Why I Love What I Do. (And Why You Should Love What You Do Too!)

13 09 2011

I am pretty lucky. I have a business where I get to work with great people every day. As part of what I do, I am able to help my clients build wealth, grow their business into an appreciable asset, and reduce some of the stresses caused by various leadership challenges. The greatest blessing is doing what I love. Each day I get to utilize my talents to help make other people’s lives richer. But isn’t that what we all want?

Some of us get stuck in jobs that don’t make us happy. They can feel lost, trapped, or unmotivated. Their ability to shine with their true gifts are doused by the fear that doing anything different would lead to financial ruin. After all, we are all told how bad the economy is out there. What if you could put that fear aside for a moment? If you could do anything you wanted in life, what would you do? What is currently getting in your way?

These were all questions I faced over seven years ago before launching this company. That time was scary. After all, being on your own takes away any safety net that you have. To me, what was more important was doing what I wanted to do. What I could be the best at. I wanted to enjoy getting up every day and dealing with new challenges. This business has given me that opportunity and I am glad to have taken the risk. If you are in a position that is not fulfilling, there are things you can do to avoid feeling trapped. Making the effort and choosing your path can be the most rewarding thing, but only if you take the steps necessary to be successful.

  1. Do a talent inventory – Know what you are the best at.  Figure out what you enjoy doing.
  2. Make it profitable – Just because you are good at something doesn’t mean it will be profitable.  Figure out how to make money doing what you love.  There’s enough starving artists out there and you shouldn’t be one of them.
  3. Have your plan – Know how you are going to find customers and how you are going to grow your business.  Failure to have a plan can leave you as an employee in your own company.  Seek ways to build wealth so your efforts can be multiplied.  This is the biggest challenge most small business owners face.
  4. Pursue life-long learning – Educate yourself.  Seek knowledge.  Grow your mental strengths.  There is a lot of free information out there, but don’t be afraid to pay for the right knowledge.
  5. Surround yourself with successful people – There is no shortage of people who will shoot down your dreams.  Find those who will lift you up and support you.  Join entrepreneur groups, mastermind groups, leadership groups, or mentor programs.  Find someone to help keep you on track and focused on your goals.  Learn from them to avoid mistakes that could cause you hardship.

Taking these five steps can be very helpful in your career growth.  These skills will be necessary whether or not you are planning on going into business for yourself.  Do what you can to eliminate your fears and do what you love doing.  You will be happier for it





The Impact of September 11

12 09 2011

Yesterday marks 10 years since the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington DC, and the failed attempt which led to the crash of flight 93 in Pennsylvania. Over the past week, many of my friends and colleagues have reflected on this event and how it changed our world. Like many, I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the news first broke. In the weeks following the incident, we became a unified nation committed to overcoming our differences and moving forward through our pain. Ten years later, life has moved on. The pain and grief are still there though more subdued compared to a decade ago.

Though our world changed, we still enjoy a good quality of life here and we owe much to those who have given their lives for the freedom we sometimes take for granted. Today we face new challenges with mounting debt and a sluggish economy. These too can be overcome if we commit to the same resolve we had on that fateful day. It involves each of us taking an active role in growing this nation. We must be accountable. We must be responsible and we must use our strengths to innovate and compete on a global scale. I hope we can learn how to come together to get things done much like our grandparents did in World War II. They sparked a growth in this nation that continued a generation of prosperity. We too have to tap into that work ethic and provide direction and leadership not only for this generation, but future ones as well. Remember September 11. Remember how it unified us towards a common cause and let’s apply that to the other challenges we now face.





Short Week Equals Short on Writing. So Here’s an Article From a Friend.

7 09 2011

Believe it or not I took the holiday weekend off and spent time with family.  Now with the short week I have been playing catch up on work so until my posts start again tomorrow, I invite you to view an article from a friend and colleague of mine.

