Little Steps to Success

There are a lot of things that you could do to make this year your best year yet. If you decided on some resolutions for this year you may have unfortunately already given up on them, too many people don’t make it out of January with their resolutions intact. There can be many issues with resolutions we set including that the goals that are too big or too vague or we’re just not ready for yet, and these issues can hurt our chances at really succeeding with our resolutions. So today I thought I’d share a little encouragement and another option for a resolution for the year. What if we were to just choose to be committed to living life?

What if we approached this new year with the intention to do our best in each and every moment, both big and small? What if you chose to put just 5% more effort into your daily activities? What if you chose to listen with a little more intention and talk with a little more care? What if you put a personal touch on each and every thing you do? What if you committed to being more true to who you are and what you believe? We’re not trying for perfection, just trying to do better, be better and relate better than we did previously.

Yes, the big life changes are great, but there’s a lot of power in making little tweaks and changes. Things like cleaning up your desk at the end of the day, cleaning up the kitchen at the end of the day, putting the clothes away in the closets, making a to do list for tomorrow, taking an extra 30 seconds to re-read an email or important text before sending it, switching one processed/pre-packaged snack with a fresh fruit or vegetable choice, or telling your partner you love them every day, can add up to make a big difference over time if you do them consistently.

What little thing or things could you do in your life this week that would make a difference?

“Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.” Swami Sivananda

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The Success of Strategy

I’m a fan of freedom and being able to do whatever, whenever. Lots of people are. But there’s something to be said for strategy, order, schedules and procedure. If we didn’t use them your burger might never look like a burger. You could end up with the meat or “meat” on top of bread on top of bread on top of lettuce on top of mustard and other dressings! I can’t imagine trying to eat that. If we didn’t use strategy or procedures you might get dressed before getting in the shower, which means you’ll go through the day with wet clothes. Or you’d know how the story ends before you started reading the book. Not a really great idea, right?

So let’s be honest, even if we don’t really like the fact that schedules and order is necessary, sometimes it’s really helpful. So as much as you may not want to hear it, what you need isn’t (just) to set resolutions, but to set some schedules and strategies into action too. This is definitely the case if you’ve had the same resolutions for the past couple (or many) years and haven’t really been successful with them. Make 2018 the year that you have the plans and schedule to follow through with your resolutions.

The question is if you’re really committed to making your resolutions into reality this year or if it’s going to be another year that you make an attempt at your resolutions.  If you’re really committed I encourage you to take a look at what you’ve been doing, or not doing, to accomplish your resolutions, and make changes to your plans and procedures as appropriate. This could be as simple as choosing (planning) one thing you’ll do every day that will get you closer to your goal, hiring a coach to work with you on your resolutions, hiring an organizer or nutritionist to help you get rid of the bad and make room for the good, or making/joining an accountability group.  What will you do to make your resolutions a reality this year?

4 Keys for Business Success in 2018

Today I thought I’d share a few thoughts on what you can do this year to be successful in business. These aren’t hacks, but they are things that are more relevant and important than ever to be doing in your business.

Consistency: one of the best ways to get the bang for your buck with marketing and being successful is to be consistent. Consistently maintaining a presence with your audience, updating and adding products, and consistently providing an awesome experience with you and what you’re selling are more important than ever. If you aren’t consistent you give someone else an opportunity to slip in and steal some of your customers.

Be up to date: having your website up to date with calendar dates as well as product/service information including pricing is only part of the challenge here.  We’ve also got tons of social sites to keep up to date and if we’ve got a physical business we have to make sure everything there is up to date as well. If you can’t keep up with everything yourself (although you can schedule in time monthly or weekly to keep up with things), there are tons of virtual assistants who can help you with the online updates for a very reasonable rate, and local college students who can help you in a physical location too.

Let your difference shine: in this day and age anyone can open an online storefront selling whatever they want. It takes very little experience or knowledge. While you may not be selling something different than anyone else, a logo designer is a logo designer and a dentist is a dentist for example, that doesn’t mean that you aren’t different, you don’t bring a different approach to the business and people don’t work with you for different reasons than they would work with other people who sell the same thing you do. Make sure it’s clear what’s different about you and what you’re selling, and be proud of that difference.

