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It’s another New Year. So what.

It’s still a good time to reflect and plan

(Sorry for playing the old hits with a repeat of my message from January 2016, but it’s still appropriate and applicable to 2018.)

In the ditchYou have already looked at too many year-end reviews and predictions for the New Year. The consensus seems to be that last year was bad everywhere and this year will be worse: more terrorist events and political stupidity, extreme weather and natural disasters, investments at risk of a bursting bubble and volatile economic conditions that will challenge every industry.

So if you cannot control the environment, what can you do differently this year? Aside from trying to stay out of the ditch.

A good general rule is to keep it simple. Focus on just two memorable accomplishments for the year – one personal, one professional. Richard Branson suggests that you refrain from making another to-do list, but work instead on your to-be list.  It is more important who you are than what you do.

Work on making memories.

If you look back on last year, how would you characterize your achievements? Personally and professionally, what were the outstanding memories? Did they just happen or were they your intent? It may not have been something that changed the world, but were they significant memories for you and the important people around you?

So what will your memories be for this year? Will it be the year for a major turning point in your career, or your business direction or your personal development?

Of course a more detailed plan is required, but I recommend to start with some simple objectives that are easy to remember without getting distracted by external events. Work on the issues that you can control and the actions that will make a difference. Be prepared for surprises and disappointments that are out of your control and develop the resilience and strength to get past them.

Have a good year. Make it memorable.

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.

 

‘Tis the Season

For reflection and relationships

Family of Feet warming at a fireplaceForget the shopping and the frenzy of holiday season obligations and year-end deadlines. Take time for reflection and relationships. The Holiday Season should be dedicated to finding quality time for quiet reflection on life and the world around us and for the relationships that are most important to us.

First, with compliments to my wise wife, Penny and the Advent Conspiracy Video, re-direct some of your time and money to sharing with those in need of both connection and support to improve their lives.

Take time out to work on family relationships and be a better parent, grandparent, sibling, son or daughter.

Set aside for a while the pressing issues and challenges of your business and build better personal relationships with associates and colleagues who are more than cash-flow generating employees, customers and suppliers.  Wake up and learn like Scrooge did that there is more to life. Remember the part about having fun and making a difference.

Wishing you all the joys of the season and a very healthy and Happy New Year.

Your Uncle Ralph,

Del Chatterson

 

 

It’s all about the Money

Of course

raining cashAs they keep telling us, “It’s always about the money.”

Time to stop denying, explaining, apologizing? Maybe we can just ignore the critics and focus on the people that are really important to us.

It’s the employees, customers and suppliers, maybe your bank and probably your family, that really need to know you also have their interests at heart. You already know that you could make more money, especially in the short term, by taking a few short cuts. They’re not all illegal, some are just exploitive or objectionable use of people and the planet. But you also know that they are all actually bad for your business, if you want to maintain your ability to look after all those people that are important to you.

 Now let’s deal with the critics. Unfortunately, they can influence the environment you work in and the rules you have to comply with, even if they don’t know what they’re talking about. So let’s help them understand what entrepreneurs are really about. Don’t let them accept all the easy stereotypes and generalize from the few bad actors.

We don’t need to apologize (I hope), but we do need to explain.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

The people problem

The challenge of making good fits

A recent conversation with an entrepreneur drawn unexpectedly into a family business, reminded me that the biggest challenge to building and growing a better business is managing the relationships within the organisation.

meeting - explainingLike him and most other entrepreneurs I know, you are confident and competent in the primary domain essential to the business – technology, operations, financial or sales and marketing management. But managing people and inter-personal relationships is a tougher challenge. And it can be painful to be continuously drawn into issues that you are not interested in and not good at. You would rather focus on other priorities and ignore the distractions – performance reviews, payroll and benefit plans, managers that are competing instead of co-operating, conflict between employees on the job, petty complaints about policy and procedures, questions about who is doing what and why.

People do make it challenging and maybe you can delegate to a human resource professional, but as the owner/manager you have to ensure that people and relationship issues are not holding back business performance.

The solution lies in making good fits. Getting the right people in the right jobs, doing what they are both good at and like to do. Building teams at all levels that deliver better performance and solutions because they communicate well and share effectively their different strengths, knowledge and experience.

It starts with open two-way communication throughout the organisation. From the corporate mission statement, strategy and objectives down to the set-up and staffing of the reception area. Advise, listen, explain. Listen again, explain again. Still a challenge, but too important to be neglected.

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.

Necessary, but not sufficient

You’re not there yet. 

Golf swing“Keep your head down, focus, stay calm.”

All good advice, but never sufficient to get you to the finish line with a higher level of performance. Remember there are usually a few more steps in the process of improvement.

The first step is necessary, but never sufficient to initiate real change or start seeing better results. In golf or business.

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.

 

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.

 

Manage like a Hockey Mom

But in a good way

hockey-fansIt is that time of year for hockey playoffs and not just in the NHL. It’s always exciting and entertaining and often provides inspiration and ideas for outside the hockey rink.

At a grandson’s recent Peewee AAA hockey tournament in Montreal, the welcome brochure included the Quebec Hockey Association’s Code of Ethics for Parents (also useful for grandparents). In reading it, I realized it could be adapted as a useful guide for business owners and managers. Here is my version.

The Code of Ethics for Entrepreneurs

As a business owner and responsible manager, I recognize that I have the potential and the opportunity to make an important contribution to the personal development and well-being of the individuals who choose to work with me and accept that as a priority over “winning the game”.

