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Archive for month: February, 2013

Simple and Easy Strategy for Growth

Are you seeking to create a strategy for growth of your business?

Are you a new business owner or looking to take your current business to the next level?

strategy for business growthRunning a successful business takes dedication, passion, and lots of hard work. However, sometimes it takes the simple things that really move a business in the right direction. Even one of the most successful businessman in the world today, Sir Richard Branson, describes his “Five Top Tips to Starting a Successful Business“. His tips are simple and easy, but so often forgotten in our high tech world. Whether you are beginning your business venture or you are feeling stuck in your current one, his tips will take you back to the roots–a place you may not have visited for quite some time. Enjoy!

Simple Tips to Developing Your Strategy for Growth

1. Stop talking and listen. For anyone who has followed my posts for awhile, you know that I often talk about listening and how important it is for leaders. To make it as simple as possible, Mr. Branson simply states, “Listen more than you talk”. This is a great way to keep your talking in check and pay attention to what is happening around you. Pay attention, no matter where you are–you never know what you may hear!

2. Simplicity is key. Running a business does not mean you need to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes it is the simple solutions that bring about the largest amount of change. If there is someone that is doing it right, learn from them. This doesn’t mean you need to throw away your innovation, just keep it simple.

3. Pride is a good thing. Being proud of yourself, your accomplishments, and your business is not a bad thing or make you self centered. Showing pride in what you do allows others to do the same. The most successful people are proud of their hard work and achievements. This includes your team–help them to feel pride in their work and your company.

4. Don’t forget about fun. You are building a business to create the lifestyle you envision. Have fun! If you are struggling and not having fun along the way, you may be doing it wrong. Create a business that you are excited to wake up to everyday. Be sure your business environment is fun for your employees and team members as well. Remember laughter is the best medicine.

5. Failures go with the territory. All business owners have unsuccessful ventures–this is part of the process. However, it is the lessons you learn from these failures that create successes. The truth is that you will face setbacks, but don’t let them dictate your future. Discover what happened or what went wrong, and get back on the horse. You have the power to learn, analyze, and start again.

Going back to basics is often the easiest way to create your strategy for growth. When you stumble or you need a little inspiration, pull out this list and notice what is missing from your plan.

Do you need to re-evaluate and re-design your current plan? Share your comments below so others may learn from you.

Backing Off Easy

One of our recent LeaderSnips addressed the need to “keep running to the Finish line”. If you missed that one, you can get it here. This LeaderSnip speaks to knowing when to know that you need to pace yourself in your run.

In the same conversation with my marathoner friend, I posed a minor challenge to his answer about not stopping. “I’ve seen you run. You may not actually stop, but you do slow down pretty often. It seems to me that you slow down at designated times or places. Aren’t those times or places, in effect, your stopping points?” He explained that they were not stops, they were as they appeared to be—they were “slow-downs.”

He said, “This is about pacing.”

“I’m determining when to alter my pace by paying attention to my body. I have to know and accept the signals that tell me I have to change the speed and effort. I have to recognize when it’s time to slow down and let my body restore itself a little. I have to back off easy. You know, Jeanne—a person can’t sprint for 26 miles!”

Well, no, I don’t know that—at least not from personal experience. I don’t think I’ve ever sprinted for 26 feet. But this explanation made good sense to me, and I realized that I had heard the second Life Lesson.

That Lesson is: “Listen to your body, your mind, and maybe to others who are supporting you.”

“Know when you need to slow down and restore your inspiration and motivation so that you can continue effectively and successfully. Look for the signs that say it’s time for you to pace yourself.”

Pacing is not easy for hard-chargers. You may often find yourself stuck in one speed—full out, going hard as fast as you can. You may not even recognize that it’s time to reset the throttle and back off a little until it’s too late. “Too late” means when you have burned yourself out on the task. When you have run too hard for too long without re-fueling, you might not have any gas left to keep going. The undesirable result is that you will not be able to make it to the Finish Line. You will not stand in the Winner’s Circle.

