Putting the Puzzle Together

We’ve reached another school season, another year of making new friends, playing with old ones and growing older and hopefully smarter.  There are lots of challenges kids face as they go back to school and work through another year, one of the biggest is the other students they meet.  Most parents like to believe that their kid is perfect and amazing and has very few faults.  But just as we know how unique the other adults in our lives are, the same is true for kids: they know they’re each different and those differences can be seen as threats or weaknesses depending on the child and the group they’re with.  What would be seen as a weakness by one group is seen as a strength by another group.  The teachers they interact with also play a role: the differences that make them unique and could give them a solid future will be supported, discouraged or ignored depending on the teacher.  Just because a kid is different doesn’t mean they’re any less valuable or special.  But it can be hard to teach that to kids, especially if we’re not living that way.

I’m not a big competition person.  I don’t like to sit and talk about how much more I made this year than you or how many clients I have or how much more awesome I am at this or that.  I don’t like to compare myself to others because I know I’m unique and special and there is no one else I can really compare to other than myself.  I know this isn’t true for everyone, lots of people thrive on competition, hence all the sports and reality shows on TV and around the world. I can appreciate that.  What I can’t appreciate is a lack of respect for other people or those that don’t engage in competition and hardballing.  The only thing that I believe should bring about a lack of respect is abuse or violence.

I’d much rather work together in our different ways to make the world a better place.  I love the world that we have but know that there is a lot that we could be doing to treat ourselves and our world better like recycling, not being wasteful, exercising and loving more.   My encouragement to you this week would be to see how you can fit your piece of the puzzle with someone else’s and make it work even though you’re different.

“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”
Albert Camus

Don’t Miss Out on Money this Fall

We’re just about at September, and while I’m excited, I do know that it’s a time of stress for many business owners who are looking to make some really good profit in the last 4 months of the year.  So over the next 2 weeks I thought I’d share, based on what I’ve seen recently, 4 things you can do to improve quickly and dramatically this fall.

1-your website.  I was working with another consultant recently and we discussed how he might compare the local business he was working on with others in the area.  So I went to Google and typed in an appropriate search term I would use if I were looking for that type of business in the area and checked out what came up.  Essentially?  Not much.  So I visited Yelp and found there were actually some businesses in the area related to the consultant’s client.  But less than 10% had websites and those that did were poorly constructed and didn’t share enough relevant information.  Get a website! I can’t stress this enough.  Even if you go the free route for now it’s better than not having anything when people search for you and find nothing, because most people will search for you before walking in your door, checking you out on social media or buying from you.  Make sure to include all the important information about your business so people have no doubt that you’re exactly what they’re looking for.  Simply, if you can’t be found, you won’t get the business.

2-an email list.  I know that not everyone likes writing, but the easiest and cheapest way to make a profit in today’s world is to get happy customers to come back again.  Of course you have to offer a service that encourages repeat business, but most businesses do work that way.  So why the email list??  Let’s face it, we’re busy people and we can forget about stuff, no matter how good it was, which is why it’s so important to send out a weekly or bi-weekly at minimum newsletter with just some basic information and keep in touch with clients.  It’s not like it was 100 or even 50 years ago when you knew your local area and there were few choices.  Now you leave your house and there are tons within a short driving distance, not to mention the online options.  You want repeat business, as well as recommendations, because you don’t have to convince them to try you, they’ve already tried and like it.  They just need a little support in being reminded.  I do specifically recommend sending a newsletter out because you’re in complete control of it.  So as long as you’re sending out good stuff people will open it.

So what about you?  Do you have a website and newsletter?  If not, why have you resisted?  I’d love to hear your reasons, you can share them in the comments.

Business Priorities

I believe that one of the biggest and most important goals of a business should be to make the world a better place in one way or another.  I don’t believe that businesses should be stealing from the poor to pay the rich or that only the people at the top make good money or that the only goal in business is to make money.  If you’re only in it for the money it usually shows.  Sometimes there are some good motives behind the most successful and cutthroat businesses, but usually they aren’t the first or second priorities.
But in not prioritizing the good of others as one of the highest, if not the highest, goals of your business you’re doing a disservice to everyone.  Yes, a business needs to make money, otherwise it would be just a hobby, but the attitude about that money and the people that supply it to the business makes a difference.

