A problem prospects have and don’t want

A result prospects want and don’t have

Most businesses operate in one or the other. A few may operate in both ways.

Over time we often get complacent and stop looking at such basic things. Big mistake. Fundamentals are often where the real power is found.

Over time we lose sight of our business fundamentals because fighting fires become our habit. And each day has a variety of distractions that must be managed. Like taking time to do important things – like rest or exercise or meditating – our schedule forces us to concentrate on the urgent, pressing matters. That’s why perfectly intelligent people – like us – can neglect our health and wellness. We know what to do. We just don’t discipline ourselves to take the time to do them. Often, until it’s too late.

Today, I’m urging you to get on with it. “It” being putting the fundamentals of your business model back in the foreground of conversations.

Let me suggest something to you – an exercise to conduct with your leadership team. Carve out 45 minutes of uninterrupted time between now and the end of next week. Give this meeting one agenda item – just one: to discuss the value we provide our customers.

Write it on the whiteboard:

A problem prospects have and don’t want

A result prospects want and don’t have

Don’t dominate the conversation, but lead it. Pose the question, “Where do we provide the most value to our customers?”

Listen carefully. Make notes.

Let the team engage in debate and dialogue. Disagreement is fine. You may learn something. So may your team.

Does the team see it the same way? If not, is that a problem?

Where are the constraints and challenges?

Where are the opportunities?

How can we do better?

I’m a big fan of Jack Welch’s view of strategic planning. It’s just two questions and this discussion is a great time to ask your team to wrestle with them.

  1. What can our competition do within the next 18 months to nail us to the wall?
  2. What can we do to our competition within the next 18 months to nail them to the wall?

Your customer base is the business coin. It’s where the real value is in your business. There are two sides to that coin: the haves and the have nots. Get your team very clear on those and then turn people lose to evangelize it throughout your company. It’s time to take your business to a whole new level.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

RC

Tap the brakes. I’m not talking about you domineering everybody in your life. And I’m not talking about how wonderful people are who refuse to submit to anybody over anything at any time. I’m talking about the most dreaded factor in our daily lives.

FEAR

Business owners – excuse me, entrepreneurs – often feel like they’re supposed to be immune. It’s like we all lined up at some secret clinic and got vaccinated with a vaccine unavailable to ordinary folks. That’d be great, wouldn’t it?

Culture presses on us unprecedented glorification. In my lifetime I’ve never seen business ownership or business startup glorified more. It’s the grand panacea for what ails you. Start your own company and all your wildest dreams will come true. Leave your 9 to 5 and enter the land of Utopia.

The reality is very different. Statistically, most don’t make it. Failure rates are extremely high. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go for it. It just means culture paints an unrealistic picture that sets very unreasonable expectations.

For those already in the game, it can press us to think, “My life isn’t like that. What’s wrong?” The average business owner isn’t living an Instagram kind of life. Fear is real. Fear that we’re failing. Fear that we won’t find success. Fear that we’re not as successful as we should be. Fear that we’re not measuring up.

Thankfully, there is an increasing volume of attention being given to the mental and emotional health of entrepreneurs. It’s a far cry from being able to offset the negative, fictionalized viewpoints, but it’s a start.

Do a Google search for the word “fear” and here’s what you get…

About 1,230,000,000 results (0.58 seconds)

The first results are definitions. Mayo Clinic defines fear as…

An unpleasant feeling triggered by the perception of danger, real or imagined.

But Merriam-Webster defines it as…

fear is the most general term and implies anxiety and usually loss of courage. fear of the unknown dread usually adds the idea of intense reluctance to face or meet a person or situation and suggests aversion as well as anxiety.

I’ll join the many who refuse to look at fear as the absence or loss of courage. That just adds to the negative pressures and imposes on us an unhelpful viewpoint.

It’s shallow to think that courage can’t coexist with fear because courageous people often confess their fear. Look in the mirror. You’ve exercised courage before. And you’ve done it in spite of fear. Courage is more likely doing what we need to do – or what we should do – anyway. In spite of fear or any other threat.

Let’s narrow our fear focus this morning. Let’s take aim at an action that has grown increasingly fascinating to me for the last few years – judgment.

Judgment

I’ve grown fond of a statement that I think is so ridiculously accurate. There are variations of it and I don’t claim to have originated it, but it’s brilliant and I rather wish I had.

just because you came into this chapter of my life doesn’t mean you know my whole story

But people think they’ve got it all figured out. We may think we’ve got others figured out. We judge each other. Easy to do because we’re not living their life. So we can second guess everything they do. And enjoy it.

