Setting a Good (Business) Example

School is in full swing, all after school activities are busy with practices, games, performances and other activities, and the weather is taking a definite turn towards autumn tomorrow if the weather people are correct. The idea of school was established many years ago so that kids would get not only a foundational understanding on what it means to be an adult, but also get an introduction to all the topics they may have to know about as an adult and things that may help them decide what they’re going to do with the rest of (or many years of) their life. School was established with the best intentions, a way of socializing the next generation, exposing them to things their parents wouldn’t be able to do alone and giving them a solid starting point to life.  And I believe that the idea of school is a good and necessary one.

But still today there are people who don’t make it through school, who aren’t able to learn based on the current format, who aren’t being prepared for what comes next. Does the current iteration of school need to be replaced? In many ways I say yes because the world has shifted in many ways from what it was when the current school practices were decided upon. In many ways schools aren’t preparing the next generation to go out and live in this world. But thanks to the internet and some more inventive educational organizations, there are ways to fill the gaps until something can be properly discussed and thought out.

The next question of course is what else is falling outdated and therefore failing others? What opportunities do we have that we may or may not be taking advantage of? What are we trying to shout to the world through our social posts, TV shows, movies, and events? What are we telling the world through the marketing, promoting and sponsoring that we do?

The good news is that the business world has a much easier time of making changes than the established school system does, because each individual business has the ability to take a look at what they’re doing and decide it’s not serving them the way they hoped it would, decide what’s outdated and not helping them move forward, decide what types of training and support are best for their teams, and most of all decide whether the story they’re telling to the world is the right one for them or not.

We have 3 months left in 2019, what face is your business showing to the world? What contributions are you making as a business to the world and your ideal customers/clients? Is this the business that you want to enter into 2020 with? Don’t despair because there are only 3 months left in 2019, instead ask questions, accept facts, and make changes so that the business you have going into 2020 is one that’s making a positive impact on the world, contributing to communities, partnering with other like-minded businesses and maybe most importantly, is one that you’re proud to run.

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.

When A Business Steps Up

Sometimes smart business means stepping up where others aren’t. It’s getting harder to differentiate yourself, especially with the internet really leveling the playing field, because anyone can create a social account, website, blog or email address and start connecting with others. That said it’s more important than ever to do your best to differentiate yourself, clearly state what that difference is, and provide not just awesome customer service, but have a really great culture that supports your team as well. Today I want to share two examples of how a business or organization communicated or stepped up in a way that others don’t or haven’t.

There’s been a ton of talk recently regarding Hurricane Dorian, and already there has been significant damage report in at least one location impacted by the storm. This past week there was an early statement from an airport in Florida that they were planning to close the airport at a certain time giving consideration to the thousands of workers at the airport and their needs to see to their families and homes. As the unpredictable storm has changed they’ve made changes to their plan, but that initial statement stuck with me because you don’t always hear a company phrase it that way. Typically businesses talk about the danger and leave it at that or maybe comment about it being dangerous to travelers, but rarely do you hear a company talk about the importance of closing so that their team (large or small) can do what they need to do.

The other big news story is the CNN hosted town hall with 10 of the 2020 presidential candidates, and MSNBC will be hosting one later this month too. Thousands of people around the US had petitioned and requested that a climate question be added to the next debate or that a separate debate be held, and all requests were denied or ignored. So CNN and MSNBC took it upon themselves to invite these 10 candidates to share their thoughts on climate and what politically/governmentally needs to be done or how the government can step up.  If they both hadn’t stepped up and done the research to find a loophole in the rules that others had missed or ignored, they miss out on a great opportunity for publicity and public good will.

A good business leader is aware of potential issues that impact not just their ability to have sales but to care for the people who make those sales possible and so successful.  Good business leaders also don’t ignore the requests and feedback of thousands of people, all very publicly stated.  Focus on how you can increase your positive publicity, how you can do better for the people you connect with, and how you can step up when there is a need.