John Ingrisano is a fellow consultant and he puts out some pretty good stuff.  I liked his recent article and think it is well worth sharing.  Read and enjoy!

To Survive the Recession, Ditch the Hunker-In-The-Bunker Mentality





What a Three Year Old Can Teach Us About Business

1 09 2011

Today marks the first day of school in our area. It is time to get back into our “school” routines with early drop offs and homework. Our daughter who does a poor job pretending like she doesn’t want to be there couldn’t hardly wait for the car to stop in front of the school so she could get out and see her friends.

We have one more that will be going to school soon. At the ripe old age of three, he enjoys running around in order to keep his parents young. Right now he does not have to worry about teachers or homework. He can just spend his time being a little boy. Ahh, youth. There is something about the attitude of a child that reflects on the work I do with businesses. I’m beginning to think he’s the one who has it all figured out. There are pieces of our childhood that are lost as we grow older and become more mature. It turns out some of those elements are critical to the growth and innovation of a company. Not to mention they could really improve the environment we work in.

  1. Be your own person – At the age of three, we worry less about what others think of us.  That freedom allows us to figure out who we are and be who we truly want to be.  As we get older, the can’ts, shouldn’ts, and won’ts flood in and start restricting our behavior taking away who we truly are.  In business, these are the same things that squash ideas and creativity.   It forces culture to change because “that’s not how you do business.”  How would your company change if you pulled the restrictions that held people back?
  2. The laws of physics do not apply here – In the mind of a child, creativity is infinite.  My son’s ability to create elaborate stories and design his own definitions of how things should be is fun to watch.  Children live in the world of “what if” before they reach the world of “what is”.  In their minds they can become anything they want and create a whole new set of rules around it.  As we get older, many of us lose this creativity.  It gives way to the real world where rules and order apply.   Yet you look at some of the most innovative companies in the world today and they embrace creativity.  Ideas flow freely.  The focus is placed on how CAN we do this vs. why we can’t.  Maybe it is time to tap into our inner child again?
  3. They keep it simple – Sometimes knowledge is restrictive.  At three, you look for taking the fewest steps to get what you want.  You don’t worry about complicating things.  While the world of a three year old may not be as complex, they also don’t look to over-complicate things.  If there were ways to simplify your business, what would it do for you?  For your people?
  4. Boundless curiosity – In your youth everything is new and exciting.  For our three year old, when we take trips to different places we call them adventures.  Each place is wonderful to him when it’s an adventure.  This time of discovery and curiosity makes things fun and opens their world to new possibilities.  Why is a popular question at this age.  That sense of adventure and discovery is something that can be lost as we get older.  How would your business improve if your leadership and staff asked why more often?
  5. Focused determination – Children tend to embrace one thing and go after it with reckless abandon.  They become experts in their passions and learn everything they can about their favorite toys.  They also are clear about what they want and can be very determined to get it.  Sometimes that wreaks havoc on parents who are tired of hearing about the latest Barbie or Thomas toy.  Yet at the age of three everything is pursued with passion and determination.  How would increased passion and determination change your business?
  6. Desire to play – I remember once talking to a CEO about having fun at work.  His reply was this place (work) was for getting things done, not goofing around.  People should enjoy where they are at but it is not a place to have fun.  If the average person spends over 80,000 hours of their life at work, why shouldn’t there be some fun?  Children know how to play.  That play turns on different parts of the mind which leads to greater creativity.  In fact, at that age you are encouraged to teach children about work through play.  We make it a game to pick up his toys.  When it is a contest and it is fun, he readily participates.  What would happen if you injected a little play at your office?
  7. Don’t know that failure is an option – At three, you don’t worry about failure.  You are always willing to try new things.  With the right encouragement, children are often open to doing things they have never done before.  They are also more willing to get back up and try something all over again.  Fear rarely exists at this age.  Without the restrictive behavior of fear, children are open to more possibilities.  What would happen if you could take away the fear of failure from your staff.
  8. Live in the moment – Children are ever present.  They are tied into the world around them.  They live every minute of every day to their fullest.  They play, run, jump, laugh, and love.  They don’t check out.  What would change if you or your staff did this every day?  How would it change the relationships with co-workers and customers?  Enjoy every minute because once it is gone you can never get it back.
  9. Want independence – This is the age where kids first start stepping out on their own.  They want to do things themselves and are excited when they are able to accomplish tasks on their own.  As we get older, we continue to desire independence.  In the right work environment we are given responsibilities and are allowed to grow professionally.  Some workplaces want to restrict independence.  Places of high structure and low independence limits creativity and personal growth.  Often this is also a sign of micromanaging leadership that are overburdened with small tasks instead of visionary growth.  What are you doing to encourage independence with careers in your business?
  10. Willing to ask for help – Though the desire for children to do things themselves is strong; they are still not afraid to ask for help.  Somewhere along our path to our professional career, asking for help is often seen as a sign of weakness.  Actually, asking for help is a sign of strength.  Asking for help can avoid costly mistakes, allow you to get things done faster, and grow your knowledge  When was the last time you asked for help?

