Monthly Archives: November 2007

Skills Can Be Bought Or Rented

One of my favorite books is The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. The book and now the “movement” discuss the myth associated with being an entrepreneur. Or another way of putting it is the false beliefs one has before going into business.

Most people striking out “on their own” are doing so because, for one thing, they are very good technicians. That is to say they are very good at the skills needed to do the job associated with their particular business. Perhaps they are a cook or restaurant manager who has been in the food industry for some time and decides they want their own restaurant. Or they could be a plumber who decides he (or she) has had enough of working for someone else and wants to have their own business.

What the E-Myth talks about is all the surprises in store for that fresh new business person. Once in business there are a number of responsibilities that have nothing to do with the core skills required by the technician. There is book keeping, accounting, marketing, sales, human resource management etc. and these things don’t even touch the executive responsibilities of things like strategic planning and business planning.

I have delivered many presentations on this subject and the focus of each of these presentations is that the entrepreneur does not have to possess all of these skills. Indeed one of the secrets to success is recognizing which of these are not your strengths and then having the discipline not to do those particular tasks. You see it is not the responsibility of the entrepreneur to have all these skills and perform all these functions. What is their responsibility is to assure that each of these necessary tasks are being done and with the appropriate skill. This is where staff comes in. Each of these areas of expertise can be bought i.e. you can hire someone to do these things for you. Some of you are going to be saying “but I can’t afford to hire a full time person just to do my books or my marketing” or what ever skills you need just a little bit of. In this case, rent the skill. This means contract the work out. Get someone with the right skills to do just the amount you need done. Renting is often preferable to buying in many task areas and this is especially true of a new growing company.

There Must Be A Book On The Way

I had the pleasure of speaking at the employee Retention Forum yesterday. It was sponsored by Alberta Employment Immigration and Industry, Edmonton Economic Development and N.A.I.T. As with all forums put on by this group it was another great event. The other speakers were all very good and the attendees all received tremendous value through the information presented.

The key note speaker was Dr. Denis Cauvier. Denis is a renowned speaker in all areas of human recourses and his presentation was very good. Denis and I had the opportunity to sit and discuss the professional speaking business. He has been speaking for over twenty years and he freely shared some great information. He was very complimentary of my presentation skills and said he believes I could have an extremely successful speaking career. He said that the next critical step is for me to write a book. This is the same thing Dr. Larry Ohlhauser told me three months ago. So, as someone who believes that the universe puts people in our lives for a reason and that once a message has been delivered, if we don’t listen then the universe just turns up the volume, I better start on my first book.

Yes you read that right, I did just commit to writing a book so sometime within the next six to twelve months it should be available. Now the work starts.

The other development that came out of yesterday’s presentation was that I am told I am now on Edmonton Economic Development’s “preferred speakers” list, so this should mean some more local speaking engagements.

Employee Retention Forum

I have spent this morning putting together a presentation for a forum I have been asked to speak at on employee retention. Building this presentation caused me to examine my beliefs on what causes good employee retention. I won’t go into my complete presentation here but I will hit the highlights.

I believe that retention is a by-product of your corporate culture it is never the result of tactical actions. Every organization has an employment brand. Your brand is what comes to mind when people inside and outside your organization think of working for your company. Is your company a place your team members brag about? Is it a place they are proud of? Do they have a feeling of ownership of what happens there? It’s not important what the ownership of a company thinks of it as a place to work, what matters is what the people who work there think.

To develop a positive employment culture you have to care about your people. Caring is not something you can’t talk about it needs to be demonstrated. You can’t fake caring; you either do or you don’t and your team members will know.

So my presentation tomorrow is going to be built around my three basic beliefs on employee retention:

Strategy
Employment Brand
Corporate Culture

A Great Google Analytics Webinar

I just attended a Webinar on Google Analytics presented by Mangold Sengers. Mangold Sengers is an Australian company some of my readers may recall I have referred to previously. They are a marketing and consulting company who are authorized Google Analytics consultants. Ben Mangold, their Creative Director, convinced me to use Analytics on my web site months ago and it has proven to be an extremely valuable tool.

Today’s webinar was a free introduction to Google Analytics. They provided some basic information on the product, how it works and why companies should use it to optimize their web sites. As I am already a “believer” it was interesting for me just a refresher and a reminder of some of the value I have received by applying this amazing product. I won’t go in to any details of either the product or this particular webinar as MangoldSengers really are the experts so if you want to know more about Analytics I strongly suggest you contact them directly through the link proved above.

