Category: Business Support

Business Support, Consulting, Leadership, Strategy

Invest in the Infrastructure

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Businesses can learn lessons from the past three US Presidents. If you invest in the infrastructure, it supports everyone and supports business growth. President Obama invested in the banks, airlines, roads, and social safety net for citizens President Trump invested in public health, mental health, and immigration and border security. President Biden has invested in roads, transportation, green energy futures, and the economy. Regardless of your political ideology, there’s a common thread here about how investments in infrastructure are keys to sustainability and progress.

For businesses, investments in infrastructure are critical to maintaining the health of any company, supporting your employees, and being strategic about your performance and goals. Companies who take their eye off of their infrastructure will find themselves with a crumbling foundation that will erode performance and culture. Each business should spend time focusing on some key areas that will provide a strong foundation for economic growth.

When I talk about infrastructure, I am referring to the areas of keeping the business operating and successful. These areas include human resources, finances, information technology, data, collection and reporting, marketing, customer experience and support, and board, investor, and partner relationships. For businesses with the resources to have staff in these key areas, there is an easier time managing the infrastructure, as long as the staff is confident to do so. For small businesses, they often have to make decisions where to invest in the infrastructure while investing in service delivery. Finding a balance between the two is hard, but necessary. When your resources are limited, this is a Sophie‘s choice scenario. The investment decisions you make will have a cause and effect on your business. How you secure and invest in your company infrastructure will determine your success. 

The infrastructure list I provided is long. If your resources are limited, you may not be able to invest in all areas simultaneously. You will have to make some choices on three to four infrastructure areas to invest in year to year. This is where your business must be strategic in its decisions to maximize success. 

For many, the three key areas that are critical are human resources, finance, and information technology. For others it may be human resources, finance, and marketing. I would argue the three key areas are finance, client experience, and board, investor, and partner relationships. This may surprise you because I often talked about the importance of employee support. I would agree and say my number four is human resources, although I have my own issues with Human Resources, but employee support is important. I digress the reason why I believe finances, the client experience, and board, investor, and partner relationships are more important is because without the financial resources, your impact is limited. When I am asked to consult to support a company with infrastructure improvement, my first conversation is around current revenue and new revenue opportunities. Therefore, when I see the budget the puzzle becomes more clear. Many do not have a plan for revenue diversity or new opportunities. I found a clear correlation between the lack of revenue and a crumbling infrastructure. 

Once I understand revenue, debt, and contracts, I move on to understand how they are investing in their infrastructure. Where are they strong and weak in the areas of human resources, finances, information technology, data, collection and reporting, marketing, customer experience and support, and board, investor, and partner relationships. Lastly, what are the company goals and where do they want me to focus my energy? How can I lend my expertise to help them move their needle on business growth and impact?

If you are struggling with your company’s infrastructure, reflect on the questions below.  

  • Are all of your business licenses and contract deliverables in compliance? 
  • Are you in compliance with both your city, county, state, and federal requirements?
  • Are you current on your billing? 
  • How are you on your accounts receivable aging?
  • Are you in compliance with the department of labor standards and HR practices?
  • Do you have the right business tools and place to manage your compliance and run your business?
  • Do your employees have the right business tools to do their jobs?
  • Do your employees feel supported?
  • How would you describe your company culture?

If your company is struggling, there still may be time to turn things around. Having strategic conversations at the executive level, with investors, and with your board and employees is a great beginning to identify your opportunities and risk. Once you have some information, you can start putting together a strategy to make improvements to your infrastructure. The hardest part is allocating or finding resources to execute your strategy.

If your company needs additional guidance or support, contact us at Pensivetastic. Let’s collaborate to define your path forward. We’ll help you get there. 

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Business Support, Consulting, Data & Reporting, Technology

Software Selection

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Let’s talk about the sometimes difficult process of making a software selection. While Important, the software selection process is time-consuming and not fun for everyone. Companies invest in software tools to fill gaps in their workflow and improve the user experience. I’ve been part of many software selection committees that get bogged down in the decision-making process that they never actually make a decision. Taking your time to make a proper decision is not always your friend. At the rate technology changes, the more time you take creates a large ongoing challenge for your users. The ongoing delay means your company may struggle to keep pace in the market. To help, we have gathered key concepts to consider when selecting software.

We've created a guides section on our website with helpful white papers to support your business. Recently, we posted a software selection guide to help you make an informed software decision. This guide does not help you define your process or help you set one up. This guide considers ten factors when evaluating software regardless of business size or type. This post will highlight three important concepts from the software selection guide

User Functionality - Besides the business need, your users should be the central focus of your software selection. They are the reason software is created and should be made a priority. If the user does not have a good user interface (UI) experience, they will not use the software, no matter the opportunity it creates for your business. Focus on your users' experience navigating the software and completing their tasks. From the moment they reach the login screen, is the experience inviting? Is the navigation intuitive? Is it easy to understand without any training? Are there more than three steps to complete a simple task or navigate to a widely used tool? If the answers to these questions are no, this is not a great user experience and not the software for your company.

