Monthly Archive for February, 2014

Admiring Olympic and small business heroes

Olympians and small business owners are kindred spirits.

Watching the Winter Olympic athletes compete, we’re taken to a place where special humans participate in a noble cause. These heroes commit countless hours over many years, pushing their minds and bodies to achieve a level of excellence that might qualify them to … merely be on an Olympic team and represent their country.

Notice neither winning medals nor glory were mentioned. Most Olympians find neither, and yet they try.

Watching an event, we’re at once self-conscious and grateful when the long lens of the camera invades that private moment just prior to the competition. Self-conscious because of the intrusion but grateful to share this moment and benefit vicariously from the Herculean effort about to be delivered.

The camera moves in closer. We can see the Olympian’s eyes and imagine their thoughts. The skier is thinking, “Twelve years and it all comes down to the next few seconds. Must remember the fundamentals.” The skater is having a word with herself, “Today, nothing less than my personal best.”

Then the long lens captures the mouth. There’s a lick to fight the cotton mouth that only those who risk failure have tasted. The lips move slightly to offer a prayer or claim an affirmation, and then, “This is it.”

Small business owners are a lot like Olympic athletes: They commit countless hours over many years, pushing mind and body to achieve a level of excellence that might somehow allow them to … merely make a living.

Medals and glory? Most small business owners find neither. And yet they show up, year after year, to work, to deliver and to contribute.

Like an Olympic race, the future of a small business often rides on the owner’s performance over a very short period. If the camera could take you in close, you would see the owner thinking: “All these years of work and risk could come down to how well I deliver this proposal in the next few minutes. Must remember the fundamentals.” The long lens would capture the mouth. There’s the lick to lessen the cotton mouth that only those who risk failure have tasted. Then the lips move, ever so slightly, to offer a prayer or claim an affirmation, and then, “This is it.”

Olympians and small business owners are dedicated to what they love. They work hard, take great risks and seek excellence, against all odds and usually at their own expense.

If you’re looking for someone to admire, look no further than these two heroes.

The spirit of Olympians and small business owners make the world a better place.

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Be sure to listen to my latest segment below from The Small Business Advocate Show® where I talk more about the Olympians and small business owners.

Small business owners and Olympians are kindred spirits

SBA Poll Results: President Obama and Executive Orders

The Question:
President Obama is frustrated with Congress and plans to use more Executive Orders to govern. What do you think?

2% - He should use this tactic as often as necessary.

11% - He should use Executive orders, but only when constitutional.

68% - He should be stopped from using unconstitutional Executive Orders.

18% - He should move to the center and work with Republicans.

My Comments:
One of my predictions for 2014 was that Congressional Republicans would resort to lawsuits to reign in President Obama’s practice of issuing executive orders for policies that even casual observers would consider outside of his constitutional boundaries.

And then, in his State of the Union address, the president doubled down on this practice by telling Congress to their faces, as a guest in their house, that he would essentially be sticking his finger in their eye with even more executive orders. As you can see, when we asked our audience about this, only 2% agree with the president, with the other 98% essentially wanting him to follow the Constitution.

What’s it look like when a U.S. president, any president, does the executive equivalent of breaking the law by violating the Constitution? How far does Congress allow a president to go before they take action? With the now declared defiant position of President Obama, I believe these and other constitutional questions being posed will be debated in court over the remainder of his presidency. And time will tell whether this activity will be good or bad for America.

Risk what you know

Ever wonder what makes someone take risks? Take the next step? Have a go at something they’ve never tried before? I ask myself these questions, mostly about myself, all the time.

This jewel is from my friend, Tom Feltenstein, and it’s in his book, Uncommon Wisdom:

The times when I’ve been truly creative - when I’ve been the boldest and most imaginative, when I’ve taken the lead–have been those times when I was willing not to know. When I was willing to risk what I knew, for what I might learn.

I believe the ability to “risk what I know, for what I might learn” is the essence of entrepreneurialism. And in the not knowing, but going forward anyway, we find the conjoined, twin emotions of fear and exhilaration.

The Twins presage possibility: Might be good–might not be. Might be extremely successful–might be a train wreck. And contemplating the possibility produces the head-rush entrepreneurs get at the moment they risk what they know for what they might learn.

You will never hear me minimize doing research. An entrepreneur’s hunch without some foundation of research is like a belt without belt loops. Some entrepreneurs take risks; smart entrepreneurs take calculated risks. Still, there comes a time, especially for entrepreneurs, when you must take action even though you don’t have all the answers.

The difference in entrepreneurs, therefore, is in how long each one can wait for answers before taking action: How the point of possibility is defined, and when to risk what is known for what might be learned.

To know, or to act? That is the question.

