Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Don’t slay your business alligators, starve them

Small business owners know all about that metaphorical business reptile — the ubiquitous alligator. They seem to pop up everywhere, continuously eating away at business performance and impeding work-life balance.

Best-selling author and friend, Marc Allen, introduced me to a way to minimize the impact of alligators. When he has a difficult challenge, he has “a word with himself” as follows:

CC Photo via Pixabay

CC Photo via Pixabay

“I will deal with this problem in an easy and relaxed manner, in a healthy and positive way.”

Clear your mind of other issues except the alligator at hand: negative cash flow, lost customer, etc. Close your eyes, breathe deeply and repeat after Marc with emphasis on the key words: easy, relaxed, healthy and positive. I found that saying it out loud seems to improve focus; perhaps hearing the words make them sink in better.

This affirmation is also a great way to start the day and fits right into a prayer.

As the CEO of your business, it’s your job to deal with business alligators because they don’t go away on their own. If your enterprise is to survive, let alone flourish, you have to deal with each alligator that pops up. To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, your business’s sustainability and organizational effectiveness depends on the ability to keep your head when all around alligators are trying to take it off.

To keep your head and at least stay even with the alligators you must do three things. This first two we’ve talked about in the past: show up every day and practice operating fundamentals.

The third thing is something even the most capable and professional manager benefits from: positive self-talk. For example, before you go best-two-falls-out-of-three with the next alligator, remember: easy, relaxed, healthy, positive.

Positive self-talk is important for your spirit — you know, the force that drives your protoplasm around. You probably take good care of your body: healthy diet, exercise, all that. But are you feeding your spirit?

Business alligators love a malnourished spirit; it’s their favorite food and they’re voracious eaters. But a well-nourished spirit reduces the size of alligators, which contributes to success. And a strong spirit is a confident spirit, and alligators hate the taste of confidence.

Confidence comes with experience, which you get by showing up every day, practicing the fundamentals, and using positive self-talk to remind yourself that you have the right to feel confident.

It takes more than positive self-talk to slay an alligator, but it will minimize an alligator’s impact.

Write this on a rock … Repeat after Marc: Easy . . . relaxed . . . healthy . . . positive.

Jim Blasingame is the author of the award-winning book, “The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.”

It’s time to adapt to the new age of technology

Henry Ford is generally credited with being the creator of the assembly line. To meet the demand for his Model T automobiles, Mr. Ford knew that just hiring more people wouldn’t be enough to mount the challenge of building Ford Motor Company — it would take technology.
His technology was crude by modern standards, but it did what technology does: leverage the productivity of human beings. During the year Ford’s assembly line was first put in service, he wasn’t just using technology he was creating it. He also turned 50.

The list of technology options today is long and growing and available in features-rich products that support and improve virtually every business task.  How much are you adopting technology to help you leverage the humans in your organization?

 

Yes, some employees don’t want to embrace technology because they think they’re too old, or have gotten too far behind the curve. Hogwash! There is so much point-and-click technological capability these days that you can ramp up on any learning curve within a matter of days, if not hours. And besides, rapid changes in technology means you can catch up with anyone by being prepared to fully adopt the next generation of capability that’s usually never more than 90 days away.  You can literally go from being technologically illiterate to being an application expert within weeks. But you do have to take that first step.
The great Roman statesman, Cato (234-149 BC) began studying Greek at the age of 80. When asked why he would contemplate such an undertaking at such an advanced age, he replied, “This is the youngest age I have left.”
Regardless of your age or level of technological proficiency, learn how to leverage technology. No excuses! Remember, it’s the youngest age you have left.

 

Seven ways to cut yourself some SLACC in 2015

People make New Year’s resolutions all the time. But do you know anyone who actually kept one?

OK — one person, but he’s the same guy who reminded the teacher that she’d forgotten to give out the homework.

Knowing how difficult, not to mention annoying, resolutions can be, there’s a different way to kick off the new year in your small business. I call it Strategic Look At Critical Components, or SLACC, for short. So instead of getting all bound up in resolutions, just cut yourself some SLACC. Here’s a list of seven key areas on which to focus your SLACC:

1. Financial
Give your company some SLACC by reviewing financial systems. If not already, create regular financial statements, especially a 12-month cash flow projection, and manage with them. And SLACC up on the difference between cash flow and accounting.

2. Human Resources
Take the necessary SLACC to find and keep the best people. Then cut your staff some SLACC by providing the best training you can afford, with emphasis on how their assignments continue to evolve in the 21st century.

3. Management
Business management is more complicated than ever. Use SLACC to identify your current best practices, then check your position against how 21st century ideas are impacting management fundamentals.

stress-391654_12804. Marketplace
The marketplace has always been a dynamic and evolving organism, but in The Age of the Customer, it’s being driven more by customer expectations than competition. Use SLACC to develop strategies that deliver relevance first, followed by classic competitive advantage. Remember, in The Age of the Customer, relevance trumps competitiveness.

5. Technology
More than ever before, how you use technology and new media are critical relevance expectations of prospects and customers. Cut yourself some SLACC by delivering the technology (especially mobile) and community-building media customers now expect from you.

6. Public Policy
Every small business is influenced by politics. Use SLACC to identify when to be personally involved in local, state and federal issues, like taxes, healthcare, and regulations and when to contribute to professional organizations that can deliver a greater impact on your behalf.

7. Personal
Cut yourself some SLACC by remembering the greatest small business truth: Success must be defined by more than just money and stuff.

Write this on a rock … To paraphrase the Chinese proverb, the longest journey begins with the first SLACC.

Value is the threshold of your relationship with Customers; values are the foundation.

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Ready, set, GO!

