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...

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...

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....

Gratitude is More than a Platitude–It’s a Smart Business Strategy

Writing in the Harvard Business Review Blog (January 23, 2012), Tony Schwartz cites a worldwide survey conducted by Towers Watson. The survey states, “The single biggest driver of engagement is whether or not workers feel their managers are genuinely interested in their well being.” Would it surprise you to learn that less than 40% of workers feel so engaged? With such a low level of engagement, people do not feel appreciated. They do not feel valued for their contribution the success of the organization. The bad news is that they leave to work other places and the worse news is that they stay to bring down morale in your business. How could an organization develop such a culture? Some managers have the attitude that a paycheck is appreciation enough. Others believe their people know they are appreciated and it is not necessary to express it. For some, they do not know how to express heartfelt thanks for good work. They don’t have the language or at least are not comfortable with the language. After all, work is about work and emotions have no place in business. I remember how surprised I was to hear an employee say to me, “You never say ‘thank you’ for anything that I do.” I did not realize she felt unappreciated. Although it was a bit uncomfortable, I was glad to learn how she felt. It made such an impression on me that I cross-stitched these words to remind me, “Hearts, like doors, will open with ease to very, very little keys. Two of these are ‘Thank you’ and ‘If you please.’” I framed...

Your Behavior Reveals Your Values

Companies frequently state integrity as one of their values in doing business. Sounds good but what does it really mean? Merriam-Webster defines integrity, a noun, as the following: Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code. The state of being unimpaired; soundness. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness. It is impossible to adhere to something that you have not identified.  Nice, high-minded words sound good.  We expect that from companies that get our business. The better question may be more like what do they value?  Really value. Consider the non-negotiable, core values for your company. Do safety, profitability, reliable products, fun, and happy customers make the list, for example? Careful that you keep your core values to a small list of 2 – 3, not a laundry list. It is important for all the values align with each other. Unless they are aligned, achieving one diminishes another.  For example, valuing profitability is admirable.  Without profits, you will not be in business for long to provide a product or service to make your customers happy–to say nothing of gainful employment for your people.  However, to sacrifice safety for profitability is very costly.  Knowing safety is taking a back seat to profits would not make the company a very fun place to work. A list of 2 -3-core values makes it easy to understand them and to identify when behavior and values align.  Patrick Lencioni author of The Advantage [2012] says that core values are apparent when they are an inherent and natural trait that has been apparent in the organization for a long time.  Reminds...

Gossip Strangles Growth

Almost everyone does it to some degree or another—share information and misinformation that serves no useful purpose.  It zaps productivity and morale. Gossip creates toxic cultures in companies and yet often it is the norm. You know when someone begins with “Well, I heard…” you are about to hear the latest scuttlebutt. It may or may not be true. It may or may not be malicious. A favorite uncle liked to say that “If you are talking about me, you are giving someone else a chance to rest.” The following are possible reasons we engage in conversations that do not serve anyone and actually can be destructive:  The one “carrying tales” is in the spotlight.  He or she knows a juicy tidbit that no one else knows.  It makes them feel important. A situation may threaten an individual and he feels the need to undermine it with a rumor.  The intent is to cause harm. We underestimate the cost of mistruths and half-truths.  Time spent talking about others is time spent not working.  Talk is cheap but is it really? How can we transform the time, energy and creativity used to spread useless and in some cases, harmful, information? When tempted to engage in gossip as the listener or the talker, ask yourself what is the purpose of the information.  If it does not meet the standard of beneficial and benign, substitute these actions:  Ask  is it true, is it kind, is it necessary Find the best in others Build up others through positive interactions with them Support others by offering or giving help Create something to improve the...