Monthly Archives: July 2007

Making The Tough Decisions

I’ve seen so many business people try to avoid making tough decisions. Individuals often believe if they just ignore the problem it will go away. Well they don’t! Avoiding making decisions can make the situation infinitely worse.

A significant area of struggle for many businesses is human resources. Disciplinary decisions can be tough and termination decisions can be even harder. However this is also the area where procrastinating causes the most problems. When a staff member requires disciplinary action the longer you wait the less effective the corrective measures. This is the classic case of strike while the iron is hot. Delay in taking disciplinary actions just makes the actions even harder later on.

Termination decisions are also a challenge for many managers. Terminating of a poorly performing team member doesn’t get any easier by avoiding the action. In my experience, the sooner this decision is made and acted upon the better. Of course proper communication and corrective discipline must be employed before a termination situation exists but when it gets to this point swift action is always the best policy. It is often obvious to everyone in an organization when a team member isn’t contributing and they are always watching management to see what is going to be done. Allowing this situation to continue makes a statement about what you think of your team culture. A lack of action is in effect condoning the activities of the poorly performing individual.

Tomorrow I’ll discuss a proper termination interview.

Don’t Let Your Business Happen By Accident

One of my favorite topics is having your business happen on purpose. Far too many businesses just evolve; their development almost seems to be an accident.

If it seems like your business is out of control then perhaps it is. In this sense, having a business is like having a pet. The more time you spend training and nurturing it the better behaved it becomes. Businesses left to develop on their own are often unruly and out of control. But just like a poorly mannered pet, it is the owner who is responsible.

You need to put time into planning your business. Where do you want it to go? What do you want your business to look like? You are responsible for making conscious decisions about your business. If you don’t accept this responsibility and make your business happen “on purpose” then you may not like the way it develops by accident.

I’ll talk more about making detailed decisions tomorrow.

Be Involved In Your Community

There are so many great reasons to be actively involved in the community you do business in, I don’t know where to start. These communities provide us with everything we have and they deserve our involvement and support. The amazing thing is that as we are paying our dues by being involved, this same involvement will enhance the benefits the community gives us in return.

The benefits of being active in business associations are obvious and I recommend belonging to all of them. Get involved with the Chamber of Commerce, your local trade associations, and a networking group. Be active in whatever charitable causes hold a special interest for you and of course if church is an important part of your life be active there also. If you have children at home there is also the opportunity and responsibility to be involved in their activities whether they center around school, sports or other activities.

I sometimes hear that with their busy work lives people don’t have time for all these other activities. This is such false logic. If all you focus on are the activities within the walls of your workplace, then your business will suffer for your lack of judgment. Being involved in other activities is the healthiest choice for you and your business.

Another consideration this brings up is; what is your community? In this global world a person’s community can have many different definitions. If your business or personal interests reach outside your local environment then so should your involvement.

So again, get involved the rewards will always outreach your expectations.

Nothing Happens Until Somebody Sells Something

I have met a couple of people over my lifetime that have an amazing talent. They can raise unbelievable amounts of money for new ventures. Indeed there seems to be no end to the amount they can raise. The problem is these “new ventures” never actually do anything.

You see it doesn’t matter whether you have a manufacturing business, a wholesale business, a distribution business, a retail business or any other business, nothing happens until somebody sells something. The whole point of business is to exchange good or services for money. From time to time people get off track and seem to forget this. They think that the purpose of being in business is just to exist as a business. Never take your eye off the target. The purpose of business is to make a profit! Sure there may be specific times during any businesses development when profit is not a priority, during a restructuring, or a change in strategic direction for instance. But ultimately even these moves are undertaken to enhance the longer term performance of the company; to make more money.

If you happen to meet one of these charming money magnets who survive by convincing others to invest in their perpetually profitless businesses, run away! The true measure of the value of a business is who is buying and that can’t happen until somebody sells something!

Defining Moments

There are many ways that I compare business to family life. Managing people is very much like raising children and being in business has many similarities to being married.

In the life of every business as in every marriage there are times when things don’t go the way you would like. Indeed there are points when it is hard work and the world just seems to be stacked against you. Every successful business I have ever seen has had these times. All logic just seems to scream “why are you doing this?” Everything says it would be a lot easier and would make more sense to just give up, quit! Team members may be letting you down, systems are failing, and the bank may be pounding at the door. It is at times like this that many people do indeed give up. That is the reason for the statistic on failed businesses and relationships. But for some reason you just keep going. You stare rationale in the face and say “no, I won’t give up” and you keep fighting. You just keep working and working until you break through.

These are defining moments for any business as they are in any relationship. They build strength and character. They help determine who you are and who your business is. When you have survived these times you are stronger than before you experienced them. Team members who share these experiences with you are more committed and have a bond that didn’t exist before.

Success isn’t easy but it is worth the struggle.

Informal Mentors

Yesterday I sent emails to a number of business associates from all over North America seeking their opinion on something. It’s wonderful how freely some people give of their thoughts and opinions when they are asked.

