Podcast: Episode 6, When Are You Done in Business?

When are you done in business?  There seems to be an unsubstantiated rumor out there that there is some finish point when you’re building and working on your business.

In a lot of things, there is a beginning and an obvious finish.  But, business is a little different … the finish line isn’t always obvious, or within reach.

She's On Her Toes

When you’re building your business, you’re always tweaking things, making adjustments.  You don’t just start, open the instruction manual, follow the directions, and get to the finish line.  There’s always something new to be done.  There’s always a change to be made.  The finish line is always moving out ahead of you.

In the She’s On Her Toes Podcast, Episode 6, Emily, Christina and I talk about when you’re done in business.  Meaning, we ask and answer the following questions:

  1. How do you know when something isn’t working and move onto something that does work?
  2. How do we accept change in business?

And we talk about the idea of pivoting.  Because sometimes you have a great idea, but it’s just not working the way you wanted.  So … you pivot, or turn on your heel, and move in a different direction.  We talk about some case studies including how we approach clothing sales and client retention–actual problems we faced in the business and how we adapted and changed course to correct the problem.

 

If you haven’t already purchased the book, Never Lose a Customer Again: Turn Any Sale into Lifelong Loyalty in 100 Days, by Joey Coleman, buy it now.  It took me 2 days to read because the book had valuable, actionable information on how to improve your client retention.

She's On Her Toes Never Lose A Customer

Never Lose A Customer Again: Turn Any Sale into Lifelong Loyalty in 100 Days ($20.80): One of the questions this book poses is “How big would your company be if you still did business with every customer you ever worked with in the past?”  Holy sh$t.  Um yeah.  Customer retention is the single most important thing your business needs to focus on, yet we often spend the majority of our time and money on client acquisition instead.  Author, Joey Coleman discusses how you have 100 days to keep a customer for life and the 8 phases of this timeline.  The book walks you through all 8 phases and shows you how to implement them in your own business.  Pure gold.

Listen to the She’s On Her Toes Podcast on iTunes and Apple Podcasts here.

Podcast: Episode 4, Is Traditional Client Service Dead In An Online World?

Has the Internet and Social Media rendered traditional client service or customer service dead?

I’m talking about—a client walks into your business, you sell them something, they pay, and then you keep in touch to earn the next sale.

In today’s Social world, things are different.  Clients have access to all kinds of information about your business including how you talk to clients through your Facebook and Instagram accounts.  In fact, prospective clients have probably already formed expectations about how they’ll be treated before they even step foot into your business.  Or don’t even give you a second look after they do their research!

But while technology has changed the way we approach client service, there are some things that apps and the Internet can’t replace—things like greeting clients by name, smiling, and writing thank you notes.  These traditional, (eek, old fashioned!) practices can go a long way in distinguishing your client experience from your competitors’.

Join the conversation about how to excel at client service in our fast-paced inter-connected business world and listen to the latest She’s On Her Toes podcast here.

To help you create the best client service and client experience in your own business, I’ve   compiled a list of my favorite business books on the subject …

The Membership Economy: Find Your Super Users, Master the Forever Transaction, and Build Recurring Revenue ($16.83): If you own a fitness studio, or any membership-based business, buy this book … now!  If you don’t current offer membership options at your business, buy this book … now!  Creating “members” rather than clients is important when thinking about the “customer for life” concept.  My copy of this book is marked up, dog-eared, and well-read.  I keep going back to it all the time when building my business.

Never Lose A Customer Again: Turn Any Sale into Lifelong Loyalty in 100 Days ($20.80): One of the questions this book poses is “How big would your company be if you still did business with every customer you ever worked with in the past?”  Holy sh$t.  Um yeah.  Customer retention is the single most important thing your business needs to focus on, yet we often spend the majority of our time and money on client acquisition instead.  Author, Joey Coleman discusses how you have 100 days to keep a customer for life and the 8 phases of this timeline.  The book walks you through all 8 phases and shows you how to implement them in your own business.  Pure gold.

She's On Her Toes Never Lose A Customer

Think and Grow Rich for Women ($14.66):  I really enjoyed hearing Sharon Lechter speak and her book was just as insightful.  When Napoleon Hill wrote Think and Grow Rich in 1937, he included 13 Steps to Success—but at that time all the major business minds and heads of companies were men.  Sharon goes through each of the 13 Steps and applies them to the lives of modern women.  Sharon’s message is that as women in business, we either sell or we serve.  As in taking the time to understand our clients and serve them to the best that we can using the best means that we can help them out.  I love her concept of living “one big life” instead of trying to find the elusive “work-life balance” that never quite seems attainable.  A must-read!

