He’s the creator of the B+C+S Formula, and the author of The Formula for Business Success. Welcome, Ken, from the wonderful world of Long Beach, California.
Ken Bator: Thank you, David. Thank you for having me.
David Brower: Hey, you’re very welcome. You’ve had some great success in reading your bio on helping businesses create environments where employees actually want to come to work and where customers actually want to keep coming back. That’s magic to me, and to a lot of businesses. How do you do that?
Ken Bator: Well, it actually is pretty simple. It’s not easy, but it is simple. People sometimes confuse simple with easy, but simple can still be hard. The way that I do that is I help businesses understand their brand, culture, and strategy alignment. That is the B+C+S Formula.
David Brower: Okay.
Ken Bator: In other words, knowing exactly what is the image we want to portray out in the public, what’s the experience we need to create both for and through our customers, excuse me, employees, and what’s the strategy? How do we drive more of the right business to our business?
David Brower: I mean, those are obviously great questions. I would think having special ways of recruiting would be important?
Ken Bator: Well certainly, I think it all comes back down to the brand and the culture that you want to create. When recruiting, we need to think about who is going to fit into our formula. One of the ways and frankly, I’ll give the best tip right now for your listeners, a little earlier in the show. A lot of times people ask me, “Well I don’t have time to read your book. I don’t have time to go through a whole B+C+S formula. What’s that one tip that you can give me that will at least make a difference?”
That tip that I give is to apply service standards. To actually work with your team and put together a list of what service actually means here. Some concrete examples are we’ll greet the customer within three seconds of him walking in the door. We’ll answer the phone within three rings. We’ll get back to customers with any problem resolution within 24 hours. Things of that nature that you can adhere to.
When you have that, then recruiting frankly becomes a little bit easier in that you already have a very clear picture of what service means to your business and you can look for certain qualities in people that are going on line with those service standards.
David Brower: Well that makes all the sense in the world. What a great setup and a great way to understand potential employees to make sure you’ve got the service in place and then bring in the people that can facilitate that exactly the way you want it day in, day out.
Ken Bator: It really is a huge help to the new employee because you’re new on the job. Even if you’ve worked at restaurants all your life or you’ve worked at banks all your life, you walk into a new environment, especially in retail, and things are a little bit different. You’re always a little bit uneased in your first day, your first week, but when somebody hands you something like a list of service standards and your told, “This is what service means here,” they have a blueprint with which to go by and understand all right, if I follow these things, odds are I’m going to fit in here and do well. There’s so much chaos in the world, I do think that everybody, especially our employees, are looking for at least a little bit of structure in their lives.
David Brower: No question about it and when you walk in the door with that kind of structure, you understand it. The employer understands that you get it, then all of a sudden the productivity begins much, much sooner than compared to the old way of hiring folks.
Ken Bator: Absolutely, and you hit on the key word, David, productivity. We don’t do this just for the sake of doing this. We do this for better productivities, better profits and growth. If you’ve done the service standard piece right, which is a critical piece to the overall B+C+S Formula, your life as the owner, leader, manager actually becomes easier because if you engaged your employees to create it in the first place and you’ve gotten them on board, they have buy in, they actually begin to police themselves in many ways.
David Brower: That makes a lot of sense and if they’re working, and I’m sure, I know there’s all kinds of different working environments, but if you’ve got people working fairly closely together keeping an eye on the guy next door or the lady across the hall or what have you, there’s some kind of symmetry and ability to keep each other focused and motivated in the right direction.
Ken Bator: Well again, it’s a blueprint.
David Brower: Right.
Ken Bator: Much like another book that I recommend, other than mine of course, is The E-Myth by Michael Gerber, I believe it is. He talks about putting in systems and processes, and all standards are are another process. With that process it’s important to get the team involved in creating that process so there’s buy in, but when you have a process then things begin to move in a consistent way, which is obviously the key to branding. For a lack of a better way of putting it, to call it policing, employees, peers have a way of encouraging other people. Let’s use that word.
David Brower: Yeah, yeah.
Ken Bator: To say, “Well you know what, we have a service standard that we’re at our station 15 minutes before we start.” Maybe even, “The boss really does get on that, and it’s listed right here, so if you want to stay in good with the boss, make sure you’re here about 20 minutes early.” It gives people a clear blueprint of what the branded experience needs to be at that particular business.
David Brower: Boy, no kidding. The other thing I think is when you’ve already got employees in place that have been there for awhile, they know the system, then when somebody new comes in, it’s easy for them to welcome them in and make the new employee even more comfortable that much quicker.
