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Current news and trending topics for sales and financial industry professionals


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Creating An Ocean-View Culture – Is It For You?

iStock_000009568716MediumInterested in boosting employee productivity, engagement and loyalty? If you haven’t entertained the idea of creating a culture with an office desk on the beach, it is time to rethink the possibilities and go outside of the box. Employers are reluctant to entertain the idea of remote workplaces despite the benefits. Remote, virtual or telecommuting office culture is becoming more and more common as employees thrive and excel in their “beach setting” environment.

As a proponent of remote workplace alternatives, I have found from personal experience the benefits out way any disadvantages. Extending from coast-to-coast across the United States, the culture cultivated by our team provides:

  • Increased productivity
  • Increased creativity
  • Empowerment for employees
  • Increased loyalty

The virtual culture works for us by providing efficient time management and innovative ways to stay connected. Skype is a tool we use extensively.

Is A Remote Culture Right For You?

Granted, some professions require onsite presence. Firms now, however, have the opportunity to take a more flexible look at the standard office environment; allowing employees to use technology enabling them to connect and collaborate from anywhere.

Small changes can produce significant benefits simply by empowering employees to gain more control over their schedule. Studies have shown that telecommuters increase productivity by eliminating the worry of driving to work, cutting gas expenses and removing office politics. Firms who engage in creating a virtual culture reduce business costs on overhead, reduced sick leave and less turnover.

Research conducted at Stanford with a Chinese company reveals working from home is actually more productive than working in the office, as well as other benefits in the form of increased job satisfaction and fewer people leaving.  The study revealed employees who worked from home reported higher job satisfaction and were 50% less likely to leave than their colleagues who worked in the office.

Another study compiled information from Kate Lister, author of Undress For Success—The Naked Truth About Making Money at Home (Wiley 2009) and the whitepaper, Results-based Management: The Key to Unlocking Talent and Increasing Productivity. This research revealed virtual workers are more productive and happier than traditional workers.

Virtual Employees:

  • Best Buy, British Telecom and Dow Chemical found that virtual workers are 36% – 41% more productive.
  • The work-from-home nature of virtual work reduces absenteeism by $1,134 per employee, every year.
  • 79% of traditional workers would prefer to work from home and 61% would take a pay cut to be able to do so.
  • Virtual workers get an extra 2-3 work-weeks of free time in commuting savings and report they use this time to spend with family, friends and for leisure.

Traditional Employees:

  • Gallup found that 54% of traditional U.S. workers sleep walk through their day.
  • An additional 18% are “actively disengaged” (meaning they actively undermine what an engaged worker accomplishes). Together, these groups make up a shocking 72% of the traditional workforce.
  • Another poll found that 1 in 3 high-potential traditional employees do not put full effort into their job.

Times have changed, and with that, firms need to stay abreast of the options and benefits available to them. Leaders should face the importance of an employee’s autonomy and the increased results of productivity and fulfillment by incorporating or exploring a remote culture.  Lifestyle will often trump salary in an employee’s decision making process. Firms who embrace a remote culture can gain an edge in recruiting highly-skilled employees.

 Question:  Does your firm engage in a virtual employee culture?  If so, what advantages and disadvantages are you finding? You can leave us a comment by clicking here!

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
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6 Tips To WOW Your Clients Through Client Surveys

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Client surveys are a critical component of your overall business plan and should be incorporated into your marketing plan as well. Your surveys measure satisfaction or dissatisfaction in alignment with services you offer to your clients. Client surveys should be designed to determine vital needs of your clients and build and deepen personal relationships. The results of your survey will aide your firm in building invaluable loyalty and prompt existing clients to provide qualified referrals.

Firms that incorporate client surveys within their overall business and marketing plan, will  position themselves ahead of their competitors. However, it doesn’t stop there – you must be prepared to process the information you receive from your surveys and take action in order to have an impact on your overall strategy and incorporate excitement among your clients.

Benefits Of Client Surveys

Client Retention: A well planned client survey allows your firm to gather client feedback which can greatly improve client retention rates.

Performance Opinions:  Clients are your best judge of your products, services and performance.  Utilize your client survey to determine where areas of improvement are needed.

New Trends/Innovative Ideas: Gain knowledge through your client survey by taking advantage of suggestions to improve products or introduce a new one.

6 Must Do’s With A Client Survey

Increase Your Bottom Line: The sale doesn’t stop when your client signs the paperwork. Unfortunately, many firms don’t have a solid client communication process in place. Part of your system should include a survey once a prospect becomes a client. Demonstrate the importance of your survey to your clients by communicating how the survey enables you to better serve them. Incorporate surveys into your new client process to aide in your client retention strategy.

Don’t Focus On Numbers: Create the stage and allow your clients to tell a story. A survey with number rankings will not produce the information you need to toot your horn or make changes. When clients can illustrate what you and your team did well, you will want to replicate the process to be certain it becomes routine.

Develop Meaningful Questions: Craft your survey to encourage open-ended feedback by incorporating open-ended questions. Yes and no answers will not provide you with the comprehensive information you need. Dig diligently to find the questions you want answered and integrate ways for clients to refer to specific examples.

Be Ready For Change: Avoid taking the time and effort of creating and distributing client surveys without the intention of making changes or improvements. Assimilate surveys into your marketing plan to leverage opportunities to stand ahead of your competition. If clients are asking for more information regarding certain topics or say they never read your newsletter, be certain to take the suggestions to heart. Assign someone in your office or a team of people dedicated to collaborate and brainstorm for ways to implement survey responses. Announce changes through email blasts, social media and newsletters. This will create excitement amongst your clients, especially the ones that made the suggestion.

Test Different Survey Methods: Most clients will complete a survey as long as they know it is confidential; they don’t want you to know who is making comments. Avoid putting your clients in an awkward position by offering different survey methods that are also easily accessible. Some options include using a third party, email surveys, website feedback, or a free survey site such as SurveyMonkey. Many firms have reported significantly better results through a simple phone conversation with clients. Test the water to find what fits best for your clients and provides you with valuable information.

WOW Your Client: If you use a survey method where you can identify the client, create added value by sending a handwritten thank you note or calling them to say thanks. How many times have you been thanked for completing a survey? Thanking your clients will show you genuinely care about their input and build stronger relationships. This will earn you a WOW factor!

In Conclusion

Consider client surveys an empowering and enlightening tool essential to your business and marketing plan and incorporate comments into your strategic SWOT analysis. Keep surveys brief, if they are too long, no one will return them. In addition to offering your survey at the beginning of your relationship with a new client, implement a recurring survey strategy to capitalize on new market trends and opportunities. You may want to take a leap and survey prospects as well. A well managed survey process will reveal a client focused culture.

Join the conversation! Let us know how your firm uses client survey’s!

Ironstone is available to help your firm develop productive client surveys.

Contact us for more information!

Ironstone’s Vision is to forge and guide the personal and professional lives of entrepreneurs and business professionals alike to realize their full potential. Coaching and consulting allows us the opportunity to form an environment where success happens and goals are reached.

Read more about our coaching and consulting program here >>

Start your transformation with Ironstone as your Partner for Performance

Contact Ironstone with your questions & let’s get started! 

Have a question or comment for Ironstone? Contact us!>>

  

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
• Connect with us:


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Building Your Ark– How To Ensure Your Strategic Planning Meeting Stays Afloat

Noahs-Ark-Cartoon-600x450

While we know that Noah’s Ark wasn’t built in day, we are told Noah had 120 years to plan and strategize before the “flood” to construct an ark. It would be nice to have 120 years to build our strategic plan and to know what obstacles and challenges we will face, but we know the reality of the ever evolving financial world.

I know many financial advisors hold bi-annual or annual strategic planning sessions and year after year follow the same boring format without a true understanding of what strategic planning should be.

As many of you are reviewing year end reports and developing strategies for the new year, implement effective strategic planning sessions throughout the year to achieve the goals you envision for years ahead.

While I believe it is a healthy practice to schedule group strategic sessions, I do believe that firms are failing to carry out the strategies and tactical implementation processes discussed during these meetings. Strategic planning should be evaluated throughout the year by measuring results to identify successes, uncovering gaps in a plan and hunting for improvement opportunities on a regular schedule.

What Is Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning should strive to answer fundamental questions:

  • Where do we want to be one year from now, five years from now, ten years from now?
  • Who is our ideal client?
  • What are our major goals?
  • What is our vision?
  • What is our mission?

Your strategic planning meeting will entail forward thinking to visualize where you see your firm in the future. Review and create modifications to your vision statement in alignment with the goals of your firm five or ten years from today.

Creativity and brainstorming are essential to the quality and outcome of your meeting. Each team member should feel free to share new ideas without criticism but through inspiration. A true leader will inspire and enlighten team members to engage in discussion while feeling a sense of contribution to the overall success of the firm. When your team truly believes in the vision of the firm and contributes valuable ideas that are recognized, you will increase employee engagement, productivity and cultivate a positive culture in your firm.

