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August 23, 2013

Assessment Comes First, Then Decide How To Fix It.

Every Business Has Its Own Nature To Respect
This message is offered as an example of how not to jump in and go fix a broken business model without first getting all of the useful information you need.  I will use a firefighting example.  I want to make it clear that in no way do I disrespect those who put their lives at risk every time they go to work.  Military services, public safety and several other professions involve great risks for losing a life.  We owe these men and women a serious debt of gratitude for the dangers they face in the work they do.  It is well above the call of duty.  I, in no way, would ever disrespect the kind of work they do.

That being said, I watched a small lighting fire get out of hand in a small community recently.  At first what seemed to be a small manageable fire quickly grew out of control and turned itself into something very dangerous.  It has not yet taken a human life but has destroyed homes, property and natures friendly ways where the fire damage has occurred.  It is still burning out of control.

One the third day of fire fighting, the local crews recognized the need to solicit more help.  The State dedicated the funds and the phone calls were made.  In short order hundreds of fire fighting crews from nearby regions headed to help fight this terrible fire.  The State sent in its State Fire Marshall's to oversee the early arrangements of the organizational post.  Several other leaders in the fire fighting community convened on the base to develop a game plan.  The next morning we witnessed hundreds of fire trucks, loggers, tractors, large bulldozers, fire trucks, tankers, helicopters and spotter planes moving about to go do their job to arrest this fire.  The winds were huge.  Fueling the flames was a 30 knot set of gusty winds moving the fire deeper into the upper hills and dry lands.  Some structures would be at risk with these fast moving flames.

The fire crews had their orders.  The game plan was put in place.  The maps, the satellite images, the radios, the computers and the technology was all fired up.  These leaders headed to that ragging fire with a very organized bunch of well-trained firefighters.  The day of attack was now in place.  The plan was full steam ahead.

By the end of the day, some progress had been made.  The winds won the day but the firefighters were able to get all of their heavy equipment placed well ahead of the fires path and begin breaking a large swath in the rugged hills for the fire lines they were making.  The plan looked good.  Their solutions were working.

Then came the next morning.  Miles above this hilly region is a great snow-capped mountain.  This mountain produces some very cool breezes that each morning draw down into the valleys until it reaches the large river at the bottom of all of the draws.  This nasty fire happens to be placed somewhere in the middle portion of one of those draws.  The heavy 30 knot winds of yesterday were being forced by nature to travel up to the mountain in those draws.  That caused the fire to move uphill, quickly.  This is exactly how the 'newcomers' in the area expected those winds to move.  They were correct with those assumptions yesterday.  That is why they had placed and arranged to move all of their heavy equipment up the rugged hills ahead of the fire.  They wanted to get well ahead of the fast moving flames and make a huge fire line to remove the material the fire could consume.  This way they could lower the intensity of the fire and put it out.  It would burn itself out.

However, first thing in the morning the winds shifted.  The cool air moved down the hill in completely the opposite direction where all of the fire fighting equipment was located.  The leaders of the fire crews got caught off guard.  They did not know about these unique pressures the sea, river, mountain and gorge designed regions produce.  Each morning the winds go the other direction until about 9 A.M. when they finally shift around as the land mass heats up for the day.  The cooler mornings produce moderate winds going downhill and northward.  This is exactly the opposite direction they were planned to protect.

Let's evaluate this scenario.  Page two.

August 18, 2013

How To Manage Disappointment In Business

Disappointment Can Become Very Ugly
Certainly the business world has grown up into this larger than expected set of complicated systems to manage daily.  The business world has also become increasingly demanding for processing added requirements in order to compete well.  We live in complicated times.  No business owner would disagree with these developments.  Our time has become very demanding and very slippery to navigate well.  Costly mistakes appear out of nowhere, sometimes more often than we care to admit.  Doing business in today's world can be some trying stuff.

Now add to this set of truths the wreckage of a poor economy and we have a tough recipe to place on our plate of responsibilities.  Every business owner who reads this kind of stuff can easily relate.  They have felt the negative pinch of all of these things in their recent years of business management.  Many of them still carry the current scars.

Disappointment has become a steady part of the business owners routine diet.  Downtown regions have suffered collectively in many local areas.  Mall consumer traffic in other regions has dropped off significantly.  Consumer activities have dwindled in many other areas of business design.  Online retailers are not producing the increases necessary to support the design, maintenance and marketing costs of what they are trying to achieve.  Disappointment is hovering above a lot of retail environments.

