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Growing and running a successful small business sometimes means admitting that you need help from someone with more knowledge or experience, but many business owners hold back.
 
Don’t make this mistake. Here are five “thinking traps” that could be preventing you from getting the assistance you need—and why you need to avoid them.
  • Ego – “I can do it; I don’t need help.” Guess what? Everyone needs help. In fact, the most profitable, most well-run businesses are run by owners who constantly ask questions and seek help.
  • Shame – “I don’t want anyone to know the hole I have dug for myself and my family.” It will come out at some point, and as John Maxwell states in his book Failing Forward, “Success is measured by your perception of and response to failure. Every person fails. Every business owner fails at some point. It is only with failure that you can truly be a success. This may sound harsh, but get over it, figure out how big the hole is, what can be done about it, LEARN from it and move on.
  • Fear – “I don’t want to know what trouble I am really in.” A business was owned by a mother and daughter. They provided childcare to the community and accomplished their service in an extraordinary way. Unfortunately, the relationship between mother and daughter was often confrontational so the mother eventually ended up firing her daughter and running the business herself. While the business started to grow, the mother knew she was behind in paying bills so she stopped checking her voicemail. Her fear of what the messages would say was so great that she was unable to listen even to gather voicemails from new families seeking her services. The end result was a closed and bankrupt business, employees out of work, and another business not fulfilling its potential. Her fear was people calling for payment of late bills. The reality was that her voicemail included those very families that could have taken care of the creditors and kept the business afloat. What are your fears?
  • Didn’t Know – “I did not realize there were resources out there to help me.” If you are going to own your own business, you must read, be aware, listen and not stick your head in the sand. In this age of computers and the Internet, there are many resources to help you. Not knowing is not acceptable. The challenge is to ask better questions when you do seek out help so you get the answers you need, not the answers you want. There will always be things you don’t know, didn’t understand, didn’t consider. As a business owner, try to minimize the effects of not knowing by creating a plan for learning.
  • MBA Know-It-All -- This is my favorite: “I don’t need help; I have an MBA.” Sorry, but having an MBA doesn’t guarantee you won’t go out of business. It may prepare you for a job at a company that wants what is taught at business school, but it seldom prepares you for handling the real-world aspects of running a business, especially a small family business. I have encountered many family business owners who don’t believe they need help because they have an MBA and know how to do the business thing. I have also encountered just as many business owners who have been humbled by losing their business because they thought they learned it all while earning their MBA. This statement may not be popular with business schools, but I will stand behind it.
Don’t fall into these traps. Understand that the more you know, the more you have to learn, and you’ll probably need help learning it as quickly as possible.
 
This is an excerpt from The Family Business by Janna Hoiberg.
 
 
Rope is a very versatile tool. With rope, you can hang a bear bag, rescue a friend who fell off a cliff, help someone climb up to a new ledge, tie down your tent in high winds. Simply put, a rope is critical on the trail. It is insurance that protects you if you need it.
 
Insurance for your business is similar. You hope and pray you don’t need it, but it is invaluable if you do. There are several types of insurance your business might need: property, casualty, auto, errors and omission, and key-man life insurance. The specific list is determined by the business and the individual. Most businesses have insurance; the challenge is to understand what insurance is needed and what is covered.
 
In Colorado, after years of drought and wildfires, we faced times of extreme rain. These events highlighted for both individuals and family business owners how good (or in many cases, how bad) their insurance coverage really was. In one year (actually in about a four-month period) we used our car insurance (my husband was hit by a drunk driver and the car was totaled), our property insurance (a tree fell on our house), our boat insurance (the same storm that caused the tree to fall created waves that sunk our boat), and our health insurance. The only insurance we didn’t use that year was life insurance—thankfully.
 
One additional note on insurance: Understanding the fine print is critical. Weather happens, and one day we had over eight inches of hail in about one hour. At one office building, the rain blocked the drain pipes that lead water off the roof, and about three inches of water flowed into the top floor. Water was flowing out of electrical outlets, ceilings, and any place it could go. However, since the roof didn’t “fail” the insurance company was denying the claim for one of the tenants. Each of the other insurance companies paid, but not that one. The fine print in the policy indicated that it didn’t cover water if there was no damage to the roof.
 
Yes, there are many horror stories about insurance companies. Some of these can be avoided by reading the policies, asking questions, and not making assumptions about coverage. Insurance is essentially like the bear bag we use when hiking. We don’t anticipate running into that bear, and they are usually as afraid of us as we are of them. However, things can happen. We bear bag our food—all of it. Insurance offers the same kind of protection for your business.
 
Excerpted from The Backpacker's Guide To Business Success by Janna Hoiberg.
 
 
Have you ever seen a dog follow a rabbit trail? The dog endlessly sniffs around in circles, never getting anywhere. And it seldom catches the rabbit!
 
A rabbit trail in business is that path you go down that wasn’t on your meeting agenda or your plan for the day. These rabbit trails can jeopardize a project’s completion, a business’s success, and an employee’s ability to get things done.
 
Meetings often take us down a rabbit trail when participants discuss anything but the scheduled agenda. On the other hand, some rabbit trails create the best ideas for the organization! The challenge is determining which rabbit trails are productive and which are not.
 
Below are recommendations for handling rabbit trails without losing the value the trail might provide for your family business.
 
1.  Always have an agenda for meetings, even if the agenda is created as the meeting begins. What is the objective? How long should the meeting take? How will new topics be handled? Who will keep the meeting on track? These are foundational questions that should be considered prior to every meeting.
 
