Live Your Life Your Way

One of the questions that is asked from time to time is along the lines of “do we really need another blogger in the world?” Of course that same question could be easily asked about countless things from authors to web designers to chefs to baseball players. I get it, I mean there are tons of people who share similar things or seem to do the same thing.

But with the incredible loss of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade last week I got to thinking about this question again, especially in response to some of the things people posted about Anthony Bourdain following his death. We could watch any of a dozen or so news channels on TV, but each of us has our own preference about which we watch as well as which news site we typically visit on the internet. They often share the same exact news (a baseball score isn’t going to change depending on who you hear it from), yet we think they share the news better or we have some other affinity with them.

So I say go for it. Share your story, write your blog, investigate the world from your perspective, listen to others, get to know the world around you and you live in, and do your part to take care of it and all who share it. No one can ever tell your story like you can, no one can make the difference in the world that you can. We all have a role to play in this world, what statement will you make with the way you live your life?

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The Future of Your Business

Lately I’ve been coming back to a topic that isn’t one that we really like to think about, but is something that affects us personally and professionally: death. At some point in time all of us will die, and just about every business will go out of business at some point in time. Very few businesses stand the test of time, often because the world changes and either they can’t keep up with the changes, or there’s no one to continue on after the current owners are done with the business. So today I thought we’d take a minute to talk about next steps with your business, whether you’re hoping to sell, planning to pass it on or some day going to close up shop.

Whether you’re planning to sell or planning to pass it on one of the most important things you can do to not only make your business appealing to the next person, but to ensure that you pass along the best version of your business that you can, is to keep good records. This means that not only is everything recorded in a way that people can easily figure out what you’re sharing, but the information can be used to make important decisions in the future and the information shows that you’ve got a great concept and the customer base to support the business.

If you’re planning to close up shop some day one of the most important things you can do now and when that time comes is have good resources that you can pass your people off to. I’ve been connected with several individuals and companies who decided to close their doors and left absolutely no way for people to keep in touch with them or suggestions about who they can connect with that offers the same heart, quality and services that they did to now replace them. I understand if you want to be done with your business (or need to be), but you’ve spent a lot of time building trust with people and they’ve gotten to know you and see you as a valuable resource, so to just toss them out like garbage just because you’re done is inconsiderate. You’ve got a new future you’re moving on to, but they were relying on you for parts of their future.

But the fact is that paying attention to detail, keeping good records, building a network of reliable customers, having data to consider, and having a network of people you can recommend people to are things that can be invaluable now while your business is being built, growing or thriving, not just when you’re closing that chapter of your life.

The one last thing I would encourage you to keep in mind is that everything does come to an end at some time. It’s always better if you’ve got the control to finish things out as you want them to go, rather than working through a mess or leaving the mess for someone else. What plans do you have for the future of your business?

Next Generation Business Success Support

Mother’s Day is just a few days away in the US and today I’m thinking about one of the important jobs that moms (and dads) have, and that’s raising up the next generation. As business owners it’s important to not only help your employees and team members grow personally and professionally, and to offer something of value to the world through your products and services, but I believe we’ve got a very important duty to help the next generation of business owners get started, whether they’re 18 or 80, and hopefully avoid some of the mistakes we made in starting our businesses. So let’s take a look at a few ways we can all work together to ensure that the next group of business owners is just as or more successful than we are.

One way to help the next generation is talking with them. I answer probably a hundred emails and messages a week from people asking for business advice. Many leaders are willing to have you buy them a cup of coffee in exchange for picking their brain for a bit. I think this is a great way to give a little bit of your insight to help others get started. If you’re in this position of wanting to ask someone for some business knowledge, make sure that you’ve got your questions ready and you’ve read up on this person before approaching/talking with them (show them you’re not going to waste their time).

Another way to support new and considering business owners is donations to organizations that help people do more than work simple jobs, like teaching farm or computer skills, or providing the actual seeds and computers (or a donation for that purpose). I was reminded in an email this week that what seems like a very small amount of money to some of us can be a huge amount of money in other parts of the world. $75 to you or I may be a bottle of wine, a nice dinner or part of a month’s cell phone bill, but to someone in another country it means knowledge and seeds to set up a lucrative farming venture that not only feeds their family but brings in a decent income. If you’re got old computers, nice dress clothes that don’t fit, office furniture, or other resources (including money), there are tons of great charities and organizations that will take them and help them get into the hands of those who need a bit of a helping hand to get started in business.

Third, a mentorship program is a great way to help those interested in starting a business like yours, or in the same industry. It can be a way for those interested in starting a business like yours to make some money and learn the ropes from a seasoned leader. They earn at least minimum wage working for you in your business, learning all the different jobs, you teach them and answer questions as you go along, and you get a motivated and focused employee for 6 months to a year. It’s not something everyone can offer, but it’s another way to help the next generation learn how to run a business from the inside.

