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An official day for small business owners

Labor Day began as an idea in the mind of a 19th century labor leader — some say Matthew Maguire, others say Peter McGuire — who cared greatly for a very important segment of the marketplace, its workers.

Regardless of paternity, such a day was first celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, when members of the CLU took an unpaid day off to demonstrate solidarity and, of course, have picnics. And ever since 1984, when President Grover Cleveland’s signature designated the first Monday in September as Labor Day, it’s been an official federal holiday.

In 1898, Samuel Gompers, then head of the American Federation of Labor, called Labor Day, “the day for which the toilers in past centuries looked forward, when their rights and their wrongs would be discussed … that the workers of our day may not only lay down their tools of labor for a holiday, but upon which they may touch shoulders in marching phalanx and feel the stronger for it.”

Alas, entrepreneurs aren’t organized like our union brethren — probably because we’re too busy making payroll. There is no single Small Business Day officially decreed by the U.S. Government. No Entrepreneur’s Day set aside to honor the few who do so much for so many; a day to picnic and party down in honor of the real heroes of the marketplace, small business owners.

There actually is a small business week when the U.S. Small Business Administration recognizes the “creme de la creme” of entrepreneurs in America. But it’s not an official “Day” and it’s not always the same week each year.

Small businesses represent over 98% of all U.S. businesses and produce over half of the U.S. $17 trillion GDP.  Plus, we sign the FRONT of the paychecks of over half (70 million) of all U.S. workers.

Let’s see: Big deal on Labor Day — no Small Business Day. What’s wrong with this picture?

So, what’s the answer? Let’s celebrate Small Business Day in a way no other national holiday has been established: on a Sunday — actually, the second Sunday in August.

Sunday is preferred because that would create the least payroll expense. August is the month-of-choice because that’s when politicians are home on recess. This way they can practice casting their pearls before we small business owners in preparation for eating barbeque and sucking up to unions on Labor Day.

To paraphrase Samuel Gompers, small business owners deserve a day for which these signers-of-the-front-of-paychecks can look forward to when their rights and wrongs would be discussed; that the small employers of our day may not only lay down their challenges for a holiday, but during which they may touch shoulders in marching phalanx and feel the stronger for it.

Write this on a rock….Entrepreneurs unite!  It’s time we had a day to honor small business owners.

Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.

Why trust is a business best practice

Are you familiar with the term “dysfunctional family?”

The simple definition is, a family whose members don’t work and play well with each other. Such relationships typically create emotional, mental, sometimes even physical distress, and/or estrangement.

Sadly, we humans also create dysfunctional businesses. Perhaps this definition will sound familiar: A dysfunctional company is one whose teams don’t work and play well with each other. Such relationships typically create emotional, mental, sometimes even physical distress, and a casualty list.

Someone once said, “Friends we choose – family we’re stuck with.”  Since we get to choose where we work and who we hire, why are there dysfunctional businesses?

The answer is actually quite simple, and it’s the common denominator in both businesses and families: human beings. If your family, or company, is dysfunctional, it’s because of the behavior of the humans.

Humans aren’t inherently bad, but we are inherently self-absorbed. And one of the by-products of self-absorption is self-preservation. When self-preservation shields are up, mistrust flourishes, goals go unmet, and failure is likely. When shields are down, productivity, creativity, and organizational well-being are evident. But the latter only happens if the stakeholders believe there is a basis for trust.

If your organization is not accomplishing its goals and making progress, look around to see if there’s more self-preservation going on than teamwork. Where evidence of individual and departmental self-preservation is found, you’ll also find lots of dysfunction, but not much trust.

In his book, “Built On Trust,” my friend, Arky Ciancutti, goes so far as to say that trust is “…one of the most powerful forces on earth.” He further states that the two most powerful trust-building tools are closure and commitment.

Closure is implied when there is a promise to deliver by a stated time. It manifests when performance happens or, in the alternative, a progress report is delivered in advance of the date.

Commitment, Arky says, “is a condition of no conditions.” When the relationship between two parties is built on trust, there are no hidden agendas. And while commitment may not always deliver the end product, it does guarantee a report about the progress.

Even though closure and commitment are skills that often must be learned, you’ll find willing participants in your employees, because human beings desire trust.  If your organizational culture isn’t built on trust, it’s not the employees’ fault. Trust and dysfunction have one key thing in common: they’re gravity fed. They start at the top and roll downhill.

