Changing That Tune

So the big news this week in the business world is that Apple is changing (ending) iTunes. I’m not an Apple user, I don’t seem to think that way, but you have to respect them from a business sense with all that they’ve done and the very large and faithful following that they have. So today I thought I’d share a few thoughts on this change and how it could relate to your business.

I think the big change has mostly to do with the fact that iTunes is really getting unwieldy at this point with all that’s part of it.  As a name iTunes also is very narrow in focus to only music, and not the multimedia service that it has become.  Separating it into 3 separate components means that there’s more focus to each of them and Apple isn’t managing everything under one program. 3 separate apps has some benefits and some draw backs, people may not want to go to separate places to find their music, TV or podcasts.  But on the other side if you’re only into music you won’t see anything TV or podcast related (I assume).

There were some indications that Apple was moving in this direction considering their Apple Music subscription service, which was a good way to prepare their users for the change, without throwing everything at them at once. It also gave Apple a chance to test things out before changing everything.

Apple makes this decision knowing that they’ve got a loyal user base and they’re not going to lose people over this change. If it were a smaller company they may lose people who don’t want to deal with multiple apps, but Google (Play Store) and Amazon both have had multiple (separate) apps for years for their music and other media. So in some ways Apple is behind the trend on this. It’s also a smart decision because they’re seeing that sales aren’t coming from devices (they aren’t converting non-Apple users or people are keeping the devices longer perhaps), and that they need to boost the software/subscription side of their business.

So what about your business? Are you missing out on important shifts that need to be made so that you not only stay with the market, you keep your sales up? Are you missing out on easy sales? Are you planning changes that are a good fit for your business and customers or just changing things up without doing any real research? Change is good and healthy, but not without proper planning, preparation and communication.

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A Little Creative Risk

What is creativity anyway?  We hear that term thrown around at work, in the kitchen and used as a polite way of giving an opinion on something we think isn’t so great.  As I was pondering this question I came across this quote from Mary Lou Cook: “Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.”

For too many people (adults) creativity is a lost art. Our brains simply don’t work in ways that are necessary to be truly creative.  The good news is that with a little practice we can get those brain cells fired up again.  You can try Legos, cooking, gardening, painting or even the fun adult-approved coloring books that have made a resurgence of late.

Even with all the fun and relaxation that can be had, creativity isn’t for the faint of heart though.  Creativity is all about breaking out of the neat boxes many of us try to stuff ourselves into.  It’s not a comfortable feeling if it’s not something you do on a regular basis.  Even for those of us who do practice some form of creativity on a regular basis we still can have moments when we’re feeling a bit stretched and out of our comfort zones.

If you’re not used to being creative, try to do just one thing a little different each day, such as making something different for dinner featuring ingredients you (and your family) like, going home a different way from work, watching something different on TV, playing a game that you don’t usually play, or any of the more traditional creative activities like painting, coloring, wood work or sculpting.

Will you join me this week in taking a (creative) risk?

Changes At Heart

In less than a week we’ll be in February, and we’ll be talking a lot about love. But if you know me, you know that I am a big fan of love, and anytime is a good time to love, not just February.  I recognize that sometimes love can get a little tricky. The biggest challenge is that everyone, yes everyone, changes! We don’t always like change and sometimes we want change so much but it just doesn’t happen. I’ve met so many people who say “I just want my partner to…” and then they share the biggest frustration that they have with their partner or with their relationship. Often it’s not just our partner who needs to make a change, sometimes we do too. And since change is one of the very few guarantees in life (besides death and taxes), what do we do about it?

Well, the best, but not always easiest, thing is to work with the changes that happen. You may decide that a few of the changes aren’t really necessary for you, your relationship or your family, but many of them are. So how do we approach change? Doc Childre and Deborah Rozman have some wisdom on that subject:

“When you really want change, reinforcement will come from your heart.”

