Executive TLDR: It’s important to prevent yourself and your company from wasting time on individuals who will not help your company grow, or even themselves. Here’s a list of five ways you can fool-proof your business.
A lot of days when I get to the laptop, sit down and start working – I can get easily distracted.
Sure, there’s the calendar and the timer to keep me on track, but even those plans that I set days, weeks or months in advance can change on the fly, depending on the situation of the day that might need to be addressed. They can vary: A website might need our help, a sales call might need clarification, or a community might need to drum up a quick promotion that goes viral.
Those are worthy of my time.
What’s not worthy of my time anymore are the people that fall into two categories that we have internally identified as anathemic to business – mine and those that we’re responsible for helping to build:
- People who are rude.
- People who don’t invest in themselves or others.
The first one is obvious. Sure, we’ve all dealt with the dipshit on the phone or a Zoom meeting that just doesn’t give you any breathing room to get your point across, atruistic and objective as it may be. If you’ve been in business like I have for more than a decade, you can smell trouble like that coming by the time the individual on the other end of the wire utters his or her 3rd sentence.
But the second is a little more subtle, and difficult to pinpoint. Because honestly? I will be more than happy to work with anyone that is of humble beginnings (to which I am eternally thankful I can relate), has little money to start with, or just needs some free guidance to move forward in the right direction. If I reasonably could – I would give all my time to people that truly need and appreciate help.
Category #2 does not refer to individuals such as these humble souls. What it refers to are people who act like they need help – but are really just looking for a handout, with no promise of doing anything tangible with the handout. This can be an emotional handout, an intellectual one, a time handout, obviously a money handout, or any combination of these.
This category will suck your company’s time, resources, emotions…and cash. If possible – until you and your team are left bone dry.
And what happens when those categories intersect? Well – now you have something much, much worse. I call them “fools”.
Fools are the ultimate exercise in chaos, because if allowed by you to let them thrive, the result will be suffering – at the feet of arrogant individuals who demand more and more of your company, your time, your resources, your intellect, your energy, and sometimes your very life force – become wasted. To quote my late Stepfather Jim Hudick – “Value has to be given, and received – in order it to be considered valuable.”
They can show up anywhere – on an initial sales call, a lengthy project with a demanding client, even in responses on your well-intended Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter post. And once blood is detected by the fool, they will go in for the kill. Sometimes they’ll bring their colleagues. The end-goal is to make you humble yourself before them. Not by apologizing. Not by pledging your allegiance to them. Not by giving them a refund. Not by making you do more work for them. Not by making you doubt yourself. ALL OF THOSE THINGS.
That’s bad for business. And it is notably bad for your business, if you let it happen.
You must keep on guard from such behavior affecting your business, your interests, or even you.
Luckily, there is hope. You can certainly be prepared for every interaction, every communication, every contract, every message you put out there into the world (online and offline) to ensure you and your company are continually moving forward.
Here’s 5 ways to fool-proof your business:
- Set standards.
- Create a manual.
- Always start positive.
- Evaluate your audience.
- Adjust your response – not your standards.
About three years ago, I had a 1099 worker that I gave a lot of flexibility to. I mean…he’s a 1099er, so that pretty much what is required anyway. But this dude was being very, very…como se llama en Ingles?…rude.
Worse, he lied on multiple occasions. And that led to a loss of about 5% of our customers, including one that I have the utmost respect for (which I mentioned in my 2016 book How to Program Your Life). He certainly wasn’t arrogant or mean, he was actually a very friendly person. But I found out too late from a multitude of our customers that he would promise something, and never follow through, never let anyone know about what the customer wanted, and never documented the shoddy work that he did, for others to fix. He also sometimes didn’t get in touch with the RocklandWeb team or its customers for days on end, something that he continually promised that he would.
The last straw for me was when I tried to reach out to him to see if he was ok, since I hadn’t heard from him in quite a while. He wrote back that he was not feeling good for a few days, and said he was taking it easy. I wished him a full recovery, and hoped for his return to work soon.
The only problem was that he wasn’t sick. I found out accidentally on Facebook that he was moonlighting as a waiter at a restaurant in his area, and was bragging about it continuously.
I ghosted him after that, obviously he had his priorities in other places. And that’s not the kind of team we’re looking to build.
Out of the ashes of that disaster artist, came these five standards, that we voluntarily request that 1099 contactors that work with us agree to perform, out of common courtesy:
- Say hello – When you’re on the grid, let us know. So that we can send you a few clients to work with, at your own pace, using your own equipment, from wherever you want, digitally. You can usually accomplish this en-masse on your favorite messaging platform, such as email, Facebook Messenger, Slack, Microsoft Teams, or even a simple quick group text message. We like Slack.
