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How To: Jerk Proofing Your Business

Nasty people do more than make others miserable.  They create economic problems for your business.  And the problem is more widespread than most people think.  Especially in some occupations driven by a “sales” or “technical” culture.  So, that’s the bad news.

The good news is that your business  culture doesn’t have to become a hostage to jerks and bullies.  In a recent article (By Invitation:  Building the civilized workplace) appearing in The McKinsey Quarterly, Robert Sutton defined a workplace jerk as someone who leaves others feeling “oppressed, humiliated, de-energized, or belittled.”  

Jerks and bullies attack in any number of ways, whether in business or in family settings.  Some of the more common include insulting and sarcastic humor; turf invasions; status slaps; two faced attacks; verbal and non-verbal threats and intimidation; and public shaming or time-honored hazing disguised at team building (remember the Miami Dolphins scandal?).  Nasty interactions like these are more powerful than a locomotive, spread faster than a speeding bullet, and affect people five times more strongly than positive ones.  

These kinds of behaviors, often condoned because the perp is a great “producer” who brings in a wonderful revenue stream, can destroy an organization or a family in several ways.  Walls go up, morale goes down, customers and applicants stay away, and family members have as little to do with each other as possible.  Steven Covey, author of Principle Centered Leadership, talked about behaviors like these as withdrawals from an emotional bank account.    

So how do you prevent these behaviors from happening?  Our experience suggests that a variety of covenants – family, management, and organizational – help set the tone for building a civilized culture. A couple of well known companies like Gold’s Gym, Southwest Airlines, Success Factors, and Netflix have a “we don’t hire or keep jerks” covenant or policy.  It’s communicated in three ways:  verbally, in writing, and – most importantly – in practice.  If you’re not ready to part company with a jerk, don’t say you will when you know you won’t.  Your failure to do so speaks volumes.

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5 Keys to Building Your Personal Influence

Not too long ago, a General Manager and I began working together to enhance his communication skills.  However, as we worked together I realized his real desire was more about influence versus communication.  He wanted to have a 360◦ level of influence.

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How to Create a Culture of Excellence – Are your Processes Aligned with Your Purpose?

It is absolutely imperative that the sales and services your team provides be aligned around a common purpose. Your purpose, or the purpose of each department of your organization, needs to be well defined as it will determine how they go about problem solving, accomplishing daily tasks and long-term goals. When it’s all said and done, it’s what we actually do that matters, not what we say we do. How you do things will define your reputation in the community. One of the most common disconnects in any organization is between purpose and procedure, or between what we say we do and how we go about doing it. 

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How to Create a Culture of Excellence – Is Your Environment Appealing?

I have a car dealer client in Colorado with a showroom that is out of this world. It’s a well-appointed living room environment complete with plenty of workstations, wireless internet, salt water aquarium, fireplace, and a well-rounded playlist on their music system – and the music’s loud. I routinely arrive earlier than my scheduled meeting with the client because it’s a very comfortable and engaging place to work.

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How to Create a Culture of Excellence. Have You Defined the Standard?

I recently went to my local Toyota store to get my oil changed. I had called ahead of time to make an appointment. I made the appointment for 7pm because I was told the wait time would be less at that time of day. Unfortunately, that message was not communicated to the service department staff. When I arrived in the service lane promptly at 7pm, I stood by my car and waited patiently for about 10 minutes before the only service advisor in the place worked through the paperwork of the customers in front of me and came to greet me and find out what I needed. Find out what I needed? I called that morning and made an appointment after describing to the person on the phone what I needed. It was as if they weren’t expecting me. No. They clearly weren’t expecting me. As my son is fond of saying – “Epic Fail.”

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Avoiding Knots in Your Family Business Relationships, by Loyd H. Rawls

As I work with business owners pursuing succession, I am constantly amazed by the complex multifaceted nature of succession planning. Entangled in the diverse business and estate issues is the common thread of relationships. The quality of communication, cooperation, teamwork and trust between owners, managers, employees and family depend on relationships.

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How to Avoid Getting Squashed in Management and Family Feuds

Like many words in the English language, "squash" can have several meanings. For example, it can refer to a game played with racquets by players who whack a hollow ball around a court. For our purposes though, let's think of squash as the ancient sport of destroying someone else's ideas before they have a chance to break into full flower. It's generally played by one or more persons who use words as weapons and say things like: 

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Can You Be Too Optimistic for Your Own Good?

Can you be so optimistic that you are completely out of touch with reality? Can you believe so strongly in your own dreams and ambitions for yourself, your family, and your business that you just don’t “get it”? 

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Family + Business = Harmony or Fireworks?

A business owner recently told me, “I have one brother who is my best friend and one who I don’t talk with, all because of business and financial issues.” Tragic yes, but not uncommon. Having worked with business owners and their families for over 30 years, I have witnessed situation after situation in which the family business has resulted in family heartache. Fortunately, that does not have to be the end result; there are many examples of family businesses being run successfully by harmonious family members. Some landmines that you need to avoid that will enable success in business operations include: 

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To Create or Not Create a Succession Plan – That is the Question

On a regular basis, I get to talk with other succession planners. One of the topics that comes up frequently is the mindset a lot of business owners have in regards to needing a “triggering event” to prompt succession planning. The unfortunate thing about a triggering event is that it is usually just that, unfortunate. 

