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Business Ethics Compass needed

We all need change

Jim Baiar and Thomas Davis never knew each other, yet my experience tells me they were cut from the same cloth. One I barely knew, yet I know much about him because I know his son and grandson. The other I knew well, yet probably didn’t know well enough. Both were the kind of people who are harder to find than they used to be. People with the kind of character that builds families, companies, communities, and in some cases, entire countries.

Marcus Aurelius wrote extensively about how to become this kind of person. Studies of his life and his writings left those who analyzed them with the idea that his writings were intended as reminders about how to live his life. While they may have done so, it appears his writing has become much more – a list of reminders / lessons for the rest of us.

Change demands you make a choice

Based on what makes the news on any randomly chosen day, you might be tempted think there’s a shortage of good people in the world. There isn’t. In most cases, people doing good (even “boring” day-to-day good) are often too engaged in their lives to end up in the news, much less watch or listen to it.

My youngest graduated from law school a few weekends ago. After graduation, we talked a little about his future (conversations that will no doubt continue). I’m sure he’s aware that there are many corrupt, manipulative, evil lawyers in the world. You hear about them in frustrating news stories, both local and national. Likewise, there are corrupt (etc) politicians, programmers, executives, doctors, and so on. It isn’t the job. It’s the person and their choices.

The behavior of this group and the PR they attract (or generate) is a significant reason why people generally dislike attorneys. Sometimes it’s because people tend to interact with attorneys only at the “lowest”, most challenging period of their lives, because we observe them from afar as they defend corrupt, unethical, dangerous people, or because they say and do things on camera that are simply unfathomable to the rest of us.

I told him that “They made a choice to be that kind of lawyer, and to behave that way. I believe you will be the kind of lawyer that raises the average, but it’s a choice you’ll be faced on multiple occasions. Make the right choice and help the rest of the good ones raise the average.

While he’s young, idealistic, an Eagle Scout, and a few other things, he still needs reminders like this. We all need them. A brief, well-considered piece of advice to a newly graduated high school, college or post-graduate student is always a good investment. Not a lecture, simply a reminder to consider what they might face in the future. A similar comment to a new employee, a newly promoted employee, an employee who’s leaving, and so on…. all valuable if carefully made.

Change requires movement

Periods of change require people willing to invest in change. When it comes to periods of change, it’s always one decision or one person that starts it. SOMEONE has to start it, even if the motion in the direction of change is the tiniest little thing. Tony Robbins said “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change” I’m pretty sure he borrowed this from his mentor Jim Rohn, but that doesn’t make it less true.

Tired of the seemingly unending supply of unethical, if not downright evil people you hear about in the news? The movement that’s necessary to make the change needed to get rid of these people is really quite simple. Seek out people entering your line of work. Young, old, doesn’t matter. Make sure bad behavior isn’t rewarded. Get involved in their professional growth. Gain their trust, then teach, mentor, and advise them. Make a point of calling out poor behavior in professional settings and help them understand why that behavior is unacceptable – not just that it is.

If you make this contribution repeatedly, the right people will be ready to take over when someone is fired, convicted, or asked to retire. Hire and interview well. Mentor them. Eventually you’ll have a group of people to promote from whose character cannot and will not be stained. It won’t be easy, but the alternative is simply awful.

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attitude Business culture Compass needed Entrepreneurs Improvement Motivation Personal development Small Business The Slight Edge

Running away?

Today’s guest post is a quote from Henry Miller that I stumbled across.

Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquestioningly. Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such. – Henry Miller

Look at your business through that lens. What do you see?

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attitude Automation Blogging Compass needed Customer relationships customer retention E-myth Improvement Leadership Management Marketing Motivation planning Positioning President-proof Productivity Small Business strategic planning Strategy systems Technology Time management

What’s on your plate?

Imagen de Hola Gourmets 2009
Creative Commons License photo credit: jlastras

As I spent the last month mulling over my strategic plan for this year, I started by looking at what I was doing operationally as if I was my own client.

In the software business, it’s called “eating our own dogfood“. In other words, a vendor using their own software for the task it was designed to perform.

But it isn’t limited to software.

From a day-to-day operations perspective, that process quickly tossed a few things in my face.

I thought I’d mention some of the higher level things in case they happen to spark a ToDo item for you.

Technology

I need to automate WordPress updates across several dozen sites (some mine, some not). It was semi-automated, after today, I have it down to one button, right down to opening the site WordPress admin page to make sure I know whether I need to hit the “Database upgrade” button in the WP admin interface. No, I don’t use the built-in update process because I’d have to manually go all over the place to make that happen. Old school.

The upside of systematically handling this critical task is that I can finally hand this task off to an intern because there’s a system in place to make the work happen. Can you say “E-Myth”? Yes, I thought you could.

