Monday, October 29, 2012

Trying times

"I'll try."

Can you think of a more maddening phrase in business and in life?

While there are contenders -- such as "I think not;" "I could be wrong;" "just give me a while to think about it;" and "perhaps we should get the group together to discuss" -- to me "I'll try" is the biggest hedge in the human lexicon.  If you are on the receiving end of an "I'll try," does it inspire confidence in a positive outcome?   

While I don't usually put much stock in the quotes of imaginary movie characters, Jedi master Yoda nailed it in "The Empire Strikes Back":  "Do or Do not.  There is no try."

Business owners are an optimistic lot, generally.  They have to be to continue moving forward in their businesses in the face of continuing changes in customer preferences, competition, regulation, employee attitudes, etc.

The only constant in business, a CEO said at a recent TAB board meeting, is change, and "change drives growth."

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hear, say.

At a gathering of business folks recently, we discussed the book Power Questions.  Those gathered found it to be a good, thought-provoking read, and some had already put some of the concepts and questions into practice in their organizations.

The author, Andrew Sobel, has penned several books on selling and fostering lasting client relationships.  Good questions, in his words, "light fires under people, help them see problems in new ways, and inspire them to bare their souls. The result is deep personal engagement." Power Questions offers many great examples of great questions to ask and how to ask them, and provides the reader with more than 300 questions, grouped topically.  It's a great resource for any business leader.

Is questioning enough, though?  Most modern sales "systems" are now built around the concept of questioning, of "finding the pain" of the prospective buyer.   Asking pre-programmed questions that are designed to manipulate the emotions of someone you just met doesn't seem like the recipe for success to me.  As one of the members of our book group said, "if a salesperson asks me 'what keeps you up at night?', I know they are a hack and haven't done their homework."

Monday, October 15, 2012

Higher hire

With unemployment being what it is in this country -- high, improving only gradually and with many more job seekers than available jobs, you'd think that employers would have the pick of the litter.

It ain't necessarily so. Or so it seems.

Business owners with whom I meet or work who have jobs to fill are decrying the lack of qualified applicants for those positions.   The constant refrain that I hear is, "No one wants to work anymore," or some variation on that theme.  There is certainly some be truth to that, but as the saying goes: "If you say you can't, then you won't."

There is always talent out there.  Lots of talent. Gobs of it.  It may seem counter-intuitive, but in this employment economy, you have to compete for talent if you want to hire more than mediocrity. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Out of the bowl*


Your business is finally back on a growth track, after several years of struggle.  Sales are not only improving, they are accelerating.  Some hiccups month-to-month, but the trend line is steepening and extending.

Your increased profits have allowed you to finally move ahead and expand the range of products and services you offer.  Your customers are reacting happily, buying more often and spending more per transaction.  It's a virtuous circle.

Employees are happy.  They are getting profit sharing bonuses and those bonuses are increasing as the business performs.  You've installed the systems and processes to give them the autonomy to do their jobs without being micromanaged.  You trust their judgment -- you have to, because you're now so large that you couldn't do their jobs even if you wanted to.  In fact, there's several people you didn't hire yourself; your managers did.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Shooting for the moon...

Sim·ple [sim-puhl]  adjective, sim·pler, sim·plest, noun adjective

1. easy to understand, deal with, use, etc.: a simple matter; simple tools.
2. not elaborate or artificial; plain: a simple style.
3. not ornate or luxurious; unadorned: a simple gown.
4. unaffected; unassuming; modest: a simple manner.
5. not complicated: a simple design

What happened to simple?  Why has simple become so difficult?

By simple I mean "easy to understand and deal with," as noted above.  Do you feel that your life -- business or personal -- is getting simpler:  easier to understand or less complex?  Bully for you if you do; you are in the minority.

But you know what?  It's been ever so.  Search for "simplicity quotes" and you''ll see exhortations, lamentations and admonitions going back centuries, even to the days of Leonardo da Vinci:  "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

Simplicity doesn't mean not difficult, not challenging.  Consider JFK's famous challenge to the nation:
 "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth."
Simple goal, no?  Devilishly difficult to execute? Absolutely, even with the unlimited resources of the government backing it.