The Impact of Positive Leadership

This month the book I read is The Power of Positive Leadership by Jon Gordon. As the title indicates it is a book on leadership, and throughout the book Jon echoes something that I’ve repeatedly shared with clients and on this blog: you can’t be successful without people. It may look like everything is done online, you may never see your customers or clients or talk with them nor they with you, but behind each and every transaction there is a person (typically two since there’s one on the sales side too). Let’s take a look at a few things this book shares about the potential of positive leadership.

One of the most important points made in the book is that you have to believe if you’re going to succeed. That means being an optimist, leading with positivity, limiting the complaining, and seeing potential rather than problems. But Jon was very clear to explain that it’s not just about being positive, it’s about seeing and removing the negative as well. Positive leaders and their teams aren’t immune to negativity or problems, they’re just better about weeding out those issues and addressing them before they become debilitating problems.

The book also talked about the importance of vision and purpose, something that we’ve seen talked a lot about in business trends today. People today identify with businesses that have a purpose because it makes them more human. And having a vision and purpose as a business is great, but Jon explains that that purpose and vision has to have meaning to each individual person on the team, it can’t be just a corporate vision. Yes, they have to agree with the corporate vision and purpose, but then that vision and purpose has to become personal, and they have to have their own meaning for the vision and purpose and be able to bring some portion of it to life in their own special way.

I’ll end with one final tidbit, although there are many more in the book: give people excuses to say yes. The goal as a business owner and leader is to get people to contribute well to your team, to buy your stuff, to share about you with others. How often do you find a business that goes out of their way to make it easy to say yes to what they’re offering? How easy is their sales process, how clear are their product descriptions, how much leeway do team members have to make wins for potential customers or customers with issues, are they sending deals and offers to sweeten the potential purchase? What is the business (and you as a leader) doing to make it more likely that people say yes?

As we head into the autumn season and back to school time, I encourage you to take a look at your team and business and be honest about what type of leadership you’re bringing to the table and what impact the choices you’re making are having on your team and [potential] customers. Even if all you do is better address the negativity, you’ll be instantly improving your business, the business culture and what customers experience when they connect with you.

Taught by Toni Morrison

This week the world lost a great thinker and writer, Toni Morrison. She won a Nobel Prize for her literary work and has received other awards and recognition as well, she’s been an editor and a professor, and was a mother. Her words and spirit have spoken to many generations and groups of people, so today I thought we’d take a look at what made her so well liked and successful (even if that may not have been her goal) and what we can learn from her life and success.

It all starts with words. Toni is known for her culturally relevant and forward thinking, and her words were always accurate but sensitive. She did it all when it came to writing, including editing the works of others, and many of the tributes that have been shared have echoed how her words have stuck with them, and that her words made them realize how important, valuable and powerful words can be. As a business owner one of the most powerful tools you have are words, and too many businesses today aren’t providing sufficient words, both written and audio. They aren’t speaking to their people, let alone speaking in a passionate, persuasive and informative manner.

She told a story. One of the things that we’re really been talking about in business over the past few years is the value of telling a story, and how our customers can relate better to us when we tell a story. As powerful as her stories were, the words she chose were words of truth, words that spoke to the situations, experiences and emotions of the African American culture she so often wrote about. Go ahead and tell stories in your business and to your customers, but don’t waste your time or theirs with false stories or tales that go nowhere. Keep it relevant and accurate to who you are, who your customers are and what you’re all about.

Finally, she knew what it was to nurture and love. In one interview she talked about some famous authors who had one breakout hit but ended their working years doing menial labor jobs. She questioned what happened that they weren’t able to continue to bring greatness to the literary world, and that’s something that we have to question in business as well. Why do some companies start out so well and peter out? One of the reasons is because they don’t take the time to nurture and care for their customers and provide an experience that customers want to come back to and want to tell others about.  No one has had a bad thing to say about Toni Morrison(although not everyone has loved her work), would people be equally positive about you?

Toni Morrison lived 88 wonderful, engaged and filled years, years in which she chose to make an impact one word and one relationship at a time.  Are the words and actions you’re taking in your business building a similar legacy that will last as long as she did and beyond or are you working on a one-hit-wonder?

Crushing Business

Today we’re taking a look at a book Crushing It! by Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary’s a wine expert who was using social media to promote his wine expertise and that snowballed into becoming a well-known expert on social media, and this book, which is a follow up to his earlier book Crush It!, is a look into some of the insights and lessons on entrepreneurship, social media, influence and success.