Last year, I moved all my web and other development work (including marketing/strategic client documents and even blog posts) to source-controlled environments after a few fits and starts in the past. This year, the software projects will get further screw-tightening by adding automated build and test processes.

Accountability

I’ve had some trouble with getting consistent action out of some folks this past year. Dan says I shouldn’t care because I can’t control the actions of others, but it isn’t about control. It’s about encouragement. Worse yet, client results reflect on me and I don’t like seeing folks failing to take advantage of my best efforts. I think I’ve found a way to solve the problem. We’ll see.

As for me, I need to lean on the calendar even more than I have in the past, especially on projects important to me.

The result of pondering this is that…

  • I’ve already chosen my charitable time commitments for the year.
  • I’m actively seeking a new mentor. Yes, pretty much everyone who is getting anything done has a mentor. Even Dan Kennedy has a mentor. Think about that for a minute.
  • I have to be more demanding of my marketing clients in 2011. You may have figured out that I have a certain level of expectation of my clients after creating a strategy, tools and other materials for them. When they don’t get used (regardless of the reason), that hurts them and me (eventually). That level of accountability will rise markedly later this month as I complete a few tasks that will help me “enforce” it. Those who are willing to take their business seriously will be glad I’ve done this. The rest will probably end up working with someone else, if they do anything at all.
  • Because I had to more or less ignore the needs of several prospective clients in 2010, I will be narrowing the clients I personally serve in 2011 while expanding the number of clients that can get my personal help. Yes, I know that sounds like opposite directions. Stay tuned, it’ll make sense as I roll it out. Planet Dan folks – think “ladder”.

Focus

John Haydon mentioned the other day on Twitter that his boss was a jerk. Of course, John works for himself. The hardest person to manage is yourself.

Focus comes up because a few personal projects slid last year. This was mostly due to an abundance of customer work. While I’m grateful for the work, I’ll be more demanding of myself in the selection of projects this year because these other things MUST GET DONE.

That’s already being corrected, partly via the accountability change noted above, partly via the mentor thing, partly via kowtowing even more to the calendar and via a few other steps I’ve taken. Like Jim Rohn said, when you say yes to one thing, you’re saying no to something else.

My existing clients will get even more attention this year. If you aren’t a client now and you’ve been thinking about it, now would be a good time to make a decision.

Writing

My writing (in the blog) has suffered immensely the last two years. I think it’s gotten better, but the frequency has really fallen off due to my workload.

The upside of this is that it’s given me time to think more about what I write and how you guys consume it and take action on it. That has resulted in the BIP book taking a few turns strategically. Now that I’ve finally, really (no kidding) figured out what I want to do with it, well, it’s moving along much better now.

I’ve also waded most of the way through an editorial calendar for the blog for the year, something I’ve never taken the time to do before. I suspect that’s pretty obvious to long time (it’s been 6 years this week) readers.

Bottom Line

One of the things that stood out in my mildly-freaky conversation with myself was that I need to put even more effort into doing for me what I do best for others. Imagine that.

Oh yeah, by now you should be asking me why you should care. “Boy, doesn’t that seem all about you and not at all about your readers?”

Yes, except that most of what I talked about is…for my readers/clients. And I hope it has made you reflect on what your plans are.

Do your clients know where you’re going? Does your staff?

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attitude Business culture Compass needed Creativity Entrepreneurs Ideas Personal development Small Business strategic planning Strategy

Lost it all? Here’s how he came back


Today’s guest post is an interview with James Altucher, who had it all after selling his internet-based business.

Shortly thereafter, he lost it all during the dot com bust in 2001-2002.

The video above tells the story on what he did to turn his business fortunes around.

He used software as a means, but the key is the thought process. Worth a listen (6 minutes).

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attitude Community Compass needed Entrepreneurs Leadership Motivation Personal development Small Business

Cracks in your life. What would bust them wide open?

Sossusvlei Landscape
Creative Commons License photo credit: geoftheref

Today’s guest post is from @BradRourke, who posts on a litany of topics revolving around self, community organizations, business and things in-between.

The Mark Sanford meltdown was just one of his topics recently, but not so much about the paparazzi angle.

Instead, he writes about what it might take to get a fine upstanding citizen like yourself to go over the edge like Sanford did.

Hopefully you aren’t there and no one you know is there, but just in case, give it a read and see if his story (which isn’t about Sanford) sounds familiar.

You just might save someone – and it might even be yourself.

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coaching Compass needed Creativity Entrepreneurs Positioning Small Business

A visual look at that “Do what you love and the money will come” thing

Today’s guest post is from Bud Caddell, where he’s taking something that is so pervasive that it has become a cliche – and turned it into a visual that is far more meaningful.

