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The Value of Continual Learning: Setting Your Employees Up for Success in the Long-Run - Joel Patterson

The Value of Continual Learning: Setting Your Employees Up for Success in the Long-Run

As a leader, you are always on the lookout for ways to improve your business. Providing and encouraging continual learning opportunities, such as classes, conferences, and seminars is a great way to invest in your company’s long-term success while benefiting your staff members. 

Here are just a few of the positive effects that professional learning can have on your employees and your business. 

Stay Relevant

In today’s fast-paced environment, best practices and industry trends are constantly shifting and changing. Continual learning keeps employees up-to-date on the latest information to keep them ahead of the industry curve. Without a continuous flow of new information, your company can get bogged down with outdated ideas and antiquated processes. To stay relevant, all employees must remain educated and informed.  

Retain Talent

The importance of retaining first-rate talent cannot be overstated, and continual learning is a great way to ensure that employees want to stay with your company. By providing employees with relevant training, conferences, and seminars, you encourage them to try out new ideas, methods, and opportunities. Supporting a learning mindset helps to keep employees interested in their work and happier in the long run. 

Engaged Employees

A 2018 study found that 85 percent of employees function below their potential and don’t feel engaged at work. If the majority of your employees are on autopilot, your business will inevitably suffer. By providing learning opportunities, you give employees the chance to explore new ideas and ways of doing things. This brings more curiosity and enthusiasm into the workplace and helps raise employee fulfillment rates and avoid widespread burnout.  

Show Your Dedication

Employees who feel undervalued or underappreciated are not likely to give 100% effort. It’s essential to show your staff that you are dedicated to their development by regularly providing self-improvement opportunities. 

Industry conferences are great for building community and helping employees explore new ideas. While in-person conferences have gone virtual, also consider online training courses or seminars that employees can participate in from their desks and home offices. Whatever opportunities you can provide is a testament to your investment in your employees.

Continuous Improvement

Just remember: whenever your employees are improving, your business is also improving. Employee education promotes success from the ground up. Your employees are the face of your company. Would you rather present a workforce that is stagnant or continually improving? The answer is clear.

Company Culture Hiring Decisions - Joel Patterson

The Role Company Culture Should Play in Your Hiring Decisions

Hiring the right employees is one of the most challenging and involved tasks companies face. When filling a position, not only do you have to find the most qualified candidate with the right background, but you are often looking to find that perfect candidate quickly.

While a sparkling resume and a smooth-sailing interview are high on the priority list, I believe the most critical factor in choosing a new hire is their “culture fit,” or how they will fit into the culture and community at your company. An aligned team will work better together, be more productive individually, and feel more satisfied in their roles overall. Making “culture fit” a top priority will produce superior results and higher employee retention rates, both of which benefit your company as a whole.

Here are a few tips on how to hire for your company’s technical needs while maintaining a harmonious company culture.

Know Yourself

The Vested Group has a company culture that my employees and I are proud of (and excited to work in!). But that didn’t just happen by chance. Your company’s culture is based on corporate values, beliefs, and an overarching mission. Your employees are the face of the company, and it’s crucial for them to be in line with your company’s purpose when interacting with clients and other employees.

If you haven’t defined your company’s values, beliefs, and mission, how will you find candidates that fit with your company’s unique culture? Your company has a culture whether you document it or not. Defining and documenting the culture of your company will bring clarity to your identity and give employees and potential employees a valuable framework.

Review Your Hiring Process

Once you’ve established what defines your company’s culture, then it’s time to review your hiring process. The traditional hiring process includes gathering resumes, screening qualified candidates, and interviewing your favorites. This process usually focuses on candidates’ experience and expertise, but how do you measure culture fit?

I start by asking interview questions that revolve around their experience and expectations in the workplace. When interviewing candidates, I ask questions about what they value in a company’s culture, how they work with others as a team, and their past relationships and experiences with clients and co-workers.

You might also consider alternatives to the traditional conference room interview. By choosing a more informal setting, such as meeting over coffee or lunch, you can get a better idea of who your candidate is as a person. Just remember, if conducting an interview over lunch isn’t in line with your company’s culture, it might send the wrong signal.

Another great way to see if someone will mesh with the rest of the team is to arrange a meet and greet. By introducing potential candidates to your staff, you can see what day-to-day interactions might be like once they’re on board. Also, your current employees then have a chance to voice their thoughts (which I’ve learned are invaluable).

