Archive for October, 2009

Want a sweet business?

October 21, 2009

Do you think all businesses are suffering right now?  Well guess what makes the hard times a little easier to handle – candy.  There are many historical markers that show candy sales soar when the economy is in the tank.  As unemployment rises, so do sales of Tootsie Rolls, Gummy Bears and Hershey’s Kisses.  Terese McDonald, owner or Candyality in Chicago says her business is up 80% compared to this time last year.  She’s struggling to keep up with the demand for Bit-O-Honeys, Swedish Fish and Sour Balls. 

Nestlé’s profits surged a staggering 30% in 2008.  British chocolate maker Cadbury saw their revenue rise 10.9% in the same time period.

Remember the Great Depression?  Candy companies found a burst of growth in the 1930s as well.  Those hard times spawned the introduction of such candy great as Snickers (1930), Tootsie Pops (1931), Mars bars and Three Musketeers (1932). 

It seems candy brings back memories of better times before bank collapses and government bailouts.  And yes, sales of candy up and down Wall Street have exploded as out of work bankers and stock brokers look for a little sugar lift in a languishing economy.  Perhaps a small indulgence dulls the sting of no paycheck. 

Are you recognizing similar opportunities that may actually be fueled by the struggling economy?  Is this recession a help or a hindrance to your current business?  Don’t assume that every business is suffering.

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You gotta get outta the pot!

October 20, 2009

Be careful who you allow to influence your thinking and actions!

In the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki tells the story of the Hawaiian Black Crabs.  If you go down to the beach early in the morning you can easily find black crabs.  You just toss them in your bucket and continue walking on the beach.  Now those crabs start thinking, “We’re bumping around in this little bucket making a lot of noise but going nowhere.” 

Eventually, one crab looks up and thinks, “There’s a whole new world up there.  If I could just get my foot up over the edge, I could get out, get my freedom and explore the world in my own way.”  So he stretches up, pushes a little, and sure enough, gets one foot over the edge.  But just as he is about to tip the balance and go over the edge — a crab from the bottom of the bucket reaches up and pulls him back down.  Instead of encouraging him and seeing how they could help each other get to freedom one by one, they pull anyone attempting back down into that confining bucket where nothing but a boiling pot of water is waiting for them.  Nobody in that bucket is going to end up a winner.

Unfortunately, that’s not an uncommon picture of the world in which we live and work.  Many of us live around a bunch of Black Crabs, ready to ridicule any new idea we have and just as eager to pull us back down to their level of performance.  Small thinkers find it much easier to tell you why something won’t work than to help you find a solution.  People who feel trapped and are struggling at a low level of success are seldom the ones who will cheer you on to a new endeavor.  Prejudice and bigotry are rooted in the same mentality – people who somehow feel better about their own miserable existence by pulling others down. 

I have found that one of the key characteristics of successful people is that they hang around people who are already performing at the level at which they want to perform. 

In Killers of the Dream, Lillian Smith wrote, “We in America – and men across the earth – have trapped ourselves with that word equality, which is inapplicable to the genus man.  I wish we would forget it.  Stop its use in our country:  Let the communists have it. It isn’t fit for men who fling their dreams across the skies.  It is fit only for a leveling down of mankind.”

There will always be naysayers and whiners; avoid them.  Avoid the Black Crabs around you.  Find winners and spend time with them!  Even the Bible warns us:  Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul. Proverbs 22:24-25

Who are the Black Crabs in your life?  How can you avoid them or move on?

Nobody Gets “Fired” Anymore

October 20, 2009

In a workshop this last week, we were hearing from the many participants who were recently “released” from their jobs.  The terms for being “let go” became themselves the center of attention as we moved around the room.  It seems no one just plain gets “fired” anymore in this politically correct work environment.

