One of my favorite characters from the movie “Up” was Doug the Dog. Doug had a very special collar that enabled him to speak to humans. He was enthusiastic, loyal and easily distracted. He would often lose focus when he heard or saw a squirrel. Mid-sentence he would turn and say “Squirrel“.
I’ve observed how many business owners and entrepreneurs love squirrels too. I am talking about the shiny objects that distract our attention from action and activities that produce optimal results in hopes to find the latest, greatest gimmick that will catapult their business.
Understand, I am not against innovation and improvement. I am all for it; at the right time.
Here are some key strategies that will enable you to be much more strategic when you consider potential opportunities for innovation and improvement. Doing so will increase your likelihood of success by minimizing distractions and squirrels.
Know Your Numbers
Often entrepreneurs are not in tune with actual performance of their businesses in critical areas. They monitor their success by guessing.
A client and I were reviewing their marketing and lead generation efforts. When asked about the performance of his various efforts, he had no idea which channels were generating leads or had converted business. He was wingin’ it and making very subjective decisions about how to invest his marketing dollars as he was getting ready to renew some advertising contracts. I recommended that we do some data collection and forensics on previous sales over the last year. Interestingly, we discovered some surprising truths about his lead generation and conversion efforts.
Specifically, we determined that he was investing over $40,000 per year in a publication that only produced one lead for his company and no sales. Ironically, he thought the ad was working and getting ready to renew for the next year.
The good news is that we discovered that another publication was producing fantastic results and we diverted funds to that media.
Not utilizing good, objective information leads business owners to be in a constant state of innovation and often spending time focusing on the wrong thing.
Be Strategic About Innovation
Attention is the new currency. Marketers are doing everything they can do to capture your attention.
As I suggested before, entrepreneurs can be susceptible to distractions and offers purported to make your life easier, sell more, improve and innovate. When you know your numbers and the truth about your performance, it will help you temper and resist the constant demand for your attention.
In one of my businesses, I observed our leadership team considering an alternative to a software program that we currently have in place. The new potential vendor was offering a lot of bells and whistles that sounded very appealing.
I challenged our team to consider the results our current program was producing and asked if those numbers were acceptable. By the time we finished the conversation, we found that our current program offered all the functionality and efficiency we really needed to get the results we wanted. Yes, the other program was compelling, but didn’t offer any real tangible benefit that would enhance the business.
Monitoring numbers will tell you the areas of the business you need to focus your attention and stay focused on what matters most.
Plan Sand Box Time
Entrepreneurs by nature tend to be innovators. They like to improve things and make things better. It is part of their DNA and can’t be squelched. A simple solution is to spend time researching and learning new things at a very specific, designated time each week. Get in the sand box and play. As an example, spend two hours on Friday afternoons learning something new or researching an area of interest. The key is that you don’t have to take any action after you’ve played. Just satisfy your need to learn and explore. You can also use that time to look for ways to improve something that you’ve previously identified, based on the numbers, that is not working in your business.
In summary, being more productive starts with knowing your numbers, focus on fixing what is broken based on those numbers and watching out for the squirrels vying for your attention.
In the movie Moneyball, Brad Pitt played the role of Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland A’s. The movie depicted events that took place during the early 2000’s when Beane popularized an approach to baseball that is often referred to as Moneyball.
At the time, Moneyball essentially was a way of valuing professional baseball players based on their ability to get on base. The Moneyball approach applies a very specific statistic that focuses on acquiring players that have the greatest likelihood of getting on base based on percentages at bat for the lowest possible salary.
The approach would often minimize the importance of other qualities often favorable in baseball, in favor of opting for a player with the lowest possible salaries and highest on base averages. Lesser known players were acquired in favor of future hall of famers if the statistics worked.
In 2000, the Athletics became the first team in the 100+ years of American League baseball to win 20 consecutive games. I wish I could report that the A’s won the World Series during this time period, but they didn’t. They did, however, improve the teams winning record coming in first or second in their division for many years following the new strategy and doing so with the 4th lowest league salary.
This got me thinking. Is there a key statistic that a business could focus on that would ultimately impact the overall performance of the company? Remember, Beane wanted to win games. He focused on getting people on base to support that outcome. His statistics gave him the information that would help him acquire the best players for the lowest price.
We all know in business what winning the game is, right? If not, let’s set up a time to talk about it. The question is “what is the core statistic that a business should focus on that will ensure that they win at business?”.
The answer is the Systems Performance Score.
Allow me to explain. As you already know, I operate from the premise that:
The key to success of any business is dependent on the quality of its systems. If you want to improve your business, you improve your systems. Since that is true then we must have a method for improving and scoring the performance of our systems.
I’ve put together a simple system that scores the quality of a businesses systems. Using this methodology enables the business to quantifiably focus the organization, like Beane did with player recruiting and the teams strategic focus, to intentionally and systematically improve the business through continual systems improvement.
