The Popular Advice That Could Kill Your Business

Career-Advice-Featured, Small Business, Planning
Run, don’t walk, away from these all-too-common words of advice.
Small-business owners get unsolicited advice everyday. Some of it can be very helpful, some of it is better off ignored. If you hear any of the “words of wisdom” listed below, our advice to you is to smile, say thank you, and move on.
Good things come to those who wait.
If you follow this advice, you may be waiting a very long time for success.
Better advice: Small-business owners need to be aggressive and go out and grab opportunities as they happen. You are responsible for initiating your success.

Failure is not an option.
Unfortunately, it is the most likely outcome in any small business venture.
Better advice: Accept failure, learn what you can, let go of it, and look for another opportunity to succeed.

Do what you love and the money will follow.
In the ideal world, this would always be true.
Better advice: The money will follow if you find something you are passionate aboutand you’re selling a product or service your customers need or want.

The customer is always right.
If the customer was always right then it would be too expensive for any company to stay in business.
Better advice: Listen to the customer’s concerns and show empathy in proposing solutions to their problems.

Think outside the box.
Sometimes ideas so far outside the box will make a small-business owner go broke because customers won’t pay for it.
Better advice: Look inside the box for constant problems customers still pay to solve.

Never give up.
This hard fast rule can lead to bankruptcy. Don’t go down with the ship!
Better advice: Follow Kenny Rogers’ advice and “know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em”.  Successful entrepreneurs know when it’s time to close down their business and look for a new start.

If you are not hiring, you are not growing.
Successful businesses are not measured in the number of employees, but in the profit (cash flow) they generate for their owners.
Better advice: Get the right resources (employees, freelancers, vendors) to get the job done most effectively.

Separate out your business and personal life.
In the world of the Internet-enabled smartphone, it is nearly impossible to separate these two worlds. Better advice: Merge your business and personal aspects into one happy life. But establish business free zones (like the gym, dinner table, bedroom or vacation) so you are able to recharge.

Never leave money on the table. This strategy is greedy and shows short term thinking. It can also blind the small-business owner to additional objectives, or big-picture thinking and planning.
Better advice: Emphasize long term relationships so annuities with vendors and customers can be built to maximize their lifetime value.

Always be innovating.
While it is important to evolve and change with the market, innovation should not be done for its own sake.
Better advice: Consistently ask customers and survey competitors on new ways to solve problems.

If you want it done right, do it yourself.
If you follow this strategy, you will always be working. You will have built a job, but not a company.
Better advice: Find leverage in your business by training employees to do tasks that will leverage your time. Later, bring in a team that is better at these tasks than you are.

If you build a great product (or service), customers will come.
While this may work in the movies, it never is effective in business. If your product can’t get found, it will never be chosen.
Better advice:  Set up a consistent system of sales and marketing so customers can find your product when they are looking.

Business is about taking big risks.
This is a surefire way to go out of business and never have the financial resources to recover.
Better advice: Take small risks and analyze the results. Business is ultimately a series of small decisions and incremental steps.

Don’t quit your day job.
Many entrepreneurs are told to keep their start up as a hobby and don’t risk doing it full time.
Better advice: When you have enough customers to support your minimum overhead, jump to doing the business on an exclusive basis. Only with complete focus will you be able to grow the business to its full potential.

Everything is fair in business.
You will be surprised what people have the audacity to do in business, and no not everything is “fair” in business, and what may be considered “fair”, it isn’t always right.
Better advice: Think about the code of conduct with which you want to conduct your business. Train your staff to stick to it.

You can’t change the world.
You are told you will never have enough resources to really make a difference.
Better advice: You actually can change the world. As a small-business owner, focus on doing it one customer at a time.

You must first write a detailed business plan.
Business plans are totally overrated. They typically are a series of assumptions that never come true.
Better advice: After writing the initial business plan, get customers to validate assumptions or help morph to a more profitable path.

Business is about having a great idea.
Many entrepreneurs think they have to protect their innovative idea or sometimes even want to sell it.
Better advice: Business ideas are meaningless if you can’t back it up. Success is really about taking action and finding the right team to work with to build a company.

Quit while you are ahead.
This is a fearful and fatalistic approach to business.
Better advice: Find out how you can build on the success that you have already achieved that can minimize some of your risks going forward. If you feel comfortable, take some money out of the business as financial insurance.