One of the big parts of this book are the stories that Gary shares, stories from dozens of entrepreneurs who read his first edition of the book and applied what he taught. I don’t typically pick up books that are mostly stories like this, but what all the stories reminded me was that you can absolutely be successful in whatever venture you start. Not everyone will be successful, but there are enough stories from a wide variety of industries that prove you can do it.

The second lesson I want to reflect on today was that of doing your own thing. Yes, there are principles like selling a quality product or places/things to participate in like social media and newsletters, that you should be participating in, but you have to be true to you and your business and your brand (don’t just copy someone else).

As I mentioned in the last lesson, the next lessons is regarding those principles and places. One of the reasons Gary has been so successful is because he doesn’t just mass produce and blast the same exact stuff everywhere, and he also follows the rules (formal and informal). Gary calls it “developing quality micro-content,” where your content is specific to the audience and the platform/place you’re sharing it. This means taking time to know the rules before just diving into a platform.

Fourth, is the importance of having a why. Yes, you should absolutely have a ‘why’ regarding why you’re in business. The more personal and passionate, the easier others will connect with your brand on a personal level. But you should also have a why behind the content you’re sharing, the people/influencers you’re connecting with, and the marketing you’re doing.

Fifth, there are some foundation keys that every business owner should be considering in order to achieve success. They include serving, offering value, teaching, authenticity, passion, patience, speed, work ethic, content, tracking and applying data, mastering social media, and being conscious of the intent behind actions and decisions.

When it comes down to it, through this book Gary encourages business owners to use social media, collaborate, do your own thing and commit the investment to make it happen. What are you crushing in your business?

Leadership Lessons from Lee Iacocca

This week the world lost a great leader: Lee Iaccoca.  He died at a ripe old age of 94, after having an incredible career in the auto industry, and many years with family.  He’s someone that I’ve shared about in past blog posts because while he may not have been a current leader (i.e. running a business and being the topic of many news stories each month) he’s certainly someone that we can learn from and admire, and apply many of the things that made him so successful to our businesses today.

One of the reasons that his story is so incredible is because he did what he did in an industry that is known for distrust; it’s always been said that you shouldn’t trust a car salesman.  Yet what he did was sell cars, and he not only helped run several car businesses well (Ford and Chrysler), he appeared in their ads because he was so well trusted and admired.

In one of his books he shared a list of what makes up a good leader, a list that shows why he was so successful as a leader.  This list includes: curiosity, creativity, communication, character, courage, conviction, charisma, competence and common sense.  Being a leader that lived that list, he was able to connect with people on a level that too many leaders aren’t able to do, and therefore aren’t able to be as successful, or bring as much of their vision to fruition as they could if they were better at connecting with people.  Iaccoca believed strongly in picking good people, and treating those people as a priority.

From two of the vehicles that Iaccoca helped create, the Mustang and the minivan, we’re reminded of the value of having good ideas, and a good team to help bring those ideas to life. Not every idea will work out well, as Iaccoca found out and I’m sure you have too, but you can’t get anywhere if you aren’t willing to put those ideas out into the world and try to make them a reality.

With the number of people who have been great leaders, who have helped this world become a better place passing on, it’s up to us to pick up the mantle and grow into leaders who would make them proud.  Some leaders are born, but the large majority of them are made through long days, hard work and sweat-equity.  Will you be one of those leaders the world needs?

Knowing When to Quit

I saw in the news that the Emperor of Japan has decided to step down.  He’s 85 and has had some health issues in recent years, and has decided that it’s in the best interest of the country to pass on the leadership to his son.  Here in the US we elect someone new every 4-8 years typically so we don’t experience anything like this type of life-long leadership, but Great Britain does, at least as of now, and the Catholic Church has historically had life-long leadership but the current pope has indicated he doesn’t want to be pope for the rest of his days.  All of this has gotten me thinking about quitting.

