The Importance of Providing Your Employees Performance Feedback

5 tips for an effective employee review programThe Importance of Providing Your Employees Performance Feedback

If You’re Happy and You Know It, Write a Review

Employee performance reviews are one of the most dreaded conversations we have with our clients. Most business owners and managers hate doing them because they put people in the awkward position of giving an employee direct and specific criticism in a face-to-face meeting. They are tough conversations to have with employees that are struggling in certain areas of their job, but they are some of the most critical conversations to have to get everyone rowing in the same direction.  

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My Advisor Community - What Are Other Advisory Firms Doing or Not Doing?

BUS COMMUNITY

My Advisor Community– What Are Other Advisory Firms Doing or Not Doing?

I am so lucky!  I work with the most amazing clients.  Now to be fair to myself, I did this intentionally.  One of the best things about being my age (no need to mention a number…just assume I’m “mature”) is I am wise enough to know that working with clients who don’t share my values (family, quality of life, etc.) is going to be, at the very least, frustrating and at the very worst, damaging to my health.  Unfortunately, I know this from past experience.  This is why I don’t take on every prospective client who comes my way. It’s very liberating!  I highly recommend it.

So where am I going with this?  I believe the very best advisors want to share information with other advisors.  Now, let me quantify that statement a bit.  I’m not suggesting you share a proprietary process or give away the “secret sauce” but if they stumble onto a new technology for instance – and it can range from something small like scheduling technology to something larger, like changing portfolio management software – they are happy to have me share it with my other clients. In that way, my firm has built an informal community of advisors who are assisting each other.

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Never Circumvent Your Hiring Process - NEVER!

4419a4e7c09d3abf08c4f723be2567d2 coming soon think process process 800 600Never Circumvent Your Hiring Process – NEVER!

Having a hiring process – and sticking to it – is the best way to ensure that you will make a good hire. I’ve written about the TSI hiring process and it is also posted directly on our website, and it has been the single greatest tool to help our clients hire the best people. When you veer from your hiring process, you enter a minefield of issues that will likely result in a bad hire.

The most common way I have seen firm owners veer from the hiring process is to interview someone for a position, and immediately make a connection with the candidate. Once that personal connection is made, the rest of the interview feels like a formality, and doesn’t feel like an interview at all. You may have a candidate come into an interview and immediately “wow” you with their intelligence or how polished they present themselves, but nothing compares to an interview with a stranger that feels like you are talking to an old friend. You may instantly like the person and want to make them an offer before they even leave the office – this is a mistake.

Any candidate that receives an offer must go through our entire hiring process, no exceptions.   In the TSI hiring process, we give assessments between the first in-person interview and the second in-person interview. The first in-person interview is an opportunity to discover if the candidate will be a good fit for the position, and a good fit for your firm culture. The assessment is meant to determine if how the candidate prefers to work matches the needs of the position. If someone is very detail-oriented and works more slowly because of that, and you need someone to get through huge piles of work every day, that person might not be the best fit for the position. The only way to discover this is to put the candidate through the entire process.

If you interview a candidate and immediately want to make an offer, ask yourself: why should this person be exempt from your hiring process? Do you not want the candidate to be bothered with your hiring requirements? If you have designed a hiring process with the intention of finding the best people, shouldn’t a great candidate easily pass the other requirements?

Any candidate that receives an employment offer must pass through every step of the hiring process. No exceptions.

We have helped our clients hire great employees and it is because we do not compromise on our process. If you would like to discuss how we can help you with your next hire, please feel free to schedule a complimentary call here.

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Make Sure Your Consultant Insists on Your Firm Having a Strategic Plan

STRATEGIC PLANNINGMake Sure Your Consultant Insists on Your Firm Having a Strategic Plan

My last two blogs address hiring a consultant (Should You Hire a Consultant? & The Discovery Process of Your Consultant).  So let’s talk about the next step.

So, you’ve hired the consultant that fits you best and they’ve conducted an extensive discovery process.  They have prepared recommendations for you and you both agree on the challenges and opportunities to be addressed.

So, what’s the next step? Obviously, it’s to translate all of this into a 12 month Strategic Plan for the firm.  What does this encompass?

