Succeeding as a First-Time Manager

pepper rutland_managementManagement is a natural progression for anyone who loves his or her job and has a knack for leadership. However, great managers are not born or developed overnight; even with a world of experience, knowing how to bring out and/or nurture the same skills in others is something that takes time and personal development. Here are some tips to help you prepare for your first management role.

 

  1. Learn The Business
    There’s a major difference between knowing what the company does and how the company works. You may have some base-level knowledge of how things happen in the company, especially If you’re being promoted into a new role within the same organization, but as a manager, you must also consider the business side of things. That means, the company’s financials, procedures, bureaucracy and how your position, department and subordinates fit into that puzzle.
  2. Ask Questions
    Which brings us to our next major tip: ask questions. This is probably the best but most overlooked part of managing. After all, you’re expected to know everything, right? Wrong. Don’t be afraid to admit blind spots. They’re okay as long you’re making an effort to improve on them. This is particularly helpful for people transitioning to a new company altogether.
  3. Lead By Example
    People will look to you for guidance on how to respond to problems and how to react in times of uncertainty. Make sure you’re sending the right message to your team at all times, and creating a relationship in which they trust your choices and are willing to heed your advice and direction.
  4. Be Yourself
    Your management style or approach doesn’t have to be like someone else’s, nor should you wait for directives on how to get things done. If you have a good idea, take initiative, try things out, and learn whether it works or how you can do things better going forward. This is how you improve.
  5. Be Easy on Yourself
    This cannot be overstated. No one is perfect. In working to get there, show yourself mercy and allow room for mistakes. Doing anything for the first-time is not likely to be easy, but challenges are necessary. Balance the bad with the good, and when criticizing yourself, highlight both. You may find that you’re doing better than you think.

4 Reasons Why People Love Where They Work

pexels-photo-57825-large

Last month I highlighted MMR’s inclusion in the Baton Rouge Business Report as one of the best places to work in the city. The decision was made based on a combination of MMR’s answers to a questionnaire about workplace policies and demographics, and our employees’ own details about their satisfaction within the company. I decided to write this blog to share a few tips about why employees may consider your company a great place to work.

Employees enjoy love where they work when:

  1. The Company Has a Clear Vision
    People want their work to have a purpose. Employees, at every level, want to be aware of the company’s objectives, its plans for future growth and how their own efforts fit into the larger picture. Obviously not every detail is appropriate to share, and certain pieces of information may be reserved for small groups within the company rather than the entire organization. When possible, however, make a point to communicate the company’s vision and when it reaches certain goals to which the people of the company have contributed.
  1. Their Voices Are Heard
    Many times, ideas for how your company can improve, whether in practice or the offering of your product, are right in house. Your employees are a great resource because they are capable, knowledgeable, and have a stake in your company being successful. Open door policies are great if you can do them; if you don’t have the time, be sure ti designate someone who can receive and share those comments and concerns with you, then respond personally to let your employees know you’re listening.
  1. They Are Valued
    In that same regard, employees want to feel like they mean something to the company. The truth is, they mean a lot to the company, regardless of their title. Everyone has a part to play which enables the rest of the team to focus on their own responsibilities. You show that you value your employees in many ways, such as: providing fair wages and great benefits, listening, celebrating success together, and offering opportunities to advance, as a start.
  2. They Like The Leadership
    Lastly, but not the least important, people love where they work when they like who they work for. As a leader, people look at how you interact with them and others in the company. They take stock of whether you exemplify strong, clear leadership and your response to situations under pressure. Each of these factors affects how they see you, and ultimately determines how they see the company. Be cognizant of that representation and treat everyone with the respect they deserve.

Lessons for Your Business from Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go in actionPeople walking around on their phones with their heads down is not alarming. Afterall, in the age of technology, the complete disassociation with the outside world is commonplace from the dinner to table to the office (sometimes unfortunately). Yet, you may have noticed some recent changes in our culture that is consumed by tech. People aren’t just walking around on their phones, they’re talking about them with others, congregating in parks, showing up at random buildings, and driving around their neighborhoods with a purpose: catching Pokemon via this year’s hottest mobile game, Pokemon Go.

If you’re unfamiliar with the game and the story behind it, let me explain it briefly. Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game which uses phone cameras and GPS location data to catch digital creatures (Pokemon), and is based on a nearly 20 year old video game franchise of the same name. Now, less than a month after its launch, the game boasts some 10 million daily players at its lowest estimate, and the number of those doing so is growing. But how did a game that had seemingly past its prime attract such a mass, loyal customer base? Experts from Entrepreneur to Forbes have provide insight.