- Keep a calendar – It’s really just a matter of staying organized, but I feel it’s very important to continually update and adjust your calendar, so not only you know what’s important to you, but you remember that you’re resposible for letting others know you have blocked out time for something you have agreed to do for others. Google Calendar is my personal choice for scheduling.
- Get information from your target audience – If you’re working for someone, providing information for a group, or planning a project that will benefit many, many people – you certainly want to gather data all the way through your process. This step is all about being brave enough to get in the weeds, continually gather information, and sometimes ask the uncomfortable questions of people, that may respond in ways that make you uncomfortable. But if you’re gonna get your work, product, art piece, website, app, promo, or video right – you have to stay in touch. A lot. We use Grasshopper for just about all our communications with customers.
- Document your work – For multiple reasons, make sure you write down what you’re doing, what you’ve done, what you plan to do, what you succeeded at, what you failed at, and what is behind and in front of you. And if possible, share this information with those that would benefit from knowing it. They will probably help to enhance it. It’s also a great way of proving that you’ve been working your ass off, and not moonlighting at a restaurant. We are huge fans of Basecamp.
- Track your time – This is different from the calendar thing. The prior is about planning in advance. This item is a real-time measure of what you are doing right now, and continually recording this info. It sounds daunting, but it’s gotten a lot easier with time tracking tools. I recommend Tickspot and FocusTime.
Ever since I wrote up those standards, the people that we work with and for, associate with, and collaborate with have gotten better and better each year.
I have other standards that I’ve created, too. For instance, we’ve created a solid, solid pricing structure for the company, one that respects client valuable budgets, and our company’s valuable time. 5 hour blocks of time to accomplish a variety of tasks requested by the client, in advance.
On Social Media, I have a standard on my Facebook posts that nobody should be insulting anyone else in the comments thread. Not me, and certainly not any of the other commenters. Stay on topic. Don’t insult others. Or leave. Your choice.
On phone calls, I aim for 5 minutes or less per interaction. On Zoom meetings, I aim for either 1/2 hour or 1 hour meetings.
You will create your own standards. Start now.
Create a Manual
This is typically something for larger organizations, but trust me, if you plan to stay in business for the long haul — this is the step you need to start as soon as you realize it’s necessary, or even sooner.
Writing a manual is a great way of solidifying all the steps to success that need to be taken, in order, consistently — yet are either too technical, too complex, or worse, boring.
Larger organizations would call this a Policies and Procedures Manual. I just call it a manual, because it’s got a lot of great information in there for both myself and the team at RocklandWeb. Information on business operations, website development, network adminstration, domain management, search engine optimization, social media and digital marketing, and much much more.
A funny thing happens when you start writing more and more. You realize that you (and your company) have a lot more value than you previously may have estimated.
The transformation starts to take shape here. Start writing. Today.
Always Start Positive
This is one of my shortcomings.
If you ever follow me on Social Media, I have a bad habit of getting into — shall we say disagreements? =)
It’s been worse. At the time of this writing, I have to pat myself on the back, although I’m sure a few of my trusted friends would currently love to kick me in the ass.
A few years ago I got into a huuuuuuuge argument on Facebook with someone who will remain nameless. It wasn’t a political discussion. It was a business discussion, about best practices. The person in question started out confronting me in a volatile way, and instead of responding in a balanced way, I replied with a healthy level of disdain, as well as a determination to point out said individual’s inability to properly spell words correctly.
In hindsight, I don’t regret standing up for myself, but I could have wasted a little less energy defending myself. Because that person brought friends. And several of them ganged up on me like mob mentality – a place where there is no room left for reason and rationality, a place where emotions win, especially if one currently has a level of social media popularity.
That person in question not only insulted me, but my business, my family and friends, and my business colleagues. One wrote a negative Facebook review (side note – it’s gone. I contacted FB and proved that this person was never a customer of ours) that reduced our rating to 4.4 (from 4.7). I took that personally.
in the end, I would say that I stood up for myself appropriately, but had I gone back to that first interaction, I probably wouldn’t have corrected the individual’s spelling, or called the person out on all the inaccuracies of the debate at hand. I probably would have started off with something like “Hi, ______. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I hear what you’re saying, and can see where you’re coming from. I felt the same way. But you know what I found? ______________________”
And to be clear — not because that person is any less of a fool than I give them credit for. Specifically because that person is a fool.
Understand this: There is nothing you can do to get through to that person in the moment. Nothing. So if they’re wasting your time, energy, resources, respond with something nice. Simply to begin defusing the situation.
This step can be employed on much more than Facebook. It can be in your messaging, in your phone calls, your Zoom meetings, your in-person interactions, and your speeches to a target audience.
Now, let’s talk about your audience.
