Are You Satisfied?

Today I got to thinking about what it means to be satisfied. We live in a world where good seems to never be good enough, where many people are unsatisfied in their relationships and their jobs, not to mention financial situations. Before we can talk about taking action, we have to talk about what it means to be satisfied.

First, you can’t be satisfied in a bad situation. The word “satisfaction” means that you have to be ok with the situation, you can’t be unhappy or displeased. Satisfied doesn’t mean perfect though. If you have satisfaction in a situation or about a project, it means you know you’ve done your very best and that while more work could be done, it wouldn’t ultimately greatly improve the outcome or performance.

I believe that it’s best to be satisfied with a situation before you move onto a new one, or at the very least come to terms with it. What do I mean by this? Well, if you’re in a bad relationship or hate your job or your business is failing, don’t just give up and switch gears. This will only cause problems for you and others years from now.

Satisfaction requires an understanding of what has happened and why. I don’t suggest that you pick apart every failure or bad moment to find the turning points and things you should have done differently, I think that we all need to spend a little time in reflection of the past and present before we move onto the future.

But, just because I’m satisfied with the outcome of something, that doesn’t mean I’m going to sit back and not make any new goals or dream bigger for the future and next part of my life journey. Yes I’m satisfied with who I am and where I am, but I still want more! This is healthy and nothing to be ashamed of.

This week I encourage you to take a look at your life. How are you feeling right now? Are you OK with where you are and what you’re doing? Now take a moment and make plans for the rest of this week, the rest of this month and the rest of this year. What are you going to do now, what do you need to be doing in the next few weeks and months to really be satisfied with your life in 2017 when January rolls around in a few months?

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A Strong Foundation?

Something that I’m a big believer in is the concept of foundation. In so many situations there has to be a firm foundation before other steps can be taken. Yes, sometimes there are ways around it, but often to get the full and best experience, that only happens when there’s a firm foundation in place and consistently cared for. I believe that we have different foundations in many areas of our lives, including our family, our children, our partner, our work/career/business, our community and even in how we are with ourselves.

Let’s start with what might be the most important foundation: that of your personal foundation. This foundation has to do with how you see yourself, if you believe in yourself, how you treat yourself and if you respect yourself. You may be cringing as you think about your personal foundation, because too often it’s the one that we let slide because we’ve got so much going on in our lives that it seems like we’re the last thing that should be taken care of. But, as is true for so many situations, if you’re not taking care of yourself and making sure that your foundation is strong, it will end up affecting the foundations in the other areas of your life, and the other people who depend on you.

It’s important to take care of the foundations you have, because the foundations are what you build and grow from and what gives you the strength and guidance to navigate and survive challenges. The business foundation you have helps you decide if/when a person isn’t a good fit anymore or an idea shouldn’t be implemented because it’s not in line with your mission/vision/purpose. The relationship foundation you have with your partner means that you’ve established the common ground that you both connect through and identify with, and that you rarely have serious fights. The foundation you have with your kids should be one of mutual love, of your support of them, and of their respect for you as their parent.

The foundation is what everything else is built on, it establishes a starting point and a point to which you can return, it is a reference point when the going gets tough and it should give you a sense of peace even when what you’re building isn’t so stable. How is your foundation today?

“The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty.” Zig Ziglar

Learning from Lee Iacocca

As a business owner it can be easy to get wrapped up in what’s going on in your business. We all have challenges, things that frustrate us and almost always run out of time at the end of the day. But one of the best things we can do if we’re interested in growing our business is to seek the wisdom of others, whether working with a coach, or learning from great business leaders like Lee Iacocca. Lee Iacocca celebrates his birthday on the 15th of this month, so today I thought we’d take a look at a little of his wisdom.   A couple of the quotes may not seem like they are relevant or really share any knowledge that can help you in your business, but if you take a minute to think about what they’re really saying, I think you’ll learn something valuable.

“In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.”

“So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don’t sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we’ve satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late.”

“Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can’t miss.”

“In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product, and profits.”

“The only rock I know that stays steady, the only institution I know that works, is the family.”

“To succeed today, you have to set priorities, decide what you stand for.”

