Summer of Change

Summer is a great time to work on change with your kids and family. Why? Because most of us have lighter schedules that allow for taking a little time off to do those big projects, weather that allows both indoor and outdoor activities and plans to be done, less things on the schedule and more opportunities to put in a little time each day to work on those changes, and an abundance of people home from college who can watch the kids if you and your partner need to work independently of the kids on something. It’s not always easy to work on change, but having the abundant resources that the summer provides to work on changes does make it a little easier and remove many of the excuses you’ve been using to hold yourself back.

Why work on changes? Because whether it’s the mile-long to-do list that you’ve been adding to for too long, or the stuff that’s just sticking around bothering you or holding you back, neither is good for your family or you personally. If you’re familiar with the concepts of Feng Shui, the law of attraction and the laws of abundance, they also speak to the importance of having a space that allows you to think, grow, love, create and prosper, which aren’t things you can do if you’re feeling pressured by that to-do list or all the stuff just hanging around.

Also, if it’s on your to-do list it must be there for a reason. Sometimes we do put things on there that we think we’re supposed to put there, but most often it’s stuff that really does need to be there, even if we end up doing the lower priority stuff first because it’s less intimidating, or less of a commitment, or less of a change.

So what are the big changes you might work on this summer? Organizing clothes, organizing the kitchen, organizing the garage/shed, cleaning up the outdoor areas, organizing the office, changing diets/eating habits, increasing exercise consistency, setting aside consistent time for personal development, making more consistent time for your partner and/or kids, reducing your bad habits (including overspending, too much TV, too much junk food, not enough sleep etc.) or even job searching (or starting a business), just to name a few.

What will you (finally) work on this summer?

Challenged by Technology

Recently I’ve been reflecting on some of the challenges of being in business and being a customer as well. There are things we should be taking into consideration for regarding our customers and what we’re selling as well as how we’re communicating with them, especially regarding changes. This week I accidentally left my phone at home for a period of time which got me thinking about changes and the technology that’s so central to our lives now.

The first thing I was reminded of was the fact that there are and always will be changes happening. Sometimes changes happen that someone thinks is a really good idea but many customers hate, or the biggest issue isn’t the change, it’s the lack of communication about the upcoming change. Changes are a necessary and almost inevitable part of life and business but you can’t seriously make changes without notifying your users of those changes, especially if it’s something that may so (negatively) impact their business that they have to find a replacement.

The second thing I thought about was how instant our world has become. Technology has enabled us to connect within seconds with many parts of the world, whether we’re using email, phones, social media or messaging. It’s amazing and has so many benefits to offer the world from emergency situations to providing support and love even from many miles away. I’m not one of those people who sits at my computer all day and waits for an email so I can reply to it instantly. I do believe that we can (and should) have lives and not be attached to our devices 24/7. So maybe it’s a good thing if we all leave our devices home once in a while.

Finally, I’ve been thinking about ease of use. Technology in general does make it much easier to do so many things. But sometimes there are changes made or features added that make it harder to use the technology. There are also times when an update or upgrade is desperately needed but it’s not made (or the change that isn’t needed is the one that’s made). I think sometimes in our desire to be #1 or the most trendy or the one with the most features we forget about the people and how easy or difficult it is to use.

This week in your dealings with technology I encourage you to try something new with technology. Maybe you’ll find that the change isn’t as difficult as you thought it would be.

Changes, Choices and Closed Businesses

When you start a business you don’t always think about what comes next and when/how you want to finish with it.  Sure you may imagine creating a great product/company and selling it for tons of money to some big company, but that’s not the reality (or plan) for most business owners.   For most (especially small business owners), they’re more focused on what’s going on today and their current customers (or getting customers for that matter), maybe even what’s coming up in the next year or so, than what could happen however many years down the road.  But the reality is that that decision does need to be made at some point in time.

This week in the US we see the end of Ringling Brothers’ circus, and I saw an article saying that the number of businesses that were sold in the first quarter was higher than it’s been.  I’ve also seen a number of ‘store closing’ signs at what used to be popular retailers.  Times change, people change, needs change, technology (the broadest definition of the word) changes, you (the business owner) change.  Yes, it’s tough to acknowledge the change, and difficult to let go of something that’s been part of your life for however long.  It’s tough to part with the people who have invested time, ideas and sweat into the business and customers.  It can also be scary to look at what’s coming next when you no longer have the business to work on each day.

