An Inclusive Business?

One of the topics that’s been discussed in just about every aspect of life from politics to business to school is the topic of inclusion.  There are plenty of people that you can talk to who will say that they want to go viral and reach “everyone.” There’s nothing wrong with a universal message like love, hope, peace, or community, in fact they’re topics that I talk about often.  If you’ve got a product or service that people around the world can universally benefit from, go for it.  I wish you the very best.

However the fact is most of us don’t have a universal product or service, or we’ve got a specific group of people we’re most passionate about.  That’s not a bad thing, it helps people identify with us and want what we’re offering. It also gives us the opportunity to stay focused on the people we’re most equipped to help.  So how do we find the balance between including people and setting ourselves apart from others?  Is there even a balance?

Let me put it this way: I think that with enough patience and commitment we can do a ton, maybe even more than you can imagine at this moment.  I can’t do heart surgery, but maybe you can’t advise about the heart of a business.  I don’t believe that we have to be able to do or be everything, that’s why there are other people in the world with talents that you and I don’t have.  That said, I do encourage you to be more open about the people you can serve in your business, don’t just go with your preconceived notions and expectations of others, be open to hearing their story and needs.  You don’t have to let go of your values or beliefs to be part of the community, give a helping hand, or listen.

Start somewhere simple as we enter this new month and commit to being a better listener in your business.  Listen to what your ideal customers are saying as well as others who somehow find their way to you.  Don’t be afraid to to limit yourself, but also be open to trying new things.  I think that’s the best balance anyone can ask for.

To Do or Not To Do

I read an inspiring quote recently that I want to share with you today.  It shares a simple but challenging message, one that we talk about but aren’t always able to follow through with:

“Every time you say yes to something you don’t want to do, this will happen: you will resent people, you will do a bad job, you will have less energy for the things you were doing a good job on, you will make less money, and yet another small percentage of your life will be used up, burned up, a smoke signal to the future saying, “I did it again.”  James Altucher

Have you felt that way before?  I know sometimes we force ourselves to do something and it turns out better than we expected, but other times we’re busy telling ourselves all the lies about why this has to happen or why we have to help this person or why this might be/may be/could be/should be something we should do.  I get it, we’ve got pressure from society and the people around us every day trying to (and sometimes succeeding in) affecting our choices.  Sometimes that’s a good thing, but other times we’re just caving.

Taking risks is part of having a healthy life and healthy self esteem.  So you do need to determine if you’re hesitant because you’re worried about the risk or because deep down you know it’s not the right choice for you.  This week I encourage you to take at least one risk and say no to at least one thing you feel won’t be right for you.  I’d love to hear what you learn!

Choosing Love

Love is a powerful emotion.  Emotion might even be too weak a word to use to describe what love is, because love is more than feeling happy, or sad; love lasts, endures and exists through those times of highs and lows.  Love makes our happiness conditional on the other person’s happiness.  Simply, love means we want those we love happy, and if they’re not happy we’re not either.  This is one area where all of the technological advancements of the past few decades have really made a big impact: it’s even easier to spread the love around even when we can’t be that physical shoulder to cry on.  You can send love through a Facebook or email message, a quick tweet or text, or send it over as a big photograph.

One of the greatest abilities love has is the ability to tear down barriers of loneliness and separation.  The only reason distance relationships work ever is because the love in that relationship is powerful and well developed.  Love doesn’t consider our differences, it just sees people and hearts.  Love isn’t concerned with politics or culture, it just wants to break down walls.  When we let love in it can do powerful things in our lives and in the lives of those connected with us.

However, it’s not just about being loved, it’s about loving too.  It’s one reason people who suffer from depression are told to get pets or do community service or spend time with kids: you feel better when you’re spreading love and helping others.  But just like many other things in our lives, love is a choice.  It’s a choice we have to make on a daily (or hourly) basis.  It’s a choice no one can make for us, and one we can’t make for them.  If you don’t want to feel alone, do something about it!  Choose to accept the love that is all around you and make it part of your life.

“It is astonishing how little one feels alone when one loves.”  John Bulwer

The Business of the Irish

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, the day that, at least in the US (and of course Ireland), everyone is welcome to be honorarily Irish.  I love that we take time out each year to celebrate this country that many people in the US do have genetic ties to, and the ancestors who came here in droves to help settle the country.  It would be hard to miss all the green around the stores as I did my shopping today, it was in just about every store.  But of course, there are businesses who choose to ignore it because they don’t want to make the effort or don’t think it fits in with their brand or maybe they just don’t care to interact with the people celebrating.

One of the big reasons I encourage you to get involved in holidays, especially those as big as St. Patrick’s Day, is because it’s something people are interested in.  One of the best ways to encourage customer loyalty in this ever challenging market is to connect more personally with them.  Celebrating holidays also is a good way to remember that you’re human and so are your employees, just like your customers are with their personal interests, passions and dreams.  With all the parades and events it’s also a great way to connect with them where they live and get involved in your local area even if you don’t have a physical location for your business.