“I have found that being honest is the best technique I can use. Right up front, tell people what you’re trying to accomplish and what you’re willing to sacrifice to accomplish it.”

“What is wrong with changing your mind because the facts changed? But you have to be able to say why you changed your mind and how the facts changed.”

“I have always found that if I move with seventy-five percent or more of the facts that I usually never regret it. It’s the guys who wait to have everything perfect that drive you crazy.”

“There is no substitute for accurate knowledge. Know yourself, know your business, know your men.”

“The ability to concentrate and to use time well is everything.”

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”

“A guy named Charlie Beacham was my first mentor at Ford. He taught me the importance of the dealers, and he rubbed my nose in the retail business.”

“I guess I invented extended warranties, because that’s all we had to sell at Chrysler in those days.”

“Over the years, many executives have said to me with pride: ‘Boy, I worked so hard last year that I didn’t take any vacation.’ I always feel like responding, “You dummy. You mean to tell me you can take responsibility for an eighty-million-dollar project and you can’t plan two weeks out of the year to have some fun?”

“I only wish I could find an institute that teaches people how to listen. Business people need to listen at least as much as they need to talk. Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions.”

“To solve big problems you have to be willing to do unpopular things.”

“There’s no great mystery to satisfying your customers. Build them a quality product and treat them with respect. It’s that simple.”

 

Make Your Own Success

This weekend I read an article that reminded me the value, the necessity, of being yourself and doing your own thing. Yes, to an extent there’s good in doing the same thing, for example with many medical practices (how many ways can you really put a band-aid on a single cut?), and in doing better with treating everyone with respect, regardless of our differences. We have to find ways to unify the many divisions that have been created and reinforced over the past few years. But today I want to talk about being more willing to march to our own tune, do our own thing, and create our own successes.

In the world of organizing there are 2 basic keys: 1-reducing and 2-structure for storage and going forward. Beyond those two keys there are tons of ways to get and stay organized, and which way is chosen depends completely on you. Let’s take a simple one that most of us deal with: the calendar. I’m a much more traditional person, I prefer to write out my calendar/appointments on paper, but prefer to reference the calendars on my various technology devices as necessary while I’m working if I need to know when a date falls in the week/month.

When it comes to success the same is true: it takes hard work and a plan. But the work you choose to do and the plan you choose to have depend on you, your preferences, your knowledge, your abilities, your resources (or ability to tap into the resources of others) and your dreams. You can take the idea that someone else started with and turn it into your own. You can take what was bland and boring and add personality that only you can bring to the table. We may have similar experiences but that doesn’t mean we will tap into them in the same way. We may even have similar dreams but put them to work in different ways. Or, of course, you can do something new and revolutionary in an industry.

Don’t be afraid to be your own person, do your own thing, and shine in the way only you can. Don’t be discouraged by failures, setbacks or critics, many of the most successful people and organizations in all types of industries and walks of life were only successful after many tries.

Cost-Sensitive Sales

If you’re struggling to make sales, or aren’t making the sales you want, chances are good that you’ve thought of all kinds of things you can do to have more sales including adding more products to your inventory, doing paid ads, moving to a trendier location, adding more sales people to your sales team, or redoing something (like your store, your products, your packaging, your website etc.) Some of these things can get to be expensive, and you may not have a lot to spend right now. Unfortunately, you may have to spend at least a little to get in some more sales, but there are somethings you can do to bring in more sales without raising the overhead too much. Today’s post is a little longer than usual but there are lots of ideas in it to help you increase sales and be more profitable.

First and foremost is addressing something that too many companies aren’t addressing in their marketing, including on their website and social accounts: who are you, why you do what you do, and what makes you different. Maybe you really aren’t much different as far as the products or services you offer, but because you’re running the business, your business is different than any other one out there. How you approach business, the people you hire, the things you offer are all a little different because you’re behind the business, but people don’t know that unless you say so.

Another thing you could try is reusing existing supplies or technology in new ways. For example maybe you buy decorative boxes that you sell as the packaging for your gift box sets (spa day, wine inspired, new baby etc.), but some people may be interested in buying just the boxes for their own purposes, so you could offer them as a separate purchase. For technology, maybe you do embroidery on shirts that companies buy to resell from you, but you could use the same technology to embroider logos on shirts for companies, or embroider initials on towels for hotels or for newlyweds.

