Staff Performance: What Major Values Do Your Staff Stand For?

Summary

You want clients to feel they get “value for money” when they deal with you. That’s fine. But there’s more to a business relationship than only that value. To gain superior staff performance you need to tell employees all business values you want your business to represent to prospects and customers.

Two Essential Questions

As manager you need to be clear about two things concerning business values.

  • What values you want your business to stand for
  • What you’ll do to ensure that your employees represent those values to prospects and customers.

What Your Business Stands For

These values should be stated as clearly as possible. No room for “waffle words” here. A plumbing company client of mine says simply, “If we’re late you pay nothing.” Can you imagine how reassured clients are by that statement? It’s emblazoned on all official company documents and websites. No “ifs, buts or perhaps”: no “conditions apply” or “within 10km”. Simply, “If we’re late you pay nothing.”

As each job is booked, the customer is given a commitment that the work will be commenced within a 2 hour window agreeable to the customer. If the work starts late, even by one minute, the customer pays nothing regardless of the overall cost of the job.

Customer Reaction

Customers are overjoyed when staff meet the guarantee and refuse to accept payment. Some customers insist on paying. But a guarantee is a guarantee. Customers sometimes contact head office and offer payment, particularly when they’re happy with the work done. But the guarantee is always honoured.

Values Involved

Customers learn quickly that

  • The company knows customers are busy and can expect plumbers to be there as mutually agreed
  • They can trust the word of the plumbing company
  • It links with another guarantee: that the customers is the final judge of satisfactory work. The customer is always asked to test the repair. When it works well but there’s no payment required, the customer learns that the guarantee wasn’t merely a “cover” for inferior work
  • The company is committed to a long term relationship with the customer
  • The company is definitely not “just another plumbing company”
  • The relationship between customer and company is based on values beyond mere “value for money”.

Staff Learn That

  • Company guarantees mean what they say
  • Company guarantees will be honoured
  • Customer satisfaction is the paramount measure of satisfactory repair work
  • When they themselves make a commitment to a customer, they must honour that commitment
  • Being late for a job is a major deficiency in customer service
  • Retaining a customer’s business has greater long term value than the cost of one job
  • The relationship between the customer and the business isn’t “just about money”.

“Values” Underpin Every Interaction

  • Every interaction between your customer and your company is underpinned by a set of values… good or ill
  • Customers will infer a value from every interaction. If you claim that “your satisfaction is our prime concern” then haggle over the cost of a $10.00 part, you’re not only raising doubts about the $10 cost. You’re also raising doubts about whether what you say can be believed.

Other “Value” Perceptions

What values do you wish to promote and retain when

  • Dealing with employees
  • Dealing with competitors
  • Dealing with providers and suppliers: businesses who have you as a customer
  • Operating legally and ethically
  • Working with colleagues such as other members of your management group to name just a few “value” based issues.

And the Staff… ?

It’s important to remember that your staff infer values from your actions in the same way that customers, competitors and service providers do. The two things that staff want to see are clarity and consistency.

Clarity and Consistency

If you say, for instance, “my door is always open if there’s something you want to talk about” make sure they can easily and readily speak with you. Don’t expect employees to be satisfied with having to make an appointment to see you two weeks in advance. And if it seems that some staff can arrange to see you any time at a moment’s notice, don’t imagine that those who have to wait two weeks won’t notice the difference.

When Staff Fail You

A couple of years ago, a truck struck my car as I was leaving my driveway. The driver of the truck had mounted a median strip in trying to pass other cars stopped at a red light. The damage was only slight and the driver admitted he’d made an error. He told me the name of the manager to call to arrange compensation.

When I phoned the manager concerned – a son of the owner – he denied any liability and insisted I was lying and that I was at fault. As the damage was slight I didn’t bother to pursue the matter.

The company involved has a chain of hardware stores. But I’ll never enter one again. We don’t share values.

