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