Family Friday

March 29, 2009

We recently implemented Family Friday at my office.  It’s an idea from my Army days where we would leave early one day a week.  Our office chose Friday.  So each Friday we leave at 3 instead of 5.  It allows everyone to beat the rush hour traffic, get a jump on their weekend, and spend a bit more time with their family.

Morale has instantly increased on those days.  I’ve gotten several comments from our team about this being a great thing.  Best of all is that it is really free for the company to do.  I have found that everyone still gets their job done and that customer calls or anything that happens after 3 still gets handled.

So next time you are looking for a free way to boost morale, add Family Friday to your list of benefits of working for your company.  Your team will love it and it won’t cost you anything.

We are now thinking about no email Friday.  That’s a tip from one of our folks right out of the new What Would Google Do book.  I think it’s an interesting idea.  The concept is that you don’t send email internally on that day.  Of course some departments will still have to in order to communicate with clients, partners, and vendors but a lot of the company can go without for a whole day.

The 3 L’s of Leadership

March 26, 2009

The 3 L’s of Leadership.

A while back I learned these 3 principles of leadership.  I have to say that these are just the foundation.  Being a strong decisive leader is important, but without the foundation, you miss out on the best parts of being a leader.  Not to mention the most rewarding.

Here are my 3 L’s of leadership:    Love, Listen, and Lead

Love – Love your team enough to listen.  A great team is so key to your success as a business owner or leader.  I find it essential to learn to love your team.   Love the great things about them and really express your gratitude for the work they do.  Love the things you learn from them and the challenges they present.  A great team will not only support its leader, but challenge the leaders character and help the leader mature.

Listen – Listen to every word with your full attention.  When I’m with my team, I focus on every word they say.  Turn off the phone, email, TV, blackberry, or anything else that can distract you.  Look your folks in the eye and repeat things back to them so they know that 1.  You are listening to them, and 2. You understand what they are saying.  A great leader will ask more questions than anything else.  Ask them how they would like to solve their problems.  Ask them what they want out of life.  Ask them how their kids are doing.  Ask them if they need anything.   Ask them if they have time for a walk or lunch with you.

Lead – Care enough to lead them by setting an exceptional example.  The best leaders Love their team, Listen to everyone on the team, and LEAD by example.  They step in and do a task no one else wants to do without asking for a volunteer.  They step up for what is right every time without fail.  Their integrity can’t be questioned because everyone knows how they play the game.  They may not lead without fear, but they lead in the face of fear.  They are the first ones to step up and make a decision when no one wants to make one and they are the first to work out a favorable solution that benefits the whole team.  They set family first as a priority and they stick to that priority.  Great leaders always mean what they say and say what they mean AND follow through on everything they say.  You can count on them to step up in any situation, good or bad.  They share the credit and shoulder the blame.

A 7 year olds Customer Service

March 26, 2009

The theme for several of my last posts is customer service.  So in keeping with that, here’s a quick story about my 7 year old. This story really touches on customer service, marketing, and sales.

Two years ago we moved to a new city.  We didn’t really know anyone, but we wound up in a great neighborhood with about 20 kids.  We got the best lot on the block at the end of the cul-de-sac.  To introduce ourselves a bit and build up some goodwill, we came up with Movie Night.  It started out simple.  We would just let everyone know that this was going on every other Saturday and that we would choose a kid friendly movie.

My 7 year old had other plans.  She created invitations and got them out a full week in advance.  She hand delivered each one with her little sister right behind her.  On a side note, she wouldn’t leave any of the invitations in the mailboxes.  She would ring each doorbell.  If someone wasn’t home, she went back until she spoke to someone.  The day before Movie Night, she went back to each house to remind them about the movie and to put them on her popcorn list.  Now that’s selling.  She was closing the deal by using some great techniques here.  Follow-up, only talking to a live person, going door-to-door, using the popcorn list to get people to make a commitment upfront.  Brilliant stuff really. 

The cool thing was the way she acted behind the scenes.  She made a list of everything that needed to happen to make sure the event went off correctly.

Send invitations out – check

Make sure we have enough popcorn – check

Double check with each house on RSVP – check

Get drinks, cups, bowls, napkins – check

Pick a movie – check

Test projector in the garage – check

Get chairs setup – check

Clean garage – check

Make signs for the movie – check

A lot of thought and planning went into something simple.  The result…. Everyone showed up for movie night.  We are now going into our second summer of movie nights and they are a huge hit.  My little one still goes door-to-door each time and tells everyone what movie we are playing.  She is sure to get an RSVP each time.