You can also look for products that you can resell, including digital products and items that you never touch. For example if you create dog leashes you could find some products on Amazon to sell (aka drop shipping), or a digital video course on training your dog you can sell as an affiliate.

Another way to increase sales with a physical location is to give your location a fresh coat of paint and do the deep cleaning you may have been putting off. Everyone prefers to shop in a neat and tidy space. Even when the atmosphere suggests that it’s a dark and mysterious type location that doesn’t mean that you need to have dirty floors, peeling paint or a kitchen (or back office) that hasn’t been cleaned since you moved in.

As for the people-cost concern, something I’ve always suggested are working with interns from high schools and colleges. Adding them to your team even for 1-6 months gives you the extra hands or bodies you need and gives them real world experience that they can apply to their future job, gives them the opportunity to try something out, or fulfills that school credit they have to get in the community. Especially when it comes to technology students are great to work with because they know the technology far better than many because they’ve been exposed to it for longer and understand it in ways that it may take some of us years to ever get, if we ever get it at all.

There are lots of free and low-cost marketing opportunities as well, from social media to guest blog posts, to media interviews. The only catch there may be that you have to do the work of finding blog post and media opportunities and letting them know why they should share you with their audience.

Now, the question you’ve got is cost. Yes, depending on how you’ve had your website done or you’ve done your website there may be some cost there (if you don’t have a website set one up now using any number of free services or contact an agency or tech expert for help). You may also have to buy more of something you already buy, but there could be a good chance for a (higher) discount then and you could take advantage of that and spread the cost around. And yes, you may have to pay a minimum wage for the interns (many programs require it), but it’s usually far cheaper than what a regular employee would cost you (and you may decide to hire them later which would save you future training costs). Most of these suggestions though require more of your time than your finances, but all of them require that you really commit to doing better and helping more people. These are just a few of the ways you could grow your business and reinvigorate sales, what will you do today to move your company forward?

Just Another Sale?

If you’re really in business it’s important to make sales. There’s no two ways to put that. If you’re not making sales you’re either doing some kind of renovation, closed for some temporary reason or going out of business. If you’re offering a product or service and not selling it or making a profit from it, what you’ve got is considered a hobby, not a business. So without a doubt you need to have sales to be in business. However, what I want to talk about today is the idea that not everything needs to be a sales pitch.

If you’re like me you get a dozen or two emails every day from various retail companies who are letting you know about sales they’re doing, reminding you to repurchase products you may be running out of, trying to up-sell you based on previous purchases or letting you know about the latest and greatest products they’re now offering. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact sometimes it can be very helpful and even exciting to get those emails and see what’s new or at a great price you’ll want to take advantage of. Sometimes it’s good to send an email that lets your subscribers know that everything in a category is on sale and not really include specifics, but more often than not people want to be inspired and see some of the specifics that they could get as part of this sale.

But if you take the time to think about it, in most cases the sale or purchase is a very small portion of the customer experience with that product or service. For example, let’s say I spend 20 minutes researching movies that are out and texting with friends to decide what to see and another 5 buying my ticket. So the purchase portion of my experience with the movie is a total of 25 minutes. But then I go see the 2+ hour movie, I talk about it with my friends for an hour after, I go home and think about it throughout the next few days, and because I enjoyed it so much I’ll watch it whenever it’s on TV and maybe even invest another 5 minutes to buy it when it comes out on DVD. The point here is that I’ve spent a total of 30 minutes in the sales/purchase aspect of this movie, and invested well over 60 hours on my experience with this one movie, which means there’s so much more to your business than just getting the sale.

You want to create products that your customers will use, remember, enjoy, talk about and share for years to come. You want them to be open to products in the same line and even the next generations of the specific product they bought initially. You want your customers to feel comfortable with your brand, with your employees, and with your products/services. All of this means that you have to remember that there’s so much more to what you’re selling than just the sale. In many ways the sale should be just the beginning.