  1. Leverage Existing Platforms
    Instead of creating the wheel entirely, Niantic (the creators of Pokemon Go) brought their idea to users through an object they already own. With millions of people already in possession of a smartphone, the company lowered barriers related to adoption, allowing users to follow their normal behavioral patterns. In other words, go where customers are and seek to integrate into their lives rather than alter it.

  2. Social Media, Local Marketing and Mobile Integration:
    This strategy, known in the marketing and tech world as SoLoMo, has been one of the largest reasons for the success of Pokemon Go. Niantic has integrated social media with the real world unlike any other game or company, with remarkable success not only for themselves, but for small businesses. Indeed, the popularity of the company has resulted in increased traffic to local businesses and subsequent revenue. Entrepreneur Magazine encourages businesses to do the same through tools like checkins to get customers to engage your business on and offline.

Furthermore, Tech.co shares some very practical examples of how businesses can use Pokemon Go as a marketing tool in addition to learning from it. Some of their advice includes getting on the action by adopting some of the language and themes of Pokemon, which can pay off for your business, turning players into customers. Advertising your business as a stop (if it is one), for those who may not be playing at the time. It requires a bit of effort, but such an acquisition is invaluable, whether the game continues to dominate or not.

4 Common Management Mistakes And How To Fix Them

man-people-space-desk-largePoor management skills can have a negative effect on an entire company. Employees who work under a bad manager will be unhappy and may leave the company. In fact, one out of two professionals surveyed for Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager Report stated that they have quit a job at some point in order to “get away” from their boss.

If a company has a strong leader, this can lead to a higher morale and more productive employees. It is important for a manager to create a positive working environment and to lead by example.

Here are four common mistakes that are examples of bad management, followed by solutions to these issues.

 

1) Failing to recognize employees’ strengths

Employees don’t feel valued when they are not recognized for their accomplishments. Some managers criticize their employees for their shortcomings and never praise them for what they are doing right. A September 2015 Achievers survey found that 57 percent of the 397 respondents did not feel recognized for their progress in the workplace. In order to be a good manager, let employees know that they are valued. Have consistent and open communication in which employees receive constructive feedback. A manager should help an employee to improve their weaknesses while celebrating each employee’s strengths.

2) Holding meetings that are not engaging or productive

Meetings are typically considered a hassle for the staff. Employees have to drop their projects and instead share information and opinions with others. This can scatter their focus and lead to a decrease in productivity. One way to fix this is to identify which employees need to attend a meeting and which ones can continue to work on tasks. Once you know who will be attending, brief these employees with a meeting schedule. This way, they can be better prepared and you can stay more on track. When the meeting gets off-topic, bring everyone back to the goal of the meeting. Ask for feedback at the end of the meeting.

 

3) Instilling fear in employees

Bad managers can threaten the job security of their employees. When employees are worried about getting laid off, their morale is reduced, decreasing the respect and trust that employees feel toward the manager. Some ways that managers instill fear include assigning blame, withholding information, and giving vague, noncommittal answers to questions. They create a persona that is unapproachable and they don’t show compassion. To avoid being this type of manager, create an environment centered on trust and honesty. Remain transparent by sharing pertinent company information with employees. Do not blame others. Instead, take responsibility, and transform failures into opportunities for growth.

 

4) Creating a negative working environment

The previously mentioned habits can lead to a negative working environment. Employees do not work as well when they are suffering from stress and anxiety. If there is a lack of managerial presence or if policies are inconsistent, the workplace can become filled with negatively. To keep these positive, be “present”, treat everyone fairly, and keep policies consistent. Show your employees that you view them as equals, regardless of their level. Also make sure employees are comfortable discussing what they aren’t satisfied with.

The way a manager behaves can make or break a company. Keeping a positive work environment is crucial to the success of a company. Make sure you are a great manager and that your employees are satisfied.

How Your Business Can Benefit from Blogging

pexels-photo-large (2)Everyone has an opinion, and these days, all of them are online. It’s a great thing, as it helps us better understand people on an individual level, in a way direct conversation could never provide. However, that also means the world wide web is a crowded space. How do people and businesses navigate through the noise of social media platforms to say important (or not so important) things to their customers in long form? Blogging.

