PPP: Business for the Future

Whether we were hoping for something like this pandemic to make changes to the world or not our lives and businesses have changed. Governments around the world have really no choice but to step in and support their people. Finances are just one part of what’s needed, they’re just the most obvious part because we use money for everything these days, and don’t do things like bartering or trading like we used to. Whether you and your business are eligible or not, you’ve probably heard about the PPP program, it’s hard to miss in the news these days. But in talking with some people recently and seeing how things are developing, I want to offer a different PPP road map for businesses in this time.

Panic:
I know, no one really wants to panic, but quite frankly it’s very human to panic when things like this happen. However, the first thing you should do is panic. You should have panicked somewhere around late March when everything was shutting down, or at the latest in April. I don’t have a problem with people taking time to panic and being overwhelmed by the situation. That said, you should not be panicking now and putting that pressure on any employees that are (back to) working with you. Panicking now, or still panicking, two plus months into this situation in full view of your employees and possibly your customers isn’t going to do any good.

Plan:
Once you’ve worked through the large majority of your panic, then it’s time to plan. Of course it would be helpful if you have some type of disaster strategy already discussed and planned out, but if that’s not the case, before you ever talk about a reopening date, you should be talking and working and coming up with a plan for what comes next. It’s time to take a serious look at your business, your finances and your offerings; to look at what was working, what wasn’t working, what you’ve thrown around as possibilities before, what might be available to tap into for resources, and take a serious look at how much time you have to work with based on your offerings and finances. It’s also important to consider if you can’t feasibly go forward with your business, based on what you know and what leaders are saying. It’s not too late to plan at this point, as long as you aren’t open yet or aren’t more than a short time into being open, but of course it’s better to have more time to plan before you take action.

Produce and Perform:
When you get to this stage you should feel ready and be ready to take action and be taking action. Maybe you got to this stage back in March one week after you panicked and planned because you’re an essential business, or maybe you’ve got your plan ready and are doing small actions right now waiting for the ability to get to take big or more regular actions. You should not be panicking or have no clear plans at this point, every business (open or not) should be communicating clearly, honestly and as openly as possible with their teams and customers (relatively frequently too if possible), and ever business that is planning to stay in business should be consistently supporting and encouraging their customers and greater community.

We’re all eager to get back to living and working with a measure of confidence and certainty in our future, one of the biggest ways we can fail is if we fail to plan. What plan do you have for your business going forward and how are you doing at implementing it?

Time for Tough Questions

One of the things that is exciting for some of us about this virus that has completely upended our lives, is how it has forced us to ask questions. I’m a big believer in asking questions, among other things, and I appreciate that we’ve all been stopped in our tracks to really consider some of the finer points about how we’re living and working. Asking questions is interesting because they can lead you to other questions, to consider things you’ve never thought about, and sometimes they help you realize that you had it right all along.

As much as we stop at the beginning/end of a year or on our birthdays to consider how the past year has gone and what we want from the year ahead, I don’t think that most of us really take the time to invest in it to the depth that we have with this virus either personally or professionally. No, asking questions and taking time to consider doesn’t mean that you have to do a full stop on life or work. Just like you would never stop eating for an extended period of time until you’ve reconsidered and decided on a new diet, or you wouldn’t stop sleeping (or trying to sleep) just because you can’t find a pillow that really works for you, asking questions doesn’t mean everything has to stop.

So here we are, with many of us at a full stop, and others of us knowing that at some point in time when the craziness settles down it will be necessary to ask some tough questions. Questions about why we’ve always done things a certain way, or why we didn’t think of that in the past, or why we weren’t prepared, or what we could have done better; tough questions that don’t necessarily have easy or immediate answers. These are also questions that can help us all lead a better life going forward, a life that is more considerate of each other and our impact on each other.

It’s time to get out the hard questions like what do we really want out of life, are we really investing in the people that mean the most to us, are we living and working in ways that make the most sense for us and the planet, what is the best use of our time and resources, how can we support each other better, how can we better protect each other, and do I have enough fun in my life? Maybe they’re not new questions to you, but I hope that you’re thinking on them a little more seriously than you might usually. What questions has this virus prompted you to ask?

Be Careful What You Ask For

I distinctly remember when we were working our way out of 2019 and into 2020 how excited we were about moving into a new year and new decade, emphasis on the “new,” and leaving behind what had been a rough couple of years for some of us. Well, the funny thing about putting something out into the universe is that you have to be careful about what you put out there. I say this because we most certainly are working towards something new, by ways of a world-wide pandemic which is something that I don’t think anyone would have agreed to as part of the process to “new.”

I get asked questions by other business owners and people working to achieve success all the time and more times than not I have to ask for clarification on what they’re asking because the question they asked me was really vague or could be answered in a dozen different ways. Sometimes what you really need is someone helping you figure out how to ask a better question or to figure out what a better question is, but that’s not typically what people are thinking about or looking for. I love giving advice, but I could give hours of advice before I really get to the topic that would benefit someone unless they have a (more) specific question or topic.

