Monthly Archive for January, 2015

Seven ways to cut yourself some SLACC in 2015

People make New Year’s resolutions all the time. But do you know anyone who actually kept one?

OK — one person, but he’s the same guy who reminded the teacher that she’d forgotten to give out the homework.

Knowing how difficult, not to mention annoying, resolutions can be, there’s a different way to kick off the new year in your small business. I call it Strategic Look At Critical Components, or SLACC, for short. So instead of getting all bound up in resolutions, just cut yourself some SLACC. Here’s a list of seven key areas on which to focus your SLACC:

1. Financial
Give your company some SLACC by reviewing financial systems. If not already, create regular financial statements, especially a 12-month cash flow projection, and manage with them. And SLACC up on the difference between cash flow and accounting.

2. Human Resources
Take the necessary SLACC to find and keep the best people. Then cut your staff some SLACC by providing the best training you can afford, with emphasis on how their assignments continue to evolve in the 21st century.

3. Management
Business management is more complicated than ever. Use SLACC to identify your current best practices, then check your position against how 21st century ideas are impacting management fundamentals.

stress-391654_12804. Marketplace
The marketplace has always been a dynamic and evolving organism, but in The Age of the Customer, it’s being driven more by customer expectations than competition. Use SLACC to develop strategies that deliver relevance first, followed by classic competitive advantage. Remember, in The Age of the Customer, relevance trumps competitiveness.

5. Technology
More than ever before, how you use technology and new media are critical relevance expectations of prospects and customers. Cut yourself some SLACC by delivering the technology (especially mobile) and community-building media customers now expect from you.

6. Public Policy
Every small business is influenced by politics. Use SLACC to identify when to be personally involved in local, state and federal issues, like taxes, healthcare, and regulations and when to contribute to professional organizations that can deliver a greater impact on your behalf.

7. Personal
Cut yourself some SLACC by remembering the greatest small business truth: Success must be defined by more than just money and stuff.

Write this on a rock … To paraphrase the Chinese proverb, the longest journey begins with the first SLACC.

RESULTS: What do the signs read for your business in 2015?

The Question: Looking into 2015, what do the signs look like for your business?

28% - All signs point toward 2015 being a great growth year for us.
55% - We’re cautiously optimistic 2015 will be better than last year.
15% - We’re expecting no more business than last year.
2% - Right now, 2015 looks like a tough year for us.
Jim’s Comments:
As you may know, we’ve been polling small business owners about many topics for several years. At least four times a year we ask about the economy, either how it has been or what it’s looking like. Since the end of the Great Recession in July 2009, it’s been interesting that our responses have consistently shown about a fourth to a third doing well, about half doing just okay, and the rest doing poorly.

Many sources are reporting how the economy seems to be finally gaining some momentum. We wanted to know what you thought about these reports, so last week we asked how the New Year was looking. As you can see, the ratio of responses hasn’t changed much from past polls. This tells me after six years of a moribund economy most small business owners aren’t going to get excited until they can confirm that economic momentum has reached all the way down to the last mile of Main Street.

Train yourself every day for the future

In the world of runners there are two kinds: sprinters and distance runners.  To be sure, sprinters must train long and hard to be successful.  But when it comes to the actual event, in 10 to 40 seconds it’s over.  Raw, explosive muscle power, pushing the body to the extreme, but not much mental taxation.
Like sprinters, distance runners have to train plenty; but their event often seems as much a test of mind, spirit and will, as it is a demonstration of conditioning, strength and endurance.
Small business owners are more like distance runners than sprinters.  Even if we have the fundamentals (strength) and the experience (conditioning), all of the stuff that we have to deal with, sometimes all alone, sorely tests our spiritual mettle (endurance).  Like a distance runner, a small business owner often moves forward more on sheer will than anything else.
In his inspirational book What’s The Rush, my friend Jim Ballard says, “When you feel overwhelmed and want to quit, pick out a landmark just ahead-a light pole, a house, a tree-and agree to run only that far.”

Jim is a runner, but his words are meant for every test of our strength and will. I use this mental drill when it looks like I am more likely to be prey than predator. I make an agreement with myself to just take things one day at a time - sometimes one hour at a time - and it helps me stay focused on the present stretch of the race.

However far ahead you place your light pole, focusing on that way-point instead of the finish line will help your mettle withstand the stress. You can’t cross the finish line halfway through the race. So if you can’t solve next week’s problems today, don’t let them trip you up today.

I have a little prayer that helps me get to my next light pole:  You and me, Lord, one day at a time.