Why? Because people are important and should not be discounted, avoided or ignored.  Everyone has needs and when those needs aren’t met the world as a whole suffers.  If more people had their basic needs met they would be able to focus on doing better at work, learning more to better themselves and doing what they could to make their part of the world a better place.  That’s not to say that some of the richest people don’t donate and make a point of supporting others, some do.

So the question then becomes what can we do to make a difference?  It starts with treating our employees and partners fairly and with dignity even if they’re several steps below us in the business hierarchy.  It continues with pricing things fairly and providing quality goods and services.  It concludes with making sure that the local communities are cared for and protected especially if you’re in businesses that cause health or other types of risks.  But without the respect and dignity towards our fellow men we won’t get very far or get any more brownie points as a business.

“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.” Mother Teresa

Start with a Smile

How many couples do you know that greet each other with criticisms or lists of things they did or didn’t do and are in trouble for?  There’s no “how was your day?” “I’m glad to see you” hugs, kisses or other welcoming greetings.  It’s one of the many reasons, I’m sure, dogs are considered our best friend (just kidding).  And maybe that sounds an awful lot like your household.  Maybe you and your partner spend a lot of time sniping at each other and at each other’s throats.

If that is your relationship I hope you take serious consideration of why you’re in it and that the reasons you come up with are very good.  Because I don’t know about you but that’s not the kind of relationship I want.  No, you don’t have to rush the door every time they come home, but to not kindly greet someone you love, or even just greet them means you’re probably not happy to see them.  And if you’re not happy to see them why are you in the relationship?

I’ve gone in a circle here but it brings us back to the same two questions: are you happy in your relationship and if not what are you going to do about it? If you really think you could be happy in your relationship, you have to ask yourself what needs to change, and specifically what you need to do differently.  You can’t heap all of the blame on your partner, you need to take your own portion as well because while your partner is a part of your happiness, ultimately only you are responsible for it.

I think it starts with greeting each other.  If you greet each other with a smile it reminds both of you that you’ve chosen to be in that relationship and are happy to see the other person, despite whatever issues you need to deal with that day.  I believe that there is always room for love and a smile, that life is better when you start with that foundation.  When you’ve got the love you can deal with anything that comes your way.  But when the love isn’t supported or encouraged and you’re just a laundry list of things to do much of the magic that that love brings is gone.

“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”  Mother Teresa

Lessons in Leadership

Last week was the Leadership Summit which is hosted each year by Willow Creek and the stage is shared by may big leaders in both business and church arenas.  Today I’ve got a few thoughts from the summit to share with you, I’ll expand on some of these in the future.  If you were able to attend or watch I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments section as well.

“Great leadership is, by definition, relentlessly developmental.” Bill Hybels

“You want legacy leaders (in for the long-term) and not ladder-climbers. Legacy leaders are concerned about culture and making a difference–versus ladder-climbers who are driven by ambition.” Bill Hybels

“Our people don’t expect us to be perfect. They expect us to be human.” Patrick Lencioni

“People never become defensive about what you’re saying. They become defensive because of why they think you’re saying it.” Joseph Grenny

“The power of a group is a function of the purity of its motives.” Joseph Grenny

“Any time you find yourself stuck, there is always a crucial conversation not happening.”  Joseph Grenny

“Every leader knows that life is short. This is what gives us the urgency to lead people who don’t have that urgency.”  Louie Giglio

“Power is the potential or ability to move reality, to make something happen.”   Ivan Satyavrata

“Great leaders refuse to use their power to intimidate or manipulate or control. Rather they use their power to give and add value.” Ivan Satyavrata

“Leadership is about how much you are willing to learn, how much you are wiling to give, self-awareness, serving others.” Jeffrey Immelt

“We expect all our leaders (including me) to teach and train leadership to our employees at all levels. It not only benefits the students–but puts our leaders face-to-face with every level and this impacts our own leadership.” Jeffrey Immelt

“You want employees who are willing buck the system, question authority, and have a burning desire to change.” Jeffrey Immelt

“We don’t expect people to have perfect careers. We expect them to learn from their failures and get better.” Jeffrey Immelt

“The highest calling of leadership is to unlock the potential of others.” Carly Fiorina

To Peace and Partnerships

In life we often ask ourselves what to do with our competition or the people that have become those we consider as enemies or those who are or could be a threat to us or those we love. Some people mount campaigns against them to try to beat them into submission, or destroy or defeat them.  This is what much of the world chooses to do: we see the evidence in the myriad of fights, wars and conflicts around the world today.