Humans perform better in organizations built on trust.  Knowing this, successful managers demonstrate trust-building behavior and instill it in others as not only the right thing to do, but as a business best practice.

Write this on a rock — If organizational dysfunction is a poison, trust is its antidote.

Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.

POLL RESULTS: Does Trump have a chance at becoming the Republican nominee, and possibly the President?

The Question:

Does Trump have a chance at becoming the Republican nominee, and possibly the President?

16% - Trump could be the nominee, is electable, and would be a good President.
12% - I wish Trump would be the GOP nominee, but don’t think he will.
51% - Trump is a flash in the pan and will flare out before the primary is over.

20% - President Trump? God help us!
Jim’s Comments
As you may know, I often make predictions. For more than a dozen years of doing so my record is a little better than 75% accuracy. Not because I’m so smart, but because my gray hair is not premature. I pay attention to what’s going on and imagine implications.
I predicted the Great Recession would begin in 2007, the GM bankruptcy, and before Newt Gingrich had announced, that he would be leading in the polls at the end of 2011. Alas, I also predicted that Iraq would become a sovereign state and U.S. ally, and that Romney would beat Obama. As a midyear update, this year I predicted neither Clinton nor Bush would be leading their respective polls at the end of 2015 and so far, those prognostications are looking pretty good.
But I did not see the Donald Trump candidacy coming, let alone his current appeal and momentum.
When I heard Trump deliver his announcement speech, I did predict at that time that his message, “Let’s make America great again,” would resonate well.  Based on our recent poll (see results below), more than a quarter of our respondents like him. The political pollsters show Trump in the 20+% range in the polls, but as other candidates drop out, can he pick up their supporters? More than 70% of our sample would probably no.
Trump has something in common with both of the Democrat frontrunners. He’s like the thorn in Hillary’s side, Bernie Sanders, the self-avowed socialist, because they’re both authentic. Look for authenticity to be valuable political currency in 2016. But sometimes Trump’s authenticity results in, as my father used to warn me, letting his mouth overload his backside. Right now he’s spending authenticity to buy forgiveness. But unlike his billions of real capital, Trump won’t have as much redemption capital to spend. He doesn’t have to become politically correct to be nominated, but he will have to become more politically disciplined.
Trump is like Hillary in that they both have baggage. Lots and lots of baggage. While Hillary’s baggage includes potential legal weight, Trump doesn’t seem to have that. But he has led a colorful multi-media life on his way to becoming the personification of a rich self-promoter. A successful nomination will require Trump to overcome certain inelegant segments of his life, and he’ll have to divest from his empire. No small feat either. There might be a reason Ziegfeld and Barnum never ran for president.
At this moment I don’t feel froggy enough to jump to a conclusion as to whether Trump can become the Republican nominee. But I am prepared to say that Donald Trump will have a significant impact on who the Republican nominee is. And I’ll tell you who that will be, January 1, 2016.

The oldest profession is not what you think

Contrary to what you’ve heard, selling is the oldest profession in the world, because “In the beginning,” the serpent sold Eve the apple. You might say she bought wholesale and then sold the apple retail to Adam. And as we now know, that was one expensive transaction.

One characteristic that clearly separates humans from the other animals identified in Genesis is ego. And while ego can be a beneficial motivator in selling professionally, in order to sell successfully, we must do something that’s in direct conflict with our ego — we have to let someone else talk.

Imagine you’re on a sales call. What are you doing? Are you telling the prospect about your products, pricing, etc.? If that’s what comes to mind, your selling career could be doomed.

Of course, it’s important to deliver your company’s message. But if you talk about your stuff before you know what the customer wants, you’ve put the cart dangerously before the horse.

So, if the gold we seek is in the head of our prospect, why do so many salespeople spend so much time in front of so many prospects running their mouths? It’s that conflict thing again. Sadly, the mouth — not the ear — is the ego’s tool of choice.

The Blasingame Mint has once again struck a new axiom and a handy acronym to go with it: Shut Up - Listen - Sell! SULS. Tattoo those four letters on the palm of your hand, because that’s your first job.

Here are four important steps to remember when practicing SULS.

