Lead Article (Self-help topic – SHOW US YOUR TIPS)

I am on a family holiday at the moment in the land of Stars and Stripes and one of my ‘Dad behaviours’ is to ask the kids to look for signs, shops and behaviours that are different to ours in Australia. It is my way of highlighting the differences as we travel the world. I always find it fascinating (and hopefully my kids do as well) that we are all humans and we all have the same basic needs (air, water, food, sex) yet we solve the same problems in so many different ways. One of the simplest examples is a speed sign. One of the first items I tell the kids to look at as we travel in from the airport is the speed sign on the side of the road. Each country seems to have a different way of displaying this – none are wrong but most are different. And that is my real point to the kids. Different does not necessarily mean wrong – it just means…different. So many times we see something different and think it means wrong.

One area that I typically find exceptional and frustrating – both at the same time – is in the area of tips. In Australia, tips are not the norm. Tips in Australia are usually only given as a mark of exceptional service delivered. It is not expected by the staff in Australia. In the US I am a terrible tipper because I am simply not used to the process. Then there is still the expectation that a tip is received – at a standard 10 or 15 per cent – even if the service is terrible. In Australia the minimum wage for wait staff is about $20 per hour for a casual staff member compared to the US where the average is probably less than $10 per hour hence the difference in tip expectation in Australia.

What I do notice though is that the service in countries where tips are a standard part of the process is dramatically better than in countries where the majority of the wage is earned via the normal pay process. And this is something we can all learn from in the way we deliver our services via our staff. The first lesson is that clients care less about price than they do about service. Clients are voluntarily paying more for a product than the asking price. Sure – it may be customary to tip at a certain percentage but there is no law that compels people to tip. So, in essence, clients are volunteering to pay more than the asking price. Why? They appreciated the good service. I am sure many clients pay dramatically more than the customary 10 or 15 per cent tip which again goes to show that price is less important than service. So many businesses focus on the price when really the client wants the focus to be on the service.

The second lesson is that the service is better if your staff are given an incentive to deliver better service. That may not always be in terms of dollars paid for better service but without a doubt, when your staff have a reason to deliver better service, they will. Ultimately you want your staff to deliver service levels as if they owned the company. How many times have you walked out of a business having been overly impressed with the service you received – and your only conclusion is that you probably just dealt with the owner. My aim is always to have staff delivering service levels as if they owned the business. Tips are one way to achieve that outcome but in an IT service business that isn’t always practical. One method that is a possible alternative is to give away small parts of ownership of your business or even sell small percentages to your staff. Anything that will encourage exceptional service will ensure the continued growth and success of your business.

Tell me if you like the concept of tips at md@smallbusinessrules.com.


Science Quiz Question

I grew up as the youngest of eight children so that meant I had two items to deal with while I was growing up. Firstly, I had older siblings (in particular brothers) who would try and play tricks on me and have some ‘fun’ with their younger brother. The therapy sessions are still going… The second was that I had a mother who needed to be very organised to get all of us off to school without too many disasters. Thanks Mum! One of the things that Mum used to do to be more organised was she would hard-boil eggs at night and put them in the fridge for us to take to school the next morning. We all knew that one egg container in the fridge had raw eggs and the other had hard-boiled eggs. We would take an egg from the hard-boiled container and take it off to school. I am sure you can see where this is going. The brother immediately above me thought it would be very funny to swap over some eggs in the containers and then some of us would take a raw egg to school. At lunchtime you can imagine how funny it was to have someone crack open their egg – only to find it was raw and there was egg everywhere! It was no good appealing to Mum or Dad to tell my brother to stop swapping eggs so I had to work out another way to stop me being eggbarrassed at school. Any suggestions?


Science Quiz Answer

I know there are a few obvious answers. Ask my brother to crack the egg. Peel the egg at home. Boil them again in the morning. Lots of answers that take lots of time but in the end I let science solve the problem for me. When I would retrieve an egg from the container each morning, I would put it on the bench and spin it. If it spun easily and stayed in basically the same spot, it was hard-boiled. If it would only spin slowly and it was erratic as it spun, it was not boiled. I am sure my brother knew the trick so he never got caught out but I didn’t tell him that I worked it out.

The reason they spin differently is easiest to explain by thinking of Newton’s First Law of Motion. “If an object experiences no net force, then its velocity is constant: the object is either at rest (if its velocity is zero), or it moves in a straight line with constant speed (if its velocity is non-zero).” In relation to the hard-boiled egg, the entire egg is essentially a solid and when a force is applied to the outside of the egg, all of the egg begins to spin from that force. With the raw egg, the force on the outside of the egg has to be transferred through the liquid of the raw egg. The liquid within causes a drag effect that resists the spin initially. On a microscopic scale, only the outer shell is spinning initially and gradually the liquid inside begins to spin. In addition, the centre of gravity of the raw egg constantly changes which causes a wobbling motion.

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