However, I believe there is a better way.  I believe that the only way we’ll really come to conclusions that will actually make the world a better place is by working together.

That doesn’t mean that some ideas aren’t good and some aren’t bad; they are.  There are things that we need to let go of and things we can all learn from. Only by making those decisions, making educated decisions about those things, can we find the strength and space to move to better things and become better people.

We don’t seem to be solving anything by fighting.  It’s like when you were a kid and you fought, wrestled and threw tantrums with your siblings or friends.  You didn’t really accomplish anything with that other than a lot of fun and some bruises.  It was when you worked together to build the block town, made that science project or worked on that special gift for a parent that you made real progress.  Yes, there is some sense to the fighting because it can establish hierarchy or comradery.  But when the fate of many parts of the world is at risk does it really make sense to establish hierarchy or work together to achieve progress?

This week consider someone that you’ve been at odds with for a long time and reach out with an olive branch or just touch base to see if you can work things out.  If things have been really hostile between you two in the past it may be a tough conversation but if you want to make true progress it won’t be easy.

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” Nelson Mandela

Peace in Partnerships

We’re going to be talking a lot about peace this month, if you haven’t figured it out yet it is our monthly theme but it also coincides with a lot of the unrest and uncertainty in the world that we’re dealing with.  There are plenty of reasons for us to be without peace.  There are lots of demands on our time, we’ve got lots of responsibilities to fulfill and the world is moving at such a fast pace that it’s hard to find time to develop or find peace.

Which is exactly what some of us don’t realize: peace must be developed.  You can’t just pick up peace like you do your coffee in the morning or be dropped off there like a taxi does.  If we want peace we have to work at it.  I know we sometimes have an aversion to hard work, thinking everything should be easy, but sometimes the best things are the ones you have to work the hardest for.

When it comes to our families and romantic partners I’ve learned over the years that peace is essential to the success of that relationship, and that they take work if you want them to succeed.  If you’ve followed this blog or worked with me for a length of time you’ve probably heard my preference of calling it a partnership, not a relationship, for many reasons but most of all because “relationship” makes me think about just relating to you, whereas a partnership reminds me that both/all people in the situation must be active participants. It’s not about being politically correct, but about getting back to the concept that when two adults, a parent and child, or adult (teacher, pastor, babysitter, coach etc.) and child are working together by choice or requirement there is no laziness or lack of participation, but rather both sides are expected to be involved because it is a partnership and both people bring something to the table.

What will your choice be this weekend and this coming week?  Will you choose to work at and bring peace to the table or will you do your best to cause problems and stress others out?

“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Free to Succeed?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what success is to me. Is it a lot of money? Is it helping people with their businesses? Is it being a writer? Do I even want to be successful? These are questions that each of us need to ask because otherwise one day we’ll arrive at a destination and be shocked or frustrated or wish desperately that we were somewhere else because unfortunately many of us don’t get to look back and feel satisfied. I’ve also been thinking about the things that hold us back from being successful. Unfortunately, the number one thing I’ve seen in countless business owners is themselves. Yes, that’s right they’re holding themselves back from success.

When they make the decision that they know all there is to know, a simple strategy won’t work, someone else can’t be right, they are doing the best they can be, or they can’t be wrong, they’re significantly decreasing their chance of true success.

I have been chatting with a consultant for about a week now about his interest in getting into online marketing and all it entails. In our conversations he shared about 2 business owners he’s really targeting right now and a question of how good their product/service really was and not really knowing the full quality of what they offer.   I was honest with him that if their product/service really isn’t that good, internet marketing (or any other kind of marketing) won’t fix the real problem. But like countless others they aren’t open to hearing that something needs to be fixed, they just want to move on to being successful as they are.

