On Relationship Fights and Conversations

Summer is here and that means lots of together time! No relationship is perfect, but constantly sniping and demeaning each other in front of the kids is not only a great way to irreparably damage your relationship with your partner, it’s also a great way to damage your relationship with your kids. I’m not talking about the occasional serious conversation or minor fight in front of them, that can be educational for the kids, and it’s healthy and normal for a relationship.

If you’re working through a very stressful time (that you can see an end to in the near future), try to have those disagreements when the kids aren’t present, scheduling them if necessary. Scheduling fights and discussions sounds dumb, but it not only protects your kids and your relationship with them, it also may help you avoid some of the fights because you’ll have more time to think things through and make sure you’ve got all the relevant information instead of just reacting.

Most of us don’t enjoy fighting or arguing, and it doesn’t feel good when we’re at odds with someone we know so intimately as they know us. But if you’re constantly fighting or going out of your way to be nasty, it’s not healthy for either of you or the kids.  At that point you either need to seek counseling as a couple, or if you’ve tried that and it’s failed or it’s not something you’re willing to do, it’s time to reconsider the relationship.

All relationships have ups and downs and some only last for a short time. But most of us want our romantic relationships to last, which means the sooner we accept that things will change, we don’t know everything and the importance of listening, patience and compromise, the more likely your relationship has of being what you want it to be.  What positive strides will you take in your relationship this summer?

Dealing with Business Expectations

I was reading through one of the many newsletters I subscribe to and saw the phrase “failed to meet expectations.” It’s an interesting phrase, one that is important for businesses and especially business owners to consider. Some business owners get into business with the unselfish goal of making a difference in the world, but I don’t know too many business owners that don’t go into a business with an expectation on some level of being a (financial) success. Maybe it’s a secret hope to really grow a big business that brings in a lot of financial support for all people involved, or maybe it’s just a hope to to cover expenses. But, as the old saying goes, if you’re not bringing in income it’s a hobby, not a business.

Back to the topic of expectations. It’s healthy to have expectations, to have goals you want to reach with your business. It’s also healthy for any investors to have expectations of how your business should grow. But something that we’re seeing again and again are business who are reaching too high and/or too fast and can’t create or sustain the growth to meet those expectations. I get it, life is moving at a very rapid pace, things change often and quickly, and it is good to jump on opportunities that seem viable when they’re presented to you and you do due diligence.

As I said, there’s nothing wrong with having goals, even big goals.  But I don’t see a need to rush those goals or try to wring every single cent from an opportunity. It’s sad that it amazes us when we connect with a business that has been around for several decades, but the reality is that we’re not always thinking about making a legacy business and only about tapping into the here and now.

So here’s my suggestion: go ahead and have expectations. But rather than setting yourself up for a more likely failure, set both reasonable and reach goals. If you’re interested in really having victories in your life and business, set up easy, reasonable and reach goals, so that you’re almost guaranteed to succeed. Of course all of your goals should enable you to both help people and have a level of financial stability.  What expectations do you have for your business, and do you need to adjust them?

Lessons from Limits and Boundaries

One of the keys to success is not chasing the every bouncing ball. There are constantly shiny things, bouncing balls, or other distractions, opportunities or attractions that you could follow, but you have to consciously choose to focus on those things and people that are going to get you where you want to go. Part of the shiny-object-syndrome, as it’s known, is knowing your limits and boundaries and sticking to them.

I recently saw a commercial for a TV show about under-the-sea exploration including doing scuba diving and going down in a submersible and it took me back to a vacation I took as a kid where we did some snorkeling and I had a really poor experience. I find the world of the sea fascinating, I love reading and watching about shipwrecks and the cool creatures of the sea, but I have less than zero interest in going under the sea to experience any of it myself. I know my limit is seeing the undersea world from behind glass or through virtual means, and I am comfortable with that.

