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What You Don’t Know Will Hurt You

Most entrepreneurs don’t start a business because they have a passion for running a business or are an expert on operations. They do it because they’re passionate about their idea and feel that what they have to offer is sure to attract their target audience. Unfortunately, the entrepreneur’s journey is never an easy one.

It’s true that what you don’t know will hurt you. The world is constantly changing, and savvy business owners understand that they need to make time to work on their business instead of in it. To be successful, they must constantly learn and stay current in their field, on employment, in marketing and so much more.

Here are a few tips to keep yourself in the know:

Hire Good Staff With Excellent Communication Skills

Besides having the skills to expertly perform the tasks of the position they are given, having excellent communication skills are a necessity and will also be a reflection of the company. Also, being able to clearly communicate helps keep employees, management and clients in tune with the business.

Hire a Good Business Coach

Business coaches often stay on top of the trends. They’ll be able to help you pinpoint what you’re missing, identify possible roadblocks, help you come up with strategies to address them and help you remain accountable when it comes to following through.

Be Flexible and Responsive

Research your industry and be ready for changes. If you’re not the kind of business owner who can be responsive and flexible to the needs of your business, entrepreneurship might not be for you.

Never Stop Learning

Today there are plenty of ways to maintain the learning process, and you should continually expand your knowledge base. Consider the following easy ways to keep up to date:

Attend Conferences

Conferences and networking events are the perfect opportunity to learn from people in your industry (including your competitors), listen to the speakers and meet people, including potential clients. Even if the presentation is about something you’re familiar with, it will reaffirm what you already know or provide inspiration.

Take an Online Course

There are online courses covering every topic these days, so the possibilities of furthering your education without leaving home are endless. Online courses are also a great way to achieve added business designations that can help improve your credibility.

Read

Read anything that applies to you and your business, whether it’s about improving your sales skills, wealth, communications, cold calling skills or making the most out or email or social media marketing. Even if the topic seems a bit dry, the usefulness may become relevant down the road.

Listen to Podcasts

Today’s podcast technology provides the convenient ability to listen to and take in different content topics during your down time. You can listen to podcasts in the car, on a plane or at the gym. Where ever you desire.

Always spend time learning and continuing to improve your business because what you don’t know will hurt you. But what you do know will set you apart from the competition.

Have you ever had a situation where what you didn’t know, hurt you? What did you learn from that event? I’d love to read your advice in the comments below.

Delegate and Let Go – Overcoming Micromanaging Tendencies

Your job as a small business owner is to set the vision and course for your business, while ensuring the day-to-day

 

operations continue as planned. A strategic plan that sets out your goals, objectives, and timelines is necessary in order for you to gauge where your business is and where it needs to go. The steps in-between let you know if you are making appropriate progress or if you need to pivot. When you’re micromanaging, you’re not focused on the things that move the needle in your business. In order to focus on the future, you must delegate and let go. 

Start Small

Letting go of the reins can seem a bit overwhelming at first. After all, your business is the baby that you’ve raised from birth. Now that it’s time to graduate to the next level, letting others take on portions of your responsibility is like sending your first born off to college. It may help to start small and delegate smaller tasks first if you’re not used to letting go. This will prevent your employees from being overwhelmed with a lot of new tasks and will help you loosen the reigns while still setting the course. As employees display the ability to do the task that you delegated, move on to the delegation of larger projects.

Ask, Don’t Tell

After you’ve trained your employees, try not to nag them about how they’re performing the task. If you find an error, ask questions to see if they can find the error on their own. Then coach them and come to a joint decision as to how this task will be completed to avoid errors in the future. What works for you may not work for someone else. Everyone has their unique way of doing things, and their way may work better for them. If employees are ethical, getting results and meeting deadlines, then let them be.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Let employees have creative freedom and empower them to make decisions. You may be surprised to discover that this can foster loyalty and pride in their work. They may feel more empowered to provide new solutions and efficient methods of performing their role, which may free them up for additional tasks.

Don’t forget that everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Use errors as learning and coaching opportunities to help build a strong and healthy working relationship that is beneficial to everyone involved.

Perform an Exit Interview

Any time an employee says they are leaving the company, ask them why. This can provide insight into issues that you’re unaware of. Perhaps your wages don’t compare to the same positions in other companies. Maybe they believe that the job is too difficult and that processes need to be improved. Perhaps the culture or environment that they’re working in is causing anxiety. Listen to what they’re saying. Then, ask other employees for their feedback and input into the stated issues so that you can improve the work environment.

It may be necessary to offer further training on job roles or teach a class on working with others and accepting differences in culture, sexuality or race. If you need advice to correct issues consider hiring a coach, mentor, or consultant to help you through the process.