Care about your customers: This is something that’s been really developing and becoming front page news over the past year. More and more companies are tapping into specific targeting, creating customer-specific experiences, and it’s becoming harder to hold onto customers. One of the best ways you can hold onto a customer is to really show you care about them, show them you understand at least some of their situation, and make them feel special and appreciated. Give them not only a reason to work or shop with you again, but make their experience with you enjoyable and of good quality (don’t make the one opportunity you may have with them a bad one).

These are 4 very simple concepts that take some effort to bring to fruition, but are definitely worth it in the end. What’s your plan for making this your best year yet in business?

Failure, Defeat and Success Plans

Once again today I’m thinking about what happens when things don’t go according to plan. Sometimes it doesn’t work as expected because you didn’t factor in some important detail. Sometimes it doesn’t work because something outside your control got screwed up. Sometimes the plan that someone else is working on runs yours off the road or makes it not feasible to continue for the time being. Sometimes it doesn’t work out because you don’t give it enough effort or get the right people involved. Sometimes it doesn’t work because you’ve been trying too hard or are too tired. Sometimes it doesn’t work because you’re so busy looking to get revenge that you aren’t looking at success. Sometimes it’s a communication issue. And sometimes it’s a bad idea from the start and never would have worked.

The plan, your success and failures are all things that we need to be aware of and considering as business owners. Sometimes I’m thankful when the plan fails. Maybe it gives me a little flexibility I really needed. Maybe it gives me the encouragement to pursue an opportunity I’ve been putting off. Maybe it gives me the chance to spend time with my partner. Maybe it gives me time to catch up on paperwork (or the digital version of it). Or maybe it forces me to think up a better idea and come up with a better or different plan. Most of the time when our plans don’t work out we’re more frustrated than thankful, and it can be especially frustrating when you run out of time like we are as we rapidly approach the end of another year.

So what do you do when things aren’t going according to plan? Sometimes pushing through is the right answer. Sometimes it’s taking a nap or giving up for the day/night. Sometimes it’s working on something else for a short period of time. Sometimes it’s unloading the whole story on a friend, business associate or your partner. Sometimes it’s trying a different marketing strategy. Sometimes it’s trying something different. Sometimes it’s calling the year a wrap and making better plans for the next year.

I find that plans work best when you do a few things: first, think things through. This involves thinking with your brain, doing some online research and talking with your target market or other relevant people. When you do that you’re always better set up for success. Second, take care of the most important aspects first whenever possible. Yes, take time to work on the fun stuff that excites you about your plans, but also make sure that you’re giving equal or more attention to the biggest priorities that need to happen for your plan to be in motion. Third, have the right support. The people and resources around you who support you are some of the biggest keys to whether or not you’ll be successful.

If you’re dealing with a plan failure (or even a business failure) this week, I encourage you not to give up, but instead to take a step back and try some of the things you should have done in the first place or things you thought about but put to the side. You never know what the answer will be that you’ve been looking for or where you’ll find it.

Light for the New Year

As we head towards the end of another year and the start of a new one, I wanted to talk about a very holiday topic: light. Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah light is central to the celebrations on trees, hung on houses, candles that are lit and the star in the sky. Even with the New Year celebrations there’s lots of light, from the dropping ball to the fireworks. As people most of us depend on the light outside (the sun), and all of us depend on the light that we create, whether it’s in a bulb or a fire.

We’ve always been dependent on light, but as we’ve grown over the centuries we’ve developed technology that allows us to have light whenever or wherever we need it. I think in some ways we’ve forgotten how crucial the light we have is. We take it for granted that it will be there when we need it. The place I’m currently living in is an old building and has only 2 light switches. I never took a simple light switch for granted before, but now I’m so thankful every time I do have a light switch to use because it means no fumbling around in the dark to find a cord. I’ve got light but I have to work a little harder to use it.

Light has always been treasured because it chases away the darkness. Sometimes what we need is to let some light shine into our lives, illuminating things we can’t see or would try to hide or just plain can’t see. If you feel like you’re leaving 2017 with a lot unaccomplished or feeling frustrated with what did or didn’t happen, maybe you should choose to make 2018 a year of light. You can’t do anything about how the first 11 months went of 2017, they’re over. You’ve got just a few days left in the last month of 2017 if you want to do anything different for this year.

