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.

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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?

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?

The Leadership-Success Connection

I’ve been noticing quite a few empty storefronts in my area, some of which is natural turnover and some is because businesses aren’t getting enough foot traffic to stay open.  And while that may change as we get into better weather and people are out and about which often inspires people to take a go at running a physical store, retail definitely has challenges to overcome. It hasn’t adapted to the change of how people are shopping and all too often retail store owners see it as an us vs. them thing when it comes to retail and online shopping. One of the ways that retail can take back some of the ground it has lost, or even be more successful than it was in the past is by taking advantage of the online world. And while that’s a post for another day, I wanted to talk today about one of the other things that could be the key to whether a store stays open or closes down, and that’s leadership.

I was talking with a couple of employees at a company the other day and they were very honest about the fact that they’re staying where they are only because of the paycheck and if something better came along the would be very happy to leave. I think there’s room in the business world for all of us business owners, but I don’t believe that every business owner deserves a business. Some people aren’t equipped to lead or don’t have the right attitude to lead.

What does the dictionary say about leaders anyway? A leaders is “a person who guides or directs a group; an act or instance of leading; a guiding or directing head; a person who inspires others.” I believe true leadership takes skill, experience, passion, action and attitude. Sometimes you can get away with not having one aspect or another, but to really be able to claim the leadership title I think you need to be well rounded in all these areas.

So if you’ve got employees who are willing to stick around as long as the checks don’t bounce, maybe it’s time to take another look at your leadership. Are you showing up? Are you getting the work that only you can do done? Are you inspiring them to be a better person and make a contribution to the company? Are you recognizing their hard work? Do you take their concerns seriously? How do you talk to and treat them? If you’re not feeling so confident on some of these questions, your employees may not feel so confident in you, and that can easily trickle down to the customers as well.

What is one thing you’re going to do in the coming week to be a better leader?

Women of the Future

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, today I thought I’d share a few thoughts on raising a women in 2019 and beyond, and what that might look like, and how we can support the future generation of women in being the best they can be.

Encourage them to explore their passions, but not be completely ignorant. So if your girls want to play with dolls, they should. If they want to build with Legos, they should. If they want to cook, they should. So while you should let them choose their passion, that doesn’t mean you should skip teaching them the skills of cleaning, planning, organizing, finances, healing, using tools, cooking and anything else that will help them with the things they need to be adults. I grew up at a time when Home EC wasn’t really a thing, that we were leaving some of those shop-type classes that taught people skills that everyone should really have some awareness of that helps us become more rounded individuals culturally. It’s about helping them be as educated and well-rounded as they can be.

Encourage them to have friends, teachers and role models of both genders. I think it’s important that we’re all able to have healthy relationships with all types of people, that we’re able to start up and have polite conversation with just about anyone we meet, for girls to see what healthy romantic relationships look like, how to be successful in all areas of life, and how to protect themselves whether we’re talking a violent guy/girl on the street or a cutthroat boardroom executive. Girls/women can’t learn that from just women alone, it has to be a team effort.

Finally, I would encourage you to teach them to love. Men are capable of love, but there’s something that’s inherently female about love. We’re able to add that softness and vulnerability that men often have trouble reaching and sharing. Women have been taught through experiences and from others that maybe love isn’t a great thing, but I’d argue that it’s one of the most important things in the world. So along with all the skills, experiences, abilities and opportunities, I would encourage you to expose your girl to love and the amazing impact and benefit that love can have on an individual and on the world we share.

Women can and should be celebrated every day, we play a big part in contributing to the future of the world, and with happier, healthier, more courageous, more educated women, the future will be a better place for all of us. What are you celebrating about women today?

Wisdom from Washington

Today is President’s Day in the US, it’s also George Washington’s birthday, so today as both the first president and his birthday, I thought we’d take a look at some insights and wisdom from Washington’s life.

One of the first things that people think of when they think of Washington is that he was the first president of the US. Whether he was the best ever or the most innovative doesn’t really matter, it matters that he was brave enough to step up and take on that responsibility and opportunity.  Firsts aren’t always the best, but someone has to be willing to step up and take on that chance if we ever want to get to something great.

