The concept of goal setting seems to have at least 2 camps; one that perceives value, the other that questions the value. I was meeting with a friend recently and asked them about their own goal setting perspectives. He indicated he had never set goals and had been successful, so he didn’t see the value. However, he did make plans and followed through regularly on his plans. In reality it boiled down to semantics; his plans were nothing different than goals. The word was different, the end result the same.
Both provided a roadmap that needed to be executed. Both required the individual to sit down and evaluate what had been accomplished and what was needed to move forward.
Another word that seems to stimulate some and repel others is resolution. What do you think about the typical New Year’s Resolution – does it work or is it a feeble attempt to make yourself feel good – for about 10 days before your “resolve” deteriorates.
Most goals, plans and resolutions fail because of the lack of commitment, determination and accountability. They also fail in the true emotion of WHY you are doing them. If there isn’t a compelling reason, purpose, why – or whatever word you want to use – it won’t happen. The Why is actually more important than the actual goal or plan. The Why is what motivates you to make it happen no matter what. The Why is at the heart of the difference between success and failure. What is your WHY? If you don’t have a clearly defined Why – I suspect you will have a very hard time achieving what you set out to accomplish.
Now, I will also challenge those who don’t attempt to set goals, yet perceive that they have done fine without them. Here is the challenge: “How much better could you have done by setting goals, creating a plan, or making that resolution?” Sure you have done well, achieved much, are financially secure. Awesome, congratulations – great job! Yet, what would 5% or 10% more mean to you, your employees, your family, the charities you support? Is “doing fine” a form of settling, not being willing to get out of your comfort zone, fear of true success? Only you can answer that question.
No matter what you call it: Goal, plan, resolution or something else. You need a guiding light to illuminate the path you plan to follow and allow you to find places to rest along the path throughout your journey. That rest can be the difference between success and success beyond your wildest imagination. The next step is yours.
Why do we, as a society, have 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 of age or 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, unreachable, or even unthinkable. You might have even heard, “Why would you ever try that - you might FAIL!”
What this creates is a society of control freaks. Some control freaks become business owners and owners who want it done their way, believing their way is the only right way. What they end up 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.
Make 2014 a year of Dreaming without Boxes! What does that mean? It means stepping out and doing things differently. A perfect example is Steve Jobs who created something that was new and different that we didn’t know we needed! Yet how many of us want to revert back to what life was like prior to first Apple computer? As a business owner, you need to get away from the day to day operations at times and give yourself time to dream, to challenge the status quo, your current thinking process, and to be open to new ideas.
You also must be willing to let others challenge your thinking – they also have dreams that might allow you to fly, conquer the world, and accomplish things you were told were impossible.
Dream big dreams for yourself, your family, and your business in 2014. Dreams do come true, but only if there was a dream in the first place!
An old adage goes, “Rules are meant to be broken.” In many ways, this is absolutely correct. Simply following the rules, doing the same thing over and over, won’t get you anywhere. Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them.” Every truly great, major innovation in history has come about as a result of new thinking.
So let’s say you’ve set up your business, and are doing fairly well. You have a steady stream of revenue, a good customer base, efficient systems in place, and everything is going great. What do you do next? Often, businesses will plateau. They will improve up to a certain point, but things won’t get better from there. Once a plateau is reached, new thinking is required if you want your business to grow-which you should. Now, you should not throw your old playbook out the window, however, change is needed, and in many cases this change is rather unconventional. You need something that sets you apart.
Find that niche, and utilize it. Do something new, something different, and blow everyone away with your creativity and innovation.
In any business, just providing good customer service is not enough. In order to rise above your competition, you must take your customer service from average to spectacular. Customers have higher expectations and look for something that makes your company stand out.
Create a positive customer experience. Were their phone calls answered courteously and in a timely manner? Were their encounters with you and/or your staff friendly, energetic, and memorable? Did you do everything possible to find answers to their questions, solve their problems, and meet their specific needs?
Share your enthusiasm. This key ingredient to success is crucial for gaining and retaining customers. If you are not enthused about your business, how can you expect the customer to be enthused about your products or services? Deliver your customer service with excitement! Your enthusiasm is apparent whether you are chatting on the phone, face-to-face, or emailing with your client. Make sure that your staff and team members provide customer service with the same levels of enthusiasm and excitement.
