Tag Archives: business

Expecting the Unexpected: 4 Tips to Safeguard Your Business

By Stan CraigStan Craig

January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 was on its way to Charlotte, North Carolina, when, two minutes after takeoff, a flock of Canadian geese flew into the aircraft causing both engines to fail. The passengers braced for impact. As the plane fell from the sky, the freezing waters of the Hudson River came into view and Flight 1549 hit the water at 150 mph. Dave Stockton, a businessman on the plane, said later in a television interview, “When you think you’re going to die, you start thinking about your life… your family, little league baseball, things like in a movie.” All 156 passengers survived the crash in the 36° water and their lives were changed forever.

This was a totally unexpected occurrence in everyone’s life that morning. But what was a sure disaster became a much different story than anyone could have imagined.

Captain Sullenberger told Katie Couric in an interview on ABC that, while this emergency was unexpected, he was not unprepared.

“One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years I’ve been making small regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training. And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.”

What was evident to everyone on Flight 1549 was that this captain had spent sufficient time preparing himself for the unexpected. The unexpected occurs every day in our business and personal lives. Those who are wise always expect the unexpected and prepare accordingly. How do you prepare for the unexpected?

Value Experience: Every business has a number of experiences, personal and corporate, positive and negative, in its history. It is impossible to run a business without facing and overcoming difficulty. The collective wisdom learned ought to be shared. Rather than forgetting and burying past mistakes, those who are wise will take the time to review and discuss past solutions and new ways to confront problems should they, or any problems similar, come again. This is not about assigning blame, but about discovering what went wrong and why. The corporate memory of senior employees to review problems in the past can help prevent them in the future. The experience of Capt. Sullenberger made the difference in the lives of everyone on board.

Rethink Training: In the archives of every business, whether it is entrepreneurial or corporation, big or small, events have occurred that need to be discussed and reviewed with an emphasis on discovering answers to past problems.

This is exactly what Capt. Sullenberger’s training was all about. He had investigated accidents in the past and understood the fatal flaws that resulted in tragic consequences. Training is not just a special class or attending a seminar. Training takes place every day in how we view and carry out our tasks and responsibilities. Safety training is not simply where to find the fire extinguisher, but what fires were caused in the past and why.

Educate Everyone: It is important to remember that Capt. Sullenberger was not selected for singular education in flight safety but was included in a number of flight safety training programs held throughout his career. What if his age, his background, his previous educational experiences, had disqualified him from training or what if he had decided it was unnecessary at his level of experience? Safety is everyone’s business and training everyone is in the best interest of every business.

Make regular deposits: Every day your business has an opportunity to train, motivate and recognize your employees. Helping everyone do the best in whatever job he or she is doing ought to be the function of every manager.

Unexpected events do not always occur when leaders are around to make decisions. They can occur on the line, on the shipping dock, when the raw material is delivered, when a tiny flaw in the manufacturing process becomes apparent and that’s often the place and time to act. It is those every-day occurrences where confident and prepared have the opportunity to make a difference in the outcomes that affect our employees, our shareholders, our management team, our clients, products and the well-being of our business.

The unexpected can come from anywhere, at any time. Who could have expected and prepared for a flock of Canadian geese to bring down a modern aircraft? Captain Sullenberger responded by trusting his experience, education and training to guide him in wise and thoughtful action.

Taking care of the little details, learning to be observant, openly discussing problems and issues without any fear is a trait of being successful. Training and experience helps everyone prepare for the unexpected so that when a major crisis comes a safe landing can be made.

Stan Craig, the founder of the ForeTalk Seminar, is an accomplished financial planner, executive coach and keynote speaker. He is also author of “ForeTalk: The 7 Critical Conversations for Living in the Season of Now.” As a finance professional, Stan enjoyed a 27-year career at Merrill Lynch, which included positions as National Sales Manager, Director of Global Sales for Defined Asset Funds and the First Vice President and Senior Director of the Office of Investment Performance. For more information on Stan, please visit www.ForeTalkSeminar.com.

Stop Shifting Gears and Stay Focused

By Pat HeydlauffPat Heydlauff

Research shows that a three second distraction doubles errors and a four-and-a-half second interruption triples errors. Are numerous daily distractions wreaking havoc on your productivity and efficiency?

