Friday, April 17, 2015

4 Small Things You Can Do to Make Your Employees' Lives Better

We live in an era when companies boast of providing their employees with organic cafeterias, in-office massages and free access to rooftop fitness centers. Other companies take a pragmatic approach with on-site daycare and large sunlit spaces that promote health and productivity. These perks can help employees feel appreciated, focus on their work, and develop loyalty to the company—but as a veteran business leader, Alexander Bouri knows that these things are not always practical. Many companies simply cannot afford extravagant perks, but that doesn't mean you can't make your employees' lives a little better. Here are four of Bouri's easy, low- or no-cost ways to do so:

1.  Open policy on Facebook – It's baffling how many companies forbid staff from looking at social media or, worse, install software that blocks it. This is essentially paying money to give your staff a morale problem, without actually solving the underlying issue (staff members with a poor work ethic will goof off with or without Facebook, and offline slacking is a lot harder to track or prove). Staff given a small measure of trust will by and large show that that trust is well placed, and turning a blind eye to fifteen minutes a day of Twitter is going to pay off in terms of creating a happy work environment and staff who want to stick around. Unblock the site and move on.

2.  Be flexible for family – It's one thing to say that your company values family, but it's another to make that principle a reality. Let staff know that you want them to put their families first, and then provide flexibility so they can do so. This could involve more flexible hours, allowing staff to switch shifts easily, and being liberal in allowing the use of sick time to cover family emergencies. Few offices offer this kind of attitude, and staff members will appreciate it.

3.  Provide healthy snacks – Every office has snacks at meetings at least some of the time, but they're almost always donuts or sweets. Add in the inevitable candy dishes on every desk and you've got a lack of healthy grazing options. Try putting out big jars of raw or roasted almonds (without taking away people's sweets) and add a veggie tray at the next staff meeting.

4.  Create a telecommuting policy – It's long past time to allow your staff to work from home, at least for positions where it's appropriate. Take the time to come up with a trial telecommuting policy and see how it goes. Ask for staff feedback and evaluate the policy after six months, making sure it meets company needs.

These are all small things, but they have a huge impact. How do you show your staff you care?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How to Pitch

When you're in business, you always have a pitch to make. If it's not to potential investors, it's to a major client. If it's not a major client, it's to your own board or leadership team, asking them to try things a new way. Sometimes, you'll even find yourself making a pitch to your staff—seeking their buy-in. In Alexander Bouri's experience, a good business leader is always pitching, which makes this a central skill of business. But how do you get good at it? Here are Alexander Bouri's tips.

1.  Jump straight into it – You might think it's important to start off with a joke, or a personal story, or a leading question. All of those tactics can work, but none of them actually tell your audience what you offer or what's valuable about your idea, product or company. The number one thing on your audience's mind as you start your pitch is, "Is this person worth my time?" It's best to leave aside the audience-warming tactics and dive straight into what you can do for your audience. Lead strong with a big, bold claim. This can be your promise to solve a major problem the audience has or it can be the biggest, most impressive feature of whatever you're there to pitch. Now you've got their attention.

2.  Keep it short – Shorter than you think you need to. Even experienced businessmen routinely overestimate how long they can truly keep their audience's attention. The reality is that everyone in the room wants to know the bottom line and if you can't explain it quickly, you've lost them. You might have been given a thirty-minute time slot to make your presentation, but keep it to twenty minutes. If you were only given twenty, keep it to twelve.

3.  Never read your slides – Slides are there as visual aids and to emphasize key ideas. Use only a small number of slides—maybe a dozen in a twenty minute pitch—and use words sparingly on them. This will force you to speak, not read, your ideas.

4.  Practice, practice, practice – The only way to get good at pitching is to pitch a lot. Do a practice run before any big pitch and do as many "little" pitches as possible. You never know when someone will become a client!

These are just a few of the things that Bouri has learned are essential to making a good pitch. How else do you keep your business pitches in top shape?

Friday, March 6, 2015

3 Ways to Increase Sales in a B2B Business

Almost all business blogs are written with retail or business-to-consumer companies in mind. Much of this advice will translate to business-to-business operations, but much of it won't. With years of experience in the cement industry, Alexander Bouri knows that selling to another business is very different than selling to consumers and he has assembled these three sure-fire tips to boost B2B sales:

1.  Spend more time not selling – Most companies are inundated with offers from new vendors, and that means they can feel as if their time is being wasted. Nothing is more important to a business leader than their time. Instead, focus on what they don't get nearly enough of: helpful information, advice, and resources presented free of charge. In other words, spend more time talking to potential business but don't spend all of it trying to make a sale. There are many ways to do this, from holding monthly networking events to offering classes, seminars, and industry news updates. Blog actively in your industry and produce valuable resources like how-to manuals and introductions to complex topics. Become indispensable to potential customers long before they buy anything, and they will think of you next time they want to place an order or invest in a service.

2.  Always be ready to undercut – Business customers are often far more price-savvy than consumers are. Good advertising still works in the B2B world but, at the end of the day, if they can get a better price they probably will. Use this to your advantage by being perpetually ready to undercut the competition—even if that means making less profit than you'd like. An easy way to do this is an introductory offer. Tell the lead that you want them to try out your product or service to see the difference it makes, and so you're offering them the first order or month at a special price, with no obligation to stay on if they're not happy. Then make that price irresistible. If you trust in your product or service to get them hooked, then this is a small price to pay for what will likely become a long-term customer.

3.  Always offer something extra – One thing that businesses and consumers have in common is that everyone likes a freebie. Whatever you promised to deliver, deliver a little more or throw in something extra you know they'll have a use for.

What else do you do to boost your B2B sales figures?