The Business of Going Green

For years there’s been a trend on going green, on reusable materials and on being environmentally friendly.   It has been a challenge for some businesses because the old ways of doing things are easy, especially if you’re not concerned about the environmental cost in the long or short term.  Some businesses give it a try or make some effort to do things right, but don’t lead with a green focus.  Other businesses have thrived in providing products and services that not only take into consideration the environment, but are products and services that are well made as well and do the job they’re being purchased to do.  Not only do businesses get brownie points for doing what’s good for the environment, but customers actively seek those businesses out because they are conscious about the impact their life and buying habits are having on the world we all share.

Customers are more willing to buy a “green” product or service that might not be quite as good in quality if they know they’re doing good for the earth. Some companies are also able to persuade customers into believing that a product is effective even if it’s not the greatest, and get away with it by talking about how green it is. But with both of those examples customers are still clearly attracted by how the product is made or service delivered as well as that it’s what they need or want.

Recently I read a headline about how a company is creating shirts out of…wait for it…unused milk.  No, that’s not a typo or misspelling or inaccurate word choice.  I didn’t read the article or choose to find anything about the company after reading the headline because I was quite frankly disgusted (and I’m not including a link here for the same reason).  I’m all for creating products that are smarter about how they use our resources, but the green movement hasn’t fully caught up with quality or demand in at least a couple of aspects.

Don’t get me wrong, this company would get a gold star for being creative, but business is about being more than just creative or saving the earth, it has to make good financial sense as well, and for good financial sense to be achieved it has to be making sales.  I don’t know about you, but I would not want to tell the world how proud I am to be wearing a shirt made from unused milk. I’m also not going to spread the word and tell my friends about this company that sells shirts made from milk.

When your customers aren’t proud of or excited by what you’re making and aren’t willing to share about their purchases with their friends, you quickly lose a great potential source of traffic and recommendations, and word of mouth is one of the reasons that many companies, especially small start-ups are successful today.  This story is a great reminder to make sure that your business is supplying something that there’s a need or demand for in the world. Have you recently confirmed that you’re still offering something people want and need?

The Success of Halloween

Halloween is this week, it’s a holiday all about the darkest corners of the world and darkest things our imaginations can think up. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my life full of dark and scary things, it’s hard enough to see the news each day with all that goes on in the world, so it got me thinking about why it’s so successful and able to bring in so much money and continue year after year.

First, let’s talk about the authentic side of Halloween, and that’s the fact that it’s been shown and believed for many years that there’s something beyond the life we live now. Whether you believe in Heaven and hell or not, or believe that there’s something in between here and the future, or you’ve had an experience with a ghost or other spiritual being, a large majority of people will say there’s more to the world than we see living on this plane with us. But while ghosts are something we talk about at Halloween, there’s so much more to the holiday and to all things spooky than just ghosts.

One of the reasons Halloween is successful is because they’ve managed to connect it with one of the legal forms of an addictive substance, and that’s candy. So many of us around the world have a sweet tooth that it makes it very easy to get us excited about anything that involves candy. You then add in pumpkin (spice) flavor to some of that candy and you’ve got a second winner. It’s also very easy to come up with alcoholic beverages/mixed drinks that are of the orange or black or neon or spooky color, not to mention all the ways you can craft food to resemble all sorts of haunted things. So Halloween is an easy win when it comes to our taste buds and stomachs, which is often all that something needs to be successful.

Then you’ve got the fun of dressing up and being someone else. This is traditionally something the kids do, but college kids and adults often will dress up and attend parties as well. There’s something magical and refreshing about being able to pick out a different costume each year and be someone else, be someone that you aren’t or can’t be in real or daily life. Dressing up is a chance to escape the responsibilities of our daily lives and try on someone else’s life for a little while, as well as hang out with friends and have fun (something else not everyone makes time for either).

It’s also successful because those who commercialized it knew to tap into the adrenaline that people experience when they’re surprised by or dealing with something scary. That rush is also an addictive feeling, which is why year after year we are willing to visit countless attractions and even sign health waivers to be allowed in and face something that might scare us.

Ultimately though, Halloween is so broadly successful because it taps into those who like the more extreme side of the holiday and getting scared out of their minds as well as those that like to make and enjoy cute little spider cookie or cupcake treats. It’s something that both children and adults and even seniors can get involved in and enjoy (some seniors find handing out Halloween candy to be one of the highlights of their year). Sometimes success is as simple as creating something that a large number of people will find fun, adding variations to make that audience even broader and making sure that there’s a reason to keep coming back year after year.

Are you into Halloween? What makes it a holiday you celebrate each year?

Your Own Steps to Success

Success is different for everyone. Yes, we can learn from others and copy their best practices, but their path to success may not work for us. It may be the exact wrong thing for us to do to get where we are hoping to get. It’s one reason why I think it’s important to evaluate the strategy or idea you’re considering implementing before just going ahead with it. It’s also a huge reminder how important it is to know yourself, your tendencies and your preferences.

