Category: Outside-In®


Quit this One Habit to Improve your Customer’s Experience

August 19th, 2015

There is the idea of “moments of truth” in service. This concept basically represents every time we interact with a customer that we have a moment to impress, do our best, or make the interaction either positive or negative.

In a restaurant, when your hostess or waiter doesn’t bring you your menu for 10 minutes, it is a negative thing – not a good moment of truth. When the waitress finally arrives at your table, s/he explains that s/he had just arrived and all the servers are transitioning shifts and juggling tables. Thanks, I think. This is an excuse. The words offer me no value, and it actually makes me feel even more frustrated. All I wanted was an apology and a chance to order. The comments made nothing better. I really don’t care about why.

Over years of study and real world application, “Burkhard leaders” have learned that making an excuse at any time in service with a customer, peer, boss, vendor or friend never adds value or improves the mistake. An excuse always makes things worse. No one wants to hear you give an excuse. We just want it fixed and done right. The excuse drags out the negative moment and in fact, adds another negative moment of truth. Instead, when you offer me a solution to fix whatever broke, you could win me over forever!

No excuses

Apply this thinking to your own world at work or in your home life. All day long someone makes an excuse on why you did not get a response to the email, why they did not attend your important meeting, or finish the project. Giving any excuse simply makes it worse, right? When your son does not clean up his room or do his assigned chore. Which is worse: the missed work or what he has to say about why it’s not done? Johnny came over and we got distracted. Or, I got my homework done instead. We don’t need all that from a teenager! If he understood “No Excuses”, he would simply go up stairs and clean his room and tell you when it was done. Nothing extra, nothing more. No excuses.

No Excuses is a core value of our companies. No Excuses is about how we act and react in moments of providing service. At the Outside-In® Companies, we try very hard when we make a mistake. Yes, we make them too! Our playbook is to fix what broke. Apologize. But never, ever make an excuse. When we do it well (offering a fix instead of an excuse), there is no drama to discuss, no flames to fan. It is simply matter of fact. Fixed. Done. Over. I like to think this is about running head first into the problem. Get it over with. But for goodness sakes, don’t try and over-explain the why.

Win over your customer by quitting the habit of making excuses. No Excuses means no drama. No Excuses means action. No Excuses means taking one on the chin and not feeling like you have to explain yourself away. All we want as customers is what we asked for. Nothing more.

14 Years Young!

August 6th, 2015

I never thought my business would live to make it to the teenage years. When I started the business I had a 9 year plan and an 89 page business plan. After 14 years, we now operate with quarterly priorities and 1-3 year goals on one big, ever-evolving page. I have learned I cannot, and I no longer try, to control it all. Let it come. Listen to the universe and the market. Take advantage of opportunities. That is my simple mantra today. But I have many memories, both good and not-so-good, that I would like to share. This list won’t be about firsts and largest. Just great memories that stand out.

A memory for each of our 14 years in business!  

2001: I knew I would face adversity as I got started but had no idea how much! I just wish I didn’t have a flood, theft and 9/11 happen all before we officially opened for business. It was a tough start for Outside-In®!

2002: I worked often. In fact I worked every single day of this year. Folks started to recognize our business and to buy our services. I learned that working hard and working smart matter!

2003: In January of this year we trademarked Outside-In®. Other than that, I don’t even remember 2003. Did I mention that you have to work a lot to start a business from scratch?

2004: The year we got our first real office! I started the business from a coat closet that I rented from a good friend. In 2004, we moved to our new headquarters here at Casho Mill Road.

2005: CBI Group was recognized by the Philadelphia Business Journal’s Best Places to Work program, was the recipient of The News Journal’s 2005 Best In Business Award for Best Up and Coming Company, and we placed #19 on the Philadelphia 100 growth list. We knew we had “made it”.

2006: The Year of the “Weepul” — we have had different employee recognition programs over the years. This year my team would receive “Weepuls” for “getting caught being Outside-In®.” Weepuls are a small, spherical, fluffy toy, with large, plastic googly eyes and no limbs. They were everywhere in the office, most of them stuck to the top of our computer monitors.