In 1980 a person got “fired.”  By 1985 it was “laid off.”  In 1990 it became “downsized.”  Now a person can be “rightsized,” “ restructured,” “ reorganized,” “reengineered” or “put in the mobility pool.”  I hear that many people are being freed up to “pursue other opportunities.”  In this computer age, some people are being “uninstalled” and receiving their termination notices via e-mail.   I’m continually amazed at the fancy words for getting people in the front door and the euphemisms for sending people out the back door continue to grow in creativity as well. 

Is it surprising that morale is often low for the remaining employees who realize that their workload has tripled, their salary has remained the same, and they are the “lucky” ones to still be around after all the smart ones took the “buy-out” package and immediately got better jobs elsewhere?  Now we have to redefine “lucky.”

I asked our readers to submit terms they have encountered:   Here are just a few of the best:

  • Released to the market place to better achieve your goals
  • My husband and I work for a ministry. Last week we were told to “transfer” somewhere else. Of course they didn’t give us anywhere to go either. In other words, we don’t need you anymore after 20 years of service. The reason “It will help your spiritual growth”. Whatever that means!
  • My former company used the term “impacted”. I was told that my position had been “impacted”.
  • My sister was told about the poor economic conditions and the downturn in tourism.  She was informed she was NOT being terminated or laid off. However, her supervisor informed her that her scheduled work hours “were being reduced to zero”. WHEW! At least she wasn’t laid off!
  • My company calls it Evolving. A person is not fired, they are evolved. That means put on a new opportunity which the company thinks there is no chance of winning. Then when the contract is not won, the person has to leave because the business just was not there to support them.
  • I was told they were “restructuring” and that the new “structure” did not include me. I had been downsized, but that I should take notice (like it was a good thing) it says “Reduction In Force” on my official pink slip. I guess that was their nice way of saying I was eligible for unemployment compensation.
  • I tell folks I was DIVORCED from the company, because they sent me away with money and it was an end to our relationship. People seem to readily accept divorce these days.
  • In the “dismissal” letter I got it was written, “due to declining enrollment and increasing expenses, we are forced to dismiss all ‘expendable’ personnel.” To me it was a slap in the face to think that the dedication and enthusiasm I had brought to this institution, as a student and employee, was ‘expendable’.
  • I was told I was being “made available to the industry.”
  • As a programmer/analyst for a large bank, I was invited to ‘participate in the bank’s employee-reduction initiative’ last April.
  • I work for a large electronic retailer, and no one gets fired here, they just get “promoted to customer.”

James H. Kennedy, publisher of “Executive Recruiter News,” lists even more of the latest terms in use:

“Axed, canned, coerced transition, decruited, deselected, destaffed, excessed, fumigation, indefinite idling, negotiated departure, personnel surplus reduction, premature retirement, redundancy elimination, right-sized, selected out, selectively separated, vocational relocation, and workforce imbalance correction.”

Wow – I get tired just reading through all of those.  If you’ve been on the receiving end of one of these terms, the only question is, what are you doing to move forward?  One lady shared that in her mind she had been given the “grace of interruption.”  Now there’s a term that implies peace and renewal. 

 

Taking Action or just getting ready?

October 18, 2009

Henry Ford was once confronted by a group of university professors.  They wanted to prove once and for all that Ford was just an idiot.  So they began asking him questions:  “When was titanium discovered?”  And Ford would pick up the phone and ask one of his aides the question.  “Who was the first man to climb Mt. Everest?”  Again, Ford would pick up the phone and find the answer.  The professors objected – “As we suspected, you don’t really know much at all.”  Ford responded, “Why would I fill my mind with all these trivial facts.  I can hire your students to give me any facts I need.  I need to keep my own mind clear for Thinking.” 

So what do you think about the popularity of TV shows like Jeopardy and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.  Would these contestants really be able to run a business or even add great value to an existing one?  What is the application of having a mind full of stagnant facts?  What is required for innovative, creative thinking that carries you into the future?  I am convinced that productive thinking skills are different than the skills of trivial cataloguing. 

Knowledge is not wisdom – only potential wisdom.  At some point getting more knowledge diminishes in value; action must be taken.  Be a Henry Ford – grab the needed facts as you need them but don’t get stuck in inaction.