Add to this struggling consumer growth effect the idea that not all business systems are working healthy.  For those who have been able to produce a manageable level of increased sales revenues, other complications have taken them down the disappointment trail.  Human resources are strained, under-performing and increasingly expensive to manage well.  Increased health care costs are becoming a troubling line item to manage.  Property and location costs have become a new long term issue.  Marketing has become so much more competitive.  Communication demands and the issues related to improving communications have become part of the new massive demand on an already stretched level of time chip use.  Business leaders just are not able to efficiently and properly keep up with the silent requirements of their processing work demands.  Some important stuff just simply gets put off.  Disappointment grows.  It has become such a normal part of every business leaders day.  We are starting to get used to it.

How do we properly manage disappointment in our business world?  How do we help our self accept those things that occur outside of our normal levels of reasonable control?  How do we cope with the stuff that goes wrong because we were too busy doing other important stuff trying to survive?  How do we manage disappointment in this new complicated world?

Page two.

August 15, 2013

Own Up To Ownership, It's Just Good Business

Perspectives are fun when we get to see them change.  They are not fun when we recognize how deeply they can dig in.  I once had a business mentor who loved to suggest a lot of reading material for me to consider.  He loved the third party teaching method.  If I was short on my temper and patience he might suggest I read tolerance materials.  If I was long on egotistical attitudes he might suggest reading some humble pie segments.  His teaching was directive but left open for me to go pursue.  It was my choice to own up to the effort.  His teaching moved parallel with my acceptance to learn.  He watched my perspectives.

Perspectives cover a lot of ground, do they not?  I remember my first managerial job in Sacramento, California.  As I traveled up that corporate trail I met a few really good people.  Many of them were on that career trail trying to help me grow up and become a better business leader.  They offered me a useful hand to help me develop my business leadership skills.  I remember one particular lady who wore these interesting glasses lined with those designer croakies that attach to the side temples of the specs.  Hers were likely diamond designed.  She was very fashion oriented.  She also came from a family of some wealthy stock.  I do not think her exhibits of trinkets were costume jewelry materials.  They were usually items of the real McCoy.

When she would talk she would either have those glasses placed near the tip of her nose, or hanging down over her neck or better yet, on her face like glasses were meant to be worn.  Her croakies were there to help her wear those glasses at any location on her torso without taking them off.  She needed those glasses to be near her at all times.  Her glasses were both part of her sight requirements as well as part of her fashionable attire.  One thing I remember well was how I used to think elderly people used croakies to help them remember where their glasses were last placed.  I wore glasses but never owned any croakies of my own.  My perspective back then was camped on recognizing that these older people had memory issues.  They used croakies to help them keep that memory in check.  This way they did not need to remember where they set their glasses down when they took them off.  They could hang them around their neck with style, instead.

That was my original perspective.

Today, being quite a bit older myself, I think croakies are a very cool fashion feature on professional women.  Some look very good with them.  In fact, I am amazed at the incredibly cool fashion designs they are able to find.  Some croakies catch my attention.  Some croakies look as if a lot of thought was given to make those fashion statements work well.  Some look very expensive, too.  They become interesting accessory items to the attire of professionals.  In fact, I have noticed a lot of men wearing some very fashionable croakies as well.  Perspective.  It all centers around perspectives, does it not?  My perspective on this issue has changed since I was younger.

Perspectives become the steering wheel of our thoughts.  Our thoughts are guided by the perspectives we carry.  I am not sure what you think when you meet someone who wears some fashionable croakies on the temples of their eye wear.  If you think they look like older people, your perspective is controlling those thoughts.  If you think their croakies look cool and fashionable, your perspectives are still in charge of your thoughts.  Perspectives become the steering wheel of our thoughts.  They guide how we see the world around us.  This truth can become a challenge in the business world.  It can bring on some interesting views.

Perspective drives how we see our world as well as how we are being seen in this world.

Leadership is as much about managing perspectives as it is about doing successful things.  Our leadership habits are no different than how we are perceived when we wear croakies on our temples.  The perspectives of our influences, contacts and associates carry us through the maize of business complications.  Those perspectives govern how we are perceived, understood and respected.  The leaders who are most successful in the business world carry with them the best results of how others perceive what they are there trying to do.  It comes down to perspective.  That perspective helps others to grab onto that wheel of direction.  This is usually how business grows or suffers.  It comes down to perspective.

Page two.

August 12, 2013

How Much Praise And Approbation Floats Around Your Business Atmosphere?