For example one of the most widely shared success tips is to get up at 5 am and meditate or get your top items for the day done early. I am not a morning person. I never have been. I can get up when I have to for a client appointment in the morning, but I really don’t enjoy meeting the sun (I’m also partial to sunsets over sunrises). Another of the related oft-suggested success tips is to conquer the most important things on your to-do list in the first hour of your day, so when you first get to work or after you get the kids off to school. I saw this advice again the other day and it got me thinking about how I work and what works for me and what my brain is doing when I’m trying to do those “most important items” in the first hour.

But the more I tried to conquer those “top items,” the harder it got. Why? Because I was focused on the other things that I hadn’t done yet like the dishes in the sink or the laundry or my email or a dirty bathroom or social media or what I was going to make for dinner or groceries I needed to get or if a book was at the library for me. They may seem like insignificant things, and you may have your own list of things that goes through your head first thing, but each of those little things that aren’t technically priorities floating around my head made it take twice as long to get the true priorities done.

Instead, when I take care of those things first, when I have a clean email slate, when I respond to all the client messages, when I clean up the house first, I’m better able to get the true priorities done in the time that it should take them to get done and give them my full attention. Could I retrain myself to focus on the priorities first? Sure, but everything is getting done by the end of the day, I have a better peace of mind, I’m more focused and less distracted by everything around me.

Are you trying to adopt practices that have helped others be successful but really aren’t working for you? Maybe it’s time to reevaluate those practices and start making your own success practices and habits, and accepting what works for you instead of trying to do what works for someone else.

Lessons from Limits and Boundaries

One of the keys to success is not chasing the every bouncing ball. There are constantly shiny things, bouncing balls, or other distractions, opportunities or attractions that you could follow, but you have to consciously choose to focus on those things and people that are going to get you where you want to go. Part of the shiny-object-syndrome, as it’s known, is knowing your limits and boundaries and sticking to them.

I recently saw a commercial for a TV show about under-the-sea exploration including doing scuba diving and going down in a submersible and it took me back to a vacation I took as a kid where we did some snorkeling and I had a really poor experience. I find the world of the sea fascinating, I love reading and watching about shipwrecks and the cool creatures of the sea, but I have less than zero interest in going under the sea to experience any of it myself. I know my limit is seeing the undersea world from behind glass or through virtual means, and I am comfortable with that.

Limits and boundaries are knowing how far you want to or are willing to go with something, but you have to be aware when your limits and boundaries are truly hindering you and your success. My success is in no way limited by my disinterest in going under the sea, but if, to use a really extreme example, I said I didn’t ever want to talk to anyone again, that would limit my success. If my current limits or boundaries are hindering my success, they’re things I have to change, or reconsider how I define success.

This can be applied to all aspects of our lives, from our careers to parenting to our relationships. It’s healthy to have limits and boundaries, but only to the extend that they keep us on the path we want to go and keep us healthy. When they start to block us or hurt us or others, it’s time to reconsider them and work on moving past them. If you find that your limits and boundaries are still ones you want to keep, then it may be time for a new definition of and plan for success.

How are your limits and boundaries helping or hurting you?

A Reason for Retail

Today I’m again pondering the topic of retail as stores like Payless close and Apple struggles to get people in their store doors. Ultimately when it comes to retail stores, people have to have a reason to go to them. If we’re being honest that’s true for any business, virtual or with a physical presence. If you don’t give people a reason to shop with you or stop by your site or store, they won’t. Yes, that reason can be a simple as cute pet videos or to see the newest merchandise or check if something is in stock, but it’s still a reason.

You also can’t tell me that retail is totally irrelevant, one of the biggest companies in the world, Amazon, has not only started creating their own retail stores, they’ve also purchased Whole Foods, a grocery store chain. You don’t do that if you think there’s no hope for retail. Then you’ve got companies like Tractor Supply and Best Buy who are doing well, with both a retail and online presence, and doing well with both. One of the most notable changes with retail over the past few years has been the grocery stores who have invested in going online to offer shop-for-you and delivery services, so that you get the fresh food from the store without having to shop or even go to the store if you don’t want.

However, there’s another side of this, and that’s retail companies who are moving away from or have never offered online shopping. They have websites and social presences, but if you really want to shop with them or know what’s available, you have to go to the store. Personally I think that’s extremely risky and don’t think it’s the way to go. I’m not saying that mom-and-pop shops have to have a huge online store with all their products, but if you’re a chain or have more than one store, you’re really missing out on a big opportunity to make some extra sales that aren’t all that costly with as inexpensive as it is to run an online store in this day and age.

So what’s the answer to retail? It goes back to where we started this post: you have to give people a reason to stop in. Maybe that’s demos or repairs. Maybe it’s the opportunity to try things out or on. Or maybe it’s simply the thing retail has always been known for: being able to have whatever you need immediately and in exactly the condition that you’re looking for.

Retail is a great opportunity if your customers are looking for a specific experience, if they have a specific need that’s met well by having a physical destination for them to come to, if you can provide them something in a physical sense that can’t be replicated online, or especially if you and your customers enjoy being hands on.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it all comes back to people. Every single sale may be represented by a dollar amount, but behind every dollar is a human, or many humans. It’s up to us businesses to care for those people, which means putting information, products, services, support and enjoyment in their hands, whether it’s through a retail store or online.

