Enduring Enterprises

Eight Essential Strategies for Achieving Business Longevity

By Jill Johnson

Everyone who starts or leads a business dreams of passing it along to the next generation. But few are successful in making it happen. Every year, countless businesses and organizations fail. Excuses are made and fingers are pointed. Long-term success takes more than hard work and a little luck. Leaders and entrepreneurs who achieve exceptional business longevity share seven business practices that move them to long-term success. They think differently. They operate differently. And they lead differently

1) Engage in Ongoing Planning with a Realistic Vision: Successful executives and entrepreneurs prepare for success on an ongoing basis, not just when they are in start-up mode. They move beyond their initial business plan to augment their success by leveraging new opportunities and seeking ideas to enhance operations and profitability. They are disciplined in writing down their plans, reviewing them and sharing with their key employees and advisors. They know on-going planning keeps them focused and moving forward. These leaders continually, and formally evaluate, what is working and what needs changing. Lasting business leaders also match their vision to their abilities. Click To Tweet

2) Establish a Realistic Vision for the Future: Lasting business leaders also match their vision to their abilities. They leverage one success into another rather than rapidly making huge leaps beyond their capabilities. Those who don’t have a realistic vision risk everything because they reach too high before their cash, talent or operational capability is ready for higher levels of success. Enduring leaders actively and effectively manage their transitions and hire sophisticated talent to match their future needs. Their success is sustainable because they build it on a viable foundation that is based in reality not on wishful thinking.

3) Use Disciplined Approaches to Developing Leadership and Executive Skills: Leaders who operate enduring enterprises understand experience is critical; not just with the operational or technical expertise, but also with the ability to lead, manage and weather the daily challenges of not having someone tell you what to do. These leaders understand they need to continue cultivating their ability to manage and create strategies. Those with enduring success continue developing and enhancing their skills to build their business arsenal. They read. They hire the consulting and professional talent they need to augment their internal expertise.

4) Implement Sound Fiscal Management: Fiscal discipline is fundamental to long-term business or enterprise success. Yet few leaders have the self-discipline to manage their cash flow for the inevitable peaks and valleys. They respond to immediate pressures and spend money they don’t have. Too many leaders spend money on the flash and glitz trying to impress people. They never prepare for the future because they’re focused on living in the moment. Some make ill-advised decisions that create financial crises rather than making prudent commitments they can realistically handle. Successful leaders of enduring enterprises focus on building real net worth by being masters at financial discipline and tightly controlling what they spend.

5) Adapt to Changing Circumstances: Markets change and technology advances. Those who are successful over the long-term understand and adapt to change. They invest in people and technology to enhance productivity. They stay on top of competitors and respond as necessary. By continually adapting, they are able to leverage the evolving trends that are fundamentally transforming their industries. Enduring leaders create enterprises that last well beyond their tenure, always looking ahead to identify tools, resources, ideas and technology that can enhance their organizational success.

6) Build Substance into the Enterprise: Businesses and organizations have come and gone over the decades. Some succeeded brilliantly, but most failed to meet the expectations hyped by their founders and owners. The primary reason is lack of substance to the enterprise; most of what was promoted was smoke and mirrors. Sustainable enterprises have substance. They deliver on their promises. Clients, vendors and employees can count on them. These enterprises demonstrate a consistency of product and service quality that can be trusted over time. An on-going reputation for dependability is often a real predictor of long-term enterprise success.

7) Control Growth: Those who survive long-term carefully and deliberately manage the size and growth of their enterprises. Those who focus on growth ensure they have adequate finances, equipment and staff to meet their evolving needs. Those who maintain a smaller size often find they can better manage the stability of their overhead and fixed costs. Maintenance-oriented enterprises may even make more money and have less stress than their growth-oriented peers. Both growth and maintenance oriented leaders who succeed over the long-term effectively manage their appetite for risk and keep business scope within their comfort zone. They maintain leadership enthusiasm through controlled growth or by achieving sustained financial success.

8) Maintain Motivation: Staying motivated is tough in any enterprise after the euphoria of taking over or starting up dies down. Once the day-to-day activities begin to become routine, most people lose their enthusiasm. Even harder is dealing with the real stresses of leadership. Boredom is often a leader’s worst enemy. Leaders of enduring enterprises motivate themselves and their employees by continuing to look for new opportunities to better meet client needs. This provides at atmosphere of innovation and ongoing success measured in revenues, customer satisfaction and employee retention.

