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.
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.
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:
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.
Find that niche, and utilize it. Do something new, something different, and blow everyone away with your creativity and innovation.
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:
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?
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 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:
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.
Conflict is part of everyday life. If you have a business, marriage, or relationship without conflict then you essentially are an ostrich with your head in the sand. Avoidance of conflict 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 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:
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:
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.
Call or contact Janna Hoiberg online to schedule a free, initial consultation.
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