Tag Archives: business

What Are You Afraid Of?

I think that “failure” 9.23.15has its roots not in the act of failing but what we think about failure.  After all, failing is just the act of not accomplishing what we set out to accomplish.  It is simply that and nothing more.  But when our minds get into the mix of failure, all hell breaks out.

What is the anatomy of failure in your minds?  It is something that is unique to each of us and possibly we revert to the age of the first time we know that we failed and the reaction of the people who witnessed our failure.  Certainly, it was not when we were learning to walk.  If you watch a baby beginning to walk, you notice that they end up on their butts more than striding across the room.  And our parents think it is cute, adorable or whatever.  Their reaction is mainly about acceptance and approval.

It is useful to think back to the first time you knew you failed and what happened then.  I suspect that it was around age 5 or 6 and a bicycle had something to do with the failure.  Falling off a bicycle when you want to ride it sooooo much is an absolute failure.  It is possible that the reaction of people watching is dismay or disgust, or they ridicule you in an unkind way.  What happens is not your reaction to failure.  It is instead your reaction to shame, not making the standard etc.  Of course, this is an example and you will have a better one that is uniquely yours.

The point is that we are not reacting to the failure, but instead to what we say to ourselves about it.
Here are some things that clients say to me when they have failed.
I know everyone is disappointed in me.
Everyone is laughing at me.
My (fill in the blank) thinks I am a loser.
How can I face my colleagues, staff, family?
Who did I think I am for even trying (fill in the blank)?

There is another way to view failure that may be more transformative.  Failure is just that—failure.  Failure allows us to see the next path or step to take.  It also allows us to evaluate if we really want what we thought we wanted.  If we decide yes, this is exactly what I want, then failure allows us to be more creative in new ways to get it.

Certainly, I am not being a Pollyanna, failure hurts and is certainly a way to make us stop and think about what we are really up to.  As business people we try many things and fail often.  To succeed, an entrepreneur must make friends with failure.

If you want support in turning your failure into a success, please contact me.  I am here for you.

 

What A Paleoanthropologist Can Teach You About Business

Last Thursday, September 10, 2015, a group of international scientists announced the discovery of a new hominin species in South Africa.  The name of the species is Homo Naledi. Homo Naledi, New Species

This is obviously ground breaking news!  And so what?—you may ask.  What does this discovery have to do with you, and with making your business more profitable?

The lead paleoanthropologist, Lee R. Berger, said this about the discovery, “I do believe that the field of paleoanthropology had convinced itself, as many as 15 years ago, that we had found everything—that we were not going to make any new major discoveries, and that we had this story of our origins figured out.  I think many people quit exploring; they thought it was safer to conduct science in a laboratory or sitting at a computer.  What the new species Naledi says,” Dr. Berger concluded, “is that there is no substitute for exploration.”

You do not have to be a paleoanthropologist to learn from Dr. Berger.  What he is pointing to is our tendency to think that everything has already been discovered, created, and figured out.  Berger has challenged us to continue to explore—to not give up and think it’s all handled—that we have seen it all.

How can I apply this information to my business?

  • Begin by questioning your assumptions.  (What about your business do you think is already figured out?  What does everyone know about your business?)
  • Then look to see if your business practices are stale, uninviting, and old.  What about your business should be upgraded and re-imagined?

This type of questioning can lead you to new discoveries and new ways of providing services to your clients.  It also leads to change, but I am not talking about changing for change’s sake; I am talking about inquiring into what you need to change, about being willing to change if you can see that the change could benefit your clients, and about implementing changes that will cause new results that are spectacular.

 

How Full Is Your Glass?

9.9.15We all know the idiom: “Is your glass half empty or half full?”  It is used to determine how someone sees or experiences their circumstances.  Half full and the view of the experience is optimistic; half empty and the view is pessimistic.  When life has handed me challenges, I have often used this phrase to determine not only how I was going to handle the situation but how I did the actions either cheerfully from a half full perspective or grumpily from the half empty perspective.  I suspect in the past, you might have used this phrase too, to determine your mood in facing a challenge.

