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Meet Doug & Polly

Doug and Polly White love working with small businesses. Through their columns, which appear weekly in several online publications including Entrepreneur.com, their books, videos and speeches, Doug and Polly focus on helping small business owners and their managers grow and improve profitability, understand and manage their people and their finances and achieve organizational efficiencies.

Doug White
Doug White spends his time solving business problems for entrepreneurs and their organizations. His background in physics, math, engineering and business gives him an ability to go beyond the easy, surface solution; to dig deeper and find unique answers to the problems that plague small businesses. Read more...
Polly White
Polly White spends most of her time on the "folks." Whether it is helping owners and managers learn how to get the best out of their people or walking companies through a complex HR situation, Polly's expertise is unparalleled. She has that unique ability to understand people, their behaviors and personalities. Read more...
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The Doug and Polly Guide to Holiday Parties

Q. The office holiday party season is in full swing. Do you have any suggestions for how to behave at these functions? I think some of my colleagues could benefit from your wisdom.



A.  Office holiday parties are a time to relax and enjoy some time with colleagues and friends, but make no mistake, the way you carry yourself can affect your career. Your superiors, your peers and your subordinates are evaluating your behavior. Many people have had their careers derailed or at least materially damaged by poor behavior at after-hours office social functions.



We don’t pretend to be as well versed in decorum as Miss Manners and we don’t want to come off as a wet blanket or the party police. However, one’s behavior at a social event can either help or hurt your business relationships. Here are a few dos and don’ts to ensure you get another invitation in 2015.



1.      It’s a party not a business meeting. It is a time to converse about non-business topics. Don’t use party time to discuss anything to do with your business or business relationship with the host. It’s not the time to lobby for a promotion or a raise. Push your pet project at another time. Relax, enjoy the evening. Focus on developing relationships not advancing your position in the company.



2.      Dress appropriately. Most parties that immediately follow the workday are business attire unless stated on the invitation. Don’t be the woman who wears the too-short cocktail dress or the guy with the light-up bow tie. Don’t be too casual or too formal. Shoot for middle of the road. This isn’t the time to make a statement with your wardrobe.



3.      Avoid being the life of the party. You don’t want your colleagues to remember you as the person who drank too much, sang too loudly, did a break-dance in the middle of the floor or told inappropriate jokes. Tables are for eating on, not dancing on. Be a standout at work because you landed a large client, solved a tough problem, significantly reduced costs or over delivered in some unexpected way. Being a “party animal” will not aid you in climbing the corporate ladder or help you avoiding being a victim of the next round of layoffs.



4.      Limit your trips to the bar. Over indulging can lead to the bad behavior discussed in number three. If you are a social drinker, fine, enjoy a couple of drinks, but stay well within your limit at business events. Obvious intoxication will not improve your career prospects, particularly if customers are at the event. The poor judgment that often accompanies drinking too much can adversely affect you for years. Above all else, do not drink too much and then get behind the wheel of a car.



5.      Don’t “hit on” anyone. We understand that office romances happen. That’s a normal part of the human condition. However, the festive atmosphere of a party coupled with alcohol can cause some people to become overconfident. Save the romance for a more private situation. This is not the time or the place to try to improve your love life, particularly if either party is married to someone else. Just say no!



6.      Thank your host. Always find your host before leaving the event to say good night and thank you. This is common courtesy. Sending a hand-written note containing a few lines of appreciation within a few days following the event will garner you special notice.



You’ve worked hard all year, enjoy your office holiday party. Make it a relaxed and pleasant evening. However, don’t let a few moments of revelry come back to haunt you. Enjoy yourself, but remember your manners and be polite.



Read more...

Discounts

Q.  I own a small retail operation. With the holidays upon us, many of my competitors are offering discounts. I have always resisted this because I think my prices are fair and I don’t like giving away margin. However, I’m worried I am missing an opportunity. Can you help me think about whether discounts are a good idea?

A.  We’ll start by outlining the effect of reducing price on a single product and then expand the thinking to the effect on your entire store. One reason you would reduce the price on an item is that you hope to sell enough additional units to offset the margin you lose because of the lower price. It would be helpful to know the number of additional units you would have to sell to breakeven. Breakeven occurs when the additional money you make because you sell more units exactly offsets the money you lose because of the lower price.
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Exempt or Non-Exempt: Are You Willing to Bet Your Company on the Answer?

Sue had been with PMP Company for more than five years. She did a great job at the large variety of tasks she performed. Sue was the office administrator and the only office staff in this seven-person organization. She entered the payables and receivables in QuickBooks for PMP's outside CPA to review. Sue answered the phones, talked with customers and venders, and collected and prepared the payroll numbers for PMP's management approval. She did anything she was asked.