Engage your customers. Assess all aspects of your business and determine how your clients felt about their experience. It is important to view your customer service from their side and then focus on any areas that may need improvement. Offer your clients the opportunity to share their feedback through comment cards, surveys, and testimonials. Be prepared and open to suggestions and/or complaints and criticism as you do this.
Make it your goal to provide stellar customer service from start to finish. Let your enthusiasm impress and inspire your clients to come back again and again. When you share your products and services in a genuine, positive, and exciting manner you are building a connection and customer experience that helps you rise above the rest of the competition!
Keep the Happy in Your Holidays
[Recently, I discussed taking time out for yourself to relax and take a break (Read: “Seeing the Forest Through the Trees!”). This week, I’d like to elaborate on this topic and incorporate it into the holiday season.]
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And also the most hustling, bustling, hectic, lose-your-mind-because-you’re-so-crazy-busy time of year. Running a business and making time for festivities and celebrations can be a challenge. In between the potlucks, get-togethers, cookie exchanges, and ugly sweater parties are invoices, year-end financial statements, payroll, budget forecasting, planning and hundreds of other tasks to complete before the new year.
Here are some helpful hints to get you through the season with your sanity intact:
The holidays are meant to be a break from the everyday routine. These are the days when you can focus on spending quality time with the people in your life who matter most. Your time is valuable, and unlike money, you can’t obtain more of it—what you get is what you get! With some proactive planning and time-management, you can enjoy the challenges and rewards of working for yourself AND enjoy the holidays too! And from me it is Merry Christmas to you.
Have you ever found yourself drifting off in your thoughts during a conversation? To observers, it appears you’re engrossed in discussion, but mentally you’re compiling your grocery list, preparing for your next appointment, or thinking of what you’ll say when it’s your turn to talk. When we are not fully listening, we are short-changing our speaker and ourselves. By receiving some parts of information and only pieces of conversations, we risk misunderstandings and miscommunications later down the road.
Active listening is making a conscious effort to concentrate on what another person is saying as well as understand the complete message they are sending. Through active listening, you are able to better communicate, relate, and respond to your clients, which mean you can better meet their needs and build a stronger relationship.
Here are 5 tips to help you become a better active listener:
As you interact with your clients, peers, and employees, try to practice your active listening skills. Do your best to be patient with yourself while you’re honing these new skills. Though these steps may seem simple, active listening takes practice!
Every day, everywhere around us, there is an abundance of fear. No matter who you are, your age, or your profession, you are afraid of something (and probably more than just one thing). These fears can be anything from creepy crawlies, heights, public speaking, and natural disasters. These fears aren’t completely unwarranted. Fear is a basic instinct; a means of survival ingrained in our fight-or-flight response. But just because fear is a natural reaction, doesn’t mean that fear has a place in your business, especially if your fears are holding you and your business back from being a success.
The world of self-employment is ripe with opportunities for fear to creep up and rear its ugly head. Making follow-up phone calls, resolving customer issues, or presenting to potential clients can all feed into many kinds of fears. The difference is if you choose to take the opportunities to face your fear and push your business to the next level.
One of the first steps toward overcoming your fear is to identify the fear itself. You can do this by taking a mental inventory of your fear and jotting them down. If you find you’re having a difficult time compiling your fear, consult a colleague, peer, or business coach to help you brainstorm the fears that are possibly holding you back in your business. Once you’ve written down these fears, review each and assess if these fears are based on real-life experiences or if they are based on your own assumptions.
Of the fears that are based on real-life experiences, recall what about the experience led you to your fear. Take time to really analyze and reflect on the overall situations and circumstances. Was this a one-time experience or is this reoccurring? How did you handle this experience? Was everyone involved satisfied with how you handled this experience? Did you garner any lessons learned from this experience?
Of the fears that are not based on real-life experiences, try to identify a common thread or theme between them. Do they tie into fears of rejection, confrontation, public speaking, failure, or something else?