Final Thoughts: Leaders who enjoy enduring business success have learned to constantly adapt and evolve. They respond to continuing competitive pressures by finding ways to meet evolving client needs. The secret to long-term sustainable success is doing things with discipline and excellence. Leaders of enduring enterprises both big and small do more than just dream of success. They make their success a reality by taking the actions necessary to achieve it. And make it last.

Are you ready to become a leader of an enduring enterprise? If so, what is the first strategy you need to begin to implement?

Jill Johnson is the President and Founder of Johnson Consulting services, a highly accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the forthcoming Bold Questions series. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted nearly $4 billion worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information on Jill Johnson, please visit www.jcs-usa.com

Protect Your Company From Bad Employees

By Mike Campion

How much of a negative impact can the bad apples in your organization have? Are having no bad employees a realistic goal? First things first: What is a bad employee?

  • Is it just someone who is bad at their job?
  • Takes too much time off?
  • Has a penchant for punching other employees?

While none of those are ideal, they all focus on actions and results instead of the root cause.

Instead of trying to create a comprehensive list of “do’s and don’ts” for your employees to ignore, start at the foundation: Your Core Values.

A bad employee is anyone who does not love and live your company’s core values.

Discovering your core values is an action in—and—of itself, but when you have a set of “rules” to run your company with, you will find that the people who line up with those rules, don’t tend to violate the “dos and don’ts” of your company.

Luckily, you have the keys to the happy employee kingdom. Get ready to discover the three steps to protect your organization from the wrong employees:  Hire for attitude, train for skill. Click To Tweet

Step 1—Stop Bad Employees From Showing Up: Pre-framing is extremely important when weeding out potential problem employees. How an employee is first exposed to your company is key. Consider the following two examples:

  1. A current employee tells his friend, a prospective employee, “You should apply at my job; the place is so disorganized, we could get away with anything.”
  2. A prospective employee comes across your website and thinks, “These are my people! I love what they are all about, I wonder if they are hiring…”

When you feature enough of your core values on your website, in your hiring ads, phone systems and your current employees become evangelists for your mission, you position your company as the right place for the right employee. Whenever, however a prospective employee becomes aware of your company they feel like they have finally found their tribe. This alone will dramatically increase the quality of your applicant pool. Which brings us to…

Step 2—Stop the Wrong Employees From Getting In: Once you have laid the foundation in step one, the job of keeping bad employees from infiltrating your organization is half done. All you have to do is make sure that your company is actually living and breathing the core values that brought prospective employees to you in the first place.

So many employers focus on job history and/or technical ability. Both offer good insight, but are only relevant with employees who have the same core beliefs as you do. Hire for attitude, train for skill.

If your company is passionate about outstanding customer service, it is eminently possible to teach an employee how to serve a customer. It is a fool’s errand to teach him to be enthusiastic about customer service. Your life and profitability will improve exponentially when you are in the business of stoking your employees’ passions and values. You are not in the business of convincing people to do something they don’t want to do or believe something they don’t want to believe.

Craft your interview process around the values that attracted your prospective employees. Once that is a match, job history and ability to do the job at-hand come into play. An unintended consequence of passionately living your organization’s core values is an extremely attractive community. This can make employees that aren’t a good fit work even harder to get in, even when your pre-framing and interview process is core valuesbased. Time for the big guns…

Step 3—Get ‘Em Out: Creating a core valuesdriven culture not only naturally repels the wrong employees; it strongly attracts the right employees. They feel “at home,” like they have finally found something special. They don’t want to leave. They stay longer, work harder and enjoy their jobs more.

The flip side is that people who are not a core value fit feel out of place. They don’t fit in. They don’t understand why everyone acts so differently. They discover that the amazing community that attracted them to your company isn’t for them. More often than not, they wander off into the night on their own free will.

When you do have someone that doesn’t get the memo, and needs a little help recognizing they aren’t a fit, you will weed them out by systematic recognition and application of your core values. Examples of core values being either applied properly or ignored or mishandled are common topics. Decision making conversations regularly start and end with your core values.

