How much time do you waste during the course of an average day?
Can you quickly get your hands on anything you need to find in your office? An important phone number, a document you need to use with a client, the notes from your last meeting?
When you work for yourself, you wear a lot of hats.
You likely spend time working with and servicing clients, marketing, sales, business planning, networking, and managing yourself and your team (if you have one).
But you also probably spend a lot of time doing things that don’t do one single thing to add to your bottom line.
You know the story.
For some of us, December is kind of a haze. The fog clears on New Year’s Day and the first week of January the year is laid out before us like a King’s banquet.
It is funny how we like to commemorate change – whether it is the end of a year or starting a new adventure. Every time I moved (in my early adult years, it was often), I would say “this is…”
- My last run on the boulevard (or at the beach or in the park)
- My last bagel here
- My last beer there
- My last dinner with friends at a special place
I spent the better part of last week in the frigid north known as Minnesota working with a new client for an incredibly productive five days. It turned out to be a great way to help the team make their goals, and leave for their winter holidays with a clear conscience and a dynamic path to start 2017.
Each day on my drive from the hotel to my client’s office, I saw a rather large sign on the street:
“Hats – Cleaned and Blocked"
Nearly every parent I know has a similar story – and the corresponding revelation. The time when you realize your children watch you more than you are aware – and sometimes in an embarrassing way. The one that I like to share is the story about me as a toddler wandering next door to our neighbor Bob’s house while he was working on something in his garage. Apparently, I watched as Bob accidently hammered his thumb to which I exclaimed, “Well, *#$%!”
My daughter once asked my husband if he fell in love with me because I was such a good cook. As my name would suggest, I make a pretty mean pasta sauce but I’m also known for my family’s Turkey dressing, chocolate chip cookies, guacamole, chili, and chicken soup. Though he benefits from my kitchen expertise, he looked at her without blinking and said, “No, because she played golf and liked sports.”
I laughed but knew there was more than a kernel of truth in what he said. Long before the days of parent (over) involvement in kid’s athletics, I signed myself up for after school sports in the third grade at the local elementary school. I played softball, basketball and volleyball through junior high and softball into high school. At eight, I was one of the tallest in my class but by the time middle school rolled around I ended up being one of the shortest. Having the moves of a center doesn’t help much when you become the size of a point guard. Sports – both as a participant and a spectator – have been a part of my life for a long time.
What are your business goals for the year? If you’re like most owners, you have a profit goal you want to hit. You may also have a top line revenue number that’s important to you. While those goals are important, there is another objective that may have an even bigger payoff: building a sellable business.
The Arizona sun is hot – and sometimes merciless – in the damage it inflicts. For example, my brother-in-law built his dream home with a beautiful front door. After five years of daily torment from a hot afternoon sun, the wood door succumbed with daylight cracks, losing its luster, and finally had to be replaced. The new door, like ours, is a composite designed to withstand the abuse of long, sunny days.
Last year, my Aunt Mary passed away at 92. My cousins, going through her things, found a box of mementos sent to her by my family. Our birth announcements, thank you and birthday cards (she shared a birthday with my father), and newspaper clippings filled the box with childhood remembrances long gone in our own household.
In nearly every hero’s journey – think Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or almost any old Western – a group of disparate individuals with unique talents come together for some singular goal. Throughout their journey, they learn and support each other, find common ground, and almost always, are better for the adventure. As I write this I am returning from several days in Washington D.C. at a business retreat with my mentor. Our group is part mastermind, part mentoring, and a big dose of accountability and inspiration. It consists of 24 diverse but like-minded individuals who have all written and published one book with our mentor, Angela Lauria. Our task is to make a difference in the world as entrepreneurs while learning from and supporting each other.
I attended a conference on family business issues many years ago and listened to Jake Leinenkugel, the then President of Leinenkugel Brewing, tell his story of how he came back into his family business. Jake was a Marine in Korea when he received a letter from his father, Bill, asking him to come home and help him run the company.
There’s a steady breeze from the northwest, which cools the warm Caribbean afternoon. Framed between a palm tree and the turquoise water, you notice a man reading. He appears to be working, which seems strange given his appearance: shaggy blonde hair, linen shirt, surf shorts and flip-flops.
You squint and realize the man is Richard Branson and he just happens to be running Virgin Group Ltd., a multibillion-dollar conglomerate. He is working where he usually does, at Necker Island, a 74-acre retreat he owns in the British Virgin Islands.
During the fall, the sounds of college football can be heard throughout our home on Saturday afternoons. Recently, I found it interesting to learn Nick Saban, head coach of the University of Alabama’s football team, and arguably one of the best college’s best football coaches (full disclosure – we are a Big 10 household) say that he has a specific ritual after winning a game on the road. He and his wife will get in their car for their drive home from the airport – and put on the song “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones.
For years, I fought against rigid habits – or really – I fought against the idea of routine – the thought that I had to do the same thing twice or in the same particular way. I drove to work using different routes, didn’t like to be tied down to same schedule, and created a pursuit of making sure I always did things differently. I told myself that change was a good thing.
Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with an old friend who has had a very successful career as a commercial lender. I asked him what had been on one of his greatest leadership challenges. He told me when a company’s top leaders are not aligned with the company mission, forgetting about the importance of customers and those employees who serve them.
It was going to be a rough day. And to be fair, I knew it was coming.
The day before, my boss had called from Houston (where he lived) to let me know the last ditch negotiations to sell our distribution network and inventory to a customer had failed. The bank was pulling the plug. The lawyers would be filing for bankruptcy.
Whether you are a newly minted “solopreneur” or a chiseled veteran working on a company exit strategy, understanding the role of a second-in-command (2iC) will help make this transition a success.
When I start working with new clients, we often want to identify what is most important to their success and the success of their company. To help with this discussion, one of the exercises I will ask them to do is to track their activities for one day – from the time they get up until they go to bed. To make it simple, I just ask they keep a running list of everything they do or touch during a typical day.
Earlier this week I was a podcast guest and frankly, it wasn’t my best interview. The host of the show – a very well respected coach/consultant and generally all-around great guy – did everything he could to make the show go well. But we got stuck.
Many people think I learned how to ride a motorcycle because I married my husband – an avid motorcycle enthusiast. But the truth was one of my dearest friends wanted a companion to take a motorcycle safety course so she could obtain her license and asked me to join her. I was free that weekend and it sounded like fun so I agreed.