Monthly Archive for March, 2015

Value your negatives with paradoxical thinking

Paradox: When two things – like words, traits or situations – seem illogical and/or contradictory, but may in fact, be compatible, justified or true.

It’s difficult to imagine anything more interesting about humans than how paradoxical we are. But that’s not a word most of us want to apply to ourselves because it sounds negative. And we sure don’t like dwelling on our negatives — not that we have any — just the good stuff.  Nevertheless, we humans are at once a sweet and sour, but always spicy Brunswick stew of paradoxes.

My friend, Kelle Olwyler, co-author of “Paradoxical Thinking,” says we have aspects of our character that we may view as negative and, consequently, try to eliminate. But here’s a newsflash: Olwyler’s research shows that these negative aspects are, “actually just as essential to who we are as the parts of us that we like.”  Thus, the paradox.

Olwyler says, “Eliminating our negatives is like trying to eliminate one side of a pendulum swing.” She defines paradoxical thinking as, “accepting and valuing our paradoxes, as well as understanding those of people with whom we associate. It’s the process of consciously bringing together our two paradoxical sides to achieve outstanding results.”

Paradoxical thinking actually gives us permission to not hate our negatives. For example:

-  If you’re sometimes intense or aggressive, the other end of that pendulum swing manifests as an outgoing nature with a sense of urgency that contributes to success in sales.

-  Your family may think you’re a workaholic, while benefitting from the fruits of your efforts.

-  Some might consider you unorganized, but your creativity arises from regarding clutter differently than your more structured peers.

Focusing only on the negatives of our paradoxes is destructive. Conversely, paradoxical thinking allows us to recognize, value and manage both sides of the pendulum that makes up who we are.

Consider the three previous examples now with paradoxical thinking:

-  By recognizing your aggressive tendency, you can channel it appropriately and maximize that trait.

-  By accepting that you like working, and indeed must work, you and your family can identify ways to accomplish your professional goals in concert with those of the family.

-  By assigning organization to someone else, you can focus more productively on things that you see but are “outside the box” for others.

Finally, if you’re having trouble finding your negatives, when you see someone behaving in a way that’s really annoying, the chances are excellent they sometimes feel the same way about you. Ouch! This paradoxical thinking can sting a little.

Humans are dimples and warts all rolled into the cutest bundles of annoyingly endearing characteristics.

Write this on a rock…. Without the warts our dimples wouldn’t be so cute.

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

RESULTS: How will you file

The Question:

With tax filing dates coming up, how will you file?

62% - Will file both personal and business (corporate) by due dates
5% - Will file extension for business, but personal on time
0% - Will file business on time, but extension for personal
30% - Will file extensions for both personal and business
3%-Won’t file any returns this year
Jim’s Comments:

See Until Next Time above.

It’s never too early to greet your customers

When do you file your taxes?

In our online poll this week, we asked this question: “With the tax filing dates coming up, how will you file?”  You can see the numbers in the poll results below, but I want to offer my perspective on them here.

We’ve asked the income tax filing question for the past three years. Even though the response options were a little different each year, here’s what I see comparing all three:  The perennial filing practices for small businesses are split by about 60/40 for those filing on time vs the extension crowd. I want to think that’s good news, as that would seem to indicate more folks are a little better organized. But let’s be clear, there are many good and practical reasons for filing an extension without it being an indictment of your business practices.

Full disclosure, around here we always file extensions for both business and personal, and I recommend it to anyone who needs a little more time for whatever reason. I have it on good authority that filing an extension is not seen as a bad thing by the IRS.

There is one sad note in our poll this week. It’s the first time I’ve offered the option to select: “Won’t file any returns this year.” As will see below, a small part of our sample chose this. When a business is struggling, one of the things that often slips is paying taxes and filing returns.

Over the years I’ve dealt with the IRS on behalf of clients and for myself, in circumstances that were good and some that were not so much. My experience is that they’ve always been helpful. If you ever get into this condition, don’t wait — talk to the IRS as soon as possible, tell them your issues and ask them for help. They will help you. But the longer you wait, the longer it will take to pay off the interest and penalties.

Our tax code and the system are completely screwed up, but the people you’ll meet at the IRS are not.

Does your business use lights or gauges?

Trick question: If your business were a car, would the dashboard have warning lights or gauges? The correct answer is gauges because they provide incremental information, while a light is either on or off.

Business gauges are financial statements, numbers and ratios that anticipate attention; warning lights often don’t reveal a problem until it’s too late.

Let’s take a look at these two different dashboards addressing the same three issues:

Inventory warning light: Check Inventory!

This light flashes when you’re out of stock. Oh, you’ve got plenty of inventory, but it’s poorly distributed across lines and you don’t have what customers want now.

Inventory gauge: This is your balance sheet, which helps you see inventory creeping up in any month so you can immediately check stocking levels to get them back in line.

Inventory is cash you can’t spend until a customer pays for it. Can your cash flow wait for a light to flash before you make inventory adjustments?

Payroll caution light: High payroll!

A payroll light only comes on when this expense is already too high. By then you may have made hiring and compensation commitments you can’t justify.

Payroll gauge: The needle on the payroll gauge identifies the payroll-to-sales ratio including a breakdown of how much you should pay sales, management, production, etc.

Payroll is likely your largest operating expense. Do you want to wait for a light to flash or manage it with the incremental movement of a needle?

Growth danger light: Excessive speed!

This light blinks when your working capital engine has reached redline operating levels. By that time, either your internal systems are over extended, you will have grown yourself out of business, or both.

Growth gauge: Certain financial ratios and a cash flow projection are the growth gauges that indicate if you have the working capital to expand or if you should slow down until you’ve acquired the capital to grow successfully.

With sustainable success depending on sound growth decisions, you need the incremental immediacy of a gauge, not the vagueness of a blinking light.

Business gauges are the numbers on your financial statements and the ratios they produce. Like gauges on a car’s instrument panel, when displayed accurately and checked regularly, they move in small increments to show positive trends or alert you to a specific dangerous direction.

Astute business operators not only manage the movement of their operating gauges but also understand the cause-and-effect relationship each gauge has with another.

Write this on a rock …

Businesses that survive long-term have gauges on their dashboard, not warning lights.

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

Embrace change to improve your small business

The life of a small business owner is hectic, to say the least.  Multi-tasking is the norm.  So much of our day is spent reacting to the crisis of the moment, conducting the business of the day, and initiating our plans for the future. And once we acquire a level of competence in this life we’ve chosen, it’s natural to want to relax, settle in, and seek the ease that can come with familiarity and repetition.

But the marketplace isn’t a comfortable, lumbering vessel anymore, rolling along like a single screw trawler. It’s become more like a vibrant starship capable of warp speed. Indeed, it takes a much more knowledgeable person to successfully operate a business in today’s marketplace than it did even 10 years ago.

The great American revolutionary and legendary wordsmith, Thomas Paine, said, “I have seldom passed five minutes of my life, however circumstanced, in which I did not acquire some knowledge.”  This from a corset maker who dropped out of school at 13.

You can’t anticipate everything, so react when you must.  The business of the day, obviously, must be attended to.  And what will you have tomorrow if you don’t plan for it?

But however circumstanced, before you succumb to the human tendency to rest on your laurels, make it part of your daily tasks to acquire some knowledge.

Make it your daily intention to learn something new that might help you react more effectively, operate more profitably, and plan more intelligently.

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

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