What’s your thought on the future of retail?

Seeing Success

In one of the many inspiring emails I receive throughout the week I read this quote:

Danny Thomas said: “All of us are born for a reason, but all of us don’t discover why. Success in life has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It’s what you do for others.”

I always love thinking about life purpose. It’s one of the best ways to be encouraged and motivated. Of course, if you don’t know what your purpose is, it can be one of the most frustrating things to think about. But lately what I’ve been thinking about more than life purpose, is what success really means. To some it means getting up in the morning. Others feel successful when they bring in millions of dollars for their clients. Still others find success in raising their family. Do you realize that success means a lot of different things?

In the quote Thomas is talking about true success, a win-win-win, when everyone wins or benefits from what’s going on. So not only is it important to know that true success includes everyone, it’s also important to know how you define success, and to be open to re-defining your definition of success. By not being open to redefining your success, you limit yourself to how successful you can become! So if you think that success is making a million dollars, but once you reach that you don’t rethink what success could be, you won’t ever make more than 1 million dollars. Likewise, if you think only you can be successful in life, and can’t help someone else be successful at the same time, your definition of success needs to be re-written.

So ask yourself today, what do I think success means? Do I need to redefine what success means in order for it to better fit who I am? (Am I thinking that I want my kids to be less difficult, but what I really want is 10 minutes to myself each day?)

You can have success, and you can have it today. It just depends on your perspective.

Smarter Words for Success

I love words. They’re all around us: they’re what we speak, what we read, what we hear and what we think. But when it comes to communication there are some words that people use that aren’t the best choice or don’t say the best thing or hinder your confidence from building and success from happening. So today I thought we’d take a look at some phrases that are best left out of your vocabulary, especially in situations of careers or success.

No Problem:
This is one of the ones that really frustrates me. Most often you’ll hear this where a ‘you’re welcome’ could have been said, or an ‘I’m glad I could help.’ It makes it sound like your question or need could have been a problem and they’re not really all that thrilled or even satisfied to have been able to help you.

I’m Sorry:
This is a phrase we absolutely should use more often, we aren’t always willing to apologize when we’re in the wrong. However, it’s also used to apologize when there’s no need to apologize, for example when you’re sharing your opinion. You’re not sorry that you’ve got a different opinion than someone else (or at least you shouldn’t be), you just see it differently or don’t agree.

I Hate to Bother You/Sorry to Bother You:
The issue first is that you’re assuming that your question is going to be a bother, or that you’re being a bother. If you have a need or a question, there’s no need to feel guilty for asking about it or getting the help you need, and there’s also no need to apologize for needing help, we all need help at one point or another. Instead, after you’ve had your question answered or gotten the help you need, if you feel it really was a bother or they went out of their way to assist you, you can say something like ‘I really appreciate all your assistance.’

I would encourage you to think about the words you’re using. Are they closing doors and relationships that could be great ones? Are they unnecessarily limiting you, your options and your future? Do they place blame where blame isn’t due? Do they show that you’re confident, that you’re willing to work, that you believe in yourself and that you’re a capable human? Take even one day this week and really think about the words you’re using, the impact they’re having, and if there are words that would be more empowering or positive for you and those you’re talking with.

Small Business Success Smarts Part 2

In just a few days Small Business Week 2019 begins (May 5-11).  I took a look to see what the official website shares about this event and was reminded of some important facts: “More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.”  So if you had any doubt how important the small businesses of the world are, you shouldn’t.

As I was thinking about what to write I went back to look at last year’s post and want to take a bit of a different take on some of the things I shared last year.

One of the things I’m always talking about (and will always talk about) is information and communication.  When it comes to small businesses yes, there’s a lot to manage, but one of the most important and one of the best ways you can stand out as a small business is to get really good at sharing lots of information and communicating well.   I’m always amazed when I see how little information some businesses provide.   Products (including books) span the gamut from sufficient detail to absolutely none, but one of the best examples of a product/service business that consistently fails to provide sufficient details in this internet information age are real estate agents/listings. How long does it really take to write up a 10-20 sentence description of your product including relevant measurements?  How long does it really take to take some appropriate photos?  Providing more detailed information is one way to get your products and services to sell quicker and better.

The next thing on the list is community.  When was the last time you did something in your physical or online community?  Go back to the very name of what many people love, social media, and think about when the last time was you were social (i.e. interacting with other people not on your own posts)?  When was the last time that you helped connect two people or organizations that you thought would benefit from knowing each other?  When was the last time you participated in something in your home community where you live?

Finally, small isn’t bad, it’s not a dirty word and it should not make you feel shame.  There’s nothing wrong with not desiring world domination, choose to do the very best for each and every customer your small business interacts with.  Make them feel special, use your size to your advantage rather than seeing it as a hindrance or obstacle.  Celebrate each and every little thing that makes you special and gives you an advantage over other (larger) businesses.

What do you love about your small business?

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?