Wednesday, July 29, 2009
We've all heard that adage before. But I'm hear to tell you, it doesn't even matter "who you know", if they aren't willing to help you.
So the more prudent statement is "It's not what or who you know, but what will who you know do for you."
Try saying that ten times fast.
The Numbers Don't Matter
On Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, or any other network, it seems that people are running around trying build numbers. How many can I get and how quickly can I get them?
Unfortunately, the numbers don't matter, if none of those friends or followers will act on your behalf.
It IS About Trust, Influence, and Leadership
Effective networking is about influence. It's about building trust and about getting others to believe you are who you say you are . In essence, it's about leadership.
And because the ultimate purpose of networking is to get others to take action (how ever you may define that action), it's about getting them to BELIEVE in you.
So, how then, do you effectively build a network? How do you get others to trust and believe in you?
Is it through Social Media tools? Is it via face-to-face "networking" meetings? Or can you do it through others methods?
The answer to all of those questions is a resounding YES! You can build your network via any form of communication that you choose, face-to-face, telephone, email, social media, radio, tv, or any other form of communication that you can think of. The system isn't the key - what and how you say it is. And the most effective networks are built on the foundation of interactive communication - not broadcast communication. Which means that not only do you have to be able to talk or write, but also, listen, read, . . . and empathize.
And in spite of every one out there telling you that you can build an effective online network overnight "by taking their advice" or by using their tool, it's simply not true. Don't buy into their lies or their gimmicks.
Networking, effective networking where you can both trust and be trusted by the people in your "group", takes time, commitment and a lot of elbow grease. You have to be willing to talk to people, learn about them, understand them, give and take in the relationship, and of course be trustworthy. Or you will end up with a lot of acquaintances - and very few friends that will act on your behalf.
So, stop just looking at the numbers in your network - numbers don't tell the whole truth. Instead, start looking at the effectiveness of your network, and that requires you to honestly assess how much influence you have over your network of friends, or how little.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
The check rides were actually intended to accomplish two things:
1. Check procedural knowledge
2. See how well the pilot is able to load shed and compartmentalize in stressful situations.
Needless to say, of the many things that I learned when I was a pilot, one of the most important ones, that has definite applicability to life in general, is that when things get "out of control", the key is to slow everything down, assess the situation and then take the necessary actions to move forward - one step at a time.
Three Things To Do When Things Are Happening Too Fast
All process in aviation are built on preparation and habit patterns. Every pilot learns from the beginning of their training to memorize procedures, not just word for word, but in action and deed. You see, it's not just about which switches to move, but also where they are in the cockpit, why they need to be moved, and what they look and feel like.
So when it comes to handling emergencies and / or stress, it isn't about doing "new" things for the first time, it's instead refreshing old memories and activating pre-planned responses.
To assist in the "emergency handling", as a Navy Pilot, we are taught three things that not only have applicability in flying, but also in handling stressful life situations as well.
- Slow things down - as slow as you possibly can handle. In the fighter aircraft, this literally meant slow the plane down from 400 mph to 200 mph hour. This "slowing down" gives you something that nearly every person needs in a stressful, overloaded scenario - more time to think about how you are going to handle the situation when you get to where you are inevitably going.
In real life, this means simply, don't rush yourself. The faster you go, trying to do things quickly, in both life and in a cockpit, the more likely you are going to miss important steps and / procedures along the way. And the more likely that you will have to go back and do them a second or even third time - actually costing you more time than if you had just taken your time the first go 'round.
Bottom line, SLOW DOWN and take your time.
- Load shed everything you possibly can on others standing by to help. Besides slowing the plane down when hit with an emergency, the next thing I, as a pilot, was taught to do was to start getting help in every way I could and then load shedding some of my key responsibilities on those standing by to help.
For example, as a single seat pilot (no co-pilot), there were people / systems that were nearly always available to pick up some hugely beneficial pieces of the puzzle. First and foremost was the Autopilot. Yep that's right, one the first things I would do as a pilot in an emergency (after making sure the plane was flying safely) was stop flying the airplane and load shed that responsibility onto a computer.
Another thing that I would do is ask my wingman or even a representative on the ground to pull out the emergency checklist and read it to me - so I could concentrate on the jet itself and not have my nose buried in a book.
In real life, this means GET HELP!
So many of us struggle with the idea of "getting help" because we are taught from a very young age that our problems are our problems - no one elses. But the more you can load shed the less important / less urgent tasks on on others, during a crisis, the quicker you can get back to normalcy.
Another aspect that falls under the "getting help" part of emergency management is not letting good intentioned other pilots or ground personnel fly your airplane. For example, ground controllers who may have the best intentions for the safety of a pilot, his crew and any passengers often steer you into bigger problems - simply cause they don't know any better. As a pilot, it's important to take control, if necessary, STATE EMPHATICALLY WHAT YOU NEED and settle for nothing less.
The same goes true in life. When you are knee deep in a stressful situation and ask for help, people will come-a-running, offering everything they can to help. It's important for YOU to keep driving your life forward in the way YOU want to and not let others take over your life.
- No matter how bad things get, the simulator ride ends eventually. This is a simple fact. Just like every morning the Sun rises, you can count on the fact that "this too shall pass". No matter how much you stress you are feeling, there is always a point when either the situation ends, or something else comes along - nothing is forever. Not even a stressful situation.
My simulator flights only lasted about an hour, even though sometimes it felt like six hours. But no matter how good or bad I would do, eventually the ride would end. Sure, if I did poorly, I had to face the music, but - the cause of the stress was over.
So it will be with what ever stress you are encountering. It too shall pass.
Finally, it's important to remember that, you can't change your current reality, but you do have control over your future. So when you are in a stressful situation, recognize your inability to change your circumstances of the immediate situation, but through your choices, you begin to influence the future - whether that future is 1 minute or possibly 1 year away. Decide what YOU want to be the outcome - YOU are a willing participant in your life - not just a spectator.
Monday, July 27, 2009
STOP this pattern. Stop working on things that don't really matter to you, just because that's what you have always done - or because someone, who really isn't important to you, is telling you that you have to do it.
Stop it now and begin valuing your time as much as you say you value it.
Ground yourself in what really matters.
