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Lori Kleiman is a Chicago based business expert and author with more than 25 years of experience advising companies on HR issues. Lori has a master’s degree in human resources, has been certified as Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) by the HR Certification Institute and is a member of the National Speakers Association. 

Telecommuting and remote work remains a hotly debated topic with high profile supported and defectors alike. How do you personally see this trend develop? Have we hit peak ‘telecommuting’ or will the remote workforce keep growing significantly for the foreseeable future? 

LK: I believe that flexible work schedules are essential, but full scale telecommuting can be difficult to maintain. There is no doubt that there is a loss of camaraderie and teamwork with workforces that do not interact on a regular basis. I recommend organizations use telecommuting for those that have earned the trust on an occasional basis as employee needs warrant. 

Do you have a simple rule of thumb that determines when telecommuting is a good idea and when it’s likely to negatively affect the company? 

LK: Telecommuting can be used in situations where a top performer is called out of town due to family obligations and the talent would be difficult to replace. There are also many cases where clients are located globally, and a robust telecommuting program would allow staff to be located closer to the clients. I find the best solution is a flexible schedule that would require all employees to be in the office during core work hours, but allowed to tele-commute or flex office hours as needed. 

What are some legal or regulatory aspects of telecommuting that employers tend to overlook when first letting their employees work from home? 

LK: The first issue is with hourly employees. Because it is difficult to track when they are actually working, there could be issues with wage and hour if they claim to have worked longer at home then they are being paid for. We are starting to see some issue with workers compensation when employees work from home. There have actually be cases reported of employees on exercise equipment during a meeting or looking at email, getting hurt and having it approved for a work comp claim. 

Recruiting is a key HR aspect for many companies. What recruiting mistakes do you see companies make most often and what are some simple/inexpensive tactics that work best for attracting top talent? 

LK: In terms of mistakes made most often, it would be overselling a job or work environment that is not realistic. Paint the picture with candidates of what your organization is really like, and you will attract the top talent for your organization. Two simple recuruitng tactics I like are utilizing my social media network to advise of the opening, and having a robust employee referral program to get their best and brightest contacts 

Can you recommend a few HR resources (blogs, books, podcast, etc.) to our readers? 

LK: Of course mine! hrtopics.com and my new book is coming out mid-June….Taking a SEAT at the table; being a Strategic Executive who is Action oriented and Technologically savvy. Others that I like to watch especially is the work coming out of the University of Michigan by David Ulrich’s team. I also am fascinated with the Harvard Business Review - it’s much more approachable then I ever thought and they consistently feature HR topics. Final resource I love - Executive Book Summaries - there are a few companies now that do them but its a great way to stay on top of what leadership is working on. 

Thank you for the interview. 

Bitrix24 can be used as a Human Resources Information System (HRIS). Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB. 

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PickyDomains - World’s first risk free naming service 

Coming up with great ideas seems like an easy task, until you sit down and stare at the blank screen. Set up your own inspiration system so you have a deep pool of ideas to draw from, anytime you need them. 

Identify Your Inspiration Sources 
They might not be what you think they are. 

Spend a week or two noticing when you get ideas. When does inspiration strike? Backtrack from that moment until you find the ignition for the spark. 

Look at your input: what were you reading, watching, talking about, hearing, experiencing? 

Look for patterns. Certain people, places, environments, media, authors, activities. Your pattern of inspiration sources will be as unique as your fingerprint. There’s no right or wrong here; it’s just what sparks against the embers in your brain and lights up that little fire of an idea. 

Make a list. Once you’ve observed yourself for a week or two, you will see some repetition. Some patterns. You’ll miss some sources, of course, but this isn’t a once-and-done process. 

Make Collection Easy 
There are two components to regular, dependable idea collection: the capture method(s) and the storage. 

The Storage Bucket 

You need one central digital bucket. It’s a common pitfall to spend time comparing features instead of putting something in place and using it. Don’t get lost in details or organizational options. You don’t have to sort ideas into particular categories or hierarchies. Digital storage provides the power of digital search; keywords in your ideas let find things topically whenever you want. 

Capture Methods 

If you capture ideas on paper (which is great), transfer those to your digital bucket regularly. A weekly practice is often enough to keep the transfer from becoming burdensome. Set up as many methods as you have used or think you will use: voice recording, note-taking on mobile devices, video, photo, bookmarking, downloading files, saving links, etc. Link those capture methods to your central bucket. (Automation tools such as IFTTT and Zapier help with this part of the process.)

Let Your Brain Percolate 
Your brain needs idle time. In-between time. Percolation time. The time when you used to feel a little bit bored, or zoned out. Now you spend it staring at your phone.
Reclaim your percolation time: when you walk, when you exercise, when you’re driving, in the shower (one of the last reserves of digital-free thinking time). Your brain needs time to wander through the fields of information and ideas, to make connections, to remember, to create.

Schedule Idea Sessions 
Regular idea sessions can take two different forms.

The first is for idea generation. In this session you’ll purposely pull out your inspiration sources and start combing through them for inspiration. It’s a lot like those brainstorming sessions you know from high school.