Those who don’t “get” your values will stick out like a sore thumb. When you see that is the case, have a conversation. Refer back to your hiring process. Verify they share your company’s values. If they do, their behavior will follow and all is well. If they don’t, it’s time to help them transition into a company that is a better fit.

It can sound like an overwhelming prospect, but integrating your core values into your company is like pushing a flywheel. It takes a lot of energy at the beginning, but when it gets spinning, it creates a tremendous amount of power on its own. Not only will keeping bad employees out of your company help your bottom lineit will make your life and your employees lives far better.

Mike Campion is a celebrated speaker, entrepreneur and author of I’m a Freaking Genius, Why is This Business So Hard?. A small business expert, Mike has built several multi-million dollar businesses, the most recent achieving $4.3 million in sales in the first 18 months. As the host of the “Conversations with a Genius” podcast, Mike imparts his business wisdom on his listeners. For more information about bringing in Mike Campion for your next event, please visit www.mikecampion.com.

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It’s 3 AM – Do You Know Where Your Data Is?

By Peter DeHaan

Author Peter DeHaanIt doesn’t matter what type of company you run, your operation amasses a great deal of valuable data. You have a treasure trove of customer information, including phone numbers, mailing addresses, email addresses, billing histories, demographic profiles, social security numbers, bank account numbers, and credit card numbers. You purchased some of this data, while you garnered the rest over time, using meticulous recording keeping.

Even the smallest of businesses possess an extraordinary amount of priceless information, while larger organizations store millions or billions of data points — all nicely organized, painstakingly verified, carefully stored, and dutifully backed up.

You have all that information, but what are you doing with it? No, I’m not talking about harnessing metadata to produce a competitive advantage or turning raw information into a core distinctive (think of how Google astutely exploits the vast minutia of data they have accumulated). I’m sure you know you must do these things and are diligently working on them. What I am referring to is protecting your immense information stash from the nefarious reach of notorious hackers, cyberspace’s criminal elite — hard to catch and harder still to prosecute.

With the theft of personal information steadily increasing — due to an insatiable demand and relatively low risk — there is a greater likelihood your business could soon be a victim. So I will implore you to protect one of your organization’s most valuable assets.

First, you need someone with the knowledge and experience to be in charge of securing your computers, network, intranet, and Internet access points.

Then, give them the resources needed to do the job. I’m not suggesting you provide an unlimited budget or give them a blank check, but when they say it will cost X dollars to do the job, don’t provide half that amount and expect full results. If you cut the funds, some items will remain insecure or be only partially secure. That would be akin to locking the doors of your office, but leaving the windows open — or installing a building security system, but never connecting it to the monitoring station. Don’t handcuff the crime stoppers.

Next, know that many security breaches are inside jobs. Yes, I realize you carefully screen new hires and trust your employees to not steal from you. I’d be disappointed if you didn’t hold your staff in high esteem. However, the reality is that many cases of data theft involve an insider, be it complicit or innocently duped.

To address the people side of the equation, you need your human resources department involved, along with IT and your security officer. Together they can put safeguards in place to restrict access, limit the scope of information available, and provide an electronic log of activity. Additionally provide training on what information staff can give out and under what conditions.

Your data — and your company’s future — is on the line. Make sure it’s a secure one.

Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit www.peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.

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6 Trends to Watch in the New Year

Author Peter DeHaanBy Peter DeHaan

As we make the transition from one year to the next, we typically take time to reflect and project – that is, to look at the past and anticipate the future. In embarking on this task, it is not my intent to recap the past year. Nor is it my plan to predict the next twelve months. What I will do is share recent observations and project them into the future.

Generation Y: They go by different names: Gen-Y, the Millennial generation, Millennials, and mosaics, but regardless of the label, they were born in the last two decades of the 1900s (plus or minus a few years, depending on who is doing the explaining). Generation Y is our future workforce. They think differently, act differently, and work differently than prior generations. Most likely the person doing the hiring doesn’t “get” them and doesn’t want to hire them, but if you want employees, you will have to address this. Even if you’re currently able to hire around their demographic, you won’t be able to do so indefinitely.

