2019 Business Excellence Forum – Blinding Flashes of the Obvious Part 4

Our next speaker was the amazing Sheri Riley, author of “Exponential Living – Stop Spending 100% of Your Time on 10% of Who You Are” Her presentation included many BFOs:
  • What will you give up to grow? If you don’t give things up, you limit your capacity to grow.
  • Personal development fuels professional growth
  • Our skills and talents can take us to levels of success that our character can’t sustain
  • Personal development is LEADERSHIP
img_2933-for-blog Her book includes a road map to the title subject, Exponential Living img_2939-for-blog The balance of Sheri’s presentation was about the five steps to Living Your Power
  1. Perspective – “I don’t know” is not the truth, it clouds your vision
    • “Be realistic with your goals and unrealistic with your thinking and your effort.” – Paul Martinelli, President, The John Maxwell Team
  2. Ownership – What are you focused on?
    • When looking at peoples to do lists it was found that
      • People didn’t remember why 1/3 of the items were on their lists
      • 1/3 of the items were for others, and
      • 1/3 were chronologically out of order
    • Most suffered from FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out
  3. Wisdom – What is your plan?
    • Determine your 1 to 3 MOST important NEXT steps
    • Ask yourself, “Am I chasing opportunities that are actually distractions?
  4. Engagement – What adjustments do you need to make to implement?
    • Presence is not enough, being present is the key
    • Multi-tasking is a lie!
  5. Reward – How will you remain consistent?
    • Don’t walk away from a goal because the plan isn’t working
    • Be committed to the goal, be committed to consistency, be flexible with the plan
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  • Broaden our definition of success
  • Eliminate the fear of success
img_2954-for-blog Brad Sugars returned to the stage as our final speaker of BEF.  He discussed reaching critical mass:
  • You must grow into your role and goal
  • Wisdom comes from the application of knowledge
  • Commitment – with bacon & eggs
    • The chicken is a participant
    • The pig is committed!
  • The concept of BE x DO = HAVE
    • Applies to a person
    • Applies to a couple
    • Applies to a team
    • Applies to a company
At the awards dinner the evening of the second day, one of the award winners had a different spin on one of our PowerPoint slides: Instead of You have to learn more to earn more, It’s not about what you earn, it’s about who you become. If you wish to discuss any of the BFOs or concepts presented in this 4-part series, my colleagues and I are just a phone call, email to website inquiry away.  You simply have to take ACTION!

Highlights from My Vacation Reading

I took the first two weeks of August for a trip to Europe with my wife, Tammy.  Tammy joined one of Berkshire Choral International’s groups which rehearsed and sang in Budapest, Hungary.  While she was in rehearsals I toured Budapest and caught up on my reading, both business and pleasure.  Following are comments about and links to a few of the articles that struck a chord.
  • Jason Fried in the July/August 2017 issue of INC Magazine in an article headlined Starbucks Wasn’t Built in a Day, subtitled “Entrepreneurs are told to go big or go home. Stop obsessing over scale, and perfect the basics.”   In the article Jason talks about John who wishes to open a tea shop, but often drifted to talking about his next shop, and his next shop, etc.  He advises John to slow down and get the basics right before focusing on rapid growth.  I have long agreed with this philosophy.  While there is nothing wrong with having big long range goals, we emphasize long term planning at ActionCOACH, one needs not to get ahead of one’s self.  One of the major points of the ActionCOACH 5-Way Formula is that a business must be built in balance.  Before I joined ActionCOACH, I had several turn-around clients.  One in particular, a consumer goods company, had great marketing and product, but couldn’t reliably deliver their products to their customers, the retail stores.  Ultimately their customers abandoned them in favor of suppliers that had great product, marketed well and consistently delivered.  My client had grown their business out of balance, and could not cover the basics.
  • In the July 2017 issue of Golf Digest an article about confidence by Sam Weinman titled What If Everything You’ve Been Told To Think Is Wrong? caught my eye. Within the article are several concepts that apply equally to business as well as golf.  One very important concept was highlighted by a quote from Dr. Fran Pirozzolo, a sports psychologist and mental-skills coach “Confidence is a garbage term in that it induces illusions of competence.”  If in business, we confuse confidence with competence, our mind will be closed to our limitations and that will limit our ability to construct plans to overcome them.  It is the difference between an “I Know” attitude which cuts off learning and an “Isn’t that interesting” attitude which encourages learning.

