Monday, September 24, 2012

Your aim, please?

"In the long run, men only hit what they aim at."- Henry David Thoreau.

I bet you didn't think of old Hank Thoreau as a management guru.  Perhaps you know him better as  "author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, and leading transcendentalist."

The sentiment above is a nice thought on focus. And that's how the quote is often used, including by yours truly.  We love focus.  Focus is important; you can't hit your targets without being able to sight them.

But focus is only half the story and quote (literally.)  Thoreau's coda is "...therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high."

A romantic sentiment, beautifully expressed.  But is Thoreau's quote espousing a good business principle?  Is it the big picture that matters? Is vision is more important than accomplishment?

We've looked at the both the "vision thing" and "failure is the best path to success" before, and found a fixation on either, to the exclusion of the other, somewhat problematic.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Reach out

Summer officially ends at 10:49 am EDT this Saturday, September 22, if you want to mark your calendar and get your eggs ready.

As the calendar turns from the lazy, hazy days into the rush of school, sweaters and falling leaves, so to does business the coming fourth quarter, the end of the calendar year, the literal and figurative accounting of the year's progress (or lack thereof.)

Perhaps that's why so many of my discussions this month have focused on sales and owners are taking another look at their numbers, their goals for this year and next and asking themselves, their staffs and their advisors "what's next?"  This cogitation is a good thing; the time to plan is now.

At one recent TAB Board meeting, one business owner -- whose sales come predominantly through manufacturing reps and distributors -- reported increased sales to this group following face-to-face visits by company scientists (the company has no salespeople, per se.)  The results were so striking that they have begun a program of formal visits to their reps around the world.  The next step is hiring a professional to manage distributor relations.

Personal attention, interpersonal relations, human dialogue -- such a concept, as my bubby would say. In our increasingly digital virtual world, up close and personal is becoming the exception, and not just in business or selling. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Thine own self

"This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!"

- Polonius, Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3.

The meaning of the words above, written 400 years ago, have been studied, debated and written about almost from the time they were penned.  Here's one take that I find satisfying:
By "false" Polonius seems to mean "disadvantageous" or "detrimental to your image"; by "true" he means "loyal to your own best interests." Take care of yourself first, he counsels, and that way you'll be in a position to take care of others.
For business owners, to be honest in your dealings with others is fairly intrinsic:  you won't get far in deceiving your business' stakeholders.

Take care of yourself first, now there's the rub.  As we have written about before, many business owners choose to do without, to sacrifice for the greater good of their businesses, often at their own expense.  Right or wrong, I don't know too many business owners who are in it solely for the money. 

Is that wise?  From a financial standpoint, no it is not.  As my colleague John Dini eloquently and correctly argues, businesses owners have a right to (all of the) profits.  Profits are a result, not a goal, however.

When financial considerations alone drive decisions, poor choices and outcomes often follow.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Gone fishing

I'm taking the holiday off.'s on our bucket list.

If you're jonesing, here are some blasts from the past, provided as a therapeutic service.
Enjoy over your morning Joe and then go play!

See you on September 10.