Lessons in Leverage

There’s always been a group of people who look for the shortest or fastest route through, around or to something or someone. I have no problem with letting go of things that are unnecessary or taking out unnecessary steps, but fastest/shortest isn’t always best. For example, for a time there was a large interest in buying likes and other social points to unnaturally inflate business accounts so they would look more popular or active than they were. It’s something that the social networks have cracked down on fortunately but still something a few people are still doing. I understand the desire to present large numbers to people, especially when some celebrities have so many social interactions and connections, but when you have fake likes etc. it completely screws up your metrics and any data you want to analyze and it means you’re not being honest with your customers.

So what can we do as businesses to grow faster or quicker? One option we have is to get really good at leveraging. What does this mean? It means that we build a business smarter, taking advantage of the tools and resources we have access to. Sometimes it means a little extra effort or resources expended, but in the long run you’ll connect better with your team and your customers, and be more successful for longer.

Let’s take a look at some examples. For social media there are many things you can do with a social account, but the question I often raise with clients is how fully they’re taking advantage of all that a social network offers. Are you posting, doing ads, being social and promoting the account through your emails, website etc. or just doing one/some of the above? If you’re not leveraging all that the social account has to offer, it’s likely you’re missing out on some great opportunities for growth.

Another example has to do with your employees, team, and customers. Do you have people of all ages on your team and are you talking with all of them to get different generational perspectives? Are you tapping into the different skill sets and interests that each of them have or trying to force them into your preferred box? What about your customers? Are you getting their feedback on what you’re offering and finding out what they need? These are simple conversations to initiate, and can pay off big in the long term if you’re implementing what you’re learning.

A final example is one that I share about regularly, and that’s holidays. If everyone around you is talking about the upcoming holiday, how can you leverage that holiday positively for your business? Rather than complain about the holiday or how it steals customers from you, turn it into a money making opportunity. Offer relevant seasonal offerings, surprise your customers with seasonal gifts, and be flexible with your team and their schedules so they can be with their families too (a happy team is a productive team). Make the holiday work for your business.

What about you? What are you leveraging in your business to help it grow?

A Coach for the People

This month I read “Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell.” This book is a look at the principles and practices and leadership of Bill Campbell who started by being a sports coach and moved to become one of the greatest business coaches, working with Apple, Google and other big businesses. The book shared about a man who had a really big heart, lots of smarts and great people skills. Everyone who knew him had great things to say about him, and even after his death his practices and teachings live on in the companies he worked with.

The core of the book and what Bill was all about, is people. Bill was all about teamwork, communication, openness, honesty and trust. He recognized that it all comes back to people: that people are what make or break a company, sell a product/service, help a customer, or buy a product/service; that to care about people you have to care about people; and that it’s not always about the problem but about having the right people on the team to get things done.

Much of what was shared through this book emphasized that it’s not just about having people to fill spaces or do a job, but about having healthy teams, healthy relationships, healthy lives and healthy communications. It’s not about perfection or getting it right all the time or not having disagreements or not having weaknesses, but about doing what’s good for the community; creating a culture of safety, clarity, meaning, and impact so teams can thrive; having dependable people on your team; keeping everyone on the same page across departments; and creating victories for today and tomorrow.

When it all comes down to it, what Bill knew and taught throughout his life was that while teams are essential and invaluable, everyone is their own person, responsible for how they live their life, how they give back, how they love, how successful they are, how they communicate, what kind of leader they are and what difference they make in the world. Each person Bill came into contact with was challenged to be their best, give their best and love the best they could.

As we head into the last months of this year, I would challenge you to not (just) focus on getting products and services out the door to as many people as possible, but to be a people person, to genuinely care about the people you connect with and to make each person’s day that you connect with a little better.

Summer Family Teamwork

Whether you’re a single parent or raising your kids with your significant other I believe every parent needs to have support. They should have the support of their kids as well as the support of other adults. Recently I heard a father say a great comment to his kids as they were waiting for mom to return and then all leave for vacation. He said “OK kids, go do what your mom would tell you to do before she gets here so we can leave sooner.”

Why is this such an incredible statement? From an adult and partner perspective it’s an incredibly supportive statement of his partner, as well as a proactive one. Yes, sometimes supporting means showing up and doing what you’re asked/told to do, sometimes that’s exactly what a parent needs. But it can also mean that you take initiative and get things done for them, especially if you know how they want things done or know what things need to be done on a regular basis. This father’s direction to his kids not only shows his care for his wife, it also shows that he’s aware that she’s going to want things done before they go on vacation and that it’s in all of their best interests to get to work on that sooner rather than last minute.

