All posts by Jason Barnes

Why You Should Always Verify Appointments (And 5 Ways to Do So)

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Why You Should Always Verify Appointments (And 5 Ways to Do So)

Getting customers to book appointments is one thing. Getting them to keep those appointments is another. In the never ending tug-of-war to get customers through your doors, take the time to verify each and every appointment.

Verifying appointments ensures they run more successfully. Customers are more likely to adhere to their appointment times, and you can keep operations running smoothly day after day.

Sounds great, right? Let’s dig in.

Why Verifying Appointments is Important

Verifying appointments has a number of external and internal benefits. This simple action can:

Reduce Cancellations

Cancellations do nothing but waste time. When you plan your schedule around appointments, you don’t have flexibility for anything else. The trade off is that you get guaranteed customers — until they decide to cancel.

Verifying appointments urges customers to honor their commitments. The more who actually do so, the more consistent your company’s revenue, and the better you can stick to your schedule.

Encourage Timeliness

People are forgetful. Customers can lose track of time or forget they’d booked in the first place, resulting in late arrivals. These push back other appointments, which stresses out employees and can frustrate other customers. 

By sending out verification messages, customers will be reminded of their commitments and be more inclined to arrive when they should. Timely appointments allow operations to run flawlessly.

Improves Brand Image

Show each customer that they mean something to your business. By reaching out to them in between the time they set the appointment and the time they arrive, you show how much you appreciate them. 

Be careful not to be too clingy. Too much contact can be off putting. Consistent contact at the right frequency, however, can be reassuring and motivating for customers, especially those on the fence about their appointments.

Solidifies Your Schedule

A well-organized day is a productive day. By verifying customer appointments, you make it easier to stick to your plan each day. When customers don’t show up, your mental bandwidth is spent trying to put together a new plan. 

By sending verification reminders, you’ll also receive cancellations and postponed appointments. While these are never good news, be glad you’re learning about them sooner rather than later. The fewer last-minute surprises you can avoid, the better.

Easy Ways to Verify Appointments

Appointments can be verified in multiple ways. Choose the one that works best for your business. Reach out through more than one channel only if you’re not getting a response.

1. Email

Send a confirmation email with the customer’s appointment information. Make sure to include the appointment date and time in large, bold lettering that’s easy to see. Below, include your cancellation policy, contact information, and anything else that might be useful.

With this route, you can also send promotions and coupons that can convince customers to book return appointments. Be judicious, as too many messages in their inbox will earn you a one-way ticket to the spam folder.

2. Text Message

Sending a text restricts the amount of information you can send, but it’s a more direct form of communication. In fact, customers are 35 times more likely to view a text from a company than an email. 

Be sure to get a phone number from customers when they book online. Give them control over whether they receive verification texts. Some cell phone plans charge by the message, so don’t assume everyone wants to receive them. 

3. Phone Call

Verifying appointments over the phone requires the most effort from employees. Assuming customers do answer the phone instead of letting it go to voicemail, employees need to be ready for any questions or concerns that may arise.

Despite your urging to the contrary, some customers will hold off on said questions until the last minute. You might have to recite your cancellation policy on command, or change around appointment dates for customers who failed to plan ahead.

While less efficient than other means, phone calls do offer a great opportunity to reschedule appointments that customers can’t make. Give your team members a customer service refresher if you’re going to issue appointment reminders through this channel. 

4. Social Media 

You might have customers who prefer to contact you on social media. If so, sending them verification messages through the same channel makes sense. 

Beware that other customers may consider business outreach on these platforms inappropriate. Unless customers have previously reached out to you on these sites, sending appointment reminders through them should be a last resort.

5. Snail Mail

The slowest and most expensive delivery option, good old fashioned mail can work in some instances. For example, if your business caters to an older demographic, they may prefer to receive their reminders in the mail.

With that said, sending promotions and coupons through the mail isn’t a bad idea. Customers tend to take them more seriously than marketing emails. Consider starting a referral program in which a customer can get a discount for bringing in a coupon and a friend. 

Keep in mind that you can stagger your verification messages, in case the first one doesn’t get a response. Two weeks in advance you can send out an email, and then one week later send a reminder text. The day of, make a quick phone call or send a message through social media if you still haven’t received confirmation from the customer. 

Get to Verifying

The sooner you start verifying your appointments, the better for your business. You’ll realize more consistent revenue, and your customers will appreciate having a slot saved for them. Start locking in your appointments today. 

What to Do On Days You Don’t Have Many Appointments

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appointment guide

The truth is, most companies can’t fill their schedules with paying customers from the beginning to the end of every day. How your business uses those lulls matters just as much as how it conducts its customer appointments.

So what should you do on days when you don’t have many appointments? Here are some ideas for making each day productive regardless of appointment volume:

1. Do a Deep Clean

With so many customers coming and going on a regular day, office cleaning can be tough to keep up with. But at a certain point, customers will start to notice the dirt and grime piling up. And especially right now, nobody wants to do business in a dirty space.