Empty Promises: Conflicting Values

Many years ago I spent some months consulting with a national company. The founder and Managing Director always claimed that “anyone can reach the top here if they want to.” All members of the top management group had been promoted from within. The General Manager had been a Branch Manager. The Operations Manager had started as a cleaner. You may disagree with the Managing Director’s policy. But it was transparently real. And it offered all employees the same opportunities.

You, Values and Employees

Firstly, make sure that you’re clear about the values you want your business to stand for. You may think that your employees already know. Check that out. Your values will be represented in your marketing position, your performance standards and systems, your rewards and incentive program and the effectiveness of your customers relations. If they aren’t crystal clear to you, they’ll be even less clear to employees. Constantly ask yourself and your employees, “Does this represent the business values that are important to us?”

Why Employees Matter

Customers learn about your business values primarily from interactions with employees. It’s so important that employees understand how important they are in representing values in your business.

Conclusion

Values are an essential element of how every company, large, medium or small, operates. They go way beyond conventional concepts of “value for many”. They underpin every aspect of business operation. The importance of values can’t be overestimated. And it should never be counted.

The Torah – Just a Broken Telephone Conversation?

28 years ago, the Lubavitcher Rebbe set into motion a cycle of learning – to join all the Jewish people together – in the learning of Jewish law. Learning to be done would include working through the Rambam’s – Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (1135-1204) Mishneh Torah (Second Torah) or the Yad HaChazaka (The Strong Hand) as it is also known. The word Yad – hand – has the Hebrew numerical value of 14 – the amount of books in the entire guide.

The guide includes all of Jewish law, both at the times of the Temple (to be rebuilt immediately) as well as to those times when the Temple does not stand (the current time until Moshiach reveals himself.) 1000 chapters work through the entire corpus of Jewish law. Studying just 3 chapters a day will allow one to complete the entire cycle in just under a year, although one may choose to learn just one chapter a day and complete the cycle in 3 years (something worthwhile for those learning it for the first or second times, to be able to spend much more time on each chapter and gain much from it.) The Rambam was heavily criticised for his work as he did not indicate the sources of his legal rulings. Today, there is no Jewish legal authority who considers the Rambam’s work as anything less than the absolute roots of all Jewish law today!

The Rambam begins his magnum opus with an introduction. While it seems that many people wish to get to the nitty gritty of things, this is one introduction that is an absolute necessity to read. It includes a number of ideas that take the reader into concepts he may not otherwise consider, for example, the Rambam’s famous statement that in *his* day nobody was really able to learn Talmud properly anymore, and so he compiled his guide so that people would just be able to read the Tanach – and then this guide – and already know the entire law. Perhaps he may well have put most Yeshivot out of business with a statement like that. Yet, with a very careful study of the Rambam, one can clearly see how accurate this statement of his actually is.

Indeed, until one has a thorough grasp of the laws in the Rambam, the Talmud is truly a sea of law filled with waves crashing all over, and one simply has no idea where one is. After a good understanding of the laws in Rambam, one turns to the Talmud with a whole new approach in learning – one that suddenly brings the Talmud to life, and helps to ease one’s way into understanding the source of these laws, and how they come about. Naturally there is much more to learning Halachah – Jewish law!

Nevertheless, the fact that the Lubavitcher Rebbe saw a need for learning Rambam as opposed to any other structured learning order – shows clearly how he saw it as being the root of everything necessary to care for the Jewish soul. (This excludes the previous Rebbe’s institution of learning the regular portions of Chumash and Rashi, Tehillim and Tanya, and by no means takes into account the tremendous amount of active Mitzvot one is required to perform – constantly, together with inspiring others to do likewise!)

If one were to begin a book of law, where would be the best place to start? The Torah itself begins with a series of stories on how G-d created the world, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel… Noah and his generation… Abraham and his generation etc. The Jews go into Egypt, are taken out, receive the Torah (FINALLY!) and onwards into the Land of Israel. From here – as they say – the rest is history! But what of the actual law?