Limits and boundaries are knowing how far you want to or are willing to go with something, but you have to be aware when your limits and boundaries are truly hindering you and your success. My success is in no way limited by my disinterest in going under the sea, but if, to use a really extreme example, I said I didn’t ever want to talk to anyone again, that would limit my success. If my current limits or boundaries are hindering my success, they’re things I have to change, or reconsider how I define success.

This can be applied to all aspects of our lives, from our careers to parenting to our relationships. It’s healthy to have limits and boundaries, but only to the extend that they keep us on the path we want to go and keep us healthy. When they start to block us or hurt us or others, it’s time to reconsider them and work on moving past them. If you find that your limits and boundaries are still ones you want to keep, then it may be time for a new definition of and plan for success.

How are your limits and boundaries helping or hurting you?

Celebrating Summer Birthdays

Birthdays are funny because some people really don’t enjoy them while others want them celebrated in a big way. One of the more interesting times to have a birthday is in the summer because it’s a lot harder to celebrate because people are taking vacations and off doing a myriad of different things and not in their usual places. Even adults have less predictability in their lives during the summer. I’m not a summer baby but I know several people who are, so today I thought we’d talk about ways to celebrate them, ways that also work for those who have a birthday on Christmas or Christmas Eve.

Go ahead and celebrate anyway. Your birthday is about you, so maybe you don’t get to have a big party because not everyone can attend, so go ahead and do what you want. Maybe it’s a special dinner or other meal, maybe it’s sleeping in, maybe it’s hanging out with just one special person, maybe it’s doing something special with just your immediate family. Make your birthday what you want it to be.

Celebrate your half birthday instead. Celebrating your half birthday means that it would be during times that people are around, and maybe even looking for something to do in the rather tame months of January and February. Of course if you celebrate your half birthday with your friends and your actual birthday with your family it’s like having two birthdays!

Pick a day, any day. Yes, pick another day that appeals to you and make it your honorary birthday. Maybe you really hate celebrating your birthday so you make your honorary birthday February 29 so you only have to celebrate it every 4 years. Maybe you love your Irish heritage so you celebrate it on March 14. Maybe you love all things spooky so you make it October 31. Maybe you like the idea of starting with the calendar so you celebrate on January 1. Regardless, you’ve got lots of other days to choose from.

What about you? What fun and creative ideas do you have for summer birthday celebrations?

A Study on Sales Success Secrets

This month I read a book on most business owner’s favorite topics: sales. Sales may not be our favorite topic, but it’s an absolutely essential one if we want to stay in business. The book I read was Exactly How To Sell by Phil M. Jones. It was a short and easy to read book, so if you’re looking for a quick burst of insight on sales, this could be the book for you.

The book did a decent job of covering many aspects of sales including marketing and dealing with objectives, one of the earliest insights I took from the book was the importance of remembering that sales is a process, it’s not something that has one step, there are many steps from hearing about the product/service being sold, to learning about it, to the actual delivery of what was purchased through use of it.

One of the biggest keys this book shared about getting successfully through the sales process was about who the salesperson was and how they acted. Sales people in this day and age are more successful if they’re good listeners, problem solvers, empathetic, knowledgeable, helpful and responsible. Those are important characteristics for any business owner, but especially for sales people to not only make more sales, but also show they’re human to their potential customers so they feel more comfortable with them.

So how do you get more successful sales? There were 3 big reminders for me in the book, that of confidence, clarification and questions. The book made a really great statement that the role of a sales person (and the overall sales process) is to provide the potential customer or client with all the information necessary to make a decision and not feel any confusion over what’s being offered. It’s one of the reasons I encourage lots of information on sales pages, including some indication of price. Asking questions of the potential customer enables you to make sure you’re all on the same page, confirms the needs they have, and helps you make the best recommendations for their specific needs. Questions also help you and them avoid a bad pairing before things get too far and there’s a lot of wasted time and resources. Finally, confidence is important because it shows your potential customers that not only do you have the knowledge of what you’re selling, you believe in it and it’s ability to solve the needs of your customers.

Sales can be challenging, but with careful thought, planning and practice soon you’ll be seeing success! What are your challenges with sales?

