Change is challenging, but worth it

Thank heavens for the dawn of a new year and the opportunity to put the past behind, stop the holiday excesses and think to the future.

As we use that new number on our calendars and checkbooks, we tend to think of it as a chance for new personal improvement.

However, for all of you who own your own business, we inevitably think of our new fiscal year and how we can make 2012 an opportunity for business growth.

With the end of the old year, I have just completed an interesting phase of the business life of Tres Mariposas. This, of course, only brings me to another critical juncture full of new opportunities!

At the beginning of last year, I started pondering the status of my women’s apparel store, Tres Mariposas, which I have owned for 33 years. Business was fine, but I felt like we were a bit stalled. I started looking for ways to energize and lift up our company.

So I went to a nice seminar in Dallas to learn about all kinds of new marketing ideas. It was just that: nice. But not invigorating, much less earth shattering.

I needed fresh inspiration to get us off our plateau. I came home and began talking to customers in more depth, looking for insights. I asked our staff for ideas. I read articles.

I am sure that seeing me cast about for ways to seriously change our company struck fear into every employee’s heart! They know that I’m not afraid of reinvention. Over the years, our staff has endured me getting ideas from consultants, other retailers, trips to market and business books.

While my son attended the Air Force Academy, I regularly returned from Colorado Springs with ideas from the military for tweaking our business operations. Of course, some ideas I implemented were better than others!

One of the things I recognized as I listened to customers and observed our business was that I wanted an alternative to commission-based compensation for our sales staff. Now, I am a strong believer in rewarding performance. My entire industry is commission-based. Yet sales commissions don’t reward teamwork. Instead they contribute to an “I/me/mine” mentality that isn’t good for the customer.

While I could see negative aspects of commission-based pay, I also knew that I didn’t want to throw all performance incentives out the window. I started researching the Web for options. Eventually I found a white paper written by Neil Ducoff that outlined a team-based pay system. I was impressed not only with the operational aspects of the pay system, but also with the values and mentality behind the thinking.

Of course, I followed the trail and found out Ducoff was a respected business trainer. I devoured his award-winning book, “No-Compromise Leadership,” bought copies for my staff members and launched us into what I hoped would be a true transformation.

Be careful what you ask for. I wanted a new pay system as a way to improve the customer experience. What I got was a cultural revolution.

I didn’t think it was a good idea to toy with the pay of 20 wonderful people without the backup of an experienced professional. I actually hired Ducoff himself to help me with the pay conversion. Along the way, I also got a strong kick in the pants from following his “10 Requirements for No-Compromise Leadership.” You may want to think about incorporating some of these into your new business resolutions:

  •  Clarity: Have absolute clarity on where you’re taking your company.
  •  Values: If you want them, live them.
  •  Accountability: If it needs to be done, get it done.
  •  Transparent: No excuses when you compromise. Own it.
  •  Culture: Don’t destroy from within.
  •  Unity: Your leadership style is not dictatorial and inflexible.
  •  Focus: Avoid “office-itis.”
  •  Strategic: Manage what’s on your plate.
  •  Resolute: Be tenacious and courageous.
  •  Inspiring: Lead with passion.

Massive change occurred at Tres Mariposas, with our pay system representing just one of the pieces. No question: change is hard. Employees have been holding on for this bumpy ride. Yet, even just six months down the road, I see that we are much better positioned to give customers a great experience.

In the first week of the New Year, I challenged my staff. Do you want to keep pushing ahead or rest a while? Of course, you know the answer. Quality is its own reward.

Improving the quality of our business environment for our clients is of tremendous value in and even intoxicating and inspiring for us all in 2012!

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