The second kind of idea session is for saturation. The purpose is to immerse yourself in your collected ideas, not analyzing or “doing” anything with them, just sorting, looking, reminding, connecting.

Schedule idea sessions. Weekly or monthly or quarterly, they keep you moving forward. From either type of session, you should walk away with a list of ideas for development, either generated in the session or culled from the saturation. And you’ll be leaving plenty of ideas behind, in storage, waiting for the next time you visit.

Bitrix24 gives you free real time communication tools. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB. 

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Larry Mersereau is a nationally-known business growth expert,  author and keynote speaker. 

You wrote ‘Shoestring Marketing’ back in 1995, before Twitter, Facebook or even Adwords. Which techniques still works and which new ones do you recommend to your clients who are bootstrapping their business? 

Heck, back in 1995 almost nobody had a web site yet! Some things in marketing never change. It’s still important to clearly define who your target customer is, then focus all of your efforts on talking to them in the places they’re most likely to hang out about things that are most important to them. The choice of social media depends entirely on where your target customer is. What you post there depends entirely on what your target customer is interested in. Valuable content that will help them solve the problem or fulfill the desire of the day is the only thing that will make them stop and pay attention. 

You’ve said that companies need to treat their social media accounts, like a publishing business. Can you explain and tell our readers what it takes (to borrow your analogy) to get on a bestseller list. 

I was referring to periodical publishers. They create an editorial calendar for the year, then spend their time creating or curating content that fits the calendar. Every business is seasonal or cyclical to a degree. You should be timing posts to coincide with those cycles. And you should be creating or finding the content months in advance so you’re not under deadline stress. If you wait until December 1, to create your Christmas season content, you’re going to do it quickly and inefficiently. Plan ahead, create in advance, simplify your life. 

What is the number one mistake that hinders explosive growth even for successful companies? 

This is really back to basics: Too many companies change the look and feel of their business too frequently. They change messaging. They change layouts, colors, spokespersons, products, themes, tag lines… People have to see 
you numerous times to get to know you. But if you don’t look the same every time they see you, the repetitions don’t accrue. Every time you change your look and feel, even a little bit, you start over. 

To follow the previous question, what it the one thing that most companies can do to speed up their growth? 

The fastest growth will come from multiplying your customers. By that I mean going back to customers who already know and love you and 1.) selling them again, 2.) asking them for referrals, and 3.) looking for more prospects who are just like them. 

Many experts say that we are in the midst of DotCom bubble 2.0 . Of course, no one knows (yet) if it’s true or not, but perhaps you can share some advice what business leaders should do in this situation to make sure that they end up like Google and not like AOL. 

People are comfortable doing just about everything online. They socialize, learn, shop, entertain themselves…everything. That’s not going to change in the foreseeable future. 

Can you share your favorite growth strategy resources (books, blogs, podcasts) with our readers? 

I enjoy the information I get from Hubspot.com, and of course, Bitrix24.com

Thank you for the interview. 

Bitrix24 gives you Team collaboration software and tools. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB.  

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Engaged employees are one of the major factors in successful businesses. If employees are engaged , they feel connected to their work and do their work with passion. 
That passion and sense of connection helps engaged employees to do better work: they go the extra mile, see (and implement) ways to innovate, and improve your business with their enthusiasm and insight. 

However, only about half of employees feel engaged. The rest feel either not engaged (neutral) or actively disengaged (unhappy) at work. 

To increase employee engagement in your business, start with this list of proven ways to help employees connect, work with passion, and love what they do. 

1. Recognize your high performers. 
A little praise goes a long way. Like all of us, your employees appreciate having their efforts and work noticed. But noticing doesn’t increase engagement unless you also let them know that you’ve noticed. Simple verbal praise, alone or in a group, can be very effective . Consider instituting - and giving - regular awards or rewards. Make them meaningful to your business, and more specific than the generic “employee of the month.” 

2. Get employee input. 
Here’s a novel idea: instead of guessing, ask your employees what would help them to be more engaged at work. What makes them feel connected? Perhaps it’s having a big-picture vision, or big goals to achieve with the team. Or perhaps it’s having the opportunity to head up a project or work on different areas. 

Your team members can help you see the ways that they feel blocked from engagement. There might be bureaucracy, micromanagement, or certain processes that simply don’t work anymore. Your job here is being open to what they say and willing to change in order to remove those obstacles to engagement . 

3. Implement good leadership. 
A lot of employee engagement depends on the type of leadership in your business. If employees feel that their ideas are rejected without consideration, they stop sharing ideas. If they feel that negativity, gossip, and unhealthy competition pervade the work environment, they will either join in - adding to the problem - or they will withdraw altogether. 

Implement good leadership first by being a good leader yourself. Then make sure that the managers you choose value their employees, listen to their concerns, and help them to work in their strengths. 

4. Think in the short-term. 
Business owners and team leaders are always being told to think long-term, get the big picture, take time for high-level strategic thinking and planning. Those activities are really important.  

In order to increase engagement, however, you can’t depend on high-level strategy. You need to bring it to the day-to-day level . Turn long-term goals into short-term goals. Track them daily and weekly. Build in milestones that you and your whole team celebrate. 

5. Rework the meeting. 
Let go of the traditional meeting and turn it into something that employees look forward to. 

Each meeting you schedule should meet the following criteria: 
- Purposeful. A meeting needs a clear purpose that is limited (specific) and achievable. 
- Inclusive. The people directly involved should be there… and that’s it. 
- Timed. Set a beginning and ending time and stick to them. 
- Conversational. Lectures belong in classrooms; discussions belong in meetings. 
- Ended with an action plan. Everyone in the meeting should walk away with a clear action or set of actions to take. Otherwise, what’s the point of the meeting? 

Try a strategy and see how it affects your employees; if the response is positive, try more of the same. If not, try a different strategy. Engaged employees are well worth the effort. 

Bitrix24 is a complete suite of social collaboration, communication and management tools for organizations. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB. 

See also:

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Unhappy customers are part of running a business, though definitely an unpleasant part that most of us want to avoid. 

Avoiding the angry customer won’t solve the problem, however. 

Here is a step-by-step guide to dealing with an unhappy, even irate customer without losing your cool… or losing the customer. 

Step 1: Stop arguing. 

Don’t engage in the conflict. 

When people get angry, they want to fight. If they can’t fight physically, they’ll often settle for a vehement verbal sparring match. 

You can’t win in this situation with your customer. Even if you “own” the argument, yell louder, and make better points, you’ve only made your customer more unhappy. 

So don’t let your ego get in the midst of a pointless argument. Take a deep breath. Winning an argument does not win you a customer. 

Step 2: Remind yourself of the goal. 

The goal isn’t to win the argument. 
The goal isn’t to save as much money as possible. 
The goal isn’t to get the customer out of the door as quickly as possible. 

The goal is to do whatever you can to make sure that your customer gets what he or she needs. 

That doesn’t mean you have to give in to unreasonable demands, break company policy, or ignore common sense in order to make your customer happy. 

It does mean that your job is to figure out what, in this particular situation, your customer is really looking for. 

Once you’ve figured that out, you can look at your options for how to meet that need. 

Step 3: Acknowledge your customer’s pain. 

Do not belittle their frustration. 
Do not say things like, “Well, I don’t know why you’re so upset,” or “That’s not really a big deal.” 

For your customer, this is a big deal. When you invalidate their frustration, you simply cause more of it to bubble up. 

Acknowledge that they have a right to be upset even if you think they are overreact. Let them know that you hear their frustration. 

Step 4: Listen without defense. 

It’s human nature to defend ourselves against accusations. 

Fight against this urge. 

Let your customer tell her story without interruption. Don’t make excuses, even if they are valid. 

Don’t invent reasons. Don’t give reasons that are perfectly true and good. Don’t tell your side of the story at all. 

Just listen, without complaint or defense or excuse, and - if possible - with a sympathetic expression on your face. 

Step 5: Repeat the issue back. 

Once you’ve understood the entire situation, repeat what you see as the main issue. 
“You didn’t receive the product you ordered and then you couldn’t get a refund.” 
“Our employee was rude to you and didn’t help you find what you needed.” 
“The product didn’t match up with what you thought it would be.” 
“You lost time because of technical failure on our part.” 

Be as accurate as you can and rephrase as needed until your customer agrees with your statement of the issue. 

Step 6: Reassure. 

It’s a sad truth that customers often approach customer service providers expecting a battle. Past experience has trained them to expect such. 

Reassure your customer that you are not here to fight them but to help them. This reassurance can defuse tension and remind your customer that you are here to serve them. 

Step 7: Ask for a solution. 

This is a brilliant move if you can master it, and you can. 

All you have to do is ask this question: 
“What would be the best thing I can do to make this right for you?” 

Instead of presenting a bunch of options which the customer can shoot down, you’re asking for help. 

For your customers’ help. 

Let them rattle on for a bit, if needed, but bring that question back until you get an answer to it. 
“What will it take to make you happy?” 
“What would you like me to do to fix this?” 
“How can I make this better?” 

Step 8: Offer options. 

Once they’ve told you what they think would be a good solution, turn that into an option or two that you are willing and able to provide. 

For example, a customer might demand a full refund on something you simply can’t provide a refund on; so respond with an acknowledgement and then an option. 

“I wish I could give you exactly what you want - a full refund - but I can’t. Here is another option: a store credit for XYZ amount.” 

Step 9: Repeat steps 7 and 8 until you agree on a solution. 

You might have to go through these steps a few time. Be patient. 

Step 10: Follow through and follow up. 

As quickly and courteously and thoroughly as possible, make good on what you’ve agreed to do. 

Then follow up, some time in the future, with a phone call, email, or letter to your customer. This is truly “going the extra mile”; if you take the time to do so, however, you can turn an angry customer into a satisfied one. 

Maintain your calm, walk through these steps, and you can turn angry customers into your company’s biggest promoters. 

Bitrix24 is a complete suite of social collaboration, communication and management tools for organizations. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB. 

See also: 


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Sales agent management system

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Free business messaging software

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