Janna's Blog

When I was a kid, my family camped at Calaveras Big Trees in California. The camp-ground was awesome and allowed us to play all day in the woods, climb hills, and never worry. My dad always made it his goal to leave the campsite in better shape than he found it. He would clean up leaves and twigs, fix benches, and make the campsite a delight for the next people to arrive. (As an aside, my dad opened the zipper to our tent one night and came nose-to-nose with a bear. I am not sure who was more scared, but both Dad and the bear were shocked. The bear ran away, and my dad was speechless.) Think about the trace you leave behind in your career or business. Does it improve the business, or do you leave a path of destruction and waste? What investment do you make in the people you work with?
 
When we went kayaking for seven days backcountry, showers were not on the agenda. You could jump in the water, but that bath won’t last long because the water temp was about fifty degrees.  That is good for about one minute. However, when the water from a hot spring runs into a cold river and you place rocks around in a circle, you create a bath-type of environment that allows you to sit, feel a bit cleaner, and enjoy the warmth of a natural hot tub. Soap is still not appropriate in a backcountry river, but you come out a lot cleaner than when you went in.
 
Entire industries have been created to help people stay organized and keep their desks and offices clean. Just to name a few, professional organizers, office productivity experts, and those who have mastered Microsoft Outlook create jobs and businesses out of keeping both home and work environments clean and organized. What does your desk or office look like? What image does it convey to those you work with? Does your office inspire confidence in your management? Does your desk emulate the organizational competence that you want from your team?
 
Many people who live with stacks of paper piled on their desk believe they are very productive and have a filing system that matches anyone else with a cleaner desktop. That may be true, yet the question remains: Is your desk or office helping or hurting your business growth? When we are backcountry and not taking a shower for days on end, it doesn’t affect our ability to hike, pack, and climb—that is, not at first. However, a couple of days into the trip we can no longer stand the smell of ourselves and pity the person we may share a tent with (who actually smells no better.) That first shower feels SO good. It is breathtaking and invigorating, making you truly appreciate the comforts of civilization.
 
The same is often true for your office. One of my client’s desk and office was totally disorganized. She always stated that she wanted to clean it up but never had time. Reality is the cleanup process was so overwhelming that she was frozen.  She simply had no idea where to begin or how to organize. A professional organizer was brought in to help her develop the thought process and structure to actually throw away what was not needed and structure her entire office moving forward. Her productivity has immensely improved.
 
Are poor organizational skills affecting your ability—and your team’s confidence—to succeed?

Marketing without sales is a waste of time and money.  Yet, as a business coach, that is what I see continually in businesses I meet.  The marketing team (even if it is a team of 1) does the marketing activities: advertising, networking, strategic alliances etc.   Yet, when the phone rings does the sales team know how to close the sale?  Statistic indicate that almost 70% of sales are not closed due to the sales person never asking for the sale.  If you don’t ask for the sale, you probably won’t get it.  The sales team needs training.  I have joked that the sales team needs WEEKLY training, only to have sales people agree with me.  It isn’t a joke, train your sales team, train them well and train them often!

Who is your sales team?  My answer – every employee in the company?  Who needs sales training – every employee.  Who is the core sales team?  The team of people who regularly talk, meet with customers and prospects.  That includes receptionists, customer service, Presidents, management etc.  All it takes is one word to make the difference in a sale.

What do you train the sales team on?

  1. Conversion rate – The phone rings – a prospect – everyone is excited (or at least they should be).  How do you talk to them?  What questions do you ask PRIOR to your answering their question?  As prospects very few of us really know what we want to purchase.  We just think we know.  If you don’t help to educate us – we will then buy on price.
  2. Products – You know your products (or do you).  How do you describe them?  Do you create emotion as you share the value of your product to me?  Do you know how to create emotion for your product?  Does everyone really understand the value of the product?  For 98% of companies I believe the answers to the above questions are no.  Changing those answers will make a difference.
  3. Customer – Do you know what the customer wants?  Not what YOU think they want, but what they truly want?
  4. Competition – Who are your competitors and how are you different?  Why should they buy from you and not them?  If you are more expensive then why, if you are less expensive – then why.  Know your competition – they probably know you.
Category:Team Building Success In Business Management Leadership Family Business Entrepreneur Business Management Business Coaching General 
Posted by: actionjanna

Attitude is all about how you look at things.  I recently took a trip to New Orleans flying through Houston.  The Polar Vortex that has been hitting the US made for cancelled flights and a one day delay in actually making the trip.  Then upon my arrival in Houston my connecting flight was cancelled.  Rather than waiting around hoping to make it on another flight (the standby list was over 200), I chose to drive.  The situations on that drive will generate some good stories during my speaking event! 

That drive and the resulting situations (i.e., getting pulled over, having the road closed for 125 miles and getting detoured twice etc.) could have made for a very unhappy person who was grouchy, blaming the airlines, mad at the world and generally miserable.  What I chose was the pure joy of having 6 hours to myself in a part of the country I haven’t driven before and the peacefulness of my thoughts (when I wasn’t singing at the top of my lungs to a favorite song).

The event that happened was the cancelled flight, my response was – ok now what happens.  My actions created the outcome; “this is a journey and who knows where it will take me”.  My response could have been much different and the outcome could have ruined the whole conference for me.

My questions to you: 

  • How do you respond during challenges?
  • What are your first thoughts and resulting actions?
  • Do you take it out on others – therefore creating a bad awful day for them?

