Category Archives: management

Keep it simple

Focus on the fundamentals.

Canadian tennis hero, Felix Auger-Aliassime, at the Australian Open this week came back from losing the first two sets in a five-set match to suddenly overpower his opponent for the next three sets and win the match. What happened?

“I decided to keep it simple,” he said. “The first two sets I was trying too hard to analyze his game and find a strategy to beat him, making it complicated. It’s tennis, just hit the ball inside the lines.”

Good strategic advice for entrepreneurs too. Keep it simple. Focus on the fundamentals.

I’ve written thousands of articles and two books of advice for entrepreneurs (which I recommend you read, of course), but it can all be summarized in six simple words: Have a plan. Avoid the mistakes.

Go back to the fundamental principles that still apply and are consistent with your vision, mission and values. The challenges will be complicated enough without your help.

Be better. Do Better. Be an Enlightened Entrepreneur.

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs

 

So far, so good?

Or too soon to tell.

We’re only into the second week of 2023, so it’s too soon to tell if we’re making progress on our plans yet, but let’s check that we’re off to a good start.

Presumably, we have defined our reasonably ambitious goals and objectives for the year and we have a plan to accomplish them. Now comes the hard part – implementing the plan.

We need more than an Action Plan with names, dates and budgets assigned to it. We need to clearly communicate the guiding mission, vision, and values that were applied to the plan. We need to ensure that everyone who is required to participate in the implementation has also participated in the development of the plan; understands the rationale for the decisions and choices that were made; and is committed to supporting the implementation of the plan.

If you can check-off those items, then you're off to a good start. There’s still time to correct any deficiencies and a good start does not guarantee a good finish, but it does improve the odds. Have a good Year!

Be better. Do Better. Be an Enlightened Entrepreneur.

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs

 

 

Brave New Plans for 2023

Find a new comfort zone

After two years of living with pandemic restrictions and one year of navigating through an apocalyptic world of continuing health risks, social disruption and discontent, geopolitical conflict, climate disasters, and humanitarian crises, it’s time to make brave new plans for 2023 to find our place among our fellow passengers on planet earth.

Let’s find a new comfort zone for our own peace, security and prosperity while developing new approaches to making it a better world for everyone.

Let's widen our point of view, look large at people and the planet; seek to understand, listen and learn; consider alternate beliefs and value systems. Share our own values and beliefs. Speak up against lies and bigotry, racism and hate, ignorance and misinformation and false faith in simple solutions.

Be aware of the needs of family and friends, associates and colleagues, the neighbours and communities around us. The world is waiting; it needs more of us to do better; and it needs more of the best of us.

Small steps can make a big difference. One friendly gesture; one generous act; one thoughtful contribution of time, talent, knowledge or experience; applied to one person, one family, one community at a time.

It will be another challenging year. Let’s not deny the truth or hide from the ugly facts of life. Let’s change our attitudes and our actions to make life better for ourselves and for others.

Have a great start to the New Year.

 Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Choose & Use Wisely

Professionals can help

Twenty years ago, I wrote an article titled, Consultants: How to Chose, Use, and Not Abuse Them, based on my own experience as a management consultant and as a client of other consultants, accountants, lawyers, and other professionals. The article offers tips for effective professional relationships and has retained its relevance for a Blog Post at LearningEntrepreneurship.com and inclusion in Uncle Ralph’s Random Ramblings in my book of advice for entrepreneurs, DON’T DO IT THE HARD WAY.

After a recent headline in The Economist, “Do McKinsey and other consultants do anything useful?” it seems necessary to add the additional advice, “Don’t be used and abused by your consultant.”

The abuses of power and influence and the profiteering by both McKinsey and Bain in South Africa recently led to judicial investigations and criminal charges against both consulting firms. Their scandals and outrageous conflicts of interest in the past have apparently not resulted in more ethical and enlightened behaviour in the management of global consulting firms.

So be aware of what style of management is guiding the professionals that you engage to help you and your business. See Rule #3 – Compatibility: Be sure that your objectives are aligned and that they are helping you more than they’re helping themselves.

With all do respect to my fellow consultants and other ethical, enlightened professionals, use your consultants well.

