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Growing and running a successful small business sometimes means admitting that you need help from someone with more knowledge or experience, but many business owners hold back.
 
Don’t make this mistake. Here are five “thinking traps” that could be preventing you from getting the assistance you need—and why you need to avoid them.
  • Ego – “I can do it; I don’t need help.” Guess what? Everyone needs help. In fact, the most profitable, most well-run businesses are run by owners who constantly ask questions and seek help.
  • Shame – “I don’t want anyone to know the hole I have dug for myself and my family.” It will come out at some point, and as John Maxwell states in his book Failing Forward, “Success is measured by your perception of and response to failure. Every person fails. Every business owner fails at some point. It is only with failure that you can truly be a success. This may sound harsh, but get over it, figure out how big the hole is, what can be done about it, LEARN from it and move on.
  • Fear – “I don’t want to know what trouble I am really in.” A business was owned by a mother and daughter. They provided childcare to the community and accomplished their service in an extraordinary way. Unfortunately, the relationship between mother and daughter was often confrontational so the mother eventually ended up firing her daughter and running the business herself. While the business started to grow, the mother knew she was behind in paying bills so she stopped checking her voicemail. Her fear of what the messages would say was so great that she was unable to listen even to gather voicemails from new families seeking her services. The end result was a closed and bankrupt business, employees out of work, and another business not fulfilling its potential. Her fear was people calling for payment of late bills. The reality was that her voicemail included those very families that could have taken care of the creditors and kept the business afloat. What are your fears?
  • Didn’t Know – “I did not realize there were resources out there to help me.” If you are going to own your own business, you must read, be aware, listen and not stick your head in the sand. In this age of computers and the Internet, there are many resources to help you. Not knowing is not acceptable. The challenge is to ask better questions when you do seek out help so you get the answers you need, not the answers you want. There will always be things you don’t know, didn’t understand, didn’t consider. As a business owner, try to minimize the effects of not knowing by creating a plan for learning.
  • MBA Know-It-All -- This is my favorite: “I don’t need help; I have an MBA.” Sorry, but having an MBA doesn’t guarantee you won’t go out of business. It may prepare you for a job at a company that wants what is taught at business school, but it seldom prepares you for handling the real-world aspects of running a business, especially a small family business. I have encountered many family business owners who don’t believe they need help because they have an MBA and know how to do the business thing. I have also encountered just as many business owners who have been humbled by losing their business because they thought they learned it all while earning their MBA. This statement may not be popular with business schools, but I will stand behind it.
Don’t fall into these traps. Understand that the more you know, the more you have to learn, and you’ll probably need help learning it as quickly as possible.
 
This is an excerpt from The Family Business by Janna Hoiberg.
 
 
Rope is a very versatile tool. With rope, you can hang a bear bag, rescue a friend who fell off a cliff, help someone climb up to a new ledge, tie down your tent in high winds. Simply put, a rope is critical on the trail. It is insurance that protects you if you need it.
 
Insurance for your business is similar. You hope and pray you don’t need it, but it is invaluable if you do. There are several types of insurance your business might need: property, casualty, auto, errors and omission, and key-man life insurance. The specific list is determined by the business and the individual. Most businesses have insurance; the challenge is to understand what insurance is needed and what is covered.
 
In Colorado, after years of drought and wildfires, we faced times of extreme rain. These events highlighted for both individuals and family business owners how good (or in many cases, how bad) their insurance coverage really was. In one year (actually in about a four-month period) we used our car insurance (my husband was hit by a drunk driver and the car was totaled), our property insurance (a tree fell on our house), our boat insurance (the same storm that caused the tree to fall created waves that sunk our boat), and our health insurance. The only insurance we didn’t use that year was life insurance—thankfully.
 
One additional note on insurance: Understanding the fine print is critical. Weather happens, and one day we had over eight inches of hail in about one hour. At one office building, the rain blocked the drain pipes that lead water off the roof, and about three inches of water flowed into the top floor. Water was flowing out of electrical outlets, ceilings, and any place it could go. However, since the roof didn’t “fail” the insurance company was denying the claim for one of the tenants. Each of the other insurance companies paid, but not that one. The fine print in the policy indicated that it didn’t cover water if there was no damage to the roof.
 
Yes, there are many horror stories about insurance companies. Some of these can be avoided by reading the policies, asking questions, and not making assumptions about coverage. Insurance is essentially like the bear bag we use when hiking. We don’t anticipate running into that bear, and they are usually as afraid of us as we are of them. However, things can happen. We bear bag our food—all of it. Insurance offers the same kind of protection for your business.
 
Excerpted from The Backpacker's Guide To Business Success by Janna Hoiberg.
 
 
Screaming into the wind out in the wilderness is virtually useless. No one can hear you. However, a whistle provides a very different type of noise. When you are truly in the backcountry (and in some places even around town), a whistle provides protection against danger.
 
