Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Words Of Your Parents Have a Bigger Impact On Who You Are Than You Think!

There are few in this world that shape who we are and who we become more than our parents. As much as we often fight it, we literally become the words that our parents feed into our minds every day as we grow up. Some are able to escape those words - but most aren't.

For eighteen (plus) years, we hear it (what ever "it" is) from our parents and sometimes siblings. But just because we move out and turn off the loud speaker, doesn't mean those words stop running around in our heads - influencing everything we do. No, in fact, for nearly everyone of us, those words have or will become a never ending tape that is permanently running in our subconscious mind.

For those that heard words of encouragement growing up - they feel the confidence and freedom to become what ever they desire. They live a life of opportunity and joy - often able to create everything in their lives they set out to create. But, unfortunately, for those that negativity, or even worse "nothing", filled their ears as they grew up, those individuals tend to spend their entire life questioning themselves and struggling to move forward. And the latter tends to constantly seek the approval or their parents and other family members at every decision point in their lives.

The past couple nights I've had discussions with Jenci Spradlin, Freda Mooncotch, and Gloria Bell about Parenting and it's impact on our lives, years and years later and it has inspired me to write a bit about it in my blog. They've been conversations about reading to our kids, engaging with our kids and how even as adults, negativity from our parents can rock our world. Just so you know, I'm not writing it from the perspective of improving parenting - I'd hardly say I'm qualified to talk about that. The reason I bring it up, is because we (adults) were all kids once, and who we are today is because of who our parents have taught us to be.

Literally, what our parents did and said to and for us, shaped who we are today and will be in our future.

None of this is magical or noteworthy - I know that. But I wanted to write about it anyway, because so few realize the power their youth has over their adult lives. By the time I, or any other coach, ever meet a client, they have an entire lifetime of input from themselves and others - from family members, teachers, and friends whose opinions have created a continually running script in their minds. There memories and thought processes are pretty well programmed. Their habit patterns are ingrained in their psychie - creating who they are. But yet, they often expect their life can be turned around over night - by attending a seminar, reading a book or even watching a video.

I hate to say it, but it doesn't work that way. And anyone telling you it does - is selling you something. I've heard some "experts" say it takes 21 days of repetition to change a habit. And yet others say 42 days. In my opinion, neither of those are true. I believe your habits are your habits for life - to a large degree. You can influence them and control them, but when life becomes stressful (and it always will) no matter how good you are at trying to "reprogram" yourself, you will fall back into those patterns of thought that have been ingrained in your mind - through your youth and upbringing.

That's not to say that trying to "reprogram" through NLP, positive affirmations and focus doesn't work, but it does mean that it takes time. Most people have 30+ years of programming to rewrite - it doesn't happen over night.

Not to worry though. What you CAN do is learn how to leverage your strengths, and manage your weaknesses. You can create systems to help you when you know it will be most difficult to achieve the goals you want to achieve - when stress hits your life and you can't be as focused as you would like to be. That's where your life, personal, business, or any other form of coach comes in to play.

If you can understand this simple piece of information (deeply understand it), then I believe you have taken the biggest step towards taking control of your life. It is in the power of knowing who you are and how you got where you are that you can begin to change your future.

However, remember this very important fact. We aren't learning about our past to lay blame on anyone (not your parents, your family and friends, your teachers) - we are learning about our past, simply so that we may shape our future. When you blame and fault others, you tend remove the control you have over your own lives, and subjugates your power to shape your future.

So stop and ask yourself,

- What are the thoughts that my family, friends, and teachers implanted on my mind?
- How did my parents speak to me? How do they speak to me now?

And finally,

- What am I going to do TODAY, to begin to take control of those engrained thought patterns to help me become a better me, TOMORROW?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Posture to Grow Your Market Share

In an article in Newsweek published Feb 9th, writer Craig Barrett, states that market share is won and loss in times of transition. And WOW, are we in a period of transition!

Between the transition to a global market, a near complete redefinition of the marketing industry through the effective use of inbound marketing, and the current recession, there is more "opportunity" for growth than probably any time in history - for those bold enough to take the risk.

That's right, Capitalism is alive. For those willing to risk, there is a great opportunity for large rewards.

In the article, the retired CEO of Intel, writes "you cannot save your way out of a recession, you can only invest your way out." Unfortunately, we are looking for the wrong people to invest - it's not the Government's job to invest our way out - it is the responsibility of Businesses.

No matter what the size of your business is today, you should be posturing yourself for the growth that is coming - investing time, money and energy to position yourself for the inevitable upside of the market.

But what should you be investing in?

In my opinion, the answer is simple - Your Systems and Your People.

Your systems got you through the last phase of growth, and they are keeping things working through the downturn. But are they as efficient as you need them to be in the coming market boom? Are you postured to compete in a world class, global market? Are you ready and capable of handling growth of 100% or more annually? If not, when growth hits your business, will you collapse under the weight of your own potential? These are all questions you should be asking yourself and your staff.

And your people - are you leveraging their talents? Are you even postured to? Most businesses look at employees as expenses, because of the cost every pay cycle. But few leverage the real talent each individual brings to the table. And even fewer businesses really train them or work on gaining their commitment to the vision of the business. This is the time to turn your employees from expenses to assets.

These are very tough questions, that I believe every business owner needs to ask. But more importantly, they are questions that every business owner must answer. Because when the wave of growth begins (and it will hit), they will be more likely washed away, than be postured to ride the wave to new heights.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Its The Pursuit Of Our Goals That Shapes Our Lives

A couple days ago, I mentioned that I had tried out for the Blue Angels three years in a row - each time to come up short. I told the story to highlight a point, but in the past couple days since that blog, I've gotten some feedback asking for more on the story.

So now, I will share my Blue Angel experience for a couple reasons. First, it was series of events that shaped who I have become, and how I look at failure. Second, by sharing the story, I hope to help others look at failure and commitment a bit differently.

As we all know from watching their amazing feats for years, the Blue Angels are a very elite flying team. But, just like everyone else, they are ordinary men and women with extraordinary focus and commitment to a shared vision. And in my opinion, they are the one of the best examples of pure Teamwork that exists. Which is why I wanted so badly to be on the team.

This might come as a surprise to you, but "Flying Skills" are not used as prerequisites to becoming a member of the team (although there is minimum flight times). In fact, the team prides itself in the fact that everything they do is actually just "basic" maneuvers that all Naval Aviators perform regularly (although not quite as close to each other - or the ground for that matter).

The Blue Angels truly live by the mantra that I try to teach to all my clients about hiring - "Hire for motivation and attitude, you can teach everything else."

As it turns out, my first real memory of Airplanes is my Granddad taking me to the Willow Grove Air Show. And no surprise here, the Blue Angels were the highlight of the day. It was nice to watch the other planes fly and to walk around the static display aircraft, but all I really wanted was to watch the Blue Angels. And to say that I was left in awe - is an understatement.

That was over 35 years ago. And I can still see the image in the mind like it was yesterday. It was a gift that I have cherished from my Grandfather to this day - and love that I was able to do the same with my children as well a few years back.

To boot, my other Grandfather, my Pop-pop, was given a "souvenir" Blue Angels Polo Shirt from NAS Pensacola when I first graduated from Aviation Officer Candidate School (AOCS). Although just the first step in a two year long training pipeline to wings, it was moment he was very proud of. My Mom-mom used to joke about how he wouldn't let that silly shirt sit in the dresser. As soon as she washed it, folded it and put it away, he would take it out and wear it again (sometimes even two to three days in a row). And as if just knowing that he loved that shirt that much wasn't enough, when my Pop-pop passed away in 1995, he was buried in the Blue Angel Polo Shirt that he was so proud to wear.

I give you this background, because I want you to know, that not only was I trying to become a Blue Angel, in some ways, I felt it was my destiny.

So, in 1995, I tried out for the Blue Angels for the first time. The process is both fun and very stressful. It revolves around attending Air Shows and meeting the team - both as a group and on a one-on-one basis. You get to sit in on their pre-flight briefs. And mingle with them at post-flight parties. But as fun as the parties are, when you want it as bad as I did, it was more work than anything else.

