Saturday, January 31, 2009

Do You Love What You Do?

People always ask me "Why do you do what you do?" The answer's easy - and it's not because of the money (although I do believe the money will come). I do what I do, because making a difference in someone's life by teaching and empowering them to reach their full potential is my passion - it is my dream.

How about you? Are you pursuing your dream - your passion? Or are you just putting in time at a job that pays the bills?

Do you think that chasing your dreams is just fanciful idealogy? Do you think "It'll have to wait for the next time around?"

I've got some bad news - there may not be another "time around". This may be all you get. And its a tough reality to face - but it may not last as long as you wished hope it would.

So you have a choice. You can either, live your life, content with having a good life, where you go to a job you don't hate, and pay your bills on time - knowing someday you'll get to retire. Or you could take a chance and commit making your dream a reality - making it happen, while risking the chance of completely failing - and maybe losing everything you currently have.

The choice is obvious to me. Greatness is born from risk not safety. Take a chance and go for "Great".

Friday, January 30, 2009

Stimulus Bill: What's In It For The Entrepreneur?

Reading what is directly spelled out in the Stimulus package is great. US News at the following link will tell you all about what is specifically offered in the Bill. But the more important questions is "What does it mean to Joe Average Small Business Owner?"

So let's take a look at some of the basic numbers in the small business world. It is estimated in an average year, nearly 1,000,000 small businesses will open. And even in a good year, 400,000 of them will close before their first anniversary. Additionally, another 400,000 will close within the following four years. How much wealth will be lost from all of this failure? And how much will this or any other "stimulus package" actually help these small businesses?

If you add it all up, according to that article from US News, there is all totaled $2.850 Billion in grants and loans that is being funneled to Small Businesses. It may sound like a lot when written out in the article above, but the truth of the matter it's a drop in the bucket - providing nealmost arly nothing of any real consequence to any business. Literally, it is only $2,850 for each of the businesses that is going to try to get started this year (not to mention the other tens of millions already opened that are struggling).

Now let's look at it simply in the context of dollars per employee and how much more concerned the Government is in helping the Big Boys of Industry not fail and how little they will actually do for you. It is estimated that 500,000 small businesses (that includes both start-up as mentioned above and existing businesses) will close their doors / go bankrupt this year. Even if they only have one employee for each business (which is a gross under estimate), this stimulus will provide a total of $5,700 per employee. Not much, if you ask me. Now compare that to the $15 Billion that the auto makers were guaranteed (in loans) with only about 250,000 direct employees. That is about $60,000 per employee. And I won't even go into Citibank or Bank of America.

The truth is that even though the numbers that are being thrown around in the bill look enormous to you and me, they will hardly make a dent in helping small business owners survive the recession - or end up on the other side of the recession with any real viability. This "Stimulus Bill" may push some money into the economy - but money doesn't equate to wealth in this sense - and certainly won't really make a difference.

Don't get me wrong, I'm by no means endorsing this package or any other package. In my opinion, they are a mistake. Recessions exist as a backlash of an overly aggressive growth market that became fat with excess. Part of what needs to happen is that businesses and industries must clean up house. Strong, well run businesses will survive - weak, poorly run businesses won't. And that is a healthy thing, even though it will be tough on nearly all of us while we transition. Any Government stimulus will artificially delay the "house cleaning" that must take place in order for the solid growth to occur again, as well as give false hope to hundreds of thousands of small business owners across America.

The Federal Government won't put this in the Stimulus Package. But the truth of the matter is that the only thing that is going to help small businesses survive and thrive during the tough months ahead is focusing on basic business principles and making sure you provide a product / service that customers want and/or need and do it for less than it costs you to produce it.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A True Story About A Chair

I stumbled on this story, A True Story About A Chair, through a blog that I commented on the other day. If you get a chance - check it out. You will be very surprised by the difference that one person can make.

This story is the essence of The Eighth Habit by Steven Covey. For those of you that haven't read the book, I highly recommend it. It is the perfect sequel of his ground breaking Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. And for those that haven't read it, the 8th habit is "find your voice and help others to find theirs".