So many today know the well known game played by children – “Broken Telephone.” A humorous game, whereby a message is transmitted from one child to the next, as it is whispered ever so quietly into the other’s ear. The message may begin with something like, “Today, the president of the United States announced in a speech that he would let the Jewish people live peacefully in their own land without the need to invite terrorists into it and please the rest of the world”, and it may end up at the other side of the room with the last child in the series announcing what the message was, “The fish says we should all jump up and down!”

Today, people think that Torah is a similar game. One in which some child (with a very bad memory) whispered a message to another (thousands of years ago) without ever confirming whether the other heard it, and that that child then whispered the message (including every secret of Torah ever passed down in the past 3300 years and more) to another child – also with a very bad memory, who forgot most, and couldn’t pronounce their words correctly either. So today we have a watered down version of what the real Torah was then.

Indeed many Jews will firmly state that they believe that the Torah was given over 3300 years ago, but that everything was mixed up along the way, and that’s why we have the variety of stylistic “Judaisms” of today, including reform, conservative, and a host of names too unbelievable to even mention! Indeed, when Moses was living in a physical body, there simply wasn’t electricity, no cars – and “sadly” not even the Internet! What would Moses know today of driving to Shul on the holy Shabbat day?! Besides, even if he did have some 2 cents worth of his own mind to say about it – do we really remember it today – what with the state of affairs of forgetful children who cannot pronounce their words correctly – nor confirm if the other really heard them correctly in any case!

And so, the Rambam does not begin his work with the laws, but rather a clear description of the entire transmission of the Torah. Indeed, from Moses, the Torah was passed to Joshua, and from him to the elders. Eli (the Kohen in the famous story of Hana who could not have children) and Pinchas, received it from the elders. The prophet Samuel (the son born to Hana in the story with Hana and Eli) received it from Eli and he passed the entire transmission of Torah to Kind David. And so the Torah was passed – from teacher to student – as the Rambam lists 40 generations of transmission, accurately mentioning exactly who received the Torah from whom.

These were no simple children unable to pronounce words properly. Nor did they forget easily! In addition they *all* feared G-d, were either great prophets themselves or filled with Divine Inspiration, and wanted nothing more than to serve G-d with every fibre of their being! Do spend some time looking through the list of the transmission and become acquainted with these great individuals who made up the beginning of Jewish history.

These people were not interested in bribery, wealth, honour, greatness etc. They wanted only to serve G-d every day of their lives. They knew that this is simply what life is all about – connecting to G-d at all times in everything one does.

Were King David to walk into a reform synagogue (which he would not) on a Friday evening while both men and women sat next to each other singing with the piano accompanying them as the main singer arrogantly demonstrated her way of praising G-d through singing “sections” of the “Standing Prayer” aloud, I have no doubt there would be an absolute silence, and a feeling of complete embarrassment by all, as they realised just who this man – King David really was.

But as these same people read of the stories contained in the Tanach, they consider King David a simple poor man. Someone who had a hard life. If only *he* had had a car, it would have made his life so much easier when it came to driving to Shul on Friday night! But the reality of meeting him in person would no doubt stir in all of us such a fear of what truth really is – of what fearing G-d is all about – I have no doubt, most of us would simply melt away in embarrassment!

The truth of the transmission of Torah is clearly discussed in the Rambam’s introduction. It serves to teach us the biggest lesson in life we all need to know. Without this introduction, we will continue to scoff at the questions regarding the truth of Torah – of its accuracy, of its true authenticity.

There is nothing but the same Torah in our hands today as it was given to Moses – by G-d Himself over 3300 years ago. It was handed from teacher to student in a long chain of transmission (still continued to this very day – from teacher to student). Teachers knew about fear of G-d and truth of Torah – and it was these teachers who taught their students these very same values.