2. Always bring the discussion back to the topic at hand. Utilize the concept of a parking lot. As discussions unfold, you “park” items not on the agenda that might need to be addressed, but not in this meeting.
 
3.  Set clear and intentional priorities. 
  • If you are running the meeting, keep it focused on the task at hand. This doesn’t mean you don’t give team members new projects; it just means you may (depending on the individual) need to help them prioritize their activities.
  • If you are an employee and the boss suggests a new idea, ask where it ranks among the goals already set for the company and the priorities she set for you earlier in the week (or earlier in the day). Ask questions, and get clarification.
  • Understand the old Mark Twain concept of “eat a frog for breakfast.” Essentially, focus on the most difficult thing you need to do first thing in the morning. Then you will have accomplished the hardest thing early and the rest of the day is available for all other activities— including rabbit trails if they can’t be avoided.
4. Set aside time for brainstorming on a regular basis. True brainstorming combines a relaxed, informal approach to problem solving with lateral thinking. This process can lead to some of the best business-growth ideas—and those aren’t rabbit trails.
 
Once you know that a rabbit trail can provide value, you can take the time to explore all that it has to offer.
 
Excerpted from The Backpacker's Guide To Business Success by Janna Hoiberg.
 
 
Screaming into the wind out in the wilderness is virtually useless. No one can hear you. However, a whistle provides a very different type of noise. When you are truly in the backcountry (and in some places even around town), a whistle provides protection against danger.
 
A whistle is a necessity in the woods, especially if you aren’t around people, in which case you might find yourself uncomfortably close to the wildlife. Have you ever seen a bear and tried to scream? It is the scream that no one hears because you open your mouth to scream but nothing comes out.
 
Even if a scream does escape, that gentle breeze that feels so good also muffles the sound of your scream, so no one hears you. But a whistle: that sound pierces through the wind to bring help running (either toward you or away from you). When the voice has been scared right out of you, a whistle will call for help.
 
When you’re kayaking in the backcountry, even going to the bathroom requires a whistle. You might not ever come face to face with a bear, but being face to face with your pants down puts whole new meaning to scaring the pants off you. You know the old story about being chased by a bear: You don’t have to be the fastest runner in the group; you just can’t be the slowest. Unfortunately, with your pants down, you probably aren’t going to run very fast should that bear come upon you. (Don’t you just love that image?)
 
What is your whistle in your family business and career? How do you call for help when needed? Who do you hope will come to your rescue? Or maybe you are the type to run around with your pants around your ankles screaming into the wind as the bear chases you. That is another decision you get to make. In our careers, there are lots of bears that threaten our livelihood: mergers, acquisitions, new technology, new bosses, competition, changing economic landscapes, lack of attention to detail, lack of personal and business growth. All of these factors might mean that you need to call for help.
 
Be willing to ask for help. Our society has too much of an attitude that portrays, “I can do it alone.” or “My way is best.” or “I don’t need you.” Needing and asking for help and another person’s perspectives is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it is a sign of strength. It may be the only way you get yourself out of your current jam.
 
Help can come from mentors, coaches, advisors, or trusted friends. Make sure you have people targeted that can help in certain situations and have a plan for the right people to contact based on the circumstances.
 
Career advice should probably come from someone older who has hit some rough spots but still succeeded in their career. Parenting advice probably comes best from parents who are at least ten years further down the road than you are and have walked through the parenting steps you’re currently taking. And of course, legal advice is always best from a lawyer.
 
Whatever the reason, don’t be afraid to whistle for help when you need it. It’s better than facing down a bear.
 
Excerpted from The Backpacker's Guide To Business Success by Janna Hoiberg.
 
 
You are ready—ready to start the transition process for your business. What you’d really love is to pass the business on to the next generation; keep it in the family; pass down that legacy to your kids and hopefully your grandchildren.
 
But your kids are hesitating. They aren’t sure they want the business, and frankly you don’t get it. Why wouldn’t they want to be their own boss, set their own hours, never work for someone else. Isn’t that the dream?
 
A little self-reflection might help you better understand their hesitation.
  • How often did you come home and complain about your customers and how they always wanted something for nothing?
  • How often did you miss events due to “the business?”
  • How often did you share the good days and the joys of running your own business?
  • Did you ever offer a surprise – like taking the day off unplanned just to hang out with the family? (Yes, it is possible to do this, and I’ll discuss it in future articles.)
Are you seeing a theme here? We see all the joys of owning a family business, yet we forget to practice that process of “selling it” to our kids during their formative years. After a rough day at work, it’s common to unwind (and sometimes unload) by sharing things with our family. However, if we don’t also share the excitement, the joys, and the financial opportunities of running a business, then we shouldn’t be surprised when no one wants to follow in our footsteps.
 
As you ponder this, ask yourself: “Would I want to follow in my footsteps? Am I selling the complete picture—the good and the bad—to the next generation so they can make an informed decision?”
 
Too often the answer is no. We share the downside and not the up, and then wonder what happened when our kids want to do anything else but take over the family business. Start now to share the positive as well as negative aspects of running your business, and you might find the next generation eagerly waiting for you to hand hand them the reins.
 
 
Leadership isn’t about “being right no matter what.” And it isn’t about being macho, sticking it out when turning back is the right action to take. To lead, you must make the best possible decisions for the team’s success.
 