For the slow days, put together a list of tasks the team can do to tidy up. Stylists can wipe off their counters and give the floors a good sweep. Doctor’s offices can organize and shred paperwork. These jobs need to be done eventually, and you definitely don’t want to stay late to tackle them.

2. Declutter Your System

The online aspect of your business needs a deep clean just as much as the physical one. Take a minute to log into your scheduling system and web interface. You might  realize that part of your company website is down, resulting in the lack of appointments that day.

This is a worst case scenario, but the greater point stands: Any digital barriers to bookings must be eliminated. That includes email accounts, where customers’ messages can get lost, as well as SMS-based appointment systems.

3. Tune Up Your Marketing Campaign

When your booking slots are looking a little lonely, take a minute to review the marketing campaigns you’re running. To start reeling in customers again, they may need some changes. As time goes by, campaigns can get stale due to repetition. Mixing things up is in your best interests.

Think about what will fill up those appointment times again. Maybe it’s time for you to announce a new special, in which first-time customers get a 10% discount if they book online. Perhaps you need to put your focus somewhere else, like targeting a new demographic or platform.

4. Balance Your Checkbook

Your company’s finances need to be reviewed regularly. At least once a quarter, check your budget allocations. Go through your receipts to ensure that expenses are recorded properly. Check that your revenue streams are still flowing freely. 

While how you manage your money is ultimately your call, employees can help with many related tasks. They can take a deposit to the bank, count the till, or work on next quarter’s forecast. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

5. Make Some Cold Calls

If you’re really dry on business, try to secure walk-ins by making some cold calls. Cold calling may not be fun or terribly effective, but it can help you break even when the customers are in short supply. 

Say you’re a mechanic. You might call customers whose vehicles are due for a tune up and inform them about openings that day. Even if you can’t fill up today’s schedule, you can probably beef up your upcoming appointment list. 

6. Plan For Tomorrow

How can you make tomorrow better than today? How you answer that question will be unique to your business, but there’s a lot you can do to promote future appointments.

Take the time to straighten out your company’s online calendar. Look for events that have been cancelled, which you can remove to free up more slots for customer appointments. Or, you could do some long-term planning to help your associates learn a new service line. 

7. Hold a Meeting

When was the last time you got everyone together to talk about whole-company issues? If you see a slow day coming up, it might be the perfect day to hold a company meeting

If so, tell employees to hold that time on their calendars while you develop an agenda. Ask them about discussion items they would like to cover.

Company meetings help align your team around its goals. They also give your employees a chance to bring up any concerns they might have about the workplace.

Just be careful not to hold all-staff meetings too often. Not only can they become unproductive, but they may give your team meeting burnout. 

8. Close Early

If it’s been a slow day since you opened, why not close up shop early? Not only does this give employees a welcome break, but it curbs overhead costs like labor and electricity use.

You could also split the difference and use a slow day for paid volunteering. Although this means your team is still on the clock, it gives your company a good name in the community. Over time, positive word of mouth can bring in a lot of business. 

When all else fails, get creative with how you spend days when you don’t have many appointments. Get to know your employees or coworkers better, set goals for next week, or catch up on some company reading. The only wrong choice is to twiddle your thumbs. 

8 Appointment Scheduling Metrics to Monitor

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Data can tell you so much about your business. This information provides deep insight that verbal, qualitative feedback simply can’t.

With that said, crunching numbers takes time. Ask yourself: What do you really need to know about your appointments and scheduling processes?

With so much data available, it can be tough to know where to start. Begin by monitoring these eight metrics:

1. Percentage of Appointments That Are No-Shows

No-shows put a wrench into your operations. They claim key spots in your schedule that could be allotted to other customers, and disrupt an otherwise flawless system. No-shows every once in a while are inevitable, but knowing how big of a problem they really are will let you know when to take action.

Without data, gauging how many no-shows you have in a period of time is a guessing game. You can also look at data about late shows, another class of customer that can mess up the flow of your business. Cancellations add another layer to the equation, as these customers at least gave you a heads up before not showing up.

2. Ratio of Walk-Ins to Appointments

Appointments run more smoothly than walk-ins. Bookings follow a schedule that can be planned in advance and executed with precision. Walk-ins tend to be sporadic, causing employees to scramble to fit people into their rotation.

Put hard numbers to the walk-ins and appointments you get each day. How do the numbers stack up? If you’re getting overwhelmed by walk-ins, look for ways to tilt the balance toward appointments. 

3. Percentage of Appointments That Run Long

What is your target length for appointments? Making appointments timely helps you run a smooth ship. Appointments that run long disrupt your flow and cause a domino effect throwing off the rest of your day.

You can use performance metrics to see the average duration of an appointment. If this number is higher than your target, you’ll know you need to work on cutting down appointment times. Keep an eye out for snags in your workflow that might be contributing to appointments running long.