Well, I didn't make the team that first year. And needless to say, I was devastated. In many respects, it was my first real taste of "failure" in my life. The first thing that I really wanted - and didn't get. And it was a very hard pill to swallow. But one of the toughest parts is that they give you NO feedback on what you did right or wrong - it's up to you to "guess" at it.

In my heart, I knew what the problem was - what was missing. But I didn't want to believe it,- so I did nothing about it and tried again one year later.

The second year was a bit tougher for me. I had just gotten married and wasn't as committed to being on the team as I was the year before - and I'm sure it showed. It's a tough process when you are completely committed, but an agonizing one if you have any doubts at all. And again, for the second year in a row, I didn't get the call.

In the months that followed, I was able to do a lot of soul searching and in 1997, I committed myself completely to being on the team - or so I thought. And this year, I thought I even had an ace in the hole - my new boss, CDR "Hounddog" McClain (now RADM McClain), was an Ex-Blue Angel. He not only gave me great advice, but he also gave me a glowing endorsement. I thought for sure, I would get "the call" this time. But for the third and final year, the phone didn't ring.

So, in spite of all my desires, I would have to face the fact that I would never be a Blue Angel.

That was nearly 12 years ago.

For most of those years, I blamed the system and the members of the team for not giving me a chance. And it has just been in just the past 3-4 years, that I've really faced the truth, and accepted my responsibility for not making the team.

You see, the one thing I didn't tell you above is that while going through this process, I didn't yet have my Bachloer's Degree finished. Now, it's important to note that there is no "written" requirement for a Blue Angel to have a Bachelor's Degree, 99.9% of all pilots in the Navy did. And since I happened to have been part of that .1% not in the mainstream, I was not ever really considered in the running to be a member of the team. If they can choose from "anyone", why would they choose someone who doesn't represent the whole.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that if I had the degree, I would have made the team. But since I didn't have it, I know in my heart there was never any real chance. For years, I blamed others for not telling me and I thought it was unfair since there wasn't a "rule". But I knew. I didn't need for anyone to tell me. I had to accept responsibility that my inaction caused my current circumstance.

After accepting responsibility for my inaction, I then had to look back and come to grips with the fact that I didn't do my best. I didn't do "everything" I could have done to reach my dream. That's a hard realization for anyone to face. And I knew that if I didn't learn from it, it would all be in vane. So I had a choice to make - Was I going to dwell on the negative and live with regret, or was I going to make it a lesson that would shape the rest of my life.

I chose the later. I chose to take the lesson of "real commitment" and sink my teeth into creating the life that I want for myself and my family.

I still struggle with reaching the goals I set - just like everyone else. But I can promise you this - when it comes to creating a dream, I will do everything I can to make sure that I leave nothing undone. That doesn't mean they are going to happen - but it won't be without me giving 100%

So, I ask YOU, are you giving everything you have to your goals? Take a couple minutes today and think about it. And recommit yourself to the dreams you have. And share with me your Blue Angels story, I would love to hear it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Truth - A Necessity For Real Growth

If you want to become more than you currently are today, then you MUST first face the brutal truth of your current reality - the truth about who and where you are right now. But facing the truth is both difficult and in many ways impossible without the assistance of others with an objective view.

So let me ask you two questions:

1. Do you have someone who you trust enough and that loves you enough to actually tell you the truth - whether its good news or bad?
2. Who do you love enough to be completely honest with - even if that communication hurts?

If you are like most that I ask those questions to, it would be one of the hardest conversations you've ever had. Why is that?

It was these questions that stirred up a great conversation with two Tweeps, Gloria Bell (@GloriaBell) and Ron Hudson (@Ron_Hudson) on Twitter the other day on this exact topic. And it was this conversation that has inspired me to write this blog.

You see, I believe that honesty and trust are the foundation of true love. Not part time, fair weather honesty and trust, but every day complete and unconditional honesty and trust. These two concepts, when built into a relationship, promote open and meaningful communication between two people. They are the building blocks of what every successful relationship is about.

Unfortunately though, most people are afraid to be honest with those they love. Why is that?

In our Twitter conversation the other evening, Ron, Gloria and I basically concluded the answer is sadly based in our own insecurities - not in "our love" and compassion for the other person. We agreed that as members of the human race, we tend to be afraid that we will not be able to communicate what we feel without hurting our loved one's feelings. And we fear we could potentially lose our dear friend with such open, honest language as they reject both us and our ideas.

Unfortunately, when we let this fear govern our actions we are being more selfish than protective of our friend's feelings. We tend to be focused more on protecting our own interests than welfare of the one we love. Because, as cold and harsh as it sounds, many of us would rather let someone we love not live up to their potential than risk losing them. And this tends to be true, whether they would like to admit it or not.

Now we all know the adage:

If you love something, set it free. If it come back it is yours. If it doesn't it never was.

The same idea applies here. If you love someone, then you should help them become the best person they can be. Be honest with them - from the spirit of helping them grow. If your heart is truly based in love as you share any truth with them, they will feel it. But beware, if your intention is otherwise, and you are only trying to tear them down and protect your own self interests, they will feel that as well.

Either way, when you are open and honest with someone you love, you must accept that how they respond is their choice - not yours. If your honesty helps them grow beyond your relationship with them, accept that fact - knowing that you helped them to become something bigger and better. It doesn't mean that they don't "love" you. It simply means that they are moving on to something else.

Such is often the struggle of a parent.

So, the key to remember is that when you do something for someone you love, it's not about you - it is about them. Because, as I have only recently truly come to understand, love is doing for others what makes them feel loved and gives them the strength to be the best person they can be.

As difficult as that can be sometimes.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What Your Customers Want and Need From You

Regardless of your industry, your customers are looking for you to provide them what they want and / or need. And interestingly enough, those wants and needs fall into four basic levels - the four levels of customer service. The more you understand them and can fold them into your business methods, the more likely your customers will choose you again and again - and even recommend you to their friends and family. In fact, if you understand the four levels of customer service, you will become more to your customers than you have ever been before and you will begin to see that your customers will become more to you than you could possibly imagine.

Those four needs (levels of customer service) are:

- Getting the product they expect
- Being able to get the product they want, when they want it and where they want it
- Having you understand them and feel that you are on the same team - not opposition
- Being able to rely on you as an expert in your field.

The first two levels are not just wants, but in fact requirements that your customers demand of you to continue using your services / products. If you fail to provide the product that you promise and fail to provide it in a location convenient for them at the time they want / need it, they will choose another business to patron. That isn't an opinion – it is tested and proven correctly, everyday, in every business around the country.

You see, it doesn't matter how clean your store is, how friendly and nice your employees are, or how much you know about what you do - if you can't fulfill the first two needs, your customers will move on.

But not to worry, this is why you are in business – to provide your product or service when and where your customers want it. These are the easiest parts of customer service – the parts that you built into your business from the very beginning. These parts, product, location and availability are easy to create and easy to provide. Unfortunately for you, they are also very easy for your competition to duplicate. That's right in today's world, your competitors can easily provide the same service or product that you provide, where and when your customers want it.

So the essence of customer service comes down to the second two needs – both of which separate you from your competition and are very difficult to duplicate.

First lets talk about understanding your customers and getting them to believe that you are their friend – helping them to solve their problems.

Most businesses sell the product or provide the service that they create – not what the customer is looking for. The trick to reaching this level of customer service is to stop and figure out what you can offer your customers, systematically, that will fulfill some of their biggest needs / concerns beyond just getting your product.

As an example, one of my clients, a cleaning specialist, recognized the value of this level of customer service. He noticed that many of his customers were selling their house or had just moved into a new house and wanted his services. So, in order to drum up new business, he created guarantee – If you sell your home with six months of using his services, he will clean the same areas of the home for free when the new owners move in. By making this simple gesture, he showed his customers that he understood how difficult the process of selling a home is, and that he is on their side – and will help out by relieving them of the burden of having to re-clean again after the sale is made.

