Perfection or Problems

No one is perfect, and no business is perfect.  There are businesses and people that look perfect on the outside but the inside doesn’t reflect that, and of course there are those that look like a mess outside and are a mess inside as well.  Sometimes people/businesses know they need help and are willing to ask for the help, but other times they’re seemingly clueless about anything possibly being wrong (which can be very frustrating to customers and potential customers).   I certainly experience both in the course of my work, those that think they know everything and can’t possibly have any room for improvement, and those who admit they need help.  There are people all along that spectrum as well, it’s not a black and white thing.

So let’s start at the beginning.  As I said there are no perfect businesses.   Every single business (and business owner) has at least one thing they could change or improve.  Some of those things are subjective to some customers or potential customers (like changing a spice blend in a recipe or using a specific social site), while others are broader and really impact the whole business and customer base or potential customer base (like not having a website or having rude employees). When it’s something that affects only a portion of your customers/employees you have to decide if it’s really worth it to make that change or if there’s perhaps another way you could incorporate their feedback.  For something that’s broad spectrum it’s something that usually is a whole lot less optional and really should be addressed if you want the best for your business and customers.

We’ve touched on a few of the things that tend to be wrong or frustrate customers (or employees), but here’s a more specific list: lack of detailed and specific information that is easily accessible, poor management/leadership, unexpected and unexplained wait time, poor packaging, poor product or service, lack of communication, poor pricing, inconsideration, unhelpful/uneducated employees/salespeople, and rudeness.  Most of these have very clear connections to two things: people and communication.  As much as we’re an instant society today that has high expectations for many things including businesses we buy from, there is also a willingness to wait for the good stuff or for what we really want as long as we’ve been told what the wait will be and have been dealt with in a polite and respectful manner.

Maybe you’re one of those businesses who has some more subjective things to check out, if so that’s great and they could be profitable opportunities for you.  But if you’re facing a very broad issue it’s time to take action and make changes to repair the issue.  The longer you let it hang the bigger the chance is that you’ll lose great customers and have more difficulty getting new ones.

Productive Priorities

One of the things we struggle with is productivity.  We’re good at getting distracted, find other things that need our attention, and are often overbooking our schedules.  I get it-we want to keep everyone happy, take advantage of all the great opportunities for ourselves and our kids and fully experience life.  However, as scattered and distracted as we are it’s seriously hurting our quality of life, not to mention the stuff that we actually end up accomplishing at the end of the day, and how we feel about what we accomplish.  Sometimes we’re so over-committed we’re not only overbooked, we’re not getting the important stuff done, and sometimes we’re not getting anything done at all.

The first step is to realize that you’ve got an issue and decide to get help, and maybe it’s as simple as admitting it to a trusted colleague or your partner.  But most people need to reach out to a strategist or organizer to help them restructure their life and make tough decisions.

Once that first step has happened the next thing that needs to happen is prioritizing.  What is truly a priority?  What are you pretending is a priority?  What are you ignoring? Who are you letting down?  These are some very difficult questions to face and answer, but they’re necessary.

After you’ve decided what’s important, it’s time to start making changes in your life and scheduling in the things that are truly priorities and putting to the side things that aren’t.  These changes won’t happen over night but do take time.

Finally, now that you’re more productive and prioritizing what’s actually important, there’s one more step: learning to say no.  One of the reasons you got into the mess in the first place is because you were filling your life with things that were and weren’t good for you.  Learning how to say and mean no in your life is one of the biggest keys to truly having a life you love, and a life that’s productive as well.

A Happy Home

As we start this new year with our families I thought today we’d talk about what the goal is for most families: a happy, safe home.  I know that’s not how it always works out and I know that there are many reasons for that.  The world isn’t perfect, and we’re each very capable of making mistakes, I know I do.  Sometimes we make mistakes or lash out because we’re tired or hurt or upset or because someone says something that pushes our buttons, and other times there’s not really a good reason, it just happens.

Families are supposed to be close units, that’s been the intention since they were created.  I think it works well at least in theory because having people that are very close to you in both a physical and relational sense of the word means that you’ve got people who know you, accept you and you can depend on.  The place you call home and the people you call family are supposed to be a safety net and something you look forward to at the end of the day.  I know that’s not always the reality.  I know that some of us live in less than ideal home situations, but there are very few reasons that, if we all work together, we can’t improve those situations.