2007: We established our first annual theme this year, a Dr. Seuss theme ‘O the Places We Will Go.’ It was a great fit for the company that year because 2007 was a year of possibilities.

2008:  The year the Great Recession begins. We had a successful first seven months of the year but by August the market was on high alert. By October customers were making cuts, decreasing hiring projections or freezing hiring altogether. This was also the year I started the Outside-In® Guy blog, perhaps the writing started as therapy for rough business times.

2009:  This is the year I learned that I could do every job in the business. Why?  Because I had to survive. It was a slow year, but good year. Nothing like a good recession to give a team a common enemy. We fought hard, grew again and made it all work.  And this is the year I stopped wearing a suit and tie to work every day!

2010: We won the NCCCC Entrepreneur of the Year award this year. The same award my father won in the 80’s. We were proud to be the only Father/Son winners!

2011: We had an office fire and flood on Superbowl Sunday. This was a challenging time as the business faced many obstacles to stay open (spoiler alert, we did) and find any kind of normalcy for a few months. We did it, and we grew stronger through it. That is when I knew a business is done only when the leaders say it is!

2012: Placers comes back strong. CBI Group made the HRO Today Baker’s Dozen List, recognized as an Honorable Mention and Mid Market Leader, among 21 companies acknowledged through customer feedback.

2013: CBI Group, Placers and Barton Career Advisors announced a new partnership under our shared values-based culture, Outside-In®. The companies now work together under the Outside-In® brand as full service talent organization for career and outplacement services serving the national marketplace.

2014:  This is the year of the bad Northeastern winter when no one could get to work. Few did much proactively with their companies. The first four months of the year were terrible for most businesses. We made the most of it and got back on track!

2015: We have grown 44% in the first half of the year and have all the nicks and dings to show for it. Growth is hard, but I continue to learn something new every day!

The 2015 Outside-In Summer Reading List

August 5th, 2015

Sometimes I can’t find enough time to read the pile of “must reads” on my night stand. So I am careful to suggest that others add to their guilt (I might be projecting my own guilt!) by having even more book and article suggestions to tack on to their lists.

Books.Pile of book on desk.When I make time to read, however, I am able to set aside the events of the day and the many distractions from people and electronics and something amazing starts to happen. Ideas and thoughts seem to flow in a torrent! I hope you’re able to spark your learning in a similar fashion. Find the time. It reduces stress and allows you to chew on the problems of the day in a new and productive way. And as a CEO or business leader, you don’t have to read all business books to find inspiration. This year, the trend (Fortune & LA Times for example) is for CEOs to read non business books to inspire new ideas.

So whether you’re committing to regular reading or simply looking for something to do on that family camping trip or week at the beach, this August I have a few page turners to consider.

  1. Choose Yourself by James Altucher: James is an avid writer, blogger and many time entrepreneur. Choose Yourself defines today’s workplace realities and offers real world ideas on how to take control of your work and how you will forever define how you earn an income. Thought provoking!
  2. In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette, by Hampton Sides: This one grips you! A few weeks ago, I spent a week ignoring friends and family on the beach in Block Island and read this one. It’s a true story researched for years by Hampton, Outside Magazine and others. This is the greatest historical story you don’t know! Great lessons in leadership, sacrifice, and survival. Imagine trying to get to the North Pole in a wooden ship with no means of communication with the outside world!
  3. Delivering Happiness A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh, CEO Zappos.com. In a business world where few have any real meaningful, sustainable business advantage, Delivering Happiness chronicles the dramatic rise of Zappos and how their culture drives everything and defines their success. And it is an entertaining read to boot! Not every success is immediate and over night. Success takes time, risk and perseverance.

I am always scanning for the next must read, I hear the Uncontainable, The Story of the Container Store by Kip Tindell is a must read… Next on the list? What books are on your list? Share away!

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!

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