Ownership

There are times when I look at how much people achieve, and I’m astounded. I see people sacrificing personal time and freedom to invest in their dreams. I see people giving up their dreams to invest in their family. I see people giving up their dreams and their family time to build someone else’s Empire. 

And yet so many are frustrated or even angry at how they are living their lives. 

Opportunity isn’t just a matter of chance, the successful have always said they’ve “made their own luck”. Being prepared is always a significant part of success, but there is a more significant element. We need to have the courage of our convictions. We need to have the faith to believe we are right, and that whatever we sacrifice, the prize will be worth it in the end. 

And we need to have the ownership of our own decisions. Navy Seal Jocko Willink wrote an inspired book called “Extreme Ownership” which challenges our excuse making culture and gives us a greater sense of control. We all have duties and responsibilities, but we are also responsible to ourselves. When you go through the safety instructions on a flight, you’re told that you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself even if your child is right next to you. Our primary responsibilty is to make sure that we are healthy enough to contribute to whatever we have chosen to prioritise. Physically, mentally, and spiritually, we need to choose how we care for ourselves to be able to give our best. 

Life isn’t a trap, and you’re not as stuck as you might feel. There are always options, but you’ve got to be willing to ask for help. If you want change in your life or your business, you need to be willing to trust someone enough to give you advice and feedback on how you can achieve your goals. And then you need to be willing to work the process to implement change, because you’re the only one who can.

Opportunity always has a cost, but we are the ones who choose. 

Just get it done

I was working in a startup building a new product line. One of the owners good friends (we’ll call him Jack – not his real name) was between roles as a high powered executive, and was spending some time with us working on business growth, and had spent a bit of time in my department.

One (already busy) day we had an order come in that we needed to deliver on a tight timeframe, and there was a lot of manual processing to be done to fulfill the order. I was still fairly new in the role, and didn’t have a broader perspective of what was going on at the time – I just understood that I had access to another set of hands, eyes and a highly intelligent brain.

So I start putting things together for the new order, and asked Jack to start working on one of the existing orders waiting to be filled. I was giving him a lot of direction, as I hadn’t yet developed much beyond simple checklists for the delivery of the product. Jack started asking questions about what we were doing. In my naivete, I thought he wanted to understand the process better. I answered most of his questions, but at one point Jack replied “but I still don’t understand why…” I didn’t let him finish his sentence before interrupting him with “I don’t need you to understand, I just need you to do it.”

Jack got on with the job, and we delivered all orders on time. But that moment stuck with me, and was repeated back to me many times in the following weeks. Jack took it as a signal of my confidence to be able to give clear directions and complete the job without being caught up in teaching someone who would not be there long term. But as I reflect on it I see that there was a lot more going on than I originally realized.

Jack didn’t need to understand the process – he needed me to teach it. He wanted me to think about things so I could more clearly document our processes and train our staff in the future. At the time it seemed like it was a waste of our time going over things in detail, but there was a real purpose in what Jack was asking of me.

I’ve learned a few things from this experience, and I’m sure that in the future I’ll learn even more as I recall those events.

  • Jack taught me that good leaders ask lots of questions, even when it’s inconvenient.
  • Jack taught me that understanding why is the foundation of all good processes
  • And Jack taught me to look at the positives in every situation.

You see, Jack could have gotten upset at me very easily in that moment. We had a good relationship, but I didn’t offer him the respect he deserved in that moment, and I let the stress of delivery affect my communication. Instead, he looked for something good in my actions, and praised that.

I only worked with him for a few weeks, but I’ll always value the experience (more so now than I did then). It was a great opportunity to learn from someone who I usually wouldn’t have a lot of access to, and I’m grateful for it.

So think about your team – do you ask enough questions? Do you get them thinking about Why? Are you able to focus on the positives and remove your own ego from these moments? With practice, we all can become more like Jack.

Changing Gears

Life is full of moments, many of which are completely outside our control. and often we find ourselves reacting to events around us as they build momentum, leading to a sense of futility or helplessness even when we’re achieving those incredible results we’d been dreaming of. When this happens, it’s important to take a step back and take stock of what’s really important in your life and in your business.

There’s a wonderful book by Marshall Goldsmith called What got you here won’t get you there, in which we’re encouraged to understand that it takes more than technical ability to succeed as a leader and as a manager. It’s one of those areas that has been well understood by a lot of people for a long time, yet we still somehow promote technically capable people into management positions and don’t do enough to support the transition.

