Archive for core values

What does it mean to “ Play life like a champion”

Posted by on September 3, 2010 with 3 Comments

 

 

In my recent post; Are you a Pit Bull or a Poodle I share a quick test I give clients who are considering entering the entrepreneurial game.  One of the key indicators you are a Pit bull is you ;

“Play life like a champion.”

 

So what does it mean to play life like a champion?

 

Having lived in North Canton Ohio most of my adult life the Pro Football induction ceremonies and celebrations are a big event we looked forward to each year. Aside from the parades and ribs burn off I often would  listen to the speeches recognized Hall of fame champions gave when they were inducted.

This year was not exception as Emit Smith’s speech was one all business owners setting out to be the dominant market leader in their field should listen to. Below are some key bullet points I gathered from his speech;

  • don’t set out to be good, set out to be the best

 

  • write your goals down and they become real

 

 

  • study the greats that went before you

 

  • demand excellence of your self and those around you

 

 

  • be thankful each day you are blessed to be playing

 

  • rarely is personal recognition won without the contribution of others

 

 

  • share your goals with others who will hold you accountable

 

 

  • understand it will take sacrifice and make sure you are willing to do what it takes

 

 

  • Never, never ever give up

 

I found this speech particularly inspiring as so many business owners and their leadership teams face challenging times.

As leaders we must be intentional about the values and principles we weave into the fiber of our cultures. Just as goals not written down are just dreams, failure to intentionally state and reward the behaviors you desire of yourself and your team is a mistake as champions do not “just happen”.

Hall of Fame Football champions do not “just happen”, they are born of a relentless desire for excellence.

So how about you…..

 

Do you have a clear written goal that demands excellence to achieve it?

 

Does your team clearly understand the goal and the path required to achieve it?

 

Does your team reward the behaviors of champions?

Do I need a Passion Statement for my business? Take the short quiz…

Posted by on May 26, 2010 with 6 Comments

 

 

As I discussed in my post : Want to Jump Start Sales and Morale? Write a “Passion Statement” For Your Business…. A passion statement will jumpstart your sales and improves your team’s morale. Business leaders often spend a great deal of time on mission statements, their unique sales proposition as well as their stated team values. These are all needed , however nothing unties a team and inspires your buyers to buy like an authentic passion statement.

So how do you know if your organization needs a passion statement?

Please answer the below questions with the first answer that comes to your mind.

What I am looking for is your feeling more than an answer you spend time rationalizing.

  1. Do your customers perceive your product as a commodity?

  2. Has your overall gross profit as a % of sale decreased in the last 6 months?

  3. Do your team members work 9-5, no more, no less?

  4. When you work with salespeople in the field do you discover your key accounts are purchasing products from competitors because they were not aware you carried them?

  5. Has 50% or more of your sales team missed their goals over the last 6 months?

  6. Do your competitors always seem one step ahead of you with new products or services?

  7. When you launch new products, do they miss their ROI targets?

  8. When you review the performance of your last 3 new products would they be categorized as “evolutionary”? ( instead of revolutionary)

  9. Is you employee turnover greater than 20%?

  10. Have you lost one or more of your Key accounts in the last 6 months?

  11. Has your AR increase by 10 or more days to collect?

  12. Do your salespeople complain your products are significantly priced higher than competitors?

  13. Are salespeople listing features you must build into your product to make the next sale?

  14. Are you frustrated that your team does a good job of identifying roadblocks, but fails to develop plans to break through them?

  15. Have you ever said…” I am frustrated; I want my team members to act like owners and not just employees”.

  16. Have you lost a key employee over the past 3 months unexpectedly?

  17. Are you having difficulty identifying and recruiting new team members?

  18. Do your team members have more than 3 key performance indicators you evaluate them on each week?

  19. Is more than 3 hours of your week in meetings?

  20. Do you feel the need to create weekly objectives and activities for your subordinates, and “manage” them closely?

 

Here’s the deal….if you said “Yes” to more than 5 of the above you and your team need a quest, you need a passion statement to jumpstart your business.

If you answered “Yes” to 10 or more you are already on the slippery slope of becoming a Market Loser.( take corrective action now!)

 

How does your organization answer the above questions?

 

Based on your answers do you need a passion statement?

 

How do your clients describe your team and your products when you are not around?