I have learned that one great joy is to take a bad situation and NOT take it out on others.  I love watching them respond when they expect you to yell and get mad.  I love putting joy into their day of not having an irate customer in front of them. Now this doesn’t mean I allow them to walk on me, or am a push over (those who know me probably haven’t even dreamed of that situation.)  You would be amazed at how often I then get told:  Thank you for being so understanding.  Thank you for your attitude.

How do YOU respond?  Do YOU need to change your response to life, business, and personal situations which not only change your world – but those around you?

An old adage goes, “Rules are meant to be broken.” In many ways, this is absolutely correct. Simply following the rules, doing the same thing over and over, won’t get you anywhere. Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them.” Every truly great, major innovation in history has come about as a result of new thinking.

 So let’s say you’ve set up your business, and are doing fairly well. You have a steady stream of revenue, a good customer base, efficient systems in place, and everything is going great. What do you do next? Often, businesses will plateau. They will improve up to a certain point, but things won’t get better from there. Once a plateau is reached, new thinking is required if you want your business to grow-which you should. Now, you should not throw your old playbook out the window, however, change is needed, and in many cases this change is rather unconventional. You need something that sets you apart.

  • What could you be doing that none of your competitors are?
  • What markets are you not tapping into?

Find that niche, and utilize it. Do something new, something different, and blow everyone away with your creativity and innovation. 
(Picture credit:Freeditigalphoto.com)

Family owned and operated businesses have been part of the American fabric and are certainly a tradition alive and well in many parts of the world.  Knowledge of merchandise or the skills associated with a particular craft are passed from one generation to the next as the elder generation fosters the younger to ensure continuity and success. While all businesses face obstacles, the family-run business is associated with some unique challenges.  According to the Family Firm Institute, in fact, only about a third of family businesses will thrive under the management of the second generation.  The challenges outlined here are among some of the major reasons why many family businesses have failed and may fail yet if such issues are not effectively addressed.

The Unshared Dream

So often the main issue that a family business faces is that the business is not the family's dream at all but, instead, belongs to just one family member.  For that one member, the business is a dream, a lifelong pursuit, and even a passion.  Yet to other family members, the business may merely be a job--and one they may not especially like.  When the founder relies upon others to share a vision and work ethic they do not have, this tends to erupt into problems.  Sometimes this dilemma can be warded off when the main owner allows other family members authentic ownership of their roles.  People tend to care more about their jobs when they feel safe to emotionally invest in their work.  A tendency to micromanage is almost always a surefire way to alienate other family members, to prevent them from feeling like true stakeholders.

 

Next week: Lack of Grooming, Lack of Succession

Are you working harder than your business, or is your business working harder than you? If you are working harder than your business, you are among the many self-employed who have succeeded in purchasing a job for themselves! Do you aspire to be an entrepreneur? Then you must figure a way to create a business that works harder than you, so that you can use your spare time to launch other business endeavors or to enjoy the lifestyle that typifies the successful entrepreneur; time with family and time for personal leisure pursuits. So how does one get their business to work harder? Follow these 6 steps to creating a profitable business that works without you having to be there every day:

  1. Mastery: Of time, money, delivery, and destination
  2. Niche: Mitigating price discounting pressure
  3. Leverage: Systemizing the business
  4. Team: Getting the right people on the bus
  5. Synergy: Able to grow a strong stable enterprise
  6. Massive Results: Multiple streams of income

Each of the six steps builds upon the previous. Here is a high level jet tour of three of the first six steps.  The last 3 steps will be covered in the next issue.

Mastery: from chaos to order

Time is our most valuable asset. We can regain lost income, but can never regain lost time. There are four activity categories into which we can invest or waste our time:

  1. Not urgent, not important (time wasters used for escape)
  2. Urgent, not important (day stealers that scream for our attention)
  3. Urgent, important (must be handled right away)
  4. Not urgent, important (strategic issues that will determine our success)

1 and 2 are time wasters for the business owner. 3 and 4 are the difference between working in your business and working on your business. 4 is working in what I call the Zone and should represent 80% of your time. Working in the Zone will prevent many of the urgent/important from occurring.

 

Do you know where your business is financially? What is your breakeven? How about your cash flow – can you predict it? What is your profit position – how accurate and real-time is your information? Is your most valuable tangible asset (your business) increasing or decreasing in value? Is your business consistently delivering your value proposition to the marketplace in such a way as to not just satisfy your customers, but create many raving fans? This is called the WOW factor. And finally, are your business goals aligned with your personal goals so that when your business is working harder than you, you are living your desired lifestyle?

  

Niche: effectively marketing your USP = predictable cash flow

Discounting your prices in the face of competition is devastating to your bottom line. Let’s, for example, assume that your gross profit margin is 40%. If you discount your prices by 10%, your sales must increase by 33% to maintain the same gross profit dollars! How does one avoid such damaging action? By creatively crafting your marketing around your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)! Done correctly, this will carve a niche in the marketplace that you alone occupy, thus insulating your business from the discounting frenzy produced by a market crowded with competitors.

 

Look for Part 2 and the balance of the six steps coming in the next issue.

The transition from one generation to another can be very seamless and smooth. However it takes education, planning, openness and humility.