After you have identified and assessed your fears, then talk them out. Confide in your network, discuss them with other trusted business owners, and get other perspectives. You don’t have to face your fears alone! Work with an experienced Business Coach to create a specific action plan to help you overcome your fears, gain closure, and move forward.
Working for yourself is scary enough! The last person you need getting in your way is YOU! Choosing to work hard and face your fears isn’t easy, but it sure is worth it!
All too often, I hear excuses for why something did not happen the way it should have. People always search for ways to absolve their guilt by blaming their issues on something else. I have found throughout my career that there are three major categories of excuses:
The “It’s good enough” excuse
This is one of the most common excuses. Someone will do a passable job, scraping by, but quit as soon as possible with the excuse that what they accomplished is good enough. They are not striving for an “A” or for real quality work. Merely scraping by with a “C” or adequate work is good enough. However, if you want to make your business truly exceptional, meaningful, a true world-changer, this is not acceptable. You will never get ahead with “good enough”. Would you yourself do business with just “good enough”?
The “I’m new at this” excuse
Along this same line, people who are new at something feel that they have a right to give themselves a bit of slack. Although there is something to be said for the learning curve, all too often it becomes an excuse to slack off your first few months. However, the opposite is true; you need to be ready from day one. Otherwise, you get trapped in a cycle where the “I’m new at this” excuse becomes a “good enough” habit.
The “I didn’t plan for that” excuse
We all have moments that make us go “Oops!” If you have any doubts about that, I have a board game called Leverage to show you. Even though there are some unexpected developments, you cannot simply say “Oh well.” You need a plan B, as well as a Plan C, D, & E. Be prepared for any and all eventualities, because you never know what will happen in the future. An employee may walk out on you, or there may be a sudden shortage of your product. When that happens, what will you do? Seriously think about a variety of scenarios and create plans to put in place before you need them.
Ultimately, complaining about a situation does nothing productive for you or your business. What you need to do is isolate the problem and identify a solution. Don’t waste ages explaining your problems to your friends and colleagues, only to ignore their advice. Instead, get to the root of the problem, follow through with the corrective solution, and move on with your business. The art of self-correction is among one of the most important business lessons you will ever learn.
Whether you’re buying your morning cup of coffee, holding a door open for a passerby, or letting a fellow driver merge in front of you, most likely you hear two magic words: Thank You. You hear it most every day, probably more than once. But how often do you SAY it? Do you feel that you say it enough? And do you make it a point to show it?
Steven Covey, bestselling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, puts it this way: "Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival, to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated." [emphasis added]
Chances are your clients have a number of providers, services, companies, and products to choose from, and they have chosen to support you and your establishment. With the holidays just around the corner, this is one of the best seasons to show your gratitude and appreciation for all of the people who make your business possible!
Here are some easy ways to show your appreciation throughout the season (and all year long):
If you already incorporate customer appreciation into your business, then pat yourself on the back for a job well done. If you would like to start doing so, work on focusing your attitude on gratitude this holiday season...a little gratitude can go a long way!
The holidays are upon us, and too many times we find ourselves procrastinating during the last fiscal quarter of the business year. Have you evaluated the success of your annual goals? How much time and research have you put into setting new goals for next year? What is the state of your office and equipment? Will you be making any changes? Are there expenses this year that you will not need to add to your budget for next year? Are there additional major expenses that you will need to be planning for? What is your marketing plan going to entail for the next twelve months? These are just a few of the questions that are waiting for you to answer in the upcoming weeks.
What inevitably happens is that we feel like we have a lot of time to complete these final tasks, but in reality we have very little time between October 1 and December 31. Between holiday closures and holiday parties, the actual work days are significantly reduced. If you want to have a successful 2014, you have to begin planning for it now!
Here are 5 incredibly important tasks to complete by December 31!
Don’t head into the New Year blind. If you plan your time, thoughts, and actions wisely during the last three months of this year, you will be setting yourself and your business up for an incredible 2014!