Are Your Customers receiving a “Luke Warm” buying experience? …if so it’s costing you more than you know…

Posted by on March 9, 2010 with 4 Comments

 

The climate for business is difficult with consumer confidence low, the access to cash tight and record unemployment. However some organizations are thriving while others know something is wrong, and they are just blaming the economy. The economy is a factor; however it may be the main “why” behind your organizations’ struggles to make numbers if your clients are receiving a “Luke Warm” buying experience. Luke warm employees create a “just enough to get by “buying experience and that simply is not cutting it in this highly competitive environment. I discussed how the buying process has changed over the last year in my post: Are you Enabling your Sales Force or Emasculating them?  With these added pressures, the last thing you want is for your clients to have a poor buying experience and seek out your competitors.

I just finished a book by Francis Chan titled; Crazy Love. It’s a book about growing your spiritual life.. In chapter four he discusses “the profile of Luke warm” and I thought how the wisdom he shares with regards to our faith life also applies in the business world. Chan describes how a Luke warm faith life is worst than being hot or cold and I feel this is also true for businesses and their employees. Specifically this is most evident in the buying experience.

What is it like to buy from your company? Are your salespeople trained and knowledgeable? Do they know how to find buyer problems and set out as if on a quest to solve them?

Or are you like most organizations who have built inside out service models and you hear executives challenged by “how our clients just are not smart enough to see the value in what we provide.” Or maybe you have downsized your sales and customer service teams and you are wondering why your business is declining and your customer satisfaction is at an all time low?

Luke warm team members produce Luke warm service levels.

The Bible discusses how being Luke warm is worst than being hot or cold and this rule also applies to your team members. I would much prefer a team member who tells me: “I just don’t get our plan and I am having a hard time getting motivated to execute my indicators” than someone who says they are on board and is just going through the motions to just get by.

As I discussed in my post: Third Part of truth …Motivation; Are You willing to go the extra mile like Chick-fil-A?  As a consumer we instantly recognize good service and an organization that has clearly set an expectation for how customers should feel in the buying process.

I need to ask…How you want your customers to feel in the process of buying your goods and or services.

Once you intentionally create this vision, you will need to identify team members who will need to be trained, and in some cases replaced.

14 warning signs a team member may be Luke warm and negatively impacting their service to internal and external customers

1.)    They do what they believe is expected of them and only what they believe is expected of them

2.)    They choose to follow Hippos, they do what is politically correct but may not be right

3.)    They are striving to survive not win

4.)    They rarely share their knowledge and experience as they use knowledge as power and not a gift

5.)    They focus on comparing their results to that of other team members versus their key performance indicators

6.)    Their actions serve themselves more than others ( customers both internal and external)

7.)    Their service is conditional, selective, and often comes with strings attached

8.)    They are focused on today and what’s in it for them today, they lack a future vision

9.)    They spend more time with their bosses than their subordinates and customers

10)    They do the bare minimum , and their goal is to be “good enough”

11)    They play it safe, they know the rules better than anyone in the organization and often site them

12)    They are visually busy, but not necessarily adding value

13)    When things go wrong they quickly blame others

14)    They seek the safety of their silo’s, and lack a “one company-one team” mentality

A half hearted commitment to the organization’s plan; mission and vision can be felt by customers. A Luke warm commitment to service disrupts your team from within and in the market if left unchecked.

If you read the above and could apply at least four of them to specific team members; employees, managers, supervisors, you now have to ask yourself a tough question;

Will I be a Luke warm leader and look the other way? Or will I take the market leader position and address poor service resulting in a bad buying experience?

 

 

 

What about your organization?

 

When you read the above did specific employees come to mind?

 

How about you, did you personally identify with any of the above?

 

How have you helped Luke warm employees become energized value adding producers again?

 

Have you experienced a loss due to not addressing a Luke warm employee and you would like to share?

 

What should you do if your boss is Luke warm?

 

 

Thank you to Francis Chan for his book; Crazy Love, as it challenged me on many levels.

Third Part of truth …Motivation; Are You willing to go the extra mile like Chick-fil-A?