That may sound simple, but very few people ever truly find their voice. They go through life with something profound to offer the world but are neither willing nor able to do anything about it. The woman in this story found her voice and made a difference - not just in her own life, but in the lives of those around her.

Learn from it.

Get The Eighth Habit and read it.

And find YOUR voice.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Who do they think they are? And who is John Galt?

The Federal Government has stepped over the line today - defining what privately held companies can and can't do with their money. This seems to becoming more and more common, with each passing day. I don't care if the government has "bailed them out" of trouble - they have no right to tell anyone how to run their business and / or how to spend their money.

Over the past 24 hours, the US Treasury Department has actively called Citibank, still a privately held corporation (as of today), and told them that it was "unacceptable" for them to accept delivery of a Executive Jet worth $45 Million dollars. Who are they to decide what is acceptable and what isn't? Sure they can tell them that they won't give them any more bailout money - but to be honest, even that is unacceptable, when they wouldn't even allow mortgage bankers that type of authority over who they lent money to over the last decade.

Now, don't get me wrong. . . I don't believe that buying a $45 Million corporate jet is a smart decision on Citibank's part, but in the grand scheme of things, it is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bad decisions in a company that in all rights should be bankrupt right now.

But, it appears that we have now turned the corner where businesses don't have the right to make decisions on how they wish to operate. And freedom in our country is over.

Its a free-market system. That means we can make the decisions we want and the market will either reward or punish us - based on whether or not they approve of the decision. If Citibank chooses to make stupid decisions on their expenses, then let it be known. And then let the market bear it out.

And let me tell you this! If I were an employee of that company, I would start looking for another job right away - or start doing something from the inside to change the course of the business. Sitting back and washing your hands of the matter - no matter if you are the CEO or the garage attendant - is unacceptable. Because the market will hold you accountable and you will either reap the rewards by continuing to be in employment or you won't!

Our elected officials were not put into power to decide what decisions should be made by you and me and how we should or shouldn't run our businesses. That is not the intent of our Founding Fathers no matter how you interpret our Constitution.

I write this Blog to help small business owners. And there is nothing more frustrating than this turn of events. I tell my clients everyday that they are free to make decisions - any way they want on how to run their company. But those choices have repercussions that they will have to live with.

So, if are a small business owner or even large business owner (including any one who owns stock in a company) and you want to keep your freedom to make your own choices on how to run your business - stand up and be heard.

Tell the Federal Government that they have crossed the line.

They were elected to uphold the Constitution of the United States and enforce the laws of the Country. THAT'S IT! Nothing more. The rest is power they are absconding from you and I - the power that each of us has to stand up and be heard - through our actions, our votes, and through the way we spend our money.

"In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours." John Galt

Sales Management & Leadership - Effective Communication Is the Foundation

Let's take Tom Schaber's blog entry on Sales Management and Leadership to the next level. Effective communication isn't just for Sales Managers - it's key for anyone who is on a team - whether you are the leader of the team or just a team member.

Truth is, "Communication" is the underlying key of any relationship. And communication requires trust. Which in this context, is not referring to trusting someone will do what they are told. Instead, in this context, it refers "trusted" and open communication.

Trusted communication exists when each person respects all other members of a team and has their best interests in mind as well as the best interest of the team when communicating with each other. They will listen respectfully and be open to the words spoken - as well as being willing to speak their mind, knowing their words will be honored.

Think about the teams you are on - whether you are the leader of the team or just a member. Do you feel safe to say what's on your mind? Do others listen and respect your opinion? Do you make others feel safe to speak their mind?

Do you trust the others on the team enough to openly speak their mind? Are you trustworthy enough that others feel safe speaking their mind in front of you?

Think hard about the answers to those questions.

I would like to say that it is the leaders responsibility to make all of this happen - but in most situations, the leader / manager doesn't know enough to do it on their own. And if you wait until they figure it out, you might be out of luck. So, whether you are the leader, or just a team member, make the environment you work in a trusted environment.