I will therefore ensure my conduct continually demonstrates that:

  • I understand that my employees are here for their benefit and pleasure, not mine.
  • I consider winning as part of the pleasure of playing the game; I will not exaggerate the pain of failure; and I will recognize errors as a necessary part of the learning experience.
  • I will respect the efforts and the decisions of the supporters and supervisors and of the outside authorities responsible for enforcing the rules and regulations. I will do my best to understand and accept the rules and regulations applicable to my business.
  • I will recognize good performance on the part of our individual employees, as well as that of our competitors.
  • I accept each individual’s limitations and will not project my own ambitions or unreasonable expectations upon anyone. My expectations will be appropriate to the qualifications and experience of each individual.
  • I will demonstrate and expect from all employees a reflection of the important values of respect, discipline, effort and loyalty.
  • I will not encourage or tolerate any level of personal harassment, conflict or aggressive behavior.
  • I will encourage and support the personal development of the skills and capabilities for every individual.

Good advice from responsible hockey moms. (I do notice that a lot gets ignored during the playoffs when winning is everything, but that’s another issue for a future article. Meanwhile, the hockey analysts are all over it.)

Be better. Do better. As a responsible, enlightened entrepreneur.

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.

This article is extracted from Uncle Ralph’s, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way. Read the book.

The Evolution of e-Business Challenges

Good management principles still apply

Internet-WWWEarly e-business challenges for small-business owners started with the arrival of e-mail and websites in the early 1990’s. Today we are trying to understand the implications of the rapidly expanding world of social media and mobile applications.

Perceptive entrepreneurs continuously ask: What does it mean for my business? Are competitors getting ahead of us? What are the risks of ignoring the new technologies? What are the new opportunities to be pursued?

In the early days, my advice for entrepreneurs was to turn the WWW upside down and remember the important principles of MMM: Management, Measurement and Marketing to successfully adopt new technologies. Every new initiative requires Management of the process, Measuring of results to monitor performance and effective Marketing to achieve visibility.

The internet and applications are continuously evolving and the online audience has grown from a few million to several billion around the globe over the past twenty years. But we still have the same challenges and questions.

The challenges remain the same: how to avoid the risks and seize the opportunities.

A successful e-business strategy requires sound management principles to be applied. First learn about the relevant technologies, then assess your justification for applying time and resources to adopting them. Do not start just because it’s cool, or your ego or your kids are pushing you. Or your competitors do it and your customers are asking about it.

It will be difficult and expensive, so be sure your initiative is justified by the expected impact on increasing sales, reducing costs, improving customer service, or enhancing competitive advantage. (Like every other business investment.)

Much has changed over the past twenty years, but the advice has not:

  • Your online initiatives must be an integral part of your business plan.
  • Thorough preparation and good project management are essential to meeting your objectives. .
  • Continuous monitoring of feedback and analytics will allow you to review, respond and revise your plans for improved results.

Start with a diagnostic of your current online performance, check the competitive environment and then come up with a plan to do better.

Don’t forget to enjoy the learning experience and prepare to cautiously avoid the risks and aggressively seize the opportunities.

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.

 

 

 This article is an extract from Uncle Ralph’s, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way. Read the book.

Building loyal, long-term, profitable customer relationships

Evolve through the customer experience

 Goal: The primary objective of every business: building loyal, long-term, profitable customer relationships.

 Process: It’s a three-part process of Marketing + Sales + Customer Service.

buyerIt’s all about finding, attracting and retaining customers that bring value to the business in continuous profitable revenue and also become our biggest fans, telling everybody how wonderful we are. Sometimes we get so preoccupied with the hard work managing our marketing and sales efforts that we forget the essential strategic objective.

The financial objective, of course, is to generate and grow sales revenue and profits. But to have sales you need customers. And to have sustained, profitable and growing sales, the best strategy is to develop loyal, long-term customer relationships.

So the marketing, sales and customer service activities must all be aligned to deliver a customer experience with your company and your brand that evolves from a first time buyer to a long-term customer. The marketing and sales efforts bring in the first order and then customer service has to deliver on the rest.

The customer experience with any business should evolve through four levels:

1. Satisfaction with price and availability

On the first exposure to your business, customers will quickly, maybe even subconsciously, compare price and availability to their expectations derived from prior experience with your competition. If this minimum expectation is not met, there will likely be no sale and maybe no second chance.

2. Recognition of superior service levels

The first point of differentiation and the first step to building a stronger customer relationship will be when the customer recognizes that you offer superior service. You can demonstrate it in many ways – more stock, better delivery, easier payment terms, faster response to inquiries or better warranty service and support. Any one of these may be sufficient for you to stand out from the competition and deliver a satisfied customer.

3. Appreciation of the value of your knowledge and experience

After the basic needs of price and availability are met and you have distinguished yourself with superior service, the customer experience should then lead to an appreciation of the added value of your knowledge and experience. This will be demonstrated by your staff having the product knowledge, training, education and experience to help customers make better purchasing decisions. Now you are building a relationship valued by the customer.

4. Connection on values, mission and vision

The final step in cementing loyal, long-term relationships will occur when the customer recognizes a common sense of values, mission and vision in the way you both do business. This connection will be developed over several interactions, particularly when problems are solved together, or you connect on issues not directly related to the buy-sell transaction like honesty and integrity, social values or environmental issues.

The sooner you can meet customer expectations at all four levels, the faster you will build lasting and loyal customer relationships. And that is the primary objective of every business, right?

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.

 

In conversation with Stephen Goldberg, a discussion of the value of Business Planning. “It’s about the process, not the product.”

Read the full article and watch the video here.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson
 
Read more 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.