Be better. Do better. Be an enlightened entrepreneur.  

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs

 

Consultants: How to Choose, Use, and Not Abuse Them

Help them, help you

Since my first consulting project over thirty years ago, I have learned a lot about how to successfully manage consulting projects and the client/consultant relationship. Here is my advice, which I am sharing again to help you with your consultants (and your lawyers, accountants and other professionals):

  1. Before you introduce consultants to the process, be sure you need what you want and want what you need. Beware of consultants that agree to do whatever you want, whether you need it or not.
  2. Look internally to confirm the three "C's" of consulting project readiness: Capacity in budget, time and resources; Commitment of management and staff affected by the process; and Capability to support the project and implement the conclusions.
  3. One more "C" – Compatibility. Select your consultants from an organisation that is compatible with yours - are you a corporate multinational or a local entrepreneurial business?
  4. Recognize whether your consulting needs are strategic: requiring outside expertise to inspire and facilitate your business planning process, or operational: bringing knowledge, skills and experience that are not available internally.
  5. Meet the operating consultant. It may not be the same charming, talented person that sold you the work.  And at those fee rates you don't want to train a recent MBA, who started last week and studied your industry yesterday.
  6. Test Drive: Check whether the consultant arrives with questions, not answers; will operate as neither boss nor employee; and will win the hearts and minds of your staff. Successful consultants will listen, understand, empathize, analyze, strategize and persuade better than normal people.
  7. Remember you are hiring a consultant to challenge and push you. You are not renting a friend to tell you how smart you are.
  8. Can you confidently expect a solution that will be yours not theirs?
  9. Ask for references.  Call them.
  10. Ask who is not on the reference list and why not.  Learn what they think causes a project to be unsuccessful.  And ask which list they expect you to be on when this is over.
  11. Ask for fee rates and a work plan with estimated hours. Then agree on a fixed fee for agreed deliverables with dates, documents and milestones.
  12. Don't let their progress reports interfere with your progress.  Get what you need, not what they need for internal "CYA" requirements.
  13. Check who else is billing time to your project.  Sometimes there is a very expensive partner back at the office who needs to keep his billing rate up. Your budget can be quickly consumed while he "supervises" from a distance.
  14. Avoid surprises.  Ask about additional expenses: travel, telephone and printing. Terms of payment?
  15. Do they have a satisfaction guarantee?
  16. Get the agreement in writing, read it before signing it.
  17. Watch for signs of trouble: such as, selling more work before the work is done; long delays between on-site visits; too much time spent "back at the office" and billed to you.
  18. And finally, remember consultants are people too. They want to boast about good work and satisfied clients.  You can help them help you.  Don't be difficult.

With all due respect and best regards to my favourite clients and consulting associates.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

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Fragmented

Or focused?

In discussing politics and social issues these days, there is a lot of debate around fragmented media – both traditional and online – and the negative consequences of people remaining in their “bubble” of commentators and audiences, who all seem to agree on shared ideologies and opinions. These bubbles are too often abused and manipulated to reinforce false narratives and to provoke anger and ignorance into aggressive action against presumed foes.

Fragmented media are not effective at resolving differences or promoting intelligent analysis and developing solutions to political and societal problems.

But lets talk business.

From a business perspective it’s a brilliant strategy – focus on shared values and beliefs to build long-term loyal relationships with customers, employees, and business partners.

It’s an essential element of branding and corporate culture to enunciate guiding principles, values and beliefs to attract “believers” to the organisation. Not just loyal, dedicated customers, employees, and business partners, but enthusiastic evangelists!

That’s the way to build a sustainable business. Whether it’s a local restaurant or a global multinational brand. “Just do it!”

Targeted marketing communications adapted to small market segments can be very effective. Every customer gets positive reinforcement that they belong in the group and that they are respected both for what they have in common and for how they are different.

Fragmented marketing is good if you’re focused.

Be better. Do better. Be an enlightened entrepreneur.  

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs

Aim lower

Focus on small targets

Globalization is dead. Think small.

The global tendencies protecting national interests, the multinational impact of America First policies turning toward isolationism, Covid-19 supply chain disruptions and the economic sanctions resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine are all restricting international trade and reducing the benefits of global economic co-operation to local economies and restricting the prospects of corporate growth for individual businesses.

Local markets and new opportunities created by the disruption of international supply chains are now better target markets than looking for growth through international expansion.

Forget global for a while. Focus on local markets and customers who need you now more than ever.

Be resilient and adapt to new economic realities in order to thrive and prosper.

Be better. Do better. Be an enlightened entrepreneur.  

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs

High tech

Still needs high touch

Sometimes artificial intelligence is too artificial and not that intelligent. Just another robot trying to think faster than we do and anticipate what we want before we ask or try to do it for ourselves.

When do we get to talk to a real person? When do we get to ask the robot to click on the crosswalks? Or the rooftops? Or the bicycles? To confirm they’re not a robot.

It gets very tiresome trying to do everything online, with no personal contact. Especially after months of lockdown and limited social engagement with anyone.

Click here, login, what’s your password? Call 1-800-xxx-xxxx and be introduced to more robots, and badly programmed switchboards where “your call is important to us, … but our menu has changed recently, please listen carefully.” NO! You listen carefully, I want to talk to a real person who cares about giving me good service.

Some companies do it well – efficiently using technology to make easy connections to the right people. (Social media are now abusing the technology to collect data and target audiences for advertisers and manipulators of the media, but that’s a subject for another day.)

I started advising businesses more than twenty years ago on how to use the internet and web-based technologies effectively, based on the lessons learned from my own painful and expensive experience as well as that of many other early adopters of e-commerce and online applications.

A short list of tips, tactics and techniques for success that still apply:

  • Turn the WWW upside down and think MMM – Manage, Measure and Monitor performance.
  • Worry less about what your website looks like and more about what it does.
  • Focus less on what it costs and more on how it pays.
  • Outstanding customer service cannot be automated. It requires high tech and high touch by well-qualified and well-trained customer service staff.
  • The risks are real, the opportunities are huge. Don’t be overly influenced by fear or greed.
  • Have a plan. Avoid the mistakes.

Be better. Do better. Be an enlightened entrepreneur.  

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs

 

 

Storytelling

With a purpose.

It may seem odd that I’m writing business advice for entrepreneurs at the same time as I’m writing crime fiction novels about an entrepreneur, but it’s actually quite consistent with my lifetime passion for telling stories – to share ideas, information and inspiration in a memorable way.

Different stories, different audiences; same purpose. 

It’s an important and effective communications strategy. You may have used it yourself or been aware of others doing it well. A flashy PowerPoint slideshow is no match for a good story told to make the point. Consider a recent TED Talk, sales pitch or political speech that stuck with you and persuaded you to think differently. The message was probably reinforced by a compelling personal story.

On meeting a new client or associate, the exchange of stories quickly establishes the areas of common experience and the differences that might be obstacles or advantages in building a productive relationship.

Are you a good storyteller? Do you recognize the talent in others? Or the lack of talent as they mess up the punch line in a good joke or tell a rambling tale of this and that without getting to the point? You can get better at it by observing the best, reading and listening attentively, and learning what works best.

Storytelling: Do it well for your own purposes.

Be better. Do better. Be an enlightened entrepreneur.  

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

Best Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs

 

 

It's just business.

Never personal. 

I recently completed my fourth novel about an entrepreneur and his crime-fighting buddy, called Bad Boys in Boston. The sub-title was, It's just business, never personal. However, it’s about a young woman in the family being kidnapped into the sex trade and it’s very personal.

In business too, it often is. But you have to know when not to take it personally. Like the salesman who came back to the office after his first sales call of the day and said, “I already got three orders!” Unfortunately, they were, “Get out,” “Stay out,” and “Don’t come back.” Hard not to take that personally. “Why don’t they like me?”

But it’s better to step back and decide it’s not me, it’s something else. Maybe it was the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong pitch.

Don’t take everything personally. Be selective.

Do I really care about this? Is there a message I’m missing?

Maybe I need to make it more personal to understand what I should do differently for better results. Maybe I need to make it less personal to avoid the emotional response on both sides.

Be better. Do better. Be an enlightened entrepreneur.  

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs