How to Run Effective Meetings

How to Run Effective Meetings

Meetings. Eeek! Just the mere mention of that word probably makes your blood pressure rise, right? While listening to a session at the 2018 TCIExpo in Charlotte, North Carolina by Melissa LeVangie, I realized that even though the points that she was making seemed like common sense, many leaders do not practice them on a daily basis, thereby making meetings an excruciating part of business today.

Now I have plenty of room to grow in this area myself, however, I have been fortunate enough to learn from some great leaders within the Wisconsin Arborist Association (WAA) on how to run effective meetings. The strategies below have helped me and my Board of Directors accomplish a lot when I was the President of the WAA as well as in my agency today.

Prepare an Agenda – There is nothing worse than going into a meeting not knowing what will be discussed or how long it will take. Send an agenda to the participants at least two days in advance so everyone knows what to expect during the meeting. Have no more than three or four topics at the meeting and list a desired amount of time for that topic right on the agenda. If there are topics that you want the participant’s input on, the agenda needs to be sent to them even further in advance so they can prepare before the meeting. Give as much detail to the participants as possible so that when you sit down to start the meeting, everyone is ready to contribute.

Involve Others – When you send the agenda out, assign topics to other people to present or lead the discussion on. No one wants to hear a single person drag on and on throughout the entire meeting. Specifically asking an individual to present a topic gives them ownership in the meeting and keeps others engaged as well. Make sure the person(s) you ask to present are comfortable doing so and have enough time to prepare before the meeting. This strategy can backfire quickly if you do not communicate with the prospective presenter far enough in advance.

Respect Everyone’s Time – Start the meeting promptly and pay attention to the time during the meeting. If a topic is going off track or taking longer than planned address it directly in the meeting. Either state that you need to move onto the next point and set a time to finish the discussion later or get a consensus from the other participant’s that it is okay to continue on this topic.

Never let a meeting run beyond the scheduled time. Period. Everyone is too busy to have meetings go longer than planned.
Because we cannot free ourselves of meetings, use these three simple strategies to hold better meetings. These more effective meetings will engage all team members at a deeper level and help your business achieve its goals much sooner.

Written by: Eric Petersen

3 Critical Cyber Security Measures

3 Critical Cyber Security Measures

“Cyber Security? Only mega corporations like Target and Home Depot have to worry about that. I’m just a small tree service. I don’t have anything that hackers would want.”

Be honest, have you ever found yourself saying that? Chances are you have and, naturally, this article will tell you why you need to pay attention to what is going on in the cyber security world. Last year, I attended a Cyber Risk Seminar and learned that 69% of data breaches occur from a negligent insider (or former insider). That means someone inside your company either clicked a bad link, emailed a virus or unknowingly allowed a hacker into your computer system.

Before discussing the ways to minimize your cyber liability, I want to highlight a few areas of exposure that every tree service has. As with any exposure to loss, there are internal and external risks that a business faces.

External Cyber Risks

1. Transmitting a Virus to a Customer/Vendor – Tree care companies rely on email to communicate with their customers and vendors. Email is the most efficient method of communication and also presents the easiest way for your company to be liable for a cyber breach. If one of your employees sends an email that contains a virus to a customer or, worse, your entire customer database, you could be facing a huge unexpected expense. It costs anywhere between $100 – $350 to remove a virus from an infected computer and that cost does not include if any personal data was compromised or any business shutdown occurred because of it.
2. Customer’s Personal Data – Every tree service has some personal information from their customers. Names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and credit card numbers are all considered Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and is therefore information that must be protected from a data breach. If a hacker gets into your computer system and gains access to this basic customer information, you will be responsible for notifying the customer of the breach and providing credit monitoring for one year.
In 2016 the average cost for a data breach was $158 per record – How much would a breach cost your business at that price point?

Internal Cyber Risks

1. Employee’s Personal Data – When hiring someone onto your team, there is a lot of personal information that you gather – Social Security numbers, birthdays and driver’s license numbers, to name a few. Do you have a direct deposit payroll system set up? If so, your employee’s bank information is in your system. As the business owner, you clearly have a responsibility to protect your employee’s data. What would happen to your employee loyalty if you failed at keeping their information safe?
2. Business’ Computer System – Interruptions seem to happen fairly often when using technology for your business. Sometimes the internet goes out due to a cut wire down the street. Your phone system may suffer a break in service due to something on the provider’s end. Those are out of your control, however, what you can do something about is your internal business system. Is your computer network backed up in the cloud or off-site? What would happen if your system got hacked and held for ransom from a cyber-attack?

Now that you know the common cyber exposures that all tree services face, here are three areas to focus on to reduce the chance of a cyber liability event. Implementing these changes can reduce your chances of a breach by almost 70%!

1. Inbox Security – Studies have shown that 93% of all computer hacks begins with email phishing. Email phishing is a tactic that hackers use to get the email user to click an infected link embedded in an email to gain access to their system. These can be specific to an individual and look VERY similar to an email that you would get. I’m sure you have received these before but may not have even realized it – an email from UPS about a package delivery or that your Amazon order needs more information. They look very real and ask you to take action by clicking the link included in the email to resolve the issue. Once you click the link, your system is compromised. Working with a proactive IT company will help you get the proper email controls in place to limit the phishing attempts on your employees.
2. Browser Security – The next part of cyber security is enabling the proper security features on your internet browsers. This can again be controlled by your IT firm and will help you restrict access to potentially damaging websites. We’ve all heard stories of how one employee used a work computer to search for something that wasn’t work related and the shady website that was viewed infected the computer and it spread to the other networked computers. Tighten up what sites can be opened and this exposure disappears.
3. Employee Behavior – Training employees on what to look for from a phishing attack or questionable website is the best way to limit the accidental “oops, I shouldn’t have opened that email.” In our agency, we signed our employees up for a six part training on email phishing. As the owner of my company, I need to do whatever I can to make sure my team understands how these schemes work so we don’t cause a data breach.

The world of cyber security can be overwhelming, however, if you focus on these three simple areas, you will drastically limit your exposure to a crippling data breach.

For more information on how to properly protect your business against a cyber event, contact our agency.

Written by: Eric Petersen

4 Steps to Creating a Successful Customer On-boarding Process

4 Steps to Creating a Successful Customer On-boarding Process

Did you know that it costs 5x more to attract a new client than to keep one you already have? So how do you keep current customers happy? The best way is by developing a solid relationship right off the bat with an effective on-boarding process. Customer on-boarding is the process in which you communicate with new customers to introduce them to your company. Whether this with a series of emails, direct mailers, phone calls or a combination of all, (we highly recommend a combination, but we’ll touch more on that later) it is the first step in their customer journey, and some may consider it the most important.

In this article I will outline four simple steps to creating a totally kick-a** process that will truly “WOW” your customers and keep them coming back.

Keep in mind,the construction of your on-boarding process must have your personal twist built into each step to introduce customers to YOUR business. Have fun with it, be real and show the unique personality of your business:

Step 1: The Introduction: Get to know your customer

This one may seem self-explanatory, but the on-boarding process begins right when a customer agrees to work with your business. So, start by getting all of the necessary information about your client. This includes not only the job information, but also any additional information that can create a bond with them. Learn about their family, hobbies and other stories that they tell you. These should be stored in your computer system so they can be retrieved for later conversations. This will solidify in the customer’s eye that you really do care about them.

Step 2: Pre-Job: Send welcome series

Prior to the scheduled job, send a series of communications to your customers welcoming and thanking them for the business opportunity. This can be done with automated emails, or take a more personal route with hand written cards or a phone call.. In most tree care companies, the person who sold the job is not going to be with the crew that comes out to do the job. So a critical element in your on-boarding series should be an introduction of the crew members that will be executing the work. If this is not possible because your crew composition changes, create a page on your website so customer can learn about the individual crew members. (Pro Tip: Create “get to know me” videos for your team members to host on your website and to send to customers)

In your welcome series, you will also need to set the expectation for your company and what is expected of the customer. Go into as much detail as possible about the job that is going to be done, what (if anything) the customer needs to complete prior to the job, the amount of time it will take, and remind them of the scheduled date and time. An informed customer, is generally a happy customer.

