(Image courtesy of Abee5 via Flickr’s /CreativeCommons)
A couple of months ago, I was the keynote speaker for an association of Insurance Executives in San Diego, California. These professionals were top producers, business owners, and insurance specialists who had the daily challenge of caring for clients, running a business, and leading a small staff. I was there to speak on one of my favorite topics, Winning In The Trust & Value Economy. After my presentation, one of the participants approached me with a great question. He wanted to know, if I were him (if I had a lot to do, limited resources to spend, and wanted to stay top of my game), where and how I would spend my time and my money next year to get the greatest return on investment and get solid business growth next year.
Again, this was a great question, and anyone who has read my book or heard me speak on the subject knows that I speak about the fact that these are challenging economic times, and challenging times that I believe are going to continue. And yes, I know that does not sound too motivating, especially when you consider I am a motivational speaker. However, let me say in my defense that I also believe, while times may be challenging, it is also one of the best times to grow and develop your business! You just have to be a realist about it, and you have to make your investments of time and resources wisely. So again, this was a great question.
Think about it. We are living in uncertain economic times; no one can predict what is going to happen. Will the economy go up or will it go down? Will our customers stay loyal or go to our competition? Will government regulations tighten or pave the way toward business growth? And what will our competition do, let alone look like, three years from now?
If there is so much we can’t predict, so much that is uncertain, how do you run a business (let alone grow one)? You invest in what you can control and what you can predict. You put your time, your money, and your energy into the best investment you can make in 2014. The best investment you can make in 2014 is in learning. Put your time and your energy into developing yourself and your team, and you will see a high rate of return on investment. In uncertain economic times, the better you and your team are aligned, focused on the client, and understand the profit is in the details the happier your clients will be, the more efficient your organization will run, and the more your business will grow.
So how and where do you make these investments? You create a learning culture, where learning and development are both supported and valued. You follow this four step approach:
- Train – Want to motivate an employee? Want to increase their efficiency? Invest in them. You need to assess your team and define what skills they need to learn. Then decide how and when you will train these skills. Do a seminar, a lunch and learn, a workshop, or send them for formal training. It does not have to be expensive, and it does not have to be time consuming, it just needs to be done.
- Coach – This is one of the most powerful and underutilized investments today. If you haven’t already hired a coach, make sure you know what to look for & that you understand your expectations. Setting one-on-one time, weekly or monthly, to invest in allowing employees to discuss with you what they are struggling with, what they are working on to grow and develop, and what specific support they need from you will not only ensure a better experience for them and your clients, but will go a long way in increasing their productivity and investment in the growth of the company.
- Accountability – Yes, there needs to be recognition of a job well done and consequences when it is not. Accountability is key for a time-pressed leader who wants to increase results. When you hold the team accountable for results, training, and overall team performance, you let them know what is important, you understand as a leader how best to help and support them, and you send a clear message that you care about their success and the success of the organization.
- Reward – Shine the light on a job well done, both informally and formally. When you reward and recognize what is done well, you both encourage more of that same behavior and you also reinforce to all of your team what is important, what matters, and where to focus.
Yes, 2014 is going to be a challenging year, but it does not mean it can’t be a great year, or even your best year on record. But to get there, you have to stand out from your competition, and you have to be the organization and the team everyone is talking about. To get there, you must invest in yourself and your team.