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Tips to Recruit the Best Candidates

Q.  I have been recruiting for an entry-level position in my business. I am surprised by the lack of good candidates. I thought it was a buyers’ market and that there were a lot of people looking for work. Why can’t I seem to attract the right people?

A.  Recruitment isn’t an exact science. There isn’t a specific recipe we can give you that will guarantee you hire the perfect person. However, we can give you a few tips that will help.

1.     Determine what you are looking for – This is always the first step. You can’t write an ad before you decide what you need. Focus on behaviors. Often you can train someone to use your software if he/she is smart and hardworking. We say, “Hire behaviors, train skills.” While certain jobs require specific skills and experience, behaviors will still make the difference between an employee who fits well in your company’s culture and with the hiring managers or customer’s personality.

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Implement an Effective Sales Compensation Plan

Q.  I run a small business and want to develop an incentive compensation plan for my salesperson. His goal is to sell $100,000 per month and he earns a base salary of $60,000. In months where he achieves his goal, I plan to give him an additional $500. If he sells $120,000, I would give him another $500 bonus. Finally, if he reaches $140,000 in a month I would give him $500 more for a total bonus of $1,500. Do you think this is a good idea?

A.  We are big fans of incentive compensation for two reasons. First, a well-designed system can motivate employees to deliver the performance you want. Second, if you structure the compensation system correctly, you will have plenty of money to pay your employee if he or she earns the incentive, because your company will have done well.

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Q.  I run a small business and want to develop an incentive compensation plan for my salesperson. His goal is to sell $100,000 per month and he earns a base salary of $60,000. In months where he achieves his goal, I plan to give him an additional $500. If he sells $120,000, I would give him another $500 bonus. Finally, if he reaches $140,000 in a month I would give him $500 more for a total bonus of $1,500. Do you think this is a good idea?

A.  We are big fans of incentive compensation for two reasons. First, a well-designed system can motivate employees to deliver the performance you want. Second, if you structure the compensation system correctly, you will have plenty of money to pay your employee if he or she earns the incentive, because your company will have done well.

“I HIGHLY recommend Polly and Doug. They have wonderful insight to help small business owners prioritize and identify strategies for growth and improvement. Wish I had met them 20 years ago!”

Sharon MaderePresident / Premier Pet Products

My team and I have had the privilege of working with Polly on our business. Polly's keen business insight and savvy is something special. She was honest, direct, and tactful about her observations and recommendations for our team and how to grow our business. It was a pleasure having her help us and I would tell anyone that’s serious about growing their business to call Polly. She’s great!

John O’Reilly, Broker/OwnerBase Camp Realty

“Doug and Polly, I want to thank both of you! The past few months have been enlightening and overwhelming all at the same time. Your guidance, direction, wealth of knowledge, and wisdom have exceeded all my expectations. No words could ever completely describe just how amazing of a “dynamic duo” you two really are!”

Dawn Beninghove, RN, CCM, CRP, PNChief Executive Officer / Companion Extraordinaire Nursing Network, Inc.

“Doug White took on an unfocused operation (in the financial services sector) and created an efficient, centralized system dedicated to excellence. He did this not by driving change from the top down, but by helping the entire team see how their part of the process could be improved. Doug then mentored us toward effecting the changes ourselves. He taught us all how to bring our “A game,” and how to take ownership and pride in what we do.”

Donna LevinVice President of Operations / care.com

"I have had the privilege of working with Polly White for several years on a variety of projects. She consistently provides clear direction on how to resolve a wide range of employment-related issues. I look forward to my continued relationship with Polly."

Elizabeth WilkinsBusiness Manager / Manorhouse Management, Inc.

I have known Polly for more than ten years. As an HR Manager, I have utilized Polly’s training expertise at my former company and with my current company. Polly exceled at assessing the needs of our management teams and tailoring training programs that resulted in visible positive change. I also know I can count on Polly as a resource on any HR topic or bounce ideas off of her when I need a second opinion. Polly has been a mentor to me and I have always appreciated her willingness to listen and offer valuable advice and expertise.

Leigh McCullar, HR Business PartnerUniversity of Richmond

I am truly impressed with the abilities of Doug and Polly White, thank you! What a difference your expertise have made in helping Associates grow in their careers. Your dedication to excellence through empowering the individual and strengthening the Company is enlightening. I do and will continue to recommend Whitestone Partners to the Executive Market.

Suzanne Pittman, MEd VAMAC, Inc.
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