Monday, November 26, 2012

The half of it

There are probably not many who don't know the old adage about the half-filled glass: that the optimist sees the glass as half-full, while the pessimist views it as half-empty.

That aphorism has been extended in many ways: An economist would say that, adjusted for inflation, the glass is 10% less full than two years ago; a banker would say that the glass has 50% of its net worth in liquid assets; politicians would say that it would be fuller if you vote for their programs, and a private equity investor would say that they could get rid of the excess glass, then fill it back with a bit of leverage.

And finally, some would over think it altogether.

In the days leading up to the Thanksgiving break, there was much to-and-fro about the state of the world:  the results of the election, the fiscal cliff, a world without Twinkies, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

While those of us who prefer not to live in caves or with our heads in the sand have more than a passing interest in the news of the day, fixating on macro issues is mostly a distraction, and finding the truth is as elusive as ever.

Monday, November 19, 2012

School's in

Discussions at our monthly TAB Board meetings are usually both deep and wide-ranging, as you might expect from a gathering of business owners and CEOs who've come to "talk shop."

From initiatives to ideas to strategies for implementing same, the conversations can get intense.  Board members are focused on improving their operations and their ability to manage the constant change that comes from that striving.  As my colleague John Dini wrote this week, while failure may indeed be an option, in order to succeed, good enough never is.

Or as C.S. Lewis said:  "Experience is a brutal teacher.  But you learn.  My God, do you learn." 

Some lessons from the field, from the mouths of CEOs:
  • Follow the money: When analyzing sales results, "Follow the money."  Poor closing rates usually mean an inability to ask for the sale (the money) or to get to the decision maker (the money.) Find out which it is and coach to correct.  Or find someone who wants to follow the money.
  • Focus on focus: When assigning new initiatives or tasks, always ask two questions: "What do you need to perform this and what do I need to take away?"  This helps focus yourself and your staff on the resources and commitments needed to execute the task and also generates buy-in.  Both are critical to successful delegation.

Monday, November 12, 2012

By the numbers

"In the end, it should always come down to the maths."  That was the wisdom of my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Balsam, who spoke about mathematics the way the Brits do -- calling it maths instead of math.  (He taught there for a couple of years in the 60's, before coming back to the colonies.)

The point he was making is that a facility with numbers is essential to proper decision making, by providing an orderly and logical underpinning for sifting through the information that bombards us.

So, I am sure that Mr. B was pleased that math was one of big winners in last week's election, according to Smithsonian Magazine's Smart News blog:
"New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza said this morning that after months of campaigning, the result of the 2012 election “was a huge victory yesterday for math.” Wired called 2012 “the nerdiest election in the history of the American Republic.”'
How many times does a comic referencing math go viral?  This one from the online comic site XKCD, did (it was mentioned in the above story):

Monday, November 5, 2012


It's November. Halloween has passed, we've turned the clocks back and daylight hours are fading fast.

In other words, it's that time when a business owner's thoughts turn to planning.  Our TAB members are working on securing this year's successes and focused on defining their priorities for 2013.  Happily, most of our businesses have seen gains this year, as is the case with many owners who are part of a knowledge-sharing group.

While each business plans in a way that is unique to it, I have found that the ones that are most successful in achieving their goals share some common approaches:  they focus on fewer, but very specific goals; they set hard targets and timelines; and they lead their organizations to the achievement of the goals without doing the work themselves.

When leading planning discussions, I like to start with three baseline questions:
  • What are your three priorities for 2013?
  • What resources do you need to achieve them?
  • What do you need to stop doing to make them happen?