Monday, August 8, 2011

An Open Letter to Washington

As the markets plunge and investors continue to worry and the economy continues to flounder I believe every politician in Washington needs to look in the mirror and ask themselves are they acting for the good of their constituency of are they acting based of their political beliefs and egos. In the past few months it has become increasingly obvious that these people just don't get it! They continue to bicker along party lines and make decisions or non-decisions that are holding the economy and the people of the U.S. hostage. I believe it's time to take politics out of the equation and bring some people together that might actually be able to come up with some ideas to get us out of this mess.
We need to best business minds in the country to come together and develop solutions that can move U.S. business forward and get the economy moving again And I'm not talking about a bunch of corporate CEO's from huge companies, as some of them are the reason we're in this debacle in the first place. I'm talking about those individuals that grow companies small and large alike, thought leaders that through their work, experience and research have first hand experience in growing business. And all options are on the table, it befuddles me how Congress can't seem to get past the fact that as with any business in order to be profitable you not only must cut spending but you also must raise revenue, and that may mean raising taxes but it also means cutting some programs that we simply can't afford anymore. And we need to streamline the process so that decisions are made quickly and implemented with speed to get things going again. And we need to give this group the clout that they need to implement the ideas they come up with. As Congress put together the Group of Six and they came up with ideas they obviously didn't give them any clout because their ideas, which by the way were in many ways pretty good, got swept aside. Again because of partisan politics.
As an entreprenuer and business coach I've worked on and witnessed first hand spectacular business growth and what happens when people focus on a problem and implement a game plan to solve the problems, and I've witnessed this in good economies and bad. We need people that have an idea of what it takes for business success, people that have studied business for years like Tom Peters, innovation leaders like Steve Jobs, investors in successful companies like Warren Buffet and successful entrepreneurs that understand what it takes to grow companies. We need to implement some of the same strategies in our government that we implement in building successful companies. And most important we need to take partisan politics out of the equation. I'm not sure the politicians, I hesitate calling them leaders because that's the farthest thing from what they are doing right now, are going to agree but it's time that they get the hell out of the way and let people who know what they're doing come up with ideas to grow the economy and fix the problem. The quickest fix to the whole mess is growth and I mean significant growth and who better to come up with ideas to do that then those that have already done it in their own businesses!!
It's time Washington realizes that they aren't getting the job done so let someone else help them get it done!

Friday, July 8, 2011

An Inspirational Story

Here are two true stories that provide an inspiring example of how making the right decision can have a far reaching impact on the legacy we leave behind…worth the read!

STORY NUMBER ONE Many years ago, Al Capone virtually owned Chicago. Capone wasn't famous for anything heroic. He was notorious for enmeshing the windy city in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder.

Capone had a lawyer nicknamed "Easy Eddie." He was Capone's lawyer for a good reason. Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie's skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time.

To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well. Not only was the money big, but Eddie got special dividends, as well. For instance, he and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day. The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago City block.

Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocity that went on around him.

Eddie did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved dearly. Eddie saw to it that his young son had clothes, cars, and a good education. Nothing was withheld. Price was no object. And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was.

Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things he couldn't give his son; he couldn't pass on a good name or a good example. One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Easy Eddie wanted to rectify wrongs he had done.

He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al "Scarface" Capone, clean up his tarnished name, and offer his son some semblance of integrity. To do this, he would have to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great. But, he testified.

Within the year, Easy Eddie's life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago Street. But in his eyes, he had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer, at the greatest price he could ever pay. Police removed from his pockets a rosary, a crucifix, a religious medallion, and a poem clipped from a magazine.

The poem read:

"The clock of life is wound but once, and no man has the power to tell just when the hands will stop, at late or early hour. Now is the only time you own. Live, love, toil with a will. Place no faith in time. For the clock may soon be still."

Now read on to story number two…


World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O'Hare.

He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific.

One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank. He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader told him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet. As he was returning to the mother ship, he saw something that turned his blood cold; a squadron of Japanese aircraft was speeding its way toward the American fleet. The American fighters were gone on a sortie, and the fleet was all but defenseless. He couldn't reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet. Nor could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger. There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert them from the fleet.

Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dived into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 calibers blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent. Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible, rendering them unfit to fly.

Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction.

Deeply relieved, Butch O'Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier. Upon arrival, he reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch's daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had, in fact, destroyed five enemy aircraft.

This took place on February 20, 1942, and for that action Butch became the Navy's first Ace of W.W.II, and the first Naval Aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.

A year later Butch was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29. His home town would not allow the memory of this WW II hero to fade, and today, O'Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man.

So, the next time you find yourself at O'Hare International, give some thought to visiting Butch's memorial displaying his statue and his Medal of Honor. It's located between Terminals 1 and 2.


Butch O'Hare was "Easy Eddie's" son.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Launching New Ideas

I am working on a new product launch and it's always an exciting time for me because of all the facets that go into a product launch. Today I would like to talk about launching any new idea and how to make sure it's a success.