Sometimes it’s OK or necessary to come to an end in business, sometimes it’s just time for us to move on to something else.  There’s no shame in that.  There’s also nothing wrong with passing the business off (or selling it) to someone who can take it to a level that you can’t for whatever reason.  However, many of the businesses that close each month close for reasons that didn’t have to be reality.  These businesses are run by people who are greedy, or aren’t willing to look at the truth, or aren’t willing to make changes, or aren’t willing to try things, or don’t treat their people right, or aren’t willing to even try to keep up with their competitors and the larger marketplace.

This week I encourage you to take a look at your business and check if you’ve been holding things back or hurting your businesses potential. If that’s the case i encourage you to make the choice to make changes, and get started on at least one of those changes this week.

Expectations of Something More

Do you get up every day with a list of expectations for yourself, the people in your life and the world around you? Lately I’ve been taking time to consider my expectations of the world and think about what they might be and what I really want out of my life.  Part of it has to do with the passing of a family friend, part of it has to do with the hate I’ve been seeing some people share, and part of it has to do with wanting more out of life because life’s really not worth wasting.

This month one of the things we’re talking about is the topic of fun and I think fun has an important role to play in making sure we make the most of our lives.  It can be both a motivator of encouraging us to get the work done so we’ve got the resources to have fun as well as one to make the time to have that fun and take time off as well.  We do have an expectation of making sure we care for our families, and I think it’s an important one to uphold.  There are people around the world who don’t make decisions in light of how it will affect the people who matter the most to them.  But in the same conversation we do have a responsibility to be part of our loved ones lives, and not at work all the time trying to provide for them.

So what’s a person to do? If you’re at work working tons of hours because you’re not making enough per hour/day to support your family, it’s time to upgrade and update your skill set.  If you’re at work all day because you work on a fantastic cause, it’s time to get some new people involved.  If you’re at work all the time because you don’t want to be with your family, it’s time for a serious evaluation of and conversation about your life.  If you’re spending all your time on fun and avoiding the work there must be a reason why.  Maybe it’s because you really don’t enjoy your work, or maybe simply because reality hasn’t smacked you yet.   Whatever the case is I encourage you to take a look at your expectations for your life present and future and see if where you’re at and how your days currently go line up with that expectation.

Change And Stay the Same?

Over the past decade or so there have been many changes in the business world (‘business’ meaning both for- and non-profits).  Some businesses have embraced the changes, some have been reluctant but have eventually tried out some of them and other businesses have firmly resisted any change efforts. In some of those change-resistant businesses and business industries/niches there have been some innovators who have started new businesses that are taking advantage of the changes, which is causing some disruption in the industry/niche.  Last week there was an event and this past week I was talking with an individual about their new business that really got me thinking about the changes so today I want to talk a bit about both sides of this conversation.

The event is one that’s been around for 40+ years which says something pretty important given how few businesses, let alone events, last that long these days. The event is a live event and is in an industry that has overall been more resistant to or slow to do many of the changes, including tapping into the internet world.  Given that at the core of the event is the fact that it’s a live event, while you wouldn’t want to change that, there is a lot more the event can be doing year ’round to better market the event and keep people connected in between events.

The individual I was talking with is starting a new business in a different industry that has been resistant to change as well.  I rarely talk with people who are on his end of things, typically I hear from businesses who are behind the curve and trying to catch up, or talking with companies who are selling innovative products.  Starting a business brings its own challenges, but starting a business that intends to turn an industry on its head is an even bigger challenge, and I encouraged the individual to stay the course.

So where does that bring us?  It says that there are tons of businesses who have yet to really reach their customers in 2017 as they’re wanting to be reached.  But, I also believe that adopting some changes don’t mean that you have to totally change what you’re offering or who you are at the core.  To give an example: I saw a recent headline questioning if restaurants were the next industry to suffer and become a more virtual experience with all meals being delivered to your home and not going out to eat, and I had to laugh.  Yes, that has some appeal, but a large portion of the success of restaurants is people wanting to get out of their homes and have a meal experience with family or friends, they don’t want to be home, they want to go out.  Food delivery may increase but I don’t think restaurants will ever fully go out of business, especially those that offer a fantastic dine in experience.  However, just because your core offering (eating in a restaurant in this case) shouldn’t change, that doesn’t you can’t change a few of the items you offer on the menu or how you cook them to meet some of the more current desires or practices, expand how you market to your customers or offer more options to pay than just cash.

The world is changing and I don’t think it’s changing back any time soon.  Too many businesses that used to be and still should be essential businesses are being called “dated” or at least not contemporary because they’re afraid to spend the money on upgrades or updates or are stuck at “it’s how we’ve always done things,” yet complain when they can’t get the customers in the door (literal or figurative) or customers complain about what’s offered.  There’s a simple answer to this, but it’s not necessarily one they (or you) want to hear.  Is it a message you need to hear today?

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.