One of the other reasons I encourage you to celebrate St. Patrick’s is because of something you can relate with as a business: St. Patrick’s Day is about more than just drinking and leprechauns, it connects with the concept and brand of Ireland and the Irish.  Just like you would say ‘let’s Google it’ if you and a friend were debating something, Ireland and all things Irish are very recognizable: you don’t ask for German or Australian soda bread, you buy Irish soda bread; there are iconic brands like Waterford Crystal and Connemara Marble; not to mention symbols like the Claddagh, the Celtic cross, the trinity knot (Triquetra), leprechauns, and even the clover leaf (“the luck of the Irish,” anyone?), all make just about everyone think Ireland and the Irish.  It’s a recognizable, strong and lasting country, icon, brand, symbol, group and culture. Which makes this day, the Irish people and Ireland, not only worthy of celebration, but also of presentation and connection within your business.

So as you wrap up the work day, have an Irish whisky or hunt for a 4 leaf clover and maybe even do an Irish jig to start the weekend off and celebrate this great country.

Committed to the Business

This month one of the topics we’re talking about is commitment.  Let’s talk a bit today about how commitment impacts your business.

If you really are committed to being successful, my first question to you is what have you done to try to be successful?  One of the biggest struggles I have with success is the fact that not everyone is truly committed, or that even if they are they aren’t using their brains that they’ve been given.  I get many people contacting me saying “I just created this product and now I need to know how to sell it.”  Too often what this means is that they think they’ve got this great idea but haven’t done the research on what it means to be in business and the options that are available for them to tap into to market it.  The internet is full of insights about every topic under the sun.  Sometimes you have to phrase the search a couple of different ways before you find what you’re looking for, but the answers are out there.

The second aspect of commitment in business would be about how committed you are to keeping the business alive, as well as make it thrive.  Part of this has to do with investing in yourself as the leader on a regular basis, and part of it has to do with investing in the business and making sure that things stay fresh and up to date in this fast-paced world we live in.  Do you put in time regularly to making sure that the systems are working as they should, the marketing is being done, trends are being considered and new options are being discussed?  Or do you just leave things alone and hope they keep working?

The third aspect I want to touch on today is commitment to your people.  Are you committed to the employees and customers you have?  Do you really think about how you can make things better for them, make them happier and help them have a better experience with you and your products?  Do you show that you care what they think and what they’re interested in?  Or do you do as little as possible and hope that things will take care of themselves?

Can you be successful if you’re not really committed? Yes, some people get lucky.  But that’s often because they’ve got a great team around them that cares a whole heck of a lot more than they do.  However, when the leader is committed, when the team is committed and when the clients are committed, the possibilities are endless. What areas of commitment in your business do you need to work on this week?

When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.” Howard Schultz

A Case of Curiosity and Creativity

March is full of interesting people’s birthdays, including Einstein and Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel).  I know most people don’t grow up thinking about theories of relativity or trying to make rhymes into stories, or becoming a household name and yet these two men did exactly that.  Both are fairly normal paths of success, writing and science aren’t weird or wrong, they’re legitimate fields of interest.  Part of the reason that they stand out so much though is because they did exactly what those fields are about: they made discoveries and brought words to life.

So what can we take away from the lives of these two men? First and foremost that even if you’re “trapped” in something very conventional and normal, that doesn’t mean you can’t put your spin on it and make it your own.  Yes, sometimes you’re called to do bigger and different things than you’re involved in now, but often it just means that you need to get a little more creative with regards to what you’re involved in and see if you can’t work a little magic in your current situations before giving up.  Second, which directly ties in with that, invest in being creative and curious throughout your life.  Creativity and curiosity aren’t things you give up like most people give up their dolls and stuffed animals when they reach a certain age, they’re skills that can greatly benefit you throughout your life if you’re willing to tap into them.

As we finish up this week and head into the next one I encourage you to explore your life.  I know that sounds kind of funny, but so often we get caught up in the story we tell ourselves, the habits we have and the often narrow way we see our world and lives and we don’t see the reality of our life or what’s waiting for us just outside of our normal life boundaries and beliefs.  Take the time to get creative and be curious about what else your life holds and you could tap into or could help you get the breakthrough you’ve been missing.

Planning for a Healthy Spring

With spring just around the corner, it’s time to talk about getting healthy!

Get out: it’s finally nice enough to spend a lot of time outside!  You can go on walks, go hiking, train for a marathon, play in the backyard, go to a park, visit a nature center near you and even eat your lunch outside!  Fresh air makes you feel better, whether you’re exercising or even just sitting outside.

