Category Archives: attitude

Take a break

It’s spring

on-the-beach #2I know it’s blowing snow and -7C in Montreal today, but all the kids and parents are talking about Spring Break, so let’s take apply the concept more generally. Take a break.

Take a break from all the distractions that keep us from making progress on improving our lives, achieving our business objectives, supporting family and friends and making a difference in the world.

Take a break from exaggerated news headlines, from outrageous political rhetoric, from ranting celebrities and activists of all stripes and briefly set aside your concerns for the victims of terrorism, natural disasters, racism and systemic discrimination. Take a break from the business issues that demand attention. Stop trying to manage everything for a week or so, let nature take its course and the markets run where they will. Try not to watch.

Take a break and turn your attention to thoughtful and intelligent commentary from sources you do not normally have time for. Reflect on your own assessment of the big issues. (Then check off a few of the small things you have been neglecting so that you can feel better about accomplishing something useful during the break, instead of just worrying about everything.)

Take a break to assess your personal priorities and time commitments, then re-align your plans to get on track.

I highly recommend regularly taking a break.

Spring or otherwise.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

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Be Prudent not Paranoid

checking youSoon after starting my business in computer products distribution, I got burned by a couple of retailers passing bad checks. Whether they were dishonest or just bad managers, the result was the same:  Whack, NSF!

I was still an inexperienced young entrepreneur, so it was easy to over-react and go beyond caution and become suspicious and distrustful of every customer. Not a good idea. I started to notice that the sales reps and customer service staff were following my lead too well. Aggressively pushing for cash-on-delivery or making unreasonable demands before accepting sales on credit.

Now we had a new problem. Customers were getting turned off and going elsewhere to competitors who were easier to do business with.

We adjusted our attitudes and went back to dealing in good faith and treating customers and other business partners with more respect. That means trusting them implicitly and expecting the best of intentions. Then if things ultimately go badly, we can still be friends and work it out.

It does not mean blind faith or being naïve. Prudent business practices are necessary and that includes clear terms and conditions on every sales order and purchase contract.

Be aware of the risks of doing business and then manage them.

Unfortunately, they cannot be avoided. Unless you lock the doors and don’t answer the phone.

 

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Read more at:Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

Join our mailing list for more ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, "Don't Do It the Hard Way" and "The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans" Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

9781496932259_COVER.inddThis Real Life Story is an excerpt from Uncle Ralph’s book, "Don’t Do It the Hard Way.” Read the book.

Real Life Story: The Best Advice I Ever Got

In three words

This story should be shorter. Otherwise it appears to contradict the best advice I ever got.

However, I am choosing to reinforce the message and help make it more memorable by telling the story that goes with it (in keeping with the theme of this book). You may choose to read it for the same reasons.

It was at UBC in 1964, my first year in Engineering. All first-year engineers were given the Engineering Handbook providing all the advice and information we needed to successfully complete the following four years of study. The book was full of useful material and started with welcoming comments from the Dean of Engineering, the University President and other dignitaries – with all the usual flowery clichés expected in these publications.

One page was reserved for Steve Whitelaw, then President of the Engineering Undergraduate Society. Steve was a popular President with a reputation for bright, creative leadership. That reputation was partly based on his past leadership in a number of engineering student stunts that made the national news, like the time the engineers kidnapped another university’s mascot or hung a VW beetle from the Lion’s Gate Bridge. His biggest coup was bringing to a conclusion a long campus debate over some weird-looking concrete modern-art sculptures that appeared one-year on campus when we came back in September. The sculptures had received the scorn and contempt of ‘ignorant and uncultured’ engineering students, but were vigorously defended by arts students, their faculty and the administration.

The intensity of the debate exploded both on campus and in the local papers on the day the engineers went on a rampage and completely destroyed all the sculptures leaving them in heaps of broken concrete and steel. Then Steve announced that the engineers had built and installed them all in the first place.

So his advice in the Engineering Handbook would have received our attention. It was a blank page with his signature and the three words:

DON’T WASTE TIME

Call it leading by example.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Read more at: Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

Join our mailing list for more ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, "Don't Do It the Hard Way" and "The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans" Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

trudeau-economic-policyOn November 4th, we will have a new Prime Minister (in the second coming of a Trudeau) and a new Liberal cabinet responsible for managing the Canadian economy.

Are you ready for the changes that will affect you and your business?

Do not expect Trudeau to implement all the promises he made. He will inevitably have to make compromises and changes as he bumps into the real-world facts of life in government finances, economic challenges and geo-political issues.

In some cases, he will welcome reasonable excuses for backing away from some bad ideas. The Senate is not the only place for sober second thought. I’m sure his advisors have already coached him on hedging their bets for many issues.  We should not to be too cynical that popular promises were only made during the campaign to get elected without any intention of delivering on them.  I think Trudeau and his team are too smart politically to get caught making that mistake. They were pretty cautious about avoiding specifics so they did not have to contradict themselves. I’m sure the experience and advice of former Prime Ministers Martin and Chretien were helpful with those tactics.

So what can we expect? First, you may be looking forward to that “middle class” tax reduction.  It’s more likely you are going to unhappily discover that you are not in the middle class. For tax purposes, it ends at taxable income of $89,401. Welcome to the wealthy 1%? Then you are going to lose that very useful Conservative tax-splitting opportunity that the Liberals are cancelling (except for retired seniors, like me). And be sure to quickly stuff your TFSA with the maximum available to you while the limit remains at $10,000.  Trudeau’s plan is to go back down to the $5,500 annual contribution limit, but I’m betting he will be wise enough to fumble that file until after the January 2016 contribution limit is available, so that a few of the angry wealthy taxpayers will start to love him a little more.

Now what about the Liberal plan and your business? First the good news. Middle class tax cuts should mean more consumer spending and if you can participate in the proposed infrastructure projects or their spinoff benefits, then you may also see growth in your revenue from those initiatives. If they successfully pump up the economy with their deficit spending plans, then everybody’s business will benefit. Let’s hope it works.

If your business depends on the oil or resource industries, things are going to get worse. Those sectors will be under more pressure from an eco-friendly government listening to the global warming activists. But I think the Trudeau team will also be cautious in this area as they try to prove their mantra that good environmental policy is also good for business. But business leaders will have to do better at satisfying the relevant cabinet ministers that the pace and direction of their energy and environmental programs will meet the desired goals soon enough. There will be some difficult exchanges.

There is a proposal to reduce small business taxes, but the details are still being “reviewed” and the discussion seems to focus on removing loopholes to ensure that the small business tax breaks are legitimate. Hopefully, the newly elected caucus will include some strong advocates for small business and will work on making it easier to succeed, not more difficult.  The proposed changes to Pension Plan contributions (being pushed by Ontario’s Premier Wynne) are also up for discussion, but may well be stalled completely or implemented very gradually. It will be difficult to justify adding another payroll tax to all the existing obstacles for job creation. It does seem to be an important Liberal policy mission, however, to improve future payouts from the Canada Pension Plan.  Expect some changes before the end of this four-year term.

In summary, nothing too radical affecting business or the economic environment is expected, but the generally positive mood arising from the change of government to a young, energetic and enthusiastic team allows us all to be more optimistic about our prospects. However, it will not be enough to simply watch and wait to see how soon the good times arrive and how long they last. Now is the time to engage and move forward with your own plans to make good things happen. Trudeau is right, “better is always possible”.  But it’s up to you.

 

Most of us tend to over-use the special acronyms that are familiar to us and our colleagues in the same industry or profession.  They are useful for confirming membership in HRthe group and for excluding outsiders. (You know them.) But they often create a barrier to communicating effectively with a wider audience that is unfamiliar with our jargon.

On the other hand,  there are two widely used acronyms we have a habit of using that enable us to avoid really connecting with the issues: HR and CSR.

How did we ever arrive at calling employees Human Resources? They are people, right? That's a perfectly good word.  What consultant or accountant thought we would manage them better by describing them like capital equipment.  People are more complicated. They all have different aptitudes, abilities and interests. They have families, health and financial concerns, personal objectives and career plans. People we can relate to and empathize with.  They are not assets to be used and written off.

CSR

And we now have a lot of attention on corporate social responsibility, but we immediately desensitize business leaders and operating managers by calling it CSR.

Like it's a software product. So it gets delegated to the marketing and public relations department to keep those annoying socially responsible employees and customers happy and out of our way.

Why don't we just say, "Stop pollution!"  Or "Be kind to our neighbours" and "Protect the planet!"  Those are clear and easy to understand as socially responsible behaviour.

Let's stop hiding behind the acronyms.

 

A great weekend for Canadians at Wimbledon.

Eugenie Bouchard is runner-up in the final,

 

Milos Raonic loses to Roger Federer in the semi-final and Vasek Pospisil wins in men's doubles.

 

Impressive results getting the attention of media, fans and opponents.  All three are young contenders that can only get better and do better.

That is a theme that also works for entrepreneurs. Learn from your losses, then get back into the fray with new tactics, skills and energy.

The winning will come soon - for these young tennis stars and for you.

 

Sometimes you just have to learn to enjoy it in spite of the disappointments.

It has been a slow summer for golf for me. Just 10 rounds, so that means the results are inconsistent. Well, not totally inconsistent, mostly bad - not breaking 100 and very few good shots or good holes. It's easy to get discouraged and decide, again, to give it up.
But then, ... it's a beautiful day on a beautiful course and two consecutive days with a few good shots and some pars, even a birdie or two, and "I love this game, even if it doesn't always love me back!"

So where's the business lesson in that? Probably just a reminder not to let it go. Find the good spots, remind yourself of the long-term rewards and enjoy.
Doing what you like and getting better at it is reward enough.

Keep on swinging.

I was reminded while watching the weekend golf that success in business and golf seems to require the tenacity and focus to survive the occasional rides up and down that seem to be out of our control. Hang on and ride it out!

Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Fred Couples battled at Pacific Palisades over four rounds to finish one, two, and three for winnings of $1.1 million, $680,000 and $327,000. Stricker went a very steady and impressive 68-66-69-67. But Mickelson and Couples took the roller coaster rides of 63-72-62-72 and 67-70-65-69. Hole by hole was even more stressful as they went from flying off the fairway into the trees to sticking it by the pin for birdie putts.

A great reminder that success at the end of the day can still follow some pretty discouraging results along the way.

My Dad used to say, "Nothing succeeds like success". I'm sure you've heard the expression also. My interpretation is that the more you succeed the more you, and others, expect to see you succeed.

It is true in business and golf. A couple of examples.

Out for another round with my 7-year old grandson and this time he did much better. A strong, smooth swing was connecting more frequently and sending the ball long and straight (for a 7-year old). Every golfer's favourite swing result. On top of that he rammed a couple of 4 to 5-foot putts straight into the cup to the surprise of all of us watching and to his delight. He was so encouraged with his game that he insisted on going immediately to the driving range and practice green after our nine hole round. He was motivated.

I had a similar experience earlier this week in a rare round with my son-in-law. He is a very competitive former fullback with a vicious swing and a huge slice that he manages to keep in the fairway. We were both ready to impress each other. I got the better start.

Off the first tee, a short dogleg left downhill to a small well-bunkered green, I hit a perfect (for me) 5-iron that drew around the corner and ran down about 225 yards. Hit a full sandwedge about 100 yards and landed right side of the pin, then sank a curling 18-foot putt for birdie. I'm loving this course! (Son-in-law lost his drive in the trees and went downhill, literally, from there.)

The rest of my round was the usual roller coaster from par to triple bogey but I was not bothered after the great starting hole and the expectation by me and my playing partners that I was going to hit it well. That first hole just kept me confident and relaxed for the day and happy to come back soon.

The lesson learned was one often stated by the pros, "Keep visualizing your successes, not your failures, and that is what you are more likely to repeat."

We have the tendency to start a New Year, or even each new month in business, by resetting the numbers back to zero and starting again from there. It can be a discouraging process.

The concept of building momentum and carrying it forward from one period to the next is probably a better approach. In business and in golf it is often the attitude that improves our results more than the aptitude.

Mike Weir had a very good start to the season in Hawaii last week leading on Sunday and finishing a strong fourth. Two early mistakes cost him a few hundred thousand dollars, but still in the serious money for a positive outcome. He agreed with the commentators that his victorious battle one-on-one with Tiger in Montreal followed by a win late last year have given him renewed confidence that he has carried into the new season.

In business we can also use the mental picture of good results in the past to lead us to the same results in the future.

Here's hoping it works for you. Wishing you all the best in business and in golf for 2008.