Endings Aren’t The End

Just about everyone is done with this school year and moving on to whatever is next for them. This also means that some adults are moving on to other jobs after their contracts have ended, and others are moving on because the company has changed or they have changed. Endings are part of life even if we don’t want them to be, but it seems like these days more than ever we’re facing more endings because life changes and moves much quicker than it used to.

Sometimes an ending in and of itself is all you’re meant to do, for example when it comes to drugs (you don’t want to end your “relationship” with one drug just to move on to another one). Sometimes you may not feel like moving on quite yet (like if your heart is broken you may not feel like getting into a new romantic relationship).  But more often than not, an ending happens with the idea that something is coming next, like looking for a new job or starting a business after you lose your job.

It’s healthy to be able to move on in life. We shouldn’t be trapped by the past, stuck in our mistakes or limited by who we used to be. Life isn’t about endings, it’s about growing, learning, exploring, and thriving. And we can’t do those things without having some endings in our lives, even if those endings scare us a bit or bring us through a period of upheaval and frustration. So go ahead and celebrate the endings you are experiencing right now, and look excitedly to what the future could hold. The only way the future can be worse than the past is if you let it be or give up on life and living.

“Why would I retire? Sit at home and watch TV? No thanks. I’d rather be out playing.” Paul McCartney

Father’s Day Dreams

Father’s Day is Sunday in the US which has me thinking about dads and parenting.  It’s great for parents to be involved in their kid’s lives (it’s what they’re supposed to be doing); to expose them to what’s in the world, help them learn how to navigate interpersonal interactions, share your childhood stories and travels with them, and be active in their education. I wish more dads were active in their kid’s lives, having conversations with them and doing things with them and going to their school events and other activities. There’s also nothing wrong with substitute dads (uncles, friends etc.) being a male role model in a child’s life as well.

What came to mind as I was thinking about parenting and Father’s Day is the idea that parents have dreams for their kids. I think it’s great when parents have dreams and goals for their kids. Parents who have dreams and goals for their kids are consistently more active in their lives, inspire their kids to be more motivated, and inspire their kids to dream dreams too. The issue comes in if parents have dreams for their kids but they are so focused on the child attaining their (the parent’s) dream that there’s no other option or openness for their lives.

It may be that they decide they love the dreams you have for them and they feel inspired to see them through to fruition. But more often than not, the dreams you have for your child, as specific as they are (i.e. a football player, a runway model, a doctor etc.), only act as a foundational inspiration and starting point for them.  The good news is, the lessons they learn through the exposure you give them regarding your dream for their lives (i.e. practices and movies and events and books and lectures) helps shape them and give them tools and knowledge to use in their future, a future they dream up for themselves.  There’s nothing wrong with them having a dream that’s different from your dream for them, as long as everyone is working together to dream dreams that make each other’s lives and the world better.

So this Father’s Day I do encourage you to dream big dreams for your children, and to share those dreams with them. Then take the time to ask what their dreams are and how you can help them explore and/or fulfill those dreams.

A Reason for Retail

Today I’m again pondering the topic of retail as stores like Payless close and Apple struggles to get people in their store doors. Ultimately when it comes to retail stores, people have to have a reason to go to them. If we’re being honest that’s true for any business, virtual or with a physical presence. If you don’t give people a reason to shop with you or stop by your site or store, they won’t. Yes, that reason can be a simple as cute pet videos or to see the newest merchandise or check if something is in stock, but it’s still a reason.

You also can’t tell me that retail is totally irrelevant, one of the biggest companies in the world, Amazon, has not only started creating their own retail stores, they’ve also purchased Whole Foods, a grocery store chain. You don’t do that if you think there’s no hope for retail. Then you’ve got companies like Tractor Supply and Best Buy who are doing well, with both a retail and online presence, and doing well with both. One of the most notable changes with retail over the past few years has been the grocery stores who have invested in going online to offer shop-for-you and delivery services, so that you get the fresh food from the store without having to shop or even go to the store if you don’t want.