Communicate Your Culture

Remember, interviews are a two-way street – you have to tell your candidates what to expect when working at your company. Our company purpose is “…best job ever…” which is our commitment to make the time our employees spend working at The Vested Group the greatest experience of their career. 

I would recommend breaking down your company’s purpose and diving into what the culture is so that potential employees can understand what to expect and what’s expected of them once they’re hired.

Good luck and happy hiring!

The Key to Successful Software Implementation - Joel Patterson, The Vested Group

The Key to Successful Software Implementation

I’ve been involved with hundreds of software implementations throughout my career. Most of them have gone off without a major hitch, but there are always bumps in the road. One of our Core Values at The Vested Group is “Appreciate that Failure is Learning,” and the obstacles faced in these projects over the years have taught me many lessons along the way. Through experience, I’ve learned a few essential elements that help ensure a successful software implementation.

1. The Right Plan

When embarking on any sizable project, it helps to have a clear-cut plan with attainable and measurable goals. Implementing a new software system is a huge undertaking for a company, and the planning stage is essential to the health of the entire project.

At The Vested Group, we take planning seriously. We encourage our clients to begin new projects with something we call Phase Zero. Phase Zero takes an average of one to two weeks to complete but can also take over a month, depending on the situation.  Each Phase Zero is conducted according to the client’s specific needs, and no two Phase Zeros are exactly the same. During this time, our consultants work with clients, giving them their undivided attention and brainpower. We begin with a project kickoff, which includes introductions, establishing goals, and determining the “why” of your project.  We identify your 3-4 signature processes, and these become the main focus where we define, prioritize, create, and review solutions custom-tailored to your business needs.  

I emphasize this stage so much because it’s crucial to the project’s success as a whole. A thorough plan helps everyone involved tackle obstacles that might come up later.

2. The Emotional Side of Software

My employees and I are “Agents of Change,” and every significant change comes with its own set of unique challenges. Unlike many other software consulting firms, The Vested Group works closely with clients to address each implementation’s emotional side.

There are unexpected twists and turns to any project, and software implementation is no different. In addition to designing and transitioning a company’s systems, we are there to support the client if they ever feel uneasy about how their project is progressing. A thorough and realistic plan of attack helps clients by giving them a blueprint to refer to in tense moments.

A client’s employees also have to adjust to new processes, sometimes after doing things the same way for many years. This learning curve can (understandably) cause a bit of panic. Because they’re not well-acquainted with the new system, employees can be resistant to learning how to make it work to their advantage. We approach this element of the client journey with empathy and understanding, and we will work with clients and their employees to show them how new systems can work in their favor, not against them.

3. What Comes After Go-Live

Imagine that your software implementation is complete. Your staff is thoroughly trained and seems to be transitioning well. You say goodbye to your implementation team, and now, you’re on your own. Maybe you still have questions on some of those lower priority punch list items.  Or now that you’ve been using your new system for a while, new questions have come up.  Perhaps there are some enhancements you’d like to make now that you are comfortable with the way everything is working.  Who can you turn to?

Nothing is more frustrating than being left to your own devices when using new, complex technology. The Vested Group offers clients a full range of post-implementation support, from troubleshooting any roadblock that pops up to executing those next-phase enhancements. When putting together your project team, make sure you choose partners who aim to form lasting relationships beyond your project end date. Cultivate a team of trusted advisors – this will help your business run smoothly and give you peace of mind.

Understanding the Role of Business Technology in Your Industry - Joel Patterson | The Vested Group

Understanding the Role of Business Technology in Your Industry

Technology is an essential element of every business. Whether it’s a single individual running a company out of their home or a multinational corporation, it’s impossible to succeed without tech. Business technology is continually changing, and it’s crucial to stay up-to-date with your industry’s standards to remain competitive. Let’s look at a few ways technology affects business success.

Improved Customer Interfacing

Keeping your customers happy is paramount to the success of your company. You want to stay current with the standards of communication within your industry. With advances in technology, you can communicate with the consumer more effectively. Technology allows customers to find help whenever they need it, not just during business hours.

Also, today’s consumers all have different preferred methods of communication. Incorporating online chat, text services, or easy-to-use apps into your business gives customers the power to access information in whichever way they are most comfortable. All of these small but effective interactions lead to higher overall rates of customer satisfaction, more word-of-mouth recommendations, and a better reputation for your business.

Flexible and Effective Workplace

Customers aren’t the only ones who benefit from technology in a business. More efficient systems and means of communication allow employees to work together seamlessly from different locations. If your company has multiple offices, technology makes it so teams on opposite sides of the world can still work together without issue.

