Managing Working Capital

The Fremont Group would like to share a NYT article about non-bank sources of working capital – the cash needed to run your business while wating for invoices to be paid. New online lenders are proliferating, often extending credit based on invoiced revenue. One online lender we support is The Finance Store. Bank loans cause you to lose time and waste effort filling out miles of paperwork and then they leave you hanging on for a decision. Online lenders are much more flexible, leaving you to use your time most effectively – running your business.

The Cost of Not Seeking Help

On TFG’s Linkedin page, we recently commented on a kickstarter campaign which crashed and burned violently. Worst of all, the project could easily have been a success if only a few key actions had been taken.
Summary: The project was an affordable espresso machine for the home market. Founders just wanted to crowd fund a small production run of 50 units to be made by hand. In pricing the product, the founders discounted their labor to zero. When posting their project, they did not restrict the number of units which could be ordered. In the end, they found themselves on the hook for producing 2000 units. The project collapsed because the cost of creating and perfecting a factory production process was too high. No units were ever shipped.
Their key failing was not seeking advice on their plan from trusted advisors. At the outset, it would be easy to see the project could easily spiral out of control if demand exceeded the 50 units which could be produced. Thus exposing the project’s weaknesses before anything negative happened.
No matter how long you’ve been in business, there’s no excuse for this type of oversight. If you want an honest assessment of your business or strategy, schedule a free webinar with TFG. We’d love the opportunity to earn your trust.

CASE STUDY: MANAGEMENT BY COMMITTEE

Consulting firms who want to post a case study must complete on of our two standardized forms dependent upon whether or not the client has waived confidentiality.  Contact us at 303 338 9300 or by email at admin@tfginfo.org to post your case study.  Use the same format to contact this consulting firm about similar issues.

The Fremont Group works extensively with franchise owners.  In a recent engagement they encountered a franchisee who, despite being in the franchise’s top quarter of producers, had been losing money for the past year.  The initial assessment showed that morale among employees was very low; theft had occurred but not acted upon; their volume had significantly fallen off after their purchase one year prior; and three of the four owners had very little confidence in the fourth who handled the daily operations.

The Fremont Group immediately implemented actions to improve morale and terminate the employee who had been stealing.  Communications were significantly improved and employees were given a daily “focus point” for their work.  A monthly meeting was implemented to reward good performance and to obtain their “buy in” to improvement.  The managing partner was evaluated and found to be competent but not a strong “leader” in part because of his age and also due to the family situation that he faced on his board.  The company had no real concept of how their financial statements worked so sessions were done to teach them what they mean and to create key profit variables that they would track in a flash report.  This was implemented but two larger problems emerged: (1) the four owners were all family members and had a very difficult time putting aside their “baggage”; and (2) the accounting upon which the flash reports were based was extremely inaccurate.

Counseling the owners improved their ability to function.  They communicated better and were able to put aside some of the family issues.  Unfortunately, the partner responsible for accounting (also the daughter of one owner, sister of another, and sister-in-law of the managing partner), simply was not capable of producing accurate statements.  Both the managing partner and the accounting partner were being paid in excess of what the company could pay to have their services performed by third-parties—but this was in part why the four of them bought the business to begin with!

Recommendation:  Significantly cut the hours of the managing partner, pay him hourly, and have him complete the essential functions that the current employees could not perform.  Terminate the services of the accounting partner and contract for them at market.  These actions will reduce the overhead of the company to a level where profitability can be achieved.  All four partners must then cooperate to implement a marketing plan.

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Disclaimer—the posts and comments do not represent the endorsement of The Fremont Group nor will the opinions expressed represent the opinions of The Fremont Group.  The Fremont Group will monitor posts and comments to block those that are offensive, malicious, or are personal attacks upon individuals or companies.  Any person who sees such a post and feels that it meets this criteria should contact us immediately.

5 Ways to Reward Your All-Star Employees

Article from Inc Magazine–Full article found at http://www.inc.com/jay-love/5-ways-to-boost-employee-recognition.html?utm_source=money-and-finance&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=incid40486week07

There’s no such thing as too much employee recognition. Learn five ways to reward your team.

By Jay Love

I hope you’ll agree with me after reading this post that there is no such thing as too much employee recognition. In fact, I would imagine that the average employee at most companies is starving for recognition of any type. Heck, most of them rarely see any feedback at all except for the “dreaded annual review,” but that’s a subject deserving of its own blog post.

Over the course of leading numerous organizations I’ve had the privilege of being a part of, our teams used personality testing to supplement our training of staff. For every type of role, 85 percent or more of the people tested replied that they would be much happier and would work harder if they were recognized for their efforts. This seemed like a no-brainer to me since most of my teachers—at every level of my education—used this strategy wisely.

If you’re familiar with The Carrot Principle, you probably remember reading about how beneficial employee recognition can be to a company’s bottom line. The authors described a study of 200,000 employees that revealed that employee recognition not only increased efficiency, but paid off significantly for the companies that effectively implemented them.  In some cases, these companies’ return on equity and assets were as much as three times as higher than that of other companies.