What’s even worse is when that is happening to us in our own business. Many business owners I’ve spoken with started out with full confidence in their ability to deliver a high quality service to their clients. And they succeeded because that’s what they did. They even hired other capable staff because they were getting more work than they could do on their own.

But these businesses get to a point where the owners are spending all of their energy delivering services, and very little energy on planning for a new stage of growth. There needs to be a change of mindset for these owners to move beyond the existing model and focus their energy on running their business operations more strategically.

Many business owners in this stage aren’t able to identify their most successful products, and would have a hard time describing what success or failure looks like for many of the roles they’re paying people to perform. The highly skilled individuals who’ve come on board each bring their unique perspective and approach, but this can leave customers with an inconsistent experience, and result in double working many solutions.

Taking the time out to strategically plan your business operations is critical to shifting gears and moving into a new stage of growth. There are thousands of tools freely available that can assist with this work, but this can leave owners and managers feeling overwhelmed and uninformed.

My advice if you find yourself in this scenario is simple. Find someone who’s gone through this kind of transition before, and ask for their help. Talk to someone who understands your industry if possible, but at the very least you should get a hold of someone who has had success in business management, who can provide clear insight into where to focus your energy for the best return on your investment.

Of course, I’m also available for a conversation – call now to book in a free session and we’ll put a plan together for how you can start moving towards a better future in your business.

What Season Are You In?

Life moves in seasons. There are times where it seems like nothing is happening no matter how much work you’re putting in, and other times you can be overwhelmed with business. Sometimes it feels like you’re running as fast as you can just to keep up (known in some circles as the “Red Queen Effect” in reference to the classic Alice in Wonderland stories).

Recognizing the season you are in is key to finding success and fulfillment in life. I recently heard a quote “The fool does not plough his field in seed time, and is surprised when there is no harvest”. It’s a reminder that there are times to focus on specific activities, and that sometimes results come a while after the work.

I’m not much of a farmer, but my perception of farming is that it is a difficult job that never seems to end. But to succeed in farming, you need to be able to prioritize and focus on the most important things for the season you’re in.

Business (and life) is really the same. There are times when we need to adjust our priorities and focus our activities. This especially applies to seasonal businesses (where you depend on external events to drive a large portion of your business – like Christmas, Tax Time, Summer or Winter etc).

Have you planned out your calendar to identify the best time for you to focus on different parts of your business? You probably have a time set aside to update your budget and review your goals for the year, but do you have a time where you’ll focus on specific products or services? Do you have a time where you’ll drive custom solutions with large customers, or where you’ll run a campaign to gain exposure?

Sometimes you can’t plan this out, but if you pay attention you should at least be able to identify the season you’re in. Focus your efforts on the top priorities, and make sure you set aside time to review those priorities deliberately – they will change over time.

Meeting Needs

To meet the needs of your partners, clients or customers, you first need to understand them. If you start your planning with your own products and services top of mind, you will miss out on the all important feedback from the market. On the other hand, if you give the market too much attention you’ll soon start offering products and services that don’t align with you at all, just because someone asked you to.

All strategic planning starts with “the End” in mind (sticking with the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People still) – what are you aiming for. But too often we get caught up thinking that our own products and services are the “End” we should focus on. In many cases, the products and services we design are close, but not quite perfect. We need to understand the market’s needs and adapt our offerings to make sure that we are providing value that’s being sought out.

For example, I recently ran a poll on a business group I’m a part of, and was informed that the overwhelming majority of members in that group struggled with Lead Generation. I was surprised – there are dozens of consultants and coaches out there peddling their latest course that is guarantee’d to take your business to 7 figures (and beyond) in a matter of weeks. Although I haven’t spent any of my career developing leads, I understand the process and have been able to work out my own strategy based on freely available information.

So I’ve not spent a lot of time looking in to the offerings from online coaches until recently, and I’ve got to say I was a bit disappointed. Their strength might be in pitching and selling, but when you scratch the surface there’s not a whole lot being offered. I joined a few webinars to see what was actually being taught, and what the courses included. I did in fact find a few that seemed reasonably priced and appeared to offer useful techniques. But the vast majority of these “courses” are nothing more than an automated email or video feed peddling tips from years ago, talking about the “latest trends”.

So I’ve taken it upon myself to collate some good resources and provide what I can find free of charge. You can expect to see something posted soon. I’m going to be gathering this material for myself anyway, and I figure that some of the people who are looking for a strategic plan for lead generation with step-by-step guidelines might be interested talking to me about some of my more focused services.