So what can you do to build trust in the work place? It's simple - Be Impeccable With Your Word! (The first Agreement from don Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements)

- Respect others opinions and stand up for them whether you agree with them or not - making sure they know you will make sure their voice is heard. Give them voice.

- Respect those that aren't present - as if they were. Don't gossip.

- Actively listen to those who do speak - doing your best to listen to their inputs so that you truly understand them.

It may take some time and, in all likelihood, it will be very tough to do. But no matter who you are, you can change how well the communication works between you and any other person or team. You simply have to make a choice to make it happen - and commit to it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

How To Succeed With Your New Year's Resolution

In a blog he posted about a week ago, Stephen Covey gives some very insightful ideas on how to succeed in achieving your New Year's Resolution. The truth is that by this time of the year (just under 4 weeks into the year), nearly 50% of all New Year's Resolutions are given up on.

Why is that? Why do we give up so easy when we "want" something so bad? Why do we not eat better, not quit smoking, exercise more often of even spend more time with the ones we love? These should all be simple things. They should all be very doable. But yet we give up on achieving them so quickly.

Believe it or not, the answer is simple. The answer lies in the fact that we fail to keep the goal in the forefront of our minds and that we fail to build into the process, small victories that will keep us motivated and moving forward.

I can't lose 20 lbs in one day - no matter how hard I try (unless I have a limb amputated). So, usually, when I fail to see physical progress (some form of weight loss) and there is no reward in place for doing the acts necessary, I will get frustrated with all the things I am giving up during the process - and I will quit trying.

Unfortunately, that isn't how the human mind works - or any other animal in the world for that matter. We need to be rewarded for taking steps towards the goal, or we will give up. Sometimes that reward comes from looking at the scale and seeing the number going down. Sometimes it comes from getting a compliment from a friend. But when those things don't happen, we must find a way to reward ourselves simply for the behavioral change of eating better - whether the weight loss shows itself or not. And we must continue to look at what we can do better each day forward to make the habits work for us - not against us.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Good guys finish . . .

Interesting. Yesterday, I held my first seminar, entitled "Four Critical Principles to Surviving a Recession". And one of the topics I spoke about, Taking Care of Your Existing Customers, was the topic for Seth Godin's blog (in a round about way).

Specifically, Seth responded to a comment he received from another article about whether "Good Guys" can be successful in today's market. I agree with his position completely (and my clients hear it regularly). In fact, I believe strong ethics focused on taking care of your customers is critical in today's market and a sure way to shoot to the top of your industry.

Unfortunately, living with integrity is very hard. Especially when so few around us do - it can be incredibly discouraging. But, the truth is, in today's world, you can't afford not to - which is why I think so many small business owners struggle.

Competition in nearly every industry is tighter than ever before. And in today's communication driven world - word spreads of "unethical" behavior faster than ever. In the past, if you failed to meet your commitments to a customer (operating without integrity) they would yell at you, tell a few people and that would be that. You would definitely lose one customer - maybe three or four, but the damage could be contained.

Not any more.

Today, with the power of the internet, emails, and text messaging, angry customers can send vile words to thousands of friends and family (as well as strangers) in a single key stroke - damaging your reputation in a matter of nanoseconds.

In fact, some time ago, when doing research on a company that I was helping, I found some feedback that was not only negative - but was "over the top" damaging. The worst part was that this negative feedback was on the front page of the feedback list - after nearly three years. And no matter how many good reviews would get entered, this one negative one kept showing it's ugly face.

So, I agree with Seth Godin, good guys finish first . . . so live your life and run your business with integrity each and every day - the payoffs will be more than just feeling good about yourself.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Difference Between a Deposit and a Retainer

Today was my first seminar on the Four Critical Principles to Surviving a Recession (click here to read a short article about the Four Principles). And I was very pleased how it turned out. It was a smaller crowd than I expected, but the discussions were open and lively. And I think every one that attended learned something new from it.