So parents, enjoy the first day of school.  They grow up to fast.  But most importantly, never forget how powerful the mind of a child truly is.  Take some time today to tap into some of that youth yourself.  Who knows, it may change things for the better.





When is OK No Longer OK?

31 08 2011

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a group of young professionals about leadership. During the discussion, the group brought up complacency. Their observation was that many people were just fine where they were at. One person recognized that people take into account what they hear in the news. “If we hear the economy is bad,” he concluded, “then I should be happy where I am at.” I can relate that to comments I hear from some business leaders who are happy to be doing as good as the market is. While they are not seeing growth, they are happy to at least be holding their own.

However, this satisfaction is not reflected in the news we hear. Confidence is at an all-time low. We point our finger at whichever political party or country we believe to be at fault. In the end we accept things for the way they are and move on. So when did OK become the norm?

In order to improve our outcomes, we must never settle. We must always strive to be better, both personally and professionally. When times are good, it is easy to hit cruise control. “Just keep the pace,” we say. When business drops off we wonder why. Fortunately there are leaders that say OK is not good enough. They continually strive to be better. That is what I saw in this group today. They were active, engaged and motivated. Their willingness to share ideas and be part of something bigger is exciting. In fact, their energy could help motivate others. For them, good enough isn’t good enough.

What about your organization? Are you utilizing the best talent to grow? Or are you willing to settle? You have the power to change the situation you are in. Accept the challenges around you and do something about them. More importantly, if you are unhappy or complacent about your current situation, only you can change it. Becoming settled is unsettling because if you are not willing to change your outcomes, someone else will do it for you.





What is Your Risk Factor?

31 08 2011

Business innovation, growth, profitability, and long-term success. These are traits virtually every business aspires towards. Yet how many companies do all these things? Do they all matter? What about stability, safety and being cautious in order to protect the business?

Many companies are risk averse but does that really equate to stability? If you were to speak to many leaders today they might say no. A bad economy will quickly expose what can be a company’s greatest weakness. Their unwillingness to change.

As much as we would like things to be the same, they never are and as much as we would like to avoid risk, we never can. In a recent New York Times article (http://nyti.ms/jobs_risk) Steve Lohr highlights the benefits of risk taking using the example of Apple and Steve Jobs. Because of Mr. Jobs willingness to take risks, Apple, Pixar and Next all benefited from his leadership. Apple has been the big winner. Under Job’s tenure, Apple has experienced an innovation premium with stock price. This premium is an investor’s bet that the future of the company will be even better than today because of innovation.

When done correctly, risk is actually the least risky venture of all. In order for innovation to take place, diversity in experiences, creativity and a willingness to experiment with new ways of doing things is necessary. However the greatest skills for growth are often the least developed. What are you willing to do to develop these skills in your company?





Growth is Out There. Are You Bringing Your Best Game to Get It?

