Safe At Work

This past week we’ve been hearing lots of stories from women about the unwanted attention in work situations. Of course, there’s the bullying that goes on in schools and with young people around the world, and the unwanted attention or violent actions women (and some men) face outside of the workplace as well, including too many domestic violence situations, and I talked about that on my other blog today. According to Facebook, over “45% of the people in the United States are friends with someone who’s posted a message with the words ‘Me too'”, and that’s just the people who are willing to talk about it! So this is a serious situation that really needs to be addressed, and here today I want to talk about the importance of making the workplace as safe for everyone as possible.

Work safety starts with the boss and management. I can’t tell you how many stories I hear about bosses that spend time screaming, yelling, berating, ignoring and fighting with their employees, not to mention the employees who are just unappreciated by their boss(es). If you want your people to feel safe working for you, you need to be the best leader and human possible. You need to remember that we’re all human and mess up on occasion, give them the education and tools they need to do their jobs, and let them know you appreciate them doing their jobs.

Second, there needs to be an amount of respect between all of you. They may not have your title or your education or your finances, but that doesn’t mean they’re worthless or worth less than you are as a human being. They may be replaceable, but at what cost? If you treat them like trash there’s a high likelihood that they’re not going to say anything positive about your company, and some may even go so far as to tell their friends and family or even companies they work for in the future never to buy from you (who may pass on the word to others not to buy from you).

Finally, while it doesn’t have to be something you shout to the world, as a business you should have a plan and resources that your employees can tap into if they face unwanted attention or violence through work or their personal lives. This isn’t about having the required sexual harassment seminars that people joke about afterwards or a file at the back of a file box from the first day the company opened however many years ago. This is about genuinely offering support that people need as well as letting all your employees know that violence and unwanted attention aren’t going to be allowed. In some cases you can work with offenders if they’re willing to honestly get help for their issues and commit to acting differently in the future, but no one should feel unsafe going to work. You can share resources through a page on your website that employees have the link and password for or an email you send out on a regular basis depending on the turnover in your company (but at least yearly). If you really want to stand up as a company in the community you can offer career training and support at local shelters and donate to domestic violence organizations and other organizations that fight or raise awareness about these situations.

The fact is there’s a larger majority of people who have a job than have a significant other. Work is something that most people do on a daily basis, so the workplace should be the place that people feel most comfortable and are safest. So as businesses we need to step up in a big way to show that unwanted attention isn’t OK and that women (and men) everywhere have the right to come to work without being harassed or mistreated. I encourage you to take a good look at your business before the end of the month and make sure that you’re making your workplace the best it can be for your employees.

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Learning from Lee Iacocca

As a business owner it can be easy to get wrapped up in what’s going on in your business. We all have challenges, things that frustrate us and almost always run out of time at the end of the day. But one of the best things we can do if we’re interested in growing our business is to seek the wisdom of others, whether working with a coach, or learning from great business leaders like Lee Iacocca. Lee Iacocca celebrates his birthday on the 15th of this month, so today I thought we’d take a look at a little of his wisdom.   A couple of the quotes may not seem like they are relevant or really share any knowledge that can help you in your business, but if you take a minute to think about what they’re really saying, I think you’ll learn something valuable.

“In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.”

“So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don’t sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we’ve satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late.”

“Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can’t miss.”

“In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product, and profits.”

“The only rock I know that stays steady, the only institution I know that works, is the family.”

“To succeed today, you have to set priorities, decide what you stand for.”

“I have found that being honest is the best technique I can use. Right up front, tell people what you’re trying to accomplish and what you’re willing to sacrifice to accomplish it.”

“What is wrong with changing your mind because the facts changed? But you have to be able to say why you changed your mind and how the facts changed.”

“I have always found that if I move with seventy-five percent or more of the facts that I usually never regret it. It’s the guys who wait to have everything perfect that drive you crazy.”

“There is no substitute for accurate knowledge. Know yourself, know your business, know your men.”

“The ability to concentrate and to use time well is everything.”

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”

“A guy named Charlie Beacham was my first mentor at Ford. He taught me the importance of the dealers, and he rubbed my nose in the retail business.”

“I guess I invented extended warranties, because that’s all we had to sell at Chrysler in those days.”

“Over the years, many executives have said to me with pride: ‘Boy, I worked so hard last year that I didn’t take any vacation.’ I always feel like responding, “You dummy. You mean to tell me you can take responsibility for an eighty-million-dollar project and you can’t plan two weeks out of the year to have some fun?”

“I only wish I could find an institute that teaches people how to listen. Business people need to listen at least as much as they need to talk. Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions.”

“To solve big problems you have to be willing to do unpopular things.”

“There’s no great mystery to satisfying your customers. Build them a quality product and treat them with respect. It’s that simple.”