Another concept applicable to business revolves around Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck’s division of our mind-sets into two categories:

– Fixed mind-set – people who seek validation of their abilities – Growth mind-set – people who believe their skills can be cultivated through effort

The final concept that jumped off the page also came from Dr. Pirozzolo – “Don’t believe the hype.”  During my career in the fashion industry, I was aware of countless fashion designers who crashed and burned because they believed the hype and were unable to adjust to changing market and business realities.

  • From the September 2017 issue of Success Magazine John C. Maxwell has an article about time management 4 Tips to Set Yourself Up for a Better Tomorrow Today.” The title of the article says it all.  In our TimeRICH seminar, we encourage the audience to be militant about their time.  Along the militant line, Maxwell’s article contains a great quote I intend to add to the TimeRICH presentation:

“Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Improve them, and they will become the brightest gems.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

These are just a few of the ideas I gleaned during my vacation reading, I hope you will find them useful.

Let’s Talk About Government Regulations

This post is a follow up to a Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter post that I published a few days ago.  While reading an article in the July/August 2016 edition of INC Magazine entitled “Taming the Beast” (http://on.inc.com/28Sr8x4) by Leigh Buchanan, I was astounded by some of the examples of well-intended silliness mentioned.  In addition, I appreciated that the article didn’t simply state the challenge without offering some suggested solutions. The first example of regulatory over-burden involved a relatively small craft winery in Brooklyn, NY.  The CEO, Brian Leventhal fills out monthly reports to each and every state his company ships, or has shipped product to.  The information requested on the reports vary by state, but generally includes the name and address of each purchaser of their wine.  Furthermore, he must file reports to states even if he had no shipments during the previous month to customers within that state.  Mr. Leventhal is quoted in the article saying “it looks like [rules governing the wine industry] exist only because someone made them up that way 80 years ago.” The article goes on to site some statistics about the proliferation of regulations; 3,400 federal regulations in 2015, 545 with direct effect on small business, for example.  In a survey about regulation conducted by Paychex, 39 percent responded that over-regulation dissuaded them from entering a new market, 36 percent from introducing a new product, and 25 percent did not start new business ventures into a new kind of business.  Further, that survey found that 65 percent of the respondents reported that regulations hurt their profitability or their opportunities to grow. Philip K. Howard, founder of Common Good, a non-profit with the mission of applying common sense toward reducing government bureaucracy is quoted as saying “America is run by dead people.  The people who wrote these rules are dead, so you can’t argue with them or hold them accountable.”  Regulations are like plastic bags or embarrassing social media posts: once they are out, you can’t get rid of them. I invite you to respond to this blog with a list of the top few regulations that hurt your industry or company.  You might highlight your number one target for elimination or revision.  I also invite any suggestions about regulations that should remain, with or without revisions. Finally, if me or my colleagues at ActionCOACH can assist you with overcoming your regulatory constraints, please contact us to learn what is possible to keep you ahead of your competition.

Barbara Corcoran’s Worst Way to Ask For Assistance

One of my favorite activities while behind the wheel driving to and from the Berkshires is listening to one of the SUCCESS Magazine monthly audio CDs.  This past weekend I was inspired by a segment with Barbara Corcoran on the June 2016 CD. In answer to the interviewer’s question about some of the worst things she has heard from the entrepreneurs she has invested in, she said that  the absolute worst was “What should I do about … ?”  She made it very clear that there is nothing worse than asking her for help that way.  It is not that she does not make herself available to assist and advise her investees, quite the contrary.  She just knows that “What should I do … ?” is the wrong way to request assistance. Why?  That particular phrase and its variations demonstrates a lack of Ownership, Accountability and Responsibility (OAR – above the line of choice – see The OZ Principle by  Roger Connors, Tom Smith and Craig Hickman) for the implementation and outcome of the advice.  If someone tells you what you should do to solve an issue and things do not go well, you can lay Blame at the other person’s feet (Below the Line behavior).  Or if you don’t implement or botch the implementation of the other person’s recommendation, you can still operate below the line by making some sort of Excuse. So what is the right way of requesting assistance from your adviser?  The answer is a very subtle, but significant change to the phrasing of the request to “What would you do in this situation … ?”  When you ask for assistance or advice using this wording, you are taking Ownership, being Accountable and Responsible for both the implementation and results of the suggestion.  Classic above the line behavior.  Sounds subtle but the difference is massive.  Furthermore, the advice you receive is more likely to be well thought out.  And due to your OAR, the results you achieve in solving whatever issue you sought assistance for will be faster and better.  When you operate above the line positive results are easier to achieve.  As the old (actually very old) television commercial said “try it, you’ll like it.” If you wish to delve deeper into living above the line of choice in order to accelerate and magnify your results, my ActionCOACH colleagues and I are ready to assist you.  All you have to do is contact us.