So, why are so many leaders still neglecting this invaluable practice? I believe many do for various reasons. Here are a few that immediately come to mind:

  1. That is precisely how they have seen it done time and time again in previous organizations.
  2. Most leaders received so little recognition on a regular basis themselves that they have no idea how powerful it can be in growing and retaining staff.
  3. It takes extra effort.

If you’re among the leaders within your organization, you may be able to initiate some change at your workplace. Start by sharing this list of five ways to boost employee recognition. I hope you and your co-workers will like them as much as our staff here at Slingshot SEO does! Here goes…

5 ways to provide recognition for your team:

  1. Quarterly reviews. Mandate one-on-one feedback sessions between each supervisor and team member on a quarterly basis. To ensure these are effective, have each manager carve out one hour for each employee. (At Slingshot SEO, we review the status of each quarterly goal and career objective, as well as take the time to chat to know each other better. The goals and any progress are summarized in a simple feedback form.)
  2. Peer recognition. Each month, I solicit open nominations for Slingshot SEO’s Outstanding Team Member of the Month. Each employee with at least 60 seconds to spare can e-mail me with their recommendations. Although just two are publicly honored at each monthly meeting, many others are encouraged by this program: I always forward the e-mails of the remarkable kudos to all the nominees along with a few comments of my own.
  3. Team highlights. Insist on your department heads sharing stories from their departments and highlighting the achievements of team members at the monthly All-Company Meeting. Lively presentations that include photographs, videos and client comments make this one even better!
  4. Yearly awards ceremony. Hold an Annual Award Event for your organization. (We award a Rookie of the Year, Most Improved, Innovator of the Year and Employee of the Year, plus we invite our Customer of the Year and Partner of the Year to make the event memorable.)
  5. Spontaneous kudos. Insist that every supervisor works hard to catch a team member doing something right or special as they wander around or peruse communications. When they do, have them point it out in front of the person’s peers or via departmental e-mail. (The more often the better, but beware… large smiles might take over your office.)

Be bold and give one or all of these a try, then please let me know if any of these suggestions are making a difference at your organization.

4 Rewards That Are More Powerful Than Money

This post is from Inc. Magazine.  For the entire article go to: http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/4-employee-rewards-that-are-more-powerful-than-money.html?utm_source=innovation&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=incid40449week06&nav=su

They reinforce positive behaviors, boost motivation, and build employees’ self-esteem. Bonus: They won’t cost you anything.

By Jeff Haden

Formal employee recognition programs can be effective, but many formal programs only pay lip service to recognizing employee performance.

Real praise should reward effort and accomplishment, reinforce positive behaviors, build self-esteem and confidence, and boost motivation and enthusiasm.

Do your formal recognition programs accomplish all that?

I’m guessing no.

Here are four informal and powerful ways to praise your employees:

Ask for ideas. Don’t just ask, “Do you have any ideas for how we can help you do your job better?” (Certainly ask that, but sometimes go farther.) Build off skills or insights they possess to use them in other ways.

Say a warehouse employee is incredibly organized. Say, “I am always impressed by how organized you are. I wish there was a way to clone you.” Then ask if she has thoughts about how to streamline order processing, or ways to reduce the flow of paperwork, or how another department could more efficiently collect data.

Not only will you get great ideas, but you also recognize skill and ability in powerful way.

Ask for help. Asking another person for help is one of the sincerest ways to recognize their abilities and value. Ask employees for help and you show you respect their skills and you extend a measure of trust.

The key is to ask for help partly or totally unrelated to their function, and to make the assistance relatively personal to you. I once went to a meeting to talk about layoffs; by the time I got back to the plant word had already spread that cuts were coming. One of my employees said, “So, layoffs, huh?” I didn’t have to confirm it; he knew. I said, “I have no idea what to tell our employees. What would you say?”

He thought and said, “Just tell everyone you tried. Then talk about where we go from here.”

Simple? Sure, but powerful too. He later told me how much it meant to him that I had asked for his opinion and taken his advice.

Create informal leadership roles. Putting an employee in a short-term informal leadership role can make a major impact. Think how you would feel if you had a boss and she said, “We have a huge problem with a customer. If we don’t take care of it we may lose them. Can you grab a few people and handle it for me?”

Informal leadership roles show you trust an employee’s skills and judgment. The more important the task, the higher the implied praise and the greater the boost to their self esteem.

Team up. You and your employees are on unequal footing since you’re the boss. A great way to recognize an employee’s value—especially to you—is to take on a task together.

What you choose to do together doesn’t have to be outside work, of course. The key is to do something as relative equals, not as boss and employee. Unequal separates, while equal elevates.

Years ago my boss said, “I’m thinking of joining Toastmasters to improve my presentation skills. Would you be interested in joining with me? It might be good for both of us, since someday you’ll be making lots of presentations.” I was flattered he asked and flattered he saw me as someone who would someday be in a position to speak to groups of people.

Verbal praise is great, but at times implied praise can be even more powerful. Ask for help or ideas, put an employee in charge, drop hierarchical roles, and work together. Each is a powerful way to recognize the true value of your employees—and to show you trust them, which is the highest praise of all.