I’ve used teachings from all three of these books and incorporated them into the client service and client experience at my studios.  I’d love to hear if they bring you value as well.  Email at [email protected] or comment below to share.

Listen to the She’s On Her Toes Podcast on iTunes and Apple Podcasts here.

When You Buy $25 Leggings, I Can See Your Underwear: A Public Service Announcement and a Lesson in Getting What You Pay For

Every business owner faces their own unique challenges.  And as the owner of 2 boutique fitness studios, I’m no different.  But lately, I’ve been confronted with a challenge so unique that I can’t keep quiet about it anymore.  It’s time to shed some light on a subject that really should be kept in the dark—really dark, like pitch black, can’t see anything dark.  Like, why do you think we turn the lights off in that part of class dark?!

Folks, it’s time to let you in on the cold, hard, sometimes drafty truth.  And perhaps it’s something you’d rather not come face-to-face with.  But unfortunately, as the owner of a fitness studio, I’m confronted by this problem (some might call it an epidemic) every day while teaching your class.  Something very serious is happening in gyms, boutique fitness studios, car pool lanes, and the very streets and parks where our children play … millions of women are wearing leggings and due to their poor quality, they are inadvertently exposing themselves to, uh, well … everyone.

She's On Her Toes PSA See Thru Seat

The sad fact is, if you buy cheap $25 leggings, I can see your underwear.  Sorry, but I can.  And I’m not talking about panty lines—don’t get me started on that one.  I mean, whatever you’ve got on, I know all about it.  Just this year alone, I’ve seen polka dots, stripes, and flowers.  I’ve seen teeny tiny thongs, full-coverage briefs, and every cheeky style in between.

And … if you’re not wearing any underwear, well, I’ve seen that too.

To the woman who wore control top panty hose during class, don’t kid yourself, while we pretended not to notice, we knew those weren’t leggings.  And yes, we saw your underwear too.  Frankly, thank goodness you were wearing some!

What can be done to protect the innocent from seeing your see-thru seat?

Remember, that price is a direct reflection of quality.  In the fitness world, quality leggings are made with performance fabrics, which are more expensive, but have you covered—if you know what I mean.  What is a performance fabric?  Fabric that is created or engineered for various types of use where the blending of the fibers creates an added or enhanced benefit.  You know, like increased durability, UV protection, moisture-wicking, protection from mosquitoes and ticks, not to mention wrinkle or fire resistance.  Performance fabrics can even have anti-microbial properties as the result of weaving together fine silver threads with the other fibers to prevent odor and bacteria from growing on your clothes.  For real that happens.  Bacteria grows out of the sweat from your clothes, you can thank the military for that type of added protection and performance!

When you’re looking to make a leggings purchase, take note of the fabric.  Does it seem strong and durable?  Or can you already see that the leggings will be see-thru if you put your hand against the back of the fabric?  If you bend over, sit down, or move around does the fabric give or stretch with your body?  Or does it sag?  Be diligent before completing a new activewear purchase.  Look at all the angles.  It’s all about fabric, fit, and function.  Is the fabric of high quality?  Does the style fit your body properly?  And finally, does the legging support the function or activity you will be wearing it for?

The lifetime of a legging should be measured in years, people—not 2 washes or, gasp—1 wearing!  Which brings up another point—caring for your performance fabrics is crucial to their continued use of keeping your backside covered.  Harsh detergents can break down fabric.  And the dryer is your leggings worst nightmare.  Please line dry.

Customer service matters.  Small studios, like mine, are stocked with high-quality performance leggings designed to move with your body and keep your personal, private areas just that—unseen by public eyes.  We know how each legging fits, because we own them, wear them, and teach in them.  So, if it seems like we’re over-eager to sell you a high-quality pair of our leggings, please remember that we have a stake in preventing the epidemic of see-thru seat from spreading.  Ahem.

In summation, Women of America, just because you’ve turned your back to a problem, doesn’t mean it will go away.  It’s time to stop the madness.  It’s time to remember that you really do get what you pay for.  So, while you saved some money buying those cheap $25 leggings with one click online, you lost a bit of your dignity wearing them.  That is a high price to pay.