When you’re really open to change your heart will encourage you to go for it. You may also have little (or big) signs in your life that it’s time and that your life is moving in that direction. The key to remember is that you’re never going through the change alone, no one is. There’s always the guidance of your heart, which doesn’t lie, and thanks to the internet, a whole world of people willing to support you (including me!).

The biggest challenge is learning how to hear your heart. As I said it won’t lie, but you may not understand what it’s trying to say to you unless you listen to it, and live by it, on a regular basis, even when you’re not going through changes.

This week I encourage you to listen to your heart on the little things and get to know how it works and talks to you. It’s a fun exercise and can really pay off in the future.

Reality Reflection: Total Transformation?

Right now my part of the world is going through a big transformation, several actually. We’re going from bare branches and gray winter ground and low 40 temperatures to snow covered ground with winds and below 20 degrees. It will transform the world around me in many ways, many that may make it challenging to get around or continue with our typical lifestyles, especially if it ices over and gets as cold as they talk about. Transformations such as this are rarely permanent or long lasting, which is a good thing, especially since I would hate to live in single-digit weather for very long.

People can have similar extreme transformations, for example if you have to get dressed up for a wedding or very special award ceremony you look very different, and if you get a drastically different hair cut or color change you’ll look different for a couple of weeks. But those changes don’t typically last forever (unless you do something very permanent like plastic surgery). But typically for a true transformation to take place, it takes months or years to complete and fully implement the transformation, especially the kinds of life transformations that people often consider at this time of year.

Sometimes it’s good to have one of these temporary transformations, we sometimes need to take a break from our typical life, and it’s always good to have fresh things in our lives. Often we don’t need major overhaul-type transformations that my world will undertake in the next 24 or so hours, we just need a refresh in our lives, or small changes that may not seem like a big deal but can really help us in the long run.

If you want your transformation to stick around, it has to be something that you can keep up with for long term. It means a serious commitment. If you’re not sure you can make that serious of a commitment, work on smaller changes to begin with and build up to the big changes if necessary.  Personally, I’m OK with the occasional big change, but prefer to make the small changes, especially when it comes to weather.

Hope for Navigating A New Year of Changes

It’s kind of ironic how little most people enjoy change yet how eagerly they anticipate the new year and the new beginnings it often holds. But if you think about it most of us do enjoy new things, such as new food in our fridges (rather than moldy or nonexistent), new clothes (rather than those with holes or worn out or completely outdated), new haircuts (so our hair isn’t dragging on the floor), new articles to read and TV to watch (rather than rewatching/rereading all the time), new gifts each birthday and Christmas, and new children for the next generations.

So why have we accepted that some things need to be new or replenished, but we don’t have that same acceptance or openness in other areas of our lives? What can we do to see beginnings and new things as healthy and welcome parts of our lives?

I think one way to help ease the challenge of changes is to exert some control and keep consistent some areas of your life in some ways. Maybe it’s making time to read a book every day. Maybe it’s always having a box or bag in the closet or frozen meal in the freezer of go-to foods for comfort or stressful days. Maybe it’s getting up at a point in time every morning so that you’re able to prepare before the rest of the world is up and going. Maybe it’s shopping at the same stores each week/month. Maybe it’s coffee or drinks with friends and your partner each week/month without fail.

Another thing that can help is to have a schedule. No, it won’t be perfect and sometimes things will get moved around because of changes or new things, but being able to follow it most of the time means that you’ll have some peace knowing what’s coming. It also can give you an opportunity to schedule in “change time”, and be able to work through some of the changes that come your way without feeling all the pressures of the rest of your life.

You know you can’t control everything and that there will be changes in life, and if there are too many changes it can feel like you’re out of control or floundering through life. But with a more open attitude, some go-to’s that remain consistent in your life and a schedule to help you manage your life and the changes that happen, maybe the changes and new things won’t seem as intimidating. How do you manage and navigate your changes and new beginnings?