When was the last time you placed a “do not disturb” sign on your door? If the answer is never, today is a good day to start. Research by both Michigan State University and the Navy has determined that errors are made immediately after interruptions even if the interruption lasts only a few seconds.

Whether you are working on a massive long-term project or a brief e-mail to an associate, distractions cause a loss in focus that can be both costly and time-consuming. Focus is the single most important tool in your arsenal for being efficient, effective and productive. A great vision without focus can never be achieved. A great team that is not focused cannot achieve the vision. And a great idea when not focused upon will become irrelevant, stagnant and have little or no value.

Walt Disney dreamed about creating the greatest magical destinations in the world and succeeded due to his devotion to vision, determination and focus. Steve Jobs created electronic tools that consumers never dreamed of because of his vision and intense focus. Both of these innovators were successful because of their ability to focus on their unique visions.

Distractions, interruptions and multi-tasking are often forced activities in a busy work schedule. It is important to first recognize that such interruptions can dramatically lesson your productivity and impair efficiency. Once you realize how much damage they do, it is time to create a plan to remove the distractions and maintain your focus.

Schedule interruption time. First, post a “do not disturb” sign on your door to warn peers and associates that you are focused on a specific project or issue. Then, set aside time for multi-tasking and interruptions. Depending upon your circumstances it can be the last 10 minutes of each hour. Or you can schedule half hour time segments twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon to deal with necessary but non-urgent issues. The only time you should be interrupted as needed is for an urgent matter. By actually scheduling such time, colleagues will be less likely to interrupt you and you will be more productive – and so will they.

Turn off all electronic equipment. This list includes your cell phone, the e-mail received sound on your computer announcing that you have mail, all social media and any other devices that may interrupt you. There are untold hours of productivity lost and errors made due the interruptions of electronic equipment and social media. Personal tweets, Facebook time and connecting with family members are the greatest distractors of all. Social media should be relegated to off hours and family interruptions, unless an emergency, should be limited.

Shut the door. Improving your performance comes through focus. And focus comes from a quiet space where concentration can be maximized. The only way to achieve quiet space is to shut the door and keep out the interruptions and distractions. Every time you are interrupted you have to shift gears mentally, causing a major break in your focus. When you maintain your focus, you improve your performance while increasing your efficiency and productivity.

Focus was one of the keys to the enormous success of Walt Disney and Steve Jobs. Finding a way to stay focused and stop shifting gears is critical to your success and the success of your company. Develop your own strategy from the tools above and begin today.

Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or engagetolead.com.

Building Better Business with Generosity

By Stan CraigStan Craig

The full-page ad in a Sunday edition of The New York Times stated boldly that $60,000,000 was received in 2012, over $1,000,000 a week by a variety of recognized charities and community causes. The ad was not from a charity or fund-raising organization. It was from one of America’s largest retailers with multiple stores all across America. Why run full-page ads announcing charitable giving? Why not a sales ad or holiday offers? Because statistics prove over and over that customers, if given a choice, prefer to buy from those who provide support to charities and causes they see as valuable to their community.

More and more companies understand the balance sheet is more than numbers and have developed values that are stated, respected and carried out. Generosity is one of those values. The buying public has made clear that they prefer to buy from good corporate citizens. Generosity demonstrates a genuine corporate value that benefits the company, employees and the community.

When corporations were first granted their charters to do business in our new democracy, they were evaluated on the contributions they made to the public good. While much has changed in the way companies do business, providing public good is still very important and part of every balance sheet.

Generosity comes in all sizes. It will fit nearly every business. How is true generosity recognized? Generosity is noticed if its goals are visible and more than a sales or a morale booster. If your company is looking for ways to give back, consider the following options:

Money talks

  • Money works. In Louisville, Kentucky, the Chairman of the United Way Campaign for 2012, Tom Monahan, wanted to encourage greater participation at all levels of business. But he also had another goal: “to blow away the stereotype of greedy companies interested only in the bottom line.” Cash gifts were recognized in a new fashion.
  • Partnerships work. Monahan enlisted the help of other community leaders and organizations to create a “Partners in Philanthropy publication and an awards banquet to showcase funds for the United Way and demonstrate the many examples of community generosity. Both the publication and banquet recognized the corporations and businesses that gave the most in cash contributions to non-profits in the city.
  • Gifts in-kind work. Categories were designed to recognize large, medium and small corporations for their cash gifts. Non-profits and the work they do were presented. Small businesses were also recognized for the difference they made in a category called “partners in innovation.” A number of family-owned business leaders were included in this new recognition program. A local design company won for their work in renovating dormitories at a youth treatment center and for enlisting many others for gifts in kind to complete the project.

