Tag Archive for 'Expert Jim Blasingame'

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.

Cause and effect met humanity & the world changed

As the 17th century dawned, cause-and-effect was merging parallel universes.

In the Old World, a decision by a group of Leiden Separatists put them on a circuitous journey. Meanwhile, in the New World, a manchild named Tisquantum was born to the Wampanoag Indians.

Both the Separatists and Tisquantum became very important to our future, but not before their lives would change and intertwine in ways not to be imagined by either.

Seeking religious freedom, the Separatists crossed Europe and then the Atlantic. On their odyssey they would steel their convictions, which proved handy in the New World.

Incredibly, first as a hostage and later as an interpreter, Tisquantum crossed the Atlantic six times. On his odyssey, Tisquantum learned Old World languages that, combined with his New World survival skills, would contribute to his rendezvous with destiny.

During their journeys, both experienced a name change: The Separatists became Pilgrims and Tisquantum became Squanto. And as the Pilgrims prepared for their first Atlantic crossing, Squanto made his last.

Arriving at his birthplace in 1619, Squanto found that his entire village and family had been wiped out by an epidemic.

On the day after Christmas, 1620, with the Mayflower Compact in hand, the Pilgrims came ashore at what is now Massachusetts, on a place they named Plymouth, after the city where their voyage began.

The Pilgrims’ first winter in the New World was brutal; less than half of the 102 colonists survived to spring. Then on March 16th, 1621, an Indian named Samoset walked up to the Pilgrims and said, “Hello, English.” Very soon he recognized that these sad-looking folks needed help from someone who spoke better English.

The two universes finally converged and cause-and-effect met humanity as Samoset brought Squanto to the Pilgrims. In one of the great moments of serendipity, it turns out “Plymouth” was the very spot of Squanto’s ill-fated village.

Squanto spent the rest of 1621 befriending the Pilgrims and teaching them how to survive in the New World. It’s clear that his contribution was critical to the survival of these important American forebears.

When the courage and convictions of one group of individuals converged with the humanity of two others, something special happened: Part of the foundation of the most benevolent nation in history was born.

This week we give thanks for these individuals and the blessings that have accrued to us 391 years later.

One person can make a difference. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Check out more of Jim’s great content HERE!

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Which candidate is best for small business?

As a leading voice for small business success, one of the factors I track and report on is public policy. In my advocacy role, I support those issues that benefit small business and oppose those that don’t, regardless of party origin.

Every four years since 2000 I have compared the policies of the two presidential candidates with regard to their alignment with small business success. Here are comparisons for the top small business issues:

Jobs = customers
President Obama’s economic recovery plan – including spending hundreds of billions on a government approach to economic growth – has failed as a jobs creator. And yet he continues to advocate more government “investment” in the economy. Mitt Romney has stated that the best way to grow the economy is to support small businesses in their efforts to grow jobs and thus create more customers for everyone.

Taxes
The largest drain on a small business’s precious working capital is taxes. President Obama thinks of tax reform as a way to redistribute wealth from “millionaires and billionaires,” but small businesses will become collateral damage. Mitt Romney proposes tax reform where job creators pay higher taxes based on their success, plus a broader tax base so more Americans have a vested interest in our country’s future.

Health care
Obamacare will cost double the initial estimate, plus impose new fines, new taxes and onerous compliance requirements on small businesses – without benefiting them. But perhaps the worst of this law is it puts small business owners in conflict with their employees and their own growth plans.

President Obama is committed to his namesake law. Mitt Romney promises to repeal Obamacare. When we polled small business owners about Obamacare, 78% agreed with Romney.

Fuel prices
Gasoline costs small businesses and their customers almost twice what it did when Barack Obama took office.

All of the increase isn’t Obama’s fault, but presidents can influence oil prices. When crude topped $140 a barrel in 2008, President Bush simply announced he wanted to remove the offshore drilling ban and oil prices dropped like a stone.

President Obama has taken no steps to reduce oil prices – rejecting the Keystone pipeline, for example – because his alternative energy policies only work when the cost of carbon fuel is high. Mitt Romney has promised to pursue the full potential of America’s domestic energy sources.

Mitt Romney is the only presidential candidate who knows what it takes to make a payroll every Friday.

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On my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked more about my comparison of the two Presidential candidates based on issues important to the future of small business. Click here to download or listen.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

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Your future and customer paradigms

In his book, Paradigms: The Business of Discovering the Future, futurist Joel Barker explains that paradigms are filters through which humans view the world and around which we pursue our lives.

Things that align with our paradigms sail right through; otherwise they meet resistance. A favorite color, for example, is a paradigm.

We also establish marketplace paradigms. Perhaps the most interesting paradigm dynamic is between a customer and a business, because a customer’s product paradigm logically becomes a business’s production paradigm.

Product paradigms always work for customers because they can pick and choose at will. But for a business, a production paradigm comes with significant risks, because they can be left with an investment – physically, financially and emotionally – in a newly unviable production paradigm.

When there is a paradigm disruption – like customers changing preferences – that’s called a shift. Barker says when a paradigm shifts, everything goes back to zero; what once worked so well becomes unavailable or obsolete.

