The Unwritten Secrets for Choosing a Startup Mentor

Every first-time entrepreneur, or even an experienced founder stepping into a new business area, needs a mentor. Nothing you have ever done raises so many questions, or has the potential to be so fulfilling, or so risky, as starting a new business for the first time. A mentor is a confidant who has been there and done that, and is willing to guide your steps.

In case you think mentors are only for “wimps,” you should know that most great entrepreneurs are quick to give credit to their mentors. Bill Gates always revered the early guidance he received from Dr. Ed Roberts, creator of the Altair 8800. Later, the great Warren Buffet became his mentor on many corporate matters.

In a reverse fashion, most of the recognized business gurus always found time to be a mentor. For a fortunate, surprisingly large club of CEOs, the late Peter F. Drucker was the single most lucid, eloquent, and encouraging force in their lives. With experts like this willing to help for free, why should you be the one to go it alone?

The best mentor candidates are the most experienced professionals you admire, and from whom you can learn, to accelerate your progress and avoid the deep potholes in the road ahead. Martin Yate, in his recent book “Knock ‘em Dead – Secrets and Strategies for Success in an Uncertain World” succinctly outlines the key criteria for choosing mentors:

  • Mentoring is not a group activity. Mentors are not like lovers. You can have more than one at a time. But my advice is to start with one, or certainly no more than one in an area of expertise. It could make sense to have a business mentor, as well as a technology mentor, but a committee of your friends won’t work.
  • The best mentors are older than you. Although age and wisdom don’t always go together, it is better to find a mentor older than you, because they will have skills you don’t and the wisdom of greater experience. You need both.
  • Let the relationship develop naturally, over time. Mentor relationships, like any other human relationship, don’t happen overnight, and need to be nurtured on a person-to-person basis, rather than remotely or anonymously. The best mentors will even introduce you to their support network, which can multiply the value.
  • The mentor should not have a direct reporting relationship with the protégé. The protégé should be able to feel free to speak about issues which may be plaguing him without fear of repercussions from a major board member, investor or boss.
  • The mentor must be committed to being a mentor. Mentoring is an incredibly important responsibility. If the mentor does not want this responsibility, he will view the time spent mentoring as a nuisance. Being committed means being available, listening well, and able to keep confidences.
  • Find someone who will tell it straight. Telling it straight means having direct discussions that are constructive, respectful, and specific. Both sides need the courage to stop if the relationship isn’t working. Life is too short to waste their time or yours. In this context, it’s also important to find someone who matches your values.

Remember that a good mentor doesn’t relieve you of any responsibility in running your business. Be aggressive and take charge of your own decisions. Don’t expect the mentor to do the work for you, or even the research required to get a job done. In other words, don’t abuse the mentor, by asking them to be your boss, or respond to every thought that pops into your head.

In business as in life, the smartest people are the ones who know they don’t know it all. But smart people learn quickly. Not far down the road, you will be ready to mentor entrepreneurs who are where you were only a year or two ago. You then become a contributor to business leadership in the same way your mentor was to you. That’s value squared.

via – Gust Blog.

10 common UX mistakes startups make … and how to avoid them!

A positive user experience can transform your business. Here Laurence McCahill, co-founder of Spook Studio, comes up with 10 essential tips to put you on the right track for a better customer experience

‘How can I improve the user experience of my website/app?’ A frequently asked question and one that doesn’t have a standard response. Thankfully there are some steps you can follow to ensure that a customer’s experience of your product is a positive one. Here I’ll be highlighting some common mistakes we regularly come across that can easily be avoided.

So, why should we care about user experience?

Well it’s been proven that a positive user experience can transform your business by improving the quality of your products and, as a result, the satisfaction of your customers. If you have a great product that people love, then your marketing team’s job will be easier; customer support enquiries will be reduced to a minimum; and the positive PR it generates will give your company a great foundation for future growth.

Similarly, a negative experience can have a damaging effect. As we all know, bad news can spread like wildfire. Unhappy customers can be a poison that can really harm your brand. Ryanair anyone?

I love this quote below from startup guru Dharmesh Shah:

10 common UX mistakes startups make ... and how to avoid them! | Feature | .net magazine

It’s more difficult to make unhappy customers happy than to create happy customers in the first place. The point he’s trying to make is that it’s not just about investing in the product or a world-class customer service team to support it. It should be an end-to-end process, a mindset, a culture.