There is no right/wrong in viewing your glass half empty or full.  There is another way which seems more powerful to me.  What I am talking about is the phenomenon of breakdown/breakthrough. Marshall McLuhan said it this way: Any breakdown is a breakthrough.  We all know what a breakdown is.  What is a breakthrough?  Webster-Merriam says it’s: a sudden advance in knowledge or technique. 

When we see our challenges as breakdowns, and we start to create solutions for the breakthroughs highlighted by the breakdown, we begin to advance ourselves and our intentions.

If we refuse to see breakdowns as a part of breakthroughs, we lose our spark and our interest in life.  We long to return to the safe past and live our safe life and have our safe, uneventful and most likely mediocre businesses.

If you are stuck in a breakdown and can’t see the breakthrough in it, please contact me.  I am always here to help.  I promise not to fill you with false optimism and a useless pep talk.  Instead we will develop a plan for having a breakthrough and the results that you want.

 

Who Are You Accountable To?

9.2.15Accountability is never to a number. Accountability is always to a person.

Simon Sinek

The question in the headline: “Who are you accountable to?” is a sticky one for entrepreneurs, especially if they are small business owners who are performing every function of the business–product creation, sales/marketing, administration, production, leadership and chief technician.  You wear all the hats and are frankly accountable to no one but yourself.  Most likely, that is why you started your own business.

In fact, the nature of the question actually insinuates you should be accountable to someone other than yourself.  But, is that true?  Isn’t it possible that you can and will be the person that you are accountable to, and that you as a solopreneur have the ability to compartmentalize your functions so that you can be accountable to yourself?  Yes!  That is possible.  What is important is that you are accountable to someone, even if that someone is YOU.

So, what is accountability?  According to the Webster’s Dictionary –Accountability: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions

The strength of the definition is in the phrase to account for one’s actions.  In order to be able to be accountable, one has to design measurable results for each of the functions of the business.  The measurable results are most powerful when they are quantifiable, specific, and also have a “by when” date attached.  When you do that then you have set up a way to be accountable to yourself.  Your planning does not have to elaborate, but it does have to have at least the minimum categories of what, by when and how much.  There are a ton of ways to plan for your business offered both on the internet and in business books.  Keeping in mind that simple plans are usually easier to implement than detailed plans with minute categories and subcategories.

Following this simple plan based on accountability will give you the structure you need to review the success of your business.  It will also make your business successful since you are being accountable for its success.  As your business grows you may want to engage someone to work with you to continue to grow your business.  If you already have a habit of accountability, you will be able to expect others who you hire to be accountable too.  Accountability allows you to set a standard of performance that will ensure that your business is outstanding.

I’m Ready To Hire A Virtual Assistant – Where Do I Start?

8.26.15The subject of hiring a virtual assistant usually comes up when a client is overwhelmed with back office administration and finds that she can no longer do what she does best—creating and implementing new business ideas.

I contacted one of my favorite colleagues who is an expert in Human Resources and asked her to share some best practices to use when you are ready to hire a VA.  MJ 6-2014Margaret Jacoby, SPHR, is the founder and president of MJ Management Solutions, a human resources consulting firm that provides small businesses with a wide range of virtual and on site HR solutions to meet their immediate and long-term needs.  From ensuring legal compliance to writing customized employee handbooks, to conducting sexual harassment training, businesses depend on her expertise and cost-effective human resources services to help them thrive.

Please read what Margaret says about the process for hiring a virtual assistant.

As a business owner, you expect to work long hours and wear many hats.  But, there comes a time when “enough is enough.”  You make a decision to get some help.  You need someone who can help you become more effective, more efficient, and help you grow your business exponentially, but someone who can also help you get your life back.  In many instances, this could be a Virtual Assistant (VA).