A whistle is a necessity in the woods, especially if you aren’t around people, in which case you might find yourself uncomfortably close to the wildlife. Have you ever seen a bear and tried to scream? It is the scream that no one hears because you open your mouth to scream but nothing comes out.
 
Even if a scream does escape, that gentle breeze that feels so good also muffles the sound of your scream, so no one hears you. But a whistle: that sound pierces through the wind to bring help running (either toward you or away from you). When the voice has been scared right out of you, a whistle will call for help.
 
When you’re kayaking in the backcountry, even going to the bathroom requires a whistle. You might not ever come face to face with a bear, but being face to face with your pants down puts whole new meaning to scaring the pants off you. You know the old story about being chased by a bear: You don’t have to be the fastest runner in the group; you just can’t be the slowest. Unfortunately, with your pants down, you probably aren’t going to run very fast should that bear come upon you. (Don’t you just love that image?)
 
What is your whistle in your family business and career? How do you call for help when needed? Who do you hope will come to your rescue? Or maybe you are the type to run around with your pants around your ankles screaming into the wind as the bear chases you. That is another decision you get to make. In our careers, there are lots of bears that threaten our livelihood: mergers, acquisitions, new technology, new bosses, competition, changing economic landscapes, lack of attention to detail, lack of personal and business growth. All of these factors might mean that you need to call for help.
 
Be willing to ask for help. Our society has too much of an attitude that portrays, “I can do it alone.” or “My way is best.” or “I don’t need you.” Needing and asking for help and another person’s perspectives is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it is a sign of strength. It may be the only way you get yourself out of your current jam.
 
Help can come from mentors, coaches, advisors, or trusted friends. Make sure you have people targeted that can help in certain situations and have a plan for the right people to contact based on the circumstances.
 
Career advice should probably come from someone older who has hit some rough spots but still succeeded in their career. Parenting advice probably comes best from parents who are at least ten years further down the road than you are and have walked through the parenting steps you’re currently taking. And of course, legal advice is always best from a lawyer.
 
Whatever the reason, don’t be afraid to whistle for help when you need it. It’s better than facing down a bear.
 
Excerpted from The Backpacker's Guide To Business Success by Janna Hoiberg.
 
 
You are ready—ready to start the transition process for your business. What you’d really love is to pass the business on to the next generation; keep it in the family; pass down that legacy to your kids and hopefully your grandchildren.
 
But your kids are hesitating. They aren’t sure they want the business, and frankly you don’t get it. Why wouldn’t they want to be their own boss, set their own hours, never work for someone else. Isn’t that the dream?
 
A little self-reflection might help you better understand their hesitation.
  • How often did you come home and complain about your customers and how they always wanted something for nothing?
  • How often did you miss events due to “the business?”
  • How often did you share the good days and the joys of running your own business?
  • Did you ever offer a surprise – like taking the day off unplanned just to hang out with the family? (Yes, it is possible to do this, and I’ll discuss it in future articles.)
Are you seeing a theme here? We see all the joys of owning a family business, yet we forget to practice that process of “selling it” to our kids during their formative years. After a rough day at work, it’s common to unwind (and sometimes unload) by sharing things with our family. However, if we don’t also share the excitement, the joys, and the financial opportunities of running a business, then we shouldn’t be surprised when no one wants to follow in our footsteps.
 
As you ponder this, ask yourself: “Would I want to follow in my footsteps? Am I selling the complete picture—the good and the bad—to the next generation so they can make an informed decision?”
 
Too often the answer is no. We share the downside and not the up, and then wonder what happened when our kids want to do anything else but take over the family business. Start now to share the positive as well as negative aspects of running your business, and you might find the next generation eagerly waiting for you to hand hand them the reins.
 
 
Leadership isn’t about “being right no matter what.” And it isn’t about being macho, sticking it out when turning back is the right action to take. To lead, you must make the best possible decisions for the team’s success.
 
Which type of person are you? What can you do to lead your team more effectively? To quote the international author, speaker, and leadership guru John Maxwell, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”
 
The word influencer can act as a kind of acronym for characteristics influencers need and actions they should take:
  • Influencers should have INTEGRITY. What does integrity mean to you? Leaders need to define integrity for themselves and communicate that to their team.
  • Influencers should NURTURE those they work with. Nurturing means lifting them to a higher level of success.
  • Influencers should have FAITH: faith in their team, faith in the vision and that the team can make things happen.
  • Influencers should LISTEN. Leaders will know the heart, the hope and the hurt of their team. They will ask questions, use responsive listening, engage with the speaker and want to hear what the speaker is saying.
  • Influencers should UNDERSTAND. To understand the mind of a person, look at what he has achieved. To understand the heart of a person, look at what he dreams of becoming.
  • Influencers should ENLARGE. They cannot give what they do not have. Enlarging is growing oneself in order to support the growth of colleagues, which in turn grows the organization.
  • Influencers should help others to NAVIGATE. A leader is one who sees more than others see, farther than others see, and before others see it. They can navigate their way to success.
  • Influencers should CONNECT well: Credibility + Communication = Connections. They connect through relationships, sacrifice, experience, character and insight. Go to their world and connect from the heart.
  • Influencers should EMPOWER those around them. They see the potential of the individual and encourage, equip, and empower them. They share their knowledge experience and influence and show others their belief in that person.
  • Influencers should REPRODUCE themselves. In other words, they should teach those on their team their skill sets. Model good leadership. Provide training, resources and experiences to create the desired growth.
Which of these are already strengths and which ones do you need to work on to be an effective leader in your start-up or family business?
 
