visit www.outsideincompanies.com or call our Newark office at (877) 746-8450.

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Blank Sheet of Paper: Customers Do Not Want a Sales Pitch!

April 15th, 2015

Blank Sheet of Paper is the attitude we take towards how we interact with customers. Are we open or close minded in our thinking and in our words with customers? Do we think constantly about how to do more for our customer? What would make their experience Nth Degree? Blank Sheet of Paper is also about how we organize the way we chose to conduct our business! For example, are you easy to do business with? Are you and your team accessible? What does that look like? For us, it’s about answering the phone in three rings and limiting voice mail. Or allowing service folks to spend as much time as needed with customers and with no maximum time goal on the phones.

BlankSheetofPaperNow, go ahead and take out of a piece of paper from a notebook or copy paper. There is nothing on it, right? It is a blank sheet of paper! Having a Blank Sheet of Paper value is a really important element to how the Outside-In® Companies go to the marketplace. Blank does not mean we lack ideas and creativity, it simply means that our process of selling and serving our customer starts without jumping to quick assumptions or borrowed ideas from our past experiences. We try hard to listen and acknowledge each new prospect by answering questions and addressing specific needs.

There are stories of legend from service companies where the “solution” presentation to Nabisco happened to have the Kraft logo on one of the slides. Imagine saying you listen well, have a great consulting or selling process, bragging about your custom work and having a multimillion dollar customer see a competitor’s name on their slide deck! Was it copy and pasted? Was it a joke or bad editing? Regardless, legend has it that this happened to a global consulting company on pitch day. And yes, they lost the deal! That won’t happen here. There is nothing wrong with leveraging your expertise and experiences—it’s simply how you chose to do it! Don’t get me wrong, we have many different talent services. Some have a relatively short buying cycle, while others take hundreds of hours to build them out properly. The key? Demonstrate authenticity and build relationships. Have a clear system to get the answers and information you need to solve customer problems. This is our OI-Q. Battle and time tested, this is our method of effectively and efficiently learning what we need to in order to do our best work!

We know that to truly solve a customer’s problems, we need to demonstrate that we have earned the right, invested the time, followed the right approach and process and then brought our talents, experiences, and expertise to bear on the problems!

Customers want to buy, not be sold to. Think about when you walk into a retail establishment. When someone asks you if you need help do you ever say yes? Even when you are there to buy? Most of us say no. None of us like to be followed around and asked stupid questions.  Even when we are there to make a purchase. Approaching a customer is everything!

So how do you help a customer buy? Build relationships not just on the golf course or at business lunches. The world has little time for lunch for the sake of lunch. Relationship building takes place when you’re asking questions about the customer and their talent challenges and opportunities. Listen, ask questions, do the work, observe, volunteer. All of these ways demonstrate that what you know will make more sense. Yes, what your expertise is all about will be more believable because you invested the times in your customers business. That is the key to Blank Sheet of Paper—showing what you know comes out through your ability to deftly and skillfully take your customer through the buying process. A process that helps you earn the right, establish credibility, demonstrate knowledge, and ultimately identify the issues and challenges that you identify to your way to solve the problem!

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