Tag Archives: focus

Don’t Lose Sight of The Customer — Or Yourself

At the first, second, and third look, a business is in it to make money.
If it’s not making money,  then it’s an exercise in frustration and a money-sucking black hole at worst, and an expensive ‘hobby’ at best. A business provides services or products to consumers in return for money. Electronic commerce (e-commerce) is the business of selling goods and providing services using an online platform, i.e the internet. That’s why you’re here.

So yes, you got into this wanting to make money . And somehow you are making money.  After keeping good records and getting updated licenses and permits and whatnot, how do you do? Do you lie awake at night worrying about how to make your mailing list grow? Do you wake up worried about making your bottom-line? Is your free time occupied with scribbling out plans with words like leverage, maximize, sales funnel, and  optimize?

When this kind of financial pressure makes you micro-focus on the numbers, you lose sight of several important things in the whole equation.
Yes, you do need to keep good records and updated permits and licenses and whatnot.
Yes, you do need to work on growing your mailing list. That’s all just good accounting and legal practice, and business sense.
But focusing on the bottom-line frames your business solely in terms of numbers. In doing so, that sort of gently moves out of focus the prime movers in the business.  And who are those? You, for one, and your customers, for another. Lose sight of either, you  can go off track.

Focusing solely on the point to get the money is missing the other points. Continue reading Don’t Lose Sight of The Customer — Or Yourself

What To Do When You’re Having A Bad Day At Work

You can generally depend your business to have a particular rhythm to it, once you’ve been at it long enough. Sure, there are the kinds of businesses where you can’t really have the same day-in, day-out predictability of so-called desk-jobs, but even then, when  you’ve gotten the hang of stuff, you develop the kind of insight and mind-set, and prepper skills that helps you handle the ups and downs that come with your chosen field.

In emergency situations, you may even had the foresight to have laid out back-ups and alternative, just in case. In the immediacy of things when surprises, mix-ups, or emergencies happen, you’d do well to practice on-field triage: attending to the salvageable and savable while assessing the ‘least injured’ — and checking the irrecoverable just to make sure.

Triage helps when you’re in the crunch. In non-crunch time, disciplined ‘triage’ is simple prioritization skills:  You do the important and helpful, and drop the unimportant and seductive. This lighter-hearted ‘triage’ can help you especially when bad days happen. Continue reading What To Do When You’re Having A Bad Day At Work

Deep Thinking And Your Chosen Path

Think of the following sexy, sexy business phrases: positive leverage, maximize gains, optimized performance, superior ROI, positive strides, minimized risk and overhead. Guaranteed returns.

Have they sparked excitement? Did they perk up your interest? Are you willing to do the real work of thinking out the best possible future reality for yourself and then do the work necessary for  these events to come true for your business?

Or have you been turned off by hitting Business Buzzword Bingo with all these arguably hackneyed corporate cliches?

Your reaction depends on  the emotions that you felt in response to these words.  If you’re interest, you stay on the page. If you’re not, you probably just close the tab. Right?

If you automatically brush things away because ‘everyone knows they’re all BS anyway‘, then maybe you’re letting old habits and patterns of thinking steer you in a direction you don’t really want to go. As  someone who runs a business, that kind of automatic brush-off can blind you to possibilities. There’s a big difference between filtering information and rejecting information right off the bat.

It all starts from the inside, so you need to go deep. Continue reading Deep Thinking And Your Chosen Path

Entrepreneurs: How Many People Are You?

Entrepreneurs have often been called jacks-of-all trades, and, seeing the many roles they can enact in the pursuit of their goals, it’s a given that the ones who succeed are the ones who, pushed beyond their normal comfort zones, have grow adept at being able to move in and out of various roles easily.

Nobody plays only one role in their life. It’s just not possible not to be a multi-faceted individual–our relationships won’t really let that happen. We’re being of many hats– someone’s child, a student, maybe a burger-flipper, maybe a spouse, or a dungeon master,  a coder, a parent, a friend, as well as a business owner — and  our amazing minds are such that we can recall all the ‘hats’ we’ve ever worn.

As a plus,  being wired for imagination means we can play around with different hats at the same time. This is actually a large part of how we learn, and this is also how we gain strength and belief in our own capabilities. And the more we intentionally practice this ability, the more we can use it to our advantage, in business as well as our personal lives.

Playing around with being different characters isn’t just for kids and day-dreams. This kind of ‘play’ is actually an important component of developing deeper perspective and flexibility, things which are of incredible help for anyone.