The 10,000-Hour Rule

October 12, 2009

The second chapter in the new book Outliers is titled The 10,000-Hour Rule.  Author Malcolm Gladwell shares his research that shows few people get to the top of their game without putting in at least 10,000 hours of preparation.

”The closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play.”

Whether it’s Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, the Beatles, Yo Yo Ma, Mozart, or Warren Buffet, it appears no one gets to the top without putting in their 10,000 hours.  If you put in 40 hours a week, that’s 5 years.  If you only find 20 hours a week to work on your area of excellence it will take 10 years.  If you’re just squeaking out 5 hours a week – it’s going to take 40 years.  Talent will only take you so far; it’s the hours of work that will separate you from the pack.

The problem is that we have become an “instant” society.  We have been spoiled with email, cell phones and microwaves – and become impatient with the nanosecond required to load a new web page.  College graduates expect the $100,000 job and the $500,000 house instantly.  Talented musicians and athletes expect fame and fortune long before investing 10,000 hours in practice.  Writers give up after writing their great novel in a weekend and after a month of searching for a publisher.  Christians are often confident their idea came from God, thus assuming success will be easy and instantaneous.

So where have you put in your 10,000 hours?  If you are in a job that you hate, have you been investing hours in an area of excellence that will give you a new opportunity?  Or do you just waste the hours away from work, hoping  for something more fulfilling to appear?  If you are a writer, a musician, a landscape designer, a web designer or a husband, have you put in your 10,000 hours of concentrated preparation to be great in that area? 

I trust this is an encouraging bit of information.  You don’t have to regret having average talent, or not having the highest IQ, or being born into the wrong family.  Just find your area of excellence and put in 10,000 hours of preparation.  You’ll bypass those with more “advantages” and find success that others only dream of.

Some people have “portable success.”

October 11, 2009

In a recent Eagles Club discussion, my friend Dave Ramsey said that it’s clear “some people have portable success.”  So what does that mean? 

Haven’t you seen people who just seem to have the “Midas Touch?”  Everything they do just turns out well.  They’re never out of work; they get promotions and bonuses, their cars never break down, and the sun always shines on their days off.  If they start a business, they sell it for a big profit and start another. 

Also, I’m sure you know someone who has lost multiple jobs, has had numerous cars that all were lemons, and every day is gloomy.  They struggle in relationships, health and finances. 

So how do we get positioned for portable success?  Is it fate that determines our lot in life?  Is it luck, circumstances or predestination?  Must we be born in the right country or the right family?  Do we choose success or failure?  Can we move from the whiner side to the winner side once we are already on a path? 

Frankly, I’m not as sure as I once was.  I’ve always believed we could choose success or failure.  But I know a gal who at 28 is attractive, black, ex-con, and eager to change her path.  She’s bright, articulate, hard working, honest and a committed Christian.  But no one will rent to her, hire her or sell her a car.  She struggles with every illness that comes along and then misses important appointments. 

Is she doomed or can she move over to the path of having portable success?  What will it take for her to change her path physically, financially and relationally?

The Fatal Assumption

October 8, 2009

Most of you have read The E-Myth by Michael Gerber.  In that book Gerber describes what he calls the “Fatal Assumption.”  The Fatal Assumption is this:  that knowing how to do the technical work means you know how to build a business. 

Gerber clarifies a challenge we’ve all seen played out:

  • If someone knows how to cook well, the fatal assumption is that he/she will automatically have the skills to run a restaurant.
  • An accountant sets up an accounting practice.
  • An attorney starts a legal firm.
  • A doctor opens a medical clinic.
  • A great babysitter opens a daycare.
  • Someone with compassion to serve starts a church.
  • Someone with technical skills opens his own IT consulting business.

We could go on and on.  The fatal assumption is that these people tend to see the business as simply an extension of their current job.  But, unfortunately, there are a whole lot of functions that must be mastered to run a business effectively. 

