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?

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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?

A Burst of Spring

The first day of spring is officially hours away. There’s a lot about spring to enjoy, one of my favorite things is how everything is so very clearly coming alive. There’s something magical about having everything burst into clear life from being seemingly dead and definitely drab over the winter. It’s one of the things I enjoy about living in this part of the US, that we do have clear seasonal changes throughout the year, and while I could do with less of the snow, it does make spring all the more appealing.

Sometimes what success needs from us is letting go of something big. Another thing some people are journeying through right now is the spiritual time of Lent which is leading up to Easter, and many people give something up for Lent. Other people give stuff up because they’re allergic to it or find they’re intolerant of it. But especially in that case it’s worth it to give it up, even if we miss what we had. Sacrifice and change are part of life, and I think we’re getting better at accepting that it happens and working through it.

But sometimes what success needs is not a sacrifice, but a big burst of effort, a big (positive) change. This big burst can reinvigorate what we’re doing, help renew our spirits, give us hope that it’s possible to achieve the victory and give us the energy to take a better look around and see the possibilities around us.

Spring hasn’t quite sprung here yet, but others have said that they’re seeing the signs slowly appearing, so I have hope that it will be here soon. If you’re struggling or feeling depressed or feeling stuck, maybe it’s time to let spring invigorate your life and success. Look for new life this week, new opportunities, new leaps of faith that you can take that will help you get closer to your goals.

Dealing with Failures and Outages

The big business news this week so far is about Facebook’s outage on Wednesday and into Thursday for some. Facebook is used by people and businesses alike around the world, so when something like this happens it’s not something they can really brush under the rug. This issue hits on many topics that we’ve talked about recently as well as we talk about frequently like doing business together, communication, customer service and quality, and it also holds a great warning for all of us, so I thought I would share a few thoughts on it today.

Let’s start with the dark side of this whole thing. It can happen to anyone. It can get you bad publicity. It can make you lose customers. It’s something every business should talk about: what to do if there’s a catastrophic failure, what to do if data is lost, what to do if the product fails, what to do if leadership gets caught doing something bad. Being aware of that it could go wrong and having a plan for if it does go wrong is half the battle, the other half has to do with your reaction, communication and actions after the event. You may be able to take the right actions quickly, but if you poorly communicate about the whole thing you may lose any traction you could have made with the speedy repair.

Let’s talk about what Facebook did, that we know at this point. Yes, they obviously got to work on fixing it as soon as possible so more people weren’t affected and those that were would be able to get back on as soon as possible. Then they had a decision to make: how do we communicate this and do we communicate this. They made a really interesting decision, one that I doubt many people would have guessed, and that’s posted on Twitter to let people know what was up. It’s not necessarily the wrong decision (they could have used email), but it is kind of funny and is a good reminder that as much as you want to build a strong business, stronger than your competition, it’s always good to have an open line of communication for situations like these.

The situation will continue to unfold over the next days and weeks, and it will be interesting to see how they follow up on this. What would I like to see? At the very least I’d like to see messages on their Facebook and Instagram accounts sharing about what happened and letting people know it’s fully resolved and if any actions/precautions are being taken in brief with a link to a blog post on their blog with more depth and details. If there were any accounts hacked or breached, those people should be notified by internal message on the network and by email. I’d also like to see them to contact businesses that were actively running paid ads at the time and affected by the outage and fill them in on how the downed network will affect that ad run.

Of course, they may just choose to sweep this under the rug, and for many they’ll just continue on with Facebook as usual. But for the smart business owners, I would hope this serves as a warning that if your only means of supporting your business is through Facebook you should be looking into additional and supplemental ways to market and grow your business. It’s as is often said, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. What are your thoughts on the situation?

Practicing Success

The other day I was talking with one of the daughters of one of the families I work with about practicing piano. She was telling me that she only has one song she’s working on and that she was done practicing. I had heard her practice that one song, but while playing one song twice is practice, it’s not really a quality or quantity practice. So I suggested she grab one of her old books and just play through it to have more practice time, because it’s not just about knowing the current song you’re working on, but about building the muscle memory in your fingers and getting the song exposure and practice.

This conversation got me thinking about success, specifically expertise and knowledge as it relates to success. Some people are just successful, it doesn’t seem fair to other people that they’re able to be successful without all of the work that most of us have to do to be even a little successful. This necessary effort can be a deterrent to people, it’s why some people are successful and why others give up or aren’t as successful as they could be.

For those of us who success doesn’t come easy to, we’re doing the work to make the success happen.  Sometimes that mean that we have something specific that we’re working on that directly connects to our current goal (like practicing that one specific song on the piano).  Other times it means doing activities that can help us in the long run and in non-specific ways (like practicing other songs just to get the experience).

So what would help your success today? Committing to write several blog posts or pages of your book daily, daily upping the number of reps of an activity you do during your workout, reading one or more chapters in non-fiction books each day, daily reading blog posts and/or watch/listen to educational audios/videos, daily spending a half hour with your partner, daily reaching out to potential partners/contacts/clients through email or social media, daily developing ideas that could turn into products or designs, or more regularly and consistently taking care of bills/emails/paperwork? What is something you can do more consistently, more regularly, or increasingly more of to help you become more successful?