Tag Archives: strategy

Attracting & Retaining Talent in the Construction Industry

May 16, 2018 by

According to a 2018 survey by the Associated General Contractors of America and Sage Construction and Real Estate, 78 percent of construction firms report they struggle to hire qualified talent, a 5 percent increase from the previous year. Without qualified talent, companies are forced to either turn down projects or hire unqualified employees, increasing the potential for poor productivity, safety issues, turnover, and a damaged company reputation. Aside from increasing base pay, providing bonuses, and improving employee benefits, what else can firms do to attract and retain talent?

Training and Development

Growth opportunities are one of the key drivers of employee engagement. Consider providing employees with job shadowing, technical training, leadership development, mentoring, and coaching. Provide employees with clear career paths and milestones. 

In addition, consider leadership-development opportunities. Workers with strong technical skills are often promoted into leadership positions. However, leadership positions often require different skillsets, and those with good technical skills don’t always receive the necessary leadership training. Determine what competencies are necessary for leadership in your organization, evaluate workers based on these competencies, provide training, and regularly provide feedback on strengths and development opportunities. Providing leadership-development opportunities will increase retention and ensure a pool of potential leaders to pull from in the future.

Purpose

Employees need to understand the company’s vision and how their role fits into it. Provide employees with opportunities to contribute by asking for their feedback and ideas. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the weeds and lose sight of the big picture of what’s being built and why, and innovative solutions can come from many different people. Provide recognition for their contributions and achievements, and remind employees about the achievements they are contributing to every day. Consider introducing workers to those who have benefited from their projects—students, hospital patients, employees, etc. Helping your workers understand the big picture will instill in them a sense of purpose and pride.  

Reputation

Consider your company’s reputation among customers, current employees, and the community in general. People want to work for companies that have a great mission and a reputation for treating their employees well. Survey your staff and identify how the company, and its culture, is perceived. What is your company’s level of employee engagement? Identify strategies to bolster the culture, increase engagement levels, and thus enhance your company’s reputation. 

Improvement of pay and benefits are considerations for attracting and retaining qualified workers in the construction industry, but continuous learning and growth opportunities show that management is invested in professional development and long-term careers. By showing employees how their work contributes to a larger purpose and considering the company’s reputation, a company is well-poised to attract and retain talent.


This column was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B.

Lauren Weivoda, M.A., is a​ ​human​ ​capital​ ​strategist​​ at Solve Consulting LLC.

New Business and Marketing Ethics

January 19, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Owners of new businesses have myriad ethical problems similar to the problems in mature businesses. The difference is that new business owners don’t have years of experience to help them more easily make sound decisions. But practice and a good process can lead to long term, honorable business growth. Case in point:

Dear Ethics Adviser,

I’m passionate about making life easier for folks. I’ve started a concierge service I sell to businesses that they, in turn, provide to their employees. I’ve been able to get a few accounts, but I’m not growing as fast as I’d like. Part of my problem is not knowing how to price my service. I think I’m overcharging. It’s not as if I can ask my competitors what they charge.

A colleague of mine recommended a strategy. He said to ask a friend who does procurement at a local firm to put out a request for proposals (RFP) for concierge service. The friend wouldn’t really want the service, mind you, but would put out the RPF simply to collect bids from companies and then tell me what they charge. This way, I get the best information about the market and won’t overprice my service. Would you recommend this strategy?

Dear Passionate,

While the strategy is practical and can yield fast results, it is not ethical and should not be used. Ethical decision making requires that you think far, wide, and high about your options.

In this case, when you think far, about consequences for all, you notice that competitors would anticipate that they could get business from their work. They would use valuable time completing your fake RFP that they could instead use on live prospects. You are creating harm. Would you want someone to do this to you?

When you think wide, you recognize all of the duties and obligations you have to different people. A fundamental duty is to try to tell the truth. In this case, you are being deceptive in order to make life easier for yourself. This is wrong.

When you think high, you ask yourself, “What kind of person do I want to be? Would my mom be proud if she knew about my action?” The moms that teach us to be strong and true would not approve of this way of finding pricing information. It’s a short cut, and not noble.

So when you stop to think far, wide, and high, you see that this pricing strategy is wrong.

What can you do instead, Passionate?

Rather than seek a fast solution, get your mind around the fact that business wisdom comes from the school of hard knocks and it can’t be shortchanged. Experiment; try one solution, then another; succeed sometimes; fail others. Engage with business leaders you truly admire to get advice. Keep your values front of mind, and profit has a great chance of following.

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., is the executive director of the Business Ethics Alliance and the Daugherty Chair in Business Ethics and Society at Creighton University.

This column was printed in the February/March 2018 edition of B2B.

Four Steps to Strategic Planning for Startups

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

One of the keys to starting a new business successfully is having a strategic plan in place. This helps companies determine their direction, plan for the future, identify opportunities, and anticipate issues. It also helps companies keep up with changing client needs and market trends, stay ahead of the competition, unite employees around a shared vision, and ultimately make better business decisions. Although a strategic plan is critical for business success, it can be difficult for new owners to know where to start.

Start with your vision. What do you want your company to be like three to five years from now? Be specific. What will you have achieved? What will your competitive advantage be? What will your culture be? How will people work together? How will your company treat customers? How will people communicate with one another? What markets will you have tapped into? How will people make decisions? What new services will you offer? How will people demonstrate accountability? What will your reputation be? How will other organizations and the surrounding community view your company?

Identify the roadblocks. They could be policies, procedures, attitudes, etc. Sometimes they are obvious, sometimes less so. Consider what issues exist for your new company. Limited startup capital? Hiring warm bodies instead of true talent? Unfocused marketing strategy? Outdated technology platforms? Inconsistent pricing model? Squirrel syndrome? Figure out what could get in the way of achieving your vision and write it down.

Identify your strategies. What actions will you take to destroy your roadblocks and achieve your vision? These strategies may be projects, initiatives, events, etc. For example, what will you do to overcome an unfocused marketing strategy and achieve brand recognition? Establish partnerships with recognized brands? Identify competitive differentiators? Generate strategies for each of your roadblocks and be as specific as possible.

Nail down the specifics of implementation. What strategies will you focus on in your first year? What specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, time-bound steps need to be taken? Who will do what and when? Divide your first year into quarters, and drill into the specifics of what will take place in each quarter to keep your plan moving forward. As you look at your overall plan, consider whether the timing seems feasible and whether anyone has too much on his or her plate. Prioritize and rearrange as necessary. Next, decide how you will hold yourself and others accountable to the plan. Schedule regular follow-up meetings, and review and revise your plan each year.

Startups face many risks, but some of them can be avoided through proper strategic planning. Regularly review and revise your plan to keep up with a fast-paced, ever-changing world.

Lauren Weivoda, M.A., is a​ ​human​ ​capital​ ​strategist​​ at Solve Consulting LLC.

This column was printed in the February/March 2018 edition of B2B.

The Best Sales Call Ever

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

I regularly get feedback from clients about sales calls. Recently a client came to me and said, “I had the best sales call ever!” What she told me warmed my heart because the call was almost effortless, the signed agreement was in her hands in record time, and the customer stayed in her selling system from beginning to end.

The sales process for this particular opportunity dragged out longer than my client wanted. Finally, the presentation was scheduled with the decision maker, (if it’s with anybody else, you are wasting time), and as she headed to the appointment, she said to herself, “I really don’t care if I get this business or not.” This mindset allowed her to relax and be objective when the presentation began. She began the meeting by setting the expectation: She was going to review the proposal, which would sell for the expected amount, and, if the prospect liked it, he would sign it and implementation would begin. There was clarity of purpose which came off as professionalism to the prospect, and, of course, the prospect agreed to the contract and the
presentation began.

There were about a half-dozen items to present on the proposal. My client started with the first item and presented how this item addressed the need of the prospect. It went well. She went to the next item and presented how this item addressed the need of the prospect. At that point, the prospect said, “Stop! I’ll take it!” He immediately signed his name to the proposal. My client’s one-hour presentation was over in 10 minutes. She planned on “closing” the prospect, but he simply bought it. When she returned to her office, even her coworker was surprised to see her so soon. Smiling from ear to ear she tells him, “Got it!” No pressure, no sweating, no haggling over price, no need to close the prospect—this is what the best sales call ever looks like.

Here are some key techniques my client had learned, and then used in this call:

1. Before the presentation started, she thought to herself, “So what if I don’t get this business. I have a meat-lover’s pizza in the trunk,” which means she behaved as if she is financially independent. This mindset eliminates pressure and frees up the salesperson to ask tough questions and take risks.

2. She had a deep understanding of her client’s problems and budget, which she reviewed prior to presenting the proposal to make sure there were no roadblocks on the way to the order.

3. She got a commitment to purchase before presenting her intellectual property. The proposal had to be met with 100 percent satisfaction from the prospect, but if it did, he would buy.

4. My client shut her mouth when the prospect said, “I’ll take it!” She let him sign the proposal and then thanked him for the business and left.

Sales should always be fun regardless if you win or lose. Yes, this is easier said than done. Follow the aforementioned system to start having the best sales calls ever.

Karl Schaphorst is a 27-year veteran of sales who now specializes in training other sales professionals. He is the president of Sandler Training.

This column was printed in the February/March 2018 edition of B2B.

Marketing Ethics

February 27, 2014 by

When Jim moved his business in the fall of 2010 from Lincoln to Omaha, he encountered a pricing problem. The cost of his services in Lincoln didn’t suit the Omaha market.

At least that was one explanation for why Jim wasn’t getting the accounts he had planned. How could Jim determine the market price for his services before he lost too many sales and crippled his business?

A colleague of Jim’s recommended a strategy: Have two or three friends who work in Omaha businesses call Jim’s competitors. Ask them to submit proposals for their services. Once the friends acquire the proposals, they tell the competitors “thank you” and inform them that they didn’t get the bid.  In this way, the friends, who didn’t want the services anyway, are in the clear, and can give the proposals to Jim to study for pricing information.

“Everyone does this,” the colleague said. “It’s an easy way to determine market price for products or services.”

Would a marketing professional recommend such a strategy? While “easy” and “efficient” are appropriate decision rules in business, they are not synonymous with ethics.

Many marketing professionals subscribe to the American Marketing Association’s Code of Ethics. The Code was created to help them remember that reputation and trust can be destroyed when they only focus on the easy way and forget to consider honesty and harm.

Codes of ethics can help business people overcome obstacles to ethical decision making. One of the obstacles is not identifying all relevant stakeholders and the impact of our actions on them (Werhane, et. al., 2013).

In the previous case, we often forget the competitors. However, think of the Golden Rule. Putting ourselves in their shoes, we realize that none of us likes wasting our time. They are harmed because they go through the work of preparing bids that have absolutely no chance of being accepted….time and expertise that they can use to really get business.

In addition, we might not recognize the impact on our friends. We are asking them to use their businesses in dishonest ways.  None of us would like to have our businesses or reputations treated in this way.

Bounded awareness is one reason we don’t identify all relevant stakeholders and the impact on them. Bounded awareness is a pattern of thinking that prevents us from noticing relevant data (Gino, Moore, and Bazerman, 2009). It can be a good psychological mechanism because it can help us survive. But bounded awareness also has ethical implications when relevant or useful data is missed and poor choices are made based on incomplete information.

Is there a remedy for the kind of bounded thinking that leads to bad marketing strategies?

Yes, and the remedy is practice.

We need to practice exercising our moral imaginations. When making a marketing decision, take the time to systematically identify all stakeholders and imagine the consequences for them when one alternative is played out, then another, and another. Start the practice by listing options and stakeholders on paper until the mental process becomes second nature. In this way, we strengthen our moral muscle and do a better job balancing the easy and efficient actions with the honest and less harmful ones.

iStock_000000616571Medium

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D.

Daugherty Chair in Business Ethics & Society

Executive Director, Business Ethics Alliance

College of Business

Creighton University

Stress-Free Style

February 5, 2014 by

January and February are the big retail sale months of the year. We’re lured into stores and onto websites by ads, coupons, and incentives of all kinds. They bombard us in print, on television, radio, and billboards, on our phones, and through every social media platform. A sense of urgency wakes us in the middle of the night so we can save big at that “Early Bird” 6 a.m. opening. We sometimes wait in line for a sale that disappoints. Once inside, cluttered merchandising can overwhelm us. We frequently end up compromising on sizes, and our search for sales associates is usually endless. That’s all part of the hunt, but most of us leave stores with merchandise we never intended to buy. It sits in our closets forever, often with tags intact, taunting us with “But I was a bargain!”

Sale shopping for shoes is the worst! In-store shoppers make a mess of things, scattering shoes, tissue paper, and boxes everywhere.

I feel terribly guilty every time I send exhausted salespeople to the back room for yet another size to try. And if you buy sale shoes online, your savings opportunity hinges on the hope that they arrive absolutely perfect in every way. The risk factor is higher here because return shipping is usually not free. Repacking time and shipping fees can make the experience both futile and costly. And you still don’t have shoes.

Online sales of any kind can be just as frustrating. Seems like almost everything I finally resolve to order is no longer available in my size. So why did I just waste hours searching my favorite sites on a quest for a “great buy” that’s “really me?”

I can’t tell you that I have great strategies for online shopping, but there are some basic tips to ensure that your in-store adventures are successful and relatively stress-free:

Take inventory of your wardrobe. Go through your closet and get rid of everything that shows wear. Start a list of what needs replacing.

Look over the things you want to keep. Coordinate them with what you have. If you realize there’s a pant or skirt you love that’s now missing a mate, add to your list these key “enabling” pieces to buy.

Don’t forget to go through your accessories to determine what to buy as you update your wardrobe.

If you have favorite sweaters and tops that need scarves, photograph them and refer to them on your phone when sorting through the dozens of possibilities you’ll encounter.

Now you’re ready to finalize the list of what’s in your sights. Be specific and detailed.

Dress for shopping! Wear clothes that are easy to get on and off. Basic black provides a good “grounding palette.” Wear minimal, if any, jewelry.

Do not carry a heavy handbag. Wear a lightweight cross-body bag so you can easily sort through racks with 
both hands.

Leave your coat in the car if possible.

Pay close attention to your list. Do not yield to temptation unless you know that any “off-list” items will be both right for you and a strong complement to your closet.

To avoid crowds, shop weekday afternoons.

Remember, most stores are good about returns. Take things home to try on at your leisure and to test with other pieces. Save your receipts and respectfully make any returns as soon as possible.

And the most important rule of all? Never forsake quality for price.

Mary Anne Vaccaro is a clothing and product designer and an image consultant to businesses and individuals. www.maryannevaccaro.com She is also a sales consultant for Carlisle and Per Se, New York. 
www.carlislecollection.com