On your mark. Get set. Go!

Beware of the maxim that can become a lie

The maxim is one of the most interesting of expressions because in its definition we find both truth and consequences.

Webster says a maxim is a “generally accepted truth.” But that makes it sound like we voted on it, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t the truth be beyond debate? Well, that’s why something is a maxim; it’s merely “accepted” as the truth, and therein lie the consequences.

In the world of leadership, one of the best examples of a maxim is “It’s lonely at the top.”

But must it be?

Small business owners know all about being lonely at the top. Even though being atop a small business isn’t very high in the greater marketplace, no Fortune 500 CEO can move the loneliness needle as far as an entrepreneur can. But small business loneliness is a self-imposed exile that we don’t have to accept as the truth.

Maxims are usually harmless, unless they turn out to be untrue. For example, sometimes taking the maxim “It’s lonely at the top” too far can actually manifest as dangerous lies.

CC Photo via Pixabay

CC Photo via Pixabay

Lie #1: I’m supposed to know how to solve this.

Lie #2: I shouldn’t ask for help because I’m the only one with this problem.

Lie #3: Admitting I have a problem makes me appear ignorant and uncompetitive.

Lie #4: I don’t know anyone who can help me.

Lie #5: Even if I found someone to advise me, I can’t afford it.

When you allow any of these lies to become maxims the consequence can be maximum failure.

In the 16th chapter of Proverbs, King Solomon coined a maxim that should be prominently displayed in every business owner’s office: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with advisors, they succeed.”

Here are some of the places small businesses can get counsel, from free to fee.

No Cost: Local peer-to-peer mastermind groups; Small Business Development Centers (SBDC); SCORE.org.

Zero to $250: Local chamber of commerce; continuing ed classes; industry trade groups.

Budget Required: Consultants; franchise peer groups, like Vistage or The Alternative Board; legal, accounting, etc.

Remember, “It’s lonely at the top” - and the five lies - get maxim status only if you accept them. Since you didn’t get where you are today by being a conformist, why start now?

Listen to the wise man, and seek counsel.  Otherwise you could become painfully acquainted with another maxim in Proverbs 16: “Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Write this on a rock… Abandon the exile, lose the martyr act and ask for help.

RESULTS: How do you like the new NCAA Division I rules?

The Question:

How do you like the new NCAA Division I football selection committee, playoff and Championship game?

48% - So far the new system is better than the old one.
0% - I prefer the old one.
26% - I’m withholding judgment for now.
26% - Who cares? I can’t believe you asked this question.
Jim’s Comments:
As you likely know by now, college football has a new, three game playoff system to determine top NCAA Division I team.  Stakeholders from the NCAA and Division I schools decided that a committee of twelve, along with two of the classic bowl games and one extra championship game, would decide which school would earn the coveted title of Number One in college football.  So, since this is the time of year when even those who aren’t sports fans often watch bowl games, I thought it would be a good time to ask you about the new system.

The most interesting thing we learned wasn’t that almost half of you like the new system already, or that about a fourth of you are withholding judgment.  And when I provided the option to blow me away for asking such a question, I wasn’t surprised when one-in-four of you did. The thing I didn’t see coming was that not one of you said you would miss the old system.

On an associated note, if you’ve been following my New Year predictions you know I usually wrap them up with one concerning the end of the college football season.  And you also know that I can thank Oregon and Ohio State for making me one-for-two in my predictions so far.

Resolve to overcome your fears and achieve your dreams in the new year

One of the greatest sins is the unlived life.

That’s the title of my favorite section in one of my favorite books, Anam Cara, by my late friend and favorite Irishman, John O’Donohue.

John says that the more we postpone the dreams of our hearts the more we are in danger of an unlived life.  “We should never allow our fears or the expectations of others to set the frontiers of our destiny.”

In that same theme, I also like this New Year poem by Lillian Gray.

New Year’s Thoughts


Let us walk softly, friend;
For strange paths lie before us all untrod,
For New Year, spotless from the hand of God,
Is thine and mine, O friend.


Let us walk straightly, friend;
Forget the crooked paths behind us now,
Press on with steadier purpose on our brow,
To better deeds, O friend.


Let us walk kindly, friend;
We cannot tell how long this life shall last,
How soon these precious years be over past;
Let Love walk with us, friend!

Let’s find a way to forge John’s firm admonitions and Lillian’s soft encouragements into an alloy for living in the New Year.

Thanks for being part of my community. I’ll see you on the radio and the Internet.




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