It’s all a bit hard at the moment: sales are down, and staff are more than usually grumpy. What do you think I should do?

Tuesday 01 April 2014
<?php echo $ArticleTitle?>

If the business has lost its “mojo”, often we at Purpose will see a business struggling to remember why it exists. That’s understandable. When things are tough it is a vicious circle. Sales are hard to come by, which reduces motivation and confidence which can lead to lower sales, more desperate decision making, and so on.

We have done a lot of research into why businesses are successful and it clearly and regularly shows that understanding, defining and then communicating the true purpose of the business dramatically improves the connection that customers and employees have with it, and as a result, sales improve as does profitability.

The quality of relationships with staff and customers defines the success of the business, especially over the longer term and even more so in Jersey where reputation and referrals are even more important.

This month I’ll just deal with the team, and look at customers next month. If you want a quicker answer than that, it’s always free to call me!

Quite often management is seen as “them and us”. The management have identified someone who could do something better, and then try to either directly change a person’s behaviour, or vary the working environment to engineer that change indirectly.

Skills training costs money, albeit the States are helping with grants; and increasing skills within the team is much easier than improving attitude and commitment. Last month, I wrote about financial incentives as a way to get more out of the team, but clearly that costs money too.

Regular team building exercises, of any sort, will likely bring some warm fuzzy feelings for a while but just done as a one-off it looks a bit rubbish, and won’t bring about lasting results in the office or on-site. Obviously, relationships require consistent and frequent contact which requires out-of-hours effort and everyone wanting to be together. Which can be a challenge!

My view, having worked with many local businesses all of which have staff issues, is that people can change; but they only do it when they want to. The opposite of that is they don’t change when they don’t want to and they generally resist change when they are trying to be changed.

There therefore needs to be a reason for changing that they accept. I’ve written before about how peer pressure and visible performance indicators can make team members want to compete, but the drawback to that approach is that people can hoard work and work less as part of a team, as a result of wanting to “win”.

It is an extreme example but fee earners at large law firms can be in competition for billable hours, and this can create a hostile environment which must be tiring. At least eventually.

So the best way I have found to do that is to unite everyone behind a cause. To define the true, underlying, purpose of the business and get people who work there to believe in what they are doing, and more importantly why they are doing it.

Charitable organisations or social movements are often created by volunteers who believe in something, and history is littered with examples of people going ‘above and beyond’ for a cause.

Whilst business is not charitable in the same way, getting the team motivated around a purpose leads to much better engagement with the business and a sense of camaraderie.

I believe this so strongly that I’ve called my own business Purpose. Our purpose is “to make the lives and businesses of our customers better and, as a result, improve our own”.

I believe that purpose inspires our team and connects with what our customers truly need and want. Bearing in mind nearly all the team were still there last night when I left, I know that it’s working.

Builders can believe in building homes not houses; IT companies in doing difficult and interesting worthwhile projects; mechanics in making sure that every car is fixed properly, first time. There is an underlying reason why every business exists and unlocking it and communicating it to the world creates real connections.

In addition, the link between employees’ attitudes to the business and sales is obvious. Happy staff treat customers well, and create more referrals and better relationships.

Now the hard bit. You have to be genuine. You’ll get people majorly turned off if you don’t believe what you are saying and actually practice what you preach. So agree amongst the team really why you’re in business, and go from there!