The word ‘quit’ is an interesting one.  It can be defined as “stop, cease, discontinue, depart, leave, give up, or relinquish.”  I think these definitions are interesting because we always see quitting as a really bad thing.  But these words don’t necessarily indicate any type of failure, like we typically think of when we talk about quitting.  Sometimes quitting is the best decision you can make.

Quitting isn’t necessarily about accepting defeat or failing at something, although sometimes that is the case, other times it’s about getting out while the getting is good, or thinking about win-win-wins for everyone, or knowing that you’ve done the very best job that you could do and now you need to pass it of to someone else or do something different going forward.

Sometimes it’s easy to say that you quit, but often it does take courage and some serious consideration to make sure that you’re really making the best decision for yourself and those that matter most to you.  Those in positions of power have extra responsibility to make sure they’re doing what’s best for everyone, but the fact is we all do as well.  The way you live affects others in various ways from the very obvious and significant to the negligible, but the fact remains that we each do have responsibility for how we live, and therefore knowing when to quit.

Change isn’t the enemy, in fact more often than not it’s not changing that’s the enemy.  This week I encourage you to consider if it’s time for a change, time to quit something so you can move onto something bigger and better.

In the Business of Love

This month I read Love is the Killer App by Tim Sanders. It was written in 2002, almost 20 years ago, but so many leadership books contain what is called “evergreen content,” advice that’s good for maybe ever, things that can inspire and encourage leaders and business owners, so I decided to read it anyway.

The first lesson I got from reading the book was an encouragement. Much of what Tim Sanders suggests are things that more businesses and leaders are doing, are doing publicly and are doing as part of large corporations and well-known leaders. It’s definitely not universal, but it’s not odd, or something done by the “special” businesses, or something that people say “oh, that’s nice” about. More businesses than ever are focused more on creating relationships than just trying to get the financial transaction to happen. More businesses are working to create experiences for their customers. And more businesses are working to make both employees and customers happy. We’re not there yet, but more businesses are thinking about people and not just profits.

The second lesson was the focus on intangibles. Throughout the book Sanders focused on a couple of ways to make an impact, and they weren’t marketing or discounts. Instead, he suggested focusing on knowledge, networking, compassion, love, caring, and charity. We’re seeing that there’s only so many products and services that can be created that are different, and what ends up being the difference maker are these intangibles that help separate products and services from others that would otherwise appear to be identical.

The third lesson is right in line with that and well explained by a quote in the book “choice spells doom for villains.” I don’t love the competing aspect of competition, but I do love that there are many choices for people to choose from in just about every area of product and service today. This means that with a little research we’re able to find exactly what we want, or get very close to finding exactly what we want. It means we don’t have to buy from the company that has terrible customer service, the company with the rude employees, or the company that doesn’t have the freshest products. It means we can shop around and very easily pick and choose where our products and services come from and we don’t have to get everything from one company and just deal with something average. But with as much “competition” as there is, it’s more important than ever to differentiate yourself, your company and your products/services from the others on the market.

Are you using intangibles to build your business and support your people? If not it’s a great time to start.

Confident Leadership

All business owners need help with the tactics and how things work. We’re not all technologically intuitive, we’ve got lots on our plates, and things change all the time. We’re not machines, and even machines can’t get everything done without working with other machines and multiple softwares. It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that every business owner could use the support of a marketing/sales expert at some or most parts of their business journey.

I certainly work with plenty of business owners on the tactic/tangible type stuff all the time. But this week I was reminded that a business, and a business owner, is so much more than just the tactics. Behind some of the best and most successful businesses are a confident, awesome, world-helping human. They’re people who the word ‘leader’ was meant to describe.

These people recognize that they’re working with and selling to people. They regularly apply compassion and empathy as well as have excellent listening skills. They’re quick to see situations that need their attention and do something about it. They step up for their employees, their business, their brand, their community and their customers. And most of all they believe in themselves and what they’re building.

No, not every day is a good day for business, but the wins should far outweigh the struggles. The sacrifices should be worth it at the victory line. You should see the positive impact of your business on your life, the lives of your employees, the lives of your customers and on your community. You should at the very least feel confident, if not comfortable, telling the world about your business because it helps add value to the world we all share, to our lives and to our communities.  Are you a confident leader?