Posted by on December 11, 2009 with 5 Comments

A third key consideration for leaders and owners of businesses when building upon a foundation of truth is your Motivation. Specifically what are your real objectives and motivation for your business? I often find when helping clients about six months into an engagement the leader’s true motivation is shared. It is often not the stated goal and the teams, like me were executing strategies and tactics that are not in alignment with the real objective. So early in my relationship with a new client I seek out the leader’s true motivation.

Some common objectives include;

want to be cash positive by (date)

want to retire, so build this business and position it for a sale

want to give this business to my children, please set the business and my children up to win

want to sell my business

want to grow at least 20% per year

want more profitable customers and less of those who do not truly value my product or service

The common objectives are usually stated as “I want’s” not what they plan do for their markets. However market leaders consistently speak in a voice that discusses the difference they plan to make in the lives of their customers.

One of my favorite fast food stops is Chick-Fil-A. I hesitate in calling this fast food as the food I receive is good and the people who work at Chick-Fil-A treat you like you are their only customer. As I travel throughout the US, if I need to grab a quick lunch I look for the nearest Chick fil-A. I order my food and at the end of each service experience I consistently hear “my pleasure”. As I look around the restaurant I am always amazed at the amount of activity they drive to add value for the markets they serve. This week they posted pictures of a gingerbread house making event they held last week and a future Christmas ornament making class for children.

When others are afraid to not be politically correct the person at the counter in Akron said “thank you, and have a Merry Christmas, God bless you and your family.” At first this was such an interruption it caused me to pause. It’s sad really when wishing someone a merry Christmas is an interruption, but as the recipient I can’t say how much this meant to me. Traveling this time of year is difficult and for a brief moment I did not feel alone.

So how do large organizations consistently execute a service level above and beyond the expectation? It starts with their leader, and the leader sharing their true motivation. A few years ago I attended a Christian business event and the president of Chick fil A , Dan Cathy ,was the speaker. He shared how they are a faith based company built on biblical principles. You can listen to him yourself as he talks about his team here. One of their key tenants was “going the extra mile”. This is in reference to the Bible passage in Matthew 5:41 . As the owner and president of Chick fil A spoke, he shared how going the extra mile for a busy mom is pulling out her chair and putting fresh ground pepper on her salad. He shared how it actually, form a cost stand point, costs very little, however the impact they consistently see in sales increases year over year are significant, , or as their website states; “we are here to serve more than sandwiches”. They have seen consistent growth for the past 41 years.

Market leader’s focus on a goal bigger than themselves and their personal desires.

Market leaders are on a quest to make a difference for their market and customers in their markets they serve.

How about you and your organization…are you on a quest to make a difference in the lives of your customers?

Or are your employees shouting “next” and supplying the bare minimum?

Is your team on a quest? Or are they working a plan they signed up for but honestly where never committed to?

If you have an opportunity, go to a Chick-fil- A for lunch and decide…is this how you are making your customers feel?

The good news is you can!

If you currently are not on a quest…find one!

Once you understand current market truths, and you have identified your internal truths, you must understand your leader’s and your team’s motivation. Market leading teams sign up for a goal that is bigger than them and meeting ROI’s. They sign up for quest’s to make a difference in the lives of those they serve…and interesting their financial results consistently outpace their competitors.

Walls Don’t Solve Problems…They Create New Ones

Posted by on November 9, 2009 with 0 Comments

20 years ago today the Berlin Wall came down. It was described as “the triumphant end of a failed system”. Like the Berlin Wall, organizations throughout the world have walls, inner kingdoms, silos, that add no value to their markets. As I discussed in a previous post ; Silos are Great for Shooting Missiles not for growing Market Leading Organizations, “Tear Down Your Dysfunctional Silo’s and become a Market Leader. If your organization has silos, walls built around business units designed for kingdom building and a self serving desire to feel superior its time to change. As your business prepares for 2010…tear down those walls!

 
 
Market leaders identify and solve market problems.
Market leading organizations understand the value of having every team member aligned around the corporate mission to serve their market.
Market losers have inner kingdoms, silo organizations within the organization that add no value for their markets.
One of the greatest challenges facing organizations is the ability to execute effectively and efficiently.