As your business grows, you can’t be everywhere doing everything. Your job is to set the vision and direction while ensuring the smooth operation of your business. Don’t become a micromanager. If you are one, consider implementing a few of these tips to create a better working environment and a better business outcome. I can help you streamline your business processes. Call me today.

When to Stop Outsourcing and Hire Instead

In my last post I shared the pros and cons of outsourcing. But how do you know when to stop outsourcing and hire instead? Small business owners who are on the path to success know that they can’t do everything by themselves. Hiring employees could mean the difference between stagnation and growth. The three reasons why you should consider hiring an employee instead of outsourcing are below.stop outsourcing

Priority

When you outsource your work to a contractor or freelancer, you end up competing against other clients for their time. Something that you need done right away could end up taking weeks if the contractor has other projects ahead of yours.

On the other hand, employees are committed to your company for the time that you’re paying them. You manage their priorities as it relates to their work assignments. Your highest priority work will be done in the order that you see fit.

Quality

Small business owners generally compete on quality more than they compete on price. Therefore, outsourcing to a contractor can be risky. Contractors don’t have a stake in your business and are often looking to complete the job as quickly and efficiently as possible. They may also provide lower quality workmanship if they believe that you’re not going to extend the contract term.

As you consider hiring employees, it’s important to understand the tasks that they’ll be responsible for. Assess their ability to complete the tasks in an efficient way and maintain the level of quality that your customers are used to.

Security

Outsourcing sometimes puts your company at risk, especially if you need to provide classified or sensitive items to the contractor as part of the project. Although it’s easy to forget, information is still stored somewhere in the brain and you don’t want the contractor to recall your sensitive information when they’re working for your competitor.

Stop Outsourcing

You should have enough work to keep your employees busy for the hours you’re your paying them. Otherwise, they’ll become complacent and may end up using work time to run personal errands, come in late or leave early.

Giving employees meaningful work that keeps them busy is not only rewarding for you, but it provides the sense of contribution to the success of your business. It gives them a chance to celebrate the wins and at the same time feel confident in their own abilities to accomplish great things.

Learning is the Key to Growing Your Small Business

Technology rapidly changes at a moments notice and it’s more important than ever to be on top of your game and open to new ideas. Business owners must have skills beyond their core competencies if they want to stay competitive. Learning is the key to growing your small business.learning

Gaining new skills

Gaining new skills helps you better understand your processes, projects and employees. This understanding gives you insight in to how your business is running and allows you to make improvements that drive efficiencies, maximizes resources and helps your employees advance in their careers. Access to education is readily available in different formats that suit your learning style and time constraints.

Learning Environments

Learning environments exist online, locally and abroad. Some are free and others can be cost prohibitive. I’ve discovered that the best lessons come from experience, listening and observation. Some of the resources that I recommend are listed below.

  • Online courses—You can learn just about anything online. From free college courses at Coursera.org and MIT Open Courseware to paid training from sites such as Lynda.com or from top colleges around the globe.
  • Books—The greatest leaders read, and nothing beats a good book. These days you can get them for free or cheap from your local bookstore or sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble or trade for them at Paperback Swap.
  • Mentors and advisors—Learn from others who have walked this path before you. Some professional organizations have formal mentoring programs or can partner you up with another member. But if the professional organization of your choice doesn’t have a mentoring program, you can rely on Small Business Development Centers to help get you the resources you need.

Listen and Observe

Be attentive to body language and word choices when listening to employees, peers and stakeholders. There are often clues to what’s really being said between the words and if you take a moment to simply observe you’ll discover insights into bottlenecks and reap the rewards of being just a little bit smarter.

As Dave Ramsey says, “Your team will never grow beyond you”. The question to ask yourself is, are you growing?

The Flywheel Effect – Good to Great: A DLB Consulting Book Study

Great companies realize that there is no one single event that catapults the company into greatness. Rather, it’s a series of cumulative actions that add up to sustained and amazing results. In Good to Great, Jim Collins refers to this as the flywheel.Flywheel Effect

The flywheel is huge, heavy and creaky. It takes a lot of effort to move it an inch, but you keep pushing. Eventually, the flywheel begins to move until you get the first revolution. After continuous effort, the flywheel begins to pick up speed making rotation after rotation until at some point it’s using it’s own weight to continue the progress. That’s the break through.

The Flywheel Effect

Getting the flywheel to move in the right direction takes more than just an initial company meeting and a party to announce your plans. Arguably, hoopla and motivation are less likely to get the wheel turning. Instead consider using your vision and hedgehog concept to get started. Here are a few steps to implement as you build the flywheel effect:

  1. Take steps forward that are consistent with your vision and hedgehog
  2. Accumulate visible results
  3. Make sure there are roles to be filled because employees will want to be involved
  4. Encourage participation as the flywheel builds momentum

Everything that we’ve talked about so far in our book study on Good to Great is a piece of the buildup-to-breakthrough flywheel effect. The key is to be consistent and continue to build upon the stuff that works so that the positive effects are magnified.