While I might not insist upon doing what you love, I would say you’d better have an interest in it for sure, otherwise someone is likely to come along and spank you at your own game.

Regardless, I thought you might enjoy it.

See it here: http://whatconsumesme.com/2009/what-im-writing/how-to-be-happy-in-business-venn-diagram/

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Someone keyed my Karma

Month before last during a coaching session, I had a pretty frank conversation with a client about freedom.

Not the Constitutional kind of freedom, but freedom from the ball and chain that a business can become. I don’t mean that in a bad way, just that it can become a restriction to your freedom.

Not only that, but it’s common for small family-owned businesses to almost not be a business if the family isn’t there. If you aren’t there. Needless to say, this isn’t an ideal situation when unexpected events occur.

During that conversation, we talked about configuring the business so that it could stand an unexpected, required trip out of town for a month (or 3).

A month went by.

In last month’s session, we were talking about their retail business and once again, we talked (among other things) about how I felt they needed to spend some serious effort on figuring out how to grow and insulate the business from unexpected turns in life.

I gave them a few examples of things to work on, knowing that we’d need to revisit it and fine tune the strategy as we move forward.

And here comes Al.

Then I mentioned that I was getting to take my own advice, as I had just discovered that an immediate family member has been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Result: Recent efforts to move a portion of my client base a little closer to home were going to have to be reversed.

My business is going to be changing because – as I advised my client – I don’t know when I will need to disappear for a few months. Not completely disappear or be disconnected from the net, but just not be home for an unknown period of time.

A few weeks went by, and I was hoping that the owner’s thought and effort was going into that project. I’m sure it is, but it’s not an immediate change to do this to your business – particularly if you are in retail, restaurant or hospitality (ie: hotel, motel, b&b).

Another month goes by.

Last week, we talked again to schedule our next call and it turned out that the very thing I had advised preparing for was happening.

Family responsibilities requiring out of town travel on little notice for an unknown period of time. Really sad.

Meanwhile, I look in the mirror and remind myself that my business is changing for the same reasons and that I need to accelerate the pace.

Are you prepared for that sort of thing? Depending on your age and your parents age, it might be more apparent to you – but it can happen to you even if you are a 26 year old entrepreneur.

If you don’t ask for help, you aren’t likely to get it.

In 70% of small business failures, a key factor was the owner not recognizing or ignoring weaknesses, and then not seeking help.” – SCORE / US Bank survey of failed small businesses

Do you have someone in your corner who will ask you the tough questions?

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Business Resources coaching Compass needed Competition Creativity Entrepreneurs Ideas Improvement Personal development planning Positioning Small Business Strategy

Are you a natural?

breathe
Creative Commons License photo credit: hilectric

Today’s guest post is from ChrisG.com and is about a question from @starbucker

What is so natural to you that it is like breathing?

What aspect of yourself, which behavior, skill, activity, talent, is so part of you that you could not imagine yourself without it?

Thatâ??s the key, itâ??s not just what you are good at, or what people expect of you – what do you do automatically, easily, and would do regardless?

Spend some time thinking about that and how it relates to your business. You may find a new product line, service or perhaps a whole ‘nother business inside yourself.

You might learn a few other things as well. Challenge yourself, don’t just go through the motions.

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attitude Blogging Business culture Compass needed Creativity Entrepreneurs goals Ideas Leadership Motivation Personal development Productivity Small Business Social Media Strategy The Slight Edge

Hugh’s advice for entrepreneurs

If you strongly prefer a G or PG post, this isn’t going to be your favorite guest post.

Or maybe it will.

Today’s guest post comes from Hugh MacLeod, and in fact, it’s part of his upcoming book (June 2009).

You may know him from his cartoons, which he pens under the name Gaping Void.

What I will tell you is that even if a few four letter words bother you, you’ll be better off reading and discarding them because quite frankly, this is a pretty important read to any entrepreneur or wanna-be entrepreneur.

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Compass needed Competition Customer service Technology

Online businesses: Service or schmervice?

From time to time, I stumble across online businesses that forget that first and foremost, they are a business – not a website.

TWO this week.

I generally find these things when I need service from a business for the first time. Perhaps the dream of the typical internet business owner is to put up a website, get buried in sales, hire a gorgeous assistant to deal with everything (you know, sales, shipping, etc) and sit back and just watch the money roll in.

Thennnnnnn reality hits. You’ve got a real business, Lucy.

People email, call and fax real businesses. No matter how well you’ve explained something, there will be someone who needs help. Or missed that page, or didn’t see the FAQ, or didn’t scan Google for something that seems totally flippin’ obvious to you. No matter how much you’ve automated – which I’m all in favor of – there will be some things you just need to deal with.

The obvious missing “secret” here is…