 
 
“Control freak” is often an apt description of business owners. We like the ability to control our destiny, make our own decisions and see the impact of what we accomplish. The challenge comes with:
 
-- Understanding how little control we actually have; it’s really just a perception of control.
-- Learning how to relinquish control, i.e., delegate, for the business to grow.
-- Leveraging our controlling nature into something successful.
 
The example below offers some good insights on this.
 
An Entrepreneur’s Dream
 
Sal kept watching how the business was run, the waste that was taking place, how customers were being treated and the lack of profit that was being generated. These frustrations led to his determination to start his own business.
 
Sal’s premise was that he would treat employees much better than his current employer did, eliminate waste, treat his customers better and generate more profit. In essence, Sal wanted control overthe areas in which his current employer struggled. He accomplished those goals. He also learned a number of lessons in the process.
 
These goals were Sal’s primary drivers for family business ownership (and possibly entrepreneurship in general). The person who wants to start a business:
  • Is tired of following someone else’s lead/orders;
  • Believes they can serve the customer better;
  • Has different ideas on how to implement the product or service;
  • Desires flexibility in their day-to-day lives and a better balance between work and home;
  • Craves the ability to make more money.
The Light of Reality
 
New business owners quickly discover that there are as many challenges in this new role as in their former job. They just have a different look.
To start, the new boss (themselves and their family) is not the wonderful boss they thought they would be and they have a great deal to learn.
 
The new boss in the mirror isn’t always a pretty sight. They find that the new boss is demanding, doesn’t give vacations, doesn’t allow employees to sleep in, has become more of a perfectionist, is always striving to improve and the list goes on.
 
Running any business, including a family business, takes as much—or possibly more—commitment and hard work as any other business role. It comes down to understanding the challenges, including lack of control, and then determining if entrepreneurship is right for you.
 

 

When I was a kid, my family camped at Calaveras Big Trees in California. The camp-ground was awesome and allowed us to play all day in the woods, climb hills, and never worry. My dad always made it his goal to leave the campsite in better shape than he found it. He would clean up leaves and twigs, fix benches, and make the campsite a delight for the next people to arrive. (As an aside, my dad opened the zipper to our tent one night and came nose-to-nose with a bear. I am not sure who was more scared, but both Dad and the bear were shocked. The bear ran away, and my dad was speechless.) Think about the trace you leave behind in your career or business. Does it improve the business, or do you leave a path of destruction and waste? What investment do you make in the people you work with?
 
When we went kayaking for seven days backcountry, showers were not on the agenda. You could jump in the water, but that bath won’t last long because the water temp was about fifty degrees.  That is good for about one minute. However, when the water from a hot spring runs into a cold river and you place rocks around in a circle, you create a bath-type of environment that allows you to sit, feel a bit cleaner, and enjoy the warmth of a natural hot tub. Soap is still not appropriate in a backcountry river, but you come out a lot cleaner than when you went in.
 
Entire industries have been created to help people stay organized and keep their desks and offices clean. Just to name a few, professional organizers, office productivity experts, and those who have mastered Microsoft Outlook create jobs and businesses out of keeping both home and work environments clean and organized. What does your desk or office look like? What image does it convey to those you work with? Does your office inspire confidence in your management? Does your desk emulate the organizational competence that you want from your team?
 
Many people who live with stacks of paper piled on their desk believe they are very productive and have a filing system that matches anyone else with a cleaner desktop. That may be true, yet the question remains: Is your desk or office helping or hurting your business growth? When we are backcountry and not taking a shower for days on end, it doesn’t affect our ability to hike, pack, and climb—that is, not at first. However, a couple of days into the trip we can no longer stand the smell of ourselves and pity the person we may share a tent with (who actually smells no better.) That first shower feels SO good. It is breathtaking and invigorating, making you truly appreciate the comforts of civilization.
 
The same is often true for your office. One of my client’s desk and office was totally disorganized. She always stated that she wanted to clean it up but never had time. Reality is the cleanup process was so overwhelming that she was frozen.  She simply had no idea where to begin or how to organize. A professional organizer was brought in to help her develop the thought process and structure to actually throw away what was not needed and structure her entire office moving forward. Her productivity has immensely improved.
 
