Too often people rely on their own understanding
When reflecting on the fifty years of my business career many things were revealed to me. I like how the important things I learned keep rising to the surface and I keep reflecting on them.
I always thought the harder I work the more successful I would be and the luckier I would become. You learn this is only so to a point, because if you’re on the wrong track or using the wrong strategies you’ll never get where you want to go no matter how hard you work. Reflecting helps you to uncover opportunities and uncover things you have previously misunderstood or completely missed.
Reflecting takes time if you want good outcomes
All too often you fail to take time out to relax and reflect on the most important things. The things you need to do when running a successful business and living the lifestyle you really enjoy.
What are the ten key things, in your experience, that have survived the test of time and is still important in a modern business? Use my reflections to uncover the drivers that will help you reach your potential, create the business and lifestyle you and your family are yearning to live.
Everyone’s order of importance is different
My reflections are in no particular order of importance as everyone is different and it will depend on your current situation. However, over time, each one will play a significant role as you keep reflecting on the issues of the day. I have found them all to be critically important in both personal and business life.
It took me years to understand why others didn’t have the same values as I did, and how incongruent values cause the eventual breakdown of relationships and even organisations. Trustworthiness is an important value. Where there is no love there is no trust. If there is no trust then productivity is always low and mistakes are made. My father and mother gave me a great moral compass which has guided me over the years, I have been very lucky in that regard. Values are sometimes all you have left after a crisis and if they are good it’s much easier to start again and rebuild.
Health and well-being in business
An unexpected major personal health crisis can seriously affect their families, retirement, careers and businesses. Many people will be left fearful for their future. It starts when they hear those dreaded words, “cancer, heart attack, or car accident”. The good news is that many people beat these diseases and recover from car accidents.
However, when the treatment has concluded their life has changed, as has their vision and their priorities. Sometimes their personal and business relationships can disintegrate following a major health crisis.
A healthy person equals a healthy business or is it the other way around? Most people in business do not place enough emphasis on their health and well-being until it is too late. I have experienced several major health crises and am aware it can happen to anyone, often there will be no notice.
Action-oriented involves taking action and leading by example. Being action oriented has a strong sense of immediacy, focusing on the task at hand and seeing it through to a satisfactory completion. Some people see their own roles as supporting the action-oriented leader, or the prime achiever.
However, everyone misses out if the whole team is not action orientated. Action orientation is critical in small or medium-sized enterprises where there is little room for error and delays. Becoming action orientated is your best defence against the ‘killer disease’ of procrastination.
When I started in the agricultural machinery business, I immediately started making sales. But there was no cash in the bank when it came time to pay the bills. I had no idea about ‘cash traps’ and the cash problems created by unmanaged growth.
During my early years in business, I quickly learned how to read and understand a Balance Sheet and how to manage a budget that worked. Once I understood the implications, reflecting on outcomes and challenges became much easier.
Credit cards give you quick cash, but it’s not your cash so reflecting on the interest and how you use them is important.
I still find it hard to understand why so many businesses think they have all the money they need to keep them afloat, beyond the next few months. Very few have a good understanding of what ‘working capital’ means and wonder why they never have any spare cash. Reflecting on your lack of cash is not as important as understanding the things that impact your cash flow, both positively and negatively.
The importance of vision has been known for centuries. As an entrepreneur, the phrase from the Bible is never far from my mind; “Without a vision the people perish”. Every time I had a clear vision I had a surge in performance. You will find the trick is to align your vision with your passion and strengths, not wishful thinking.
Your vision should be your guiding light and the clearer you make it the brighter it shines and the easier it is for people to follow you and your business. Reflecting on your vision for the future should be a daily occurrence.
If you have the wrong objectives, then you will develop the wrong strategies, and of course, the actions you take won’t get you to where you want to go. Good strategies lead to good actions every time. Unfortunately, most people do not spend enough time making sure their strategies are right.
The global marketplace is constantly changing; therefore, finding and creating new strategies is critical to adjusting to the constant changes. Every successful business has a plan outlining key strategies to help the business stay on course towards its vision for the future. Taking the time on an ongoing basis to review performance, and predict future performance, require managing and adjusting strategies, otherwise the struggles continue.
What a simple thing to learn and really understand. Change the conversations and you immediately start to change the situation you find yourself in. This also applies to having new conversations with yourself.
Family and friends can be great supporters. However, their conversations are limited to their experiences, not necessarily the challenges and frustrations you are facing. Should you be having a conversation over a glass or two of wine, make sure someone is taking notes.
When I discovered I was a ‘classic entrepreneur’, I started to understand myself. I started doing what entrepreneurs do best, and doing them on purpose.
One of the lessons I learned the hard way was how entrepreneurial pressure impacts your outcomes. It is difficult to move from being an entrepreneur to managing the desired outcomes. Often when I became involved with a new company or a new project I started to struggle.
