Category Archives: leadership

Pick your poison

Killing key relationships 


Poison (2)There are many ways to kill important business relationships with customers, suppliers, employees, bankers or strategic partners.

But why would you want to do that?

You probably do NOT want to, but you or your staff may be doing it inadvertently. Habits and attitudes that will silently, slowly, but certainly poison relationships. Entirely contrary to your primary business objective of building loyal, long-term effective and profitable working relationships.

Most destructive to those relationships would be the ugly combination of arrogance and incompetence. It is always risky and annoying to be arrogant, but doubly damaging if you do not deliver better than you boast. Customers are very quick to observe the inconsistency and decide to look for a more satisfying experience elsewhere.

Another big obstacle to effective relationships is a manager or owner driven primarily by greed and ego. Soon evident to all, it will make recruiting and retention of employees more difficult. Personal energy and ambition may have been the driving force past initial obstacles in the start-up and early growth phases, but will not help to keep managers and employees motivated and making good decisions. Blind obedience and celebrity worship may be good for the ego, but they will not help you develop a strong self-sufficient management team.

Too entrepreneurial?

Are you too proud, confident, optimistic, independent, impatient and decisive? Maybe beyond reason? Are you ignoring helpful feedback or constructive criticism and stifling employee initiative and decision making? Leadership does not need to be lonely. Listen and learn from customers and employees.

Read the warning signings, then put the lid on tight and push the poison to the back of the shelf.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com or contact DirectTech Solutions at www.DirectTech.ca for assistance on your strategic business issues, growth and profit improvement plans or your exit strategies.

Join our mailing list at LearningEntrepreneurship.com for ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

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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.

 

More celebrations

Fewer apologies 

It seems to be part of the new approach to historic anniversary celebrations to give more attention to apologizing for past failures and the sins of our ancestors than on recognizing our accomplishments and the progress we have made on all fronts since those evil events in our past.

celebrationsThe celebratory narrative is interrupted by vociferous activists and protestors directing the audience to their issues and raining on our parade. They do get our attention, but it’s not usually the time and place for constructive action on challenging issues. It is too easy to respond to the rhetoric and symbolism with more rhetoric and symbolism, instead of initiating creative and ambitious programs to make real progress. Another time and place, starting with an exchange of mutual respect and goodwill, will more likely lead to practical long-term solutions.

In life, business and politics, it is important and instructive to recognize our accomplishments as well as our failures. It is acceptable to create a mythical version of our history and who and what we are, without denying our errors and imperfections, as long as it inspires us to strive continuously to achieve those high ideals.

Apologizing is not enough. Let’s be more ambitious.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com or contact DirectTech Solutions at www.DirectTech.ca for assistance on your strategic business issues, growth and profit improvement plans or your exit strategies.

Join our mailing list at LearningEntrepreneurship.com for ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Read more articles at:Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

 

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.

 

Evolving

People and processes

The founder and CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, is stepping aside because his combative personality and the culture he created at Uber are no longer in line with the business’s need to be both more stable and predictable and more socially responsible and engaged with the communities where it is operating. His ruthlessly aggressive style has successfully created a ride-sharing industry and grown it to a billion dollar global business, but he had bruised relationships with everyone – employees, drivers, customers, service suppliers, regulators and politicians. Those partners that Uber needs to succeed were instead creating obstacles and seeking more compatible alternatives. It has been clear for some time that change was required at Uber – in leadership, style and processes – if global expansion was to continue. Kalanick finally got the message.

stressed employeeWhat about your business? Are the right people in the right place? Are you?

Has your business evolved beyond the capabilities of the people who got you started? Back then you were looking for energy, enthusiasm, entrepreneurial spirit and people willing to do whatever was required without costing too much. In the early stages, you, your partner and the office manager were all willing and able to do the sales, administration and customer service, make the coffee in the morning and set the alarm at night. The technician was also the shipper-receiver and the receptionist was also secretary and bookkeeper. The business was smaller and life was simpler.

Now you need more specialized expertise with knowledgeable and experienced management all working together effectively using more sophisticated technology and tools for marketing, sales and customer service, managing more employees with widely varied backgrounds, keeping on top of regulatory requirements, running the business on smart phones and keeping systems secure. Even the coffee machine is more complicated and needs a specialist.

Those early employees deserve your loyalty and respect and should have the opportunity to learn and develop into larger roles, but they will not all be capable of evolving in line with the needs of your evolving business. Energy and enthusiasm can only get you so far. (Maybe that helps explain what is holding you back from evolving to the next level in your business.)

You do not have to get as big as Uber before the people and processes that got you started are no longer helping you succeed and grow. Check that your organization has evolved as much as the competitive world around you.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson 

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com or contact DirectTech Solutions at www.DirectTech.ca for assistance on your strategic business issues, growth and profit improvement plans or your exit strategies.

Join our mailing list at LearningEntrepreneurship.com for ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Read more articles at:Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

 

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.

By the numbers

Not just the ones you already know

confused-man1Most entrepreneurs and business owners regularly monitor a few key numbers – sales, profit margins, operating expenses and the bottom line. All easy to understand and regularly reported.

But it is not enough, if you want to be a top performer in your industry. You need to dig deeper to more quickly recognize growing problems and exploit competitive advantages.

Managing by the numbers is a requirement at all stages of running a business. From the initial business plan on start-up, through the performance challenges of growing a sustainable business to the final valuation on exit. Managing the numbers requires monitoring and comparing: to your goals and objectives, to past performance in the business, and to industry benchmarks for the average and for the outstanding competitors.

And it is not just the obvious financial ratios: profit margins, debt ratios, asset turnover, but especially those that are particular to your industry. Maybe that is revenue per engineer, turnover per tabletop, scrap per square millimeter, or per cent billable hours. You may have your own secret formula, but the industry, your banker, investors and future owners will have expectations based on industry benchmarks and will decide on what reflects good or bad management. Be sure to keep score on yourself before someone else lets you know how you are really doing.

From start to finish, monitor and manage the key variables that will determine your long-term business performance.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Contact DirectTech Solutions at www.DirectTech.ca for consulting assistance on your strategic business issues, growth and profit improvement plans or your exit strategies.

Join our mailing list at LearningEntrepreneurship.com for ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Read more articles at: Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

 

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.

What crisis?

Who needs a crisis?

9Don't Do It the Hard WayIn times of crisis, it is easier to justify tough decisions. But why wait for a crisis? The challenges of business day-to-day should be sufficient to justify making those decisions all the time.

We have all observed that the companies that survive a crisis come out stronger, correcting their weaknesses and building resiliency and new capabilities. During a crisis, decisions are made and change happens quickly because everyone understands the urgency and fewer explanations are required.

But the principles for making tough decisions and the right ones for your business are a constant.

Stay focused

Ignore the daily distractions. Recognize what is relevant to meeting your strategic objectives and what is not. Review your plan and your path, make adjustments, but do not keep changing plans.

Stay relevant

Be aware of the competitive landscape, new competitors and changing customer preferences and adapt quickly.

Keep communicating

Your management team, employees, banker and strategic partners need to be aware of your current challenges, opportunities, your assessment and your plans.

Don’t wait for the crisis

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Contact DirectTech Solutions at www.DirectTech.ca for consulting assistance on your strategic business issues, growth and profit improvement plans or your exit strategies.

Join our mailing list at LearningEntrepreneurship.com for ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Read more articles at:Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

 

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.

Alternative Facts

Or alternative conclusions?

FactsWe seem to be learning from the current political debate that not only is it OK to invent alternative facts, (what we used to call lying), but that they are useful to explain and justify bad ideas. It may have proven to be effective in political campaigns, but it is definitely not recommended for subsequently making good management decisions.