You have to spend money to make money.
Many vendors say you have to invest a lot of money to build a business.
Better advice: Having too much money will make you frivolous with it. Most businesses are started with less than $10,000. As a small-business owner, it’s your money so be cheap. Only spend money on things that are testable, trackable and repeatable.    —-Barry Moltz

 

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5 Reasons Your Employees Probably Hate You

employees, boss, leadership, relationship, retention

 

Many years ago I worked for a company whose CEO was a stickler for how many hours employees worked. He made a point to note who came early and who stayed late. He considered anyone who didn’t a slacker.

As far as I know, nobody ever told him how shortsighted his approach was. Instead of rewarding results, he rewarded butt-in-chair time. Instead of focusing on output, he focused on input. Most hated the practice, but nobody told him.

How many of your behaviors drive your employees silently crazy that you don’t know about? Here are five leadership missteps to look out for:

1. You reward the wrong things. 
What gets rewarded gets done. It is such a familiar axiom of management that it is nearly cliché. It is, however, completely true. Where you focus your attention focuses your employees’ attention. What you notice, note and reward will get done more frequently.

Identify and focus on the results that matter. And don’t be like the executive above who confused activity with accomplishment.

2. You don’t listen. 
Even if your employees told you about a qualm of theirs, you might not really hear them. It is too easy to be distracted and pre-occupied.

Becoming a better listener is actually quite easy. When an employee is in your workspace to talk, turn off your email alerts, close your door and let your monitor go into sleep mode. Give your undivided attention to the person in front of you. They will feel you value them, and you’ll likely increase the quality and speed of the interaction.

3. You don’t notice what your employees are doing.
Brittney was a financial manager at a client firm. She was bubbly and outgoing. She also had the ability to draw attention to her “contributions,” though many weren’t that significant. Employees hated her self-aggrandizement. But they also disliked that management noted Brittney’s efforts because they were easily observed. Leaders didn’t pay attention to the good and often better work others were doing.

Great work is often done backstage, out of the spotlight. The glitter of self-promotion doesn’t blind great entrepreneurs. They seek out those people doing good work and make it a point to notice. Pay attention to people who do good work and let them know. And don’t get suckered by people who are better at promoting themselves than producing results.

4. Your attitude sucks. 

Bill is an entrepreneur who constantly complains about how terrible his employees are at delivering customer service. He berates and belittles even their best efforts. And yet he’s puzzled why those same employees treat customers poorly. The irony escapes him.

Attitudes are contagious. Mirror neurons pick up on and are affected by the moods of those around us. Leaders are especially powerful in influencing the mood of those on their team.

Don’t expect others to be more upbeat than you or treat customers better than you treat them. There are a few entrepreneurs who might have dodged this bullet, but not enough to be statistically significant. Your attitude is contagious, so pay attention to how you act at work each day.

5. You can’t keep your mouth shut. 
A young entrepreneur we will call Bob loved to share insider information about others. At one after-work beer session, he shared something HR told him confidentially about a coworker who was not at the gathering. It was less than flattering and was instantly off-putting to those in the group. The employee, a valued and productive member of the team, learned of the betrayal of confidence and was outraged. She left the company soon after.

Don’t think that trust can be effectively compartmentalized. If you’re known to be untrustworthy in your personal life, few will trust you in your professional dealings. If people don’t trust you, they will follow, but out of compliance instead of commitment.

No one is a mind-reader. If you want to find out why your team is dissatisfied to be a better leader, work on building trust and being equally open to both good and bad news. Ask them what they really think. And most importantly: listen.                 -Mark Sanborn

Finding Leaders Starts by Listening

 

 

 

 

This morning I commented on an article in a Group I’m in on LinkedIn. It was an article about the gender gap and why men are still paid more than their female counterparts. My comment on that article is that I believe a change will come, where women will become more recognized for their leadership style and therefore this will eventually cause the gap to narrow. Immediately after I made that comment I saw an article written by Lou Adler and wanted to share it with you…it supports my point!

leadership, vision, execution, CEO, leadership

If I had a bigger napkin I would have written this:

The Less Simple Formula for Assessing Leadership = Identify the Problem, Find a Solution, Develop a Workable Plan, Inspire Others, Deliver the Results

The story started many years ago, but was retold last week while having breakfast with a former client. The napkin was handy. When a client, he was the CEO of a mid-sized company, and my search firm had placed most of his senior management team. Now he’s on the board of a dozen or so different charitable organizations, university groups, and privately held companies. In his new role he’s still confronting the same hiring challenges as before: finding enough leaders. My company today is no longer a search firm. We now help companies set up programs to find and hire leaders of all types. Sometimes these leaders are engineers, accountants or sales reps. Sometimes they’re business executives or someone working on the shop floor. Regardless of the role, it’s not hard to identify leaders when you know what you’re looking for. This is where napkins come in handy, at least as a starting point.

