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Page 9 of 27
Conflict is part of everyday life. If you have a business, marriage, or relationship without conflict then you essentially are an ostrich with your head in the sand. Avoidance of conflict is the equivalent to being a yes man – which means you agree to things even if you don’t agree to avoid conflict – which is in and of itself conflict. One class I would recommend every business owner take is a mediation or conflict resolution class. There are books on the subject. One is “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In” by Roger Fisher. For me it was a hard book to read – but I really enjoyed it on audio. The sooner you learn how to deal with conflict the better off life will be.
One of my clients was engaged at the time of our session. Life was sweet for both of them. They enjoyed being together, they were obviously in love with each other, yet trouble was brewing. Every time he wanted something and she disagreed, she caved in. This was very evident in the business environment. It had been his business; she was the new partner in his business, however she was also very accomplished on her own and actually had better business sense than he did. Yet, every time she would suggested and idea and he would disagree, she would back down, both in business and in their relationship. He once stated that he wondered when she was going to stop becoming so agreeable. It would eventually happen, and for both of them it would be a time of rude awakening as neither had really learned how to negotiate. They hadn’t learned the art of give and take or how to move both their ideas forward without squelching the spirit of the other person.
Couple of points on conflict resolution:
1. It isn’t always about getting what you want – learn the art of compromise.
2. If it is all about you – then the “we” part of any relationship won’t be long term.
3. Make sure you get the complete picture – stop assuming – remember what assume means. If you don’t know – then break out the word assume into 3 syllables – you get the picture.
4. Life is about negotiating – learn how to do it well, then apply the same art within your business and within your family.
Basics are critical. Innovation is paramount. However, if innovative ideals are built on a rocky foundation, the whole business may fail before you know it. The foundation of your business requires the same structure as the foundation of a building. If the wrong materials, wrong design, and/or wrong measurements have been used, then the foundation will begin to crack under the pressure.
Pressure on a building can be caused by weight, weathering, erosion of the soil and much more. The crumbling of a business can also come from pressure; pressure that is caused from of the growth of the business. Cracking may appear when systems are not in place to handle the growth or changes in the business. How do you know if the basics are failing within your business?
Key Business and Sales Performance Indicators:
- Are your leads increasing or decreasing? If you don’t know then that may be your first sign that the basic foundation has a few cracks.
- Do you measure your closing ratios now vs. a year ago, last quarter, last month? Do you measure them by sales person?
- Are you aware of the origin of each lead that you receive? Was it a referral from a customer, generated by networking, an ad in the paper, pay for click, SEO etc.?
Innovation in your business is paramount. If you have always done something the exact same way, it may be that you need to stop and consider a new way to address the situation. Even a 1 degree difference can make a tremendous difference in the future and especially the profitability of your business.
We are quickly headed into fall which usually creates a time of review for me. Where has the year gone? It seems to move faster every year. Yet it is that review that causes me to stop and ponder a few recent events.
Do you ever get that feeling that just about the time you get it all together, someone comes along side and sort of hits you in the head? One of my clients had just that thing happen this week. They were making great strides in their business only to have a key employee decide the grass was greener at another company. The employee said they didn’t want to leave, but they couldn’t turn down the offer. Wow, that was the preverbal baseball bat alongside the business head – which feels pretty personal.
What could have been done to change the outcome? They tried to create a counter offer. It didn’t work and often doesn’t. In many cases, there isn’t anything you can do, yet I am not one to stand by the sidelines and say, “Oh well, nothing to learn here”. Here is what you can do:
- Talk to your team members, especially those key players and find out what they love and don’t love about working with you.
- Ask key questions: What would cause you to look elsewhere? Dangerous you say – yes it is, but not asking can be more dangerous. Just ask the business owner who just lost a key player.
- Ask yourself – what would you like or dislike about working for you. i.e., put yourself in their shoes, what do you need to improve in the work environment to keep them? Make sure that mirror you hold up in front of yourself has been cleaned recently so you see a clear reflection.
- Make sure you do annual reviews, both salary and financial. Get creative bonus plans.
- Make it a habit to tell your employees, how much you appreciate them, rely on them and wouldn’t want to be without them. In other words, make sure you verbally communicate the message and when I say regularly, that isn’t once a year, or once a month.
Turnover is hard, yet your attitude is critical in how you weather the crisis. Know that there is someone else out there who can do the job just as good if not better. When you find them, determine what you can do to encourage greater job satisfaction and make it happen.
It has been a few years since I traveled on a regular basis for business. When I changed careers and knew that weekly travel would no longer going to be a part of my weekly routine, I rejoiced. No more waiting in long lines at the airports, no more issues with security, TSA, or eating airport food. Forget all those airline delays, joyful flight attendants and endless excuses for flight delays. Sounds good doesn't it.
Yet, I am now sitting on a plane returning home from pleasure travel and have realized there is one thing I do miss about airline travel. That uninterrupted time of 3, 4, 5 hours or more where I can unwind, think, read and ponder life. I have never been one to watch movies while sitting on a plane. I have always read, completed planning, organized action items or enjoy a nap.
It is this time when nothing else can be done, that I unwind, stop the busyness of just doing things, and ponder what is next. My pondering from this plane ride resulted in the following wisdom: I need to start creating more time to ponder, unwind and think. It is my time away from distractions, of "doing". Most would describe me as "action oriented" (even my radio show is called "Action in Business with Janna Hoiberg"). I’ve challenged myself to consider, “Does the action of my “doing” get in the way of creative thinking? Will taking more time to stop and rewind allow me to consider new opportunities, new ways of handling current challenges? I believe it does.
What do you do to stop, ponder, consider and then create an action plan? Are you like me - one that has a hard time slowing down? Or are you one that slows down too easily and has a harder time speeding up and taking action? The later can also benefit from the "plane" time, however from another perspective, that of using the time to focus and make the decisions needed to speed up and make things happen.
For those of us who don't seem to slow down and are often chasing the latest "squirrel" (that new idea that sounds much better than the last one), we need to become more intentional. We need to walk away from the day to day on a regular basis and get on our "plane", clear our mind, take time to focus and make the changes that will help us achieve our goals (or in some cases create the goals). For me, it is hour 3 of a 4 hour flight that this pondering popped into my head. It also happened on the return trip after a weekend away; note that good ideas come most often when the mind and body have relaxed and opens itself to new ideas. On this flight, I have read 3 newspapers, a book, played some card games, and taken a nap. It was then and only then that my thoughts could expand and be open to something new.
Now my challenge is to be intentional without physically getting on a plane. Or, I will just need to take more vacations and embrace something I thought I was happy to leave behind.
In Part IV of this series, we continue our look at some of the major reasons why many family businesses have failed and may fail yet if such issues are not effectively addressed.
We've Always Done It Like This: Failure to Innovate
Sometimes a family company that has enjoyed decades of success feels quite confident in its formula for success, so much so that it may not recognize when change would benefit it immensely. While some second or third generation owners can't wait to change the running of the business when it becomes theirs, others refuse to do anything differently which, in time, can result in an operation in dire need of an update. Social media is a good example where some businesses have rushed to take advantage of its platforms while others have ignored these networks to their peril. Failing to establish an online presence is a conflict that many family-run businesses now face. Of course, innovation or change takes many forms, but the family business is often challenged to embrace the business need to innovate.
No Structure, Little Strategy
For some family businesses, the only structure is the family structure. Perhaps there is one leader or a leading couple--husband and wife or siblings, for example. Sometimes a business will thrive without a business-type structure for a generation, but often this will change after succession and with the growth of the family. Without clearly defined roles, problems tend to arise. Secondly, a lack of long-term strategy is an obstacle for many family businesses. Is there a five-year plan? Is there a plan to operate regionally? Globally? Designing an effective strategy and working towards its business goals is a tenet of many businesses, but one that is often neglected by family-run businesses.
Every business faces vulnerabilities. Often the challenges come from the outside such as the economy. The family owned and operated business comes with a set of challenges, however, that don't typically apply to other types of businesses. Family firms that are able to successfully navigate these challenges into their third generation, therefore, have much to be proud of--and possibly much to teach other families struggling to keep their businesses afloat.