Review what you want, your personal vision, and look at your long term and short term goals. Begin by ensuring your priorities are actually what you want. And then make sure your actions are actually getting you closer to your longer term goals and vision.
If your daily activities are helping you achieve your life's purpose and goals then COMMIT to them, like you have never committed to them before.
However, if the things you are doing every day, are not helping you achieve your goals, then get rid of them - remove them from your daily schedule. And open up time and space on your calendar and in your life for the things that do matter to you and COMMIT completely to them.
Making It All Happen
This all sounds very easy, but it is not. Most people are so intertwined with what they do every day, they can't break the chains even though they want to. They define their lives through through their daily activities - even though they really don't matter to them.
Breaking the chains of servitude to undesirable activity requires that you make yourself vulnerable - be willing to stand up for what you want and believe in and being willing to be unique. Choose to not be who you were yesterday, and instead choose to move forward towards your dreams is scary - and often debilitating.
This is not something you can do overnight . . . successfully. Thus moving forward in this matter requires you stay focused on what you want - DAILY - and NOT allowing short term distractions pull you back into the "comfortable", but limiting mindset, of being the same person you were yesterday.
Finally, another important aspect of the change process is taking small, manageable steps - not one sweeping leap. Don't drop every, un-important thing you do from you schedule today, filling it only with goal oriented actions. This will set yourself up for failure - no matter how good you might think you are. Put together a plan of action with interim steps and move on them, one step at a time.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Funny thing is, as a coach, talking to perspective clients, I hear them a lot.
Have you ever said those words yourself?
And tell yourself that your life is perfect . . . just the way it is. You don't want anything to change anything.
That would be great if life worked that way. But unfortunately it doesn't. And to be completely frank, you have a better chance of winning the lottery tomorrow than keeping your life the same as it is today . . . for even one more day.
Change Is Inevitable
We've all heard the phrase from Greek Philosopher, Heraclitus,
for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.”
Even if YOU don't change, the rest of the world is changing around you - meaning that in relation to everyone and everything else, nothing is constant.
So once you finally get past the inevitability of change in your life and your business, it's time to come to realization that there are really only two options . . . you are either growing and getting better or you are shrinking and getting worse.
Your choice is simple, either make the choice of making it better . . . or have it change on it's own, with little or no input from you - often times in the wrong direction.
Define Where You Want To Go Or End Up Where The World Takes You
So, now that you realize (or at least are beginning to accept the possibility) that change is inevitable and the best way to manage it is make the choice to improve your life rather than just let life happen, what are you supposed to do about it?
How do I figure out "what is an improvement?" And what is the wrong way?
You might think that improvements in life are "universal". We all want the same things, right?
Well to be honest, nothing could be further from the truth - no two people completely want the same thing, even though they may be on the same path for most issues. Some people want money, few want adulation, while even others seek quiet and solitude. And as it turns out, what will make YOUR life better . . . is about as unique as your fingerprint.
Needless to say, if you want to change for the better, then YOU have to define "Better" - NO ONE ELSE. You can involve others, your spouse, your kids, and your friends, but the decision is actually yours and yours alone.
You have to figure out what you want, where you want to be, and what want your life to be about, in order to make it happen.
In essence, you have to define your vision!
And then, of course, you have to make the change happen towards your vision, rather than just letting it happen, in whatever direction it wants to take you.
And that is where the real fun begins. . .
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Unfortunately, when dealing with people, speeding up actually can cause the exact opposite effect, unintentionally. Because when it comes to people, as it relates to individual or organizational change - whether it's change, growth, or even learning "new" techniques or ideas - the quicker you try to move people, the slower the process goes. That is if it doesn't destroy it completely.
All the stages of change must be dealt with. They are part of the human experience - one that cannot simply be avoided, because its a great idea or because you are the boss. It doesn't matter if its the greatest idea and it's easier the new way or if you are the President of the United States, people must be given an opportunity to learn about and engage in the change process.
Sure, you may find that some may accept the change quickly. But there will be others that take it slowly or not at all. However, if you don't allow for / encourage the growth through the stages, giving each person a fair opportunity to engage in the process, learn about it, accept it and commit to it, you are doomed to take your accelerated efforts right into the wall of resistance.
Change takes time - give it time and you will be well rewarded. Accelerate the change too quickly, and you will face resistance and speed bumps / barriers - the likes you've never seen.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Funny thing happens on the way to becoming who we want to be, whether we like it or not, your actions are defined by our priorities - our goals. So, if you want to know how you feel about something, just look at how much time you have been putting into it (or not putting into it).
When you are focused on something and thinking about it consciously, your actions reflect the importance of it. But if the goal is a new one, or a major change to your past desires / priorities, then when you aren't consciously thinking about it, quite often, you unconsciously drift back into the priorities of your past - priorities and thus actions that help maintain the status quo.
Often when talking to clients, they will tell me something is very important to them - that they want to make it happen in their lives. But when I ask them what they are doing about it, or how much time they are spending on it, they begin to realize how little their commitment really is to it.
As an example, this Blog is a MAJOR priority to me. But recently, I have to admit, I have not been giving the time necessary to make it happen - every day. My actions have been focused on other things - other priorities. I have unconsciously, pushed this blog lower on my priority list, and it shows - both in actions and results.
The more you can keep your conscious mind focused on your priorities, the more likely your actions will follow - and thus so will results.
Don't get distracted by lower priorities items, that are easy - rather than the highest priorities in your life. Don't just say they are a priority - MAKE THEM A PRIORITY every day - and make sure your actions reflect it.
Bottom line . . . Focus on your priorities today . . . and your actions will follow.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Only to read about it 3 years later when someone else got rich actually bringing your great idea to the market.
It's a cliche we hear a lot. But in this case, it is so true.
He Who Hesitates Is Lost
Unfortunately, if you are like many out there, you hesitate, get scared, over-analyze or simply say to yourself, it's just not worth it.
Well, if you want my opinion, that's an absolute crock. If you have the skills, knowledge and support to pull it off, then simply take the chance and go for it.
Don't Get Analysis Paralysis
According to many great leaders, don't wait for the 100% solution, it will almost always be too late. In fact GEN Colin Power (Ret), Former Secretary of State, actually felt that once you were about 70% confident of success, go with your instincts.
Too often when we get a great idea or we get a "wild hair", we sit back, and either over analyze or simply wait for "a sign" to tell us NOW is the time.
