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What’s your passion?

I recently met a plumber who told me a story I’ve heard many times before.  This plumber started his company because he had a skill he enjoyed, enjoyed using that skill to help others and desired the autonomy of “being his own boss.” Like most of us who have started a company, this owner had the passion and motivation to strike out on his own. As the plumber’s business grew, he started adding both skilled and office staff to keep up with demand.  Before long, he found himself running a company instead of being engaged in the skill he enjoyed. 

Checklists = Increased Efficiency

Wouldn’t it be nice if your staff worked with the precision of a fighter pilot and the efficiency of an operating room?  If there was a method for reducing errors while increasing profitability? There is and that method is called “checklists”.

Going Off-Mission to Stay On Mission

The president of a local company (and now a client) initially said to me: “I’d like to work with you but taking that time would be taking me off-mission.”  That is not the first owner who expressed concern about going “off-mission” and letting things lapse back at the office.  This always leads into a discussion on the different meanings or uses of “mission”: the standard or military definition versus when paired with the word “statement”.

Family Business: Preparing for the 21st Century

“Family businesses that manage these five innate advantages are well placed to make the 21st century a family business century.”  This assertion is the conclusion of a Harvard Business Review* article I recently discovered.  So, what are these advantages and is your business prepared to fully benefit from them?  Here’s a brief summary of each along with the questions businesses and families need to ask themselves.

Think out loud – Carefully

You will find that anything you say has enormous impact on the people around you.  You may make an offhand comment and find that people have scurried around to do what they thought you sent them a signal to do, even though you were merely thinking out loud.  If you do think out loud, you may be viewed as indecisive because people feel that you change your mind too often.  Similarly, a hint of a negative comment about one of your employees is likely to echo through the grapevine and reverberate to a much greater extent than you ever intended or believed possible.  Consequently, you may not have anyone to talk about your own problems in the organization.  You may not be able to think out loud.  Many CEOs take on confidential advisers for this reason.  Doing so is not a sign of weakness or an indication that you can’t perform your job; it is simply a functional necessity.  You will probably find that you do need to talk things out, and it helps to have someone you trust serving as a sounding board.

Achieving Success by Contemplating Failure

As business owners we are driven to achieve success. It is who we are.  And it is why we are entrepreneurs; working harder than most with higher risk so we can experience that success. Failure is anathema to our very being.  But, by taking the precaution of contemplating failure we increase our chances for success. Harvard Business School Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management Amy Edmonson studies why businesses fail and suggests four questions you need to ask before starting a new venture in order to avoid failure.

Recognizing & Regaining Perspective

Is the glass half full or half empty?  How you answer depends on your perspective.  For someone who has always received a full glass and now is being told this is all the water available, this picture can be a perilous omen.  On the other hand, someone lost in the desert might describe it as salvation. Perspective is critical when making decisions within your company.  A distorted perspective can lead to the wrong decision, sometimes with disastrous consequences. 

Overcoming Decision Fatigue

I was perplexed at the outcome of a recent meeting with a prospective client.  It was with a business owner referred to me from a current client.  This owner clearly was motivated to grow his business but was “stuck in a rut”.  In discussing the terms of engagement, he recognized the value and cost-benefit of my services.  It was a positive meeting resulting in scheduling our first regular client meeting. Two days later the owner emailed to cancel this next meeting stating he was “just too busy to take the time.”  Needless to say, I was surprised.  Could he have found and hired another consultant?  Or was my fee to steep? My current client who referred this person assured me the owner could afford the fee and had not hired someone else.  My client said this had become a pattern for this owner; identifying potential solutions but never carrying through on them. This got me thinking

Business Planning vs. The Alternative

When I think of the need for planning I’m reminded of the husband who volunteered to plan and prepare Thanksgiving dinner for his wife’s extended family.  Following his well-meaning plan, he started preparations the evening before including taking the turkey out of the freezer.  It was still frozen the next morning when he went to start cooking it.  Needless to say, his wife was not happy.  But at least his plan included ample appetizers, side dishes and desserts.  Imagine what it would have been like had there been no plan! Businesses are a lot like Thanksgiving dinner.  A poorly thought out plan will result in crisis.  Having no plan leads to