  •  Education. Learning the business requires its own education process. That education is often not found in the halls of schools, but in the halls of the business, working with customers, walking hand in hand with employees. Learning what it means to make payroll, pay taxes, the impacts of discounting and generating new revenue. This education is the foundation of value for transitioning to a new generation. The education involves the next generation proving themselves, showing vision, seizing opportunities and learning the business from top to bottom. It involves at a minimum a season, and the length of a season greatly depends on the business and can span multiple years. Economic seasons can be 7 to 10 year cycles (winter—harsh economic conditions, spring—times of new growth opportunities, summer—high growth, fall retrenching of the business and the direction it is heading). The season will allow a full level of education which can be the difference between success and failure of the future business.
  •  Planning. The best way to ensure a smooth transition is to create a detailed plan of action. Talk about everything. Yes, I mean everything. I know—someone won’t want to deal with the touchy subjects. Talk about them anyway. Create a plan that allows you to roll out of the company. Here is the reality; one of these days you will leave the company. It might be tomorrow, a year from now or a decade from now. It still doesn’t change reality. Don’t leave your next generation a mess and have them not know what to do. Make your business legacy live on—and not live on in chaos. If you want help in how to do that planning, call your team of advisors. The next generation will love you for it.
  • Openness. Be willing to accept new ways of doing business, new products, new management styles. Not all new is good, yet not all old is perfect. The next generation of leadership must make their own mistakes, but be there to guide them and keep them from falling off the cliff.

As much as possible, do away with the prejudices you have of this next generation about what they can and cannot do. Get rid of family politics. Stop protecting Junior and doing things for him. Let Junior stand on his own two feet or leave the business. There is no shame in not being in the family business. Life is too short to not follow your passion. A message to Junior: Understand that you will change. You may not want to join the business now, but your passions, needs, desires and interests will change as you age. Mom and Dad, Grandpa, and Auntie may start getting smarter and have a better perspective as you get out in the world, work a job and learn the realities of life. Don’t burn your bridges and be unable/unwilling to come back and see the value of that family business. Also, following your passion doesn’t mean sitting on the beach strumming a guitar (nothing against beaches and guitars). It does mean that if you have a passion for medicine and the family business is a fur­niture store, follow that passion for medicine. Just because your passion was the business doesn’t mean you have to force your passion on every­one else.

  •  Humility. If someone lacks humility, they need to start a family business. If they still lack humility after running a business, try transitioning a business to another generation of leadership. It takes patience and the art of learning how to step back and let others accomplish the tasks in new ways. The second-generation owners of a family business whom I interviewed told the following story about their dad.

“Dad had started to transition out of the business. He was very organized and had a place for everything. The son, the new business owner and leader, had not inherited Dad’s particular gift of organization. He had piles on his desk and on the table. Dad on a few occasions during the transition went through and “cleaned up” the piles and threw out what he believed was unnecessary papers. As you can imagine, that created tension and frustration—on both sides. New rules had to be set up. There were new ways of doing things. It wasn’t better—just different—and Dad had to step back. He needed to be humble, understand new ways and allow the new regime to succeed or make mistakes on their own. It was a reality check for Dad who needed to realize he was no longer in control.”

She is very controlling.  He is always talking.  She is slow to take action.  He is quite a perfectionist.  Are those words descriptors of you, your family members or your spouse?  I know I recognize myself in at least two of those phrases.  The challenge is not only our behavior, but the behavior of others.  We need to understand the value of each other’s strengths and capitalize on them, not focus on the negative.  Let’s look at different types of “behavior”.

She is so controlling – yet the value she brings is the ability to makes decisions quickly, achieves goals, continue to be highly productive, a great leader, risk taker, and is usually efficient and structured.  Now that doesn’t sound so bad and could be these are tendencies that are needed in this business.

He is always talking to people which impacts productivity.  However he is also spontaneous and loves a crowd around him, seeks out participation from others, is great at motivating the team, keeps everyone laughing, is easy to get to know and will try anything.  Who wouldn’t want to be around him?

She is slow to take action and hard to adapt to new environments.  However, she is also relaxed, accepting, a great listener, a fantastic team member, is great at follow up, friendly, compatible and sees the details that others don’t see which keeps us out of trouble.

He is such a perfectionist – it has to be exactly right.  Yet, if I want something done right, he is the one to complete the task.  He is accurate, systematized, structured, a good planner, and focuses on quality more than anyone on the team.

What one considers a benefit, another considers irritating.  Think through the personalities on your team and refocus on looking at their irritating habits as strengths to appreciate!

An old adage goes, “Rules are meant to be broken.” In many ways, this is absolutely correct. Simply following the rules, doing the same thing over and over, won’t get you anywhere. Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them.” Every truly great, major innovation in history has come about as a result of new thinking.

 So let’s say you’ve set up your business, and are doing fairly well. You have a steady stream of revenue, a good customer base, efficient systems in place, and everything is going great. What do you do next? Often, businesses will plateau. They will improve up to a certain point, but things won’t get better from there. Once a plateau is reached, new thinking is required if you want your business to grow-which you should. Now, you should not throw your old playbook out the window, however, change is needed, and in many cases this change is rather unconventional. You need something that sets you apart.

  • What could you be doing that none of your competitors are?
  • What markets are you not tapping into?

Find that niche, and utilize it. Do something new, something different, and blow everyone away with your creativity and innovation. 
(Picture credit:Freeditigalphoto.com)

In any business, just providing good customer service is not enough. In order to rise above your competition, you must take your customer service from average to spectacular. Customers have higher expectations and look for something that makes your company stand out.

Create a positive customer experience. Were their phone calls answered courteously and in a timely manner? Were their encounters with you and/or your staff friendly, energetic, and memorable? Did you do everything possible to find answers to their questions, solve their problems, and meet their specific needs?