The Fremont Group provides Success Partners–former small business owners dedicated to the achievement of your goals.  Become a member and take advantage of your Annual Business Physical!

Business Boot Camp—Are You Ready?

Are you ready for 2012? Has the last year gone as you planned? Measure twice; cut once is an expression that applies just as aptly to your business as it does to construction. You may not have achieved all you thought you would in 2011 but don’t let a lack of preparation be the cause of a repeat in 2011. You can decide to do everything possible to change in 2012 or choose to just see what happens. Start off right

The Fremont Group offers their “Business Boot Camp” to all members. You will be assigned a Success Partner who, in one week, will tear your business apart and lay out a plan for SUCCESS IN 2012. They are not “yes men” so be prepared. The Fremont Business Boot Camp is not a seminar—it is an intensive implementation package designed to implement change; not talk about it. If you are not committed to change you should not enlist.

Who is eligible:

Your company must have more than 5 employees and have been in business more than two years. (Call for separate camps for start-up and small firms.)

You must be a “working owner” who is open to change.

You may not have more than 100 employees.

What you will get:

  • Your entire company will become focused and “on the same page.”
  • Obstacles to achieving your results will be aired, addressed and the entire organization will be utilized to eliminate those obstacles.
  • Employee productivity will increase through “buy in” and proper use of accountability and incentives.
  • You will have a clear game plan that is designed to “win the game.” You will no longer be the football coach with a game plan that says, “if everything goes right we will only lose by a touchdown.”
  • What the bank wants to know and how to present it.
  • You will have a foundation for long-term success.
  • Your organization will have a new appreciation of your role as owner of the company.

How you will get it (Sample Agenda):[1]

Monday

Morning: Introduction to staff and tour facility. Meet with owners and key employees and distribute Minding My Own Business questionnaires. Gather financial information.

Afternoon: Identify your goals for 2012 and become familiar with your operations. Gather questionnaires and any additional information needed to complete a SWOT analysis of the company.

Evening: Success Partner completes financial analysis and analysis of the company and analysis of company morale and organizational issues.

Tuesday

Breakfast: Success Partner and Head of Accounting

Morning: Meet with owners to review their analysis of current financial position. Present Accounting 101 to owners and financial staff (if required). Establish company budget and KPI’s. Assign Head of Sales to prepare a summary of the company’s “Sales System” for presentation on Wednesday.

Afternoon: Review the findings from the Employee questionnaires and interviews with owners. Contrast those findings with the owner’s perceptions. Identify current methods of employee accountability and incentives and develop the framework for desired methods of employee accountability and incentives.

Evening: Owners take Success Partner and key personnel to dinner—informal discussion.

Wednesday

Breakfast: Success Partner and Head of Sales

Morning: Review with owners the presentation of the current “Sales System”

Review company goals and re-write them as required. Present SWOT analysis for discussion (Strengths; Weaknesses; Opportunities and Threats). Determine how these should be presented to the staff.

Afternoon: Company meeting. Present SWOT analysis. Review findings of the first two days. Solicit input from the organization. Conclude with the establishment of a management committee (companies with more than 10 employees) and their first meeting.

Evening: Success Partner completes first draft of Action Plan.

Thursday

Breakfast; Success Partner and Head of Operations.

Morning: Meet with Management Committee (or owner in companies with fewer than 10 employees) to identify the five greatest issues facing the company and potential solutions. Review with owner and head of sales critique of the “Sales System.”

Afternoon: Meet with owners to develop a plan to address those issues. Develop a complete Action Plan for 2010. Establish benchmarks for progress.

Evening: Success Partner prepares formal Action Plan for presentation.

Friday

Breakfast and Morning: Meeting with owners to review presentation of Action Plan to the company. Presentation of the Action Plan in full company meeting. Wrap up.

How to enlist:

Call The Fremont Group at (303) 338 9300 and tell them you are ready for Boot Camp. Registration Fee is $9995 plus $500 for non-local travel; $100 for local travel. The travel and $4,000 non-refundable deposit is required to hold a date; balance due at the first meeting. Preferred method of payment is PayPal on this site. Companies who are members receive their discount.


[1] The agenda assumes that you business has a person who is the head of accounting; head of sales; and head of operations. In smaller companies the owner may double as this person. Other “tweeks” in the agenda normally have to be made to accommodate the unique situations in each company.

Taking your construction business to the next level

This article is from Business Owner Magazine published by the management consulting firm, Global Resources.

From Entrepreneur To CEO

By Joe Polizzotti on Oct 25, 2011

It takes a certain type of mindset to lead a construction company to success.

Most construction company owners started out working for someone else, became experts at a technical skill and then decided to go into business for themselves. Their desire for independence is rarely motivated by money. Rather they are entrepreneurs who want to steer their own ship and control their own destiny. But while an entrepreneurial mindset is necessary to get a company off the ground, it’s not enough to run a successful construction business.

The entrepreneurial mindset is one of “Yes, I can.” Entrepreneurs don’t believe they can fail and see every problem as an opportunity to be conquered. They have a vision and a powerful drive to achieve it. That’s why entrepreneurs are good at conceiving and starting businesses.