Before I started working with this CEO, I had an assignment with a major LA-based entertainment company looking for a corporate director of accounting. The ideal candidate needed a CPA from a top accounting firm, and at least 5-10 additional years of experience working at the corporate office of a publicly-traded company. One of my candidates for the role was a young woman who was a senior manager with one of the major accounting firms. While her clients were publicly-traded companies, she didn’t have any hands-on industry experience. More challenging, she only had seven years of total experience, not the 10-15 listed on the job description. There was no question she was an exceptional person, and the VP Controller was more than willing to meet her. After the interview we both agreed she was a very strong person, but too light for the position. She never got this message.

Before I could break the bad news she wasn’t going to be considered for the job, she said something like, “I don’t want this job the way it’s currently structured. There is no way anyone could accomplish the overhaul of the department as defined given the resources and time frame currently specified. If you want me to consider this job there are five things that must happen.” She then spent another 10 minutes describing what she needed in terms of resources, staff and system support including a rough time-phased implementation plan. It was a remarkable plan. So remarkable, I never had a chance to tell her she was not getting the job. Instead, I called the VP Controller, and told him he had to hear directly what this woman proposed, even if he didn’t hire her. He enthusiastically invited her back and with a few other directors in the room asked her to describe her plan for rebuilding the accounting department. After about three hours he made her the offer. She accepted. Eighteen months later she was promoted into a bigger job after successfully completing the initial project.

What this woman did was simply amazing. As a result, I started rethinking how the best people I had placed up to that point answered questions. The best engineers could always visualize the technical problem, figure out a way to solve it and put a plan together. One plant manager candidate put a plan together on a flip chart on how to set up a global manufacturing and distribution center. The best sales reps could develop approaches to handle the most difficult clients. YMCA camp counselors could develop daily activities to ensure even their quietest kids would have a great experience every day. And it goes on and on. The best people in any job, regardless of their age or level, can visualize the problem they’re facing and figure out a way to solve it.

But this is just the first step in leadership ….

But this is just the first step in leadership – having a vision and being able to articulate it. It’s not enough, though. Not only do you need a detailed plan once the problem is solved, but you also must implement the solution successfully. This requires obtaining the resources, developing and motivating the team, and committing to achieving the objective despite the numerous challenges and obstacles that will always crop up.

The ability to articulate a vision combined with a track record of achieving comparable results was how the two-question Performance-based Interview described in The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired was developed. One question involves asking candidates to describe how they’d go about figuring out how to accomplish a major objective or realistic job-related problem. The other question asks them to describe something they’ve done that’s most comparable. (Here’s a link to a summary of the Anchor and Visualize two-question process.) After asking these two questions a few times for your biggest job-related challenges, you can be confident about hiring someone who has the ability to both visualize a solution when combined with a track record of having accomplished something comparable. One without the other will be a problem.

Be careful. Too often we’re seduced by just the vision and the lofty ideas. Others become overly focused on technical brilliance, or a track record of years of experience. None of this is good enough. Competency without results is just mediocrity. Results without vision is just more of the same. Vision without the ability to deliver results is just a bunch of empty promises. With leadership, everything changes. It starts by listening.

The Future is Now – Humanize Your Product or Service or it Simply Won’t Sell

Future, Brand, Marketing, Culture, Selling, StrategyBrands often look to the future for clues on how to adapt to changing technology and culture. But much of what futurists say is coming can be acted upon today (e.g. human-centric branding).

To learn about what the future may bring to digital marketing, Dana Rousmaniere spoke with Gerd Leonhard, “one of the leading media-futurists in the world.”  Here are a few salient points from the from the discussion on the HBR blog of what this futurist envisions.

“You’re going to stop buying things from companies that don’t fit your values, just because you can’t see giving them the money.”

“All of the companies of the future will have one big job: to make sure that the customer feels cherished and safeguarded.”

“Data alone will never be enough. You still need to reach consumers on an emotional level. The bottom line for marketers will be that if a product or service isn’t humanized, it won’t sell – because buying something isn’t an intellectual process of saying “this could be useful”; it’s saying “I really want this.”