Yes, you can still do something great with this year, there’s no reason to give up, you should cross the line feeling as though you’ve done all you can. But you should also be taking a look at the year ahead and looking to any changes you need to make and any darkness you need to conquer. Let’s finish off this year with a victory, and plan for more victories in the new year, too.

“Personal peace does come to all who follow the light of truth, and thus come out of the darkness of deception.” Hal Runkel

Christmas Questions

You know what I realized the other day? In this festive season we spend a lot of time asking questions! I know, it surprised me too. After all, we’ve typically got a love-hate relationship with questions, they challenge us but also can open up incredible opportunities and insights to us. So what are some of those Christmas questions?

Do you hear what I hear?
Is he/she here yet? Are they here yet?
What did you get me?
Do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?
Are we there yet?
Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?
What did you bring me?
Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?
Can we build this now?
Where are you Christmas?
How much longer until we can open gifts?
What Child is this?
Do they know it’s Christmas?
How long is the line?
What do you want for Christmas?
Have you been good this year?

Are you asking questions this holiday season? Maybe your questions are more along the lines of ‘how will we ever afford this Christmas?’ or ‘how long until a new year is here?’ I know for many people it’s been a challenging year. In some ways that’s a good thing because now we’re asking more questions and taking a more serious look at what we can do to avoid or limit this year’s experiences from happening in the future. It’s hard to make changes in life without asking questions and taking action based on the answers to those questions.

But as we see from some of the questions above, not all questions are scary! Some are so filled with joy, anticipation and excitement that you can practically picture a kid jumping up and down asking them. Others are more reflective questions, encouraging us to think more about the meaning behind the season.  Some questions may also remind you of the ways you challenged your parents as a kid, and your kids today may challenge you.

As we head towards the end of another year I would encourage you to open your mind to asking some questions. Some will be tough questions, but others should be questions of possibility and hope. You can’t find the answer if you don’t ask the question, go on the adventure or try things out. What questions are you asking today?

The Question of Customer Loyalty

As we head into what is the busiest shopping season of the year for many businesses, I think it’s a good opportunity to talk about customers and customer loyalty. As a business you have to have customers, otherwise you won’t be in business very long. The next thing to consider is whether most of your customers are repeat customers, or if you offer things that people buy once or extremely rarely. If you offer something, say heart surgery or roofing, you probably will ever work with someone once. But if you offer something like ice cream or hair cuts, and you’re not having repeat customers, something probably has to change. Here’s what one very successful entrepreneur had to say:

“Customers aren’t loyal. And it’s a waste of time trying to convince them to be….Life changes. Priorities change. Competition changes. In reality, almost no one is 100% loyal….Fact: 87% of a brand’s customers don’t stick to just that brand. They’re promiscuous at best. And if they’re offered something better, they’re gone.” Ramit Sethi

Those are some pretty serious percentages. So the question becomes: do we even try to gain customer loyalty? The first answer that comes to mind is that if you don’t give any effort to making your customers come back, few probably will. The second thing to consider is that it’s consistently proven to be cheaper in all ways to keep customers coming back than to gain new customers. The third thing to consider is that even if you have a service or product that’s purchased maybe once in a lifetime you can still gain loyal customers, it’s just not the same type of loyalty. Fourth, if you ask employees who really love your company about their favorite customers, they’ll often tell you that they enjoy connecting with the “regulars.” Fifth, loyal customers are those who share about your great products or services with their friends, and/or leave you nice testimonials you can use to get more customers.

One thing to remember is that everyone is human and everyone goes through changes in their life. So it’s really unrealistic to expect that every customer would stay with your business and your products and/or services for the full duration of their life (or their need for that product/service). But my answer is that we should work on making customers loyal, or at the very least, increasing the amount of times they purchase from us. Whether you use email newsletters, social media, events, physical mailings, a blog, a loyalty card or even just new products or services that are in line with those you already offer, there are tons of ways that you can build loyalty and encourage repeat customers. What are your favorite ways to connect with your customers and build relationships with those who are loyal to you and love you?

How Do You See Success?