Yes, that does mean that everyone would have to want to change in order for there to be an improvement.  I know that there are some people who are happy being miserable, but that’s certainly not the way I want to live, and I don’t think you do either.   If your family is struggling to work together or isn’t working together the first thing to do is talk with everyone about whether or not they want things to improve.  If they don’t then you should just work on improving yourself to the best of your ability and making whatever changes and updates you can without causing too much (more) friction.  If they’re open to making the situation a better one for everyone, make a plan for steps you can all take to a better family and home.  The new year is a great time to resolve and take action on working towards the family and home life you want.

“May this home be a place of happiness, health, creativity, kindness and love.  May all who visit and live here know only blessings and peace.”

Reflection Time

I’m still doing some reflecting and considering as we work into this new year.   2016 felt like being in a cement mixer at times for some of us, it certainly didn’t seem like a smooth ride personally or in the world.  As I’ve been reading a number of posts at the end of the year and the beginning of this one, I identified with what a number of people were saying about the year that just ended and how they felt about it, what they ended up doing in that year and of course where they’re headed in this new year.

For many 2016 ended up being a year of personal growth, not so much professional, although plenty of people and companies did have a very successful year.  For some 2016 was so bumpy that it was hard to even identify or understand that until new year reflections happened.  So if your year was anything like mine, I’m going to encourage you to work through these questions over this week before you give up on your resolutions and/or before you make final decisions about where you want this coming year to go:

What was your best memory?
What was your worst memory?
What was your biggest accomplishment?
What was your most satisfying victory?

What goals do you have for 2017?
What relationships are you going to create or work on in 2017?
What do you want to stop doing in 2017?
What needs to most change in 2017?

Just how good can life get?
Will this be a courageous year for me?
What will make you happy?
What will you love?

As I do my own reflecting and consider where I’m taking things this year, I’d love to hear from you what you would like from me in this blog and/or in what I offer in my business? How can I best help you make more victories in your life and what are you struggling with?

A New Year?

The new year has arrived! I’m excited to put 2016 behind us and move into 2017.  There were good things about 2016 but I am relieved to turn the calendar and start fresh.  As I’ve been thinking about the old year/new year concept I’m contemplating how there is a new year ahead of us and yet technically things haven’t changed.  Yes, we’ve got a new calendar and new tax year for most of us, but nothing “happened” at midnight on January 1, and yet every year we recognize the change of the calendar and herald it as something big and important.

Some of us do use it as an opportunity for a semi-fresh start.  Of course you can have a fresh start anytime you want, but there’s something mentally easier about picking a tangible starting point like a new year or first day of the month to start a transition, change or new beginning.  Of course that does allow some of us to put things off until that date, rather than getting started when we should have, and I only can think of a few situations that benefit from procrastinating and most have to do with making purchases.

But back to the original point, there’s a lot that doesn’t change with the stroke of midnight as you enter the new year.  You’re still who you were on December 31, you probably still have the same income opportunities, you haven’t gotten rid of your flaws, you haven’t erased your failures, you haven’t gotten a lot older or younger, and you haven’t grown the extra brain/eyes/hands etc. you’ve been asking for all these years.  There’s a lot that hasn’t changed, and in many ways that’s a good thing.  We don’t really do good if we’re thrust into completely new circumstances.  It’s not easy to do a complete life change.  We manage if we have to, but it’s a good reason as any as to why the “new” year only ushers in a few changes.

So as much as I hate to say it, pump the breaks on rushing into this new year.  Take stock of what you want to keep from the last year, what you’ve learned in the last year and what you’re going to do (honestly) differently in the new year.  Make some serious choices and decisions before taking action.

The Year of You

I’m finding it hard to believe we’re about to cross over from one year to the next, but I’m super excited about all this year ahead holds for us!  I know that some people are concerned about the direction we’re going based on some of the events of the past year, but if you’ve really been paying attention you should have been having concerns for several years now, this should not be the (only) year that concerns you.  Today I wanted to end the year with a question that reflects on the year ahead for you to think about.   The question I pose to you today is:

Who will I be this year?