So how do you contribute to the next generation of business leaders? What do you think is most important for the next generation to know?

Creative Earth Day Celebrations

Sunday is Earth Day, and while I’m not quite ready to get out there and enjoy spring, with today being an unseasonably cold 42 degree day, I’m still looking forward to doing some earth-friendly things this week and weekend. If you’re looking for some creative ways to honor the earth and still do things you enjoy, here are a few things to add to your list.

Garage sales and estate sales are a great way to buy new things that you want and need while still helping the earth. Many people sell gently used items or even brand new ones that they haven’t used or don’t want but are still in great condition. These types of sales are also a great place to find stuff that just isn’t made anymore, or isn’t made in the same way or with the same quality that it used to be made with.

Farmer’s markets and roadside stands are a great way to support the local farming community. Eating vegetables and fruits is a great way to care for our planet in the first place, making the extra effort to do it locally not only gives you the opportunity to support the local growers, but also to know exactly where your food came from. Also, you typically have the chance to talk with the people who grow the food, which means you can find out exactly how they were grown and what, if any, chemicals were used.

Giving the gift of a potted plant is another great way to think more about the earth while still giving flowers or a plant that will make someone smile. Even if the person you’re gifting to doesn’t have the greenest thumb, most people can still keep a potted plant alive for far longer than cut flowers, and the potted plant often can go outdoors and last for months or years depending on the type of plant. And if you’re gifting to someone who has a home, things they can plant outdoors are almost always a blessing, including small trees and shrubs.

What ways are you planning to celebrate Earth Day this weekend?

A St. Patrick’s Day Legacy

Today is St. Patrick’s Day! I’m excited as always, it’s one of my favorite holidays each year. Over the last day or so I’ve been checking out some Irish companies and looking at products made in Ireland and was struck by the care, consideration and effort that’s put into each product. No, no company is perfect, but when you think about truly Irish products and companies many of them have stood the test of time and consistently offer fantastic products. I’m not one to spend tons of money on things like jewelry or clothing, but I’m willing to spend those extra dollars to get such a quality product and support the families who are behind them.

No, this post isn’t really about running a business or offering a quality product, it’s about the quality and character of the people behind them. As parents and those in charge of the next generation we have a choice in what we want to teach the next generation, and hopefully what they’ll learn from us. Do we want to teach them to value the world, put their best foot forward, take pride in their work, leave a legacy that can be appreciated for a long time, and make a positive impact on the world? I know that’s what I want to teach the next generation and encourage them to value life and their talents.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with buying a sweater or piece of jewelry from your local big box store, I’ve got some of them that I absolutely enjoy very much and were on low clearance prices even (prices that couldn’t get me anywhere near something from Ireland). So there’s nothing wrong with finding shortcuts and doing a quick job of something (as long as it gets the job done), but there’s value to be found in being a person who does more than just meets the status quo.

No one else can be who you are, no one else can be who your kids are or will grow up to be, no one else can be the neighborhood kids or who they will grow up to be, each and every one of us are unique and have the ability to bring something awesome to the table. In the case of the many families in Ireland who craft gorgeous products those families are teaching their next generations about leaving a legacy, honoring your heritage and sharing who they are with the world. What are you teaching your kids?

Presidential Leadership

In thinking about President’s Day on Monday here in the US, I got to thinking about what it takes to be a great president, and if we business owners can learn anything from them. But then I turned the question around and asked myself what advice the presidents would give us as leaders.

“Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad company.” George Washington

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams

“Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.” Andrew Jackson

“We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage.” Teddy Roosevelt

“Don’t write so that you can be understood, write so that you can’t be misunderstood.” William Taft

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb … Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” Calvin Coolidge

Franklin D. Roosevelt “…knew what people wanted from the highest office in the land: action, words and optimism.”

Truman’s motto was “A leader needed a true heart, a strong mind, and a great deal of courage.”

“If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person. It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit.” Bill Clinton

All presidents left a legacy of one kind or another. All presidents had successes and failures. All presidents had good days and bad days. All presidents left office after they were done and continued on with their lives. The choice we all have is to do the best we can with what we’re given for as long as we’re there, and when life hands us a new direction to then do the best we can on that path. What are you learning from your business and being a leader right now?

Impact Big and Small

As I was thinking about the big football game happening in a few hours I was reminded of the topic of impact. In hearing the different plans that people have depending on the results of the game and about the history of the teams for winning seasons, it got me thinking about how many people’s futures are going to be impacted by the events of a few hours. No, it’s not life and death like cancer and it’s not as impactful as something like an election, but it’s still a really big deal to many people, and people are willing to put their health on the line for the victory today.

For some the events of today in the world of football mean very little or nothing to them. They don’t watch, they don’t care, they may not even know which teams are playing. And that’s OK, because what we’re talking about today isn’t really about football. It’s about the impact that each of us have on each other. Yes, today’s game will have a big impact because it impacts many people. What you choose for dinner tonight may not have a big impact on many people, but it will have an impact on you, and maybe a few of the people who live with you. How you talk to your kids will have an impact on them, how you show your partner you do/don’t love them will impact them, the way you treat yourself will have an impact on your self esteem, your self image and your confidence.

