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?

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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?

Are You A Control Freak?

This February we will talk about couples and romantic relationships a lot, since it’s the month that contains Valentine’s Day, but today I wanted to start with something that is really important whether we’re talking romantic relationships, family relationships or even work relationships. This is a topic that most people struggle with, including myself: my way doesn’t always have to be how it gets done.

We struggle with this because we’re all secretly (or not so secretly) control freaks. We like to be in charge, direct all the action, make sure that things get done, make sure they get done right (according to us), and tell everyone what to do and where to be. Sometimes this can be a good thing because it means things will get done, but most of the time this actually hinders things getting done when you’re busy being the slave driver instead of bringing others into the team to get everything done together and letting everyone use their individual giftings to do things to the best of their ability.

I don’t disagree that you probably have some really great ideas about how things should be done, but people are a lot more likely to cooperate and work with you on getting things done (and stick around for longer in your life) if you talk with them about it and then let them help make the final decision about how they get the project you’ve given them done, what the next steps of your relationship look like, the direction their life will go in or about countless other things that could result in wins for everyone.

This week ahead I encourage you to give yourself and your partner a break and work on working together more and fighting and directing less. What small but significant changes can you make together to make this week less about control and more about cooperation?

Labor Day Reflections

Monday here in the US is Labor Day. It’s the day that we honor and remember all the contributions that the American people have made for and towards the economy and success of our country. I think it’s important to still celebrate this day because even though we’ve made some really great strides in making work accessible and safer for all, there are still some serious issues in the work place today.

When you look at the statistics about how many people are employed vs. unemployed, they don’t take into account how many people are miserable in the job they have. It doesn’t register how many people dread going to work the next day. It doesn’t consider how many people feel threatened, frustrated or ignored by their bosses and superiors. It doesn’t take into account the number of workers who have no clue what they’re doing or why they do what they’re doing. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of improvement still needed in many workplaces.

The first step to improvement is for the leadership to remember that they’re working with people, not magicians. Most staff members won’t read minds, can’t decipher gibberish, and can only do what you’ve told them to do. So when they’re not doing what you need them to do, aren’t truly helping customers, aren’t being as productive as you want them to be or keep doing things wrong, take a step back. First look at what you’ve told them to do (do your messages/requests/instructions even make sense?  Are they detailed and specific enough?). Second, look at how you’ve trained them and if you’re continuing to give them education to improve their skills. Third look at the resources available to them (can they do the job you’re asking them to do, let alone do well?).

Once sufficient and clear communication, expectations and resources have been established, only then can things improve dramatically for both workers and businesses. Are you the reason your employees are miserable and unproductive? What can you do to be the reason that you’ve got employees who look forward to coming into work, share about job openings with your business, and are happy and capable of fully supporting your customers?

Holidays of Unity

This week a topic I’m thinking about is unity. We’ve got some holidays that many people will celebrate over the next few weeks and a couple of others that not everyone will celebrate that all are about bringing people together. We’ve got Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s Day and Memorial Day plus the National Day of Prayer and Ramadan all being celebrated this month. During each of these events people will be gathering with family and/or friends to take time to celebrate, remember, gift, and tell stories honoring the men, women, families and cultures that each of these events are remembering.

They’re simple opportunities that bring people together, events that let us put aside other issues and challenges we’re facing, and just be together. Life has plenty of challenges, challenges that aren’t going to go away anytime soon, but days like these are great reminders that we aren’t going through life alone, and that together we’re stronger and more able than we are trying to do it on our own.

We talk about teamwork and the importance of our relationships often on this blog, but often what we’re talking about are the challenges and how we can work through them, and not celebrating the great steps and strides forward we’re making. This month there’s all these opportunities to really celebrate the people in our lives and the people who have stood for us, and to let them know that they’re not forgotten but that they’re appreciated and valuable to us.

So as we begin this month I want to challenge you to make at least these 3 upcoming holidays days that you work towards unity (Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s Day and Memorial Day). If you’re up for a big challenge, make it your goal this month to unify and work on your relationships with as many people that are in your life as possible, in whatever relationships you have with them, whether they’re personal, work, or religious. Together we can make the world, and each of our lives, a better place.

Subscription Business Success

I don’t know about you but I’ve been watching the subscription industry and how it’s grown and changed over the past few years. Subscriptions started back with deliveries of milk and eggs, grew to newspapers and magazines, and has grown to include deliveries of online newsletters, and physical boxes of makeup, clothing, books and full blown recipes. I’ve ventured once or twice into a home delivery subscription of products, but I’m particular about things so I have yet to find anything current that I really want to subscribe to. But let’s talk about the business of subscriptions, and why they’re something people enjoy and why they’re successful.

One of the great things about some of the subscription options is the joint venture opportunities they create. Yes, in some cases you’re subscribing to one specific product or brand, but many of the subscription options include a variety of items that changes with each delivery. The boxes talk about being “carefully curated” to include a mix of products to try, leaving the next step up to the recipient, they can use/share the products and move on, or they can follow up with the brands in the box and purchase additional products or more of what they got in the box. For businesses, it’s a great opportunity to build a business relationship with another company, to do cross promotions with the company and to be introduced to an audience they may not have really considered before.