What I did want to mention today was the value of the Webinar learning format. I have addressed this in an earlier discussion but again today I was very impressed by the quality of communication this medium provides. This webinar was attended by about 100 people from at least three countries on at least two continents. We were all able to view information the presenters wanted us to see while listening to the live presentation. They also conducted live surveys of the audience during the presentation and proved a question section that allowed participants to type in questions at any time during the presentation and all of the questions were then answered verbally by one of the presenters at the conclusion of the presentation.

Webinars are a great tool that I will use within my business and I suggest anyone who needs to communicate with groups of people considers making a part of your business operations.

Quality Standards Can Never Be Sacrificed

Alberta is experiencing both the benefits and the challenges of a super heated economy. The business gurus tell us it may be the hottest economy on the planet. The opportunities are incredibly exciting and businesses are thriving. But thriving in these economic conditions requires some extraordinary skills.

I have been asked to speak at a forum on employee retention next week. It’s amazing to me that focusing on retaining employees seems to be a new tactical initiative for many companies; but that is a discussion topic for another day. The relevance for today’s topic is that regardless of the current employment challenges your standards have to be maintained.

Maintaining high standards can only be accomplished if these standards are clearly defined and understood in the first place. Standards are a cultural by-product that are developed not a tactic that can be employed or imposed.

Most businesses in Alberta are operating without the ideal number of people. The problem comes in when companies compromise standards because of the short staffing situation. This is a very slippery slope. I know it is not easy maintaining standards under these conditions. It requires a great deal of discipline along with extraordinary effort but it is worth it. Once standards start to slip they just seem to slide down hill like it is a frozen slope. Compromise then becomes the cultural norm and once that happens the future of your business is no longer in your hands.

If opportunities have to be passed by or volumes and profits forfeited to maintain standards then those sacrifices have to be made. Having a standard of quality in a business is like character in an individual; you either have it or you don’t.

Seeking Input Is Always A Good Idea

Last night I spent a few hours at the unofficial Edmonton Executives Association (EEA) poker night. This is a monthly event when anywhere from six to twelve of us gather at one of our business locations and spend the evening swapping stories while perfecting our skills at the art of Texas Hold’em. It is an unofficial event because even though the group started out as EEA members getting together for some fun and a chance to get to know each other a little better it slowly expanded into a family, friends and business associates night as each of us asked guests to join the fun. I am sure you can all appreciate that a “poker night” is also not the sort of activity that any respectable business networking organization would want to be “officially” associated with.

Last night after the game I a few of us were sitting around just talking about nothing in particular when I introduced a subject that directly involved the EEA. This was something I had been considering for a while and I had already formulated my own conclusions on the subject based on my own thoughts. After tossing the idea around a while the three of us came to a completely different conclusion from the one I had arrived at on my own and the group conclusion was far better than mine.

As I drove home after the meeting my mind (as it often does) drifted to business and how the evening’s experiences fit into the business world. I think we often form our own conclusions without seeking input from others whose experiences and opinions could help us come to better conclusions and therefore make better decisions than we make on our own. Sometimes of course it is not possible to get others input on specific issues. However my experience is that whenever I do get input from others I make better decisions.

A Recipe For Success

I received an email this morning from my good friend Jim Lett. Jim owns ABE Doors and Windows in Allentown PA. Jim wrote to say that he had been catching up on some of my blog discussions over the weekend and found three topics of particular interest. He referred to my discussions on Integrity, Wowing Your Customers and Taking Responsibility.

Jim stated “There is such a correlation between having integrity, taking responsibility and wowing your customers that it creates a recipe for success.” I hadn’t actually thought about the connection between these three topics but I think Jim is right. Any business that makes these three components an integral part of its culture will certainly be well on the way success.

Jim went on to say “It sounds simple but so many people don’t seem to get it.” I think that’s true of most of the keys to success. None of them are complicated. Perhaps that’s why so many people just don’t “get it”. Maybe they think the magic formula must be more complicated and miss the real secrets when they are right there in front of them.

Well Jim, one thing I know for sure is that you get it! Thanks for the comments.