Why You Need to Hire These 3 Personalities to Run Your Membership-Based Business

Not gonna lie, owning a business with a membership-based model is pretty stellar.  Having reliable, predictable revenue coming in each month gives any business owner a lot of confidence when planning a budget, knowing when to reinvest money back into the business, or when it might even be possible to give your hard-working employees a bump in pay.  A business with a membership-based model has a lot of options that a business relying on one-off sales simply does not.

There are, however, some unique considerations when hiring a team to run a membership-based business.  You can’t rely on one type of salesperson to take care of your members or clients.  Since clients may be visiting your business multiple times each week or even every day, it’s important to match your employees’ personalities with those of your vast, diverse group of clients to provide excellent service and keep your clients coming back for more.

Here’s why your membership-based business needs the following 3 personalities:

The Natural

We all know someone who could sell ice to an Eskimo or a ketchup popsicle to a woman wearing white on a 90-degree day—basically, a sales natural.  When you walk into a business and you are greeted by The Natural, you feel welcome and at home.  Everything is easy.  They’re easy to talk to and you feel comfortable.  So comfortable in fact, that you can’t help but find something to buy.  Whether it’s a product or service, you are excited about your purchase.  Maybe you frequent the business more often or start spending more time there because The Natural is so friendly.  Hell, you might even become friends!

And it’s obvious why having The Natural around benefits a membership-based business model.  You can always count on The Natural to win the trust of your clients and make the sale, over and over again.

 The Friend

But not all clients respond to The Natural.  In fact, many prefer the quieter demeanor of The Friend.  You know … someone who is just so nice, you can’t help but want to be around them.  The Friend might not be as out-there or gregarious as The Natural, but hiring The Friend to serve your clients is critical.  The Friend is honest.  The Friend is trustworthy.  The Friend would never push you into making a bad purchase—they’re looking out for you.  And that’s why many of your clients prefer to be helped by The Friend.

Make no mistake, The Friend, can make the sale.  But, The Friend is more concerned with ensuring your clients get genuine help and honesty when contemplating a purchase.

 The Achiever

Every business needs The Achiever—the ringer!  You know, it’s 5:00 PM and unfortunately, you had to make a big return … um, we need to make $600 in the next 2 hours otherwise we don’t make our daily sales goal … or we’re $15,000 shy of our monthly goal and it’s the 30th.  Ah!  Who do you task with saving the day and making it happen—that’s right, The Achiever!

When presented with a seemingly impossible challenge, The Achiever, finds a laser-like focus and gets it done.  The Achiever is highly motivated by challenges, SPIFS, a bonus, or even recognition of being the best.

And I wouldn’t know anything about this motivation, even though when I worked at Victoria’s Secret during the summer in high school, I won every single SPIF just to prove I could do it—including a contest to open the most Victoria’s Secret credit cards.  I opened 25 in one day!  I think the second-place finisher opened 7 over the 2-week contest.  It was a landslide and I won what seemed like a life-supply of underwear.  Turns out it was just enough for 4 years of college, but I won it!  Whoop!

But back to your membership-based business … you’ve gotta hire The Achiever because there will be a time when you need someone to rise to the occasion and save the day, ‘er goal.

Fortunately for me and my membership-based business, I’ve managed to hire several Naturals, Friends and even a few Achievers (besides me).  It’s worth noting that The Natural and The Friend could also turn into The Achiever under the right circumstances—the personalities do have some crossover.

If you own a business with a membership-based model, take a look at all your employees.  Do you have a good mix of the 3 personalities to match your vast, diverse group of clients?  If not, make an effort to incorporate some ways to identify either The Natural, The Friend or The Achiever in your next round of interviews.

I spoke with several members of my team before writing this post and they all easily identified themselves as either The Natural, The Friend or The Achiever.  So, if you’re trying to think through each role in my studios, give it a go and post a comment.  I’d love to hear which personality you are in your own business.  Or if you’re an employee, which of the 3 personalities you most identify as your own.

If you know someone who would enjoy this post, please share to help grow the She’s On Her Toes community.  And if you haven’t already, please follow She’s On Her Toes on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @shesonhertoes.

On Thursday, I can’t wait to tell you all about my new Vitamix blender and how it’s literally changed my life.

Until then, stay on your toes!