UX as part of the wider customer experience

Smart companies are now placing customer value at the heart of their organisation by developing a company-wide experience strategy – one that crosses UX, branding and marketing, with the goal of creating a uniform experience for customers across all ‘touch points’ of their company.

Many companies in the past have made the mistake of thinking it was OK if their website wasn’t particularly easy to use because their offline offering made up for it. Unfortunately it’s no longer acceptable to treat your customers in this way and deliver them a sloppy product. Every touch point with your customer is marketing. It’s a competitive world out there and other, more innovative players are looking for opportunities that arise where people are receiving a second-rate experience.

Uniform customer experiences are so rare that when they do happen, they surprise and delight. Companies that come to mind include Ocado, Apple, Innocent Drinks; as well as more recent startups moo.com (the online printers) and Graze.com (healthy snacks by post) – organisations that are passionate about the products they sell and really value their customers. And believe me, it shows.

It’s important to bear in mind though that user experience designers can only do so much. We can’t design away a shoddy product or a poor team. Which leads me neatly into the first common mistake that startups make …

1. Great experience, wrong product

The right product is simple, compelling, and aligned with the business model. Often, though, you’ll come across websites or apps that look nice and appear on the surface to have a good experience, but as you delve deeper and use them more there’s no obvious benefit to the user. Either the problem you’re trying to solve isn’t actually a big enough problem for many people, or the solution being proposed doesn’t hit the right note to gain significant traction. First make sure that you’re building the right product for your audience before perfecting the experience. And try and explore product-market fit before you do too much design and development. As the saying goes ‘fake it before you make it’.

2. Doing it too late (and half-heartedly)

The return on investment for any UX spend is generally greater the earlier it’s spent on a project, so ideally try and bring it on board from the very start. You really want someone on your team from the outset that has your customer’s interests at heart, with the aim of guiding the direction of the product based on close contact with your early adopters. This should help to minimise the risk of building the wrong product or having to re-design aspects of the system that have already been developed. Embracing UX early means you can make key design decisions while there’s less at stake. Create and iterate low-fi prototypes of the system before you build it to get customer feedback early and often.

Play around with Lean UX techniques to stimulate collaboration, ideas and momentum. Start with user needs and stories, ensuring any features that are built relate to these. Lean UX takes the more traditional UX design approach but reduces it down to startup speed. Every startup, no matter how small, now has the ability to embrace UX from day one (without it costing the earth).

3. No clear value proposition

With any relationship it’s important to start the conversation right. If you don’t capture your audience’s attention within the first few seconds you’ve lost them. Creating a clear value proposition is hard, but if you get it right there’ll be a clarity and focus to your message that will help to set you apart from the competition.

When crafting your value proposition really think about the value a user will glean if they are to use your product. The main objective of a value proposition is to turn an unaware visitor into an interested prospect so have this in mind when creating yours. Try to keep it to as few words as possible. ‘Short and deadly’ should be your aim.

4. Lack of focus

If there’s one thing that startups are often guilty of, it’s trying to do too much, too soon. Having a clear focus means it’s easier to communicate what your product is and who’s it for. By trying to appeal to everyone and adding features left, right and centre, you actually dilute your message and could end up with a complex, bloated product.

Take lead from recent success stories such as Dropbox (sharing large files) and Instagram (sharing photos) by doing one thing really well. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Often there can be pressures from customers, investors or other team members, but learning to say no is something you’ll need to get to grips with if you want an intuitive product. Get the core right and you’ll make your life a lot easier.

5. Not enough observation in the wild

Usability testing is something that we all should do more of but never quite get round to it. When was the last time you tested your product with users? Surveys, focus groups and customer interviews are all useful in their own right but not a substitute for one-to-one observation. You’ll gain valuable insight that you may never have otherwise uncovered.

One widely quoted example of where user testing has made a big difference is the ‘$300m button’. A large online retailer discovered that its customers were dropping out from the checkout process of their ecommerce site before paying, so brought in top usability expert Jared Spool to conduct some usability tests. Through observation he discovered that users really took objection to having to create an account before they purchased a product. A common gripe being ‘I’m not here to be in a relationship’.

By changing a button from ‘login’ to ‘continue’, thereby removing the need to create an account prior to checkout, the retailer saw sales jump 45% overnight, resulting in a $300m jump in annual turnover. Not a bad return on investment.

Don’t assume that your product is easy to use and intuitive just because you think it is. You’re probably too familiar with it to be able to make that judgement. It’s time to start testing.

6. Forms from hell

Forms need to be usable in order to help users achieve their goal and often a poorly designed form can be a key reason for users leaving your site.