  1. A SWOT analysis – we recommend this be done in a team setting with everyone on the staff. This is a great way to get them engaged in the process. I’m sure many of them never think about these issues and pulling them out of their day-to-day to focus on it is a win-win for the entire team. You and your consultant have already done much of this work during the discovery and recommendations phases but again, this pulls in the entire team.
  2. We want to hear what your Big Hairy Audacious Goals are.
  3. However, we focus on your major initiatives for the next 12 months. I don’t like planning beyond this because as my mom likes to say “life is what happens when you’re making other plans” and you will want to stay open to changes in your firm and in the industry.
  4. Each firm initiative will have an “Owner”, someone who is in charge of spearheading its completion.
  5. You will lay out a series of action steps and deadlines for each initiative.
  6. You will record these initiatives somewhere other than your CRM – we believe your day-to-day work MUST be in your CRM but your strategic plan deserves a home of its home. We provide our clients with web-based project management software at no cost to them.
  7. We use this software to keep everyone accountable to their initiatives.
  8. We generally have weekly calls with you to make sure goals are being met and we are on track with what you want to get accomplished.
  9. We have multiple monthly calls with the team (or with many clients, we participate by phone in their weekly staff meetings) to make sure initiatives are being accomplished.
  10. If they are not:
    1. We may get in there and help the staff member working on it – what work can we do on our end to help move it along?
    2. We may evaluate if it’s still relevant.
    3. We may evaluate whether or not we assigned it to the right person

In other words, we are constantly looking over your shoulder to make sure these initiatives are getting completed because remember, they are the path to you reaching your goals…achieving your desired quality of life. 

You can schedule a complimentary call with us to see if we are a fit and answer any questions you may have.  Again, we’re looking to work with a small group of elite advisors so we will be honest with you as to whether or not we are a good fit. We may also be able to give you a few ideas you can implement immediately. 

Thanks for listening, Ginny

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Slow to Hire, Quick to Fire

SLOW TO HIRE QUICK TO FIREBuilding a team of great employees who are all sitting in the right seats and rowing in the same direction can be the single most transformative thing that can move your business forward.  A great team not only breathes life and growth into the firm, it also builds wins on top of wins.  It is a self-sharpening saw.  But how do you get from where you are now to having a great team in place?  Fire quickly and hire slowly. 

I’m always a little hesitant to suggest that a firm fire quickly when I am faced with those owners who are short-tempered or can get annoyed easily.  Being quick to fire does NOT mean you should fire any of your employees when you are annoyed or when someone makes a mistake.  Do not make an emotional decision under the guise of being quick to fire.  However, when you can sit down and evaluate an employee honestly, and you conclude that the employee does not have the skills, ability, personality, and/or mentality to set you apart from your competitors, it is time to begin the process of moving that employee on.  I have written before about knowing when to let a legacy employee go.  Letting go of any employee who has not done anything wrong, but is clearly not the right fit for their position, can be very difficult.  The sooner you can let go of the wrong person and get the right person in place and up to speed, the sooner you will see how drastic the impact is of having the right person in their place. 

Being slow to hire is a function of making sure that after you let the wrong person go, you don’t make the same mistake twice.  Our hiring process is listed on our website and we are adamant that every firm we work with follow that process.  It takes longer and requires more of candidates than most other firms’ processes.  This is because we have found that the system works and finds great people.  Part of our hiring process is that any candidate has to pass all of the hurdles to get an offer – no exceptions.  If a candidate really wows the team in an interview, but does not score well on the assessments, that candidate must be eliminated. 

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Does Your Consultant Have an In-depth Discovery Process?

DISCOVERY PROCESSThe Discovery Process.  You know why it’s important.  This is part of what makes working with financial advisors so easy for us.  You folks get the importance of the discovery process.

My last blog dealt with helping you decide whether or not a Consultant would be a good move for you.  In this blog, I want to talk about the importance of the discovery process.

IF you do choose to work with a consultant, make sure they conduct an in-depth discovery process.  In the very same way it’s important for you to get to know your clients well your consultant should take the time to get to know you well.

Why?  You know why but here goes:

  1. If they don’t conduct an in-depth discovery, how do they know what you want from your firm? Chances are it’s different in some way from everyone else. 
  2. How can they help you build/correct/chart your course without knowing this?
  3. The answers to these questions should shape every decision made.
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Should You Hire a Consultant for Your Financial Advisory Firm?

