Its not over till its over

its not over till its overThe long, cold winter led to a late start for the strawberries. It seemed like a short and intense season. After a few weeks, the disappointment set in that there did not seem to be any more strawberries in the patch. But on closer inspection, there were quite a few lurking below the leaves. With a sweep of the hand, the brilliant red berries gleamed in the sun. It took a bit more work to get to them. But, they were the best of the season. Had I given up on the patch, I would have missed the best part.

That is the funny thing about business. Sometimes we give up too soon and miss the fruits of our labor. There is a fine line between reaching peak potential and moving on at the right time. You have to keep a keen eye to understand the business landscape and when the season is shifting, indicating it is time to move on. How are you keeping your eyes open and moving on at the right time?

The Character Actor

the character actorIt was the end of the day. I sat down and turned on Murder She Wrote. Clearly not in first run, the episode was from 22 years ago. As with many episodes, the actors are recognizable today, even if they weren’t that many years ago. But, I couldn’t quite place one of the people. I know I had seen him in something else, but what? Thank goodness for imdb. Very quickly, I was able to locate the actor. He has been in many movies and tv shows over the years that I recognized. With the search results in mind, it was obvious. He had mastered his craft so well that I did not know his name. He was familiar. But only because of his face. His craft let him be who he needed to be at the time. A character actor. A jack of all trades.

The jack of all trades is crucial to many organizations. It is the glue that makes things work. They go from role to role and perform it well. But somehow the people aren’t recognizable. Only that they are a critical player in the show. The thing is, the show doesn’t go on without them. Who are your character actors? How do you celebrate their importance?

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

 

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?

The Aha Moment

the aha momentIt is funny how topics seem to come up in swarms. This week the subject of the Aha moment popped up several times. Each conversation had remarkable similarities to the others. Each was a story teaching a new concept. Sometimes the explanations for the change came in multiple forms and forums. At some point, the light goes on and people get it.

People learn in different ways and in different forms. Some do better seeing the information in writing. Others prefer hearing information. Change takes repetition, and lots of it. People need to understand why the change is happening and what is in it for them. At some point – and you won’t know when it will happen – people will get it. How are you helping people in your business reach the aha moment?

What got you here isn’t going to get you there

what got you here won't get you thereOver the last few weeks, I’ve had conversations with a variety of people through different groups, all of whom have a different focus. The commonality is, each person is looking to take themselves or their organizations to the next level. They have all done well in the past, but to get to that next level, new skills are needed.

It’s a pretty basic concept, but one that isn’t always considered. It requires reflection, asking questions, self-assessments, and perspectives from others. The key is to identify what is needed to be successful in the future. What are the skills needed? What is that unique perspective that makes a successful business or leader? What skills and perspectives do you or your business possess today? What do you need to do to bridge that gap to where you want to be?

You’re a natural!

you're a naturalIt was one of those flattering moments when a peer said I was a natural. The reality is, I’m not. It had taken hard work over years to get to the point where I was ok. But it was a good reminder of a conversation I had years ago. I was speaking with a gentleman who was responsible for investor relations for our mutual employer. He was incredible to watch! He always greeted people warmly with their name and was solely focused on them. He was welcoming, always in command of facts, and never seemed to be ruffled. One day I asked him if he came by it naturally or if he had to work at it. He shared openly how hard he had worked over the years to develop his skills. Once he developed the skills and made them habit, it then became easy to continue them.

The reality is operating a business well is the same way. It takes a lot of hard work to make things look natural and easy, pleasing customers, partners and employees. Once the hard work of getting to where things work well and become habit, it is then easy to maintain and becomes second nature. What steps are you taking to make things look natural in your business?