Almost every website now has a form that requires some input from the user, whether that is an enquiry form, mailing list subscription, ecommerce transaction or sign-up process. It’s vital that you put real thought into each and every one of these interactions, as otherwise users may get frustrated and jump ship to a competitor.

Thankfully since Luke Wroblewski’s groundbreaking book Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks was released in 2008, website owners and designers have taken form design more seriously.

Often making some small changes to the design of your forms can pay dividends and help to boost conversions.

For instance, don’t just have one long form with 20 fields in it, break it up where possible into logical groups or steps. Also think about whether you really need all the information you’re asking for. Think about the user and what they would be comfortable providing. After all, the more fields you add, the less likely it is they will complete the form. Often the marketing department will ask for as much information as possible, but bear in mind this comes at the risk of a smaller completion rate.

7. Letting developers write copy

Ever felt stupid when trying to perform a task on a website? Ever felt like you’re being shouted at by some unfriendly, red error message on a form? Too often the small bits of copy on a website are neglected and left to developers to write. It seems amazing that such important interactions with a customer can be left to people not known for their people skills (okay, a massive generalisation, but you get my point).

Take control of your microcopy, defined by designer Joshua Porter as: “small yet powerful copy. It’s fast, light, and deadly. It’s a short sentence, a phrase, a few words. A single word. It’s the small copy that has the biggest impact. Don’t judge it on its size … judge it on its effectiveness.”

You can really create a connection with your audience by putting some thought into the smallest details. Carefully craft your copy across the customer journey (from Google search to website and email) to ensure a consistent tone of voice and extend your customer service to each and every touch point. Often adding some informality (and even humour when appropriate) can turn prospects into customers.

8. No story, no personality

Don’t be afraid to humanise your product. Too much of our industry is focused on the functional and usable side of web development, but where possible we should try and inject some personality into our online experiences.

Whether you’re building a web app or using your website as a shopfront for your organisation, it’s important that you develop a design persona. Whether it’s fun, outgoing, serious or strict, by adopting human values and traits you’re more likely to create a lasting impression.

9. Technology as a barrier

Too often websites feel like you’re talking to a computer with little thought into the user experience. Don’t let technology become a barrier. Make the technology work for you and where it’s not flexible enough to deliver a first class experience to the user, consider other options. Just because ‘computer says no’, it doesn’t mean you need to accept it. Work with your developers to make it work. Extraneous password requirements, difficult to read ‘CAPTCHAS’ or unfriendly error pages – all very annoying for the user and utterly avoidable.

10. Launching to soon (or too late)

Too many startups spend months (or years in some cases) in ‘stealth mode’, hidden away from prying eyes, only to never release as uncertainty and competition spoil the show. Equally there are others that launch a crappy early version of their product in true lean startup style. However if it’s not ‘minimum awesome’, don’t release it. Make sure there’s a base level of design and usability across all features otherwise you might not get the outcome you’re hoping for.

Getting the balance right between launching early and creating the perfect product is no mean feat, but one that could pay dividends.

In summary

Startups need to embrace UX whatever their budget, and no longer consider it a luxury or something that can sprinkled on like magic dust later on.

Follow these 10 tips and you’ll be on the right track:

Build the right product before the perfect one
Involve UX early in the process
Have a clear value proposition
Focus, focus, focus
Test and refine with real users
Make forms fun
Microcopy is your friend
Develop a personality
Make technology human
Ship it (and start learning)

via 10 common UX mistakes startups make … and how to avoid them! | Feature | .net magazine.

6 Must-Have Attributes of Social Media Managers

Marketing your product or brand on social media is one of the more pervasive ways people will learn about your business. You don’t want to leave that responsibility in the hands of an amateur — even one that might be conversant in Facebook and Twitter.

Social media marketing requires a lot of work, a certain amount of technical savvy, excellent writing skills, empathy for customers, and an awareness the company’s strategy. Here are the traits look for when hiring a social media manager:

1. Naturally Curious. Being naturally curious about what everyone’s working on in your company and the impact on customers, is important. A good social media manager should tap into different areas of the business and gather appropriate information that is engaging.

2. Writes conversationally. Your messages shouldn’t sound like advertising. It’s important to hire someone who can write in a conversational voice, which isn’t always an easy task. Well-crafted conversational content for social social media opens up a dialogue between business/brand and customers, and ideally, between customers themselves.