 

Instead of Selling, Focus on Serving

Selling.  It’s kind of a dirty word.  What do you think of when you hear the word “sell” or you think of men and women who make a living in sales?  Does the image of the stereotypical sleazy salesman come to mind?  Some dude working at the used car lot wearing an unfortunate outfit.  Maybe a mustache.  Pressuring you into making a purchase or perhaps lying (or at least bending the truth) to try and close the sale.  None of us wants to be in that type of terrible sales situation.  We want to feel in control of our purchases and be confident that we spent our money wisely on something of the best value and highest quality.

It seems traditional sales strategies aren’t working because people have so much more information about what they’re buying before the sale is even made.  You can’t really “pull a fast one” or sell a product or service that doesn’t live up to the advertisement or expectation of the shopper.  In some cases, customers might have done such extensive research that they now know more about the product or service than the salesperson.

How much research do you do before making a purchase?  If you’re like me, at the very least, you do a Google search to locate the item you want to purchase and see how much it costs.  But for larger purchases, I’ll conduct a search on Amazon to compare features and prices, check out reviews, or even inquire on Facebook to get recommendations from friends.  That’s a lot of effort to research and no money has even exchanged hands!

But what if selling was approached in a radically different way?

Because here’s the twist … none of us wants to be sold to, but … we all want to buy!

What if instead of using traditional sales methods in business, we instead focused on serving the needs of customers or clients by listening to what their problems are and then solving those problems with the products or services available from our business.  Rather than selling, the focus shifts to serving your customers or clients to create lasting relationships and confidence in your business.  To build a better business, instead of selling, focus on serving.

This summer I was fortunate to attend a conference and hear Sharon Lechter speak.  Sharon co-authored Rich Dad, Poor Dad and writes for the Napoleon Hill Foundation as well as being an entrepreneur herself.  She spoke to us primarily about her book, Think and Grow Rich for Women, which is a more modern version of Napoleon Hill’s 1937 classic, Think and Grow Rich. Check out my book reviews at the end of this post!

During her presentation, she discussed the influence of women over making purchasing decisions.  In fact, …

Women account for 47% of all workers in the United States.

90% of women identify themselves as the principle household shopper.

Women make 62% of all car purchases.

1 in 5 home buyers is a single woman in the United States and single women have contributed more than 1/3 of the growth in real estate ownership since 1994.

And women control about 60% of all personal wealth in the United States.  Globally women control 30% of personal wealth—the rate at which women are increasing wealth is outpacing the rate at which men are increasing wealth. 

This brings up the question, if the overwhelming majority of women are the principle shoppers for their household, making the majority of car purchases, and increasingly likely to purchase a home without a man’s stamp of approval or his money, why aren’t more companies changing the way they do business by hiring more women in their salesforce and adopting sales strategies that focus on getting the approval of the female decision-maker?

In her presentation, Sharon also talked about how most sales training was geared towards men.  You know the whole, “if you don’t sell, you suck” philosophy.  While it might be true, it just doesn’t have the same motivational response with women that it does with men.  Hummm … wonder why?!

There are typically 7 steps in the traditional sales process including:

  1. Prospecting for leads
  2. Setting an appointment
  3. Qualifying the prospect
  4. Making a presentation
  5. Addressing the prospect’s objections
  6. Closing the sale
  7. Asking for referrals from the prospect

Unfortunately, this process is too limiting for today’s retail climate because it creates an environment where the salesperson is primarily focused on maintaining control over or even manipulating the buyer’s decision.  The salesperson creates the need and then tries to get the buyer to purchase.  In traditional sales, it is also assumed that all buyers are on the same path to making a final purchasing decision—in today’s marketplace, there is no one path to closing the sale.

The concept of serving, however, involves a completely different process and philosophy to execute—this is a more client-oriented approach that includes extensive discovery and discussion.  When serving clients, the process looks more like this:

  1. Identifying a prospect
  2. Allowing the prospect to experience value
  3. Building rapport and explaining value
  4. Determining whether your product/service is the right solution for the prospect
  5. Offering the prospect the right value for his or her needs
  6. Gaining trust to complete the purchase
  7. Building a lasting client relationship

When a business focuses on serving its clients, there is no control or manipulation of the buyer.  The business and the buyer have to work with each other throughout steps 2-5 to determine if a purchase is made.

Completion of the sale is only possible if the business has done 3 things:

  1. Shown value to the buyer
  2. Determined that there is a fit with both the business and buyer
  3. Trust has been established

The advantage of focusing on serving rather than selling to build a business is that you’re ultimately building long-term, lasting relationships rather than one-off sales that might result in referrals.  By implementing a process of serving, you flip the traditional sales model on its head and instead of creating a need to buy, you are offering a solution that is valued for purchase.

