Finding the Light

Finding the lightIt was eight or nine years ago. I was relatively new to the area and was at an event. I didn’t know anyone there and found myself in a conversation that sticks with me to this day. He was an oncologist and talked about how much he loved his job. There was a lightness to him and it was clear his work was very meaningful. It surprised me. Wouldn’t that be one of the toughest jobs out there? But, he talked about how he saw the best in humanity. People realized what really mattered. It was fascinating listening to him. He could have looked through the lens of negativity and seen everything that was bad. He chose to see and focus on the positive side of what he does and his ability to help people see the best in their relationships and life.

That lesson is a good one for every part of life. The lens you look through defines what you see. From a business perspective, you’ll run across all sorts of people and situations every day. It can be easy to write off a coworker, customer or supplier based on a perceived negative interaction. But if you look through and try to see their intent, it may cause you to change the lens you look through to see that the way a message was sent and the way it was received were entirely different. How can you make sure you are looking through the positive lens of good intentions every day?

Are You At An Impasse?

Are you at an impasse?It was 5:30 in the morning. Light enough to see clearly, but not yet at the point where the sun had fully emerged. My dog was quiet in the backyard. When I looked out to see what she was doing, I was surprised. She wasn’t sitting on her normal spot on the deck. She was locked in a standoff with an opossum. There they sat for twenty minutes, staring, not moving, undistracted by anything else going on around them. They were at an impasse.

How often do you find yourself in an impasse in business? It could be with a customer, different departments within your organization, or between individuals. Many times the resolution is either a loss of business, or one party being happy with the result and the other disappointed. The key to resolving the impasse is finding the motivating factor for each party, not what was initially asked for. It is possible to break through an impasse and find a win/win situation. How are you breaking through your impasse? And more importantly, what approaches are you putting in place to ensure you don’t wind up in an impasse again?

20 Tips for Making Your Business Hum

how to make your business hum

 

If you saw City Slickers, you’ll remember Curly holding up his finger and stating there is one thing and you need to stick with it. For a business, that one thing is being clear about your purpose. From there, there are a number of little things that are needed to make your business hum. Here are twenty tips to help you do just that:

 

Your purpose and how it shows up every day

  1. Be clear about who you are and what you do
  2. Make your values known and only hire people who are aligned with your values
  3. Find the balance between having a Taj Mahal and looking like you are going out of business. People need a decent environment to be productive and to be engaged
  4. Get rid of the things that are hard. Doing business for and with you should be easy
  5. Constantly innovate to stay relevant, provide value to customers and outperform the competition

You at your best

  1. Eat well, get enough sleep and exercise regularly. These are necessities for keeping your mind clear and focused, and managing stress
  2. Minimize meetings. There are typically only a few that have any real value
  3. Focus on return on your time. Spend it on things that matter and not just the things that pop up
  4. Surround yourself with people who inspire you, stretch you and bring out your best thinking

Teams that outperform their competition

  1. Hire the best people, align goals and allow them to make decisions. Be clear about responsibilities, accountabilities and decision making
  2. We vs. Them. Them is the competition, not coworkers
  3. Ensure you have all the skills and capabilities at the table so you are making informed decisions
  4. Engage with the best partners, whether investors, suppliers, bankers, etc. They will round out your knowledge and team with you to grow and innovate
  5. Meet with your customers to strengthen relationships, align on how you can best work together
  6. Walk around and talk to the people in your business every day and visit remote locations frequently

Keeping score and outperforming

  1. Set the bar high to cause people to think, stretch and achieve more. At some point, you’ll realize you actually set the bar too low
  2. Know the drivers of your business and how they are performing
  3. Understand your business cycles and how to adjust up and down as the market changes. Companies that outperform act before their competitors
  4. Know when, where and how to invest to grow the business
  5. Act quickly with good, but imperfect information. Speed is more important and course corrections can be made along the way

 

The Feather Pillow

the feather pillowThe sounds of thudding on the roof were loud and unexpected. After a moment, I realized the sounds were not coming from the roof, but the second story. What was she up to? And just then, my dog appeared. She was quite pleased, smiling broadly. With a feather in the corner of her eye. She had just shredded a feather pillow. Thousands of small feathers were scattered across my room. A mess to clean up, and, given the quantity of feathers, I’m sure they will continue to pop up over the coming weeks. She was just being a dog and enjoying herself while she shredded away. And while she has learned a lot about manners in the relatively short time I’ve had her, clearly there is more work to do to set the boundaries and expectations.

People in business do what they think is natural and right every day. They are proud of their work and eager to show it to you. And sometimes, as they stand there proudly, you will be shocked and dismayed. You know that like the feather pillow, there is a mess to clean up and there will be lasting effects. But before you go ballistic, think about whether you have set expectations. Your people are likely doing their best with good intentions, but may not be clear about expectations. How are you making sure you don’t have a feather pillow moment of your own?

