Small Business Owner Roles – Owners Wear Too Many ‘Hats’

Everyone knows a business owner wears many hats – from Chief Executive to Janitor.  While taking a Small Business Management class with Dr. Thomas Jones, I learned to be aware of these three critical ‘hats’, the responsibilities and purpose of each, and how much time you need to allow for each of them to do their job.

 

As the Owner of the business, you are responsible for six critical areas that answer the question of WHY you are in business and sets direction.

  1. 1. You choose the strategic direction for your company.
  2. 2. By asking “Would my customer care if I were no longer here?” you continue to sharpen your company’s competitive edge.
  3. 3. You manage the balance sheet which means managing debt, liquidity and assets.
  4. 4. You make the choices in how the company will grow – how much, in which directions and how you will do it.
  5. 5. You also determine the long-term survival of the business – your exit strategy and deciding why your business should survive beyond your participation.
  6. 6. You determine your firm’s citizenship – how and when it interacts with your community and with whom.

The owner needs one day per month or quarter to continuously revisit these key responsibilities to ensure the company stays on firm footing and heading in the right direction.  Continue Reading »Small Business Owner Roles – Owners Wear Too Many ‘Hats’

5 Ways to Say “No” …Gently

If you are going to manage your time, then you have to be able to say “No.” 

Here are five ways to say ”No.” in a positive way:

1. Counter propose a time frame that works for you.  “No, I can’t have it done on Tuesday but I could have it finished by Friday if that will work for you.”

2. Counter propose to do a portion that fits your time and skills.  “No, I can’t plan the meeting but I do have time to type the agends and distribute it once someone else had that information pulled together.”

3. Counter propose with an honest suggestion of an alternative person. “No, I am not very skilled as designing a flyer for department holiday celebration but you know who loves to do that kind of project?  Mary does. She might be willing to help you, why don’t you check with her.”

4. Counter propose with another method to achieve the objective.  “No, I don’t have time to organize the meeting, but if all you really need to do is make sure everyone has this information, I can e-mail it with a confirmation so we know everyone received it.”

5. Counter with another way to help that matches your skills. It is better to give an honest “No.” than to say “Yes.” and do it poorly or  not follow through at all.  “I’m sorry but no. The simple truth is, I don’t have the skills or the time to design a marketing piece.  If you ever need someone to do some research, ask, because I am good at researching and I know how to do it quickly.

Saying “No.” does not have to carry guilt. It can be a relationship building stepping stone if you just remember that you are being asked, because someone is either not sure you can or that you have the to do the project or task in first place.  They are really just looking for help and there are ways to provide it even when you say “No.”

 

Get Moving – Strategy #1 – The 5 Whys

Sometimes I tell myself I am going to do an activity and I don’t.  No matter how strong my interest or commitment, I just can’t seem to get started. Whether it is about eating healthy, spending wisely or doing an important project I know will benefit my business there is a deep, unspoken resistance below my conscious commitment that is blocking me. Before I can move ahead I need to know what the block is so I can make a solid decision that whatever is blocking me is either a valid reason, a problem that has a solution or just an unfounded fear.

I use a process called the 5 Why’s that I first came across as a Japanese management technique used to get to the core of a problem.  The process is pretty simple – you ask yourself a why question, write the answer and then reframe that answer into a new why question.  You repeat asking and answering a why question 5 times.  To illustrate, here is one of my 5 why processes – in this case, it was a business process to help me get beyond a block about setting a strategic vision for my company:

1 – Why can’t I define a stategic vision for my company when I know intellectually I need one a a focus?

Because I can’t tie organizing to a passion – I like to teach , help and find solutions for my clients but the use of the word ‘passion’ is a hang up

2 – Why is the use of word ‘passion’ a hang up?

Because I don’t know or experience feelings in a way – to a depth – that the word ‘passion’ implies.

3) Why don’t I experience – or think I don’t experience – feelings in a deep way?

Because I don’t think it is natural for me – I don’t think I ever have and I don’t believe everyone necessarily does experience feelings deeply.

4. Why do I think it is not natural to feel deeply for me?

Because the world is not an all or nothing proposition. Every quality is on a continuum and it’s OK to be any where on the continuum

5. Why is it OK to be anywhere on the continuum?

Because, it is simply just one of many qualities and characteristics of who I am. I am enough just as I am.  I am worthy of love and connection just as I am.  It is OK to redefine passion or use another word to move ahead.

Having reached the end of the process, I used a thesaurus to find other words for passion.  ‘Enthusiasm’ and ‘excitement’ were two options that I did associate with me personally and the work I do.  I get excited when I help a client with a breakthrough. I have a lot of enthusiasm for teaching and helping my clients get untangled, unstuck and de-cluttered.  Ah-ha!  Now I can move ahead.