The good news is that we are indeed presented with the opportunity to create something new, awesome, powerful and supportive for ourselves and the others that we share this world with. If we’re honest, how do we expect to get something new if we don’t make changes, right? Part of the challenge is that we probably weren’t very clear back in 2019 what “new” looked like anyway, we just knew that we didn’t want what we had been experiencing. Hopefully this pandemic development will be like ripping a band-aid off, and it just very expediently brought us to a bottom and we’ll have just enough time to consider and make plans for next steps by the time things start to turn around.

Take time to process the losses you’re experiencing and the dramatic change of your life, it’s totally normal to be experiencing some or all of the stages of grief as part of this journey. Then send thoughts of kindness, love and healing to the world, focusing on healing rather than the fear or uncertainties. I don’t have all the answers to what our new world will look like or when we’ll get there, but I do know that you’ve got options on how you move through this challenge. The future will eventually be here, we will eventually move through this crisis, and what “new” looks like will depend largely on what you do with this time. What do you want the new future to look like?

Success Secrets: Plan Ahead

If you’ve been looking around your corner of the world lately and it looks anything like mine, you’ve probably seen it. Yes, that’s right, signs of CHRISTMAS are popping up everywhere! I’m a Christmas person so I do Christmas in July and have no problem spending the month of November talking about being thankful, eating turkey and pumpkin pie, and playing Christmas music.  Seeing Christmas decorations and gifts pop up everywhere a full month before it typically would arrive got me thinking about how important it is for us to plan ahead in our businesses (all the decorations are a sign that there are lots of businesses who probably have a jump on you when it comes to holiday advertising too). I know that life and business both move and change very fast, and it’s not always wise to plan ahead in great detail because you don’t know what trends or needs might be, but there are things that happen regularly or are likely to happen, so you should always be able to make at least some kind of plan.

But this is all about a bigger and more important conversation than your next Christmas movie choice, it’s about making sure that you’re planning ahead and at least attempting to anticipate some of the things that likely will come your way in the near future, and having alternative plans for when things don’t go your way. Planning starts when you choose to go into business and is something you should be doing until the day you move on to the next adventure. It should get you through the sick days and challenging customers, help you manage changes, empower you to make decisions easier and quicker about what’s in line with your business and what’s not, and help you succeed.

Thanks to the internet even if you’re starting a new business, as soon as you’ve got some of the finer details planned out, it takes very little work and time to put up a one-page website and social accounts and an email newsletter or blog and start spreading the word about what you’re going to be offering and why people want to be part of your community. You don’t have to have all the details to start spreading the word about what you’re all about and getting people interested.  The excitement of having a new business often keeps us going, the challenge is that you don’t want to get to the point that it’s too late to market, which is why creating a plan and sticking to it can help you keep your success going.

Other ‘plan ahead’ keys include making connections and building relationships every opportunity you’re given, because you never know when you can help connect someone, or need a connection yourself. You also should always have a plan “b” (and maybe a plan “c” too) because you never know how things will change or how you’ll need to pivot your business (or your life).

Finally, plan to celebrate your business, the milestones you’ve reached and the team and customers who make it all possible. It is very possible to get wrapped up in the day-to-day running of a business, and that’s when you can lose the passion and purpose that people were attracted to in the first place. Making time for celebrations on a regular basis (like the holidays) and showing that you appreciate your people, will help you stay motivated and your people stay interested and connected.

What insights do you have about business and success planning?

Planning and Preparing

One of the many things that people talk about in October is fire prevention and safety.  It’s an important topic to talk about in schools with kids, and many schools make it fun by bringing in one of the town’s fire trucks or at the very least a real firefighter for the kids to meet.  It’s an important topic to talk about in schools because people of all ages including kids need the information about what to do if a fire happens, so that they’re less likely to freeze and more likely to be able to escape.

But preparation is an important topic for everyone, and not just with regards to fires or natural disasters.  Preparation on even a very basic level gives you the support to have some control on the basics of your life even when other things are going out of control.  Being prepared means you don’t have to panic when company comes in from out of town or your boss asks you to stay late or the kids have a project due tomorrow they “forgot” about or your partner needs you to go out to dinner with them and their boss or you’re not surprised by or unable to afford an annual bill because you’ve been saving up all year.

Preparation doesn’t necessarily mean having every single duck in a row, just that you’ve got a solid handle on what usually goes on, you’re aware of what’s going on around you and what’s definitely or potentially coming up, and have resources available for things that might go wrong or come up.  Preparation often goes hand in hand with planning ahead.  By planning ahead whenever possible, and teaching your kids to do the same with regards to their clothing needs, homework/studying/projects and extracurricular activities, all of you will be better equipped to handle whatever curve balls life throws at you.

Preparation is not typically a labor or time intensive activity, but even still it can pay off big in the long run.   It can be as simple as having a spare of favorite home and kitchen items before you run out, taking time to sit down and look at the week ahead and anticipate what will happen and what could happen, and talking with the people in your life about scary but important topics like what everyone’s steps should be in a fire or other disaster.  What will you do to prepare for the days and months ahead?

Taking Time to Prepare

Whether you have a spiritual practice or not you’re probably familiar with the celebration of Easter which happens later this month. For those who celebrate Easter as a spiritual holiday, they’re currently going through a period called Lent, or some 40 days of mental and spiritual preparation before the actual celebration of Easter.