So, if you think you are ready to hire your first VA you’re probably looking for some HR solutions to identify the right way to begin the hiring process.  A lot of work goes into hiring the right virtual assistant, from making sure they’re the right fit for you and your company (and vice versa), to figuring out what types of tasks you’ll have them do to support you, all the way to training them in your processes and systems, according to the folks at EntrepreneuronFire.com.

Remember that hiring the best person takes time—you don’t want to fill the position with the first candidate you come across.  He or she may seem like a good fit during the interview, but if you aren’t asking the right questions and going about the process methodically, you could hire a VA that is wrong for your company and one who will disrupt rather that organize your work flow.

But hiring goes beyond just finding the right candidate.  There are things you can do during the hiring process that can sabotage your business.  From being too vague in your expectations for the VA, to asking inappropriate questions, a lot can go wrong.  So before you interview your first candidate, make sure you cover all your bases by following these tips. Keep in mind that these tips will apply if you are hiring a virtual assistant on a contract, as-needed basis or as an employee of your business.

1. Start with clear, specific job requirements.  Developing a written task description will clarify in your mind what tasks and responsibilities will be assigned, what goals and objectives will be set, what value this new position will add to the business.  A VA can do many things like handling your Social Media, Bookkeeping, Data Entry, Managing E-Mail, and even making cold calls for the business.  You decide!

2. Create the Ideal Candidate Profile.  The ideal candidate profile will keep you focused and objective.  It should outline what knowledge and experience the ideal candidate should possess.  Keep in mind that the knowledge and experience should be relevant to the tasks you will assign and the expectations you have for the position.

3. Develop an Interview Plan.  The interview is the most important part of the selection process.  It is a tool to determine the candidate’s qualifications, job-related knowledge, and personality.  It is one way to predict on-the-job success based on past and present behaviors and a way to determine if the candidate is a good fit for your organization.  Be prepared to ask specific questions.  The quality of the questioning is more important than the number of questions.

4. Practice “defensive hiring.”  Just as we drive our cars defensively, looking for hazards, observing other drivers’ behaviors, and anticipating emergencies, we need to hire defensively.  Since 95 percent of employee problems are caused by 5 percent of the employees, it is wise to take a few precautionary steps in this important selection process.

  • Prepare interview questions that require candidates to give examples of past performance and behaviors, demonstrate their skill level, motivation and competencies.  If you are interviewing several candidates, ask some “core” questions of all candidates to evaluate them fairly.  For a list of “behavior-based” questions check out our resources page.
  • Conduct thorough reference checking.  At a minimum, verify employment history and request a list of current clients the VA is working with.  You want to verify that the skills the VA says he or she possesses exist and at what level the VA typically accomplishes for others.

5. Evaluate all candidates using the same criteria.  This means that you have asked each one the same core questions, reviewed their prior experience, and evaluated the knowledge demonstrated during the interview (use a scorecard to help you here).

It is important to note that the best-qualified candidate is not necessarily the best fit for your organization.  People are almost always hired based on appearance and skills and usually quit or are fired because of personality.  Effective vetting of the VA candidates will increase your chances of hiring and retaining the right person.

Finding and hiring great employees takes time and is one of the most important investments a business owner can make.   Find valuable HR Solutions and resources when you sign up for the MJ Management Solutions Blog articles.

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

What Are You Selling? An Experience Or A Product?

8.19.15“We really don’t sell smoothies. We sell an experience; and we give you a smoothie while you’re there.”

-Keon Davis, Owner, Smooth-N-Groove

Keon Davis is an entrepreneur who has grown his smoothie business from nothing to a million dollar business.  His story of building his business is certainly worth reading.  Click below to read more about Keon’s rise to success.

http://www.blackenterprise.com/small-business/on-campus-smoothie-truck-business-on-track-for-1-million/

What struck me most about the story of Keon’s philosophy of his entrepreneurial mission is the idea that his company sells an experience not a product.