Are poor organizational skills affecting your ability—and your team’s confidence—to succeed?
Toilets in the woods are bad enough. Using the “big leaf” approach to clean up, it seems to me, would make them even worse. I want my nice soft TP, a reminder of the comforts of home. But there may be one advantage to big leaves. When you are back-country, you usually don’t have an outhouse that you can throw the toilet paper down; you need to dig a hole with a shovel, bury the “output,” and bring the toilet paper home with you. Big leaves can go into the hole. Some wilderness areas take it a step further, requiring that you leave absolutely no trace—period. They do not want the wilderness area tainted with human waste of any kind. That means you need to pack out all waste. Eeww. Fortunately, I have only been places where I can dig a hole and bury it. I’m not even sure I would want to hike in those “absolutely no trace” areas. That might be the line in the sand for me. Each person needs to determine how they will follow the rules of any given forest, and within those rules, what “waste” they will pack out.
 
What stuff do you need to bury in a hole, never to be seen again? Bad attitudes, anger, assumptions, resentment, jealousy, and lack of patience come quickly to mind. Doesn’t that represent exactly what goes on in the fast-paced world of business? There is always “stuff” that needs to be cleaned up, and the need to eliminate waste often comes at an awkward time. If you don’t clean up the mess when and how you should, it usually comes back to bite you. If any of you have ever written computer code, you know that cleaning up your code and documenting it so someone else can work with it is essential. That clean-up process and the documentation that comes with it makes the code easier to debug, easier to expand upon, and easier to leave as part of your legacy. Where else is that true in your projects, desk, home, and personal life? How clean you leave things is a direct reflection on who you are and how you think.
 
Business is made up of people, and even the cleanest people carry baggage, make messes, and sometimes leave messes behind. “Leave no trace” isn’t a viable concept in business. What traces will you leave? Is your trace one of integrity, nurturing, faith, listening, understanding, and enlarging? Or is it about clawing your way to the top, winning at all cost, gossip, and demeaning others? We each make our mark on the business, the team, the customers, and the future of the business. Carefully consider what mark you are leaving and whether you need to change it.
 
What is a contrast? It is really a set of opposites, and it defined my life at the start of 2016.
 
On January 2nd I was at the top of a mountain skiing with family and friends. It was cold outside, yet a beautiful sunny day. One week later I was sitting on a beach in Barbados. Not a bad transition in my opinion.
 
On January 3rd my father-in-law passed away. He had turned 99 on January 1st and lived a good long life. One week later a close friend found out her daughter was expecting a first child. We celebrated the end of a life well-lived and the joy of a new life to come, both within a short time frame.
 
On January 4th we learned that my sister-in-law's family needed to allow their dog of 14 years to go peacefully to sleep. Always a hard decision. Three days later in Barbados we were playing with two Rottweiler puppies - one named Clinton and the other Trump. (Oh, I could have so much fun with that but not in this blog!)
 
So what do all these experiences have to do with business? Each business day can be (and generally is) filled with contrasts: the new customer, the lost customer; the new opportunity, the one that passes by; the new employee, the departing employee. The list can go on. The challenge and opportunity is how each of us faces the personal and business contrasts that come our way.
 
In life, does the loss of a father overshadow the celebration of the life that he lived? This does not mean we do not mourn, but mourning has its time and place. It is a time of reflection, a time to think about how we, too, would like to be remembered.
 
In our business lives, does the lost customer overshadow the new one? Do we fail to embrace the new employee because we're sad that the old employee has left? Have we missed a window for more business and income by focusing on what we let get away? How you react, adjust, and move forward can and does affect the future of your business.
 
What are your contrasts? How are you using them to challenge yourself and your team, and how are you helping those around you to learn, adapt, and grow?
"No one listens to my ideas! I can share an idea with my team and it gets dismissed. Then a few months later someone else on the team shares essentially the same idea and everyone sees the merit and we implement that idea. It is so frustrating to not be listened to!"
 
Such is the lament I have heard from countless executives, CEOs, and team members at organizations of all sizes and shapes. I'm consistently asked how to fix this "issue", in part so that a good idea can be implemented that much sooner.
 
Yes, it is true that many good ideas are ignored based on factors such as how the idea is delivered, timing, and--of course--the person making the delivery. While all of these factors can be improved upon, many times the core issue is a concept of the farmer and the seeds.
 
As a teenager I spent a summer on a Nebraska farm. One of the many discoveries I made is that farming takes patience and perseverance. In the spring, the seed is planted after the ground is prepared. It is then watered - usually by rain and also by irrigation in some parts of the country - and then you wait for the harvest, which usually isn't ready until the mid to late summer.
 
If you think all of your business ideas are being ignored, here's another way to interpret it. Think of those ideas as seeds that need time to be watered, to germinate, and then break through the hard crusted soil of your team's ears and listening skills. You are the farmer that needs to till the soil as well as provide the water, sunlight, and time needed to actually produce a plant worth harvesting. 
 
