Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Doors Of Opportunity Opening For Entrepreneurs

When I played baseball in college, our coach had yearly reviews with each player, similar to reviews an employer might conduct with employees. He’d call us in one by one and let us know the strengths we displayed during the year and our weaknesses we’d need to work on in the future. I’ll never forget seeing one of my teammates as he stumbled out of his conference. He had a blank look on his face.
“What happened?” I said. “He said I wasn’t coachable,” said my friend, miffed at the thought. “He said I never listen or take any type of criticism or coaching and that’s why, as a player, I never improve and will never improve.”  Ouch. That hurts.
The problem for my friend was that he never owned up to the criticism. He wasn’t willing to break down the barriers he built around himself to get the help he needed to improve. He never became coachable.
Over the past two years, a transformation has occurred in St. Louis with new organizations popping up, new resources and all types of mentors available to entrepreneurs, at all different levels. I’d mention them all, but there are way too many to list.  Many doors, once closed to entrepreneurs, are now opening.
Here’s where my former teammate’s story comes into play. While the doors of opportunity are opening, business owners need to walk through them. We can’t be “uncoachable.” We need to approach our resources, listen to our mentors and meet with our valued contacts.
This can be a struggle for entrepreneurs (as I’ve seen firsthand). Business owners are always ultimately responsible for their own success and failure. With that responsibility often comes the concept of holding on too tightly and not letting others in.
It’s taken many, many years to get the resources together for small companies. Now is not the time to be “uncoachable.” The doors of opportunity are open. Now is the time to step in.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Get Off Your Lawn: Gain Some Needed Perspective

I have relatives in Florida that used to own a lawn-mowing business. They would cut and trim grass for local residences and businesses. A few years ago one of my relatives was telling me a story about how the crew members are perfectionists about the lawn.
"After we're done, we walk across the street, into the adjoining neighbors' yards, etc., to make sure we've done a great job trimming," he said. Then, I said, "why walk across the street? Can't you tell when you're trimming." "No, way," he said. "You can't tell when you're on it. It all looks good from that vantage point. You need a different perspective."
I've thought about this conversation a lot since I've become a business owner. There are things we just don't see as we are forging ahead each day, toiling in our businesses and our lives. We need to step back and try to see how we're doing and where we can improve. We need to get off the lawn. How can we do this? We'll we can gain help from mentors, peer groups, etc., and we can stop working in our business and start working on our businesses.
Sometimes, it just takes some humility. It's ok not to have all the answers and ask for guidance and help. That's how we all grow.
Just realizing you need to "get off the grass" is the first step. Take it today.
--Ron Ameln, SBM

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Power of the Thank You Note

Thank-you notes can be powerful business tools. The sad thing is these notes are a lost art in today's hectic, technology-driven environment. Let's put it this way, the more than-you notes you send, the more people you'll have eating out of your hand.
Think about it. Positive reinforcement goes a long way; and most people don't give (or get) much of it.
On his lecture tour, management guru Tom Peters told the story of a retired 3M executive who was a stickler for expressing his appreciation. He described to Peters his retirement party. "Several people came up to me, one or two with tears in their eyes, and thanked me for a thank-you note, sometimes one I'd written 10 or 15 years before!"
People don't forgot kindness. Who can you send a thank-you note to? Anyone and everyone. Employees, clients, prospective clients, anyone you appreciate. What about a phone call or email? Too easy. Writing a note demonstrates a level of effort, and it is permanent. And these letters must be handwritten. A two-line, largely unreadable scrawl beats a page spit out by the laser printer.
-Ron Ameln, SBM

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Myth Buster: No Such Thing As A Dream Job

I recently read a Facebook post encouraging people to pursue their dreams. "What's holding you back?" enthusiastically wrote the pal on Facebook.
What a crock of crap!
Let me be the first to say: there is no such thing as a "dream" job, "dream" occupation, "dream" mate, etc. The concept doesn't exist. Why do you think it's called a dream? It's not reality. Stop trying to chase dreams, slap some cold water on your face and join the rest of us in reality.
Now, I'm not saying you can't live a great life, create or find a great job. I believe you can, and it's not as hard as you think.
I'm saying the idea of chasing a dream is ridiculous. Great jobs usually develop out of hard work and dedication, not dreams. Do you think Ray Gallardo was chasing a dream as a dishwasher in the 1970s? Hell no. He was trying to make a living. He ended up moving up to a cook, then manager and then starting his own restaurant chain, Casa Gallardo.
Now, many people have dreams of starting a successful restaurant. The problem isn't following the dream. The problem is finding people who are willing to persevere through washing dishes, taking orders, scraping old food off of plates at 2am on a Sunday morning. That's no dream. That's reality. To find a great job or great career or great mate, what holds many people back isn't dreams, but reality.
--Ron Ameln, SBM

