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Be Excellent At This For Small Business Success

Business People. Successful Business Partner Shaking Hands in the office. Business Team
Business People. Successful Business Partner Shaking Hands in the office. Business Team

I like to think of myself as capable of most any task I take on. No doubt you do as well. Given enough time and resources, we can obtain the necessary knowledge and skill to do most anything.

Which is exactly why we shouldn’t do some things. 

Some time ago I took on the job of remodeling our bathroom. We had purchased an older home and the décor was dated.  My wife wanted (among other things) to have the 60’s vanity removed and to install a porcelain pedestal sink.

Removal was a breeze. Breaking things is in my skill set. Once removed I placed the pedestal sink in place and began the installation process. A few hours and a lot of water later I sat on the floor, surrounded by hoses, gaskets, and various tools. I was dumbfounded as to why I could not successfully install this sink.

Just then my wife came in and asked, “Is there anything I can get you?”

“The only thing I need right now is a plumber” was my reply.

What seemed to be a straight-forward, simple yet not easy task had turned into an epic challenge that I could not solve. And this is often what happens in our work lives as well.

No one wants to be incompetent. But admitting one’s incompetence is often the first step in moving forward with a project. How much revenue has been sacrificed, how many clients have not been served, how many opportunities have been lost because we feel the need to do a task ourselves rather than delegate it to someone who already possesses skill and knowledge we do not?

This is most common in small business. To compete we need to be experts in accounts payable, receivable, human resources, payroll, tax compliance and strategy, marketing, advertising, sales, retention, and now social media too. It can overwhelm the most competent person just as I was overwhelmed by the seemingly simple task of installing a sink.

Each task can be mastered individually. But when it comes to the pace of running a small business, trying to master any one task on the fly is insurmountable. You’re better off admitting you are incompetent and hiring someone who is. That way you can focus on what parts of the business you do well and get better results.

If you are good at selling but poor at bookkeeping, hire someone to do the bookkeeping and do more selling.  You’ll make more money because you’ll be doing what you do well and outsourcing what you don’t do well.

All the time you spend learning a new task and doing it poorly is lost opportunity time (not to mention poor execution which leads to higher costs as well).

And here’s the real risk in not taking this approach; eventually you will grow tired of doing the tasks you don’t do well and you’ll start to avoid doing it at all. And when things don’t get done they create bigger problems that must be done. This will undoubtedly call for hiring an expert.

To be successful in business today you must comply with regulation, compete with the competition, and communicate to your target clients why they should do business with you.  Then you must close the sale and do everything necessary to retain the client.  No one person can do this well for very long.  Soon you’ll have more to do than you personally can.

If you intend to grow you will be best-served to learn this now: The best business people are very good at one or two things and excellent at delegating or outsourcing the rest.



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Grossed Out! The Unlikely Death of Networking

Business Networking

Ask anyone in business where they get their best customers and somewhere in the first few sentences you’ll hear “word of mouth”. Ask anyone, anywhere how they found their favorite restaurant and it will likely be by referral. Even our best friends are often the result of meeting through others.

 

What you’ve just witnessed is the power of networking in tbe lives of people. And yet, everywhere you turn, networking is under siege. Local Chambers of Commerce are eliminating networking at an alarming rate. Some network marketing companies are giving networking a blemish, and major publications and business experts decry networking as an evil means to an end. It isn’t hard to find someone cheerfully announcing the death of networking.

 

And it comes as no surprise. For many, networking isn’t something that comes naturally. It’s awkward walking into a room full of people and finding your place. In the grocery line we do our best to keep our eyes on our carts to avoid a chance meeting with someone we don’t know.   Networking is, as one person recently told me, “As foreign to me as brain surgery”.

 

In a recent article on FastCompany.com, Samantha Cole leads with “Why Networking Makes You Feel Physically Gross”. It seems that all that discomfort you’ve been feeling when networking is manifesting itself physically in a not-so-good way. Perhaps you’ve felt it.