The key elements to her success:

1.  Planning – She takes the time to think about the event and the desired result she wants.

2.  Sales – She’s warm calling on previous customers to come back for another round.

3.  Marketing – She always has materials to hand them with event information.  It’s evolved from crayons and construction paper to nice word documents over the last year.

4.  Customer service – She goes out of her way to make sure her customers are happy.

5.  Persistence – She doesn’t take maybe for an answer.  She wants a hard yes or no.  And she doesn’t stop until she gets one.  Even then, she usually works on getting a yes if you first say no.

6.  Toughness – She never gets discouraged if people say no.  She keeps going back and keeps going on to the next house.

5 Ways to leverage your time

March 22, 2009
Your time is your most valuable asset. How are you investing it?If you are like me, your time is worth a lot. If you are like most people, you are spending quite a bit of your time and investing little of it. Here’s 5 ways you can leverage your time for what it’s really worth.

1. The Early Bird
Get up at 5 AM every day. Get out of bed and get moving before the majority of the earth is. That will enable you to get so much more done while the rest of the world sleeps. The key here is that no one can break your concentration if they are all asleep. And focused energy is amazing. A single interruption can cost you up to 35 minutes of wasted time.

2. Get Driven
Find someone to drive you around. Whether it’s a limo driver, your assistant, or your out of work cousin. The average person wastes over 2 hours a day in their car. And those of you who think you can use the phone, take notes, read a map, read a book, eat, and drive the car are living on the edge. Imagine making phone calls, setting appointments, closing deals, and working on your laptop in the car on the way to your next meeting. A driver allows you to concentrate and put 100% of your effort into all you do in the car.

3. Phone Power
Many people are still avoiding phone meetings these days. We need to embrace the phone more. The phone allows you to focus and get to the point. View your phone as an ATM machine. The more time you invest in the machine, the more money comes out of it and into your bank account.

4. Sell the Television or get TiVo
Either sell the television or buy TiVo or some other digital device that allows you to record and skip commercials. Reinvest your new found television time with your family, self, or personal development.

5. Decide and Commit — This one is key.
A business owner must be a great leader. In order to be a great leader you MUST be able to make quick decisions and commit to them. You can work with any challenges from your decisions down the road. The key here is investing your time by being decisive and not floundering over a decision for hours, days, or weeks. I’ve found that the 80/20 rule applies here. 80% of your decisions can be made in less than 5 minutes. 20% of decisions should take hours or longer to decide.

The Difference between Focusing on Problems (Challenges) and Focusing on Solutions

March 22, 2009
Case 1
When NASA began the launch of astronauts into space, they found out that the pens wouldn’t work at zero gravity (ink won’t flow down to the writing surface). To solve this problem, it took them one decade and $12 million. They developed a pen that worked at zero gravity, upside down, underwater, in practically any surface including crystal and in a temperature range from below freezing to over 300 degrees C. And what did the Russians do…?? They used a pencil.

Case 2
One of the most memorable case studies on Japanese management was the case of the empty soapbox, which happened in one of Japan’s biggest cosmetics companies. The company received a complaint that a consumer had bought a soapbox that was empty. Immediately the authorities isolated the problem to the assembly! line, which transported all the packaged boxes of soap to the delivery department. For some reason, one soapbox went through the assembly line empty. Management asked its engineers to solve the problem. Post-haste, the engineers worked hard to devise an X-ray machine with high-resolution monitors manned by two people to watch all the soapboxes that passed through the line to make sure they were not empty. No doubt, they worked hard and they worked fast but they spent an insane amount to do so. But when a rank-and-file employee in a small company was posed with the same problem, he did not get into complications of X-rays, etc., but instead came out with another solution. He bought a strong industrial electric fan and pointed it at the assembly line. He switched the fan on, and as each soapbox passed the fan, it simply blew the empty boxes out of the line.

Moral : Always look for simple solutions. Devise the simplest possible solution that solves the problems. How do these two stories apply to your business?

Would you like to take your life to the next level one step at a time? Well here’s how.

March 22, 2009
Here’s the thing about most people. They really enjoy life at mediocre speed. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. Its just not my style. There are many reasons why people enjoy life at that speed, but here are a few of the most common.

Low Level of Dissatisfaction: This just means that a person is really content with the way things are. For example, what if I have to crawl into my car through the passenger side door. Everything else with my car is 100% fine. You may know someone who is OK with something like this, but not me. Why should I have to do this? First off, isn’t embarrassing? Secondly, why not get the car fixed? If you drive around like this for a couple of weeks, I bet your level of dissatisfaction would rise dramatically and you would do what ever it takes to get the driver side door fixed ASAP or get a new car.