3. Operates with a sense of urgency. Unlike traditional corporate communications tools like press releases or prepared interviews and speeches, social media demands immediacy. A question or comment posted on Twitter or on your brand’s Facebook Page or blog must be answered right away. Professional social media managers understand this and respond real-time, with the company’s set protocols and guidelines.

4. Understands your business-related goals. All content on your blog, Facebook page, Twitter profile, YouTube channel, etc., has to support your business-related goals. Which means that your social media manager must have an intimate understanding of the company’s goals. That requires an editorial calendar displaying a majority of your company’s posts for the next 30-60 days — each tied to your goals for the current fiscal quarter or year.

5. Seeks input from others. Social media managers shouldn’t work in a vacuum. They need to be proactive, checking with those who know best like department managers, executive team members and front line staffers. Social media managers are only as good as the people around them and the information they freely offer up.

6. Respects confidentiality. A social media manager needs access to all areas of your business. They must know what’s okay to share and what can never be revealed. Forward-looking or safe harbor statements for instance, are never meant for public consumption. Neither are topics related to personnel, vendors and regulatory issues that impact your business. Your social media manager should possess a “when in doubt, kick it out” mentality.

via 6 Must-Have Attributes of Social Media Managers | Entrepreneur.com.

5 Reasons Why Customer Loyalty Is So Important in Our Digitized Marketplace

For businesses, the current trend to attracting customers now in the consumer market is participating in group buying sites by selling their products and services at deeply discounted prices. On the surface, this customer acquisition method of increasing sales seemed to work. However, group buying does more harm than good to your business and its brand. You make plenty of sales, but hardly any of these dollars translate to profits. Businesses are starting to be wary of group buying. This is a topic for another day before I digress further.

Consider another channel of increasing sales- through customer retention and loyalty activities. Not only does instilling customer loyalty increase sales, it also creates profits and builds your brand.  According to The Gartner Group, 20% of your existing customers generate 80% of your profits.  The key for any businesses to survive and grow is beyond just acquiring new customers, but to build sustainable sales stream of existing customers.

It’s about time businesses pay more attention to building and instilling customer loyalty which has a long-term impact on their brands and not getting completely sucked into the group buying craze. It is more than just increasing sales.

Here are 5 reasons why customer loyalty matters.

1.  It’s easier to up-sell and cross-sell to loyal customers

Loyal customers are familiar with their favourite brands and more willing to try out and explore recommendations and new products. Marketing Metrics found out that the probability of selling something to new prospects is only about 5-20%, whilst the probability of selling something to an existing customer is 60-70%. For the same amount of effort to sell something, expected sales as such is higher from selling to your loyal customers.

2. Loyal customers are your free marketing agent, brand ‘ambassador’ to help build your brand

Loyal customers are more inclined to share their positive experience and making recommendation of a business to their friends. They love your brand, they speak about your brand and humans are generally more influenced by people they are familiar with. Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most powerful channel of marketing, if not the most. They reinforce your brand in the mind of consumers that are unfamiliar and new to your brand.

3. Lower costs to acquire new customers

It is 6 to 7 times more expensive to acquire new customers than servicing your regulars. Businesses have to advertise to attract their attention, incentivize them with discounts, educate them about their brand and product, provide personalised services which all amounts to costs. By focusing on customer loyalty and building your brand, your loyal customers will be a strong influencer to get new prospects to try out your brand, substantially reducing the associated costs in acquiring new customers. Cultivate loyalty, and get an army of free, sales people to spread the love of your brand.

4. Customer loyalty insulates your business from price competition.

Competition is heating up! Let’s slash prices! But through loyalty, it reduces the effect of price sensitivity on your customers and in the words of Warren Buffett, it gives you an ‘economic moat’ from losing customers to competitors. It takes more than reducing prices to lure your loyal customers away. Loyalty also helps in the opposite direction when prices have to go up. In times of rising costs and inflation, the stickiness and commitment towards your brand makes it easier to pass on additional costs to customers without them defecting in mass, eventually helping to protect your bottom line.

5. Loyal customers provide honest, quality feedback

Feedback is crucial to know where and how to improve. Loyal customers, they love your brand. They wouldn’t hesitate or be shy to provide their honest feedback, especially negative ones as they want to see your brand thrive and serve them better. In many instances, new customers visit your brand, try it out, have some dislikes or unpleasant experience and they tend not to voice it out and telling themselves that they will not return again. You hardly get feedback loop from new customers and this is detrimental to your product and service quality.