So often ideas are ahead of their time, or team members aren't good at taking something new and running with it. Sometimes the idea percolates in the brains of the team, often without them really understanding that they are processing that exact idea that you planted. It then shows up as their idea, and they don't even remember that you planted that seed months ago. Now I do agree that there are people who steal ideas for their own. That is unfortunate but also ultimately career-ending when the thief is discovered.
 
Your challenge is both to understand farming within your organization and to accept the incredible value you provide by being the farmer who plants the seed. Ideas need time to germinate. Some ideas often come before their time. One idea can be a foundation for a better idea. I have often joked that I was the queen of bad ideas. Yet any bad idea (among my many good ones) generally created the discussion and thought process needed to develop a better, more successful idea.
 
So for those who are the farmers in your business and planting seeds within the organization, appreciate the value you provide and stop whining that no one listens to you. They do; it just often takes time for those seeds to become fruitful--and for people to thank the farmer.

By Janna Hoiberg--From my upcoming book:"The Backpacker's Guide To Business Success"

"It isn't what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it." - Dale Carnegie

We live in Colorado and hike at high elevations, where we have little oxygen compared with our previous sea-level home. Physical activity that might be fairly easy at lower elevations becomes, you might say, more "breath-taking" up here. When I first moved to Colorado I went for a walk at 8,500 feet. I kept thinking to myself, "I am in worse shape than I thought. I am so short of breath it's ridiculous." Then the light dawned: the problem wasn't me. It was the elevation. I needed time to adjust to high-altitude breathing.
 
At high altitudes, physical activity--like running up a mountain--is more difficult. If you are going from low elevation to high elevation for an athletic event, you need to allow yourself time to acclimate. If you are going very high--say you are going to climb a "fourteener"--you might even want to stop in the middle somewhere (perhaps Denver or Colorado Springs) and wait a day or two before you go higher. If you cannot allow time to acclimate completely, your pace must be adjusted. Another option is to work out so hard and get in such good shape at your low altitude hometown that your body can manage the change in elevation. For people who are particularly sensitive, all of these techniques taken together might be a good idea. Some people are not bothered at all; others can have significant effects due to altitude sickness.
 
The effect of altitude on athletic performance is one of the reasons that the United States Olympic Center (USOC) is located in Colorado Springs. Because there is relatively little oxygen at high altitudes, people who live there produce more red blood cells than people at lower altitudes. When athletes train at high altitudes then travel to lower altitudes for competitions, they are better conditioned than people from lower elevations. They have more endurance because their bodies receive more oxygen via more red blood cells. Compared to athletes who train at lower elevations, they are more prepared. This better conditioning lasts for ten to twenty days.
 
Our attitude affects our professional lives in the same way elevation (or altitude)
affects physical activity.
 
Even a simple activity at work can be quite difficult or stressful if approached with a negative attitude, and difficult situations (which come with stress built in) require outstanding positive attitudes to be met effectively. We need to prepare for work challenges and adapt our attitudes in much the same way that our bodies adjust to the challenge of high altitudes.
 
Backpackers prepare for physical challenges in much the same way professionals prepare for business and career challenges--in advance of the situation and consistently. When preparing for a backpacking trip, we know that anyone coming with us must be physically prepared to handle the rigors of the trail. Someone's first backpacking trip should not be a five-day journey with a 13,000-foot elevation gain. We start with a short weekend trip--to shake out what they know and what they can handle. This type of shake-out trip was always fun with Boy Scouts. There was almost always one scout who, with a target of feeding three people, would bring a cooler of food and a lot of cans (which are heavy)--enough food to feed the entire troop for a week! (Every person who has backpacked and is honest will admit to bringing things along in the early trips that they now scoff at as being unnecessary and showing inexperience.) They would trudge along, weighed down, and start complaining about 200 feet onto the trail. As leaders we would caution scouts, parents, and anyone who would listen not to over pack. But it never failed; at least one scout brought along everything including the kitchen sink. Such mishaps are what stories are made of and how people learn, but such a situation would be disastrous on a five-day trip. We take a short trip the first time so the lesson can be learned.
 
Preparation is not just about packing, of course; it also involves physical conditioning. Experienced backpackers know that going all winter without doing any physical workout, exercise, or activity and then just heading out on a trail results in sore legs, groaning, and general unpleasantness. So we work out all winter. That StairMaster is not my friend, but to my body it resembles the steps on a mountain. Those core-building classes at the gym are good for my health, although I usually question their value about forty minutes into the class.
 
The concept of choosing a goal and sticking with it is important. Then, after setting a goal, you must plan, prepare, and lay the appropriate foundation to achieve success. You also must understand the potential risks associated with your plan. If a mountaineer is going to invest in climbing a mountain but doesn't want to end up being the one who gets rescued because of lack of preparation, he or she must plan, develop the necessary skills, and perform critical thinking tasks in order to address the risks. The same is true in business and careers.
 
If you are going to invest all your savings on a single business venture, you'd better
understand the risks.

