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How to Keep Staff Meetings from Going Off the Rails

Plus, we offer counsel on how to renegotiate the lease on your building in this month’s Ask Big Picture.




Sometimes in staff meetings people share ideas that turn the discussion in the wrong direction. How can I politely keep things moving?

To get back on track, greet the next idea by saying: “Great idea! Write it down.” It shows respect for the employee’s contribution, but also allows you to move on quickly to more productive ideas. (Build a repertoire of such sayings. Here’s another example: “Definitely something to consider. Note that!”)

I’d like to renegotiate the lease on my building, but I’m not sure how to go about it. What do you suggest?

If you’re in a depressed retail market, you’re in a strong bargaining position. The key is to make your landlord aware of your pain – and the suffering you could inflict on him if you were to leave. Most landlords hate to offer long term rent reductions, so you might want to make a 20 percent or more rent abatement for 18 months your negotiating target. Other areas to aim for are expenses, especially any common area or utility payments. To increase the pressure, list a few contract releases you’d like, such as personal guarantee release or a co-tenancy clause, which lets you escape the lease if the landlord doesn’t replace the anchor in a specified period. Seek the help of a lawyer who specializes in the local commercial real estate market. He’ll know what deals landlords are offering new tenants. Finally, if you’ve never done it, measure the space of your store. Landlords will often work off their original floor plan, even though the space may have been reconfigured repeatedly.

What are the steps to take and pitfalls to avoid when it comes to specialty wrap work?

Surface and material choice just might be the single most important factor to consider when deciding how to estimate and eventually produce a specialty wrap. Jared Smith, CEO, bluemedia says: “The worst situation you can get yourself into is quoting a project using a material you have never used before, so get the spec sheets and read them thoroughly. The smaller the print, the more important that detail is. Order a sample roll and print on it. Then laminate it. Then install it. Get feedback from everyone in your shop who touched it. Record the information provided by the media manufacturer as well as your own notes on your shop’s experience in using it.

Once you have this list compiled, you should be able to quickly identify which materials you are confident will work on which surfaces. Be very specific here. If you find something that works great on painted drywall, for instance, be sure to include what specific type of paint it works on. Our shop has had to re-do a painted drywall mural because the paint was a matte finish and we used vinyl that we had only tested on semi-gloss and gloss paint.”

Occasionally, I catch my staff saying things to clients that make me cringe. What are some of the key no-nos?

Here’s a nice succinct list of “let’s not go there” service statements, along with suggested replacements, from Karen Leland and Keith Bailey, the authors of Customer Service for Dummies. “Don’t say, ‘I don’t know.’ Do say, ‘I will find out.’ Don’t say, ‘No.’ Do say, ‘What I can do is …’ Don’t say, ‘That’s not my job.’ Do say, ‘This is who can help you …’ Don’t say, ‘You’re right; this stinks.’ Do say, ‘I understand your frustration.’ Don’t say, ‘That’s not my fault.’ Do say, ‘Let’s see what we can do about this.’ Don’t say, ‘You need to talk to my manager.’ Do say, ‘I can help you.’ Don’t say, ‘You want it by when?’ Do say, ‘I’ll try my best.’ Don’t say, ‘Calm down.’ Do say, ‘I’m sorry.’ Don’t say, ‘I’m busy right now.’ Do say ‘I’ll be with you in just a moment.’ Don’t say, ‘Call me back.’ Do say, ‘I will call you back.’”

We just got a one-star review on Yelp. How can I ensure this never happens again?

Brand storytelling expert Bernadette Jiwa has this advice on how to avoid bad social media reviews: Start by writing the five-star review you’re hoping for. Make this your manifesto and share it with your team. Now, design every touch point in your business to make that review a reality. Additional tips: Care twice as much about how your customers feel as you do about what they might say. Make sure reality exceeds expectations.



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