Prioritization or Procrastination – It’s All In How You Feel

As a time liberator, I teach my clients that the only difference between prioritization and procrastination is how feel about it.  Both are making a decision to do one activity before another. When we feel bad, we call it procrastination.  When we feel good about it, we call it prioritization.

When you feel bad, look at the activity you did versus the one you didn’t and ask yourself:

Did I make a good decision about completing the activity that was done?

If yes, stop beating yourself up – it was prioritization.

 

 

 

If no, why did you make the choice?  We tend to take the path of least resistance. ID the resistance and you’ll move ahead.

 

- Are you missing information? Make finding it a separate  task

- Is it an activity you dislike? Delegate or trade with  someone who enjoys it

- Don’t know where to start? Task 1 is break it down into managable tasks

- Can’t execute to your standards? Start it, allow yourself  to do it poorly as a learning exercise then evolve it.

- Don’t have the education/tools? ID what’s needed,ID a resource and move ahead

- Is intuition telling me it is not the right time or activity? Listen more closely, intuition might be telling you what to do.

- Is it something you think you should do but not something you want or need to do? Chances are the activity can be dropped – it is someone else’s priority not yours.  Time to say “No”.  You can do it gracefully and when it is done honestly, everyone is better off.

It’s important to be kind to yourself – we all have more than enough to do.  Don’t let procrastination drain your energy or pull the fun out of owning your business. One simple question will help you gain clarity so you can move ahead with a simple solution.

 

Three Solutions for When You Feel That Time is Slipping Away

It’s Friday and I had yet to get my blog post done – couldn’t decide on a topic.  In my e-mail inbox was an update from my LinkedIn Business Coaches for Entrepreneurs Group, with a headline for a blog post entitled When Time Seems to Slip Away and the first few lines where talking about not getting a blog post done. Perfect!  Someone, in the same boat as me, who maybe has a solution.  While it helped to read that I was not alone, I realized I had some solutions - I see this issue with my clients all the time.  Half way through sharing a few ideas in the comment box, I realized I was writing my blog post!  So, if you are feeling like time is slipping away, here are a few ideas and a big THANK YOU to David Doulos for the inspiration!

I have found a couple of different reasons for why my clients, and myself,  feel like time is slipping away.  Here are the three most common with a solution for each:

1.  Sometimes, the feeling comes when small, urgent tasks get in the way of something important. One option is to do the big, important thing first. Another is to work in ‘power hours’ where you work on the big project for 45-50 min and spend the remainder of the hour knocking off small tasks. Maybe the most common issue falls under generalized fear – fear of failing, fear of success, fear that the project is not really worth while, fear the project is bigger than their talents etc. and they need to examine the fear and find the work through or around.

2.  A less obvious reason for the feeling of time slipping away is allowing too much thought – about other tasks and projects, about mistakes made, about upcoming deadlines – the myriad of mental chatter makes time feel faster where focused calm attention to the task at hand slows it down.  Be fully focused on each task and project. Give it your full attention and you will get your full measure of time.

3.  Time can also feel like it is slipping away when you are off the mark on what is really important.  Every priority is being impacted by rapid change and what was important 6 months ago has given way to an as-not-yet-recognized new priority.  Never has change happened so quickly; never have priorities and markets shifted so quickly.  I help clients build what I call Future Awareness – a way of looking ahead on a regular basis to recognize more quickly when they need to change priorities, shifts processes and otherwise rearrange their business to leverage what is coming so they stay relevant.  Maybe the feeling of time slipping away is really your gut telling you that you are working on a now-outdated priority and it’s time to adjust course.

As an additional resource, you might want to pick up Harold Taylor’s recently published – Slowing Down the Speed of Life .

Linear time, measured in minutes and hours is an invention of the industrial age as is the 40 hour Mon. – Fri. work week.  The industrial age is over  – it reached the tipping point, collapsed and died around 2006.  Time itself is really fractal – it speeds up, slows down, loops around.  You know it. You’ve experienced it.  Time is perceived.  If you perception is that it is slipping away, it is probably time to rethink what’s important, what work really makes a difference and what activities make time go faster and which slow it down. 

 

Maybe Having Goals Is Not So Important

The word goal can – and for many people has - become so much blah, blah, blah.  We know we should have them – everyone tells us so.  There are books, articles and webinars and tons of materials written on how to set and achieve goals. 

Maybe you do have goals but, they generate more guilt than results.  Maybe you just feel inadequate because you think you don’t have any goals or enough goals or the right goals. 

Even as a productive, effective business owner and organized human being, I am willing to admit that much of what I have achieved has not come from setting and achieving goals.  Some of it has, but not all, not even the majority.