Take into account that some appointments, like simple check ins, only require a short visit. Be sure to differentiate them from other commitments, or separate them into their own categories. 

4. Appointments Per Lead Source

Although your customers make appointments through your website, that probably isn’t where they first learn about you. Where do they come from? Web analytics can help you focus your marketing on these sources. 

For example, you might find out that two-thirds of your leads are coming from social media. If so, you should spend more of your marketing dollars there because you know it’s a successful source.

Beware that these trends can change from month to month. Recheck this metric whenever you debut a new campaign or target a new demographic. 

5. Customer Demographics

Speaking of, what kinds of people make appointments with your business? Knowing your client base will give you a better idea of how to meet their needs. 

While checking customer demographics, you may also notice that there are key differences between those who hold true to their appointments and those who are more likely to run late or not show up at all. With this data, you can come up with ways to better accommodate struggling demographics.

6. Proportion of Positive Reviews

Ask your customers to leave an honest review after their appointment. Offer to anonymize it in order to promote honesty.

Both positive and negative feedback are useful to your business. However, it’s important to understand how your total number of reviews break down along these lines. 

An easy way to quantify this is a five-star review system. To adopt this, send out a brief survey to customers after each appointment. Make sure to include a comment box where they can explain why they rated your company as they did. 

Be prompt with sending surveys so the experience is fresh in their mind. To encourage them to take it, consider entering them into a drawing for a small gift or free services. 

7. Number of Returning Customers

Getting new customers in the door is a priority for any business. But the real challenge is getting them to return for additional appointments. Retention metrics can give you a sense of how satisfied customers are with your service.

It’s much less expensive to retain customers than it is to acquire new ones. Consider shifting some of your marketing spend from acquisition to retention programs. Perhaps punch cards, loyalty discounts, or customer appreciation gifts would help you bring in more revenue. 

8. Bundles of Appointments Sold

The more appointments you have booked, the more revenue you generate. That’s why many businesses would prefer to sell not just one appointment at a time, but monthly or annual plans.

If you use this model, how many of your customers take you up on it? Is it a third of your customer base? Half? Set a target, and use promotions to help you meet it. 

Make metrics your company’s north star. Data-driven adjustments will have your company running at full tilt in no time. 

10 Simple Ways to Make Appointments Memorable

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Offices across the country are slowly opening up again, and clients are making appointments that the Covid-19 pandemic had long delayed. Getting your customers to book return appointments will be easy if you make their visits memorable for the right reasons.

The better the customer experience, the more likely they are to become regulars. How you take care of your customers is just as important as the service you offer.

There are a number of different ways you can make each appointment unforgettable. Doing so will improve customer retention, garner positive reviews, and increase your company’s revenue. Time to get started!

1. Make Appointment Booking Easy

If booking an appointment with you is unnecessarily difficult, your customers will definitely remember it—and not in a good way. Endless back-and-forths or unanswered phone calls will turn into a consumer horror story that your patrons will share with their friends.

Make your appointment-booking process as simple and painless as possible. When you do, the thing your customers will remember is its user-friendly nature. Customers will tell their friends how getting in to see you was a breeze, instead of warning others to stay away.

2. Greet Customers at the Door

Start off each appointment on the right foot. Expressing appreciation for each customer as soon as they cross the threshold of your business lets them know how important they are. If, on the other hand, you ignore them or treat them curtly, that rocky start will be difficult to recover from.

Even if you’re busy with something or someone else, make sure that you or an associate acknowledges every guest who walks through the door. Let them know you’ll take care of them as soon as possible. 

3. Deliver on Promises

You’re doubtless using some sort of marketing to reel in customers. Now you need to make sure you back up all your claims come appointment time. Are you boasting the best haircut in town or the fastest service in the area? Prove it.

A memorable appointment must include delivering on these promises. Customers who come in hoping these claims are true will be pleased to see that they are—and they’ll remember that satisfaction when they book their next appointment. 

4. Give Little Gifts

You can thank customers who make appointments by giving them a gift. You might recall the excitement you experienced as a kid when you received a lollipop at the doctor’s office. That small present turned an otherwise dreaded appointment into a joyful experience.

If a candy isn’t your style, you can offer discount coupons or referral cards to customers. This will encourage them to return and bring a friend. While the individual proceeds of each appointment will be reduced, the increased business will make it worth the effort. 

5. Make Your Waiting Room an Inviting Place to Be

Reducing wait times is important for all businesses that rely on appointments, especially during the pandemic. However, there will always be variables out of your control that will cause waiting times to increase now and then. 

How you handle long wait times says a lot about your business. Make your waiting room experience the best it can possibly be. Consider providing reading material, a television, a frequently sanitized place for kids to play, or individually packaged snacks (at least until your coffee bar can make a return). Customers will remember and be grateful to businesses that make them feel comfortable during inconvenient situations.

6. Look for Ways to Educate

Customers make appointments in order to receive services. While you most certainly will deliver, you can make appointments memorable by adding a teaching element on top of that.  

For example, let’s say you run a chiropractic office. Instead of just aligning your patient’s back, you can explain your methods and the benefits they provide. Customers will leave feeling better physically while being soothed by their increased understanding. 

7. Focus on Convenience

The less your customer has to do at the time of their appointment, the better. Streamlining their appointment experience and doing any necessary work for them allows them to sit back and relax instead of stressing about details. 

Look for ways to make appointments convenient for customers. You might allow them to complete any necessary paperwork online or let them check in through an app to reduce wait times. An easy appointment is a memorable one.

8. Get to Know Each Guest

Developing relationships helps businesses retain customers, but it also makes appointments memorable. When customers can feel a bond growing between them and their service providers, the experience will stay with them longer.

Think of ways you can develop relationships with customers while they’re within the walls of your business. Focus on communicating well and getting to know their backstory. These efforts to reach out will make a long-term impact from day one. 

9. Ask for Feedback

In your efforts to improve your business experience, ask your customers for feedback after their appointments. This will prompt them to focus on the details of their appointment, helping them remember it more fully. 

Feedback helps you fine-tune your business approach so you can make appointments more memorable for returning and prospective customers. Proactive improvement will enable you to provide the best services and edge out the competition. 

10. Go the Extra Mile

Ultimately, you should strive to go above and beyond with everything you do. Customers will note the attention to detail, and the extra effort you put into your business will resonate with them.

Be careful, however, not to overdo things. Attention that borders on officiousness can be off-putting, creating a negative experience for customers despite your best intentions. Strike a comfortable balance. 

Making your customers’ appointments worthwhile will increase your client base and draw new patrons to you with ease. With these 10 tips, you can make your appointment experience memorable—in a good way.

How to Handle Internet Outages When You Schedule Appointments Online

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How to Handle Internet Outages When You Schedule Appointments Online

Appointments make customer service so much easier. Not only do they cut down on wait times, but they reduce staff members’ stress levels. 

Online scheduling apps let you manage bookings in real time. But what happens when your internet crashes? Without a connection, you can’t see what appointments are coming up — much less adjust them.  

Don’t panic — you’ve got this. Here’s what to do:

1. Call Your Internet Provider Immediately

First things first: Reach out to your internet service provider. They’ll be able to provide information on the outage and give an estimated time when your connection will be restored. If the outage is unique to your location, they can send a specialist to come fix it.

With any luck, you won’t have to go the rest of the day without the internet. Until then, use the remaining tips below to continue serving your customers. 

2. Change Your Voicemail

When your system goes down due to an internet outage, you’re likely to get a bunch of concerned calls. While serving customers already at your store, it can be tough to field these calls.

To limit the flow, change your voicemail message. In your new message, explain the situation. If possible, include an estimated time the system will be back up. Include any other details customers might need, such as a special number to call for bookings. 

3. Take Appointments Over the Phone

As a temporary alternative, take appointments over the phone. Record these carefully to avoid overlap with existing bookings. 

If you don’t typically take appointments over the phone, remind callers of this. Otherwise, those who didn’t hear your voicemail may assume it’s the norm.

4. Open Walk-In Hours

One advantage of appointment-based scheduling is that it lets you prohibit or restrict walk-ins. Consider allowing walk-ins until the internet outage is over.

Beware that this can get chaotic. Ask your staff to be patient and to engage upset customers in calming conversations. 

This option works best when combined with phone- and paper-based scheduling. Encourage customers who don’t want to wait to make an appointment. 

5. Keep Paper Copies

Digital scheduling cuts down on paper waste. But if you experience internet outages once a month or more, printing out the next day’s appointment schedule is a smart idea. 

Make sure your printout doesn’t just show your schedule. To confirm or adjust appointments, you’ll also need customers’ names and phone numbers. If you offer multiple service lines, include which one each appointment entails. 

6. Ask Customers for Verification

When they book an appointment online, customers will receive a message confirming their upcoming visit. If they walk in claiming to have an appointment while your internet is down, ask them to show it to you.

While you want customers to feel trusted, you can’t risk someone stealing another customer’s time slot. Even if it’s an honest mistake, the customer who’d booked it is sure to be upset. 

7. Call in Backup

If the combination of walk-ins and anxious callers is more than you can handle, call in some extra hands. Another employee or two in the office can make a world of difference when your system is down. 

Keep at least one employee on call for emergency situations like this. On most teams, at least one person is always looking for extra hours. 

8. Send Some Referrals

You never want to lose out on business, but you also want to maintain your reputation. If the internet outage is more than you can handle, send referrals to similar local businesses. 

Trying to balance appointments made without software with a rush of walk-ins is challenging. Long wait times can frustrate and drive away customers. This short-term solution will help you out in the long run.

9. Use a Personal Device

Chances are, you carry a smartphone. Keep your appointment platform’s login details handy so you can pull it up on your phone in a pinch. 

What if your booking system isn’t mobile-friendly? Use your device as a hotspot for your internet computer. Beware that you may incur extra charges from your phone provider for doing this. 

An internet outage is nothing you can’t handle. Follow these steps, and you won’t just make it through; you’ll be even more prepared if it ever happens again.

Should You Offer Unlimited Vacation Time?

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To employees, unlimited vacation time is a dream come true. But the question isn’t how to sell the perk to your employees; it’s whether or not offering it is a smart business decision. 

Giving unlimited vacation time to workers comes with obvious concerns. How do you ensure no one abuses this benefit? How much will it cost the company? Will it inconvenience the team?

Unlimited vacation time has its benefits, but it’s not without drawbacks. Before you roll out this benefit, think through them carefully. 

Why You Should Offer Unlimited Vacation Time

Just ask your team: There are plenty of reasons to make vacation time an unlimited affair. With the policy in place, you’ll:

  • Attract and Retain Top Talent

If you want to hire the best talent, you need to give them benefits they won’t find elsewhere. Top candidates will have several options available, and they’ll look beyond salary numbers to make their decision.

Offering unlimited vacation time is a perk that stands out. Only a handful of companies, like HubSpot and Sony, currently offer it. Make sure you can compete. 

  • Increase Employee Happiness

Everyone wants work-life balance. Both new hires and tenured workers will be happy to see this perk added to your benefits package. 

Taking breaks frequently helps to cut down on the stress and burnout of a 40-hour work week. While you can’t afford for employees to take time off every week, they’ll appreciate simply knowing they can step away when they need to. 

  • Promote Ownership and Accountability

Employees who take control of their time are more effective than those who don’t. They’re more willing to think outside the box and need less hand-holding for everyday tasks. An unlimited time off policy can instill that sense of ownership in your team.

The good news is, this policy can also promote accountability. No matter how many days team members take off, they still need to fulfill their responsibilities. Learning to balance their obligations and free time will help everyone grow. 

  • Save Money

Did you think you could cut costs by offering unlimited vacation time? The truth is, you can. As long as employees aren’t abusing the system, this policy has lower overhead costs than a traditional vacation plan.

With traditional vacation plans, employees accrue sick and vacation time based on hours worked. Companies were expected to pay this time out, even if employees left before taking their allotted hours off. With unlimited paid time off, employers only incur costs when workers actually take time off. 

Why You Shouldn’t Offer Unlimited Vacation Time

Not all organizations offer unlimited vacation time, and for good reason. Weigh these concerns against the positives:

  • Abuse of Privilege

While management always has the final say on whether workers can take time off, employees may still try to abuse the privilege. A worker who takes months off at a time with no thought as to his or her duties is not an asset to the company.

With unlimited paid time off, you have to be careful about how long of a leash you give. Allowing one employee to take a ton of time off for no other reason than because they want to can cause other workers to do the same. 

  • Underuse of Vacation Time

As strange as it sounds, some employees with unlimited vacation time actually take less time off than they otherwise would have. In fact, researchers suggest underuse of the policy is a bigger problem than overuse

Why? Because the policy can promote a competitive culture, in which employees take fewer days off to keep pace with their coworkers. They may fear taking too many days off will disqualify them from promotions or pay raises. 

One solution is to set a minimum. Perhaps employees must take at least one week off per year, but they’re welcome to take more if they wish. 

If you go that route, establish a norm. Do most workers at your company take between four and six weeks off per year? Then say so when explaining your unlimited vacation time policy. 

  • Misuse of Vacation Time

With an unlimited-paid-time-off plan, setting expectations is key. If this allowance involves trade-offs, make sure employees understand them.  

For example, must employees on the plan take calls and emails from work while out of the office? If employees are expected to be available for work every time they want a day off, they may not be so keen on the policy after all. 

Every business owner will weigh these factors differently, and that’s OK. Do what makes sense for your team; if it doesn’t work, try something else. Experimentation, including with employee benefits, is how great companies are built. 

8 Fall Activities Every Team Will Enjoy

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Fall is the best season of the year. The kids go back to school, and the weather cools down to a bearable level. But as workers break out their sweaters and jackets, they may need a boost before winter.

Team-building activities can provide this energy for your company. They’re a way for employees to renew their motivation and tighten the bonds of teamwork. After a summer of vacations, they glue everyone back together.

With that said, seasonal team-building events are key. Solely doing evergreen activities won’t provide the same spark. These activities are especially suited to the fall:

1. Take a camping trip.

Fall is one of the best times to go camping. You don’t have to worry about sweating so much or freezing to death. Plus, the mosquitos are gone, so the bug spray won’t be flowing heavily. 

If you take your team camping this fall, assess everyone’s comfort level. Some people may be thrilled, but others may be apprehensive. 

The good news is, camping doesn’t have to be hardcore. Cabins may be a better move than tents. The more experienced campers can always rough it on their own time.

To round out your trip, choose at least one of these outdoor activities:

  • Hiking
  • Fishing
  • Bonfires
  • Singing
  • S’mores 

Nothing helps people unwind like getting outdoors. And there’s no better time than fall to do it.

2. Visit a corn maze.

Another delightful outdoor fall experience is a corn maze. This classic activity provides some healthy competition in a low-pressure setting. 

Employees can do their best to get out of the maze in the fastest time. For maximum team-building value, try it in teams. Assigning roles like “scout” and “navigator” reminds participants everyone has a part to play. 

While you’re there, why not have a picnic? Bring along food and drinks to unwind after everyone exits the maze. 

3. Go apple picking.

Get your baskets ready for this team-building activity. Heading to an apple orchard is yet another way to enjoy the spoils of fall. 

At an apple orchard, you can collect bushels of fruit. But there are a variety of other things you can do as well. You can shop for different products, take a hayride, and get some cider. 

This experience makes for great family fun. Encourage everyone on the team to bring their kids and spouses along for the fun. 

4. Carve some pumpkins.

Now that it’s pumpkin season, help your team get their creative juices flowing by carving up these squash. Head to a pumpkin patch, and grab a big pumpkin for each person.

For a competitive aspect, announce a caving contest. After an hour or two, get everyone together to vote on their favorites. 

Afterward, these pumpkins can make great decorations for the office. Put them beside your front door, or in a conference space where everyone can admire each others’ work. 

5. Head to an Oktoberfest celebration.

Oktoberfest occurs from late September to early October. Chances are good that there’s a celebration happening in your area. Why not take the whole team out for some hearty food and beer? 

 If you can’t find a celebration near you, you can always throw one yourself. Cook up some German favorites together, or host a cooking competition. Make it a potluck for sake of variety.

Make your Oktoberfest celebration a party by playing trivia games related to the occasion. Does anyone know when the first Oktoberfest was celebrated?

6. Rake leaves for your community.

Looking for a way to have fun while helping others at the same time? Sign up to rake leaves for local businesses or elderly community members. Doing so unites your team around a common cause while giving them some exercise.

Maybe someone in your group knows someone who needs help with the leaves. If not, you can partner with an organization oriented toward community service. Senior citizens, people with disabilities, and nonprofits could certainly use the help. 

Nothing feels better than making a difference for others. Ring in the season by doing it together.

7. Do a Halloween escape room.

Your team is full of smart cookies. Put your puzzling skills to the test by heading to an escape room. Find a Halloween-themed one to fit with the season.

Be sure to book a time around Halloween before things fill up. Work through the clues together without scaring yourselves into a tizzy. Do it in record time, and your team will earn a spot in the escape room’s record books.

8. Go to a Haunted House.

As another suspenseful activity, you can go to a haunted house this season. Even the calmest of your colleagues will have trouble holding it together. See who’s the most scared, and make memories you can laugh about for years to come. 

Don’t let the season go by without a bit of team building. It doesn’t take a lot of planning to enjoy each other’s company. And whatever your team’s preferences, fall has something fun for everyone.

How to Make Your Company Vision Resonate with Employees

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How to Make Your Company Vision Resonate With Employees

You may find your company vision inspiring, but do your employees? Does it encourage every team member to put their best foot forward? If not, you’ve got some work to do.

If your company’s vision resonates with employees, they’ll gain a sense of purpose that makes them more engaged. In turn, you’ll be more likely to actualize that vision.

No company is founded without some sort of vision. But putting it in just the right terms can be tough, much less keeping it top of mind on your team. Check out the following ways to make your vision hit home with your employees>

1. Connect the vision to your employees’ values.

Employees sometimes have trouble connecting their values to their work. This can lead to apathy, burnout, bare-minimum work, and frequent turnover. If this spreads across the team, even leaders can fall into this mode.

The solution? You need to show how it connects to their values. Workers generally gravitate toward careers that align with their values. Having a vision that aligns with those values is critical.

Performance reviews and team building sessions are great opportunities to do this. Think of them as chances to get to know your employees better and ask about their values. Once you find those connections, you can make them clear to your workers. 

Furthermore, identifying your employees’ values can open up different avenues for accomplishing your vision. Community involvement, for example, is a great thing to incorporate into your vision. Considering that your employees are community members themselves, they’ll see tangible impacts of their work.

2. Include your company’s culture.

Your company vision shouldn’t be some lofty statement disconnected from your workplace. A holistic vision should connect to the environment of your company. 

Make sure your vision statement includes taking care of people. You might get specific by mentioning:

  • Fair compensation
  • Generous PTO
  • Healthy office relationships 
  • Leadership and growth opportunities
  • Recognition for good work
  • Freedom to take risks
  • Diversity in the workplace

Factoring employee care into your vision will help workers see themselves in it. Who doesn’t want to work for a company that cares about them?

3. Embrace transparency.

In just about any company, hierarchies exist. While hierarchies can enable efficiency, they can also obscure information and seed distrust between employees and their leadership. These tensions can jeopardize the team’s cohesion.

In a transparent work environment, information flows freely. By extension, employees are more likely to share their perspectives and feedback. And with this culture of trust, workers are better able to align themselves with the company’s vision. 

Transparency is easy to call for but tougher to implement. Leaders must be willing to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. Workers must take bad news in stride.

4. Reference the vision in planning sessions.

Following from transparency, employees must see your company’s vision carried out in its work. During planning meetings, point out the connection between each plan of action and the vision. That way, individual actors see how they are contributing. 

Not only does this make employees feel significant, but it reinforces your company vision by making it tangible. Pointing to specific components of yours when making decisions speaks volumes to the team.

5. Pass it down through mentorship.

Mentorship is a great approach to professional development, but it’s also valuable in the context of your vision. By pairing employees who have already internalized the company vision with those who are just starting out, you ensure your vision trickles throughout the team. 

You don’t need a rigid mentorship structure to make this happen, either. Informal one-on-ones, like lunches, spread your vision more surely than top-down commands. There’s no need to play drill sergeant when it comes to promoting your vision. 

6. Tell stories.

Storytelling is part and parcel of making your company vision resonate. Humans are story-driven beings, so tell a vision story your employees can relate to. 

Think about the way that your company began: Did you start it in your garage, highlighting your company’s hardscrabble ways? Maybe an angel investor gave you a leg up, speaking to your vision of lifting others up. 

Keep an eye out for times when you can tell these stories. They can happen at retreats, meetings, or even one-on-ones. Keep it fresh by weaving in fresh insights based on the occasion. As long as they are genuine, you’ll help people resonate with your vision. 

Remember, your vision isn’t only — or even mostly — for you. Your team needs regular reminders of why you do what you do. If you can articulate your vision well, you’ll motivate your employees to go above and beyond. 

How to Inspire Your Team’s Creative Impulses

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Creativity is more than the ability to crack a clever joke or paint something beautiful. At work, it’s essential for growth and innovation. A team that thinks outside the box can solve difficult problems in new, cost-effective ways. 

The trouble is, genuine creativity is tough to incentivize.. Simply telling your team to be more creative certainly won’t work. But rewarding creativity can also have adverse effects. It can stifle a creative process that should be rewarding in and of itself. 

Because of this, some take an “either you have it or you don’t” approach to creativity. But creativity can be cultivated, just like sales or leadership skills can be. 

With the right leadership and culture, creativity can flourish. Here’s how to be that leader for your team:

1. Diversify your team.

There are plenty of reasons to be inclusive at work, but there’s no question diverse teams are more creative. If everyone on your team comes from a similar background, you’ll likely approach issues the same way. That may make coming to a consensus easier, but challenges are necessary to refine ideas. 

Diversifying your staff involves bringing people from different cultural, religious, ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds together. Gender, sexuality, and age are also important axes to consider. 

To deepen your team’s diversity, bring in a broad range of personality types, values, and abilities. This approach helps you appreciate the perspectives of a full person rather than a single demographic component.  

2. Empower fresh faces.

When people first start out at your company, they’re still getting used to your processes and culture. That doesn’t mean their perspective isn’t valuable, though. 

In fact, someone who isn’t fully integrated into your organization may be more valuable, creatively speaking. They can bring fresh ideas that aren’t hindered by the baggage that seasoned employees may have. 

Ask for their input during meetings. Run proposals and innovation ideas by them. Better yet, give them a project of their own to lead. 

A new employee’s creativity can also fuel the creative impulses of senior team members. In this case, a little competition can be healthy: Let employees of different tenures push each other to come up with new ideas and ways of working. 

3. Promote fictional media consumption.

The media we consume impacts us immensely. Fictional media, whether it be books, film, or television, positively impacts our creativity

Why? Because fictional narratives engage us in scenarios that aren’t found in the real world. They allow us to think through unfamiliar possibilities. Non-fiction and journalistic media simply can’t do that. 

The good news is, your employees are probably already watching TV and movies on their own. Encourage them to think critically about what they’re viewing. Consider following a series or franchise together and discussing it. Another option is to start a book club at the office to promote fiction reading. 

4. Support risk-taking efforts.

A primary reason people shy away from taking risks is they fear the consequences of failure. However, risk-taking is inherent to creativity. You can’t have one without the other. 

Ease the pressure of risk-taking for your team. Compliment people who are willing to take risks. And if an effort fails, don’t punish the people who gave it a shot. In fact, throw a party for the “biggest fail” each month.

A supported team is a risk-taking team. The more confident you can make people feel in themselves and their actions, the more willing they’ll be to try new things.

5. Don’t lead with limitations. 

When embarking on a new goal or plan, some leaders kill creativity by starting with the negative. Before the first dollar has been spent, they worry about costs. With no reason to worry about the team’s commitment, they wonder whether contributors are up to the task.

Don’t stifle your team’s imaginations. Give people the resources they need, empower them to try new things, and express confidence in them.

What if roadblocks come up? Worry about them at that time. When you set expectations around a project, what matters most is opening space for people to articulate their vision. Ground these ideas in practicalities later.

6. Visualize data. 

Words and numbers on a page can only do so much. Being more creative with how you construct and communicate data creates a flywheel effect, spurring more creativity. 

Mindmapping, flowcharts, diagrams, and hierarchical charts are great ways to represent information. They spark creativity by showing the relationships between sets of data and illuminating nuances.

Invest in a data visualization tool that even non-technical team members can use, like Tableau. Challenge people to come up with their own intriguing visualizations.

7. Enhance your office environment. 

A drab, depressing office environment doesn’t exactly encourage creativity. An inspiring office space feels fresh, exciting, and joyful. 

Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be expensive. Paint the walls a lively color. Bring in some plants and natural light. Hang your favorite art pieces up, and decorate your desk. 

While you’re at it, give employees more creative control over their personal space. Autonomy breeds creativity, which you can tap for work tasks. 

Creativity isn’t just for people in the arts. Just about everyone has a creative impulse that can be valuable to a team. The key is to invest in those impulses and bring them out whenever you can.

6 Ways to Make Self-Growth More Fun

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Can personal growth be fun? It certainly can be, but it can also be a struggle. 

When the focus is put on growing pains, people are turned off by growth opportunities. They get anxious and decide that the outcome simply isn’t worth the effort. 

Giving up isn’t a good idea, either for your personal well being or your professional life. Even though some try to keep these aspects of life separate, they tend to spill over into one another

It’s time for a fresh perspective on personal growth. To make the process not just manageable, but enjoyable:

1. Take a focused approach.

Before the fun begins, you have to narrow your focus. Thinking of personal growth holistically can be overwhelming because it comes in so many colors and approaches. For example, personal growth could encompass any of the following:

  • Becoming a more productive person
  • Building “hard” skills, like software development
  • Gaining “soft” skills, such as empathy
  • Kicking bad habits
  • Enhancing your physical body through exercise
  • Eating better
  • Pursuing your passions
  • Growing spiritually 

Chances are, you want to improve yourself in more than one of those ways. But in order to make the growth process enjoyable, you need to focus. Multitasking will not be effective: You’ll spread yourself too thin, and your growth won’t be as substantial.  

With that said, focusing doesn’t mean saying “no” to growth opportunities right in front of you. It’s about prioritizing what’s most important to you in your current situation. After that, look at what development processes contribute to your priorities. 

Developing a good habit, for example, may be the key to kicking a bad one. Likewise, spiritual growth could lead to mental clarity that enhances your productivity. There may be more overlap than you think. 

2. Bring a friend along on your journey.

Personal development should be about improving yourself, but it doesn’t have to be a solitary process. Doing it with a close friend can make it more fun. Not only will you be able to build off of each other, but you’ll both enjoy it more. 

The key is choosing your partner wisely. Look for someone you trust who’s pursuing similar types of personal growth.

Then, it’s about collaboration and accountability. Start a book club together. Collaborate on a passion project. Check each other’s progress toward the goals you decide on.

3. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Whether you are on a personal growth journey with someone specific or individually, avoid comparing your growth to someone else’s. It’s better to measure yourself against past versions of yourself. 

Competing with yourself can be incredibly rewarding. Feeling like you’re better than you were yesterday is a great reason to get out of bed and work hard. 

Even when competing against yourself, avoid endzone thinking. You’re a work in progress, like everyone else. There’s no such thing as a “best” you, so don’t stress about it.

4. Get in touch with your inner child.

When it comes to personal growth, it’s important to discover things about yourself along the way. Remember how fun exploring a new subject could be as a kid?

Giving structure to your personal growth journey is good, but you need to leave room for surprises. There’s a lot of fun in self-discovery, which is a great incentive to keep growing. Expecting any one outcome from your journey is limiting and stressful. 

5. Travel to new places.

Traveling supercharges your self-growth. You can learn so much from being in another place and experiencing different cultures. 

But in order to grow from traveling, you need to interact with the people at your destination. Simply going somewhere to sit on a beach and sight-see is tourism, not true exploration. Meeting new people is a constructive way to challenge your perspective on life.

6. Try out new hobbies.

Hobbies are inherently personal. But don’t write off a hobby before you give it a shot. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it forever; just try it. 

By testing out new hobbies, you flesh out your sense of self. Just as importantly, you grow in your understanding of the community that engages in the hobby. 

Say you’re a sports fan. Role-playing games may not seem like a natural progression, but who knows? Participating in them could give you a better sense of team dynamics, which can deepen your appreciation of physical sports. 

Engaging in new hobbies is an excellent growth strategy to cross with the second, collaboration. Trying something new together is both less intimidating and tends to produce faster growth. 

Personal growth shouldn’t be something you dread. Don’t overemphasize the difficulties. In fact, if you think about self-development the right way, it can be the most fun thing you do all day. 

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