The written law we have today – is exactly the same law that Moses was given over 3300 years ago. The oral law today – is that same law that Moses received way back then too. Nothing has changed. The Rambam makes it clear. The mysteries contained in the Torah were those same mysteries taught to Moses then – and each of us has the choice in life to grab hold them today – as if they were our very life (because they are!) – and to spend our lives immersed in learning Torah, teaching it and practicing it.

First comes this acknowledgment, to realise the Mesora – the tradition – the *real* tradition – is as true today as it was then… and when one is then ready to move on, one begins to turn the pages of the Rambam and learn the laws of life. The laws of the soul – as contained in a body. Its duties. Its connection with G-d. About angels and mysteries (chapters 3 & 4)… and about the every day law of giving charity to another. About guarding the holy Sabbath day, keeping the laws of Family Purity, and eating Kosher food (for nothing in these laws has changed one iota even if we think our food is cleaner today than it was then.)

There is nothing more left to do or to say – says the Rambam. The transmission is a clear one made up of the greatest people in the Jewish nation. People whose memories were *perfect*. People of the greatest stature that the generations have ever known about. People who strove for absolute perfection in serving G-d every day of their lives – every moment of the day!

Now it is up to each of us to begin the cycle today without delay, and to learn how to behave as a Jew, what to do, how to do it, when to do it. And from here, we will grow to degrees that slowly but surely, we will not just do – but we will hear what it really is all about, until one day as we turn around, we will realise that we have suddenly connected to G-d. We become One with Him, and realise that our lives are filled with meaning.

101 Survival Tips for Your Business

There is no disputing the fact that a lot of businesses are collapsing in Nigeria and indeed the world over today because of lack of knowledge of what it takes to salvage the situation. This has even led to serious health conditions as many entrepreneurs have become hypertensive and their health state has defied medical solutions. This is because as long as the survival of their businesses is threatened, their own survival too will continue to be under threat. This is why I am reviewing this book this week as a textual solution. I wish you pleasurable reading.

This text entitled 101 Survival Tips for Your Business, with the subtitle Practical Tips to Help Your Business Survive and Prosper is written by Andrew Griffiths, a professional marketing consultant, as well as director of an Australian company called The Marketing Professionals. Griffiths is an accomplished trainer and a reputable public speaker. He specialises in trouble-shooting for companies that are in dire need of professional advice on marketing and customer-related issues.

In the course of his career, Griffiths has owned and operated a number of businesses, including a commercial diving operation, a travel company, an outdoor advertising business and a tourism publication. He equally worked as a dive instructor and commercial diver, door-to-door encyclopedia salesman, gold prospector, international sales manager and gardener.

According to this author, running a business is difficult and demanding even at the best of times. Griffiths says the trick to surviving is to avoid the common hazards that all business operators face along the way. He assures that the 101 practical survival tips offered in this text will guide you to successfully navigate your way through these hazards, and help your business to reach its full potential. This expert says each of these survival tips is based on his many years of experience and sound advice from successful businesses around the world.

Griffiths advises you to choose and apply a new tip each week or use this book as a source of inspiration and guidance when you are setting up a new business. In this book, there are tips to help you build better relationships with your suppliers, your staff and your customers, as well as financial, legal, marketing and personal survival tips. All these tips are designed to highlight common problems and give you a clear course of action that will increase your chances of business survival. As regards structure, this text is segmented into 12 basic sections of 101 tips, in addition to a bonus section containing 20 tips. Section one is christened The future of small business.

In the words of Griffiths here, “Small businesses form the backbone of many economies. As populations grow worldwide, so do the number of small businesses starting up. Millions of people around the world continue to opt for running their own business instead of working for larger organisations. As a result, there is an incredible knowledge and skill base tied up in running these small businesses.”

He adds that there is an enormous amount of expertise and specialist knowledge that thrives in this economic sector, the value of which is often underestimated. Griffiths says experience has shown him that small businesses generally offer far better levels of service than do their larger counterparts, due, in most cases, to the key personnel being involved at the front of business. However, Griffiths says the problem facing most small businesses is the ever-increasing competition from other small businesses, adding that this dilemma is here to stay and even increase.

