Tag Archives: small business

Thanks in Advance


I’ll be honest.  I hate that phrase.

Most of the time when someone says to me, “Thanks in Advance” it feels as though they are making assumptions about my completion of a task or compliance with a request without waiting for me to agree in the first place.

More than once I’ve been tempted to respond with:

“Bite Me! – Thanks in Advance.”

I am happy to say that my cooler head usually prevails, and I am much more charitable with my responses.  I recognize that offering gratitude when making a request is a good idea, please just don’t use the phrase “Thanks in Advance”.

When you go to restaurant, or work with any kind of customer service agent do you give a tip?  Of course you do!  But did you know that originally the tip was given at the start of the interaction, not the end?

The origins of the word “tip” is an acronym that stands for “To Insure Performance” and it was often broken into two parts.  “Here’s $5, there’s another $10 in it for you when we’re finished if you do a good job.”

That kind of proactive gratitude can change the interaction between parties profoundly.  But it is far more than just dropping a few dollars and saying thanks in advance.  Gratitude is not something that can be done cheaply or sporadically, it needs to become part of our constant attitude.

Cultivating an attitude of gratitude (I hate that phase too, not because it’s wrong it just sounds cheesy), starts with saying thank you but when it becomes a part of who we are it leads to level of graciousness, that people will remember forever.  And people want to do things for other people when they feel like they are appreciated.

So make gratitude a part of your daily life.  Be thankful for everything.

Rather than saying “thanks in advance”.  Drop little thank you bombs into the conversation every chance you get.  Start a meeting with “hey, thanks for meeting with me.”  When you make a request for something say; “thanks for considering this, or thanks for taking the time to review my proposal.”  As the relationship moves forward don’t forget to say thank you at every completed stage.

Don’t be afraid to say thank you in public either.  Giving a seminar?  Thank the organizer for inviting you right from the stage.   Sign a big contract?  Thank your client on twitter or facebook, just be careful not to reveal anything that might be considered confidential.

I thanked a client on twitter once and they retweeted it to all of their followers.   It was a great way to increase my own exposure and generate even more leads.  So I thanked them for that too!

People love to be thanked and being gracious always pays dividends.

Thanks to Darren Hardy (@darrenhardy) for giving me the idea of this post.

Thank you for reading it.

Who do you want to thank today?  Tell me in the comments below or forward this post directly to them, I will be super grateful if you do, and I’ll make sure you know it…

 

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The Day I Realize, I’m Dumb!


We left off last time talking about the 5 Whys process for turning failure into success.  As we get close to the end of the year I’ve started using the 5 Whys to analyze my past successes and failures and make plans for 2018.

I’ve come to an uncomfortable conclusion.

When I look at some of my biggest failures from this past year.  The lost deals, the solid prospects that the just didn’t convert, the opportunities that withered on the vine and the clients that just outright left, the answer to the 5th why is a variation of the same thing.

“I was dumb!”

That sounds trite, but it’s accurate.

More to the point, I was Emotionally Unintelligent.

In every instance of failure that I analyzed I came to the same conclusion.  I one way or another I was out of sync with my client or prospect and failed to recognize what truly mattered to them.  I made the sales process all about product and forgot about the client’s underlying emotional needs.  And what’s worse, as the prospect pulled away I made their failure to move forward all about me and my failure to communicate the benefits of the product.  As deals started to spin away from me I doubled down on a strategy that wasn’t working and further alienated the prospect.

Emotional Intelligence has been defined by Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of the best selling “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” as,

your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.

The chart to the right is a typical four quadrant diagram that is popular with psychologists in analyzing behavior.  In this diagram we see the four core skills of Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Management aligned with perception; what I see and reaction; what I do.  These skills are further aligned with personal and social competency.