Walls built between organizational units like; sales and marketing, and or marketing and engineering add no value. These inner walls have a negative impact on your organization’s ability to be competitive with nimble competitors who do not have the added costs of kingdom protection built into their overhead. Walls are propped up by insecure leaders who are more focused on their personal goals and compensation than that of the organization. A quick way to identify one of these kingdom builders is their frequency of blame storming other departments when they fail to meet their Key Performance Indicators. These Lords and Ladies of the castle rarely use words like “we” and regularly use sarcasm when referring to other silos not within their command. The outcome of inner walled organizations is bureaucratic processes and procedures designed for individualized leader safety and not growing the organization.

Attention All leaders…tear the walls down and prepare for 2010.
How about your organization…..
Do you work for a market leading organization focused on serving its market? Or do you work for a market loser that allows walls and silos to form to create internal kingdoms for individuals and groups?
Does your culture allow walls?
If you culture does allow walled departments loyally guarded against other departments…how’s that working for you? More importantly …how’s that working for shareholder value?

Entrepreneurial Best Practices: #16 “Make a Wish” come true with Focused Passion

Posted by on October 14, 2009 with 0 Comments

pic_first-wish

One common trait all market leaders have is passion. When you speak with a market leader they do not discuss their “job” but instead it is more of a quest. Entrepreneurial market leaders have learned how to focus their passion to drive unprecedented results regardless of economic condition and competition. In this post I will share how one entrepreneurs question led to one of the most successful charities for children with focused passion.

I was recently invited to attend a local WITI meeting to get a feel for their venue and meet the director to discuss how my content may be of value to their membership. The night I attended had an inspirational speaker named Frank Shankwitz. Frank is a retired motorcycle state DPS policeman in Arizona. He shared 20 years ago he heard about a young seven year old boy named Chris Greicius who was dying of leukemia. Frank heard little Chris had a few weeks to live and just loved the show Chips about motorcycle patrolmen and how his dream was to be a motorcycle patrol man. So Frank got to together with others in his department and had the police helicopter pick up young Chris from the hospital and fly him to their headquarters. Frank said he expected a very sick boy on IV’s but when the helicopter landed out bounced Chris.

pic_first-wish-founders

 

Frank gave Chris a tour and offered to give him a ride on his motor cycle but Chris said he would prefer a ride in something with doors…so Chris climbed on an officer’s lap and drove a squad car around the parking lot blowing big bubble gum bubbles. The squad had a ceremony and made Chris an honorary DPS state patrolman. Chris was then flown back to the hospital and his doctor said Chris could go home for the night.

Frank went to the local uniform store where all the officers get their uniforms custom made and told the owners about young Chris and the husband and wife owners stayed up all night and make a custom uniform for Chris. Frank drove to Chris’s house and presented the uniform to Chris and he quickly tried it on. Frank set up some cones and had Chris navigate his electric motorcycle around them and Frank certified him and a motorcycle patrolman. Chris then asked if he would have the wings that are displayed so prominently on Frank’s uniform so Frank contacted the company that makes all their wing pins and ordered Chris’s wings. By the time the wings were ready Chris had slipped into a coma back at the hospital. When Frank went to Chris’s bedside there he saw the miniature uniform, hat and certificate at his bedside. Just as Frank pinned Chris’s wings on his uniform Chris came out of his coma and asked if he was now officially a motorcycle state patrolman and Frank told him he was. Chris passed away that night. But his wish to be a state patrolman came true. Chris’s doctors were amazed how Chris seemed to feel so much better when focused on his dream versus his disease.

On a plane ride back from Chris’s funeral in Indiana, a full officer’s funeral, Frank had a question; if we could do this for Chris, why can’t we do this for other children? …and Make a Wish was born. Today Make a Wish has served over 3,000 children like Chris with wishes. Some as simple as a basket ball and some that included trips to Disneyland.

Frank shared this story with such passion that at times he had to gather his composure to keep speaking. He shared how he had the passion and vision and in the early days would not accept no for an answer. Through shear will and tenacity he started Make A wish with a handful of volunteers and a $15 donation from a Grocery store. Today Make a Wish is a worldwide organization that helped over 174,000 children. Franks passion is still just as strong as he shared his vision to serve 500 children a month as they cannot make all the wishes from sick children come true.

Frank shared that as they grew his now organization grew beyond his personal capabilities so he hired a professional staff to insure his vision became a reality.

As I drove home from this evening I was so inspired by Frank. Frank had a vision that started with a simple question in response to a big market problem. Frank had laser like focus and channeled his passion into one of the most successful children’s charities in the world.