I don’t want to just regurgitate wholesale, so I’ll take a bit of time to produce something of real value before posting. Let me know if you have any other requests that you’d be interested in as well, I’m most interested in providing value that contributes to real growth for you and your business.

Why you need to stop chasing clients

Sometimes you just feel stuck

Businesses that rely on clients and customers reach a cap where it becomes difficult to sustain growth. Your staff are overworked, and so are you. You don’t have the time to approach things strategically like you used to. And you can’t put your finger on it, but you know that things aren’t as efficient as they used to be. There’s work being repeated, and customer satisfaction isn’t where it should be.

The fact is, your staff are there to “do a job”. And even the best staff are going to focus on that – it’s why they are there. But at this point you’re needing partners more than staff. You need people who are invested in your business, or at least in a product or service that you’re offering. There’s a few ways to incentivise staff to focus on things like that – profit sharing and performance based bonuses etc. But you want to work with people who have a vision for growth, who are capable of seeing the bigger picture and working out the strategy to achieve their lofty ambitions. Because that’s who you are too – otherwise you wouldn’t have started what you did, or grown it to where it’s at now.

When you’re growing your business, there comes a point where you need to stop chasing clients and start pursuing something more meaningful.

It’s all about relationships

I was reminded recently by one of my clients that relationship is the most important thing in business. Trust, confidence, commitment, integrity – these are all foundations of a healthy working relationship.

Clients and customers are the bread and butter of most small businesses, but they all have a natural ending built into the transaction. You finish the project, or you complete the sale and hand over the products. But that’s it. You might get a referral or recommendation, but how do you build something lasting?

Long term success through partnerships

As Covey describes in his best selling book “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People” it’s important to start with the end in mind. So what do you do if you don’t want things to end? That’s when the relationship becomes an end in itself. That’s where we can choose to focus more on building something together than trying to keep pushing the boulder up the hill. We need to shift focus and start looking at the bigger picture. We need to start pursuing relationships. Partnerships that will continue to grow and benefit both sides.

Think about how all those multi-level marketing success stories happen. They don’t get to the top by selling the product, but by selling the opportunity and building a team. It’s that exponential growth we want to see, built right into their business model.

So your staff may or may not be able to fill that role – so consider looking outside your own business and find the opportunities around you. Link up with local businesses and share your experience, build something new together. Pool your resources to try something different and see where you can take it. Of course, you don’t want to neglect your existing operations, but if you want to experience the rush of new growth again, you’re going to need to do something new. And with your existing responsibility, you probably can’t do it all on your own.

Opportunities are endless

There are opportunities everywhere – people are looking for partners who they can work with, and they’re willing to share the spoils of growth. You’ll see it on every episode of Shark Tank. You might not feel like you’re a shark (and you don’t have to be), but you can still offer something to early stage entrepreneurs that they don’t have – experience.

You may have great staff and wonderful clients. And that’s awesome. But if you want to reach new heights, you’ve got to focus on building partnerships.

 

Consistency is Key

Albert Einstein is reported to have said that compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world.

The power of compounding interest is significant, and the exponential growth is exciting – but we often don’t want to wait to see the results. The problem is that the power of compound growth is in the patience. If you were to take “just a bit” of the interest out early on, or even repeatedly throughout the period, you’ll experience nothing like the final result you might have expected.

But what does that have to do with business?

It’s all about consistently improving things – minor improvements are responsible for major results over time. But ignoring a bad process “just for a while” has the same negative impact as taking the interest out of your savings. It just won’t grow.

If you want to achieve remarkable results, you’ve got to be willing to put the work in over time. Don’t keep doing what you’ve always done, look for improvements. And if you’re unable to see the forest for the trees, ask someone from outside your business to come and help you.

This is what I offer – small improvements in a broad range of areas. You may not think it’s much when it’s only one person wasting an hour each week on a bad process – but what happens when you have 20 or 30 staff in a similar role? You’d be losing 20 to 30 hours a week then. Would you want to give up all that productivity?

This is why one of my favourite “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is “Sharpen the Saw”. It may not seem like much, but consistently improving in small ways can provide the same power of compounding interest in all areas of your life.

Build your habits slowly – one step at a time.

Don’t go on a crash diet thinking you’ll keep the weight off, and don’t think that getting rid of one or two poor performing staff will fix your problems. Spend the time to make small adjustments and let them become cultural – your poor performers are most often a reflection of poor management.

