Date: 6/29/2015 1:00 PM UTC

“If you don’t drive your business, you will be driven out of business.” – B.C. Forbes

I recently spent some time with a business owner in our area. He’s a nice guy, but it was exhausting. His view of the world is pretty simple: everyone else has resources I don’t have, I can’t possibly compete in my marketplace, my organization can’t get any more efficient than it already is, customers aren’t interested in buying, the government is out to get me. No matter what suggestion or question I raised, he answered it with some variation of those world views.

The end result is that in his mind there’s no point in attempting to do anything, because it won’t work. Now things have deteriorated to the point where he really doesn’t have many options. If he’s lucky he’ll be able to sell the assets he has – probably for much less than he wants – and that will (perhaps mercifully) be the end of it.

The problem is that there are a dozen or more businesses in our area doing the same thing he’s doing – and many of them are very successful. And there are literally dozens (hundreds?) within a radius of a few hundred miles who are doing what he’s doing. Guess what – many of them are very successful as well.

So what’s the difference? You know where this is going. The difference isn’t that everyone else has resources he doesn’t have, or that his competitors are just too strong (his competition is actually pathetic), or any of the other excuses. The difference is entirely in his view of how the world works.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of leaders out there who think like this guy. They think they don’t control anything, that nothing they do impacts whether they’re successful or not, that no changes they could make would help them be more successful, etc. Things just happen and they’re along for the ride.

But they’re wrong. We can impact the future. We can make changes that impact our success. The businesses like this guy’s that are successful are also aggressive, and taking action, and not just sitting there hoping something good comes along. They are actively driving the bus where they want it to go. And it’s working.

Someone once told me there are three kind of people in the world: Those who make things happen, those who have things happen to them, and those who wonder what happened. Be in the first group. Be a real leader.

a year from now

Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

Date: 6/22/2015 1:00 PM UTC

“The world is full of people that have stopped listening to themselves or have listened only to their neighbors to learn what they ought to do, how they ought to behave, and what the values are that they should be living for.” – Joseph Campbell

I like to give people credit for being fairly intelligent. I like to believe that everyone has at least a basic level of common sense. I like to think that there is a limit to how ‘dumb’ people can be. I also like to think that most people have some fundamental level of knowledge about what is right and what is wrong. Unfortunately, all of those thoughts are routinely tested.

It seems as though virtually every day we hear stories about businesses who are dealing with some sort of poor behavior. It doesn’t always rise to the level of being a crime, but it’s at least unprofessional or unethical or dysfunctional. Quite often it’s employees of the business who are behaving this way (although leaders are certainly far from exempt). And almost without exception the leader seems stunned that any of the employees would behave this way.

While there is no single, all-encompassing explanation for bad behavior, I do believe that at times in our organizations we take our core values for granted. Too many leaders assume that the people who work for them know ‘how to act’. Too many leaders make a speech every few years where they use a few words like ‘integrity’ or ‘ethics’ and then think they’ve done their job. Not enough leaders consistently and intentionally stress the importance of organizational values on a regular basis.

We’ve talked a lot in this space about consistently communicating the company vision so that it becomes ingrained in everyone who’s part of the business. When you’re communicating that vision, are you including the part of the vision that says what kind of behavior you value? Or is it just about growth, opportunity, etc.?

More importantly than just talking about them, are you modeling those values? You can’t emphasize the importance of certain behaviors one minute and then completely ignore them the next. Your walk has to match your talk.

Don’t make assumptions. Make it a point to emphasize those values that are crucial to you. Talk about it regularly. Live it always. I’m not suggesting that you’ll never have to deal with bad behavior, but it’s a lot easier to deal with when what you value is clear to everyone around you. Make sure your people know who you are.

 

core_values[1]

Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

Date: 6/15/2015 1:00 PM UTC

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

I like using quotes from Einstein because they make me think. I think the quote above is just the nuclear physicist genius way of saying “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” Unfortunately, that seems like the accepted way of approaching problems for most leaders.

Not long ago I was working with a company whose key issue was growth. They had been attempting to reach customers and prospects via the same marketing channels that they’d been using for decades. After talking about how important growth was, and about how they were actually losing sales, their initial idea to fix it was to try harder at doing the same marketing that already wasn’t working. Their initial conclusion was, “This message isn’t successful in selling our products to Bob, so let’s try using the same message to sell our products to Bob only we’ll just do it more often.”

That sounds ridiculous, but ask yourself this: In your organization, how many times have you done this? It may not be the same scenario, but we’re constantly responding to issues caused by bad processes or bad people or changing marketplaces or any number of other things by doing more of the thing that already isn’t working. Stop it already!