But once the business gets off the ground and starts to grow, the owner has to evolve from entrepreneur to CEO. Vision and drive are still important, but operating a successful business requires a whole new skill set. In fact, entrepreneurs don’t usually make good business managers because they would rather look for new opportunities and develop new ideas. They are bored by dayto- day management chores and don’t have the patience to develop and study operational reports.

Entrepreneurs who fail to evolve into CEOs as their companies grow tend to become “worker bees,” so stressed by putting out the day-to-day fires of the business that they forget why they went into business for themselves. They wanted to be their own boss, work less and spend more time with their family. Instead, they end up as captive slaves, working in the bowels of the ship, six or seven days per week.

Another contributing factor to this trap is that entrepreneurially minded, highly skilled business owners tend to be perfectionists. Believing they are the only ones who can do anything right, they see no need to hire a good leadership team that can share the management burden. Furthermore, with a “superman” or a “superwoman” taskmaster at the helm, employees never learn to make their own decisions because they expect to be overruled if they try. They defer to the owner for every little matter, which robs him or her of the time that should be spent focusing on the big picture.

As a result, employees don’t grow professionally and cannot contribute to make the business profitable.

To avoid this vicious cycle, here are four key steps entrepreneurs need to take to become CEOs:

  1. Change the mindset from worker-bee to CEO. Owners are, by nature, “doers” who feel worthy when they are “doing something.” The problem is they may be simply spinning their wheels.
  2. Create a business plan and stick to it. Focus on executing strategies with the big picture in mind.
  3. Hire or develop an effective leadership team. This includes defining the leadership team’s roles (including the owner’s own roles) and holding everyone accountable for results.
  4. Develop minimum standards for employees. Require key people to hold employees accountable for results, not for just putting in time. Without minimum standards, employees will set their own, which are probably not going to be in line with the owner’s standards.

With these components in place, the business will become profitable; the owner can focus on leading, rather then working and will have time to spend with family. Employees also will be more productive and engaged because they know they are part of the solution, not the problem.

Tools for Profit
Let’s look at some of these factors in more detail at an actual business: Onslow Stoneworks Inc. in Swansboro, N.C., which imports, fabricates and installs marbles and granites. For owners and President Mike Schott, working with stone and granite is a family tradition, going back to ancestors who came from Italy and owned granite quarries in northern New Jersey. Last year, revenues were just $1.5 million, down from $3 million a few years ago. “We were suffering terribly last year from lack of business,” Schott explains. “In addition to the sharp downturn in the construction industry, a number of other stone companies had branched out and opened up, and competition was fierce.”

Schott’s greatest worry was that a large percentage of the business came from a national chain and produced very low margins. He felt very uneasy about this unprofitable work and doubted whether his business skills were sufficient to sustain the company under these conditions. With the help of an outside consultant, he took the steps necessary to turn the business around.

One measure was to adopt a format to control inventory. “We set up a square footage matrix, which, for the first time, gave us a clear understanding of what waste meant to our bottom line,” Schott says. “In the past, we used to purchase raw material and use it as needed, and although we were careful to avoid waste, we never really saw the full picture.”

Another success strategy was to reformat Quickbooks to accommodate waste, cost and job tracking. “We’ve always been good at what we do professionally, but we were not as proficient when it came to finances and tracking our true costs,” Schott says. “Now we finally have the financial reporting tools a successful business needs to have.”

Using these new tools, Schott established how much square footage the company needed to produce per day, per week and per month.

“In the past, we did not price based on square footage,” he says. “Now, our financial tools help us understand where our line in the sand is as far as profitability is concerned. We know how aggressive we need to be to obtain jobs in a very competitive market and how much we need to produce to meet our projections. Knowing what our costs and margins are makes it much easier to price, track and stay on course.”

These new insights, in turn, allowed Schott to make the low-margin work for the national chain more profitable. “Knowing how much square footage we have to install per day to make a profit led us to change how we schedule jobs,” he says. “We consolidated trips—delaying some jobs and moving others up—to achieve significant reductions in travel time. We now make money even with low margins.”

Now, Schott has peace of mind knowing that the business is profitable. “A business owner gets up in the morning for the thrill and the excitement of making money,” he says. “As a side benefit, we love what we do. The idea is to combine both to make a living.”

“In order to do that, you must be 100 percent certain what the hard costs are, and you have to have the tools to evaluate how efficient you are so you’re not relying on gut reaction, but on black and white reports,” Schott continues. “If you don’t know what your true costs are to produce your product, how could you expect to stay alive when margins are so tight these days?”

Although entrepreneurs don’t usually start a business with the sole objective of making money, the only reason for being in business is to make money. Doing so requires more than an entrepreneurial mindset. It requires an organizational structure headed by a leadership team whose roles, responsibilities and accountabilities are clearly defined, and a system that allows the company to run without the hands-on, worker-bee involvement of an owner who has to make all the decisions and is the only one who can do anything right. The owner’s job description is to ensure enough business is being generated and then manage people to perform quality, on-time work so the company can make a profit.

The four principles of running a business are: Get the job done on time or sooner, within budget or less, without rework or overtime AND with control over material costs. Those four factors guarantee success. When one or more are absent, there cannot be a consistent profit, and the firm will wither away and eventually go out of business.