Which type of person are you? What can you do to lead your team more effectively? To quote the international author, speaker, and leadership guru John Maxwell, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”
 
The word influencer can act as a kind of acronym for characteristics influencers need and actions they should take:
  • Influencers should have INTEGRITY. What does integrity mean to you? Leaders need to define integrity for themselves and communicate that to their team.
  • Influencers should NURTURE those they work with. Nurturing means lifting them to a higher level of success.
  • Influencers should have FAITH: faith in their team, faith in the vision and that the team can make things happen.
  • Influencers should LISTEN. Leaders will know the heart, the hope and the hurt of their team. They will ask questions, use responsive listening, engage with the speaker and want to hear what the speaker is saying.
  • Influencers should UNDERSTAND. To understand the mind of a person, look at what he has achieved. To understand the heart of a person, look at what he dreams of becoming.
  • Influencers should ENLARGE. They cannot give what they do not have. Enlarging is growing oneself in order to support the growth of colleagues, which in turn grows the organization.
  • Influencers should help others to NAVIGATE. A leader is one who sees more than others see, farther than others see, and before others see it. They can navigate their way to success.
  • Influencers should CONNECT well: Credibility + Communication = Connections. They connect through relationships, sacrifice, experience, character and insight. Go to their world and connect from the heart.
  • Influencers should EMPOWER those around them. They see the potential of the individual and encourage, equip, and empower them. They share their knowledge experience and influence and show others their belief in that person.
  • Influencers should REPRODUCE themselves. In other words, they should teach those on their team their skill sets. Model good leadership. Provide training, resources and experiences to create the desired growth.
Which of these are already strengths and which ones do you need to work on to be an effective leader in your start-up or family business?
 
 
 
Hiking can be done alone; there is a time and place for everything. Yet, in general, the fun part of the journey—on the trail and in business—is time spent with others. Who are you taking with you? That is also part of leadership—taking others along with you. I can see some scowls in the audience. “Do I have to take my team with me?” If you want to do it right, then, yes, and you will grow from it. Hiking with people allows for conversation, camaraderie, and support, not to mention friendly (though sometimes useless) chatter. Sounds like some team meetings some of you have attended, right?
 
Having the right team can make all the difference. Some of you might be saying, “I don’t get to choose my team, so how do I make it work?” Well, if leadership were easy, anyone could do it. The idle chatter on the trail and in family business is an opportunity to learn more about those you hike with—what motivates them, how and why they struggle. The more you understand, the more you can help them grow, and you grow as a result.
 
Take a closer look at the role you fill on your team. First, fire yourself. Now figure out what the classified ad would look like if you were hiring someone to take your place. For example:
 
• What background should they have?
• What should their attitude be?
• How will they work with others?
• What kind of work ethic should they have?
• Do they invest in professional development or rest on their laurels?
 
Walk through this person’s qualifications and conduct. Now for the big question: Would you hire yourself? If not, can you now see what changes you need to make? Make a decision to be the person you would want replacing you. Now hire yourself back and be that.
 
Ask questions whose answers will show what you can do to support your team members’ success. When individual team members become successful, the team will be successful. As a result, you will be successful. Building or shaping a successful team takes time, energy, and patience. Most managers simply aren’t up for the challenge. They want the easy way—excuses. They don’t want to bother growing themselves, let alone somebody else. It is “above their pay grade.” Really it is just beyond their desire to succeed.
 
 
 
Anything can happen on a mountain. My son was hiking in New Hampshire, and one of his team stepped on a hidden wasp hive. They had a swarm of very upset wasps. Almost everyone was stung at least once and a couple of hikers were stung multiple times. Fortunately, no one had allergies to wasps, but they had the Benadryl to treat if there was a reaction.
 
Being prepared for unforeseen possibilities is essential. Having a first-aid kit and knowing what to do in case of an emergency go hand in hand. This can be a matter of life and death.
 
When it comes to your business, ask yourself if you can perform first aid in situations like these:
  • How do you handle that major customer who isn’t satisfied with the quality of work just delivered?
  • What happens if that major customer (or any customer) defaults? Do you have a way to stop the bleeding?
  • How do you handle the disgruntled customer or employee?
Knowing how to treat a broken leg can save a life on a mountain, and knowing how to handle challenges can save the life of your business.
 
When hiking or running a family business, you must also know how to take care of yourself throughout the journey. Exhaustion can overtake the business owner—and the employee as well—if they don’t take regular rests. Exhaustion also comes from work that is not interesting, energizing, or challenging.
 
It has been said that eighty percent of businesses fail in the first five years. In my belief, it isn’t from lack of revenue, customers, or plans. It is due to exhaustion. Business owners just don’t have the energy to keep going. They stop serving customers with quality. They stop caring about employees. They stop marketing, selling, and growing the business with the focus and determination they had when they started. Why? Because they haven’t taken care of themselves.
 
They haven’t taken a break (for example) to go backpacking, leaving all the stress, pressure, and frustration and focusing on something else. You don’t need to go backpacking; however, you do need to do something that doesn’t involve working, just sitting around the house, or doing daily chores.
 
Here is the bonus when you do get away: the ideas flow more quickly and easily, and your enthusiasm and energy return. The frustration is exchanged with clarity and usually an action plan. You return with that energy and clarity that got you started in the first place. I don’t care how much you love your job or your business: You need a break. So take one.
 
 
 
There’s an age-old statement, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” This often applies to small and family business owners as they’re starting out. They believe:
 
♦ They can serve the customer more effectively. However, this is much harder than they thought and they eventually start to understand their old company better. Customers can be (and often are) demanding. Their interpretation of quality is different from yours. You may see value in something that the customer doesn’t care about.