Why wait for the future to come?

I believe the future Mr. Leonard is painting is already here – or, at least his insights are ready to be put to use right now. Here’s how:

Make your brand, product, and services better fit with the needs, values, interests, and aspirations of people – so they can see the point of giving you the money.

Go beyond the concept of brand utility to brand feelings – make kick-ass products that solve problems AND do it in a way that make people feel cherished (valued, appreciated) and safeguarded (secure, protected).

Reach out on an emotional level – humanize your brand, products, and services in ways that break down barriers, encourage participation, and clear the path to decisions that benefit your bottom line.

Empathy, purpose, emotion – the keystones of success

Start with extreme empathy – put your business interests aside and come to understand what people are seeking on a very basic human level.

Embrace a purpose – one that takes your ambition beyond profits and shareholder returns and into the fertile grounds of meaning.

Create an emotional aura around your brand, product, or service – a unique set of emotions which make people feel gratified, which they readily internalize, and which influence the way they think, feel, and act on behalf of your brand – now and in the future.   – Jerry Holtaway, Emotivator Brand

 

ROLL WITH THE PUNCHES: BECOMING ‘STRESS HARDY’

Stress Ball

Stress is caused by three emotions: fear, anger, or sadness. The bad news is that you can’t avoid some stressors. They will always be part of life. What’s important is how you react to them. You trigger negative responses when you doubt your ability to cope with what life presents you. The good news is that we all have available to us many approaches to help reduce the harmful impact of stress. You can become “stress hardy.”

Stress is an inevitable part of life. The key is not to avoid stress, but to learn to recognize your own personal stressors and to develop coping mechanisms that will help you deal with unavoidable stress.

Here is a sequence of three steps that have been helpful to me in coping with stress–and that I have seen work for others.

 SELF-MONITORING

Lie down and get comfortable. Then mentally scan your body head to toe. Become a witness to your own stress responses by reflecting on any tension and on your emotions: fear, anger, or sadness.

 DETACH

Try to make a sudden break with the stressful situation by saying to yourself: “Stop!”

MEDITATION/DEEP RELAXATION

Slow your breathing, and count your breaths from ten to zero several times. Then again scan your body head-to-toe, first tensing then relaxing each part of the body. Let yourself feel inert (heavy or like jelly). Finally, focus on a pleasant thought, place, or image.

START A STRESS JOURNAL

A stress journal can help you identify the regular stressors in your life and the way you deal with them. Each time you feel stressed, keep track of it in your journal. As you keep a daily log, you will begin to see patterns and common themes. Write down:

  • What caused your stress (make a guess if you’re unsure)
  • How you felt, both physically and emotionally
  • How you acted in response
  • What you did to make yourself feel better

One other thing that has proven helpful to many is to develop some of the following habits of stress hardy people:

  •  Recognize your unique stressors.
  • Don’t let problems in one life area spill over to other areas.
  • See troubles as temporary (“This will pass”).
  • See meaning in troubles.
  • Focus on immediate matters: “What do I do right now?”
  • Don’t “awfulize.” Ask: “What’s the worst that can happen and how likely is that?”
  • Ignore others’ “shoulds”…as in, “You should . . .” Turn inward. Trust yourself.
  • Know you are not alone. Take consolation from knowing others face similar or worse problems.
  • Trust you can cope. Seek options. Don’t get trapped.
  • See the opportunity in troubles.

And finally, science proves optimists can better handle stress. So….. do you see the glass half full or half empty?

glasshalffull

The Power Of Thank You

Thank You, Appreciation, Employee Appreciation, Communication. Performance PraiseMost managers and supervisors know that the single greatest disappointment employees suffer in the workplace is the feeling that their hard work and effort goes unnoticed.  What most managers and supervisors don’t know is that the second greatest disappointment employees have is insincere or inappropriately applied recognition!  Does it seem to you that sometimes you can’t win?!  The fact is you can all win, and here is how you do it.

 First, you need to train yourself to constantly be on the look out for someone doing something right.  As managers, we typically spend way too much time dealing with hot spots or trouble issues.  Believe it or not, you have to develop the habit of seeking the good work that’s being done all around you.

 Second, take time to visit with your staff when there is not a crisis or a problem to deal with.  Sometimes a quick five minute meeting just to say Hi and let everyone know that they are OK is worth its weight in gold.  If the only time you get together is when something is wrong, how excited are your people when you call a meeting or when they interact with you?  The development of non-crisis interaction time is critical to team development and positive employee moral.

Third, learn the Power Thank You.  For a simple “thank you” to become a powerful, and motivational tool for managers and supervisor’s, simply apply these four basic rules:

  •  Be timely. After a few weeks the accomplishment is forgotten.
  • Be specific to something the employee accomplished, a task or goal completed.
  • Acknowledge the effort it took to complete the goal.
  • Address personally the benefits you and the company received as a direct result of this effort.

As a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst and Executive Coach, “One of the first things I look for in a President or CEO is how well they know, and then acknowledge, their employees efforts and tasks. A Chief Executive who can not only recognize an employee by name but also by task and accomplishment, well…, that’s a keeper.”

Here is a tip for those of us trying to build this idea into a positive habit … sometimes we’re busy and we forget about what’s really important.  To remind us to do the right thing, I ask my executives to start their day with three pennies in their right pocket. Every time they offer someone a power thank you, they move a penny to their left.  By the end of the day, all three pennies need to be in that left pocket.

 We spend more daylight hours at our workplace than with our families and friends so it is reasonable to assume that we should do all we can to make our work environment as pleasant as possible.  The Power Thank You is one way to support this philosophy.

Sharon Jenks, CPBA, is President of The Jenks Group, Inc. a CA based consulting firm that specializes in strategic planning and executive team development.  Sharon can be reached at sjenks@thejenksgroup.com

http://www.thejenksgroup.com

Why Things Don’t Get Done At Your Business

Excuses, Time Management, Management, Procrastination, Performance

Why Things Don’t Get Done At Your Business

The company hired a new employee. He was young, inexperienced but willing to work hard. The first day on the job he was sitting at his desk reading through the policy manual when out of nowhere someone down the hall shouted out “56!” and everyone in the office roared with laughter. A few seconds later someone yelled out “22!” and once again the office roared!

The next day the same thing happened about the same time. This time it was different people and different numbers. But, the end result was the same, everyone laughing and clapping hands! This went on all week, and the second week on the job, the new comer decided he would get in on the action. That day, after the second number was shouted out and the laughter followed it, he took the bold step of shouting out “43!” only to hear a deafening silence. Once again he shouted out “98!” and heard nothing. He was crushed. That afternoon he was called in to his supervisor’s office and told that he was not to participate in the afternoon session. He was told that he hadn’t been on the job long enough to be guilty of an excuse for not getting things done.

A few weeks back I spoke to a group of business owners and asked them why things didn’t get done around their places of business. Here were their responses:

1. Unscheduled customer calls

2.  “Emergencies”

3. “I’m too busy”

4. Procrastination

5. Lack of time management

6. Don’t know where to start

7. Lack of money

8. Reluctance to delegate

9. The copy machine is broken

10. Lost the file

11. Fear of failure

12. Fear of success

13. Loss of revenue

14. Fatigue

15. Depression

16. Employee absences

17. Economy

18. Travel

19. Family

20. Dog is sick and ate the paperwork

21. Email and Internet are distracting

22. Personal “to do list” gets in the way

23. Playing hooky

24. Project is too big

25. Don’t like the assigned job

26. The task is beneath me

27. Hope that the task will disappear

28. Don’t get paid enough to do that job

29. That’s someone else’s job

30. Possible war

31. “I’m leaving early”

32. “I’m arriving late”

33. “I’ need help”

34. “I don’t know what to do”

35. Left my briefcase at home

Each of these 35 items (and I am sure that with a little thought you can come up with hundreds more) is nothing more than an excuse. That’s right, an excuse.

The reason that most people don’t want to tackle a new task is that it is out of their comfort zone. It is up to those in charge to explain not only why the job needs to get done, but how it helps either the organization. It goes without saying that it might help the individual, because it expands their horizons and capabilities.

In a free market society you cannot just order people to do things. People will balk even if a paycheck is at stake if they do not see the logic or merit of a task. Some selling might be involved. To do this function, patience is needed.

Another piece that needs to be laid out clearly is the ultimate goal of the assignment. People need to see how the things they do fit into the bigger picture. This aspect may also require selling and patience. Providing a road map may not be easy, but it is necessary when dealing with a dedicated and educated workforce.

I encourage you to sit down with all of those you work with and make your numbered list of excuses. Hopefully it will not turn into a daily joke, but instead, a learning experience so that more is done at your place of business, without the excuses.