The thing is it’s these little things that add up to make a big impact. If you put one quarter in a jar every day for the next year you’ll have $36.53 which might be enough to take your significant other out for dinner. Divorces rarely are the result of one event or thing but days, months and even years of issues and buildup. People are rarely born bad, they turn that way after years of negative influences and anger directed their way. I doubt that any of the parents who have kids playing in the football game today knew the day they were born that they would end up playing today.

You can’t predict the future, but you can do your best to make choices that will give you the best big and little impacts possible. What impact will you choose to have?

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.”

 

Educating for Convenience?

We live in an age of modern conveniences. I’m a big fan of many of them, especially grocery stores, email and indoor bathrooms. It’s great to be able to use a search engine and get a bunch of instant responses to your question (hopefully you’ve input the right question and the right results show up). However, I’m concerned by something I see increasingly in adults (and kids) with all of these advances and instant responses: laziness. Now, I’m not against taking time off or relaxing or necessarily even shortcuts. However, I am not a fan of the people who expect to have everything handed to them causing extra work for others when they could easily find the answer or do it themselves in about 5 seconds.

As a parent part of your responsibility is to teach your kids to fend for themselves. That means giving them the education and tools necessary to be equipped for whatever life may throw at them. One of the most valuable tools my parents passed on to me was my reading skills. TV was definitely a thing when I was a kid and I have learned a lot watching it, but I have learned so much more from reading. Reading has given me more power and knowledge than the TV ever could. Reading has empowered me to ask questions, to learn to research and even the lesson and value of patience.

Directly tied in with reading as I mentioned is the lesson of patience. Some things have to happen in stages, that’s just the way it is. Yes, we can take some shortcuts and can find ways to speed up many processes, but for many other things the only way or the best way to get from A to Z is by going through all 26 letters. I don’t believe there’s a shortcut that can be taken when building trust, growing relationships or becoming an adult (regardless of whether you’re an ‘old soul’ or not).

If you teach your kids that all the answers are out there if they’re willing to take the adventure, do the work, try new things, find the solutions, have the conversations and do the reading, you’ll equip them to conquer just about any challenge they will face as an adult, whether you’re there to help them through it or not. Don’t teach them to be the person who asks what’s in a “#1 breakfast combo” when the answer is clearly printed on the screen outside the car window, on the menu on the wall or in the printed menu. Teach them to think up ways to create needles that don’t hurt chronically ill kids so much, or get water from Texas to California, or bring back the dodo bird, and empower them to make the world a better place.

We Remember

Tomorrow in the USA we celebrate Memorial Day.  It’s an important day to remember and thank the men and women who have fought for our country, and their families as well.  As I think about Memorial Day of course there’s a feeling of sadness for all those people we’ve lost over the many years of battle, as well as the family members who never got to know those people.  War isn’t easy, and it shouldn’t be easy, otherwise we might have to deal with more of it which wouldn’t be good.

But with the topic of loss on my mind recently in addition to tomorrow’s talk of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, it has me thinking once again about the loss that the world is experiencing when it comes to the past.  As much as I tend to think (and write) about the future and not about the past, or at least not about the past in the sense of dwelling on it, the past is important.  Every day more and more older folk slip further into Alzheimers and other memory-destroying diseases, every day seniors die, every day people who have great stories but have put off telling them die.  When you die or your memory is gone, your stories die, unless you’ve told them to someone or made some kind of record of them beforehand.

Memorial Day is all about remembering the men and women who have fought for our country, and I hope you take time tomorrow to honor those men and women.  But I can’t help adding in encouragement to also talk with your elderly relatives and friends, and even with the people your own age, and share your stories and hear theirs. Take time to share a story with your kids this weekend from the past about one of your relatives or friends and help them connect with someone they may never know. If you don’t think anyone wants to hear your stories right now you could start a blog and write all of them down for someday in the future, or you could hire someone to come and record you sharing the stories (which would be extra special for the future generations who will never meet you).  Not sure your stories are really worth telling?  I wish I could sit down with my grandparents and hear their stories, but they’ve all been lost to the sands of time in one way or another (3 dead, one with memory loss).  Their stories are special, their lives are special.  The future is built on those stories, and the relationships and events that they share about.  You and I are here because of things that happened many memories ago.

History, and the past, is more than just a random grouping of dates and facts (if that’s all it was, it would be pretty boring).  In reality history is made up of people who lived lives, enjoyed each other’s company, cried and laughed together, learned from their mistakes and had dreams, just like we do today.  Yes, sometimes remembering those we’ve lost can be painful, but the pain is a little less when we remember the good times and the stories they shared with us and memories we made together.   Who will you remember today?