I think you can see how a business built on serving would appeal to a woman consumer—and even a male consumer!  But what’s really interesting is that a process of serving is ideal for the woman salesperson to execute.  If working in an environment focused on serving, women win—whether they’re selling or buying.  On Thursday, I’ll share with you “3 Reasons the Future of Sales Is Female and Why Your Business Should Care.”

Until then, stay on your toes!

In the meantime, check out the links to the books mentioned in this post.

Think and Grow Rich for Women ($12.20):  I really enjoyed hearing Sharon Lechter speak and her book was just as insightful.  When Napoleon Hill wrote Think and Grow Rich in 1937, he included 13 Steps to Success—but at that time all the major business minds and heads of companies were men.  Sharon goes through each of the 13 Steps and applies them to the lives of modern women.  I love her concept of living “one big life” instead of trying to find the elusive “work-life balance” that never quite seems attainable.  A must-read!

Think and Grow Rich ($15.25):  While you might be tempted to skip this book and just read the newer, more women-focused Think and Grow Rich for Women, you’d really miss out.  This is a classic business book that almost every successful business mind has read.  I think it really emphasizes the point that the fundamentals are long-lasting and always the first place to start when looking to build or grow any business—whether it was back in 1937 or at the present in 2017.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad ($7.99): I actually haven’t read this yet—it’s on my list!

Planning for Big Things in 2018

It’s hard to imagine bigger things happening in 2018 than what have already happened in the last few weeks

I bought a house and moved.

Celebrated 5 years of being in business at Pure Barre Winston-Salem and 3 years of being in business at Pure Barre Clemmons.

Had my first book signing for She’s On Her Toes.

And spoke to several hundred women about my best hiring practices outlined in my book.

But … the beginning of the last quarter of the year signals that it’s time to plan for big things for my businesses in 2018.  That’s right, it’s that magical time of year when I start to do the following:

  1. Set monthly sales goals
  2. Plan marketing events to drive traffic and create leads
  3. Evaluate all spending and create next year’s budget
  4. Set management and leadership goals
  5. Develop my next book idea

The first step … getting organized.

I’ve mentioned before that one of the best tools that I have in my business owner organization arsenal is my Day Designer Planner.  I decided on the Mint Lizard design for 2018, but it was a tough choice stacked up against, Black Spotty (which I had this year), Black Stripe (which I had last year) and White Marble.

I love The Day Designer.  You can get a version of it at Target, but if you’re serious about keeping your schedule, goals and “to-dos” organized, you’ll want to spring for the Flagship Edition ($59).  If you amortize that across the year, that’s less than $5.00/month to keep your schedule together—totally worth it, if you’re as busy as I am!

But it’s the layout of the planner that is what I like best about it.  Each day gets its own page starting at 5:00 AM and finishing up at 9:00 PM—perfect for me because sometimes I have to teach an early class.  The appointments are on the left and the “to dos” are on the right, so your whole day is right there on one page.  There is also a spot to prioritize your top three “to dos” which is always helpful when you have lots to accomplish in limited time.

Another great thing about The Day Designer, is the free printable pages that allow you to either try out The Day Designer format and/or work on specific planning opportunities.  If you’ve never used The Day Designer, I’d start with the Free Daily Planning Page and How to Design Your Week pages and see if you like them.  For the more advanced, check out Fall Bucket List, Packing Checklist, Brain Dump, and Books to Read.

Check out the free printable pages here. 

Ok … but back to planning big.  Each week, I’ll create a list of all the steps I’ll take to complete each of these 5 tasks to start business off strong in 2018.  The first 3 are all kind of interrelated, so I’ll tackle them together.  First, I’ll schedule some time to develop our monthly sales goals based on historical information and what I think will happen in the future.  I’ll be working on that this week to set myself up for creating our marketing and event calendar either next week or the week after.  It’s all about doing one thing at a time to get all this work complete.  With a little planning and time management, it shouldn’t be too difficult—which is why it’s important to take the time for your business planning for next year … NOW.

If I’m being honest, I’ll probably save #4 for the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  I usually have some time to think when I’m driving home to see my family and setting management and leadership goals is definitely a “thinking in the car” activity.  I get some of my best ideas driving!