Share your enthusiasm. This key ingredient to success is crucial for gaining and retaining customers. If you are not enthused about your business, how can you expect the customer to be enthused about your products or services? Deliver your customer service with excitement! Your enthusiasm is apparent whether you are chatting on the phone, face-to-face, or emailing with your client. Make sure that your staff and team members provide customer service with the same levels of enthusiasm and excitement.

 Engage your customers. Assess all aspects of your business and determine how your clients felt about their experience. It is important to view your customer service from their side and then focus on any areas that may need improvement. Offer your clients the opportunity to share their feedback through comment cards, surveys, and testimonials. Be prepared and open to suggestions and/or complaints and criticism as you do this.

 Make it your goal to provide stellar customer service from start to finish. Let your enthusiasm impress and inspire your clients to come back again and again. When you share your products and services in a genuine, positive, and exciting manner you are building a connection and customer experience that helps you rise above the rest of the competition!

Whether you’re buying your morning cup of coffee, holding a door open for a passerby, or letting a fellow driver merge in front of you, most likely you hear two magic words: Thank You. You hear it most every day, probably more than once. But how often do you SAY it? Do you feel that you say it enough? And do you make it a point to show it?

Steven Covey, bestselling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, puts it this way: "Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival, to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated." [emphasis added]

Chances are your clients have a number of providers, services, companies, and products to choose from, and they have chosen to support you and your establishment. With the holidays just around the corner, this is one of the best seasons to show your gratitude and appreciation for all of the people who make your business possible!

Here are some easy ways to show your appreciation throughout the season (and all year long):

  • Mail your clients a thank you card. In the hustle and bustle of this email age, correspondence can get buried in junk boxes, scanned over and quickly forgotten, or overlooked completely. Sending a good old fashioned card in the mail provides your customers with a token of appreciation they can hold in their hands, feel with their fingers, and display for their friends and family.
  • Pick up the phone and actually tell them how much you appreciate them.  When is the last time you actually spoke to your customers, not about business but about them?  Building a lasting relationship is crucial to keeping quality customers.  To build relationships, you must seek to understand the uniqueness of each business and make time to verbally share how much you appreciate them and why.
  • Give your clients special offers or promotions. This is an especially great way to show appreciation to your patrons who purchase in high volumes or frequency, who often refer you to their network, and who have been loyal customers to you and your business. Speak with a business coach to plan the best way to offer these promotions and also stay within your budget.
  • Give your clients an inexpensive thank you gift. These gifts can be as simple as a coupon or discount on their next transaction. They can also be gift certificates for coffee or yogurt, housecleaning, courier services, etc. Giving gift cards can be a great way to refer your favorite small businesses to your clientele. Again, you may want to speak with a business coach to assess a good budget for you to give gifts without breaking the bank.

If you already incorporate customer appreciation into your business, then pat yourself on the back for a job well done. If you would like to start doing so, work on focusing your attitude on gratitude this holiday season...a little gratitude can go a long way!

The holidays are upon us, and too many times we find ourselves procrastinating during the last fiscal quarter of the business year.  Have you evaluated the success of your annual goals? How much time and research have you put into setting new goals for next year?  What is the state of your office and equipment?  Will you be making any changes? Are there expenses this year that you will not need to add to your budget for next year?  Are there additional major expenses that you will need to be planning for?  What is your marketing plan going to entail for the next twelve months?  These are just a few of the questions that are waiting for you to answer in the upcoming weeks.

What inevitably happens is that we feel like we have a lot of time to complete these final tasks, but in reality we have very little time between October 1 and December 31.  Between holiday closures and holiday parties, the actual work days are significantly reduced.  If you want to have a successful 2014, you have to begin planning for it now!

Here are 5 incredibly important tasks to complete by December 31!

  1. Revisit successes from 2013.  Are there identifiable actions that made the difference in your success this year? Are these actions transferable in other areas of your business?  If so, plot a time frame in your calendar to implement action steps in the first or second quarter of 2013.
  2. Revisit failures from your 2013 experiences.  What are the lessons you learned from your failures?  What are the specific actions that led to the downfall, and can you identify the same type of potential course in other areas of your business? Plan for an intervention to prevent experiencing the same type of failures during the next fiscal year.
  3. Contemplate how the year end of your business will look this time next year.  What will be the major difference between the last quarter of 2013 and 2014?  Have you set the appropriate goals in place to get you there?
  4. Plan for success.  Some of the most successful achievers meet their goals because they write them down, dissect them into their simplest form, and set dates to meet every little baby step along the way.  One of the most valuable tips they share is to read through your goals EVERY DAY.
  5. Get another person’s perspective on your achievements for 2013.  Talk to a business coach, mentor, financial advisor or other business professional.  You may be very excited that you ended the year with a great deal of money or may be concerned because you sold to less people this year than last.  A professional can help ask questions you may have not thought about.  It’s nice to have a bit of money in the bank at the end of the year, however if you have a large amount of credit card debt as well, there may be another perspective on how successful this year really was for you.  You may have had less clients, however if the quantity of purchase from those clients has significantly increased, you have successfully gain the trust that your company can handle large orders and indeed, you had a fantastic year.

Don’t head into the New Year blind.  If you plan your time, thoughts, and actions wisely during the last three months of this year, you will be setting yourself and your business up for an incredible 2014!