Incorporate Tactical Plans Into Daily Operations

Once the strategic planning session has ended, dissect your plan by incorporating sub-headings or smaller tactical plans into your daily operations by:

  • Assign specific actions to team members
  • Create or update SOPs
  • Design a time-line or flow-chart for each strategy including specific tactical steps to ensure the goal is measurable and attainable
  • Schedule mini-meetings to measure results of a specific task
  • Share progress and results with the entire team through weekly meetings or by creating a visual blueprint in your conference room

Reviewing Your Strategic Plan

By incorporating your strategic plan into your daily operations, you will have accomplished a major milestone that many firms fall short. However, to be effective and achieve results, your strategic plan needs a time-line or flow-chart of its own. Group collaboration will be effective once or twice a year, but only if the strategic plan is tested and measured year round. Review key fundamentals in your strategic plan by:

  • Assign team members to each key issue in your strategy plan
  • Create time-lines and flow-charts for each fundamental, including review, research and testing times, success measurement and gap identification
  • Apply problem-solving techniques and offer pliable solutions
  • Identify new trends
  • Prepare detailed reports reflecting your findings

When team members become involved in the fundamental goals of the firm, productivity, engagement, employee retention, accountability and professionalism increase. Often, the team is excluded from strategic planning year round, leaving them with an overwhelmed and confused feeling after a long strategic session. Team involvement to reach vital goals year round will result in highly efficient and successful strategic planning sessions.

Following the guidelines above will ensure your “ark” is able to withstand the flood rather than sink.

Read more about Staff Meetings:

Just Another Meeting or A Meeting Of The Minds?

When Was The Last Time You Attended A Productive Meeting?

Ironstone’s Vision is to forge and guide the personal and professional lives of entrepreneurs and business professionals alike to realize their full potential. Coaching and consulting allows us the opportunity to form an environment where success happens and goals are reached.

Read more about our coaching and consulting program here >>

Start your transformation with Ironstone as your Partner for Performance

Contact Ironstone with your questions & let’s get started! 

Have a question or comment for Ironstone? Contact us!>>

Share your strategic planning session successes or disasters!

 

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
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The “Bully” Cost To Your Bottom Line

I overheard the following between an Office Manager and an employee, “You have ruined my summer by being pregnant.” Yes, it is true! You can image how the employee felt after hearing that not to mention the rest of the staff walking on egg-shells. Not only was the statement bullying it was discrimination.

You may believe you would never tolerate or allow such behavior to occur in your office or would take immediate action to remove such a person from their position and duties; however there is a general lack of awareness of the behaviors bullying encompasses. This gap makes it difficult to detect along with the fact bullying is typically hidden from the “Chief”, therefore, you may not be aware it is happening at all.

What is bullying?

  • Intimidating or humiliating insults and criticism
  • Gossip and rumors
  • Being ignored, undermined or excluded
  • Behaviors or language that frightens or degrades

Bullying can come in many forms; verbal, emails, written messages, body language, formal documents, text messages etc. Bullying can also take place through office operations. As a manager, if you are assigning duties above or below an employee’s ability, changing to cause chaos and inconvenience, not providing proper resources to complete a job, you are bullying.

A study by the Workplace Bullying Institute,  revealed 35% of workers in the United States have been bullied at the office. The percentage inflates to 50% when witnesses are included. With a tight job market many who are bullied put up with it, but at a cost to both them and the employer.

Reasons We Allow Bullying

Without a solid case, it is hard to convince the head honcho that his Office Manager is a bully. Often, denial is the cause.  If you are being bullied, document everything and go straight to the decision maker.  It is hard to believe that a business owner would justify or allow workplace bullying but perhaps after reading this article, they will see the light. There still are those that can’t let go of the bully through justification:

  • That’s just how they are, they didn’t mean any harm
  • He/She is under so much stress
  • I can’t run this office without them

Promoting a productive, socially responsible and healthy work environment should be standard procedure. Oftentimes business owners and managers don’t put the pieces together until it is too late.

The bully cost to your bottom line

Putting an end to office bullying is of vital importance to minimize costs, maintain efficient office operation, office culture and employee retention. It can cost a company thousands of dollars to replace a new employee or employees who left because of bullying. The bully cost to your bottom line is:

  • Decreased job performance and productivity
  • Increased sick leave
  • Loss of key staff
  • Possible court costs
  • Loss of reputation
  • Cost of hiring and on-boarding new staff

Managers spend a lot of time finding incentives to keep key employees and ways to reduce operating costs.  Perhaps the answer is; Make sure you don’t have an office bully and if you do, take action.

Ironstone’s Vision is to forge and guide the personal and professional lives of entrepreneurs and business professionals alike to realize their full potential. Coaching and consulting allows us the opportunity to form an environment where success happens and goals are reached.