Now is the time to learn about this frustrating – and exciting – generation. Now is the time to change your hiring processes and adjust your culture. Fail to do so at your own peril.

Social Media: Are you tired of hearing about social media? Well, brace yourself to hear more about it in the coming years. Are you losing sleep trying to figure out how to use social media in an effective manner or monetize it? If so, you can expect your insomnia to continue. Regardless, social media is not a fad; it is here to stay.

Here’s my take on social media:

  • Most of the discussion is more theoretical than practical; this suggests that even the experts don’t yet know how to make it work for most businesses.
  • The few success stories that are loudly trumpeted are more anomaly than a template to follow.
  • From a business standpoint, the hype largely exceeds the practical utility, but even so, social media will become more integrated into our businesses, culture, and lives.
  • Social media takes time, and so far the results are questionable.
  • Not being on Facebook will soon be as unusual as not having email today.

In “Social Media: Opportunity or Distraction?” I gave some practical applications for social media that businesses could consider, both to enhance internal operations and expand external opportunities. This is a good beginning point. You don’t have to start big, but you do need to start; don’t delay. (Read more about social media.)

Texting: Parallel to social media is texting. Though I use Twitter (@peter_dehaan) daily, I don’t text nearly as much. I used to think texting was a fad, but not anymore. Consider that some people (especially the aforementioned generation Y) may fail to check their email or answer their phone, but they will not ignore a text message. The implications are huge; we cannot dismiss them.

Offshoring: Offshoring is waning. No, it’s not going away, and it will be a factor in the future, but its star is not shining as brightly as it once was. While offshoring saved many companies a lot of money, it has been a public relations nightmare. Succinctly stated, consumers don’t want to communicate with people they can’t understand and who can’t understand them. By definition this is not communication.

This is not a bash on offshoring. When done right offshoring is a financial and customer service success. This includes hiring people with the right language skills (which should be a given for any call center), providing whatever training is needed to produce effective agents, and only taking on work that is a good match for the call center. Good offshoring will survive – and thrive – whereas those that hire anyone who can breathe and take any account that can pay will fail.

Hosted Services: The concept of accessing software over the Internet goes by so many different names that I’m no longer sure what to call it. What I am sure of is that it’s a viable option and a growing trend. While there are many compelling reasons to adopt it, there is one concern: what happens when you lose your Internet connection? Certainly, pursue the hosted services option, but don’t lose sight of the risk, making sure you have a reasonable contingency plan in place. Although the Internet is ubiquitous, it is not infallible.

Specialist versus Generalist: I see a need for organizations to become either specialists or generalists – and the middle ground is not the place to be. Specialists focus on one or two vertical markets. Their intent is serving them so well and with such expertise that they become the market leaders that no one else can touch. If they specialize in widgets, they know widgets better than anyone else.

In contrast are the generalists. Generalists offer a wide range of options to their customers. Their goal is to meet any need so that customers will never have to seek a second vendor. Although generalists strive to provide any service requested, they often can’t offer the depth or specific skill sets of the specialists.

These six areas are a good starting point for moving forward into next year. In all likelihood, you’re already pursuing some of them, and I encourage you to press on. For areas that are new to you, consider what your first step should be and slowly advance in small but steady increments. Either way, the future has much to offer – if we will embrace it.

Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.

 

Giving Back to Your Community

Author Peter DeHaanBy Peter DeHaan

Working in any business is challenging and demanding work. Owning and running one is even harder. Daily activity seems, all too often, to consist of reacting to the urgency of the moment. There is little time to plan and few opportunities to look beyond the confines of the company walls. Yet looking beyond is exactly what you need to do. Seeking ways to give back to your community may be precisely the action you should pursue. Some organizations have done so – with profound results.

Why Give? There are many reasons why it is wise and appropriate for a business to give back to its community. Aside from principled reasons, the practical justification is that it is good for business. Community involvement expands networking opportunities, increases corporate standing, and generates goodwill. From an employee standpoint, it builds team camaraderie as staffers serve together and pursue common non-work related goals, increases employer esteem, and provides a connection outside the workplace. These, then, have an indirect effect of improving employee job satisfaction and thereby decreasing turnover. Last, as employees see a different side to their employer, respect can increase and better understanding nurtured. With all these benefits, what company wouldn’t want to promote and pursue a philanthropic effort?

