Browse Blog Categories



Get Janna's FREE Newsletter Today!

Be sure to sign up for Janna's free business newsletter. Get quick tips, facts, and proven business ideas to strengthen your business every day...

Janna's Blog Article

<< <  Page 3 of 4  > >>

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.

Olympic athletes at the US Olympic Training Center have the opportunity to utilize a sports psychologist to help them bring home a gold medal.  A couple of weeks ago I was able to spend time with one of center’s psychologist to learn more about what creates the difference between an Olympic medal  winner and one that wins no medal. What I learned is that 50% or more of the reason athletes lose is due to their mental state.  Some of the things that get in their way are:  fear, self-doubt, personal beliefs, negative thoughts, lack of focus, and the most surprising thing is a lack of hydration.  A lack of hydration (water!!) reduces metal focus, and a reduced mental focus creates self-doubt, fear etc.  Therefore a lack of hydration can be the difference between winning and losing.  That is an easy thing (one would think) to control, but it is a common cause for losing.

This concept is just as true for the business owner as it is for the well trained athlete.  It does start with the assumption that you are good at your sport.  No matter how much focus and hydration I have, I could not win an Olympic Gold Medal at running.  It isn’t my passion, and I am not trained for it.  However, as a business owner and coach, I train on a regular basis for my “sport”.  I can win, I do win, yet all the things that get in the way of a sports athlete can get in the way for every business owner as well.

Question for you:  What is the dialogue in your head right now?  Is it filled with positive, challenging, focused thoughts?  Or is it filled with all the things you do wrong, did wrong, will do wrong, full of self-doubt, fear and lack of focus?

Your business and personal results will be impacted by your self-talk.  Change your self-talk and you will change your results.

If you want some ideas on how to make that happen, send me a note, give me a call.  I look forward to our conversation.

In the past I loved multi-tasking.  The more I had going on at the same time, the happier I was, the more productive I felt , and my satisfaction level was high – because I thought I was getting things done faster and more efficiently.  After leaving corporate employment, I began doing research on the true efficiency of multi-tasking.  Here is what I found out.  I was wrong!  How could that be?  Multi-tasking doesn’t make me more efficient?  Switching between 2 or 3 or 4 things (emailing, while talking on the phone while listening to another conversation) isn’t truly productive?  Delusion – the art of telling ourselves one thing when reality is another was rampant in my life.  I came by it honestly – I truly thought that my multitasking made me and my company more productive.

Here is what research has proven:

  • The mind cannot truly multitask.  What the mind does is actually switch from one area of focus to another – very quickly, but it doesn’t do two things at once.
  • Your productivity, and especially quality, goes down significantly when you multi-task.
  • It takes around 10 minutes for your mind to refocus if you are working on a problem, get interrupted then need to refocus back to the same level of concentration.  No wonder productivity is slipping for many people.

Here is a video I recommend you watch – see how you do on his quiz.  It might just change how you work and increase your productivity!

Myth of Multi-tasking Video

In the last 2 weeks we have viewed the Boston Marathon bombing, the Waco explosions and experienced the death of two fathers of childhood friends.  The fathers of our childhood friends both lived long and wonderful lives.  However, it still made me stop and focus on the value of life and the shortness of it. 

One of my mantras is to have balance between work and my personal life.  Balance isn’t always possible so the word harmony comes to mind.  Harmony allows for a blend of alto, soprano, tenor and base blended well together.  Harmony allows for occasionally all soprano, or all alto, more tenor or even base at times.  Harmony between work and a personal life allows for time to focus on business, but then welcomes times to focus on personal fulfillment.  There is harmony when we secure time for family yet find time for friends and other activities too.  It is without this harmony that we get the dull beating of a drum in the background that is ok, until it goes on and on and on and on.  Work can become that relentless beating of the drum.  All is well as long as the drum beat is blended with additional instruments (other parts of our lives), but becomes annoying when the drum beat is all alone.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you create your own “harmony”:

  1.  What is your legacy? 
  2.  What do you want to be known for?
  3.  What is your contribution to society, your family, and your friends?
  4.  What do you want the conversation at your funeral to encompass?

I challenge you to spend time thinking through these questions.  Write out your answers, not for others to read, but for your eyes only.  Then put them somewhere secure and review what you have written in a year.  Then ask these questions:

  1. How am I doing?
  2. Where is my harmony (do I have any)?
  3. What do I need to do different in this next year to accomplish the legacy I want to achieve?

Only you can control your legacy, no one else.  You make the choices, you write the script.  You have but one life to live – so live it to the best.

Have you ever wondered what percentage of the wealthy actually wrote out goals, created a plan of action and diligently followed their plan through to completion?

Goals are like a little compass in your mind. They keep you going the right direction. Once your brain knows where it’s going, it has a better chance of actually getting you to your destination. But not just any goals will work; you need SMART Goals.

SMART Goals are:

  • Specific
  • Attainable
  • Measurable
  • Time-based

Specific: Saying that you want to increase revenue in your business is an ambiguous goal, but it’s not a specific one.  A specific goal is one that states you want to increase revenue by five percent this fiscal quarter by engaging in newspaper advertising.

Attainable: An attainable goal is something you can actually achieve; it is within your ability to accomplish within the time you allotted and within the framework specified. It’s a goal that won’t make you work eighteen hours a day, but it will be a challenge to reach.