Leaving … #5.  I had the opportunity to hear an amazing speaker at a conference in Vancouver, Sharon Lechter.  Sharon co-authored Rich Dad, Poor Dad and writes for the Napoleon Hill Institute as well as being an entrepreneur herself.  During her presentation, she discussed how influential women are at making purchasing decisions.  She also talked about how most sales training was geared towards men.  You know the whole, “if you don’t sell, you suck” philosophy.  While it might be true, it just doesn’t have the same motivational response with women that it does with men. Hummm…wonder why?!

Anyways, Sharon’s message was that as women in business, we either sell or we serve.  As in taking the time to understand our clients and serve them to the best that we can.  I’m working on developing a whole customer service training for my team around this philosophy and I thought … wouldn’t this make a great topic for my next book?!

I still have to develop the topic further, but I think it’s so interesting to ponder the sales paradox and how women can actually overcome it.  What is the sales paradox you might ask?  Well, it’s simply this …

No one wants to be sold, yet we all want to buy.

But we don’t want to buy just any old thing.  We want to make purchases that are meaningful and make us feel good about parting with that money.  With each purchase, we aren’t just acquiring stuff or receiving a service.  We’re expressing confidence that we’re using our money to support a great business or that we really value the item we’re taking home.

And because clients are increasingly savoy about what research they’re doing before parting with their money, businesses will have to adapt and shift their sales training to one that emphasizes better serving their clients—it’s all about serving and earning the repeat business of your client base.

And who better to lead the way?  Women of course!  The future of sales is female because women naturally want to help each other out and provide whatever service they can to their friends and community to do so.

I mean, take a look at your social media feed.  How many of the posts are about places people have eaten and had a great time, or products they’ve been using and want to share because they are life-changing or helpful life hacks?  We don’t have to tell the world about our favorite things, but we do … because if it helps someone out, that’s pretty great.  So yeah … I’ll be refining this topic and getting to work writing book #2.  Good times!

Well, I have a lot of work to get done.  So, I’ll leave you with this … what can you do to improve your business next year?  Take some time in the last quarter to set your goals for 2018 and create a budget.  When you have a direction mapped out for your business, you might just make it all happen!  Crazy!

I know I’ve been a little delinquent in my posting, but I’m feeling inspired and refreshed from my break.  On Thursday, look out for 10 Things to Avoid When Budgeting for Your Business.  I think you’ll get some great ideas about how to use your time in the last quarter to set yourself up for good things next year.

Until then, stay on your toes!

Why It’s Important to Celebrate Your Wins

Oh my!  It’s been a wild few weeks for me—literally everything happened in September.  And I mean EVERYTHING.  To recap …

 

  • I attended the annual Pure Barre Conference where I was asked to speak about my best practices for hiring and leading a rock star team, to 500+ owners. Just a little nerve wracking!  That’s a lot of ladies.

Shes-On-Her-Toes-Speaking.jpg

 

  • When I got back from Conference, I bought a house. Oh yeah, and moved.  The moving part wasn’t so bad because I decided to get rid of almost all of my furniture.  This seemed like a good idea at the time, but now that there’s no place to sit, might have been a little rash.

Shes-On-Her-Toes-All-Moved-In.jpg

 

  • Just a few short days after moving, we celebrated some big milestones at my Pure Barre studios—Pure Barre Winston-Salem reached its 5-year Anniversary and Pure Barre Clemmons reached its 3-year Anniversary. And I had my first book signing.  So of course, we had to throw a big party to celebrate!

She's On Her Toes 5 Year Celebration

The three of us have been together since Day 1–cannot believe it’s been 5 years!

  • And the day after the party, I had an allergic reaction to something I ate and basically had to save my own life. Good times.  Sorry … no pictures of my face turning purple.

 

After this swirl of activity, I’m pretty content to get back to basics, like heading out to the grocery store and buying more than one meal at a time, walking the dogs, writing more regularly, and spending time with friends—hopefully at my new house with a place for them to sit.

But as much as I just want to get back to “real life” where a major event isn’t happening by the minute, it’s important to take the time to celebrate my and my team’s business wins, both big and small.

When you own a small business, every sale is important.  It all adds up.  And my team is doing some really incredible things right now—they’re achieving the same level of sales that we had last year with one exception, I was the one driving most of those sales.  This means, that they’re working together and will surpass the standard that I set by the end of the year.  Pretty cool.  I’ll drink to that!