Subscription deliveries create recurring revenue for companies. This is a big reason that companies want to get into the subscription business, because they’re getting consistently paid without all of the work of trying to get new clients/customers. Of course you have to have great content in your box or people won’t stay subscribed, but if you can consistently provide unique items that your audience is interested in, you can keep them as a repeat customer for many years.

Subscriptions work well because they take a lot of the work out of the customer’s life. Many people will tell you that they’re too busy to do the research into picking a recipe and shopping for the right items or finding new skincare to try or finding new books to read, and let’s be honest you can do tons of research and you may never hit on the products included in the box because there are just so many different companies in every niche and industry. Subscriptions are an easy way to introduce people to the variety, novelty, and/or something bigger/better that they’re interested in finding but don’t have the time or knowledge to know where/how to look.

There are of course challenges to being in the subscription industry, including quality of products, offering something people don’t want, not having some competitive advantage or standing out from your (many) competitors, the finding a happy middle on cost of the subscription for you and your customers, and being able to keep up with demand. I don’t think the subscription industry is going anywhere any time soon, and I think there’s still room in the industry for some quality boxes and deliveries.

Have you considered offering a subscription option, and if so how far into the consideration and/or planning are you? If you offer a subscription, what have you learned from it and where do you think the industry is headed?

Secrets to Success: Time for Teamwork

Something I’ve been thinking about as we approach Valentine’s Day as well as in my work with businesses and individual clients, is the importance of having a team behind and around you. We’ve been taking a look at some keys to success over the past few weeks and I think that the idea of having a team around you is something we sometimes take for granted. We take for granted that we can get a plumber out within 24 hours or sooner when we’ve got a leak, we take for granted that someone designed the refrigerator that we use to keep food cool and fresh, we take for granted that someone’s always behind the scenes taking all the calls that come in to the police stations around the country (and the world), we take for granted that someone’s making sure the technology is functioning so that we can get to our favorite websites and search engines at a moment’s notice.

But we also sometimes take for granted the people who are a lot closer to us. We just expect our employees to show up each day, we expect that our kids will go to school most days, and we expect that our partner will do the things around the house that they always do. When someone gets sick or something happens it becomes very apparent exactly how strong and capable your team and support system is.

One of the greatest challenges and opportunities for businesses and communities is to support the people who rely on them, the people who are part of them. The online reviews tell the stories of the good, bad and ugly experiences we have with businesses and their employees. The relationships we choose to keep and people we regularly interact with say a lot about those people and the type of person they are. Rather than trying to be everything for everyone, why not turn to those people that are around you literally, or are accessible through the gift of the internet? Why put yourself through the stress and pressure of trying to be everything and do everything?

We’re not alone in this life and it’s time that we stop living that way. It’s not dependency or a revelation of weakness to admit that you need help and other people around you. It actually makes you smarter and more likely to succeed when you have a team of people you can rely on around you. Today make sure to recognize the people who help you get through your day, and if you look around and realize you don’t have that team and network, start reaching out. Who makes your life better because they’re in it?

Secrets to Success: Write It Down

For the next few weeks I thought we’d take a look at some not-so-secret secrets to success. These may not be secrets that no one knows about, but not everyone uses them or uses them well. They’re also known for sometimes getting out of hand or being less-than-useful, but that has more to do with the individual than the tool/technique. For the right person a “secret” could be the key to success they’ve been missing. Today we’re starting off with writing stuff down and using lists.

I wanted to start with this secret because of how busy we are and how many responsibilities we all have and how much we’re all trying to keep straight. Want to know the number one reason why I write just about everything down? So I don’t have to remember it! Writing things down allows me and my brain to keep thinking, keep creating and keep going, rather than continually trying to keep track of everything in my head. Lists are great because they remind you of what you have to do, things you are thinking about trying, people you have to contact, and great ideas you have. You also have the pleasure of crossing things off your list or deleting them from your list and seeing how much you’ve accomplished.

Writing things down can also help you with goal setting, delegation, and accountability. When you’ve got the to-do list posted where others can see, you’re more likely to accomplish your responsibilities, and it’s also impossible for others to say they didn’t know their responsibilities or what else had to be taken care of.  However, if you really enjoy having your excuses for why things aren’t done, you probably don’t want to apply this success secret to your life and work.

I prefer paper when it comes to writing stuff down and keeping lists, but I’ve also been known to use some virtual ones when the need arises. Many people use virtual lists to keep track of grocery needs and other things that need to be purchased, and things that multiple people are involved in because they can be easily shared and accessed on the go. My preference is to use paper when I’m sitting at my desk or working because I think through things better than using a computer document or app, and I also get the satisfaction of scribbling it out when I’m done. For family and work purposes white boards are also great tools if you prefer leaving a physical message or reminder over a digital one.

What are your favorite tools for keeping track of what’s going on in your life? Do you prefer paper or technology?

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.”

 

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?