When scoring a system, the Level 7 System guides us to score four primary areas.
1) Is the system producing the results it is intended to produce?
2) Is the system cost effective?
3) Is the system congruent with the company culture?
4) Is the system easy to follow and use?
We rate each of these questions on a scale of 1-5. 5 being the best. The higher the overall score for the system, the better the system is doing. Once you’ve scored all your systems, then you have a baseline Systems Performance Score.
The business development and improvement strategy of your organization is to continually innovate and improve your systems to elevate the total Systems Performance Score.
Rather than randomly chasing improvement, innovation and growth, the Level 7 System shows us to be systematic, disciplined and intentional in our strategy to growing a thriving, high performance entity. Want to win the world series of business, then focus on your Systems Performance Score.
“Why can’t you just be happy?” my wife asked me recently.
I paused and thought about it for a moment. “But I am happy. I am very blessed.” Then I preceded to give her a run down of all things I am grateful for including my marriage, kids, my business, health, friends etc.
I continued. “Baby (that’s my pet name for her), I think you are confusing happiness with contentment.”
“I am happy but I am never content. I don’t think I will ever be content. It is simply not my nature.” At that point I gave her a brief lesson on the nature of entrepreneurs.
Understand that true entrepreneurs are never content.
Stop fighting your nature. I have found over they years that virtually every entrepreneur struggles with being content or satisfied. They struggle because they believe that someday they will arrive and finally be content.
Sorry! It ain’t going to happen. Entrepreneurs are problem solvers. Their radar is constantly up and observing things that aren’t working or could be improved. We seek out opportunities to make things better and then hopefully take action to make things better.
We are always looking at things to improve. To the outside world this appears to be someone who is not happy with the way things are.
This nature extends beyond business. It shows up in our marriages, our health, our expectations of our children and so on.
Being an entrepreneur is a gift. We see things that most people don’t. We drive progress. We innovate. We improve.
The moment we stop being content, we cease to operate within our gifting. We stop being an entrepreneur.
Being an entrepreneur REQUIRES that we are discontent. The struggle for many of us to to equate contentment with happiness.
You can be discontent and still be happy. In fact, when you accept that fact that your nature is to be discontent, that in itself should leave your feeling happy.
Why? Because you are operating from a place where you living your true self. Stop fighting it.
Now, there are instances where our nature can become an extreme. We can simply take it to far, especially in the eyes of the others. Like nothing is every good enough. Nothing. This is an unhealthy and unproductive place to be.
Here are some tips that will help you remain more grounded, feel more satisfied and connect with being happy as an entrepreneur.
1- Take time to celebrate your successes. Specifically, schedule time each month to reflect on the improvements and advances that you have made in your business and life. Celebrate privately and with others.
2- Be grateful. Remember to appreciate the things that you do have. Again, make it part of your daily practice. Whether it be a morning or evening prayer or periodic moments of reflection where you stop and observe the good things in your life and business.
3- Smile and have fun. Don’t be so stinking serious and focused ALL the time. Have some fun. Take a break. Enjoy your life and YOUR work. You are most likely doing something that really is special and that you really like doing.
Now go be happy, be discontent and go make something better too!
One of our good friends has a 2 ½ year old daughter. She, like most other 2 year olds, can be a bit of a pill at times. That’s a polite way of saying, “She’s can be a pain in the butt.”
She will go on and on about something, kicking and screaming over the most seemingly insignificant things. At least to us. Her parents would jokingly declare, “The struggle is real.”
We laugh about it. It’s funny when we put it in perspective.
When it comes to business, the struggle is real too. But it’s no laughing matter.
Owning a business is tough. It’s hard. It can be a massive pill (see reference above).
And because it is tough I am going to say something I have never openly said before.
Business ownership and entrepreneurship is not for everyone. Not everyone should be a business owner. Many people need to give up their fantasy with the idea of entrepreneurship. Keep your dreams to yourself. Just dream.
There, I said it.
I suspect this statement won’t be popular.
Well, I’m not trying to win a popularity contest folks. I’m not going to be politically correct. Maybe I’m having a Donald Trump moment. I am going to just tell the truth. (I think people in our country are starving for truth and transparency).
Yes. The struggle is real. And you know it if you’ve been in business for more than 10 minutes. I’ve experienced it and I suspect you have too.
Nope there is no easy button.
Yes, the struggle is real. But that’s what makes it great.
Being an entrepreneur or business owner that builds a business that stands out and is truly great is one of life’s greatest challenges. It’s the challenge; the struggle that makes it good.
You see, every day we have the opportunity to overcome. We have the opportunity to be challenged. We have the opportunity to learn and grow. In fact it’s required. Because if we don’t we will die or get killed.
There is a line in the movie League of Their Own. Tom Hanks, referring to baseball, said, “It’s the hard that makes it good.”
In business, it’s the hard that makes it good. We have the opportunity to discover WHO we really are. We have to opportunity to see what we are really made of. And, if we respond to the challenge and fight, we get to see WHO we will ultimately become.
And who you will become is a better, stronger, more determined, courageous, disciplined and wiser person who can overcome and survive anything life throws at you.
The struggle is real. Embrace it.
I’ve got your back.
The older I get, the more I am coming to recognize, and perhaps accept the idea, that I simply don’t or won’t fully understand everything that happens in life.
It used to give me comfort, perhaps some solace, in being able to interpret or explain why we encounter difficult or challenging situations.
I am an encourager. I strive to be a person who is brings hope to people who are experiencing challenging or painful situations.
Recently, I have come to a personal conclusion, that I simply can’t explain why we sometimes get beat up by life.
Case in point. I had a conversation with a client yesterday. I won’t mention any names, but over the last several months, she has been pummeled by some of the weirdest, trying and difficult circumstance related to a business – all at once.
Many people might have to deal with one or two of these challenges at once, but she is dealing with 5 or 6 issues that are literally consuming most, if not all, of her time.
Even in the midst of that I haven’t ever heard her say, “Why me?” She has just kept plugging along.
In my hope to provide some encouragement to the situation, I offered a different perspective. My perspective comes from a lifetime of observation and over 20 years of coaching, mentoring, supporting and challenging business owners, leaders and people to become better at what they do.
I have witnessed this phenomenon working with business owners, employees and managers as they work to become better people and more effective in their roles.
In a situation where a person is growing, improving, building, changing, moving towards a goal, vision or desired action – when they’ve committed to something – they will encounter obstacles, challenges, opposition and resistance.
We simply don’t experience resistance standing still. Unless it’s gravity.
I’ve seen and experienced it myself over and over and over again. I can’t explain why this phenomenon exists.
Why can’t it just be smooth sailing? Why must we be punished for doing something good, for improving, I often ask?
Let me save you some time. Asking those questions will lead to a dead end. Stop worrying about why.
Rather, consider the resistance and challenges you are encountering as a sign.
YOU ARE ON THE RIGHT TRACK.
The more resistance we experience often suggests the bigger and better the goal or direction you are pursuing.
What it really comes down to is whether or not we have to guts, determination and will to persevere through until we see a breakthrough.
Feeling like things are tough. GOOD!!!!! You are in the right place. Don’t you dare quit! Don’t even think about it.
I am sometimes accused of using too many cliques. Oh well. Here is one that I think appropriately applies.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Here are a couple strategies that I use when I am feeling challenged. Perhaps you can apply some yourself.
1- Review my vision. I get refocused on the reason WHY I am doing what I am doing. My work and effort is honorable and is improving the lives of 100’s perhaps 1000’s of lives every year. My vision is important and worth the fight. (I’m fight for and with my clients)
2- Consider the worst case scenarios and ask myself this question – “can I live with the outcome.” Here is another clique. “What doesn’t kill me will make me stronger.”
3- Get support. I turn to mentors, coaches (yes, I have a coach) and experts to help me navigate through situations.
4- Get into a community of people who are likeminded and challenging themselves too. This is one of the many reasons I’ve formed the Level 7 Community and I conduct the Level 7 Roundtable Events. I am amazing when my business clients gather and begin to see how their peers experience the same challenges and issues in their lives and businesses as they pursue their vision. It makes them feel like they are not alone.
5- Keep moving. Take some action. Don’t get paralyzed. And don’t retreat. Don’t you dare!
6- Embrace the adventure and the challenge. Life is about ups and downs. The downs are good too. Yes, it pains me to say that. It is way easier said than lived. But it is a healthy perspective. Some of my most difficult challenges in life taught me massive lessons and, more importantly, made me a better person.
7- A good friend of mine, Bryan Hurd at www.bhurdinutah.com reminded me the other day that a motivated, focused and committed team will always accomplish more than one person possible can. Engage your team. Show them the vision. Ask them to join you and fight for the vision and dream too.
How do you cope? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
There are good things, greatness within you. If you are battling – then good. Battle on. I am right there with you.
Effective leaders do the right type of work and come in all shapes and sizes of personality. Some drive results, some collaborate. Some are extroverts and some are introverts. Regardless, leaders engage in a certain type of work and perform specific activities, not unlike any other role or position in an organization.
So let’s make something very, very clear – leadership is NOT about personality. Having worked one on one with 1000’s of leaders in dozens of different type of businesses and scenarios, I have seen wide varieties of personalities that are very effective in their leadership responsibilities.
I have also worked with many people in leadership roles that, based on their personalities, people might assume they would be effective leaders but they were not. In fact, they were terrible. They simply didn’t engage in the right type of work and do it well.
Effective leaders all have one thing in common…
They have enlisted and built a group of enthusiastic and focused followers.
Thanks for listening and thanks for leading.