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Spring Clean Your Ideas
March 3, 2014 - Ernest Hohmeyer
You may be in the danger zone.
Just like we are having trouble admitting spring is coming with January weather in March, it is inevitable.
It is also inevitable that if you are doing something long enough, we get comfortable. That is not always a good thing in terms of thinking about future strategies.
Do You Dare Ask?
As years pass by we sometimes become less willing to ask questions – you know those that make you uncomfortable like:
• Is there still a need for my organization/venture? • Do I really know what my customers think? Or am I just guessing? • Are all the parts of my business healthy? • Am I spending time where the business makes money? Do I know where that is? • If I were quizzed on trends in my financial records, could I answer sales, cost-of-goods and labor as being up or down? • If I were asked to spit out the top 5 trends in my industry – could I do that? • What do I do if I can no longer work my business? What is my exit strategy?
You’re probably thinking “Yup, need to know more about some of this.” Then, you’ll have a cup of coffee, think about it and maybe even ponder it for a few days. But, if you’re anything like me, you have trouble doing anything concrete about it.
The Price You Pay
It can get overwhelming sometimes, trying to always be on top of where you are and where you’re going. We all have ideas, implementing them is another matter. We are often the Chief Executive Officer of an office of 1 or so few soldiers we are happy to get through the day.
Ultimately though - it may catch up to you. Business changes, we change and most important what our customer wants and what they expect from you - changes.
Too often we have to get hit by a 2x4. “Oh, oh, my cost in this is continuing to rise,” or “I’m not making money on this.” We do something for so long we can’t conceive doing it a different way or not doing it at all.
We often react to a money issue. But think about this: Many times, a problem with money is related to customers. They’re not coming as often, or not buying as much, maybe they are not satisfied or don’t feel there is value – something is going on.
“Check Business Soon”
Maybe we expect horns to blow when a part of our business begins not doing well or some bright neon sign emerges like on our car “check business soon.” Sometimes we don’t discover something is wrong until - ouch! It can be a bunch of little things that add up to a big thing. My point here is that trouble can creep up on you very quietly.
If we could incorporate one small “check business soon” light each day it might help before we need to spend days or weeks in panic mode because the “warning” bell came on. Get into the routine. You know you have to open the store, clean it every day, turn on the lights, check the receipts, etc. Make one business check-up part of your routine.
Have fun with it. Give yourself a reward.
Weekly Health Specials
One approach may be to take up a daily “Healthy Business Check-list.” For example:
• Monday Marketing Do one marketing check each Monday. For example: - Question customers - Review one marketing strategy - Look up a trend - Study pricing
• Tuesday Tea & Dollars - Check on one financial trend
• Wednesday Wed a Vision - Put some meat to one idea. - Write it down - dream - Explore competition - Draw really bad pictures describing who might be your new customer
• Thursday Operations - Look at one aspect of running your business
• Friday Customer Appreciation Aren’t Friday’s a good day to ask customers “How am I do’in”? We’re all in a good mood!
How do I Ask?
Entrepreneur Magazine in their “35th Annual Franchise 500” ran an article “Gray Matters” by Ross McCannon that gives some tips on gaining feedback. While it considers obtaining input for a career, McCannon’s suggestions also applies to entrepreneurs.
“The first rule of brain-picking” he says is not to make them “actually think.” Don’t ask for “recommendations” which “involves analysis and decision-making.” Other recommendations from McCannon include keeping it short “about 15 minutes,” and being careful how you ask questions. Starting questions with “Can you help me…” may not be a good idea.
Flexibility and Fear
In a further article in this special issue “7 Traits of the Most Successful ‘Treps” (Do you Have What it Takes”) by Joe Robinson two that caught my eye were “Flexibility” and the “Tolerance of Ambiguity.” In the former he talks about the need to be “honest with yourself” and if something isn’t working to “pivot” to a new strategy.
“Tolerance of Ambiguity” suggests having the trait to “control fear” or to “successfully manage” it.
On-line there are kinds of great checklists to help keep track on the health of your business including the U.S. Small Business Administration. I have one that I use when I teach that I would be happy to share. Contact your local business offices like the chambers, the Adirondack Economic Development Corporation or the Small Business Development Centers among other resources. Asking the little questions now may avoid bigger ones later.
It’s hard to ask the tough questions. But planting one small seed each day related to the health of your business might lead to one big crop you can harvest to make it through next winter.
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