Yes, you can start with your technical skill, but don’t count on that alone to result in a successful business.

Read more in a great interview with Gerber in Management Consulting News.

“Find your strongest life” by Marcus Buckingham

October 5, 2009

In his newest book, “Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently,” Marcus Buckingham continues his theme of helping people find their unique strengths.  While he does allow for a broad definition of “success” it still comes across clearly that a successful woman will be expected to be a great wife, mom and career climber. 

Chapter Nine —  Strive for Imbalance — is a great read for men as well as women – as it applies to work.  The author says to ignore balance and chose instead to find your “strong-moments” and find ways to spend more time in those.  “If you cannot find any strong-moments within a responsibility you’ve taken on, then diminish or relinquish this responsibility as quickly as you can.”  I agree with that position in the workplace, but find it difficult to recommend for a wife and mother. 

I suspect the subtitle – “What the happiest and most successful women do differently” will be offensive to a large group of women.  Buckingham’s research seems to indicate women with children are less happy, and that women become less happy as they become older. 

While there are useful exercises here for managing a busy life, this is not an encouraging book for women who have chosen to be homemakers or who are looking for fulfillment through spiritual growth and enrichment rather than in their careers.

Read a good vook lately?

October 5, 2009

No, that’s not a misspelling.  It’s just a description of a new combination of book and video.  How would you like to read one of your favorite books but find it interspersed with frequent video clips to help bring the story to life?  Obviously, it’s a natural integration and now technology has made it quite easy to do. 

My son Jared and I are writing a book on the differing generational approaches to work.  Do you think a traditional 240-page tradebook is the best format to reach the 25-35 yr-old audience?  What about a vook that provides the concepts of new work models, combined with video that shows his work with the women they are bringing out of poverty in Rwanda?  And rather than just a word description, how would you like to see a one-minute video of the lady carving two large faces on the sides of a tree in my yard; providing a real example of the non-traditional work options available today.  Rather than having a clunky book to lug around in your backpack you can pull the vook up on your computer screen or simply download it to your iPhone.  And instead of $24.95, how about paying $6.99 for regular download or $4.99 for the iPhone version?

And here’s another indication of change.  Knowing people’s increasingly short attention span, iMinds has launched a series of eight-minute audiobooks that offer compact overviews of general knowledge subjects ranging from a history of whale hunting to creationism.  For $0.99 you can choose the MindTrack that appeals to you. 

Dan & Jared #13

What is it in your world that needs a serious update?  What process or product are you still trying to use or sell that simply needs to be discarded?   Have you developed or at least imagined a newer, better way to serve the same purpose?  How could your work be done quicker and more efficiently? 

The U.S. automobile industry waited too long to make the necessary changes.  The music industry is reeling from the changes demanded by their consumers.  The publishing world is being torn apart by readers sharing digital content as opposed to buying a heavy, eco-negative book.  Universities are struggling to maintain fancy campuses as students prefer simple distance learning. 

Not all change is progress – but all progress requires change. 

On your own but not alone

October 1, 2009

Ever find yourself trying to be an entrepreneur but also trying to escape from the kids – or being distracted by the unpredictable noise around your table at Starbucks?  You might want to try “CoWorking.” 

This is one of the hot new terms accounting for people wanting to work not from home and not from an office is CoWorking. People who struggle with watching Oprah or playing Xbox in the middle of the afternoon may find that a shared office space is just what you need.

 coworking

The term just made it into Wikipedia and is defined thus:  Coworking is the social gathering of a group of people, who are still working independently, but who share values and who are interested in the synergy that can happen from working with talented people in the same space.  Blogs, social networks and other support systems are being formed around this concept. 

Sole proprietors, freelancers, artists, consultants and other independent workers are finding refuge in coworking environments with open office areas but dedicated work space, high-speed internet, a kitchenette and maybe even printer and fax machine. Rates range from $15 a day to $500 a month for full 24/hour access. Check it out here – CoWorking Spaces or just Google your city with the word “coworking.”