I read the Wall Street Journal.  Mostly I read it daily.  I also read several other business related and economically focused publications.  Maybe I do not read all of them every day but I routinely pick them up to scour for some interesting information here and there.  Overall, not many of these forms for processing business information work extra hard on projecting an heir of positive print.  For the most part, they are very negative vehicles to read.  That is the nature of news, however.  It carries a slant towards negativism.  Just click the above link and go see what I mean.  Count the negative articles on the front page.  In fact, flip page to page and keep counting.  You will find a lot of negative news.

In fact, just pick up any local newspaper and read the front page headlines.  Each article on the front page will likely emphasize some form of wrong doing.  Bad news sells.  This knowledge is not a big secret.  We all know the truth about this human fact.  Humans love to find the junk in someone else's trunk.  We love to point out how rotten and terrible some other people have come to face.  We love to flash additional shocking news across a banner on the bottom of the television screen during a ballgame, a reality series or even during our regular news reports!  Seeing news banners flash across the bottom of a news program is almost as funny to witness as seeing a postal mail disposal box placed outside a local post office.  My goodness, why locate one at the post office?  You're there!  Why run the news flash banners on the evening news?  You're there!

The truth runs deeper than wanting bad news to happen.  We want it to happen quickly.  We seem to need more of it coming at a faster pace.  It fills up our bad news buckets a lot faster.  This is normal stuff to a human being.  We circle it like hungry wolves looking for our next kill.  We hunger to arrive with the next best secret of bad stuff news so we can remain on top of the negative pile.  We feel kind of out of touch when we do not know about how bad stuff is really doing.  When a bad news story is brought up by our co-workers and we look as if we have no knowledge of these events, our 'deer-in-the-headlights' appearance invites a swath of descriptions about that bad news from everyone else who is informed of the event.  They waste no time in bringing us up to date of the bad news.  It becomes much like a badge of honor.

Our need to fulfil this pattern is a stronger need than most would admit.  However, it drives the lions share of the information age tools that nearly every human being seems to carry along their trail of walking through life.  PDA's and mobile devices process millions of bad news stuff every single minute.  They even take the liberty to send you unsolicited Amber Alerts, on your dime, and nobody becomes offended for paying that cost.  It fits nicely into our realm of understanding.  We feel compelled to do our duty with this terrible bad news and help out.  Bad news sells.  It is one of those very best kept marketing secrets that a few business models have learned how to use to their best advantage.  Bad news sells.

Page two.

August 6, 2013

Is Your Business Path A One Way Road?

Success Is More About Learning How To Travel On More Than One Road
It takes a lot of courage to invest your life savings on a small business.  Tons of people do.  Building a small business is very risky stuff.  Building a small business not only consumes your money, it can devour your heart, your time and your family relationships.  Tons of people know that truth, too.  A small business can also consume your 'free spirit' and 'appreciation' for others.  Oh, it certainly does very well at that.  It slowly eats up these extensions of the soul.  The longer you work in your small business the more bitter you can grow to become.  Building a small business can become some of the most thankless work you will ever do.  Try one out and discover it for yourself.  You do not need to take my word for it.  Just go see for yourself.  It can be a tall mountain to climb.

For those who have never thrown their own wallet on the table by trying to build a small business, skip trying to understand these perspectives.  The perspectives in that first paragraph describe some realities that come home to many small business owners.  It would be an empty try for any employee to pretend to understand what a small business owner endures.  Only those who have felt these realities can understand and agree to what those words really mean in that first paragraph.  It is only information that small business owners may completely understand.  They 'get it' without much fanfare.

Building a small business can become some of the most trying stuff anyone could undertake.  It is not the work designed for a faint heart.  It most likely will take someone with a hardened soul to weather the challenges that come from the common bumps and bruises a small business produces.  Not many of those souls can remain positive about facing the mountain of challenges they manage each and every day.  Building a small business is very trying stuff.

What's more, when the going gets rough very few business owners will openly admit it.  They become masters at deception about how well they are not doing.  This is one of those silent protective coatings a small business owner develops to help them mentally survive the ugly stuff that comes with owning your own.  It is very common but extremely hard to detect.  Most small business owners become masters of deception when it comes to admitting they are not doing well.  They know all of the best tricks for sweeping ugly stuff under the rug.  It is what becomes a self-taught business owners most genius practices.  They get good at projecting a pretty picture.  They work silently on the art of giving off a good business odor.