 

As children return to school after a busy summer, teachers are busy preparing activities to assess the knowledge they have retained from the previous year.  As a business leader, you must take the time to annually assess your business plan in order to grow your business.  You might look at your business plan as the “answer” to the test of what you have learned about growing a successful business.  The following are three tests that show what you have learned along the way.

Have you met your time line goals during the year and are you on track to finish the year strong.  This shows you have learned valuable lessons in time management and project management including the development of good work flow systems.  If you are behind in achieving your goals, put them through the SMART test.  Are they specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely? If they are and you are having trouble meeting your goals, this may indicate you need a bit of extra support and a business coach may be needed to help you succeed in your attaining your business plan. 

 Is your financial picture is on target or exceeds expectations for the year.  A healthy financial bottom line is a good indicator that your business goals for the year are being met.  However, closer scrutiny of both income and expenses is essential to ensure any financial gains and drains were derived from expected sources.  Any deviation may indicate a need for an adjustment in your business plan.  If you are unsure of where your money came from or went to give me a call and we can lay out a plan for getting your business financials in order.

 Are you ready to provide added value to your product line or services for the upcoming new year.  It is a satisfying feeling to review your business plan and check off the successes and milestones achieved.  A successful business is developed by scaffolding the lessons we’ve learn along the way, the lessons learned are simply a foundation for those yet to come.  You’ve heard the Marshall Goldsmith saying, “What got you here won’t get you there.”

  • Where is your next “there”? 
  • What will you need to learn to propel you to the next level?
  • What lessons will you need to learn to master the next test? 
  • Will you need a business mentor to help you get there? 

Test yourself throughout the year and be ready to evaluate what you have learned and what you need to learn to grow your business and achieve the success you deserve!

(Photo compliments of renjith krishnan/freedigitalphotos.net)

As a business owner you know by now that you can’t do it all.  In fact, depending on the size of your business, you may not even be able to do half the work it takes to produce the goods or services of your company.  Any good business coach will encourage you to grow a great team of employees and empower them to do the work you can’t do, don’t have time to do, or don’t want to do.  It all begins with the art of delegation.

The employees who are most successful in taking responsibilities off your plate are those you hire with the end in mind.  Regardless of the position opened, when interviewing prospective employees always look for those who have had leadership experience in the areas similar to your company’s structure or exhibit emerging leadership characteristics. 

Business owners are often quick to promote hot shots that talk a great talk or have quick success with a project.  Remember the “Peter Principle, Employees will rise to the level of their incompetence.” Rather than having a “promote until they fail” philosophy, introduce leadership responsibilities one delegated task at a time.  If the employee shows a consistent level of handling the tasks delegated, then you know you have a winner and a good candidate to promote into leadership. 

Start with these three tips for delegating:

  1.  Assign tasks which will not cause harm should the employee fail to achieve the desired outcome.
  2. Provide as much information as possible to set the employee up for success.  Outline the perimeters, (i.e., budget, deadline, specific details or requirements).  Paint a picture through words of what the end product should look like, however do not tell them how to do the project step by step.  You want to see what they can produce.
  3. Check in with the employee and ask how they are doing and if they need any help.  Set up “check points” for long term projects and require them to provide you with a status report.

When the project is finished, review with the employee what they did well and challenge them to increase their skills in specific areas on the next project.  If they can’t handle the responsibility, acknowledge their willingness to try.  When a project turns out spectacular, be sure to share credit where credit is due, besides, it makes you look good for hiring such great talent!

Here are three questions to ask which will help you finish the year strong:

  1. What goals have you already reached, will reach, have the potential to reach, and will unlikely reach by year end?  Now I am assuming that you have strategically crafted measurable goals for the year in the first place.  When you ask yourselves these questions each quarter, you are much more likely to intently focus on your business goals and work to achieve them.
  2. What do you contribute to the achievement of the goals you have reached so far?   Take the time to evaluate your accomplishments.  Plot your path to success and learn to replicate the steps that are fruitful for your particular business.  Keep a journal as you try new and different ideas and then turn your observations into workable systems which can be used again or expanded and used in other areas. 
  3. In the same way, if you tried something that doesn’t fit your business at all, consider the steps you took and find out why it didn’t work.  Do you need to throw out the whole idea, or is there just a portion of the process that needs reworking? Visualize each step until you can identify the missing element.  Your idea may not have worked for that particular project, but it might be adjusted and work in another area or for a different project?

Many of us are good at developing New Year Resolutions and goals.  Some are even good about writing these goals down, but how many are really good at checking in each quarter and strategizing ways to cross the finish line?  If you’re not quite sure how to make quarterly goals and reports work for your business, search the web for ideas, buy a book or call upon a trusted business coach or advisor.  This year, let’s make sure your goals are more than just a New Year’s Resolution!

Most companies fail because they run out of cash. The following are several reasons that precipitate running out of cash and how to turn those reasons into success:

  • Lack of critical thinking
  • No market research or competitive analysis
  • Confusing the product with the business
  • Refusing to release control to others
  • Failure to execute using acquired skills and tools
  • Failure to innovate

Failure!  One would think it is a 4 letter word.  It is probably the most dreaded thought of a business owner.  My business failed therefore I am a failure.  First, that is not a true statement. Second, if a business does fail then there are a number of reasons for the failure.  Thought must be given to why and what can be learned from business failures of others. 

When we become so busy in the day to day operations of the business, we forget to step away and try to understand what is happening within the business, around the business and out in the real world. We forget to think critically.