Read more about our coaching and consulting program here >>

Start your transformation with Ironstone as your Partner for Performance

Contact Ironstone with your questions & let’s get started! 

Have a question or comment for Ironstone? Contact us!>>

  

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
• Connect with us:


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Bring Home The Gold! Employ A Champion Team

Fans are raving over the five teenagers who were the first Americans to earn a gymnastics gold in 16 years.  Being referred to as the “Fab Five” or the “Fierce Five,” the team is being compared to the legendary team from 1996, the “Magnificent Seven.”

How does your team stack up in comparison to the “Fierce Five” or the “Magnificent Seven?”    Are you using outdated policies and procedures in your hiring process?  Get prepared and seize the opportunity to add to your talent pool and find your next superstar!

Building a champion team can be challenging;  however, if you examine the plethora of talent and personality and choose wisely, your team can be the best.  Hiring exceptional talent is critical to the overall success of your firm.  As an employer, you should always focus on bringing the best talent to your firm.

Ironstone has outlined some of the best practices in hiring, on-boarding and human capital retention.

When hiring, ask yourself and determine:

  • Will this person do the job?
  • Do they have the skills needed to perform the job?
  • How well will they fit in with existing team members and culture in the firm?

Be certain not to discount the weight you place on “fitting-in” with other team members and your firm’s culture.   All too often, advisors hire based on the look of a resume and skill set resulting in critical mistakes.  A prospective team member possessing “potential” will only add so much to the depth of your team and may not provide a positive and profitable impact.

“If you don’t know where you are going, then you probably won’t end up there.” ~Forrest Gump~

Don’t settle:

Focus on finding and retaining the best talent for your firm.  Top talent is in high demand; therefore, you should make it a priority to include your hiring strategies as a year-round business process.  In your hiring process include each of the following goals and develop your strategies and tactics for each:

  • Planning
  • Recruiting
  • Selection

 Identify & Keep Your Winning Team:

Utilizing your team and positioning team members with their unique ability will add to increased morale, productivity and profitability.  Consider reviewing current positions and how they are measuring up to the overall success of your firm and identify what skills and personality traits are needed to enhance the caliber of your team.

  • Map your ideal organizational flow chart
  • Identify gaps
  • Assess current positions and roles
  • Determine what is working/what isn’t working

Position Your Firm For Growth:

Don’t underestimate the competition in finding or stealing great employees.  Develop the fundamentals that are needed to attract and retain quality team members.

Consider incorporating the following fundamentals in your hiring plan:

  • Provide job stability.
  • Incorporate challenging work which will instill engaged employees.
  • Provide a culture for team members to grow, flourish and succeed.
  • Create a pay for performance reward system; linking employee performance to the firm’s goals.
  • Focus on developing your current team to be successful.  Provide resources and training that will aide them in reaching and exceeding goals.  Encourage career development.
  • Communicate the firm’s goals with team members.  Team members will have a higher morale and be engaged in their role.
  • Offer enhancements such as flex-time, telecommuting or other services that fit the personality of your team members. 

These enhancements can make a significant difference in employee satisfaction and retention without a mammoth investment.

Download these resources from Ironstone to get started on employing your champion team!

Employee Onboarding Checklist     Hiring Implementation Guide

Your team is a reflection of your business.  This reflection carries throughout the work day and most often in personal lives.  Perception of your team is reality.  Be certain  you have the quality team  your firm and clients deserve;  prepare your firm to employ and attract a gold medal team.

We are curious!!  What does your firm do to attract and retain a gold medal team?  What are your team members favorite fundamentals included in your hiring plan?

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!

  • Strategic Planning
  • Business Development
  • Operational Effectiveness
  • The Human Element

Coming up next, learn about strategic planning with strategic alliances!

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
• Connect with us:


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Relationship Management or Incentive Plans? Which Will Inspire Your Team?

Incentive plans should not be misconstrued as a means to motivate your team.  You first need to  build concrete goals and then inspire your team to reach each goal with conviction.    It is imperative to communicate overall firm goals with your team.  Group and one-on-one meetings provide an opportune time to discuss and evaluate strategies to reach each goal.  Allowing your team members the opportunity to contribute to the overall success of your firm will instill motivation, confidence and passion that incentive plans cannot do on their own.

Before implementing an incentive plan, make certain your team members are fully engaged and committed to the position they hold at your firm.  This will mean you, as a manager, must realize offering an incentive plan will not magically transform a disengaged team or team member.   In our blog, “Learn How to Make an Employee Incentive Plan Effective,”  https://aeschlapia.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/learn-how-to-make-employee-incentive-plans-effective/  we stressed the importance of being a good manager by guiding your employees to work on what is most important and then implementing an incentive plan as a reward.

Employee incentive plans are a significant component for firms wanting to stay competitive and on track with the pace of evolution in the workforce.   You will need to do your homework for your plan to be effective:

  • Recognize all factors that affect your team’s behavior.
  • Look at the type of culture you have in your firm.
  • Understand each of your goals and the processes you will use.
  • Develop a measurement system for each goal.

At Ironstone, we have found many employee incentive plans simply don’t reap their intended results because  they were implemented for the wrong reasons.  Don’t be fooled in believing that an incentive program will counter poor behavior, performance or disengaged team members.

Start your incentive plan after you have managed your employees to the level of being:

  • Engaged
  • Passionate
  • Productive
  • Loyal

Once your team is instilled with the qualities listed above, you can implement your incentive plan by including the following critical elements:

  • Identify your desired activity/goal
  • Develop the tactical plan and how employees will work toward achieving each goal
  • The amount of time allotted to obtain each goal
  • The reward for achieving the goal

Remember every aspect of your plan needs to be measured to ensure the program’s success in achieving each goal.  Make sure your firm’s strategic goals are concise and specific which provides team members a clear understanding of what is expected from them.

Goals should be challenging, yet achievable.  The incentive plan will be destined

 for failure if goals are interpreted as being unattainable.

A successful incentive program requires that each feature is suited to your team members’ interests.  Find out what motivates your team.  Adapting each element of the program to fit your team will provide you with engaged participants and enhance the effectiveness of the program.

Ironstone can assist you in strengthening relationship management at your firm which will lay the foundation needed to implement a successful employee incentive program.

Readers, we are curious!   What are your thoughts on employee incentive programs?

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!

• Strategic Planning
• Business Development
• Operational Effectiveness
• The Human Element

You won’t want to miss our next in the series: Business Development-Prospecting

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
• Connect with us:


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Just Another Meeting or a Meeting of the Minds?

Learning how to turn your staff meeting into a meeting that produces results and develops team bonding can be simple and fun.  First identify  your objective.  Create an effective staff meeting in which your team can:

  • Develop strategies
  • Create operating processes
  • Openly share thoughts and ideas
  • Implement plans to achieve objectives

An effective team meeting should produce results.  Make certain each meeting you have is well thought out in advance.  After the meeting,  review thoroughly  to recognize and record the results  produced.

Team meetings are critical to the execution of projects.  

If proper management is not implemented, the meeting can  produce unfavorable results.

Have An Agenda – Create an outline and leave space to record  notes.  Use a consistent format for each meeting.

Listen To Your TeamEncourage employees to share their thoughts, insights and ideas.

Allow Team Member Interaction – Just as you encourage employees to share their thoughts and insights, encourage employees to interact with one another.  Make sure  team members are engaging in effective interpersonal communication with other team members.

Be Time Sensitive – Start and adjourn each meeting on time.  The facilitator of the meeting must make sure  discussions do not veer from the topic.  When this happens, step in and redirect the discussion.

Identify Action Plan – List the critical strategies you have developed;  operating processes and  procedures that will be applied to achieve your objectives.  This will ensure  your employees can see at a glance what is expected of them.

Establish TimelinesDiscuss deadlines during the meeting.  Each team member will then know the  amount of time they have to complete a project.

Follow Up Notes – Assign someone to take notes.  Notes should be documented during and after the meeting while they are still fresh in mind and distributed to each team member.

In case you missed our blog, “When Was The Last Time You Attended A Productive Meeting,” https://aeschlapia.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/when-was-the-last-time-you-attended-a-productive-meeting/ we included resources to help you through the process of holding regular staff meetings.   Sample Team Meeting Agenda

Because effective team meetings require more than preparing an agenda, Ironstone has designed a workshop that covers the what, the why and how to produce results through your team meetings.  In this workshop you will learn how to define and create an action plan for each of your team meetings.

As humans, we have interactive processes that change and develop incessantly.  Well planned team meetings will put your firm on the path to building and developing strong relationships with one another, nourish a healthy work culture and create new interactive processes.  Be sure to follow an established operating procedure to ensure consistency for your team meetings.

Contact us for more information about our Team Meeting Workshop!   We will help you dig beneath the surface to ensure  your staff meetings are productive and effective.   We want to hear from you!   Share your best team meeting idea with us!

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!
• Strategic Planning
• Business Development
• Operational Effectiveness
• The Human Element

You won’t want to miss our next in the series: Human Element-Organizational Skills

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
• Connect with us: