Focus on the Next Best Thing & Rise Above the ‘Bad’ Times

I heard recently that one of the keys to surviving a downturn in the economy is to focus on the “next best thing”. You may be experiencing a slow down in your sales efforts and, consequently, your service delivery, so take advantage of the break from the mania of the past.

How do you know what that next hot thing will be?

1. You do research.
Read industry magazines. Surf the internet.  Create ‘Google alerts for topics you’re interested in and you’ll be notified any time an article appears on the internet about that topic.  Attend conferences, interview thought leaders. Follow them on Twitter. Scan the horizon for themes.  Study trends.  Then use your imagination.

2.  Train your staff
Once you’ve filtered through the noise and have focused on some up-and-coming ideas, train your staff on them.  (See last week’s article on Maximizing Training’s ROI.)  The more your employees know about the next best thing and the more you encourage innovation, the more likely you are to be able to take advantage of the rising tide by tailoring your existing products and services to meet the new opportunities being created.  You might even be able to create new products and services in the emerging field.

3.  Refine your sales & marketing efforts

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, ‘The early bird catches the worm’.  Use your insight into the new trends to re-brand and re-position your company in the industry.  Tailor your messages, update your language to demonstrate that you and your company are learning and moving forward.  Position yourself as living on the cutting-edge.  Your prospects and clients will notice, will see you as the expert and a thought leader and want to learn (and buy) more from you.

What ever you do, don’t waste this opportunity.  Study, learn, create and implement.  Those are the keys to rising above the circumstances; creating and living your dreams.

Getting Maximum ROI on Training

When corporate revenues are down, budgets shrink.  Executives look for ways to cut costs and ‘ride out the storm’.

Cutting training altogether can be a risky proposition.  The question shouldn’t be ‘What training expense can we eliminate?” but rather “What training can we provide that would increase our ‘top line’ or reduce our other expenses?”

When one evaluates training from this perspective, the criteria for success and effectiveness become more apparent.  Train sales people to be more strategic or more relationship oriented in their approach and revenues should increase.

Train employees on proper procedures and processes and error rates (and therefore waste) go down improving profitability.

Improve their communication skills and time-draining conflicts decrease.  Various studies show that almost 85% of employees report conflict on the job.  If an employee earning $30K/year wastes just 1 hour a week on a conflict, that’s $721 (assuming no conflict happened during the 2 weeks they spent on vacation.)  How many hours do you think employees are losing each week dealing with conflict in your organization?

Managers spend 40 – 60% of their time arbitrating conflict.  A manager earning $60K/yr is ‘investing’ about $30K of that salary dealing with disputes. Imagine if that time were instead invested in improving processes, uncovering new opportunities.

Communication problems can be avoided or at least minimized with proper training, yet execs somehow don’t recognize the true cost of conflict because they don’t take the time (or don’t know how) to measure it.

Train managers on workplace harassment and future lawsuits could be avoided.  (Avoided costs are harder to measure, but workplace harassment training is required so ignoring it gets even more expensive.)

So, how can money-smart managers and executives continue their training efforts without breaking the bank?

Look for new models to deliver training.

  1. Rather than flying people in for meetings, use webinars or video broadcasts.  Technology is improving and becoming more cost-effective.
  2. Transition to e-learning, just in time, learn at  your desk training.  Employees select (or are given) specific modules to help them improve on the job.
  3. Conduct a workshop using video with a remote speaker/trainer and even dispersed participants saving travel costs.
  4. Host frequent, short teleconferences to impart information and engage masterminding/problem solving sessions.
  5. Use social networking Web 2.0 technology to enable knowledge sharing across departments and locations decreasing ‘ramp up’ time, building repositories of solutions from which employees can draw to solve their problems and improving productivity…and profitability.
  6. Tie learning outcomes to desired business results – and measure them.

Especially in this economy, it is critical that we develop new ways to improve our people, our operations and our profitability.

Training and knowledge sharing are critical roads toward that goal and cannot be abandoned without jeopardizing the future our enterprises.

Don’t squander your upside potential.  Invest today.

How to Give Feedback When You’d Really Rather Not

I spent years in corporate America helping people who were frustrated with other people find the right words to express their disappointment, resentment or anger.

People either explode with rage or sit and simmer until they reach the boiling point or develop ulcers.

How do you get your point across without killing someone or sabotaging your own self esteem and power?

You may need to assess your beliefs about conflict. It’s bad.  It never turns out right.  They’ll hate me. etc.  Your beliefs dictate how you handle feedback.  You must believe that if you handle it well, that it will be well received.

The key is to release your thoughts in the way that steam is released from a pressure cooker…a little at at time.  Don’t wait until you can’t stand it anymore.  It may be OK to let an incident or two go by (if they aren’t major). But the moment you see anunwanted pattern developing, it’s time to address it.

Clearly, there is no guarantee your message will be heard in the way you want, but there are things you can do to increase the chances of that.

1. Make sure the person has at least a few minutes to have a conversation with you. Something as simple as a polite “Do you have a few minutes?” is a good start.

2.  If you’re reluctant to start the conversation, identify the source of your reluctance and start the conversation there.  “I have something to talk with you about but I’m afraid… “I’ll hurt your feelings” or “you’ll be angry” or “this will have a negative impact on our relationship” or what ever your concern is.

3. Talk about the other person’s actions and behavior, not your assessment or judgment about them. Labels like ‘neurotic’, ‘controlling’, ‘irresponsible’ or ‘passive-aggressive’ are incendiary and will almost certainly raise the hackles of the receiver and start a fight.

4.  Get clear yourself about specifically you need from the person that you aren’t getting.  State in as specific behavioral terms as  you can muster what you expect or want to see instead.  “I need to get a response within 48 hours of contacting you” or “I need you to put your files/clothes/equipment away as soon as you’re done with them”.

5.  Thank them for listening and ask if there is anything you can do to help them fulfill the request you’ve just made.  You might actually be part of the problem. (Hmm, imagine that.)

If you practice talking about observable behavior rather than someone’s intentions, motives or character, you’ll be more successful and build confidence in your ability deal with difficult situations.

NAWBO, Loretta & Emerald Harvest Consulting

This video was shot in 2008 at the NAWBO Convention in Phoenix.

It surfaced on the internet today, a little over one year from it’s creation.

Here’s the description they posted.

“This enthusiastic business coach has made her mark on her community of women business owner as she is also the newly elected President of the NAWBO Phoenix, Arizona Chapter.”

Your Declaration of Independence – from the Economy!

As I prepared to write this article, I thought of a very popular karaoke song by Gloria Gaynor, I Will Survive. (I wanted to sing it at the karaoke bar at the Sheraton in Chicago last week, but apparently someone else had just sung it before I arrived. (I ended up singing You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.)

In any event, we will survive!  So here’s one step you can take.  Like our forefathers, it’s time to claim your independence from the economy.  So heed these abbreviated and adapted words.  (Words in italics, mine.)

When in the course of business events, it becomes necessary for entrepreneurs to dissolve the constrictive economic band which has connected them to one another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation…

The economy has plundered our bank accounts, ravaged our peace of mind, burnt our financial institutions, and destroyed the lives of our people…

It has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless foreign countries whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the business community of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Enterprises, solemnly publish and declare,

That these united businesses are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent entities, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to any belief in scarcity and that all connection between them and the State of Fear, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent minds and spirits, they have full Power to conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent businesses may of right do.

We will survive!  You’ve probably heard the expression, “If it is to be, it’s up to me”. So don’t sit back passively waiting for things to improve.  Get out there and make something happen!

Happy Independence Day!