The first thing you want to think about when launching a new idea/product/service or whatever it is you're launching is who is it intended for, be very specific here. What is the target audience for this idea and how will it impact them or their business. Once you have answered that question then there is a whole list of things to consider before launching, here are a few:

  • How will you market it? Including Website, Email, Social Networking, Blogging, Direct Mail etc...
  • Are there possible multiple product offerings in your idea, for instance in the product I'm currently offering I will also be able to spin off an e-book, a seminar, coaching services and a monthly subscription.
  • What is your sales process? How will you sell the product and what will the sales approach look like?
  • How will the service end look? Do you need to do anything different from a service perspective?
  • And what does the profitability look like? Can you maintain margins to make the idea profitable.
These are just a few things to consider when launching new products, ideas and offerings. Too many times I see companies roll out a new product assuming there's a market for it but not taking care of the front end details that I mention above and then when they launch and get no response they can't figure out why. The other issue is look into how you might preview the launch and take a page out of Apple's book, by letting a few details come out on what you are launching to start to create buzz, Apple is an expert and creating a buzz before they ever launch a new product. I hope these ideas help you successfully launch new ideas and look for an exciting new product soon from me that will help you create a simple, yet powerful strategic action plan, keep your eye on our website for more details!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Simplicity Means Focus

I met with a client this morning and he was telling me about how good it felt to spend last weekend in his office just cleaning out and getting rid of old files and things that he didn't need anymore and it got me thinking about how clutter can keep us from being focused on the things we really need to be doing to move our businesses or sales forward.

When you look at your desk are you constantly trying to figure out where you put something so that you can work on it? When you look at what you should be doing do you have multiple to do lists and post it notes all over the place? When you look at your calendar do you have notes scribbled all over the place and it's hard to figure our what you should be doing next to follow-up with that prospect or client? And finally when you call a meeting does it turn into a free for all because there is no set agenda?

These are all things that creating some simplicity in how you do things can really help you focus. Let's look at each one of them:

  • First organizing your desk, keep on your desk only those things that you need to work on for that day, move the rest of it somewhere else or better yet go through it and toss out the stuff you truly don't need. This will keep you on task and not wasting time looking for things.
  • Your to do list; I work with my clients and get them to do a weekly worksheet that gets them thinking about organizing their entire week versus just a day at a time, I think this keeps them focused on the big priorities that need to get accomplished and they don't get hung up on the things that are not vitally important. I also encourage them to do time blocking which helps the concentrate on setting critical blocks of time aside to work on revenue generating activities versus time wasters.
  • Your calendar and follow-up; get a system that keeps everything organized for you, here's where technology can really help. Look for a system that will keep everything at our fingertips, emails, calendars, documents, etc... and easily accessible. I use a system called BatchBook that is easy to use and syncs with all my devices.
  • And last but not least and I've written about this one before, meetings! Set a start time and an end time and have a written agenda. This will help you stay on track and not waste time in meetings. If there is not a specific objective for the meeting then don't have one!!
By simplifying the various things you do on a day to day basis you really can create focus!

Friday, June 11, 2010

What's Your Passion?

I was interviewed last night by Carla Beaurline for her Around Town television show and one of the questions she asked me was, "there are many people that have lost their jobs in this economy and they are considering starting their own businesses, what piece of advise would you give them?" The first thing that popped into my head was "find your passion", if you're going to start a business, make darn sure it's one that you truly love and can see yourself doing for a very long time.

As I thought about this question over the past 12 hours or so, it also occurred to me that this is very relevant to anyone that already has their own business. Many of my clients and people that I talk with that have their own businesses have lost that passion, they have become so engrossed in the day to day activities of running their businesses that they have forgot about the real reason they created the thing in the first place. One of the best ways to find that passion again is to look at what you're doing on a day to day basis and make sure that the bulk of the time is being spent on the things you like to do, that can clearly help your business grow. If you like the operational side of things then make sure that's where you're spending your time and find another person or way to handle the sales and marketing side of things. Vice versa if you really like the sales and marketing side of things then focus on that and find other ways or people to handle the operational side of things. And I'm not necessarily talking about hiring new people, in today's business environment there are many options beyond hiring people, it could be outsourcing or new technology, think outside the box!

If there's no way to do what I say above then at the very least, make sure you are creating time to do the things you love to do in your business. By planning your time out weekly versus daily you will find that it will allow you to create blocks of time that you can focus on the things you really like to do! If you can remember why you started your business in the first place, or if you didn't start it but bought it or inherited it they why did you get involved and start focusing on creating that vision that you originally have your mental state will be much better and your business will be better for it!! Several months ago I was interviewed by Krishn De for her highly listened to podcast series Biz Growth Live and I talked about creating a plan that will help you get that focus back. You can listen to it here!
And if you need help visit our website to find out how we can help you get that focus back!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Winter Blues

Here in Minnesota February is the roughest part of the winter, we still know that we’ve probably got a good two months of cold left and we don’t have much to look forward to other than Valentines chocolates. And judging from all the news we hear on the economy it sounds like it’ s having the winter blues as well.

So how do you snap out of it? Well my best advice to you is to get busy, there is nothing that gets you out of the blues better than getting busy and staying busy. But when I say get busy I don’t mean doing just anything, what I mean by getting busy is to get your focus back on your business. Get your team together and talk about what you can do to stimulate your business. Try some new marketing ideas, launch a new service or product, connect or reconnect with your customers/clients.

There is nothing that gets your juices flowing like some good old hard work and if it’s focused on the right areas it won’t only get your out of the winter blues but it will also get your business moving in the right direction as well. In this economy you need to do everything you can to stay in front of customers and prospects so go back and revisit what you’ve done in the past and look for ways to do it better and more effectively. Also tie in education as a component of staying in front of your customers, they are looking for reassurance in this economy so you need to educate them on why they should be doing business with you and not your competitors.

And one last thing, bring some fun back into your business, schedule an event with your team that brings in some fun, remember there’s a good chance they have the winter blues as well! If you want to know how to build these ideas into an action plan download my free e-book, Business Planning on a Bar Napkin, go here for it!