Eat right: eat a fruit or veggie with each meal, and in between too.  Whether it’s a salad, side of corn or banana, fruits and veggies are usually an easy option with lots of good vitamins, minerals and fuel for your body.  Take time this spring and summer to visit local farmer’s markets and farms near you and get locally grown produce.  You’ll be supporting your community and getting good food too.  Don’t forget to try some of the delicious seasonal produce that’s available now too!

Get rest: many of us don’t really know what our body needs in the way of sleep and rest, and even if we do, we don’t always get it.  Know how many hours of sleep you need, and do your best to get it.  An unrested body doesn’t function as well as a rested one.  It’s also important to take time out to just sit and relax too.  Our bodies aren’t designed to be on the go 24/7.  They have to rest too!

Power your mind: in our on-the-go societies, we are subjected to thousands of messages each day, whether at work, on the computer, on our phones, while driving, at the store, in the newspapers and on TV.  This also means you’ve got tons of choices about what you choose to be exposed to.  Granted, you can’t block out all the bad stuff, but you can be particular about what you and your kids watch and see at home.  Yes, it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in the world and be socially aware, but you don’t have to be a news or TV junkie to do OK in the world.

Get involved: Finally, the last piece to being healthy is being involved in the community.  Join the community pool, help at a community garden, go out with 3 or 4 other couples, bring your kids to the park with your friends, and have play dates.  Getting your kids involved with other people, going on group dates, and being part of your community are all an important part of having a healthy life.

I encourage you this week to do a family checkup: plan and make changes in your lives to eat, live and work in your communities and at home.  Together we can make the world a healthier place!

Time and Priorities

Today I’m thinking about time.  I know that some of us struggle with prioritizing and fitting in what’s important. Often it feels like we have so many demands on our time that we don’t know how to get it all done in the time we’ve got.  As a business owner you’ve got tons of demands on your time and it may be frustrating or overwhelming for you to try and get everything done in the time given and in the best way possible.  But the worst thing you can do is to give up or de-prioritize things that really should be priorities.

Let’s start by talking about what’s important and should be prioritized.  The most obvious would be things that no one else can do or that need your approval to move forward.  Yes, delegation is great and necessary but there are certain things that just can’t be done without a say-so from you, the boss.  Ignoring it or hoping the assigned individual will take care of it will eventually result in your team letting things slide or things not getting done, no matter how great your team is.

The next step to choosing what to prioritize has to do with whether or not it’s something that affects others. Without people your business can’t be very successful, it’s that simple. So if the needs of the people aren’t being addressed, expect failure, not success.

The third question is how high of a priority the need is.  If it’s a high priority, and especially something no one but you can do, it should be done sooner rather than later. The thing to remember though is that everything needs to be addressed at some point in time, so it’s not a good idea to just do the highest priority items and nothing else because everything becomes highest priority at some point in time, and it’s a lot easier to get things done when they’re not on fire (literally or figuratively).

But to get things done you have to spend time on them.  One of the biggest issues with priorities is response time.  Some companies can manage super quick responses to customer questions and issues, it’s great if you can.  However, not everyone has the resources or availability to provide almost instant responses.  My rule of thumb is that all queries should be addressed within 24 hours.  Even better would be to respond when you get to work and then again when you leave work.  That way you start and end your day with a clean slate.  For the weekends or days you don’t have set hours I would definitely follow the 24 hour rule.

Finally, assign and spend a portion of your day every day handling both highest priority and lower priority items.  Having the time scheduled in will help you feel less stress and get more done, too.

What do you need to prioritize or spend time on in your business?

When It Takes Too Long

I know the past month for me has been challenging, there have been cancellations, changed plans, friends appearing and disappearing, and lots of other strange happenings, not to mention all the stuff going on in the world.  And it’s all exhausting!  Each day just feels like trying to walk through mud.

So what do you do when life just takes too long to get to where you’re heading?

My first choice is to relax.  We’re a busy society and don’t take enough time to smell the roses, literally and figuratively.  When was the last time you were outside?  When was the last time you took a walk, albeit bundled up given that we haven’t quite shaken winter yet?  When was the last time you sat on the couch with your partner or a friend and just talked?  When was the last time you had a cup of tea or coffee without the paper or some work?

Second, do what you feel like you can do.  If your body is telling you to take a nap, maybe you’re not getting enough sleep to function in high-challenge times like these.  If your body is complaining about something, maybe it’s a good time to try that diet your friends have been telling you about. Make short to-do lists and don’t plan to conquer the world right now.

Third, make time for family.  You don’t have to have your a-game to have a great time with your family.  Your kids will love if you sit and read stories with them, your parents will love if you call them, your siblings will wonder if you’re going crazy but it will be a chance to spend time with the people you probably don’t spend enough time with.

If your life, goals and victories have been a little elusive of late, fear not, keep pressing forward, especially now that we’ve entered a new month.  We’ll all get there.  Listen to what your body and heart are telling you and do the best you can.  No one will fault you for trying and doing the best you can.