Critical thinking...the awakening of the intellect to the study of itself

If you don’t study your business you can’t determine what changes need to be made or how to adapt to the changing environment around you.  There are movies about Transformers. They adapt to the environments, dangers, opportunities and risks around them.  Without critical thinking, and the resulting transformations you incorporate into your business, you risk the initiation of your ultimate fear, failure. 

Critical thinking only happens when:

  • you walk away from the day to day operations
  • you read, observe, and educate yourself on what is going on around you
  • you look at who is buying, what customers are purchasing
  • you identify what customers are they truly looking for when they purchase your product or service

The practice I follow is to step away from my business once a month for a half day, and once a quarter for a full day.  This isn’t just for planning the next month or quarter, but rather a time to gather a greater vision by reflecting on successes and challenges.  It allows me to get away from the distractions of the office, and away from the responsibilities of home.  During this time I strategize by reflecting on recent experiences; to learn from them, and look ahead to determine an even greater vision for the business.  Critical thinking only happens when you allow your mind to be empty of day to day challenges, frustrations, and demands.  It is truly a discipline that allows a gathering clarity, precision, relevance, reasoning, depth of analysis and experience.  It is truly an opportunity to re-energize.

Failure to think critically about your business creates a vacuum of energy, direction, momentum and agility, all which lead to that first step down the road to your greatest fear.

An executive I was coaching was in a high pressure job.  She had people, email, phones and work all demanding her attention on a regular basis.  Her interrupt factor was extremely high, but since she worked in the contract department of her company, her ability to focus on the details was critical.  We first met in a group setting where the topic was time management and how to get more accomplished in the time available, without working an 18 hour day.  That wasn’t my title, but it is what she was looking for.

Our discussion came to the concept of being able to close the door of her office, turn off email, phones and focus on doing one thing without interruption for an hour.  She erupted.  “That isn’t possible with my job.  People stand at my door waiting for answers, the phone is constantly ringing.  That won’t work!”  I paused, allowed her to finish and asked her a question:  So what is happening right now while you are in this workshop – (which happened to be a 5 hour workshop)?  She was silent for a moment and then stated, “Well things are piling up while I am in here.” My challenge to her was to just try it – if it didn’t work, she could go back to how she was handling things now.  I chose not to challenge her further in front of her peers at that time and we moved on to another topic.

Since I was coaching her individually, the following week during our conversation she started off with an apology for coming on so strong to me during the meeting.  Also, she had tried my suggestion.  The previous day she had communicated to her team that she had some stuff to complete.  She was going to close her door, put a sign on it stating do not disturb, closed email and also put her phone on do not disturb.  In that hour she accomplished more than she had in the previous 3 days and was sold on the value.

The January issue of Success Magazine (which I highly recommend you subscribe to) had an interview with Mike Vardy.  He has done a number of studies that indicate the average executive/business owner focuses on one thing for no more than 11 minutes.  For every interruption they get, it takes about 25 minutes to recover where they were and start making progress.

The concept of multi-tasking is killing our productivity.  It has been proven that our mind cannot multi-task. It actually switches gears from one topic to another, but doesn’t multi-task.  We have all been in situations where we have been concentrating to get something accomplished, been interrupted and then either had to start over our thought process, or really wondered where we were and never get back to that same state.

Mike Vardy also stated in his research that multi-tasking actually diminishes our IQ by 10 points.  Even smoking pot only diminishes our IQ by 5 points.  Chew on that concept for a while!

Yes, there are situations in jobs that require us to juggle a number of things at one time.  If that is your job then great, enjoy!  I use to be called the “queen of multi-tasking”.  I could be processing multiple things at one time fairly well and keep all the balls up in the air.  However, when I needed to focus, complete a project, plan for a conference, review a sales proposal, that was all I did.  The door was closed, email ignored, phones on do not disturb because I knew that missing one small item could be the difference between success and failure.  I also had the benefit of being able to work from home a couple days per week and I scheduled my focus times for those days.

This is essentially about self-management.  Who is running your day, you or others? Do you determine your action items for the day the day before?  If not, then consider planning tomorrow today, next week this week, next month this month.  Make sure you leave time to plan.  Without planning you leave yourself and your life in a reactive vs. proactive mode.  You wonder why things happen to you, why you need to work late, why it is taking longer than you anticipated.  Most of these reactions are due to lack of planning.

So, have you decided if you can manage time?  I often ask this in my workshops and get a mixed reaction of yes and no.  Reality is no, you can’t manage time.  Time moves on no matter what we do.  What we can do is manage ourselves.  Self-management is the most critical aspect.  Like eating frogs – figure out what you are avoiding, do it first get it done.  Plan your day.  You say it doesn’t work, then step back and take a hard look as to why.  You are in a situation with a high interrupt factor, then plan for it.  Get in early and get those projects done before everyone else arrives.  Put on your calendar time to complete your action list for the day.  If you haven’t planned for when the action items will get accomplished you have a much lower chance at getting things done.

 

Rubber Bands and Leadership

Law 10 is the Law of the Rubber Band – The only time a rubber band is worth anything is when it has tension. The value is the stretch. Yet if we lose the tension of growth, we lose. No great discovery of life was found by a satisfied person. Be grateful for the tension in your life, it shows you are alive. Where do you want to be? What tension are you creating to help you be there? Then what is the next level you strive for.