CONSULTANT

I’m sure many of you have asked yourself this same question at one time or another. Should I hire a third party to help me with my business and whatever challenges I may be facing?

The answer is maybe.  Not all business owners are going to benefit from this type of work.  We have our own set of criteria (see below) and I’m sure other Consultants (for the purpose of my writing, I am going to use Consultant to encompass all manner of third parties who work with Advisors on practice management or coaching) have their set of criteria.  Most of us are vetting you in the same way you are vetting us. Why? Simple, we’re looking for a quality of life as well and working with someone who is either a bad fit for my firm or not open to others’ points of view makes for a stressful work life.

So, who might benefit?

  • You have some size to your firm. Let’s face it, in the early days, you are just trying to stay afloat.  When I get calls from smaller firms, it’s not that I don’t want to help them, it’s just that the only real advice I can give them is “market like Hell” because you need revenue to get to the next step.  I leave a certain number of slots open on a pro bono basis for these types of firms and have them filled at all times.  However, we have found we work best with firms with AUM greater than $50MM or gross profit of $500k or more.
  • You recognize the need for a well-thought out strategic plan – You know your clients need a financial plan to meet their goals – same goes for your business.
  • You understand the need for high performing team members, you want to mentor them and help them be fellow visionaries – I get frustrated when I talk to advisors and they tell me they are trying to get the least expensive person or they don’t understand the need to mentor their employees. I can promise you, without the best of the best staff being paid well and getting ongoing training, you will NOT get where you want to go.
  • You are open to the opinions of others – ‘nough said!
  • You are interested in a great quality of life – if it’s all about money for you, you probably won’t benefit from a Consultant. Most of us – I would say at least the ones worth their salt - got into this business because we also want a quality of life – it’s one of our core values.
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Current Unemployment Rate Making Hiring A Players More Difficult

REMINDER IMAGECurrent Unemployment Rate is Extending the Amount of Time Needed to Hire A Players for Financial Advisory Firms.

The unemployment rate is currently hovering around 4% and hiring A Players is taking longer than ever. IF you are going to need an Advisor, a CSA or an Admin in the next 6 months, you must start looking now. We are only taking on a few more hires at this time.

Give us a call at 225.751.8009 OR follow this link to get on our calendar for a complimentary intro call.

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Document Your Processes and Finally Build Your Franchise!

FRANCHISE IMAGEIn my most recent writing dated April 10, 2018, I talked about how to get buy-in on writing and using processes.  We all know why this is important…not just from an accountability standpoint but from the view of getting YOUR way of doing business” documented so it’s repeatable.  In other words, Building Your Franchise.

TSI has spent a great deal of time studying the dynamics that go into documenting your franchise.  We understand it is one thing to say you need to document your processes but an entirely different proposition to actually get it done.  We have helped many of our clients get their processes down and what follows are what we have determined to be the easiest and most efficient ways.

So here are our ideas! Let us know what you think.

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How to Finally Get Buy-In on Writing and Using Processes

CREATE WORKFLOWS PROCESSESWith CRM technology becoming more and more robust, written processes and workflows that are integrated into your CRM can be an invaluable tool to keep moving things forward and to track what has been done for your clients.  Writing and inputting processes into your CRM can be an onerous task in itself.  Going through your firm’s processes and figuring out how if-then logic trees will integrate with your CRM can drive some people mad.  However, we have found one of the biggest hurdles is to get everyone to use the processes once they are in the CRM. 

Owners are sometimes the worst offenders in failing to use the CRM processes because you know what needs to be done and you know how to do it.  However, there are some tools that we use to ensure that your team continues to use processes you’ve developed.

Invite everyone that will be assigned a task in a process to collaborate when it is written.  One of the best ways to get buy-in is to have everyone that will take part in any process help develop and write it.  People are more likely to continue to use a tool if they participated in its development.  They have already invested a good deal of time into it during the development phase and they want to make that effort meaningful and not forgotten. 

Assign a point-person for each process.

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Delegate & Elevate OR How to Keep Your Revenue Growing

DELEGATE ELEVATEIn January, I talked about “Letting Go of the Vine” and why this is so crucial to achieving the success you deserve.  If you didn’t read this post, you might want to read it here  before you read this blog. 