When a shift occurs – the ability to buy stocks online, for example – customers easily transition to the new thing that likely caused the shift. But for a business with multi-faceted investments in the old paradigm – only stockbrokers can place stock orders – such a shift can be expensive and dangerously disruptive.

In the past I’ve introduced you to several examples of how the marketplace is transitioning from The Age of the Seller to The Age of the Customer™. This transformation is creating a number of shifts which are at once exciting for some and disruptive for others.

In the new Age, there are three primary shifts a business must now monitor constantly; each associated with a key element of customer relationships.

The Buying Decision
Customers have always controlled the buying decision element, but they now need less decision-making help from a business. The paradigm shift question: “How do we prevent our marketing and sales strategy from becoming obsolete?”

The Information
Previously controlled by businesses, access to information is now almost completely controlled by the customer. The paradigm shift question: “How do we maintain a relevant value proposition?”

The Product
Once controlled by the business, customers increasingly influence product development. The paradigm shift question: “How do we love what we do without loving how we do it?”

Discover the future by monitoring customer paradigms.

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To listen to or read more about how your business can flourish in The Age of the Customer™, click here.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

Watch Jim’s videos HERE!

Small Business Advocate Poll: The truth about unemployment

The Question:
Will you give the President credit for the drop in the unemployment rate to 7.8%?

17% - Yes - It shows his policies are creating new jobs.

81% - No - it doesn’t include those who stopped looking for work.

2% - Undecided.

My Commentary:
Recently, the U3 unemployment rate was reported to have dropped to 7.8%. For the entire time President Obama has been in office, this indicator has been above 8%, which historically does not bode well for the incumbent facing reelection.

We wanted to know how small business owners felt about this new number, so last week we asked this question on our online poll: “Will you give the President credit for the drop in the unemployment rate to 7.8%.” Here’s what you told us.

Seventeen percent said they would indeed give the president credit because “… his policies are creating new jobs.” Those who were undecided came in at 2%. But the big number - 81%, said they would not give the president credit because, “… it doesn’t include those who stopped looking for work.”

U3 is the classic unemployment metric most often referred to, but it is basically a household survey, not a comprehensive standard. In any other context, such a statistic would be considered no more than a rule of thumb. The more comprehensive metric is U6, which includes those who are unemployed and under-employed.

As I have been reporting for at least two years, U6 unemployment is closer to 15%. In human terms, more than 20 million Americans are either unemployed or not employed to their qualifications. Plus this number does not include those who have given up looking for work - or the record number who have recently switched from unemployment to disability.

Regardless of which metric is used, the U.S. has a serious and chronic unemployment problem not seen since the Great Depression. And it will take people who understand how the economy works to help job creators turn this around.

The thing that gives me hope for America’s future is that our poll indicates small business owners are not naïve or uniformed about the truth.

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Click here to listen to more of what I have to say about the politics of unemployment percentages on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

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Take this week’s poll HERE!

Leaders don’t make excuses – they lead

In October 1066 AD William I, Duke of Normandy, was about to lay claim to England on the field of battle against King Harold II.

As William led his men ashore in southeast England on their way to what was to become the historic Battle of Hastings, legend has it that this man-who-would-be-king rather ignominiously stumbled and fell face-first into the mud.

One of the classic truths about leaders, including once-and-future kings and small business owners, is that stumbling is virtually ordained. So whether the untimely descent is an honest mistake or unfortunate circumstance, the question is not if we will stumble, but how we behave after the fall. One of the great maxims is that adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it.

Back to our Norman invader: The future king of England demonstrated how leaders often have to think fast in order to snatch victory from potential disaster. Looking up from the mud, seeing “bad omen” written all over the faces of his superstitious men, William stood up, displayed his muddied hands and cried, “By the splendor of God, I have taken possession of my realm; the earth of England is in my two hands.”

So, when you look up from the “mud,” how do you behave? Of course, you could complain about how deep the mud is “How can I grow my business without enough capital?”

Then there’s the ever-handy option of blaming others for the mud, “Yes, ma’am, I know you bought it from us, but that’s a manufacturer’s defect. You’ll have to send it back to them.”

Or you could just blame the mud itself: “How can I possibly compete with the Big Boxes in this economy?”

At least one thing hasn’t changed in a thousand years: There are still plenty of people standing around – employees, customers, etc. – watching us when we stumble. And like William’s men, these latter-day witnesses are also vital to the success of our empires.

The Battle of Hastings arguably changed the course of history. But who knows what the world would look like today if our hero had become known as William the Whiner instead of William the Conqueror?

So, when you fall face-down in the metaphorical mud of your battlefield, your future may well depend upon whether you – like William – stand up, assess the damage, accept the circumstances, claim responsibility, remember that you are a leader on whom many depend, and then drive on to win the day.

It also helps if you can think fast.

Leaders don’t whine, complain or make excuses – they lead.

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I love to talk about leadership on The Small Business Advocate Show with my friend Stephen Baum, former partner with Booz Allen Hamilton, current director of the Point Group Network, and chair of a New York chapter of Vistage International. Stephen was on the show recently to discuss why successful small business CEOs take action, whether to take advantage of opportunities or just to survive. Click here to download or listen.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

Watch Jim’s videos HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!




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