If you want your results to change, you have to change your behaviors. You can’t treat customers today the way you did in the past, you can’t treat employees the way you did in the past, you can’t think about your business model the way you did in the past – I could keep going but you get the point. We have to rethink and reinvent everything we do on a regular basis.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to make revolutionary changes to everything you do every few weeks. Sometimes it’s just incremental change, sometimes you’ve hit on something that lasts longer. What it means, though, is that you’ve got to constantly approach how you run your organization with the mindset of continuous improvement – we’re always going to try and do things better today than we did yesterday, and better again tomorrow.

Is that already your mindset? Do you approach every facet of your business with a desire to change and improve? You’ve got new problems – time for some new thinking.

innovation road sign

Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

Date: 6/8/2015 1:00 PM UTC

“No is a complete sentence…I found developing the ability to say no expanded my ability to say yes and really mean it.” – Susan Gregg

There are very few things more precious in our personal and professional lives than energy. We have a limited amount, it’s easily used up, and we aren’t very good about remembering to replenish it when it’s gone. Unfortunately, we’re usually our own worst enemy when it comes to energy management.

Think about the things you spend your time doing. Don’t just think about work, but all day, every day. How many of those things are you doing because they truly provide someone (you or anybody else) with value? How many of those things are you doing that just aren’t in your wheelhouse, so you struggle and plod along, eventually producing a not-very-high-quality outcome? These kinds of things are all energy killers.

And what about people? Who do you spend time around that just sucks all the energy out of you? They’re called energy vampires, and they’re everywhere. All they do is take and take and take from you, and every time you’re done with them you feel exhausted. You know exactly who I’m talking about.

So why do we do this to ourselves? In some cases we convince ourselves that we’re doing something nice for someone else (even if we’re really not). More often we convince ourselves that there’s just no way out of it – somebody has to do this and it has to be me. The reality is that quite often nobody has to do it, and if it does have to be done, somebody besides you is better suited for it.

Try this: sit down and make a list of the five things you do that drain your energy. Now ask yourself if those five things really have to be done. Be honest. I guarantee at least one can either not be done at all or done by somebody else who would do it better than you.

Do the same thing with people (customers?). Who are the five people you interact with regularly that drain your energy? What can you do to minimize contact with them? If it’s somebody you absolutely must be around, ask yourself what situations with those people drain your energy the fastest, and see if you can avoid at least those particular situations.

I don’t know if there is any way in life to entirely eliminate everything that drains your energy, but we can certainly do better than we’re doing. And we have to do better. We can’t function at our highest level without enough energy. We owe it to ourselves, and everyone around us, to find a way.

No

Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

Date: 6/1/2015 1:00 PM UTC

“If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.” – Unknown

We’ve talked about priorities before in generalities, but today I’m thinking about something specific for any business. I recently was fortunate to spend time with a growing, dynamic service business that has hit a speed bump. They’ve found they have so many customers that they don’t feel like they have time to service them all and they don’t feel like they have time to go find any new ones. The real issue (which they’ve recognized) is they’ve spent too much time chasing every bit of revenue they can find over the years and now much of their time is filled with unprofitable, unfulfilling work.

To try and fix the problem, we talked about lions and zebras. Here’s the shortened version: over thousands of years on the savannah, lions have figured out that in order to provide the 2000 pounds of meat the pride needs every week, it doesn’t do much good to chase wild pigs. Lots of effort, little reward. They worked out that with a strategy to hunt the right prey they could exponentially increase their potential to survive. Everybody has a job – male lions provide security & continuity, senior lionesses plan & execute the ambush, junior lionesses move in for the final kill, etc.

What does that have to do with sales? A lion pride has a common goal & vision. They worked out what was their ideal prey (zebras), then they worked out plan (everybody has a role) and they execute that plan over and over and over. They’ve also learned to ignore the small game that distracts them and uses up energy they need to survive (special thanks to Mike Boyle at Banjar Group for the analogy).

Think about your organization. What prey (customers) is appropriate for your business? What industry? What size? What location? Who can connect you? Sit down with your team and ask yourselves if you understand what your zebra is, where it lives, who can help you kill it, and how you can best work as a team to get the job done. If you don’t, there’s a great chance your business is wasting it’s time on the wrong kind of animal.

We don’t have enough time or energy in our businesses to waste it on a customer who doesn’t fit. Save your energy (and that of your team). Find your zebra.

lion

Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

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