Evaluate Your Audience
You’ve taken the right steps so far. You’ve set standards that can benefit yourself, and if well-crafted – others as well. You’ve created or started a manual of sorts that will give you and your team guidelines toward doing all the big and small, exciting and mundane steps that will allow you and your interests to scale over the course of time.
You are able to respond to people in a non-defensive manner, so that they won’t be triggered by anything that could cause them to reach for their blankie.
Now, it’s time to identify who really is interested in you, and what you have to offer.
I’m gonna be totally honest here. If you don’t know who your audience is, cast a very wide net. A very wide net.
That may sound contrarian to all conventional wisdom that you hear on Social Media, on Google News, on Inc.com, and on a multitude of other sources. But understand this: You will not know your market unless you know both these factors:
- Who likes, agrees, associates with, works with, and acts similar to your standards, your way of working and moving through the world, and you and your company’s existence.
- Who doesn’t. ^
The second, again – is just as important as the first. You need to know the positives and the pitfalls, before you decide who to reach out to with your systems, your values, your products, your services, and…yourself.
As you’ve seen from all of the above that I’ve mentioned, it’s not comfortable. As a matter of fact, at times it is sometimes downright painful. Disagreements can be dangerous. But silence can kill.
So you’ve got to keep reaching out. You’ve gotta keep testing your markets and your target audiences with everything you can put out there. Keep testing, collecting responses, and understanding the audiences better and better each day. You can do this by simply writing a single video, a single blog post, a single Facebook message, or a single email, detailing some value that you have to offer.
If you generally get silence back, it’s probably going to be an uphill battle. You can keep trying to put the message out there if you genuinely believe in it, and its a good one, but know that the path ahead is an uphill one. But hey, that’s your choice. Salmon swim upstream to make their offspring, and meet their maker. Doesn’t make their journey any less worthy.
If you get some responses back, this is good. Now begin segmenting your markets and audiences into different categories.
If you’re a genius, you can keep a lot of that information straight in your brain without having to rely on notes. But most of us have to record that information somewhere, analyze it, and figure out how and when to use it in the future. There are great tools for this, from Google Sheets, to Google Analytics and Facebook Insights, to some deeper Business Intelligence tools that are privately available from large Fortune 1000 companies.
You do have to deploy responses to all of these varies messages. That’s where your marketing and PR efforts come into play. On a side note – We can help with this. Contact us if you would like some information on getting good, actionable data for you or your company.
Adjust Your Response – Not Your Standards.
I will start this off by saying that everyone in the world operates under a different set of standards. There is nothing wrong with that. The plurality of the human race is what makes us unique from any other living being in the Universe. That is a God-given blessing.
This however, doesn’t mean that your standards line up with the standards of others.
Remember the fool? The one I outlined above? Well, s/he’s back for this final segment of this very, very long blog.
Let’s face it. When people don’t agree with us, it typically creates an emotional reaction. It doesn’t have to be severe. It can be ever-so-slight. Sometimes it can sit in our subconcious and bounce around like Chernobyl radiation, causing harm that we don’t even know is there until it grows and cuases further damage.
That damage can manifest itself in a variety of ways, from simply responding with an off-putting remark, or causing one to get into a Facebook argument that takes away from client work, to not devoting time to the more important investments of life – kindness, health, wealth, happiness, and such. For oneself, or for others that appreciate it.
The good news is that if you have followed all of the steps above, this will be easy. Because you’ve set your standards and know who you are, as well as that of your business. You’ve organized and immersed yourself with the information needed to get your goals achieved. You’ve prepared yourself for negativity by responding positively (water puts out fire). You’ve cast a wide enough net to not need to depend on fools only to respond to.
So you know what you do when a fool just continues to come at you over and over, trying to make you wrong, waste your time, talents, and treasures, and you’ve given them enough effort, education and insight?
You smile, thank them for their time. And walk away.
Remember, you’ve cast a wide net. There are plenty of market segments to swim in, and some don’t have quite as difficult an upstream.
Remember, you’re smart enough to smile and say something disarming to reduce the level of disagreement.
Remember, you’ve got a manual of details that show you the pathway forward.
And most importantly – you have standards. For you, your company, and those you serve.
Final thoughts and – Oh yeah, buy my book
If you like how I write and what I have to say, I’d love to give you my book, How to Program Your Life. I wrote it in 2016, and it’s got a chock full of information on how to organize yourself in a way that will help you to grow your business, your organization, or your cause.
You can buy it for $10paperback on Amazon, or I can give it to you for absolutely free. Simply visit World Vision – a wonderful organization that helps families and children in extreme poverty since 1950. Donate that same $10 to World Vision. They need it more than I do.
Call (845) 877-7333, and have a receipt screenshot ready. We’ll send you a PDF copy of the book for free, which you can read on your Kindle, your laptop, your iPhone, Android or tablet.
Thanks, and feel free to give us a holler if you need anything. We do stuff.