Are you Faithful?

This month one of the topics we’ve talked about is faith, and as we wrap up this month today I wanted to talk about being faithful.  Are you a faithful person?  Are you faithful to the decisions you’ve made and people who you’ve chosen to let into your life? Do you have faith in other people?  Are you faithful to yourself and your needs, dreams and desires? Do you follow through on the commitments you’ve made?  Can people trust you? Do you trust yourself?

I know these are some challenging questions, and those we may not like to ask very often.  We don’t like to believe or discover that we’re not the person we should be, the person we think we are or the person others think we are.  It’s not exciting to most of us to discover that we’ve got work to do on ourselves and the areas we’re lacking in.  But faith and faithfulness are qualities that people look for in each other, and the reward of taking the time to do the work is usually better than we could imagine.

With summer comes lots of opportunities to be with family and friends.   Family and friends are the people typically who know us the best and who we put the most faith in, and the people who have the most faith in us.  Yes, sometimes your faith will be misplaced and you’ll need to reevaluate, but most of us don’t get into relationships or have kids (or make career choices) without having faith, or at the very least hope, in how things will turn out.

So as you spend time with others this summer I encourage you to step up and be the person that your friends and family have placed their faith in.  Be the supportive friend they need, be the guide they need, be the leader they need, be the disciplinarian they need, and/or be the comforting shoulder they need.  But don’t forget about being faithful to yourself and your needs and desires too.  Carve out some time each week, or even each day if possible to be faithful to who you are and want to be.

Business Classics

As we go through this summer I’ve been enjoying summer classics like ice pops, warm sunny days, late night walks, thunderstorms, fresh fruits and vegetables and less traffic on the roads.  Thinking about summer classics got me thinking about some of the things in business that never get old.  Like the summer classics there are lots of variations on the classics we can try, and the true summer classics don’t get old, so don’t be turned off by thinking these are just the “same old things” or dated and aren’t relevant, they’re as central to business success as sun is to summer.

Good leadership: I start my list with this one because as we see in the news, often it’s the leadership behind the business that makes or breaks it.  If you want to be successful make sure that you’re the person who can truly lead your business or that you hire people who can.

Good products and services: there is nothing that beats a happy customer.  Happy customers usually mean more customers, and that’s always a good thing.   One of the best ways to have happy customers is by providing them with products and/or services that live up to their description and the promises made about them and really help people.  Some products or services are successful because they make people happy even if they don’t technically fill a need or resolve a problem that customers have, but all things that are bought or sold must have a purpose of some kind to sell well.

Good customer service: whether we’re talking about the processes of shopping, buying, using or getting help, customers need help! Your products and services don’t magically transfer from you to them, there are things that happen between first knowing about it and the end result (and sometimes after that too).  How easy is it to work through your process?  Do you make your potential customers jump through unnecessary hurdles?  If so you may be scaring customers away before they have a chance to check out your fabulous products or services.  And don’t forget about the people (employees, bosses etc.) that are part of your business too.  Make sure they’re fully equipped to help with a whole variety of customer service needs and are pleasant too.

Good marketing: there has to be some kind of marketing done for customers to hear about your business and what you offer.  We’ve seen laughable attempts at marketing as well as non-existent ones (both of which can end a business).  Marketing can be as singular as a physical storefront or website, or as involved as a national campaign using all kinds of media.  But all marketing does one thing well: communicate to potential customers who you are and what you offer.  How detailed this communication is depends on many things, but all marketing must answer that essential question.

What are some other aspects of business that are classics in your mind?

Getting Support

This week I’ve been thinking about the topic of community.  We’re all in different communities, we’ve got our friend communities, family community, work communities, online communities, and the communities we live in.  One of the most important communities we can be part of is one of support.  Sometimes that means professional counselors/pastors/coaches/leaders, other times it’s just family, friends and coworkers.  As someone who offers coaching services you might think it obvious that I believe in getting professional help, and that I have to say stuff like that.  But my business has very little to do with why I believe that sometimes the best thing you can do is talk with a professional.

Let’s back up though to the topic of support.  I believe we all need support in our lives.  First and foremost there’s no reason to go through life alone, but beyond that, other people have so many experiences and so much knowledge that we don’t individually have that it makes sense to share what we know with each other.  The internet has greatly helped with the concept of support with all the blogs and social networks we can share through and find support in.  But it’s not just about being alone, it’s about getting help if (when) you need help.  For many years (centuries maybe even) it was seen as shameful or wrong if you couldn’t manage your own stuff on your own.  Yes, we should take an active roll in our lives, but that doesn’t mean we can’t ask for help when we need it.