Volunteers matter: Volunteering works. Businesses that encourage employee volunteer days at a local non-profit of their choice get a double bonus. Employees enjoy serving and local non-profits see your company in a very different light. With employee verification, write a check to an organization representing the value of an employee’s work if a paid day-off can’t be granted. Schedule an employee generosity day for all employees to sign up for a community or team project.

Helping build a house for Habitat for Humanity, spending a day at a soup kitchen or shelter or helping in a local school or community center are all team building events as well as acts of generosity.

Here are just a few of the dividends that corporate generosity creates according to VolunteerMatch.org.

  • Raises employee morale: 94% of companies surveyed believed employee volunteering provides a way to raise employee morale
  • Boosts employee health: 92% of people who volunteer through their workplace report higher rates of physical and emotional health
  • Provides skill development: 88% of employee volunteers report that volunteering provides networking/career development opportunities
  • Increases employee loyalty: 66% of employees reported a greater commitment to the company as a result of their experience as volunteers.

There are many more examples of creative ways to be generous. Look around your neighborhood, your community. How can what you do every day become more evident and beneficial to others?

Little things count: “Giving” actually multiplies what you are “receiving.” Walk into most Sam’s Clubs or Costcos at 1 p.m. on almost any weekday and you can basically have a free lunch–and not by ordering at the lunch counter. Just walk down the aisles and you will find hot foods from pizza to burgers, cold beverages, hot beverages, sweets and treats of all sorts–freely and gladly handed out. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are doing the same for their customers.

Why this generosity? The truth is, even if the goal is not necessarily to be generous (as we think of it), generosity can build sales. Coupons for free items, free bonus gifts and prizes have always worked to gain attention and build sales for products from cereal and soap to jewelry and big ticket items such as automobiles and even homes.

Generosity pays dividends:

  • It is attention-getting
  • It is cost efficient
  • It builds top-of-mind awareness
  • It may increase sales
  • Customers or clients perceive a benefit
  • There is a spillover effect to other areas and products

But how can you be generous when your cash is low, your business consists of products or services that you can’t give as samples—or you have few employees to volunteer? What then?

  • Offer discounts to charitable organizations
  • Give time or funds to community projects
  • Participate in a community event that is not business-related
  • Offer your place of business for community use, seminars, calling-marathons, a meeting room
  • Lead a class on your specialty for the Chamber of Commerce or any local organization or non-profit
  • Speak to senior citizens clubs, retirement communities, schools, and PTAs and let the group charge participants for your valuable information and keep the revenue

Customers and potential customers will take note. Positive publicity is generated. Commit to generosity in the true sense of the word and it will make a difference that can pay dividends for years to come and build your balance sheet in ways that simply can’t be quantified.

Remember, your bottom line may not only be measured by revenue received, but by resources shared. Generosity is a business vitamin that will build a healthier bottom line.

Stan Craig, the founder of the ForeTalk Seminar, is an accomplished financial planner, executive coach and keynote speaker. He is also author of “ForeTalk: The 7 Critical Conversations for Living in the Season of Now.” As a finance professional, Stan enjoyed a 27-year career at Merrill Lynch, which included positions as National Sales Manager, Director of Global Sales for Defined Asset Funds and the First Vice President and Senior Director of the Office of Investment Performance. For more information on Stan, please visit www.ForeTalkSeminar.com.

Four Things You Have to Get Right in Business

By Michael MenardMichael Menard

Most organizations know that in order to grow and be an industry leader, they have to continually innovate and undertake key projects that lead to growth. Unfortunately, many companies do so in a haphazard or non-strategic way.

Here’s what typically happens: Leaders keep saying yes as various projects and ideas are presented to them for investment. They say yes until they run out of resources. The projects and ideas first on the list get funded in contrast to the best of all ideas across the organization. The sad truth is the early bird does get the worm. As a result, they waste money and resources, lose momentum, and then wonder why they never achieve their strategic goals.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s a proven approach that enables leaders and decision makers to make a greater contribution to the business, activate the strategic plan, achieve the desired balance, and optimize allocation of limited resources. Here are the four things you need to get right in order to make better decisions so you can maximize your company’s Capital Efficient Profitable Growth (CEPG).