In the Age of the Customer, you don't-3

Freedom is not free

My friends, I hope we never forget thoseContemplating the blessing of freedom, wherever it may be found, one prime truth is evident: Freedom is not free. And for those of us who are the beneficiaries of those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom, the only method of repayment — the only way we can ever be worthy of their sacrifice — is if we do all we can to maintain the freedom that has been paid for and given to us.

In honor of all of our veterans, past and present, I’d like to offer this poem written by Commander Kelly Strong, USCG (Ret.) in 1981 when he was a high school senior (JROTC cadet) at Homestead High School, Homestead, FL. It is a tribute to his father, a career marine who served two tours in Vietnam.

Freedom Isn’t Free

I watched the flag pass by one day.

It fluttered in the breeze.

A young Marine saluted it,

And then he stood at ease.

I looked at him in uniform

So young, so tall, so proud,

With hair cut square and eyes alert

He’d stand out in any crowd.

I thought how many men like him

Had fallen through the years.

How many died on foreign soil?

How many mothers’ tears?

How many pilots’ planes shot down?

How many died at sea?

How many foxholes were soldiers’ graves?

No, freedom isn’t free.

I heard the sound of taps one night,

When everything was still

I listened to the bugler play

And felt a sudden chill.

I wondered just how many times

That taps had meant “Amen,”

When a flag had draped a coffin

Of a brother or a friend.

I thought of all the children,

Of the mothers and the wives,

Of fathers, sons and husbands

With interrupted lives.

I thought about a graveyard

At the bottom of the sea

Of unmarked graves in Arlington.

No, freedom isn’t free.

 

My friends, I pray that we never forget those who paid so dearly for our freedom.  Have a safe, happy and respectful Veterans Day.

Thanks for being part of my community. I’ll see you on the radio and the Internet.

You should never have “a customer from hell”

“This is one of those customers from hell.”

That’s what a small business owner said to me during one of my road trips across the country to check on how things are going out on Main Street.

“Ann” was responding to my query about her business. Her full quote was closer to, “Business is good. But right now I’ve got to spend most of the day dealing with this customer from hell.”

Photo courtesy of Blue Wolf Consulting

Photo courtesy of Blue Wolf Consulting

When I was a pup commission salesman right out of high school working in big ticket retail, I quickly realized all customers aren’t created equal; there are cool ones, high maintenance ones and impossible ones, like the one Ann was fuming about. My initial reaction was I didn’t like the latter two types and would try to avoid them. But upon more mature reflection I realized that if I was going to be successful selling on commission, I would have to do business with all kinds of customers, not just the easy ones. Honing this perspective over time, I developed the twin pillars of Blasingame’s Difficult Customer Strategy.

Pillar One: Make an extra effort to understand what troubles and/or motivates difficult customers and serve them within an inch of their lives. Most difficult customers will give you points for the effort and very likely their business in the bargain. And here’s an extra effort bonus: When a difficult customer likes you, you’ll have a customer for life, and the most valuable referral source.

Pillar Two: The hellish behavior of some customers typically manifests as excessive demands. When dealing with such people, charge them for their behavior. As I told Ann, charge difficult customers enough so that regardless of their level of maintenance, you hope they come back and ask for everything again. The key is to ask enough questions about their expectations before you set your price. Or at least remember the next time.

One former consulting client of mine could be difficult. Whenever we were face-to-face and he showed me his hellish side, I would exaggerate making a mark on my note pad, which he knew was to remind me to add a difficulty factor fee on his next invoice (he had a different name for it that can’t be used here). Eventually we joked about it, but he knew his behavior impacted his bill. He was a client for years and, difficult or not, I always liked his business.

Write this on a rock … You should never have a customer from hell.

Jim Blasingame is the author of the award-winning book, “The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.”

Are your ducks in a row?

DucksBlog

Dispelling the myths of ownership

As the economy recovers, you’re likely to meet a starry-eyed human babbling on about becoming a business owner.

Probing for the object of this person’s entrepreneurial infatuation will precipitate the what, where, how and when questions and, finally, the most important question: Why do you want to own a business? Answers to this last question, unfortunately, often produce what I call “The Myths of Small Business Ownership.” Here are four:

Photo courtesy of Boast Capital

Myth 1: When I’m an owner, I’ll be my own boss.

That’s right; you won’t have an employer telling you what to do. But you’ll trade that one boss for many others: customers, landlords, bankers, the IRS, regulators, even employees.

Modern management is less “bossing” and more leading and inspiring. In a small business, everyone must wear several hats and the dominator management model doesn’t work well in this modern multi-tasking environment.

Myth 2: When I own my own business, I won’t have to work as hard as I do now.

This is actually true – you will work much harder.  Ramona Arnett, CEO of Ramona Enterprises, said it best, “Owning a business means working 80 hours a week so you can avoid working 40 hours for someone else.”

The irony is you’ll actually want to work harder when you understand everything in your business belongs to you.  Even the irritating, frustrating, and frightening challenges will take on a new perspective when you realize you also own theopportunities you turn them into. You’ll turn the lights on in the morning and off in the evening not because you want to work more, but because you won’t want to miss any part of your entrepreneurial dream coming true.

Myth 3: When I own my own business, I can take a day off whenever I want.

Well, maybe. However, you may find that your business has such a compelling attraction that you won’t want to take off. Indeed, it’s more likely that whatever interests you had as an employee will become jealous of your business.

Myth 4: When I own my own business, I’ll make a lot of money.

If the only reason you want to own a business is to get rich, you probably won’t be a happy owner. It’s true – you actually could get rich, but it’s more likely that you’ll just make a living.

Being a successful business owner first means loving what you do. Pursuing wealth should be secondary and ironically is actually more likely to happen when in this subordinate role.

Write this on a rock  … For maximum small business success, don’t fall prey to the myths of ownership.

Are you ready?

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