In my failures I tend to be severely lacking in the perception side of the diagram, I don’t see how people are reacting to what I am doing and therefore am unable to adjust my behavior in a way that makes people comfortable moving forward in relationship with me.  If I were to place myself as a dot on the diagram I would be in the top right corner, very strong in Self-Management, I work hard and am disciplined.  I’m very task oriented, my mantra could be that the best kind of To-Do List is a Done List.  But I am extremely lacking in Social Awareness.   In my desire to get things done I tend to push people aside.

My greatest failure of 2017 was with a fast-growing company that I had the opportunity to work with on setting up a Group Benefits program.  I am met with the prospect and immediately hit it off with one of the co-owners.  We were having a great time, talking about business, telling jokes and swapping stories about our past business successes and failures.

Everything was going great.

Then my prospect took me into his partner’s office to say hello.  His partner was in another meeting, but we interrupted because we thought what we had was more important.  To be fair – I didn’t interrupt the meeting, my prospect did and that’s not what I believe caused the problem.

I was introduced around the room as “The Group Benefits Guy”, and while there were other people in the room I immediately forgot their names and laser focused my attention on the business partner.  Looking back at it now I realize that in that moment I went from the fun-loving Group Benefits Guy who was going to help this company move it’s HR process to the next level to that jerky salesman who only cares about people who are in a position of power.  It took a few more weeks but I truly believe that the opportunity was lost in that moment.

A few weeks later the prospect told me that they were pretty much ready to go with the Group Benefits plan, all we had to do was confirm with the partner.  I never heard from the company again.  My follow up messages went unanswered and within a few more months I found out that they had signed up with a competitor.

In doing my 5 Why’s analysis of that failure I concluded that at the critical moment, when I needed to show that I was in tune with the culture of the organization and took their people’s best interests seriously, I failed.  I was emotionally dumb.  To this day I still don’t remember the names of the other people in the room.  For a time, I even forgot the partner’s name and just referred to him in an email as “your partner”.

Why am telling you all this?

Studies have shown that people of average intelligence out-perform those with higher intelligence nearly 70% of the time.  The difference isn’t in classic measures of intelligence.  It’s in how we interact with each other.  Top performers have a higher emotional intelligence and can align their Personal Competencies with their Social Competencies and their perception with their actions.  The closer to the center of that four quadrant diagram you can hang out, the more successful you will be.

I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions.  I prefer to make course corrections as I become aware of a need and this one is huge.  If I were to make a New Year’s Resolution for 2018 it would be this – To become more Emotionally Intelligent, get better at truly seeing people and working to aligning my actions with their needs.

VLOG: Episode 6, The Heart of An Entrepreneur


Driving in to the office the other day I started thinking about what it takes to be an entrepreneur and how much mad respect I have for entrepreneurs and what they do.  Here’s the video I recorded about it.

Once again sorry about the audio, I need to both speak up and get a better microphone  I think.  And for some reason I thought sitting in front of a window on a sunny day would be a good idea, won’t make that mistake again, I promise.

I’ll get these technical issues figured about eventually, bear with me okay…  For now enjoy the video.

Putting Insomnia To Bed


Not getting enough sleep? Here are eight strategies that can help.

As the saying goes; “You snooze, you lose.” But when you don’t get enough sleep, nobody wins. When we’re tired, we tend not to exercise or eat right either. We also get more irritable, stressed out and are more likely to get sick. And we don’t work as well when we’re tired. By some accounts, sleep deprivation costs Canadian businesses more than $15 billion a year in lost productivity.

So how do you get the rest you need? Try these strategies to help you get a better night’s sleep.

1 – Create a bed-time ritual

Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning, even on the weekend. Establishing a pattern of calming bedtime activities like taking a bath, reading, meditation or writing in your journal can help to train you mind and body that it’s time to settle down.

2- Put away your smartphone

Blue light from your phone (or tablet) suppresses the production of melatonin. That is why people who spend a lot of time looking at a screen before bed have more trouble nodding off. If you like to read e-books, try a reader that isn’t back-lit or use a screen cover that minimizes blue light.

3 – Take the pressure off

Poor sleep is our number-one response to stress. It’s also a bit of a double-edged sword as not getting enough shut-eye actually increases stress. So how do you break the cycle? Find ways to recharge and calm down throughout the day. Go for a walk, practice mindfulness exercises, or yoga. Small changes to your daily routine can make a big difference.

4 – Cool it

A cool room can help you too relax as well. Our body temperature naturally drops as we fall asleep, an environment that’s too warm may actually inhibit drifting off. Ideal bedroom temperatures range from 19 to 22 C.

5 – Lose the light

Too much ambient light can suppress melatonin production while darkness triggers it. The darker your bedroom the better so if you live in a brightly light city or near a large industrial installation installing blackout curtains and removing electronics with light-up displays can help.

6 – Move more

People who exercise regularly tend to sleep better. Working out three or four times a week can make a real difference. Don’t hit the gym too close to bedtime though, or the adrenalin from your workout could end up keeping you awake. Morning workouts are best but try to give yourself at least 2 hours for your body to return to normal before trying to go to sleep.

7 – Eat to sleep

Certain foods can help you nod off at night too. Vitamin B6 is important for making melatonin. B6-rich foods like fish, bananas, chickpeas, nuts and lentils can help. Drinking tart cherry juice, right before bed has been proven to alleviate insomnia in some cases.

 

8 – Avoid alcohol

We all know that cutting back on caffeine can reduce wakefulness. But most forms of alcohol inhibit sleep too.   This one is a bit counter intuitive until you think about it.  A glass of wine may help you drift off, but as the relaxing effects of the alcohol wear off the fermented sugars take over and you’re suddenly wide awake again.

Still can’t sleep?

Try not to stress about it. Insomnia can happen to almost everyone. If you’re tired all the time, talk to your doctor, maybe you have sleep apnea or another underlying cause.

Sweet dreams….

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

 

 

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You’re doing it wrong!


Living Life and Growing Your Business on Your Terms

Have you ever received unsolicited advice?

You know the kind I’m talking about. One of your “friends” takes it upon themselves to tell you how you’re screwing up your life. And if you would just make one or two “minor” changes you would be so much better off.

This advice is usually sincere. Your friends are probably genuinely worried about you. When they look at your life they likely see the struggles you go through, how hard you work for seemingly little return, the heartache, the sleepless nights, you name it. Your friends see all the stress and they are genuinely worried about you.

If you’d just give up on your dream and take a job with a steady paycheque. Or maybe just slow it down a bit and relegate your business aspirations to weekends and evenings, maybe you’d be better off. You’d have more money, less stress and live longer.

Or so they think.

But make no mistake it’s never really about you.

It’s about how they feel when they are around you. Maybe they feel sorry for you – but that’s not about you, it’s about them. Maybe they feel guilty for their own success in the face of your seeming failure – but that’s not about you either, it’s still all about them. And maybe they feel envy and jealousy because they see the huge potential for your success and wish they had what it takes to be an entrepreneur. But you guessed it, that’s not about you either.

The fact is, no one can give you advice on what you need to do to be successful. Sure there are some general principles but they are ultimately the same whether you work for a boss or not. At the end of the day nobody knows better than you what it will take for you to be successful. Nobody knows your business better than you. Nobody works harder than you. Nobody cares more than you.

So stop listening to everyone else. That’s what you’re doing wrong.

Entrepreneurship is lonely. And for the most part the pay sucks. Work your ass off for 5, maybe 10 years or even more and maybe, just maybe you’ll become so successful you’ll forget about the years of struggle that led up it.

Maybe not.

You have to be prepared to live like no one else, so that later you can live like no one else.

That’s my best unsolicited advice.  Take it or leave it.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

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Vlog 4 – Understanding your Balance Sheet


This week’s Vlog grew out of a conversation I had on Tuesday with young business owner about the importance of building your net worth and managing a balance sheet.