Another example of this comes from another one of my clients – a medical professional. He realizes the importance of understanding his patients' needs, too. But in this case, this Doctor wanted to honor his patient's time. So he created a guarantee, that no other doctor I know has the gumption to make. He guarantees that if you aren't seen within 15 minutes of your scheduled appointment, you will get a free $20 gas card at a local gas station. Sound crazy – you bet it is – but his patients love it and he is always on time!

So, take a look at your customers and figure out what it is that is really going to help them feel understood – because the business that can pull this off is one step closer to turning your one time customers into lifelong cheerleaders.

Finally, the last level of customer service is becoming an expert in your industry – someone that they know they can turn to for advice and someone that teaches them the ins and outs of the industry (the trade secrets). Reaching this level is truly about becoming more than just a product provider and becoming a source of information on the hows and whys of what you do.
Again, to provide some examples of this concept, let me bring up a couple of clients.

The first example is a flower shop. A couple of months back they began teaching their clients how to arrange by offering evening classes with their clients. Some might think that this would hurt sales – those customers won't need to buy flowers any more. They will be able to make their own. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Because not only did they attend the classes, but they talked about the classes (and the shop that provided them) to every one of their friends and families. Suddenly, they became the talk around the dinner table – as much as the centerpiece itself did.

And another example goes back to my cleaning specialist client. In his newsletter, he gave away his secret cleaning recipe. That's right just gave it away to all of his customers. How crazy could he be? Now instead of calling him when they have a small stain that needs to be cleaned, they can go to any thrift or grocery store and get the ingredients to mix up his special homemade cleaning agent and NOT have to call him to come out.

But wait . . . Do you think when it's the grime builds up on their carpets or tile floors, they will call someone else? Absolutely not. And do you think they will share this information and where they got it from with their neighbors. You better believe it. So without spending a dime, this client of mine has taken his customers from just being one time customers to now being truly fans of his business and the testimonials and referrals just come streaming in.

So, by moving beyond just providing your product and service when and where you clients want or need it, and beginning to understand your clients bigger concerns and issues as well as becoming an expert source for your clients, you are well on your way from just having one time customers to having cheerleaders and raving fans that will grow your business faster and more effectively than any other form of marketing out there.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Personal Leadership - Commitment to your Goals

As a Business and Personal Coach, I challenge my clients regularly to look at themselves, their lives and their businesses and ask how committed they are to what they want. Some are honest about their level of commitment, while others only think they are. I can usually tell the difference right away, but it often takes weeks (or even months) for them to tell the difference.

Getting people to face the truth about what it truly means to be committed is tough. And to be quite honest, as I look back, I'm not sure how committed I have been in my own life - and how much I just hoped that things would work out for me. It's something I work on every day.

For example, many years ago, as a pilot in the Navy I tried to become a Blue Angel for three straight years. It was a goal of mine – one I thought I was committed to. Needless to say, it didn't happen. But to be honest, I “wanted” it more than I was willing to do to make it happen. I thought I did everything that I could do to become one - but I refused to look honestly at what I was doing - and my real level of commitment.

If I had truly wanted to be a Blue Angel and was committed to it (willing to do whatever it would have taken), things might have been different. As I look back, I didn't give it everything I had - I didn't do whatever it took. And for years I was bitter about it - blaming the system, instead of looking at where my heart really was. Why I wasn't doing a very obvious thing that would have made a very big difference in my pursuit.

Do I have regrets? Yes. But not because I didn't become a Blue Angel. I have regrets because I created a goal for myself, haphazardly, and in many ways, recklessly, without truly committing to it. And had I achieved that goal, without truly giving myself to it, I would have perpetuated an attitude that would have eventually caught up to me.

Today, in my practice, I define Commitment as the willingness to do whatever it takes within the bounds of your morale code (core values) to accomplish what you set out to accomplish - whether it be a simple goal or a long term vision.

Everyday, I work with small business owners, executives, and individuals - helping them set goals - often prodding them (considerably) to push themselves beyond what they would normally achieve given their current thought processes and actions.

Unfortunately, I have found that most people's commitment to their goals is only moderate at best. They tend to spend more time hoping for their goals to come true than they do taking planned actions to make them come true.

True commitment is hard, but it is achievable. We see it every day - when we see greatness - and hear of stories when people have overcome great odds. However, it is very rare to find without some kind of outside force holding that person accountable to achieving what they set out to accomplish.

As children, we rely on many accountability partners in our lives, our parents, our teachers, our athletic coaches, and often times even our friend. And as adults, many find friends or family member to be helpful in this capacity, but that's the exception – because a real accountability partner must stay objective with you – not allowing the relationship to cloud their thoughts. So many of us, myself included, turn to outside individuals to help us stay committed to our goal and hire professionals to assist us: Personal and Business Coaches, Personal Trainers, Health Coaches, Mentors, and Career Coaches are just a few examples that people turn to to keep them on track.

So, not I leave you with a few closing questions to Stop and think about:

  • How committed are you to your health goals?

  • Do you just want them or are you willing to do whatever it takes?

  • Are you living a healthy lifestyle, every day – all day, or a you just pretending to?

  • Who is YOUR accountability partner

As I said in the beginning, most people think they are committed to their goals, but rarely are. If you want to lose weight, have a better body, live longer and healthier, or improve any aspect of your life then stopping just saying you want those things and commit the energy and time they require . . . Make those goals a reality.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Answer Is Within You

Every night before I kiss my daughter Good Night (on the nights that I have my kids) I ask her two questions - the first is "Who makes you happy?" And every night, her answer is the same, "Me." The second is "Who do you make happy?" And the answer is again, "Me".

That may sound completely crazy, but the purpose is simple - to give my daughter self-confidence and empower her with the ability to control her own happiness. Literally, I do it to help her understand, at a very young age, that the answer to all of her questions is within her.

It is a lesson that we all need to truly understand - the lesson that the power to our own happiness and success is within US. It doesn't come from some outside force, like our parents, our spouse, our kids, or for that matter, the Government. I don't care if you are small business, an International Conglomerate, self employed, or unemployed. You will not be "successful" until you can do it on your own.

In the troubled times we live in, we've seemed to have forgotten that lesson - that is if any of us really understood it anyway. Everyone is looking for someone else to help them. In today's society, it seems that most expect the Government to do everything for them - and we now have a Government telling everyone that they will - enabling the idea. In fact, in a recent Fox News Channel poll, more than 65% of Americans think the Government should provide food and healthcare and over 50% think the Government should provide shelter (a home) - it's absolutely insane. What happened to the American Dream - Life, Liberty, and the PURSUIT of Happiness?

This is not the spirit that made America the great nation that it is - the leader of the Free World. This is the mentality of a Third World Nation, led by a Socialist Dictator. And it is simply because we have stopped teaching our children that the power to become successful lies within them.

Now, don't get me wrong. I understand that people need help from time to time. Nothing is completely black and white. But, help should be on an individual basis - when and where it is needed. It should be a hand-up - NOT a hand out.

So, as you go about your day, figure out how to posture yourself to take control of your life - how to find the answer to your needs inside your own creativity, ingenuity, intelligence and commitment. And start by telling yourself, out loud:

My happiness and success is my responsibility.
It is no one's job but my own.
I can create opportunity and make a difference in this world.
I have the power - I only need to harness it and make it work for me.

Tell yourself this every day - morning and night. Do it as faithfully as your brush your teeth or shower. You might not see results immediately - you have years and years of beliefs that it isn't true to overcome. But I promise you this. . . if you commit to reading and saying these words every morning when you wake up and just before you go to bed at night, you will be shocked by the changes inside your heart and soul - and how it manifests in the world around you.

Immediate Gratification or Long Term Goals - Which Do You Choose?

We are a society built on immediate gratification. We want everything right now - and we want it the way we want it. Instant gratification is good, but it often gets in the way of what we want in the long term. So if you are one of those out there that is making decisions only with immediate (or short term gratification) in mind, and you are not happy with either your life or the way you business is working for you, then there is a simple solution - start focusing on what you want to create, not only what you want right now.

Up until 3 months ago, I had a goal to lose weight. I had gotten a bit of a belly and wanted to make it go away. I had the goal of losing the weight, but for some reason, I wasn't changing my actions. It was then that I realized, I was making decisions for short term gratification, instead of thinking about what I wanted in the long term.