Tech also makes it possible for employees to work even if they can’t be in the office, like during CoVid19. Allowing employees to work from home leads to higher employee satisfaction rates and improved work-life balance. Working with your staff to provide flexible schedules can help you to retain talent and shows employees that you care about their personal lives.

Better Overall Efficiency

Utilizing technologies that improve business processes can save you time and manpower. Some processes that were performed manually in the past can now be completed with software and AI. However, you have to beware of utilizing excessive amounts of AI when assisting your customers. Too much automation can make customers feel as though a company doesn’t care about their concerns.

Automated systems are also more accurate than manual processes, making for fewer mistakes and less time lost. Antiquated methods can drag your business down, allowing the competition to fly past you. Utilizing emerging technologies to streamline processes will enable you to allocate more resources to growth and development.

Smart Growth

My company, The Vested Group, works with businesses to create Oracle+NetSuite software solutions tailored to their business. In addition to all of the things I’ve mentioned in this article, Oracle+NetSuite also provides leaders with all of the real-time data you need to make informed decisions in one convenient location. Oracle+NetSuite is also highly scalable and customizable, making periods of high growth or transition more manageable.

Secure Operations

The right technology can keep sensitive information safe with digital security measures. Now more than ever, it’s vital that you protect your company from digital threats inside and outside of your business. Security technology allows you to control who can access what information when and from where.

Technology can feel overwhelming at times, but don’t let that stop you from moving forward. The Vested Group’s team of experienced consultants can position your organization for success no matter where your comfort level with technology lies. We’d love to answer any questions you may have – reach out to me directly or take my tech assessment today!

How to Know When to Bring in a Consultant - Joel Patterson - ERP Consultant

How to Know When to Bring in a Consultant

There are many different kinds of consultants out there who can benefit your company in countless ways. Even if you’ve identified a good use case for bringing a consultant into your organization, you might be thinking, “Consultants are expensive. I don’t understand exactly what they do, and I don’t know why my company would need one.” Don’t worry; you’re not alone.

Today, I’m going to give just a few of the high-level reasons why your company might benefit from an outside software consultant.

A Fresh Perspective

Sometimes when you’ve been face-to-face with an issue for too long, there’s nothing left to do but get an outside opinion. Consultants can offer a view that’s totally different than what those on the inside might bring to the table.

You are very familiar with your company’s processes, and unfortunately, this can cause you to lose perspective to a degree. A consultant will bring fresh eyes to the situation, resulting in different ideas and solutions. My consultants have worked with many companies to improve their processes, and these experiences give them the tools to provide other companies with proven solutions.

Dedicated Manpower

Perhaps you’re confident in the work that needs to be done. You’ve made a plan to improve; now, all you have to do is execute. Who is going to dedicate their time and energy to this project in a way that will ensure success?

Rather than adding to your employees’ already full workload, you can bring in a consultant who is committed solely to finding and implementing the solution that’s right for your company. While it’s tempting to take the less costly DIY route, a dedicated consultant will give you better results at a faster rate.

Bring in an Expert

While you’re likely the authority when it comes to the inner workings of your company, finding a sustainable, innovative solution will probably require an expert. Software consultants bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience to create lasting solutions that can help your bottom line.

By working with a consultant, you can combine your knowledge of the company with their expertise in software solutions to create the perfect implementation. Adding a consultant with specialized expertise to your team takes the pressure off you and will result in a better overall long-term solution.

Support When You Need It

When improving your software systems, it’s vital to have a support team. Consultants bring the support you need to feel confident in the changes you’re making. Without an expert there to guide you, the process can become overwhelming and slow to a halt. 

Consultants are there to assist you in making decisions, explain your new processes thoroughly, and train you and your employees on how to use your new and improved system. I guarantee it will be more pleasant and efficient than figuring it all out on your own.

These are just a few of the reasons consultants are highly beneficial when working to create a new software system for your business. If it sounds like you could use consulting services, reach out to The Vested Group today. We look forward to working with you!

The Intersection of Business and Technology: Balancing Customer Service and Artificial Intelligence

The Intersection of Business and Technology: Balancing Customer Service and Artificial Intelligence

Businesses are constantly faced with the challenge of meeting and exceeding customer expectations both efficiently and seamlessly. Artificial Intelligence is changing the way consumers engage with companies. While AI may cut down on costs in some cases, it can ultimately diminish the customer experience if it is overused.