The other part of this statement that has to be considered and celebrated is the importance of getting the kids involved in supporting the parent(s). Yes, it’s a parent’s job to support their kids and care for them, but part of raising kids well is teaching them how to do as much as possible so they’re prepared when it’s their time to go out into the world. It’s also teaching them good relationship skills, about how to work together as a team, and teaching them to anticipate needs and plans of others and doing your best to help out.

Summer is a great time to hang out and have fun, but it also brings some unique opportunities to strengthen and support the relationships in each of our lives. What will you do this summer to help everyone, including yourself, have a productive and enjoyable summer?

Ready for Ideas?

I’m a supporter of change in many aspects of our lives. I think we resist change because we can’t always see the benefit or think it will be too difficult to make a reality. As business owners it’s partially our job to help make change possible and doable for the rest of the world. A great example is the Uber/Lyft companies of the world who have changed how people move around places, also doing more for keeping drunk drivers off the road than has been done in a long time because it’s easier and less expensive to get a ride than going with a taxi or limo service.

This week Amazon had their annual meeting and all 12 resolutions that were brought before the board failed. While it may be typical for there to be a back-and-forth before any resolutions are adopted by a board or company, it got me thinking about how sometimes ideas aren’t that good and businesses rush into things before it’s time or without proper support. Sometimes we get what is a really good idea but don’t think through both or all sides of it and how it would affect others.

One of the recent reports I heard was about workers wanting to be paid on a more immediate basis and not every 2 weeks. While I totally understand the desire behind this idea, many in the business world would have to make some big changes to make this possible. Why I’m not sure this will easily be able to be brought about is because the business world isn’t paid on a daily basis. We often wait months for the full contract fee to come through, we don’t all pay suppliers immediately, and we use credit as much as the general population does. So the financial end of the business world will need to speed up and be more on-time than it currently is if that’s to become a reality, which wouldn’t be a bad idea for businesses or people.  The whole other side of the conversation is lack of planning and lack of funds saved for periods where the finances are a little short, which isn’t a conversation we’re going to get into today.

The point is there are lots of great ideas being brought to light every day. Many have to do with making sure that our people are better cared for, and that everyone has a voice, both of which are very important. But before we jump into something that we aren’t prepared for or the world isn’t prepared for, maybe we should do some back-and-forth before trying to launch to the world.  What ideas are you working on that could help make positive change?

Questions to Empower Your Business Today and Tomorrow

Today I thought I’d share a few questions that you can apply to your business and your team every day.  These are simple questions that are kind of like the last minute check you do on your email/social media before calling it a day, or that 5 minute wrap-up you take to clean off your desk and empty your coffee cup.  Some questions can help you start the day well, others will help you prepare for the next day.

Start the day:

1-what’s one small thing I can do today that will set me/us up for a better tomorrow?

2-which team member can I encourage or recognize the value of today?

3-who can I connect/network with today?

4-what can I do today that I would enjoy or love doing?

These questions help you think big picture on the day ahead.  You may have a packed schedule of things other people need you to do or you’ve scheduled for yourself to do, but taking the time to think about these questions will give you the ability to plan beyond the day.  The first question helps keep you and the company moving forward.  The second and third questions are about people, about appreciating your people and about getting connected with other people who can support you and you can support.  The final question is the one that excites me a lot because sometimes it seems like we’ve just got this list of stuff to do, stuff that seems tedious or may not be why we really wanted to run a business, and this question gives us the opportunity to keep that spark alive every day.

Prepare for tomorrow:

1-what happened today that has to be addressed or fixed tomorrow?

2-is there anything I’m concerned about regarding tomorrow?

3-who do I need to reach out to tomorrow?

4-what victory did I/we achieve today?

I think taking time to work through these brief questions at the end of the day is helpful because for the first three it means you recognize that you don’t have the time or mental space to do your best work, but know that these things need addressing tomorrow.  It also helps you take a minute to think ahead on what tomorrow might bring.  The fourth question is an opportunity to end on a positive note and finish the day well.  It does force you to think back through the day (and possibly some not good things) but it also means you’ll leave celebrating a win.

What questions do you use to help empower your days?