In my startup, ChopChop, we help businesses to easily launch effective loyalty programmes through our mobile app and amplify all the important points above about customer loyalty. Going digital has also made it easier for customers to spread and share their favourite brands and for businesses to increase brand exposure through integration with Facebook, email and smartphones. Customer loyalty, as you can see, not only brings in quality, profitable sales but also building your brand, reducing your marketing costs and innovating on your product and services quality.

via 5 Reasons Why Customer Loyalty Is So Important in Our Digitized Marketplace – Entrepreneurs.my.

Group Buying Sites Presents More Bad than Good for Consumers especially Entrepreneurs

The very fundamental idea behind ChopChop is helping consumers to digitalise their loyalty cards onto their smartphones. No more missing cards, no more losing out on loyalty promotions. They are reminded of cards that are about to expire, or rewards that they are yet to claim. Our users love our product.

ChopChop wouldn’t have any users if there weren’t any merchants that are willing to adopt our product. When we started, it was quite a tough sell for us. Merchants did not see the value of customer loyalty in increasing sales. Merchants asked why weren’t we more like group-buying sites, why couldn’t we reach out to new customers which could boost their sales almost immediately. If you are a business owner, probably you should read this to understand why customer loyalty is so much more important than customer acquisition. Fast forward to today, ChopChop’s acceptance by businesses is growing. Businesses are beginning to feel the group buying fatigue and starting to realise the long-term, sustainable value of cultivating customer loyalty. Many of our partner merchants have offered group buying deals and most, if not all, of their experiences weren’t positive.

The logic behind using group-buying is that we discount our prices heavily to attract a mass of consumers to give our brand a try, hope that you will be able to up-sell and cross-sell to them when they visit your outlet to cover for the deeply discounted prices and revenue-sharing with group-buying companies and then also hope that some of the customers will be converted to regulars, bringing in more sales in the future. Unfortunately, a large part of this logic has proven to be untrue. It is easy to understand how attractive and tempting it is to do group buying deal for your business as it gives nearly an immediate boost to your sales and how it helps your brand to reach out to massive number of consumers.

The customers that are attracted to group buying deals are usually low value bargain hunters. They go where the best (cheapest) deals are. Value to them is perceived in price, not product. They only consume what the group buying deal has to offer. Many merchants told me that it is hard to cross-sell other products, and usually the only thing these customers bought were plain water! No more group buying by your brand, and you don’t see them anymore. Tough chance in converting them to regulars. Not saying you can’t, but probably the wrong customers to aim at and convert.

I am not writing off group-buying completely. As a one-off marketing tool, it could be an effective channel. If you are a new brand and have just started out your business, group-buying deals could give you greater brand exposure in the shortest period of time by reaching out to a large pool of consumers. Beyond that, by thinking that group-buying could enhance your brand and boost sales is detrimental to your business. Yes, group-buying does boost sales. It boosts poor quality sales, it brings in sales that aren’t profitable but also potentially creating losses which could have been avoided, it is sales that aren’t sustainable, attracting the wrong customers, and could potentially damage your brand as these bargain hunters could easily amplify their less than pleasant experience at your premise.

The writeup here by New York Times clearly captures the essence of what I described above. It isn’t just the merchants that are having a hard time when doing a group buying deal, but also customers themselves are undercut in terms of service and product quality. I have heard of similar experiences in Malaysia, but yet to see any merchants or consumers that are vocal enough about it to gain the attention of mainstream media.

By doing it too frequently, deep discounts will dilute and degrade your brand. Consumers perceive the value in your brand as a discounted brand. I have merchants that have done group buying too frequently that they had customers telling them that they will be back only during the next group buying deal. And by doing more group buying to ‘revive’ your brand is simply exacerbating the declining value of the brand.

How would your loyal customers feel when the customers (chances are they are new, bargain hunting customers and might not return) beside them are paying way less than what they are paying for, despite always being a regular? This will have some impact on your customer goodwill. Worse still, when a regular who is willing to pay RM 10 a product, now comes in with a group buying deal and paying you half the price for the similar product. You are cannibalizing your sales, losing out on quality sales that you could get without the group buying deal.

To think about it, for businesses, if they really need to offer deep discount, why not offer it directly to their regulars for their next visit use rather than going through a third party (ie. group buying sites)? You might not reach out to the number of consumers as these group buying sites can offer, but at least you are ensured of bringing in profitable sales, and making your regulars happy. Even better, you don’t have to share a cut of the sales with the group buying sites. In fact, loyal customers can be a great marketing agent for your brand. As we all know, word-of-mouth marketing is the best marketing channel. Make your customers happy, and they will be more than willing to spread the good word about your brand – for free, effectively.

via Group Buying Sites Presents More Bad than Good for Consumers especially Entrepreneurs – Entrepreneurs.my.