Traditionally blogging has been seen as a less formal means of communication. There are perceptions of the media as a tool through which people rant or make false claims in a tabloid-like manner. While there are indeed many blogs whose focus include those qualities, like anything in life, there are more than one side to that coin. These days, artists, businesses, and professionals of every kind have turned to blogging as a way to connect with customers in real time. Here’s why:

  1. Control The Conversation
    Depending on the size of your business, there is already information pertaining to your operations online. The information is likely very basic, such as your product or service, location, years in service, etc. Though all of that is important, none of it provides information about your current state, your future plans nor recent achievements. Historically, this information would be disseminated through press releases. Whether or not an established medium who would report on what’s you considered important, was left to chance. Now, businesses have the opportunity to cut out the third party, and talk to directly to customers about situations involving them or topics related to their interests. Many use social media platforms to do this, but, once again, the space is crowded. You should have your own platform, and use social media, instead, as a tool to direct stakeholders there.
  2. Increases Traffic
    Constant activity drives traffic to your site through search engines. People use search engines when they are not aware of who you are and what you do, yet are looking for something in relation to what you provide. Resources like Google, Yahoo and Bing crawl your site/blog to determine if what their users are looking for is there. One of the other measures used by these engines to determine whether or not your information is important enough to be shared with their millions of users is how recent your content is. Frequent updates result in higher ranking, which leads to more people finding your site, connecting with your content, and becoming potential customers.
  3. Free Marketing
    Thus, you could and should use your blog as a marketing tool, to turn those visitors into leads. To be clear, this should not be the sole purpose of your blog, but including simple call-to-actions, such as: signing up for an email subscription, learning more via your website, or following your organization on social media, can lead to continued interactions that may lead to a permanent relationship. As a note, free is not absolute. Should you choose to create a special domain and purchase hosting for your blog, that is a small cost. However, it pales in comparison to other advertising tools which may not be nearly as effective. In fact, 60% of businesses who blog said they receive more customers than those who don’t.

How To Keep Growing As A Business

pexels-photo-largeMMR Group continues to grow. Last month, the company proudly announced the purchase of assets and operations of Vector Electric and Controls, Inc. In our 20 plus years as a company, we’ve learned a lot about progress, expansion, and growth as a business. We’re of the belief that there is always room for growth and opportunities to be more impactful. As such, I want to share with you a few tips about how to do just that, regardless of the type of company you manage or lead.

  1. Hire the right people
    Your human assets are the most valuable part of your company. Even if you have the greatest ideas or the largest budget, without the proper talent to manage and execute each of those, the business is nil. Hence, hiring is the most foundational tip for growth and long term success. Look out for people who understand your company’s objectives, its strengths and weakness, and the details of their role. Invest both your time and money in attracting great employees; doing so sets a positive precedent for everything to come.
  2. Have Clear Goals
    The next step is to define what success is for your business and how you want to get there. Perhaps, for your company that means reaching a certain number of customers, opening a second location,  or earning a set amount of revenue. Regardless of what it is, every business needs a list of clearly defined goals and a plan for realizing them. Overtime, as those goals are reached and as your company evolves, your goals should as well. It’s also important to prioritize these objectives and ensure that the rest of your team is on the same page.
  3. Be Strategic
    This step requires a greater level of perception and calls for realizing opportunities that were not previously mapped out, but make sense based on the position of the business itself. With very calculated marketing, mergers, or other business strategies, companies can build an enterprise that is not limited only to rigid goals, but that moves based on what is expedient for the business. Always be sensible about your choices and alert to the possibilities which surround you.
  4. Learn From Mistakes
    Every choice or strategy will be not an immediate hit. In fact, some can be an outright failure; that’s a normal part of business. The best way to recover is to learn from the mistake. Ask yourself which part or parts of the process went wrong and why. Only then can your and your company create more successful outcomes going forward, rather failing multiple times over an avoidable issue. There is no guarantee that all things will work, so don’t be afraid of risk. Even the largest companies from Apple to Google frequently have major failures. As a company, however, your power is in controlling the controllable.

Finally, every business starts somewhere; many with just a simple idea and the work of a single individual. Nevertheless, no one goes into business with small aspirations. Every entrepreneur’s goal is to bring their skills, product or resource to as many customers or supporters as possible. Following these simple practices and words of advice can make the likelihood of such a reality.

The Truth About Why Employees Stay And What It Means For You

startup-photos-largeRecent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that, as of 2012, the average length of time an individual remains in a given job is just under four and a half years. Over the course of a lifetime, the number of jobs a person may have on his or her resume is about 11 (more specifically, 11.4 for men and 10.7 for women). Furthermore, the studies show that the decision to leave is not particular to any one career or industry. These numbers are true for bankers and musicians alike, resulting in turnover anxiety for companies and HR professionals everywhere. Yet, the factors determining why employees leave are equally true for why they stay. Examining such could save companies the estimated $40,000 it costs to replace staff member..

With regard to those who stay, MMR Group recently honored a number of employees which have been with the company for over a decade, some of them almost two. It’s an absolute privilege to be able to say that we have people on our team who have worked with us for so long, who’ve watched our company grow, and likewise, have had a hand in our success in the time they’ve been with us. Other than being amazing people, as all of our employees are, based on this research, I wonder what makes them an anomaly.