  • Knowledge acquired from different fields of study can be used for ‘cross-pollinating’ skills. You carry them over into different areas.
  • Knowledge acquired from examining different viewpoints helps in negotiations by giving you a starting point in discussions, and create goals toward compromise. This is important in all relationships.
  • Knowledge earned from wearing different hats in an organization — say, working your way up from being a waitress to being the VP of a restaurant chain (see links below)– forms an incredible matrix of intimate, first-hand experience that can be carried over into other fields,  and just plain carried as a built-in repository of valuable skill-sets.

SUCCESS STORY:  Katrina Cole

As a business owner, you will always have the inevitable issues and problems to solve. When you practice developing flexibility and entertaining multiple perspectives, you in fact train your brain to be more adept at re-framing, and approaching challenges, and then being able to break them down into actionable bits and phases.

Entrepreneurs must execute to keep moving forward, and it is in the execution that they learn and refine their approach. When you have problems breaking down a problem or resolving a hairy issue, taking yourself out of the fix-it-NOW mindset and going into a different one can help you take the stress off, for one.  You see things in a different light, and that may help you find a better approach. And this also applies to service businesses– not for nothing is it common advice to put yourself in the customer’s shoes.

When you learn to use different perspectives, this affects the mind-set you use in order to frame an idea.

Related article: Is It A Problem Or A Challenge?

Execution is part of learning as much as play, and both are important factors in succeeding at your goals. Here are the basic steps:

  • You identify the issue from a head-on approach.
  • You examine the issue from different angles to develop perspective.
  • Different angles of approach can mean different solutions, and there may even be overlap.
  • You mull things around in your head and come up with a set of solutions, judgements, or observations, which you use to take the next step.

To jump-start the process into action, you need a defined statement to describe the issue, and be able to identify the key players and processes involved. As a business owner, what do you want? As a customer, what would you want? As someone who partners with other people towards a common goal, what do you guys want? Take out the ‘hats’ involved and try to see things ‘as-if’ to help you see the system as a whole. When you understand the system, you can start modifying it and see how it improves and evolves.

“It never hurts to get a different perspective.” Another way of seeing it is that “It never hurts to get a second opinion.” Think again of the word ‘perspective ‘itself, and how that word association can play out. Perspective can cover short-sightedness and long-sightedness; you can take actions that answers issues and resolve them in the short run, and yet fail to look ahead far enough to see the ramifications  and far-reaching consequences of your actions. You can also plan so far into the future that day-to-day and short-term activities can be restricted unnecessarily because you planned too rigidly and didn’t make allowances for change to happen to meet the unexpected.

What are the benefits of ‘going over to the other side’, so to speak?
One, you get jolted out of thinking you know best — a fatal flaw in a world that changes so rapidly and where knowledge can rapidly go outdated. Two, it gives you dimensionality, a more developed vision of the situation — it looks different from the vantage points at 10, 500, 100, 5000 feet — and the higher (deeper) you go, the more links and connections you can parse and the more opportunities present themselves. Three, you learn to see the world in a deeper light.

Sometimes, we find it easier to see what we don’t like, and use that information to make things better.  Customer complaints are a rich resource for examining your business. You can use those as starting points and branch out.

It isn’t easy, of course, because we’re also hard-wired towards taking the most energy-efficient way to approaching life,  and that’s an area where procrastination, short-sighted or short-term thinking, and having problems with execution can start.  But then again, nothing worthwhile really comes easy.  Practice using multiple perspectives and you’ll find that you’re also expanding the way you view the world, and learning how to get along better with the people who live, work in, and share it with you.

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Getting ‘Pumped’: Productivity for Entrepreneurs

What does “priming the pump” mean to you?

A quick search would show that the idiom describes the act of putting in a little energy of your own to get the action started. You get the ball rolling, starting the momentum, by making the initial moves and investing some of your labor, by making a sincere effort to jump-start something into working, and do it well.

In an entrepreneur’s life,  priming the pump makes for good habits in the following ways: Going back to water, a suction pump– those old-fashioned types with the handle you had to pump out and down — required that you pour water down the pump to get the air out, restore the pressure, and form the vacuum necessary to start pulling up the water when you pump the handle.

In your case, it  means doing a little something before-hand to make it easy to start something bigger: whether it’s starting on a project, continuing with something you left off yesterday, or starting the work-day properly.