Which is why it’s important to take time to celebrate your customer’s birthdays, to share tips for using your products, to raise awareness for needs in the world like Hurricane Harvey/Irma, to celebrate the fact that spring is here and winter is over, and ultimately to remember that your customers are so much more than a cash machine. They have lives, families, dreams, interests, passions, purpose and even fears and issues that all can play into the purchases they make and don’t make. Don’t be so focused on the sales pitch that you forget that your customers are so much more than another sale.

Helped to Succeed

This month one of the topics we’ll be talking about is help. It’s an appropriate topic as students head back to school and parts of the US are being battered by hurricanes, not to mention all the needs that continue on a regular basis like hungry kids and veterans their families. I think being helpful should be an important part of your life, and that of your family. I make it a point to donate every month to a variety of organizations who do all kinds of work around the US and world. But as you know there are tons of other ways that you can be a help, and we’ll be talking about some of them as we go through this month.

But for this post I wanted to keep the focus on being successful as it relates to help. I have yet to meet anyone who is an island when it comes to success. There’s always someone somewhere who has helped with it, whether it’s in creating the website program that the person used to build their own website or the company that sells the wood products you use to build decks or even the people behind the social sites that you put ads on to get local customers for your consulting practice. Simply put, everyone needs help at one point in time or another.

However, I don’t believe that you should be a victim or receive handouts forever. We see lots of people stepping up to help with the difficult hurricane season we’re currently experiencing and that’s great. It’s important to step up and help out when there’s a disaster like that, or even something much simpler like a senior citizen trying to reach an item on the top shelf at the grocery store. But you should not remain in “recovery mode” forever. You should be able to take the help that’s given to you, or find the help you need, and be able to build, grow and thrive from there.

What have been some of the stepping stones or ladders that have helped you get from where you were to where you are today?

In the Business of Helping

This month one of the topics we’ll be talking about is the topic of help. I believe that each and every business should exist to help their customers with something. Maybe that help is something that seems important like fixing a broken leg or maybe that help is something that seems trivial when compared with a broken leg like jewelry to give your young daughter for her birthday. Both of those are helpful, they’re just helpful in different ways and at different times.

I think that keeping the focus of your business on what you do to help people is one of the ways you can ensure your success. If you and your employees are aware of and focused on being as helpful to customers and potential customers as you can be not only will you have happier customers, you’ll also have happier employees and often you’ll have more opportunities for growth and contribution in your community and the world.

With a focus on helping your people you’ll work on designing systems, creating guidelines, marketing products/services, providing customer service, hiring, and even creating products/services that do more than just add to your bottom line. Yes, the bottom line is important, but if you’re keeping employees longer, keeping suppliers longer, and have happier customers, the bottom line will take care of itself.

There are unfortunately tons of ways that businesses are unhelpful, sometimes intentionally but all too often because the businesses and their employees are rushed, overworked, uninformed, overwhelmed, lazy or unhappy. Some things are more simple fixes like website updates and doing different marketing, but others are more challenging like product or employee changes.

But if you look at the well-known successful businesses, more often than not one of the keys to their success is how valuable (helpful) people find them. These businesses have legendary customer service, they have fantastic return policies, they offer products that improve people’s lives, they have happy employees, and they are well-known in their community. No, they’re not perfect businesses, and even if you implement a “help” policy at your business you’ll still have some mistakes and unhappy customers, that’s part of doing business. But, it could bring about the boost, passion and direction that you’ve been missing. How do you help your people?

Taking Control of Your Success

Success is something that I think just about everyone wants to have. Everyone’s definition of success may be different, but I think we can all identify with the desire to have success and to feel successful. Today I thought we’d talk about a couple of things that may work to help you be more successful.

Success requires focus. Very few people will find success in life if they don’t have a definition for success and aren’t focused on taking steps to accomplish that success. Maybe you’re at the stage that those steps include researching or asking for help to accomplish that success, or maybe you’re deep into implementing what you believe will help you achieve that success. But if you’re off chasing butterflies or out gallivanting all day and not putting in the necessary time or focus, it will be very difficult to achieve that success quickly or maybe at all.

