Thursday, January 21, 2010

Are Your Activities Helping You Reach Your Goals?

One of the great things about being a business owner is you call your own shots. Every morning you dictate your activities and energy level. It is certainly a blessing many employees around the country would like to try for just one day. It is a blessing but also a curse.
Many business owners get so unfocused that they end up chasing one opportunity after the other, never really focusing on their long-term goals.
The solution: A plan.
Business owners are the worst when it comes to planning. Most spend more time planning their vacations than the future of their businesses. If you fall into that group, complete the following exercise:
Jot down where you want your business to be in 3 years. Be specific with sales figures, number of clients and employees.
Take a look at your information. Start to break it down. For example, if you want 300 clients in 3 years, you'll need 100 by the end of year 1. After you find out what you need in year 1, start jotting down what it will take to make those numbers.
Presto, you have a plan. Keep it posted above your computer. When you are bogged down in meetings or bouncing from project to project, take a loot at your plan. Ask yourself: "Is this activity helping me reach my goals?" If the answer is no, stop doing it.
--Ron Ameln, SBM

Friday, January 15, 2010

Are You A Rock or Sponge?

Therapists have a saying and it goes something like this: "When people come to us with a problem, the real problem is never what our patients' think." In other words, alcohol isn't your real problem, it is something that is leading you to drink. A therapists job is to pull back the layers and locate the real problem, and then the patient can work on solving that problem.
I thought of this the other day when talking to a local entrepreneur. This entrepreneur has been in business for about 15 years and she attended a peer group to gain new insights into herself and her business. After attending, she came to the conclusion that "I've seen everything in 15 years and none of these people can help me."
Houston: we've found the real problem.
John Wooden, the great basketball coach, has a famous saying, "It's what you learn after you know everything that really matters."
Entrepreneurs are certainly independent. Many fled the corporate world because they didn't want to answer to THE MAN each day. Those traits are great for running a company, but can also hold these owners back.
Most of the successful business owners I know are sponges, soaking in everything they can. They don't put up a wall and convince themselves they "know it all." They use what they can and are always open to new ideas, no matter who might provide them.
One of the best ideas for Jack Stack, owner of SRC Holdings in Springfield, Mo., came from the janitor. That idea and many others helped Stack turn around the near-bankrupt firm around.
There's not much hope for this entrepreneur, but there is hope for you. The lesson: put your ego to the side for a minute. You don't have to take the janitors advice, but you should at least listen. Your future may depend on it.
--Ron Ameln, SBM

Monday, January 4, 2010

Management By The Numbers

When I start talking about numbers with my entrepreneurial friends they all start rolling their eyes. "There he goes again, talking about numbers." I can certainly understand their objections. After all, these risk-taking business owners are leading companies because they have a passion for what they do, not because they have a passion for flow charts and spreadsheets.
I used to think that way as well. Until my business coach showed me how to use my numbers to solve the weaknesses in my business. The numbers always tell a story, and if you get to know your numbers, you can solve your deepest business issues.
This concept works in all phases of life and business. Take, for example, the St. Louis Blues hockey team. The underachieving team recently fired its head coach because of the team's poor performance. So, how does the new coach start to solve some of the team's problems? Well, a look at the numbers shows the team's two main weaknesses, a poor power play (one of the league's worst) and a poor home ice record (the worst in the league). If the new coach wants to get the Blues into the top 8 slots for a playoff birth in the next four months, he must improve on these two weaknesses. Really, nothing else matters. If the Blues were just .500 at home this year and average (compared to the rest of the league) on the power play, the team would be in the coveted top 8 already. Solve these problems and the team is in the playoffs.
The numbers tell the new coach where to look to solve the team's problems. The lesson: If you don't chart and measure your performance in a variety of ways, you won't know how to correct your weaknesses.
--Ron Ameln, SBM