Tag Archive for 'small business owner'

As CEO, you’re the futurist of your business

Every small business owner should display in a prominent place this John F. Kennedy quote: “Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

As the CEO, you’re the futurist of your business, and the product of a futurist’s work is foresight.

Professional futurists are neither inspired by God, clairvoyant, nor have ESP. But they do look at the world differently than the average person. They typically see things before others do, largely because their focus is influenced by the following factors:

Extreme curiosity: This isn’t first by accident. Curiosity is to foresight what oxygen is to life.

Orders of implication: Futurists imagine the impact of multiple possibilities from a single scenario that hasn’t happened yet.

Collaboration: Futurists study the work of other futurists, work together, and welcome peer reviews.

Foresight tools: Some resources are sophisticated, some not so much.

As you can see, there’s nothing supernatural about these. Nothing you don’t already have or can’t acquire, at least at the level of CEO futurist. Let me lower the intimidation factor and make foresight easier with CEO foresight tools. You’ll recognize the first two:

Curiosity: The only person who’s more curious than a futurist is an entrepreneur. Curiosity is your most powerful tool-unleash it.

Watch for implications: When you see something new - a thing, idea or a development - unfocus your eyes and imagine the short and long-term implications. Play the “what if” game with your team.

Read: Professional futurists call it scanning. Read everything you can get your hands on about your universe and your customers’ universes. Start connecting dots.

Pay attention: This is the first cousin of curiosity. You pay attention to your business every day. Now add what’s outside your four walls to your scan.

Experience: Never underestimate the foresight value of past successes and failures, especially to the implications element.

Peer relationships: This includes CEO roundtables, whether formal or informal, but also attending industry events to listen to and compare notes with other CEO futurists.

Intuition: This is the love child of experience and curiosity. You have intuition, plus experts say you can grow it. Intuition is educated by experience and employed by curiosity.

These CEO foresight tools will help you track trends for opportunities and disruptions in areas such as: demographics, customer behavior, society, production/supply, politics, technology, and global events impacting large customers.

With tomorrow, next year and the next decade in mind, use questions like these to include your stakeholders in the foresight process: What will my industry look like? What will my market look like? What will happen to my existing customers? What will my new customer profile look like? What will be their expectations? What kinds of products and services should we sell?  How will we capitalize growth? What kind of technology will I need? What will be the greatest opportunities? What will be the greatest disruptions?

Use the tools, ask the questions, uncover and prepare for the possibilities that will allow you to take advantage of opportunities and minimize disruptions. Leading change as the CEO means applying the foresight tools of a futurist in order to avoid surprises. All surprises.

Even if a surprise turns out okay, you still shouldn’t celebrate. In fact, you should be just as frightened as if it turned out badly. Because it got through your foresight filters unnoticed until it manifested in front of you. That means a bad surprise could do the same thing.

Remember Blasingame’s Law of Surprises: Surprises are for birthdays — this is business.

Write this on a rock … “The future doesn’t fit in the container of the past.” Rishad Tobaccolwala

Why success in business favors the neurotic

Among the people I admire are those who have the courage to make bold statements based on their beliefs and experiences. Early in his book, The Road Less Traveled, the late M. Scott Peck endeared himself to me when he declared that the people he saw in his counseling practice essentially fell into two categories: neurotics and those with character disorders.

Peck wrote, “Neurotics are easy to work with in psychotherapy, because they assume responsibility.” He went on to say, “Those with character disorders are difficult, if not impossible, to work with, because they never see themselves as any part of the problem.” Thus missing the invaluable opportunity for self-examination.

Contemplating Dr. Peck’s declaration was a true watershed moment, helping me better understand why people-including me-behave as we do. Both types of Peck’s patients sought his help because they were experiencing difficulties in life. But if we’re honest, we don’t have to be dysfunctional to realize that each of us falls on one side or the other of this behavior coin. It’s an either/or default circumstance, where we’re either more likely to take responsibility for what happens in our life, or we aren’t.

