Date: 2/13/2017 2:00 PM UTC

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault

We talk a lot in this space about focus, and the importance of keeping a clear picture in your mind of WHERE you want your business to be. And it is certainly very important. With so many things coming at us on a regular basis, staying focused on what’s really critical and what we’re really trying to accomplish in the long term is one of the most important and challenging things for leaders to do.

It is possible, however, to be too focused on the end result. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what we’re trying to accomplish down the road that we lose sight of what we’re doing now. And I don’t mean that from a make-sure-you’re-executing-the-plan-today standpoint. I mean that from a happiness standpoint.

I know a lot of leaders who seem to think that their own happiness is almost irrelevant, that if they were to spend any time thinking about actually being happy that somehow that would mean they’re not doing their job. Our goal is to grow, or to be more profitable, or whatever clever business type thing we want to do – not to be happy. At best, we say we’ll be happy when we’ve accomplished whatever that vision is down the road.

What kind of life is that? Nobody really hopes that the only part of their life that’s enjoyable is 5 or 10 or 30 years from now. You know why? Because it will never be 5 or 10 or 30 years from now. It will always just be today.

So make a point to enjoy today. No, not everything is fun all the time. But enjoy individual conversations, enjoy the fact that today is sunny, enjoy the fact that a friend called unexpectedly, or one of your kids gave you a hug, or there is cake at the office today (yes, we have cake here today!).

It’s OK - and important - to think long term and work towards achieving a vision. It’s OK to put the time and energy into something that takes a long time to pay off. Those things are absolutely worth doing. But don’t take those things to such an extreme that you miss out on something awesome today. The end destination is important, but most of life is the journey. Make sure to enjoy it.


Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

Date: 2/6/2017 2:00 PM UTC

“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” – Theodore Roosevelt

We talk a lot in this space about planning and vision and all those kinds of good things. It’s critical to think about WHERE you’re trying to go before you start working to get there. It’s important to flesh out what resources you’re going to need and what your barriers are going to be and all that good stuff.

Unfortunately, sometimes we have a tendency to want to be guaranteed of success before we get going. We want to know every resource we could possibly need, and every barrier we could possibly run into, and every possible scenario that could present itself. So we spend weeks or months or years trying to make sure we have everything perfectly lined up so that we know we’ll be successful.

The reality is that no matter how much planning you do there’s never a guarantee of success. You cannot plan away all the risk or uncertainty. All you end up doing is spending your whole career (or life) planning to do something or thinking about doing something or wishing you were doing something – and never actually doing anything.

So think about what it is you really want to accomplish. Think about WHERE you really want to be with your business or your career. Plan, think it through – and then go already. If you wait for the perfect time or the perfection situation, you’ll never do anything but wait. Perfect never happens. Eliminate the risk that you can and then take the leap.

When people look back on their lives or careers, the things they really regret aren’t the things they tried that didn’t quite turn out the way they wanted. The things people really regret are the things they wanted but never really went after. Too often that’s because it was never the perfect time to go after it. Don’t make that mistake and wait for perfect – today might be as close as you get. So go for it.

a year from now

Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

Date: 1/30/2017 2:00 PM UTC

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas.” – Steve Jobs

One of the things I think is a big struggle for high performing people (which I’m sure you all are) is focus. There are so many things pulling us in different directions, things that we could do to make our businesses better. The opportunities for distraction are endless.

The trick, though, isn’t to figure out what stuff is a waste of time, although that helps. The real trick is to wade through the stuff that isn’t a waste of time and identify the best things to do. If you are a business leader there are so many things that could be positives for your business. Maybe it’s revamping your production processes, developing internal training programs, creating better marketing processes, more clearly defining your target customers, developing new products – I could keep going for days.

The reality of all of those ideas is that while they all may create positive change, they don’t all have the same impact. You have to be able to evaluate all those good ideas and decide which are the best, and which ones will get you WHERE you want to go faster than the others. The only way to do that is to have a clear picture in your head of WHERE you want to go.

If I bump into you on the street and ask about your vision for the business you lead, and you can’t really tell me in a way I understand, then you don’t have that clear enough picture. If that’s the case, then you’re a prime candidate for distraction. You’re going to see all these potentially great ideas and want to chase them. And when you’re done chasing them, you’ll wonder why you don’t feel that great about what you’ve accomplished.

Even good ideas aren’t always the best ideas. Don’t be afraid to say no to things that are good ideas. Don’t be afraid to turn down opportunities that might be interesting. Don’t be afraid to walk away from people who may be talented. Sometimes it’s hard to remember, but not all good things are the right things. Stay focused on only the best. Down the road, when you’ve reached your destination, you’ll realize that those ‘best’ were the things that got you there.


Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

Date: 1/23/2017 2:00 PM UTC

“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this – you haven’t.” – Thomas Edison

Sometimes I think one of the biggest challenges facing leaders is the lack of new ideas. We get in our routine, we talk and listen to the same people, and so on. The longer we go in our careers, the greater I think we have the tendency to surround ourselves with what’s familiar, what we’re comfortable with, rather than seeking out something different.

Maybe that works for a while, but the reality is that new problems quite often require new ideas. I’ve had a lot of conversations over the past few years with leaders who said some variation of, “Well, there’s nothing else we can do, I guess we’ll just have to deal with whatever happens.” The reality is that there almost certainly is something else they can do, they just haven’t come up with it.

Ask yourself this: Where do your new ideas come from? As a leader, what are you doing to make sure you’re exposed to new things and new trends and new experiences? Who are you surrounding yourself with that can help you come up with things you might not come up with on your own? As a leader, you ought to have answers to those questions.

So if you don’t, think about people you know or have a connection to. Are there people that could help? Are there individuals in your organization that seem to be ‘idea people’, regardless of their official job title? Are there people in your community, or in your circle of friends, or amongst your peers who could help provide some fresh thinking? How can you access those people?

There’s no shame in asking for and getting help. There’s no shame in feeling like you don’t have all the answers – in fact, part of being a good leader is knowing that very thing. There is shame in not doing everything possible to get help. There is shame in not doing whatever needs to be done to find new ideas.

Get outside of your own head. Find some people who have ideas. Ask for input. Read. Listen. New problems require new thinking, new solutions. Go out and find some, and find an array of new possibilities.


Posted by Matt Heemstra | 2 Comments

Date: 1/16/2017 2:00 PM UTC

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

There are a lot of leaders out there who spend time thinking about the future, about what they want their organization to be, about strategy, all that good stuff. They think about the markets they want to be in, the customers they want to do business with, how they’ll market to those customers, and the products & services they’ll offer. They’ll even sit down and think about how many people they’ll need to make all of that happen.

What not enough leaders out there spend time thinking about is what exactly those people need to look like. It’s not enough to say, “We’ll need to add 10 salespeople by 2025” – what characteristics and skills will your sales force need to have in 2025? Just adding head count without knowing what kind of heads to add is a recipe for disaster.

More specifically, let’s say today you have 5 salespeople, and by 2025 you think you’ll need 15. It’s not enough to just think you have to hire 10 more – are the 5 you have now going to be able to be effective parts of your vision for the future? Just because someone’s done a job really well for 5 or 10 or 20 years doesn’t mean they’re going to be able to continue doing that job well for the next 5 or 10 or 20.

It’s entirely possible that the kinds of things you’ve asked people to do in the past are not going to be adequate or appropriate in the future. Will those people be able to adjust or adapt? Will they be able to learn new skills? What if they can’t – or won’t?

I’m not suggesting that whenever you think about your vision you have to fire all your old employees and replace them with new ones. What I am suggesting is that we have to constantly be evaluating whether or not we have the right pieces in our organization to get us where we want to go. Sometimes as a leader you have to make difficult decisions about who needs to be part of the team and who needs to go. Those aren’t pleasant decision, but if you’re not prepared to make them then don’t be a leader.

Think about your people. What will they need to change about themselves or their performance to get you where you need to go? Can they do it? Will they do it? The future of your business depends on the quality of its people, on having the right pieces in place. Make sure you do.


the right people

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Date: 1/9/2017 2:00 PM UTC

“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe

I’m going to at least moderately break on of my own personal rules today. I typically avoid like the plague anything that sounds like a New Year’s Resolution. They’re the same every year, and every year by May you forgot what they were.

So we won’t call this a New Year’s Resolution. We’ll call this a New Year’s Call to Action. We have the chance to take a deep breath and re-start any time we want, but for some reason a new year sounds like the perfect opportunity.

Think about what you’d most like to do with your business or your career or your life). Grow? Take on a different role? Start an altogether new business? Pick up a new hobby? Whatever it is, think about that – better yet, draw a picture of what that would look like.

Now ask yourself: what has to change in my business or career or life to make that picture a reality? What behaviors do I need to change? What skills do I need to learn? Are the barriers money? Time? People in my life who take my energy?

You have the opportunity to do the things you want to do in your life. But they don’t just happen. You have to develop a clear picture of what you want to be and then figure out what specifically you have to do to get there. It takes actual work, and you don’t just luck into it.

Don’t spend the next 20+ years wishing you were doing something else, or being something else, or living somewhere else, or whatever else you can come up with. You’re never too old and it’s never too late. You always have the ability to do the things with your life that you want to do. So take this opportunity of the New Year to make a New Start. Don’t leave things unsaid or undone. Say them and do them – and start now.

a year from now

Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

Date: 12/22/2016 2:00 PM UTC

"In life, one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day -- or to celebrate each special day." - Rasheed Ogunlaru

Sometimes during the holidays we get so busy we forget to actually enjoy ourselves.  Don't let the chaos and craziness get to you.  Take time each day to remember how special that day is.  It will only come once - don't waste it.