What to Give? There are two primary forms of assistance that can be provided: money and manpower. Most organizations are more in need of volunteer labor than they are of monetary donations. (Although, as nonprofits find volunteers scarcer, they seek the funds to hire the labor that could otherwise be volunteered.)

Let’s start with the manpower aspect. You can provide opportunities for your staff to volunteer. They can go in groups. It is easier to go somewhere new or try something different if it is done with a friend. Plus, there is the bonus of being able to serve together; this has its own rewards. Generally, these opportunities should occur outside regular working hours. Some businesses have a provision to take time off without pay; a few even offer paid time off when volunteering. These, however, are rare, costly to the company, and generally not needed. Setting up a simple means to allow employees to know about and pursue volunteer opportunities takes little time and incurs little cost to the company.

For many people it is easier to write a check than it is to volunteer. The same is true for businesses. If a corporate financial donation is not feasible, don’t worry about it. Having you and your staff involved is generally more important anyway. If making a financial contribution is feasible, one consideration is setting up a matching fund. This is when companies budget monies to match the donations of their employees. The employee makes the donation, submits the receipt, and the company makes a matching contribution. This, too, is quite easy to set up. Payroll deductions for charities are also an option, but more costly and time-consuming to implement. Of course, there is also the option for the business to make a direct contribution.

Where to Give? Needs exist all around your community. Find out what is already going on. Consider after school programs, food pantries, clothes closets, homeless shelters, and soup kitchens. Call your nearest school and ask how you can help. Opportunities might include “adopt-a-classroom,” reading programs, tutoring, providing back-to-school supplies, or helping with GED classes. If you have a college nearby, check with the service organizations on campus and see how you can support them. A side benefit of working with college students is that you will be interacting with potential job candidates. Just make sure that employee prospecting doesn’t become the reason for getting involved.

Who to Give To? By now, your mind is likely spinning with ideas. So many needs, so many opportunities, so much to do. It can quickly become overwhelming. Being overwhelmed leads to discouragement, which leads to inaction. The key to prevent this from occurring is to whittle down the list, identify one organization that is a good fit, and focus on how you can help them.

Start by asking your employees to make recommendations. They will tend to suggest groups which they already support with their time or money. Although only a small percentage of your staff will currently be involved with any organization, it is a great place to start. They already have a connection and an affiliation; they can acclimate others as they step forward to volunteer. You will also have some staffers who have esteem for a particular organization, but have not yet taken that first step towards involvement. Those recommendations are also worth considering. Again, their predilection towards that organization will help move things forward.

Before you make a final selection, perform a “due diligence” just as you would for an important business purchase or partnership. For nonprofits find out how long they have been in your community; check out their annual reports; ask what percentage of donations goes to overhead; see if the Better Business Bureau has a file on them or what the Chamber of Commerce may know. If things look good meet with the executive director, ask to attend a board meeting, and seek an easy way to test if you are a good fit for each other.

Regardless of the size of your business, pick just one organization to support – at least initially. It is far better to make a significant and sustained effort towards one group, then to be thinly spread to many different organizations, which will result in frustration and ineffectiveness. Once you have successfully proven your company can support one organization, then you may consider a second one, but proceed slowly and carefully. Remember that for many companies, especially smaller ones, focusing on one group is ideal.

How to Give? Once you select a group to work with and identified an initial area of service, it is time for tangible action. Ideally, company leaders should be in this first wave of volunteering, setting the example, and inspiring others to follow. As previously mentioned, it is easier to go as a group, especially for the first few times. Hopefully, there are already one or more employees who have practical volunteer experience with the organization. Let them take a lead role, comfortably easing others in and showing how things are done. In no time, everyone will be serving with practiced confidence. Then they can repeat the process with others.

It is important to remember that no matter how great the need or how rewarding the work, only a percentage of employees will take part. Also, their degree of involvement will vary greatly. This is expected, so accept it. Just make sure no one feels obligated to get involved, and remind them that volunteering is, in fact, voluntary. After all, you don’t want to serve with someone who is negative or resentful; the goal is to have fun and find fulfillment as you volunteer. Leave the naysayers at the office.

When to Give? Now! Not next month, not next year; now.

Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit www.peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.