Janna's Blog

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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!

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.

 

Have you ever found yourself drifting off in your thoughts during a conversation? To observers, it appears you’re engrossed in discussion, but mentally you’re compiling your grocery list, preparing for your next appointment, or thinking of what you’ll say when it’s your turn to talk. When we are not fully listening, we are short-changing our speaker and ourselves. By receiving some parts of information and only pieces of conversations, we risk misunderstandings and miscommunications later down the road.

Active listening is making a conscious effort to concentrate on what another person is saying as well as understand the complete message they are sending. Through active listening, you are able to better communicate, relate, and respond to your clients, which mean you can better meet their needs and build a stronger relationship.

Here are 5 tips to help you become a better active listener:

  1. Eliminate Distractions: Set down the smartphone, clear your mind, and give the speaker your undivided attention. Reduce background activity and noise so you can focus and concentrate on listening. If you have to, take the conversation somewhere quiet and private.
  2. Take Interest: Be present in the moment and carefully listen to what the speaker has to say. You can pick up on the emotional undertones and non-verbal cues. For example, wringing hands or flailing arms may be a sign of high emotion or stress.
  3. Maintain Eye Contact: Face your speaker and sit or stand in a position so your eyes are near the same level. Avoid looking around the room or checking your electronic devices. Concentrate on what the speaker is saying and maintain eye contact. Keep in mind that eye contact can be intimidating for certain cultures and personalities, especially for more shy speakers. Use your active listening skills to gauge how much eye contact is appropriate for the situation and audience.
  4. Be Aware of Body Language: In addition to making eye contact, observe the speaker’s non-verbal communication. You can also use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention by nodding occasionally, smiling, and mirroring the speaker’s gestures.
  5. Avoid Interrupting: When your speaker finishes or pauses, ask questions or make comments, if appropriate. You may also want to repeat or paraphrase what you think you heard to verify that you fully understand what his or her message.

As you interact with your clients, peers, and employees, try to practice your active listening skills. Do your best to be patient with yourself while you’re honing these new skills. Though these steps may seem simple, active listening takes practice!

Every day, everywhere around us, there is an abundance of fear. No matter who you are, your age, or your profession, you are afraid of something (and probably more than just one thing). These fears can be anything from creepy crawlies, heights, public speaking, and natural disasters. These fears aren’t completely unwarranted. Fear is a basic instinct; a means of survival ingrained in our fight-or-flight response. But just because fear is a natural reaction, doesn’t mean that fear has a place in your business, especially if your fears are holding you and your business back from being a success.

The world of self-employment is ripe with opportunities for fear to creep up and rear its ugly head. Making follow-up phone calls, resolving customer issues, or presenting to potential clients can all feed into many kinds of fears. The difference is if you choose to take the opportunities to face your fear and push your business to the next level.

One of the first steps toward overcoming your fear is to identify the fear itself. You can do this by taking a mental inventory of your fear and jotting them down. If you find you’re having a difficult time compiling your fear, consult a colleague, peer, or business coach to help you brainstorm the fears that are possibly holding you back in your business. Once you’ve written down these fears, review each and assess if these fears are based on real-life experiences or if they are based on your own assumptions.

Of the fears that are based on real-life experiences, recall what about the experience led you to your fear. Take time to really analyze and reflect on the overall situations and circumstances. Was this a one-time experience or is this reoccurring? How did you handle this experience? Was everyone involved satisfied with how you handled this experience? Did you garner any lessons learned from this experience?

Of the fears that are not based on real-life experiences, try to identify a common thread or theme between them. Do they tie into fears of rejection, confrontation, public speaking, failure, or something else?

 After you have identified and assessed your fears, then talk them out. Confide in your network, discuss them with other trusted business owners, and get other perspectives. You don’t have to face your fears alone! Work with an experienced Business Coach to create a specific action plan to help you overcome your fears, gain closure, and move forward.

Working for yourself is scary enough! The last person you need getting in your way is YOU! Choosing to work hard and face your fears isn’t easy, but it sure is worth it!

An old adage encourages us to “stop and smell the roses.” However, in our fast-paced world, it seems as if many of us heed this advice. We rush through life, constantly dashing from one appointment to the next without ever stopping to breathe. We like everything fast: fast food, fast internet, fast cars, etc. Although there is a time and place for busyness, it is crucial for everyone, be they management or staff, to relax. Everyone needs a break.

 My son has a teacher who shared feeling consistently overworked. Everyone seems to want his attention and demand a great deal of his time.  It became extraordinarily difficult for him to keep up. Even his weekends became filled with school activities. As a result he instituted a new policy for his life, once a month he would be taking a day off.  This helped tremendously with relieving stress and reevaluating what was important, and made him a more effective teacher and leader.