Time is Your Most Precious Resource

Time is your most precious resourceIt is Monday. How often does this happen? You walk into work and look at your calendar to find a series of meetings, many of which you dread. Maybe they don’t have an objective designed to get to decisions. Maybe they are designed to share information that can be done via memo instead of a meeting. They are all time sucks that have a low return on your time. But, because they all appear urgent, you spend your time there instead of sitting back and determining whether the activity needs to be happen or can happen a different way. The reality is, you only have so much time in a day and it should be spent on in the highest impact areas.

Time is the one thing you can’t get more of. You can always find more money, equipment, etc. I don’t say that lightly, because finding more of those can be hard. But once time is gone, it is gone.   And we all have a finite clock that we work with, so where we spend our time matters. What actions are you taking to make sure you are spending your time wisely?

Knowing the levers

knowing the leversDo you know how much money you make on each of your products or services? Almost everyone I have worked with over the years says unequivocally yes! The only thing is, they really don’t. Over the years, a series of allocations and convoluted processes have been developed to try to understand better where money is being made, only to obscure the real profit drivers. Costs get divided into buckets, then divided again, and again so that the true cost is no longer understandable. As times changes, levers get pulled and the results are not as expected.

To regain control of the business, the first thing that needs to be done is peeling numbers apart and making them understandable. Getting away from allocations that distort the numbers is critical. Income statements should reflect the business with key drivers on separate lines. Most importantly though, is getting to profit by product or service. Getting as close to actuals as possible is important because if there are variances developing, that should be a signal to look at price, or that cost controls need to be put into place. The effort in going through this type of approach will highlight key levers in the business and provide information to make better decisions in how the business is run.

Creating a raving fan from a service hiccup

creating a raving fanIf you have a hiccup in service, this is the way to make a raving fan. We all know traveling isn’t what it used to be, breathing a sigh of relief upon arriving at the final destination. This time, the adventures weren’t quite over when I arrived ready to check in at 4:30. The receptionist advised me that my room wasn’t ready yet and would be in about an hour. Without any prompt or comment from me, she offered to buy me a cocktail in the bar for my inconvenience. By 5:00 my salad from lunch had worn off and I decided to have a few oysters to go along with my champagne. Not a bad way to pass the time. 6:00 rolled around and my room was ready. I stood up, asking the bartender for the check, expecting to pay for the oysters, etc. He said it was all taken care of. At the Four Seasons San Francisco, they know how to deliver top end service and turn what could be a frustrating situation into a pleasant one, creating a raving fan.

Service interruptions happen for one reason or another. Many times the response from the person delivering the bad news is “it’s not my fault” that you are not getting the service expected. And it is not. But the person on the receiving end doesn’t care whose fault it is, They just want what they believe they paid for. That is where the company has the ability make either a raving fan or a disgruntled customer. People on the front line have a tough job. Giving them the training, flexibility and authority to create a good experience is what differentiates companies with good customer experiences from those that you see in the news or on social media. How are you empowering your people to create raving fans?

Are You Good or Lucky?

Are you good or lucky?Do you ever drive down the freeway and see people driving at 60 miles per hour or more with less than three car lengths ahead of them? Not a day goes by that I don’t see this many times over. And, there are typically a number of people driving in blind spots. It is surprising that there aren’t more accidents. The reality is, there is not enough room to stop at that speed and that distance should the need arise. The drivers are lucky, not good. But, they think they are good drivers due to the absence of accidents.

Do you have this situation in your business? Is the measure of success the lack of something bad happening? If so, it is time to take a step back and look at the risk factors in your business. High performing companies know their risk factors and they know the levers in the business to pull at the appropriate times. Their measures of success are positive measures of their performance. How are you making sure you are good, not lucky.

Your pace will determines your success

Your pace will determine your successLots of good ideas and good people exist in the world. The ability to turn them into a product or service that is valued and sought after in the marketplace is many times a function of pace. Pace, speed, sense of urgency. It’s all pretty much the same thing. It is what sets high performing companies apart from average or below average performers.

So what is pace? It is the ability to make decisions quickly and the ability to adjust to changing market conditions before the competition. It is a workforce that knows the goal and starts shifting before being asked because conditions have changed. You see it walking around- people move quickly, conversations are focused and action oriented, you feel the energy and buzz just by walking in the room.

Companies that have figured out how to move quickly have a better chance of success than those that don’t. How are you picking up the pace?

Was figuring it out worth it?

is it worth figuring outHas this ever happened to you? You get asked a question and think “I need to find the answer to that,” or you start a puzzle and just have to figure it out. It takes longer than you thought it would. Much longer. After hours dinking around trying to figure it out, you realize you just burned valuable time. It just wasn’t worth the amount of time you spent trying to figure it out.

Before you get stuck in this trap at work, ask yourself:

  • Is figuring this out worth it?
  • Am I the right person to figure it out?
  • Would you pay the amount of money out of your own pocket that the time costs?
  • If the right person is someone else, is it worth disrupting their efforts to figure it out?
  • What is the real value to figuring it out?
  • Can it lead to innovations in your business?

Sometimes figuring it out has significant value. Many times it doesn’t. How do you assess whether it is worth it to figure it out?