2016 Business Excellence Forum – Blinding Flashes of the Obvious Part 1

I must say, the Business Excellence Forum (BEF) gets better each year.  There were more than 500 business owners, executives, team members and business coaches in attendance.  With that many attendees, there were plenty of formal and informal exchanges of ideas and best practices. This year’s forum had some amazing keynote speakers whose presentations yielded many Blinding Flashes of the Obvious (BFOs).  The following are some of the BFOs that struck a chord with me.  I am sure that some of these will have a similar affect on you. Our first speaker was world-class branding expert Sally Hogshead www.howtofascinate.com (yes, that is her real name “With a name like mine, I had to be successful.”) discovered a new way to measure how people perceive your communication, through the Fascination Advantage® system. Sally is the author of two books “How The World Sees YOU” and “Fascinate – How to Make Your Brand Impossible to Resist” Before researching the science of fascination, Sally rose to the top of the advertising profession in her early 20s, writing ads that fascinated millions of consumers. The title of her presentation was “How to FASCINATE: From First Impression to Lasting Value”
  • Over deliver in One area – Stop trying to be all things to all people
  • You do not have to fix anything – you do have to accentuate your most valuable areas
  • Avoid your competitive disadvantages
  • Every time you communicate, you are either adding value, or taking up space!
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  • Sally told of going to an theme park where she saw a ticket booth that sold tickets to two rides.  The orange ticket was for a ride with multiple safety warnings.  There was a long line at the entrance to the orange ride.  The other ticket was green, there were no safety warnings posted about that ride.  Also, the was no line for the green ride.  She went on the orange ride, it was great.  Later, she got curious and went on the green ride.  She found the rides were IDENTICAL.  The business point is the theme park understood their target customer’s value proposition and desire for a little danger.  Do you completely understand what your target customer values?
Our next speaker was serial entrepreneur Troy Hazard, www..troyhazard.com author of several books including “Future Proofing Your Business” and “The Naked Entrepreneur”.  The title of Troy’s presentation was “Purpose, Passion, People & Profits”
  • Always respect the business corrections and cycles
  • There are 4 cycles
    1. Your Revenue
    2. The Economy
    3. Your Industry
    4. The emotional cycle – market sentiment
      • Opportunity occurs where these cycles converge
  • In addition to understanding the value your business brings to your market, you as a business owner, must know what you want your business to do for you
  • Every day Troy asks himself and his team the following two questions:
    1. “What is your greatest success and what can I learn from it?”
    2. “What is your challenge and how can I help you?”
  • The five keys to leadership he learned from being a father (E I E I O)
    1. Engage energetically
    2. Inspire greatness (strive to have tomorrow be better than today)
    3. Evoke conscious thought (give everyone a voice)
    4. Involve everyone (don’t under estimate before you understand)
    5. Organize Yourself first
  • Use your ideal (3 – 5 years from now) organizational chart to challenge your team to become who they need to be to fill the positions above them
This is just my BFOs from about 60% of the first day of BEF.  The best Troy Hazard BFOs are yet to come.  To be continued …

What Can We Learn About Business From PGA Tour Winner Jimmy Walker?

Jimmy Walker has not had an easy road to success on the PGA Tour.  He won his first tour event at 34 years of age, after going 0 for 187 during his first seven seasons on tour.  During the last two PGA Tour seasons he has won five times.  That is quite a turnaround.  So what does his success playing golf at the highest level over the last two seasons have to do with your business Mr. Business Owner? Like you, Jimmy Walker opened his business, he opened by turning pro, you opened by asking customers to pay you for your product or service.  He had some initial success, making his way onto the PGA Tour via the Tour’s Q-School, making some tournament cuts and earning some prize money.  Your business has provided you with some income and perhaps some personal stability and quality of life. Jimmy has had some OK seasons and some not so OK seasons.  At one point his wife considered going back to work because Jimmy’s business was running at a loss and they were close to running out of money.  The low point of his tour career was in the 2009 season when he sunk to 125th on the money list.  You may have had some ups and downs in your business.  You may have had some losing years.  And you too may have been close to running out of cash.  After all, very few businesses take off like a rocket, earning consistent growth and profit year after year.  In addition, many businesses initially grow and then level off, seemingly stall. So what did Jimmy do to achieve the success he has had during the last two seasons?

“About four years ago I made a shift in the way I do things.  I was tired of finishing 125th in money.  I was working hard but working on the wrong things and I wanted to figure out what to change, how to put different people in place to help me get better.” – Jimmy Walker in an interview in the November 2015 edition of Golf Magazine.

Jimmy knows he has the talent to succeed.  He also realizes that to maximize his talent he needs to have the right team in place.  If you have been in business for more than a few months and are making a profit in addition to paying yourself a salary, then it is safe to assume that you have the talent succeed.  Or maybe your business is just bumping along, barely profitable or merely breaking even.  In either situation, the questions you should ask yourself are:
  • Am I working hard on the wrong things?
  • Do I have the right extended team helping me maximize my talents?
If you answered YES to the first question or NO to the second question, you owe it to yourself to contact me or any of my ActionCOACH colleagues.  We will be happy to assist you in reversing those answers and maximizing your results.

Remember the definition of insanity – Doing the same thing and expecting different results Don’t Be Insane!

Getting Through Those Conversations You Don’t Want to Have

I was recently reading a great article in Success Magazine by Shelley Levitt about difficult, delicate and distasteful conversations.  Several of the points in the article bear repeating with emphasis.  But first some background.  Many managers, leaders or entrepreneurs work very hard at avoiding these kinds of conversations.   This is a big mistake for a couple of reasons:
  1. As we say in many of our ActionCOACH presentations, the earth is round. Therefore, ignored issues and problems sooner or later come around and bite you in the butt.
  2. And ignored issues usually grow in severity the longer they are not addressed.
In the best-seller Difficult Conversations: How to Address What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen the authors make the point that leaders and companies that can adroitly confront what matters most, “will leave their competition in the dust.”  And a note to those of you who have risen to a level of leadership that requires you to begin to have difficult conversations; you cannot get promoted past having to have distasteful conversations, the opposite is true.  In fact inability to handle these conversations is one of the most common reasons people don’t succeed according to Heen. Here are a few suggestions for having successful professional conversations:
  • Be courageous. These conversations take courage, and there is no perfect time.
  • Be proactive. Don’t wait until an issue gets too big to be corrected.  Most of the time it is much more productive to make small incremental adjustments rather than having to correct major problems.
  • Plan the conversation. Pick an appropriate venue.  Avoid a spontaneous delivery fueled by anger or frustration.
  • Be direct and clear. Do not talk in tangents.
  • Be specific. Avoid generalizations.  “You were late returning from lunch three times last week” is much better than “you always come back from lunch late.”
  • Discuss Consequences Not Intentions. “When you are late with KPIs that causes many other delays” not “It seems you don’t think that on-time KPIs are important.”
  • No Buts. “Your suggestion to improve operations is great, but you need to design the next level of details” sounds critical, shutting down creativity, while “Your suggestion to improve operations is great, and you need to design the next level of details.” Is much more likely to open a productive dialogue.
  • Two Ears, One Mouth. Shut down your inner voice and simply listen.  “Listening is the most persuasive weapon” says Heen.
If you wish to get even better at difficult conversations and to accelerate your timeline to success, my colleagues and I at ActionCOACH would be happy to have a complementary, no obligation coaching session with you to better determine how much value we can add to your business.  Simply click the Free Business Coaching Session button near the top right of the screen.

Effective Delegation Part 3 – What You MUST Delegate If You Want Your Business To Grow

As part of my on-going series about the art and science of effective delegation, and in response to questions I have been asked, I have developed the following Top 10 List:   The Top 10 Items You MUST Delegate

10. Activities that will speed up your cash flow – This includes collection calls, invoicing on a timely basis, responding to inbound customer inquiries, processing and shipping orders and making it easy for customers to buy from your business, to mention just a few.

9. Tasks that are already streamlined and documented – This is one of the keys to achieving both leverage and consistency in your business. Without leverage and consistency your business will become increasingly chaotic as it grows, if it grows at all.

8. Tasks that involve government or other outside, often-changing regulations – You simply do not have the resources to keep up with regulations. Make sure to delegate to trained professionals whose job it is to be up to date.  For example, a while ago I was introduced to a customs lawyer.  She told me that her new law practice was booming because U.S. Customs is now part of the Department of Homeland Security.  She mentioned she found many companies that have been importing materials for years, always completing the paperwork the same way that are un-wittingly, no longer in compliance.  Worse yet, the potential penalties are many times larger than before DHS was formed.

7. Anything that you want your team to master – You will never achieve leverage in your business if your team does not master operational tasks. Mastery supports consistency.  Consistency is a prerequisite to growth.

6. Tasks where you are the bottleneck – If everything goes through you, your company can only work at your speed and capacity.

5. Areas that are beyond your skill-set or competence – Simply put, if you are not good at it, you shouldn’t be doing it.

4. Anything that you shouldn’t be doing – If you are tempted to do that low-value task that is not time sensitive, stuffing envelopes, shredding out of date documents, etc., you are keeping yourself from adding the most value you can to your business. Remember, all of us ultimately are compensated for the value we add, not for the time we devote.

3. Tasks that keep you from growing your business – The main responsibility of ownership, whether you actually own a company or simply take ownership of your responsibilities, is to develop and grow your business.

2. Anything you hate to do – If you hate it, you most certainly will not do it well.

1. Anything that requires specialized knowledge – You cannot possibly be an expert about every subject necessary to build a successful business. You can never go wrong delegating to expertise on an as-needed, demand basis.

Bonus – Any subject where you can benefit from someone else’s experience – We are not omnipotent; learn from the mistakes of those who went before you.

One very important word of caution: You must not abdicate any of the above; you must learn and practice effective delegation. Please share your experiences and results from delegation or abdication with my growing community.

It Is Not Too Early To Begin 2015

As the end of 2014 approaches a little introspection is in order. As a business owner, some of your fundamental roles include:
  • coaching
  • planning
  • setting goals
  • interviewing and hiring
  • training
  • creating
  • managing
How are you doing so far this year regarding your time in these areas?  Ask yourself a few questions:
  • have you spent adequate, quality time planning the future of your business?
  • have you spent adequate time coaching and developing your team (or having it done)?
  • are you on target for all of your management and self-improvement goals?
  • have you been able to manage your attitudes consistently regardless of what was happening around you?
  • did you see change as your partner and embrace it…or has it become your adversary?
  • are you leaving any unfinished business behind as you move into the second half of the year?
  • have you been communicating your goals, strategies, plans, and objectives clearly to your team?
  • have you handled all of your team member’s challenges successfully, and in a compassionate and timely manner?
  • have you set clear goals for the rest of the year?
  • are you in touch with the realities within your organization and your marketplace?
  • if you could, would you reverse or change any of the significant decisions you made during the first half of the year?
  • if you could begin this year over again, what is one thing you would do differently?
A critical skill necessary for success as an owner is the ability to honestly evaluate your:
  • personal development progress
  • attitudes
  • skills
Work on expanding this list.  Set a target of 50 more questions that will help you get a better handle on your organization and yourself. You might think it is a little early to begin this process, since it’s only the beginning of November…but we all know it’ll be the end of the year before we know it.  How you spend the next several weeks could make or break your goals, your hopes, and the success and direction of your company for the balance of this year and planning for next year. And that’s worth thinking about…

What Can We Learn About Business From My Granddaughter?

A few weeks ago my 20-month-old granddaughter suffered a broken pinky as the result of a stroller mishap.  A few days after the accident my son-in-law sent me this photo of my granddaughter multi-tasking. After admiring how cute she is in the photo, I started thinking about, of all things, business. Many “experts” have differing opinions about the effectiveness of multi-tasking, everything from it works, it is efficient, it is possible, to it doesn’t work, it is not efficient, it is impossible.  My experience convinces me that the effectiveness of multi-tasking is highly situational.  Multi-tasking is a subject onto itself, and not the primary take away from this photo. The primary business lesson to be gained from my granddaughter is about being adaptable.  We all need to be adaptable as to our investment of our time, our plans and our products or services. First, let’s address how we invest our time.  Think about it, how often during your business day do you find yourself working on items or tasks that were the furthest things from your mind at the beginning of the day?  I am willing to bet that even those of you who are very proficient at planning how you invest your time often find yourself off track at some point during your day, I know I do.  So if we are destined to have unplanned activities occupy anywhere from a few moments to major parts of our work day we must become time adaptable. How often have you read about a very successful company that became successful after its original business plan failed to yield the results it was seeking.  For example, the company we now know as Twitter was in fact founded as Odeo, a podcasting company.  When Apple launched iTunes podcasting, and made Odeo’s podcasting platform irrelevant, Evan Williams, CEO, Biz Stone and an Odeo employee named Jack Dorsey decided to create something called Twitter instead.  (Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-twitter-was-founded-2011-4#ixzz2lyym7wSj).  This turning point displays adaptability at its finest, snatching success from the jaws of failure.  Odeo was both plan and product adaptable. I could site many other examples of companies and owners being adaptable, and I am sure you can add more than a few to my list.  The point of this is really about having the attitude, mindset and culture that allows, supports and facilitates being adaptable.  When the inevitable challenges of day-to-day business arise, will you complain, display counterproductive behaviors or will you view them as opportunities to learn, outpace your less adaptable competitors and to ultimately succeed?