 All too often, I see people who are burnt out. Business owners who are worked constantly and eventually become tire of everything. They quit; sell the business, and either retire or go back to their old job, in many cases abandoning a lifelong dream. Pro athletes do this all the time.

Their lives become so consumed with the sport that they no longer enjoy it. It becomes a chore rather than what they love. However, if you asked someone who burned out 5-10 years ago if they regret it, he or she would respond “absolutely.” Don’t be afraid to take personal days, at least once a quarter. Don’t get so caught up in your work that you begin to hate it, and don’t forget to see the forest through the trees.

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.

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!

 

Even the most passionate dedicated entrepreneur will experience occasions when they just don’t like their business.  It may be just a bad day filled with unsatisfied customers, disappointing sales or other unfulfilled expectations.  However, when a variety of mishaps transpire over a consistent period of time, it can really wear on the business owner and rob him/her of the joy of being in business.  When situations arise that diminishes the passion which caused you to enter into the world of business in the first place, try a few of these tips.

  1. Spend some time away from the business.  Take time from the reality of today to remember the dreams of yesterday.  Revisit plans, ideas, writings or other mementos from the beginning of your journey as a business owner.  Remember the milestones you have achieved and recognize how much you and your business have grown since the first day.
  2. Review letters, cards, and other messages of appreciation for your work.  Allow yourself to be reminded of the great number of satisfied customers you have served or have used your products. Visit a mentor or business coach who can walk you through a series of exercises that validate your work.
  3. Take time to focus on where your plans for the business will lead you in three to five years from now.  Visualize your successes. Revisit your goals. Rekindle your passion to accomplish your vision.

We all experience difficult times through the journey of entrepreneurship.  It is the strong, the dedicated, and the committed that focus more on the successful days then the challenging ones.  These entrepreneurs see their vision revitalized and become as passionate as they were on first day they opened the door of their business. 

There is a lot of speculation about the value of college in today’s world. We live in a world today where some of the richest, most successful CEOs are, in fact, college dropouts.  Today’s college graduates face bleak prospects. So is college still worth it? How does the college planning process prepare the workers of tomorrow to be successful? Let’s take a look at questions asked on college essays, particularly the common college entrance application.

When have you experienced failure? How has it affected you?

Many of you, I’m sure, have heard the stories about failure, particularly from Steve Jobs. Failure is a part of everyone’s life, and learning to deal with it at a young age prepares people better for when they have to deal with it in the future.

Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or an idea.

This question examines the core of innovation and entrepreneurship. As I discuss in my book, people often start their own business in order to change the “status quo,” in essence, to challenge a belief or an idea. Students who write their essays on this question are setting themselves up for entrepreneurship in the future.

Although every high school senior (including my son) is currently complaining about how difficult writing these essays are, the application process can actually set students up very well for their future, as arduous as it seems.

The ideas set out in application essays are very different from what is actually taught in the classroom, particularly at the undergraduate level. I will discuss this more next week.

A common workplace credo is “Think outside the box.” It is an ideal that is held up as the pinnacle of innovation and a credo of progress. Unfortunately, when this principle is implemented, it is often received with a crescendo of complaints, shock and disapproval. We say that new ideas are good, but if anyone comes up with a new idea, we shrink away. Stop that!

Innovation is always scary. People form habits; they find a specific way of doing things, and never want to change. Companies may run the same way for fifty years, even though the  methodology the business was built upon became inefficient thirty years ago. Unfortunately, some businesses create a culture where those who may have a new idea, become afraid to speak up, and the managers often don’t even realize it. As in the picture above, people cower in their boxes, doing what they are told, and keeping their good ideas to themselves. Some employees are reminded of Dr. Kelso’s suggestion box in Scrubs; his trash can. As a result of this policy, the other doctors hated Kelso and did everything possible to undercut him. While this makes for good television, it makes for really bad business. As a business owner, you cannot afford to be afraid of new ideas, especially when they come from employees or customers. You don’t need to take every suggestion you receive, but make a conscious effort to listen! Create a culture where customer feedback is an integral part of your business planning. Your customers and employees know what they want and have experience working with your product; their input is invaluable to the success of your business.