Positive Expectations

Ok. It’s Monday and we are headed into another business week. For some this thought will weigh heavy while for others it will be exciting. Of course you all know by know that my belief is that these expectations will indeed shape the results each of us experience.

So if we have the choice, let’s choose positive. Let’s all choose to have a great week. What ever you have in front of you view it through a positive filter. Let’s all expect this to be a great week. For this expectation to be transformed into results it needs to become a conscious thought that permeates your week. You need to think about it as often as you can. This can’t be left to chance so you must plan to think about your week at regular times. Start first thing every morning or by taking a few moments when you first walk into your office and again right after lunch. Plan these times to stop every day to think about your expectations. Staying positive requires effort but I promise it will pay big dividends. I will remind you of this periodically throughout the week. I will be interested in hearing the feedback at the end of the week as to how this has worked for each of my readers.

Last week was amazing for me and I can hardly wait to see what unfolds this week. I know it is going to be great.

The Secret To Life Is Showing Up

This has been an amazing week! As I mentioned in an earlier blog I spent two days this week working with two great guys, focused on the future of their business. These are great minds and the dialogue was incredibly stimulating. I came out of the first session exhausted but highly motivated and by the end of day two I was absolutely flying. I was appointed to two boards this week and I hadn’t pursued either of them. Indeed I wasn’t even aware of one of them until I was invited to serve. I got an email yesterday from an association asking if I was available to do some work for them and I have never heard of either them or the contact that sent the email. I have no idea how they got my name. I just hung up the phone from a call from a contact I met a couple months ago when I was referred to him as a speaker for a forum he was sponsoring. He was calling to tell me he had referred me to a contact at the Conference Board of Canada because they are now putting on a new forum in Edmonton and he suggested I be put on the panel and they have agreed and will be contacting me. Aside from all this I made great progress this week with two regular clients I have been working with and they are both extremely happy with the results.

It has indeed been a very good week. Frankly my feet are about a meter (just over three feet for my older and American readers) off the ground and rising. I FEEL GREAT! The amazing thing is that I didn’t set out to achieve any of this. It all found me. All I do is just show up in life and the most amazing things just keep happening. So the age old adage is true “The secret to life is showing up”!

Have a great week end, I know I will.

Trust The Process

I have had an amazing week. There have had a number of really fantastic experiences this week but by far the best has been the opportunity to work with a very dynamic company. This company is owned by friends of mine and as many of you know I am now at a point in my life where any company I work with has to fit three criteria: It has to be owned by someone I know and care about, the project has to be appealing (which is a politically correct way of saying it has to look like I’ll have fun and learn something) and I have to believe that I’ll make a difference, that the company will be better off with my involvement than without me. This project is the perfect fit.

We embarked on a strategic planning exercise, not because they had a particular need for a new strategic plan, it was more that they and I needed to define where they were and what the particular challenges where, so we had agreement on where to focus. My involvement was due to a sense of frustration within the two partners in the business. They have this amazing company experiencing fantastic growth with all kinds of opportunity but yet they were feeling a sense of frustration and we needed to determine what the root cause of this frustration was and what could be done about it. So we headed off down the strategic planning road Monday morning.

It was tough work. These are incredibly bright people and every thought was challenged. Nothing was simply accepted because I presented it as is usually the case in these sessions. By the time we completed Monday’s session I was exhausted. My mind was absolutely flying with ideas, questions and challenges. I/we had generated lots of questions but not many answers. I was beginning to question the application of my strategic processes as they applied to this company. Perhaps this would be the first time I had come across a company that couldn’t benefit from this particular process.

Our next meeting was scheduled for yesterday, Wednesday, morning. While sleeping Tuesday night I had a breakthrough. By the time I awoke Wednesday morning I had a clear vision as to where this company had to go next. The amazing thing is that at least one of the partners entered yesterday’s meeting in exactly the same head space I was in. We had come to the same conclusions and neither of us would have arrived there without the experience of the process we went through on Monday.

So, aside from being wonderfully mentally stimulated and learning a great deal about this fantastic business, what did I learn from all this? I learned to trust the process and never predetermine what your final destination is going to be when embarking on a strategic planning session. Just trust the process and go for it. Where ever you end up will be the right place to be. I also learned that these processes often feel like they are bogging down but that break down often occurs just before break through. These are all lessons I have learned before but I guess I still need a booster shot now and then.

Wow, it’s been a great week.