Current Capacity - When deciding on your next software purchase, focus on the software that can meet as many of your business requirements today.  A common mistake in choosing software is betting on the future capacity of the reporting tool. Software that can’t meet your business capacity needs today with the hope of meeting them in the future is a marriage heading for divorce. Vet all data and reporting tools. Ask for access and experience it for yourself. If it doesn't meet your current needs, find software that can. Choose your software partner, not your wishlist items, that meets your critical needs. Prioritize your needs to have the correct conversation with the software partner.

Integrations - Choose a software system with the most current integrations to help your company and users grow. Your business has a need now, and the existing integrations should help you immediately. Don’t rely on the promise of new integrations that may never come. This delayed strategy will get you stuck with a product that may hinder growth. 

Need more help, download the full software selection guide. In your software selection process, find the best fit for your company at this time that provides you with the most flexibility. Cast a wide net. Do your research. Do all the software demos you can in a short amount of time. As you get closer to your decision, choose a vendor and partner that fits your company well. The reality is that software is always changing, like your relationships. If the product does not evolve with your organization or the partnership changes in an unhealthy way, you may need to find a new software product and partner. That can happen anytime in the future. Nothing is forever. I will caution you on one thing. The new shiny toy is not always the best solution. Just because others use it doesn't mean it is right for your business. Do your due diligence.  

We’re here to help you get where you want to go. Contact Pensivetastic today to discuss and collaborate on a path forward for your company and data.

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Business Support, Consulting, Culture, Human Resources, Leadership

Future of Employee Support

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My continuous conversations with colleagues and friends expressing their discontent with company culture and employee support are increasing. From major corporations to small nonprofits, employees struggle with workload, work stress, being overwhelmed, underappreciated, feeling burned out, and lacking daily support. These dedicated employees are struggling with the words to describe how they feel and what they need. They all agree they need to feel more supported as an employee. What’s the answer - they have no idea!

Something shifted during the COVID pandemic. Both companies and employees have changed, but they are not on the same page. Some call it a mental health crisis. I believe it is more than that! Employee needs have exponentially evolved. Employees need more grace, patience, freedom, and space to do their jobs holistically. Employees are voicing their struggles, but companies are not listening, and those who are listening do not have the right resources to help. To recruit and retain employees, companies must support employees daily in all aspects of their life. Whole jobs need whole people. Valued and happy employees are productive employees. Culture and value are not solved with free lunch once a month or the random “Atta Boy!”. 

Employees do need support every day, but different support every day. Companies historically have tasked this to Human Resources or the People and Culture department. Unfortunately, Human Resources or the People and Culture department fails to provide holistic employee support. It is not their fault. The model for HR was designed in the 1700s as a pro-business model to increase employee productivity. The model never factored in employee wellness and culture needs. The model needs to be improved. 

Employees' needs have significantly changed and are more complex than ever. There is a chasm between what companies provide and what employees need. This chasm is where expectations, good intentions, hope, resources, referral, and follow-up fall into. It’s a deep well of misunderstanding and missed opportunities. As previously discussed in our blog article “HR and Culture”, HR should not be the gatekeeper for culture.  Managing culture is everyone's responsibility, but it does need to be stoked like a fire. It is more complex than only focusing on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. The work is hard to repair and get right. 

I propose a radical shift in how we perceive and allocate resources to support employees. HR has a critical role, but can not be the lone support. HR should be one of several sources in a company to provide employee support. There needs to be more than one department to support employees. These new departments must be equipped to offer the necessary resources required to effectively and wholly support employees. HR has a role to play and we need to let them play it well rather than continue to add to their responsibilities. New departments must be developed to improve retention, culture, and wellness outside HR. These departments should not be allowed to take punitive action against employees - that is the opposite of support. When employees struggle, they should be acknowledged, respected, and lifted up with the support they need. Listen to the employee as they express their situation and needs then wrap compassion, empath, and resources around them. 

As industries and employee change, rarely at the same rate, employee support will shift to meet the demands of the change model. This shift is a large commitment to research, implement, experiment, and evaluate what works for all employees. Some companies are experimenting and finding moderate success. Once you find what works best for your employees, the next shift will begin, and you will need to revisit your support model. It is a living, ever-evolving, and collaborative model. Small companies will need help achieving the long list of employee support needs and this level of engagement. Even small businesses need to think about employee support outside the bounds of human resources. 

We would love to hear from you about your needs for support at work or how your company is evolving its employee support. Contact Pensivetastic today to discuss and collaborate on how we can support you while you do what you do best. We’re here to help you get where you want to go. 

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