HIGHRISE CONTACTS, NOTES, CATEGORIES, TASKS, DEALS AND TAGS

The Fremont Group is recommending the use of Highrise as a preferred CRM program. It is the program that we use in our offices. This memo is intended to help you install, run and get the maximum benefit from the small investment.  To try Highrise for free click on the icon on the right sidebar.

Part one–Introduction

What is Highrise?

  • Highrise is Customer Relations Management (CRM) software. For those of you stuck in 1999, CRM software is used to coordinate your sales effort. Every sales lead is entered into the system and every time a sales lead is “touched” (any contact with them) the information is entered in the program. Therefore you develop a running log of all contacts that you company has had with every sales lead. This information is then readily available to anyone you choose to allow to see it—or not.
    • The benefit of having this information should be obvious. A phone call comes in from a sales lead and anyone who answers the phone can immediately know what has been said to the person and the status of the lead.
    • A second benefit is the concentration of all information about all of your sales leads in the same place. You only have to go to one place to find out email addresses (and send emails), phone numbers, addresses, maps, and all documents that you have associated with that person.
    • Lastly—what no one wants to think about—you have a significant CYA document. A record of everything done with a lead.
  • The second major function of the software is to significantly improve communications within your company. Beyond the obvious sales applications, the software allows you to create a “flow of events.” Every time a note is entered into the system a follow up task is entered with it. Then someone becomes responsible for following up to everything and there is a written record of the follow up to eliminate disputes.
    • The benefit of this is to eliminate the “cracks” where sales were lost simply because no one followed something up.
    • Secondly it saves significant time looking for things—everything gets posted on the software.

Why Highrise?

  • Highrise is “Cloud-Based.” This means that the program itself is never put on your own hardware—it is stored by the company on their server.
    • The first benefit of a cloud-based program is no one can screw up the program! It is impossible for someone to corrupt the program.
    • The second benefit is you never have to pay for up-dates. The program gets automatically up-dated from time to time without cost or time on your part.
    • The third benefit is that it can be accessed anywhere you can get on the internet. You can work from home, you can work odd hours, employees can check it on the way in, you can get it on your I Phone—anywhere you can get on the internet.
  • Price. Some companies spend nearly $100,000 on software that is only 10% better than Highrise and Quickbooks. And this doesn’t count up-dates, training and maintenance. You will probably spend less than $50 per month on Highrise. The downside is that you do have to pay the bill every month on your credit card or you lose your system.
  • Simplicity. If Playschool had built a CRM program it would look a lot like Highrise. You will have diverse levels of employee sophistication on the computer—trust me—anyone can run this.

How do I try it?

Go to our web site—www.tfginfo.org. On the right sidebar is an “ad” for Highrise. If you sign up there you will get a free month. If you don’t like it, don’t pay after the first month and you will not be billed.

Do I need training?

It helps. The Fremont Group will help you but first listen to the tutorial pages, read this memo, and have someone with some CRM (or at least basic computer skills) start playing with it. Remember you can’t hurt it. The issues in this memo will help you in setting it up.

Part two—Getting started

First listen to all the tutorials. They go a little fast so listen to them a couple of times. You need to get to know the “vocabulary” of the program. They are defined below but make sure that you know what the Dashboard, a Contact, a Note, a Task, a Category, a Deal and a Tag are.

Decide who should have access. There are some limits to be aware of. There is a significant price jump ($50/month) for having over 15 users. Start slow. The person who originally signs in and put s up their credit card becomes the “account owner.” The account owner and anyone you designate as an administrator have the power to modify the program—and invite or delete users. You should have at least one other administrator just in case.

When you invite a user, an email goes out to them. They get the instruction regarding how to sign in and how to create their own password. You will not need their password—but they will. Make sure they have saved their sign in and their password.

Make everyone up load a picture of themselves. It personalizes the system. You are the owner. As the owner you have some abilities that others do not. Go to “My Info” on the top right. On this page you will be able to receive alerts (as others can) but you also have the ability to Export data—this exports all of the data in the system to a zip file for backup. (Assume it will never happen but this is a good idea if you are about to be cut off for non-payment and it is simply good form to do so once in a while.) On that page is also information regarding dropboxes. This is for sending emails remotely back to the system. If you really are good you will understand and do this; if you aren’t don’t worry about it.

You can delete a user very quickly and easily. If a person leaves the company you can cut off their access immediately by editing the “Users” page. In addition, you should create “Groups.” A Group is simply a group of users that have something in common. The Board of Driectors, the Sales People, the Operations People, or whatever is appropriate in your company. This simplifies the control of access or sending of emails.

Then go to Settings. There you can play with it—you can always change it. Pull up your logo; enter your USP after your company name, choose your color scheme—customize it to suit yourself.

****hint. It might be useful for people not to use their regular email accounts for work. It can be fine but some people (myself included) have separate email accounts for work, for personal, and for sort-of-junk. Ask people what email account they want to use. If you are providing them from work use that, or, what we do, is set up a gmail account for each person as their “work” email.

Part three—terms

There are a number of terms that you must understand.