 

The article sites a University of Toronto study that finds we feel “icky” after networking. It goes on to surmise that networking forms relationships based on our, “…dirtiest motivations: Money and power.” More on that in a moment, but first, let’s dig a bit deeper into the study.

 

While the article doesn’t tell us specifically who participated in the study, it does conclude that people playing fill in the gaps word games are more likely to come up with words like “wash”, “soap”, and “shower” after what they refer to as “selfish networking moments.” You can read the complete article here: http://bit.ly/1q6MM3F

 

Further, they asked a whopping 165 lawyers about their networking habits and found that those who were most powerful were “less grossed out” by networking than those who were less powerful.  Notice the inference is that they were all grossed out, just those with power were “less grossed out”.

 

But perhaps the most telling line in the article is found in the final paragraph. It suggests you’ll feel “less slimy” if you “change your perspective—and your approach—to finding connections that genuinely do interest you beyond professional gain.”

 

This is where so many get genuine networking wrong. They just can’t help but come back to it being all about themselves. Notice the article suggests you find people interested in you, not you finding people you are interested in. Is this any less sincere? Isn’t this just as “dirty” a motive?

 

You can’t feel “less slimy” when you are focusing on yourself. Genuine networking is interested in self, but consumed with others. When you know how to be genuine in your networking endeavors, you approach each meeting , whether in a room full of people or in the grocery check-out with a genuine interest in others and a servant heart. You know that you will get what you need by helping others get what they want.

 

And here’s a news alert for you: Money and power aren’t intrinsically “dirty”. While there are those who obtain money and power illegitimately, more often money is a measure of service you’ve provided. Those with power in a community earn it through service. It never fails, serve others and they’ll reward you. If you’ll only focus on serving others they will cheerfully give you everything you need.

 

Which brings us back to the beginning. Where do you go to find what you need? Serve others and the answers will appear. And since most people are interested in themselves and their needs, there is a big opportunity out there for those who have a servant heart. Networking to find what people need and how you can help them get it is the best way to find your place of service.

 

So while figures and studies continue to confirm networking’s death, there will still be those who know the truth: Networking, genuine networking, is alive and well and will be for as long as humans communicate.



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Guerrilla or Jackass?

Guerrilla or Jackass?

Everything is marketing and marketing is everything. And if you subscribe to the theory of Guerrilla Marketing, virtually anything that is unexpected and full of surprise can give you an advantage. Actually, the purpose of guerrilla marketing is to give your product or service an advantage, better yet, an unfair advantage.

I learned this first-hand in the 80’s working in the golf industry. Our company was a start-up, desperate to gain a toehold in the market. Perhaps a lot like your business or a business you frequent in your hometown. Perhaps a lot like the business I witnessed today using what they may think was a guerrilla marketing tactic.

Guerrilla or jackass? While it may seem obvious, the distinction is subtle.

It’s war out there. Grabbing the attention of a potential customer is a battle. Between limited funds, onerous governmental restrictions, worldwide competition through the internet, and the massive amount of other advertising, businesses today have resorted to unusual means to gain attention.

While it may not be that unusual today, not long ago a young man or woman on a street corner dressed in costume and spinning a hand-held sign while dancing was unusual. Now it is ubiquitous. From pizza to pawn shops, what once stood out is now commonplace. We drive right by noticing these former guerrilla markers no more than we do car alarms.

But today was different. Today I witnessed this technique being used in a way I had never thought of before, much less seen before. And I can assure you we will all begin to see this technique used for better or worse.

It is one of the busiest intersections in our town. Thousands upon thousands of cars drive through daily, many of them more than a couple of times a day. As a natural location for retail establishments, the area is flooded with signs of all kinds. The buildings located slightly off the corners have bigger, higher, more noticeable signs to be seen from a distance. All in all, a lot like any busy intersection in America.