It’s imperative to find the right balance of tech and human interaction that meets customers’ needs. An article by Harvard Business Review states, “These connected customers also expect an omnichannel approach to interactions: They want the convenience and accessibility of online self-service, but they also want access to talk with a human agent when problems get confusing or complex.”

So, what exactly is the perfect balance between technology and human interaction? Unfortunately, there’s not one standard answer, but here are a few things to consider.

Technology’s Role

Many companies use digital assistants or chatbots to answer standard questions or help with simple troubleshooting quickly. Since these technologies can assist multiple customers at once and solve a myriad of common issues, they often improve overall efficiency (and cut costs).

What you must continuously consider is whether the AI elements are actually giving customers what they’re looking for. If the average consumer feels that technology is hindering more than it’s helping, then you’ve run into some issues. I’m sure you’ve encountered a situation in which a robot simply wasn’t giving you the solution you were looking for, and the only thing you want is to speak to a real, live human being.

AI Strengths:

  • Able to answer common questions quickly and precisely.
  • Consistent across all interactions.
  • Filter customers to the correct department.
  • Track incoming data.

AI Weakness:

  • Lacks problem-solving skills, empathy, and emotional interaction.

The Human Element

While AI benefits both customers and companies in many ways, having accessible customer service representatives is essential for more complex issues. Customers should be able to talk and chat with someone promptly if AI can’t provide the answers or assistance they need.

If you are using a human to help with all issues, your processes could likely use a little help from technology. When considering the balance between humans and technology, always think about the customer experience. The ultimate goal is to get your customers the support they need in the fastest and most pleasant way possible, so they will keep coming back.

Human Strengths:

  • Able to solve complex issues.
  • Can empathize and emotionally connect with the consumer.
  • Has the ability to be more knowledgeable than a bot.

Human Weaknesses:

  • Can only work with one customer at a time.
  • More expensive and less consistent.

For your business to successfully balance human and AI customer service elements, you must play on the strengths of each. Listen to customer feedback regarding their experience, and, if necessary, consider bringing in a consultant to help you restructure your customer service department. For more on customized software solutions, check out The Vested Group.

Phase Zero - The Vested Group - Joel Patterson

Phase Zero: How to Create a Solid Plan for Business Success

Every sizable endeavor requires some sort of plan to ensure its overall success. Here at The Vested Group, we take the planning phase of our projects very seriously. We work with each of our clients to create a thorough, structured plan to ensure a successful implementation.

We call this unique part of our planning kickoff Phase Zero. Phase Zero allows us to work directly with the client to plan and create the software solution for their business needs.  This integral first step in planning allows The Vested Group to identify your signature business processes and address foreseeable gaps. During this phase, your needs are not only heard but are an irreplaceable part of the overall planning process. I believe this phase is the defining factor of a project’s success.

What does Phase Zero entail?

Phase Zero takes an average of one to two weeks to complete but can also take over a month, depending on the situation.  Each Phase Zero is conducted according to the client’s specific needs, and no two Phase Zeros are exactly the same. During this time, our consultants work with clients, giving them their undivided attention and brainpower. We begin with a project kickoff, which includes introductions, establishing general goals, and determining the “why” of your project.  We identify your signature processes, and these become the main focus where we define, prioritize, create, and review solutions custom-tailored to your business needs. 

The first few days of Phase Zero are dedicated to understanding your company’s current processes. We look at what works, what could be improved, and the tools needed to help your business’s software systems work for you, not against you.

We then move on to ideation and future state. This brainstorming phase is one of my favorite parts of Phase Zero because this is when we get to hear what your pie-in-the-sky goals are for your new system. Think big! No idea is too outrageous, and every idea could spark innovation that takes an implementation from good to great.  This rapid-fire approach is an Organizational Behavior term called ‘bursting’ and frequently leads to results no one could have predicted on their own.

During Phase Zero, we also review company data—both past and present. We’ll analyze what you have and what we’ll need to do to ensure your legacy data is transferred to the new system without issue.  

After we have documented our findings from the on-site visit, we compile specific recommendations that fit your business needs. We will deliver a formal presentation for your team, including a detailed plan for your implementation that lays out the work to be done and the timeline for your project. We will also discuss our process for conserving and transferring your legacy data and our risk management plan.

Of course, before we wrap up, we’ll have time for any remaining questions or concerns. The purpose of Phase Zero is to work together to ensure that we are on the same page to reach your goals. Phase Zero may seem like a hefty start to a project, but we believe the more comprehensive the planning stage is, the greater the success of the project.