The lesson I personally learned was the subtle, but significant difference between "Deposits" and "Retainers". Specifically, while discussing how to increase cash flow, I had suggested the idea of getting deposits for future work or even going into a retainer agreement with clients. The truth is, I hadn't really given the difference between the two terms a whole lot of thought. I understood that retainers implied a "hold of time" for the client, but had really thought much more about it, except that some professionals, like lawyers, accountants and coaches liked to work on "Retainer" while contractors tended to work with "Deposits".

The truth is that the two items have a very strong difference when it comes to "refundability" in the eyes of the court (in many instances). Now, don't get me wrong - I'm not a lawyer and even if I was, I wouldn't give legal advice through a blog. But I found the difference between the two words quite interesting and wanted to share it with you.

As it turns out, both terms are used for pre-payments of service. But, what I hadn't realized is that it is somewhat accepted that when it comes to "refundability", Deposits are considered to be refundable for services "not" rendered, whereas Retainers are not.

The reason for the difference is because it is considered that when you put someone on "retainer", they are setting aside specific time to provide services to you - time that cannot not be committed to any other client (you own that time). If you choose not to use that time, that is your fault - not the professional's fault. And thus there is no obligation of refund. However, when it comes to deposits, there is no implied guarantee of the professional setting aside time for you to do the work, and thus cancellation (unless specifically annotated is usually considered refundable).

Great stuff.

Thanks to all that came to the Seminar.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Supply-Side or Demand-Side Economics

Everyone wants the recession to end - but I doubt that many want it to end more than the hundreds of small business owners in America who are struggling and blaming the economic conditions for their current problem.

Unfortunately, success of a business has little to do with economic conditions. What it does have to do with is sound business practices and producing a product that consumers want and that you can produce with sufficient profit to continue staying in business.

I bring this up, because I've had a few discussions with people recently on whether the solutions to our economic woes would be better off coming through "supply-side" or "demand-side" economic practices.

Well, to be honest with you. I'm not a big fan of the government fixing the problem - because they tend to focus only on the symptoms not the disease - and NO bureaucratic agency can react fast enough to compensate for rapidly changing market conditions. I, my estimation, it would be like trying to see and capture a single electron traveling on the internet: one, you can't track it, and two, you couldn't catch it if you wanted to.

But, since our current government determined to do something, in my estimation, the only real solution has to come from "supply-side" economics.

Demand-side economics (aka Keynesian Economics) is the concept where Government should stimulate economic growth through interest rate control, taxes and public projects - basically flood the market with money and let the demand generate new growth in industry.

Conversely, Supply-side economics is the concept where economic growth should be stimulated through providing incentives for those who produce goods and services (for example income tax adjustments and capital gains tax cuts).

They both will fix the symptom of economic sluggishness. And the truth be know, demand-side economics will actually treat the symptoms faster than supply-side. Unfortunately, only one will actually solve the disease of the market - excessive government interference and poor business practices.

The problem is simply that we have become a society that is more worried about today than tomorrow. We are more focused on quick fixes than creating long term solutions to the underlying problem. So, it's no surprise that our current Administration is going to fix the problem with a supply-side injection of capital of proportion never seen in the history of our Nation (or any other for that matter).

This may sound cold, but we all have the world that we have chosen to have. Plain and simply, the businesses that are struggling today should be struggling, because the decisions they have made in the past have resulted in their current economic conditions. Should we be rewarding them for bad business practice? As a coach, I can think of absolutely nothing worse that you can do - to fix the real problem.

Some may say that this blog entry may not seem to fit into the concept of helping businesses grow. But I would have to disagree with them. What I want individuals and small business owners everywhere to know is this:

The Government giving you or anyone else money is going to fix your problems. It might make you feel a bit better, but the problems will still be there. If your cost of labor was too high before a bail-out, then it will be that way after the bailout - you will be just numb to it. If you had a horrible marketing strategy before suddenly customers walked into your store, just because they government gave them $2000, then your marketing strategy will suck just as bad after the economic boost's effects are long over. You will have just survived a couple more months.