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)

Millennials are often not ready to settle down. They move from town to town, job to job looking for what really excites them. Some will change jobs their entire life. Your mission should be to convince Millennials to stay at your company by doing the following:

  • Atmosphere:  Millennials pay close attention to the environment of places they work. Think of the business startup. The open floor atmosphere, the free coffee (which I will talk more about later), the passion and excitement of the employees are all very important to the millennial. Make the Millennial excited to go to work every day. Make the office an exciting place to be. Encourage individuality. Millennials like to express themselves, often with glasses and skinny jeans. Welcome that attitude into your office.
  • Attitude:  Attitude begins with the boss. What is he/she like? Is the boss approachable, or is there an invisible wall separating the boss from the employees? Millennials are a generation that need positive reinforcement. Have the boss check in on them; ask how a project is coming. However, do not micromanage. Give Millennials space, otherwise they will feel suffocated and leave. If they are supposed to arrive at 8, do not berate them for arriving at 8:05. They will start arriving at 8, but after a while, they will leave. Furthermore, allow Facebook access. It seems like a trivial or counterproductive thing, but access to social media sites has become an integral part of most Millennials. Provided it does not interfere with work, allow them access to these sites. They will enjoy looking at what their friends had for lunch, and you will enjoy having them work for you.
  • Perks:  As I mentioned earlier, Millennials love their coffee. Provide them with coffee, donuts, and food. They are little tasks that mean quite a bit to the millennial generation. Furthermore, Millennials often value experiences over money. As a result, it is prudent to give them those experiences. Allow them to try the new Vietnamese restaurant downtown. They will appreciate the freedom, and may even bring you back some.

Millennials are the hardest group to sell to. First of all, they have less money. Many Millennials are on a very tight budget. They are burdened with crushing debt, and many are unemployed or underemployed. Furthermore, they have been “sold to” their whole life. As a result, most conventional tactics fail. Products are overhyped to Millennials, who are used to seeing these things fail, and, as a result, there is a negative correlation between how much hype surrounds a product and how much Millennials want to buy your product.

The Oatmeal, a Millennials web comic, has an excellent illustration of this: Oatmeal Comics

Additionally, location is very important. Can Millennials walk or ride their bike to your business from their homes? Are you easily accessible from public transportation, if your city has it? Are there other businesses nearby that stand for the values that Millennials have? Millennials would much rather stop at your business after they have gone to their local coffee shop than make a special trip to visit you on the other side of town. 

Millennials have different priorities on how they decide to buy things. It is very important how something is made and how the organization gives back to the community. Panera Bread is popular with Millennials partly because they give back to the community through programs such as Panera Cares. Millennials would much rather spend a little more of the money they do not have on a fair trade product that gives the workers a decent wage than buy the cheapest available product. Millennials care far more about the atmosphere of a workplace. What impression do potential customers get when they walk in the door? Is everyone smiling and happy to be there? Is there something unique that no one else has? If your workplace has that, then Millennials will flock to you. 

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!

As the leader of your business, division, or other responsible position, do you ever find yourself feeling alone?  Many leaders do, but here’s the thing, you shouldn’t ever find yourself becoming lonely as a leader.  If you do, you’ve missed a step along the way.  Here are three missteps that often happen and ways to motivate you to fix the step.

  1. Be willing to mentor a rising star. Leaders get to be leaders by inspiring others to follow.  Among followers there will be a varied amount of skills and talents at different levels.  And among your followers will be a few real gems that rise to the top, and when they identify themselves, be ready to bring them under your wing.  Emerging leaders are hungry for information, ideas, and encouragement. Replicate the best of what’s in you into their leadership growth.
  2. Find a business coach or a group of advisors.  When a leader gets to the point of saturation within their field of study, it’s time to be challenged.  Find a business coach or group of advisors who can help you see another perspective, tie your success to other opportunities, or just validate the path you are on.  Everyone needs someone to clear the smoke from their eyes, help them map the future, and cheer them on along the way, even established leaders.
  3. Find a peer group.  Develop relationships with other leaders in your area or better yet, outside your field of expertise.  When there is no competition involved to establish who knows more about a particular area of knowledge, the easier it is to share issues, concerns and generally be vulnerable.  However, don’t allow your relationships to evolve into a “pity party”.  Use your time together to encourage and council each other as well. 

The bottom line is that leaders are known to take initiative.  So if you are feeling “lonely at the top”, it’s time to do something about it. 