29 08 2011

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit some friends at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. They are in the process of starting a museum in the area and I offered my assistance to help them on a big weekend. For those of you unfamiliar with the lake, it is a popular tourist spot south of Jefferson City. Its biggest activity: boating. For most of us here in the Midwest, we are familiar with a bass boat or small cruiser. At the Ozarks, you often see ocean going performance racers or large cabin cruisers because of the lake’s size. It is also in a beautiful part of the country that offers over 2000 miles of shorefront with all the little coves and inlets.

The reason I am bringing this up is to say that people are still spending money. This past weekend was Shootout, an annual event where everything from pontoons to fifty foot race boats compete for top speed on a stretch of open water as thousands of spectators watch. To say that the amount of money floating in the water is obscene would be an understatement. When many of these water-going projectiles can cost in the millions; and it is common to see several of these types of boats docked at any of the bars and restaurants lining the shore you can see that people are still spending money. Now they are just spending it differently.

While there I was able to talk with several executives in the industry as well as people who were there to enjoy the weekend. The business leaders were optimistic about their industry and were seeing a resurgence of buyers. They also admitted that the clients were the ones who were passionate about boating since lending practices have changed how people are able to afford these luxury items. People are still willing to spend, they are just more careful how they wish to spend their money. For their investment, they want more. If it is eating at a restaurant, the service has to be top notch. If they are buying products, they have to be high quality. Often the value of the item aligns with the values of the individual. That awareness is heightened in an environment where we are talking about a lifestyle.

As business leaders we are about creating experiences. Because people make their buying decisions based on emotion, we are continually pressed to make the experience the best one possible. Because our customers’ values are different we have to align the experience with their values. This is what makes business so challenging. We are always working to hit a moving target. The companies that are the best at this are growing and the businesses who fail to learn this are struggling.

This is why it is so important to know who your customers are. Learn which ones are the best. Understand what is important to them and why they would choose to do business with you. Also know which ones aren’t a good fit. You will never make everyone happy so spend your time making your best customers exstatic to do business with you.





What Businesses Could Learn From The Best Places To Live

24 08 2011

Recently Money Magazine’s “Best Places to Live” article was published.  Coming in at number eight was Middleton, WI which is very close to where I live.  Middleton, and Madison for that matter, are no strangers to being on the list of top places to live.  Both cities have continually received high marks for their quality of life.  But why here?  In case you haven’t noticed, we spend the better part of the year in cold and snow followed by a few months that are comfortable.  In the summer, it’s not the heat, but the humidity that gets you.  At least that is what I am told.  Regardless of the weather, we are still a top pick and I think there are a few things about great places to live that relate to business as well.

  • Great experiences – We are all about seeking pleasure and comfort.  Great communities find ways to provide that.  Each community on the list has plenty of events and attractions that provide these experiences.  Like in business, communities have the responsibility of keeping a wide variety of people happy.  How are the experiences you create keeping your employees and customers happy?
  • Security – Safety is important to many.  Great communities are safe communities.  People want to know they can do things without feeling threatened.  Can your people perform their job functions without feeling this way?  If you said yes, do the behaviors of your people exhibit that?
  • Education – Communities thrive on the availability of offering a great education.  Parents actively seek good schools that will provide their children with a future.  Is your company a great source of education?  Does your staff feel like they have a future with you?  Can they grow and develop to reach the desired level of success?
  • Opportunity – In difficult economic times, people will search out areas that provide opportunities.  Communities with a foundation of strong companies with secure jobs are a huge bonus.  Those jobs also have to provide opportunities for advancement and personal growth.  What steps are you taking to stimulate opportunities for your people?
  • Energy – By energy, I mean an engaging environment that stimulates the body and mind.  Both Middleton and Madison have plenty to do here.  There are a number of institutions for higher learning as well as access to bike trails, parks, music and live entertainment.  How is your business building the energy of its people?