♦  They have superior ideas on implementation. Some of those ideas work and some don’t.

♦  Flexibility is fantastic—you can work any part of the 24 hours per day that you want. Yes, you do have flexibility to take your kids to school, pick them up, go to their activities, etc., but there is a cost, and that cost is often working evenings and weekends and other times that you didn’t have to work at your previous job.
 
It comes down to believing that we will have more control of things in a small business than we could ever have in a “real job.” Sadly, this is not usually true.
 
Control Is An Illusion
 
The more we want and think we have control, the less we have. There is always someone else who truly has more control. It might be customers, the government, laws, acts of God. It is that desire for control that if not managed well drains the business.
 
The inability to delegate is the result of the business owner’s desire to have control. They can do it better than anyone else. They serve the clients better, they know the product better, and therefore they don’t delegate. They truly want the control and the ego boost that comes with it.
 
Stop it now. Learn how to delegate.
 
Delegation Is The Key
 
Suzie had been a controlling person for years. She worked long hours and had a high standard for how things got done. After years of working like this, her energy level and her love of the business began to deteriorate. After getting advice from a family business specialist, she began to realize that others could probably do things as well as she could or, more importantly, better.
 
Slowly she began to document how to do tasks that she had always thought only she should do. She realized that one of her office team members could enter some of the bills and that she was actually faster than Suzie. That freed up some time to work on more strategic activities. The end result was business growth, increased profit and a happier office team since they were now more empowered and felt more valued.
 
After you have determined the above and decided who should complete the task, do the following:
  • Review the task to be delegated.
  • Make sure the employee knows and understands what needs to be done.
  • Let them own the task.
If you’re uncomfortable with delegation, you’re in good company. But learning this vital skill will reap amazing benefits in your family business because you’ll be able to focus on and be valued for the things that you truly do best.
 
 
 
“Control freak” is often an apt description of business owners. We like the ability to control our destiny, make our own decisions and see the impact of what we accomplish. The challenge comes with:
 
-- Understanding how little control we actually have; it’s really just a perception of control.
-- Learning how to relinquish control, i.e., delegate, for the business to grow.
-- Leveraging our controlling nature into something successful.
 
The example below offers some good insights on this.
 
An Entrepreneur’s Dream
 
Sal kept watching how the business was run, the waste that was taking place, how customers were being treated and the lack of profit that was being generated. These frustrations led to his determination to start his own business.
 
Sal’s premise was that he would treat employees much better than his current employer did, eliminate waste, treat his customers better and generate more profit. In essence, Sal wanted control overthe areas in which his current employer struggled. He accomplished those goals. He also learned a number of lessons in the process.
 
These goals were Sal’s primary drivers for family business ownership (and possibly entrepreneurship in general). The person who wants to start a business:
  • Is tired of following someone else’s lead/orders;
  • Believes they can serve the customer better;
  • Has different ideas on how to implement the product or service;
  • Desires flexibility in their day-to-day lives and a better balance between work and home;
  • Craves the ability to make more money.
The Light of Reality
 
New business owners quickly discover that there are as many challenges in this new role as in their former job. They just have a different look.
To start, the new boss (themselves and their family) is not the wonderful boss they thought they would be and they have a great deal to learn.
 
The new boss in the mirror isn’t always a pretty sight. They find that the new boss is demanding, doesn’t give vacations, doesn’t allow employees to sleep in, has become more of a perfectionist, is always striving to improve and the list goes on.
 
Running any business, including a family business, takes as much—or possibly more—commitment and hard work as any other business role. It comes down to understanding the challenges, including lack of control, and then determining if entrepreneurship is right for you.
 

 

High on a mountain top above tree line is not a good time for nature to call. Fortunately, many National and State Parks actually have backcountry toilets. Few are as nice as what you have at home, yet many come with some distinction including the most beautiful views. They give the phrase “contemplating nature” a whole new meaning.
 
Unfortunately, the flies also like that beautiful view and congregate around the toilet, hundreds of flies at times. Relieving yourself in the backcountry may not be pleasant, yet it is a fact of life that must be addressed. The same is true for unpleasant business situations.
 
Identifying Flies In Your Business
 
Few people like flies. They can serve a purpose, but most people don’t enjoy engaging with them, especially at a mountain-top toilet. Yet we often attract them to our business because of the “waste” we produce.
 
Different types of flies are attracted to different substances and material. Some are attracted to waste or rotting meat. Others are attracted to sugary or vinegary substances. Do you want to be followed around by a team just waiting for you to fail, wanting to know what you will screw up that will make them look better? They will feed off your “waste,” allowing them to look much better in the business environment.
 
The reality is that without a good team and a good culture, waste gets in the way. A culture of gossip attracts people who gossip. A culture of bad attitudes and blame attracts people with bad attitudes who like to blame others for their problems. The family business leader who is disorganized will attract employees who are disorganized. The manager who is a poor planner will attract employees who resist planning.
 
A lack of clean-up attracts a certain type of crowd. Is it the crowd you want?
 
Start Reducing Your Waste
 
How do you get rid of flies at the mountain top toilet? Usually by closing the lid—it minimizes the attraction (although it doesn’t completely eliminate it). Don’t you wish all flies were that easy to get rid of? The flies that we work with are often a mirror of who we are and how we manage. What we tolerate or even accept is reflected in our businesses, teams, and projects.
 