According to an older issue of the Harvard Business Review (HBR), employees stay at a company for two reasons. The first is they enjoy the work they do/their job description is aligned with their passion. This concept was confirmed more recently by a poll in TIME magazine, which shows that over 67% of people surveyed remained at a job because they enjoy the work, making it the number one influence for retention. Secondly, people stay because of what the HBR called a good “company environment” or what we call workplace culture, today. It means that employees feel connected to companies with which they share values, ideals and ways of living (or working, in this instance).

However, the latter is usually more ambiguous. What defines a workplace culture, really? It could be a number of things from how you communicate with employees, whether via email or face to face. And with that, are employees required to make a meeting or can they in whenever? Also, does the office go out for drinks after work or do most people at the company abstain from alcohol? Is the office quiet? Is there vacation time? Do most people use that time for vacation? All of these questions help better define what the culture of your workplace is–from simple to more complex results. Everyone has a company culture/environment, and no particular one is better than the other. Unless, of course, it isn’t a proper fit for the people you hire.

Thus, it’s important for companies to be aware of both factors. Make sure that job descriptions are expressed clearly and comprehensively. In interviews, get to know prospective employees on a deeper level than credentials and job history. Finding out someone’s true passion and how they work on a daily basis can make a world of difference in losing an employee and keeping a great one for life.

Best Social Media Practices for Small Businesses

Pepper Rutland's photo of facebook and scrabble piecesBefore the 1990s, companies relied mostly on print and broadcast media, such as television and radio, to get the word out about their products, services and/or progress. Prior to those inventions, word of mouth and various guerilla tactics were the focus. Nevertheless, with the advent and subsequent ubiquity of the Internet, businesses saw the importance of getting online. Those who weren’t early adopters, relying still on the aforementioned tools to reach customers and supporters alike, learned quickly that “the net” could not be ignored. Today, more than half of small business have their own website. However, as trends continue to evolve beyond a mere home for your business, the need for web presence via social media has become just as, if not more, imperative to the success of business owners, especially smaller businesses. Yet, while most have at least taken steps to create a social profile, not many use it to their full advantage.

Nearly two years ago LinkedIn reported that 81% of small to medium business had some form of social media. Why the remaining 19% hasn’t caught up is a concern in itself, but that’s not the primary issue at hand. Of those which do have a profile, approximately 95%, virtually all, of them use it for marketing reasons alone. While this makes sense given the wide reach of such platforms at little to no cost, simply using the space to announce deals, sales or new products is akin to handing out flyers on the corner. You may reach a lot of people, but it doesn’t guarantee connection nor interest. Therefore, creating a strategy for engaging your social media audience is key. Here are tips for doing so.

1. Create Quality Content

Consumers are exposed to about 5,000 ads per day, in comparison to 2,000 in the same time, just 40 years ago. The oversaturation and overpopulation of advertisements have led many to either tune them out or block them altogether. That said, using your business profile to do just that creates an automatic division between yourself and the client/customer you’re trying to reach. Instead, create and publish content that is informative and relevant to your product or service. As a result, your business comes across as an authority on related subjects, and appears to onlookers as a brand that is interested in its customers, not just selling to them.

2. Interact With Followers

Use social media to be social. Just as it would be rude to only talk about oneself and never respond to any questions, comments or inquires, in-person, the same applies online. Perhaps there is no dedicated social media person on staff, thus making it difficult to respond to every single interaction; however, merely acknowledging the message goes a long way. Such can be done with a simple like or share on many social platforms. And when it makes sense to do so, follow back.

3. Use Analytics Tools

The larger and more popular websites provide very specific and helpful data, including how many people viewed a post as well as liked and/ or shared it. Not only do these details provide insight about the value of your content to your audience, they can provide key information about how many people you’re actually reaching and optimal times for doing so.

4. Be Channel Specific

As the old saying goes, there’s a time and place for everything. Each business owner or dedicated social media specialist would do well to note best practices of each platform. For example, content on Twitter must be shorter, to the point, and use of hashtags bolster the length of your reach. On Facebook, content can be a little longer, more in depth and media heavy. Hashtags are not as effective, though available, and click through content, such as a link to an external website or presentation, are normal. Using a cookie-cutter approach to all platforms only diminish the effectiveness of your message and goals online.

As we enter this new year, there is an even greater incentive to try new things. With over 2 billion users on social media, an incredible opportunity exists for all businesses to not only acquire new customers but to retain them. Regardless of your product or service, your audience is online. Your competition will certainly be doing all they can to reach them. Beat them to the punch.