We’re just about to head into the final quarter of 2017 and all year we’ve been gaining inches.  A little progress has been made each month towards our sales goals and towards my goal of giving my team more responsibility to run the studios without me there every day.  It hasn’t seemed like that much has been happening.  And I’m notoriously impatient.  But I can see that we’ve been doing some really great things and they’re adding up.

Our focus going forward into Q4 and 2018 will be to create a stronger health and fitness community amongst our clients.  Next week, I’ll explain how I’m developing more robust customer service training for my team so we can keep growing our client base and daily sales.  I’ve also been reading some amazing books and I can’t wait to fill you in so you can be inspired for a strong finish to 2017!

Until then, stay on your toes!

How to Make a Simple Checklist a Powerful Tool

Last week, I told you about a book I just finished called The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, Atul Gawande.  I read this book in one sitting.  It was so fascinating.  It’s all about how the simple idea of a checklist can take away the complexity of our lives and have a huge impact on how efficiently and safely we can accomplish tasks.  Atual Gawande is a doctor, so the majority of the examples and stories in the book are from the medical field and how adding checklists can literally save lives and reduce healthcare costs.  The idea of adding a checklist somewhere in your business is so simple, yet so powerful.   A larger discussion of what checklists can do for any business seemed appropriate.  So here goes …

On the surface, checklists seem overly simple.  As smart business owners, do we really need something as simple as a checklist to improve our overall business performance and better serve our clients?  We sure do!  If someone told me they had a tool that was simple for all my employees to use, yet ensured accuracy and consistency across our processes, I’d say, sign me up!  And the best part is … creating a checklist requires time, but it’s totally free.

So why are we so skeptical of checklists?  If they’re so effective and useful, why don’t we use them more often in business?  Why do we overcomplicate things or try to create fancy multi-colored flow charts in PowerPoint?  This is one of my favorite sections of the book found on page 177.  I think it sums up any checklist skepticism and also explains why checklists can be so effective:

“The fear people have about the idea of adherence to protocol is rigidity.  They imagine mindless automatons, heads down in a checklist, incapable of looking out their windshield and coping with the real world in front of them.  But what you find, when a checklist is well made, is exactly the opposite. The checklist gets the dumb stuff out of the way, the routines your brain shouldn’t have to occupy itself with (Are the elevator controls set?  Did the patient get her antibiotics on time?  Did the managers sell all their shares?  Is everyone on the same page here?), and lets it rise above to focus on the hard stuff …”

So basically, incorporating checklists into your business won’t give your employees a pass on thinking critically.  The opposite happens—once employees no longer have to worry about the many details of a simple process, they can actually work towards solving more complex problems.  Checklists provide a structure to complete simple, everyday tasks leaving our minds free to focus on more complicated matters.  But do they really work?

This week, my manager, Emily, created some checklists for all of our front desk associates to ensure they are never without a project during their time working in the studio.  I’m interested in learning the following:

  1. Did the checklists simplify any of our daily tasks?
  2. Did more work get accomplished?
  3. Did we sell more?
  4. Did we retain more clients?
  5. Did I hear any compliments from clients about my employees going above and beyond?
  6. Did the employee have a better understanding of what work to complete?
  7. Did the employee feel more empowered to help our clients?
  8. Did employees pick and choose which tasks to complete?  Why?
  9. Could the checklists be improved?
  10. Was anything missing from the checklists?

Since I employ several different personality-types in the front desk associate role, I’m very curious to see if we will need to create individual checklists or if we can create something that works well for everyone.  I’ll give it a few weeks and report back.  In the meantime, start thinking about how you can incorporate checklists into your business.

The best businesses solve problems that matter—have you ever thought about whether solving a problem that’s been holding you back, could help your clients?  On Thursday, I’ll discuss just that:  how solving my own problems with consistently working out and eating healthy led to some big changes at my studios.

On Friday, I’ll share my newest life hack—how to make a smoothie without bananas or avocados.  I am allergic to bananas and avocados, which makes smoothie consumption pretty difficult—but I finally figured out how to substitute those elusive fruits and now feel like I’m winning at life—or at least breakfast.

Until then, stay on your toes!

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, Atul Gawande

 

The Customer is Always Right: True or False?

We’ve all heard the phrase, “the customer is always right.”  It was originally adopted by Harry Gordon Selfridge of London’s Selfridge Department Store in 1909, but is commonly attributed to Marshall Field’s Department Store in Chicago.  Large and small businesses alike, have taken this motto to mean that it is essential to give a high priority to customer service.  True.