See you in 2017!


Posted by Matt Heemstra | 2 Comments

Date: 12/19/2016 2:00 PM UTC

"Attach yourself to those who advise you rather than praise you." - Nicolas Boileau-Despreaux

I’m fortunate to spend most of my day in the company of successful leaders of great organizations. I could list all the behaviors or skills that these leaders seem to have in common – they embrace change, they have an internal locus of control, etc. But there are already hundreds of books written about that kind of stuff.

I want to remind you of something else successful leaders have in common that doesn’t always get mentioned. It’s a willingness to ask for help, and an ability to surround themselves with people who can give it, both inside and outside their organizations.

That may not sound like your idea of a great leader. Some people have the mistaken belief that being a leader means you have to have all the answers, that asking for help shows weakness or a lack of ability. The reality is the exact opposite. Being a leader means understanding that you don’t have all the answers, that you need other people’s strengths to make up for your weaknesses, that the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts.

Who is helping you? Who in your organization can you count on when you’re uncertain or uninformed or lacking the right skills? If there’s nobody internally, who can you count on from the outside? There has to be somebody, preferably multiple somebodies.

Think about your team. If you don’t have people who you can turn to for help, find some. It can be peers in another organization, it can be a trusted advisor, it can be a mentor, whatever. Just find somebody to be part of your team. We can all use a helping hand.


Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

Date: 12/12/2016 2:00 PM UTC

“Most people prefer the certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty.” – Virginia Satir

We spend a lot of time in the change arena talking about what we need to do as leaders in creating and implementing change. WHERE do we want our business to be? What steps do we have to take? How will those steps and that WHERE impact the business as a whole?

One thing not enough leaders spend time figuring out is how change will impact the individuals who work for them. Quite often we get so caught up in how much growth this change will create, or how much more profitable we’ll be, or how much happier our customers will be, that we assume that’s all that matters. We think that if it’s better for the business from a 30,000-foot view, then everybody will get on board.

The reality is that the vast majority of people don’t ever really see the 30,000-foot view, and if they did, they might not even care. What most people are primarily concerned with is “What’s in it for me?” Just making the company more profitable doesn’t motivate people. They interpret “more profitable” to mean “my boss gets to make more money”. And if you can’t get people motivated about change, they’re not going to help you make it – and you will fail.

So as you get ready to implement change, think about how that change is going to impact the people who work in your business. Maybe if you only have 4 or 5 employees that’s a manageable task. But what if you have 300? Or 3,000?

Think about the people who work for you. Who are the individuals who are innovators, or early adopters, people who tend to get on board with change quickly, who like new things & new ideas? Work on those people first. Get them excited and on board and let them help you reach everyone else.

You’ll never convince everybody to get behind change. There is a segment of the population who will always be opposed, no matter what it is. So ignore those people. Let the innovators and early adopters get the ball rolling and they’ll help you move things along.

Sometimes we get in such a hurry to make change that we forget there are actual human beings that will be impacted, and they aren’t going to put much energy into helping you make that change until they understand what’s in it for them. Think about it & communicate it. Because it’s not just about you.

corporate culture


Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

Date: 12/5/2016 2:00 PM UTC

“Let us not seek to fix blame for the past – let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” – John F. Kennedy

I enjoy watching sports, and I watch a lot of them. I enjoy watching teams over the course of a long season, the inevitable ups and downs, wins and losses, etc. As teams’ seasons start to wind down, the best teams start talking about playoffs, and winning championships, and all those kinds of things. Inevitably, some player or coach will be asked a question about all that stuff and will respond with some version of “We control our own destiny” or “We just need to take care of our own business” or something like that.

I wish I heard more of those comments in business, or frankly, in life. We spend a lot of time worrying about a bunch of things we can’t control, that could maybe possibly go wrong, that might get in our way, or that could throw us off track. In fact we spend so much time on those things that we don’t spend enough time on the things we can control, our own stuff, the things we can impact today and tomorrow and next week.

As you go through your day and beyond, pay attention to the things that are taking up your mental energy. Are you spending time worrying or focusing on things you have no control over? Or are you focused on stuff you can change?

And here’s the great part: you can control way more than you think. You aren’t helpless, you aren’t just floating along, living a life completely controlled by outside forces. Your life is largely the result of the choices you make. Your business isn’t losing customers just because the outside world is challenging – it’s because you’re not providing the value those customers are looking for. You didn’t lose a great employee just because somebody else offered them more money – it’s because you didn’t create an organization that they wanted to be part of or that engaged them in a way that made money less relevant.

Yes, there are things you can’t control, and yes, they will have an impact. But don’t use that as an excuse. You have far more of an impact on what happens in your life and your business than those outside forces. Accept responsibility for the future – and make it your future.


Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

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