So after you have taken the time to track your activities for some period of time and gone through the exercise I suggested in January’s blog of figuring what you enjoy to do and do well, etc., the next step is actually delegating work.  This is the really tough part, trust me I know. But by delegating, you are giving yourself the opportunity to elevate yourself to operate at your highest and best use.

 But’s let back up a little.  Why delegate?  Sounds like a silly question and yet so many struggle with doing it so I have to believe the value is not being communicated.  Let me take a crack at it.  Do any of these sound like you?

  1. You are experiencing a lack of control over the business because you are trying to do too many things the least of which is being strategic?
  2. You’re not on the same page with your staff, your clients, your vendors, your partners?
  3. The firm has stopped growing?
  4. Nothing seems to be working – staff is numb to new initiatives and you are spinning your wheels?
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When It's Time to Replace a Legacy Employee

One of the most difficult decisions a business owner has to make at some point is when to terminate a “legacy” employee.  Many of the firms we have encountered have employees that have been with the firm since its infancy and have helped the firm get to where it is today.  For many reasons, some employees can go from being a productive member of the team to barely able to keep up or disengaged.  This can happen quickly, but it is much more common for the transition to happen over a number of months or years.  It frequently happens when the firm goes from being a one or two person office to a much bigger entity.  When this happens, the owner of the firm is faced with the difficult decision of what to do with an employee who is no longer stacking up. 

The first thing that should be done is to have an honest conversation with the employee and provide them with an improvement plan to get back on track.  Many times this will come as a surprise to the person and they will correct their behavior.  Sometimes, we are not so lucky.  When you are faced with an employee who does not meet the improvement metrics set for them, another option is to move them to another position that might be better suited to them.  This may include some short-term pain of retraining the employee, but it is better to have someone you know and trust on your team in a new role in which they can succeed rather than starting from scratch with a new person.  We have worked with several firms that have moved people around within the organization and have found a more natural and productive fit for all their employees.  However, a word of caution - do NOT give in to the temptation of creating a position for them.  This will lead to resentment by the other staff members and ultimately, you, as the business owner as well.  If there is an open position for which they are more qualified, then it makes sense.  If not, then don’t do it. 

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Changes In Employment Laws Make Hiring Even Trickier

Happy New Year!  So, now that the holidays are over, you may be thinking about bringing on new team members to your firm or changing out some not-so-A players.  What I want to talk about today is interviewing…what you can ask and what you cannot ask.  There were some changes to some State laws in 2018 with respect to this very subject.

There are many guides available on the internet and in books that give sample questions to ask in an interview of a potential new employee.  They can vary widely from “What’s your biggest weakness?” to “If I were to ask you to empty the dishwasher right now, would you do it?”  There is usually some armchair psychology going on in deciding which questions to ask and why, but in this post, I am going to focus on questions that may seem innocuous that could potentially get you in some hot water. 

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Letting Go of the Vine

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Letting Go of the Vine – Why & How?

In my next few blog posts, I will explore the why and how of “letting go of the vine” or learning how to delegate and elevate yourself to a true leadership position.  Why is this important?  Most of you know why but I’ll list a few reasons here. 

If you have ambitions to grow your firm in the number of clients and revenue, you cannot continue to hold on to everything in your firm.  It’s just not possible. You will hit a ceiling very quickly and most likely, become very frustrated with your firm, your role and your life in general. After all, you didn’t become an entrepreneur to get caught in the grind of everyday work.  You most likely became an entrepreneur to create a distinct quality of life for you and your family and letting go of the vine is a big jump in getting to that quality of life.

Additionally, when you delegate to your staff, you give them opportunity to take the ball and run with it, to grow, to feel as though what they do makes a difference in the firm.  So just how do you start on this path?

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The Talent Shortage is VERY Real

b2ap3_thumbnail_TALENT-NEEDED.jpgAre you looking to add great talent to your team? Well, if you will need someone in the next six months, the time to start your search is NOW!

Finding great talent is becoming more and more difficult because there are fewer great candidates available. The average age of advisors is over 50 and 41% of advisers are 55 or older according to Cerulli research. The average time for a firm to hire an advisor has nearly doubled from 2009 to 2017 according to a study by DHI Hiring. There are also fewer and fewer college graduates that pursue financial planning degrees, as well as fewer opportunities in college – notably the closure of the CFP program at LSU here in Baton Rouge.