Building a great company takes a long time. According to the study, the average time for a Good to Great Company to achieve greatness was seven years. There are no overnight success stories. Most overnight success stories are about twenty years in the making. Are you willing to take the next step to become great? I’d love to help you get started.

Confront the Brutal Facts: Good to Great: A DLB Consulting Book Study

In our last post we emphasized the importance of getting the right people on the bus. The right people are internally motivated and your job is to make sure they don’t get de-motivated. In this post we’ll discuss the importance of building a culture that confronts the brutal facts and where open and real communication exist. Confront the Brutal Facts

There’s a difference between having the opportunity to be heard and having your say. Great companies know the difference. To create a culture where truth is heard and problems are solved, consider the four basic practices that good-to-great companies employ.

Lead with Questions

As a leader you must be humble enough to admit that you don’t have all the answers. You weren’t anointed with a crystal ball the moment you got promoted or started your own business. You should ask questions and actively listen to responses. This will help you gain a better understanding of the message and lead to better insight.

Engage in Dialogue and Debate

Become a great moderator. Create an atmosphere where issues can be debated with facts and point-of-views based on information that’s presented. Ensure that all sides engage in the debate and do so respectfully. Then, make a decision and implement the solution.

 Conduct Autopsies

John Maxwell, author of Sometimes You Win—Sometimes You Learn, points out that experience isn’t the best teacher. Instead evaluated experience is. Leaders learn from past mistakes. They take responsibility for the mistake and take the time to truly understand the root cause. In other words, they learn.

 Build Red Flag Mechanisms

The information age brought with it the ability to share and receive data. You have access to this data just like your competitors. However, having data doesn’t do you any good unless you recognize it and then take action. Create a mechanism that allows your employees to raise a red flag when they discover a risk area to evaluate and mitigate.  You can use a physical red flag if you want to or you can simply create a process that enables it.

Confront the Brutal Facts

Good-to-great companies that employ these techniques face adversity with strength instead of fear. They focus on confronting the brutal facts with open and real communication. In the end, they cultivate a culture that drives the success of the company and those who are in it.

Which of the four basic practices discussed today will you employ to drive the success of your company?

What is Level 5 Leader? Good to Great: A DLB Consulting Book Study

Are You a Level 5 Leader? Level 5 leaders focus on the interest of the company before themselves. They check their egos at the door. They are modest, humble and fearless. In part one of our DLB Consulting Book Study series, we’re exploring level 5 leadership. If you don’t have your book, you can order it through my affiliate link at Amazon.com. Level 5 Leader

Level 5 Hierarchy

Level 5 leadership is the first of two concepts in the Disciplined People stage of the Good to Great framework. It refers to the highest level of executive capabilities, which are:

  • Level 5: The executive who builds enduring greatness through humility and professional will.
  • Level 4: The highly committed effective leader who passionately pursues a clear vision with high performance standards.
  • Level 3: The competent manager who effectively and efficiently organizes people and resources towards the goal.
  • Level 2: The contributing team member who effectively works with others through individual contributions towards the goal.
  • Level 1: The highly capable individual who contributes talent, knowledge, and skills towards the goal.

 Level 5 Leader Attributes

Level 5 leaders exists all around us. They are the leaders who achieve greatness and never attribute the success to themselves. They are the lynchpins in the company that go above an beyond their job role, work with diligence, have intense focus, and declare others as the heroes. To identify them look for the following attributes:

  • Ambition for the Company: Level 5 leaders hire strong successors and set them up for success.
  • Compelling Modesty: Level 5 leaders produce extraordinarily results and are often described as humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated, or simple.
  • Unwavering Resolve: Level 5 leaders have intense determination to do what must be done, often times going against the grain. They work more like a plow horse than a show horse.
  • Window and the Mirror Mentality: Level 5 leaders credit others for the success of the project, while blaming themselves for failures. They often attribute their success to outside factors, such as the industry, life events, blessings and good luck.

How to Attain to Level 5 Leadership

There are no magical steps to attain to the level 5 leader and you don’t have to go through each of the executive levels to get there. The secret to level 5 leadership is to encompass all four attributes described in this post. If you don’t currently have them, you can work to integrate them into your leadership style one trait at a time.

Do you know a level 5 leader? If you’d like to recognize them, leave a comment below. I’d love to recognize them too.