One of the other things people think about with regard to Washington is the story of the cherry tree. In the story Washington is asked if he cut down a cherry tree and it’s said that he says that he can’t tell a lie and subsequently he admits that he did chop down the cherry tree. While no one ever tells the truth all of the time, and whether or not that story is true, it is a theme for Washington, because he said “Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light.”

In line with being truthful, I want to end by talking about the topic of the day which is ultimately leadership. Washington said: “I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” President or not each of us have a choice with how we lead our lives, and the character with which we live and interact with others. If Washington is as upstanding of a man as most believe him to be, what statement would he make about your character?

Which president or leader are you considering on this President’s Day?

Advice from Edison

This month is the birthday of Thomas Edison. He was an incredible inventor and businessman, and was involved in power generation, communication, sound and motion pictures. He’s famous for his work with the lightbulb and in the US alone he holds over 1,000 patents. He also kept some pretty important company in the business world of the time: Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone. Today I thought we’d take a look at a few things Edison said and how they apply to our businesses and leadership today.

Reinvention, reworking, tweaking and trial and error are key throughout the life of your business:
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Consistently work with a good head on your shoulders:
“The three great essentials to achieve anything worth while are: Hard work, Stick-to-itiveness, and Common sense.”

Perspective and community/teamwork may be the answer:
“Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.”

Don’t just accept things as they are, keep growing:
“There’s a way to do it better – find it.”

Most people are more capable of doing great things than they (or others) may believe they are (are you restricting yourself or your team?):
“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”

Imagination and creativity are useful for many aspects of business, not just product development:
“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

Business does have a serious side, but laughter and fun are important too, no one is serious all the time:
“I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.”

It’s unlikely that AI or anything else will truly make people obsolete:
“There is far more opportunity than there is ability.”

There’s nothing wrong with taking an idea and developing it beyond where it currently is or giving something your own twist:
“I start where the last man left off.”

There’s getting stuff done and then there’s productivity:
“Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.”

Consistent action and follow through are key:
“The value of an idea lies in the using of it.”

Giving up means you’ve failed, trying something different means you can win:
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

I encourage you to do a little creative inventing in your business this week, don’t just accept things as they have always been.  You never know what value a little brainstorming can reveal.

Taking Steps to Create a Legacy

Today in the US we’ve honored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. I had quite a few emails in my inboxes sharing some of his wisdom and honoring him and his life and the dreams he had and brought to pass for many. Often we hear his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, which is very motivating and contains words that are a great reminder to all of us, but this year in addition to reminding people about the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and countless others, some people shared some of the other wise words he had to say, and I thought I’d share them with you:

“So often we overlook the work and the significance of those who are not in professional jobs, of those who are not in the so-called ‘big jobs.’ But let me say to you tonight, that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity, and it has worth.”

“I believe that the unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”

I recently read a non-fiction book that acknowledged the power of big changes or moves, but spoke of the even greater power of small things compounded. Yes, you can take a weekend healthy living seminar and it may teach you some things to help improve your health in some way, but having 3-5 vegetable servings and taking a walk every day will do more in the long run than one seminar likely will. Eating a serving of vegetables (half cup cooked vegetable or 1 cup raw leafy green/salad) isn’t a big deal or a lot to manage, especially if you keep the variety fresh, and it’s not a big commitment to walk for a mile (20 minutes maximum).

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy could be established on the March on Washington and ‘I Have a Dream’ speech alone, but the fact is he did a lot more than just that. He worked for much of his life through many avenues to make a difference in the world. He took his passion and dream from just words he spoke to a movement of action after action, starting small but snowballing into more than 200,000 people attending the March on Washington who heard him speak, not to mention the generations who have heard his words since then.

Your legacy will also likely be built on many little things you’ve done, not just one or two big things.  There’s no time like the present to start building that legacy and taking the little steps that will help you create a future you’re proud of sharing with future generations.