Mentoring is a valuable part of any business persons development but one of the lessons I have learned is that mentoring doesn’t have to be a formal process. Generally the people I have come to admire throughout my career have been willing to share their thoughts and experiences with me whenever I needed them.

I suggest you look at the people you have in your world. Who do you really respect? Whose opinion would you like to have on that important decision you are contemplating? Reach out and ask for their help. Many people who have achieved notable things in their lives are hesitant to give advice but are almost always willing to help when asked.

The One Minute Manager

I think the One Minute Manager written by Ken Blanchard is still one of the best management books ever written. It is short and easy to read but don’t let the size or simple language fool you. This book could be the basis for an entire graduate level business course.

My favorite lesson in The One Minute Manager is “management by wandering around”. The message is basically to get out of your office on a regular basis and wander around your business. Go see what people are doing, talk to them. Talk about everything from how their job is going to how things are in their family or what’s happening in their favorite sport. Just talk to them. While you’re talking observe what’s going on around you. It’s amazing to me how many business people don’t know many of the things happening within their business.

Many good things happen as a result of wandering around;
You find out what is actually happening.
You develop a better relationship with your team members.
You notice things that need to be done.

I have expanded on this concept and when ever possible I try to wander around with customers and suppliers. I’ll take them for walks around my business and I will visit their businesses without a specific agenda. I tell them I just want to get to know their business a little bit better. The results of these little actions are tremendous.

So, get out of your office today. Go experience the benefits of wandering around. But I should warn you; this activity can be addictive.

Exciting Communication Possibilities

I installed Skype on my computer yesterday. Skype is the world’s most widely used audio and video communication program. It allows you to turn your computer into a video phone through which you can contact any other Skype user at no charge. You can also make calls directly to any telephone, anywhere, for very reasonable rates. The rate to the most common international destinations is 2.4 cents per minute.

I was on a conference call yesterday with a client in Australia. This was a three way call that lasted over two hours. There was no cost to any of us. We had perfectly clear audio with video and because we were on our computers, we were able to share and develop documents as a group. While we were having this meeting there were over four million other Skype calls on line. This is not an advertisement for Skype.

My point is that technology is changing the way the world does business. Communicating with anyone in the world is becoming easier and cheaper. In my consulting practice, eighteen years ago, we used international excellence as a benchmark. Many of our clients didn’t understand the relevance of an international standard to their business and I still meet business people who only measure themselves against their local competition. The truth is that today the world is at your doorstep. The business I am conducting in Australia is being made possible totally through digital communication.

Even businesses with purely a domestic focus that are not feeling any pressure from international competitors can benefit from this digital world. No one should have high long distance telephone bills when this technology is readily available.

This is an incredibly exciting time to be in business and I can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow!

You Are Unique

I had cause to be in my lawyer’s office yesterday. Before Sandy became my lawyer, he was a great friend and a respected mentor and I am pleased to say that he now does a great job of all three roles. While I was sitting there he found a way to slide another life’s lesson into the conversation.

Sandy reminded me that we are each unique. This uniqueness is a beautiful thing but it does have some liabilities. He said a dangerous human tendency is to view others as if they have the same values, morals, and beliefs that we have. The danger of course is that they don’t. Everyone we meet is a product of the sum total of their experiences up to that point in time and none of us, no two people on the entire planet, share exactly the same experiences. Therefore we are not the same.

We have to remember this in our interactions, both from a positive sense and a cautionary one. First, everyone deserves to be respected as the individual they are and second, we can not make assumptions about people based on who we are. They are them, they are not you! Take time to get to know people for who they are and then choose your interactions based on those realities rather than assumptions. Sandy’s specific lesson was to be careful, not to give your trust to anyone. But then Sandy is a lawyer so that’s kind of the way he has been conditioned to view the world. I of course am a little less skeptical than that but never the less, it was a great reminder of an extremely important point. Never make assumptions about anyone. Giving people the opportunity to demonstrate who they really are is definitely worthy of the investment of time necessary for reality to be uncovered.

Networking Is Alive And Well

Everywhere I go these days I am meeting smart young business people with great minds. They are like sponges eagerly soaking up what ever information is available. I am not meeting these people at chamber of commerce functions, charitable events or any other conventional business networking event. I am meeting them socially through regular daily events.

It’s amazing how when passionate people get together the conversation always evolves to those things they are passionate about. As an example, Gerri and I spent the weekend at a friend’s farm. Our friend’s son and his family were also there for the weekend. David, the son, is a computer engineer who manages the IT department for a successful insurance brokerage company. David is bright, engaging and loves his job. He is currently facing a couple of unique challenges at work and we had some great dialogue about his options and who I know who might be able to help him. I have set up a lunch this week between David and another great young mind I have been working with and I can hardly wait to have the opportunity to sit back and observe these two interact.

If you are open to the opportunity to meet and help people, the world provides the most amazing opportunities. They are everywhere and come from the most unexpected places. I am constantly reminded that networking is an attitude not a task.