Priming the pump can mean many different kinds of actions, but basically boil down to you preparing the stage to take the next step in your work:

  • You clean up after you’re finished so you can start with a clean, neat work space the next day.
  • You take good, orderly notes and organize your actionables into logical batches so you’re not all over the place attending to them.
  • You devote a block of time solely for making cold calls, or research, or deep thinking about where you want to bring your business.
  • You ensure that you are not bothered by distraction, and so on.

 

How can this help you:
Priming the pump aims to serve a particular purpose. In the field of economics, the phrase “priming the pump” means to provide stimulus for the economy to function properly. And when we use it right, it works the same for  us. We do things to  push our chosen activities work properly. We become more productive at the things that matter to us, and get more value out of the work that we do. Continue reading Getting ‘Pumped’: Productivity for Entrepreneurs

How To Handle Roadblocks To Your Goals

When you run a business it means you’ve already closed several important goals. You made concrete decisions and acted on them to make your business a reality– whether your business started out as a bright idea hastily jotted out on a napkin at your favorite coffee shop,  or an  excited audio recording you made on your phone while you were out doing the groceries and stumbled into a full-fledged vision.

Now whether you’re just starting  out, or  already matured your business into stability, or  you’re at the stage where you can think of expansion, there are always things that you need to keep an eye on, just to make sure you don’t run yourself down while managing the eventual snags and roadblocks on the way to realizing your goals.

Here are 4 thoughts to keep in mind when you’re planning ahead and thinking of obstacles to your progress.

ONE: Make a “plan to fail.”
Plans survive  when you have reliable data to help you make alternative decisions. At this point you should have enough data available to see when and where your goals can come to a halt. Thinking ahead is a mentally tiring activity, yes, but in  terms of  creating back-ups, alternative plans, and disaster recovery blue-prints , the labor and discomfort NOW are  small beans compared to what you save by avoiding problems and minimizing the impact of the ones you can’t avoid — as well as creating enough buffers to cushion you in case you’re blindsided by this thing called life. Continue reading How To Handle Roadblocks To Your Goals

7 Rules To Ward Off Information Overload

Everyone, individuals and organizations, is struggling to keep pace with the accelerated rate of change today. While in many cases the speed of communication in things like data  delivery, acquisition, and dissemination has helped us make great strides in many areas, the rate of comprehension is where which bottlenecks have jammed up and pose as a huge source of stress and anxiety. There is so much information out there and it comes in so fast, how do we keep our heads and stay clear-headed when we get so much conflicting, compelling, and even alarming data?

Check your sources.
Facebook is the most popular social media  site in the world. Anyone off the street and on their mobile can  make a post and have it go viral. The key word being ‘social’, unconfirmed or even  false information can then trend and spread like wildfire.   While you rely on your Facebook account to keep in touch with friends, family and your other social circles, don’t count on it to be an utterly reliable source of information about the world.

You need information to make a decision, to tell you more about something you’re working on, or interested in. When you  find sources of information, you need to know you can trust your sources not to let you down with the information you get from them.  Don’t just take anyone’s word for it. Do  your research.  Verify your source’s reliability and experience.  Make sure you can trust your sources of information. Continue reading 7 Rules To Ward Off Information Overload

The Difference Between Professionals And Amateurs

The question is old, and the answers are too, just varying with time and culture. The Greeks preferred to live a life of leisurely exploration of the mind, looking down on labor as necessary but beneath them, while in Indian culture work belonged to the first half of life, the next half meant for pursuing generosity and enlightenment.

In the hard-hitting Western culture, work is mostly about money: earning it, going after it and making more of it. That’s why when you ask what the difference is between a pro and an amateur, the most obvious answer in America is: “One gets paid, the other works for free.”

Aside from getting paid, what else marks the difference?

  • Pros do the ground work long before they need to roll things out. They keep their skills fresh, updated and relevant to the times.
  • They focus on the bottom line because they know it’s an important marker of their effectiveness, and as the result of their labor, they want it to count for something, in both financial reward for themselves and its utility for the people it’s meant for.
  • They know the value of their work and set its price accordingly

Pros and amateurs can possess the same basic knowledge in how to do what they do, but knowledge of the process does not equate to doing the work.

Professionals do the work, which includes reading the fine print, delivering what they promised, and keeping business relationships cordial, respectful and strong.