Bottom line - the symptoms make it feel like the problem is so big that only the Federal Government can fix them, but the truth of the matter is the actual disease is so simple that it can only be fixed by the individual.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Freedom - Where Does It Come From?

"Here we have freedom of thought, freedom in the choice and enjoyment of education, freedom in religion, freedom in politics, freedom in the choice of a business, profession or occupation, freedom to accumulate and own without molestation all the property we can accumulate, freedom to choose our place of residence, freedom in marriage, freedom through equal opportunity to all races, freedom of travel from one state to another, freedom in our choice of foods, and freedom to aim for any station in life for which we have prepared ourselves, even for the Presidency of the United States."

I read these words Monday night on a flight between Minneapolis and Philadelphia. The very same flight that was at least half filled with individuals on their way to the Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C. today (or so it seemed based on the conversations around me).

The above words are very powerful words. And to be quite frank, I couldn't believe that I found them in the book that I have recently "found again". I wasn't as much astonished by the words themselves, as much as who wrote them and when they were written. Believe it or not, these inspiring words were written in 71 years ago in 1937 by Napolean Hill, in his landmark book, "Think and Grow Rich". And the "Here" that he is referring to is the United States of America, in the middle of the Great Depression.

Why does it amaze me so much that these words are older my parents? Simply because truer words have never been spoken. And if these profound words can be spoken in such a dark economic time in our country's history, why are they so hard to believe in today's world. Have things changed that much? Are we that far gone, that the words no longer apply to us?

I don't think so. But I do think we are a society that has been so transfixed recently on "hope" and "change" that we have missed the fact that neither of those two things are even a vision - they are just paths to a vision. Freedom . . . is our vision - at least according the documents that we hold as our guiding principles.

When working with clients, there is one thing that I always try to make sure they understand. If, in our desire to create change in our lives, we focus first on creating change, rather than understanding where you are trying to go, you are just as likely to end up somewhere worse than you were when you started.

"We often hear politicians proclaiming the freedom of America when they solicit votes, but seldom do they take the time or devote sufficient effort to the analysis of the source or nature of this "freedom". Having no axe to grind, no grudge to express, no ulterior motives to be carried out, I have the privilege of going into a frank analysis of that mysterious, abstract, greatly misunderstood "something" which gives to every citizen of America more blessings, more opportunities to accumulate wealth, more freedom of every nature, than may be found in any other country.

I have the right to analyze the source and nature of this unseen power, because I know, and have known for more than a half century, many of the men who organized that power, and many who are now responsible for its maintenance.

The name of this mysterious benefactor of mankind is capital!

Capital consists not alone of money, but more particularly of highly organized, intelligent groups of men who plan ways and means of using money efficiently for the good of the public, and profitably to themselves."

So stop and think about what you want, before you decide to run away from Capitalism. In our desire to control Capitalism, we may in fact be destroying the building block that gives us the freedoms that we hold so dear.

* All quoted text in this blog are excerpts from Napolean Hill's Think and Grow Rich, 1937.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What Marketers Actually Sell

I've been reading Seth Godin for a couple months now, and there is not a lot that I disagree with him on - but this is one of them. Not so much at a cursory level, but at the underlying, elemental level of marketing.

Basically, he states in his blog that, "Marketers sell hope."

I have to disagree with this. And I believe this because, in my opinion before marketers can sell hope, they must sell the need for hope. People don't necessarily buy things because of what those things bring to their lives, unless they first feel the absence of something in their lives.

So first must come the absence of hope - the despair.

And thus, I think marketers must initially market the problem. Then, and only then, can marketers successfully market the product (the hope that the product brings forth).

In some instances, the despair is known - and thus all that needs to be done is to clearly understand what that problem is and market the hope of fulfilling it. But when the despair is not clear, or there isn't any at all, then the marketer must generate the despair before he can effectively market hope.

When McDonald's runs a Big Mac ad, they first want you to feel hungry (if you don't already), hence the initial images try to invoke you to be hungry - generate the need. Then they want you to see them as the one who truly understands your needs, so that you will turn to them to provide the solution - running out to the local Golden Arches for a late night snack.

Or when you see a Lite Beer commercial, often there are a bunch of "geeky" guys who can't buy a date (which many young men in America feel), but then they buy and drink a Lite Beer and "all of the sudden", women are flocking to their side. First they sold the problem, got buy-in with their target audience that they understood the problem and then marketed hope.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Are You Depressed?

Statistically speaking, today is “supposedly” the most depressing day of the year. It's a Monday, holiday bills are coming due, Winter is only 1/3 over (with just over two months until th start of Spring), most people have already blown their New Year's Resolutions, and this year, we have the added benefit of the news media telling us how depressed we should be, because our economy is horrible.

Sorry, I'm not buying into any of it! Your state of mind is your choice – it's not governed by the events that unfold around you. You can never choose the things that act upon our lives, but you can choose the way you respond to them. And if given the choice – I recommend choosing optimism and control, rather than pessimism and chaos.

So instead of looking at the “depressing” aspect of today, look at it as the first day of the rest of your life. Choose to see the opportunity that unfolds before you – your opportunity to create “greatness” in your life and the lives of those around you.

Start each day with focus and ground yourself in the vision of the future you have for yourself, and you will create it.

Choose happiness and make it so.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

It's Easier If I Do It Myself!

Have you ever said, "It's easier for me to do it myself, than to get someone else to do it - because they either don't know how to do it or they don't know how to do it right."

I can't tell you how many times I've said, thought, or heard those words over the course of my lifetime. And quite honestly, when you live only for the here and now, it is true. But, unfortunately, in most situations, if you consider what you are really trying to create in the long term, it is rarely the right response.

Sadly, in today's world, most of us live only for the short term - here and now - and forever live frustrated with this attitude.

So, if you want to be a business of one for the rest of your life, always doing everything yourself, then that attitude works just great for you. Just recognize that when you are a business of one, then quite honestly, you aren't a business at all - you are just self-employed (and pretending to run a business) - present company included.

This may surprise you, but when you look over the course of history, every great leader and business owner has built systems that run his business - and his people just run the systems. So, if you want "real long term business success", whether you are an owner or a manager, then the "do it yourself" attitude is not going to get you there. Real business success is about building systems that leverage the work of others - teams of others. And just because you don't actually do the work, doesn't mean that you can't get the consistency that you want.

Now, the truth be told, it's not easy to build systems and / or teach others how to do things (let alone how to do them right), but nothing worth doing is ever easy. There are times when you have to do things yourself - but more times than not, it just feels that way.

Unfortunately, this is not a habit you are going to break overnight. It takes time. The best way to attack the problem is to start small. Find a single task that only you can do right now, figure out how you do it, write it down and hand the responsibility to someone under you. Oh, but wait. There is two more things that you must do to ensure success. And these are the two steps that are most commonly left out.

The first is defining what is unacceptable, acceptable and great results. This means that not only do you have to give them the procedures to work with, but you also have to tell them and show them what the measures of success of that system are - how you are going to judge their performance on the job.

The second thing that is often forgotten is actually training them how to do the job, until there is no doubt in both of your minds that they know both what to do and what the end result should look like.

Then, sit back and enjoy your newly found time off. Right?


You job is now ensuring that the system is followed. You must hold the newly trained employee to produce what is expected. In the early stages, you may need to spend a bit more time with them. But as you gain confidence in their understanding of the process, and they gain understanding of the desired results and your commitment to achieving them, they will perform.

Then and only then, do you get to sit back and relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor . . . and theirs.

That is until you start the whole process over on the next procedure.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Learn a Lesson from US Air Flight 1549

Yesterday, the crew of US Air Flight 1549 were complete pros. They flawlessly handled an airborne emergency that could have injured or killed dozens. And what makes that even more impressive is that it comes off the safest two years in American aviation history.

American airlines (not the company specifically, but the industry as a whole) has in incredible safety record. They fly millions of passengers to their destination every year, employing hundreds of thousands of flight crew, and they have nary a hiccup. In fact, I would venture to guess that compared to every other industry, they are probably the best at delivering their product (passengers safely arriving at their destination) consistently, regardless of the situation. And believe me they see more "unique" situations than most of us can even imagine.

How do you think that happens?


Not likely.

The truth is, that the airline industry most likely, strictest "procedural-driven" industry out there. Some of those procedures are directed by the government, but most of them aren't. The entire industry lives by procedures, because when they don't, they lose consistency in product. And in the aviation business, inconsistency costs lives.

Yes, the pilot of US Air Flight 1549 actions were amazing - I don't mean to take away anything that he did. From all accounts, he was truly heroic. But I would venture to guess that what he was best at, in a time of high stress, was following procedures - procedures, that most likely have been rehearsed and tested countless times to ensure they produce the desired outcome each and every time.

In the aviation world, the cost of inconsistency is human lives. But what is the cost of inconsistency in your business? What is the cost of weak or no procedures in your industry? Maybe the hamburger won't taste quite as good, the carpets won't be quite as clean, or maybe the package gets there a day late. Think about it. Does the cost end there?

Airlines aren't much different from you - if they don't take care of their customers, they won't stay in business. The difference between them and most small business owners is that they take it so serious that they have checklists for everything, they train their crews constantly, and do everything they can to make sure those procedures will handle any and all situations that could arise.

So the question is . . .

How serious do you take delivering consistent products / services
to your customers every time they visit?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Real Cause of Nearly All Employee Problems

From what I hear when I talk to my clients (or talk to business owners in general), one of the biggest struggles they face is leading / managing employees. And it's a problem that never seems to go away, regardless of the employee. In fact, besides marketing / sales, from what I hear in my discussions, it is the most troubling problem of most small businesses. Unfortunately, from my experience in military / government, as well as talking to many who are in medium / large corporations, the problem isn't just a small business problem. It a global problem.

The ultimate question is,

"Is it the employees fault or is the leader's / manager's fault?

My response lies in something an old Navy buddy used to say. He'd say "JJ, if you walk into a room and everybody else in the room is *screwed up - maybe it isn't everyone else."

Ok, so what's the moral of that quote?

Well, I guess it's that if you continually have problems with employees, then maybe the problems with employees is just a symptom of a bigger problem. Because they are most likely just reflecting your leadership - or a lack thereof.

So, you have two choices before you. Either you can continue to blame your employees because most of them never seem to get "it". Or you can look in the mirror and make the real commitment to the only change that is within your power in this situation - a commitment to become a better leader.

So, if this is something that is keeping you up at night, do something about it. Before it's too late, look at the mirror and commit to becoming a better leader - make it a goal, make a plan on how you are going to do it and build in a method of accountability so that you won't give up.

* Ok, my buddy didn't really use the word "screwed", but you didn't come to this blog to read a bunch of "Sailor-trash" language.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's More Than Just Making Goals

As I start this effort of creating a blog, I'm already finding myself searching the "Blogosphere" trying to find a hot topic to bring to you. And no surprise here, since it's January, everyone is talking about goals.

They are talking about goal development coaching sessions, what is a goal and what isn't, when you should create goals, and why you should have goals. And some bloggers are even going as far as walking through the process of building a plan to reach the goals you create.

But, as important as the list of goals are (carefully made up on a neat piece of paper) and as important as is the up-front planning to the process, it's all for naught, if you don't understand one simple concept.

Real commitment to a goal is about being willing to do whatever
it takes to achieve that goal - within the bounds of your moral code.

To achieve your goals, you need more than a list and a plan. You need a mechanism (system) that will hold you to your commitment - you need an accountability system. That system must be objective. And it must be consistent enough for you to be able to count on it - even when you lose your commitment and drive.

So, you are probably saying to yourself, all well and good but can't I do this on my own? Is it all really necessary? Can you achieve great things by not writing down your goals, not building a plan to achieve them with a built in accountability system? Absolutely, but then you are relying more on luck than by process or by choice.

And when you put your future in the hands of fate, a funny thing happens. Everyday, life will find a way to get in the way of your goals.

It always has and it always will. And to think it won't borders on insanity.

If your goal is to eat less than 2000 calories per day (average over a week), then you will (right as you are struggling to stay on track) get invited to 2 evening dinner parties this weekend and someone will have a birthday cake at work. If it didn't happen, Murphy's Law would have never been written.

If your goal is to save money $500 this month, you will be offered a chance to see the Eagles in the Super Bowl on the 50 yard line, five rows off the field - you just need to get yourself there. Heaven knows you can't pass this up, they may finally win a Super Bowl. That is unless they play the Steelers.

These may be exaggerations, but if you don't believe me, look back at why you didn't achieve your goals last year. Was it because the goals were too difficult to achieve, or was it because things came up - things you didn't foresee? Were your goals unrealistic, or did fate jump up and bite you in the butt.

Stop doing the same thing again and again, and ending up with the same result!

Think about it.

Help Keep This Blog From Being Mundane

According to a writer in a short article on Small Business Blogs, "too many small business blogs are peddling the same prosaic resources you can get from a simple google search".

I do NOT want this to be just the same old crap that you can find anywhere else on the internet. My intent with this blog is to take it beyond just "what to do" and "how to do it". I want to learn and bring my readers along with me on a journey on why certain things need to be done and get them to devise methods for making those things happen in their business. And lastly, it's my desire for everyone small business owner to WANT to do the things that they know they should do - because they understand the power that they have to make their goals happen.

It is my desire to use this blog to take all the great leadership, self-help, and business ideas in history and actually make them work for everyday people.

All for the single purpose of helping you achieve what you truly want to achieve.
Is this going to be hard? Of course it is - nothing worth doing is ever easy. And besides, if it were easy, everyone would already be doing it.

It is the essentially the difference between consulting and coaching. Consulting being a one way communication, whereas coaching is interactive.

So, I will be seeking out your opinions, your struggles, your attitude with each and every blog - I will be reaching out to develop a conversation with all the readers of this blog to generate a discussion that evokes thought - doesn't dictate procedures.

Join me in the free flow of ideas.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Small Businesses Hurting From Failing Economy

As my first Blog on my new Blog site, I've decided to go right to the heart of the problem for small businesses today - "blame it all on the recession." Every where you turn, that's all you hear, the recession is killing small business. Or "The customers just aren't coming in any more." In fact, the link from the Headline of this blog takes you to a Newsweek article that talks about all the woes of small businesses all around the country and how devastating it is to our economy.

Times are tough, there is no doubt about it. And based on the news media and all the politicians bold enough to speak on the subject, things are NOT getting better anytime soon. But the truth of the matter is this, you can blame your woes on outside circumstance and believe that you have no accountability in your current situation or you can look take control - figure out a solution and move forward.

That sounds crazy I know, but no matter how bad things get, people still need to eat. They need to buy gas, drive their cars, get them fixed, buy new clothes or maybe even take their family to see a movie. And someone has to provide all of those services - why can't it be you.

In any economy, businesses that can't adapt to the changing conditions will go out of business. Unfortunately, in today's world, we seem to believe that the Government should bail them out. But that doesn't fix the fact that they aren't running their business in the manner necessary to succeed in the new economic environment.

Everyday, men and women of all walks of life are spending their money. It may be less than it was 6 months ago, but the are still spending money. How are they spending it? Why are the spending it? And where are they spending it? These are all questions that every business owner needs to ask, if they wish to survive - not just in a bad economy, but in a thriving one as well. And once they find the answer, they need to find a way to get these potential customers to spend it in their store instead of where they currently are - not because your business provides the best product or the fastest service - but because your business provides the product and / or service that the customers want.

That is the essence of business - regardless of the economic conditions. And that is the essence to running a business that is "recession proof".