 

Remembering Your People

The past few days and weeks in the US have been filled with remembering as we’ve remembered past hurricanes and what our cities and homes used to look like, and as we’ve worked through another September 11th, remembering the men and women who died in the attacks and the men and women who worked tirelessly afterward to rescue and rebuild.

Today I want to talk about the importance of remembering in business, especially about remembering your people, including your suppliers, your employees and your customers. I’ve worked with several business owners who have no interest in their people, no real care for their people or they’re simply clueless about how neglected and unrecognized their people feel.  One of the things that can make a huge difference in success is to recognize your people and recognize how essential they are to your success. The businesses I know would be in big trouble if their people started to walk out, and unfortunately that’s what happens to businesses around the world every day.

What would you do if your employees started giving even less effort to your business and customers and then started finding new places to work? What if your customers stopped telling others about the great things you offered because they were tired of being treated poorly, or received apathetic treatment?

I know it sounds really simple but sometimes the simplest things can make the biggest difference. If you made time to thank your employees and recognize their good work regularly and you made a point of encouraging not only interaction with your customers by your employees but did better with customer recognition and engagement through social media and emails, your business would see a world of difference.  And imagine how your business would grow if you gave your employees extra training, or any training at all beyond what they got when they were initially hired.  If you’re not recognizing your employees, seeing their talents, hearing their challenges, you’re missing out.  A little effort can go a long way in this area.

I encourage you to take time this week not only to recognize the people in your direct circle of business, but to also extend that recognition to the people around the US who are dealing with the hurricanes and memories as they remember September 11. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that can make a huge difference.

Bully Free School Zone

Last week we started a conversation about two of the challenges that kids going back to school face, and we started by looking at drugs. Today we’re going to talk about a topic that is definitely more talked about with relationship to kids and teens, but can affect adults as well: bullying. According to the dictionary a bully is “a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people. A man hired to do violence.” In some ways the second definition would make it easier if that was the majority of the way that bullying happened, but more often than not there’s no money involved, it’s someone who picks on others.

Let’s start by being completely honest. Almost all of us have at one point in time or another throughout our lives picked on someone else. Maybe we did it as part of a crowd, maybe we were there when others did it, and maybe it was done in jest, but most of us have experienced what it’s like to bully or pick on someone. When you’re bullying others or picking on them there’s definitely a rush that you experience, a feeling of power and domination, and it can be seductive. I get that, really I do. But there are so many better ways to experience a rush and be in power than to beat down on someone else.  If you’re someone who tends to bully or pick on other people I strongly encourage you to work on your interpersonal skills and channel that energy into more productive activities like skydiving or catching alligators.

The other feeling that most of us experience (because we’re not true bullies) is the feeling of guilt. That’s the feeling we need to keep at the forefront of our minds when we think about getting involved with a bully or bully someone ourselves. The other feeling we need to keep in mind when considering bullying is of course what the person being bullied feels, which again is something that most of us can understand. Maybe you’ve never been a true target that faced incessant, debilitating or viral bullying, but just about every one of us has been picked on at some point in time or another. It does not feel good to be the target of one or many individuals picking on you, how you look, what you say, how you say it, what you did, who your family is or where you live, or any other number of things that you may have been picked on regarding.

If you’re facing bullying or your kids are, or if you’re just wanting to prepare them for if and when it happens, start with talking about how bullying feels and why it’s wrong with them, and let them know that you’re there for them should they be bullied, as are their teachers and the other adults in their lives. Second, it’s important to instill self-confidence and teach them to value themselves for whomever they are, whatever they like, however they look and wherever they go. They don’t have to be the same as anyone else, they can and should be their own person with their own interests and appearance. Third, don’t let them dismiss it more than once from a person. Sometimes the best thing to do is ignore the person or people and they’ll stop. But if it happens again they (and you) have to learn to stand up for themselves and ask for help if they need it. Maybe the help isn’t someone charging in and demanding the person stop (maybe it is), maybe it’s just giving and/or teaching the person the resources they need to fight this particular bullying situation and individual or group.

With the number of bullying related suicides each year becoming more publicly known more schools and businesses are taking a stand against those who would be bullies or try to demean people. While we still have a long way to go, it’s good that we’re having discussions about it and taking steps to stop it before there are even more bullying-related suicides each year. So the question is, what are you going to do to stop bullying?

Listening in Business

This month one of the topics we’re talking about is listening. It’s so important if you want to be successful in business to be listening. Let’s take a minute today to talk about the important things you should be listening to if you want to be successful.

Your customers: what are they saying? They will let you know about their dissatisfaction and the things they love. The internet is a great place to find reviews about your products and services, and you should invite your customers to give you feedback directly as well. You can also listen to their silence and their lack of return to your business and products/services as a clue as to how much they don’t like you.