If you’d like to discuss how I can help you identify some of these small gains in your business, give me a call today (0419 120 294) and I’ll book in a free session with you to explore what kind of benefit I can provide. No hard sell – I want to partner with businesses that can actually benefit from my services, and who are willing to take on the advice provided.

Keep at it though – the small changes will be the ones that will make all the difference in the end.

How to Improve

Work to your strengths.

You can do some things far better than me. In fact, you can do some things far better than most people you know. But you’re still probably not the best in the world. After all, that’s one out of 7 Billion. So that means you can still improve.

The problem is you get diminishing returns though. Going from being really good at something to being the worlds best is monumental, but anyone can dramatically improve at things they’ve never done before with just a small amount of practice. To improve when you’re already good requires high level coaching, deliberate training and practice. To improve when you’re just a novice is simple – just have a go.

But when you want to have a real impact on the world, you don’t actually have to be #1. You can actually make a real difference being #2024752. You just need to work smarter.

Scott Adams’ Talent Stack

Scott Adams talks about a “talent stack” in his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life – where you can apply your various skills in unrelated areas to become a true influencer and leader. The summary of this idea is that you might be good at say “writing” – not the best, but pretty good. And you are also pretty good at acrobatics – again, not an olympian, but better than most. You are probably significantly more qualified to write about acrobatics than most authors AND most acrobats. You’ve found a niche that fits you perfectly.

So all you’d need to do is find those areas that you are already good at, and combine them in interesting ways.

The way this works is that you’re removing competition by limiting your audience. Finding your niche. There are guaranteed to be better writers out there than me. But the very best authors are probably writing real literature, and I’m not competing with them by posting a blog. And the very best bloggers have their own niche – some tell inspiring stories, some use humour to engage readers. I talk about how small changes can add up to big results in business and personal life. My niche is not yet perfect – because there are people out there who do it better than me, I’m nowhere near the top of the competition yet. But I understand that I can focus on a tighter niche, and I can develop my strengths in ways that distinguish me from those others. I don’t have to be better if I’m sufficiently different. And I can also be better, because I have potential to improve through deliberate, focused practice.

Gary Vee’s Communication Strategy

If you want to get people’s attention though, you need to have some skill in at least one  form of communication. Gary Vanyerchuk points out that there are really only three platforms for communication. Facebook and Twitter didn’t really change anything. You have Visual (Video), Aural (Audio) and Written. This lines up with the learning styles “VARK” system developed by Neil Flemming (the K is for “kinesthetic”, or physical practice). So it seems important to develop skills in one of those three areas (or more) if you want to be able to be noticed in today’s media rich world.

So start there – develop your skills in writing, in speaking, and in presenting. But don’t get stuck there thinking you need to be #1 – look for ways to be different enough. Focus your content on areas you’re strong in. And develop in those areas. If you’re finding the competition still drowns you out, then find something different enough that you can add that makes you stand out.

Setting Impossible Goals

“It just can’t be done!”

I was getting exasperated. My boss and the head of sales were leaning on me to deliver a two week product in an hour.

Not just once – but from now on.

Every single time.

They were convinced that the reason we weren’t selling more was because customers were balking at the thought of waiting up to two weeks to be able to use the product. (They were right).

My team was small, but we were pretty good at what we were doing. There might have been some way to reduce the time a bit, but cutting it down by such an incredible margin just seemed flat out impossible.

My boss was one of those guys who would regularly challenge me to improve things – honestly I’m sure I’ve learnt more from him than almost any other person. But this was a whole other level. But the challenge was there, and although I was certain we’d never hit 1 hour, we should be able to reduce the time to deliver a bit if we pushed ourselves. I made some noise that sounded like agreement, and sat down to look at what we could change.

But it’s what happened next that changed the way I thought about business forever.

My boss came back into the room and started asking me questions:

  • “What if we knew exactly what the customer needed before it was ordered – could we do it then?”
  • “What if we stored our stock on site rather than at our office?”
  • “How much time could we save if we did all of our testing before the sale?”

These were our high end products, customers were spending big to get them – and our focus had always been on getting everything perfect, customized exactly how the customer wanted it.

But my boss was onto something here. We looked through sales data – and we could easily break the product into 3 categories, similar enough that we’d be able to treat them the same. Customers who wanted something truly custom would be more willing to accept a delay, or would compromise on their wish list to get it early if that was more important.

We found that there was room available for us that we could use for our prepared stock – we were already paying for the space anyway.