It is worth considering.  Are you focusing on providing your potential clients an experience or a product?  Your answer may belie what your next step will be to increase your sales and garner customer loyalty.  If you pair your intelligence about your target market with consciously giving those specific people a positive experience of you and your business, you will have leaped forward toward business success.

Many times, business owners are stuck at a certain plateau.  They become frustrated and feel hopeless about the future of their business.  When we look at what happened in the business to cause this malaise it is usually that the future of the business has expired and the initial customer experience has gone stale.  Once a business owner clearly sees what happened then he can build a new fresher experience for his customers.  The business begins to flourish again at a new level.

If you are stumbling about not knowing what your customer’s experience is, I suggest you ask them.  A high touch way to make the inquiry is to call some of your customers to get their impression of the experience that your business gives them.  You will find out more about what your clients want and expect.  They will be impressed that you called them and listened to their opinion.

Another way to test your clients experience is to ask them to answer a brief questionnaire about the experience of working with your business.  You may want to pair the questionnaire with giving each person a special discount on one of your products or services.

One way is not better than the other.  The point is to check in with your loyal clients, they are your target market.  Use their responses to further enhance the experience that your clients have in working with you.

Focus! Action!

8.12.15“To be great is not a word but work that makes a word.”
― Auliq Ice, Song writer, Author

Today, I want to discuss with you, the next stage of your business, after you have landed on creating your next new offering or service and dreamed of the sure to be eventual success of this next step.  The stage that most people don’t think of or want to think of is the amount of concentration that will have to be given to making the offer be a success.  That stage is called being in concentration.

So what is concentration?  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as: the act of giving your attention to a single object or activity—then a pop up notice says: “Concentration is currently in the bottom 50% of lookups on Merriam-Webster.com.”  This made me laugh out loud.  Of course it is at the bottom of the list of words looked up.  No one wants to be in concentration nor do they even want to know about it—that includes YOU and ME.  However, concentration is the energy that takes creation and makes something happen.

Concentration is the ability to focus on what we want to accomplish, and to do the work necessary to bring it into reality.  It is a high and difficult state of mind to maintain.  This is the state of trying out things and failing.  We are so wanting it to happen that we keep on trying things until something sticks.  Being in the state of concentration is intense; it requires a determination to succeed.  And when we succeed it is certainly worthy of at least a mini fiesta.

How to know when you are in the stage of concentration is pretty easy.  You are single minded.  What there is to do is work.  This is where you sometimes forget to take care of yourself.  You do still need to eat and sleep!

There are times when you are on your knees because you have not met your goals.  What I have found that works for people who are wiped out like this is to admit that they are in concentration.  There is something magical about just saying what is authentic and true: I am in concentration now; this is hard.  When we are not clear about this state of concentration we suffer in silence—that is when we are likely to quit.

Am I telling you to complain bitterly to anyone who is around you?  No!  I am saying that you need to have someone who you trust to talk to when you are in this state.  I am talking about someone who is as committed to your success as you are.  And someone who will not be manipulated by you and let you off the hook of being in concentration.

To me being in concentration is a very high state of being.  I admire you and salute you.  I am also here for you, if you want to talk.

 

Photo courtesy of Frame Angel FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Does Love Have Any Place In Business?

080515In the past week, another large U.S. company announced their plans to lay off at least 12,000 people.  The layoff was due to not making their estimated quarterly financial goals.  When the CEO was interviewed he alluded to the possibility that the company would hire back the laid off people if the numbers were better at the end of the year.  Maybe.

Being laid off is a huge challenge for people.  Their lives are disrupted and their challenge becomes one of what to do now.  Many of these people will decide to start their own business.  I know I did when it happened to me.  It was my reaction to the shock of being laid off.  I decided that I wanted to be in charge of my own work fate, and not to depend on the decisions of others.