Our business days are full of time, talents, and opportunities that can create success for every employee. But if we’re not careful in how we manage, if we don’t “close the lid” when necessary, we can waste our time, talents, and opportunities and watch as the flies come to see what they can get.
 
Are flies congregating around your family business, your project, or your career? Are they having a field day with the mess you have left behind? What will you do about it?
 
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?
Toilets in the woods are bad enough. Using the “big leaf” approach to clean up, it seems to me, would make them even worse. I want my nice soft TP, a reminder of the comforts of home. But there may be one advantage to big leaves. When you are back-country, you usually don’t have an outhouse that you can throw the toilet paper down; you need to dig a hole with a shovel, bury the “output,” and bring the toilet paper home with you. Big leaves can go into the hole. Some wilderness areas take it a step further, requiring that you leave absolutely no trace—period. They do not want the wilderness area tainted with human waste of any kind. That means you need to pack out all waste. Eeww. Fortunately, I have only been places where I can dig a hole and bury it. I’m not even sure I would want to hike in those “absolutely no trace” areas. That might be the line in the sand for me. Each person needs to determine how they will follow the rules of any given forest, and within those rules, what “waste” they will pack out.
 
What stuff do you need to bury in a hole, never to be seen again? Bad attitudes, anger, assumptions, resentment, jealousy, and lack of patience come quickly to mind. Doesn’t that represent exactly what goes on in the fast-paced world of business? There is always “stuff” that needs to be cleaned up, and the need to eliminate waste often comes at an awkward time. If you don’t clean up the mess when and how you should, it usually comes back to bite you. If any of you have ever written computer code, you know that cleaning up your code and documenting it so someone else can work with it is essential. That clean-up process and the documentation that comes with it makes the code easier to debug, easier to expand upon, and easier to leave as part of your legacy. Where else is that true in your projects, desk, home, and personal life? How clean you leave things is a direct reflection on who you are and how you think.
 
Business is made up of people, and even the cleanest people carry baggage, make messes, and sometimes leave messes behind. “Leave no trace” isn’t a viable concept in business. What traces will you leave? Is your trace one of integrity, nurturing, faith, listening, understanding, and enlarging? Or is it about clawing your way to the top, winning at all cost, gossip, and demeaning others? We each make our mark on the business, the team, the customers, and the future of the business. Carefully consider what mark you are leaving and whether you need to change it.
 

Control freak is often an apt description of business owners. We like the ability to control our destiny, make our own decisions and see the impact of what we accomplish. The challenge comes with:

• understanding how little control we actually have – just a perceived control,

• learning how to relinquish control i.e. delegate, for the business to grow and

• how to leverage our controlling nature into something successful.

An employee kept watching how the business was being run, the waste that was taking place within the business, how customers were being treated and the lack of profit being generated by the business. These frustrations led to his determination to start his own business. His premise was he would treat employees much better than his current employer, eliminate the waste taking place, treat his customers better and generate more profit. In essence, he wanted control over the areas his current employer struggled. He accomplished those goals. He learned a number of lessons in the process. These were his and others primary drivers for family business ownership (and possibly entrepreneurship in general). The business owner is tired of:

• Following someone else’s lead/orders

• Believes they can serve the customer better

• Has different ideas on how to implement the product or service

• Desires flexibility in their day to day lives and a stronger balance between work and home and

• Can make more money, i.e. profit

The lessons learned are:

• Their new boss (themselves) is not the wonderful bosses they thought they would be and they have a great deal to learn. Looking in the mirror at the new boss isn’t always a pretty sight. It is the age old statement of “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”

• They can serve the customer better, but it is much harder than they thought and they start to understand their old company better. Customers can and often are demanding. Their interpretation of quality is different than yours. You may see value in something that the customer doesn’t care about.

• They do have different ideas on implementation – some of those ideas work and some don’t

• Flexibility is fantastic – you can work any part of the 24 hours per day that you want. Yes, you do have flexibility to take kids to school, pick them up, go to games etc., but there is a cost and that cost is often working evenings and weekends and other times that you didn’t previously work.

Reality:

What makes great entrepreneurs is the desire for control, but understanding less is more. To have the utmost control, we need to leverage our skills and have others in place to do the work – therefore we stop being the bottleneck to success.

The more we want and think we have control, the less we have. There is always someone else who truly has more control. It might be customers, government, laws, acts of God. It is that desire for control that if not managed well drains the business. Lack of an ability to delegate is the result of the business owners desire to have control. They can do it better than anyone else. We serve the clients better, they know the product better, therefore they don’t delegate. We truly want the control and the ego lift that comes with it. Stop it NOW. Learn to delegate and delegate wisely. 

False Expectations Appearing Real
Forget Everything and Run
Face Everything and Rise
 
Each of the above can be our reaction to FEAR.  Often it saves our lives or keeps us from harm.  When we are young (hopefully) we learned not to put our hand on a hot stove.  That fear keeps us from getting hurt.

Yet, sometimes our fears keep us from moving forward.  Fear of  failure, fear of being embarrassed, fear of public speaking, fear of upsetting an employee, fear of holding them accountable, fear of scarcity... the list is long.   Then there is the age old fear of spiders, unless you lived in my house growing up.  My mom didn't like spiders and would vacuum them up.  My dad and I would rescue them before she saw them and hide them in a plant (unless it was a black widow - those we killed).

How do you use your fears?  Do you use them as a motivator to overcome and move forward?  Do you use them as an excuse to stay in your comfort zone?  Do your fears hold others back?  You are afraid of heights so you won't allow other family members to stand close to the edge?  You are afraid of failure, so you won't allow your employees to take a risk?  Yes, you see the potential for high rewards, yet, there is a high potential for failure as well.  

