Posts Tagged ‘eric woodruff’

Who is the Monkey on Your Back?

By Eric Woodruff, CPA
Manager, Audit & Assurance Services
ewoodruff@sponselcpagroup.com

Are you feeling overwhelmed? Do you look at your workload and feel like you have too much on your plate? It’s time to step back and dig to the root of the problem.

Business owners and CEOs can often be their own worst enemies. Their extreme work ethic and type-A personalities can push them to pick up other people’s slack and take on too many projects. Many times those projects are the direct responsibilities of other managers!

This is a pattern of unhealthy behavior that needs to stop. The point of operating a business is to collaborate with others toward a common goal — not to conquer everything on your own.

How do you get the monkey of stress off your back? Maybe start by identifying the non-performing members of the staff and determining the areas in which they would be more effective and efficient. Maybe they’re just not working on tasks that best suit their skill set or they weren’t given proper instruction. Ineffective delegation and lack of training are usually the causes of poor workflow. But rather than simply taking over tasks yourself when this happens, work with your employees toward improvement. Two heads are better than one!

A large part of being a business owner is about holding people accountable. If you constantly take on other employees’ workloads or make up for others’ mistakes, your team will never grow. Remember, there’s no “I” in team! Don’t be your own worst enemy or let the monkeys keep piling up on your back. Start spreading the workload around and joining forces with your staff. Work smarter, not harder. Hold your staff accountable!

If Sponsel CPA Group can assist you with achieving success in your business or personal affairs, please contact Eric Woodruff at (317) 613-7850 or email ewoodruff@sponselcpagroup.com.

Don’t Wait to Put Your 2018 Plan into Action

Eric WoodruffBy Eric Woodruff, CPA
Manager, Audit & Assurance Services

Now is the time of year when people look back on 2017 to take stock of the good and the bad, both personally and professionally. If you’re the member of an organization, whether as an employee, manager or owner, this is the season for things like performance evaluations, making goals for the new year and setting budgets.

If you really want to feel satisfied when this time rolls around at the end of 2018, you need to develop a strong bias for ACTION, and avoid accepting the status quo of yesterday!  Put together your plan for improvement, and put it into action – TODAY!

Not long ago we were speaking to a client who was talking about how 2017 was such a bad year for their company, but they had high hopes for 2018, with a list of plans to start doing in January. Our reaction was, if those steps will make a significant improvement in your operations and outcomes, why aren’t you doing them right now instead of waiting for New Year’s Day?

We all know how New Year’s resolutions tend to fade if you procrastinate about putting them into action right away. Without accountability and follow-up, they get put in a drawer and forgotten. So don’t wait for January 1 to get started!

If you’re an employee looking to move up the ladder at your firm, reflect on the things you’re not happy about from your last performance review, and set out a plan for improvement. Think about the skillset you want to build upon. Set benchmarks, such as monthly self-evaluations, to help measure your progress.

If you’re the owner or leader of a business, perhaps your plan of action is about increasing revenue or net profits, or articulating a vision for the future of the company. For a manager, your goals may have to do with improving operational efficiency and meeting the aspirations of the owners, or enhancing the working relationship you have with the team you supervise.

Most people find it difficult to truly hold themselves accountable. Endeavor to step back from your daily duties to give yourself some frank self-analysis that allows you to look for barriers to personal performance. Identify mistakes you’ve made, and take proactive plans not to repeat them.

If you start right away to set a really strong foundation for action in 2018, you’ll be better poised to ask the big question – “Am I satisfied?” – and come away with a positive answer a year from now.

Take the first steps now, even if it’s something as simple as scheduling time every month next year to do a self-evaluation of your progress, and perhaps asking colleagues and supervisors to give you feedback, too. Match their views with the self-assessments you perform to see where you are lacking.

The challenge is to open yourself up, be transparent and be willing to accept constructive criticism. If criticism is delivered in a positive way, it should be focused on ways of making you better. It can be hard to hear, but it gives you a solid plan going forward.

And don’t wait – start right now!

If you need any assistance with helping improve your organization, please call Eric Woodruff at (317) 613-7850 or email ewoodruff@sponselcpagroup.com.

Indiana Moves Up Ranks of Business-Friendly States

Eric WoodruffBy Eric Woodruff, CPA
Manager, Audit & Assurance Services

Indiana has moved up to two spots in CNBC’s rankings of “America’s Top States for Business,” according to the new list for 2017. The Hoosier State now comes in at #14, compared to the 16th slot last year.

The annual list looks at a variety of factors, economic and otherwise, to determine which states are the friendliest to starting and growing businesses — and which are not. For 2017, Washington ranked #1 and West Virginia came in dead last.

“Low costs and a solid infrastructure meet at the Crossroads of the World, but quality of life tends to lose its way,” CNBC said about Indiana.

As in previous years, Indiana scored very well on Cost of Living and Cost of Doing Business (both #2 in the nation). The quality of the state’s Infrastructure also buoyed their standing with the #3 ranking. The state also tied at 8th for Business Friendliness, tied for 10th in overall Economy and 24th in Access to Capital.

The state got dinged by coming in 45th on Quality of Life, 35th on Workforce and 29th on Education.

The state profile by CNBC noted that Indiana has a very strong bond rating and outlook (Aaa by Moody’s and AAA by S&P), low individual and corporate income tax rates (topping out at 6.25% and 3.23%, respectively) and a very low unemployment rate of 3.2% as of this May. Economic growth for the fourth quarter of 2016, at a feeble 0.8%, was down compared to the rest of that year.

After Washington, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, North Caroline, Colorado, Virginia, Utah, Tennessee and Massachusetts rounded out the CNBC’s top 10.

Although CNBC’s list is the most watched, other sources also produce their own lists of state business and economic rankings. Here’s how Indiana stacks up in a few of those:

5th – Best & Worst States for Business, ChiefExecutive.net

8th – Top States for Doing Business, Area Development

8th — 2017 State Business Tax Climate Index, The Tax Foundation

13th – Best States for Business, Forbes

We are proud of our state for business environment. We also believe these ranking will assist our state economy as we grow and develop our existing Hoosier businesses, as well as attract new businesses and talent to share in our success.

If you need any assistance with helping your business move up, please call Eric Woodruff at (317) 613-7850 or email ewoodruff@sponselcpagroup.com.

Speed is Key to Success in 2017

Eric WoodruffBy Eric Woodruff, CPA
Manager, Audit & Assurance Services

Technological advances always bring new opportunities, but also fresh challenges. Just a decade ago, a phone call or an email from a customer could be reasonably expected to be returned in a day or two. Now, with social media, texting, Snapchat, etc., any communication response that isn’t near-instant risks alienating a client and sending them running to a competitor.

Our society is undeniably a speedier one – so an organization’s chances for success rests more on being highly responsive in the manner the consumer prefers.

The speed factor also makes it harder to make your company set itself apart in its products and services. If everyone’s customer service is expected to be lightning fast, the marketplace becomes like the cavemen running from the sabre tooth tiger – the slowest one is the loser.

Think about Amazon. People have gotten used to ordering something at noon, and having it waiting for them on their doorstep when they get home. And with Amazon’s pilot program in drone deliveries, the wait can be cut to literally minutes!

That mentality is now spreading to every customer interaction and every industry. Business owners and managers need to ask themselves:

  • Are we set up to be nimble and flexible in responding to our customers and stakeholders?
  • How quickly do we respond to communication contacts?
  • How quickly can we adapt to new changes so we can beat our competition to the market?
  • Is our website set up so it can be properly viewed on a mobile device? Is it easy to find information on our products and services?
  • How can we make it easier to do business with our company?
  • Are we set up to meet the 24/7 demands of the e-commerce world?
  • How can we stay abreast of upcoming developments?

As a rule of thumb, any contacts from potential new customers should be responded to the same business day. The person or persons monitoring the phone extension or email address linked to your website’s “Contact Us” page should be your proactive point person. Even if a principle team member is not available, at least have a responder let them know when they can expect communication from them.

Just a quick acknowledgement can give the person reaching out that “touch” they need to feel their concerns are being addressed in a timely way. It is important to acknowledge the request and set the expectation of a timely response.

If you’ve ever participated in any customer feedback services, you probably know how important a quick response can be. A horrible client experience can often be rectified with a timely attempt to make good on any failure to meet expectations. On the flip side, a response that is late is usually going to be seen as lacking from the customer’s dissatisfaction perception, and any apology as disingenuous.

Even worse than a slow response is none at all. If you’ve been asked to fill out a survey from, say, a car rental company and gave negative ratings, you may have checked a box that asked if you would like to speak to a manager. Did that manager ever get back to you? If not, chances are you’re not using that car rental agency anymore. Today’s world of commerce demands immediate responsiveness.

It’s also wise to manage expectations for response, especially with existing customers. Have your voicemail message or out-of-office email function let people know you will try to get back to them within 24 hours. If that’s not sufficient for their needs, provide an alternate contact within your business who can jump on the requested task ASAP.

It may sound self-evident, but even an automated response that says “I’ll get back to you soon” is better than none at all.

Analyze your company’s response to communications and judge if your organization is meeting the speed factor necessary for success in 2017. Call your clients and vendors and ask them if they feel your staff is sufficiently responsive.

If the answers you receive are negative ones, take a look at your controls and processes to see how you can get things up to the speed you need.

If we can assist you with any process improvement, please contact Eric Woodruff at (317) 613-7850 or email ewoodruff@sponselcpagroup.com.

When Great Customer Service Is Not Enough

Eric WoodruffBy Eric Woodruff, CPA
Manager, Audit & Assurance Services

In today’s fast-moving world of instant and universal communications, the old standards for customer service no longer apply. It used to be if you delivered a great product or service on time and at a good price, the client would be happy and pass that information on to others.

Now, with online reviews, social media and the like, people will find something to complain about if the customer experience isn’t positive from top to bottom. And the “long tail” of digital communications means that negative feedback can follow your company around for years.

Take the example of going to a restaurant. They may serve the best food in town. But if they lose your reservation, or make you wait for a long time to get a table or take your order, or the waiter fails to top off your drink, you will probably come out with a negative impression of your visit.

The chef may think she’s doing an outstanding job, because the meals make it to the table with perfection – ignoring the other aspects that make up the totality of the experience. People may have come for the food, but they didn’t just come to eat! The “complete experience” is what matters and will be measured in the consumer assessment.

This applies to every other kind of business, too. We should look at all the different aspects of customer service upon a continuum. Just because you’re exceling at the primary mission doesn’t mean the “little stuff” can be let slide. Businesses need to make sure they are focusing on delivering a superior overall experience, from the first point of meeting to the wrap-up.

For instance, as a CPA firm we may do terrific work on a tax return, saving the client thousands of dollars. But if the return is delivered late, or our staff isn’t responsive to questions (via email or phone) and concerns or the attitude expressed by staff is less than enthusiastic and helpful, the good part of the engagement will be diluted by the negative.

A business owner or manager keeps a big picture on customer service to make sure their team is always striving for total satisfaction. Some even hire “secret shoppers” to perform a transaction with their company and then report back in detail.

This mindset should filter down to every level of your operation, from how a receptionist answers the phone to how attentive employees are to the client’s needs and desires. Is your team consistently hitting deadlines? Do they deliver exactly what was promised – or more? Is the quality of every single deliverable or meeting  exceeding expectations? Does your team return phone calls or emails in a timely manner? Is your staff positive and enthusiastic when interacting with your customers? Is your staff helpful?

You may think you’re already delivering great customer service, but the truth is there might be pieces missing to the puzzle that keep you from reaching full satisfaction for your clients.

Do you encourage your customers to give you the owner/manager “honest” feedback – good or bad?

Do you give your customer a demonstrative “freebie” if you deliver less than a desirable experience? Let your customer know you care. Do you thank them for their feedback? A quick email or phone call can be significant!

Everything you need can be summed up with this question: Do you make it easy for your customers to do business with you?

Ask them this question yourself, and you may be surprised to find that there are ways to improve their total customer experience that you didn’t even know were lacking.

If you need on advice on how to deliver next-level satisfaction to your customers, please call Eric Woodruff at (317) 613-7850 or email ewoodruff@sponselcpagroup.com.

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