That’s a real fear. A really big fear. Fear that people will judge us. Think less of us. Not be impressed by us. Blah, blah, blah.

Guess what?

They’re doing that now about you. And they’ll keep doing it. It doesn’t matter. Here’s what matters – how much headspace you’re willing to give to it. That’s why I’m becoming a more devoted convert to another truth.

Fear comes from a willingness to let someone else have the upper hand in judging you.

Why?

Because we’re human. Because we want to fit in. Because we want to be liked.

Even if it’s with and by people who don’t matter to us. 😉

Unreasonable? Sure. Completely.

But you’re mindful of your lifestyle in large part by how you look to others. If you want to own a multi-million dollar home with 12,000 square feet, then good on you. If you want to own a 1,400 home with a small yard and back patio where you can grill in the summer, then good on you. Truth is, neither one impacts me one little bit. If so, how?

Drive a $250,000 Bentley. Bully for you. Drive a Toyota Corolla, good for you. What you drive impacts me how? It doesn’t. Well, unless we’ve got a meeting and your car won’t start making you late or absent from our appointment. 😀

Passing judgment is indicative of people’s willingness and the duration, too. It’s passing. So why not let it pass without giving any oxygen to it?

Don’t admire anybody enough to take their point of view about you as more valuable than your own.

But we often do. It stymies us. Cripples us. Why?

Because these people came in on this chapter of our lives and we’re now going to let them write our complete story? How ridiculous!

Because that person judging you is somebody who is in your life for mere minutes (if that), and we give them the upper hand in making an assessment on our total life? Crazy, right?

Don’t listen to opinions that don’t matter.

What makes you happy with your business? What revenue goals excite you have nothing to do with me, or anybody else. Ditto for your lifestyle. Live as frugal as you want or as extravagant as you want, makes me no bit of difference. If so, how? And even if I judge you harshly – which is the tendency of many – what difference does it really make? Answer: it makes no difference unless you let it.

Unless you let it

Today, I’m encouraging you to not allow the judgment of anybody else to sidetrack you. Don’t give it any attention at all.

Examine yourself. Learn all you can about yourself and your circumstance. Seek understanding. Yes, solicit the perspective of people willing and able to help you. Perspective isn’t judgment. It’s a service from others that helps you eliminate your blind spots. Then grow! Make changes to improve. Forget what people think about you, your business or your choices. Your growth doesn’t depend on what others think of you.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

RC

Track It, Improve It – Grow Great Daily Brief #169 – March 19, 2019

One of the first rules of personal finance is to keep track of your expenses and income. That’s how you know where the money is. And where it’s going.

Knowing isn’t enough though. Nothing changes simply because you know that 18% of your money is going toward dining out. But without knowing that…you’re powerless to do much about it.

What your KPI’s? What key numbers are important to you?

Think about driving your car. Look at the instrument cluster on your dash. Do you pay equal attention to every gauge? Nope. Because some of them are unimportant. In fact, I’ll bet you don’t even understand some of them. Those are the ones you ignore completely.

Speedometer. It matters.

Fuel gauge. It really matters.

Check engine light. Yep, that one matters, too.

There’s 3. But we’re talking about your car, not your business. Both have more nuances that first meet the eye. In spite of the complexity of our cars, they’re mostly very simple to operate. That’s where the metaphor breaks down. Our businesses can seem simple, but we know how complex they truly are.

What are the three big measurements inside your business? The ones that really let you know what’s going on?

Sales / Revenues

Most owners will mention this first, and for good reason. No sales mean no customers. No customers mean no business. It’s the oxygen we need to keep our businesses alive.

There’s a problem. Sales and revenues don’t tell us how healthy our business is. Worse yet, these numbers can fool us into thinking things are okay. Even terrific. And merely tracking sales doesn’t necessarily reveal why sales/revenues are going up, or down. We just know it is what it is. Why is still a baffling question.

Profits

Gross. Net. Track both and now we’re getting a clearer picture of the health of our business. More is better, but simply tracking the number doesn’t indicate why it’s going up, or down. Again, the why can evade us.

Expenses

Tracking where the money goes and now we’re closing in the why of it all. Why is our cash flow being pinched? Expenses can tell us.

Why aren’t we keeping more profits? Expenses provide the answer.