Where we end up long term depends on how we challenge ourselves to face our every day fears.  When I started to write, The Family Business Book, my fear was having the first person (outside my own family) read it. Would they like it? Did it make sense?  Was it worth purchasing?  If I had allowed my fears to control my actions, it wouldn't be published.  The book wouldn't be helping family business owners look at their business in new ways and have new and different conversations with family members.

Now the idea for the second book has been born and is in the works.  Are the fears there?  Yes they are.  Will I move through them?  Absolutely. Will I breathe a sigh of relief after the first presentation on the topic (which is before the book is published) is done and I get feedback - absolutely.

Yet, even if I failed, I have learned a great deal on the journey.  So what are your fears and how will you face them - starting today?

 

For years the business owner did it right. She created a viable business, worked through her business plan and now, years later her hard work has paid off and it's now time t retire. What does this ambiguous word RETIRE actually mean, and how does it impact a business and the life of the original owner?

Not being too many years away from the typical age of retirement myself, I have read many articles on both what to do and what it takes to retire. Each author provides a personal point of view from either a financial perspective (what can you afford), or from a times perspective (what do you do now to prepare).

For some business owners, the shift sometimes never happens. They neglected to create a life outside of the business, so to stop doing what has motivated them throughout the years may create an essential spiral down of personal value. They have no identity outside of work, and to quote my son in his salutatorian speech for high school graduation: "You g to school, get a job, raise and family and die." Doesn't sound that enticing does it!

Let's explore an attitude adjustment on the idea of retirement. Here are 2 topics that I challenge you t consider:

1. Wording: Change you wording from retirement to financial independence. So you are 32 and retirement isn't part of your vocabulary - I get it. Yet when I talk to almost anyone at any age, they all seek financial independence. Being financially independent can happen at any stage of life. The first ting you must do is determine what financial independence means for you and for your family. For some, it is having millions in the bank, for others it is having enough set aside that should they stop working, the money set aside would allow them to live a reasonable life style. The magic is determining what is enough. The questions of what is enough can only be answered by you, but avoidance and not planning isn't the answer, unless you want at some point in the future, to be limited by what you can d, when you can do it, and how you will do it etc.

2. Attitude: The old style of sitting in you rocker on the font porch is either gone, or should be gone - since all it will do is make you a goner. Our life has stages; childhood, teenage yeas, young adult, raising kids (or middle life), and empty nesters. Notice the concept of when you work isn't' defined at all. For the years that you want to be a contributing member of society, you will work in one way or another. The mother that works inside the home may not get paid an hourly wage, but she works her tail off. The empty nester that is mentoring a new business may not be paid in monetary dollars, but is contributing in so may other was. The question is, what are you planning to contribute at each stage of your life? What will you impact on your family, community, church and world look like?

Notice in the above 2 topics I never once asked when you were going t stop your paying job and "retire". Sure there will be a time that you will cut back on the schedule you presently keep, the office hours, and the number of people that report to you, that is part of life. However, just like changing jobs, starting a new business, or going to college, each requires a plan. Therefore create your "RETIREMENT" plan and execute that plan. Your family, your church, your community and the next generation will thank you for becoming financially independent, and for choosing to give back and invest in them at a time when they needed it most. After all, isn't that what you were really looking for all along? The ability to make choices?

All too often, I hear excuses for why something did not happen the way it should have. People always search for ways to absolve their guilt by blaming their issues on something else. I have found throughout my career that there are three major categories of excuses:

The “It’s good enough” excuse

This is one of the most common excuses. Someone will do a passable job, scraping by, but quit as soon as possible with the excuse that what they accomplished is good enough. They are not striving for an “A” or for real quality work.  Merely scraping by with a “C” or adequate work is good enough.   However, if you want to make your business truly exceptional, meaningful, a true world-changer, this is not acceptable. You will never get ahead with “good enough”.  Would you yourself do business with just “good enough”?

The “I’m new at this” excuse

Along this same line, people who are new at something feel that they have a right to give themselves a bit of slack. Although there is something to be said for the learning curve, all too often it becomes an excuse to slack off your first few months.  However, the opposite is true; you need to be ready from day one. Otherwise, you get trapped in a cycle where the “I’m new at this” excuse becomes a “good enough” habit.

 The “I didn’t plan for that” excuse

We all have moments that make us go “Oops!” If you have any doubts about that, I have a board game called Leverage to show you. Even though there are some unexpected developments, you cannot simply say “Oh well.” You need a plan B, as well as a Plan C, D, & E. Be prepared for any and all eventualities, because you never know what will happen in the future. An employee may walk out on you, or there may be a sudden shortage of your product. When that happens, what will you do? Seriously think about a variety of scenarios and create plans to put in place before you need them.

Ultimately, complaining about a situation does nothing productive for you or your business. What you need to do is isolate the problem and identify a solution. Don’t waste ages explaining your problems to your friends and colleagues, only to ignore their advice. Instead, get to the root of the problem, follow through with the corrective solution, and move on with your business. The art of self-correction is among one of the most important business lessons you will ever learn.

You started out with a great idea, one that seemed to be desirable by a number of clients, and it paid off.  You truly found what you loved to do and are able to get people to pay you for it!  Congratulations.  Now, how are you going to sustain your business?  You may be fantastic at developing widgets, but how are you at the actual business competencies that will sustain your business over the long run?  