Limited Vision: The person just hasn’t really thought about what they truly want out of life. They have never sat down and asked themselves the simple question, if there were no restraints on your life, what would it look like in 10 years?. BTW, this is a good chance for you to take a break and write down your answers to that question. Have a bit of fun and dream a little. Limited or

No Goals: I was reading the statistics from a 25 year study the other day and it stated that 70% of the population doesn’t even have simple goals for their life. WOW! What an amazing statistic. So I went out and tested it. I started chatting with family and friends and even asked others about their family and friends and found out that this is pretty accurate. Take a minute to think about yourself. Do you have goals? How about the people around you?

Corrupt Values: Somewhere in life, this person has built a values system that says, Mediocre is just fine. Why should I work any harder than I already am? Money will just make me a bad person. Only rich people can have a fancy life. And on and on.

Misshapen Beliefs: First off, beliefs are not facts. They are just things that people hold to be true. And by the way, they can change over time. But for example, if someone believes that money is the root of all evil, they probably wont have much of it. If someone believes that they cant have a nice home, they wont have a nice home. If they believe that they cant do something, they wont be able to do it.

Poor Skills: The lack of skills can really limit ones actions and decisions. For example, if you don’t know how to use a computer, you probably wont buy one. How crazy is that in a day and time when even my 5 year old uses the computer? What about financial investing? Suppose you don’t know anything about that topic. What do you think would happen? Well you probably wouldn’t invest your money wisely or at all. The lack of skill or knowledge in an area like this will simply limit you from taking chances and moving your life forward.

Self-Sabotage: Many suffer this one and don’t even know it. Here’s a really simple question for you. How much do you think you are worth? Lets start with the example of a job. If there were two job listings in the paper and both looked identical, but one offered a position for 75K a year and the other for 300K per year, which one would you, apply for? Most people go for the 75K job. Why is that? The major reason is how they value themselves. Most people would even wonder how two jobs so similar could pay so different and that the 300K opportunity must be too good to be true.

Small Comfort Zone: Many people know their comfort levels when it comes to any activity, skill, or other area of their life. When they near the edge of that zone, they get nervous and often stop. This coupled with the next item on our list are crippling to most people.

FEAR: Last but certainly not least, FEAR is the mother of them all. Fear of the unknown will stop anyone from making a decision. Now I don’t know about you, but life at mediocre speed is not only boring, I know that anyone with a pulse and any sense can live that way. But lets define mediocre. Mediocre doesn’t mean people making 75K a year. And it cant be defined by how big your house or check book is. Mediocrity in my own words is defined by your ability. So on a scale of 1 to 10, where are you right now according to your ability and potential? If you are performing at anything less than a 7, you are mediocre. It doesn’t matter if you have $5 or $5 million in your checking account. If you have the ability to do more with your life, you have an obligation to yourself, your family, and your community to give it your all. For all of those that answered less than a 7, what 3 things can you change about your life this month in order to get to a 7?

What are 3 more things you can change about your life in order to get to an 8?

Hopefully you are catching on and complete the list to get to a 10 over the course of the next 12 months. Here are a few things that you can put on your list if you are struggling to put together a list.

Sit down and come up with a list of 200 things you would like to accomplish, have, or do in your lifetime.

Set 10 SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time oriented) goals for the next 12 months.

Set milestones for each goal during the course of the year. Write a letter to yourself describing how you would like you life to look in 1 year. Write this letter from the point of view of no restrictions on what you can do, experience, or have. Make a list of everything you are dissatisfied with in your life and put a plan in place to change every item on the list this year. Sit down and list out what your current values are and what you would like them to be in 12 months time.

List out 18 negative beliefs you have around money, success, and accomplishment. Then burn the list. Its not serving any purpose for you. Write up a list of new beliefs around money, success, and accomplishment.

Post that list next to your desk, in your wallet/purse, or where ever else you spend a lot of time.

Make a list of 12 skills you need to acquire or improve this year. Then write a schedule for each month and 1 skill you will learn or improve in that month. Honestly assess what you feel you are worth. Is it what you are making right now with your current job or business?

If not, make a list of the 23 things you need to do in your life, job, or business in order to get your income to that level. Then build it into your 12 month plan for the year. Make a list of 4 places in your life where you have a small comfort zone.

Then come up with 4 ways to increase your comfort zone in each area. Make a list of all of your fears. If you try hard enough, you can probably list out at least 19 of them. Sit down and review the list to see if there is merit behind each fear. If not, make a conscious decision to eliminate that fear right now. Share your list of fears with someone you trust. Ask them how they feel about the list and you will probably find that they share many things on the list with you. If so, some up with ways that you can help each other eliminate the fears together.