Some of my achievements came about serendipitously such as having my information featured in several books.  An author called me and I said ‘yes’ which got me onto a list that led other authors to call.  I have service and leadership awards from my industry association, NAPO (National Association of Profession Organizers) because the day the yellow pages came out with my business listed, one of their members called me.  A lot of my personal growth and development have come about because I set a theme for each of my years which don’t involve a specific goal so much as an area of focused effort.  Even owning a business was never a goal but just an interesting story of having a business start itself and yet it a very big achievement. 

Is it really goals we need or is it a sense of purpose - of value?  Are we in search of accomplishment or are we really in search of a feeling or experience?  Are goals just the arbitrary benchmarks on the way to realizing a dream or aspiration?

I recently went to a workshop presented by Holly Stokes on NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and one gold nugget of information I garnered from her presentation was about goals.   She opened a door to a new way of looking at goals and finding the motivation to achieving them.

After writing a goal, we had to ask ourselves – 5 times – “How would that make me feel?” Each go-around dug deeper and by the 5th time we had a feeling that we wanted to experience clearly identified and recognized it as a feeling we could create right now.  By working on the desired feeling now, it actually fuels the motivation to achieve the goal.  You don’t have to find motivation to achieve a goal, knowing the feeling and acting to experience now provides it.

Now I use this tool to both gauge the value of a project or goal and set the priority.  Sometimes I can see that the feeling is not enough to pursue the action, sometime there I see a simpler route to the feeling, and sometimes it drives me to shift priorities.

I had never heard or thought of goals in this way – that is really a feeling we want to experience - but it made perfect sense to me and maybe it will do the same for you.

Help Liberate Time with QR Codes

Can you read this hidden message with your smartphone?

Any time you can make an action simple, fast and easy, you liberate time.

I’m on a campaign to get every business professional to put a QR Code on their business card.  Why? Because I know, from more than 20 years in the organizing business, that one of  THE most consistent problems I see clients struggle with are the stacks of business cards lying dead.  They died waiting for data entry – waiting to be put to work.

A well designed QR code on your business card – even just a separate business card with a sticker that you set aside for this use - will save everyone you meet anyone who has a smart phone and a free bar code reader app. You can immediately transfer your contact information from the business card into the phone’s contact data files ready for syncing to Outlook or whatever contact management software they use.

It’s easy and takes just a minute or two to create and save.   Use a free on-line tool to build your QR code.  There are many websites but I like to us this QR Code generator because you can create many kinds of codes – not just contact information.

Here are all the steps to create one right now – you can have it added to your next printing of cards but why wait? :

  1. Create the qr code using the free qr code generator.
  2. Test your work using the barcode reader app on your smartphone. Just go to your app store and search “barcode scanner” there are lots of free options and this tool also lets you scan barcodes on store products for comparison shopping and much more.
  3. Right click to save it to your computer and give it a file name – I use “QRcontact” as I may create use other QR codes for other purposes.
  4. Use word or any software you want to create a mailing label sticker with the code
  5. Print the sticker.   Attach to your card and off you go.  You can print a bunch and put them on each card if you want.


Join the campaign – pass this on – let’s get everyone to use this simple tool and liberate time for everyone!

New Year – New Focus

 

I gave up New Year’s resolutions years ago – instead I set a theme for each year.  A theme creates a sustained, focused effort in one area of my life – both personally and professionally - which I find to be more impactful.  I not only get to work consistently at creating and building the change but with a year of effort there is a residual effect for lasting change.

 

There are 4 simple rules -

1. State it simply so it can easily be kept front-of-mind.

2. Tell others – put it out into the universe so opportunities are created

3. Act – plan at least one activity per month – read a book, attend a class, complete a project

4. Record the learning, the ah-ha moments, the serendipitous events and express gratitude for them.

Every theme has been successful – sometimes beyond my imagining.  All have been an easy way to develop personally and professionally – there’s no big rush the fist week in January that quickly disipates into inaction.  I schedule specific activities each month and look for the opportunities that tend to flow in when I tell others about my theme.

I no sooner decided on my theme for 2011 last week – to be more connected (to people) - when the universe, using www.TED.com as a vehicle sent a video stream from Brene Brown that hit at the core and made me realize I actually wanted to work at being more loving – a better sister, a better friend etc.   What it looks like professionally is to be not just connected – goodness knows there are too many new ways to connect – but to  more authentically connect to people who I want to care about and who want to care about me.