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, "The Backpacker's Guide to Business Success."

“If you don’t know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere.” – Henry Kissinger

My first backpacking trip was fun—especially when the pack was off! Only after multiple trips did I learn how the backpack could almost be part of me, to the point that I didn’t feel the weight or even think about this 35- or 40-pound thing on my back. We moved together. We were attached, and that was good. This change happened because I learned that the planning and preparation part of the trip was as important as the actual physical part of backpacking. Planning was required--my attitude needed to be in balance, the people that came along were critical, and having the right gear made a tremendous difference.
 
All the work that takes place before you actually step foot on the mountain determines how much fun you will have on the mountain. And the same is true in business: the quality of your planning determines whether or not you will succeed. Yet, statistics reveal that people spend more time planning for vacations than they do for their business or careers.
 
In the wilderness, lack of preparation and planning creates forest fires, millions of dollars spent on rescues, and loss of life. The same lack of preparation and planning in business creates failed projects, debt, and loss of productivity.
 
Plans can be changed and often should be changed. New opportunities, new ventures, road blocks, or changing interests will alter our plans. Yet the possibility of change is no reason not to have a plan. By the time I graduated from Suffolk University in Boston, with a degree in sociology and an emphasis in crime and delinquency, I had determined my true passion was in business. I look back on my career and wonder what I would be like if I had gone ahead and worked with delinquents, just because that was my “plan.”
 
From the outside, it certainly looks like my plan changed. But my fundamental goal—the foundation of my “plan”—has never changed. I always wanted to help people, impact lives, make a difference. I am just doing it in a very different way than I envisioned. The reality is my plan hasn’t changed. The execution of the plan and the path I took changed, but not the fundamental purpose. The same is true on the mountain. No matter how much I know about the path I'm walking, the journey is always a surprise beyond my imagination.
 
It is ok to change the plan, but there is a profound difference between intentional course correction and unintentional wandering. You know you are wandering if you wonder where you are going and when you will arrive—especially if you wouldn’t recognize arrival if it stood in front of you!
 
That is why life is often called a journey. I use the word journey intentionally. There will always be a mountain to climb and the opportunity to grow as long as I draw breath. About some of the journeys, I will have clarity; others, not so much. Some journeys will be more difficult, some easier. But the attitude in which we approach each of the different journeys can make the difference between the outcome of “I did it!” and the outcome of “Is that all there is?”
This article was also recently published in the Colorado Springs Business Journal.
 
Colorado Springs is a wonderful place to live. We have beauty all around us, weather that is fantastic, and residents who would never want to live elsewhere. As business owners, what more could we ask for as a foundation of the local economy?
 
While we love Colorado Springs, we have all felt the impact (literally) of potholes on our streets. Having lived in the pothole capital of the US--Boston--for many years, I never thought I would say Boston roads are in better shape than those in Colorado Springs. Yet they are.
 
As a community we have not taken care of our infrastructure (roads, storm water, etc.). There are many excuses. Yes, I did say excuses. The beauty of the local area is compromised by the effects of not caring for its physical foundation.
 
This concept also is true of business owners. We want to live here, start businesses here, and retire here. Yet what have we learned from the lack of attention to the foundational infrastructure in the community that we can apply to our businesses? In other words, what potholes do you have in your business? How will those potholes affect you when business challenges storm against them? 
 
Investment in our business is critical. Investment in our city is critical. Yes, it will cost us money. Yes, I expect the taxes will go up. To be clear, I don’t like to spend money. I am, however, willing to invest money in building a stronger local business environment that reaches outside of our wonderful city. Investing is very different than spending. We must invest.  Investing creates wealth; spending creates little.
 
Is the local business community investing in the creation of solid companies that can build wealth? Or are we building something that will fall apart the minute we as business owners stop propping it up? The terms "wealth," "creating," and "building" are not dirty words. Business owners have a responsibility to build a strong foundation in our companies, investing in the infrastructure of the company so it can withstand the storms of changing competition and economic uncertainty.
  
Building wealth is not just about more money but also includes the riches of having qualified employees and true leaders in our companies. It is a diverse business environment that makes other businesses want to move to Colorado Springs, not just for our natural beauty, but because the business community has learned how to build true wealth that comes from strong and resilient organizations, people, education, and leadership.
 
Business owners, what are you truly doing with your time? Yes, you are busy, but are you busy doing the right things for your business? Too many business owners are spending too much time working on things that keep the business afloat. The business owner needs to stop doing the $20 and $30 and $50 per hour jobs and start doing the jobs that few in the company can accomplish. What innovations, new technology, or new ways of looking at old problems can you generate? One idea from the owner can often generate tens of thousands of dollars for the company and the community. Those new ideas do not come when you are working ten-hour days on bookkeeping, purchasing, or customer service.
 