Long before Facebook there was face-to-face

Since Samuel Morse’s first telegraph in 1844, communication technologies have sought relevance in an increasingly noisy universe. What hath God wrought, indeed.

Almost 170 years later, there is actual management pain from an embarrassment of riches of communication innovations. And this discomfort is especially keen when connecting with customers electronically: Should you call, email, text, or instant message? And when should you use social media?

But from telegraph to Twitter, one constant has retained its relevancy: in-person connection. What is face-to-face contact if not the original social media?

In businesses, social media euphoria must ultimately be tempered with ROI reality. And as useful as each new communication resource proves to be, they are, after all, merely tools to leverage physical efforts, not eliminate the basic human need for interacting in person. Consider this story:

A sales manager (whose gray hair was not premature) noticed the performance of one of his people was off for the third consecutive month. Up to now, he had allowed his better judgment to be swayed by plausible explanations. Now there was a downward trend.

Upon more pointed probing, the manager discovered the reason for loss of production was too much electronic contact and not enough in-person. The rookie was relying heavily on virtual tools and missing face-time opportunities with the customer.

It turns out lack of training and “rubber-meets-the-road” experience left him uncomfortable and unprepared to ask for and conduct meetings, like a proposal presentation. Consequently, he wasn’t benefiting from how the success rate of growing customer relationships can increase when certain critical steps are conducted in person. This manager immediately established a training program that set standards for how and when to integrate all customer connection tools, including face-to-face.

If your company’s sales performance isn’t trending upward, perhaps your salespeople need help getting in front of customers, particularly at critical steps. Like the manager above, you may need to establish specific and measurable standards for when face-to-face meetings should take place.

From phone to Facebook, one connection option whose relevancy has borne witness to all of the others: in-person contact. Let’s remember John Naisbitt’s prophesy from Megatrends: “The more high tech we have, the more high touch we will want.”

Face-to-face is the original social media.

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Be sure to listen to segments from The Small Business Advocate Show® related to social media. I report on how small businesses are doing with their social media strategy, specifically that two-thirds of those polled are successful or expect to be successful.

Is your social media strategy providing a return on investment?

SBA Poll Results: Why are you not hiring?

The Question:
What single issue will have the greatest impact on your decision to hire new employees or not?

68% - The overall economy

11% - Obamacare

8% - Technology alternatives

14% - Outsourcing alternatives

My Comments
This is not a “chicken or egg” quandary. No one ever founded a small business so they could hire people. They hire people so they can grow their business. So when facing troubling circumstances, small business owners stop hiring.

We wanted to know what current troubling circumstance was causing the five-year drought of small business hiring to continue. As you can see from the responses to our poll question last week, the big trouble is overwhelmingly the overall economy, with the other options dividing up the other third.

This is also not a quandary. As I’ve said many times in the past five years, small businesses create half of the U.S. economy and most of the net new jobs. So when small business owners are troubled, you get half of the economy and very little hiring in the United States of America. Small business need more business from paying customer, from which businesses grow, profits result, and the hiring of more people can be funded.

“86″ your Filters

Several years ago I was introduced to the word paradigm and to the concept itself. It’s often considered an overused word which many avoid as a cliche, but I like it. To me, nothing fits the bill like paradigm when you want to describe the way each of us view our world.

Paradigms are mental filters we have created. And only information with which we have learned to be comfortable and successful is allowed to pass.

In Executive Thinking, Leslie Kossoff wrote

As humans, we are not limited to seeing things in one particular way. We choose to see things in a way that is most familiar to us.

What an unfortunate and limiting condition that is–to choose to only see the familiar. Do you do that? Do I? If we do, how hard does a new idea or concept have to work to crash through our filters? Too hard, I fear.

We are so proud of ourselves when we subscribe to a new way of thinking or behaving. How enlightened we are!

But how many less persistent, yet no less worthy and valuable ideas have we slammed the door on? That’s a troubling thought, isn’t it?! For years I didn’t like broccoli. Wouldn’t let it through my “vegetable filter.” Then one day, in a moment of temporary starvation, I ate some and found that my taste buds had evolved to where broccoli now was good. I had a new vegetable paradigm, and today, broccoli is my green vegetable of choice. Sadly, how many years of broccoli enjoyment did I miss?

Asparagus was next, then artichoke hearts. Can Brussels sprouts be far behind? My vegetable possibilities are now endless. (Except for cauliflower. Still working on that.)

Next time you are introduced to a new thought, idea, concept, paradigm, or vegetable, before you “86″ it, make sure that you aren’t looking through an old, worn, outdated filter. It might be holding you back.

A whole new world of delicious, low-hanging green things might be waiting for you just for the picking: the leafy kind, and the dead President kind. And all you have to do is “86″ your filters.

Hollandaise sauce, anyone?




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