1) Define your strategy: Before your company can undertake any new initiative, you first have to identify your strategy. In other words, who are you and what do you want to do? Unless you know this information, it’s difficult if not impossible to move forward in a productive way.

While most companies have a general idea of their strategy based on their vision or mission statement, often it’s not focused enough to translate into specific strategic goals. For example, suppose you’re a beverage company who offers a variety of soft drinks. How do you grow? You could introduce one new beverage after another and expand into new markets at random, but that will quickly drain your resources. A better approach is to define a specific strategy for growth. For instance, you may decide that you want to be the North American leader in bottled water. Now you have a focused strategy to guide your efforts.

2) Generate ideas: Armed with your strategy, you can now generate ideas that support the strategy. Some people call this step innovation or creative brainstorming. Whatever you call it, the goal is to come up with possible options for advancing the strategy.

Going back to our beverage company example, if the strategy is to be the North American leader in bottled water, your team needs to generate ideas that fit the strategy. Some ideas could include adding nutrients to the water, adding protein to the water, adding exotic flavors to the water, offering different bottle shapes or sizes, etc.

3) Prioritize and select the best ideas: Next is to select the portfolio of ideas that are the best for the company to pursue and that will advance the strategy. As you do the prioritization and portfolio selection process, you need to ask two key questions. The first is, “Will this portfolio of ideas and projects deliver our strategic goal?” If the answer is no, then you have to do something different. Either you alter your strategic expectation or you increase the number of ideas. Keep going through these iterations until you can say, “Yes, our portfolio has the potential to deliver our strategy.” And remember, at this point you’re simply assessing whether the portfolio will meet your strategic goals. You’re not assessing whether it’s something you actually could do.

Once you agree that the portfolio of ideas and projects will help you meet your strategic goals, the second question to ask is, “Do we have the resources (time, money, people, equipment, etc.) to fund the portfolio?” If the answer is yes, then celebrate and move on to step four. But if the answer is no, then you need to circle back and solve the equation. Can you lower your strategic goals? Can you generate bigger, better ideas? Can you add resources? Change the timing? Scale back the idea? Once you have a portfolio that allows you to say yes to both questions, you’ve completed the prioritization and selection process.

4) Execute on the ideas: Finally, it’s time to take action and actually execute the portfolio of ideas. This is where project management comes into play. As you execute each step to support the strategy, outline the detailed activities needed to complete the project on time and on budget. Assign key people to be responsible for each role, and establish checkpoints so you know if the project goes off track. The more thoroughly you manage the execution of the portfolio, the more success you’ll have.

Get it Right…Now! No matter what industry you’re in, long-term business growth depends on these four things: Strategy, Idea Generation, Project Selection, and Execution. When you take the time to implement this process in your company, not only will you make better strategy decisions, but you’ll also achieve the breakthrough results that achieve the ultimate goal: Increased CEPG.

Michael Menard is the author of “A Fish in Your Ear: The New Discipline of Project Portfolio Management,” and cofounder and president of The GenSight Group, which provides enterprise portfolio management solutions for strategic planning, project portfolio management and business performance optimization. A holder of 14 US patents, Menard has utilized his expertise to advise senior executives at organizations such as Coca-Cola, Cisco and the US Department of Energy. To learn more about Mike Menard please visit http://www.afishinyourear.com.

Sustainability is Good Business: Four Benefits for Your Organization

By Steve RichersonSteve Richerson

Going green to make green is red hot right now.

Recently businesses all over the globe have gotten into the “going green” trend and it’s paying off big for many of them. In fact, several recent studies have shown that sustainability-oriented companies have a better stock performance, lower volatility and a higher return on assets than other similar companies. In short, the “sustainable” or “green” companies are making more “green” than the companies that have not jumped on board.

You might be thinking, “That sounds great!  I want some sustainability for my company. How soon can I get it shipped to me?”

Unfortunately, sustainability is not a clever new accounting software, a sparkly new app or a cool new office toy.  In fact, it’s not a “thing” at all.  It’s a philosophy and it’s a very powerful one.