However, there’s another side of this, and that’s retail companies who are moving away from or have never offered online shopping. They have websites and social presences, but if you really want to shop with them or know what’s available, you have to go to the store. Personally I think that’s extremely risky and don’t think it’s the way to go. I’m not saying that mom-and-pop shops have to have a huge online store with all their products, but if you’re a chain or have more than one store, you’re really missing out on a big opportunity to make some extra sales that aren’t all that costly with as inexpensive as it is to run an online store in this day and age.

So what’s the answer to retail? It goes back to where we started this post: you have to give people a reason to stop in. Maybe that’s demos or repairs. Maybe it’s the opportunity to try things out or on. Or maybe it’s simply the thing retail has always been known for: being able to have whatever you need immediately and in exactly the condition that you’re looking for.

Retail is a great opportunity if your customers are looking for a specific experience, if they have a specific need that’s met well by having a physical destination for them to come to, if you can provide them something in a physical sense that can’t be replicated online, or especially if you and your customers enjoy being hands on.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it all comes back to people. Every single sale may be represented by a dollar amount, but behind every dollar is a human, or many humans. It’s up to us businesses to care for those people, which means putting information, products, services, support and enjoyment in their hands, whether it’s through a retail store or online.

What’s your thought on the future of retail?

What’s In Your Future?

Abraham Lincoln, a very wise man and great leader, once said: “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

Abraham Lincoln is one person who unknowingly can speak to how few years we can have, he was assassinated when he was only 56 years old.  Like many other people we’ve lost before they’re able to live out the full potential of their life we have to wonder what they would have done with those additional years and opportunities.

What is in your years? Are you spending all your time on things that won’t bring you to where you really want to go, living a life with no real future, spending time with people who depress you or drain you, working a job you hate and eating things you don’t like? All of these things make years really seem small and insignificant. I love filling my days with things that will help others, that will bring benefits and blessings to many people, and even things that will help me learn more about and improve myself!

Neither you nor I know what the future really holds. But I do know how I will get there- by living my life in a way that will bring me to an amazing future, not put me where I don’t want to be. By reading inspiring books, choosing my friends wisely, starting my own business and making good decisions about what I fill my body and time with, I know I’ll be a whole lot closer to a future I actually want to live in, than one that I can’t stand.

How about you? If you continue living your life as it is right now, what does your future look like? Is it a life with filled and blessed years? Or is it a life with many empty years? I encourage you to make decisions this week that will help you get to the future you want.

A New Plan for Parenting?

I’m always interested in how parents raise their children, how children grow up, how our past influences how we raise children and what the future might look like for our children and grandchildren. I recently read an article about Dutch families and what one parent found when she looked into studies that supposedly Dutch children were happier than any other in the world. The article doesn’t share anything surprising or odd, but it emphasizes some things we know are important but don’t always place a lot of priority on.

The Dutch have a serious focus on making sure babies get lots of regular sleep. They also spend a lot of time at home. They also spend a lot of time with both parents during the day, and breakfast is a priority for everyone to attend. As they get older, school is seen as important but not near the priority we place on it here in the US. Finally, all-weather biking is encouraged as both a means of transportation as well as an opportunity to develop resilience.

Grades don’t really mean a lot, no one asks me how many A’s I did or didn’t get in history or any other class. I can’t say that I feel my horizons were expanded by my education, but I did feel that the times with my extended family as well as the road trips we took were helpful to my upbringing. Another article helps bring home the point of exactly how smart the Dutch are with their parenting, because this article emphasizes the importance of community, teaching your kids to care, prioritizing service and purpose, all things this author-mother taught her 3 daughters who are heads of well-known businesses or highly successful.

Maybe it’s time we take a step back and rethink not only how much we’re trying to do with our children, but also ourselves. Is your day so crammed full that you don’t have a moment to care or help your community? When was the last time your whole family sat down together for a meal?  This week I encourage you to think before you book another something in your life or your kid’s lives, is it really necessary or just something you’re planning because you think it’s what you’re supposed to do?