Preparation is something that should be a regular part of all of our lives, spiritual or not. We aren’t born ready for most things in our lives, we have to learn them or get ready for them. Sometimes that takes years of preparation and experiences to get to the point of being prepared to do something or be someone. There’s a reason that we vet the big leaders and people we hire (or we’re supposed to), so that we know we’ve got someone qualified and not just some random individual off the streets.

Part of preparation is planning ahead.  Sometimes that means just anticipating how things may happen in the future and being mentally (and financially) prepared for that, other times it means doing certain things first or doing things in a certain order so that you’re ready.  A great example is baking bread.  Bread isn’t a one-step process, you don’t just mix all the ingredients together in a random order and it’s done, you’re never done until you bake it, and most breads have several steps including a rest period and have to be baked.

I know we sometimes wish we could skip all the preparation and planning steps, but in many cases they make it easier to work through things when they finally happen and make it easier to deal with everything else that’s going on in our lives at the same time.  Don’t ignore the necessity and importance and value of taking the time to prepare. Taking that time can make things go easier and more successfully for you in the future.

Making Life Safer and More Peaceful for the Next Generation

The words “back to school” are echoing around the country. For some school is a welcome time, for others there’s a lot of apprehension. Both parents and kids can struggle with back to school time, and one of the challenges that has been increasingly becoming a greater point of concern is the safety issue. Whether from outside sources or inside sources violence and bullying has been increasingly on people’s radars. But it’s not exclusive to schools, as you may know, violence and threats can happen anywhere and at any time, whether an orchestrated attack or driving incident that happen between two parties that have zero connection, or a natural disaster that is more serious than anticipated.

Safe is a term that we throw around but aren’t always able to follow through on. Why? Because there are too many variables to be able to fully anticipate all potential dangers. The best way to be safe though is with planning and honesty. The first thing I think as adults we need to do is be willing to admit that there are dangers around, and not to be oblivious to them. This is a first step that not everyone takes, because who really wants to think about this stuff?

The next step is to be honest about some of the potential things that could go wrong and outline some kind of plan for them. While you don’t have to have precise steps that should be taken in the event of certain things happening, it’s a good idea to at least have things outlined as to financials and last wishes and even online account information so that in the event of something bad happening your wishes and information are made known. You should also have an emergency fund (and specify what that fund can be used for) that can cover expenses for 6 months or more. You should also have at least one discussion with the family about these things so that everyone is at least aware of where the information is, what plans are if something happens and who the contact people are outside of the family should something happen.

Of course the third step is to be smart about how you live. That doesn’t mean that you don’t take some risks or don’t have any fun, but it means that you don’t drive recklessly, you don’t do drugs, you get help from a therapist or counselor if you’re struggling with anger or hurt or depression or something else, and generally think before acting in life.  Your better habits will teach your kids to have better habits as well.

No family ever likes to think about the dark side of life, but it’s a reality. If you want your family to be safer, do what you can to make it more likely that you’re all protected. But even though safe isn’t a guarantee, a greater sense of peace can be a reality if you take the time and effort to do a little planning. What are you doing to make the world a little more peaceful, and hopefully safer, for the next generation?

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?

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?

Processes and Procrastination

As we head towards the end of another week you may be thinking about what you can toss onto the piles on your desk or mark so that you deal with it next week and not today or tomorrow.  I’m familiar with the process, everyone does it to some extent. And to some extent it’s necessary to do because there are only so many hours in a day and while you may have something sudden and time-sensitive come up today, you may not have that tomorrow and be able to deal with things from today tomorrow.  The danger comes in when you never get to “tomorrow” and you keep having to put out fires and deal with emergencies today and never get to that other stuff you keep putting off.

The good news is that a portion of what you keep putting off can be handled by someone else.  You can get someone else to file the papers or place/pack orders or refill supplies or input data to a spreadsheet or program or app.  The bad news is, as you probably guessed, they can only do so much as they are not you. All that help is great to a point, then you have to step back in and choose or approve purchases, reply to clients, or confirm the data.

But what it comes back to is that you need to stop and realize that there’s a problem and you’re tired of seeing the problem day after day and not being able to do what you want to with or about it.  Maybe it’s as simple as changing the software, program or procedure that you do things with/through.  Maybe it’s creating a schedule and following it 95% of the time.  Maybe it’s just hiring someone to help out a few hours a week (on either the personal or the professional side).  But I believe that for many of the things that we’re putting off, there’s a simple solution that can make it much easier and much less painful to do the job and get it done quicker and with the results you’re looking for (or at the very least results which is something you didn’t have before).

If you’re struggling with the never ending search for tomorrow in your work or home, I encourage you to take an important first step before the end of the week.  Maybe it’s reaching out to an organizer or coach like myself who is local to you and getting the conversation going.  Maybe it’s taking 30 minutes to investigate other program/procedure options.   Maybe it’s sitting down with your team and talking about who’s doing what and who would rather do what and who can help you clear things off your plate (making things easier for everyone).   What will you do?