Politics and Business

We are at that time in our British Columbia communities where we need to choose our leaders, whether it be municipal, regional district or School District.   My frustration is in hearing many of our local business owners/operators say they can’t be bothered, it makes no difference who gets in.

In most cases, what got them to this attitude was the candidates who got in because they didn’t take the time to learn who they are and what their thoughts are on the development and administration of the city and vote for their choice.

The way a local government runs has a huge impact on the local business environment through their bylaws, their focus on economic development and tourism(or lack of), and the hidden things such as building permit approvals, taxation, etc.  With the wrong people in charge it is no different than hiring the wrong people in your business.

The attitude of ‘why bother’ extends also to the school board candidates.  I hear, “It doesn’t matter, my kids aren’t in school.”  The students in the school district, however, may be your future employees and most certainly at some point be contributing to the tax base that pays your pension, so the decisions made by the school board on behalf of the students may be important.

It is important that everyone take the time to know who the candidates are, what they bring to the table in the way of knowledge and experience, and how that matches your beliefs.

Once you have done this, get out and VOTE!

Make use of your elected officials.  Don’t say, “Oh well, I guess I have to wait four years to make change.”  The elected officials are there for you in the community.  They can’t do their job without input from the community.  Engage them, share your views!

It is IMPORTANT!

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Posted in Business Coaching, Communication, Economy, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Employees, Leadership | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Service, or Lack Thereof

I recently had the opportunity to deal with two competing utility companies.  The first approached me to upgrade our equipment.  We agreed on the day for the service and I was advised they would be there between 9 and 11 a.m. that day.  A week before the appointment I received an email confirming it.  Then, the day before the appointment I received a text message as well as a phone message re-stating the information.

On the morning of the appointment I received a call at 8:55 a.m. saying the installer would be delayed as there was an emergency.  At 9:05 a.m. I received a call from a different installer saying he was coming in place of the scheduled one and would be there by 9:15 a.m.  When he arrived, he gave me his personal card and apologized for the delay.  He was efficient and before leaving advised us that we were eligible for more upgrades and said if there were any questions to call him directly.

The other encounter was to set up a piece of equipment.  I tried to get help over the phone, but the tech could not provide assistance and said a tech would have to come and we set up an appointment for between 8 and 10 a.m.  There was no contact up until 8:30 on the morning of the appointment when the tech phoned and left a message that they were delayed and would not be there until around 10 a.m.  At 10:30 there had been no further contact and no technician.

When I tried to phone the number he had called on, it went to a call centre and I had to wait for a human.  When I did get someone, I told them that I had been given a time of 10 a.m. by the tech.  They then told me that all times are just estimates and he would be there by 10.  I reminded them that it was already 10:30 and I had heard nothing from the tech since 8:30.  They then assured me that he would be there soon and, was there anything else?  The tech showed up at 11:50 a.m. and complained about the scheduling as he said he had been double-booked.

It was a vivid reminder of how to, and how not to, deliver customer service to your customers and clients.  In the larger businesses and especially those with little competition, they can get away with this, at least for a while.  If you are a small business, lack of customer service is the death knell!

If you are in business, always pay attention to where the money comes from to pay the bills!

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Values, Ethics, and Other Things

I know you can’t go back, and I know that society changes, but there are some things that puzzle me.

The other day a 12 year old said, “I can’t read this.”  I thought it might be something technical or something written in an unfamiliar language.  It was handwriting!  They were never taught handwriting in school!  This is problematic because until all the older folks like me move on, there is going to be handwriting to contend with.

There also seems to be a parental movement with the expectation that the teachers are going to teach their children things like values, ethics, nutrition, and the facts of life.  These are parental duties!  Parents are the mentors and role models for their children and they can’t abrogate that responsibility.  Teachers have enough to do with the lesson curriculum, without raising the children as well.

At one time, girls took home economics and the boys took shop.  I know that is sexist and there was a movement towards these subjects being co-ed.  We now have families who were never raised in households that owned a toolbox, whether to work on a car, do home maintenance, or build something.  As a result, we have children who have little knowledge with these things and many are not getting it in school.

Hindsight is 20/20, and if I had known that computers were around the corner I would have taken the commercial program instead of University program so that I could have taken typing and learned how to touch type.  Who knew that would be useful!  Actually, had the school system seen the computers coming they might have made typing part of both programs.