What’s our customer acquisition cost? Without knowing our expense (investment), we have no way to calculate it.

Data is your friend, but you have to see it clearly. And for what it is. Tracking whatever matters is just the price you pay for the opportunity to improve the number. It shines a light on the thing (whatever THE THING is) so you can focus on it.

Track it, improve it centers on measurement, analysis and asking lots of questions…most of which revolve around, “What can we do about this?” Put another way, “How can we improve this?”

Improvement after tracking is an assumption we must make as owners. Don’t assume it can’t be made better!

Feedback

There are trackable things that have no gauges. You’re back behind the wheel of your car tooling to work at 60 miles an hour. Suddenly, a small vibration begins. You can’t tell where it’s coming from, but you know something is wrong. You slow to 50 miles an hour, but the vibration worsens. No warning lights go off on your dash. Nothing would indicate there’s a problem, but your senses don’t lie. Something is clearly wrong. So you pull off to the shoulder to have a closer look where you discover one wheel is loose.

Paying attention pays off. When we’re driving a car our eyes, ears and other senses help us navigate safely. It’s why developing autonomous vehicles has been slow coming. The human brain has an ability to process all the incoming data at unparalleled speed. Things that aren’t tracked – measured technically using meters or gauges – are instantly measured by the human brain. We adjust accordingly. That’s why you pulled your car over when that vibration began and didn’t improve.

So what’s the point? Brace yourself because I’m going to throw you a curveball. Track everything. I’m not saying make everything important, but give it to somebody to track. Solicit people inside your organization who love this sort of stuff. We need people willing (and happy) to track stuff – to measure it. If necessary, solicit as many people as you need. Why track everything?

Years of operating businesses with lots of moving parts has shown me that you don’t always know what’s important. Or when.

If everything is important, nothing is important. I started saying that decades ago because I learned as a young leader that priorities are needed if we’re going to grow great. I’ve not seen anybody grow great, or grow anything great by making everything equally important. But at the same time I’ve also learned the value of tracking everything. Not to make it a priority, but to keep an eye on it. To look for trends and patterns – which is largely what we’re doing as we operate our businesses. 

Retailers and manufacturers know the importance of tracking inventory. The companies that can do it best tend to churn to the top. WalMart did. Now you’ve got to do something with that data. Just knowing it isn’t the key. WalMart stores know what items are best sellers at one store versus the other one 10 miles away. Stocking levels are adjusted based on the rate of sale. The power is in the doing, but the doing is sparked by knowing. It’s the pressure to always close that knowing-doing gap.

Can it be tracked? Track it. Give the task to somebody willing (and excited) to own it. Challenge them to make sense of it. To look for patterns and trends. Then to make suggestions on ways it can be improved.

Meet with these folks regularly. Get them in a room together regularly. Let them nerd out about it. Don’t muzzle them. Turn them loose. Challenge them to make sure they’re tracking accurately. Question everything. Then listen!

In short order you’ll figure out there are some new things you’re tracking for the first time that you can now improve – things you never thought of improving before.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

RC

Spring break was last week here in DFW. While I don’t have school-age kids I do have school-age grandkids. More importantly, I have clients who have school-age kids and many of them (check that, almost all of them) took last week off to get in one last vacation before the end of the school year. Quite a few made a trek to Colorado or some other snow-laden environment where skiing and snowboarding happen.

I didn’t operate at full-strength last week (sorry, that’s a hockey reference meaning all 5 skaters are on the ice). Now that we’re into a new week, and folks are back at work, I thought we’d think about the value of stepping away. Vacations. Sabbaticals. Retreats. They’re all forms of stopping the normal, usual and routine. And they’re harder for some than others.

Stepping away. Unplugging. They’re often helpful if we want to more deeply connect. To something or somebody beyond or outside our normal routines. Maybe that’s the power – connecting to something or somebody else outside our routines.

In episode 165 I talked about NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s comments on the mental and emotional health of today’s NBA player. Watch athletes today as they enter the stadiums and arenas. Headphones on. Faces in phones. Connection, which feeds our emotional stability, is increasingly challenged by the need to be plugged in and always ON. But we know this and we’ve all read plenty about how social media platforms are designed to hook us to the rush we get by knowing what’s happening at all times. Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is a real thing.

The irony is we are missing out. We’re often missing out on deeper conversations. We’re missing out on fueling our curiosity about others. A deep enough curiosity that compels us to engage in conversation, to ask questions and to form deeper connections.