(Note—there is an introductory page that you can eliminate once you don’t need it. It will not be discussed here.)

DASHBOARD

The Dashboard is simply a running log of all entries made in the system.

CONTACTS

Your Contacts are all the persons and companies that you have as leads or with whom you do business. In other words—everyone.

Importing. You can import lists of people into the program including your customer lists from Quickbooks. Our clients who have done so were able to do it but it was not easy. You must export from Quickbooks to a spreadsheet, properly edit the spreadsheet and then import it to Highrise. Lists on Excel spreadsheets are relatively easy to import.

****BE AWARE that separate Contacts get set up for the company and for a person. This can cause problems if you don’t have a policy about where you will enter your data. We choose to enter all data under the person’s name rather than the company name. Remember if data is later entered under the company Contact, it will not be visible to persons who call up the Contact under the person’s name.

Contacts can be entered manually or imported. To enter a contact manually go to Contacts and on the right side of the screen click “Add a New Person.” You can also “Add a New Company” but in general we don’t recommend that you do that. We keep all of our records under the “Person.” (If you do otherwise and like it, let me know!) When you click Add a New Person a screen comes up where you enter the person’s information. More can be added later and it can be edited. You can also choose who can, or cannot, view this contact. A person without permission to view the contact will also not be able (or even aware) of the Notes and later entries relating this Contact.

On the right side of your screen when you pull up a Contact you will find a place to “Stay up to date on this person.” Just below that if you click “Turn on email up dates” you will receive an email every time anything is entered on this Contact. This can be helpful when you are waiting for someone to call or enter some record on a high-priority person. Be careful though—you can end up with a lot of emails.

Your Contacts can also be searched in a number of different manners. We will discuss Tags later but first go to your Contact page. You can find someone by typing their name in the box. This will search your Contacts for matches. You can also search for Contacts by City, State, Zip, Phone, Email, and Background by clicking on that search just below the box. Lastly you can also use “Show” and the drop box next to it to see a number of other possible searches.

*****You must establish a company rule. EVERY TIME THERE IS A TOUCH WITH A PERSON YOU MUST IMMEDIATELY ADD THEM TO THE DATA BASE AS A CONTACT. AS MUCH INFORMATION AS POSSIBLE MUST BE PUT IN THE CONTACT AND IT MUST BE KEPT UP TO DATE.

NOTES

Notes are the entry you make any time a Contact is “touched.” A phone call—no answer—enter it. A phone call—what did you talk about? Enter it. A note must be entered EVERY time a Contact is touched and probably every time anyone even thinks about the Contact. It is through these notes that you have the strength of the system.

Regarding notes. You enter you text in the box but just entering the text doesn’t finish your task. If all you want to do is record the note then to finish you must click the “Add this Note” box just below the text that you entered. More likely (especially once you get going) you will want to do more so therefore, after you enter your text in the box, click on “Show Options (files, cases, deals and permissions).” This opens up another entire list of options.

  • You can attach the note to a Case or a Deal. (This is discussed below.)
  • You can determine who you want to be able to see the note. If you do nothing everyone will see it. However there may be times when you want to select the people who are able to see the note.
  • You can change the date of the entry. Although it is bad form, you might be entering the notes of an out-of-office sales call you made at the end of the day before the next morning. This box will put whatever date you want on your note.
  • And lastly, you can choose to email the Note to selected persons or everyone. You do that by checking the appropriate boxes. Highrise then automatically sends the emails.

One other neat feature is in the sidebar of each contact. There you will see the contact information for your Contact including their email address. You should establish a company policy that all emails sent out are sent out by clicking on the email address shown in their Contact record. This will send out the email for you AND it will also post the email as a Note for all to see. Attachments included—which can be then opened by anyone with access to the Note.

Every time a Note is entered, a Task must also be entered.

 

Notes are simple. Just do it. Make sure that you click “Add the Note” so that it is actually recorded.

TASKS

The cornerstone of the Highrise software is the use of tasks. Every time that there is a touch with a Contact a Note is entered. Unless the lead is being closed, you also must assign a Task. A Task is the next thing that is supposed to be done to follow up on the Note. The consistent setting of Tasks changes your entire company. Things are now done and follow up becomes automatic. Each person starts their day by signing in to Highrise and checking their Tasks for the day.

Tasks fall into three categories: Tasks related to Notes, Tasks related to Cases; and Tasks not related to either Notes or Cases.

Tasks related to Notes:

After you add the text in the Note the box will, in yellow, ask you to add a Task to that Note. Click that box to add a Task associated with that Note. The Task fields then come up.