From Be the Horse or the Jockey by Jeanne Gulbranson, BBD strategist, leadership expert and award-winning author. You can purchase Horse or Jockey and Jeanne’s other books on Amazon.com

Living Your Best Life Starts With Loving YOU

So did you show yourself some love on Valentine’s Day?

living your best lifeTo many of you this may sound a little silly. I mean with the whole commercialism of Valentine’s Day, who thinks of showing themselves some love? For goodness sakes, I thought it was all about chocolates, cards, and roses. Does this mean there is more?

Of course we do know that HAS to be more,  but it raises a question. When is the last time you showed yourself some love?

Whether you are a business owner, a stay-at-home mom or a corporate executive, it is easy to forget about taking care of yourself. In fact, often you are the last person to feel the love. However, without it, you can quickly become exhausted and burned out.

15 Simple and Easy Ways to Show Yourself Some Love

  1. Schedule a relaxing vacation, even if it’s just a day-away from the usual
  2. Spend time outside your house and office doing your favorite activity
  3. Read a book that doesn’t involve business or self-help—preferably one that makes you laugh
  4. Watch your favorite movie and eat popcorn, and Milk Duds
  5. Take a day off  to do nothing except stroll in the park or have great coffee at your favorite spot
  6. Plan a day at the spa
  7. Go to your favorite restaurant
  8. Exercise for the enjoyment of it
  9. Buy yourself your favorite flower
  10. Hire someone to clean your house
  11. Sleep in for as long as you want
  12. Go dancing
  13. Take a long bath
  14. Toast yourself with champagne
  15. Write a thank-you note to you, listing all the things you do for you & why you deserve them

Showing yourself some care and love doesn’t need to be difficult or elaborate. However, it needs to happen and not just on February 14th.

Sharing love with others and living the best life possible, starts with your loving you!

How are you going to show yourself that you care? Make the commitment now.

Are you stuck in an overworking trap?

Are you stuck in an overworking trap?

10803069_sIt happens all the time: executives, professionals, and business owners stuck in the trap of overworking.

Maybe it’s because of our (mostly unproven) belief we have that the more we work the more successful we will become? Maybe it’s because (we think) our competition is working 10 hour days, so we need to keep up?

Whatever the reason, more and more executives and leaders are struggling with working long hours, which often leads to being overwhelmed and exhausted. And, who needs that?
If this sounds like you, you may feel like you are hanging on by a thread trying to keep up with work, family, and other pressing demands. You may even feel as though nothing is receiving your true attention.

The good news is, you can make the change and get out of the overworking trap. It’s your choice and it’s under your control! With some well-focused, sincere intentions and goals in place, you can take back the control. It starts with you setting your boundaries.

Three Steps to Setting Up Boundaries that Work

1. Decide when you will not be working. As a professional, it is almost impossible to work a traditional 9 to 5 day. However, you can decide the days and times that you absolutely will not be working. Whether you decide that after 8 you don’t work or that Sunday’s are a day-off, make the commitment to yourself and to stick with it.

2. Build a support system. There is no way that you can do everything. Whether it is at home or at the office, you need help. And, that’s okay. The key to finding help is building a support system and team you can rely on when needed. Learn to delegate tasks to this team and to give up the control for the small things so that you can focus on what’s really important.

3. Create time for self-care. A struggle for many business owners and executives is finding the time for self-care. Be sure to build this time into your daily schedule. Make time in your busy day for rest, relaxation and exercise. You need down time for your health and well being. Even if it’s just a five minute, step-away-from-your-desk—it’s YOUR time to take care of yourself.

Keep in mind as you are taking these steps that they are non-negotiable. When you put you time in your schedule, it must stay there. When you decide on non-working hours, keep them non-working. When you delegate a task, really hand it over to someone else. (The first few times are the hardest, but after that—you may decide that you really like that!)

Each step allows you to break free from the overworking trap and become more focused in your life and your work.

Is Common Courtesy Lost for Good?

Has a world that is driven by technology caused us to forget what it means to be courteous or respectful?

writingThere is no denying that we are living in a fast moving world.  We can have pretty much anything we want at our fingertips in an instant. Through the expansion and development of technology, we have grown by leaps and bounds. The unimaginable has become our reality. However, I’m curious if the simple act of treating others as you would want to be treated has been left behind.

What we have gained in defying the odds, we may have lost in simple human connection.

When is the last time you wrote a  thank you note? Not an email or a message on social media, but an actual note that you sent in the–wait for it–<gasp>MAIL?  Or, how about a phone call to say thank you or to just see how the other person is doing?

These approaches may be  uncommon in today’s society, or if they do exist, they only occur rarely. Let’s make it even simpler. What about responding to an email, especially when someone’s offered a perspective or shared a resource with you? Or, how about sending a personal message directly to a person instead of broadcasting to the world on social media? Do we do that promptly, with authentic, from-the-heart regard for the other person?

I’ve done my best to keep the idea of simple, straightforward person-to-person connection on the forefront of my communications.

Does this sound like you? A colleague or connection sends you an email. This email can be a recommended resource for you or even a quick hello. As you read it, you think, “I will respond to that later. I’m just too busy right now”. Of course you know what happens then, right? You receive a hundred more emails that day and the one you were planning on responding to gets lost in the shuffle. Then when you stumble upon it a week or so later it feels a little awkward to respond. Instead, you just ignore it.

Sound familiar?

What I’m really interested in learning, is if this is what actually occurs? Is the email really lost, or is something else going on?

It is so easy today to sit behind a computer and feel as though we are having personal conversations.  We are chatting away on social media and sending emails back and forth all day long, so why wouldn’t it be personal? Except it is not. Don’t get me wrong, these methods are fantastic, yet they seem to have replaced real forms of communication.

Even more, I’m wondering if the real reason for the loss of common courtesy is an increase in paranoia.

Let me explain: We are on complete Internet overload, especially when it comes to sales and marketing methods. Maybe we don’t even realize that they are there, but open up a Twitter feed or even your email inbox and notice the amount of marketing that is taking place.

This increase in marketing may have left each of us paranoid and wondering, “Why do they want to talk to me? I bet they want to sell me something.”  So we might hesitate to respond to emails or to make social media too personal. We could be building walls between ourselves and don’t even know it.

What if we reintroduced the simple act of common courtesy? What if we broke down the walls of paranoia and really trusted in the gift of genuine connection?

Hmmm, not sure, but I’m thinking that we would all feel a heck of a lot better and more connected.

What are your thoughts? Do you think the act of common courtesy is lost in today’s world? Share your thoughts, I’d really love to hear them. And, I will respond. Person-to-person.

Listen to Your Heart—Lead with Your Head

Do not lead with your heart. Make sure your head is in charge of your passion.

heartA much-loved, but sometimes not entirely on-target, family member once told me, ―The rule is to find your passion and then build your business around that. What? Unless your passion also includes making the mortgage payment and keeping groceries on the table, passion should not be the determining factor for your business. It is not the Rule.

I have a wonderfully intelligent aunt who advised me that―enjoying what you do is great. Recognition is personally satisfying. But neither of those pays for the rigatoni. Since she shared that wisdom with me, that tenet has been my qualifying question: Will this pay for the rigatoni? That‘s what this LeaderSnip addresses—making sure that your passion pays for the rigatoni.

Caring intensely and passionately and being excited and energized because you are engaged in what you love are all good things. The highest order of success may be when passion and profitability come together. However, before you trip merrily down a pure heart path and find yourself pulled into a bramble-filled forest, let‘s explore some considerations.

Please know before we go into this likely uncomfortable questioning that not one of the questions— not even a combination—should be considered a show-stopper for you. The most critical activity for you right now is to carefully and logically consider all these implications to make the most well-informed decisions you can about your future business and life.

Dissecting Your Passion

How will you make money by following your heart?

I’m sorry to be so materialistic, but this is real business we’re talking here. For example, if your passion is helping people to achieve their highest potential in business, what will you provide for them? Would your package be workshops, seminars, classes, face-to-face consulting? If so, are the people you want to provide service for in your immediate or able-to-reach-without-killing-yourself geographical area? Can you get to them, or they to you, without wasting excessive time that doesn’t bring in revenue? Maybe you’ll offer books, DVD’s, videos, or webinars to get past the in-person logistics? Do you have the skill, experience, and money to produce those, or do you have a partner who can? Do you have sufficient credibility in your chosen market space to make people want to buy from you?

How does ―helping people to achieve their highest potential translate into saleable goods or services?

Think in tangible terms. Consider the outcomes for your customers from your business, but immediately consider what real things will get them to the desired results. Get specific as early as possible without locking yourself into hard-and-fast conclusions. (Remember, this is the start of your critical analysis. You will be revisiting these questions.)

How many others share your passion?

How large is the pool of future customers who share your interests enough to want to pay actual money to buy…whatever, or contract with you for…something? How big is your niche? Many years ago, a budding entrepreneur asked me for help in starting a swimming pool installation business because he was very passionate about swimming pools. He knew a lot about building pools, had an unusually large cash reserve from an inheritance, and had already identified qualified potential employees to work in the business. The significant challenge was that he lived in northern Minnesota, in a small town surrounded by other small towns, populated by people without much disposable income. He believed that his market was ―wide open because there were almost no in-ground pools in his area. (He willed himself to overlook winter for eight months a year and frozen ground six feet deep.) My support consisted of trying to talk him out of the venture, yet I was unsuccessful. He wanted to follow his passion. He put in one pool at cost as a ―calling card and sold one other pool job. There just weren’t enough people in his geographic space that shared the passion, or enjoyed the climate, for what he wanted to offer. (Mini-lesson: make sure your passion fits where you are, or move. Please do not try to offer scuba-diving training or snow skiing in southeast Missouri. I’ve heard those ideas also. They were tried, but didn’t work out.)

Another ―too small niche challenge may be related to the product or services that you identify in support of your passion.

For example, you may be passionate about dogs. You don’t intend to breed dogs, or groom or board them, or provide pet supplies. You’ve done your research and identified an ―open spot in the canine field: determining a dog’s breed and lineage by DNA testing. You are not geographically constrained because your customers can mail in the required materials in containers, which you will supply, and you will email or mail the results. Nice and easy. Here’s the question. Are there enough people who are so passionate about finding out what kind of mixed breed pet they have that they are willing to pay up to $100 for the answer? Maybe so. How many tests per year will you have to sell to recover your start-up and test kit costs? Are there enough people to support those required sales or is the market already very filled with options?  This may be a viable extension of your passion, but you still need to research, analyze, and react to the consideration of, ―Are there enough people who share your passion in the way you intend to sell it?

Are there so many people in your “passion space” that the market may be flooded with buying options?

For example, you want to provide leadership training to companies and individuals through workshops, webinars, and printed or electronic products. A Google search on leadership training identifies 137,000,000 sites. I’m not sure how big an ark would need to be to weather that flood, but certainly it would be multi-storied and seriously well equipped!

But still…you could enter and penetrate the market and be successful in your venture. You could follow your passion. You would need to be very precise and cold-heartedly objective about your place in the market. This includes differentiation, reputation, marketability, and pricing, at the least. The need to brand yourself visibly and with laser focus on the buyer’s needs in a super-flooded market is long term, complex, and sometimes expensive in marketing and networking requirements. However, it can still be done successfully as long as your head is in complete control of your heart.

Sometimes the market flooding is localized and you have to decide whether you’ll stay in the flood zone or find drier ground, or even another passion.

You may be passionate about providing massage therapy and/or full spa services. However, you live in Las Vegas. There are more spas than casinos in Las Vegas, and if you linked massage therapists arm-in-arm, they would likely stretch up and down the Strip 5,000 times. Add the inordinately expensive licensing requirement to get into that business in Vegas to the cost of training and establishing and equipping a location, to the cost of massive quantities of marketing materials and effort to stand out from the crowd, and you may need to charge $10.00 a massage-minute to be successful. That difficult-to-attain requirement may smother your passion to nothing more than a gasping, faded memory.

Is your passion larger than you can or should include in your business?

Do you want to be the next low-cost, accessible-to-everyone, jack-rabbit-fast mobile communications provider? How about inventing the better-than-an-iPad technology tool? Maybe you‘d like to start a large ship-building company? How about opening up a chain of restaurants that feature Asian fusion cuisine? All these options could be attainable with the right amount of capital investment, the right people, and the right knowledge and ability. (Throw some good timing and a little luck into some of those, actually. But still…they could happen.) If you have the funding, the people, and the ability, then you may want to move forward. If not, you’d be well advised to find a passion that is closer in size and scope to what you’re prepared to risk.

Risk. A truth is that all businesses carry risk.

Risk comes in many categories and money is certainly the most visible and immediate. The monetary spread is huge and very dependent on the size of the venture. (I’ve personally risked from $3.00 on my first business to buy treats for my customers, up to $300k in an initial funding round for trucks, starting inventory, and first employees for my construction company.) Although it‘s not true for every venture, the size of the risk often aligns to the size of the potential reward, and the predictability of potential failure.

I have a special understanding of risk and reward because I have lived in Vegas for 16 years. You learn quickly here that you must gamble a lot to win a lot in most cases. The problem is in Vegas, you will probably lose your investment eventually. That’s how they built those incredible casinos. In business, making the big gamble does not mean that eventually you will lose it. Carefully, objectively analyzing the head versus heart priority in the beginning will serve you very well in avoiding a risk that is too great for the potential or likelihood of the reward.

In some situations, for some people, passion doesn’t make good business sense.

The passion belongs somewhere else, in a different place or time. Years ago, I worked with the Chief Financial Officer for a large seafood company. After some time of working with him to provide strategy and direction for several of his company’s major initiatives, he shared that his great passion was literacy. The CFO never believed that he could adequately support his family by working in literacy programs or by teaching school, but he was unwilling to ignore what his heart called him to do. Twice a month, he drove to a local penitentiary to teach illiterate prisoners. He was quick and proud to tell me the number of people who could read because of his work. Once a year, he would use two weeks of his vacation time to work in a literacy camp for disadvantaged teenagers. He said that all the day-to-day problems and the tedium of corporate life became more tolerable because of his work in teaching others to read.

I’m sharing another personal perspective that might be helpful to you in approaching, dissecting, and evaluating the head versus heart conundrum. As you know, entrepreneurship is one of my great passions. Since my first business venture when I was nine years old, I’ve always had several businesses in operation simultaneously. You’d think that should satisfy me, but it has not. So, in addition to my own businesses, I have chosen to partner with another strong entrepreneur and offer SmartStart, which supports new or established entrepreneurs in starting or expanding their businesses. I’m most comfortable (and my passion is somewhat sated) if I’m working with at least six different entrepreneurs simultaneously.

In the mix of six, there are always a few that are ―emotional selections, and they pay very little for my help. (I can’t in good conscience charge my normal rate because I don’t believe they will recover my fees adequately with their business plans.) They are the lost souls of the business world. They want it so passionately, and somehow I’ve gotten so (too) attached to them, that I will try to support them, although I believe that their success will be elusive or minimal.  When I engage with one of these clients, I‘m careful to set realistic expectations with them. I say right up front, ―We’ll try together, but it doesn’t look great. I repeat that often.

I know where they’re coming from. I’ve been there myself.

When I started in earnest to build my own building businesses, I really wanted to succeed. I really believed I could. I just needed someone to take a chance on me—someone to help me. Because of those experiences, I have a hard time saying no today. But when I say yes, and engage in what appears to be a somewhat futile effort, it has to be a well-considered, conscious decision on my part. I have to carefully take into consideration the amount of time the lost soul will require versus the time I need to reserve for my higher potential clients. This means that sometimes I need to be cold-hearted and tell some bright, enthusiastic, passionate, wanna-be entrepreneur that I cannot help. I really don’t like their disappointment. But I have to make those choices. I must also lead with my head.

Among my passions is a brilliantly-colored, fully-blinged-out desire to make the mortgage payment and put groceries, including much rigatoni, on the table. That’s my wish for you. Find your passion, lead with your head, determine if your passion fits your business or if it belongs in your ―extra time every day after your work is done.

Don‘t give up your passion. Work with it, enjoy it, and put it where it belongs.

Newsflash: You Are Not a Superhero!

I really don’t want to be the one to burst your bubble, but someone has got to let you know: You are not a superhero!

you are not a superhero

 

There, I said it. Now we can both breathe.

In all seriousness, you really don’t need to do it all! You don’t need to be everything to everyone in your life and in your business. This mentality will quickly send you spiraling out of control to a place of frustration, resentment, and mediocrity.

Regardless of whether or not you are a Type A personality that likes to have control over everything, or you just don’t like to say, “no”, finding a way to focus on what makes you shine and letting go of the rest will improve your quality of life and the quality of your work.

5 Simple Tips on Saying “No”

1. Practice saying the word, “no”. Seriously, you don’t really need to practice it, but realize it is okay to actually say it! The world will not end or stop rotating because you said no. You are always at choice–it is in your control.

2. Look at your priorities. Before taking on a new challenge or project, be sure you do a check-in with your current priorities. What do you want to happen over the next 90 days? Is this new project in alignment with your long-term goals?

3. Notice your reaction. If you are presented with a new project or option, and if your response is not a ‘Heck Yes’ response, then table the option for the future. It is okay to say that ‘right now’ is not the ‘right time’.

4. No need for long explanations.  There is no reason to give a long explanation on why you are saying no. You don’t need to provide a detailed response. Sometimes when you try to over explain, it actually makes you look less confident. Stand strong in your NO – period.

5. Provide alternatives. If you really struggle with saying no, it is okay to provide alternatives instead. For example, if someone is interested in working on a project or joint venture with you and it is not an option for you, provide other leads or suggestions as a courtesy.

The funny thing is, the more you are able to say ‘no’ the more you look like the superhero! You are able to stand out and shine in what you are great at doing. You are in total alignment with your work and your strengths. Really! Don’t believe me? Give it a try.

Go ahead, what are you going to say no to this week? Share with us below.

Newsflash: You Are Not a Superhero!

I really don’t want to be the one to burst your bubble, but someone has got to let you know: You are not a superhero!

super businessmanThere, I said it. Now we can both breathe.

In all seriousness, you really don’t need to do it all! You don’t need to be everything to everyone in your life and in your business. This mentality will quickly send you spiraling out of control to a place of frustration, resentment, and mediocrity.

Regardless of whether or not you are a Type A personality that likes to have control over everything, or you just don’t like to say, “no”, finding a way to focus on what makes you shine and letting go of the rest will improve your quality of life and the quality of your work.

5 Simple Tips on Saying “No”

1. Practice saying the word, “no”. Seriously, you don’t really need to practice it, but realize it is okay to actually say it! The world will not end or stop rotating because you said no. You are always at choice–it is in your control.

2. Look at your priorities. Before taking on a new challenge or project, be sure you do a check-in with your current priorities. What do you want to happen over the next 90 days? Is this new project in alignment with your long-term goals?

3. Notice your reaction. If you are presented with a new project or option, and if your response is not a ‘Heck Yes’ response, then table the option for the future. It is okay to say that ‘right now’ is not the ‘right time’.

4. No need for long explanations.  There is no reason to give a long explanation on why you are saying no. You don’t need to provide a detailed response. Sometimes when you try to over explain, it actually makes you look less confident. Stand strong in your NO – period.

5. Provide alternatives. If you really struggle with saying no, it is okay to provide alternatives instead. For example, if someone is interested in working on a project or joint venture with you and it is not an option for you, provide other leads or suggestions as a courtesy.

The funny thing is, the more you are able to say ‘no’ the more you look like the superhero! You are able to stand out and shine in what you are great at doing. You are in total alignment with your work and your strengths. Really! Don’t believe me? Give it a try.

Go ahead, what are you going to say no to this week? Share with us below.