Making a goal to be healthier or exercise more is an admirable personal goal, but what about committing to improving your business in 2019 instead? We’ve compiled some suggestions to get your started, and while we attempted to make them sequential and cumulative, the order is less important than the execution. Whether you add some of your own or tick off a few from this list, be sure not to let this opportunity go to waste. Happy New Year! May 2019 be your best year yet!
January: Change Your Passwords
For the first month of the 2019, let’s start with a deceptively easy one as we give your online world a little of the TLC that it desperately needs. If you’re using the same password for logins such as your bank, email, and Facebook, it’s time to stop that now (no judging; we’ve all done that). Luckily, the technology that inspired this problem has also created a solution with password managers. It’s an unfortunate side effect of having a digital presence, but a very necessary one in 2019. Bonus: If you’re extra ambitious, conduct a full IT infrastructure check. Hackers appreciate your lax attitudes toward your IT safety protocols.
• Select a password manager: These programs will help by creating random passwords for the sites you specify and then store them for you. The best password managers will work across the multiple platforms you use, such as your phone, tablet, laptop, and PC, and will likely set you back only a few dollars a month or year (there are free resources that offer less robust features). PC Mag recently put a “best of” list for 2018, which can be read here: bit.ly/2uWpjIw. Take a few minutes to research one.
• Create a super password: Now that you’ve selected which password manager you plan to use, you have to come up with a master that unlocks that vault when you want to use it. This will be the most important step of all, because you don’t want one that is easily guessable by hackers or your employees, but it has to be memorable enough for you to use. You think you’re clever by using your wife’s initials in reverse, your son’s birth year, and your daughter’s graduation year, but those tend to be among the easiest to crack. According to Google, a successful password will include uppercase and lowercase letters, numerals, and symbols, and will be 10-16 characters (the more the better). And for goodness sake, don’t write it on a Post-it by your computer.
• Repeat with employees: Now it’s time for your team to create their own strong passwords on their work stations. Don’t forget to update the passwords for your company’s social media accounts that employees are accessing.
"Making a goal to be healthier or exercise more is an admirable personal goal, but what about committing to improving your business in 2019 instead?"February: Raise Your Rates
Resolve to make this the year you charge what your company is worth without guilt—provided that you’ve made your service second to none and truly above what your competitors can offer. Almost anyone can undercut you on price, but building trust and partnerships gives you staying power. If you’ve carefully cultivated a book of loyal customers, they likely won’t notice or bother to complain about a minimal increase below 10 percent. Use common sense. There could be pushback or drama from your price-sensitive customers, but you have the option of either holding their rates steady to keep their business, negotiating a different package, or letting them beat up your competitors for a lower price. You’ll likely find that it’s the most difficult customers who will fall off in the process.
March: Engage With Clients
Our society tends to give favorable treatment to the upper echelon in hopes that they will spend their money. Those relationships are indeed vital to your business and should be nurtured regularly, but your clients who spend hundreds a month instead of thousands are just as deserving of your time and thanks. A personal phone call out of the blue (and not just after a service issue) or an invite for coffee to ask questions and listen to their concerns could make a world of difference to the owner of a small business who travels twice a month with your company. They will remember the effort you made.
April: Commit to Cleaning It Up
In late November, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg published similar articles about the unexpected consequences #MeToo was having on male-dominated Wall Street culture—one which highly favors and often protects men’s bad behavior that would not be tolerated elsewhere. Instead of using the time to have clear, rational discussions about how women (and often minorities) had been impacted by such overt and subtle behavior for decades, some companies chose paranoia as their “appropriate” reaction. The articles reported that companies significantly reduced promotions, mentorships, and travel of female employees unless with another female colleague—so that men wouldn’t be falsely accused of harassment! Talk about tone deaf: With women already in short supply on Wall Street, the financial sector is moving in the wrong direction.
"Clients of all levels are worthy of your time and thanks. A personal phone call out of the blue (and not just after a service issue) or an invite for coffee to ask questions and listen to their concerns could make a world of difference ..."Guys, it’s time to be honest with yourselves and your team: If you had the same hyperbolic reaction to #MeToo as Wall Street, then you, sadly, are part of the problem. It’s already a pervasive issue in our society, but even more so in industries dominated by men. We have awesome women at all levels of chauffeured transportation, but not enough. We need to mentor more strong female leaders, not push them aside because of fake fear. Espousing such negative thoughts gives your employees permission to act and think that way as well, and that attitude will continue to percolate throughout your organization before a lawsuit—or YOU—stops it. You’ll also have trouble attracting younger talent. Need some help crafting a policy? Visit page 50.
May: Embrace and Attract Diversity
According to a Glassdoor survey from 2017, 67 percent of respondents listed “diversity of workplace” as a reason why they not only accepted a job, but also felt satisfaction from it as well. If they feel like they are making a difference, they will be inspired to stay and grow with your organization. New thoughts and ideas come from hiring people of different ages, genders, racial backgrounds, and even from foreign countries for ALL levels within your company (in other words, not just chauffeurs). By committing to diversity hiring, you are expanding the possibilities for your company beyond your trusted and true employees. Your staff is composed of people with their own dense networks and ideas, and they crave working for companies that are inclusive. Besides, if you’re going to advertise as a worldwide company, shouldn’t you look like one? A final note: This isn’t a one-and-done project; it’s a constant process of self-reflection and improvement for your best company. Turn to page 20 for more ideas on building leaders in your business.
