Fulling Management & Accounting

Working with family

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Have you ever worked for a family owned business and you were not part of the family? This was my situation before starting my own business, Fulling Management and Accounting. The business had become a revolving door for the owner’s wife, mother, cousins, and so on. Each time a family member would leave, the business culture became more and more negative. Working with family can be difficult.

[column col="1/2"]You are likely familiar with the guys (and beards) from Duck Dynasty. Obviously, they are a sample of how family businesses can be extremely successful and beneficial for the family. However, in some cases, family businesses can bring blurred lines as it relates to management decisions. The added stress of family relationships in the work place can lead to decisions that would not otherwise be made.

Small business owners are forced to wear many hats and sometimes these hats can overlap and cause friction. Knowing what your role is at any given time is imperative, not only to the success of the business, but to the family unit as well.

One of my favorite stories of a family owned business was from a friend of mine named Joe. One morning Joe was working diligently at his home office to get an important report finished up. His wife, who served as his administrative assistant, walked into his office, sat down and started talking about the kids, laundry, honey do list, and all other home related items. Joe, in a frustrated tone, looked at his wife and said, “I am at the office and will be home at 5pm.” He promptly resumed his work. Obviously, working with family isn't always easy.

While they can laugh about the short conversation now, Joe and his wife learned an important lesson about identifying and respecting the hat being worn at the time. Knowing your role at any given time is imperative to business and family success.

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[message_box title="Need help creating a healthy balance in your family owned business?" ] Our business coaching services can help! Give me a call at (913) 254-7300 or email me at rusty@fullingmgmt.com

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Leadership advice from a father-in-law

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Have you ever received wise leadership advice from someone you least expected? Even though he has never owned a business, some of my best business and leadership advice has come from my father-in-law.

In Andy Stanley's message titled Time of Your Life, Andy recaps the story of Moses and his father-in-law Jethro from Exodus 18. As the story goes, Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt and as many as two million people were now under his leadership. Moses became inundated with petty disputes among the people and would end up serving as judge for entire days at a time.

Can you imagine dealing with every little dispute for two million people? Handling disputes between two little girls was challenging enough for me when my daughters were young!

“What are you doing? Why are you doing this alone?” Jethro asked Moses.

You see, Jethro’s credentials did not include a consulting degree or experience leading an entire nation. But he observed what was going on and provided Moses with some excellent leadership advice. The leadership principles Jethro shared with Moses are still applicable today:

 

  • Give your best time to what makes the biggest impact. What time of the day or week do you have the most energy and focus? Make sure you are using these times wisely and focusing on the tasks that are important, not just urgent.
  • Develop other leaders. In his bookThe 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell refers to this principle as the Law of Reproduction. He says, “It takes a leader to raise up a leader.” When you invest in developing other leaders, you create opportunities for them and free you up to focus on what’s most important. Who can you begin mentoring to become a leader in your organization?

[message_box title="Need help implementing these leadership principles?" color="gray"] Our business coaching services can help! Give me a call at (913) 254-7300 or email me at rusty@fullingmgmt.com. [/message_box]

It shouldn't take a heart attack to get good customer service

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Have you ever been in a situation where you absolutely needed good customer service but instead you were severely disappointed? My chest felt like it was going to explode as I stumbled off the racquetball court that morning. I wasn’t sure I could even make it back to the locker room as I was short of breath and light headed. I just needed a place to lie down.

Four tips to better know your customer

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Sometimes I think we overcomplicate elements of business and need to get back to some basics. I recently was reminded of one of these basic principles: know your customer.

Our staff was invited this summer to attend a conference put on by One Year Adventure Novel (OYAN), a new client of Fulling Management & Accounting, Inc.  OYANis a publishing company specializing in educational materials primarily geared for the homeschool market.

The conference was hosted at a nearby university and was focused on teaching high school students how to write stories. Since OYAN was a new client to us, we really were not sure what to expect. Our assumption was if they had 25-30 local kids show up for the weeklong workshop that would probably be a big success for them. We could not have been more wrong!

As we entered the large auditorium for the opening ceremonies, we were pleasantly surprised to see over 220 kids, along with their parents, actively engaged in the program. Kids and families had traveled from all over the country. In fact, some had even traveled from around the world to attend the conference.

One of the owners named Carrol, or “Mrs. S” as the OYAN community affectionately knows her, gave the opening remarks. Now giving the “opening remarks” does not adequately describe the level of enthusiasm in which Mrs. S engaged the audience. She was working the crowd like a rock star. For a minute I thought I was at a One Direction concert (or Everly Brothers concert for those of you that are over 50).

As the initial frenzy subsided and Mrs. S began to highlight some of the individual student’s accomplishments, I noticed something interesting: many of the kids had dressed up in costumes.

These were not your run-of-the-mill Halloween costumes. From where I was sitting, some looked as though they belonged on a Hollywood set. The costumes represented some of the characters in the stories the kids had created.  OYAN has taken the art of story writing and made it fun. They encourage kids to find positive ways to express their creativity through their writing.

It was evident that OYAN has a relational mission that allows them to truly know their audience. By knowing the students (the customer), they are able to create educational materials and workshop content that inspires creativity with their audience. (I wish my high school English teacher would have had this resource).

How well do you know your customer?

What can you do to better know your customer? Here are a few tips I learned from Mrs. S that should make knowing your customer easier:

  1. Be Available – Make sure your customer can reach you or your team.
  2. Forums – Create forums for your team and your customers to share ideas and thoughts about your products or services.
  3. Social Media – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Find out where your customers hang out in these areas and join them.
  4. Workshops and 1-on-1 meetings – There’s nothing like spending some face time with your audience and hearing their story.

P.S.  I’ll be working on my costume for next year's OYAN conference.

[message_box title="Need help?" color="gray"] Our business coaching services can help you identify ways to understand the needs of your customers and help you deliver! Give me a call at (913) 254-7300 or email me at rusty@fullingmgmt.com. [/message_box]

Managing monkeys: The key to effective problem solving

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Have you ever felt like things would not get done if it wasn’t for you? The truth is, there are times when our expertise is needed. But many times we take on other people's jobs and challenges instead of choosing to train them or equip them in problem solving on their own.

Karen called my office recently describing the challenges of her growing business.

“I’ve been working 7 days a week for the past 6 months. Everything seems to fall on me if it is going to be done correctly.“

As Karen began to describe her dilemma, she talked about situations in which her staff would come to her with production, human resources or other business related issues. Since she started her small business a few years back, she has grown accustomed to taking on the challenges and helping employees. Now that the business is growing the assumed workload has become overwhelming.

Karen’s not alone in her management style. I’ve been guilty of assuming other people's problems with great intentions of helping them. But what often ends up happening is their problem becomes my problem and I take the responsibilty of problem solving out of their control. We call this Monkey-on-the-Back Management: an employee comes into a meeting with a monkey on their back and leaves with the monkey on your back.

Think about the last time an employee walked into your office with a problem, or monkey on their back. The monkey may have been an issue with IT, HR, accounting, or a difficult vendor. How did you respond?

Help your employees develop problem solving skills

The goal is to equip your team to take care of the problem. Have them come up with solutions. Don’t let them dump the problem on you. Don’t let them leave their monkey in your office!

In the book The One Minute Manager, authors Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson provide some practical ideas on keeping the monkeys out of your office. The book presents several studies in medicine and behavioral sciences that clearly explain how equipping others is more effective for your time management than solving their problems.

Next time an employee comes to you with an issue, take a minute to determine if they are capable and equipped to solve the problem. If they are, start by asking questions that help them talk through the problem. Often times when they process the problem out loud, they will start to offer potential solutions out loud as well. This provides you the opportunity to guide and train them in addressing the issue without taking over. Sharpening their problem solving skills is not only beneficial for you in the long-run but it allows an opportunity for the employee to understand and find encouragement in the value that they bring to the team.

Unless you are a zoo keeper, keep the monkey’s out!

[message_box title="Need help managing monkeys?" color="gray"] Our business coaching services can help you identify ways to empower your employees and keep you doing the work that only you can do! Give me a call at (913) 254-7300 or email me at rusty@fullingmgmt.com. [/message_box]

A must-have checklist for buying a business

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Fulling_Management_Buying_a_Business_large Have you ever gone grocery shopping without some type of shopping list? Maybe it’s written or memorized, or if you are like me, your list is typed out and organized by grocery aisle (this is not recommended for those of you who are “right brained”). While we may have some flexibility when doing grocery shopping, there is little room for error when it comes to buying a business.

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Fulling_Management_Buying_a_Business_small [/column] [column col="1/2"]Buying a business is obviously an important decision with many moving parts. When considering whether or not to purchase a business there are many things to consider. Our due diligence checklist shown below can start you on the path to buying and operating a successful business.


Checklist for buying a business

Company Tax Returns - last 4 years • Profit & Loss Statements - last 4 years • Current Balance Sheet and Profit & Loss StatementBank Statements - Last 2 years • General Ledger Detail - Past 2 years • Copy of current contracts (i.e. leases, supply agreements, jobs, etc.) • 940's & 941's payroll tax - last 4 years • Employee list, job functions, salaries and benefitsCopy of insurance policiesList of equipment that you will be purchasing


[/column] It is important that you find out all you can about the company you are buying. Depending on your industry and the nature of the purchase, there may be additional items to add to your checklist. In many cases a business purchaser will use the services of an accountant and an attorney for some due diligence process. By identifying issues in advance you will be better prepared to negotiate the final purchase contract and less likely to have disputes after the transaction has been completed.

[message_box title="Considering buying a business?" color="gray"] Our management and accounting services may be a perfect fit for helping your purchase turn into a profitable business. Let me help you review the documents from the checklist! Give me a call at (913) 254-7300 or email me at rusty@fullingmgmt.com. [/message_box]

It's not my fault; A lesson in personal accountability

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Fulling_Management_Personal_Accountability_largeWe've all been in a position where we've seen people blame everyone except themselves for a problem. And if we're honest with ourselves, we've probably been in the same boat. One thing I've recognized, personal accountability is becoming a dying trait. A number of years ago I met with a perspective client whose company was struggling with cash flow. The owner, for the sake of this post I'll call him Brad, was doubtful he would have enough money to cover the upcoming payroll for his 15 employees. As I listened to him describe the situation, he made it clear that the declining economy and slow customer payments served as the root cause of his business problem.

Before bringing on a new client we typically go through a fair amount of due diligence. In most cases we review items such as business plans, QuickBooks data, recent tax returns, and other relevant information. It’s amazing how that data can provide some telling information as to the health and management philosophies of the ownership.

As I reviewed financial information from Brad’s company, I noticed a couple months prior to the decline in his cash flow that he had written two checks to himself for a total of $30,000. While there is nothing wrong with an owner distribution, I found it a bit odd that he would take such a large amount in the midst of an impending cash flow crunch. There was probably a good explanation.

Fulling_Management_Personal_Accountability_quoteWhen I asked him about the owner distribution checks and how the money was used his answer was, “That’s none of your business.”

In the book QBQ – The Question behind the Question, author John G. Miller, describes the lack of personal accountability as a problem that has resulted in “an epidemic of blame, complaining, and procrastination. No organization, or individual, can achieve goals, compete in the marketplace, fulfill a vision, or develop people without personal accountability.”

As it turns out, Brad used the $30,000 to purchase two boats for himself earlier in the year. While the down economy and slow customer payments didn’t help the situation, the real cause of the dilemma had been caused by the owner himself. Unfortunately, the lack of personal accountability had a devastating effect on his company.

Fulling_Management_Personal_Accountability_smallWhile you and I may not be out buying a new boat with needed cash flow from our company, we can all learn a lesson from Brad’s example. As a business owner and in your personal life, many of the situations you face today are a direct result of the decisions you made (or didn't make) yesterday. So don't take the easy way out by passing blame. Instead, be a leader that takes personal accountability seriously. Not only will it help you with items such as cash flow management, but personal accountability is a trait that will help you build trust and buy-in with your employees.

As a reminder of improving my own personal accountability, my wife Pam and I will be leading a college and young adult group this fall from the book Taking Responsibility for Your Life: Because Nobody Else Will by Andy Stanley. You can check out the intro of the series here.

[message_box title="How important is personal accountabilty?" color="gray"] I'd love to hear how your thoughts! Give me a call at (913) 254-7300 or email me at rusty@fullingmgmt.com. [/message_box]

Social media footprint: Know what's being said about your business

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“Where in the world did you learn about that?” Bruce asked me recently. What Bruce didn't realize is the power of social media and how his social media footprint can impact his business.

[column col="1/2"]Earlier that day I had sent him an email telling him what a good job he had done on a recent promotional video for Howard County Missouri. The video was well done and not only promoted the economic development in the county but also highlighted Bruce’s company Addison Biological Laboratory, Inc. Originally the video had been posted to YouTube and on the Moberly Area Economic Development Center (MAEDC) website. From there, a visitor to the MAEDC website shared it with his contacts on LinkedIn. As a Connection to the LinkedIn user that shared the story, I saw the video in my daily LinkedIn feed and contacted Bruce to congratulate him. Now I am again sharing his story and so the message continues.

From this simple example you can easily see how information can quickly be shared across multiple social networks. This opportunity to engage social networks creates a social media footprint that allows you to make key connections that can grow your business.[/column]

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[button color="#ffffff" background="#e77927" size="large" src="http://fullingmgmt.com/addison-biological-laboratory/" target="_blank"]Learn more about our work with Addison Biological Laboratory[/button]

So what is being said about YOU online?

A great tool that we use to manage our social media footprint is GigaAlert.com. The service offers free tracking and reporting on a regular basis and allows us to track what is being said about our company in articles, websites, blogs, and other online environments.

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[message_box title="Don’t get caught by surprise on what is being said about your business." color="gray"] Have questions or ideas on managing your social media footprint? Give me a call at (913) 254-7300 or email me at rusty@fullingmgmt.com. And while you're at it, connect with us on LinkedIn! [/message_box] [/column]

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Watch Bruce's video from Addison Biological Laboratory

Creating a positive culture with an attitude of gratitude

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Fulling_Management_Creating_a_positive_culture_largeI had the chance to sit down recently with Kevin, a business leader in Missouri, and go through the DISC communication profiles for him and his staff. It quickly became clear that creating a positive culture had to be a top priority for his business.

[column col="1/2"]One of the recurring themes that we discovered was a growing culture of dissatisfaction. The profiles indicated that although the company had been a great success recently, there was a huge disconnect within the team as many felt they were not appreciated. We discovered that some of the staff simply wanted affirmation, such as a “pat on the back” or a verbal “great job.” Others were hopeful for tangible recognition such as increased compensation, promotion, or a bonus.

Staff and management had begun to take on the “what’s in it for me?” attitude. This resulted in poor work habits, declining customer service, and an overall poor culture within the company.

If you had asked Kevin for the major reasons for his company's recent success, he definitely would have recognized the importance of his team. However, through this process, he realized that he was not doing a great job of making sure they know how valuable they are to the company and how grateful he was for their work.

Once he identified this issue, he began creating a positive culture by approaching the team with an attitude of gratitude. Kevin is now intentionally looking for ways to express appreciation. When I spoke to him last month, he said even some of his worst “what’s in it for me?” offenders had shown great progress.[/column] [column col="1/2"] Fulling_Management_Creating_a_positive_culture_smallFulling_Management_Creating_a_positive_culture_quote2 [/column]

Creating a positive culture for your organization

Three tips to creating an attitude of gratitude:

  1. Think back to someone who mentored or invested in you to help your career. Give them a call or write them a note to say thank you. Then encourage your team members to do the same for someone who has invested in them.
  2. In the last week, who on your staff has done a great job? Go tell them thank you and be sure to be specific. When they know that your gratitude is genuine and their hard work is noticed, they are excited to be doing great work for the organization.
  3. How, specifically, can you better equip each person on your team for success? Your team wants to be productive and successful as much as you want them to be productive and successful. When you ask them what they need or how you can help, you have the opportunity to resource them and unlock their full potential for your company.

 

[message_box title="Is it time to focus on creating a positive culture?" color="gray"] As part of our business coaching services, we can help you develop a plan to change the culture and increase productivity. Give me a call at (913) 254-7300 or email me at rusty@fullingmgmt.com. [/message_box]