1. Keep Them Talking.

Even prospects who aren’t egomaniacs like to talk about themselves, their businesses and their pain. Remember, the gold you seek is in your prospect’s head. You need time to mine that gold, which can only happen when the prospect is talking – not when you’re talking.

2. Maintain Eye Contact.

The most valuable thing your prospect can do for you is talk about what’s on his mind. Nothing stops this flow of golden information quicker than when it appears you’re not listening. And here’s a gender tip: Women prospects have a keener inattention antenna than men.

3. Concentrate.

Concentrate on your prospect’s every word and expression. Don’t think about what you’re going to say next. (The next tip will make this easier.).

4. Wait Three Seconds.

While the prospect is talking, train yourself to wait three seconds after you think the prospect is finished talking before you say anything. Waiting three seconds will help you concentrate on what is being said instead of what you’re going to say, you’ll still have time to think of your next question, and you’ll never commit one of the cardinal sins of selling: interrupting the prospect.

Successful professional selling happens when the prospect does most of the talking.

Write this on a rock … Selling is as simple as SULS.

Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.

POLL RESULTS: Will you be interested enough to watch the GOP debate on Fox?

The Question:

Will you be interested enough to watch the GOP debate on FOX this week?

62% - Yes, I’m ready to start paying attention.
17% - No, it’s still too early to start investing my time.
0% - I never watch the GOP debates - who cares?
21% - I’m only going to listen because Trump will be there.

Jim’s Comments:

It’s good news that almost two-thirds of you are ready to engage in the presidential election process. And when you add in those who’re joining the conversation merely because one of the candidates is there - in this case, Mr. Trump - that’s good news too.
So in the past 72 hours, whether you watched the debates or not, you likely know about the fireworks that have ensued since Thursday night. Believe it or not, I wrote the new poll question and response options before the debate, then went out of town. Turns out it’s never a bad bet to wager that Donald Trump will find a way to make it into the headlines.
Thanks for playing along. Please check out the new poll and let us know what you think.

Motivating employees is good business

Smart business owners know that there’s a direct link between motivating employees to be successful in their assignments and the success of that business. Want a good example of why you should be one of these smart managers?

Let’s imagine that your best employee has just resigned. How much will it cost – directly and indirectly – to find, hire, train and get that replacement up to the productivity level of your former employee? The answer is: maybe years. Scary, huh? Now ask yourself if you could be in jeopardy of losing good employees merely because you aren’t motivating them.

There are many ways to successfully motivate employees and all of them require managers to focus on the human beings with whom they work, and who desire to find their own success. Consider these six motivational elements.

1. Communication.

There’s nothing more fundamental to having loyal, productive and engaged employees than good communication. If you’re having problems keeping good employees, the low-hanging fruit for you may be to just start talking with – not to – your people.

2. Professionalism.

This is the aggregation of proper business, ethical and interpersonal behavior, and it’s critical to successful employee motivation.  Professionalism fosters pride and employee loyalty. Demonstrate your professionalism first and then help employees achieve and value their own professionalism. And don’t forget to recognize their progress.

3. Management style.

Check yours. Are you a leader or a driver? Managers who are drivers disregard others, consume people as a means to their end, and are identified by high employee turnover. Leaders value their people and encourage them to be successful. They can be identified by the double-digit numbers representing how many years their employees have been with them, and the multiple black digits to the left of the decimal on their bottom line.

4. Training.

Employee training pays operational and motivational dividends. It fosters knowledge, which fosters self-confidence, which fosters leadership, which fosters employee loyalty, which fosters customer loyalty, which fosters your bank account. How’s that for a training straight line to return-on-investment?

5. Recognition.

A robin noticed a turtle sitting on top of a fence post.  When the robin stopped to ask how he got there, the turtle replied, “Obviously, not by myself.”

When talking about what your company has done, be sure to manage your pronouns properly.  Whenever “I” can be replaced with “we,” do it. This tiny 2-letter pronoun is a powerful verbal high-five that resonates motivational energy throughout your organization.

6.  Fun.

Fun is very motivational. Make sure your organization finds ways to have fun at work. The people I know who are the most successful and the happiest are those who take their work seriously, but they don’t take themselves very seriously.

Write this on a rock….

Motivating employees to be successful in their assignments is not only good business, it’s also the right thing to do.

Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.