2010 was my year of calm abiding – I wanted to work on feeling more centered, to be more accepting and to be peaceful in my life.  I picked that theme because I believe Ghandi’s words that you have to be the change you want to see in the world.  It was my way of offsetting the pervasive fear and general unsettledness I was feeling from the world around me.  As it sometimes happens, 2010 turned out to be a year of dramatic change for me.  My whole life upside down – my honey and I decided to build a life together, which meant I had to sell my house and much of the contents, move to a new home in a new state and  move my business to a professional office.  It took considerable effort to stay centered and calm as everything around me changed.  I learned that each time I stopped, took a breath and centered and calmed myself I felt healthier, stronger as well as more in control. That calm and peaceful place was full of energy and power. One of my last acts of the year was to buy a zen daily calendar for 2011.

I will plan some activities, I will share my theme with friends and others, there will undoubtably be some serrendipitous happenings that will shape the outcome but I know tha  year from now I will feel more connected and more loving because when you practice anything every day mastery is the natural outcome.

Set aside resolutions that will probably fizzle out anyway.  What one area would you most like to change this year?  What is the first action you will take to start you down the road?   The rest is just attention and awareness.  You too might be amazed at how well this process works to create positive change in your life.

Staying Relevant in a Fast Changing World

As a member of the boomer generation, I sometimes feel like the generations behind me are running so fast - changing the world so quickly – that I feel in danger of getting run over and becoming irrelevant.

At the same time, I have always been a person who likes to move to the beat of my own drummer – not overly concerned with the latest fad – but committed to accomplishing my life’s work in the best way for me.

The challenge is that there are so many new ways to accomplish any task that it is easy to get lost in all the choices.  How is a small business owner supposed to weed through it all?  Recognize a trend from a fad?  When to jump on the Facebook train and when to  Unfriend the world?  The speed at which products and services are created is astounding and the speed at which they are overtaken by the next big thing is even more so. MySpace anyone?

The only answer I really know is that the answers to these questions are different for each person but, here are 3 activities that help keep me in the loop of what is happening so I and my business can stay relevant in a fast changing world.

1 – I subscribe to a feed from TrendWatching which puts out a monthly report on major trends and a forecast for the coming year.  I don’t have to follow every trend but having an awareness of them helps me and lets me help my clients recognize if a trend represents a shift or change they need to make.

2 – I subscribe to a feed from TED – Ideas Worth Spreading.  These videos – roughly 15 minutes – help build awareness of what kind of research, thinking, new ideas and explanations of the changes that are taking place in our world or need to be taking place in our world.

3 – I use a Google homepage to bring in headlines from a variety of sources like science, technology, business because even just scanning the headlines – no article reading necessary – builds awareness about what is happening in areas that are not a part of my life but that can impact my life or at least the world and I can do it,just by scanning the article titles.  I only open and read the ones that intrigue me.

These three activities that fill maybe 15 – 30 minutes of most days is my way of subscribing to the idea that if you see it coming you can get on board or get out of the way but you can’t be mowed down.  This building of future awareness – paying attention to what is coming – is the next best thing to foresight -  the ability to see the pattern of what will be coming before it actually gets rolling.

It is my small way of making sure I can stay relevant – in my own way of course – in a fast changing world.  Do you have a strategy?

The Importance of Doing Nothing

We pretty much live in a go-go-go, do-do-do society.  If we are not being productive, somehow we are letting ourselves and the world down.  This credo is true in both our personal lives and our professional lives.  So, we cram our to-do lists with more than can be accomplished and then get frustrated or feel bad because we are not doing enough.

The trouble is, we don’t live in a two dimensional world – it’s a 3 dimensional world (at the very least) and it’s driven by quantum physics.   We live in fractal-like loops - looping paths with a forward momentum that both revisit and retrace some previous path while also creating a new one while in general expanding.

My argument is that to do anything we must have times of not doing – a cyclical process of thinking, doing, thinking, doing and so on.

Without the periods of rest, the doing suffers – we do tasks badly because we are tired, we do projects in the wrong way because we didn’t plan or we, perhaps worst of all, complete activities that shouldn’t be done or don’t really need doing at all.

The time management process should be more like a teeter-totter – a process of going back and forth between doing and not-doing.  The doing time is about accomplishment, growth and progress.  The non-doing time is about thought, reflection and appreciation.

Both sides are needed to live your best life.  That is key – both have a purpose.  It’s not a situation of doing being ‘good’ while not-doing is ‘bad’, but rather an interdependence.  It’s a reality that you must spend time on both for either one to exist.  If we fail to appreciate the value of not-doing, we just burn out on the doing side.

We have this strange disconnect between thinking we need to constantly do and what we really do – which is to drop out – or down in front of the TV or Internet and feel guilty about what we are not doing.  We crash and burn and more importantly, we don’t think, reflect and appreciate enough.

Instead, realize and plan for the not-doing time.  Reflect on what you’ve done, think about what to do next and how to do it and appreciate each accomplishment.  You will, in the end, do more – better quality, higher value, better-return-on-time-invested activities.

Sometimes, it is important to do nothing and just be thought full.