True wealth comes from leveraging your time to actually make new ideas happen. This doesn't necessarily mean revolutionizing your business the way Cirque Du Soleil did the circus, but key results can come from continually stepping away, learning new concepts, implementing new ideas and strengthening the foundation of the business you have created.
 
Potholes on our roads come from harsh weather conditions, poor road maintenance, and improper road foundations. Potholes in business come from harsh economic conditions, poor investment in our business infrastructure, and inadequate business foundations.
 
What are you ready to invest in your business infrastructure to ensure potholes don’t have a lasting effect on your business? 
 
Let’s start with a story.
 
Two business owners are in the same market, offer essentially the same products, target mutual markets, and yet at year end, produce very different results. One business is doing well, the other is doing poorly. One business owner seems on top of their game, the other isn’t succeeding. One business is growing, the other business is barely scraping by and the owner is beginning to wonder whether it is time to sell, or maybe just shut the doors.
 
What is the difference between the two businesses? There can be any number of factors to consider. Perhaps the owners differ in the amount of knowledge and skills they have for running a business; there may be a difference in the systems which have been put into place--or maybe they are missing altogether. Consider the team that drives the business forward, how pricing is determined, how marketing is presented, and how sales are made. Many factors play into the success and growth of a business. Yet, there is one characteristic that creates the largest differentiator between the two business environments: the mindset of the owner and/or leadership. What is their perspective on every situation, every economic obstacle, every customer, and perhaps on life in general? The attitude of leadership sets the tone for the environment of the business.
 
Is there a pervasive attitude similar to Eeyore, the donkey friend of Winnie-the-Pooh? In this type of environment the we get below-the-line thinking which produces a string of blame, excuses, and denial manifested in “woe is me” attitudes such as life is hard, this is what happened, I don’t get the same opportunities as others, the economy is really hurting, etc. In below-the-line thinking we often hear people blaming someone else, producing excuses for why things didn’t get accomplished, and denying that their attitude is a main source of the issues at hand. Below-the-line thinking creates a reason for everything and generates a need to offer explanations.
 
On the other hand, the attitude that propels above-the-line thinking is more like Pooh’s friends Kanga or Owl. Above-the-line thinkers accept ownership, accountability, and responsibility for everything they do. They understand that what they cannot control (economy, taxes, etc.) is only 10% of life, but what they have great control over is 90% of their life. This is what Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, calls the 90/10 rule. How your day goes is totally up to you, as is how you react to the difficult situations and even the successes you achieve through disastrous times. Steve Jobs got fired from Apple which most likely was not what he called the best day of his life, yet without being fired from Apple he would not have created Pixar and NeXT which are part of the foundation of the Apple products we love today. Above-the-line thinking creates results, and results don’t require explanations. They speak for themselves.

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. 

Category:Business Coaching Business Management Business Systems Executive Coaching Family Business Profitability Sales Success In Business 
Posted by: admin

Entrepreneurs and setting goals is a popular topic. Dan Sullivan had a perspective worth sharing in the May issue of Success Magazine. The concept is rather than trying to double or 2 times where you are– go for 10 times where you are. “WHAT?” I hear you all scream. “It is hard enough to achieve 2 times where I am, how on earth can I even consider a 10 X goal?” That is exactly the point.

A 2 X goal is really just pushing what you are already planning into the future (assuming you are planning). The ability to achieve the 2 X goal is a probable anyway. There really isn’t rocket science, you know the basics—hard work and you will achieve the 2X goal.

Now for the 10 X goal that starts pushing you out of your comfort zone. I can already feel the squirming. A 10X goal forces you to look at what is really going on in your business. It forces you to look at inefficiencies. It challenges you to think out of the box, to put systems in place to handle 10X, to understand your business, structure your business, and PLAN. You must now think differently, observe differently, plan differently and execute differently. Once you start thinking 10X you will notice opportunities, changes, and perspectives. Then you can start making the changes that are required.

Here are my perspectives and 4 ¾ downsides to this type of thinking:

1. Shooting for 10 X – you might not make it, you might only reach 5X.

2. 10 X thinking creates perspectives on your business and forces planning.

3. You don’t know how to think 10X? What better way to start looking at everything from a different perspective? Read, ask, get advice, reach out to others, be humble. Even if 10X is achieved, I guarantee your 3, 4 and 5X will be more profitable.

4. For 10X I need to look outside the box, and that creates FEAR. False Expectations Appearing Real – so what are your real fears? Figure them out, since they will probably keep you from achieving 2 X. There is no better time than the present.

4 ¾ Reality is I don’t see any downside to 10X type of thinking. The danger really lies in 2X thinking. Thinking too small limits your potential, who you can be, and can lead to my favorite quote: “Hell on earth is seeing the person I could have been!”

Category:Team Building Success In Business Management Leadership Family Business Entrepreneur Business Management Business Coaching General 
Posted by: actionjanna

Attitude is all about how you look at things.  I recently took a trip to New Orleans flying through Houston.  The Polar Vortex that has been hitting the US made for cancelled flights and a one day delay in actually making the trip.  Then upon my arrival in Houston my connecting flight was cancelled.  Rather than waiting around hoping to make it on another flight (the standby list was over 200), I chose to drive.  The situations on that drive will generate some good stories during my speaking event! 