Your suppliers: are your suppliers constantly raising prices? Are they hesitating on delivery? Do they tell you it’s difficult to get what you ask for? If so it may be a clue that there’s something broken or not working right in your supply chain.

Your employees: your employees are often your first line of interaction between your customers and your products/services, so it’s important to listen to what they have to say about what you offer, what customers are saying to them, things they’re feeling challenged by and what they would like to see changed. If your employees aren’t happy, aren’t respected and don’t think your product or service is worth what you’re charging then you’ll have some difficulty getting them to work at their best for your company.

Your marketing: I know it can sometimes be difficult to understand all the metrics and know exactly what things mean, but it’s important to be in touch with your marketing team to see how people are responding to your marketing. If they’re not responding and you’ve done the proper a/b testing, and tried different marketing opportunities for a consistent period of time, maybe the marketing isn’t the issue.

The market/business world: are you in tune with what’s going on in other businesses? With how they’re marketing their products? With what’s going on with your competitors? With how others are marketing? With government or industry changes that might affect you? I know it sounds like a lot of work but it’s important to be aware of what’s going on outside of your company, not just inside your company.

How good of a listener are you as a business leader? Take time today to really listen to what’s going on in and around your business.

How Long Have You Been In Business?

Recently I was visiting the website of a newer company and saw that they were pretty vocal about their being established in 2015. Sometimes when we see this it makes us pause because we know they haven’t been in business for very long, but it got me thinking about the advantages as well as the challenges. So I thought today we’d take a minute to consider the values and challenges of when you started your business.

There are many advantages to having been around for many years. You’ve had time to develop the business, you’ve had time to build up enthusiastic customers who buy from you again and again, you’ve had time to develop the products or services you offer, and there are people who prefer to work with a business that has been around for a long time. I agree that longevity does give your business some serious brownie points, and it can say a lot about the company, the product and the people who work there.

However, if you’ve been around for a long time, there’s a chance that you’re completely out of tune with how things run today in this internet and world-centric world. Potential customers may think your products and services are outdated or aren’t up to the technology and development of newer ones. They may also think your management and leadership are outdated and aren’t running things they way many other (newer) companies are. Of course, all of this may be completely untrue. As an older company what may set you apart is that you’ve changed with the times, considered and adopted some trends and are offering products and services that are created/implemented with today’s technology in mind.

So what about being a new business? Well, first and foremost there’s almost no chance you’ve got stock laying around from 50 years ago that someone might accidentally get. You’re also possibly bringing new ideas and fresh perspectives to the market, a market that may be very dry and outdated. You’ve also most likely taken advantages of the newest support and resources that technology has to offer. However, you also might not have any business experience to fall back on and without proper education and support your new business won’t last very long.

It’s hard to stay in business whether you’ve been working on it for years or just a few months. Being in business today means being open to learning and changing as things develop around you. Have you taken advantage of your new or established status in business recently? Have you reached out to a business owner who has been around a longer or shorter time with you to have coffee and talk about what is or isn’t working in your business? If not I would encourage you to reach out to another business owner this week and see what you can learn from each other. Maybe you’ll even find that you’re a great fit for a joint venture or cross promotional activity.

Freeing Your Business From Indecision

Today as we think more about freedom I want to talk about one of the things that challenges that freedom, indecision. As a business owner you’ve got a lot coming at you that you have to make decisions about on a daily basis, and as a result some business owners go into overwhelm and the business may fall apart. You’ve seen some of these businesses on TV shows like Tabitha’s Salon Takeover and Bar Rescue, they’re suffering and not successful, and often that’s a result of overwhelm or indecision and lack of direction from the owner(s) and/or manager(s). Of course, we can’t forget or ignore the indecision that customers struggle with either. So let’s take a look at 3 key players in our businesses and their relationship with indecision.

Owners: I get the importance of doing your research and taking the time to evaluate your options. As a side note I talk with too many people who don’t take the 5-10 minutes to do the research before they make a decision, with all the information on the internet and contactability through social media there’s no excuse. However, as the person in charge you have to make a decision at some point in time and put action behind it. Your indecision not only affects you, but it also impacts your employees and your customers. There are people out there waiting for the solutions you could be offering but because you’re waiting to decide on a web layout or waiting for the discount to do an ad or putting off the renovations to your store, those potential customers are not getting the best from you.

Employees: As a business owner you need to 1) empower your employees to be able to make decisions for your customers, 2) encourage your employees to make decisions, and 3) motivate your employees to make decisions that are best for both your business and your customers. Employees who are happy in their jobs and believe in what the business is selling and in the brand the business is growing, will typically make good decisions for your business, but they can’t if you haven’t educated them on the principles of working with customers as you want done in your business and you haven’t told them they’re allowed to make decisions that will bring customers back in the future even if they have an issue currently.

Customers: You won’t sell to every person that interacts with your business, that’s just the way it is. You should not want to sell to every person either, because not every person is a good fit for what you offer. However, I’ve never met a business that wasn’t missing out on converting some of the potential customers. Customers have indecision for several reasons including: they don’t know what you’re selling, they don’t know what people think of what you’re selling, they don’t know what the price is of what you’re selling, they have questions about what you’re selling, and they’re concerned about liking what you’re selling after buying. If these issues are present for them when they consider your offer, you’re giving your potential customers the excuse they were looking for to run instead of buying. Do your part in giving them fewer excuses to try someone else.

If you’ve been struggling with indecision on something, I encourage you to accept this reminder today and take action. Don’t make your business, your employees or your customers wait any longer, and do what you can to remove the dreaded gray area. What decisions will you make today?

A Business Investment

As we look ahead to July 4th and the celebration of Independence Day here in the USA, I want to talk a little about something businesses can learn from this special day. In case you’re confused or forget your holidays, July 4th celebrates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, which declared the US as separate from Great Britain. This wasn’t a decision like saying they’re not going to buy one kind of tea from them, they’re choosing to make a really big difference in the direction the future of the lives of all who call the US home. The signers of the Declaration of Independence knew that it wasn’t going to be something that happened over night, but they decided that for the best of all their futures as well as all future generations, this was a necessary separation. In signing the Declaration of Independence these men chose to make an investment in their future that they may not see real results of in their lifetime, but they believed it would be worth it.

As business owners each day we have to make choices in our businesses and in our leadership. We have to make countless little decisions that are more comparable to choosing which tea to buy from whom. But occasionally we have to make decisions about how or if to invest in something for the future of our businesses. The first decision we have to make is whether or not to look at those big decisions as a potential investment or not. If we choose to not make an investment in it we won’t be take the same steps as we would if we were going to invest. The signers could have decided they didn’t want to make it an investment in our futures and instead would just make an agreement with Britain to do things differently in the future but they chose to invest.

A typical investment question that comes up is with employees. Do you choose to do the absolute minimum when it comes to training or do you choose to do all you can to make each employee the best they can be for themselves and for your company? It’s not necessarily wrong to do less when it comes to training, but typically you’ll experience a higher rate of turnover, you’ll have more employee discontent, less commitment to the business and customers, and less to work with (if anything) when it comes to company culture. But if you choose to invest in the people that are part of your company you’re not only making your company better, you’ve got the potential to make the whole world better.

This coming week I encourage you to do a check-in as a leader and take the time to look at whether or not you’re making investments in your business, if you’re investing in the right things (and right people), or if you’re just doing what it takes to get by in the business world. I have to say that I think the signers made the right decision to invest in our futures, what will you decide?

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

Presidents and Leaders

Today in the USA is President’s Day.  It’s an opportunity for us to take time to remember the Presidents that have lead this country up to this point.  It’s a chance for us to reflect on what they’ve done, who they’ve been, and the direction they’ve helped guide our country in.  No President was perfect, although some were very loved, and others were very respected. They all faced challenges and hard times, some fought wars and others worked more on rebuilding.  It takes a lot of patience, wisdom, support and courage to be President.  As a business owner you have probably experienced some similar things and can relate to some of the emotions that Presidents have gone through as they tried to navigate being President.

Not everyone is cut out to be a leader, it’s why many people work jobs.  They have great ideas that can help and contribute to a successful business but they don’t have the knowledge, drive, support or interest in being the boss.  It’s not for everyone.  I’ve done the leading and have been behind the scenes. Being behind the scenes has given me a great appreciation for all the teamwork that it takes to really make something look good from the front.  Whether you’re the leader or the employee you have incredible value in the business.

When it comes to being the leader there are some skills that really are a requirement to have, especially if you’re a solopreneur or a very public face of the company.  If that’s you, you need to have exceptional communication, decision making, and people skills.  You need to be able to understand your customers, your employees, your products/services and know how to relay that understanding to your people, or how to translate that understanding into products and services.

The reality is though that sometimes you’ll fail.  Sometimes you’ll let people down, sometimes you’ll let yourself down.  I believe you can do an exceptional job without trying to be perfect.  Sometimes that exceptional job will require you to work within failures and adapt.  In those cases it’s all about your leadership bringing back to life the company or product. Sometimes you’ll have to make the tough decision that the end has been reached and it’s time to move on.  And that’s OK too.  Every President is in office for only so long, because change is necessary sometimes.

So on this President’s Day, what have you learned about being a leader?