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You started out with a great idea, one that seemed to be desirable by a number of clients, and it paid off. You truly found what you loved to do and are able to get people to pay you for it! Congratulations. Now, how are you going to sustain your business? You may be fantastic at developing widgets, but how are you at the actual business competencies that will sustain your business over the long run?
An October 2012 report on Sustainability and Leadership Competencies for Business Leaders identifies top competencies as follows:
- External awareness and appreciation of trends
- Visioning and strategy formulation
- Risk awareness, assessment, and management
- Stakeholder engagement
- Flexibility and adaptability to change
- Ethics and integrity
Business owners need to provide themselves with learning opportunities that will strengthen each of these core business competencies. This education can be accomplished through reading, formal training, or most effective, by utilizing a business mentor or business coach that can hold business owner accountable for actually implementing stainable changes in their company, ones that are customized to meet their company’s specific needs. However you choose to receive your small business advice and continue your education as a leader, make a plan and follow your plan to ensure you are a perpetual learning leader.
As America acknowledges the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, Jeffrey McCausland shares an insightful article in The Guardian on the top three lessons leaders can learn from the battle of Gettysburg.
- The importance of time and timing – “When a leader makes a decision for his/her organization, timing may actually be more important than the decision taken.” While we have multitude of information gathering opportunities to make decisions today, it may actually be a detriment to our business when we wait and take too much time gathering information rather than acting on our knowledge and instinct regarding business management and business leadership.
- Effective leaders must “park” there personal ego and focus on what is best for their organization. I have shared a good bit about personal ego in recent blogs (access past blogs on my website). When making decisions about your business, don’t make them too personal, or what’s best for you. Take into consideration your clients, employees, network, and all who may be impacted by your decision.
- An effective leader must articulate and communicate a strategic vision to his/her organization. Lincoln communicated his vision for the nation to the very end. In Bill Hybel’s book, Courageous Leadership, he reminds us that as leaders we eat, sleep, and live our vision. Our employees and others, however, will experience “vision leaks” if we are not able to keep the picture painted for our followers in a way that allows them to see the vision and join us on the journey.
I suggest reading the full article The top three leadership lessons from the battle of Gettysburg, by Jeffery D McCausland. It’s interesting to compare leadership from the past to the present. While we want to learn from the past and not make the same mistakes our predecessors made, it is the wise leader that learns from those in the past and if we are willing to look and listen, we will be gifted with great leadership lessons.
So how do you stay connected with your clients during the summer? Many business owners tend to slack off their marketing efforts during the hottest months of the year. Choosing to connect with clients during June, July, and August may bring you some sweet rewards. Here are a few ways you might celebrate the summer with your clients.
- Send a specially designed note or email to all your clients. Many remember to thank their client base in December or sometimes in January when celebrating the end of the year, or the beginning of a new one. June is the mid-year mark on the calendar and a great time to say THANK YOU!
- Show up at community events and invite a client to attend with you. There are many events throughout Colorado Springs that alow you to connect with your clients in new ways as you work alongside them helping others. Walk through the crowds and get to know your neighbors. You may also want to join in with others and sponsor an event, or if they budget allows, host a community event yourself.
- Provide a “Summer Camp” workshop. Whether it’s a paid event or a marketing venture, offer to share a skill, talent, or other type of knowledge with clients with a summer camp theme.
- Take the heat of the summer holiday and Host a BBQ. More people can attend and it is a relaxed time of the year. Use your office or a place at a park. Invite your clients to join you for a no host BBQ, it's a fun way to connect with clients and prospects.
- Fast and Fun Ice Cream Socials. July is National Ice Cream month. If you want to be really fun and spontaneous, Tweet or Email that you will be at a specific ice cream parlor for the next 20 minutes and you will pay for the first 10 people who show up!
Whatever you choose to do this summer, be creative. People tend to be happier in the summer, there is more daylight to enjoy, and a great deal of opportunity to be found. You just have to jump in and not be afraid to make a splash!
You can’t control a wildfire. The best you can do is to plan for its eventual happening and do everything possible to keep out of the line of fire. Our businesses are also susceptible to the devastation of a “wildfire” which can be the result of any type of catastrophic impact. So what are the lessons we have learned from the fires we have experienced here in Colorado Springs?
1. Clear as much debris from around the perimeter of your property as possible.
What type of “debris” may be associated with your business? Strive to understand what keeps potential customers or clients from seeing you as an attractive company to do business with.
2. Eliminate dead wood.
If you have people on your team that are not producing, find a place where they will be successful or help them find a new place of work where they will be successful. Dead wood often becomes destructive in nature.
3. Keep an updated record of valuables.
Steven Covey’s now famous quote “Keep first things first” is invaluable to a business owner. Set goals, work your goals, know what the most important things to spend your time on are and don’t let anything derail you from pursuing your goals.
4. Always be prepared.
It’s now just the Boy Scouts that need to be prepared for any eventuality. When you are prepared, you make it easy to do business with you.
5. Help your neighbor.
Business to business support is critical. Join a network group and get to know your business community. When businesses support each other and rejoice in each other’s successes, we all grow stronger and keep our business community from potential “wildfires”!
There is a very old and interesting parable about blind men who were asked to describe an elephant. Each man was positioned at a different place on the animal; therefore it is not surprising to hear some of their descriptions of the elephant. One man said an elephant was a long, thin animal that twisted and coiled. He was holding the trunk. Another man said the elephant was a massive animal that stood strong and erect. He was embracing a leg. Still another said the elephant was a great winged creature. He was holding an ear. The last man said the elephant was no animal at all. It was cold and smooth and without any life. He was running his hand along the tusk. Although all the observations were correct, they were also incomplete. Each had described a specific part of an elephant, but none were able to come up with the “big picture.”
So what is your big picture? Who provides it to you? Where are you blind in your business ventures, life, and environment? The challenge for all of us is to stand back far enough to generate a big picture; to see situations for what they really are.
Where have you had the challenge of seeing the big picture and what were the results? Share with us, I would love to learn from your big pictures!