Even the most passionate dedicated entrepreneur will experience occasions when they just don’t like their business. It may be just a bad day filled with unsatisfied customers, disappointing sales or other unfulfilled expectations. However, when a variety of mishaps transpire over a consistent period of time, it can really wear on the business owner and rob him/her of the joy of being in business. When situations arise that diminishes the passion which caused you to enter into the world of business in the first place, try a few of these tips.
We all experience difficult times through the journey of entrepreneurship. It is the strong, the dedicated, and the committed that focus more on the successful days then the challenging ones. These entrepreneurs see their vision revitalized and become as passionate as they were on first day they opened the door of their business.
There is a lot of speculation about the value of college in today’s world. We live in a world today where some of the richest, most successful CEOs are, in fact, college dropouts. Today’s college graduates face bleak prospects. So is college still worth it? How does the college planning process prepare the workers of tomorrow to be successful? Let’s take a look at questions asked on college essays, particularly the common college entrance application.
When have you experienced failure? How has it affected you?
Many of you, I’m sure, have heard the stories about failure, particularly from Steve Jobs. Failure is a part of everyone’s life, and learning to deal with it at a young age prepares people better for when they have to deal with it in the future.
Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or an idea.
This question examines the core of innovation and entrepreneurship. As I discuss in my book, people often start their own business in order to change the “status quo,” in essence, to challenge a belief or an idea. Students who write their essays on this question are setting themselves up for entrepreneurship in the future.
Although every high school senior (including my son) is currently complaining about how difficult writing these essays are, the application process can actually set students up very well for their future, as arduous as it seems.
The ideas set out in application essays are very different from what is actually taught in the classroom, particularly at the undergraduate level. I will discuss this more next week.
A common workplace credo is “Think outside the box.” It is an ideal that is held up as the pinnacle of innovation and a credo of progress. Unfortunately, when this principle is implemented, it is often received with a crescendo of complaints, shock and disapproval. We say that new ideas are good, but if anyone comes up with a new idea, we shrink away. Stop that!
Innovation is always scary. People form habits; they find a specific way of doing things, and never want to change. Companies may run the same way for fifty years, even though the methodology the business was built upon became inefficient thirty years ago. Unfortunately, some businesses create a culture where those who may have a new idea, become afraid to speak up, and the managers often don’t even realize it. As in the picture above, people cower in their boxes, doing what they are told, and keeping their good ideas to themselves. Some employees are reminded of Dr. Kelso’s suggestion box in Scrubs; his trash can. As a result of this policy, the other doctors hated Kelso and did everything possible to undercut him. While this makes for good television, it makes for really bad business. As a business owner, you cannot afford to be afraid of new ideas, especially when they come from employees or customers. You don’t need to take every suggestion you receive, but make a conscious effort to listen! Create a culture where customer feedback is an integral part of your business planning. Your customers and employees know what they want and have experience working with your product; their input is invaluable to the success of your business.
As children return to school after a busy summer, teachers are busy preparing activities to assess the knowledge they have retained from the previous year. As a business leader, you must take the time to annually assess your business plan in order to grow your business. You might look at your business plan as the “answer” to the test of what you have learned about growing a successful business. The following are three tests that show what you have learned along the way.
Have you met your time line goals during the year and are you on track to finish the year strong. This shows you have learned valuable lessons in time management and project management including the development of good work flow systems. If you are behind in achieving your goals, put them through the SMART test. Are they specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely? If they are and you are having trouble meeting your goals, this may indicate you need a bit of extra support and a business coach may be needed to help you succeed in your attaining your business plan.
Is your financial picture is on target or exceeds expectations for the year. A healthy financial bottom line is a good indicator that your business goals for the year are being met. However, closer scrutiny of both income and expenses is essential to ensure any financial gains and drains were derived from expected sources. Any deviation may indicate a need for an adjustment in your business plan. If you are unsure of where your money came from or went to give me a call and we can lay out a plan for getting your business financials in order.
Are you ready to provide added value to your product line or services for the upcoming new year. It is a satisfying feeling to review your business plan and check off the successes and milestones achieved. A successful business is developed by scaffolding the lessons we’ve learn along the way, the lessons learned are simply a foundation for those yet to come. You’ve heard the Marshall Goldsmith saying, “What got you here won’t get you there.”
Test yourself throughout the year and be ready to evaluate what you have learned and what you need to learn to grow your business and achieve the success you deserve!
(Photo compliments of renjith krishnan/freedigitalphotos.net)
Millennials are often not ready to settle down. They move from town to town, job to job looking for what really excites them. Some will change jobs their entire life. Your mission should be to convince Millennials to stay at your company by doing the following:
Millennials are the hardest group to sell to. First of all, they have less money. Many Millennials are on a very tight budget. They are burdened with crushing debt, and many are unemployed or underemployed. Furthermore, they have been “sold to” their whole life. As a result, most conventional tactics fail. Products are overhyped to Millennials, who are used to seeing these things fail, and, as a result, there is a negative correlation between how much hype surrounds a product and how much Millennials want to buy your product.
The Oatmeal, a Millennials web comic, has an excellent illustration of this: Oatmeal Comics
Additionally, location is very important. Can Millennials walk or ride their bike to your business from their homes? Are you easily accessible from public transportation, if your city has it? Are there other businesses nearby that stand for the values that Millennials have? Millennials would much rather stop at your business after they have gone to their local coffee shop than make a special trip to visit you on the other side of town.
Millennials have different priorities on how they decide to buy things. It is very important how something is made and how the organization gives back to the community. Panera Bread is popular with Millennials partly because they give back to the community through programs such as Panera Cares. Millennials would much rather spend a little more of the money they do not have on a fair trade product that gives the workers a decent wage than buy the cheapest available product. Millennials care far more about the atmosphere of a workplace. What impression do potential customers get when they walk in the door? Is everyone smiling and happy to be there? Is there something unique that no one else has? If your workplace has that, then Millennials will flock to you.
As a business owner you know by now that you can’t do it all. In fact, depending on the size of your business, you may not even be able to do half the work it takes to produce the goods or services of your company. Any good business coach will encourage you to grow a great team of employees and empower them to do the work you can’t do, don’t have time to do, or don’t want to do. It all begins with the art of delegation.
The employees who are most successful in taking responsibilities off your plate are those you hire with the end in mind. Regardless of the position opened, when interviewing prospective employees always look for those who have had leadership experience in the areas similar to your company’s structure or exhibit emerging leadership characteristics.
Business owners are often quick to promote hot shots that talk a great talk or have quick success with a project. Remember the “Peter Principle, Employees will rise to the level of their incompetence.” Rather than having a “promote until they fail” philosophy, introduce leadership responsibilities one delegated task at a time. If the employee shows a consistent level of handling the tasks delegated, then you know you have a winner and a good candidate to promote into leadership.
Start with these three tips for delegating:
When the project is finished, review with the employee what they did well and challenge them to increase their skills in specific areas on the next project. If they can’t handle the responsibility, acknowledge their willingness to try. When a project turns out spectacular, be sure to share credit where credit is due, besides, it makes you look good for hiring such great talent!
Here are three questions to ask which will help you finish the year strong:
Many of us are good at developing New Year Resolutions and goals. Some are even good about writing these goals down, but how many are really good at checking in each quarter and strategizing ways to cross the finish line? If you’re not quite sure how to make quarterly goals and reports work for your business, search the web for ideas, buy a book or call upon a trusted business coach or advisor. This year, let’s make sure your goals are more than just a New Year’s Resolution!
As the leader of your business, division, or other responsible position, do you ever find yourself feeling alone? Many leaders do, but here’s the thing, you shouldn’t ever find yourself becoming lonely as a leader. If you do, you’ve missed a step along the way. Here are three missteps that often happen and ways to motivate you to fix the step.
The bottom line is that leaders are known to take initiative. So if you are feeling “lonely at the top”, it’s time to do something about it.
You started out with a great idea, one that seemed to be desirable by a number of clients, and it paid off. You truly found what you loved to do and are able to get people to pay you for it! Congratulations. Now, how are you going to sustain your business? You may be fantastic at developing widgets, but how are you at the actual business competencies that will sustain your business over the long run?
An October 2012 report on Sustainability and Leadership Competencies for Business Leaders identifies top competencies as follows:
Business owners need to provide themselves with learning opportunities that will strengthen each of these core business competencies. This education can be accomplished through reading, formal training, or most effective, by utilizing a business mentor or business coach that can hold business owner accountable for actually implementing stainable changes in their company, ones that are customized to meet their company’s specific needs. However you choose to receive your small business advice and continue your education as a leader, make a plan and follow your plan to ensure you are a perpetual learning leader.
As America acknowledges the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, Jeffrey McCausland shares an insightful article in The Guardian on the top three lessons leaders can learn from the battle of Gettysburg.
I suggest reading the full article The top three leadership lessons from the battle of Gettysburg, by Jeffery D McCausland. It’s interesting to compare leadership from the past to the present. While we want to learn from the past and not make the same mistakes our predecessors made, it is the wise leader that learns from those in the past and if we are willing to look and listen, we will be gifted with great leadership lessons.
So how do you stay connected with your clients during the summer? Many business owners tend to slack off their marketing efforts during the hottest months of the year. Choosing to connect with clients during June, July, and August may bring you some sweet rewards. Here are a few ways you might celebrate the summer with your clients.
Whatever you choose to do this summer, be creative. People tend to be happier in the summer, there is more daylight to enjoy, and a great deal of opportunity to be found. You just have to jump in and not be afraid to make a splash!
You can’t control a wildfire. The best you can do is to plan for its eventual happening and do everything possible to keep out of the line of fire. Our businesses are also susceptible to the devastation of a “wildfire” which can be the result of any type of catastrophic impact. So what are the lessons we have learned from the fires we have experienced here in Colorado Springs?
1. Clear as much debris from around the perimeter of your property as possible.
What type of “debris” may be associated with your business? Strive to understand what keeps potential customers or clients from seeing you as an attractive company to do business with.
2. Eliminate dead wood.
If you have people on your team that are not producing, find a place where they will be successful or help them find a new place of work where they will be successful. Dead wood often becomes destructive in nature.
3. Keep an updated record of valuables.
Steven Covey’s now famous quote “Keep first things first” is invaluable to a business owner. Set goals, work your goals, know what the most important things to spend your time on are and don’t let anything derail you from pursuing your goals.
4. Always be prepared.
It’s now just the Boy Scouts that need to be prepared for any eventuality. When you are prepared, you make it easy to do business with you.
5. Help your neighbor.
Business to business support is critical. Join a network group and get to know your business community. When businesses support each other and rejoice in each other’s successes, we all grow stronger and keep our business community from potential “wildfires”!
There is a very old and interesting parable about blind men who were asked to describe an elephant. Each man was positioned at a different place on the animal; therefore it is not surprising to hear some of their descriptions of the elephant. One man said an elephant was a long, thin animal that twisted and coiled. He was holding the trunk. Another man said the elephant was a massive animal that stood strong and erect. He was embracing a leg. Still another said the elephant was a great winged creature. He was holding an ear. The last man said the elephant was no animal at all. It was cold and smooth and without any life. He was running his hand along the tusk. Although all the observations were correct, they were also incomplete. Each had described a specific part of an elephant, but none were able to come up with the “big picture.”
So what is your big picture? Who provides it to you? Where are you blind in your business ventures, life, and environment? The challenge for all of us is to stand back far enough to generate a big picture; to see situations for what they really are.
Where have you had the challenge of seeing the big picture and what were the results? Share with us, I would love to learn from your big pictures!
Lately a few books I have read and Cd’s I have listened to have focused on the concept of the ability to learn and the desire to learn. What makes one business owner great, record profits, obtain raving fans for customers, and secure balance within their lives; while another business struggling to make ends meet, experiences challenges with building a team, watch their profit being squeezed and have a decided lack of balance in their lives? One could say many things make them different; however one common character trait of most successful business owners is genuine sense of Humility. They recognize that they don’t know how to do everything. They lost the negative side of ego many years ago. They know the difference between self-confidence and ego and utilize the strength of each.
Ego (the positive side) is:
We all know the negative side of ego.
Humility (the opposite of Ego) is:
Where do you stand with response to Ego, Self-confidence and humility?
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