As leaders in business it is required that we segment our time between a variety of tasks and responsibilities. To ensure we cover all our bases, we make business plans; we make lists, and even read articles that help us with the 5 Best ways to avoid this, or the 10 Best Ways to do that.  Yet the most important aspect of getting anything done and done well is focus.  Whatever has our attention, or wherever our center of activity is located, that is what we are focused on.  Getting focused is not hard, staying there is the problem.  So how do we stay focused when we have so many distractions in our day to day world?   Here are a few ideas to consider:

  1. Don’t just make a list, tie the list to your priorities and put it where you can’t help but see it.  This will help to keep you on the path of completion and reduce the temptation to get sidetracked. Often about 50% of what is on our list could be categorized as a “to do” rather than a task that is tied to our goals or one that truly move our business and life forward.
  2. Mute your phone, turn off the email notification option, and shut your door.  While leaders need and want to be accessible to others, you do need to protect some of your time to be used for completing tasks that only you can accomplish.  Read the book Multitasking is Worse than a Lie by David Crenshaw
  3. Keep your space organized.  When you have to leave the “zone” to go and look for equipment or resources you need or your space is so cluttered you can’t find your “zone”, you can easily lose focus.  How much time do you spend “looking” for things?
  4. Take a short walk or take a few really deep breaths before beginning your project and drink water to keep your brain hydrated.  Lack of hydration is directly related to your ability to focus
  5. Spend time reading every day.  Reading requires the ability to stay focused on the written word to understand the content and teaches your brain how to better focus.

The ability to stay focused on a task to completion can make the difference between a business being good and a business being great!

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.

As America acknowledges the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, Jeffrey McCausland shares an insightful article in The Guardian on the top three lessons leaders can learn from the battle of Gettysburg. 

 They are:

  1. The importance of time and timing – “When a leader makes a decision for his/her organization, timing may actually be more important than the decision taken.” While we have multitude of information gathering opportunities to make decisions today, it may actually be a detriment to our business when we wait and take too much time gathering information rather than acting on our knowledge and instinct regarding business management and business leadership. 
  2. Effective leaders must “park” there personal ego and focus on what is best for their organization.  I have shared a good bit about personal ego in recent blogs (access past blogs on my website).  When making decisions about your business, don’t make them too personal, or what’s best for you. Take into consideration your clients, employees, network, and all who may be impacted by your decision.
  3.  An effective leader must articulate and communicate a strategic vision to his/her organization.  Lincoln communicated his vision for the nation to the very end.  In Bill Hybel’s book, Courageous Leadership, he reminds us that as leaders we eat, sleep, and live our vision.  Our employees and others, however, will experience “vision leaks” if we are not able to keep the picture painted for our followers in a way that allows them to see the vision and join us on the journey.

 I suggest reading the full article The top three leadership lessons from the battle of Gettysburg, by Jeffery D McCausland.  It’s interesting to compare leadership from the past to the present.  While we want to learn from the past and not make the same mistakes our predecessors made, it is the wise leader that learns from those in the past and if we are willing to look and listen, we will be gifted with great leadership lessons. 

So how do you stay connected with your clients during the summer?  Many business owners tend to slack off their marketing efforts during the hottest months of the year.  Choosing to connect with clients during June, July, and August may bring you some sweet rewards.  Here are a few ways you might celebrate the summer with your clients.

  1. Send a specially designed note or email to all your clients.  Many remember to thank their client base in December or sometimes in January when celebrating the end of the year, or the beginning of a new one.  June is the mid-year mark on the calendar and a great time to say THANK YOU!
  2. Show up at community events and invite a client to attend with you.  There are many events throughout Colorado Springs that alow you to connect with your clients in new ways as you work alongside them helping others. Walk through the crowds and get to know your neighbors.  You may also want to join in with others and sponsor an event, or if they budget allows, host a community event yourself. 
  3. Provide a “Summer Camp” workshop.  Whether it’s a paid event or a marketing venture, offer to share a skill, talent, or other type of knowledge with clients with a summer camp theme.
  4. Take the heat of the summer holiday and Host a BBQ. More people can attend and it is a relaxed time of the year.  Use your office or a place at a park. Invite your clients to join you for a no host BBQ, it's a fun way to connect with clients and prospects. 
  5. Fast and Fun Ice Cream Socials.  July is National Ice Cream month.  If you want to be really fun and spontaneous, Tweet or Email that you will be at a specific ice cream parlor for the next 20 minutes and you will pay for the first 10 people who show up!

Whatever you choose to do this summer, be creative.  People tend to be happier in the summer, there is more daylight to enjoy, and a great deal of opportunity to be found.  You just have to jump in and not be afraid to make a splash!

You can’t control a wildfire.  The best you can do is to plan for its eventual happening and do everything possible to keep out of the line of fire.  Our businesses are also susceptible to the devastation of a “wildfire” which can be the result of any type of catastrophic impact.  So what are the lessons we have learned from the fires we have experienced here in Colorado Springs? 

1.   Clear as much debris from around the perimeter of your property as possible.  
What type of “debris” may be associated with your business?  Strive to understand what keeps potential customers or clients from seeing you as an attractive company to do business with.

2.  Eliminate dead wood. 
If you have people on your team that are not producing, find a place where they will be successful or help them find a new place of work where they will be successful.  Dead wood often becomes destructive in nature.

3.  Keep an updated record of valuables. 
 Steven Covey’s now famous quote “Keep first things first” is invaluable to a business owner.  Set goals, work your goals, know what the most important things to spend your time on are and don’t let anything derail you from pursuing your goals.

4.  Always be prepared.
It’s now just the Boy Scouts that need to be prepared for any eventuality.  When you are prepared, you make it easy to do business with you.

5.  Help your neighbor.  
Business to business support is critical.  Join a network group and get to know your business community. When businesses support each other and rejoice in each other’s successes, we all grow stronger and keep our business community from potential “wildfires”!

There is a very old and interesting parable about blind men who were asked to describe an elephant.  Each man was positioned at a different place on the animal; therefore it is not surprising to hear some of their descriptions of the elephant.  One man said an elephant was a long, thin animal that twisted and coiled.  He was holding the trunk.  Another man said the elephant was a massive animal that stood strong and erect.  He was embracing a leg.  Still another said the elephant was a great winged creature.  He was holding an ear.  The last man said the elephant was no animal at all.  It was cold and smooth and without any life.  He was running his hand along the tusk.  Although all the observations were correct, they were also incomplete.  Each had described a specific part of an elephant, but none were able to come up with the “big picture.”

So what is your big picture?  Who provides it to you?  Where are you blind in your business ventures, life, and environment?  The challenge for all of us is to stand back far enough to generate a big picture; to see situations for what they really are. 

Where have you had the challenge of seeing the big picture and what were the results?  Share with us, I would love to learn from your big pictures!

Lately a few books I have read and Cd’s I have listened to have focused on the concept of the ability to learn and the desire to learn.  What makes one business owner great, record profits, obtain raving fans for customers, and secure balance within their lives; while another business struggling to make ends meet, experiences challenges with building a team, watch their profit being squeezed and have a decided lack of balance in their lives?  One could say many things make them different; however one common character trait of most successful business owners is genuine sense of Humility.  They recognize that they don’t know how to do everything.  They lost the negative side of ego many years ago.  They know the difference between self-confidence and ego and utilize the strength of each.

Self-confidence is:

  • being able to step out of your comfort zone,
  • being open to someone else knowing more
  • being a willing learner
  • being willing to be wrong, but know it doesn’t affect the core of who you are

Ego (the positive side) is:

  • having self-confidence in what you are doing, yet knowing when and how to ask questions
  • having appropriate pride in oneself – aka self esteem
  • having a realistic view of how the world sees them, yet knows how they see themselves and the qualities they possess

We all know the negative side of ego.

Humility (the opposite of Ego) is:

  • expressed by the actions of a well-grounded person
  • found in knowing your intrinsic self-worth
  • respected as a virtue in life and in a religious/philosophical sense
  • often tied to fierce resolve
  • critical as a character trait to leadership effectiveness

Where do you stand with response to Ego, Self-confidence and humility?

Last week’s blog on the Mind Game introduced the topic of results; how what you tell yourself hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly directly impacts the outcome of our actions.   Now as your self-talk begins to become more positive we can put it into even greater perspective.  For every negative thought you have, “I can’t do this”, “I am not good at doing anything or this one thing”, or “You screwed up again”, (whatever your negative self-talk includes), it takes at least 12 affirmations to counteract that one negative statement.  WOW!  Does that become a motivator to stop telling yourself what you can’t do?  This doesn’t even take into consideration what others may say to you, it only pertains to the one negative conversation you had with yourself.  So here is what it looks like:

Negative self-talk:  “I really blew that meeting!  You aren’t any good at running meetings.”

Positive self-talk:

  1. I continue to improve my understanding of how to run meetings.
  2. I really appreciated the feedback to running meetings better.
  3. I am great at running meetings.
  4. Every meeting I run I learn more about how to be great at running them.
  5. I learned a great deal at that meeting that I can apply to the next one.
  6. I am going to start earlier in preparing for running meetings to achieve even greater results.

And the list goes on.

We all eventually make a mess of things, do something wrong, bring to light an area we need to improve upon.  Those are all facts.  It is how we look at those mistakes, failures, whatever you want to call them that helps us pick up the pieces learn and move on.

If you aren’t failing you are not growing.  So embrace the failure, give yourself credit, and create a plan of self-talk of how to improve the next time without beating yourself up.

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Janna Hoiberg
Telephone : 719-358-6936

Colorado Springs, CO 80920 
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