Building a Bigger, Bolder Business

This month I took a look at Think Big, Act Bigger by Jeffrey Hayzlett. I’m not big on reality TV, so my first introduction to Jeffrey was through a telesummit several years ago. I don’t always connect with individuals or leaders who are big and bold and outspoken, but Jeffrey is so much more than that, it wasn’t as noticeable or unavoidable as it is with some other leaders, in other words it didn’t define him in a negative way. And that’s really how the entire book read for me. I really felt like it wasn’t about him sharing why he’s a great leader, it was him revealing in a very personable way why who he is and the decisions he makes work, and why they might/will work for others.

In the book Jeffrey talks about what may seem like a conflicting set of topics. On one side he makes it very clear that his business (any business) isn’t meant to appeal to or work with everyone. He shares an example of how they had a slogan on a website and the team removed that slogan during a website edit because the team said it offended some people. His answer was that it was that if someone can’t see past the slogan or is offended by it, the slogan has done its’ job in weeding out the not ideal clients.

But Jeffrey also talks about the importance of asking and finding out why someone didn’t buy a product or service. Maybe it is because they’re not a good fit (and that’s OK). Maybe it’s because they don’t understand (and that’s your fault and something you can fix). Maybe it’s because the product or service isn’t up to par with the competition (again, something that you can fix). Maybe it’s because your sales people were rude, ignorant, unknowledgeable or lazy (something you must do something about). Knowing why (and doing something about those answers you can and should do something about) can mean not only an increase in business and sales, but also you bringing a better business to the world.

One of the parts of the book I appreciated most was Jeffrey’s take on teams/employees and leaders. He is a believer in hiring people and giving them the tools and empowerment to make decisions based on systems they have set up in the business. The difference with some other businesses and leaders and their employees is that Jeffrey makes a point of doing everything and having knowledge and experience in everything, from cleaning bathrooms to marketing to finances, just for starters. This means he has the knowledge and experience to do it all so he can talk with his people about everything. He isn’t stepping away from or not leading or disconnected from the business, he simply has done it all and now focuses his time on the most important things, and lets other people do what they’re good at doing.

I alluded to it at the beginning of the post and you can guess it from the title of the book, but one of the big keys is the importance of having a positive attitude, thinking bigger, acting bigger, and being real. Yes, Jeffrey grows big businesses, but this isn’t just about the size of your business or your bank account, but about being a big leader that’s making a positive impact in the world through their business, regardless of how many customers they serve.

With that in mind, I wanted to end with a quote from the Introduction: “I can think bigger, act bigger, and do it my way-because I can.” How will you make a difference in your business, be a better leader for your business and make a difference with your business for your community, tribe, and the world?

Are You A Control Freak?

This February we will talk about couples and romantic relationships a lot, since it’s the month that contains Valentine’s Day, but today I wanted to start with something that is really important whether we’re talking romantic relationships, family relationships or even work relationships. This is a topic that most people struggle with, including myself: my way doesn’t always have to be how it gets done.

We struggle with this because we’re all secretly (or not so secretly) control freaks. We like to be in charge, direct all the action, make sure that things get done, make sure they get done right (according to us), and tell everyone what to do and where to be. Sometimes this can be a good thing because it means things will get done, but most of the time this actually hinders things getting done when you’re busy being the slave driver instead of bringing others into the team to get everything done together and letting everyone use their individual giftings to do things to the best of their ability.

I don’t disagree that you probably have some really great ideas about how things should be done, but people are a lot more likely to cooperate and work with you on getting things done (and stick around for longer in your life) if you talk with them about it and then let them help make the final decision about how they get the project you’ve given them done, what the next steps of your relationship look like, the direction their life will go in or about countless other things that could result in wins for everyone.

This week ahead I encourage you to give yourself and your partner a break and work on working together more and fighting and directing less. What small but significant changes can you make together to make this week less about control and more about cooperation?

Labor Day Reflections

Monday here in the US is Labor Day. It’s the day that we honor and remember all the contributions that the American people have made for and towards the economy and success of our country. I think it’s important to still celebrate this day because even though we’ve made some really great strides in making work accessible and safer for all, there are still some serious issues in the work place today.

When you look at the statistics about how many people are employed vs. unemployed, they don’t take into account how many people are miserable in the job they have. It doesn’t register how many people dread going to work the next day. It doesn’t consider how many people feel threatened, frustrated or ignored by their bosses and superiors. It doesn’t take into account the number of workers who have no clue what they’re doing or why they do what they’re doing. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of improvement still needed in many workplaces.

