Sunday, February 23, 2014

CHALLENGE DRIVES EXCELLENCE

HOW DO GOOD BUSINESS OWNERS GET BETTER? They consistently challenge themselves and they go for it with all their might. That’s might sound trite but yes it’s true.

Big True Fact: Excellence is a choice. That’s right. People who do things excellently chose to do those things excellently. In our Master-Mind Alliance® meetings we see it all the time.

Someone will be presenting an issue that they’re struggling with, something that’s got them stumped, perplexed and confused. And from someone sitting across the room will come a suggestion that goes something like this.

“We’ll gee, have you ever thought about doing (such and such)? That might make your problem go away in an instant.”

Often times the member in question has not thought off whatever that “such and such” happened to be. If they had thought of it, they might have tired it. But once they hear this sometimes initially “off the wall” sounding suggestion and listen to others comment of its potential too, they either immediately or gradually come to see the value of that input. Then they embrace it and turn it into new strategy.

They say, “Hum, that never occurred to me. Think I will try that. It’ll be challenging but if it works, it works.”

To get better we must challenge ourselves to get better, to put better behavior into the game of enterprise. Those who put themselves into position to get the INPUT they need when they are unsure about how to proceed, and who then have the courage to apply what they hear about, these are the winners year after year. These are the folks who challenge convention who are never content to let the status quo be the status quo always and forever.

We know how to make the operation of any viable small business more successful. You just have to do enough of the things that are known to work. Those things are not a secret. We talk about them and share experiences using them at each and every Master-Mind Alliance® meeting. 
THOUGHTFUL, THOROUGH AND FLEXIBLE 
THAT'S GOOD PLANNING

Butch Cassidy, the outlaw bank robber from the old American West, and General Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in World War II – what could these two very different people have in common? Simple, they were both meticulous planners.

Cassidy and his gang robbed banks, lots of banks for years and years and always managed to get away clean. How did this do that? Great planning.

A few days in advance of the day planned for the robbery, Cassidy staged horses along his getaway route so his mounts would always be fresh. Many times of course law men and impromptu posies of armed men chased after Cassidy and the gang. But after a few miles of chasing at full gallop, their horses were exhausted and they had to stop and rest or turn back because the trail had gone cold.

It was the advance thinking and masterful pre-word that made it possible for Cassidy and the gang, on their fresh mounts, to elude capture time and time again. That took meticulous planning. By the way, Cassidy never shot anyone during the commission of his crimes either, meticulous planning again. 

Most people who robbed banks in the old west did so after a night of heavy drinking. It was a spur of the moment thing with no planning at all. Of course, being drunk while robbing a bank is not a recipe for success. Those unthinking bank robbers gave no thought to their getaway so most were quickly caught.

General Eisenhower once said, “Victory long term is about planning, constant planning and forever shifting planning.” And this, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Hey, that’s right. How many times in the operation of your business have you had a well thought out plan only to need to quickly abandon it because of changes you could not have foreseen. This happens right? Sure.

So like Butch Cassidy and General Eisenhower, plan, plan, plan, set goals, contrive strategy and implement it at all costs and with all your might. Just be aware that sometimes you will need to adjust and revise and start over in the midst of the action.

What if Cassidy’s carefully staged horses had gotten loose and run off? What would Butch and the boys have done then? We know all kinds of things go wrong in battle, and that solders always have a contingencies and plan B.

What’s the lesson? Simple: We need to be thoughtful, thorough and flexible in all our planning activities as we drive our enterprise and our lives toward the future. Life and business success requires that we do. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

THE LONELIEST TREK

RUNNING A SMALL BUSINESS CAN BE A LONELY TREK. 
BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY.

One of the biggest challenges of being a business owner, running your own show, flying solo, is the sense of isolation you immediately begin to experience. The transition from working in an environment where you can regularly bounce ideas off colleagues, talk about problems you’re having, and usually find some encouragement—to working alone, with no one to confide in or receive support from, can be an overwhelming culture shock. When you are the decision maker, whether you have a brand venture or seasoned enterprise, who do you talk to about important issues? WHO DO YOU TALK TO ABOUT ISSUES? WHO ENCOURAGES YOU? 

Just how lonely it is going to be? Many business owners describe this as feeling totally alone or as “me against the world”. The toll is often health-damaging stress, strained personal relationships, lack of focus on responsibilities, and perhaps a run of bad decisions that run the enterprise into the ground. 

Yet business owners rarely discuss their isolation with anyone. Most just keep it to themselves, because there are just some things you can’t share with employees, friends or even partners.

Think of a recent pesky business issue you faced. Most likely, you didn’t share that with anyone. If you have employees, they have so much at stake they’ll not give you good, objective feedback. You might even cause an unnecessary panic or at least a lively rumor mill. Even if you could discuss problematic issues with employees, they only vaguely understand what you’re all about, they don’t have the perspective you have, and probably don’t share your vision for the future with the same level of enthusiasm that you do. And your customers and suppliers, well frankly most of them are not interested in your personal welfare either.

You probably spend a lot of time—and more than a few sleepless nights— pondering the pros and cons of a wide variety of significant issues. If you’ve facing a “bet-the-farm” decision, the stress of going it alone can be devastating. With so many responsibilities, it can be difficult to get away from the day to day to find perspective on problems, to network, to keep learning, and to draw on the efforts of others. 

Discussing sensitive business decisions with friends or family might make you feel good, but what’s the possibility that you will receive solid, unbiased INPUT on your ideas? Friends and family probably don’t know your company or your industry well enough to give you advice. Many of these well-meaning people may not have been in the buck-stops-here position and, therefore, don’t understand your perspective or what you need to resolve your issues. And some of them may just tell you what you want to hear in order to make you feel better. Don’t count on the people closest to you for help with true change—it’s just not going to happen.

What’s the solution? 

Find a business owner problem solving orientated support group of peer-level people who can understand what you are experiencing because they are too. These are groups of business owners who, like you, have the ultimate responsibility for decisions in their enterprise. Like you, they know what it’s like when you must make payroll every week. 

Emerson once said, “We all need someone who can help us to do what we already can.”

When you can gather 12-15 business owners together, on a monthly basis, with no competitors, customers, or suppliers in the room, and where each person is pledged to confidentiality, you have the opportunity to get substantive feedback unlike any you’ll ever hear. Just being in the room changes you. You can process issues, solve problems, share best practices, and offer each other support and encouragement. This works especially well when you have a professional facilitator to keep the discussion moving forward and on track, and who can add a coaching follow-up component to the process. 


Richard Borough’s Master-Mind Alliance is just such a group. You might want to check into what we offer.
HOW TO RUIN A PERFECTLY GOOD ENTERPRISE

When a business owner sits down to ponder the future performance of his or her enterprise, an internal assessment process gradually unfolds and eventually leads to this question: “What do I want?” Most business people will respond to this question with some version of “more money, fewer worries, and less work.” After all, what business owner does not want more productivity, more profitability, and more simplicity, not just for themselves but for everyone connected with their enterprise? Prosperity, in all its forms, is very desirable.

After clarifying what’s desirable, then the next things for the business owner to consider is, “How do I make what I already have better? How can I propel my business to the next level of effectiveness, efficiency, and wonderfulness? What Business-Prosperity-Generating actions, activities, and behaviors will significantly improve my business?” 

If the business owner can figure this out, then he or she can apply specific actions, activities, and behaviors (interventions) to his or her business, and in due time, expect positive results, measurable progress in reasonable time. 

Now I don’t claim to know everything about creating business prosperity, but I do know how to screw up a perfectly good business. I’ve meet with hundreds of business owners, have seen with my own eyes, or heard directly from them, about a boat load of tragedies. Based upon this observational history, I consider myself something of an authority on how things can go wrong, terribly wrong. I know how to put most any viable business on a course that, if left unchecked for just a few weeks, will absolutely run it into the ground. All that has to happen is for the business owner to apply strategies from two management paradigms: insidious neglect and/or over zealous, hands on control. Applications of strategies from either or both of these paradigms can ruin any perfectly good business, happens everyday in every community. By the way, insidious means working or spreading harmfully in a subtle, sneaky, or stealthy manner.

So, for your edification dear reader, I thought I’d outline several miss-management strategies that will make a business stagnate, falter, and ultimately fail. And I won’t be talking about taking such draconian measures as tripling the costs of things for sale, painting the building black with red swastikas on it, limiting the hours of operation to four per day, or never taking out the garbage, and not cleaning the toilets. The things I’ll describe that can cause ruin are common mistakes business operators make everyday. Nothing more.

To screw up normal business operations here are some options: 

Let’s begin by ignoring the mission (purpose) and destroying the vision (future direction and plans for the business) by never talking about these things with anyone with whom these conversations ought to regularly occur. We’ll stop all meaningful conversations and all talk about the future. We’ll never discuss our values and be sure that all forms of positive communication come to a screeching halt. No more meetings, no more memos and, except for gossip, no more office chitchat. In fact, we won’t talk to anyone except to criticize. We’ll also have lots of secrets and never provide anyone with feedback or knowledge of results. That would be a good start down the path of ruin. 

Then let’s cause a significant loss of focus by not paying attention to money making activities or anything connected to business goals. We won’t even have business goals. And we’ll get seriously and hopelessly bogged down in all things decidedly unimportant. 

To damage motivation, let’s be sure rewards and recognition are virtually impossible to get. We won’t acknowledge outstanding contributions and constantly complain about what we don’t like.

By tossing all control systems out the window we’ll create turmoil and chaos. We’ll encourage the people with the quirkiest, most off the wall personalities to take over and do things when and as they please. We’ll be sure to interrupt people in the middle of things so they forget what they we’re doing. And we’ll have an environment filled with interesting things to do that have no relation to the aims of the business, but that sap the energy of everyone.

Then we’ll micromanage by putting ourselves in the middle of everything. People won’t get to do anything on their own initiative. All decisions will have to come through us. And any form of independence we see, we’ll discourage immediately and mightily. 

We’ll make sure that no one takes enough time off to recharge and rejuvenate. We’ll resist any opportunity for business revitalization, reengineering, and reeducation so we’re sure not to replace any old ways of thinking and doing business with more appropriate and potentially better ones. Naturally we won’t be open to good ideas and we’ll make “Business As Usual” our motto.

To screw up personnel, we’ll have vague job descriptions and never update them, have people doing the wrong things, and consistently reassign our best people to menial tasks. We’ll insist that people never suggest any better ways to do things. And when we’re recruiting, we’ll foster the belief that somehow, we can’t get the “right” people. 

We’ll follow our people around and hound them to work harder and smarter. We’ll overload and overwork everyone causing great stress, which we’ll ignore, so many people burn out. And when they finally do reach their limits, we’ll fire them. And we’ll have no personal policies, no employee manual, and never conduct employee performance reviews.

To screw up the finances we’ll be sure income is insufficient by not focusing on sales, not closing sales, not trying to be innovative, and by not looking for new and better markets. We’ll spoil marketing by trying to sell the wrong things, not keeping up with our buying audience, pricing things to high or too low, and by not stressing value and benefit appropriately. We’ll mess up investment by not setting aside appropriate funds, by investing in the wrong things, and not creating and nourishing relationships with existing and potential funding agents.

We’ll design inadequate cash-flow management systems, or not have any at all. We’ll ignore the people who owe us money, and to ruin our credit rating, we won’t pay our bills on time, or at all. We’ll allow costs to run amuck by not negotiating for better deals when purchasing, not streamlining operations, by hiring people we don’t need, spending money without planning, and by not having a budget or any cost control mechanisms.

To screw up our technology we’ll insure that it’s inadequate. We won’t invest in technology that would lower costs and increase profits, and we’ll allow the old and the broken down stuff to get older and more broken down without repair.

To loose our competitive edge, we’ll offer products and services that are obsolete, or that no one wants to buy in sufficient quality. And we’ll ignore the competition and never think about the big picture or the future.

And of course, should anyone get wind of our devious interventions, we’ll do all we can to ignore and discourage their input, so any appropriate rescue interventions are delayed until it’s too late.

Obviously these miss-management strategies would poison the environment of any business. Implement just a few and the result would be a lack of employee motivation, high employee turn over rates, and unimaginable difficulties recruiting new employees. Sales would flat-line and falter. Cash-flow would suffer measurably. Loans would be called. Management would be a slave to the business, never able to take worry and guilt free time off. 

These horribly negative consequences would occur simply because management applied strategies from either the insidious neglect paradigm, or the over zealous hands on control paradigm, or both. And in so doing, they ruined a perfectly good business, simply by not thinking about tomorrow, while focusing intelligently on today, and by not taking care of what they already had. And all the resulting ruin would be a tragedy that’s completely preventable. 

This is all silly, silly, and stupid huh. Yes it is. But well intentioned business owners make these kinds of mistakes every day. The trick is to know about them, hence the exaggeration in this article, and then to immediately stop doing then when you catch yourself going in the wrong direction. 

More, Less, Start, Stop: This means asking yourself the following questions. For the betterment of my productivity, profitability, and simplicity, what do I need to do MORE of? What do I need to do LESS of? What do I need to START doing? What do I need to STOP doing? Along with, “What do I want, and why do I want whatever that is.” These are important questions when you get to where the rubber meets the road, down to brass tacks, and all the other appropriate clich├ęs about doing things right. 


Hope you found something here to chuckle about, I know I did.