Good to Great – A DLB Consulting Book Study Series

When you envisioned your business your dreams reflected a great company, with great employees, and a great mission. Good to GreatSomehow the existence of your company would make this world a better place either through the products and services you offered or through employees you provided with a steady income. Where is your business now?  Perhaps your business is failing, mediocre, or performing well but not according to your dreams.   Are you ready to make it great?

Good to Great

If you’re ready to take steps towards greatness, then join us for our study of Jim Collins’ book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t. This book contains in depth research performed by his team over the course of five years.  The process of taking a company from good to great relies not on executive compensation, celebrity heroes, or any one person. But rather on the ability to adopt a framework that provides the foundation for establishing a company that can rise to the top and outperform the competition year over year. This framework includes:

1) Level 5 Leadership: Leaders with a paradoxical blend of humility and professional will, like Lincoln and Socrates.

2) First Who…Then What: The principle of hiring the right people before setting the vision and strategy.

3) Confront the Brutal Facts: The belief that through the difficult times you will prevail in the end so long as you have the discipline to confront reality.

4) The Hedgehog Concept: The intersection of three circles comprising of what you can be the best in the world at, what you are deeply passionate about, and what makes enough money.

5) A Culture of Discipline: A culture that combines disciplined people, thought, and action with an ethic of entrepreneurship.

6) Technology Accelerators: The careful section and pioneering of technology to accelerate growth rather than to ignite a transformation.

7) The Flywheel and the Doom Loop: The process of pursuing success in one direction, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough, and beyond.

Order Your Book

If you’re ready to become a selfless leader who builds a great team and passionately pursues a simple goal, then follow along with us as we explore this timeless classic and begin to become great ourselves. We’ll discuss each of the principles in great detail over the next few months. You can order your book from your local bookstore or through my affiliate link at Amazon.com. Are you ready to become great?

Make a Decision Before Your Competition Does it For You

Decisions

Canglour Glen, road junction for 2012 photo.
© Copyright Robert Murray and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence

According to the Houston Chronicle, indecisiveness is one of the factors that causes over 50% of small businesses to fail over the span of five years. Fear of criticism, failure, or even success may stop us right in our tracks. Fear is a natural reaction to many key business decisions, and criticism is part of the package too. Don’t be afraid of it. Instead, recognize it for what it’s worth, and take steps to make those key decisions before your competition does it for you.

Here are 9 things you should consider when making a decision:

  • Overcome Fear–Fear is the biggest obstacle to overcome when making decisions because it often causes paralysis. You may be afraid of making a mistake, losing money, getting sued, or losing customers. This fear causes indecisiveness and lack of innovation. Before long, your competitor is on your heals ready to overtake the dream that you worked so hard to achieve. Be determined to make a decision regardless the uncertainty of the outcome.
  • Set a Deadline–If you’re going to wait on a decision, make a conscience choice to come back to it by calendaring a due date. If you can’t make a decision today because you’re not in a good place emotionally, you’re angry, or drained, remember to set a date to revisit the decision. By setting a date you allow yourself the time to be intentional.
  • Allow Enough Time–Realize that bigger decisions take more evaluation, thought, and time. Conversely, small inexpensive decisions should be made instantly.
  • Break it Down–Break big decisions into bite-sized chunks. Narrow down options to the few best, launch your product in test markets, create a focus group, or do a survey. This way you’ll have the data that you need to formulate your decision without tackling the problem all at once.
  • Gather Your Data–Research and gather information and opinions.  Options are powerful because they remove fear. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst-case scenario?” Most of the time death isn’t in the equation when you play out the worst-case scenario. Even if the worst-case scenario is hard to swallow, as long as it’s survivable you can still move forward with the decision. Always strive to have a few good options to choose from because they improve the quality of the decisions that you make.
  • Evaluate the Financials–Evaluate the financial impacts of the decision. Determine if you’re willing to risk your entire business on one decision, product, or idea. I wouldn’t recommend it. Wait to revisit the idea when the timing is right.
  • Values–Ensure that your decision matches your values. There’s nothing worse than saying that you believe in something and then doing something totally contradictory.
  • Seek Advise–Seek the counsel of experts and your spouse. Ask those around you who have knowledge in a field that you’re not an expert in, understand the information they’re providing, and use the information to make an informed decision. It’s a good idea to get your spouse to weigh in on the decision as well.
  • Journal–Journal your thoughts about the problem and potential solution. When you take the time to articulate your thoughts on paper, you process the information once again and engage another part of your brain to help you make the decision.

Aristotle said, “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing”. You will make mistakes, but generally the cost of these mistakes is less than the cost of indecision. Doing nothing is a great way be one of those 50% of business that close after five years.  What decision are you struggling with today?