Clarify Your Priorities to Increase Your Revenues

  There are many competing priorities in running a business. Everything looks important. The problem is you cannot do everything and do it all at once. Your business suffers because you cannot give the proper attention to what moves your business forward. You spend your resources on activities that reduce your efficiencies and reduce your profits. When you clarify your priorities, your team and you can make wise choices about how to spend your time, creativity and money. For example, scrambling to meet externally imposed deadlines such as paying taxes diverts your attention from other activities that could be increasing your revenues. For instance, if you made it a priority to devise a process for compiling the data required for filing tax documents, you could eliminate the last minute scramble to meet your tax deadline. You would be free to focus on revenue generating work. To keep your attention on what moves your business forward, prioritize your work. You may discover that small, consistent action in the right direction pays large dividends in the long term. Here is a method to solve the prioritizing problem: Identify a finite period of time in which to define your priorities. I prefer a 30 day time frame. When I am coaching someone who is particularly overwhelmed, we start with a 2 week time frame. Make a list of what you think are important to accomplish in your time frame. Often this list is a long one. Many people think the longer the list the better. Distill the list to no more than 5 items. This compels you to create a list of...

Seven Questions that Empower

Socrates made famous the process of asking questions to require thinking– a rare activity at times. For entrepreneurs, thinking is crucial to your success. All questions are not created equal. Clarifying questions help someone come up with their own solutions. This is the thinking part. Advising questions tell someone what he should be doing to address the situation. Imbedded in the advising question is your opinion of what is the right approach. Telling questions imply that you are right and he is wrong. This is a good way to create a defensive posture. Empowering questions focus on what is already working and not the problem. Focus on the problem attracts more of the same. Empowering questions lead to a solution. There is no blame for what is not working. When someone arrives at a conclusion about how to solve a problem, it not only requires critical thinking but it also gives them ownership in the results. These seven questions are empowering questions: 1. What is the ideal situation that you want to achieve? 2. What have you tried so far? 3. What professionals have you asked about this issue? 4. Why are the current circumstances a problem? 5. If the current issue is not addressed, what are the costs to you? 6. How will the change that you are considering make a difference in your results? 7. What data do you have that illustrates the issue? Once I became aware of the difference between clarifying questions and advising question, I notice the difference in radio and TV interviews. When the question begins, “Don’t you think it would be better...

How Generosity Is Making Your Business a Better Place

Many business owners wonder if generosity is a smart business decision. There is an ongoing debate about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for business. CSR is usually associated with big companies. Regardless of the size, your business can incorporate CSR in its business model. It is an act of generosity. Companies embrace social responsibility not only for the benefit of the community in which they operate but also for the benefit of the company. Going above and beyond what the law requires is an act of generosity. Companies can help alleviate social problems and enhance communities. If small to medium size companies (the ones with up to 1,000 employees) leave all the social responsibility to the BIG companies, we are missing many opportunities to get things done. Consider that 70% of the work force is in a company of up to 1,000 employees. Here are 7 ways that a business of any size can implement social responsibility: Recycle. Save waste from the landfill by recycling paper, cardboard, aluminum cans, ink cartridges, batteries, glass, plastic, and electronics. Provide reusable shopping bags imprinted with your company logo to your customers. Reduce your carbon footprint. Lower thermostats in the winter and raise them in the summer. Use CFL light bulbs. Turn off lights in spaces that are unoccupied. Shop locally. Support the local community. Volunteer, especially where you can offer your expertise. Teach financial literary [accounting professionals] or build a home [construction professionals] as examples. In return, strong communities are able to support local businesses. Create good work environments. Provide flexibility for working parents. Foster collaboration not competition internally. This creates a feeling...

Strategy Confronts a Future with No Guarantees

There is confusion about the difference in a plan and a strategy. Plans are useful. Strategies are scary. When you choose a strategy, you are choosing a direction that requires you to make decisions that eliminate possibilities and options. Think crossing the Rubicon. The future outcomes are unknowable. Planning, on the other hand, is knowable and doable. It is based typically on annual budgets. The plan does not answer the question “why” an organization does what it does. The plan logically lays out the steps to reach an initiative or goal. It is better have a plan than not have a plan. A strategy answers the question of where you want to play and how you want to win playing there. The customer is the focus of a strategy. Who do you intend to serve and how do you intend to win? You must also be clear about where you do not want to play. Simply put, who is your ideal client? A strategy is designed to increase the odds of success. It is not meant to eliminate risks. It is no small feat to assess what you want to achieve and determine how realistic it is to try to achieve it. No guarantees. Until you see the outcome of a strategy, you cannot know if it was a good choice. There is no perfect, predictable strategy. That’s what makes it scary. Also, strategies are long term in nature not quick fix with immediate results. To embark on a strategy, it is important to have a logical basis for the decision. It is also critical to communicate clearly and...

The Main Thing Leaders Should Know About Focus

Businesses limit success by losing focus on what is most important. Businesses suffer from ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), too. For example, this week at a member recruitment reception at a business club, a new member introduced himself. He is an entrepreneur with nine start-up businesses. He is interested in meeting investors with capital for start-ups. That is not a place where I would invest my money – too many irons in the fire to make success look promising. The cost of spreading your resources so thin is that everything suffers. With so many objectives, nothing is done well. In addition, people are confused about what is important. People find it difficult to make good choices about the action to take. It also sets up a fight for precious, limited resources. It is easy to understand why ADD is prevalent in businesses: Seems risky to have a short list Requires discipline to say “no” to the newest idea Believes the myth that everything is important Unaware of what is working Bored with business as usual The solution is simple. Be very clear about the business you are in. Know how you create success. Say “yes” to the main thing Keep score Change course wisely Communicate throughout and at all levels so everyone knows Use the grapevine to spread “true rumors” The focus of my Toastmasters club is building our membership. We currently have 17 members. At our executive committee meeting, we discussed various ways to recruit new members. We meet weekly in a 25 story office building. The focus of our recruitment efforts is the people who work here. We...

The Power of Clarity

Lack of clarity at any level in your organization diminishes the possibility of success. Being unclear about the purpose of your business, for example, no one knows what strategies to pursue. If you do not know where you intend to go, any direction will do. Didn’t the Cheshire cat say this to Alice in Wonderland? It is costly to operate without clarity. Talented people spent time, creativity and money on the wrong initiatives. When lack of clarity frustrates the people that you hire, they do not do their best work. This has an impact not only internally but also externally with customers as well. When you are unaware of the hidden costs of confusion in your business, there is little incentive to change. Lack of clarity has three possible sources: A. Do it on purpose—confuse people to make it easier to control them B. Do not know any better—unaware that they are the source of confusion C. Cannot do any better—lack the skills to communicate clearly I recall overhearing the CEO of a small business say in an unguarded moment that he could keep his team in the dark with complex and ever changing stats. Without clarity about how the business was doing, the employees could not question decisions that significantly affected them. Bring clarity to your business with these eight steps: 1.    Tell the truth. Opinion is not fact. 2.    Let the numbers do the talking. Identify the indicators that measure success, track them and report them. 3.    Use simple language that is easy to understand. In other words, “espouse elucidation.” 4.    Be clear in your own mind....