Saturday, February 25, 2012

Failures and other success stories

It took Thomas Edison ten thousand tries to perfect the light bulb.  It’s a, if not the, classic story of overcoming failure through perseverance.

But the reality is that the founder of GE had resources unavailable to most private business owners today.  It begs the question:  how many failures can you afford before you get it right?  Certainly, it's far less than old Tom.

Failures are part of business, and life.  If we are smart, we learn from them. If we are not, we are soon out of business, and sometimes out of life

But let's not dwell on the negative.   There are plenty of motivational and instructional quotes on the value of trying but failing, one of my favorites being "A man's errors are the portals of discovery."

If failures are inevitable, can we minimize their occurrence and impact on our businesses and our lives?  How do we turn them into teachable moments, into Joyce's "portals of discovery?"

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Ready, Fire...

I played a lot of sports when I was growing up.  Baseball, hockey, football, lacrosse.  I was a decent enough baseball player, but at 5-foot-6, I harbored no illusions of playing at any high level of competition.   (Especially after watching "failed" major league pitchers up close and personal during one trip to Spring Training.)  In lacrosse, I was good enough to play at the Division I collegiate level, but not as a starter.  

I loved these sports, practiced diligently and consistently, and worked with my coaches to get better.  But at a certain point, I did not get any better:  I reached the peak of my abilities.  My potential was exhausted.  So, I focused my abilities and competitive drive in other, more productive areas.  I fired myself, so to speak.  So, it goes.

Several of my TAB members have been struggling with "people issues" of late.   Hiring is one of the three challenges (the others being sales and marketing) that form the "trinity" of core issues for most small business owners. 

Making the wrong hire is incredibly costly, for businesses small and large.  We're talking tens of thousands of dollars.  I won't list the studies and commentary here, but type "cost of a bad hire" into Google and you'll get 116 million results.

Why is hiring people thing so hard?  For one, it's "because we hire people for what they know, but fire them for who they are," according to one TAB member.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Going for broke?

Last night's Super Bowl was a thrilling one:  tightly-played between evenly-matched teams.  It came down to the last second,  a desperation heave -- a "Hail Mary" -- hoping to turn defeat into victory.  Didn't happen...for the Patriots, anyway.

But as the coach said after the game, there were "100 plays" that he'd like to do over again.  He wasn't so much talking about the strategy or design of any of the plays, but the execution.  After six months of practice and playing, it came down to the last minute and a couple of plays that didn't work out quite as planned.  Any of them could have changed the outcome.

Stuff happens, as they say...all the time.  In football, in business and in life.

But while there are many parallels and analogies between football and life, as a business owner or leader, if you are in in the position the Patriots were in with just over a minute left in the game, it is a classic Catch-22 if ever there was one.

In business, if you need to go for broke, the likelihood is that you already are well on your way to getting there.  If you are between a rock and a hard place, it is a much different reality than a football game where everyone goes home a bit richer.