If a motorcycle cop can focus his passion into Make A Wish…what can you focus your passion to create?

Market leaders do not just serve their customers they create movements…what movement is your market waiting for you to create?

Once you connect your vision and passion to a market problem, will you have the emotional intelligence to know when to hire a professional team to insure your dream becomes a reality?

How will you know when it is time to hire additional leaders?

Make a Wish Arizona shared a new vision with me and that was the desire to connect with others in the social media space. My challenge to everyone who reads this blog is to follow them on twitter at twitter.com/MakeAWishAZ and re tweet your follow to be a part of 1 million followers of Make a Wish by this time next year. Like the uniform maker, and the company who designed the wings, people like to connect; they like to give their time, money, energy to something bigger than themselves. Please be a part of Make a wish and help them gain 1 million followers by this time next year!

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #14 Customers will Stiff you…But Don’t Let Them Burn you…

Posted by on October 5, 2009 with 1 Comments

money burning

The majority of customers are honest hard working people, like you, looking for someone to help them solve their problems. They do not have a problem paying for the value exchange they receive from you. There are however those low life’s out there who will engage with you and have no intention of paying you. I included this in my eBook: 50 ugly truths about starting your own business…and why you should do it anyway, as it often shocks and infuriates new entrepreneurs. Although these low life’s will attempt to stiff you, you don’t have to let them burn you.

I can still remember the first person who failed to pay me. Although it was many years ago, it was one of those tough leadership muscle building lessons during bootstrapping. I was asked by an investor to engage with one of his portfolio companies to figure out what was wrong and turn it around. I have played this role a number of times serving VC’s and Angel investors and I enjoy the assessment and turnaround of entrepreneurial teams.

When I first met the young CEO at the helm of this organization my gut said run away. He was an arrogant young man who was irritated that I was even asked to help fix his team’s poor performance. He was irritated the board and the investors did not seem to buy his explanation that the reason for his shortfall to goals was: a poor economy. He was concerned that I would share what I find with the investor who brought me in to serve his team, and for the first two months he instructed his team to run their answers to all my questions by him prior to answering me. (Another sign I should have run away)

I tried to build trust and I advised this young CEO the issues I discovered and made recommendations. One recommendation was the need to explain the problems he solves for his clients with an aggressive messaging plan targeting his optimum buyer personas. His response was one I have heard by CEO founders before…” we do not need marketing…the market clearly understands what we have…I just need hungrier salespeople.” (So he cut their base pay to make them hungrier) He could not have been more wrong. Since he instructed his team to not openly share information with me I went into his market and interviewed his past, current, and targeted new customers. I found the market was in fact aware of his business, but they consistently did not understand how this business could solve their problems…the market branded his business by default.

After a number of months the retainer payments were paid later and later and eventually they stopped. While he told me and his team the business was really struggling, he personally leased a Hummer, bought himself an expensive laptop and went on a trip internationally with his wife. (But that’s another post)

I was so connected to helping this team and investor; this company properly brand the business in the market I failed to pay attention to his not paying me. What started out as “ I will pay you next week…turned to next month…and after two months I was informed he can not pay, and he was actually shocked I would ask for the payment of my small retainer given the difficulties the business was having as he shared at a recent board meeting I was asked to attend”.

There are two schools of thought with customers who do not pay you. The first says write it off as bad debt and move on. In this case this young CEO went on to say “you don’t want to be known as someone who sues his clients do you?” (I later found he had said many times before, and had I done my homework on him this could have been prevented)

The only thing worst than not having customers is selling customers who do not pay.

The second thought is you have provided a value and you should expect payment. Customers who fail to pay will be sent to collections and or sued. I actually do want to have the reputation of suing clients who do not pay as this will help weed out the low life’s who become time vampires sucking the life out of you with no intent on paying. So I went to the courthouse filled out the proper paperwork and we went to court. The judge provided a judgment in my favor and as we left the courthouse this young CEO went on to say …” good luck collecting you @# hole” Sure enough after multiple attempts to collect he failed to pay . The next phase of this process required an attorney and we won that judgment as well with interest.

 

 

This young CEO stiffed me. However where I blew it was I became angry, I allowed it to stick to me.

 

Anger is an acid that only burns the container that tries to hold it.