I lived in Massachusetts for 30 years. The last few years were all about determining where we would get to live. See we were making a choice to move, making a choice to get out of our comfort zone. We spent time researching, learning, visiting and making a decision. It was fun, it was challenging, it was scary. We were leaving where we had lived for a long time, going to a place where we knew no one, we had never lived, and jobs were unknown. We did it, survived, loved it and have always been thankful we made the change. Yet, the challenge really came after the move, there was a time of restlessness – especially for me. What was the new challenge, what was next on the horizon? I needed a new tension. My rubber band was all out of tension. I wasn’t growing, stretching and pursing a new goal. That had to change – which it did – it was called opening my own business.

What I learned was – never complete the stretch without choosing the new stretch, the new place to go and grow. When there is no tension you are under the ground – and I am not ready for that!

Last week we highlighted the challenges of marketing.  Marketing without sales is a waste of time and money.  Yet, as a business coach, that is what I see continually in businesses I meet.  The marketing team (even if it is a team of 1) does the marketing activities: advertising, networking, strategic alliances etc.   Yet, when the phone rings does the sales team know how to close the sale?  Statistic indicate that almost 70% of sales are not closed due to the sales person never asking for the sale.  If you don’t ask for the sale, you probably won’t get it.  The sales team needs training.  I have joked that the sales team needs WEEKLY training, only to have sales people agree with me.  It isn’t a joke, train your sales team, train them well and train them often!

Who is your sales team?  My answer – every employee in the company?  Who needs sales training – every employee.  Who is the core sales team?  The team of people who regularly talk, meet with customers and prospects.  That includes receptionists, customer service, Presidents, management etc.  All it takes is one word to make the difference in a sale.

What do you train the sales team on?

  1. Conversion rate – The phone rings – a prospect – everyone is excited (or at least they should be).  How do you talk to them?  What questions do you ask PRIOR to your answering their question?  As prospects very few of us really know what we want to purchase.  We just think we know.  If you don’t help to educate us – we will then buy on price.
  2. Products – You know your products (or do you).  How do you describe them?  Do you create emotion as you share the value of your product to me?  Do you know how to create emotion for your product?  Does everyone really understand the value of the product?  For 98% of companies I believe the answers to the above questions are no.  Changing those answers will make a difference.
  3. Customer – Do you know what the customer wants?  Not what YOU think they want, but what they truly want?
  4. Competition – Who are your competitors and how are you different?  Why should they buy from you and not them?  If you are more expensive then why, if you are less expensive – then why.  Know your competition – they probably know you.

The critical impact of attitude is seen every day in the business world.  What one business owner sees as a disaster, another sees as opportunity, and capitalizes on that opportunity.  Those who have spent their lives in below the line thinking don’t even realize the impact it has not only on them personally, but their families, businesses, customers and potential.  If their team is below the line, where did they learn it from?  Most likely they learned it from the business owner.  An owner who is below the line will hire staff who also first turn to blame, excuses and denial. It is someone else’s fault that the project is delivered late, someone else’s fault that the customer is upset.  To change they will need someone to hold them accountable to point out where they are below the line.

As I work with clients on this concept, the tendency is to swing to a point where issues in the business are not discussed with the excuse (notice the tendency again) that the issue is below the line.  This doesn’t give permission for a business to white wash issues in the business.  What is does change is the ownership and responsibility for changing the issue at hand.  If projects are late, that is a fact.  The question is what must change in the business to ensure projects are not delivered late, that your customers have the experience stated in all the promotional material.

Businesses have lived for years in below the line thinking and attitude.   They stay in business, they grow, they pay the bills and serve customers.    What impact would the business make with an above the line attitude?  Profits would increase.  Less time would be spent on blame and poor productivity.  Productivity would increase with energy due to the positive atmosphere in the business. The examples abound.

Yet, you must be ready to make the change.  Your dissatisfaction with the results, profitability, long work hours, people avoiding you since they dislike being around negative, blaming people, etc., must be at a point where it is higher than your resistance to making the change.  It is easy to live below the line. It may not be fun, but it is easy and there is a great deal of company.  When I ask my clients do they want to be average, the resounding answer is NO.  They want to be above average.  To make that happen, your mindset must change to one of excellence—above the line thinking— and you will be amazed at the results.

The family business.  It is the foundation of the small business world in the US.  Approximately 80% of small business are family owned.  That can mean brothers, sisters, parents, grand parents, aunts, uncles and children.  Why are there so many family owned businesses?  One reason – blood is thicker than water.  There is a trust factor that comes with working with family.  I hear laughter from some of you.  Some of you wouldn’t trust your family with a dollar let alone own a business with them.  While that can be true, the reality is even where the family has a trust and verify.  The family business has a set of dynamics that are unlike any other.  Think of your family – what would it be like to work with them every day?  Then, go home each night.  Now I have you thinking…  Yes, that is the joy and challenge of family business.  It is often hard to:

  • “leave it at the office”
  • Ensure there is work/family balance
  • Handle the up and down times of revenue and profit
  • Ignore that irritating habit of the family member when they are always around

Yet, it is wonderful being able to:

  • Share the joys of success
  • Have your family understand the business
  • Be able to know the “team” members strengths and weaknesses
  • Work alongside someone you truly like
  • Share ideas and trust them to look out for your well being.

The list goes on for both sides.  If you are considering starting a family business congratulations – you will love the journey.

What have your experiences been with family businesses?  Are you in one?  Have you done business with one?  Share them with me, I would love to hear the stories.