 

The uncertain economic climate has driven hundreds of thousands into a near-permanent state of anxiety and faith in a bleak future. While we’re told to “Keep going! Take charge!” going full-steam ahead won’t take us anywhere good without a definite direction, the experience to weigh choices under stress, and the discipline to handle the unknown.

Taking control helps alleviate anxiety because this time you are choosing the consequences of your actions. It’s no longer a question of If-this, Then-maybe. It’s “I choose this, this is what I’m going for.” Professionals go for it. They take calculated risks.

 

Everybody starts out as a novice. The fastest and most basic ways to learn is to copy someone who already succeeded at doing what you want to do. When you can do that well enough and understand the reasoning (the how’s and why’s) behind the process (the skill), you push yourself to go beyond the basics.

You go beyond the guided learning stages to develop a riff of your own. That development process asks you to accept that you’ll make mistakes, and that those mistakes will grow your experience more than rote study.

The biggest difference between amateurs and people who are good at what they do is that amateurs primarily think of what’s in it for them. The professionals go beyond that simple mindset and push themselves to provide things that are unique, valuable and useful for the people and the market they’ve put themselves to serve. Professionals get out of the way of The Work. Continue reading The Difference Between Professionals And Amateurs

Thinking Ahead: Navigating By The Signs Of the Times

29 November 2013, by A. Cedilla

You probably know what certain law enforcement acronyms mean from being exposed to popular TV procedural shows like CSI and NCIS, and maybe Bones. Words like BOLO ( Be on the look-out for) and APB (all points bulletin). These words get tossed out when the protagonists are alerted and on the hunt for someone.

In navigating your business through industry changes, consumer demand and market forces, what are the things that you look out for to stay relevant, and how do you recognize them? What are the things you look out for?

The answer depends on your business and on you, you personally. For all the talk of hitting the numbers, getting the ‘likes’, using the latest software, cultivating good press, a business still need the human element to work. Computers can’t make intuitive leaps. Laptops and smartphones don’t buy things on their own, or schedule something in (or out) of calendars, or go value-pricing all by their lonesome. People do that. And the answer is different for each person, so these questions will get wildly divergent results, because we’re not cookie-cutter clones.

When you take a moment to assess the situation, what are the steps you take? What factors do you take into consideration? You look at the groups you belong to. Work, play, business, family….there’s a happy, messy Venn diagram waiting to happen there.

What about assessing the probable situation two weeks ahead? A month? How about in quarters, and in a year? How far ahead do you look? What’s your time-line?

Serious planning is a whole-brain activity that asks uncomfortable questions. It’s much easier to give a quick look around and say, “Well, I’m still here, no need to rock the boat right now.” Or resign yourself to grinding through the days and collapsing on the weekends — when you’ve got the time. Maybe you’re thinking that you’re doing okay but there’s this nagging feeling that won’t let you rest, or let you be.

Life isn’t static…it’s how we grow. We can’t do that if things remains exactly the same. That’s how people build their lives, they move from one stage to another.

Are you satisfied with what you’ve got? When you look back on a typical day for you and extend it into the future, how will you answer the question, “Is this what I want for myself?” If you’re not growing, you’re stagnating, even if it feels pretty safe for the foreseeable future.

People tend to forget just how much of a difference they can create in their own lives because they get used to seeing things a certain way, and themselves a certain way.

What do you want your life to say?
Artists have their art, writers have their writing, and so on. As a business owner, don’t go on thinking it’s all about dollars and cents. Continue reading Thinking Ahead: Navigating By The Signs Of the Times

Pay Attention To The Little Things

28 January 2013, by A.Cedilla
“Ignorance is bliss.”
“If ignorance is bliss, there should be more happy people.”
– Victor Cousin, 18th century French Philosopher

Knowledge is power. When you know how stuff works, things you can do a lot. For example, who is the world’s greatest detective: Sherlock Holmes, Batman or Adrian Monk?

The TV series, books, movies, cartoons and comics featuring these characters have set up whole fictional worlds about and around their exploits, because these guys are able to do things most people can’t. And the fact that you know who these characters are and are probably aware of the history behind that particular title (“The World’s Greatest Detective”) lets you in on the in-joke.

Detectives detect. They pay attention, finding things out and making connections, and in our popular fiction and media, they usually get to save the day. For mere flesh-and-blood mortals who don’t go through the drama we see on-screen, we’re asked to pay attention to different things, differently.

How would you know what you’re not paying attention to? Continue reading Pay Attention To The Little Things