There is nothing wrong with saying you don’t know things, asking for help from a qualified professional, letting someone else do what they excel in so you can do what you excel in, getting advice from someone who has been through what you’re going through or knows about what you’re trying to create, or getting support in navigating through changes in your life.  Sometimes it’s OK to talk with family or friends, but talking with a professional can be the right choice if you want an unbiased opinion, want to talk with someone who you won’t have to interact with in the future on a regular basis, don’t feel comfortable being so open and honest with those who know you best, don’t want to be judged by friends or family or don’t know anyone who can help you with what you’re going through.   Whether you’re struggling through things or in need of some wisdom on next steps in your life, don’t put off your future any longer because you’re stuck or uncertain.  Be proactive about your life and choices and get the help you need.

“Consider counseling. It’s not a weakness to find someone who can help you process.”  Tim Stevens

A Big World

In past years I’ve taken a look at some places around the US and world that you may want to visit with your family.  We’ve looked at museums, historic outdoor places, places for lovers, wet and wild places, gorgeous places to visit, and a collection of places around Europe and the US.  With all the traveling I’ve been doing recently I wanted to highlight a few new places and programs to visit this summer or in the following months when summer crowds die down.  Most parks have special events throughout the year so always check in to see what they have planned before you plan a trip, and most have special programs for the kids too.

Cape Hatteras sea turtle program (a cool opportunity to see sea turtle nests)

Haunting in the Hills Storytelling Festival (Bandy Creek/Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in Tennessee)

Sunrises on Cadillac Mountain at Acadia, Maine

Sand sledding at the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado

Parks and Monuments:

Dinosaur in Colorado and Utah

Canyon of the Ancients in Colorado

Waco Mammoth in Texas

Katmai in Alaska

Gila Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico

Zion in Utah (Utah’s first National Park)

Glacier in Montana

Rocky Mountain in Colorado

There are so many great places to visit, and not just these places who are officially named and part of the NPS.  The world we live in is full of little corners of nature, little parks, small zoos and nature preserves, and other great opportunities to get out and explore our world.  What are your favorite parks and nature spots to visit?

4 Tips for Increased Productivity

Recently we’ve been talking about the topic of being productive during the summer months in your business. I hope you’ve been able to follow through on at least some of those thoughts. Today I wanted to talk about in-the-minute productivity and what you can do to stay motivated through the days that you would rather be out playing with the kids, and how to do your best work for your customers all the time, not just during the summer.

Food and Drink: this is not only a popular break activity, but one that’s necessary for keeping you productive. I can testify that if I forget to eat (or don’t have time to), or don’t drink enough during the day (water, tea, coffee etc. not sodas and alcohol), it can be hard to stay focused as the day drags on and as it draws to a close. Make sure to eat healthy foods though, not just vending machine snacks. There are tons of things you can prepare in 10 minutes or less that are much healthier for you and still enjoyable.

Exercise: many businesses are taking to including workout locations at their place of business or sponsoring memberships for their employees to join local gyms. This is great and it helps employees stay healthier and look and feel better. But what I’m talking about is as simple as a 10 minute walk around, in or near your business. Maybe it means walking through the different departments checking in with people. Maybe it’s an outdoor walk during which you take the time to call your partner and/or kids and check in. Maybe it’s just a walk to and around the kitchen to get a snack and make a cup of something to drink to take a break from the no-so-healthy snacks or water you keep at your desk.

Emails and Social Media: I know, this is something that trips many people up when it comes to productivity. So, rather than seeing it as a challenge, see it as an opportunity. When that afternoon slump hits you, rather than trying to get through the challenging stuff and important projects, take time to read your email, peruse related business publications and sites and check in on the business related social media stuff. It all has to get done, so set aside time that you’re not able to be as productive and conquer it then.

Sleep: This one can get tricky, because sometimes a 10 minute nap turns into a lot more.  But sometimes what you really need isn’t food, exercise or a distraction, you need to catch up on your sleep.  Sleep is super important and if you’re getting too little or too much for your body you won’t function at optimal productivity.  So take a quick nap, or pack it in early so you can get a full night’s sleep.

What do you do to stay productive?