What Entrepreneurs Need to Know About Their Brains

Are you more like Howard Schultz of Starbucks, the billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Richard Branson of Virgin, or Tony Hsieh of Zappos? Knowing the answer could help you become more successful in your business.

Being aware of how your brain works can help you make better decisions as an entrepreneur, contend the authors of a new book, Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012). Business veterans Tony Tjan, Dick Harrington, and Tsun-yan Hsieh interviewed and researched more than 500 business leaders from young, upstart entrepreneurs to experienced CEOs and identified four character traits that define a business leaders’ decision-making process.

Here is a rundown of the four categories of entrepreneurs they found and the leaders that exemplify them:

1. Heart. Howard Schultz of Starbucks. Hearts-dominated leaders are the passionate, big-picture, founding visionaries that may not necessarily have a rational, research-based business plan, but are fiercely committed to seeing their goal through.

2. Smarts. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett. The smarts-dominated leader is rational, makes decisions based on facts, sets goals, delegates responsibility and knows how to hold people accountable.

3. Guts. Richard Branson of Virgin. Guts-dominated leaders actively seek out uncertain business ventures with the possibility for high reward (risk takers) or are capable at managing situations laden with heavy consequence (risk-tolerant).

4. Luck. Tony Hsieh of Zappos. While almost every successful business venture owes some portion of its success to a lucky break, the luck-dominant business leaders strategically expose themselves to luck by developing organic, deep connections with a group of people and then having the open and optimistic outlook in life to be able to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.

To learn what kind of leader you are, take the authors’ entrepreneur aptitude test at http://www.HSGL.com. Six in 10 company founders that are still in the early stage of growth are heart-dominant leaders, according to the book.

“You tend to go through a couple phases in business building. There is the founding stage, then what we call the scaling stage and extending stage and in each of those stages you have to shift gears,” Tjan told Entrepreneur. “You have to go from heart-dominant to smarts/guts-dominant — or you need different types of people to help you.”

via What Entrepreneurs Need to Know About Their Brains | Entrepreneur.com.

Can You Be a Tough Boss Without Being a Jerk?

You want your employees to perform at their best, but there’s a fine line between being a tough boss with high expectations and being an unreasonable jerk. Business coach Mike Staver, founder of the The Staver Group, a Fernandina Beach, Fla., business performance consulting firm, advises using these four rules to avoid crossing the line.

1. Appreciate different work styles. Be clear about the outcomes you expect, but don’t create conflict just because your employee has a different style of getting something done, warns Staver. “If they’re effective, give them latitude to develop their own solutions and add value,” he says. “When the leader is saying, ‘I don’t want you to do it any other way than the way I want you do to it.’ I think that’s where the ‘demanding jerk’ side comes in,” he says.

2. Give your employees a sense of purpose. In his book, Leadership Isn’t for Cowards (Wiley, 2012), Staver says business leaders need to give their employees a reason to care. It can be tough if you’re providing a basic product or service versus curing cancer, but everyone is in business to serve a need–so make sure employees understand that. For example, if you sell machine parts, it’s because someone needs them to keep their equipment running. The receptionist at an insurance company helps protect people from financial catastrophe. Clarifying the big-picture importance of what your people do helps employees stay focused and committed, even when the demands are great.

3. Recognize good work. If you’ve set rigorous performance goals or expectations employees must meet, don’t change the rules after the fact or fail to recognize success. Include your expectations in resources such as employee manuals, training materials or job descriptions. Conduct regular performance reviews and be sure to acknowledge when expectations have been met or exceeded. Whether it’s a simple “good job,” in front of the team for hitting a tough deadline, or a small perk for landing a big new client, recognizing a job well done enhances motivation.

4. Be respectful. Regardless of how demanding you are, treat your employees with respect and dignity. While it takes courage to tell the truth, it should be done in a way that doesn’t devastate your employees. That means no “sucker punches”–blindsiding them with expectations they couldn’t have anticipated–and avoiding destructive communication styles like screaming and insults. Explosive or reckless behavior hurts productivity and will likely cause you trouble retaining your best employees, Staver says.

via Can You Be a Tough Boss Without Being a Jerk? | Entrepreneur.com.