It reminded me of all the homes damaged by Superstorm Sandy we had in the Northeast a few years ago, as well as all the other houses and buildings that are damaged each year by storms or floods. When a home is flooded you can’t just move right back in, the damage has to be treated or mold will grow. You also can’t add another level onto a home that’s foundation has been damaged because it won’t withstand the added pressure.

I’m not suggesting you have to be perfect, I’m simply saying that if you’re blind to the issues that exist in your business there is no amount of advertising or marketing budget that would get you repeat customers, or after a time any customers. There is no magic Facebook button, social strategy, or marketing plan that can overcome poor food, nasty customer service, or ugly products. Those issues have to be fixed before a marketing plan can be applied to bring in customers and help you get to the success that is possible.

So I encourage you to take a good look at yourself and your business this week. Are you holding yourself back from success?

Achieving Perfection

I was thinking about how fast most of our world moves.  We get into relationships, into bed, into marriage, into kids in record time these days.  The same is true for the business world.  We put up our websites, make our sales and become successful in record time, right?  For some of us that’s true, but for most of us we’re coming to the conclusion that record time isn’t working anymore.  Most of us don’t instantly become a success on Facebook or YouTube, we actually have to do some work to be successful.  Turns out, that might be the best thing for all of us.  I don’t know about you but I don’t want to rush through life, I want to enjoy it.

Our desires to succeed war with our desires to be perfect, our desires to have a life we love and our desires to be accepted.  But the thing that is true for all of them is that it takes work to get there and most of us won’t get there on the first try.  Very rarely is perfection achieved, is a perfect romantic partner found, or does a child do their homework right on the first attempt.

We spend most of our lives learning and trying, yet we still think that there is some magical ability to bypass that essential aspect of our lives.  It’s only when we accept that learning, trying and failures are not only essential but acceptable is when we can really begin exploring and achieving our potential.

If we all accepted the first batch or first try as the way it was we’d be missing out on a lot of things.  We wouldn’t have lights, we wouldn’t have working airplanes, and we wouldn’t have buildings as we know them today, just to name a few things that we’ve known have failed in the past.  The choice we have is to accept that perfection takes more than just luck.  It takes hard work, failure and a willingness to not give up or give in.

Will you do what it takes to get closer to perfection or are you too busy running to the finish line?

“Aim at a high mark and you’ll hit it. No, not the first time, nor the second time. Maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect.” Annie Oakley

The Choice of Hurt

On Monday I shared a little about whether or not we’re letting our fears get the best of us and our relationships and our success.  I want to continue that discussion today, but take it in a bit of a different direction.  We’ve all been hurt by our partners before, they’ve said something or done something or forgot something and it really got to us.  Maybe because it seemed like the thousandth time they did or forgot, and no amount of reminding seems to do any good.  Dealing with hurt is a natural part of our lives since we’re not perfect, but on the other side of things, we’re not always able to be the absolutely amazing person we know we are capable of being either.

So once we’ve been hurt we’ve got a couple choices: one to hold onto the hurt and let it ruin our lives, two to share the hurt with the person that hurt us to clear the air, or three to just let it go and love them anyway.  None of these are an “all the time” solution, they’re situational and depend on the person or people involved as well as what happened.  However, I don’t recommend the first choice as a real solution to any of your problems because it will only cause more pain and suffering rather than help anyone.

The thing I always come back to when deciding how to handle a situation is a question: can I still love this person if they never are able to resolve this particular issue?  For example, if my partner never remembers my birthday can I love them anyway?  Or if my partner never remembers that I have a standing appointment every Thursday can I love them anyway?  Or if my partner always leaves the seat up can I love them anyway?  Or if my partner doesn’t like my favorite TV show can I love them anyway?  In my mind the answer to all of these questions is a definite yes.

It’s when we get to harder questions about money, our physical relationship or kids that the answers aren’t so straightforward.  I believe that the harder questions should have the ability to make or break our relationships: no one should be in an abusive relationship or one in which the partners are so far apart in goals and desires.  So when it comes to the smaller things I tend to air on the side of love and forgiveness.

Each day we have to make the choice to stay with that person and keep sharing our lives with them.  What should be a rewarding, and occasionally challenging, relationship is often much more stressful than it should be because we’re not able make a choice one way or the other.  What choice are you making in your relationship?