These may be difficult questions for you to answer.  Given the economic state some businesses are in, these questions may be difficult to hear.  To some, the answers necessary may seem impossible.  After all, it is hard to invest when there are limited resources to make that investment.  What is important is as a business leader you need to find a way to address each of these challenges.  Failure to stimulate the mind and soul will leave your talent feeling empty and looking elsewhere to be fulfilled.





The Forest of Success is Hard to See With All These Darn’d Trees in the Way

23 08 2011

I came across this article about how tactics used to find jobs during the depression would be just as effective today. (http://on.wsj.com/wsj_jobs)  The article points out that while most jobs are found through personal relationships, people choose to use technology to seek employment. Instead of networking they post resumes on the internet and spend their days surfing the employment sites for the next opportunity.  During the depression if you didn’t leave your house to find work you didn’t get it.

It is human nature to seek out the path of least resistance.  “After all,” says the job-seeker, “I can send out 100 resumes instead of meeting three to four people.”  We all want the magic pill.  The thing that will produce the greatest result with the least amount of work.  Unfortunately we have to be aware of the unintended consequences.  For the job-seeker, it is greater isolation and actually MORE difficult to find a job.  For the business owner its relying on the next new marketing thing to generate increased sales.  Yet everything requires effort.  So is your effort well placed?  Whether you are looking for a job, or just seeking to grow your business, you need to follow these steps.

  • Know what value you bring – It doesn’t matter whether you are looking across town or on the other side of the world.  Understand your value to your customer.  What is unique about how you solve problems vs your competition.  Know why people hire you.  What unique traits do you possess that will attract clients to you.
  • Know your customer – Not everyone is your customer and yet we often use a very broad brush when describing who our customers are.  The broader the audience the more general the information you use to reach them.  If the information you use doesn’t resonate, you potentially lose a new client.  Define who your best clients are.  Only seek out those who best align with your business.
  • Know your experience – I am not talking about experience in terms of technical skills.  Experience is related to the outcomes you create.  Outstanding customer experiences are something worth talking about.  So are negative experiences.  Anything in the middle is a wash.  What type of experiences are you creating?  Don’t know?  Work with your best clients to figure it out.
  • Seek organic growth in addition to marketing growth – Imagine acquiring a new customer cost about $100 using traditional marketing.  How much is the cost of a referral?  Often is is significantly less.  Keep your current customers happy so they will want to stay with you.  Help your happy customers refer you new people.  The chance a referral becomes a customer is much higher than when you spend money on traditional advertising.  Use that marketing to strengthen your exposure and create awareness.
  • Everything involves effort – Success requires effort.  Nothing worthwhile is free.  Do what you need to do to be successful  Invest your time wisely and always look for ways to work “smart”.  If someone promises you an easy route that seems too good to be true, it probably is.

 





It’s True: If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, Then Any Road Will Get You There

22 08 2011

The HP Touchpad has been out about a month and it is already done.  In fact, I just saw an ad for it this morning which makes it ironic that HP would be discontinuing it so soon.  In fact, it looks like HP is giving up hardware entirely to focus on software and cloud technology which makes one wonder what they were thinking when purchasing Palm.

HP appears to be one of those companies that has been struggling to find its way in recent years.  Once a top innovator, they now appear to be a shell of their former self.  I have to ask what is their vision?  The ship seems to be sailing without a rudder and who knows what this latest twist will bring.  I remember reading about what HP did to inspire new ideas and get people to pioneer new technologies.  Recent years of mismanagement and false starts plus a strong focus on price has commoditized their offering.  We will see what HP becomes in the next few months.  I hope they are able to recreate the fire that made them great.

At times it is necessary to change direction from an established course.  However if that direction is not clear to your customer or your people you are in for a difficult ride.  As leaders we need to take the time to look beyond tomorrow.  All too often we get stuck in today.  So keep your head up.  Watch for opportunities.  Manage today yet plan for tomorrow.








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