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A free monthly newsletter about improving your
people, processes, sales and marketing, financial
performance…and other interesting reading

November 2013
I recently travelled to the US for both work and vacation. I thought it appropriate to provide you with some reflections on the good and not so good of business practices I experienced. Also to mention that the highlight of my time was spending a week with 22 other consultants from around the globe in a Thought Leadership Symposium at Palm Beach, Florida - hosted by Dr Alan Weiss with Randy Gage and Daniel Pink also contributing during the week. 

To take time out of our busy schedules is a challenge for all of us but making the time and participating in high level learning environments with fellow peers is essential to be on top of our game, no matter what business or career we find ourselves in. Having others who act as sounding boards for ideas and plans, third party objectivity, assists in keeping us off the frenetic business treadmill we too often experience. To regain vision, identify the related key action steps and the scheduling of their completion speeds up our progression to the next level or growth phase. 


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The photo above shows the basic rules required for those who enter Venice Beach in California. Noticing the sign I realised that many companies head down a similar track. Often based on the premise that employees are damaged individuals who can't be trusted, management create and hand down rules, policies, procedures, standards etc in order to keep staff within tight boundaries. 

On one hand the sign says 'we welcome you' but the pre-dominate word is 'NO' - assuming that people are going to do the wrong thing thus the use of the word. There is nothing wrong per se with doing this (and public places need guidelines such as this) but when companies head down the 'NO' approach it creates the following:
  • a rigid organisation where your people don't feel they can exercise personal choice and discretion
  • the destruction of an innovative and trusting culture
  • clogged decision making processes - when rules have to be followed rather than people having the power vested in them for choosing what they deem to be best
  • fear based environment
  • a dogmatic and top down decision making entity
I like to approach working with people from the basis that they are healthy individuals and who can be trusted to make the best decisions for the company. This foundation, coupled with performance goals and strong accountability has the effect of allowing an organisation to flourish. Workplace rules, policies etc should be supportive not dictatorial. They are to serve as guidelines, akin to railway tracks to serve in keeping the team heading the same way.
Once these guidelines become dogmatic rules, taking away peoples autonomy in their work (which leads to a sense of mistrust of management), you will end up with a bunch of automatons, following the rules but lacking happiness and productivity in their work. This leads to lack of innovation and ultimately high attrition rates of good people. 

Base your company on trust. Establish performance measures and accountability structures that serve to promote people and teams, not merely just to keep them in their place. 

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Financial Performance

Travelling throughout the US gave me some good insight into the highs and lows of customer service, particularly in cafes, bars, restaurants and hotels. Two main observations here that you might want to consider in light of your own organisation.

Those in the US rely on tips as their major income. Some get paid as low as $2.14 per hour, having to earn the majority of their income from tips. The service I experienced was definitley hit and miss - more miss than hit. To be honest I was surprised at how often I received low levels of service. My initial thinking was that if they make their money from tips they would be more motivated to provide exceptional service, which in turn would give them higher income. I was wrong. What I realised is that due to being paid such a poor base wage, it increases stress in that their basic needs are not taken care of.   

I noticed in the places where the service was of a high standard also revolved around the owner or managers approach to customer service. The exceptionally high service I experienced at Felice 64 (who I have written about below in the Cellar Notes) was driven from management down. They were exceptional at making people feel like they belonged and the staff followed their lead.  

Taking the stress out of employees being paid a menial amount combined with managers leading by example are two primary elements to customers returning day after day (as I did at Felice) and the high tips that result. 

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Efficient Process

A Washington DC Hospital Fails to Put the Customer First

I ended up in a US hospital on lazy Sunday afternoon to receive a scan for a potential flight (DVT) related issue. As the afternoon progressed I was aware that I was a component on a production line, going from station to station and stopping at intervals in order to fulfil the various line requirements. It took approximately three and a half hours and here is an outline of what happened:
  1. Check in - name and address taken; tagged 
  2. Ascertain problem - this person took more detail about me and asked what the issue was; blood pressure taken and sent to a waiting room
  3. Junior nurse comes in and asks what the issue is, tells me to dress appropriately in the gown etc setting me up for the next person (turns out I didn't dress appropriately)
  4. Senior nurse comes in and does her check also taking a blood test
  5. Doctor comes in and does his check
  6. Administration comes in to take my money for the afternoons activities
  7. Wait till male nurse arrives to wheel me on the bed through the corridor maze to the scan room (I told him it would have been quicker to have walked myself)
  8. Scan conducted
  9. Wait for male nurse to wheel me back to original waiting room
  10. Wheeled back
  11. Junior nurse comes in and says scans will take ten minutes
  12. Senior nurse comes in and takes out blood test drip (after me going and finding her) and tells me that I can change out of the gown and wait for the report
  13. Report is delivered by the Junior nurse saying all is OK
  14. Process completed after approximately three hours and a half hours
The point here is the fact that these fourteen steps, (that obviously suited the hospital but totally missed the fact that the patient is actually the centre of the process)  could potentially have been completed in seven, drastically reducing the time by 70%. Here is the potential consolidated process:

  1. Check in 
  2. Nurse - initial check
  3. Doctor - diagnosis
  4. Walk to scan room 
  5. Scan conducted
  6. Doctor or senior nurse conveys results
  7. Billing

Design process around your customer. Their most precious commodity is time. When it comes to your business, list the steps involved and then see how you can drastically reduce them into consolidated stages. Treat the customers time as sacred and they'll beat a path to your door

Final Note: My tests were all clear. No DVT issue at all. Embarrassingly, the injury was actually caused from dancing in the wrong shoes. (I wasn't game to tell the doctor once I realised.)

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The Cellar Notes
Felice 64:Ristorante Wine Bar
New York City

If you're ever in the Upper East Side of Manhattan this place is a must. Exceptional service, Italian cuisine, unique wine list with an homely environment to match, Felice 64 is a place you will return to again and again. Apart from the great food and wine, the real highlight for me was the staff. All of them were friendly with no request being too much trouble. I think the telling evidence of this was the repeat customers. They knew people by name and their dining preferences. No wonder I called it my New York dining room!

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On The Lighter Side

Actor or...

Experiencing a jet lagged induced 4am breakfast in a New York diner, a young woman upon finishing her meal says to me: "are you an actor?" Feeling good about her question I responded "no I'm not." Her next guess... "a used car salesman?"

A momentary ego boost and back to earth again all within 5 seconds.

In This Issue:
Ray Hodge is the Director of Ignite Business Consulting. He speaks and consults to businesses & organisations, a notable event being the Department of the Australian Prime Minister and Cabinet.

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"Having worked with Ray on numerous simPRO customer sites he always seems to be able to find and drive the efficiency gains our customers are look for. 
He Identifies any bottlenecks in their processes and realigning their workflows with simPRO and the correct personnel within the organisation to carry out the tasks to create a very efficient end to end process." 

Stephen Bradshaw Director at simPRO Software


Where in the world is Ray?


Brisbane, Surat Basin, Bundaberg, Melbourne, Sydney, Cairns

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Sunshine Coast (Qld) - Nov 26 

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Copyright 2013 Ray Hodge. All rights reserved.


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