I was good at connecting the dots and setting direction. But, no sooner had I set the direction when difficulties started to occur. Often I found myself becoming bogged down in administrative tasks. Unable to spend the necessary time to keep the business or project moving forward to maximise the potential.
Whilst I could handle the administrative tasks of the day-to-day operations. I often became uneasy, because I knew there was more to be done. Consolidating the future and stopping competitors creeping in doesn’t happen by chance.
I knew I had to stay ahead of the game. The truth is, I become bored doing the same tasks over and over, I liked to do what entrepreneurs do best.
I think there is a very interesting future taking shape for those businesses updating their technology and the way they do business. In the next few years, you will see emerging technologies move away from improving strategy and planning into improving execution. One way or the other, there will not be business as usual.
There will be shake-ups in both technology and business leadership as technology takes on an increasingly more strategic role in keeping us abreast of what is happening, managing profitable growth and sustainability.
Businesses of all sizes are still grappling with outdated systems. Systems that are slow, costly to maintain and too inflexible to support new business initiatives. A growing number of businesses are currently moving into re-hosting their legacy systems. They are doing this by moving applications from their existing technical environment into the cloud.
The importance of finding trusted technology partners will grow stronger. Whether it is to manage cloud computing, automating systems and processes, or simply updating you. Keeping your business at the forefront of your market or industry will be important.
You may think outsourcing is a waste of time, or a waste of money, or both. Tthe reality is that your failure to diversify or improve your business by outsourcing could actually be limiting your earning potential. Your capacity to compete will also suffer. Outsourcing could hold the key to increased revenues and profits along with a more stable business.
Service providers hold the key to your outsourcing success in today’s digital marketplace. Businesses move to become more digital. As a result, opportunities will arise for service providers and contractors to play a crucial role. No longer can you know all there is to know about your business, its product mix and the marketplace. This is why smart businesses are outsourcing everything that is not their core business and are enjoying a more stress-free business.
Utilise your service providers, contractors and partnerships to help you align and adapt. Look at your organisational structures, capabilities, offerings, customer engagement and delivery models to help you to thrive in this new digital environment.
The old saying “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail”, is still alive and well today. However, the way you go about it has changed enormously over the years. Without good strategies, progress is painfully slow as you continue to do the same old things and putting up with the same old problems.
Your strategies show the approach that will be used to deliver the outcomes you want. The strategies you use to make your business deliver the outcomes you want do not include wishing and hoping.
Reflecting on what is in your head is difficult. However reflecting on a well-conceived business model and business plan can do wonders when it comes to improving your business performance.
I was fortunate in being raised on a highly mechanised farm, which unbeknown to me at the time gave me a real appreciation of the value of innovation. In the rapidly changing global marketplace, the chances are that many of the ways you are doing business today are already obsolete.
The continuous struggle can become the norm without innovation. Innovation can find ways to solve the problems and frustrations you have, that are stopping you achieving your aspirations. Creativity and innovation need to be at the forefront of everything you do if breakthroughs are to be achieved.
Many businesses, not-for-profits and communities continue to struggle year after year, never making much progress. It is often a struggle simply to survive. Being able to recognise and work through your problems and frustrations is critical. It will help you create a culture of creativity and innovation that can move things forward. Innovation will help you to make your business become more profitable and sustainable.
As a small enterprise or community, you can drive innovation and business growth by leveraging emerging technology in small business. Unfortunately, few people recognise the need for change. Therefore when they have a problem they become frustrated and find it difficult to keep up with the pressures of competition and the new ways of doing business.
You have to lose some sales
You may think, as I did that you have the best products in the world and you give the best service. Unfortunately, that may be so, but not everyone will think that way. It wasn’t till I lost a few big sales that I realised what I had was not perfect in the eyes of all potential customers.
These losses really teach you about your products and services and help you learn about your marketplace. When you lose a sale it hurts, but it is your ‘teacher’ stepping forward. If you analyse what happened and learn from it, then you become more confident in you business succeeding.
Spend time reflecting on the important sales your business has lost and find better ways you can do business.
Every business is in the information and knowledge business. Many today are being valued accordingly, rather than the hard assets they have. The goal of knowledge management is a practical one. It is to improve the business capabilities through better use of the individual and collective information and knowledge resources available to them. This includes linking to external sources that are reliable, practical and useful. Knowledge management unlocks potential, https://goo.gl/UYqULq.
Your knowledge resources include skills, capabilities, experience, routines and norms. It should also include knowledge of the technologies that are driving all the changes in the marketplace. Customer service experiences, content marketing and details of innovations are examples of the new knowledge required to keep up with the increasing competitiveness of the global marketplace.