Measurable: A measurable goal is one that is clearly visible; you know what you need to do and how to evaluate if you accomplished your mission or not.  More importantly, your clients will also see or experience the benefit of you reaching your goal. Customers know when you’ve worked to improve your business and it often creates sense of loyalty within them.

Time-based: You need to accomplish your goal in a reasonable amount of time. For example, it shouldn’t take six months to add a phone line. If it does, you are either procrastinating or you need to find a new phone company!  Establish when you want the goal completed and state a date or that you want it done tomorrow, next week, next month, etc.

When making plans, set goals using the SMART Goal system. Where do you see your business in 90 days? How about six months? Six years? Do you see yourself twice as big, or do you see yourself as twice as small? What goals need to be established to reach your business plans?

Why is it important to make goals? Why does this matter? Why go “goals digging”? An MBA survey a group of students compared their wealth over a span of 25 years. Of the students participating in the survey, 70% had no goals at all, 27% had verbal goals, and 3% had written goals. The last 3% had 98% of the wealth of the group. Now the question is, “When are you going to start planning out your own goals? Will you start today?”

Have you ever watched a three-year-old play?  They have no fear.  They will jump on a bed until they fall off, throw rocks until they hit an object, and have an imaginary tea party with Mr. Potato Head and call him a princess.  Where along the way to adulthood do we lose this wonderful lack of fear? 

Developmentalist will tell you it happens as children experiment and are told by others that it isn’t right, good enough, or to do “it” exactly the way the grownup wants it to be done.  This usually takes place between the ages of four and five.  But ah the three-year-old, no fear here, and if you try to tell them how to do it, they just ignore you and go about doing it their own way. 

Are there lessons we could learn from the three-year-old?  Let’s explore a few traits of a toddler:

  1. Taking risks, like jumping on a bed until you fall off, is dangerous.  But taking risks within defined boundaries or perimeters is healthy and vital for a growing business. 
  2. Throwing rocks without care will almost always end in a disaster.  However, having a target you are aiming at, a goal that is well thought through and executed makes a huge difference in a leader that succeeds and those that don’t.
  3. You may not have tea parties with Mr. Potato Head any longer, but using visualization to dream and envision the future of your business can be extremely beneficial.

Maybe we need to bring the inner three-year-old out of us a bit more.  Take a few more risks and dream a few more dreams.  

The dictionary defines Empower as a verb and meaning to delegate power or authority to authorize or to enable or permit.  Interestingly the word has become a contemporary buzzword. Yet the word empower is not new, having arisen in the mid-17th century with the legalistic meaning "to invest with authority, authorize." Shortly thereafter it began to be used with an infinitive in a more general way meaning "to enable or permit.

Being empowered provides people with a great deal of ownership, authority, and responsibility.  Yet, often people are empowered to make changes yet, don’t take advantage of that responsibility and loose the opportunity being presented to them.

Being empowered really has two aspects.  One is being empowered – someone else provides you with the power.  The second is where I believe many are missing the point.  That is empowering themselves and making things happen.  We have the power within ourselves to do far more than we think we can.  What stands in our way are often false walls and obstacles that we believe stand in our way.

For example, one of my clients wanted and needed to hire someone else in her department.  She continued to work long hours and cover for the shortage of staff and never considered that she had the power to actually make a hire.  Now she needed to do the homework, show the need, lay out the responsibilities of this new hire and present it to the President. She never believed she could even ask for the new hire.  Our conversation really took her back to why did she not believe she had the power to even ask.  The answer was – the president knew of the shortage of staff and if he wanted to hire someone it should come from him.  Wrong.  Our conversation essentially empowered her to make the case.  End result was she not only got one person, she got two. 

Another example is a friend of mine was talking about writing a cook book, since she is a wonderful chef.  In asking why she had never written it, she stated she didn’t know how to get it published.  My response was, just write it, I will help you get it published.  She had been empowered all the time to make something happen, but had let a false wall and obstacle stand in her way.  I removed that wall, but it is something she could have done.  Now the question is whether she will really make it happen or if the not knowing how to publish was just an excuse.  That is an entirely different discussion.

My challenge to you is how are you pushing away the empowerment you have been given.  Stop letting things stand in your way.  Empower yourself and make things happen.

I just returned from a refreshing five day journey visiting colleges in California.  It was refreshing in multiple ways.  One was the weather, (Colorado was being hammered by snow), but more importantly was actually seeing an excitement for learning on each campus.  Hearing a student talk about how much they have learned, how excited they are to learn, and how they want to continue their education was inspiring.

Why so inspiring?  We all need to continue to have a desire for learning long after we have gotten out of school.  How about you? Do you continue to have an excitement to learn new things?  Do you acknowledge that you don’t know everything and embrace the journey to learn more?  The continued hunger for learning new things will enlarge who we are and what we will become, and needs to be central part of our daily lives.

Some people still have that yearn to learn.  Some never acquired the desire to learn and some hung up the learning hat the day they graduated from school, whether that was high school, college, or graduate school.  They felt they were done!  We have all had a sense of that feeling.  YES – no more classes, papers to write, or professors to please.

My challenge to you today is to develop a continuing education plan.  What do you want to learn in this next week, next month, next year and next 30 years?  I often speak of setting goals for your business and your personal life.  Now I challenge you to set learning goals as well.  

If you want some ideas of good books to read, then send me an email.  I will help you create a learning plan to last a lifetime.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Critical thinking only happens when:

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

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

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