The first step to improvement is for the leadership to remember that they’re working with people, not magicians. Most staff members won’t read minds, can’t decipher gibberish, and can only do what you’ve told them to do. So when they’re not doing what you need them to do, aren’t truly helping customers, aren’t being as productive as you want them to be or keep doing things wrong, take a step back. First look at what you’ve told them to do (do your messages/requests/instructions even make sense?  Are they detailed and specific enough?). Second, look at how you’ve trained them and if you’re continuing to give them education to improve their skills. Third look at the resources available to them (can they do the job you’re asking them to do, let alone do well?).

Once sufficient and clear communication, expectations and resources have been established, only then can things improve dramatically for both workers and businesses. Are you the reason your employees are miserable and unproductive? What can you do to be the reason that you’ve got employees who look forward to coming into work, share about job openings with your business, and are happy and capable of fully supporting your customers?

Holidays of Unity

This week a topic I’m thinking about is unity. We’ve got some holidays that many people will celebrate over the next few weeks and a couple of others that not everyone will celebrate that all are about bringing people together. We’ve got Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s Day and Memorial Day plus the National Day of Prayer and Ramadan all being celebrated this month. During each of these events people will be gathering with family and/or friends to take time to celebrate, remember, gift, and tell stories honoring the men, women, families and cultures that each of these events are remembering.

They’re simple opportunities that bring people together, events that let us put aside other issues and challenges we’re facing, and just be together. Life has plenty of challenges, challenges that aren’t going to go away anytime soon, but days like these are great reminders that we aren’t going through life alone, and that together we’re stronger and more able than we are trying to do it on our own.

We talk about teamwork and the importance of our relationships often on this blog, but often what we’re talking about are the challenges and how we can work through them, and not celebrating the great steps and strides forward we’re making. This month there’s all these opportunities to really celebrate the people in our lives and the people who have stood for us, and to let them know that they’re not forgotten but that they’re appreciated and valuable to us.

So as we begin this month I want to challenge you to make at least these 3 upcoming holidays days that you work towards unity (Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s Day and Memorial Day). If you’re up for a big challenge, make it your goal this month to unify and work on your relationships with as many people that are in your life as possible, in whatever relationships you have with them, whether they’re personal, work, or religious. Together we can make the world, and each of our lives, a better place.

Subscription Business Success

I don’t know about you but I’ve been watching the subscription industry and how it’s grown and changed over the past few years. Subscriptions started back with deliveries of milk and eggs, grew to newspapers and magazines, and has grown to include deliveries of online newsletters, and physical boxes of makeup, clothing, books and full blown recipes. I’ve ventured once or twice into a home delivery subscription of products, but I’m particular about things so I have yet to find anything current that I really want to subscribe to. But let’s talk about the business of subscriptions, and why they’re something people enjoy and why they’re successful.

One of the great things about some of the subscription options is the joint venture opportunities they create. Yes, in some cases you’re subscribing to one specific product or brand, but many of the subscription options include a variety of items that changes with each delivery. The boxes talk about being “carefully curated” to include a mix of products to try, leaving the next step up to the recipient, they can use/share the products and move on, or they can follow up with the brands in the box and purchase additional products or more of what they got in the box. For businesses, it’s a great opportunity to build a business relationship with another company, to do cross promotions with the company and to be introduced to an audience they may not have really considered before.

Subscription deliveries create recurring revenue for companies. This is a big reason that companies want to get into the subscription business, because they’re getting consistently paid without all of the work of trying to get new clients/customers. Of course you have to have great content in your box or people won’t stay subscribed, but if you can consistently provide unique items that your audience is interested in, you can keep them as a repeat customer for many years.

Subscriptions work well because they take a lot of the work out of the customer’s life. Many people will tell you that they’re too busy to do the research into picking a recipe and shopping for the right items or finding new skincare to try or finding new books to read, and let’s be honest you can do tons of research and you may never hit on the products included in the box because there are just so many different companies in every niche and industry. Subscriptions are an easy way to introduce people to the variety, novelty, and/or something bigger/better that they’re interested in finding but don’t have the time or knowledge to know where/how to look.

There are of course challenges to being in the subscription industry, including quality of products, offering something people don’t want, not having some competitive advantage or standing out from your (many) competitors, the finding a happy middle on cost of the subscription for you and your customers, and being able to keep up with demand. I don’t think the subscription industry is going anywhere any time soon, and I think there’s still room in the industry for some quality boxes and deliveries.

Have you considered offering a subscription option, and if so how far into the consideration and/or planning are you? If you offer a subscription, what have you learned from it and where do you think the industry is headed?