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Recently I took a self-improvement course and I came across a module that challenged me to the core. It dealt with how we have become reliant on social media and technology at the expense of relationships, productivity and personal, financial and business growth.
Some really thought-provoking points were made. Most memorable was that every time you stop (working, communicating) to check your smartphone it takes 23.5 times the amount you spent getting cognizant again. So when you take a peek at the latest post or tweet you have removed yourself from being present. And we wonder why relationships and business seem to be harder to advance!
I have personally worked in the space of ontology (the study of what makes us human) and another point made in the course is consistent with that and with the book I am currently reading about the secrets of the hugely successful, which is:
Understanding that full well I took the challenge and removed social media from my smartphone. Now I find myself much more productive throughout the day and much more present. I allow myself 30 minutes after my business day is done to quickly check social media on my laptop. And you know what I found? Nobody missed me and I did not miss anything that made a difference in my business and personal life!
Do I recommend you do that as well? Unless your business is directly tied to social media, absolutely! Your choice, your life, your future.
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I am a huge fan of Marcus Lemonis and CNBC's The Profit. It amazes me that while each situation is different, there are four business owner behaviors that stand out as reoccurring. Behaviors that, had they not existed, could have allowed the businesses be successful. Behaviors that I observe far too frequently as I work with clients myself.
1. BE PRESENT. The number of business owners that show up at their business infrequently on the show and in life is staggering. Television and the internet have painted an unrealistic picture of where being a business owner means playing all day and all night while the money just keeps rolling in. Or a business owner sitting on the beach drinking a Corona or margarita while his family or secretary dives off the yacht with dolphins jumping out of the water in the background while checking his bank balance to verify the money is rolling in. In addition to creating employee resentment (the defense I hear is "but it's my business" or some nonsense such as that), a ship needs a captain. A train needs a conductor. a plane needs a pilot. You get my drift. The truth is that the vast majority of successful businesses took years to get there - with the owner(s) spending thousands of hours grinding it out.
2. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS ENTITLEMENT. Certainly not being present is one behavior that speaks of a business owner feeling entitled. Among others are raiding the cash drawer, requiring disciplines or behaviors from others that the owner does not do themselves, talking down to partners, employees, vendors or clients and having the wrong person doing the work over ego.
3. COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE. Somewhere along the way far too many business owners leave their human-ness at home when they show up at the business. Employees, partners and colleagues are first and foremost human beings - who thrive on being informed, being allowed to be heard and to participate. Long gone is fear through intimidation in business.
4. KNOW YOUR NUMBERS. I am amazed at the number of business owners on the show and that I work with myself do not know their margin, cost of sales and their profit. Without that they are truly sailing without a rudder. Given the low cost of financial software such as QuickBooks, there is absolutely no excuse for not staying informed and managing to the numbers.
The thing is, running a business is a serious thing and it takes hard work. And it's easy to get in our own way sometimes.
I often give clients the assignment of watching The Profit and then sharing their take-aways. I've yet to see an episode where they didn't see themselves somewhere in the show and identified an area to work on.
Here's to your finding the keys that unlock the door to your success. Hint ... try the one with "Work" inscribed on it.
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G.E. ... the house that Jack built. I've admired Jack Welch for decades, as have thousands, if not millions. One of the most powerful and successful CEO's of all time, the way he built General Electric during his tenure was awe inspiring.
One of his steadfast principles was his ten percent rule, which was to always be looking to replace the bottom ten percent.
Far be it for me to criticize "The" Jack Welch, but I've always had a problem with that. Sure ... in a context it makes sense, but what about those companies who have put together a group of employees who excel? Surely the intent wasn't to catch someone doing something wrong in order to meet a quota of replacing the bottom ten percent.
So, obviously Jack didn't need my advice as he steered one of the largest and most profitable iconic organizations in the world. But here's where he got it wrong. You see, I don't own a single G.E. product. Not an appliance, electronic device, extension cord nor power outlet. Not even a light bulb. Not that I'm intentionally boycotting anything, I just have not been made to be a raving fan. Apple got me. Starbucks got me. Most recently Flex got me. But while G.E. built an empire and in the process they dismissed talent that could have excelled elsewhere they forgot about me.
Again, I know G.E. isn't staying up at night worrying about me. If anything they're busy stacking up their gazillions of dollars in sturdy silos. And that's okay.
If you'll excuse me, I've got to get a drink out of my Westinghouse fridge.
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Life's lessons are all around ... if you look for them. One such lesson came from watching The Muppet Show in 1977. Yes, 1977. And it stuck with me for all those years.
In that particular episode, Kermit's nephew Robin is sitting on the middle of a staircase where he sings ..." I'm not at the bottom. I'm not at the top. So this is the stair where I always stop." For some reason in my teenage brain I saw a parallel to life there. People stopping halfway through or to anything and taking a seat.
Throughout my career at one of the world's largest companies I observed the same thing. Some stopped halfway up because they wanted to stay close to ground-floor safety. Some got tired as they were out of shape financially, emotionally or otherwise. Some saw the rest of the journey as too daunting and decided to stop. Some were afraid of what was there when they got to the top.
I've seen variations in that in my own companies and in consulting with others.
Perhaps all they need is a little encouragement. Or someone to take them by the hand and lead them the rest of the way.
Race you to the top!
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You really can't jump any higher with Air Jordans than with any other brand. Things don't always go better with Coke. The most interesting man in the world does not always drink Dos Equis beer (in fact, the original now pitches tequila after been put out to pasture for a younger actor).
And here's the problem. We don't take it seriously for the most part. We've come to expect stretching of the truth in marketing to the point we often dismiss what we hear without really weighing whether it's true or not. So while you and I would love for our potential client to authentically listen to how we can help them solve xyz problem, what they often hear is "blah, blah, blah ... bigger, better, faster ..." and then they yawn.
So how do you get through all the noise and false advertising coming at them in hyper-speed in order to have a shot at being of service?
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I'm an avid reader. In addition to reading at least two books per month I subscribe to 17 magazines, where I pick up a lot of ideas. Recently I read a great article in The Magnolia Journal (Joanna and Chip Gaines from HDTV fame).
Quoting Gena, host of Magnolia Market: "Some people do large, important things. Other people do the small, essential tasks that make the important thing possible ..."
As the owner of several businesses (past and present), former CEO of a public speaking coaching organization, public speaker and executive I have long ago learned that few successful people do it alone. The videographer that makes the "celebrity" look good. The stage hands and event staff that ensure the speech or event go smoothly. The person in the parking lot that ensures traffic flows so that the event goers can get quickly to their destination. The volunteers who stuff the materials. And so on.
There is really no such thing as a small job. Every job is important and critical to the whole. One only becomes more important than the other because someone spoke that into existence and others listened to it. It is when we realize that it is with the help of others that we are in a free space to give the speech, write the book or run the company that we truly win.
My challenge to you is to find someone doing a "small job" and to offer them a thank you or an acknowledgement. Watch them light up.
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In both of my consulting companies we use the phrase "Sometimes all you need is a second set of eyes." The point is that a fresh viewpoint often uncovers the very thing that holds a company back. The old adage "can't see the forest for the trees" is never truer than it is in business.
Too often things are done "because we've always done it that way." And, while that way may have worked at some point, the truth is that in order to grow a business it must be relevant. To be relevant means being open to the changes that the market demands.
I challenge you to step back and see things from the vantage point of the consumer. If you can't do that objectively, hire someone to do it for you. Consider it the best education you can buy. At the end of the day, you may see things through a second set of eyes ... from a new perspective.
One fun way to see how perspective changes what might otherwise be considered routine is to listen to Somewhere Over the Rainbow from three sets of eyes ... by Judy Garland, from IZ and from Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. Same song. Same lyrics. Very different set of eyes. Enjoy!
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I recently read an article in one of my favorite magazines, Entrepreneur, that talked about one of my pet peeves ... the use of jargon. Somewhere along the way we have lost the art of communicating to individuals as just that. Individuals. Jargons may help clarify and even communicate within a company or culture, but outside of that it lands as gibberish.
Terms like actionable, commoditize, deliverables, ideate and top-line metrics were listed among their objectionable list. Terms I often hear in my consulting work. Terms that I often wonder if the user actually knows what they mean. And I've often found their customers, vendors and even clients often don't. But in a culture where no one wants to look bad, they just nod along.
Collateral is one such word. I grew up in he financial services world. Collateral meant what someone pledged as security against a loan. You know, securitization! Oh, yeah ... another word that was twisted to mean a grouping of mortgage loans to be sold to the secondary market. But in the marketing world, collateral refers to the pamphlets, flyers, cards and such that used to be called advertising pieces or promotional materials. Same word, two very different uses and definitions.
I broke myself of using jargon years ago when this happened to me: As I said, I grew up in the financial services industry. The term solicit, or SOL for short, was used to signify a green light to sell someone a product or service that had proven themselves eligible. So one day (probably more than a day, but I don't recall the time frame) I went through all 800+ accounts (ledger cards) and for everyone that was eligible for more money I wrote a big fluorescent green "SOL" across their card. At the bottom, in small red letters I identified how much money they were eligible for on top of the loan amount they already owed. The staff was trained with the expectation that every time they talked to the customer, they solicited them for the amount at the bottpom when they saw a green "SOL" and documented their conversation on the back of the card (pre-computers).
Job done. Worked great. So proud. Until one day one of my best customers came in and, during the friendly chatter that occurred when customers came in to bay their bill, he suddenly became incensed. After raising his voice to the clerk he asked for me and when I came over to find out what was wrong and to see how I could help, he pointed to the big green "SOL" and exclaimed "I thought I was a good customer! Why do you have a big note on my account that says "Sh&% Outta Luck!?"
My use of jargon ended then and there and from then on I've made an effort to talk to my customers, clients, employees, colleagues, vendors and prospects as individuals.
My challenge is that you look within your organization to see where you can clean up your communication and just tell your story ... one individual to another.