 

beliefs

 

I let this young man’s poor ethics personally affect me. Anger left unchecked can turn to depression and leaves us feeling bitter. As I worked with new clients I built processes and procedures for the less than 1% of business owners out there who are the low life’s like this young CEO. That unchecked bitterness stayed with me and became a frequent thought; small business owners will stiff you if you fail to protect yourself. This thought repeated over and over again became a belief, stemming from one unethical young man. It failed to recognize a sea of very prosperous relationships I have enjoyed with past customers over the past 25 years, and it tainted my outlook. My coach eventually brought this bitterness to my attention and explained I needed to forgive this young man and move on… Not for his sake, but for mine.

 

 

What should you do if a customer stiffs you?

  1. Seek first to understand
  2. determine if this a deadbeat with a history of treating partners like this or someone who needs you to work with them
  3. cut bait early, with the first missed payment, services must stop
  4. if they refuse to pay, start collections proceeding immediately
  5. ask yourself what lesson ( often expensive lesson) can you learn for this experience to insure it does not occur again
  6. forgive their unethical behavior for your sake, not theirs
  7. move on, as the Bible says, “dust off your sandals and move on” As 99% of customers are ethical people
  8. do not allow this bad experience to taint how you treat current and new customers

 

Anger if left unchecked is like acid, and it only damages the container that tries to keep it contained.

 

As an Entrepreneur customers will stiff you but they need not burn you. One of the best ways to prevent serving someone that does not pay you occurs at the beginning of the relationship. Just as your customers are qualifying you early on, you too must qualify them.

 

Ask yourself…

 

 

Is this someone I want to work with?

 

What does the market say about this company? This person?

 

 

Do I trust this person with my money?

 

 

If you gut says “no” to any of the above move on to others who would truly value your product or service.

 

 

 

How about you and your organization….

 

 

How do you deal with deadbeats who try to stiff you?

 

 

Do they just stiff you…or do they also burn you?

 

 

Have you established processes and procedures that screams your lack of trust in new clients based on your bitterness?

 

 

Do your current processes and procedure cater to the 99% of ethical customers or the 1% who are the low life’s?

 

 

If a deadbeat makes it through your pre engagement qualification process, and if they do stiff you I recommend you engage the various collections procedures within the law, and you personally forgive them and move on to serving the 99% of those in the market who will value your product or service.

 

As an aside I bumped into the investor who asked me to help this young CEO and now the list of vendors he has stiffed is very long and his business continues to suffer missing key performance indicators and has high turnover. I call it “Business Karma”; others say “what comes around goes around.”

 

Markets. like people, trust or do not trust businesses. When markets hear often enough that someone in their community of service providers is a deadbeat, the market ostracizes that owner, that business, which only further accelerates their death spiral into personal and business bankruptcy.

 

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #9 Don’t Let the Two Most Important Plates Drop

Posted by on September 24, 2009 with 6 Comments

 

 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afLq5dYFWK4&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0&border=1]

 

As an entrepreneurial spirited leader there is always something to do. There are more potential new accounts to call, people to hire, bankers to meet, and the list goes on and on. It reminds me of the plate spinners I would see when I was a child visiting the circus. They start spinning one plate, then two and before long they have 12 plates spinning on long staffs. Just as one more begins to spin, one of the previous plates need attention so they do not stop spinning and fall to the ground.

 

There are only two plates entrepreneurs can never let fall; your family and your values.

 

All the other plates can fall, and often will, and they bounce. If they break they can be glued back together again, adequately enough so they continue to spin.

 

The founder of Kaboodle put it another way at a recent TIE Arizona event; as an entrepreneur you are juggling a number of balls in the air, but two are made of glass and must never fall; your family relationships and your core values. If those balls fall they do not bounce, they shatter and can never be replaced.

plate

Your Family      

 

At the end of the day, your family is the only real relationship you have that truly matters. We justify the nights and weekends away from home telling ourselves it is for them. The truth, in my case (and maybe yours is) we work like we do for the “rush” the addictive thrill of solving customer problems.