Holiday Leadership Lessons

One of the things that stands out about the December holidays are the individuals who are primarily talked about at this time. During the other holidays we don’t really have one person or figure that we focus on, but in December we’ve got Santa and Jesus for Christmas, and Judah the Maccabee as the leading figure of the Hanukkah story. Santa and Jesus are seen everywhere throughout stores and TV and churches and homes, on gifts and in songs and stories. Are there supporting characters? Of course, but the stories are based around these 3 figures and their work.

They do more than just look good, these figures guide us in our celebrations during December and offer up some special and important lessons for people to learn on multiple spiritual, human and cultural levels. They’re inspirational and fun yes, and they’re also leaders that people have learned from for hundreds and even thousands of years. They teach us the importance of giving, of working together, and of being a compassionate yet focused leader.

This holiday season, as with other holiday seasons, we are beginning with a loss of a leader, the death of the 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush. If you’ve been around my blog(s) for a while you know that I’m not big into politics, but even I can’t deny that he was a great leader, one deserving of respect and remembrance. Born in 1924 he lived through some of the most challenging times in US history, led through some of them as well as both Vice President and President of the United States, and continued to be a cultural and political leader until his death.

There are many components of a business, but one of the deciding factors of the success or failure of a business is the leadership. Especially in recent years there has been a lot of turnover in business leadership because of ethical failings or poor decision making. No leader (with the exception of Jesus) is ever perfect, but for leaders to stand the test of time like Santa and Jesus have, like Abraham Lincoln and George H.W. Bush have, they have to show that they’re wise, good communicators, capable of making hard decisions well, and that they have an eye for the people.

So as you take in the funeral proceedings for President Bush Sr. and listen to all the holiday stories, think about how the leadership shown in this special season can impact you as a leader, supporter and inspiration for the people who look to you for products, services and guidance. And I encourage you to choose goodwill and good leadership this holiday season.

The Choice of Success or Competition?

One of the keys we consistently talk about when it comes to business is people. If you don’t have customers you can’t run a business. If you run a business that uses employees but you don’t have any (or can’t keep any) you can’t service your customers. If your suppliers or partners don’t hold up their end of the arrangement, you can’t serve your customers. Sounds simple enough, right? Yes, but there are lots of layers to just simply having customers and employees and working with suppliers/partners.

There is competition in every town, every state, and every industry, so on top of the local competition you’ve got the internet competition to face as well. It’s almost impossible to find (or create) an industry that doesn’t have competition, either direct competition (i.e. other health food stores) or competition within the same field (i.e. other supermarkets). There will always be a question of whether you’re truly offering the same thing or not, the experience you have in offering/creating that item (how do you back up the value you offer) and what the difference is with price.

I believe that there are more than enough customers for everyone, so I don’t believe that you have a right to be angry at customers or employees who choose to move on. If they choose to move on they do it for a whole variety of personal reasons including moving locations, relationship changes, or health changes. Unless you’re going to make some significant changes to your business (unlikely) there’s not much you can do about keeping their business.

But they may also choose to move on because you’re not providing what they need or want. For example, if they feel like the service isn’t up to their standards (or has recently changed), if they feel disrespected or unappreciated, if they see more growth (career and knowledge) opportunities, if they don’t feel that you’re offering a quality product (or has recently changed), or if they’re not getting properly compensated for the work they do. If any of these are true then you can’t blame the other companies out there, you can only blame yourself for pushing them away.

If this is a reality check for you and you’re realizing that you’re chasing away potential life-long customers and employees your customers have always appreciated, it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate how you’re leading and running the business. Learn from what the successful businesses in your world (online and local) are doing, don’t berate or antagonize your customers and employees for patronizing them or choosing to work with them when you aren’t being the great business you could be. Most businesses can be turned around from a downward spiral if they’re willing to be open to hearing the truth and make the necessary changes.

Competition isn’t the enemy of success, competition is normal and healthy. It’s up to each business to differentiate themselves, market themselves and provide 5 star service to customers whether you’re selling inexpensive toys or pricey homes.  Are you so focused on the competition that your business, customers and employees are suffering?