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10 Years, 10 Truths - Number 10 OR Spend money on technology and then spend money on an expert to help you learn it, integrate and get the most from it

10 Years, 10 Truths – Number 10 OR Spend money on technology and then spend money on an expert to help you learn it, integrate and get the most from it

So, here I am. Truth number 10. I have had so much fun writing these and I hope you have picked up a tip or two.

My final truth has to do with technology and how you use it. As any of you who have been in this business for more than 10 years know, the technology related to the Financial Planning and Investment arena has probably changed more over this timespan than anything else. Ten years ago, there weren’t very many choices. Now there are so many, sometimes it is head-spinning. However, as we also know, it is technology that will play a bigger and bigger role in your firm, both from an internal aspect as well as with your clients.

Within my “family” of clients, I would say the number one complaint I get is about technology. The advisor has purchased new technology and now there is buyer’s remorse. About 90% of the time, it is because the owner of the firm did not make training a priority. Someone bought it, integrated it, got everyone a password and off they went. So now, in most cases, they are only using maybe 25% (on the high side) of the capabilities of the technology.

One thing you can sure of going forward. The technology is going to get more robust, not less. So, when you purchase and integrate the new technology, have a training plan in place and make it mandatory. Talk about how everyone in the firm will use the technology so it’s consistent from the onset. This, as you well know, is a big monetary investment. Make sure you act like it is!

If you really want to get the most from your technology, I HIGHLY recommend you reach out to Jennifer Goldman at MyVirtualCOO (www.myvirtualcoo.com). Jennifer can help you work smarter, not harder by optimizing the selection and use of your tech, integrations and providers.

So, again, here I am at the end of “10 Years, 10 Truths”. If you want to see any you may have missed, just go to my blog on my website (https://thestrategicimplementer.com/index.php/blog). There is also a pdf out there with all of them listed.

Thanks for listening and please provide me with feedback if you so choose.

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10 Years, 10 Truths - Number 9 OR Don't Wait Until You Are Ready to Retire to Think About Succession

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If you want your business to have a life after you, plan for succession now and do it by finding a capable successor. Without a groomed and competent successor that your clients know and trust, your clients will go running for the hills when you are ready to call it quits. Your clients probably don’t know that the business could survive without you being there every day – they don’t know that you have great staff and documented processes that could keep the place running. Your clients trust you much more than they trust your business. So if you want your clients to stay with the business after you retire, you have to engender that same trust in your successor.

If you do not want your business to have a life after you leave, or if it is simply too late to begin the succession transition, planning for a sale of the business is the other option. However, one of the main things any buyer will be looking for in a firm that is selling is “Does the business run on its own, without the need of any one person being involved.” If the answer to that question is no because the business cannot run without you – the owner – your business will be devalued and your selling price will likely not be what you are expecting or your firm may not be sellable at all. The last thing most advisors want is to have to walk away from their life’s work with very little to show for it.

There are so many complexities to the manner in which a successor can take over a business, it would be pointless to try to talk about them all in a blog post. However, the one factor that correlates among firms that have successful transitions of ownership is to choose the successor early and begin the transition at least 5 years (10 being better) before the owner is ready to retire. Your clients need to know, trust, and sometimes even prefer your successor if they are going to stay with the business after you retire.

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10 Years, 10 Truths - Number 8 OR Prospects Will Not Come Flying in Your Windows

In a perfect world, just the right amount of ideal prospects would steadily stream into your business and you would never have to go out and find new business. In the real world, you are going to have to go out and market your business, but it doesn’t have to be as painful as some business owners make it out to be.

Having a marketing strategy can mean many different things to different business owners. No marketing plan is a “one-size-fits-all” solution. There are as many different marketing strategies as there are types of businesses, and the goal in creating an effective marketing strategy is to have something that works for you.

Niche marketing is a term that is thrown around quite a bit in our industry as a marketing theory or strategy, but it should be the foundation of every marketing strategy. Niche marketing is simply choosing a group of people that your business will focus its efforts to attract. This can come in various forms but the two most common are directly communicating with people in the niche that you are targeting and becoming more knowledgeable about the issues and solutions that are common among the group.