This kind of activity grows with time.  It usually begins small and grows up as the business builds a larger head of steam over time.  A growing business brings with it some new requirements that offer challenges that a self-taught owner has never seen before.  More things sell, more stuff is purchased and more people are hired when the business spends time growing up and doing more.  This is very normal stuff.  The demand for practicing better business skills also grows.  With business growth comes an increased demand for learning the art of managing increased human resources that are required to assist the growth of the business.  These new efforts bring on their own set of challenging ways.  They come commensurate with the size of the business growth.  Larger business growth brings with it larger staffs, larger sourcing relationships and larger circles of needed influence.  All of these new relationships place increased pressure onto the miniature world of small business.  They command a good deal of the owners time.  They force that new business owner into learning more about doing stuff they have never done before.  The need to learn how to use this time efficiently becomes very slippery.  Most self taught business owners fall flat on their face with this terrible requirement.  They do not always know what they should or should not be doing.  It becomes a slippery slope of new beginnings that bring with it some long and disguised requirements that offer some efforts that risk delivering a long list of slippery losses.  This becomes what is known as the school of hard knocks.

The skills that are required to assist a growing business become complicated and shifty to understand.  Many self-taught owners find themselves struggling with performing the proper requirements these new and growing challenges bring to the daily grind.  They need help but avoid admitting it.  As a result, they try to tackle much of these new responsibilities with their lessons learned from the school of hard knocks.  As we all know, this is one of the most expensive schools any business owner can enroll to participate.  It brings with it some great lessons but most of them come with a huge cost.  Every small business owner gets to face this reality sooner or later.  It also becomes the great test that many do not pass.  Their results fall short of where they thought their business should be.

In time, after a long series of these kinds of tests and events the small self-taught business owner often times develops a bit of a hardened soul.  They become more cynical.  They feel less successful.  Their checkbooks are always stressed out.  Their human resources are usually more challenging to manage than they ever expected.  The public respect for what kinds of things they are going through seem almost crass.  They feel they are being treated wrongly, maybe even slighted a little bit.  Their zip, desire and creative energy is all used up.  It seems as though they struggle to find the spirit to go to work each and every day.  Bitterness has set in but they remain steadfast in their efforts to sweep all of this ugly junk right under the rug.  They have grown to believe that this is what it takes to operate a small business.  It slowly becomes a one way road.  The small, experienced business owner becomes their own worst enemy.  They walk down this one way road, all alone.

Page two.

August 4, 2013

When It Is Your Turn To Assist The Customer?

The Extra Mile Works Well When Customers Need Attention
When you start your business you are the only one who makes things happen.  You do the planning, the organizing and the selling.  You make the goods that you deliver.  You write the sales tickets, run the register and post the accounting.  You are the one who does it all.  That is how most small businesses begin their career.  Ground floor, wear every hat and see to it that everything right gets done on time.  You are off and running, doing it all.

As your small business grows you find you need help.  You get a bookkeeper, a sales clerk and a delivery person.  They help perform some of the tasks you cannot find time to do anymore.  That is how a small business grows up.  You learn some new things about leading employees.  You learn some new things about trust, training and differences of opinions about how things should actually run in your business model.  Not every employee you hire sees the landscape of operations the same way you do.  As a result, some new employment challenges arrive.  Those new challenges rub up against the way you believe things should run.  Now you need to find more time to manage those challenges.  To do that, you must learn how to delegate away some other things you were doing that consumed that time.  This process becomes an interesting test of your leadership character.  Your time chips become a monster management game.  Contrasting issues begin tugging at your sleeves.

Welcome to small business growth.  It brings with it some growing pains.  As time permits and lessons are learned, delegation becomes more important to understand and do.  As the years go by and your small business grows larger a completely different working world commands your time and responsibilities.  You no longer do the same functions that once dominated your daily routine.  What you did at work in the beginning phase of your business development is wholly different than what you do when it grows up larger.  The duties, tasks and functions you now supply are not the same roles you played in the beginning phases.  They are different roles.  They command different respects.

Your customers do not see this picture.  They do not witness the changes you needed to make to address your business growth with different levels of new attention.  Your customers still expect you to handle the cash, write up the ticket and run the register.  They still expect you to walk them to their car and chit chat with them about world matters.  It makes them feel important that they know you, the owner, personally.  That is what they once saw, attached to and loved about doing business with you.  It became a personal thing to them.  They do not see how your business world has changed.

As you grow you business larger and larger try not to forget how this process works.  It can become a real sticky issue with the customers who helped your business become what it grew up to be.  Never forget this quiet responsibility.  They still remember your personal attachment to their friendship roles as a loyal supporter and they only support what they think it is.  They do not see your business world of growth.  They only see their world.

Page two.