In section two christened Getting advice survival tips, and which contains the first four tips, this accomplished public speaker discusses the type of help available, tells you to know when to look for help, asks you to embrace technology and save money, and says you might be eligible for a grant. According to this author, “Many governments around the world offer incentives for people to run small businesses. These governments realise that small businesses play a major role in their economy…by distributing products and services to the general public.” He says these governments are equally aware that small businesses provide jobs for millions of people, and this development keeps the economy going well.

Section three of this text is generically labelled Financial survival tips, and contains tips five to 19. Here, Griffiths stresses the need for you to have enough money to start your business. As far as budgeting is concerned, he advises you to plan for the worst not the best, adding that you should keep your personal and business records separate. Griffiths reiterates the need for you to use a good accountant, keep a good record from the start, and beware of the third-year boom and fourth-year bust.

In section four that contains tips 20 to 27 and entitled Business relationship survival tips, this expert reflects to you how to avoid partnership pitfalls; how to build a relationship with your suppliers; how to build a relationship with your professional advisers, etc. Section five of this text is based on staff survival tips and contains tips 28 to 37. In this section, Griffiths stresses the need for you to put the staff job description in writing and always check references. He emphasises the need for you to train yourself and your staff properly; lead by example so that your team will follow; communicate effectively with your staff; conduct performance reviews; be conscious of security issues and protect your business, etc. In section six based on tips 38 to 46 and tagged Customer service survival tips, this author says you need to build a good relationship with your customers and learn how to say No. Griffiths stresses further that you need to use simple market research to keep on track, adding that you should continually ask your customers if they are happy. He advises that you should deliver whatever you promise, and be honest and upright in all your dealings.

Section seven is based on advertising and marketing survival tips, with tips 47 to 57 examined. Here, the author says you need to develop your own marketing philosophy; do a course or read a marketing book; take small steps to market your business; develop a strong corporate image; market your business to a simple plan; never stop marketing just because business is booming, etc.

Sections eight to eleven are respectively entitled Internet survival tips; Insurance survival tips; Legal survival tips; and Personal survival tips. These four sections contain tips 58 to 93. In these sections, Griffiths stresses the need for you to be realistic about the Internet and make sure that you market your website. He says you should budget for the Internet to be an ongoing expense and beware of spam. Griffiths advises on the type of insurance you should have, adding that you should make sure that you meet your policy requirements. Griffiths offers you guide on when to use a lawyer and how to choose one. He also offers you tips on how you could keep the legal costs down. According to this author as regards personal survival tips, you need to start your business feeling refreshed and healthy.

Griffiths advises you never to give up your hobbies when you start your own business; asks you to maintain your enthusiasm; and learn how to handle stress. Section 12, the last basic section is tagged Planning for the future survival tips and contains tips 94 to 101. In this section, this author says you need to know exactly where you are going and know exactly how you are going to get there. Griffiths reflects that you need to always have a plan for when things go wrong and set your business up so that someone will want to buy it.

As already said, apart from these 12 basic sections, there is a bonus section containing additional 20 survival tips. Here, Griffiths says among other things that you should not be afraid to charge what you are worth; learn to delegate; try to win an award for your business; constantly strive to improve your business; make your business environmentally friendly; and compile your own operations manual.

Stylistically, this text gets a pass mark. For instance, the text is written in short blocks reinforced with very simple, jargon-free language. Griffiths adds Survival Tips Action List at the end of each section to arouse readers’ active participation and practical application. However, the (partially) repetitive areas of the multiplicity of tips contained in the text can still be harmonised to avoid possible conceptual redundancy. Generally, this text is a masterpiece. Do you want to achieve enduring success in your business, especially during this period of global economic downturn? If “Yes”, then, you need to get a copy of this book.