Preparing for Changes in Business

This week one of the big conversations in the business world has been the revelation that Google+ had “a security hole highlighted the challenge of keeping its small number of users safe” which was discovered back in March. As a result of the security issue, and possibly also as well the fact that it wasn’t ever as popular as other social networks, Google plans to close the network. For some it isn’t a big surprise, and some probably don’t really remember anything about Google+, let alone used it.

But today I don’t want to discuss social networks that aren’t used or the fact that many aren’t surprised it’s closing, I want to talk about something else that we’ve talked about already this year and will talk about more over the next few years and that’s dealing with big changes that affect your business. For some Google+ was just another marketing opportunity, but some had invested quite a bit in it and are really upset that it’s closing. Other businesses are seriously being affected by disruptive businesses who are coming in and upending an industry, one of the most discussed examples being the ride-share companies (i.e. Uber, Lyft etc.) totally changing how the industry (taxis) has historically run. What do you do when things end or change?

This is why you have to be consistently updating your own business, aware of and considering ways you can innovate or transform what you offer, and not rely on one product or service or marketing tool. I don’t recommend trying every option or implementing every innovation or trying to market through every resource, but I strongly advise against only being locked into one option. Yes, there are companies who will survive through the end or change, for instance there are still some companies that sell records and record players (1880’s-1980’s were their prime years), but those companies are few and far between because there’s just not enough demand to sustain many companies.

What can you do to prepare your company for the eventual transformation of your industry and how you do business?

Rediscovering the Spice of Life

Recently a client I’ve worked with for a long time has rehired an ex employee. While that’s not really a common place activity, it does happen from time to time, and I certainly understand why the client would rehire that individual based on the current employees they have and what that employee used to do for them. As I was chatting briefly with this employee this past week, they brought up some of the things that we had talked about in the past, things that most of the current employees don’t know about. It took me a minute to adjust to talking about those things with them and I didn’t feel totally comfortable with the conversation. Maybe this is something that you can identify with from experiences you’ve had when you’ve reconnected with someone you haven’t seen in several years.

As I was doing some work today my mind meandered through that conversation and those feelings again. I got to thinking about the conversation and thinking back to those conversations years ago and thinking back to the person I was then and the person I am now. They were right, I have grown and changed in the passing years, but it really hadn’t hit me how much until we were having that conversation.

As I sit here writing I’m realizing of how many of the things I do have now that I was hoping for then, even if they don’t look quite like I was thinking they would. This is one of the big reasons why it’s important to stop and reflect sometimes. If this conversation hadn’t happened I wouldn’t be taking this trip down memory lane. I’ve talked about the importance of perspective before, and here I’m reminded of it again. Taking time for looking at life with a different perspective, to review what’s gone on in the past, to really take a hard look at the present, all of these are things that not only can help us get clarity on what the future may hold or where we want our lives to go, it can also give us a big sense of accomplishment and even relief that we’re actually making progress with our lives.

As we start this new month I encourage you to sit down and take a trip back in time and do a little reflecting. Consider how far you’ve actually come. Unbury the dreams that you used to have. Discover how far you’ve come. Make adjustments to head in the direction you want to go. Celebrate your life, your path and the people you’ve got traveling this journey with you. Stop for a moment and let the fog clear from around you so that you can see past, present and future clearly. And then make a decision about how you’re going to move into the next stage of this journey called life.

Ends and Next Steps

Lately I’ve been hearing people talk about ends: about the end of the summer, the end of a life, the end of a business, the end of a job, the end of cancer treatments, and the end of a part of a journey. Whether we like it or not endings are part of our lives just like change and taxes. It’s almost easier to think about change than it is endings. And if I’m honest I don’t feel like I’m at the end of anything (except maybe my latest book), I feel like I’m in the middle of many journeys, and maybe that’s how you feel.

But whether we like it or not we do need to think about the end of things from time to time, because that’s how life goes, and with as unpredictable as life is, you don’t know how many days, months or years you’ve got. Sometimes things end simply because we can’t juggle all the balls anymore, or because we need to rest. Endings themselves aren’t evil or wrong, but like change we have to be willing to handle them as they come along, and prepare for them the best we can beforehand.