  1. The top line is a Heading Box. This can be used as much or as little as your company chooses. Keep the Headings short. When the Task comes up on the appropriate user’s daily tasks, this heading is shown first, followed by the category, the Contact and then the time.
  2. When is it due? When should the person see this Task? From the drop down box you can choose Today, Tomorrow, or a specific date and time. Or you can choose This Week, Next Week or Later. This Week means it will show up each day in the current week, Next Week it will show up each day next week and Later will simply post it at the bottom of that person’s To Do list indefinitely.
  3. Who is responsible? Choose the name of the person who is supposed to act—the person who will see the task. Unfortunately you cannot choose multiple people. If more than one person should receive the Task you have to enter the Task multiple times. You can (and often will) set Tasks for yourself. It simply is proper form to have a Task set with every Note and if the Task is for you, so be it.
  4. CHECK THE BOX TO LET EVERYONE SEE THE TASK!!! If you don’t check this box no one else will see the Task. Your company will undoubtedly create some controls to make sure the Tasks are entered and if this box is not checks that person will assume that no Task was set. There could be a time when you want to keep it private but that is very much the exception rather than the rule.
  5. Choose a Category. Default Categories are established for you. See Categories discussion below.
  6. THEN BE SURE TO CLIENT “ADD THIS TASK.” It is amazing how often new users fail to click this box and never actually add the Task that they create.

When every Note has a Task, follow up happens.

Tasks related to Cases:

Some of this discussion will be under Cases below but suffice to say that there are times when a Task is set for something other than a Note. In most of those instances the Task should relate to a Case. For example, if you need to have the company cash flow up-dated you might assign a Task to the accountant to complete the Cash Flow and post it in a Case called Accounting.

To set a Task related to a Case you use the same procedure as above. Start your screen from the Case and add the Task from the Case instead of the Note—often times it is from a Note in a Case.

Tasks not related to Notes or Cases.

These are done just by clicking “Add a Case.” We do this as a double-check on our sales follow up. When the Task is set for the next action it is common for another Task to be set a day or so later for someone to review the file and make sure that the follow-up plan is being completed.

Completing your Tasks

Each day each user starts their day by signing in to Highrise and checking their Tasks. As they complete the Tasks they:

  1. Add a Note as to the action that they have taken.
  2. Check off the box next to the completed Task. A line will go through the Task indicating that you have completed it. Do not use the trash can—then the task disappears rather than showing as completed.
  3. Add the next Task for the follow up—even if it is for yourself.

CATEGORIES

Step five above in how to set a Task tells you to choose a Category. Categories can create a visual reminder to the person who receives it. When you start there are default categories established for you. You can rename them, create your own or delete them. You can also assign them different colors. When a user opens their account and goes to Tasks they see the Tasks that have been assigned to them for that day. What they see is the heading followed by the Category in the color that you have chosen. To customize them for yourself click on “edit categories” and play with it. You can always change them later.

CASES

Cases are for actions that do not relate to individual clients. At The Fremont Group we currently have Cases for Board of Directors, Full Company Announcements, for each different category of employee, for our Alternative Marketing Plan, Office Expenses, Travel, and a few others. Each Case is customized to only allow access to the persons that you choose—others do not even know that the Case exists.

The use of Cases grows over time. We have our Marketing Associates post their daily reports in the MA Case; Board notes and announcements are on the Board of Directors Case, etc.

There are times when a Note that is entered on a Contact should also be posted in a Case—this is an option when you are entering the Note.

TAGS

Tags are the main method of sorting your Contacts. You create your Tag names. A Contact can be given as many or as few Tags as you choose and they can be changed at any time.

An example of how we use Tags is in our Outside Sales. The inside people call and set appointments for the OS each morning. As they get an appointment the Tag the Contact with the date (year/month/day) and the initials of the OS. When the OS picks up their sales leads for the day they go to Tags and mark the multiple tags of their initials and the date. A list then comes up for that day’s leads which they then download into an Excel spreadsheet. After they run the lead the classify it ABC or D and put the location Tag on it. Now it is possible to call up (and download if desired) lists of the A leads by a certain sales person—or any other combination. (Of course they also enter their Notes and Tasks).

Tag use is an extremely useful aspect of Highrise. Although its use is different in every type of business, the ability to sort out your leads and then be able to export that list has many applications.

DEALS

The use of Deals has to be controlled. It is nice that you can post a pending deal, won deal and lost deal and Deals will show each and total them for you but if you aren’t careful, Notes posted under deals will not show under the Contact and vice-versa unless you click the instruction to attach it to the Deal.

The Fremont Group uses Deals for our accounting and to track the results of all persons with whom we have had a physical touch. You will develop your own use.

The problem with Deals seems to be that you can’t delete them without losing the Notes to them. Honestly this is something that we are still learning.

Summary of Company Rules

  1. All entries are made under the person not under the company (unless you choose otherwise).
  2. Every person, vendor or client that comes in contact with the company needs to have a record created under Contacts and it must be done immediately.
  3. Every time a Contact is touched a Note must be entered.
  4. Every time a Note is entered a Task must be created—sometimes more than one.
  5. All emails to Contacts must be sent out through Highrise.
  6. Tags must be used according to company policy.

Example of Highrise Use in a Screen Printing Company

  • All Sales Leads are entered into Contacts. They are Tagged by Sales Person.
  • Notes are entered every time a Contact is touched and a Task is entered for the next action.
  • All estimates and sales sheets are scanned and posted to the Contact—anyone who takes a call can see everything that has gone to a potential customer.
  • The sales form is posted on the Note and Task is set for the sales manager to price the order. The sales person has turned on his email up-dates on the Contact so as soon as the pricing is entered he receives an email.
  • Sale is made. Deal is opened. Owner turns on email up-dates. Sales form is posted and Task is set for Accounting, Art and Purchasing.
  • Accounting contacts customer to verify information required for the account.
  • Purchasing notifies customer by email through Highrise when delivery of product is expected and again when it is received.
  • Art posts the work and communicates by email through Highrise with Customer for Art approval. When Art approval is received it is posted on the site and Task is set for Production.
  • Production schedules the run and emails the customer with run date. Task is set for Accounting to create the invoice.
  • Accounting emails the invoice to customer through Quickbooks.

When production is completed customer is emailed that it is available for

TEN RULES FOR EFFECTIVE MEETINGS

Communications are vital in an organization. Everyone loves communications and everyone hates meetings. The implementation of the following ten rules will make your meetings more effective and more productive.

  1. Every meeting must have a Chairperson who is responsible for the meeting. There can only be one Chairperson. The Chairperson has specific duties and will be held responsible for those duties. Their most important functions are to keep the meeting moving, stay with the agenda and to start and finish on time.
  1. Every meeting MUST have a written Agenda. The Chairperson must prepare the Agenda twenty-four (24) hours prior to the meeting. If the Chairperson is not the owner, the Agenda must be submitted to the owner for their approval PRIOR to its distribution. The Agenda must list
    1. Who is to attend
    2. The start time
    3. The end time (it can end sooner, it cannot end later) and
    4. The bullet points of what is to be discussed
  1. There MUST be a written statement of purpose for the meeting. In 25 words or less the Chairperson must write out the purpose of the meeting. This is the focus statement. For standing meetings the purpose is probably only written once and is reused for each meeting. This statement is read by the Chairperson to start the meeting.
  1. From its purpose statement, each meeting can be classified into one of three types: (1) Long-range communications, (2) intermediate-range communications, or (3) short-term communications. It is best if all agenda points are kept to the same classification. Mixing them is difficult.
    1. Long-range communications are agenda items that, as a rule of thumb, will have their impact in more than three months.
    2. Intermediate-range communications are agenda items that will have their impact one week to three months from now.
    3. Short-term communications are those that will have an impact in less than one week—possibly even the same day. SHORT-TERM COMMUNICATIONS SHOULD BE REMOVED FROM AGENDAS AND HANDLED IN HUDDLES, NOT MEETINGS.
  1. Use Huddles. For all short-term communications a huddle should be used instead of a meeting. A huddle is a “mini-meeting.” It is scheduled just like any other “meeting.” It must start on-time and it must end on-time, however it can be scheduled for no more than FIVE MINUTES. That is the maximum. Everyone MUST get up to leave at the ending time. It is not used for discussion, it is used for short-term communications—What are you doing today? Anyone need help with anything today? That type of communications. There must be a penalty for not being on-time or not attending. (For example, you must bring doughnuts to the next huddle.) No agenda, minutes or other formalities are used.
  1. The Meeting must START ON TIME with the Chairperson reading the purpose statement. The Chairperson then designates one person to record the “minutes” of the meeting. The Chairperson must be taught how to handle people who come in late. Usually the greeting of, “Suzy you are late, you can catch up on what you have missed after the meeting with me” politely and non-confrontationally gets the point across. For chronic tardies, some remedial action must be taken. “If you are on-time, you are late; if you are five minutes early, you are on-time.” (One effective technique is never to schedule a meeting to start on the hour—schedule the meeting for 9:58 instead of 10:00 and then start the meeting at 9:58—they will catch on and see that you are serious about time.)
  1. The Minutes of the meeting include the following:
    1. The date and exact time that the purpose statement was read
    2. Who was in attendance at the start, who came in late, and who left early without commentary or judgment

c. Notes are taken on a copy of the Agenda and are summarized into summary paragraph at the end of the meeting

    1. Time and date of the next meeting, if any.
  1. Use Action Pads. A piece of company stationary is taken to the printer and one-copy, three-hole punched pads are made. These pads are used as follows:
    1. The purpose statement is put at the top of a page and the Agenda is placed below it. This same page is then used for notes and the summary statement at the bottom. The minutes are also kept on this page. At the end of the meeting the copy is sent to the owner, the original is put in a meeting binder.
    2. Each action point is written out. The Chairperson cannot move to the next agenda item until an action point is written out. That action point describes:

i. The required action

ii. Who is responsible for it, and

iii. The date and time that it will be completed.

    1. The original of the Action Point is placed in the meeting binder, the copy is given to the person responsible for carrying it out.
    2. The person responsible for carrying it out writes out what was done on the bottom of that same page and returns it to the chairperson at the appropriate time.
  1. Use a Meeting Binder. For standing meetings a hard-covered, three-ring binder is used; for all others either a soft-covered binder is used or they can be consolidated into a master three-ring binder. This binder includes the Agenda, minutes, summary statements, and action points of each meeting in chronological order. The binder is in the Chairpersons possession during the meeting and kept in an agreed upon location.
  1. Have fun. The Chairperson should make the meetings move quickly and be fun. A trivia question about the company at the end of the meeting with some little prize, or have food available can be helpful.