How you would respond to these business scenarios.

Challenge: Amazon and Google are becoming more aggressive on Main Street; meanwhile, a new Big Box company just opened.

Character Disorder reaction: “I hate those companies. How can I compete with their prices and free delivery? Why does the city allow them to come in here and destroy my business?”

Neurotic reaction: “Well, it’s on me to survive or not. No one made me open this business, and those Big Boxes and Amazon can’t take my business from me unless I roll over and give it to them.”

Challenge: Sales are off, profits are down, and cash is tight.

Character Disorder reaction: “How can I be expected to succeed in this economy? My expenses are going through the roof. The bank won’t give me a working capital loan. Why is everything against me?”

Neurotic reaction: “Being a business owner is harder than I thought it was going to be. Obviously, there’s something I’m not doing right. I have to find what that is and fix it myself, because no one else will.”

If you’re on the neurotic side of the coin, the challenge is to focus on taking responsibility in a constructive, solutions-oriented way. Take responsibility without beating yourself up. If you’re on the character disorder side, resist spending precious time and resources focusing on how the world has let you down. Instead, reverse your outward focus - no one else is going to solve your problems. And the world isn’t even listening.

Personal self-analysis may be the most valuable skill we can employ to become a better person and CEO. In a small business, organizational self-analysis - and acceptance of what we find - is essential to sustained success in the marketplace. To demonstrate that I practice what I preach, here’s my bold statement that recommend you claim for yourself - especially any time you find yourself planning a pity party.

Blasingame’s Small Business Success Attitude
I accept that my small business will face challenges every day. As I begin my day, I will assume the attitude that, regardless of the number of challenges, the degree of difficulty, or who caused them, if my business is to survive, I must face each one. Therefore, I know that the only thing in question today is how well I will respond to challenges, and the future of my business may well depend on the answer to that question.

Remember these three important keys to success in business and in life: Take responsibility, practice self-analysis, and seek excellence, not perfection.

Write this on a rock … Remember what Scott Peck said: Neurotics can be fixed, but those with character disorders, not so much.

Can you sell your leadership product?

What is a leader? A mentor once told me a leader is someone who can find others who will follow him (or her).

But as we all know, followers can be high-maintenance folks, requiring constant tending to whatever it is that attracts them; most of the time “it” is something intangible. Napoleon is reputed to have said, “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.” Intangible.

Leadership, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. So we asked our radio and online audience which of five characteristics is THE most important to being a successful leader. Two of the leadership traits we offered, courage and perseverance, got the lowest ranking, each in single digits.  The highest ranking went to “ability to communicate,” with about 40% choosing this one, followed by “ethical behavior,” chosen by almost one-third of respondents,  and “vision” selected by a little more than one out of four.

At first, I was surprised that courage and perseverance didn’t rank higher, because it’s my belief that both of these are defining traits of a successful leader. But surprise turned to clarity when I realized that our poll had revealed what we all know but don’t always remember: There are two faces of a leader. One is the face leaders see when looking in a mirror, and the other is the one followers see. When seeking the definition of a leader, we have to be clear about which point-of-view is being sought: leadership traits we seek in ourselves or those that attract followers.

The face in the mirror knows courage and perseverance are definitely among the imperatives for leadership success. But to followers, these are merely raw materials used to manufacture the product they demand of leaders - that intangible “bit of colored ribbon” delivered by communicating a vision that is executed based on mutually held values.

Turns out, being a leader is a lot like being a business owner. To be successful in business, it’s not enough to offer quality products you’re proud of - customers drop the gavel on that judgment. Similarly, it’s not enough for leaders just to please the mirror - followers are the customers of your leadership product.

In order to get others to follow you, both faces of leadership must be in evidence. Nurture those traits that success requires of you personally, like courage, perseverance, faith, commitment, etc., while simultaneously delivering what followers expect: ethics, communication, vision and performance.

Write this on a rock … Are you finding followers for your “bit of colored ribbon?”

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.

Is crowdfunding investment capital right for your business?

In previous columns I introduced three crowdfunding sources including donation fundraising, startup transactions, and lending. Now let’s talk about the fourth and most problematic method: raising capital from investors.

Historically, small businesses acquired investor capital from two sources: venture capital and angel investors. So when crowdfunding popped up on our radar, many in the entrepreneurial universe got excited thinking the Internet could be used as a lever for investor capital as it has for other business applications. Here are four reasons why I was not among this group.

1.  Securities Laws
Remember those two crowdfunding markers identified in my previous columns, “innumerable and anonymous?” Well, they’re the most problematic in raising investor funds because, by definition, the public (people you don’t know) has access to Internet offerings. U.S. securities laws are enormously restrictive about selling investments to the public, and the approval process is prohibitively expensive for most startups. Plus, even as part of Obama’s 2012 JOBS Act, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has yet to approve crowdfunding for investors and won’t say when rulemaking will happen.

2.  Financial reporting
One of the essential markers of investing is financial reporting. Alas, one of the markers of the small business sector is poor financial recordkeeping. When small businesses learn the level of disclosure required for crowdfunding investment, most will not pursue this path.

3.  Minority shareholders
Investors become shareholders. A crowdfunding offering is likely to create many shareholders. When small business owners understand the maintenance expense and effort to comply with mandated reporting to shareholders, most will seek other capital sources.

4.  Exit strategies
Small business owners love their businesses, but most don’t have an exit strategy. Since capital is not romantic, it’s unlikely that a small business owner’s idea of an exit will align with that of crowdfunding investors. And with no after-market for these shares, crowdfunding creates an inherent exit expectation conflict, which will be a non-starter.

When and if SEC rulemaking occurs, crowdfunding equity will benefit some entrepreneurs. But I predict this capital source won’t be a high percentage option for most small businesses. Crowdfunding is part of the future of small business capitalization, but it’s not for everyone.

Write this on a rock … Don’t count on crowdfunding to replace your banking relationships.

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


Flex your spirit to your business’s advantage

Do you know what a jet fighter is? If you said airplane, you’re only half right. In the strict nomenclature, a jet fighter is actually a weapons platform. Its job is to deliver ordinance to a target, not to fly the pilot around.
In that sense, the human body–this vessel of protoplasm we drive around — is not really what a human is. It’s actually a delivery platform for the will of our spirit; the true life force that is who we really are.
One of the things I have observed about humans is that we often don’t understand, and therefore tend to under-employ, the power of our spirit. We seem so obsessed with the body that we don’t spend enough time contemplating the presence and power of the spirit.

Someone once told me how little of our brain’s power we actually use. I don’t remember the percentage, but I do remember it was astonishingly low. I wonder if there is a connection between under-usage of the brain and limited awareness of the spirit.

Author and philosopher, Colin Wilson, wrote, “We possess such immense resources of power that pessimism is a laughable absurdity.” The power he’s talking about is that of the spirit.

Pessimism can’t be overcome by our bodies. Dealing with frustration and overcoming disappointment are both tasks performed way above the pay grade of protoplasm. If you are a small business owner you either already understand this, or are acquiring that understanding a little more every day.

I’ve been a small business owner for a long time and have observed others far longer. I can’t imagine how any of us could do what we do without a strong spirit. The challenge is to become more aware of our spirit and flex it, like a muscle, to our advantage.

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




Warning: fsockopen() [function.fsockopen]: php_network_getaddresses: getaddrinfo failed: Temporary failure in name resolution in /var/www/wordpress/wp-includes/class-snoopy.php on line 1142

Warning: fsockopen() [function.fsockopen]: unable to connect to twitter.com:80 (Unknown error) in /var/www/wordpress/wp-includes/class-snoopy.php on line 1142