Intimacy has given way to more shallow casual connection. I know what you ate for dinner last night. I know the concert you plan to go to tonight. I see the new clothes you bought. I feed on all these details, but I don’t really know you. I just know what you want me, and the rest of the world, to know. I know how you front to all of us. And you can easily see how I front to others, too. That’s the depth of our connection. We just see the storefront without ever taking the time to walk into the store and peruse the real merchandise.

When we stop fronting with a sincere intention on more deeply connecting with others, or even with ourselves, we gain something more precious than shallow knowledge of what food we’re eating, or what clothes we’re buying or where we’re vacationing.

ENVY

a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck

Being so plugged in feeds our envy, which in turn weakens our connections because it increases our judgment and discontentment. “Man, you went to Hawaii during Spring Break? I didn’t get to go anywhere.” So it goes.

No need to connect. No need to figure anything else out about you. I’ve got your whole story figured out.

Or do I?

Flip it around. How many people know your whole story? Come on, think about it. Answer it.

One? Two? Five? I’m betting most of us can’t name 5 people who know our whole story. People who understand the total person we really are. People who know and understand our context. But not just people who know us…people willing and able to help us.

Compassion is where it starts. That’s why it’s the first C on my list.

Compassion • Communication • Connection • Collaboration • Culture

Compassion opposes envy and judgment. Until we can establish compassion for each other we’re going to be severely limited in the depth of our communication. Without communication, we can’t truly connect. Not in a meaningful way where we can serve each other.

So today, let’s lift our eyes up beyond our phones and devices. It doesn’t mean we bemoan technology. It’s terrific. We all love it. But it can’t replace human curiosity and compassion. Or the care we need to take to nurture relationships.

Walk around your company today. Call people by name. Shake some hands. Brag on folks. It won’t seem so deep to you, but it’ll be deep to the people you serve. Keep doing it and you’ll find paths to deeper connections over time.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

RC

A couple of days ago there was a UFC fight in Las Vegas for the welterweight title. Tyron Woodley was the defending champion. Kamaru Usman was the opponent. The champ lost. Badly.

But it was what happened after the fight that got all the press. Tyron’s mom, Deborah, a 66-year-old who raised Tyron all by herself while working multiple jobs – as she put it, she did what she had to do – approached the new champion as he limped to his dressing room with the championship belt slung over his shoulder.

Deborah, who has a long history of showing grace to the opponents of her son (she even did it during his wrestling days in high school back in Missouri). Tonight was no different. She hollered at the victor, approached him and hugged him. He broke down crying into her shoulder, apologizing to her. You can read more and see the video here.

“It’s all good, baby. It’s all good. It’s your turn. It ain’t his turn.”

Her kindness clearly moves Usman, who won the contest and was now the current champion. Proving that even champions and winners need encouragement.

Do you have any doubt whatsoever that Deborah and her son, Tyron, are the real winners? Do you have any doubt at all that Usman, now the UFC welterweight champion is the winner? Do you have any doubt that by seeing this story YOU are a winner, benefiting from the grace shown by a 66-year-old mother?

Yeah, me neither. We’re all better for it.

Look at that. Look at the reach. The impact. The power.

Is it that winners also need encouragement or is it that in order to win we all need it? I think the later.

Who benefits more? The person giving the encouragement or the person receiving it?

Does it matter? It’s not a contest where somebody wins and somebody loses. It’s not even a matter of who wins more. It’s a matter of need, opportunity and benefit. The need for encouragement and grace is high. Always. The opportunities to extend grace, compassion and understanding – and encouragement – are equally high. There’s never a time where you’ll struggle to find it. It’s staring you in the face almost at every turn. Daily. And the benefit? Well, go dive into that story and video and then tell me what you think about the benefit. ENORMOUS.

It’s the power of people. It’s our ability to have a big impact on each other. To help each other, even when it’s not obvious that we may need the help. I mean, come on. The man has her son’s championship belt slung over one shoulder. What does he need from her? Was she driven by what she needed to extend? Was she driven because she noticed something in the man who just defeated her son? Some sadness perhaps? I don’t know.

But just like her work raising her son, she did what she had to. She did what she could.

What about you? What about me?

Are we doing what we should? Are we doing what we can? To serve each other? To support each other? To encourage each other?

I’m proud to have seen the story. I’m sad that such a story gets our attention because that depth of concern, care, compassion, grace and encouragement is too stinking rare. That’s sad.

We need to change that.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

RC