We were already half way there – with only a few tweaks we could promise delivery within two days.

I wrote out the process, and we identified some more bottlenecks. Some things could be done earlier, some could be skipped entirely. A lot of manual tasks could be automated, and we could involve different staff in the process if we had clear instructions prepared. I ran a test case, and proved that it was actually possible – we COULD deliver the product in an hour.

It took a lot of work, but if we hadn’t been set an impossible target, we would never have pursued it. We probably only ever actually hit the one hour target a few times for real customers, but we consistently delivered on same the day it was paid for from then on. Being able to offer a same day service changed everything – we went from two a week to over 20 a month. And seeing how we could achieve the impossible by asking good questions is what has set me on the path I’m on now. I’m incredibly grateful to my Boss for taking the time to not just set an impossible challenge for me, but to believe in me enough to work with me through it until we achieved the goal.

I honestly believe that most businesses are underperforming – especially the busiest ones. It takes a lot of work to change habits and processes – but the results are incredible when you do. Grant Cardone suggests that we limit ourselves when we set goals and targets – and that to truly achieve our potential we need to follow the “10x Rule“. I highly recommend his book for motivation and strategy. You can achieve more than you believe, but you’ve got to believe enough to try.

What is holding you back?

We all get stuck sometimes, and often it just takes someone else to give us a nudge in the right direction. When things get hard, we can choose to play it safe, or we can choose to lean in to the discomfort and discover what we are actually capable of. Biology shows us that this is the way we grow. Anyone who’s visited a gym (even just to confirm it’s not really your scene) understands that the workout is difficult. There’s stretching and straining, sweating and shortness of breath. It’s just not comfortable. But we understand that with good nutrition and appropriate rest, that discomfort will actually strengthen us – we will come out looking and feeling better than when we started.

Gary Vanyerchuck tells us that he “loves the hustle” – that he actually wants to lose at times because it sets up a challenge for him that means his eventual victory will be even sweeter. This kind of mindset is as powerful as it is rare. But even for someone like Gary, I believe there is something forward looking, something that is more about expectation than the struggle or discomfort itself.

Nobody works out because it makes them hurt. People work out because they understand that the pain is temporary, and the growth and health benefits are going to continue as long as we’re willing to push through. But the pain itself doesn’t bring any growth. The muscles are being pulled and torn as you’re working out. The growth comes in the recovery, the rest. This is where your muscles heal, and go beyond where they were to a place of actual growth.

I am convinced that most areas of our life develop in the same way. There needs to be some discomfort before there can be growth, but the growth comes with rest and reflection – not just the experience of pain.

So the thing that’s holding you back may not be your enemy – it could in fact be the thing that will teach you. Ryan Holiday wrote a book called “The Obstacle Is the Way“, which drives home this point. Where you’re seeing resistance in your business or your life is most likely the area that will bring the most growth as you face it and overcome it. Sheryl Sandberg wrote “Lean In“, which gives an insight into how she became one of the most successful and powerful women of her generation. It’s not by avoiding or ignoring discomfort – but by pushing into it and exploring how you can grow through it.

Ideally you will back this up with appropriate rest. Prayer, meditation, and journalling have all been recommended for so long by so many different people it seems almost ridiculous that it’s not assumed, yet I know that if I’m not deliberate about these things in my own life, it’s easy to let the good habits fall away.

What I’m working towards here is to say that your challenges are your opportunities. It’s just a matter of reframing. And then you’ve got to work it out. Lean in to the resistance, strengthen yourself, and find the advantage that comes from real learning, real growth, real experience.

But how do you do that when you’re in the middle of the mess? What can you do if you’re unable to find rest enough to go through the pain? Solomon wrote “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”. Sometimes the best thing to do is to ask for help. Bring in a friend, someone you can trust. Find someone who has experience, who will fight beside you and get you through the battle. I’ve been privileged to stand with people, and have had the joy of knowing that others are standing with me. In the most difficult times, it’s a truly humbling experience to know that you’re not alone.

So keep this in mind while you’re working away and feeling that resistance. And especially in those moments where things are starting to feel overwhelming. Keep your eyes on the prize, and don’t be afraid to ask for help – it could be the thing that becomes a foundation for you to grow from. And keep your eyes open to those around you. Be willing to encourage, to strengthen, and to stand with one another. It doesn’t have to be a lifetime commitment to be life changing – sometimes you’ve just got to get through the battle you’re facing. And out of such moments, lifelong bonds are formed.