The truth is, you need to do your due diligence - figure out what you want to have happen, your steps to make it happen and then the possible hiccups that could get in the way, as well as potential unintended consequences. But once you have done that work, and you are reasonably confident in the outcome, then it's time to take action.
Share Your Idea Only With People You Trust
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when you have a burgeoning idea, is to share it with the wrong people. When you aren't fully confident yourself in an idea, quite often sharing it too quickly or sharing with the wrong people can cause enormous, insurmountable damage. The reason this is so dangerous, is because when you are just beginning to believe in something new, your subconscious mind is often feeding your conscious mind negative inputs trying to maintain the status quo, so when you get a reflection of those inputs from outside sources, your conscious mind is very susceptible to believing them.
Find A Way To Take The First Step
One of the ways to avoid falling into the trap of hesitation / analysis paralysis or getting stifled by sharing with the wrong person too quickly, is to take the first step. This means commit some time, money, and / or energy to the project to get it moving forward. Make the first step be something that you can both feel good about and is going to generate a feeling of commitment that will force you to stick to it.
But the bottom line, when it comes to turning great ideas into reality, JUST GO FOR IT!!!
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
It's the benefits that people are really buying - not the product.
Thus the struggle for any marketing department (and thus for every small business owner) is figuring out which benefits are to sell your product - and which ones aren't. It's figuring out what makes you, your business and the products you sell stand out and want to be bought.
For example, people don't want to pay for someone to cut and style their hair as much as they want to feel more beautiful. But when they have looked at all their options on "how to look and feel more beautiful", they usually decide that they will go to a professional to have them do it.
Cutting, coloring, or styling hair are the services provided, but looking and feeling beautiful is the benefit.
Likewise, people don't go to the local baseball stadium to watch a baseball game, they can watch one (just about any time of day or night) on TV. They go down to the stadium, because of the benefits of seeing a game live - the roar of the crowd, the excitement and energy of the stadium, and the memories it invokes of when they were young. They aren't paying as much for the game as they are paying for the experience and memories of the event.
The ball game, the hot dogs and peanuts / cracker jacks are the products, but the energy, excitement and the memories are the benefit.
I could go on with just about any product or service out there, but I think you get the point. The key is to look beyond what you sell and figure out the benefits that your clientele were sold on when they hired you or bought your products.
Or even more importantly, the key is to figure out the what benefits your potential clients are looking to fulfill.
But you can't stop there - as most business owners that get this far do. The second half of the equation is understanding what people are willing to exchange - usually money and / or time - for the benefits you are offering.
And this comes down to understanding the value people place on the benefits your product or service are providing / offering.
Safety is a great benefit that many cars offer as their primary benefit, but that's not necessarily the a benefit that a 19 year old boy is willing to spend much money on. Where it is priceless to a 35 year old single Mom of three kids.
So the the real question comes down to, what is the value of the benefits you offer - not in your mind . . . but in the mind of your current and potential customers?
I'm sorry to say, finding this answer is not easy. It takes considerable work. But without it, you are simply throwing darts at a dartboard, blindfolded. And far too many business owners (large and small) make the mistake of thinking they know - when in fact they don't. But if you take away only one thing from this blog, let it be that if you want to know what matters to your clients (why they are buying your product),
In the case of the hair stylist (I mentioned above) people don't just want to look beautiful, once a week or once a month, they want to look that way EVERY DAY - but they know they can't afford it. Many people are willing to do a lot of daily personal hair care (washing it, blowing it dry and even maybe coloring it on occasion), but most value a professional when it comes to get it cut. While others value their beauty so much they are willing to pay for washing and curling by a professional every week.
The truth is, what benefits people are looking for and how much they value those benefits vary greatly. But if you truly want to make someone (or a group / target market) your client, YOU as the marketer / business owner need to learn and take the time to understand these things and use them to grow and enhance both your business and your customer's experience when they to choose you over every other way to satisfy their needs.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
This story is about Blogging itself, why I do it, and why you should too.
What Is A Blog?
For those of you who don't know, but were afraid to ask, BLOG is short for Web Logs. And the truth is, they have nearly as many purposes as there are blogs themselves. People blog for self expression, to make money, and to document who they are and what they've done / currently doing. They blog to stay in touch with friends and family, to save their ideas, to motivate others to take action, to entertain, and to influence others to take action or to influence how they think.
But why others blog isn't nearly as important as why you should blog.
Why Should You Blog?
If you do a search on Google, "Why Blog?", there over 192,000,000 results. So there is very little reason for me to write another blog on blogging, but to be honest with you, that's precisely why I choose to do it.
My answer to this question is simpler than all the rest that I have read - the reason you should Blog is simply because YOU matter.
Many write blogs to gain fame, fortune, power, notariety or for a cause they believe in. And you can do it for any of those reasons if that's what drives you. But many I talk to don't want those things, and therefor think the blogosphere isn't for them.
In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth.
Blog because your life is unique.
Because your experiences on this earth are one of a kind.
Because your stories and ideas are an intricate part of the weave of our society.
And whether or not you recognize it, no one ever again will live the life that you have lived and gained the life perspective that you have gained.
So, if you don't capture the elements of YOU that make you who YOU are, then very likely, your stories will die and fade with the memories of you.
Why I Blog
One of the most influential books in my life was a book by Kent Nerburn, Letters To My Son. It's not a complex book or even a great book, but the idea behind the book has made a lasting impression on me that I find continually drawing me to write my story, my ideas.w
The basis for Nerburn's book was a series of letters that he wrote to his son that in his absense (should that have happened), there would be a collection of letters which explained the knowledge and wisdom he gained through life, but for one reason or another was unable to pass along.
As I sit here and write this blog, and every blog that I have written thus far, I do it for posterity. I do it for those who will follow me and want to know what I felt and what I thought about different the world I lived in. I write it so that my son, my daughter, their children and their children's children will understand where they came from and WHO they came from.
I do it so that my thoughts, dreams and vision for the future are captured for whomever cares to read them - whether it be you, my son, my daughter, and even me, sometime in the future.
I may have a theme that defines my blog, "Helping Others Achieve Their Dreams In Business and Their Lives", but there is no mistaking it, my life is blended into each of the stories I write. My life story is being written out in the words that I include in this blog.