It comes down to making choices. We fail to recognize we have a choice, but we do. I made bad choices over the years. I traveled for example domestically 3-4 nights per week for 15 years. In addition, when I was home on weekends, for two years I completed my Executive MBA. I used to describe myself back then as “focused”. I was focused all right, but on the wrong plates. Missed baseball games, dance recitals and anniversaries almost made my family plate fall. Couple my passion to grow businesses with an international expansion for three years being gone weeks at a time, my family plate almost fell. Today I find myself connecting someplace between Pacing the Cage as I discussed in a previous post and the popular cat’s in a cradle song.

It truly is about “focus”, “intentional focus” to be more precise. We set our priorities each day consciously or unconsciously . When I work with young entrepreneurs, once we have trust built I ask to see their day planner (today it’s often a phone) and their checkbook. These two simple tools very quickly show me an entrepreneur’s focus.

I recommend entrepreneurs consciously put dates and times on your schedule for family. I recommend you take notes, just as you do with key accounts, but at home when your daughter is sharing what is important to her, or when your wife needs her life partner to bounce ideas off of.

I have learned that no matter how much “money” your work can produce, nothing is more valuable than your family, and this plate must never fall.

plate

Values         

Your core values shape your outlook and your actions. Just last Sunday Pastor Jason was discussing how your;” beliefs shape your actions….so what do your actions say about your beliefs”

When I work with new clients one of the first things I need to understand is their values. I do not judge their values I just need to know what they are. Far too often they are not black and white, but land somewhere in the grayness due to compromises made. Values are at the core of you as a leader, and must be at the core of your business. Just as a strong core is essential to strong physical health, strong core values establishes boundaries. Some of my clients struggle with the idea of boundaries, I had one young man who took over the family business put it this way; “it sounds like you are asking me what the rules are…if I wanted rules I would not be working for myself, …I make the rules” and he could not have been farther from the truth.

 

I came to faith in the mid 1990’s in a program called Alpha. In this series of nights watching DVD’s in small groups and discussing our beliefs, the founder of Alpha, Nicky Gumble, tells a story. His son loves to play soccer. One day they arrived at the pitch and there were no officials, so Nicky was asked to fill in so the kids could get started and he agreed. So the ball would go out of bounds, but he would say play on. The players would make a foul and Nicky would say…play on. Before long the match was pandemonium with children being hurt, parents and children frustrated, and no one was having fun. When the referee finally arrived the first thing he did was blow his whistle. He reviewed the rules, established the boundaries, and play began. Nicky goes on to say how much the children actually enjoyed playing the game once they understood the rules and had firm boundaries.

In business we must also establish boundaries. What often occurs is not gross violations of core values, but small, minor compromises…often later justified as…”for the good of the team”. I have never seen those small compromises truly add long term value. I have seen companies short pay vendors, or purposefully pay their bills 45-60 days late thinking they were so clever to use their vendor’s cash to support their growth. However the vendors, if they have boundaries quickly shut down supply until you pay, or they increase your cost of goods to offset the cost of money. The net result always is your customers suffer.

I also see compromises with regards to key team members. A team member does behaviors that are unacceptable based on your company mission and core values…but company leaders look the other way because he or she…”produces”. They produce alright, they may be producing sales, or operational efficiencies or so on, but they also are creating a disruption at the core of what your team stands for. You see, everyone is watching when, let’s call him “Mark” is not living by the rules the team established. The longer Mark is allowed to play outside the boundaries established by your core values the weaker your team becomes internally and in your market. In addition to your team, your market is always watching as well. As I discussed in my post about the “Law of the Locker room” …it truly is a small world” Your market, like a neighborhood talks. I promise you they talk about you. You must insure what they say about you and your team helps grow your business and not make them seek more trusted partners.

Your core values as a leader and as an organization must be defined and they must establish clear boundaries.

 

Failure to do so and your team will make compromises and one day you may have a large company, but not like each other when you get there.

 

You can judge a leader much more by their walk, than by their talk. Their actions do illustrate their beliefs.

 

What do the actions of key leaders and influencers in your organization illustrate about your core values.

(And now the real hard one) What do your actions say about your core values and that of your organization?

 

As an entrepreneurial leader you will often feel like a plate spinner in a circus. You always have something you can be doing. For me I often felt like a “one legged plate spinner” trying do too much, too quick, and I had many sleepless nights over the plates in my mind that were almost ready to fall.

 

There are two plates you must never let fall, for once broken can never be fully repaired; your family and your values.

 

What are your core values and beliefs?

 

Are the right plates still spinning?