Living with Love

As I was driving and contemplating life today this song, “From The Ground Up” by DAN + SHAY came on the radio (you can listen to it here):

“Grandma and grandpa painted a picture of 65 years
And one little house
More than a memory
More than saying I do
Kiss you goodnight’s and I love you’s

Me and you baby, walk in the footsteps
Build our own family
One day at a time
Ten little toes, a painted pink room
Our beautiful baby looks just like you

And we’ll build this love from the ground up
Now ’til forever it’s all of me, all of you
Just take my hand
And I’ll be the man your dad hoped that I’d be

And we’ll build this love from the ground up
For worse or for better
And I will be all you need
Beside you I’ll stand through the good and the bad
We’ll give all that we have
And we’ll build this love from the ground up

This life will go by
In the blink of an eye
But I wouldn’t wanna spend it without you by my side
The clouds are gonna roll
The earth’s gonna shake
But I’ll be your shelter through the wind and the rain…

Someday we’ll wake up
With thousands of pictures
65 years in this little house
I won’t trade for nothing, the life that we built
I’ll kiss you goodnight and say I love you still…”

This song is an invitation for those in relationships, as well as all of us, to love through thick and thin and learn to work together.  Sometimes there is no better choice than to agree to disagree and go your separate ways.  But often full separation isn’t an option, especially if you have kids or work together.  The song is a reminder that life does include its challenges and that we won’t be able to escape all of them.  The choice we have is in how we face our challenges.  Do we choose to do it with people to support us through them, or do we choose to try and go it alone?  We can choose who we love, who we allow in our lives, who we build our lives with, and what we do with our lives.  I’d much rather work towards an awesome future with people I enjoy being with and who enjoy being with me, wouldn’t you?

Are You Right to Run a Business?

It is hard to run a business. There are many plates to juggle even if you’ve got a great team and lots of your stuff is automated. A staggering number of businesses fail within 5 years, some more spectacularly and noticeably than others. Some never become as successful as they could be and just get by every month. Now, I don’t believe that running a business is right for everyone. Some people just aren’t built to be the person in charge, and that’s OK since most businesses aren’t successful with just one person in them. Let’s take a look at a couple of things that may make you the right person to run a business.

You have the leadership to run it. Last week we talked about exponentially growing your business and 4 keys to doing it.  If you want your business to succeed, you have to be able to step up to the plate and lead your clients, suppliers and employees.  Or if you aren’t able to be the needed leader you either have to hire someone who can lead on your behalf.

You know how to prioritize, schedule, get things done and stay on task. If you really want to succeed things have to get done! If you can’t create a plan on how to get things done, can’t figure out what is really a priority, get yourself on task to accomplishing the things on your schedule, you will soon fall behind on the details and the business will flounder or fail.

You have the support you need. No business is run without some kind of support, whether the technical stuff like social networks or websites or product creation or service delivery.  Part of prioritizing is knowing when you need more help and to hire the right help. It may be tempting to go with the person or company who can do stuff the cheapest, but it may be better for you in the long run if you choose the company that’s a little more competent and willing to work with you long term.

You are willing to love your customers.  Depending on how you see things this could be the first question in whether or not you can run a business or just one of the top 4. In many ways for many businesses the customers they work with become part of their family.  If you aren’t willing to really care for your customers and their needs, you either have to constantly get new customers, or only be in business a short time.  The most successful businesses are those who really pay attention and care for their customers.

What would you add to this list and what words of advice would you have for those just starting a business or considering one?

Sincere Apologies

July 7 was a very important day.  You may not know why, but it was Global Forgiveness Day.  I don’t know about you, but I’m really thankful that we are able to forgive each other because I know I screw up on a regular basis.  Of course I wish I needed less forgiving, and I do try to do my best in all situations, but I’m not perfect and sometimes I make assumptions, presumptions, or guesses, blame someone for something they didn’t do, don’t understand what I was supposed to do or just plain screw up. And sometimes I need forgiving not because I did something wrong necessarily, but because I was having a bad day and decided to take it out on an unsuspecting someone else.

It seems like most of the forgiving we do isn’t done with the word “forgive.”  We say “I’m sorry” and respond with “It’s OK” or “It’s not OK” or “Try to do better next time.”  We don’t usually say “I forgive you.”  Is there really a difference?  Does it matter?  Is the apology and acknowledgement of the apology good enough?

I don’t think it really matters what we call it, as long as we’re sincere in our apology, willing to try to forgive and/or willing to do better next time.  Forgiveness only works as a concept if we’re willing to do better next time.  Otherwise what’s the point of forgiving someone or apologizindg even?  The concept of forgiveness means you’ve recognized that you’ve done wrong.  If you don’t really think you’ve done anything wrong, your lackluster apology won’t be appreciated, and may even damage your relationship with the other person or people.

Do you need to really forgive someone today?  Do you need to ask for forgiveness today? Don’t put it off any longer.  Make today the day that you choose forgiveness.

A Response to Violence

I’ve been receiving lots of emails about the violent deaths of black men and women around the US over the past few months and especially these past few days, and you probably have too.  I’ve shared some thoughts on violence before, but to sum up I believe it’s sometimes necessary, but only for reasons of showing your strength or defending those who are weaker and in trouble.  I don’t believe violence should be the answer to fear, differences, disagreements or the way to gain power.  We each have our differences and our similarities.  Just because we’re different in one way or another, it doesn’t make it right to treat anyone as less than a human with rights.  We all have our biases and beliefs, but if we really believe we’re meant to live in a global, connected world, we have to start working together at some point in time.

So today I wanted to share with you a few of the comments I have heard that stood out to me, I may reflect in depth on some of them on the Life and Spirituality blog over the coming days and weeks as well.

“We[‘ve] talked about the terror some of us feel in our own homes. Scared of feeling rejected, ignored, dismissed, or unheard by the people who matter most, we reactively retreat to passivity and self-protection.  This is not the path to peace in our own homes, nor in our own hearts…Ultimately, learn to represent your fullest self to the fullest. That way you give yourself, and the ones who matter most, the best chance at the relationships we all crave.”  Hal Runkel

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“… the attack is a reminder that no life will be safe and truly valued until we also confront the broader American culture of violence.”  Kai Wright

“There is a deep wound in this nation and we must re-double our commitment to be a part of healing it — and it must be done nonviolently.  The only way we can truly generate healing is to take the skills and values of peacebuilding deep into our communities.”  Matthew Albracht

“Everybody’s got to reach deep down and find some empathy.  If you cried for the brother who bled out next to his fiancee, but you didn’t cry this morning for those police officers, it’s time to do a heart check.  If you cried for those police officers, but you have a hard time taking seriously all these videos that are coming out about African Americans dying, it’s time to do a heart check.  Because we are either going to come together or come apart.  There’s enough pain on both sides that there should be some empathy starting to kick in.’  Van Jones

“You need the courage to push yourself beyond your own fears.  You need to embrace your fears in order to make your life everything it was meant to be.”  Chris Howard

The world you grew up in is much different than it was for your parents, and the world your kids and their kids grow up in will be much different than the world you grew up in.  I want a world that will be a place to grow, thrive and blossom, and that’s not possible if the threat of violence remains so high.  What world do you want to create for your future generations?

4 Keys to Exponential Growth

This past week I read a great article by Brian Dodd on some things that a church leader has done to exponentially grow his church. As I was reading the article I was again reminded of the similarities between church and business leaders.  Today I want to share 4 insights, things that as the leader you need to provide or show to really grow your business successfully and create a lasting business.

Do you really know what you’re talking about?  Do your employees really know what they’re talking about? Or is everyone just trying to make a buck and hoping everything is self explanatory?  If there are only a handful of you involved in day to day operations you should all be knowledgeable about just about every aspect of the business.  Maybe you don’t know all the details but you should all know enough to be able to answer the majority of questions that customers would have.

Stable And Consistent Leadership
High turnover can display several bad indications about your business.  So if you’re able to present leadership that remains with the business for years it is a sign of health within the business as well as a strong, positive statement about what type of company you are, what you sell and what the company stands for.

Love Your People
Do you really love what you do? Do your employees and other leaders really enjoy what they do?  Do you all really enjoy supporting your customers?  Customers, and even potential customers, have pretty good BS meters these days.  They are good at figuring out which companies really care about what they do and the people they support.  While indifference towards your customers isn’t necessarily a reason people won’t choose you, people will be more likely to refer you if they feel appreciated and supported, and maybe even loved, by you and your team.

I know this may sound like one that only applies to churches, but it’s not.  I have yet to meet a perfect company and there are stories in the news each week about companies, and leaders, who screw up.  I’ve also met people who aren’t great customers and yet sometimes they’re worth the effort.  Everyone screws up once in a while, and I haven’t met too many people or companies that don’t deserve a second chance.

Are these 4 qualities something you apply in your business?  What ones do you need to work most on?