Just off the northeast corner of the intersection, just a couple hundred yards back stands a building with a franchise location of a “gently used clothing store”. We’ll call this store Competitor A. While we have had thrift stores in our town for a number of years, two different used clothing franchise stores have opened in our town in the past two years. Up until now, everything I’ve described is normal.

On the northeast corner of this intersection stood a young man holding a sign. Not unusual until you notice the sign has a big red arrow, seemingly directing you to go to the right bearing the company name of a competing national franchise “gently used clothing store”. That’s right, Competitor B has camped out with sign in hand in front of Competitor A’s store.

While I’ve seen companies buy billboards in front of a competitor’s location, I always thought that was fair. If the local company wanted to prevent it, all they need do is buy the billboard.

But how does one stop a jackass? In the past people didn’t want to be jackasses. They cared about their public image. But today society doesn’t punish someone for being a jackass. Many like the idea they’re so brash.

So am I being too harsh? Is Competitor B a guerrilla or a jackass? I’d love to hear your thoughts.



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Why Networking is a Waste of Time

If you think you’ll build your business this year by doing more networking, think again. Nearly all time networking is time wasted.

handshakeYou might not think the author of three books on networking would say networking is a waste of time, but after twenty years of studying networking, after attending and facilitating over 3000 networking events, and after hearing over 10,000 networking self introductions in just one year alone, I’m comfortable telling you most networking is a waste of time.

Why is networking a waste of time?  Networking is just a vehicle.  Like the automobile in your driveway, the vehicle itself wastes most of its time sitting.  It may look good, it might even bring some admirers, but until you get behind the wheel and drive the car, it goes no place.

And neither will you if all you do is network.  Networking provides the vehicle to connect one with people and resources needed to solve problems.  Truly effective networking is the vehicle you should use to solve the problems your friends and acquaintances have.  This is when networking is useful.

Too many people go to networking events to sell their stuff.  They foolishly look at the room and think of all the people in the room they might sell.  That’s not networking, that’s one-to-one selling.  It’s like your car in the driveway.  It may look good, but only you can use it.  You might sell it once to someone else, but that’s the extent of its value.  Only the best equipped sales person is successful in this type of “networking”.

Some “networkers” walk in the room and think, “This will be a great resource for referrals.”  As they meet people they explain what they do and cleverly ask, “Who do you know that I should meet?”  They get leads and perhaps even a sale, but once again the focus is on them.  It’s just like a car you wish to sell, you can ask everyone if they know someone who wants to buy it, but the likelihood of finding a match is slim.  You’ll get a lead only when your product or service is an exact match for someone.

But true networkers approach things differently.  They understand that the real value of networking is in building relationships.  They approach the room differently.  “I wonder whom I’ll meet that needs to know someone I know” is their frame of reference.  They give and give and give.  Like the car, instead of letting people look at it or even selling it to them, they give everyone a ride where they wish to go, free of charge.

Some people will take the ride and barely say thank you.  Like the people who look at your car, these are the takers.  You don’t want to be one of them.

Some people will take the ride and offer to buy your car.  These are the buyers.  You’ll get them either way since your product or service solves their needs.  You don’t want to target them since they’ll come either way.

Some still will offer to drive next time.  These are the givers.  And only a giver can attract a giver.  These are the people you should be seeking in the networking environment.

Givers will immediately identify you as a giver and they’ll give to you as well.  They’ll become friends.  And friends buy from and refer friends to friends.  And so do their friends.  This is what is called networking.

As you begin to refocus your efforts decide now to be a giver and a friend.  Approach networking with the intention to give and you’ll attract others who give.  And everyone will win.



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Don't Let This "Creep" Ruin Your Plans

Making lasting change requires learning new skills that will be repeated over and over until they become habits.  Habits are the “remote control” of our lives, governing virtually every action we take.

I remember our first television remote control.  It had four buttons: On, Off, Volume, Channel.  Old Four-Button RemoteOddly, these are the four I use most when I can successfully navigate the remote control to this day.