My stories, may be actively read today or may sit dorment for 10 years, 30 years, or maybe even 150 years, but somewhere, someday, someone may find them and simply enjoy them for what they are, the memoirs and rantings of someone who wanted to make a positive difference in this world.
Don't Write It For The Readers - Do It For YOU
This might not make sense to many, but writing for others is one of the biggest reasons that people who start to blog. But also the same reason that most people quit. They write to attract others - to gain money, power, influence or recognition. Unfortunately, though, because of the vastness of the "blogosphere", they discouraged that no one is reading - that no one is finding their stories and they eventually quit.
Don't write for others - even though you might be writing to others. WRITE FOR YOURSELF. Write because of the story you have to tell, not because you are worried about who is reading or listening.
Sure, you may get a great following, and even gain the money, power, influence and recognition you seek, but it's very important to recognize that when it comes to blogging and / or writing, the best, most heart felt words come from those who do it as much for the process as for the result.
How To Get Started
If you are interested in starting a blog, there are many ways to do so, and thousands of experts that are standing by to tell you the BEST way. But don't get overwhelmed. There any many very simple site and / or books that will walk you through the process.
The best book I've found for the basic user is:
Blogging for Dummies
And the best website available to help you walk through the process with no "bias" towards any specific product is:
Good Luck in your adventure. And if you do start a blog. Please come back to here and let me know. I'd love to hear about it, read what you have to say, and maybe even contribute a comment or two to your story.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Do you want a better life or do you just want to dream about a better life?
Which is it?
If you want happiness and peace in your life, then you must choose one . . . or the other. Because in my humble opinion, it is wanting and not doing that causes more stress and unhappiness in peoples lives than anything else.
Choosing Makes a Difference
Happiness comes from living in the moment - regardless of whether or not that moment is born out of purposefulness or purposelessness. But when you live in the past or dwell on what might happen in the future, happiness is illusive - and you tend to struggle - struggle with regret and worry.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that happiness isn't hard work. Of course it is. But I also believe there is nothing harder in life than commitment to happiness. Because happiness is something that you must be create each and every day, by staying present and committed to the moment at hand.
Which Choice is Right For You?
If you make the choice and commit to "having a better life", then stop talking about it and JUST DO IT. Stop regretting the past or worrying about the future. Simply create a plan of action for YOUR BETTER LIFE and take each step as it comes to you - in the moment. Sure there will be hard times - on that you can depend. But if it is your dream life that you are creating, isn't it worth any hardship you might endure along the way?
Of if you find yourself choosing to just "dream about having the life you want" - then stop taking actions that are going to create it for you - simply live it in your dreams. Spend the rest of your time simply accepting the life that you have. And so long as you accept that your dream is just that, a dream, then there can be no regret in the past, or worry about the future. . . simply allowing life to happen as it plays out before you.
So, Which Is It?
So it comes down to this - either defining and creating your vision or simply letting circumstances dictate your destiny. Either way . . . it is up to you!
Make the choice. Live in the moment. And find your happiness.
That is to say that the goals set by leadership are great organizational goals, but the lower ranks of the organization, the employees, struggle understanding how THEIR actions can and will help achieve the goals.
So, along with the setting large "top level" goals that drive the organization in the direction it needs to go, great leaders also break down the big goals into action-able goals for each segment of the organization.
An Example From Naval Aviation
"On the average" there is at least one major accident / incident that either takes a Sailor's life or hurts him severely every time a Carrier Battle Group (the Aircraft Carrier and it's supporting entourage) prepares for and ships out for a 6-Month Deployment.
As such, to be inspirational and to change the "seemingly inevitable outcome", every Commanding Officer, preparing to deploy, sets a goal of NO Major Accidents and ZERO fatalities for the cycle. It is a very worthy goal - one that everybody on the crew can get behind.
Unfortunately, this goal lacks action-ability at the individual level.
The goal is intended to inspire the crew to "be safe" in everything they do. But too often, most sailors get a "salty" attitude after being at sea for a while that makes them think that it's not them that is going to get hurt, but instead SOMEONE else. "Salty Sailors" loose their focus on their own "personal" safety, believing the individuals that are going to get hurt or cause an accident are the "newbies" of the crew.
Although it is likely that the "green" crew members are most likely to be accident prone, on the flight deck of an Aircraft Carrier at sea, it only takes a second of inattention to detail and you could lose your life - flight deck ops are not age discriminate.
Unfortunately, very rarely is this goal of "NO Major Accidents and ZERO Fatalities" met.
As it turns out, in my last Squadron, I had one Skipper who refused to set that goal. In fact as a command (our squadron), we had no organizational-wide safety goals. He didn't like the idea of big goals, because he didn't feel that it was "actionable" by each person. Based on his experience, a command wide safety was TOO BIG, and left the average sailor dis-empowered to take action - putting all the burden on every one else.
Instead, for the deployment, he had every person in the squadron commit to setting a personal goal of coming home safely with no major injuries. He empowered each member of our squadron to achieve their own "personal" goal of a safe return . . . and it worked.
Think about it. By changing the goal from a command-wide goal to individual goals, each sailor felt ownership - could see how they were able to directly contribute to the goal.
Turn Your Larger Goals Into Action-able Plans
The truth is what my old Commanding Officer really did was put "actionability" into the bigger goal. And he did so by putting personal accountability into the process.
Large goals are important - they create eustress that draws your forward. But the when it comes to living each day, "Large Goals" are tough. It's often hard to decide what needs to be done each and every day, when the goals are "too big".
Doubling your sales and / or profits on a business level or wanting to lose 25 pounds within 1 year on a personal level is wonderful. But what does that mean you have to do TODAY.
When it comes living your goals, your "actionability" doesn't go any further than today. It doesn't do any good to worry about what you are going to do next week, next month or even tomorrow. TODAY is all you can affect.
Make sure that your goals are turned into actionable plans, that include small bite sized, manageable tasks that you can focus on and accomplish. And when you build your plan correctly, each small step you take, gets you a step closer to your Large Goal.
Bottom line - Focus your energy on what you CAN do today - the action-able little steps that make the big goals a reality over time.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Here is a short story about what happened and the lesson to be learned.