It’s a question that may not make sense to you, unless you’ve been feeling frustrated, lost, confused, dissatisfied or out of touch or place with what’s in your life lately, or even for a long time. If you’ve been struggling with these types of feelings you’ve probably also been struggling to keep things going in your life, keep up with things, feel happy, or accomplish victories in your life, family or business.  Or maybe you’re just ready to turn over a new leaf and do something different with your life, based on the lessons you’ve learned over the past year.

So with this new year you’ve got a choice to make.  Will I stay the person I’ve been, will I pursue new adventures, will I be the person everyone thinks I should be, am I really happy with where I am but haven’t accepted it, is it time to make some changes and show the world who I really am?

Who will you be this year?

A Call for Change

As we look back at this past week some of us are feeling really challenged and surprised by how things have turned out. Throughout the US people are reeling over the dramatic wake-up call that was the Election on Tuesday night. Some of us are surprised that our candidate actually won and others of us are surprised that our candidate didn’t win and people picked the other person. There were several “upsets” throughout the different races around the US, the presidency being just one of them (but the one that affected everyone). I’ve been reading lots of different responses over the past week, some I’m surprised by because I never thought the person who wrote them would feel that way, some I cringe over because of how much hate is being thrown around, and others impress me with their willingness to really dive into things that are painful and challenging with sensitivity and wisdom.

I’m a big Christmas person. I love the cheer, the celebration, the happiness, the love, the gifting, the giving and the togetherness. I have to be honest and say that I’m OK with Christmas decorations being up in stores and showing up around the towns I go to and even on some houses as early as Halloween. While I don’t know if I could live in a “Christmas village” where it’s Christmas all year long, there are things about the concept that are appealing. However, as awesome as it might be to be in a Christmas mood all year long I don’t think it would change who we are as people and the mistakes we make, failures we have and challenges we have that we should work through but often put aside during the holidays.

But what the holidays each year do remind us is that together things are better. The next few months and year will probably be filled with lots of adjustments, and some of them will be more painful and difficult than others. The election has shown us exactly how divided we are as a nation with about half of the people who voted voting for each candidate. We’ve been hearing over the past months and years how isolated minorities have been and felt, we’ve seen the ways that people generalize and make assumptions (and bad actions/reactions) based on qualities of age, race and belief systems. Change has been called for over and over with varying degrees of success. But as the definition of insanity states (doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results), if we really want change, we actually have to change. The victory of a non-political candidate for the biggest leadership role in the nation is a big indication to me that people really do want change (even if the elected individual seems to not be the right one for the job because of some things they’ve said) and are willing to work with the challenges that will be present to make that change happen.

Together doesn’t mean that we ignore things that are wrong, together means to me that we choose to work together to be better. Together means to me that we’re stronger when we’re together. Together means to me that we’ve got more minds to come up with more ideas. Together means to me that we have to be open to forgive each other because we will do and say stupid things sometimes. Together means to me that we’re not alone when we’re grieving or upset or hurt. Together doesn’t mean to me that we all have the same ideas or beliefs, we’re all different and that is to be respected and appreciated.

I don’t have all the answers, I never claim to. But I do believe that we will be a better nation and world if we work together. It won’t be easy for us to truly come together given how divided we are, but if we really are upset with how some people are treated, and how the future looks for some of our children and grandchildren and for some of the nations of the world, I think we have to put aside some of our differences and find the common ground that we can work with and build from.

The Choice of Quality

Quality.  It’s one of the things that we have to decide about as business owners.  The general belief is that the more expensive something is the better quality it is. But quality can be a subjective term because the “quality” that one person is looking for isn’t the “quality” that another is looking for.  A really simple example is when it comes to plates and other dinnerware.  Some people consider “quality” dinnerware to be that which is made of porcelain and very expensive.  Others consider “quality” dinnerware to be that which looks nice and is durable enough to make it through raising kids.  So how do we determine quality for our businesses and is it important?

I believe quality is something you need to consider.  Regardless of what quality means to you, it always means that you’re working with and trying to achieve a standard, typically a respectable one.  Most people and businesses don’t aim for the quality of junk because they actually want people to buy their products.  There are of course businesses who create junk and market it off as a quality product or service and try to hide the fact that it’s junk.  Those businesses don’t last very long.