Friday, August 5, 2011

Do You Have A Vision For Your Business?

In 2004, the Coca-Cola Company was struggling, to say the least. During a seven-year period (1998-2004), the company's total return to shareholders stood at minus 26%, while rival PepsiCo delivered a 46% return. At one point, the company's third quarter earnings fell 24%, one of the worst quarterly drops in its history.
Shareholder return and poor numbers weren't the only issues for the company. Employee morale was down, capabilities were lacking, good employees were jumping ship and the company's vision was unclear.
New CEO and leader Neville Isdell was given the challenge of transforming the once-mighty business back into a powerhouse.
Isdell's solution for turning the company around: "His Vision."
The new CEO wrote his vision for the company, which he referred to as Coke's "Manifesto for Growth." This vision outlined a path for the future, not only where Coke was headed, but how it was going to get there and how people would work together along the way.
He got rank-and-file employees involved in helping him create this "manifesto," which immediately improved employee morale. He created teams to tackle the issues and make sure time lines were met.
Shareholder value jumped from a negative return to a 20% positive return in just two years. By 2007, Coke had 13 billion-dollar brands, 30% more than Pepsi. Staff turnover fell by almost 25%.
How about your company? Do you have a vision? Have you shared it with your employees? Have you asked for their input?
It is amazing where the bus can go when everyone on board knows which direction it is headed.
--Ron Ameln, SBM

Monday, April 4, 2011

Need to Diversify: Don't Sell The Fried Chicken

Years ago Hardee's Restaurants came up with a great idea, or so the company thought. The idea was to sell Fried Chicken. After all, customers loved their burgers and fries, why not create fried chicken that was just as delicious. The company was searching for a way to pull in even more customers, diversify the company offerings and provide a need in the marketplace.
And did they ever. I'm not sure if you ever sampled it, but the fried chicken was awesome. There was only one small problem. In order to make the chicken so good, it took some time. In fact, Hardee's often ran out of chicken, making customers wait more than 20 minutes for the next batch. Customers, while they liked the chicken, weren't used to spending 20 minutes at a fast-food restaurant. Do you know what happened? Customers stopped coming.
In its efforts to diversify and meet a need in the marketplace, the company actually drove its customers away.
I see this happening all the time in business. Companies want to diversify their businesses, but they completely forget about their own strengths. Many entrepreneurs ask the questions, "What is not being offered today? How can we make money the quickest?" They should be asking: "What is our strength? What are we really good at?"
You don't want to end up selling fried chicken.
Hardee's learned from its mistake. It stopped selling fried chicken and began focusing on its strength: big burgers.
--Ron Ameln, SBM

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Everyone Is A Salesperson

Tony Rubleski, an author and national speaker on sales, recently noticed a trend forming with his audiences. He noticed more ministers, accountants and attorneys were coming to his sales seminars.
Said Rubleski in his book, "Mind Capture": "Many ministers believe that if you build it, and the message is great, people should show up. That's fine to think and believe this, but at the end of the day, whether they believe it or not, their selling their followers on the message and vision they have."
The lesson here is simple: Everyone is involved in sales. The sooner you recognize this in your organization, the more success your business will enjoy.
Everyone in your organization should be trained on sales strategies and how to help improve sales within their own jobs. Accountants, ministers, attorneys, receptionists, service techs...they all have a role in the sales process.
Start providing your employees with some sales training and tools to help them better interact with customers. You may get some pushback (No one wants to be the telemarketer who calls at dinner). However, we're all sales people. More experience in sales will ultimately help all employees. Who do 99% of CEOs say are the most valuable employees: the top sales producers.
-Ron Ameln, SBM