Today I want to talk about an avenue to success that not everyone considers: doing the right thing. I know sometimes it seems like going the easy way, buying your way in or cutting corners is the way to go, and it will work for some people, but not in the long run and not always well. In fact, you can make more enemies and have more issues doing it that way than going about it the right way. I’m not saying that the right way has to be the hard way, but rather that doing the right thing, respecting other people, knowing when to stop and working towards wins for everyone will get you a bigger and better win every time.

There have been many stories in the news over the past 6 months, and even for many years past, of not-so-stellar examples of society both in individual people and in companies. I doubt that’s going to change any time soon, there will always be people who think that it’s fine to cheat, lie or steal. But lately the tide has been turning and the people who have been hurt are speaking up, and it’s great to see them coming forward. The one thing that’s not in the news as much as it should be are the people and companies who are going above and beyond, or just even doing the right thing, probably because it’s not really “interesting.”

So while doing the right thing and treating others with respect and dignity, giving them the opportunity to say yes or no, partnering with them, listening and talking, and working towards solutions together may not be glamorous or particularly news worthy, you’ll be able to create success that you feel good about, with the side benefit being that often they’ll be successful too. So how do you look at the steps to success? Do you see the sales you make in your business or at your job as an opportunity to work together with a customer? Do you see the challenges and issues that come up with your family and in your relationship as an opportunity to work together with your family to a solution that works for both or all of you? Do you see the choices you have to make as opportunities to become better and stronger, learning even if you fail? How do you see success?

Who is Thankful for You?

As I was thinking about Thanksgiving and our topic of the month, success, I came across this bit of wisdom from Amaka Imani Nkosazana:

“Stop seeking attention from people who don’t give you the time of day. Value your time, comfort your spirit, have peace of mind. There are people who love you and care about you. Give your smiles to them.”

Each of us face the challenge of wanting attention from those who won’t give it, like people at our offices or family members. And yet we sometimes are guilty of not giving attention to those we do care about and want our attention, like our kids and our partner. Why do we work so hard to get attention from people who don’t care about us or want to give us that attention? Sometimes I think it’s because we simply are so focused on getting the attention we want, that we don’t see what’s right in front of us. Sometimes maybe we don’t think that the attention from that person or those people who do want to give it to us would be enough for us and we’ll still not feel like we’re wanted enough.

When it comes to the topic of success we need to make sure that our attention is focused on the right people and the right things. One thing to consider when making a decision about where to focus our attention is the long term affects of making a decision to put so much effort and attention into someone or something. Yes, sometimes we let important relationships that matter to us go a little because of the other commitments in our lives, but if we don’t make up that time in the future or if we don’t recommit to them in the future they’ll distance themselves from us. You may never be able to please the one person in the world that you want to please. That doesn’t mean you should give up on pleasing them, but that it shoudln’t be your focus.

As we head into Thanksgiving here in the US in less than one day I encourage you to focus on the people you are thankful for, and those who are thankful for you. Spend time with the people who mean the most to you, and let the rest of the world do their own thing, if for only one day.

The Value of a Painting

This week in the art world something very interesting happened: a Da Vinci painting sold for $450 million. That’s just a few dollars, no big deal, I bet you’ve got that under your mattress for a rainy day, right? Not likely. However, as I was marveling over the fact that someone just spent that much money on a poster sized painting, it got me thinking about what it really means for us and our businesses.

In fact, it’s really great news for us. It means that there is money to be spent, people are buying, and people are willing to spend a lot of money. So the next time someone says that you’re not doing well in business because no one is buying anything, think again. That person or people who just bought that painting still need to eat and live somewhere and have clothes and probably watch TV and talk on their phones just like the rest of us. So take a moment to celebrate that and let yourself be relieved that there is money to be earned.

But what you can’t ignore about this incredible purchase is that the reason that someone paid $450 million for a painting is because of the perceived value. Someone has an overwhelming desire to have this painting in their possession. Maybe your tax audits or websites or cups of soup aren’t quite as interesting as a painting by Da Vinci, but you’re not asking $450 million for them. So it becomes a question of have you communicated the value, the interest, the intrigue behind what you’re offering, and have you told anyone about what you’re offering?

Take some time this weekend before Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday start next week Friday and make sure that you’re communicating clearly the value that you bring to the table.