I would wake up in the morning, tell (ok, lie to) myself, "Today is going to be the day that I start to change my life." Unfortunately, as the day would go on, life would get in the way. Meetings would run late. I would be in a hurry. And my stomach would growl. So before I knew it, I would go back to my old habits - my old eating patterns of fast food and pop.

Somehow, I had to break this pattern - I had to build accountability into my life to make the changes that I did really want. And since that day in mid November, there have been a couple of things that I've done to change my life. They first included hiring a personal trainer (who holds me accountable week to week for my eating). But the biggest change I made was to realize that I was letting my short term gratification over ride my long term goals.

So now, as I go throughout my day, making decisions - even the smallest decisions - I stop and think, "What is the best decision for both my immediate gratification and long term goals?" And I do my best to stay focused on my long term goals of losing weight and my belly.

I won't lie to you, there are still times when the immediate gratification wins. But now I know that it was my choice to let it win, not anything I can blame on anything or anyone else.

So, the important thing to recognize is that this is NOT just a weight loss thing - its applicable in every aspect of your life - especially in business. Every decision you make in your daily business activities, from when to open and close, how much to charge, to how you are going to spend your time today has both short term and long term repercussions. When you don't stop and think about those repercussions, you tend to make decisions that are only about immediate gratification.

Why does this have such applicability in business? Simple. Most businesses are good at Operations and Sales, but struggle with Marketing. And when you think about it, Operations and Sales are immediate gratification actions, while time spent on Marketing is a long term investment.

Needless to say, I suggest that as you go about your day, stop and think about what you are doing. Evaluate whether you are satisfying your immediate gratification needs or longer term goals. As you shift your thought in this way, you will begin (slowly at first) to shift your actions to account for both your immediate needs as well as what you want to create - your goals. And believe it or not, you will be amazed at how quickly you will start to see a change in what you are doing, and how you look at your day.

**In case you are curious, I have lost over 20 lbs since I started - and have gotten rid of nearly all of my little belly that had cropped up on me. It works!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

In Marketing, Are You The Hare Or The Tortoise?

So many people start their "marketing" journey with a big burst of speed like the fabled hare - with great ideas and lots of energy. Unfortunately, like the hare, they tire of the process and eventually quit before they reach the finish line - resting by the side of the road, until they fall asleep from boredom. The tortoise on the other hand, with his slow and consistent mindset, never gives up. And in the end, even though he doesn't always see immediate results with each step, reaches his goal.

It's not how fast you start, but how you finish.

So are you the Hare or the Tortoise?

If you are like about 95% of all small business owners, you are always looking for the quick fix, the answer that will turn your business around today. Unfortunately, there isn't one. And if there is, I haven't found it. And, if you want my opinion, any one who tells you differently, is selling you something.

So what is the answer. I've found the best answer to this quandary is....

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency!

The purpose of marketing is creating your message (your promise) and then delivering it to perspective customers so that they choose to give you a chance to sell them your product or service. So if we break that down, we need to be consistent in message and consistent in delivery.

The truth is your potential customers are being bombarded with marketing messages every day (some experts believe as many as 20,000 messages per day). So in order for you to stand out, you have to one, deliver a message that strikes a chord with them (touches their needs) and two, deliver it again and again. Because by the time they even realize you tried to reach them, they've seen or heard 20-30 or more messages for different products or ones just like yours.

Now that doesn't mean you can't be unique and "remarkable" in your message, but you have to make sure the message is consistent.

The "hare" gets so excited to market himself that he doesn't spend much time on his message and blurts out the first thing that comes to mind, using the media format that is most convenient or easiest. This message usually resonates in his own mind, but rarely within the minds of his perspective customers.

Conversely, the "tortoise" recognizes that he doesn't get a lot of chances to make an impression with perspective customer. He knows that he has a very limited budget, so he takes some time to find out who his perspective customers are, what they need, and how best to contact them.

The "hare" starts so fast and spends so much money broadcasting his message, that if he doesn't see immediate results, he either burns out on the process (feeling that marketing really doesn't work) or he runs out of money, because the results are coming quick enough to sustain his spending pace. The last, and quite frankly the worse, alternative is that the small business "Hare" is distracted in the middle of his current marketing plan by another marketing idea / campaign and immediately gets chased down another "rabbit hole".

Meanwhile, the 'tortoise" knows that his perspective customers are being bombarded with thousands of marketing messages a day, but if he is consistent with his delivery and his message with his unique / remarkable promise, he dramatic increases the likelihood that his perspective customers will give him a chance to deliver on his message.

So the question that I asked at the beginning of this article, and I hope you are now asking yourself . . .

Are you a "hare"?

Or a "tortoise"?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Live with Balance and Live in the Present

Last week I blogged, "Don't Manage Time - Manage Your Priorities" about an email I got from a friend who was struggling with focusing on her desired goals because of the constant attention that being a full time Mom places on her.

With her permission last week, I shared her words - because I found them to be very powerful. And I felt they would resonate with many of you who are Parents and small business owners and feel the same struggles as you try to balance home and work. Those of you trying to answer the question, How do you best manage your time to get everything that you want / need to get done?

So when I got a follow-up email from my friend even more powerful than the first, I again asked her permission to share it with you:

JJ - I started using the log again for my weekly goals. And one thing that I am noticing is that the days where I am accomplishing at least one business goal and one physical, emotional/spiritual and intellectual goal I feel more satisfied and balanced in all those areas. I really believe that balance is the key to living your life to its fullest. Since my email to you last week, I have been making sure that I am doing my best with whatever I am doing at that moment and what a difference that makes!! When I am working on something with the business I try to give it all my attention. And when I am with my kids, I give them my all - I am not feeling guilty about not spending time on the business or vice versa. I think the feeling of guilt really has caused a lot of my stress. Thanks again for all your help and advice!!

The lesson to be learned from this email is not a Business lesson, but a life lesson. And it is simply that we all need to live our lives with balance and to live them in the present.

Balance is everything. But most of us, present company included, are terribly out of balance. We spend all of our time taking care of one or two of our elements in our lives. But we are not not just Intellectual beings. Nor are we just Emotional, Physical, or even Spiritual beings. We are a combination of all four of these elemental aspects of our life. Unfortunately, when you ignore any one of them, it will have repercussions in your long term success. All four elements must be honored and nurtured to have long term health of the mind, heart, body, and soul.

I'm guessing, if you look back in your life and are honest with yourself, you will find that your life was happiest and healthiest when you honored harmony and balance between all of these elements of your life - not just one or two.

Furthermore, living in the present is being able to give all of your "balanced" self (mind, heart, body, and soul) to what you are doing - RIGHT NOW. That means clearing your mind of other activities and giving everything you are to the task at hand - no matter how small or menial it may seem. It's about being the best you can be at that moment - because you know that each thing you do and / or need to do will have it's moment - and you will be just as present then as you are right now.

Spend some time. Look at your life. And evaluate whether or not you are actually living a balanced life and living it in the present.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Upgrade Your Best Customers To "First Class"

When it comes to how most Airlines treat customer service, there isn't very much there worth emulating. They are big, most of their customer service reps seem disenfranchised, and quite honestly, they are stuck in a rut where they don't feel they can meet customer expectations anyway. But there is one aspect of customer service they do very well - the way they take care of their "best customers".

Most people don't realize the lengths that Airlines go to take care of their best customers - because "most people" don't fly often enough to really capitalize on the perks. Sure they get "miles" on their trip to visit family or when they vacation to Cancun - but few fly often enough to gain access to the top rewards programs. Good or bad, those of us business travelers who spend hours and hours in airports flying from meeting to meeting, week in and week out, the perks that are offered by the big Airlines are very nice - and enough to drive customer loyalty, in a business that otherwise has none.

What is it that they do for their best customers? More than anything, they make them feel important - like they really care that they are flying on their airline. Something that doesn't come out so well in the rest of the flying experience.