Ready to start your Phase Zero? Reach out! We’d love to work with you.

Hands-On Leader - Joel Patterson

How to Be a Hands-On Leader (and Why You Should Be)

There are lots of different ideas out there about how to best lead a company, but have you ever been told that an uninvolved, uninterested, hands-off leadership strategy is the way to go? Probably not.

The more a leader separates him or herself from the rest of the company, the less effective he’s likely to be. Here are a few things I’ve learned on my path to becoming a productive, involved, hands-on leader. 

Honesty. Transparent communication is crucial when developing trust. Employees know when you are vague with your information or messaging. The more you can be completely open with your employees, the more they will trust you to lead them in the future.

For example, if we have a complex implementation coming up, and I can see that we are going to need to work longer hours and possibly a weekend or two﹘ I tell my team precisely that. While it may seem like being the bearer of bad news, it’s better than leading them to believe they will be out the door at five every night when that’s simply not the case.

Approachability. It’s vital that every person in the company feels that they can come to you with their problems and you will hear them. The more you listen to your team, the more insight you will gain into how to lead them effectively. Never brush off an employee’s idea, opinion, or problem. Listen with intent, not apathy.

Offer Feedback. If a team or individual is underperforming but hasn’t gotten the feedback needed to address the issue, nothing is going to change. In the same way, if you have employees giving 110% effort and producing outstanding work, that needs to be recognized. Make sure your team knows that you are present; you see the work they’re putting in, and you are on the same side.

Lead by Example. I’ve found that leading by example is an essential element of leadership. The leaders set the attitude of the entire company. You can’t expect a collaborative workforce if you don’t collaborate with them. You can’t expect loyal, dedicated employees if you don’t fight for them as well. 

Be the Leader You’d Want to Have. When making decisions, you have to think not only about the success of the company but the happiness of your employees. A solution carried out by an unhappy employee is never a sustainable solution. If you’re not sure about how your decisions are affecting your team, ask for feedback.

In every situation, try to put yourself in the shoes of those you lead. Are you the type of supervisor you’d want to work with? Each of your employees is a human being. It may seem like an obvious statement, but it’s easy to get caught up in the big-picture decisions and forget about the individuals that those decisions affect. Learn more about how to be a hands-on leader in my new book, The Big Commitment: Solving the Mysteries of Your ERP Implementation.

Is Your Company a Good Fit for NetSuite?

My company, The Vested Group, designs and implements NetSuite software solutions exclusively, so it’s pretty obvious that I believe in this system’s capabilities. NetSuite is an excellent ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system for many companies, but how do you know if it’s right for your company? Here are a few elements to consider when researching your business’s software options.

Business Size. One of the best features of NetSuite is its ability to handle businesses of all sizes. Here at The Vested Group, we specialize in NetSuite solutions for small to medium-sized companies, but the possibilities for this system are truly endless. Whether you’re a start-up with just a few employees or a large corporation operating on multiple continents, this ERP system could be the best solution for your business.   

Growth Potential. Many software solutions work well for where you’re at right now, but as you grow and expand, their functionality diminishes. Because of its cloud-based technology and versatile offerings, NetSuite can grow with your business.

Sales Channels. If you sell products in multiple places (e.g., in both a brick-and-mortar store and online), NetSuite can handle the data for all your sales channels.  This multi-channel functionality means both sides of the business can “talk” to one another, and you can process all of your business-critical transactions with one system.

Data Accessibility. How quickly can you access the data you need? When working with multiple software systems, it can take a substantial amount of time to get a comprehensive snapshot of your company.

NetSuite gives you all the information you need in one place, providing clear insights into your sales, service, and marketing performance. You will no longer be dealing with conflicting information or inaccuracies between multiple software systems. You can get a bird’s eye view of your business’s performance across all departments in real-time.

 Streamlined Productivity. Do your employees ever seem to get bogged down trying to use the systems you currently have in place? Known for its impressive functional breadth, NetSuite is highly customizable and can be tailored to meet your exact needs across all functional silos of your business. In addition, NetSuite allows all these silos to communicate with one another seamlessly, making for a more collaborative work environment.

These are just a few elements to consider when choosing a new ERP system for your business. NetSuite is one of many systems that could meet your company’s needs, but I believe NetSuite is the best system to support your company both now and during future periods of growth and transition. Check out my new book, The Big Commitment: Solving the Mysteries of Your ERP Implementation, to learn more!