Managing by Working Smart

“Working smart” is becoming the best method to successfully manage your business and employees. It allows you to manage for the best return on your time and effort. To work smart you need to know how to measure up, hire the right people, make your money work, select the right vendors, and take care of yourself and your team.

Measure up. Many business books advocate that you should have a mission statement. Most of us have probably seen mission statements on corporate walls filled with lofty, unrealistic expectations. Why bother with one? Because, when you provide the means to live up to the statement and a method to measure the results, it works.

HomeSmartz is a company that understands why it exists. In fact, their reason for being is backed by a guarantee. Jason Hellman, vice president of HomeSmartz, explained that the company’s guarantee is a four-part promise to their clients:

  1. You will always work with a trusted mortgage professional.
  2. You will receive smart financial advice.
  3. You will experience brilliant customer service.
  4. We will provide the lowest overall cost loan.

Hellman went on to say that “We believe trust, customer service, and loan cost are fundamental requirements of our industry. Our success is based on providing these fundamental requirements and by differentiating ourselves by providing smart financial advice. We routinely evaluate our internal business, as well as our mortgage plans, looking for smart choices.”

If you don’t want to call it a mission statement, try keys to success. I liked the Web site for strategy ideas to make your mission statement work for you. Have a look at Module 2, The Three Strategy-Making Tasks (vision/mission, objectives, and strategic choice).

Hire the right people. We have all done it—hired someone who interviewed well, had the background and to our surprise, it didn’t work out or we lose them to the competition. A company that measures up can communicate its needs and where it will take a potential hire. Take the time to really think through what the aim for a new recruit is.

United Mortgage’s president, Kelly McGuinness, took a successful approach to measuring up and hiring the right people a few years ago. I called her to ask her how she manages to always attract the right team members. McGuinness told me that her entire staff participated in an offsite meeting to define the corporate culture. With that established, they tackled what they wanted from team members, in particular their loan officers. They researched the loan officers who have worked at United to see what made a good or a bad fit for the company. A few of the items they developed to work smart are:

  • A recruitment strategy document.
  • A multiple method, multiple person interview process finalized by voting on the candidate.
  • Ads designed to attract the candidate that fit their culture.
  • Ten questions for phone interview elimination process.
  • Materials about the company that are mailed to the top candidates prior to the interview.
  • Well thought-out questions for the top candidate first interview and the second interviews.
  • Candidate ratings check lists. One of the lists smartly included the impression the candidate made on the receptionist.
  • A test to determine mortgage aptitude including role-play responses and a test to determine how sales candidates perceive success and failure.
  • Recruitment checklist that serves as a summary page; candidate basic information, test scores, rating scale data.

It is clear to me that the steps McGuinness took in 2001 paid off; her company is doing quite well. If you don’t have a formal hiring process, schedule time to create a process. There are many Web sites that will help you throughout the process and help you design your own tests.

Make your money work. When you have to buy things for your business operation, make that money work for you. If you do not have a company credit card, you may want to take a look at one. Desert Document Services pays every bill it can with American Express for the valuable reward points. The reward points are used for a variety of items including travel, office supplies, gifts for customers, and more. Offering credit card payments to our customers was the next step. One customer has plans to use his points to send his Super Star loan officer on a reward trip to Hawaii. The points can cover airfare, hotel and some meal tickets, a nice use of the points.
Select the right vendors. A vendor must improve your ability to measure up, attract the right employees, and make your money work. While assisting one of our customers with building a scorecard for selecting technical vendors (accounting, loan origination software and customer retention tools), I found a great resource for checking references.

Jimmy Sawyers, director of consulting, at Reynolds, Bone & Griesbeck PLC published an insightful “20 Questions for Vendor References.” Sawyers works with financial institutions in the areas of strategic technology planning. His questions work for just about any type of vendor reference check. Whether looking at LOS vendors or CPAs, knowing how to check their references is important. I found five of the questions helpful when calling on a reference to check a vendor’s performance.

  • What other vendors did you review?
  • If you had to make the decision all over again, would it be the same? If not, why?
  • How well does this vendor interface to third-parties? (A good question when you are looking at LOS systems).
  • Please tell us about the support you get from the vendor.
  • Phone calls are returned within _____________ (minutes, hours).
  • Are support people knowledgeable?

Before selecting a vendor, check to see if they will improve the service you give your customers and your employees.

Take care of yourself and your team. Can you believe that changing the light bulbs can impact your bottom line? If you are thinking energy efficiency, you are on the right track—people energy. The work environment should make you and your team more productive. Lighting, chairs, desks, and even computer equipment all contribute directly to the amount of energy each employee brings to their job.

Make sure that your team has the computer and Internet bandwidth to get the job done. They are more and more dependent upon the resource available on the Internet. Give them the ability to reasonably and efficiently access the Web. Work with reputable vendors that provide secure access. Monitor for inappropriate access to your systems by hiring someone to put in a firewall. Cisco PIX 501 is a common firewall that a lot of techs know how to install and is cost efficient.

When is the last you updated your equipment? Your computer equipment should support the latest Web browser. Walk around your office and have a look at the monitors your team uses. Reduce eyestrain headache and replace that monitor with the fuzzy screen. The good news, it is not that expensive to replace and, you will experience production increases.

Working smart involves several areas. The first key is to make sure that you have a strong mission statement. Follow the rest of the guidelines and visit the listed Web sites for additional insights.

By Ruth Thompson