Enjoy…

 

Decision-Making


How to focus on the choices that matter the most…

Each and every one of us makes countless decisions every day. Some don’t matter much, like what to wear or what to eat for lunch. Others carry a little more weight. Last week I talked about the general weight of decisions in our lives, go back an re-read it here [Cast Your Burdens].  This week I want to focus a bit more on the specific and unique decision making needs of business owners. Business owners make decisions about how to manage cash flow, how to protect the company (with insurance mostly), and which benefits plan to choose so that they can attract and retain the best employees.

Have you ever found it difficult making important decisions? You’re not alone.

As I talked about last week, researchers have found that we only have limited decision-making power. So called, “decision fatigue” effects us all as the day progresses. Check out this article from the New York Times to back me up. As the day rolls along and the number of decisions we need to make pile up, our brains get tired and start to look for an easier way out. That can mean delaying decisions, paralysis by analysis or it could lead to reckless decisions made primarily just to get it over with so that we can move on.

One option some entrepreneurs have found to help manage decision fatigue is to eliminate, or create a habit around certain choices. I’m currently reading Charles Duhigg’s 2012 book “The Power of Habit”. At one point in the book he talks about what he calls the Keystone Habits that can shape entire organizations and remove a cumbersome layer of decision making, streamlining processes and leading to increased efficiencies and ultimately higher profits. Case in point, two of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs simplified some of their decisions by wearing the same clothing every day: Steve Jobs was famous for his black turtlenecks, and Mark Zuckerberg favours grey T-shirts. I have even taken on a modification of this habit myself, I line up my pants and shirts in my closet on laundry day and simply put on whatever is at the front of the line every morning. Granted, not quite a streamlined as wearing the same thing every day but it is one less decision I need to make in the morning, freeing my mind up for more important things later.

Another idea is to devote more time to important decisions earlier in the day, that way you are fresh and can devote better energy to things before the relentless piling on of minor choices makes it harder to concentrate and make the best decisions. Consider scheduling an hour or so every morning to contemplate some of the bigger choices you need to make that day.

It’s important to start by identifying which of your regular decisions are most important. Most business owners agree that decisions related to cash flow management are the highest on their list of priorities. A recent survey showed that over half (59 per cent) of small business owners were concerned about cash flow with 20 per cent saying they are seriously concerned. This would seem to point to the fact that they are likely to get the most outside advice in this area but over a third of them (38 per cent) said they were dealing with their cash flow issues alone, without any help from an external advisor.  Know to be clear, I am not an accountant but one of the biggest advantages that I can bring to the table for my clients is help with decision-making around cash flow management. For example, I can help put together an optimal mix of bank accounts, lines of credit and investments to maximize returns mitigate risks and cushion your business from cash flow crunches.

And speaking of risk, another important area is risk management. Having a clear risk management goal like, building a diversified customer base or multiple revenue streams helps you make better business planning decisions and move the business forward. But keep in mind that when it comes to insurance, any delays in decision-making actually increase your exposure. Business owners must make it a top priority to finalize insurance policies as soon as they are financially able. This includes all forms of general liability and business interruption insurance to critical illness, disability and key person insurance for the owners and employees.

Lastly, there’s another area of risk management decision-making that most business owners forget about until it’s too late. If you have employees, you know how much your business relies on the productivity and loyalty of all of your people. And you’re probably also aware of how much turnover can cost. That’s why it’s so surprising to me that according to the research cited above just 17 per cent of business owners consider group benefits including health and retirement savings plans when building a risk management strategy. Even a simple, entry-level benefits plan for as few as 2 or 3 people can do wonders for moral and help to retain and attract better employees.

Postponing important financial decisions may mean missing out on opportunities to grow, develop and protect your business. So if you’ve been mulling without deciding, consider what you need to move forward. Are you considering all of the options? Do you have enough information to make an informed choice? Can a financial advisor offer any input? What other barriers are standing in the way?

Small business owners are busy people, I get that. Anything that can help streamline your decision-making process and make it more efficient is of great value. I am here to help. I can provide clarity and give you a big-picture perspective on decisions that benefit you, your company and your employees in both the short and long term. Contact me any time.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

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