For a couple months the small town restaurant did VERY well. Any time of the day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it didn't matter. It was busy. People not only came in to try it out, but also because they enjoyed the fact that they had a "new" meeting place, to visit with all of their friends and family.
Bottom line . . . business was good. And it looked like it was going to be good for quite some time.
But, as is often the case with small businesses, especially restaurants, business started to fall off. Slow at first, but eventually quite rapidly. And with little word, the doors closed unceremoniously for the final time under the old management.
Depending on who you ask, you will likely get different answers to that question.
For example, if you ask the owners, they will blame the economy and the "cheap" town folk. from their point of view, it wouldn't matter how good or how cheap the meals were, there just wasn't enough interest in the small town for the restaurant.
But. . . if you ask the patrons, they will tell you a whole other story. A story of inconsistent product and deteriorating quality that seemed to be common knowledge amongst the town folk.
So, what was it? The customers or the business?
Far too often business owners make excuses for the decline of their business: the economy, the new business across town, finicky customers, and / or even cheap customers. And rarely face do they face the real truth - they aren't meeting the needs of their clientele.
The truth is, most customers (people like you and me) love to find a place that we can call our own - a business that we can rely on and that makes us feel like we matter. And if it is really good, we will brag about it to every one we know - not only to help the business grow, but to be the show everyone how great we are to have found it first.
Unfortunately though, in order for us, as customers, to come back, not just once, but again and again, we have to know what we are going to get - we have to feel like we are going to get the same service, the same food, the same EXPERIENCE every time we walk through the doors.
And that my friends, is what this small town restaurant failed to produce - a consistent experience each and every time people came back for a meal.
You see, when they first opened, it was the owners that did everything. They cooked, they waited and bussed the tables, cleaned, and of course managed the entire operation. The experience their patrons had and the meals they enjoyed were born out of the pride of the owners. But very rapidly, the business grew beyond the owners' capacity to support on their own and they were forced to hire help. And so, they did exactly that - they hired good, experienced help.
They hired cooks with previous experience in short order cooking and a wait staff that was fully capable. And they did so, because the one thing the owners didn't know how to do was teach anyone how to do it like them - nor did they want to take the time to learn how.
With the new staff, came a NEW experience for the customer. Not necessarily a bad experience, but DEFINITELY not the one they got when it was just the owners doing everything. And so, slowly but surely a lot of the original, reliable customers stopped coming in.
Although the owners noticed a small drop off in patronage, there were enough new customers that were coming in that seemed to like the food and the service with the hired help that the business was able to survive. And besides, the owners liked feeling like they didn't have to do EVERY THING all the time.
Unfortunately though, as months passed, and the bills continued to exceed the sales, the owners had a make a decision - cut expenses or go out of business. So. . . they decided to cut in two arenas, they reduced (just slightly) the quantity of servings (that seemed only natural since most plates had lots of food left over after the meals) and they cut their experienced staff and hired some high school students with little / no experience (heck if McDonalds could do it, so could they).
Although it might make financial sense to impose these cuts (and often it does create a benefit in the short term), good financial sense doesn't always mean good business sense. And as it turns out, it was the beginning of the end of the restaurant.
In fact, it was only 4 short months later that this decent restaurant in a small town, aching for a nice restaurant, declared bankruptcy.
The Lesson To Be Learned
What it came down to was the fact that the owners failed to realize one VERY important fact when it comes to business:
It's easy to get new customers to walk through your doors - all you have to do is promise them an experience that appeals to them. But running a business isn't getting them to come in once - success in business is based on the ability of the business to deliver the same experience the customer enjoyed, again and again and again.
In the case of this small restaurant, it wasn't that their food or service were bad, it was that every time customers came in the door, they didn't know what they were going to get. Literally, it was like walking into a different restaurant every time they visited.
So with each visit, the customers got more and more disenfranchised and frustrated, until one by one, each decided to stop patronizing.
And in the case of this small restaurant in this little country town, there just wasn't enough potential customers in the pool to keep it afloat.
The lesson is simple . . . quality is great to get people to come once. But consistency is the key to long term success. And the key to consistency in product / service is to build your business based on systems, not people.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Guess what? They all work - and at the same time . . . none of them work.
The truth is, there are thousands of consultants (and yes, even coaches, present company included) who are selling their ideas to be the "be all, end all" of your problem solving needs. And do you know who is making all the money with their ideas? THEY ARE.
As I tell all my clients, there are no magical seeds or perfect solutions for every business. What it takes is a Just Do It attitude more than anything else.
Don't get me wrong - you need the information that these gurus are providing you - they do have some great ideas. But what you need more than the ideas is the commitment and dedication to doing what they say, measure how well it is working for you, and then making a sound business decision (based on the numbers, not feelings) on whether to keep it up (and for how long) or try something else.
Everything takes time. Marketing doesn't happen overnight. Leadership is not a skill you master after going to a class. Customer service requires dedication and commitment to putting the customer first each and every day - it's never ending. Sales usually requires getting nine "NOs" just so you can get to the one "YES". If you quit halfway (or even nine tenths) into the process of any of these things, you will see the process as a failure. When in fact the only failure was that you quit.
So commit and dedicate what it takes to make the change to reach the goals you want. And start today - change occurs the minute you decide to make it. And believe it or not, the decision and commitment to act is more important than what you decide.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Believe it or not, your low level stress (your baseline stress) is having a bigger impact on your life than you may realize. And in the case of my clients, its usually this that is dragging them down.
Stress is your body's response to specific events and situations. It is simply the way the body is built to respond to situations that are challenging you, physically, emotionally, intellectually or spiritually. It is designed to help you overcome struggles in very difficult situations.
However, stress isn't just a response to immediate threats that you face, it can also build and assist you in responding to longer term events, like coping with a divorce, long term financial struggles, getting married, moving, chronic illness, or any other long term changes to your life.
Long-term stressful situations can produce a lasting, low-level stress that's hard on people over time - physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. This can wear you out, leave you feeling tired, unmotivated, distracted, overwhelmed, feeling of hopelessness and despair and even weaken the body's immune system.
Have you ever felt that way?
It's Impacting Your Daily Performance
I'm not a psychologist / physiologist or anything of the sort, but as part of my training in Aviation (and understanding Aviation Safety), I learned quite a bit about having not only day-to-day stressors that can impact performance. I also spent a lot of time learning about long term stressors that can create unsafe situations and how to recognize those stressors in other pilots. In the Navy, we call these stressors, Human Factors - and defined them as issues that could generally impede the peak performance of an aviator.