Content is ‘King’, social media is ‘Queen’ and together they rule the customer world of the modern market place. With this in mind, content audits need to be higher on your priority list of things to do. What you uncover you should be reflecting on in terms of customer satisfaction and business performance.
Are you looking for ways to improve the way you do business? A content audits will help to produce better content and could well provide the answers you and your customers are looking to find. You don’t have to keep inventing something new in order grow your business. It might only be a matter of improving what you already have in the way of content.
You will find it helps you to evaluate the performance of your content writing efforts. You don’t have to be a trailblazer. But, you do need to do it better than your competitors at providing the right information and knowledge, in the right place at the right time. Begin by conducting a content audit on the various aspects of your business.
Your content should focus your messages on whatever channel your potential customers use, (website, social media blogs, seminars, newsletters, etc). The consistency of your content reminds customers why they have been dealing with you. It also helps to provide a better and more seamless customer experience.
You may be struggling with the fact that there are so many others involved in content marketing. However, none of them can tell your story because your story is yours and it is unique. Your unique content is the very thing that will set you apart from the rest. So it needs to be identified and used well.
Coping mechanisms are ways to which external or internal stress is managed, adapted to or acted upon. In psychology, coping means to invest conscious effort, to solve personal and interpersonal problems, in order to master, minimise or tolerate stress and conflict. The days of ‘grin and bear it’ are long gone. Often in business, you will be faced with challenges and stressors that if not dealt with well can cause problems, including mental health problems.
Having and managing coping strategies are important when you feel helpless, powerless and lack control of your circumstances. How would you cope if the bank suddenly withdrew your overdraft facility, or you lost your biggest customer or your biggest supplier? What if your best employee was to leave and for some reason you were unaware. And don’t think it can’t happen to you.
Every time I engaged with a facilitator or mentor I had a surge in performance. I only had a handful of these people in my life, but they all made a significant contribution. The most important thing advisors, consultants, facilitators, coaches and mentors bring to the table are objectivity and perspective to your ideas and opportunities.
A good advisor will cause you to continually be reflecting on what your business is doing and where it is going. This is important because most business people become so involved in the day-to-day operations they have little or no time for reflecting and thinking constructively about their future.
If you have had a bad experience with advisors in the past, reflect on how they were engaged and the cost benefit of the results that was delivered. This could give you a better understanding of what to do and what not to do.
This is a ‘killer disease’ and causes you to work excessive hours to achieve the outcomes you want. Procrastination leads to lost opportunities and frustrates the people you work with. It can put everything on a downward spiral.
Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task which needs to be dealt with. It is the practice of doing more pleasurable things instead of less pleasurable ones or carrying out less urgent tasks instead of the more urgent ones. Putting off impending tasks can destroy a business.
You will find that procrastination can take hold of any aspect of life and can cause unwanted anxiety. Feelings of guilt, stress, inadequacy, self-doubt and even depression. Take time to reflect on the way you go about doing business. You need to identify bad habits that can be classified as forms of procrastination along with the causes.
Governments and corporations
Both governments and corporations make you feel they can do wonders for your business. They can if their promises and commitments materialise. Always be weary when dealing with governments and corporate bureaucrats they can change on a whim and leave you hanging and most of them don’t care.
Government grants are great if you can win one, but make sure you can understand the ‘red tape’ and are able to handle it. Never let them squeeze out all your profit just to meet their own budgets.
If you are going to deal with them always document the details of each conversation, never rely on them to follow through if you don’t. People change and are in fact moved so the organisation doesn’t have to follow through and there is no paper trail.
Never be misled that they know more than you about your business and what it can deliver to the marketplace. Reflecting on your’s and your friends past experience will help you to better understand what is going on and the advisor shows you how to cope and manage better.
Out in front of the headlights
I have been told many times “you are ten years ahead of your time”. Once I used to brush it off as waffle until I really analysed what they meant. Often you stick to what you like and don’t pay enough attention to your strengths. You can very quickly find yourself in a position of overengineering or seeking perfection at the expense of profits.
I was supposed to be working for myself, but was I? Probably like you, I was always doing things for other people, seeking better ways and not paying enough attention to the here and now. The profitability of your own business can quickly deteriorate. Call it ‘getting out in front of the head lights’ which everybody does at some time or another. Reflecting often helps you to stay on course.
Flogging a dead horse
As Will Rogers once said, “if the horse is dead get off”. If you don’t have good products and services, or the market for what you do is not big enough, don’t expect good outcomes.
Customers today have many choices so nobody should take their customers for granted. If you spend time reflecting on your position in the marketplace, it will help you to make a more timely decision about future prospects and challenges.
“Success comes to those who don’t wait for it to happen, but make choices and develop their ability and capacity”. Peter Sergeant
“It’s too hard doing it (most things) by yourself”. Peter Sergeant