Even if you’re not ready for things to end, or even to sit down and seriously prepare for things to end, it’s important to take time and at least make some minor preparations, like printing out important numbers and last wishes, and taking time to plan even a little what you would do if your life took a big right or left turn. Where would you go? What would you do? Who could you depend on? Do you have the resources to last 6 months or until you can get back on track? What would be the first 3 things you would do when you reach a personal or professional end?

There are many things an end can be, and many things it doesn’t have to be. Like many things in life they’re only as scary and powerful as we allow them to be. Whether you’re facing an end like the end of your life or the end of the life of a loved one, you’re just facing the end of your ability to sleep any hours you wish, or you’re facing the end of working tirelessly on a project, it’s time to face the question of what’s next, and I encourage you to choose an amazing next step to your life’s journey.

The Challenge and Opportunity of ‘Different’

With the Royal Wedding there’s been a lot of talk about changes and that a new era is beginning. I’m all for necessary changes, and I think of all the kingdoms/rulers/presidencies of the world, the Royal Family has managed to navigate the world and lead their country pretty well through the many different ages that they’ve been in charge in England. Parents too have lots of changes to navigate, babies have far different needs than teenagers, so parents are very familiar with the concept of change through the ages. As I was thinking about changes the thing that popped into my head was the phrase that adults say to kids (and other adults) from time to time: “yes, but that was different.”

It’s not an easy lesson for kids to learn (or parents to teach), that different rules apply to different situations, different times and different people, let alone that things could easily have changed between the last situation that was similar and the current one that’s being discussed with the child. It’s an important lesson to learn because it helps children learn to deal with change, to adapt, to plan ahead and to consider all the options and opinions, skills that will serve them well when they’re adults.

It’s really a two-fold lesson though, because it’s a reminder to not judge everyone or every situation the same, and that while you can lean back on past lessons, you have to be open to things being different, even if they look similar. Yes, the Royal Family could easily have said that they wouldn’t go in that direction and Prince Harry had to choose someone more in line with what was expected or tradition. And I can’t say that there isn’t another woman somewhere around the world that would also be a great match for him, but I think that the now Duke and Duchess of Sussex are well suited and can do more to help the world, and the Royal Family move, in a very healthy and prepared direction for the future.

The good news is that even if you’re an adult there’s still time to work on learning life’s lessons and adapting to changes. You don’t make one decision in life that says you’ll never ever learn lessons or never change, you can make a new decision each day on how you’re going to live your life and what you want your future to look like. Don’t let “different” hold you back or scare you, be willing to embrace all that life gifts you.

Excited by Changes

If you’re subscribed to some of my newsletters you know that I’m working on making some changes. Why? Because I realized that I do a lot of writing, and wanted to give my newsletter subscribers something different than what I do on the blogs. Even if the newsletter writings tend to be shorter than the blogs, it’s still paragraph form writing. Don’t get me wrong, I still love writing and that’s not going to stop anytime soon, but I wanted to offer something different.

The interesting thing about this process of deciding what else I could share about, is that I realized I wanted to do something different too. That yes, the change is meant to benefit my subscribers most, but it’s good for my creative muscles to be doing some different things. It turns out I also look forward to doing the newsletters more, which means not only better insights, but also newsletters that take less time to put together in some cases because I’m more motivated and inspired.

So why am I sharing all this? Because sometimes changes can be good! It’s OK to admit you need a change as the business owner, to encourage your customers to choose the ways they want to work with you that work best for them, and to change the things you offer even if they’re not outdated (yet). It’s partly about being innovative, partly about staying ahead of the competition, and partly about keeping your customers engaged.

Sometimes change is necessary (Facebook data anyone?!) but other times change is just part of who we are and the growing process that each and every one of us go through personally and professionally. There’s nothing wrong with it and it can even be the motivation, inspiration and energizing. Is there change you’ve been debating in your business? If so I encourage you to take steps to make those changes before the end of the week.