Once you identify the limited and specific group to whom you will target your marketing efforts, one of the most effective ways to get your name to your potential clientele is to find people who already have their ear. These people are COIs of your target market and can be a shortcut to getting your name out there. However, it is much more effective to develop strong relationships with 2-3 COIs who understand your process and can recommend your business to your niche market with confidence. More than 2-3 COIs and you will lose the win-win relationship that you are trying to create.

We often get called to help owners create a marketing plan that works for them and we always develop a custom strategy that fits the owner’s skills, comfort level, and growth targets. Feel free to schedule a call with us to find out if we can help your firm find your ideal clients.

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10 Years, 10 Truths - Number 7 OR Why You Must Have Deep, Meaningful Relationships with Your Clients

b2ap3_thumbnail_WOW-IMAGE.jpgCreate your client "WOW" experience - it is the MOST important thing you do to retain clients. We’ve all seen the studies…HNW clients rarely leave over returns. They leave because they don’t feel their advisor understands them or provides them with a “Raving Fans” Experience. Creating the “wow” experience is about going above and beyond what your clients expect from their advisor to deepen the relationship of a friend, a confidant, and a trusted counselor. I have advisor clients who have taken clients their favorite sweet, completely unexpectedly or purchased them theater tickets to a show they know they want to see. The reaction is amazing and this is what they tell their friends, your future clients.

Another favorite of mine is conducting a client survey every two years. The best way to know what your clients want and how they feel about your services is to ask them. Many owners are resistant to conduct a survey of their clients, but if you don’t ask people what their opinions are, you won’t know what they are thinking. You may find out after enough people have complained and left the firm, but then it is too late to save those clients. You have to be able to take the good responses with the bad. In fact, the negative responses are the most valuable to you in terms of the ROI on conducting the survey. If you can change small things in your firm to be able to easily retain clients, wouldn’t you want to know?

Make their lives less complex! This is ultimately the reason most people seek out an advisor. We have all had clients that want to micromanage and get into the minutia, but your main service offering is to make your clients’ lives simpler in some way, not more complex. Adding complexity to your clients’ lives will only increase their anxiety about making the right decision about becoming your client, not put their minds at ease. Ask yourself in every interaction, recommendation, request, etc. - "Does this make my client's life less complicated". If it does, do it. If it does not, don't do it!

Creating lifelong “A” clients is about forming a deep and meaningful bond with each and every client. By asking your clients where you can improve and correcting those things, going over and above to give them a level of service they didn’t even know they wanted, and making their lives less stressful by making their decisions less complex, you will create that relationship.

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10 Years, 10 Truths - Number 6 OR You Must Empower Your Employees to do Their Jobs!s

Empowering employees to do their jobs is one of the quickest and most drastic ways you can change your firm. It is also one of the most difficult things for some owners to do because it means ending the cycle of micromanagement.

Micromanagement kills productivity and the morale of your employees. If you feel that you have to micromanage an employee, you either have trust or control issues. Trusting an employee boils down to the belief that the employee can complete their job accurately and efficiently without your intervention. If you do not trust that an employee can do this, you must either learn to trust through effective management-style communication with the employee or you must find another employee.

If the issue is control – whether it is over the business as a whole or over single employees – you must learn to let go or accept the fact that the growth of your firm is going to be significantly impacted. If you cannot avoid micromanaging because you want to be able to control every aspect of the work leaving your office, you would be better suited to getting rid of all of your employees and running a one-person business.

Empowering employees to do their jobs helps the managers free up more time to be productive and increases employee morale by giving the employees more of a sense of responsibility in their work. As employees are trusted to complete their job accurately and efficiently, they feel more responsibility for their own work-product and there is more buy-in from the employee in the operations of the firm. You can double down on this buy-in by including all of your team members in strategy discussions and encouraging them to participate in growing the business in any way they can. Once good employees feel trusted and that their input is valued, they will invariably feel less like a commodity in a business, and more like a valuable member of a team that is all headed in the same direction. This comradery usually lights a fire under people to help them better their work and attitude, but keep in mind this might not extend to a personal friendship. You sign their paycheck so don’t be surprised if they don’t interact with you the way they might with other members of the staff – and don’t take it personally.

Give us a call to see how we can help you achieve Direction, Implementation & Momentum!

 

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