Sometimes even businesses that have a quality product or service can make mistakes or find room for improvement.  There are imperfections that happen accidentally like e coli happening at the farm you get your produce from (and the farm has never had an issue before and doesn’t have another one), or bugs that are discovered in new technology products or upgrades to existing ones.  It’s one reason that it’s important to do quality control checks and be checking, testing and getting feedback about your products and services.

I believe that every business needs to define the standard of quality that they strive for.  Once the goal has been set, then the steps to ensure that quality need to be put into place.  If every business had a real quality commitment that they accomplished the majority of the time there would be more happy customers and customers would be more willing to stay with a brand.

What will you do this week to improve or reinforce your business’s quality commitment?

Judge and Jury

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a huge fan of how elections are run these days, right?  I wish we would hear more about how the world could improve if a certain candidate is picked instead of all of the bashing and hatred that goes on. I can’t stand that people are more interested in using the dirt in someone’s past against them instead of making themselves look good by doing the right things and being a contributory person.  Yes, everyone has flaws and mistakes in their past, and everyone has opinions that someone else might not agree with.  In this election for Trump there have been some recordings released that people are up in arms over, and for Clinton there has been a lot of talk around her email practices.

When it comes to looking at another person or company, if we’re considering getting to know them better, considering hiring them for something, checking them out for someone else, or just hear something interesting about them and want to know more, typically we’ll look for three things: what they’re doing presently (current/the past 12 months), what they’ve done in the recent past (up to 5 years ago), and what they’ve done in the distant past (more than 5 years ago).  We typically weigh the present stuff as the most important, but sometimes there are things in the distant past that we place large importance on.

For some people or businesses I believe this does them a huge disservice.  It’s wrong to assume that someone (person or business) hasn’t changed since that/those negative event(s) in the distant past.  To assume that what someone said, believed, did or practiced 10+ years ago is still how they 100% feel and live their lives/run their businesses is a gross oversight.  Yes, there are some people who don’t change a whole lot, but each and every one of us changes!  Whether it’s just appearance as we age, or if we did things as a young one that we weren’t so proud of, things have changed.  To assume that a business that was known for a serious failure in the 80’s is still equally screwed up today, or a person that committed murder 30 years ago doesn’t regret that decision does them a disservice.

Before stringing someone (individual or business) up for something they did in the distant past, take a look at what they’re doing in the present. Have they shown that they’ve changed?  Do they say that they’re doing things different?  Have they just become older and wiser?  Don’t write the last chapter of a book before the rest of the chapters have been written.  Some people and businesses may not change, but don’t lump everyone into that category before considering all things.  You wouldn’t want to be treated as such, so do everyone else the courtesy of not treating them that way either.

Are You Settling or Smart?

Do you want things to be better or are you happy with the way things are? I think on many levels there are things that we’re OK with, and I’m not talking about the kind of OK where you’re really settling. Many of us settle for things because we don’t think we can get something better or don’t know there’s something better or don’t want to do the work to get something better. If you choose to settle for something you can of course choose to change your mind and go for something better, or you can accept what you have. Neither is wrong, not all of us are filled with super-dreams and goals of being the next big whatever.

But all of us have things that we are OK with and don’t do anything about, but not because we choose to settle for less than what we could have with a little extra work or effort. Sometimes we choose the best that we can have for the time being, we choose a good option of several choices, or we make a quick decision so that we can get onto more important things. It’s not bad to choose a “good” option, sometimes choosing the “good” option is the right thing to do. Don’t feel guilty that you haven’t pursued things to their very furthest, deepest and biggest opportunity as long as you’re satisfied with what you have chosen.

Satisfaction is often the way we can tell whether we’ve settled for something or if we’re OK, or even happy, with the decision we’ve made. Are you satisfied with your life? You probably aren’t satisfied with all areas, and that’s OK. Start this week off celebrating the good things you have in your life and make a plan for which of the things you’ve settled on and want to improve and how you’re going to do that. Don’t wait until next week to find the satisfaction, peace and happiness in your life, choose to take the steps you need to this week.