Today our remote control has sixty-three buttons.  Yours may have more but it is doubtful it has less.  I have no idea what most of the buttons do, but I have them just in case I need them.  I presume I should be comforted by all the extra features at my fingertips and the “just-in-case” features I could use should I find the need.

But I’m not.  Actually, I’m troubled most of the time and frustrated all of the time by my remote.  And yes, you’ve guessed it, I’ve found my way out of the chair and back to the television to turn the volume up or down, change channels, and even turn the set on or off.  It’s just easier than using my multi-featured remote which was designed to make my life easier.

It is called “feature creep” and it refers to the things added to a device simply because there is space for it.  The processor has a bit more space, let’s add a feature.  We need a bigger processor to handle all the buttons, but when we add the bigger processor we have room for more buttons, and the process continues until no one knows why we have all the buttons.

I’ve found that remote control to be a metaphor for my life as well. In my early years there wasn’t much to think about or worry about.  My life was like that early remote with four buttons:  Play, School, Sleep, Eat.

Now my life is much like the sixty-three button remote I have.  Thinking about all those time-saving, money-making, life-changing gadgets I’ve purchased over the years fatigues me.  And that’s just the beginning.  What about all the features I’ve allowed to creep into my life, the ideas and information that seemed useful at the time? And the experiences I’ve had, the careers I’ve been in, the businesses I’ve started, sold or folded.  These things have slowly, methodically, and effectively crippled me.

I literally have hundreds of thousands of pages of information that I’ve downloaded onto my computer for future reference.  I have over seven-hundred bookmarks of websites that one day I’ll refer back to.  I have over seventy domain names for websites I’ll one day build or have built.  Who can keep up with such things?  Certainly not me.  I don’t even know half of them and forget about trying to find a document on my computer.  Not a chance.  I’ve simply created more information than my “remote control” can handle.  I bet you have too.

Which leads me to the first week of January and those pesky resolutions many of us have made.  Statistically, thirty-eight percent of us made no resolutions at all and a whopping twenty-five percent more have already failed at the ones we made.  If you made it this far you have a ninety percent chance to succeed through next week.   After the second week you’re a mere week away from the time experts tell us it takes to create a habit.  And a habit is life’s “remote control”.

And while all that is interesting, what does it have to do with the remote control?  Plenty!  You see, I (and perhaps you) don’t use the remote control or many of its buttons because we don’t understand how to.  We don’t understand how because we haven’t taken the time to learn how from someone who knows and to do it repeatedly until it becomes second nature.

Most of us with New Year’s Resolutions are entering into uncharted territory.  We’re embarking on actions and ideas in which we have no experience.  Imagine you are watching a program on television.  During the commercial break you change the channel to a different program.  Depending upon how interested you become in the new one, you will either stick with the new one or go back to the old one.  In life, by trial and error, we will either find our new “channel” or revert back to our old ones.

But here are some statistics you should know.  While it may be daunting, forty-nine percent of those who do make New Year’s Resolutions have some degree of success in positive change.  Experts say those who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than those who do not.

And perhaps the most important point of all:  You don’t need New Year’s Day to make a resolution.  Just as you can change the channel at any time if a program is no longer of interest to you, you can resolve to change your habit channel at anytime.  Here’s what you should know.

Delaying a resolution until a future date gives you more days of engaging in the undesired behavior, making it that much more difficult to change.  Further, the emotion you feel when you decide you need to change that is essential in ensuring your success will wane over time.

You will be ten times more likely to achieve your goals when you make a resolution.  You’ll be forty-nine percent likely to achieve some measure of success when doing so.  And when you engage in a new behavior for twenty-one days, you’ll create a habit.  You will effectively change the channel of your life.

So, resolve to be different to attain your goals.  Take action for twenty-one days and switch to a new channel, creating the new habit that will put your new lifestyle on remote control.

As for me, I’ve got to get up and change the channel.