Ken Bator: Absolutely. They can, especially if the new employee immediately adheres to how business is done there. The last thing a seasoned employee wants is for a new employee to make his or her job more difficult. While granted, yeah I think people for the most part are decent people and if a new employee makes a mistake then so be it, we need to put our arm around them and mentor them, but at least we have a tool with which to do that.
I think, and this is one of the things that I stress not only with service standards but also the whole B+C+S Formula, is the more you can get your entire team involved, the better it’s going to be for everybody. If you do get new employees in and you get an influx of let’s say you have a business of 10 people, and three of those people are new within the last three or four months, there’s nothing wrong with having a staff meeting and saying, “Hey, here are our old service standards and we’ve been doing well by these for a long time, but you know what, we want your input as new employees. Is there anything that you would suggest that we might want to change or update?”
“By the way, for all those folks that have been here for a long time, if you see a standard on here that just ain’t working anymore. Maybe we have an actual operational reason as to why we can’t get back to a client within 24 hours with a problem. If there really is a legitimate reason why we can’t, then let’s go ahead and change that.” The thing is, the whole team will be involved and it’s not just one more thing that ownership or management is shoving down onto the team.
David Brower: Team is the key word. That’s cool. S is service standards. Tell me again, what’s B and C?
Ken Bator: Well, the S is actually the strategy.
David Brower: Oh, okay.
Ken Bator: The service standards actually help us not only begin to build our culture, because the C is the culture, but also allow us to create a branded and consistent branded experience, which is the B, but yeah, I think that the thing that we really need to think of in terms of the B+C+S Formula is that it is simple. It may not be easy, but the way that it’s helped me, and granted, it took me years to come up with this, David.
David Brower: Sure. Sure, absolutely.
Ken Bator: It’s not one of these things that they necessarily teach in college. They certainly teach pieces of this, but they don’t teach how everything really works together and that if you have a great culture, meaning that you’re providing a very good experience for your team and your customers, but you don’t have a great brand, you’re like the best-kept secret because nobody knows that you’re there.
David Brower: Well I was just going to say, so do you help businesses create their brand as well?
Ken Bator: Absolutely. It starts with not just simply doing graphic design or making something pretty like a logo. It starts with really understanding what your differentiating factors are. Who you want to serve. A brand isn’t necessarily, to use a restaurant example, the logo or the signage that’s outside the door. The brand is that you might be a family restaurant and that you serve the best family breakfast and lunch that they’ll have for 100 miles around. Well, if that is the case and that is your brand, it’s not just simply sending that message in the proper channels, but also making sure when people come through the door, that they get the exact or better family-type experience that you’ve been promising in all these different marketing channels.
David Brower: I think promise is the key word, right? In your brand, if you’re going to throw a promise out there, then that’s go to be consistent, honored, 24/7, 365.
Ken Bator: Absolutely. Everybody’s discerning these days. Everybody has very, very high expectations of what they want from their consumer experience. If you tell them that they’re going to have a family experience, and you’ve got two rude waiters that are trying to serve, and your family meal consists of things that have all been microwaved, then you’ve just broken your promise and not only are these people not going to come back, but they’re going to make sure that hundreds of others know that this isn’t a family restaurant.
David Brower: Well, and that’s where reviews come in because more and more people are paying attention to reviews, be they good, bad or indifferent. It’s certainly an increasing part of our culture where okay, I’m going to go to that restaurant. Oh, it’s only got two and a half stars. Okay, I’m out. I want to go to the three and a half star one.
Ken Bator: Exactly, and I forget the gentleman’s name but I believe he was the founder of Intuit, had a quote that a brand is no longer what we, the business, tell people it is. It’s what other people tell that the brand is for that particular business. Reviews are very [inaudible 00:11:45]. That’s why I recommend from a branding standpoint, to look at those Yelp reviews, to look at those Facebook reviews, and frankly sometimes you are going to get a customer, member or client that simply didn’t get it right.
David Brower: Right, right.
Ken Bator: Was irate for possibly not the right reasons. The customer isn’t always right. Sorry, sometimes they did get it wrong. The one thing that people that do look at those reviews and read those reviews do care about, is they care that the owner cares. I’ve seen this, 90% of the time when the owner or manager answers that review, something like, “I’m really sorry you had a bad experience. Call us or come on in and we’ll make it right for you and talk about the experience that you had.”
David Brower: Yeah, exactly.
Ken Bator: Now you’re not necessarily saying that we as the business screwed up, but obviously acknowledging that the person had a bad experience for whatever reason, and that acknowledgement has a lot of power.