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Wal-Mart Approach to Succession Planning - Is There a One-Stop Shop?

As a business owner, many of your advisors may be offering succession planning services. Bankers, insurance agents, CPAs and attorneys are all promoting succession expertise within their menu of services. As a result, more and more business owners are approaching their CPA, insurance agent, investment banker or lending agent as if they are the Wal-Mart of financial and business advice. This corporate one-stop shop approach has investment bankers selling insurance, insurance specialists offering investment products, CPAs reviewing estate plans and attorneys recommending financial strategies.  As unnatural as this may seem, professional advisors are becoming more versatile than ever before, which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, it is important to remember that while they are offering advice that could leave you better off than you were before, it may still leave you short of your full potential.  

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Complications of an In-Law Employee

Succession planning takes a business owner in many directions. Not all families have natural successors, and not all family members are cut out to work in a family business. Furthermore, in many circumstances business owners desire to supplement the finances of unemployed family members. Therefore, I am commonly asked what to do about employing in-laws. My common answer is to tread carefully; hiring an in-law is a big deal and a complex undertaking.  

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Succeeding the Old Fashioned Way

The look on my face when the 54 year old dealer told me that he was promoting his 28 year old son to be the GM was a dead give away. “Why is that a problem? – I was a GM at that age!, he said.” And obviously it worked out great for this dealer, so why was I questioning his decision to promote his son? The issue I told him is that he grew up in an entirely different set of circumstances than the world his son experienced and the maturity levels created by such are hard to replicate. 

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Planning Techniques

“Is there anything your father should have done that he didn't regarding his estate planning?" "Yes" said the son...

That question was posed by the father’s original dealership partner (now in his 80’s) to the son several years after the father’s death at a meeting in which I participated. The son, who is a highly successful auto dealer, was very emphatic in his response. “Dad was unwilling to do anything because he thought he would be losing control. We were lucky – the timing of his death was during good market conditions when our dealership products were hot and the real estate market allowed us to sell assets needed to pay the estate taxes. We could have lost everything!” 

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Living in Dad's Shadow - When Kin Can Cash In

"I love coming to work every day!” exclaimed the 81- year old dealer. No doubt and he definitely still had plenty of gas left in his tank! Energetic and mentally sharp, his idea of “retirement” was to come in to work at 10:00 a.m. (“but I stay at least until 5:00 p.m.”). As the founder of his dealership empire, he was extremely proud of what he had accomplished and still felt he could contribute and run the business if he had to. So what’s the problem? 

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Family and Business = Harmony or Fireworks?

A dealer recently told me, “I have one brother who is my best friend and one who I don’t talk with, all because of business and financial issues.” Tragic yes, but not uncommon. Having worked with auto dealers and their families for 27 years, I have witnessed situation after situation in which the family business has resulted in lots of family heartache. Fortunately that does not have to be the end result and there are many examples of family dealerships being run successfully by harmonious family members. So what are the landmines that you need to avoid?

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Successor Development: 5 Key Indicators for Evaluating a Successor

If multiple successor candidates are available, it is important for you as the business owner to objectively approach selecting the successor leader. To evaluate the candidates, you can use what I refer to as the 5 C’s, which are five key traits your ultimate successor should have. 

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Tips for Approaching Succession Planning with Your Franchisor

A few years ago I encountered a franchisee who had successfully transferred more than $2 million of business value to his children by taking advantage of available minority discounts in conjunction with depressed goodwill and depressed real estate values — a brilliant estate planning move. The only problem was that he had not received permission from his franchisor as stipulated in the franchise agreement.

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Is Your Successor Ready to Take Over Today

I saw a cartoon recently in which the owner of a business said to his son as they gazed out of the window on the family business, “Someday Son, this will all be yours, unless I can come up with a better solution!” That statement echoes the sentiment of many dealers I’ve worked with who are worried that their son or daughter is not prepared to be able to lead the company if something happened to Dad today. 

The question that needs to be answered involves the following: Is your successor identified, trained, approved by the manufacturer/s, respected by management and able to run the company successfully today? This may involve your son or daughter, or possibly a key manager. Unfortunately, in most dealer’s situations, the answer would be “no” or “I hope so”, neither of which is a satisfactory answer.

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How to Attract and Retain High Performers for Your Business

  • Do you have key employees who are telling you they want a piece of the action – an ownership interest in the dealership? 
  • Do you have key employees whom you want to retain in the dealership over the long term? 
  • Do you have highly compensated employees who are getting killed income tax-wise and want to know what you can do to help? 
  • Are you looking for ways to create greater incentives for your key employees? 

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you should consider utilizing some type of non-qualified deferred compensation plan(s) in your dealership. The Fortune 500 companies have been using NQDC plans for years to attract and retain their key employees and so should you. 

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