In government and business, we will eventually have to deal with the real facts. Both those that help us define the problem and those that help us understand the consequences of our decisions and actions.

But even if we agree on the facts, the answers are not obvious. Alternative conclusions are still possible. And some people will be determined to ignore the facts and continue to rely on their pre-conceived notions.

There is a lot of research and commentary explaining our universal human tendency toward confirmation bias. That is, our consistent unquestioning acceptance of evidence that confirms our established beliefs and our equally stubborn denial of those that contradict our beliefs. Or as my mother wisely observed during my own brief venture into political campaigning over fifteen years ago, “There is no use in confusing them with the facts, they’ve already made up their minds.”

Important to remember though that the phenomenon applies to us all, not just those on the other side of the argument.

Arriving at agreed conclusions even from an accepted set of facts will always remain a challenge for leaders and managers. I had a memorable lesson in that principle early in my consulting career. I was responsible for an engineering work study to analyze a production bonus system that was unsatisfactory to both the union and management at a Canadian mining operation in Ireland. After thorough analysis, we made our objective fact-based presentation to each side and were astonished to hear them both conclude what they already thought before we started, “I knew those bastards were stealing from us!”

So for good management decisions and effective leadership, it is important to start with an agreed set of facts, then apply both rational argument and appeals to emotion, if necessary. Even then, some will not be persuaded until they see the results after the fact.

So how do we develop better solutions based on rational decision making? First, check that the facts are legitimate, verified and proven. Then accept that the selection and presentation of the facts is always biased by the source and their intent to support a particular argument or point of view. Consider your own biases and how they are affecting your assessment of the facts and the source. What are the alternative explanations and potential conclusions based on the same set of facts?

Then make the choices and develop your rationale before trying to persuade anyone else of your decisions and plans. It’s never as simple as “Just the facts, sir, just the facts.”

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.

 

Business without politics

It’s not possible, never has been

politics & busThere was an old idea that you should never mix business and politics. The concern was that it can be hard to stay friends and keep customers, suppliers and employees loyal, if you strongly disagree on political issues.

But it has always been a hopeless and futile mission to avoid politics in trying to appeal to everybody, in spite of their political views. It is also not a good strategy. In my opinion, long-term loyal and valuable relationships cannot be sustained by good prices, products and services alone, there has to be a mutual respect and sharing of ethical principles, values and beliefs, including basic political ideas.

Modern consumers and employees prefer to do business with companies that share common values of respect for people and the planet and are not entirely dedicated to the single objective of increasing short-term profit. Enlightened entrepreneurs also understand that long-term business value is enhanced by meeting their social responsibilities.

For business people to be politically active is entirely appropriate and in line with meeting their business objectives to build sustainable value and growth. It may even require objecting to bad government policy and decisions that do not align with your view of those social responsibilities.

Of course, when you’re opposed to the policies of a vindictive, impulsive, narcissist dictator in government, it may be necessary to be more cautious and diplomatic in your objections.

But take a risk, speak up.

It is not a secret what you think anyway, so don’t be shy to defend your beliefs, values and political views. You will lose more goodwill and loyalty from your supporters, if you give in to public pressure or criticism from opponents. Defending your values and beliefs will build more loyalty with the customers and employees that you really want to do business with.

Don’t give in, don’t suck up.

Stick to your principles.

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.

 

Made in Mexico

You think bullying and bribery will work?

I’m thinking about President Trump’s approach to negotiating his new deals with Mexico. WIN_20170127_11_11_55_Pro

Sitting by the pool in Mazatlán, I’m surrounded by happy Mexicans working for $8-a-day and happy tourists spending $200 or $300-a-day. We’re all a little uncomfortable with the contrast, but the Americans are feeling even more uncomfortable and unwelcome here after 18-months of harsh rhetoric from their new President. They will find his isolationist, “America first,” trade and foreign policies equally unwelcome elsewhere. We are already seeing the early consequences.

Canadian snowbirds from BC to Quebec are buying timeshares and booking vacations here in solidarity with Mexico and in protest of Trump. The pushback has begun and negotiations will start by demonstrating the downside to his plans.

Trump is unlikely to change his tactics. He brags about his approach in The Art of the Deal. He got rich and won the presidency by bullying opponents and bribing supporters with access to his power and money. Those tactics have worked in the past with city councils, bureaucrats and regulators and worked during his campaign with angry, neglected voters and with anxious Republicans determined to dump the Democrats. They will not work with experienced executives, competent national leaders and knowledgeable diplomats.

I prefer and recommend the approach in The Art of Negotiation that requires more effort to understand the issues and the needs of both parties before negotiating towards a win-win solution.

Then there are the ethical issues: the lying and cheating, the unmitigated selfish greed and ambition that only work if you are an arrogant, ignorant narcissist. Definitely not the qualifications for enlightened entrepreneurship or management of any business and unlikely to deliver the security and prosperity that have been promised for America.

It will be hard to watch.

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.

 

Time for Happy Holidays. Again.

Share the love and the joys of life. ‘Tis the season.happy-holidays-2016

Last year’s advice is still entirely appropriate:

Ignore the headlines, Donald Trump and the Middle East for a few days.

Set aside your worries about the economy and your business.

Find the time and make the space to celebrate the joys of life.

Focus on the people important to you: share the love with your friends, family and business associates.

It’s the time of year to recognize other priorities. Do not allow yourself to see the holiday season as an annoying distraction or temporary set-back to pursuing your business goals and personal objectives. Think of it instead as an annual opportunity to celebrate and confirm the more important elements of a life well-lived. It is more than a business or career well-managed.

Be creative. Take the initiative and show some imagination and enthusiasm to celebrate the season with friends and family.

After the holidays, you can get back to business as usual. You can be the boss again driving your staff to meet objectives and reminding them, “I am not your friend, I am not your mother.” But for the next two weeks, be more human and celebrate the joys of life.

And make plans to do that more than once next year.

Wishing you all the best for the Holiday Season and a very Happy New Year,

Your Uncle Ralph,

Del Chatterson

LearningEntrepreneurship.com

 

 

Trump election lessons for your business

Democracy makes for bad decisions?

trump-winnerThe recent election of Donald Trump was a shock and a disappointment to many of us. The political analysts and commentators, experts and amateurs, will debate it intensely for weeks and intellectually for decades.

But what have we learned for our businesses?

Here are some discussion points that I suggest you can share with your management team, the next time they stray off the topic and insist on talking about the recent election, instead of the business issues of the day.

  1. Democracy does not always deliver the results you expect or want.
  2. Be careful of the limited choices that you offer.
  3. The most popular choice is often not the best choice.
  4. Leadership needs to listen. But empathy is not enough. Without an effective response to the complaints you will be labelled as weak and ineffective and risk being replaced.
  5. Stop talking to, and listening to, only the people who agree with you.
  6. Stop assuming that you can persuade people by logical arguments. Do not write them off as ignorant or irrational. Recognize they are influenced differently from you.
  7. You cannot persuade your opponents to change by using the influencers and channels of communication that they do not trust.
  8. Reasons for making a particular choice are volatile, unpredictable and not always subject to explanation or analysis, by the experts or the voters themselves, before or after the fact.
  9. Plato said it first: “Beware of democracy: ordinary people are too easily influenced by the emotional and deceptive rhetoric of ambitious politicians.”
  10. Effective leadership has a responsibility to make difficult decisions, explain them satisfactorily, implement them effectively and ensure that any negative consequences are adequately addressed.

Winston Churchill graciously defended democracy after losing his bid for re-election in July of 1945, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

He may have been right about government and we should all exercise our democratic right to vote and defend and protect our democratic institutions.

But in your business, good management is a better idea than taking a vote.

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.