Excellent customer service is paramount to the growth and success of all businesses.  Easy enough.  Of course, you’re not going to spend your money at a business if you’re treated poorly or unfairly.  You won’t be a repeat customer if the experience is bad.  But should the literal translation of this phrase be adopted in the business world?  Does this blanket statement give a customer the right to make unreasonable demands of a business if something doesn’t go their way?  Is the customer ALWAYS right?  False.

Last week, I wrote a post titled, A Letter to the Competition, in which I explained how I’m not in the barre class business, but instead, we are actually in the client experience business.  And while I was beating my chest telling everyone how focused on customer service we are at my studios, I received a customer survey response from someone, who had just taken her first class the day before, telling me, in not so many words, how much my studio sucked, how much my teachers sucked, and how much I sucked at operating my business.  Basically, nothing we did had met her expectations from the cleanliness of the studio, to the way the teacher taught the class, to how much money classes cost, and then to top it all off, there was a personal dig at me.  Sweet.

So, here’s the thing.  I was the one who had the most contact with this individual.  She had called the day before to inquire about classes and asked all the usual questions including what to expect during class, what to wear, as well as class package options and how much taking class would cost.  I answered and went through my whole pitch.  The next morning, she took class.  While I didn’t teach the class, I was at the front desk working, and talked to her after.  I am confident that she was given the same great service we strive to give all of our new and existing clients … because, well, I followed my own customer service procedures.

Bill Gates has been quoted as saying, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”  I completely agree.  After receiving her survey response, I followed up with this individual and learned that she wanted free classes to make up for her terrible experience.  I thought about this and ultimately decided not to grant her request because giving her free classes would not change any of the complaints that had made her time in my studio so terrible.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure why she would want to come back based on the litany of “offenses” we had committed against her.

But since I’ve made this decision, I’ve been thinking a lot more about whether the customer is always right, or if there are times when they just aren’t.  It seems there are some people you just don’t want as customers and here’s why:

1. Some customers take up all of your time.

Oh man.  Customers who complain non-stop take up so much time—like hours and hours each week that could have been used to work with your team or for you to spend more time with your best customers, or frankly have more time off and away from your business.  And it’s draining to try and make someone happy who will never be happy.  I need a drink just thinking about it.

2. Some customers create a rift between you and your employees.

This is a big problem.  You spend a lot of time, effort and resources to give your employees customer service training and the ability to solve problems.  Some customers ultimately create a rift between you and your employees.  As soon as the phrase “I want to talk to the owner” is uttered, the employee can no longer take care of this customer’s problem and you have to, which is fine–don’t get me wrong, happy to help.  However, if when you make contact with this customer, you don’t side with your employee, you’ve just created a problem between you and your employee.  I’d rather have my amazing team intact and working hard then have my team quit and be left with a group of unruly customers that I can never make happy.

3. Some customers actually create bad customer service.

If you constantly side with customers rather than employees, you send the message that your employees aren’t important and they aren’t to be respected.  When your employees think you don’t care about them or that they aren’t valuable, how well do you think they’ll be treating your customers?  Not that well.  If this continues, other customers will learn to treat your employees with little respect to get what they want.  It’s really a terrible circle.

While “unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning,” it doesn’t mean they are “always right.”

What have I learned from this experience?  It is important to have a high standard of customer service, but some people will never be satisfied no matter how much you try to please them and it’s ok if those people don’t become long-term clients of your business.

A few days later, I got another survey response from someone, who had recently taken their first class, was confused, and didn’t think they were doing the workout correctly.  I followed up with her and offered her a free week of class as well as time with a teacher before her next class to go over some techniques to help her get the most out of her classes.  She’s coming back to the studio next week and was very appreciative.

It’s important to hire the right team to fit your business culture.  It’s also important to find the right clients.  I’m confident if we keep doing the things we’re known for, providing a great client experience, a positive and welcoming environment, and a clean studio we’ll keep attracting clients who value those things and make Pure Barre a great place to workout.  And I’m not going to beat myself up if someone, who doesn’t share what we value, doesn’t stick around.

There are really two seasons for me as a Pure Barre studio owner: Ugg/Boot Season and Flip-Flop Season.  And we’re heading into Flip-Flop Season so I’ll share with you the new flips I’ve just ordered.

Until then, stay on your toes!