Before, we go any further, I want you to know this isn’t a diatribe about unfairness of being laid off.  Instead it is about the most important trait you must have, a quality that will insure that your choice of going to work for yourself is not made solely in reaction to something, but is made instead with some deliberate thought about what work you will do.  And it’s not about skills; instead it’s about who you are being.

In order to have your new business be a success, you must first and foremost love what your business is.  Not sort of love it, or hope that you will learn to love it but love it from the get go.  You need the sort of enthusiasm that has you excited about your new business and wanting to be in it no matter what.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a service business or a product business.  Choosing a business that you love means that you have the willingness to do it whether or not you get paid for it.  It is sometimes referred to as your hobby or extracurricular activity—yes that one—that thing that interests you so much that you already study it, read about it, and talk about it in groups or online forums.

If you do not have a love (some call it passion) for what you are doing, you will fail.  People will know it and they will run away from your business quickly.  And you will want to quit working too, not because you can’t make money, but because you can’t stand being inauthentic.  I know you have been in a store where you just knew that the owner would love to be any place but there.  It’s a real downer just to be in there; it’s the kind of place you want to escape from, not stay to buy something.

Think of the last time you were in a business where the owner loved what he/she was doing.  You felt welcome and taken care of; it’s the kind of place you refer your friends to, and that is the kind of business you want to build!

Photo courtesy of unsplash.com

Let’s Start Something!

7.29.15It doesn’t matter when we start.  It doesn’t matter where we start.  All that matters is that we start.
-Simon Sinek

The starting principle that Sinek refers to sounds easy to people who are in the stands watching the players play the game.  What game, you ask?  The game of entrepreneurship.  What I have found as an entrepreneurial coach is that unlike great athletes who know they are going for the championship, entrepreneurs usually wait until they are painfully stuck to call in help.  Notice my use of the word painfully.  It is not until they are feeling pain that they contact a coach.  Many times they have been uncomfortable for quite a while before they finally decide to take the first action to resolve the problem.

In taking that first the action, other actions are easier to take.  And usually within a few weeks, they have results that were not going to happen anyway.  This sounds like magic; however it’s not; they have started something, and when you start something, a shift occurs in how you do things; opportunities present themselves, opportunities that you hadn’t seen before.

Here is how to make something happen:

  • Be willing to fail.
  • Keep your word.
  • Measure for results.
  • Be willing to be held to account.
  • Be responsible for what happens in your business.

And yes, a person can do it by themselves and some do.  However, having a trusted adviser or mentor engaged with you, the process goes faster and usually is a lot more fun.

If you are stuck and want some support, please contact me.  Together we will start something!

 

Image courtesy of Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What Is Your Next Play?

7.22.15We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.

-Randy Pausch

As a business coach I work with highly talented, diverse entrepreneurs.  In order to provide the best coaching for each one, it is useful to step back to observe how the client deals with challenges.  In regards to solving challenges, there is no one way suits all response to a challenge.  I find that many of my clients think there is a manual about what they should do to be successful, but it must be a secret manual since they haven’t been able to buy it at the bookstore.  The result is torturous hours of second guessing about what is the right thing to do in order to succeed and turn the challenge into a success.

When I find one of my clients in the grip of this, I suggest that he begin to look at why he is responding to the next challenge that way.  Another way to say it is, what is the payoff in the delaying technique of second guessing yourself?  What is keeping you from being in action right now?

Usually, the blocking point is you are afraid you will do the wrong thing.  If you do the wrong thing, you will waste his time and money, if you waste time and money then you will fail.  The result is that everything stops.  It is a vicious circle of spinning wheels.  The fastest way to get out of the spin is to be courageous and do something even if it’s wrong.  If you do something wrong then you know that that action doesn’t work; you still have a number of actions to try, one of which will always lead you to meeting the challenge.

The point, as Randy Pausch said, is how we play the hand.  Do we hide in indecision or do we move boldly forward.  I am betting you choose the latter because you prefer action not indecision.  You are brave and a winner.

I am here in the stands cheering for you!

 

Image courtesy of hin255 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net