Author Archives: Linda Stanfield

Linda Stanfield

About Linda Stanfield

Linda Stanfield is the president of the locally-owned office of Benjamin Franklin, The Punctual Plumber — the fastest growing franchise plumbing company in the nation. She has been offering plumbing services across the Valley for 26 years. The Better Business Bureau awarded Stanfield’s Benjamin Franklin Plumbing office with its Ethics Award twice — the first plumber in the state to win this prestigious award more than once. She and her family reside in Gilbert, Ariz. Stanfield is married and has two adult children.

business strategy

What Your Business Should Do Before The End Of January

Using last year’s failures as a roadmap to success: What your business should do before the end of January.


The beginning of each year brings new opportunities and challenges for business owners. Some of us are dying to put last year behind us, while countless others feel inspired by the way their business year ended.

There are three things I would suggest every business owner do before the end of January:

  1. Assess your past,
  2. Plan for your future, and
  3. Move on.

While 2012 is still fresh in your mind, as painful or pleasant as it may have been, it’s time to sit down and access what worked and what didn’t for your business — and most importantly why. Dig in, and be certain why it was a success. Was it a new hire? Better technology or training available for your employees? Perhaps the price was right and your business was on point for a top trend of 2012.

Be determined to start the New Year knowing what works and doesn’t for your business, and find your next course of action — whether it’s maintaining established goals, adding an employee or implementing new technology.

Often times business owners/managers are spread too thin. Is now the time to hire that assistant manager to help keep all of the balls in the air? Although we’re passionate about many things our businesses have to offer, some items just don’t have enough margin of profit to continue. January is a perfect time to assess your financials on main items and see what your true margin is and if it’s best to continue or discontinue the product.

One great universal truth that is hard for business owners to accept is that there are several operating costs outside of our control, including business fees, taxes, accounting etc. We have to do our best to divide and distribute those costs in order to make the year a success. If you haven’t already, now is the time to educate your employees and, when necessary, customers about the cost of doing business. We’re all here to help and serve the community — while making a profit.  The profit must be planned and be within industry standards; too high and you’re a thief, too low and you’re out of business.

In a service-driven business, like mine, it’s imperative that I understand the labor, the payroll taxes, the wear and tear of maintenance for the truck, the cost of the added miles to the truck, the liability I take on, the insurance incurred, the gas, the loss of it not going to another call, etc. I have to respond to these costs, and for my business that meant implementing a service fee; it helps keep my job costs lower. Others in my industry offer free service calls and oftentimes show up to a situation where they aren’t really needed or there is minimal opportunity for work. In some cases, these competitors pass the cost off to another area of business or simply aren’t offering the level of customer care I’m committed to maintaining.

Now is the time. This is the year for your business to be profitable by knowing what has and hasn’t worked in the past, how much your jobs cost, and knowing what you can offer as a leader. Let’s make 2013 the best year yet for your business.

For more information about Benjamin Franking Plumbing, visit benfranklinplumbingaz.com.

making decisions out of fear

What Are You Afraid Of? How To Avoid Making Decisions Out Of Fear

I think business owners, managers and employees are about to let out a collective sigh. We did it! We made it through 2012. It has not been an easy year for several industries. As I look back on 2012, I realize many of my most challenging experiences were because of the unknown that lies in the future — the fear of not knowing the outcome of offering a new service, trying to fill an opening with the right person, making sure employees are happy in their current position.

So what do we do? We take deep breaths; we plan out as much as possible and buckle up for the ride.

I’ll admit it; I am one of those people that is more comfortable when I can safely see the end from the beginning. When I have a realistic goal whether business or personal, I feel comfortable, but how often does staying within your comfort zone lead to greatness?

There are several unknowns that we face every day. It can be stressful at times, right now we’re hearing a lot about the fiscal cliff, several business owners throughout the country and even here in Arizona are doing things simply out of fear. Acting out a fear is the wrong choice.

At times, we’ve all been guilty of making a rash decision based on fear. However, consistently making decisions out of fear will change you and your business.

What are you afraid of? What is your worst case scenario? Make a list. When you know what you’re afraid of, it doesn’t seem as scary anymore. If you don’t already have one and fear persists, find a business mentor that you both trust and respect. It helps to have someone you can share your concerns with.

Recently I was hiking in Tucson, the area was beautiful, and I was excited about my first solo hike in a while. I started on the path, and soon realized I couldn’t see the other side. The mountain trail had me twisting back and forth, and I constantly felt like I was going in the wrong direction. I felt uneasy. I recognized I had had some of these same thoughts and feelings previously, but they weren’t about hiking — they were about my business. Once I took inventory of my surroundings and what I needed to do to have a safe climb, I felt secure again. I knew I had to have faith to continue the trail and that it was going to lead me to the right place. The same goes for business, sometimes you have to take a step or two into the dark before we know we’re headed in the right direction and results come in.

Next time you find yourself and or your business in a fearful situation, take a moment to examine and take inventory on what you can and can’t change. Determine a path and more forward with faith. Remember, your future is as your faith.

For more information about Benjamin Franking Plumbing, visit benfranklinplumbingaz.com.

Benjamin Franklin Plumbing's Facebook page

The Benefits Of Social Media For Small Business

No matter what product or service you’re selling, you’re always in the business of relationships.

Fifteen years ago in the entrepreneurial world, all you needed was a name and a phone number. That was it; that was all you needed for customers to find you. Then, having a website became necessary for building the reputation of your business. Today, we have moved into yet another realm of the Internet known as social media; sites include: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Each has their place and has become yet another layer of building and maintaining relationships, both personally and professionally.

Many of you already use Facebook in your personal lives to keep in contact with family and friends. It’s a great way to share up-to-date information and photos. Extending this to business, this outlet allows your customers or potential customers to get to know you on their level, and at their own speed.

Facebook and Twitter posts allow you to reach your customer base without becoming intrusive. As a business, you can also use social media networks to follow your target customers to find out what how they spend their free time, where they have dinner, what they like, etc. Having this additional insight allows a business to specialize thank-you gifts and gear its products to its customer’s needs and desires.

The faster a business uses social media to help champion its successes and get to know its audience, the faster the business will see a return on its investment. Since becoming active on social media, I’ve seen an immense increase in overall brand awareness.

Having a great business reputation on social media is a huge asset to your business portfolio. It’s also a great place to build good relationships with your vendors or business partners, to network and build business together.

My business has grown by maintaining and creating relationships. We have customers who have used our services for more than 20 years! Social media is just one more way our customers can keep in touch with us. I’m in the service business, utilizing social media allows our customers to get know us beyond the time we spend in their home. Oftentimes, checking my business out on social media makes new customers feel at ease.

Another important aspect of social media is helping others for the sake of helping. For instance, I’ve noticed individuals out of my market area searching for the best water filtration system on Facebook and Twitter. Does that mean I don’t respond because there is no potential sale for me? Absolutely not. Social media is not just about selling a product.

Gary Vaynerchuk, author of “Thank You Economy,” is a great resource and inspiration on how to make social media work for you and your business. He teaches that social media has the ability to make a brand or a business human. Each business has the potential to out-care everyone else via social media by helping others.

Adding social networks to your already-busy work day might seem daunting. It can be time consuming and is an investment. But when used consistently, it becomes a valuable asset. If you decide to outsource social media to a firm, set rules for when/what to publish on your networks to ensure your social media profile matches your business’s reputation.

I know social media may seem scary at first, but I believe it is a positive and effective way of reaching your target audience on a day-to-day basis and keeps your business top of mind. If you are still unsure about social media networks, there are several great tutorials online and local seminars to help you get focused.

If you’re on these social media networks, I would love to connect! Look me and my business up:

Twitter: @asktheexpert, @benfranklinaz
Facebook: facebook.com/BenjaminFranklinPlumbingAZ
YouTube: youtube.com/benfranklinaz

How to Keep Employee Morale Up

How To Keep Employee Morale Up, While Business Costs Are Rising

In July, I shared five tips for providing great customer service. I’d like to focus on another important aspect of customer service that may be attributed to common sense but is often overlooked — happy employees offer better customer service than disgruntled ones.

The cost of doing business is on the rise no matter what industry you’re in. Whether you’re in retail, service or production, the everyday cost of gas, insurance for employees, shipping etc., it’s all on the rise. There is, however, one area business owners do not need to spend more money in order to be effective. Employees want to be happy and feel like they’re part of the team.

Business owners and managers have to put a lot of the day-to-day business management tasks on their employees, but it’s important that we remember not to put all of our burdens on their shoulders. Attitude is essential. If we are positive, friendly, uplifting and welcoming, they are much more likely to do their jobs with a smile and support our needs. How we choose to interact with our employees will carry through to our customers and clients.

We’re all busy. No doubt about that. It’s challenging to keep our employees happy at all times.

But there are things we can do each day to help and keep employee morale up:

It’s all about the “little things” — morning hellos, praise of how great their hair or shoes look, remembering their favorite sports team. The acknowledgement will go a long way for boosting office morale. I’ve had several family members and friends tell me of their experience working for a great small business, but their boss had no idea what their name was or anything about them. This became their catalyst for looking for a new job.

Some companies band their employees from making their workspace personal. I’ve found that this can make them feel as though they don’t belong and are unattached to their work. Employees like to make their space feel special and unique to them. Allowing them to bring items such as photos, individualized mouse pad or a plant will make them feel at home, but not interrupt their work.

As I mentioned before, employees like to feel involved, a great way to make them feel involved and boost morale is an office pot luck for birthdays or special occasions. It allows an opportunity for the entire office to spend time together and break down some of the employee/boss barriers. If you’re feeling adventurous, a great way to make employees feel more engaged is to ask for their help planning the pot luck; give them ownership of the activity.

Develop an employee of the month program. This seemingly ordinary employee engagement gives them an extra incentive to put his/her best foot forward.

Additionally, it doesn’t cost a single cent to say “thank you.” When was the last time you said “thank you” to one of your employees for accomplishing a regular task? I make a concentrated effort to say “thank you” to each of my employees every week for something I catch them doing well. I also write “thank you” on each paycheck and include a smiley face. Once I forgot to include a smiley face, and I had an employee upset with me for a few weeks. I didn’t understand why until another employee told me he thought I was unhappy with his performance because I forgot the smiley face on his paycheck. I have never forgotten a smiley face since this experience. Employees notice the little things.

Employees don’t need special, individualized attention every day, but they do need to feel included. Every now and again, make an extra special effort to make sure they feel heard and understood.

No matter your size or industry, I know there is a way you can make your employees happier and feel special. Just remember, happier employees mean happier customers.

For more information about Benjamin Franking Plumbing, visit benfranklinplumbingaz.com.

Business Awards: Are They Worth The Effort Of Applying?

Business Awards: Are They Worth The Effort Of Applying?

What does the Inc. 500|5000 list, Ranking Arizona and Arizona Corporate Excellence (ACE) Awards all have in common? They’re a mix of local and national business awards from incredible companies. There are several organizations that extend prestigious business honors to companies every day. So many, in fact, that a simple Google search for business awards yielded more than one billion responses; yes, billion with a “b.”

Some are based solely on growth, financial gain or employee happiness; some on areas or expertise or industry specific. Taking the time to research awards can be a lengthy but worth-the-while process.

Third-party credibility is an excellent way to show your employees, competitors, customers and potential customers that you know what you’re doing and that you’re in it for the long haul. If you work in an industry rattled with criticism and negative expectations, it helps to further set your business apart.

The benefits my business has seen are immense. You feel an instant camaraderie with past winners, and it’s a great way to network. We have had outside consumers, vendors and other companies call for advice as they apply for awards we’ve won. Our customers know the kind of service they’ll receive, and our employees love the recognition for their hard work and dedication. It has been a huge morale boost around the office.

Awards submissions are often a lengthy process that require several hours’, if not days’, worth of work; others take 20 minutes. I’ve found that looking at the requirements for awards such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Blue Ribbon Awards, or Angie’s List or ASU’s Spirit of Enterprise can be a great business check-up. It allows you the opportunity to look at your business with fresh eyes. How many hours of community service are you giving each month? What are your long term goals? What do you deem as your biggest accomplishment? How have your finances improved over the last three years? What is your customer satisfaction rate?

After combing through the requirements, if you notice your organization doesn’t qualify, ask yourself if this award is important to your business and industry. Would it make a difference to your consumers? If you move forward with applying, have your employees help with the process; make them feel part of the team. It’s important to have their buy-in. Moving forward, you may have to make difficult choices or changes; and if they have an understanding as to why those changes are coming, they’re more likely to embrace said changes.

Being nominated for any award, especially a business award, is a tremendous honor. One of the most important aspects of this process is working with the outside entity that nominated you or your organization.  Maybe it was your PR firm, maybe it was a colleague or a customer — no matter who nominated you, be present for the nomination process. Knowing exactly what they need from you in order to complete the nomination in key. Understanding their needs will help you share the most important successes and challenges your organization has gone through. And, be sure to thank the individual nominating you or your organization.

Being an award-winner is a great way to distinguish yourself and your company from your competitors in a tough market. In my experience, every effort required to complete an application or nomination has been a valuable experience and well worth the time.

Customer Service

5 Tips To Providing Great Customer Service

Are customers important to your business? They sure are to mine. If you find them to be important, I suggest reviewing the details of your customer service touches, process and ability to help customers as needed — even if that means working outside of the normal channels.

5 Customer Service Tips:

1. A business owner/supervisor/manager/employee cannot be too busy to handle customer service related issues.

We are all very busy, but it’s time to get over the “I’m too busy to help just one customer” mentality. We have to remember it takes less time to work on existing customer service needs then to find new customers to use your product or service. If the owner is available, have him or her resolve the concern. Customers rate working directly with the owner much higher than another employee, even if that employee is a manager. It makes them feel important and valued. However, when the owner is on vacation or unreachable, the employees need to have permission and feel empowered to handle customer service problems to resolve the issue and make the customer happier quicker.

Business owners and employees need to be able to think outside the box to make customer service special. Each business and industry have rules they need to stick by, but there are times that it is more important to go outside of or bend the rules in order to make up for a mistake in order to make your customers feel heard and happy.

2. As an owner, it is important to lead with good customer service.

Customers like to know you’re actually listening to them. If they have a good suggestion, let them know. Tell them you’ll bring it to your team and possibly implement the changes they’ve suggested. Give credit to your customers where credit is due if you make a change based on their needs and requests. Fox example, at Benjamin Franklin, The Punctual Plumber, we added regular Sunday services a few years ago after several of our customers told us they couldn’t take time off during the week and needed to use our services on the weekend. We listened, we acknowledged, we acted, and we thanked our customers for helping us better understand their needs.

3. Customers don’t care until they know how much you care.

Customers want to be heard, and they want to be understood. Listen more than you speak. Make sure the customer has said everything he or she wants/needs to say before you interject. Once it’s time for you to speak, begin with, “I heard you say X, Y & Z.” This ensures that you understand what is at the heart of the customer’s frustrations. It’s not always a refund that they want; sometimes they just want to be heard. Relate to them. Use phrases such as, “I understand your frustration, you’re right,” “It is a hard position to be in,” etc. Make sure to keep your tone in check. How you say what you say is often times more important than what you actually say.

4. What to do if things go wrong:

Be patient. Give the customer time to talk and share. Acknowledge what happened. Don’t defend it. Be honest, upfront, and thank them for bringing the issue to your attention. More importantly, let them know that the entire team will be informed regarding the issue, regardless of what the issue is and what actions you plan on taking. Be sure this mistake doesn’t happen again; and if necessary, re-train employees on tasks or treatments, depending on your individual industries.

Don’t just get things back to normal. Go the extra mile. Do something special like send them to dinner or a movie, buy flowers, give them a gift certificate, etc. — depending on the severity of the mistake.

5. Stand behind your guarantee.

How do you feel when a company or organization states a guarantee only to give you an excuse on why it’s not met or avoided, then ignored when your opinion was not held up?  When your guarantee is not held, the reputation of your company declines, and customers no longer feel they can trust your product or service. Sometimes as human beings we have a tendency to focus on the negative, and every good thing you’ve ever done for a valued customer can go out the window with one grave mistake. If guarantees aren’t held up, everyone is at risk of losing their company’s growth, current customers and potential employees if there is no revenue to pay their salaries. Bottom line: If a guarantee is offered, it must be held up.

hiring tips

Hiring Tips: Finding The Right Person For The Job

Just as in your love life, you may have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find the right prince for you. The same is true in business; you may have to try out a few employees before you find the right fit for your organization.

After running a successful business for more than 25 years, I can relate to the struggles of finding the right person for each open position. In the process I’ve learned a few tricks.

I’d like to share my top 10 hiring tips:

Detailed job description

Most importantly, have a well-written, detailed job posting outlining exact requirement— the skills, the demands, the work load, the expectations of the position, etc. Make sure that you include not only the “fun” or “exciting” tasks, but also the sometimes harder-to-swallow tasks. Will they be dealing with customers complaints, working after hours, or on-call as needed? Be sure the applicant can meet all of your basic requirements and goes into the position with eyes wide open or you may find yourself searching for a new employee after a few weeks.

Multiple interviews/interviewers

You have to be honest with yourself and the interviewee. Ask for others on your team or even outside of your business to help you assess candidates and what you really need. Make sure you interview a candidate more than once; if the position is phone-heavy, implement a phone interview. If they’re going to be working in the field, take them out on a work interview to see how they perform.

Personality matters

Not only are the technical skills important, but also know what personality will thrive in the open position. So often, we try to make the person in need of a job fit the position. As a business professional, you must stop thinking that way. You have to find the best match, even if that means waiting a week or two or more.

Money talks

We’re all in business to be successful. This means finding the best person for the open position is imperative. It will save you time, money, stress and sometimes even your company’s reputation. Several bad hires can be more costly than holding out for the right person. It’s better to spend money on the right candidate from the beginning than hiring someone with less experience or less qualified because they’ll work for less money. You often lose more money while training a new individual than you would have spent hiring the right person.

Do they play nice in the sandbox?

If the position requires they work with several other individuals in your organization, make sure they can get along and work together. If they will be working alongside your customer base, ensure they’ll be able to represent the company well. Some individuals don’t take direction well; some have a hard time working with members of the opposite sex. And some have a hard time working with the same sex because they feel a sense of competition (maybe they’re shy). Finding someone that is easy to work with is key to your businesses success.

Some skills are not transferable

Just because your friend answered the phone for a doctor’s office doesn’t mean he or she is really qualified to work in an insurance claims office as a customer service representative. Think of how different the environments are — maybe it’s the demand of the calls, the need to multitask differently or the speed at which the calls are coming.

Know their weaknesses

All applicants have strengths and weaknesses. As I mentioned before, go into an interview with your eyes wide open. Can your company work with the individual’s weaknesses? It may be something easy to overcome, or it could be detrimental to your organization.

Establish a trial period

Try a temp agency first. Some hires feel right, some interviews are strong, but two weeks later, you wonder what happened to the person you interviewed. By using a temp agency, they can take on the burden of up-front hiring costs and HR paperwork that takes more time away from your business. If the temp agency sends someone that isn’t a strong fit, personalities clash or the work ethic is off, you can stop working with them fast and painlessly.

Do your due diligence

Protect your company’s assets, and have background checks done on every single candidate — even if you’ve known them for 30 years. You have to know you can trust them. Especially in my industry, we are in and out of people’s homes on a daily basis. I need to know my employees have done nothing in their past that would give me cause for concern now.

Next-generation employees

When interviewing candidates under 25 years old, it’s important to recognize they were raised in a technology-heavy generation. They may be more comfortable communicating via text or social media than face-to-face. They probably enjoy and thrive in group environments more than your older employees do. Don’t write them off too quick; they may need a little more help understanding their role in the company, but they can bring a lot to the table if you give them a voice.

vacation - sitting at the computer outside

Preparing The Office For The Summer, Vacation

Summer can be a challenging time for business owners and families alike. The temperatures are well into the triple digits, kids are off from school, and employees want to take a vacation from the triple digits with their kids. As for the business owner, he/she still has several business goals and objectives which must be met in order to keep the lights on and the doors open.

Plan ahead

Planning ahead is every business owner, employee, family and child’s best friend, especially during the summer. We can get everything that we need to accomplish and still make time for fun. Planning ensures we can do this.

First step is to know how your personal life and schedules will change as summer sets in. Do you have children? Is your spouse taking or teaching summer school classes? Does your employer expect more or less of your time during the summer months?

Activities for the kids

If you have children, ask yourself what their interests are and how you can meet their needs. Maybe it’s with additional support from city or summer school programs. There are several amazing programs around the Valley to meet every child’s interest. For instance, interested in music, dance and theatre? I suggest Chandler Center for the Arts summer camps. Sports more your child’s thing? Check out Great Play. Science? Look into the Arizona Science Center’s day camps; they offer pick up as late as 6 p.m.

Once the kids are planned for, it’s easier to work without as many interruptions. I’ve always found that if I could keep my kids busier and happier than me, they would not interfere with that time I needed to get my work completed.

Employees: Request vacation time early

For the business owner, meeting the work demand load and employee vacation needs can be difficult. Take the time at the beginning of the season to communicate what work days are flexible and which ones we need all hands on deck. For the employee, request time off early and, if necessary, come to the table with a different week or a solution for work that needs to be completed in your absence. It’s easier for the business owner to prepare for your absence with advance notice and find a happy medium to get work goals finished.

Cross-training employees

At times, we’re at a loss as to what we should do when key employees are on vacation. This is a great time to cross-train other employees to be proficient in all tasks associated with the office. Additionally, employers can look into hiring part time or temp positions to help during the summer months to cover full-time employee vacations. Each of these options may help the owner find additional talent or skill sets that are hard to test when everyone is present.

Remain flexible

Another great option for the summer is to test out flexible work hours for each employee on a temporary basis. Establish a clear trial period that both the employee and employer agree upon. Maybe it’s four 10-hour days, or working from home in the morning or afternoon, splitting shifts with another team member, trade one weekday off to work a weekend day, etc. The options are limitless and can be tailored to any industry.

Ask for feedback

It’s important to find out what works best for the company, but allow room for thinking outside the box. Depending on the organization, there is more or less flexibility with the following suggestion but, simply because employees have always worked from 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. does not mean that have to continue with that moving forward. It might make more sense to work a 10-hour shift and make your employee/employer happier. At the end of the trial period, take time for honest feedback on both sides. What worked? What didn’t? Is there room for improvement and potentially a second trial period?

Summer can be a very stressful time for everyone, but it’s time to plan ahead, think positively, and allow both the employee and employer to be part of the solution. Creating a mutually beneficial solution will elevate company moral and make employees more likely to meet and exceed professional goals. After all, summer is meant to be a time to enjoy both our families and our work.

Business Is Slow

10 Things To Do When Business Is Slow

No matter what business you’re in, no matter how great your product, no matter who’s buying, every business goes through a lull or slow period during the year. Making strategic use of this time can help businesses lay a solid foundation for the months and years that follow.

If you’re in a specific industry, you know from past experience or outside influences when business is going to be slower than normal.

Here are 10 suggestions to mitigate losses when business is slow:

Conduct a business audit

When was the last time you took an in-depth look at your financials? Set up a better inventory process? Cleaned out your warehouse? Figured out your hourly rate? What’s your success rate on proposals? Are you making more money this year than last? Which clients are the most profitable? Do you even know how much money you need to make to break even?

Improve customer service

You already know that stellar customer service is the foundation of business success, and this is never truer than during periods of business downturn. When business is slow, you need to go above the call of duty to show your customers that they are important to you.

Educate employees

Look for educational and training opportunities for you and your employees. Whether it’s fine tuning current skills or learning a new service, it’s a great time to increase abilities.

Network

Instead of waiting for the work to come to you, put yourself out there and make it happen. Face-to-face networking is the single most effective thing you can do to promote your business. Check out your local chamber of commerce or meetup.com for meetings of industry groups you have experience working with.

Offer employees incentives

Offer contest to employees based on their sales and/or customer retention. Last month at Benjamin Franklin, The Punctual Plumber, we offered all our staff TVs if they reached our sales goal for the month. I am happy to report I picked up 12 TVs for our employees.  Remember to keep incentives realistic and obtainable. If you can’t afford to offer paid time off, televisions or tickets to the Cardinals, don’t do it.

Be bold

Find something completely out of the ordinary whether it’s a holiday, event or community organization with which to partner. Your efforts can be rewarded greatly. For example, November 18th is National Toilet Day, and one of our employees dressed up as Benjamin Franklin and delivered chocolate cupcakes with toilet toppers to all of the major media outlets in the area. It was fun, it broke the norm, and it got us noticed.

Desk drawer digging

You know all those business cards you’ve collected over the past year that are accumulated in your desk drawer? Pull out a few, and connect with those folks. Put them in a bowl, and pull out a winner; offer them a free or discounted service, free meal or just call to see how you can be of help to them.

Layered advertising

If you know the lull is coming, start preparing six months in advance. Increase visibility by working on your SEO, promotions, introduce a new special service only good during that time period or update your website.

Contests/Referral discounts for customers

Engage your current customers in your social media efforts by holding a contest. Offer a free service, cash or gift card to your favorite restaurant, etc., for participating. Make sure it’s creative, fun and easy for them. Additionally, a great way to say “thank you” to your customers is offering a referral discount. It can be as simple as $10 off their next service.

Maintain a positive attitude

Keeping a positive attitude is perhaps the hardest thing to do when times get slow. You are on edge with no income and bills are coming in. Yet, you cannot wallow in a defeatist attitude that will only slow you down.

During difficult times, keep in mind the title of the popular book by Robert Schuller, “Tough Times Don’t Last But Tough People Do.” Every misfortune carries the seeds of growth and betterment if you can keep perspective. To help keep a positive attitude, socialize with friends and engage in activities you enjoy on a regular basis. This will help lighten your outlook and come back to the office with a fresh perspective.

Holidays in the Workplace

Applying, Celebrating Holidays In The Workplace

As we move out of hibernation and into the months of spring, we notice beautiful pops of color in the trees, warmer and longer days, bounty from the garden and the start of an endless amount of holidays to celebrate. There is everything from the first day of spring to Easter, the Fourth of July, Halloween and Thanksgiving left to celebrate this year.

Here at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, the Punctual Plumber, we love holidays and holiday traditions; we’ve even created a few traditions of our own, which have provided several amazing memories for our team and customers. I want to share with you why we celebrate them both national and quirky holidays related to our industry and how you can apply said holidays in your own workplace.

After you choose which holidays fit best within the mission and goals of your company, it’s time to decide not only what your celebrations will include but also who will be included. Activities will vary depending on your target audience, location, time of year, weather, etc. Once the variables are in control, you still have important decisions to make: Are you trying to boost work atmosphere? Increase community involvement? Attract company publicity?

Some of our favorite holidays to celebrate are the sweet ones. Although there is a day set aside to celebrate almost every baked good, we like to celebrate them all at once on National Dessert Day (October 14).  You can also use sweet treats as the theme for other holidays. Last year for National Toilet Day, we had handcrafted, custom cupcakes made. Each chocolate cupcake was topped with a handcrafted, edible porcelain toilet. We then dressed up in a Benjamin Franklin costume and delivered said cupcakes to our work personnel and local news outlets. Almost everyone can appreciate dessert-themed holidays, so find something worth celebrating, relevant to your line of work and have fun with it.

Create interactive events for well-known holidays, like pumpkin carving contests for Halloween or gingerbread house building competitions in the winter. You can put your own twist on these general ideas to represent your company or professional industry. For example, incorporating plumbing supplies in the house building kits or carved pumpkin design.

Remember to celebrate worker appreciation days. It’s easy to get caught up in job responsibilities, making sure you meet end of the month quotas and the bottom line. Make sure you take the time to thank your staff that makes things run smoothly, and thank your customers for being supportive of your business no matter what industry you’re in.

You can celebrate during the national holidays for customers and work personnel or simply choose to recognize individual employee’s birthdays. Taking the time to say thank you and show your appreciation is sure to strengthen and boost office moral.

Don’t be afraid to work outside of the norm. Put a fun spin on things by making a video and posting it to your social networks; highlight a different employee each month. This simple act not only helps us recognize our employees on a job well done but also helps us connect to the community.

Whatever your industry, however big or small your company is, there is a holiday out there just for you. It’s waiting to be celebrated. No matter what holidays fit best for you and your team, have fun and be creative.

Business Management

Leadership Vs. Management: What’s The Difference?

Leadership and management, management and leadership; some individuals see these terms as interchangeable synonyms. However, there are several important differences.

First, let’s differentiate between a manager and a leader. Managers are to exercise executive, administrative and supervisory direction of a team, group or organization. A leader, on the other hand, is future-focused and works to influence or guide a group of individuals to achieve a common goal through inspiration rather than task completion.

So what are the key differences, and what skills and traits are necessary to succeed as a manager and as a leader? A manager generally receives his/her authority based on his/her role. A leader’s authority is innate in his/her approach. A common expression also tells us that leadership is doing the right thing, while management is doing things right.

Jerry L. Mills, founder of B2B CFO, says that every organization has three types of employees: finders, minders and grinders.

The Finder: The entrepreneur, the visionary, the leader, the idea generator and the catalyst for future change — finders work in the future.

The Minder: The administrative, accounting and operational staff of the company — minders are historians; they work in the past.

The Grinder: The people who do the physical work of the company, grinders may be construction workers out in the field or telemarketers at a desk. Grinders work for today and are not concerned about the future or the past.

When organizations work in tandem allowing each employee to both know and execute his/her role, things run smoothly.

As a business owner, at times I’ve made the mistake of trying to be everything to everyone. I have learned to recognize in others and within myself the traits most important to posses in order to maintain a clear vision. I have also learned what traits I need as a manager to help our business succeed. These traits are cross disciplinary and can be applied whether you work in plumbing, finance or the arts.

Business Leaders Skills

Lead by example 

Pitch in wherever needed. A leader cannot be afraid to get his/her hands dirty. When your employees are in the trenches, you’re in the trenches.

Passion 

Your leader must believe in what he/she is doing as well as the work the company, organization or team is engaged in. This is not an instance where faking it until you make it will work.

Organization 

Without clear organization, your company will be chasing its own tail and wasting valuable time.

Delegate 

The leader cannot do or be everything to everyone. Successful delegation includes giving ownership of the work their assigned.

Communicate Effectively 

Employees, or grinders, need to know their work is important. Be precise, specific and concise.

Business Management Skills

Great customer service skills 

No matter the business, no matter the location, no matter the service, a manager cannot succeed without being service-minded.

Self-motivation and dependability 

Managers must be capable of doing their job without being micromanaged. They must be committed to putting their all into the job every day. Managers need to be capable of making even the most challenging of circumstances a success.

Integrity and trustworthiness 

By hiring someone that you can trust, you’ll reduce your own stress levels. The business owner will be able to place his/her focus on growing the business.

Be a team player 

Managers must be committed to their team. A manager is the liaison who has to be able to work well and communicate with both employees and executives.

Conflict resolution abilities 

Serving as liaison allows the manager to be in the know from both ends. They need to be able to see conflicts as they arise and nip them in the bud before they turn devastating.

Franchise Owners

Seven Tips For Franchise Owners: Leveraging Your Name

Running a franchise is easy if all franchise owners manage under a common brand, a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and everything else the contract commits them to follow. So how can individual franchise owners become a team and bring their individual businesses ahead by one name and one USP?

All owners and managers are driven by different personalities, needs, numbers, time off, egos, etc. Like any relationship, business owners should start by respecting the other franchise owners in their area and be sure to remind themselves that looks can be deceiving — especially when it appears another franchisee is trying to hurt your business, working outside of their designated area or not performing as the brand promises.

I joined Benjamin Franklin, The Punctual Plumber franchise more than five years ago now, and I’ve learned if I work together with the other franchise owners in my market, we achieve greater success than working as individuals.

For all you franchise owners, I’ve found seven areas to be especially helpful:

Build Relationships

Take the necessary time to communicate with one another. As a franchise owner, you share the same business name, brand and take on the reputation of other owners. It would serve others owners well to play nice in the sandbox. Remember the competition should not be within the brand. Make getting to know the other franchise owners a priority. Build a positive working relationship, like any relationship; it’s important to keep a healthy balance of work and play.

Set Goals

Know each other’s individual goals and then establish common goals; work together to achieve them. Knowing the other franchise owners will allow you to learn from their successes as well as their failures. It will also allow you to understand their strengths and respect weaknesses.

Be Aware

List the needs of each owner or office. Have a written game plan, with a list of dos and don’ts. For example, knowing up front that everyone agrees if they hear another office is not following the aforementioned rules, they have permission to bring it up and discuss the best actions for correcting the matter. Institute consequences if something doesn’t happen the way it’s supposed to. Let’s say one of the offices doesn’t make it to your monthly meeting; at the next monthly meeting, they have to buy lunch for the group, give the marketing tip, etc. — something that hurts a little while continuing to build on the existing relationship.

Work Together

Establish a give and take attitude, don’t assume you know what another owner has going on based solely on what seems to be happening. Be sure you know all of the facts before you make any judgments or complaints. Go straight to the source and ask specific questions with respect.

Think Economically

When working as one name, decide how the business can save money through purchasing power, by sharing consultants, overhead expenses, employee time, employee training, etc.

Be Open

Open your office, your business and your experience to the other owners for training, employee issues, marketing material review, new equipment, etc. This will allow both offices to become better. It can be challenging to see the forest through the trees when you’re in the business trenches. Opening your doors and asking the owners for their opinion on business decisions will provide a fresh perspective.

Review Other Franchises

Each year, review three other offices outside of your market that are performing well. The same rules that apply to sports, apply to business here. Practicing with someone bigger or better than you will offer growth opportunities to you and your staff.

I know that by working with fellow franchisees throughout the nation I have seen great things come about both personally and professionally. My company has grown at a much faster rate, as I have been able to learn quickly from other’s experience. Additionally, I have grown personally by increasing my business knowledge and leadership skills.