If you find that you are attracting the same “type” of people frequently, it’s time to shake things up. Here are a few tips from The Wall Street Journal and Glassdoor.
• Consider your company’s image: Look to the images posted on your website and social media. Do all of your employees look the same? People want to do business with a company that understands them, and a culture that includes their own. What story is your social media telling about your company? Why would someone want to work for you?
• Give your wanted ad a makeover: Your ad might be highlighting your biases as an organization simply by using the wrong keywords rather than recruiting a pool of qualified candidates from all walks of life. It might be time to get some professional help from recruiters who know how to find talent of all levels, whether it’s from a industry-related consulting firm or a generalist online resource that uses algorithms to find candidates to apply for the job. If nothing else, have an HR pro review your ad—and take their advice.
• Ask employees for referrals: You likely already tapped your chauffeur pool for referrals, but expand that to the rest of your team. People’s social and professional networks are, in general, demographically similar to their own, so there’s no harm in asking if they have a friend or former colleague who is looking.
• Be flexible: One of your biggest assets is the 24/7 nature of the industry, which not only allows for but also requires flexibility. Employees have lives and commitments outside their jobs but seek an employer who can accommodate them. Consider special arrangements from telecommuting to swing or split shifts for the right candidate like a single father or a dynamic college student. You'll gain a grateful and loyal employee in the long run.
June: Perfect the Pitch
As business professionals, we all need to practice and frequently tweak our elevator pitch because that first impression can be a lasting one. If you’re using the same old canned pitch, now is the time to make it fresh. If you don’t have one, it’s well past time to put one together and practice, practice, practice. Even if you’re a natural born bull artist, make sure you test it with someone who isn’t afraid to offer constructive criticism and advice. You’ll need it for next month’s resolution.
July: Make New Connections
How diverse is your clientele? There are hundreds of professional organizations (local, national, and international) for all types of businesspeople, many of which offer conferences or opportunities for networking. Consider looking into niche organizations outside the transportation realm that cater to women, the LGBTQ community, vertical industries, or those in which you have an interest. Mix it up: While MPI and GBTA conferences have the attendance and are worth every penny, smaller organizations can produce more intimate and local connections. This is also a great way to involve your team: Pay for their membership and let them network while also fostering professional development that they can apply to your company. Win-win.
August: Build a Culture of Professional Development
And by that we mean for your staff. Many licensed professionals have to complete continuing education credits annually (often called CEUs), but how often do you invest in the education of your team? You’ve likely promoted managers to those supervisory positions without any proper training. Local colleges regularly hold classes for busy professionals that are reasonably priced and short-term. If your closest college is too far to be an option for your team, consider online courses through resources like Cousera or EdX, which both offer free or low-cost classes through major respected universities. Can you think of a better investment than the people who help run your company every day? That education is NEVER wasted. Consider bringing one of your managers or a key player to the industry shows as well, if you don’t already.
September: Shake Up Your Marketing
The trend continues with integrated digital messaging, which means that video and unique content on social media, your newsletter, and your website are resonating with customers. People really enjoy connecting with the brands they love, and live video is one of the ways they feel that intimate connection. The good thing about live video is it’s flawed by nature—it’s not a slick, produced video message with editing and a peppy soundtrack, which makes every “um” and stumble that more endearing. Both have a place in your marketing. If your efforts aren’t organized, consider putting together a marketing calendar and budget for each campaign, at the very least. Also, if you need some tips for boosting your website, check out page 46.
October: Update Your Five-Year Plan
Every good business leader has a vision for where they want their company to be in the next five or 10 years. For some, it might include phasing themselves out of the day-to-day operations, or adopting larger vehicles in the next year, or opening another office. But a goal is only as good as the steps you’ve mapped out to get there—which includes rough timelines and required capital. Take your time with this and really put in the effort to figure it out. If your plan is dusty and outdated, brush it off and give it a makeover. Writing it down will also help you when crossing it off the list, or to keep you accountable when you’re slacking.
"There are hundreds of professional organizations (local, national, and international) for all types of businesspeople, many of which offer conferences or opportunities for networking."November: Listen, Then Act
Many operators claim to have an open-door policy but are actually less accessible than President Trump’s tax returns (sorry, bad joke) or push employees to meet with senior managers instead. Even if you DO regularly invite your team to chat, it’s the combination of the conversation followed by action that matters. Employees are motivated by leadership who take a vested interest in their point of view, and a little can go a long way when you not only listen to your employees’ concerns and ideas but also take them seriously through implementation. Otherwise, they learn quickly that their ideas really aren’t worth the time to share—even if you were fully engaged during the conversation. Of course, not every idea is a good one, but offering some kind of gentle acknowledgement that it was considered but not feasible will be appreciated.
December: Take a Professional Risk
Finally, you’ve made it to December. Now it’s time to make that move on your five-year plan and take a risk. Of course, this doesn’t have to be done during this month because everyone’s circumstances are different, but pencil it in, set a reminder, or ping yourself when the money is there to do it. The unexpected opportunity may arise in June; are you ready to grab it? [CD0119]