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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Beginning in 2007, the United States job market experienced a high level of sustained unemployment which unfortunately continues even today, six years later.  The lack of being able to find work often stimulates the act of creating work which results in a large number of people starting their own business, or in other words, buying themselves a job.

What often motivates the employee to become the employer, or at least an owner, is the realization there is not a job in the current marketplace that will provide the same income and benefits as their previous employer. Since workers need to continue making a living, they begin to consider all options accessible to them.  The buying a job concept is not wrong as long as the new business owner is able to transition from thinking and acting like an employee, to thinking and acting like a business owner.  I often joke that a new business owner trades in the boss they didn’t like, for a really bad boss, the one that looks back at them in the mirror every morning, themselves.  After a while, the old boss might not look so bad after all.

The following are a few things to consider when buying yourself a job:

Buying a job means taking something you know or want to know and buying into it.  Franchises are often filled with people buying jobs.  They may have been unsuccessful in getting a new job. They have some money to invest so they decide to buy a company or a franchise.  There are many wonderful success stories of people buying into a franchise.  However, it is important to remember a franchise is a business and not a hobby or a job you can easily leave.

Having sufficient capitalization will often make the deciding difference between the success and failure of a new business.  The average business requires 1-2 years of capital, without the owner getting paid or being paid very little, to survive.  Without adequate capital, you essentially starve the business by taking out essential funds required to make it through the tumultuous first few years.

A new business often becomes a family affair with a spouse, children, and perhaps siblings becoming involved in the business as well.  Be aware all the standard opportunities and challenges that come with working with family members apply.  Don’t run from the opportunity.  Be realistic about what you are getting into and the potential challenges you will face.

The opportunity to work alongside your spouse can be greatly rewarding.  Being able to dream, create, deliver and earn a living with your spouse who is hopefully your bestfriend, can be a reality.  You may have the opportunity to travel together, solve problems together, to challenge each other to grow and to replicate the best of your skills and talents in your team members and employees.  Together you can create a family like environment that makes everyone want to come to work.

The benefits of buying a job and becoming an Entrepreneur includes being able to do what you love to do and have the flexibility to do it how and when you want to.  As the owner, you have the ability to leverage your time and money to benefit your family, business, and employees.  It is a joy to lead your team through the creation of your dream. Your journey will include a great deal of learning, growing, and experiencing new opportunities and challenges.

If you have made the choice to buy yourself a job, be the best boss you can be to yourself and others. Build a family environment, enjoy your well-earned benefits and, most of all, embrace the journey.

Why are we, as a society, having such a hard time dreaming?  As children, we dream on a regular basis.  We fly, conquer the world, create imaginary friends, and plan to accomplish things never considered by anyone 20 years older.  Then the aging process starts and conformity begins.  We conform not only in our behavior (which is mostly good), but in our ability to dream.  One by one, we are told (and often not outright), that our dreams are impossible. Our dreams are unreasonable, not possible, or even why would you ever try that – you might FAIL!

What this creates is a society of control freaks.  These control freaks become business owners who want it done their way, as that way is the only right way.  What they are losing is the ability to leverage the world to get things done for them.  They don’t hire for new ideas, they hire for fitting into the box the business owner created.  The problem:  business owner wealth creation is often best accomplished by people with the desire to dream in a world without boxes.

 Dream without boxes – what does that mean?  It means stepping out and doing things differently.  A perfect example is Steve Jobs, he created something that was new and different that we didn’t know we needed (actually we didn’t), yet how many of us want to go back to what life was like prior to Apple creations.   You need to get away from the day to day so you have time to dream.  It is learning to always challenge your own thinking and be open.  You also must be willing to let others challenge your thinking – they also have dreams that might just allow you to fly, conquer the world, and accomplish things you were told were impossible.

Dream dreams for yourself, your family, and your business.  Dreams do come true, but only if there is a dream in the first place.

Leader vs. Manager – Which are YOU?  There are many articles and books written
about both topics.  They focus on how to improve and become the best.  Improving
those skills are at the foundation of becoming a better leader and manager.  Before you begin that journey you must really start at the foundation of the leader and that is YOU.   It is very much like a building, if it doesn’t have a strong foundation – one made of rock and not sand, the building will fail at the first sign of a storm.
If the building isn’t square all other parts of the construction are
harder, and creates more work for those trying to build the remaining
building.  I could even start at the design of the building.  The design needs
to be well thought out, well planned, and then well executed.