Have you ever been upgraded to First Class - randomly pulled out of the crowd to see with the "elite"? For their best customers, First Class upgrades are common place - sometimes as often as 60-75% of the time (if they schedule their routes smartly). And "First Class" treatment goes well beyond the big seat. It is an entire attitude and way they treat their "elite" customers.

I know what you are thinking. This is great stuff, but your business isn't like the airline industry. You don't have the ability to offer anything like "First Class" to your customers. It would cost too much and disenfranchise your other customers. This could be true, but the same could be said for the Airline Industry as well.

Surveys show that most customers don't leave a business because they are dissatisfied with their experience. Instead, most (nearly 70%) leave because they don't feel the business cares about them and whether or not they ever come back. And it has been shown that one of the best ways to show how much you care is to offer more "perks" to your best customers - give them value above and beyond what they expected.

Frankly, in an industry where most "tickets" are purchased based on price alone, most Airlines have built-in a system where the travelers who fly the most, actually go out of their way to choose the same Airline again and again - often without even shopping around for other fares. I know I do.

One way to do this in your business is to start offering higher end service in your business model - something like first class. That could be faster delivery, same day service, special seating, or even "head of the line" privileges. Will some people pay for it? Absolutely - they always will. If you build a product and market it to the right target audience (those that have the need for the service), someone will always want the "best" service you offer. Once you have this high end service in place (and quite honestly making more money from it), you can start to offer that service as a perk for your best customers - let them get a taste of the "good life". And watch them find ways to patronize you. . . again and again. The key to the success of a process like this isn't just doing it covertly - silently upgrading customers. Shout it out! Make it part of your marketing programs! Make it something that customers can work towards earning as a loyal customer of yours.

So, stop and think about it. What could you do to make your best customers feel like they are your best customers? What could you do to make your average customers want to become "your best customer"? What "upgrades" could you put into place in your business, and then offer them as perks to your best customers? It doesn't take much, but if you can make your best customers know how much they mean to you, I promise, they will pay you back in so many ways - referrals, testimonials, and increased sales by themselves.

Learn an Important Finance Lesson From a Child

There are lessons to be learned from all around us. Even today, I managed to relearn a very important lesson from my 7-year old son, Turner. And believe it or not, this lesson is one that everyone could learn from - whether for their business or the personal life.

Both my kids get an allowance for helping their Mom around the house. Normally, it's $2 / wk. But if they help out a lot, and go that extra mile, their Mom gives them an extra dollar. It's not a lot, but they are slowly starting to understand the value of money.

Just the other day, my son, was elated, as he counted the money he had saved. It turns out, there was over $30 in his bank. And even though, he had been very patient to save that much money, he knows that $30 has considerable buying power (for a 7-year old) and that money was burning a hole through his pocket. So off to the store they went.

It wasn't long, before he had found something that he "had to have" for only $20. What a bargain - he could get what he wanted and still have money to put back in his bank. Truly a win-win in anyone's mind.

Funny thing was that the lines at the store were long, and they had to go to another store, so my son, decided that he would just get it at the other store.

And what a great decision it was to wait. When Turner and his Mom got to the second store, he was overjoyed to find the exact same product on sale - for 50% off. That's right, my son, suddenly learned the power of shopping around - not from a book, in a classroom, or through a boring lecture from Dad, but from real life experience. By being a little patient, and investing a little time, he was going to get his new item now for just $10. What a thrill, he could buy three of them if he wanted.

But the lesson doesn't end there. You see, as Turner carried the item up to the cash register, beaming with his new found savings, he suddenly had a flash of "grown-up" insight - yet so simple only a child could recognize it. While walking up to pay, he suddenly realized that he didn't really need the object of his desire. He'd lived without up to this point and quite honestly he decided he could continue to do without it.

So when all was said and done, my 7-year old, learned his first real life lesson on value. At a very young age, he was able to see that money has value, and it can get you what you want - if you use it wisely. But more important, he learned that even having the ability to buy something, doesn't necessarily make it something that you truly want . . . or need. And that if you aren't careful, an unwise purchase today, could cost you what you truly want or need in the future.

Take a lesson from Turner, I know I did.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Change - The Only Thing You Can Count On

Jeff Jarvis wrote yesterday in his Blog, "What's a Telegraph", that his daughter didn't know the five letter word used to hook a computer to a phone. For some of us, it's easy - a modem. But for those under the age of 10, they may never know the answer.

When I was in the Navy, I used to tell my fellow Aviators that someday, our Grandkids are going to laugh at us when we regale them with our stories of landing on the Carrier at night. They will look at us and say, "Grandpa, that's crazy. Why would you want to fly IN the plane when you can just do it from the comfort of a warm office at a computer." Scary thing is, it's not that far away - with the Predator and other unmanned flying vehicles already here, the days of the piloted aircraft may be numbered.

The question is, what "thing" in your in industry is "on its way out"? How is technology currently changing your marketplace? How is it going to change it tomorrow? What new invention, is going to revolutionize your industry, and how are you posturing yourself to leverage it, when the time comes?

Even things that you may have thought were the "wave of the future", may already be phasing out. Look at "email". Believe it or not, email use in users under 30 is down. Why? Because they exchange their ideas and messages in different formats. Text Messages, Instant Messages and Blogs are just a few ways.

What we used to need a desktop computer to do five years ago, you can now do on your phone. If you were thinking about investing in Music CDs, I'd hold off. They may not be around much longer - going the way of the LP record. And if you haven't heard of Hulu or a Slingbox - you are pretty far behind the times as well. Both of these tools provide very different ways of watching your favorite TV shows with ever having to be at home or watching it on your TV.

Things in life are changing fast - both in the business world and in your personal life. If you are trying to live your life or run your business, as you always have, you might find yourself without a market pretty fast.

My advice is stay on top of things - not only in your industry, but in those that you compete with. Understand the cutting edge of your business and / or be the cutting edge.

If you are thinking to yourself, I don't know where to get started. STOP. You do, you just aren't!

It's hard work, but if you stop and think about it - you know. Or you will if you start asking around. Some ideas include:

- Order trade journals from your industry.
- Join professional groups that include others from your market place.
- Ask your current industry leaders what they are doing different. Find out what they are doing and start matching it or improving on it.
- Read the blogs about what you do.

These are just a few ideas. There are hundreds more you can do. It doesn't matter where you start, only THAT you start. And if you are thinking that you don't have time or money to invest in this, let me ask you one final question - "Can you afford not to?"

Friday, February 13, 2009

Don't Manage Time - Manage Your Priorities

Shortly after writing my blog yesterday, I got an email from a very dear friend of mine that occasionally comes to me for advice. It's a pretty common struggle that both business owners and non-business owners face - how do I juggle everything that I need to get done? How do I better manage my time?

Before I answer those questions, let me share a little bit of the email and see if you find any connection to the author.

JJ, I could really use some tips on how to manage my day better. Every night I try to think of what I could have done differently but now I am at a lost. On Wednesday morning I did get up earlier as did my son!! So my morning plan went out the window, especially because now he is sick and all he wants is to be held all day. Not to mention I have my niece all day, and the majority of the time that she is here, they are all fighting every half hour. And I have been waiting to write in my log and to email u until the evening; because I figured I could still get some more things done. However, I read to the kids, and then lay with them till they fall asleep. And since I have been getting up @ 6:00 I have been falling asleep with the kids. I just am at a lost on how to accomplish things for the business and take care of the kids and house all day and night. I really am on my own with taking care of the them during the day, cleaning, making dinner, cleaning up, bath time and then putting them to bed.

Now, on to answering the question, How do I better manage my time? To be completely frank - YOU DON'T! Time management is a misnomer. The more you try to manage time, the more it slips through your fingers. Because life will always throw struggles at you that frustrate your time management problem – kids being sick, weather turning bad, a car accident, or just an unexpected phone call from a long lost friend. Instead, you need to manage your priorities – meaning you focus on what's important to you, each and every day.

But that is easier said than done. Because it isn't that we don't have priorities – we all do. The difficulty in life is recognizing what those priorities are and adjusting them consciously, when we want or need to.

One thing that I drive home to my clients regularly is that our Goals drive our Actions. Everything we do, is being done to fulfill some sort of goal – some sort of desire in our life. The difficulty in life is that we are rarely conscious of what we really want long term – what we are trying to create with our life or our business. So we spend most of our time fulfilling our short terms needs and desires and the most crippling need of all – the subconscious need to maintain the status quo.

That's right, in the absence of any strong long term goals or vision, our actions every day are driven by our subconscious' inputs to basically do the same thing – over and over again. In the case of my friend, she wanted to spend more time working on her business, but every time she tried to schedule time for it – her life was getting in the way. And that was / is frustrating her, because she hasn't been able to get done what she wants to get done.

My advice to her was to first and foremost, stop fighting her life. Her long term goal is first and foremost the health and well being of her children – this is “overall” priority number one for her. Don't judge it – just see it for what it is. And recognize that when stress builds, or you aren't concentrating on something else, you subconscious mind will steer you to focusing on that.

Next I told her to stop focusing so much on day-to-day planning and start moving to week-to-week planning. From one day to the next, it's very difficult to make sure to you are going to have time to focus on your priorities – in and amongst your daily life. Life will create problems and you will get frustrated because you feel like you have little or no control (especially with little children – or a business for that matter). But when you shift the focus to week-to-week, setting weekly goals, instead of daily goals, you give yourself more opportunities to correct for unforeseen circumstances and still meet your goals.

This all sounds simple, but it is very difficult to implement. It hard work to re-focus your thought processes and habits. It takes time. Recognize that you are going to have struggles, but the more you shift your life from a “time management” perspective to a “priority / goal” perspective, the more you will actually be able to influence your natural actions, instead of fighting them. And the more you will take control of your actions today to reach your goals of tomorrow.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Be Willing To Give Up Everything To Get What You Want

Everyone wants to make their dreams come true (The Cinderella Story) - but wanting a dream to happen isn't enough. To create the world you want - to create your dream - you must be willing to give up everything you have. For those who have nothing, that's easy. But for those who actually have a good life or a good business, that's easy said than done.

Each and every one of us has created the world we live in, through our actions, our thoughts and our habits. And as long as we continue to do the same things we've always done and think the same thoughts we've always thought - we will continue to have the same life we've always had - not the one we want.

Unfortunately, creating something different, requires doing different things as well as thinking differently. And this scares the hell out of many people, because it means that they "may" get what they want, but then again, the "may" fail in trying to do so, and lose what they had.

Jim Collins, in his landmark book, Good to Great, states that Good is the ENEMY of Great. What he means by this is that when you have a good life, you will most likely never create a great life. And that is simply because you won't have the drive, the passion, nor the commitment to give up your "Good" life, for the risk of maybe creating a "Great" life or maybe losing everything you already had.

When I start working with clients, the first questions I ask them is "What do you want?" and "What do you want to create with your life / business?" Some have answers, and some don't. But before we can go any further in the coaching process, we must truly gain an understanding what they want. And, often to their dismay, we work on it until we find the answer.

And thus, after knowing what they want to create, I ask them the toughest questions of all, "Are you committed to your goal or vision? Are you willing to give up everything you currently have to create what you want?"

For most people, they've never been challenged in this manner. They've never been asked to give up anything before - let alone everything. But 99 out of 100 times, that is exactly what it takes.

Wait though!!! Before you freak out and think that I'm telling you to give everything up, I didn't say that - What I did say was that you had to be WILLING to give it all up - WILLING to trade what you have for something better. You may not have to. But through the willingness to give it all up, you begin to understand what commitment is.

Think about it. Think back to the biggest commitment you have probably ever made in your life - the commitment to your spouse - to your marriage. Men, before you got done on one knee (if any one still does that), you had to ask yourself and respond affirmatively, "Am I willing to give up the life that I currently have to make something better with the woman I love?" And Women, before you said yes, you had to ask yourself the same question about the man you love. That is the most common example of "willingness" to give up everything you have to create something better, that nearly everyone can understand. That is true commitment.

So, before you step forward and say, "I want more sales." or "I want to make my business run better." STOP. And ask yourself, am I truly committed or do I just want it. Because I'm convinced that if you are truly committed and willing to give up everything you have, you can make it happen. But if you aren't willing to commit COMPLETELY, then quite honestly, you are wasting your time, effort, and money.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Make Sure Tomorrow is Better Than Today

Yesterday, I talked about Briefing and the power it has to shape your day. But Briefs are only half the story. Briefs make what ever you are getting ready to do better. However, if you want to make everything you do even better tomorrow than it was today, then you must first reflect on what happened. And you must, as much as possible, do it as objectively as you can. In the world of Aviation, we gave that reflection a name - the Debrief.

If the Blue Angels are the masters (in my mind) of the Brief, then Top Gun is the gurus of the Debrief.

In Naval Aviation, our budgets are cut more each and every year - forcing us to figure out how to do more with less - something I wish more people in the Government should be trying to do. As flight hours and training time gets the biggest slash every year, our entire community has focused on making sure that we get every bit of training we can from every flight. To do this, Naval Aviation, led by Top Gun, has perfected the Debrief.

What is a Debrief? It's little more than systematically reviewing an event (or an entire day) and finding "Goods" and "Others" that you can take away as lessons learned.

What's a "Good" and what's an "Other"?

A "Good" should be obvious - it's something that you did well that day - something that worked for you in the course of doing what you briefed you were going to do. While an "Other" (in the true politically correct sense) is those things that didn't go quite as well as you had planned they would go - literally things that didn't work for you in the course of the event or day.

Now, in any given event (or day), you could probably find 100 things that were good, and 100 that didn't go so well. But, since most of us (especially Pilots) have short attention spans, let's keep the list of each to 3. Yep, I don't care how well your day went or how poorly it went, the key to a Debrief is finding 3 of each - every time.

So, after your event / day is done, sit down and take 10-15 minutes to reflect on your "Goods" and "Others". Write them down and if you are really bold, review them as part of you next Brief. This will help you keep your "Goods" happening and increase the likelihood that the "Others" won't happen again. Or you will at least make an effort to correct them.
If you have any questions or comments on Briefing and Debriefing, please leave a comment. I look forward to what everyone thinks.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Apply the Success of the Blue Angels to Your Life

As a pilot, before every flight, we "Brief". Sometimes those briefs were "brief", but more often than not they were anything but. However, whether they were quick or drawn-out, we prided ourselves in our professionalism and our ability to prepare ourselves for the flight.

Our briefs would prepare us for the flight. They covered everything we expected to do from take-off to landing. They also covered everything that we didn't expect to do - like emergencies and contingencies. I won't lie to you, some were better than others at briefing and preparing - and the truth be told, it almost always was reflected in their airborne success.

But nNo pilots, that I've ever met, Brief better and more thoroughly than the Blue Angels. If you think their flying is amazing, then you should witness one of their briefs. For about 45 minutes, the entire team flies the show in their mind - in unison, to the calls of the "Boss" (Blue Angel #1). Their hands move together - as if they were almost tied together with invisible pieces of string. Each team member responding as if they were actually in the air - flying their machines at 500 mph, just 36 inches from each through full acrobatics. Truly a lesson we can all learn from.

The lesson that is truly empowering to everyone that applies briefing to their repertoiret is mental preparation. In fact, this form of preparation before an event does two beneficial things for any who use it:

1. Briefing grounds us in the proper attitude - getting us focused on the job at hand and helping us clear our mind of distractions.
2. Briefing forces us to think through each event - before we live it - actively engaging the subconscious mind in our goals before we call upon it to assist us in our endeavor.

I've heard many people say that things are created twice - first in the mind, and then in reality. What briefing does is make the first part, the mental preparation, a planned event that you can count on.

So how can you apply this to your business - to your life?

It's simple really - every time you get ready to do something, brief yourself and your team first. You see this in many instances in successful businesses, but not often enough. Great restaurants get all of the Wait Staff together before a big mean and make sure everyone knows what's going on and who is responsible for what. Good Surgeons brief their operating staff what is going to happen, how it is going to go, and who is responsible for what, if something happens out of the ordinary. And in sports, coaches at all levels try to get their players to visualize a play before it happens, so that their mind is prepared for it and it becomes second nature.

Implementing this concept into your business or life isn't hard - but it does take time, creativity, and fore thought. Start simple and start big. Not that I want you to brief a monstrous undertaking - making the project even bigger than it already is. No, actually, I would like you to start by Briefing yourself every morning on what your day is going to be. Don't get down into details, just run through your day in your mind - what you want to happen, what possible emergencies could come up and what you could either do to avoid them or handle them. Think about where you are going to be, when you are going to be there, and who your are going to meet. Also think about thinks like when you are going to eat, sleep, and take care of other necessities of life - make them it all a conscious plan.

Do this every day for a week and see for yourself, how much more effective you will become. I think you will surprise yourself. You will get more done and be more effective in your life and your business than you've ever been in the past.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Are You Getting What You Are Paying For?

It is simple psychological truth - people "do" what they are rewarded for. So the questions are: what do you employees consider a reward? and what are you rewarding your employees for?

It may sound silly, but when you pay an hourly wage - you are rewarding hours (not work). When you pay a sales commission, you are rewarding sales (nothing else). And when you pay a salary - well, more than anything else, you are rewarding commitment - but to what?

So how do you get your employees to want to do the work you want them to do - at the level you want them to perform? Simple right, you reward them for it!

Furthermore, I've heard it said that real Leadership is getting others to want to do what you want them to do. So in essence, what we are talking about here is building leadership (both organizational and personal) into your culture as much as rewards.

If you want someone to produce higher quality, then reward quality. If you want your team to work better together, then reward teamwork. These ideas sound simple, but their implementation is on of the biggest challenges you will face as an owner or a manager. It takes very thorough commitment on your part to figure out what it is EXACTLY that you want from your employees as well as figuring out exactly what each employee considers a 'reward'. And that is something very few owners / managers actually do.

First, if you want your employees to do what you want them to do - you must clearly spell out what you want them to do. And then you must describe for them what doing it well looks like. I I know you think you might have already done this - but if it isn't written down, where both you and your employee can read and review it regularly, it isn't done. And statistics show that less than 1 in 5 Americans actually have a clearly defined job description and know exactly what is expected of them.

Most business owners have ideas of what they expect - but rarely do they do anything but bitch about how their employees aren't meeting their expectations. In this "job description", for lack of a better term, you need to include what you consider the "bare minimum", what you consider "good" work, what you consider "great" work and what would completely blow your socks off. Take your time with this - think it through.

Now here's the tough part (as if it hasn't already been really hard to get all of the above done). Now you must figure out how to reward (compensate) each employee so that if they do the bare minimum, they will get the bare minimum they need (or desire). If they perform a good job, they will get paid a good salary. And so forth. And you must share it with the employee so that they understand and can commit (or not) to the job. This then puts the ball in their court - and you soon find out what type of employee you have - one that is motivate, or one that is just trying to collect a paycheck. Either way, you can rest well at night - because you are getting what you pay for.

I appreciate anyone who has endured this blog to this point - results-based compensation is not easy and shouldn't be implemented without thorough thought and consideration. Most that have tried it with less than stellar results did so without due diligence in the process. Take some time to think about each of the questions I've brought up in the article. You will find that the solution isn't in the answers - it is in the process of searching for the answers.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Who is John Galt? Do you know?

If you don't know the answer to the famous question, "Who is John Galt?" then you are indeed, in the dark. The quote comes from Ayn Rand's epic story, Atlas Shrugged. And now 52 years after the book was published, the fictional story is quickly turning into Non-Fiction.

If you've been reading and keeping up with my blog, you've probably seenth my references to John Galt. And wondered what in the heck is is guy ranting about. Frankly, I've been "ranting" about the similarity between Ayn Rand's classic story and the current economic conditions and government responses. And the quote "Who is John Galt" is a reference to the classic that only those who have read the story really understand. But it wasn't until I recently came across an article by Stephen Miller, 'Atlas Shrugged': From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years, that I realized how prophetic the book was truly becoming.

One the lines that jumped out at me from the research in Miller's article was that according to the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club, Atlas Shrugged is the second most influential book in its readers lives (second only to the Bible).

That's a powerful statement - for a "fictional" story.

So the question is, "Have you read it?" Why not? To be frank with you, even if you don't agree with what Ayn Rand's theories, you should read the book. If for no other reason, it arm you with the information you need to argue against those who do believe. But I won't lie to you - it isn't an quick read. With over 1000 pages of very small print, it is a daunting task. But well worth the effort. The good news, even though it's long, it is an easy read. It won't overwhelm you with deep language or a complex plot. Though, even if you are fast reader, I would plan to dedicate a full month to get through it.

In any case, whether you read it or not, please take a couple moments and read the article by Stephen Moore that was featured in the Wall Street Journal on Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. He does a wonderful job of encapsulating the lesson of the story - in a very brief and enlightening article.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Marketing is Satisfying The Customer - Not Your Own Ego

I've had a couple discussions in the past 24 hours about customers and how best to satisfy them. And interestingly enough, Seth Godin wrote a short blog about it today as well.

Most business owners / Entrepreneurs out there are frustrated because sales are not as high as they want (or need) them to be. When I hear this, two of the first questions I ask them are:

1. What do your existing customers like about you - why do they choose you?
2. What are the needs / wants of the market you are trying to capture?

As I talked about the other day in my blog, Which comes first, the product or the marketing?, it's quite easy to fall into the mindset of "If I build it, they will come." This is the standard response - because the Entrepreneur thinks he has a great product. But nothing could be further from the truth. You can create the best product in your market, and still not be able to get any customers to come to you. That's because, except in very few cases, YOU ARE NOT YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE! If you haven't asked them the questions, you won't really know the answers.

To find out what your target audience is looking for - what "needs" do they have that are currently unfulfilled, you must ask some questions (and obviously find out the answers). Who is your target audience? Who is it that you are either currently appealing to? Or who do you want to appeal to?

Once you know WHO your target market is (as specifically as you can narrow them down), you have to find out WHAT they are specifically looking for.

Let me give you an example on this one. If you are a carpet cleaner, you would think that your customers are looking for carpet cleaning. Makes sense right? WRONG! But, if you look through nearly all the carpet cleaning ads out there, most of them are selling carpet cleaning. Unfortunately, that's really not what most people want. What they really want is clean carpets!!! The difference may only seem like the reversal of two words - carpet and clean. But the meaning is completely different.

When you sell carpet cleaning, you are selling a process - a method. People don't really care about the method - what they want is the end result - clean carpets. They are willing to pay someone to provide them clean carpets - if you will assure them that is what they are doing. But they are less inclined to want to be sold "carpet cleaning" - because there is no implied guarantee that they are in fact getting clean carpets. See the difference?

How do you find out what it is that they need? As simple as it sounds, you ask them. Create a survey. Ask your current customers and as many potential customers (your target audience) as you can afford to ask. Find the answer, because believe it or not - YOUR BUSINESS' SUCCESS DEPENDS ON IT!

So, it comes down to, understanding what the customer wants and needs - answering the question, "What does my business and / or product have to be in the heart and minds of my customer in order for them to choose me over every other option that they have to spend their money on?" When you find this out and use the in your marketing message - then you will become the Entrepreneur that you set out to become when you started your business.

Friday, February 6, 2009

What is Accountability?

Every where you turn, people are talking about accountability. But to be honest with you, I don't think most people using the word really even know what it means.

Before we go rambling any further about accountability, let's first agree on what the word means. According to Mirriam-Webster Online Dictionary, accountability means an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's action.

The truth is, accountability doesn't mean creating new laws and /or new regulations. It simply means recognizing and accepting that everything we do (or have done) in our lives has gotten us in the position and condition we are in RIGHT now. It means not making excuses for anything! And it means accepting that where ever we are right now has come about due to our choices.

Additionally, "holding someone accountable" means making sure THEY accept full responsibility for their choices and their actions - whatever those choices and actions may be (or have been). It also means that although they didn't create the stimulus that they had in their lives, they did choose how they responded.

That's it. It's that simple.

So, stop telling me that the new administration is all about accountability. It's time for the Government to stand up and be held accountable for the situation we are in. It's not just Bush's fault. We are a Government "Of the People, by the people, for the people."

The Bailout Bill was passed (overwhelmingly by both the House and the Senate - both parties) and signed into Law by President Bush last September because it "had to happen". 75% of America disagreed with it. And Congress passed it anyway. Did we hold them accountable? ABSOLUTELY not. Who's fault is that? Yeah, we voted out the President and some Congressmen, but nearly everyone who voted for the bill was re-elected.

That's not Accountability - that's tacit approval. Approving behavior, by ignoring it. In fact we rewarded most of them for ignoring our voices. That just get's us more of the same behavior.

Accountability in the market place means failing (bankruptcy) when you can't produce profit. It's automatically built into the system. It doesn't mean bailouts just because it will be too painful to allow a "big" business to fail.

We are getting rid of accountability - imposing it.

Accountability means NOT passing the burden of our gluttonous behavior of the past 15 plus years in the market place (between the dot com bubble and the real estate bubble) on to our children and our children's children through a Trillion Dollar Spending Bill.

Unfortunately, every time the government imposes more rules and regulations, they don't boost accountability, they actually tear it down. Because no matter what the situation is, no one person (or group) can hold another person (or group) accountable for the results they produce (the choices they make) when the methods and processes are predetermined. In order to hold someone accountable, they must be given the freedom to choice their own path.

If you believe in free choice and a free market, then stand up and be heard. Hold those who are failing to do what you believe they should be doing accountable for their actions. And you don't have to wait until November 2010 to do it. Do it now!

If you are interested in finding ways to hold people accountable, please contact me at or just leave a comment. We will work together to hold each other and those who lead us accountable.

Why Is Everyone So Happy Executive Pay Is Capped?

Everywhere I turn, I hear people saying how happy they are that "Obama" is capping pay for Executives whose businesses have taken bailout money.

I've got some bad news (good news I guess, if you are a Socialist). Capitalism in the USA is nearly dead!

Now, before you start freaking out, thinking that I believe these idiots deserve the money, settle down. I think these guys should be FIRED along with the Board of Directors. And I think they should never be able to get another job again (except maybe in the mail room). But, in no way shape or form, do I think it's the Federal Government's job to decide that for these companies or any other company in America. Last time I checked there wasn't an enumerated clause spelled out in the Constitution granting any Branch of our Government the right to cap anyone's salary or tell anyone or any entity how to spend their money. But I think we've thrown that document out the window and we're just playing it by ear now.

The truth is our Government has no right to tell a public corporation (and yes they are still public corporations - at least their stock holders think so) how to spend it's money. Any more than the Government has the right to tell you how to spend yours. Oh by the way, they are trying to do that as well.

Democracy depends on capitalism and vice versa. One can not survive without the other. Many people argue me on that point. Except what most people don't realize is that capitalism is nothing more than market democracy - where instead of casting votes, you spend money.

Every dollar you spend is a vote for the world you want to live in.

If you don't like what Citigroup or Bank of America is doing. Don't vote for them - STOP giving them any of YOUR money! If you are really unhappy - do some community organizing work and organize a boycott.

It is your right in a free country!

It is your duty as an American Citizen - as much as voting on Election Day!

The ironic thing is that the American public have been exercising this "right" for the couple decades by buying cars built by automakers not home based in the US. They didn't like the product that GM, Chrysler, and Ford have been making and they have been voting. But a couple weeks ago, your Government decided you didn't know what you were doing with you votes and they needed to veto your decision.

Where does it stop? From where I'm sitting (in the cheap seats), I don't think it's going to - any time soon.

But that doesn't mean we should stop voting every day for the world we want as both a consumer and a small business owner. Become an educated consumer - learn about the business that you are voting for (purchasing from). Pick ones that perpetuate your ideals and the beliefs you hold dear. Give them testimonials and get your friends and family to do the same.

Support Entrepreneurs that you know are fighting a good fight. They are the ones that are taking risks and doing their best to keep the spirit of Capitalism alive. And remember, without Capitalism, we will end up losing our Democracy.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Which comes first, the product or the marketing?

Seth Godin makes a great point in his blog yesterday, Which comes first, the product or the marketing? His point being that if you don't do your marketing homework first, then the anything you create is little more than the desires of the producer, not the wants and needs of the consumer.

And he is absolutely correct, marketing must come first! The best Entrepreneurs have a vision of what they want to create, but then they bounce that vision off the existing market place to see what the demand / need is. Too often, less successful business people think that if they produce a good product, consumers will want it. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case. The adage, "If you build it, they will come" rarely works (except in movies about Iowa corn fields and baseball). The motto in the business world, should be "if they want it, then you build it".

Demand is the engine of the marketplace. With no demand, there will be no profit potential. With no profit potential, there is not need for the product. Marketing's job is first to find out if there is a demand. And if there is a demand, then figure out what the demand is specifically for. And if there is no demand then either Marketing creates demand, or the project should be shelved.

The bottom line is, there have been lots of great products that failed because of a weak or no marketing plan, but there have been quite a few very few weak products that have been huge successes with a great marketing strategy that worked.

Do your marketing work first, within the 'scope' of what you want to create. Then build to fulfill the demand that Marketing either found or created!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Learn Some Integrity from "Sully"

A couple weeks ago, Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger was the heroic pilot of US Air's Flight 1549 that ended up miraculously safely ditching his plane in the Hudson River - with no casualties. Instantly "Sully" became a national hero.

We see stories like this all the time, but to much dismay, we soon find out that our hero's Integrity is only paper thin. It was more that he was in the right place at the right time, than anything else. But not the case with Chesley Sullenberger. From everything I can tell, he's the real deal - he not only talks the talk, but he also walks the walk.

Yesterday morning, while driving to visit with a client, I was taken aback by a story (discussed on the Glenn Beck Radio Show) that brings out the depth of Sully's Integrity. While Tom Daschle, Secretary of Health and Human Services, is being accused of failing to pay taxes owed, and Michael Phelps is making headlines about smoking "who knows what", "Sully" is calling the library in his hometown to tell them that he will not be able to return the book that he has out.

As it turns out, the book that he checked out a couple weeks ago, is now at the bottom of the Hudson River. That's right, "Sully" believes so much in what Intergrity, that he is calling his local library to apologize for the book that was lost when he was saving the lives of the people on board Flight 1549, and he wanted to let them know so he could take care of any penalty.

Can you see the difference between these men? Can you see that Integrity stands for something in today's society? I don't kow about you, but regardless of the position, I would rather have "Sully" on my team, than either of these other two individuals. Skills can be taught. Knowledge can be transferred. But teaching someone motiviation and / or integrity is near impossible.

So when you are looking for new employees, stop and ask yourself, "Do you want employees that know the right thing to do or employees that will do the right thing?"

Oh by the way, the book "Sully" checked out and ended up at the bottom of the Hudson River was Practical Ethics, by Peter Singer.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Think you can't learn from your kids?

Why is it that most people overlook some of the simplest, but yet most profound, teachers in our society? Young children. Yep, many times they can teach us more about "grown-up" life and who we are / want to be than we may realize.

Lea of Lea's Blogging Life tells a quick story of her two young girls interacting while doing yoga together. The story provides great life lessons that we all can gain from - including those out there that struggle with making the simplest lessons "too complex" to learn.

Take some time and watch the youth in your life. Watch the way they play and watch how they learn. And then take some time to reflect on what you see. There are life lessons all around us. They are lessons that have applicability to many situations - so long as you slow down long enough to learn them.

Monday, February 2, 2009

I'm sorry, we're out of time

Being concise and to the point - a powerful way to communicate and keep your audience's attention. This is Seth Godin's point in his blog today.

How good are you at accomplishing this? I know I'm usually not very good at it. But I won't belabor the point, because that will defeat the purpose.

Bottom line - Know that you only have someone's attention for so long. If you can't make your point right away, you will not only increase the likelihood of them getting what you want them to get, but you will also likely have them wanting more.