Step 3: Post-Job: The follow up

Shortly after the job is completed, send your client a summary of the work that was done, and once again thank them for their business. Let them know about their payment options at this time as well. About a week after the job, while your great work is still fresh in their memory, reach out again to ask for feedback on their experience. Incorporate asking for online reviews if they had a positive experience.

Step 4: Ongoing: Nurturing

This is your opportunity to offer your customer information beyond discussing a job. I recommend sending out a nurturing email campaign by utilizing automated emails. Multiple times throughout the year send customers information regarding proper tree care based on the season, share offers and incentives your company is currently running, or just simply thank them for their continued business. Each touch-point will continue to solidify a relationship with the customer that lasts beyond the original job.

Putting an on-boarding process in place will help your company create lasting relationships with customers that keep them coming back. Be personal and consistent with your process and watch as your customer’s perception of your business begins to transform!

Written by: Amanda Eicher

How to Get the Most Out of Conferences

How To Get The Most Out of Conferences

As a professional arborist, I know you spend a lot of time at conferences. Whether it is your local ISA chapter conference, the TCIExpo or the ISA’s annual conference, these events can be time consuming and expensive, however, they are invaluable to your business.

Below are my seven tips to getting the most out of every conference for you and your team:

Before the Conference

– Make Your Plan and Be Intentional. Don’t let a conference happen to you. Make the most out of it by making a plan beforehand. Use these questions to develop your conference strategy.
– What is the primary goal of this conference for you and your team? It could be simply to get as many CEU’s as possible, or it can be to talk to a certain equipment vendor or to learn what ArboRisk’s Thrive is all about ;). Whatever your goal is, be intentional about it. This takes planning with your team to identify what you truly want everyone to get out of the time that you are spending there.
– What sessions will be most valuable for you? Look at the agenda carefully before you go. If there are multiple sessions that you want to attend at the same time, send one of your team members to one of them so your business can get as much information as possible.
– Who do you really want to talk to at the conference? Reach out to them before to set a specific time and place to meet. Conferences get really busy for everyone. Having a predetermined meeting with a key connection is a great way to have the conversation that you want. Make a list of the questions that you want to ask each person and bring that list along with you in case you run into them before your meeting time.
– Stay at the Host Hotel. Some people use conferences as a chance to get away from the day in and day out stress of their business and decide to stay at a further away hotel to get that. That can be beneficial only if you maximize the time that you are in the conference. I’ve found that some of the most valuable information is transferred between attendees during conversations in between sessions or at the social events. By booking your hotel room at the host hotel, I guarantee, you will have more conversations with your peers and get more out of the conference.

At the Conference

– Get to the Registration Booth Early. Plan your trip so one of the first things that you do is go to the registration booth to get the conference materials. This gives you the opportunity to get familiar with the conference space so you don’t miss out on any of the sessions or social events. Many times the room assignments of the sessions are not available to you until you actually get to the venue
– Be Active During Sessions. Sit up close, ask questions and take notes during the sessions. Write down a question to ask the speaker after the session is over with. Being engaged with the content will help you retain the information better and help you think of ways to incorporate the message into your business. Also, if you take solid notes, you’ll be able to share the information with your team at a later date.
– Socialize. I’ve said it already, however, being social at a conference is the best way to maximize your experience there. You never know who you can meet a conference, it could be your next employee or a referral partner or a future mentor.

After the Conference

– Follow-up. If there were people that you enjoyed talking to, send them a post-conference email or LinkedIn request. Ask them an additional question that you had from your conversation.
– Plan for Next Year. If you enjoyed the conference, make even a better plan for next year. Think about what went well and what you would like to do differently next time.

Conferences have provided me with the ability to gain great friendships, advance my career and make wonderful memories, however, it did not happen without my efforts. Be intentional when you go to your next conference and use these seven tips to get the most out of them.

Written by: Eric Petersen