Society as a whole has changed as well, when it comes to our values and ethics and how we express them.  Politics is an example.  We are now more polarized in our views.  We either love them or hate them.  We have lost the realization that we live in a democratic society and vote for our choice.  When it doesn’t go as we wish, we no longer work with our elected representative to make change, instead we feel free to vilify our leaders on social media, as if Facebook would be able to change the outcome. Perhaps a long-lost desire to emulate the king of chaos south of the border

Will things continue to change?  Of course they will.  Us older folk worry, and wonder how the children will cope.  We forget that they don’t know any different so for them they just do what comes naturally.  We, on the other hand have to cope with everything that has changed over our lifetime. Change is not bad, just different.

One day, the children will wonder too!

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The Empty Position

Interesting walking around town and the malls seeing the help wanted signs in the windows.  It started as the summer season approached and now is becoming more prevalent as the businesses start the ascent to the Christmas season.

The economy is doing well, which means new businesses are starting or locating here some of which require trained staff, so they are offering a chance for those who have been in entry level positions to gain experience.  This puts pressure on the retail and hospitality industries to find new staff.

The other challenge for those in entry level positions is housing.  More and more, affordable housing is either not available in the communities, or is not affordable.  In many areas we have the working homeless.  Some are couch-surfing with friends or are living in their vehicles.

Even more interesting is that this is not the only area where lack of qualified employees exists.  The construction industry is booming, so trades are really in demand.  Projects are delayed because of the serious lack of tradespeople.  In conversations with accountants and other professional offices, they are finding the same thing.

Something that has helped on Vancouver Island is the price of housing in Vancouver and the lower mainland.  We are finding that young professionals are looking at the island where housing is more affordable.  This is bringing new talent to the area and new industry.  The tech industry is an example of this.  Some live here and work in Vancouver either, either commuting or working from home.

A local fast-food restaurant locked their doors to limit the number of customers on the weekend because they were short-staffed and could not serve the customers waiting.  The impact of a labour shortage can be devastating, especially for small business.

This is not a simple issue as it is impacted by regional economy, aging population, rising house prices, and lack of affordable accommodation.  As a result, no simple solution.

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Posted in Business Coaching, Business Planning, Chamber of Commerce, Coaching, Customers, Economy, Elephant in the Room, Employees, Employment, Entrepreneurs, Human resources, Learning styles, Managing stress | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Challenge of Business

Recently, we were invited to go to Penticton with friends.  The appeal was not only to be with our friends but to simply get away from perhaps our comfort zone and enjoy an escape from routine.

The challenge was the smoke from the BC wildfires – would it be better than the coast or worse!  The Fraser Valley got continually worse as we approached Hope and was uncomfortable.  The Hope-Princeton was bad in some valleys, and good in others.  Fortunately, it wasn’t bad when we arrived in Penticton.

Unlike Kelowna, Penticton is more reliant on tourism and the wildfires result in tourists seeking other places where they do not have to contend with the smoke.  This is unfortunate as the city is geared for those seeking sun and the atmosphere of relaxation.  There are brew pubs, markets, wineries, beaches and restaurants all catering to the visitors.

It points out how fickle the customers and clients are and how a focus on one main target group can be a challenge when circumstances are beyond your control.  This is a lesson for all businesses, not just ones based on tourism.  Unless a seasonal business is extremely successful, it may not provide the profit level to support throughout the year.

Businesses must prepare for the unknown.  You need more than one supplier, more than one customer base, and in some cases more than one product or service.  You must also be agile, ready to change direction if needed.  The advantage of small business is that they can usually have immediate flexibility, something that big business does not usually have.

Two major events were happening while we were there.  The annual Dragon Boat races were taking place on Skaha Lake and the Jazz festival was taking place in several venues in the city.  This combined with good weather and the amazing Saturday market resulted in No Vacancy signs at all of the accommodations on Lakeshore Drive.

This points out that businesses do not become successful in isolation.  It takes good economic development, tourism, Chamber of Commerce, strong customer base, and the support of mentors and professionals.

Oh yes, and passion for what you do!

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Posted in Business Coaching, Business Planning, Chamber of Commerce, Clients, Community Futures, Customers, Economy, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Employment, Entrepreneurs, Marketing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Do I Keep Up?

I am often asked by entrepreneurs starting small business, “How do I keep up with what is happening in the business? This is not a simple question to answer as it depends on your communication style, level of knowledge on your business, the business you are in, and what information you feel you need. It also depends on the budget you are working with.

Chambers of Commerce are always a good starting point. They usually have a broad base of businesses that you can network with. By attending their meetings and events, you can get a lot of information about the trends and the economy of the community. This networking also is valuable as it gives you a chance to interact with other entrepreneurs, especially if you normally work alone!

Service clubs are also another way of connecting with the community as well as volunteering with organizations. This is a way of getting known and networking. There are business networking groups that meet and share contacts and promote each other. The Vancouver Island Economic Alliance promotes the economy of Vancouver Island and is an excellent resource.

There may be trade organizations that are the best conduit for information related to what you do. You may be in an industry that does not change much or you may be in an tech industry that is changing almost daily. Regardless, you are in a community, and the wants and needs of the customers and clients in that community change as the demographics change.

Be cautious, as most organizations cost money to join and belong to. Your money, as well as your time, are valuable as a small business owner. You need to decide where your money is best spent to keep up. Do not extend yourself too much or you will be taking from the business instead of contributing to it.

Do not forget Social Media. This is instant connection and a way of feeling the pulse of the community. This is a way of testing the market without spending a lot of money. You can test market at a very reasonable cost. Be careful how you use Social Media. Keep your comments to yourself and only use out to convey positive messages of you may find it is a foe, not a friend!

The bottom line is to use any method sparingly, monitor what is effective, and utilize what is working to your benefit!

As always, feel free to share this post giving credit to the author.

Posted in Believe and Succeed Life Coaching, Business Coaching, Business Planning, Chamber of Commerce, Coaching, Communication, Community Futures, Customers, Economy, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Empowering people, Entrepreneurs, FaceBook, Internet, Learning styles, Lifestyle, LinkedIn, Listening, Networking, Relationships, self-employment, Service Clubs, Social Media, Volunteering, Young Professionals | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Progress?

We live more and more in a technology driven world, supposedly to make our lives easier and more productive.  We enjoy the benefits of this in our entertainment giving us 300 channels of questionable content on our television, and the ability to connect with people around the world with ease.  Also we have been able to empty our bookshelves of encyclopedias and other reference materials because we now have Wikipedia.

If you are in business, you have point of sale software, mobile debit and credit card products, and bookkeeping systems that keep track of where you are at any given time.  If you have a fleet of vehicles you can track deliveries, and even with apps, allow customers to know when their products will arrive on their doorstep.  Many of us now shop online or at least check out products before buying.

When it works well, it can be a great help.  When it does not is not only is annoying, but it can be costly for businesses.  Things like setting up electronic equipment should be easy, but sometimes does not go as the instructions say.  This is when you phone or ‘chat’ with a tech to resolve the problem.  This is where the system makes you wish you had never bought the product in the first place!

Press 1, press 2, Press 1, press 2, “We are experiencing longer than usual wait times, You are number 149 on the wait list and the approximate wait time to talk to a tech is 35 – 45 minutes.”  They have a list of what seem like dumb questions they ask you and sometimes are able to resolve the situation quickly and efficiently.  Other times it is, “A tech will need to attend to your issue.  Our earliest appointment is in two weeks.  Will you be home on this date between 8.a.m and 10 a.m.?”

If you have a business and the equipment breaks down it is an inconvenience when the technical products break down.  Today, people rely on paying with credit or debit cards.  Very few pay with cash and even fewer with cheques.  Businesses are not set up to handle transactions when equipment breaks down or there are power failures.  Employees are not trained in dealing with cash as is evidenced when you receive your change.  Seldom does anyone count it out for you.  They read what the till says the change is, tell you, and dump it into your hand.

The average person is no longer in control of many things that affect their daily lives.  Basic skills that used to be taught in school are trusted to technical equipment.  Yes, sometimes these things save time, allowing us to devote time to the things we enjoy doing. Other times they are diversions that take us away from personal face-to-face contact with the important people in our lives.

One thing for certain, technical innovation in our lives is not going away and we will be amazed by the advancements in the future.  We need to be cautious that we are not robbed of basic life skills in the process.  Technology is putting the control of many in the hands of few.

As always, feel free to share this post giving credit to the author.

Posted in Business Coaching, Clients, Communication, Customers, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Employees, Employment, Empowering people, Entrepreneurs, Internet, Lifestyle, Sales, self-employment | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment