Secrets of Success

If you’re like most other business owners I know, you’re always considering what will make you (more) successful.  Really, it’s quite simple: people and products/services.  It’s really no secret that these two things will make or break you.  Without people you can’t sell your product or service, and without a product or service people won’t give you money.  The secret seems to come in with the details surrounding those two requirements.   Richard Branson said:

“A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.”

This quote gets into some of the secrets that help us understand some of the details when it comes to people and products.  First, that involving people in your business and mission and vision will get them to buy into what you’re doing, second that people love to have fun and third that people are creative.  Let’s take a brief look at a few possibilities.

Get people involved: a super easy way to do this is through social media.  After all, it’s social media, right?!  It’s a great opportunity to connect with your customers in a personal way, yet one that is removed enough for them to still feel comfortable while they’re getting to know you.

Get creative: think of some boring jobs: accountants, funeral homes and building inspectors for example.  On the surface none of these businesses would win awards for most interesting jobs.  But in reality the people who do these jobs are all about the story of the people they work with.  There’s always a story to be told, a story that makes it possible to turn even the most boring job into something interesting.  It is only as boring as you chose to let it be.

Have fun: no one likes a grouch and no one intentionally chooses to buy from those who are nasty, in fact they usually avoid them at all costs.  From contests, special offers and prizes to sharing the stories of your employees and customers and making their story part of your business you can turn what once was boring into something that looks (and is) a lot like fun.

Take a look at your business today: are you just trying to make the sale today, or are you considering the potential of tomorrow? If you’re not thinking of tomorrow but only today, I’d love to help you be more successful today and tomorrow.

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Change and Happiness

Are you happy today? How many days would you say each week you are happy?  If you were to take a look at the news headlines and numbers of people on depression and other drugs, you might think there are no happy people in the world.  I can’t disagree that it’s nice to be happy.  Those warm fuzzy feelings that you have (especially around the holidays or special occasions) are awesome!  I love those really special moments that you know you’ll remember forever.  One thing that doesn’t bring up warm fuzzy feelings is the thought of change, right?  I mean most people hear the word change and either cringe or run in the opposite direction.  Most people don’t jump up and down for joy.  But what if change was the way to happiness?

What if by changing a few little things in your life you could be significantly happier?  Would you do it?

Of course the little things that need to change are no stranger to most people, they are in the categories of health, relationships, and finance.  Yet most people steer clear of these changes until change is forced upon them.  Here are 3 simple things for each you can do to simply be happier.

Health: eat more veggies (no, ketchup and potato chips don’t count), spend more time in nature relaxing, and exercise.

Relationships: communicate more often and clearer, do one thing each day that makes your partner happy, and be honest with each other about fears and issues/challenges/dislikes/unhappiness.

Finance: pay your bills on time each month, have a plan in action for saving for the future as well as emergencies, and follow a responsible budget.

These may sound really simple and really obvious.  And they are.  I’m not accusing you of being a baby or stupid, just stating facts: I know many people who don’t follow any or most of these simple things.  Yet if they did their lives would be much happier and freer.  Why?  They would feel better, look better, be more confident in their future and be more receptive to relationships and changes that happen in life.  Which ones will you incorporate into your life starting today?

The Reality of Business

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”  Max DePree

Last week we talked a little about holidays and business.  Today on a related topic I wanted to talk about the challenge and privilege of defining reality in a business.  See, Halloween is mostly about things that go bump in the night, things that are deceptive and things that aren’t real.  Yes, there are lots of scary things in the world, and things that we can’t explain.  But as a business leader it’s your job to let your employees and customers know what’s up as clearly as possible.  You can tell how reality is defined through a company’s culture, how employees treat customers, how products or services are delivered, and the mission and vision statements, just to name a few things.  When a leader doesn’t take the time to develop, flesh out, implement and communicate the standards and commitments of the business it leaves lots of room for deceptive practices and happenings.

When people who have no previous experiences look at your business, what do they find? Is it easy to contact you, to get answers to questions they may have, to make changes, get personalized attention or custom orders, or are they confused by what you offer, if you can help them and how to even buy from you?  What do they discover when they come into contact with you?

The rest of today’s inspirational quote is equally important and fits into the reality of what you present as a business too.  Is the heart of your business to truly help others or are you selfishly out there to screw as many people over for as much money as possible?  Do you actually appreciate having customers?  People know when the vibe isn’t right, they know when you’re taking advantage of them, and they know when you’re not truly acting in service to their best interests and fulfilling the needs that they came to you specifically for.  And when there’s a disconnect you lose sales and miss out on great opportunities to help others.

It’s a big responsibility to be in business.  You’re trusted with the lives, hearts, homes, businesses, and finances of others.  What does your business present and communicate as your reality?

World Series Wins

Today we’re celebrating with the baseball teams who have gotten this far and the two teams who will go all the way this year to play ball for champion of the 2013 season.  If you’re a big baseball fan it’s a great time to have friends over and have a party, and a great time to teach your kids about this great American past time.

Crafts:

Baseball pinata

Baseball wristband

Baseball party favors

Baseball and softball scrapbook ideas

Play ball bracelet

Baseball applique pillow

Food:

Chicago style hot dogs

Bulldog hot dogs

Best beef burgers

Turkey sausage sandwiches

Pulled pork sandwiches

Nachos supreme

Cookie pops

Bats, balls and bases snack mix

Caramel, peanut and popcorn baseballs

Cracker jacks

Baseball cupcake

Will you be celebrating or watching the World Series? Who are you rooting for?

Business Holiday Style

Yes, Halloween is a few short weeks away which always begins that 2 month period of constant holiday talk.  Time to buy presents, catch up with old friends, attend bad work parties and write up wish lists.  It’s also the time that many businesses make a lot of money.  Which means lots of pressure from consumers to have the “must have” items and always popular items in the right sizes.  What does it mean for business owners?

1-take advantage of it.  Yes, I really just suggested you stick some holiday decorations up and get on the bandwagon.  Why?  Because people are in the festive spirit and want to surround themselves with others who are as well.  It’s a chance for you to breathe some fresh life into your business by adding some special holiday themed options as well.  Food places can think along the lines of gingerbread, pumpkin and candy canes as well as seasonal produce, service providers can offer holiday themed options (clean up for the in-laws, website updates for seasonal offerings etc.), and those who sell products can offer additional merchandise with holiday themes.

2-stay professional.  It goes a bit overboard to dress as Santa or Mrs. Clause on a regular basis for most businesses, as well as dressing every corner of your store or website with only holiday items.  People still need regular services and products during these times so the items and services you offer should remain the same high quality you’re committed to during the rest of the year, don’t lower your standards just to fit in.

3-give back.  Yes, put a little donation box at the counter, post a sign that you’re donating to a particular charity a percentage of your holiday sales, offer discounts to assist those who really need your services but can’t afford them and be extra focused on providing good customer service.  With the busyness, pressures and the commitments people have at these times of year it’s even easier for them to get frustrated and contact you for help.  Go to work each day with an extra measure of patience knowing that you’ll make someone’s holiday day brighter.

How will you participate in the holidays this year in your business?  Share your ideas in the comments.

Under Pressure

If you’ve been following the news in the USA and around the world at all lately, there are many tumultuous situations going on.  The US government shutdown, boats sinking, wars, people kidnapped, the list goes on.  A little closer to home parents are heading in for parent-teacher conferences, seeing some of the early grades of the year and almost done with fall sports.  At any time we’re under a lot of pressure from work, school, family, friends and relationship, not to mention the pressures we have no real control or influence over like the government or weather.  Pressures like these not only affect you but they affect your kids as well.  When you’re stressed out that stress easily transfers itself to your kids since they’re more sensitive.  That’s not to say they should be sheltered from stress and pressure until they’re teens; they should be aware of stress and how to deal with it.  Today I thought we’d review just a few thoughts on dealing with pressures and stress.

1-realize that sometimes it will be too much to handle.  You don’t have to be picture perfect all the time.  If people accepted that sooner we’d all be more able to be ourselves.  Which would mean less pressure to be perfect, more understanding when things do get screwy and healthier relationships all around.  When we accept that sometimes life will be too much we can let go of some of our fears around how we show up in the world and how others see us.  We will screw up.  It’s a fact.  How we handle things as a result of the screw up says a lot about our character and who we are as people.

2-know you don’t have to handle it alone.  I would never run for a political office, but if the people in government started talking and working together instead of trying to one-up the other person, I don’t think we’d be in this situation in the first place. No one person could rule the world, so why do we insist that we can handle everything all by ourselves?  The second we turn to someone else for assistance we’re not giving up our power, but rather gaining more power than we could have by ourselves.  We can’t always be right, nor can we do everything the best way possible all by ourselves.

3-communication is key to handling pressures effectively.  While animals may be able to grunt and fight their problems out, most of the time that’s not going to help us find solutions to the pressures.  Yes, we do need to get the physical emotions and feelings out and physical activity is a great way to do that.  But the problem won’t be solved by a 10 mile run or fist fight.  Nor will a screaming match do anyone any good.  When you sit down and truly discuss the situation and possible next steps instead of yelling or just giving up you’re choosing to create a better future.

These 3 keys will not only help you better deal with stress, they’ll give you the tools to help your kids deal with and learn from your stress as well.  Kids will always be affected by our stress, but they don’t have to be traumatized by it.  What do you do that helps you handle pressures and stress?

Customer Service Superstars

This week in the USA we’re celebrating something I know you love: customer service!  That’s right, they’ve gone ahead and set aside a whole week each October to recognize how important customer service is.  I hear a lot of groans over the web, and a bunch of sighs too.  I know business leaders have been speaking up about the importance of customer service for years, it has been a buzzword for many years as well, often becoming a source of frustration and annoyance for people.  Let’s get a few obvious points out of the way, and get to a few thoughts to apply.

Obvious but Necessary:

-Every business has customers so every business should have customer service.

-There are many ways to provide customer service like social media, blogs, email, phone, Skype, face to face etc.

-Everyone can provide better customer service.

-Customer service can make a terrible product bearable, and ruin a good company.

Food for Thought:

-Customer service comes in many forms, a phone representative letting you know they don’t sell a product anymore provides customer service, someone fixing your washer provides customer service, and even someone giving you directions while you get a morning cup of joe provides customer service.

-Sometimes customer service means going above and beyond, other times it just means being there when someone shows up, calls or emails.

-Customer service means standing behind the products and services you offer and doing your best to always provide satisfactory answers to customer questions, even if it takes a little extra work on your part.

-Customer service is an evolving activity of participation from you and the customer.  As you assist more and more people it will become easier to assist others with frequently asked questions and issues as well as the more challenging ones.  And, you will gain a reputation for being a friendly and helpful company.

-True customer service is a commitment.  You’re choosing to show up in a friendly and helpful way to people who may not be having their best day ever and treat them with respect, courtesy, patience, and honesty.

-Do your best to not hassle or further frustrate your customers in your attempts at customer service.  Getting their name and life story isn’t always necessary nor is asking them to jump through hoops to be assisted.

-Most people just want to be heard.  A huge part of customer service is listening to what people are telling and asking you.  If you’re hearing the same issues or suggestions over and over it may be something you want to change or add to your services and products.

What will you do this week to provide better customer service to your customers and potential customers?

Family Pizza Night

Today we’re having a pizza party!  It’s a great family bonding opportunity as well as a way to teach some great cooking skills.

Stuffed crust veggie

Toy story veggie pizza planets

Cornmeal flatbread

Pepperoni

Super stuffed french bread pizza rustica

Margherita

Stuffed pizza

Gruyere stuffed crusty loaves

Chicago style deep dish

Gluten free pizza crust

Shiitake mushroom

Mini deep dish

Pizza slab pie

Grilled vegetable pizza with whole wheat crust

Thai chicken

Taco

Mini meatball

Tomato pizza rolls

Caesar salmon

What are your favorite pizza combinations?  Share them in the comments.

The Challenge of Change

We’ve reached a new month, the third to last month in the year!  Can you believe it?!  If you haven’t met your business goals, or just don’t feel like this year has gone as you’ve wanted, you do have 3 months left to make the most of.  This month, our theme will be change.  It’s a challenging topic, one that brings up a lot of emotions and often creates dissension between people.  Today though I want to focus on something that really stirs the pot: changes in leadership.

We all know what happens when a boss is let go, passes the baton of leadership to someone else or another leader is hired: people are challenged to either follow the new leader, leave with the old leader or be miserable.  No, it’s never easy when your boss is caught doing something illegal or is asked to leave for personal reasons.  One of the worst situations are when a leader is asked to leave based on an unrelated situation.  But it happens, and it happens more often than we would like to realize.  Because it is still so prevalent, it’s one reason I so strongly and repeatedly emphasize the need for excellence, openness, honesty, and communication in all areas of business.

If you’re one of those leaders who has been cut because you were caught being bad, it serves you right. If you’re a leader who was cut for irrelevant reasons or without reason, you’re probably better off without them and now have a chance to move on where your gifts and talents will be appreciated.  If you’re remaining as the leadership in this business you’ve got to be prepared for the inevitable upset among employees and clients.  You’ve got to be prepared with answers and a plan for healing and moving on.

The biggest challenge with leadership changes are how the business will move forward without that leader.  Some businesses are designed around a particular leader and almost require them to exist, other businesses don’t really have a figurehead individual whom the public considers essential to the brand.  New leadership can bring fresh focus to the business, or it can totally change things.

As business owners we’ve got a lot of responsibility to deal with, responsibility each of us chose when we decided to open a business rather than get a job.  We all have to be prepared for changes in the business, and one of the best ways is by having a disaster or “what if” plan ready so that someone else could fill in our position, or another position, if the situation arose.

How do you approach change in your business?