And as you might surmise, in Naval Aviation, not being at "peak performance" can be extremely dangerous.
Although most people think it's the case, it's NOT usually your daily stress levels that causes you to feel "out of it" . . . we are all pretty good at handling day-to-day stress levels. And our body is designed physiologically pretty darn well to handle short term stress.
Basically, when short term stress occurs, it activates the adrenal glands to produce more of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol and release them into the bloodstream - giving you energy and focus to overcome problems. This is the activation of your "fight or flight" mode.
However one of the secondary effects of elevated adrenaline and cortisol in your bloodstream is that your body also reduces blood flow to the higher levels of your brain stem. In essence you are working with a considerably lower IQ, because there isn't enough blood flowing to give you access to your more advanced thought processes.
When you are feeling out of it, distracted, "unmotivated", just not wanting to do or accomplish anything, many times, what you are feeling is the result of a higher baseline stress level.
It's very Difficult To Lower Your Baseline Stress Level
The truth is, you can lower your day to day stress spikes pretty easily by taking simple steps, but it is very difficult to reduce this long term stress.
What triggers a "tough day" is usually something related to one of your long term stressors that causes that long term stressor to drive it to the forefront of the mind.
The reason this is soooo tough, is because it isn't usually something that "feels" that stressful at the time. . . but that distracted feeling actually comes from two fronts:
- Your increased stress levels decrease blood flow to your higher thought levels of your brain, and
- Your subconscious mind is working overtime trying to solve the cause of the low-level stress, demanding more and more from your already overworked adrenal glands and not giving you all the "support" throughout the day that you are used to.
Impacts Of High Baseline Stress Levels
It may sound weird, but when your low level stress gets above the levels that you are comfortable with, you are actually more likely to get into a car accident, get hurt or screw up on the job, and even miss important events (lose track of time).
The ability to multi-task goes down dramatically - you are more likely going to drop a ball that you are normally very good at juggling. And focus and concentration levels will drop dramatically as well.
Many more obvious symptoms include:
- anxiety or panic attacks
- a feeling of being constantly pressured, hassled, and hurried - never feeling caught up or rested
- mood swings, over-reacting, or even underreacting to situations
- physical symptoms, such as stomach problems, headaches, skin problems or even chest pain - the symptoms vary from person to person
- allergic reactions, such as eczema or asthma
- problems sleeping
- doing anything to excess - from smoking, eating, dieting, drugs, drinking or any other vice that you may have
- sadness or depression
Finally, it's important to note that everyone experiences stress differently. But what is usually quite consistent is how individuals deal with stress, regardless of the cause. That is, if you get irritable from financial stress, then you will most likely get irritable from other low level, long term stressors.
So when and if you find your symptoms to increased levels of long term stress, remember them and watch for them. Be very aware and begin to take actions to "load shed" as the stress builds.
Dealing With Elevated Low-Level Stress
The first key to dealing with long term, low-level stress is recognizing the problem. That is being aware of your stress and YOUR specific symptoms. And then, rather than trying to treat the symptoms, begin to treat the cause - your elevated stress levels.
As an example, my key symptom is a auto-immune disease flair up - my body attacks my skin from the inside. I don't see it right away, as it flares up about a month or so following the onset of the increased stress levels, but when it does, it can be tough.
The problem is that no matter what I try to do to relieve the skin irritations, all I'm doing is relieving the symptoms. I have to attack the problems and look at my long terms stressors - try to balance my life better and live within my abilities.
Why All Of This Matters
The truth is, all of this matters, because it can help you cope with your life, your situation, and your stresses better. It gives you awareness and better understanding of your life situation so that you are more prepared to handle it. And it helps you recognize that what you are feeling is a natural reaction to the life you living. . . and that you have a choice for the future.
Take a moment to look at your life stressors and do your best to honestly assess how you well you are coping.
Is your baseline, low-level stress something you are coping well with?
Or are you constantly feeling the overwhelmed, overworked, fatigued, unfocused, and distracted?
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
In his words, Godin speaks of large market domination, siting examples that dominate the national / world scene. But the points he makes don't just apply to Big Conglomerates, but also to small "Mom and Pop" businesses in what ever market they define to be their market.
- If you are small Hair Salon in a small suburban town, it is possible to dominate YOUR geographic, demographic market.
- If you are small growing coffee shop chain in the Midwest, find out what separates you from your competition and build on it to grow and eventually dominate your market.
- Or if you are a Industrial Thread distribution company, it's possible to develop your systems in such a way that you grow and surpass your competition in such a powerful way that you build a chasm between you and them in your market.
Specifically, Godin offers three ways to separate yourself and build insulation:
- Spend your way to the top (Nike pulled this one off)
- Build an empire quietly, so that by the time any one notices you, they can't catch up (Build-a-Bear is a model for this).
- "Network Effect" (as he calls it), some markets are ready for one intermediary company to show up and be the default winner. (Twitter is an example of this).
Of the three ways to separate yourself from your competition, the one that you have the most control over is the second - build slowly and smartly under the radar (that is unless you are independently wealthy and / or just want to take the risk of being in the right place at the right time). And therefor the one that you should be focused on from a strategic perspective.
Unfortunately, building slowly under the radar requires consistency, discipline and focus - three things I find most small businesses lack.
The good news is that you don't have to be an MBA to pull this off. In fact, if you have formal training, you often tend to do what everyone else is already doing - which never leads to an enormous market advantage. Instead all you need to understand is three key points.
The essence to domination comes down:
- Focus on and grow towards your vision - not just trying to beat the competition
- Innovation and the development of a culture of constant improvement - where you examine your systems and how they work and improving them to better serve your needs and the needs of your customers.
- Long term relationships with all your stakeholders built on mutual benefit: employees, shareholders, customers, suppliers, and local communities.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Here's a test for you . . .
This next month, be diligent about your lawn care and your house cleaning. Mow, trim, water and generally care for your yard regularly (once a week or so). Wash your dishes, do the laundry, dust, wipe the counters, and maintain your home consistently (every day or so).
Then the following month . . . do nothing for the whole month and clean it up on the last day of the month (if you even can).
When you are all done, think about what you just did and ask yourself a couple questions:
- Which one was easier to do?
- Which one felt better - made you happier?
- How did you feel when your family "popped in during the third week of each month"?
- At the end of the month, which yard and home looked better?
Do you really need to do this exercise to know what your answers will be? I don't think so.
Apply This Test To Your Life And Your Business
What if we apply this same idea to ourselves? Or to our relationships? To our customers and our suppliers and our employees?
Do you think putting a little effort in every day, or at least regularly (once or twice a week) would better serve you than ignoring the what matters most to you for months or years at a time?
Again, I know you know the answer. Unfortunately, knowing the answer and doing something about it, are two completely different things.
You can't just say you are going to take better care of yourself every day - physically, emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually. You must do it everyday!
You can't just say you are going to be a better Parent, Spouse, Friend, or Sibling? You have to commit to giving to the relationship regularly!
You can't just tell your customers that they really matter to you "Once in a Blue Moon". You have to show them!
And none of these things are easy.
You forget to eat healthy, work out, or set aside some time to read a good book.
You forget to give your wife a hug, just because you love her.
You forget that your kids are only going to be this age ONCE in their lifetime, until it's already past.
And you forget that if you don't take care of your customers and make them feel wanted in your business, then someone else will.
So, the question is . . . how do you do all of this every day (or at least regularly)?
That is the ultimate question, isn't it?
Believe it or not, it's simpler than you think it is. But simple doesn't equal easy. If it were easy, odds are, you'd already be doing it.
In my opinion, the answer is a SYSTEM - a process that you can regularly count on to keep you on track and not let you get away with not being who you say you want to be.
You need daily accountability that keeps you focused on your priorities when life gets in the way and overwhelms you with other things.
And because most of us can't do this on our own (as we prove daily), you need someone, somewhere, somehow that will call you out (objectively) when you don't do what you say you want to to get done. You need an accountability partner.
An accountability partner can be friend, a family member, a spouse, a mentor, a coach, a clergy, or even someone you barely know. But the key is that you need to be able to hear their inputs and respect them, without taking things personally.
They need to tell you when you aren't doing what you set out to do, but not in a judging way.
They need to help you stay focused and keep you on track . . . especially when you are drifting the most.
They need to be able to give you tools and techniques to get you back on track and encourage you when you need a little support.
But most important, they need to be there . . . even when you don't want them to be. Because at some point in the process of daily accountability, you aren't going to want to hear it any more. You aren't going to like being challenged any more. You are going to want to go back to not taking care of things . . . the way you used to do.
You are going to want to start cleaning house and mowing just once a month again with the relationships and things that matter most to you in your life.
And the only one that is going to keep you from going there is going to be your accountability partner.
So choose wisely.
If you want more information about how to put into place a system that will help you and your accountability partner stay on track, or if you are interested in finding out more about a life or business coach to help you with this effort, please contact me at email@example.com
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Are you at the beginning with your whole life ahead of you?
Are you in the middle, with as many days behind you as you have ahead of you?
Or are you nearing the end with much of you life's story already told?
But more importantly, does it matter? Is the value of your life defined by the time you have already spend on this earth, the quantity of time you have left, or what you make of the time that you are blessed with?
It will probably come as no surprise - I personally feel all that really matters is how you spend your remaining time on this earth - not what you have done before or how much time you have left to do it.
Two, amazingly true stories that most people are familiar with that define this idea of quality of your time remaining are about Randy Pausch and Alexandra Scott.
Randy Pausch, a Computer Science Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, took his final days in his battle against pancreatic cancer to deliver a moving speech, his last lecture as a Professor, that made the world stop and take notice. The speech which he ended up giving a number of times to numerous audiences afterwards, was hit with millions of people around the world and passed on a legacy to his children that will shape their live forever. (click here to watch a reprisal of Randy Pausch's last lecture).
Alexandra "Alex" Scott, a young girl who, just two days before her first birthday, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a pediatric cancer. During the remaining seven years of her life, with the assistance of her brother, Alex raised over $1,000,000 to help other children who are fighting cancer selling lemonade. Today, her passion to make a difference is the inspiration behind, Alex's Lemonade Stand, a non-profit foundation that has raised over $25 Million. Their motto is fighting Childhood Cancer, one cup at a time.
These two stories are inspirations. But YOU don't have to wait to find out that you are going to die, to do the same. Rather than just waking up every morning and living the same day you lived yesterday, "make a difference". Grow and become who you want to be - whomever that is.
Don't wait for someday. Because although the time you have left on this earth doesn't matter to how much of a difference you can make, it is limited, and there is no guarantee for another tomorrow.
If you are interested in reading a great true story or watching a wonderful movie about the making a difference with your life, even if it is from your own bed with Lou Gehrig's Disease, check out "Tuesdays With Morrie: An Old Man, A Young Man, and LIfe's Greatest Lesson". A fantastic story, that is a must read. And an amazing portrayal by Jack Lemmon of Morrie Schwartz in the made for TV movie of the same name.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
I share these words with you because real commitment to a vision is that serious. It could cost you your life. Not the physicality of your life (as it could have for these men). But instead, the essence of your life - what you know it as today.
Living your dream takes risk . . . a risk that very few people are willing to take. You must be willing to do what it takes and be willing to give up who you are today for who you want to become.
These men signed a document with each other to show their commitment to their vision. They were willing to give up everything they had to create what they believed could be possible.
The amazing thing is that when you commit and take action, you can do anything . . . even give birth to a new Nation.
When I work with a new client. The first thing I have them do is to figure out what they want to create . . . and then I ask them if they are willing to commit to it.
I ask them if they are willing to give up their life as it is now (without their dream) so they can have the one that is their dream.
I ask them if they are willing to commit to their Vision.
As you go about your day today . . . think about that. Think about what this day means. It's not just the birthday of our nation. It's the day people committed to what I consider to be the most powerful vision ever conceived by man - the VISION of Independence and Freedom - the VISION of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Below are a few select quotes from our Founding Fathers. Sure, the words are over 200 years old. But don't kid yourself, the meaning is just as strong and powerful today as it was the moment they were uttered.
And to be honest with you, I think we could all benefit from reading the words of our Founding Fathers on occasion.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
Friday, July 3, 2009
If you own your own business, or are thinking about starting your own business, let me ask you a couple questions:
Are you afraid of failing?
Are you afraid of being on your own - not having a boss to report to or someone telling you what to do and when?
Are you afraid you are losing yourself to your business, or that if you start a business, it will consume you?
Are you afraid that you and your ideas for a business don't have what it takes to cut it in today's market?
If you answer NO to all of these questions, then you are either doing phenomenal with your new business, lying to yourself, or just completely insane (ok, maybe just mildly loony).
We're All Afraid Of Something
The reality is that we all feel things feelings at one time or another. It's natural, because no matter how successful you were in your "past life", entrepreneurship is unlike anything you have ever done before.
Where do these fears come from? What are they trying to tell you?
Believe it or not, your fears are valid. They are your subconscious mind looking at what your are trying to do, or are thinking about doing, and screaming to you that there is something missing. It is trying to make sure that you are do all the work necessary to remedy these problems, rather than falling prey to them. It is trying to protect you.
So rather than cowering down in fear from the things that have you worried, instead attack the things you are most afraid of head on and knock down the barriers that your subconscious is putting up for you.
An Example Of How To Overcome Your Fears
Sometimes, it's easy to understand this concept if you can see it / read about how someone else is leveraging the ideas for their own benefit.
For example, I have a client who has owned his own business for over 30 years. But for most of that time he was the only one in the business - leaving him to do all the work, all the sales, all the finances and everything else in between.
Some time ago, my client expanded his business and hired employees to help him out. You have no idea how big of a leap this was for him. But unfortunately, he never stopped doing everything - mostly because he's too afraid to stop.
He's too afraid that if he does stop, he will lose control of the business and eventually lose it all.
That fear manifests itself as obstacles to growth - obstacles that prevent him from moving forward and keeping him working on everything instead of enjoying the fruits of his labor.
So, what should he do about it?
As simple as it sounds, he should and is currently knocking down the obstacles that are generated out of fear and holding him back. He's knocking them down, one by one, until there are no more left. He's using the energy of the fear to remove the elements that generate the fear in the first place.
What he will find is that when all the obstacles are removed and the fears are diminished, his business will actually running without him exactly as if he were doing all the work himself (the thing he is most afraid of). Running not like the small business that he sees himself owning right now, but as a medium-sized business with systems and processes that are independent of him and his labor.
He will have leveraged the fear that has been holding him back and using it to create what he wants instead letting it destroy his dreams.
So, here's the most important questions if you are an entrepreneur or want to be one:
What are you most afraid of?
And . . .
What can you do . . . right now (or in the next couple days / weeks) to whittle away at the obstacles that are generating that fear and preventing you from moving forward?
Thursday, July 2, 2009
The reason he would say this, is because in the heat of the moment, most people tend to react without thinking. They tend to move switches, turn dials, or pull circuit breakers, trying to solve the problem as fast as they can. Sometimes, this is the right action, but most times, it isn't.
Most times we aggravate situations by responding quickly and emotionally and make things even worse than they already were.
That's because the initial reaction to unplanned stimulus is usually emotional - and rarely thought through. It's simply an emotionally driven reaction.
What my instructor all those years taught me is to "keep flying the airplane first." It sounds obvious, but many pilots forget to do exactly this - fly the airplane. Don't move any switches or react to conditions until you have all the inputs and actually can think about it clearly. The act of flying keeps you grounded in what is important and keeps you on track. By consciously focusing on "flying first", I could change my thought process from reactive to proactive - from simply accepting consequences as they play out before me to thinking through the consequences and choosing the ones that I want.
The great thing is that this is a great business and life lesson as well. No matter what the circumstances are, you get to control your response. Whether it is declining sales in the recession, finding out a trusted employee is leaving you, getting an angry complaint from a customer, or your spouse picking a fight with you over something you did or didn't do yesterday, it doesn't matter. You control the situation, because you have control of your response.
By continuing to "fly your plane", you ease your emotions and take the edge off of things. Even if its a "silent count to five" in your head, before you respond, you are more likely going to respond with a clearer mind, and less emotionally.
Bottom line and lesson learned from my experiences flying is:
Don't respond instantly and emotionally, every time a crisis comes up. Take your time to respond, its how you take back control of a situation that often times feels completely out of control.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Every choice we make has intended consequences, but it also has unintended consequences as well. Sometimes those unintended consequences can be good . . . but usually they are not.
You may decide to stop eating lunch to save some calories for our new diet. But by not eating for a couple hours, our body slows down its metabolism and actually ends up causing you to gain weight.
You may send your kids to daycare five days a week so that you can make money and have a big house. But by playing with a lot of kids every day and getting as much attention as they want from daycare provider all week, don't be surprised if your child doesn't have the skills to play independently, when you would like them to. And they end up being ornery and in need of constant attention from YOU.
You may take your ad out of the Yellow Pages to save on monthly expenses. But don't be surprised when your profits go down instead of up, because of a dramatic drop in sales.
You may drive faster to get to work, because we don't want to be late. But don't be surprised when you get pulled over by a Police Officer, get a ticket for $200+ and end up geting to work later than if you had just driven the speed limit in the first place.
The fact is . . . the things you choose to do and not to do have consequences. The more you look at those consequences honestly and objectively, the more likely you will learn from them and reduce the likelihood of getting caught by them a second time.
Going back to the speeding to work example. If all you do is blame the cop for being "a jerk" and giving you the ticket and NOT taking responsibility for your own actions, then you will most likely not learn from it.
You will consider the "unintended consequences" just bad luck . . . and you will hope and pray that things will be different NEXT TIME.
But let me tell you . . . in spite of everything the churches tell you, Hope and Prayer are not methods. They are the absence of method and plan.
People who are successful in life, who create their own destinies, have just as many "unintended consequences from their actions" as you and I do. But the thing that separates success from continued failure is learning from mistakes - learning what the unintended consequences are to your actions (inactions) and taking steps to either correct for them or choosing different actions altogether.
This nice thing about unintended consequences is that we don't have to learn them the hard way on our own. We can learn from others. But that means actually accepting that as unique as our situations are, our problems are quite common.
So let me ask YOU, as a reader, what was an unintended consequence that you came to face that you would like others to learn from?