 An October 2012 report on Sustainability and Leadership Competencies for Business Leaders identifies top competencies as follows:

  • External awareness and appreciation of trends
  • Visioning and strategy formulation
  • Risk awareness, assessment, and management
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Flexibility and adaptability to change
  • Ethics and integrity

 Business owners need to provide themselves with learning opportunities that will strengthen each of these core business competencies.  This education can be accomplished through reading, formal training, or most effective, by utilizing a business mentor or business coach that can hold business owner accountable for actually implementing stainable changes in their company, ones that are customized to meet their company’s specific needs.  However you choose to receive your small business advice and continue your education as a leader, make a plan and follow your plan to ensure you are a perpetual learning leader.

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)

Keep the Happy in Your Holidays

[Recently, I discussed taking time out for yourself to relax and take a break (Read: “Seeing the Forest Through the Trees!”). This week, I’d like to elaborate on this topic and incorporate it into the holiday season.]

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And also the most hustling, bustling, hectic, lose-your-mind-because-you’re-so-crazy-busy time of year. Running a business and making time for festivities and celebrations can be a challenge. In between the potlucks, get-togethers, cookie exchanges, and ugly sweater parties are invoices, year-end financial statements, payroll, budget forecasting, planning and hundreds of other tasks to complete before the new year.

Here are some helpful hints to get you through the season with your sanity intact:

  • Maximize Your Time: Each of us has our own rhythm of peaks and lulls throughout the day. Find what times of day work best for you and schedule around them for peak performance. Focus on your most important or most time-consuming tasks during the parts of day when you are most clear thinking, energetic, and decisive. If you work best in the mornings, then maximize that time by waking up earlier. If you work best in the afternoons, then schedule your most important appointments during the lunch hour. If you work best in the evenings, then maximize that time by staying up later.
  • When you are setting deadlines for yourself or your clients, build extra time in your schedule to serve as a buffer for unexpected circumstances or tasks taking longer than expected. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver than to over-promise and under-deliver.
  • If you feel that you are already maximizing your time, but still can’t fit in every task, then consider investing some money to hire additional help, for instance a virtual assistant or courier service.
  • Schedule in Downtime: Designate specific days and dedicate them for date nights, family time, and days for yourself. Block off these special days in your calendar to visually highlight and distinguish them as scheduled days off.
  • Set up an automatic reply on your voicemail and email to inform your clients that you are occupied. For example, “Thank you for contacting me. I am currently out of the office and will return on [day]. I will get back to on [tomorrow, next week, etc.].” And there is nothing wrong with posting a good old-fashioned Do Not Disturb sign on your door!
  • Eliminate distractions: Sometimes a small distraction can serve as a mental break, but not if it becomes all consuming—then it’s nothing but a time-waster. Turn off your notifications for email, Internet feeds, and social media updates if you find yourself unable to stay focused on the task at hand. It may even help to completely unplug and keep your computer turned off.

The holidays are meant to be a break from the everyday routine. These are the days when you can focus on spending quality time with the people in your life who matter most. Your time is valuable, and unlike money, you can’t obtain more of it—what you get is what you get! With some proactive planning and time-management, you can enjoy the challenges and rewards of working for yourself AND enjoy the holidays too! And from me it is Merry Christmas to you.

The whole concept of accountability is tainted with misperceptions, frustration and blame.  It is so often someone else’s fault.  Within the family constructs, this dynamic is even more frustrating and brings along tension, “stories of why” and more excuses.

Accountability at its core is “doing what you say you will do, when you say you will do it”.  The foundation lies in the communication cycle and the definition of the deliverable.  Let’s start with the communication cycle and with an example we can all relate to; taking out the trash.  Mary asks Jim to take out the trash before dinner.  Jim says yes.  He knows that dinner is scheduled for 6pm, it is now 4pm.  He will get to it.  Mary however wants the trash taken out now, not in an hour, although she didn’t communicate that specific detail. Mary is also expecting not just the kitchen trash, but the rest of the trash in the house will be collected, since “everyone” knows that the weekly trash pickup is tomorrow morning.  Stress and frustration builds.  Mary doesn’t understand why Jim didn’t do it immediately and why the job wasn’t complete.  Jim doesn’t understand why Mary is suddenly upset.  Sound familiar?  I am sure it does. 

Now apply that same scenario to the work environment.  You may not be asked to take out the trash, however the joy in preforming your duties and the communication concepts are still the same.  Your priorities and that of your co-workers might not always weave together well.  You get the project completed; however it is later than desired and not to the quality expected. Tensions rise, delivery date to the customer is missed, and quality suffers.

What is the solution?   

  1. Communicate and Ask Questions – Often lack of accountability comes not from insubordination (if it does, then that is a separate discussion), but from the lack of clarity regarding what needs to be done, when it needs to be done and the specific details.  Too often assumptions are made regarding the individual’s ability to both tackle and complete the task.  One of my friends has been in Information Technology for probably 25 years.  He was asked by his supervisor to conduct a project that was fairly large in scope.  He was more than willing to take on the project; however he had no idea how to start or what to do to accomplish the projected outcomes.  His manager made the assumption that he had actual experience with this type of project in the past and would therefore be successful.   Nothing was further from the truth. 
  2. Set Expectations – Set a deadline for when the project needs to be completed, when will you touch base to ensure the project  is proceeding as expected, and how long should it take (this goes to both a time and financial budget).
  3. Understand your audience – The question is often asked, “How do you eat an elephant?”  Answer; one bite at a time.  The follow-up to this story, however is that the elephant is still in the room, it is still big and too many people really don’t know how to break that “elephant” down.  We need to take the first bite, yet we don’t know where to start and therefore become paralyzed.  This is where quality leadership and people management makes the difference in success and failure. Good leadership will ensure the person knows what and how to accomplish projects.  For individuals who have delivered consistently and have a proven track record, the job is easier.  For those who haven’t, it’s the leader’s responsibility to guide them along the path.