Sustainability is a commitment (from upper management to the front line) to switch from only focusing on short term profit to something even larger and longer lasting – a focus on maximizing the health of people, the planet and profits.

As you may remember from fifth grade biological science, the planet we live on is one big interconnected biological system. So sustainability means that we use this systems’ resources (air, water, land, energy, raw materials) in a manner that will not hinder (no pollution or overuse) future generations’ ability to use these resources. With 7 billion people currently living on the planet and all of them wanting to be rich, get rich or get richer we must start use the resources we have in much smarter ways.

Sustainability is that way and business is the perfect mechanism to deliver smart resource use to the planet’s people.

There are four great reasons why you should integrate sustainability into your business. They are:

(1) Sustainability can reduce business risk. For businesses, risk is omnipresent.  A sustainability approach (people, planet, profit) to business can reduce some of those risks, such as:

  • Litigation –Unfortunately each and every business is at risk for lawsuits.  Are you using chemicals in your business that could end up in the local air, groundwater or soil?  Finding ways to eliminate the use of these materials can align your business with the environment and reduce risk.

  • Cleanup – Accidents happen.  By using safer or more environmentally-aligned safety measures for your business, you can eliminate the need for cleanup, and thus eliminate that cost.  Brainstorming ways to eliminate accidents and subsequent cleanup costs before they even happen is smart and sustainable.

  • Environmental Regulations – Environmental laws are in place to protect the public (people) and the environment (planet) from hazards.  Instead of asking “how do we comply?” ask a much different question. Ask yourself, “what if there was no need for compliance?” What if we could point our company at the target of low or no waste, low or no emissions, low or no energy use? What if we exceeded the compliance standard so much that it becomes irrelevant?” No legal costs. No compliance costs. No problem. Okay… fewer problems.

(2) Sustainability can cut your costs. This is the low hanging fruit of sustainability and it’s not difficult to take on.  Focusing on what you take, make and waste in your buildings, stores, fleets and manufacturing plants can be a successful sustainable strategy for both the environment and for your company.  What if you could reduce your energy costs by using a sustainable resource or a more efficient process?  What if you could reduce your waste disposal costs by creating less waste through recycling or pre-cycling?  What if you could use less water?  What if you could use the sun to pre-heat the water you need for the process?  What if you could reduce your water, energy and waste?

(3) Sustainability can build your brand. You survive and thrive as a business because your customers choose to do business with you. If you lose the respect, trust or loyalty of your customers, you’re finished. Consumers today hold companies (your brand) to a much higher standard than ever before. They expect and reward companies that hold themselves responsible for the people the company affects and the planet it uses resources from. A sustainability focus allows you to make sure that you earn a profit while keeping your eyes on the positive treatment of people and the planet as well. Short-term profit margin focus only is no longer acceptable to customers and they can let the entire world know with one mouse click. The more your company acts like a decent local and global citizen, the more your customers appreciate it and the more loyal they are to your brand.

(4) Sustainability can grow your revenue. From a business perspective, this is the most fascinating area of “being green.”   New products and services are developed every day, but what if business used its problem-solving skills with sustainability as a guide? Viewing the market through the business lenses of sustainability allows you to see the market in a way you’ve never seen it before and capitalize on what you see.   Because it’s a paradigm shift, you may be able to see solutions that others focused only on short-term profit can’t see.

Let’s say you’re in the industrial floor polisher industry and everyone in your industry is worried about the toxic/hazardous chemicals used in the process. You are less likely to see that you can solve the problem with a totally different cleaning process (using water, ionization, for instance) rather than using less toxic strategies, unless you’re seeing the world through integrated sustainability lenses (reducing negative impact on planet and people). Through these lenses, our products and services take on new dimensions. We may even be able to take our core competencies and create new problem-solving products for the global market, which will lead us to long term revenue growth!

Sustainability is good business for the planet, good for the people of the planet and good for business.  What is your company waiting for?

Steve Richerson is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant. Steve utilizes his distinct presentation style to speak on the importance of sustainability and actionable guidelines to enact eco-friendly practices in business. As a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, National Recycling Coalition and the North American Environmental Education Association, Steve is spearheading the campaign to reduce wasteful corporate procedures and promote environmentally sound business methods. To learn more about Steve’s speaking, call 256-710-7216.