If this is true of leadership – which I believe it is, then why do we spend so little time on our own personal growth plan?  John Maxwell highlighted a number of these points in a recent leadership certification program in Florida by introducing
the 15 Laws of Personal Growth.

Let me ask you, if you aren’t growing as an individual will your organization grow?  The first law of Leadership is the law of the lid. Your organization won’t grow past your level of leadership.  I recommend one earlier step – and that is a
personal leadership and growth plan.  One of the first laws of Personal Growth is the law of intentionality.  We must have a plan.  Growth doesn’t happen accidentally.  You must add value to yourself.  After all if you don’t add value to yourself then why should others follow you to the next level?  Here are questions for you to consider:

  1. Do you have a plan which involves getting out of
    your comfort zone?
  2. Do you have a regular plan of learning (books,
    seminars, DVD’s)?
  3. Who are you associating with – do you need new
    friends?
  4. What are your interests?
  5. What physical activity do you include to keep
    yourself physically fit?

The second law is the law of awareness.  Do you know yourself?  What are your gifts and strengths?  Are you capitalizing on those strengths?  Is building on those strengths in your law of intentionality?   This truly takes time.  It is difficult to look internally.  It isn’t always a pretty picture and one that many don’t want to face.

What are you running from?

This is a continuation of our series on Personal Leadership.  Previously we reviewed the first and second law.

The third law is the Law of the Mirror.  This is your self-image.  This happens after the law of awareness.  It is about being honest with yourself and understanding where your self- image is suffering.  Self image is what you tell yourself when no one is around, when no one is listening.  It is often a very loud voice that screams you screwed up – or you rock!  A strong self image will get you further in life that most anything else.  It will get you through the rough times as you will pick yourself up and keep moving.  It will shout louder than the
negatives around you that say it can’t be done – or you can’t do it.  Work on your self image and make it as strong as you can.  I don’t care who you are, you are unique in a positive way.  You have value.  You can share that value with those around you, so start telling yourself this each and every day!

The fourth law is the law of reflection. Each one of us needs to STOP, pause, and reflect on what we are doing, have done and create a plan of what we need to stop doing and what we need to start doing.

One of my favorite YouTube videos is with Bob Newhart http://youtu.be/Ow0lr63y4Mw Watch this video, it will give you perspective.  The law of reflection is about those I am spending time with and asking the question – who do I need to add to my sphere of influence?  Reflect on the experiences you have.  Experience means nothing unless you reflect on it and learn something.  Wisdom is reflection on experiences.  Without reflection wisdom does not show up. The law of Reflection challenges you to Stop, Pause and Reflect.

Here is what I do.

Each week I reflect back on the prior week.  What is working and what isn’t (this doesn’t take long – maybe 15 minutes).  Each month, I reflect back on the month.   Did I use my time wisely, what changes do I need to make in the coming month.  Each quarter I do the same.  Now on an annual basis as a part of my planning I reflect on the prior year.

Here are questions I ask at each juncture:

  1. What activities are producing results?
  2. Where am I spending time – where should I stop
    spending time?
  3. Where am I disciplined - where do I need to
    improve?

The Law of Consistency is the difference between motivation and discipline.

  • Motivation is easy to generate.
  • Motivation gets you going.

However, what happens when the road gets rough, the rocks get bigger, and fatigue sets in?  That’s where discipline steps in. Without discipline, motivation is useless.

  • Consistency becomes a differentiator between winners and those who don’t reach their goal.
  • Discipline is the bridge that gets you over the hump to where you want to be.

The Law of the Environment is where your growth happens.

  • Growth happens best in conducive surroundings.
  • If your surroundings are holding you back, then change them.

It can be as simple as rearranging the furniture or as complex as moving your office. If you live in confusion and chaos then make the changes necessary.  If lack of organization keeps you from moving forward then get help to get organized.  Learn new skills to make the change.

Personal development cannot be in a small-minded environment.  You need to think big and dream big.  Our society creates more negative than positive messages on a daily basis.  The news, the economy, and often our friends and family, will tell us all the reasons we can’t succeed but not the reasons we can succeed.  It is up to you to find fresh thinking, find new things, and create your new environment.

The seventh law is the Law of Design.  To maximize personal growth you must intentionally develop strategies. Think -

  • I intend to grow and I intend to measure my growth.
  • I will build my strengths.
  • I will not focus on my weaknesses.

A focus on weakness will at best make you average unless you want to make it a strength.  Let me give you an example.  If your weakness is public speaking and you want to grow in that area, then go for it.  Get a speaking coach, read books, learn how
to be a good public speaker.  However if you don’t like detail (like accounting) then don’t try to get good at accounting, hire someone else to do it for you.  At best, you might become a mediocre accountant.

Rubber Bands and Leadership

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

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

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

One opportunity I have is to work with the local Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce on their Chamber University.  These monthly workshops are provided to the local business community as a tool to help them in their business.

During the last 2 years of assisting with the planning of Chamber U it amazes me that the only topic people want month after month is marketing.  If the title of the topic includes marketing people attend, if it doesn’t then they don’t attend.  So what is the mystic about marketing?  Why is there such a “demand” for marketing information and education, yet what most business lack is systems and sales processes?

You  can have the best marketing plan on the planet, yet if the team can’t close the sale, why bother.  If there aren’t systems in place to follow up with the leads that marketing generates then it is a waste of money.  If the target market for the business is not identified, then throwing $100 bills off the highest building might generate better results.  Marketing is math nothing more nothing less.  If the calculations don’t add up then the results become questionable.  Here are a couple of tips for your marketing math:

  1. Target – Who is your target and don’t have the words anybody, everybody, anyone etc.  A target is just that a target.   What is the geography, age, likes, dislikes, economic boundaries etc.
  2. Copy – What do you say to them when you advertise?  You have less than 3 seconds to grab your attention – how will you do that.  Hint – Only you Mom cares about your logo so make it small and at the bottom of the page – stop wasting space on your logo.
  3. Planning – Create a simple marketing plan, lay it out for weekly activities, get specific.  Test and measure results.  Too often the marketing plan lacks the action of planning.  What are the short, medium and long term anticipated results?  What will you do today that will bring in business tomorrow, next quarter and a year from now?  Get the details on paper, be consistent, be ready to throw out what doesn’t work and make it happen.

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

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

What do you train the sales team on?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet, it is wonderful being able to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• They are ready to take on the world.

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

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

For the last few months I have been working on a book. The working name is: Running a “Successful” Family Business Without Destroying the Family.

The process has been fun, the compilation of information has been interesting the writing has been enjoyable. Here is a bit of the very rough draft of the introduction. Be looking out for more to come, many more stories and practical hints and the publication in Q1 of 2013. Let me know if you want to pre-order a copy, there are some additional bonuses for pre-orders.

The book focuses on the joys, challenges, opportunities and threats encountered in the family business… those many little realities you wish you’d known about beforehand. Your family, employees and the future of your business depend on your inter-relationships to each other and to the team in a charged, multi-generational environment. The outside worlds, i.e. your customers, win when your family business succeeds.

There is an old saying: Blood is thicker than water. This is usually true even when the families are not close and/or don’t get along. I may not like my brother, but you had better not pick on him, or I will come out fighting. Family ties are far stronger than normal relationships of employer to employee, friend to friend and even spouse to sibling.

Families are at the heart of most all societies. Statistics indicate there are more than 16 million small businesses in the US alone. Small businesses range from home based environments to structured operational businesses environments with employees and multimillions or tens of millions of dollars in revenue. Family business is at the heart of 80 % of small businesses in the US. Working for a family business – when you are not family can have great rewards and great challenges.

This book focuses on the joys, challenges, opportunities and threats encountered in the family business, both to the family, the employees and the future of the business. The inter relationships between the family members to each other, to the team, the generational environments and the outside world i.e., their customers.

The research from the book is based on years of up close and practical experience. Yes, there is research proven in standard research methodology, however most of the stories and research is from years of running businesses and business coaching. It is that real life experience that is mostly at play here. Volumes of research in standard research methods are critical, but don’t account for the up close and personal reality.

My journey in life has taken me through a number of family businesses. This starts with my Dad and being involved in a family business growing up – it was called a farm. Grandpa was the business owner, Dad and his 5 brothers were the employees, Grandma also ran the business from the house. Employees were hired during the busy season and they moved on during the slow season. Work needed to be done, crops needed to be harvested, bills needed to be paid and the future needed to be secured. It was a family business in all ways. Much was learned and from that family business 2 of the brothers continued in the tradition, yet in what is very common, it didn’t make it past the second generation. The brothers chose to sell that family business and either retire in one case and move on to a job in the other. The 3rd generation wanted no part of it.

What is your family business story? Let me know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• how to leverage our controlling nature into something successful.

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

• Following someone else’s lead/orders

• Believes they can serve the customer better

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

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

• Can make more money, i.e., profit

The lessons learned are:

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

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

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

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

Reality:

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

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