Entrepreneurs and setting goals is a popular topic. Dan Sullivan had a perspective worth sharing in the May issue of Success Magazine. The concept is rather than trying to double or 2 times where you are– go for 10 times where you are. “WHAT?” I hear you all scream. “It is hard enough to achieve 2 times where I am, how on earth can I even consider a 10 X goal?” That is exactly the point.

A 2 X goal is really just pushing what you are already planning into the future (assuming you are planning). The ability to achieve the 2 X goal is a probable anyway. There really isn’t rocket science, you know the basics—hard work and you will achieve the 2X goal.

Now for the 10 X goal that starts pushing you out of your comfort zone. I can already feel the squirming. A 10X goal forces you to look at what is really going on in your business. It forces you to look at inefficiencies. It challenges you to think out of the box, to put systems in place to handle 10X, to understand your business, structure your business, and PLAN. You must now think differently, observe differently, plan differently and execute differently. Once you start thinking 10X you will notice opportunities, changes, and perspectives. Then you can start making the changes that are required.

Here are my perspectives and 4 ¾ downsides to this type of thinking:

1. Shooting for 10 X – you might not make it, you might only reach 5X.

2. 10 X thinking creates perspectives on your business and forces planning.

3. You don’t know how to think 10X? What better way to start looking at everything from a different perspective? Read, ask, get advice, reach out to others, be humble. Even if 10X is achieved, I guarantee your 3, 4 and 5X will be more profitable.

4. For 10X I need to look outside the box, and that creates FEAR. False Expectations Appearing Real – so what are your real fears? Figure them out, since they will probably keep you from achieving 2 X. There is no better time than the present.

4 ¾ Reality is I don’t see any downside to 10X type of thinking. The danger really lies in 2X thinking. Thinking too small limits your potential, who you can be, and can lead to my favorite quote: “Hell on earth is seeing the person I could have been!”

Embrace Conflict – it is good for you.

Conflict is part of everyday life. If you have a business, marriage, relationship without conflict then you essentially are an ostrich with your head in the sand, which is the equivalent to being a yes man – which means you agree to things even if you don’t agree to avoid conflict – which is in and of itself conflict. One class I would recommend every business owner take is a mediation or conflict resolution class. There are books on the subject. One is “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In” by Roger Fisher. For me it was a hard book to read – but I really enjoyed it on audio. The sooner you learn how to deal with conflict the better off life will be.

One of my clients was engaged at the time. Life was sweet for both of them. They enjoyed being together, they were obviously in love with each other, yet trouble was brewing. Every time he wanted something and she disagreed, she caved in. This was very evident in the business environment. It had been his business; she was new to his business, yet was very accomplished on her own and actually has better business sense than he did. Yet, what happened every time she suggested something and he disagreed, she would back down, both in business and personal. He even stated that he wondered when she was going to stop becoming so agreeable. It will happen and for both of them it will be a time of rude awakening as neither had really learned how to negotiate. They hadn’t learned the art of give and take and how to move both their ideas forward without squelching the spirit of the other person.

Couple of points on conflict resolution:

1. It isn’t always about getting what you want – learn the art of compromise.

2. If it is all about you – then the “we” part of any relationship won’t be long term.

3. Make sure you get the complete picture – stop assuming – remember what assume means. If you don’t know – then break out the word assume into 3 syllables – you get the picture.

4. Life is about negotiating – learn how to do it well, then apply the same art within your business and within your family.

Curiosity is critical in business. Accepting status quo, what others tell you is right and looking at the world the way everyone else does will and does get you in trouble.

Instead we need to step back and watch a 2 year old. What do they do?

• The explore everything, hold it upside down and look at it in every way possible.

• They challenge what others say and ask WHY? and keep asking WHY?

• “I can do it myself” is their mantra (well maybe we need to moderate that perspective.)

• There is nothing they can’t do in their mind.

• They are ready to take on the world.

Have you lost your natural desire to be curious, ask questions, challenge how others think you should act? If so then stop, slow down and watch a 2 year old. Start exploring your own world. There is so much at our fingertips that passes us by every day.

Curiosity may have killed the cat – but it will grow your business!

Entrepreneurs, business owners, leaders, managers need to step back on a regular basis and get back to basics. The temptation when running your own enterprise is to stop doing the foundational elements that made you successful in your business. What are the basics for you? Could they be?

Marketing: Testing and measuring what is working in your marketing program and what isn’t. Are you guessing as to which marketing programs work and which don’t. One of my clients swore that one of their marketing programs worked and worked well, until we ran the numbers. They were investing about $14,000 per year in this program and got about $6,000 back. Even taking into account lifetime value of the new customers, it was an expense and not an investment. Both revenue and profitability went up when they stopped that marketing program.

Sales: It is documented that sales people must be trained and retrained on a regular basis to refine their skills and ensure the basic blocking and tackling is being done. What old sales techniques need to be revisited and are there new ones? Selling today is very different than 5 years ago, however some of the basics like communicating with your prospect are foundations which often get forgotten due to bad habits.

Closing: Are you asking for the close in the sale? I have a client that lost the potential of a big new account because the prospects perception was that they didn’t want it enough. They asked for the close, but not often enough during the final presentation. Their competition asked for the sale more.

Advertising: Are you running the same old ad that you always do? It works – great, but could it be better. What is your shock and awe with your advertising? Do you get their attention, or are they yawning through the whole process?

Basics are critical. Innovation is critical, yet if the innovation is built on a rocky foundation the whole business may fail before you know it.

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