Consequences

One of the most asked questions during an accountability discussion is what are examples of consequences and how do they get enforced.    Consequences must be appropriate to the situation.  Firing for being late the first time due to a large traffic jam is not appropriate.  Here is a story of a large company that doesn’t have the best reputation for how they treat their employees.  The CEO of the company had stated that employees must be at their desk by 8:00 am.  One day he went to the parking lot of the company at 8:30am and anyone who was just arriving to work was told to go home.  He didn’t even allow them inside the building.  Did he make a point yes, people in this company are to be at work by 8am.  Is this the type of employer I would want to work for – no! 

Yet, I will give him credit for stating the rules for the company and for being willing to stand for what he believes and then enforces the rules.  He also has employees that have worked with him for decades and the company continues to grow and is profitable – so something must be working.

Consistency 

Consistency is critical.  Treating every situation different creates a divisive environment for an organization.  Allowing one person to “get away” with not following procedures, not getting things done etc.,  does more to erode employee morale than the example above where the employer sent everyone home that was late.  They knew his policy, they knew the rules.  They chose to break them, or get away with things, and it didn’t work.

Most companies I work with on this topic find that everyone complains about the lack of accountability.  However, when the organization starts to implement true accountability, people begin to complain about being held accountable.  The reality is that everyone wants it for someone else, but not for themselves.  It is hard to change, yet worth every step.

The choice is yours.  The solution sits in your lap; you can choose to take the challenge of being personally accountable or sit back and complain about the lack of accountability.  What is your choice?

The family business; it’s the foundation of the small business world in the US.  Approximately 80% of small businesses are family owned.  That can mean brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, 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.

One of my clients was engaged at the time of our session. 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 the new partner in his business, however she was also very accomplished on her own and actually had better business sense than he did. Yet, every time she would suggested and idea and he would disagree, she would back down, both in business and in their relationship. He once stated that he wondered when she was going to stop becoming so agreeable. It would eventually happen, and for both of them it would be a time of rude awakening as neither had really learned how to negotiate. They hadn’t learned the art of give and take or 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.

Basics are critical. Innovation is paramount.  However, if innovative ideals are built on a rocky foundation, the whole business may fail before you know it. The foundation of your business requires the same structure as the foundation of a building. If the wrong materials, wrong design, and/or wrong measurements have been used, then the foundation will begin to crack under the pressure.

Pressure on a building can be caused by weight, weathering, erosion of the soil and much more. The crumbling of a business can also come from pressure; pressure that is caused from of the growth of the business. Cracking may appear when systems are not in place to handle the growth or changes in the business. How do you know if the basics are failing within your business?

Key Business and Sales Performance Indicators:

  • Are your leads increasing or decreasing? If you don’t know then that may be your first sign that the basic foundation has a few cracks.
  • Do you measure your closing ratios now vs. a year ago, last quarter, last month? Do you measure them by sales person?
  • Are you aware of the origin of each lead that you receive? Was it a referral from a customer, generated by networking, an ad in the paper, pay for click, SEO etc.?

Innovation in your business is paramount. If you have always done something the exact same way, it may be that you need to stop and consider a new way to address the situation. Even a 1 degree difference can make a tremendous difference in the future and especially the profitability of your business.

We are quickly headed into fall which usually creates a time of review for me.  Where has the year gone?  It seems to move faster every year.  Yet it is that review that causes me to stop and ponder a few recent events.

Do you ever get that feeling that just about the time you get it all together, someone comes along side and sort of hits you in the head?  One of my clients had just that thing happen this week.  They were making great strides in their business only to have a key employee decide the grass was greener at another company.  The employee said they didn’t want to leave, but they couldn’t turn down the offer.  Wow, that was the preverbal baseball bat alongside the business head – which feels pretty personal. 

What could have been done to change the outcome?  They tried to create a counter offer.  It didn’t work and often doesn’t.  In many cases, there isn’t anything you can do, yet I am not one to stand by the sidelines and say, “Oh well, nothing to learn here”.  Here is what you can do:

  • Talk to your team members, especially those key players and find out what they love and don’t love about working with you.
  • Ask key questions:  What would cause you to look elsewhere?  Dangerous you say – yes it is, but not asking can be more dangerous.  Just ask the business owner who just lost a key player.
  • Ask yourself – what would you like or dislike about working for you.  i.e., put yourself in their shoes, what do you need to improve in the work environment to keep them?  Make sure that mirror you hold up in front of yourself has been cleaned recently so you see a clear reflection.
  • Make sure you do annual reviews, both salary and financial.  Get creative bonus plans.
  • Make it a habit to tell your employees, how much you appreciate them, rely on them and wouldn’t want to be without them.  In other words, make sure you verbally communicate the message and when I say regularly, that isn’t once a year, or once a month.

Turnover is hard, yet your attitude is critical in how you weather the crisis.  Know that there is someone else out there who can do the job just as good if not better.  When you find them, determine what you can do to encourage greater job satisfaction and make it happen.

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Janna Hoiberg
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