David Brower: It has a lot of power because the other people who are looking at those reviews see that you care enough to respond either to a critical or even marginal review, that you’re very engaged in your brand.
Ken Bator: Absolutely. You hit the nail on the head, David. In fact, a lot of times when people see a negative review and there was not a response, they automatically think that, or many times, automatically think that negative review is the right review.
David Brower: Right.
Ken Bator: But when the owner, manager, executive has responded and said, “I’m sorry you had a bad experience, give us a call or come in and we’ll do what we can to make it right,” and that’s the last in the conversation string, it’s kind of like the person who speaks last is the winner. Is that all right, well the owner acknowledged it. The person who was upset didn’t make another reply, so he must have taken care of whatever the issue was.
David Brower: What’s fascinating to me is with all the social media, the Yelp, the Google reviews, all those different things, it really strikes me as the new 21st century word of mouth.
Ken Bator: Yep. It really is. My wife and I are planning on a trip to New York in a few months and I’m sure we’ll go on Facebook or Yelp and look at some of the places that we’re planning on visiting and we’re going to take word-of-mouth advice from total strangers.
David Brower: Right, isn’t that funny?
Ken Bator: That we never even met.
David Brower: Exactly, exactly. That’s what’s fascinating to me is back [inaudible 00:14:38] you go, “Well yeah, John, I love this place.” Now it’s, “I don’t know who the hell John is, but he loves this place.”
Ken Bator: Yeah, exactly.
David Brower: You know what I mean? It’s fascinating to me.
Ken Bator: If John said it was okay, then it must be okay, right?
David Brower: Right. It’s the last voice in the conversation, just exactly what you said. You’ve got the brand, and then the culture is what the owner and the management create around that business and with their employees, so the culture has to be consistent too.
Ken Bator: It does. Culture frankly is just a fancy word for experience.
David Brower: Okay.
Ken Bator: That’s why I say what’s the experience you want to create both for and through your employees? If you’re creating an experience that’s a positive one for your employees, it’s going to be much more likely that your employees are going to take good care of your customers.
David Brower: Right.
Ken Bator: The flip side unfortunately is also true. If the employees don’t want to be there, which I’ve seen in the cases of some businesses, it’s going to be almost impossible. I’ve seen it done, it’s very hard, but it’s going to be almost impossible to have satisfied customers or clients.
David Brower: You’ve spent a lot of time and energy building your brand, you’re comfortable with that. You’ve got your culture dialed in, and now you’re going to get to your strategy. What does that involve?
Ken Bator: Well, it’s not frankly as involved as it used to be. The days of the 127-page strategies have kind of gone by the wayside. What I do and I encourage people to do, is be very, very clear on their mission and their vision and their values, and also tying those in to some specific goals. I would actually rather them have what I call is a strategic map where they just have some key elements, some key objectives for the year, some targets that they want to hit, specific niches of customers and markets that they want to focus on, and have that on a two-page document that they can post up on a bulletin board and better yet, share with the entire team, and have that than have a 127-page binder that’s going to be on a desk someplace collecting dust that we never look at.
The thing that I hear from actually a lot of clients before I even say it, is the term “a working document.”
David Brower: There you go.
Ken Bator: That things have a habit of changing very, very quickly, whether it’s the economy, or an opportunity that presents itself, or whatever it may be. That’s why I really like the strategic map idea because if it’s just two pages, it’s not a daunting task for people. Especially a business owner that’s wearing four or five different hats a day.
David Brower: Right.
Ken Bator: If something really does change, positive or negative, in the next three months, four months, five months, crumple up the darn strategic map, throw it in the garbage and start from scratch.
David Brower: Absolutely, so the brand, the culture and the strategy of a business produce results and that’s the name of the game.
Ken Bator: Absolutely. It’s all about knowing what image you want to portray, what experience you want to create, and driving more of the right business to your business.
David Brower: Ken Bator, MBA, President of Bator Training and Consulting, Incorporated. His new book, The Formula for Business Success = B+C+S, now available on Amazon.
Ken Bator: If folks want to go to my website, which is simply www.BTCInc.net, not only is there a link to purchase the book, there’s also a link to an e-book which is completely free, which is a supplement to The Formula for Business Success, that people can grab right away and have some tips that they could apply to their business practically immediately.
David Brower: Again, it’s BTC, which stands for Bator Training and Consulting, so BTCInc.net. Ken Bator, thank you so much, man. I appreciate it.
Ken Bator: David, thank you. It’s a pleasure.
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