That drive and the resulting situations (i.e., getting pulled over, having the road closed for 125 miles and getting detoured twice etc.) could have made for a very unhappy person who was grouchy, blaming the airlines, mad at the world and generally miserable.  What I chose was the pure joy of having 6 hours to myself in a part of the country I haven’t driven before and the peacefulness of my thoughts (when I wasn’t singing at the top of my lungs to a favorite song).

The event that happened was the cancelled flight, my response was – ok now what happens.  My actions created the outcome; “this is a journey and who knows where it will take me”.  My response could have been much different and the outcome could have ruined the whole conference for me.

My questions to you: 

  • How do you respond during challenges?
  • What are your first thoughts and resulting actions?
  • Do you take it out on others – therefore creating a bad awful day for them?

I have learned that one great joy is to take a bad situation and NOT take it out on others.  I love watching them respond when they expect you to yell and get mad.  I love putting joy into their day of not having an irate customer in front of them. Now this doesn’t mean I allow them to walk on me, or am a push over (those who know me probably haven’t even dreamed of that situation.)  You would be amazed at how often I then get told:  Thank you for being so understanding.  Thank you for your attitude.

How do YOU respond?  Do YOU need to change your response to life, business, and personal situations which not only change your world – but those around you?

Excerpt from "The Backpackers Guide to Business Success".

 When on the trail I am the one that looks ahead.  I am always watching for what is next - looking at the scenery, taking pictures of the flowers.  I love reaching the top.  As I look ahead I see a crowd of people stopping.  There is a flat spot and they are resting.  I get excited - is this the top? Are we really there already?  Now, if I have been checking my map, the compass and the GPS- I will know that we aren't there yet.  Although all the signs confirm that the top hasn't been reached, my heart wishes I was there.  I keep climbing until I reach the spot where everyone else has paused and I confirm again that, no, it isn't the top.  There might be a view; yet I haven't really arrived.

The letdown is brief; the break is short and I continue the climb.  When we are kids we start school at the bottom and, depending on the school, we reach the top at 5th grade only to start a new school. In 6thgrade we are at the bottom again; the process repeats in high school, then college, then your first job, then your second job.  At some point you keep looking out and wonder - is this truly the top and will I ever get there?  If I arrive, how long will I stay?

So what is the top for you?  Is it position, rank, salary, responsibility, leadership, respect, influence, impact?  Have you defined the top?  Have you determined how you define success?  Do you know the next mountain you will climb?


On the trail up a mountain there is a defined top, a marker or a spot where you can say you have arrived.  In our business the top isn't as well defined.  On the trail, I can have a brief moment of frustration - this isn't the top yet, but I know it is there and I know where I am going.  On our daily journey those false summits may not only be deceiving, they can be distracting from what is the real goal.  False Summits are also where people often turn back, they give up and they can't (or choose not to) go on.  They don't realize that usually they are 80% of the way to the top. 

False summits test our perseverance, desire to get ahead, and our endurance.  They are a natural part of the mountain and a natural part of your career.  The question is, what is your attitude when you reach them? Give up, turn around, or greet them with a smile and an attitude of let's get to the top?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The “It’s good enough” excuse

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

The “I’m new at this” excuse

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

 The “I didn’t plan for that” excuse

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

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

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

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

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

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

An old adage goes, “Rules are meant to be broken.” In many ways, this is absolutely correct. Simply following the rules, doing the same thing over and over, won’t get you anywhere. Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them.” Every truly great, major innovation in history has come about as a result of new thinking.

 So let’s say you’ve set up your business, and are doing fairly well. You have a steady stream of revenue, a good customer base, efficient systems in place, and everything is going great. What do you do next? Often, businesses will plateau. They will improve up to a certain point, but things won’t get better from there. Once a plateau is reached, new thinking is required if you want your business to grow-which you should. Now, you should not throw your old playbook out the window, however, change is needed, and in many cases this change is rather unconventional. You need something that sets you apart.

  • What could you be doing that none of your competitors are?
  • What markets are you not tapping into?

Find that niche, and utilize it. Do something new, something different, and blow everyone away with your creativity and innovation. 
(Picture credit:Freeditigalphoto.com)

Keep the Happy in Your Holidays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the solution?   

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

Consequences

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

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

Consistency 

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

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

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

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

  • “leave it at the office”
  • Ensure there is work/family balance
  • Handle the up and down times of revenue and profit
  • Ignore that irritating habit of the family member when they are always around
  • Yet, it is wonderful being able to:
  • Share the joys of success
  • Have your family understand the business
  • Be able to know the “team” members strengths and weaknesses
  • Work alongside someone you truly like
  • Share ideas and trust them to look out for your well-being.

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

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