Success requires discipline. Part of the success journey is being able to take control of your life and the factors that are part of that success you desire. If you can’t be disciplined to structure your life in such a way that you’re devoting time on a consistent basis to working on your success and making room for that which will support your success journey, it probably won’t happen.

So how do we incorporate focus and discipline into our lives without feeling completely depressed that we don’t have all the freedoms that we used to in the past? First, remember what you’re doing this for. Keeping your success goals at the forefront will help keep you motivated. Second, choose to be a responsible adult. This one is a bit difficult because everyone likes feeling and acting like a kid sometimes. But the fact is if you really want success you have to be responsible about taking those steps in your life. On the other side of it if you’re really a responsible adult you’ll choose success goals that will help yourself, your family and your world, not hurt it.

Third, don’t be afraid to set up some boundaries and ask for help. I love how instant communication can be with all our technology, but it gets in the way of getting things done. If you are involved with a lot of high priority communications on a regular basis, set up 2-3 times throughout the day that you check those communications and reply, and then the rest of the day unless there’s a real emergency, you should not be replying to communications. If it’s necessary to do some communicating as part of your success work in between those 2-3 times you can do that, but the goal should be to limit your email/phone/social media time so that you can actually get things done. If you have so many communications throughout the day that you are spending the majority of your time on them and not getting anything else done, it’s time to hire a communication team member and have them deal with the majority of the communications, passing on to you only those that actually need your personal touch. As well, learning how to say no can be difficult for you, I know I like to help people, but the fact remains that there’s only so much time in the day and you have to protect the time you need as well as not take on things that aren’t going to help you accomplish your success.

As we enter a new month tomorrow I encourage you to really think about how you want these last 4 months of the year to go. What will you do differently?

What To Do With Negative Reviews

Do you have negative reviews? I would say that every business experiences at least one unhappy customer throughout their life cycle. Of course you should focus on sharing the positive reviews on your website, but I think it’s helpful to leave the negative reviews up on any of the social or review platforms, even if you don’t want people knowing about them. Negative reviews can be an excellent way of weeding out the people who would end up being a refund or dissatisfied customer who wasn’t really a proper match to be a customer. Yes, some negative reviews really do reveal weaknesses in your business, product or service, and ways you’ve screwed up, which can be good insights for you on things you can improve (especially if you’re getting multiple reviews commenting on the same exact thing). However, negative reviews aren’t always a reflection on your company or product/service, but rather a buyer lashing out for something that’s completely unrelated.

Some reviews are listed as negative because the buyer wanted something that isn’t offered. Some reviews that make no sense when you read them, like someone expressing dissatisfaction over a physical bookstore stocking only paperback and hardcover books and not selling any beverages or not selling eBooks. Some “negative” reviews actually give a big complement and help potential buyers who are interested in what you offer feel more confident about working with you, for example the people who post that the beef lasagna they didn’t order but were served was delicious but really wished the person had gotten their order right and served them the chicken lasagna. Some buyers are unhappy with things that are clearly stated in the terms of service or product/service description but they didn’t take the time to read. And some buyers are unhappy with things you have no control over like the view from the Statue of Liberty being terrible because it was a rainy day.

On platforms that you as a business can respond to the negative reviews it’s a great opportunity to first and foremost thank the person for their review and then politely point out that you don’t offer what they didn’t get as well as what you do offer, and/or share some insights to give them (and others) a better experience with your business. This isn’t an opportunity to be nasty to them and tell them how illiterate they must be because they didn’t read or how they’re stupid because you have no control over the weather. However, having a well-thought-out response shows that you’re interested in hearing from your customers and are willing to work with them. As well, if it’s appropriate you can encourage them (and others in the future) to contact you or talk with you before the issue becomes unfix-able (i.e. you eat the dinner that wasn’t cooked to your satisfaction or wasn’t what you ordered).

You don’t have to reply to all reviews, and some businesses choose not to reply to any. I believe that somewhere in the middle is necessary, that you reply to at least some of them, especially if you’ve resolved that particular issue. Even if you choose not to reply to your reviews you really should read them to be aware of what customers are posting, as well as to catch any trolls who are posting negative spam reviews. If you haven’t checked out your reviews lately I encourage you to make time to do that this week.