April Showers Bring May Growth

April Showers Bring May Growth

As April comes to a close, I thought I’d share some of what I have learned in the course of the month. This month was so long, it seems I should have a lot of wisdom to impart. But, what I do know is what I have learned this month has allowed me to grow into a stronger version of myself.

  1. We always have an opportunity to develop new skills, whether it’s how to conduct a webinar or how to build a chicken coop.  
  2. Disciplined daily habits are the key to success.  
  3. Teachers are a critical part of our society. They have a skill set that I believe every parent has learned to value. 
  4. The greatest gift of humanity we can give is looking beyond ourselves and caring for people around us. This is especially true when we are struggling internally.
  5. I truly value the connections I have with other individuals. Finding new ways to connect has been challenging but rewarding.
  6. I’m so thankful for the people who have continued to work with the public even during this time. This includes the gas attendants, grocery store workers, nurses, doctors, delivery drivers and all other essential business workers.  
  7. Hearing a different perspective can help me grow and expand.  
  8. The best solution to a problem may end up being your third solution. Don’t give up when you get the first idea – keep brainstorming until you get two more. You may be surprised at how much better your final solution will be if you keep working through a few more options. 
  9. Take time to enjoy every moment. Joy comes from embracing the small things – not just celebrating the big ones.
  10. Don’t let fear hold you back. There are lots of great opportunities waiting if you give yourself permission to fail.

The great news is that the chicken coop is done. I just need to build in some protection for my chickens and then bring them to their new home!

A Lesson on Resilience from a Puppy

A Lesson on Resilience from a Puppy

As you may know, I am in the process of building a chicken coop. This is one of my two goals during the April quarantine. The other goal is to help as many people as possible which has been progressing as well.
When I’m out in my woodworking shop, the dogs are typically with me. I have two red fox Labradors: a 6-year-old and an 11-month-old.
JacX, our 11-month-old, likes to find things to chew on. Yesterday, it was a piece of scrap wood, which I took away from her. A few minutes later, she found a piece of Styrofoam to chew. I asked her to come and she brought it over to me and without hesitation dropped it in my hand.  After that, she came from the yard with a stick, which she lay down on the patio to chew. I again asked her to bring it to me and I put it out of reach. I then gave her a rawhide and she headed off to chew that. 
I think we can take a lesson from JacX. A lot of us have been confined to our houses. First the shops closed, then the restaurants, and now even the parks are closed. Each time, we had to make a choice to find something else to do with our time. The replacement activities may not be our first choice, but we can look at this as an opportunity to find something new to experience. 
Our lives will go back to some sort of “normal” eventually. But right now, we need to use this time to develop new skills, explore new interests, or embrace those around us.
And if all else fails, we can curl up in the sun and take a nap.
Tips on How to Make the Most of this Situation

Tips on How to Make the Most of this Situation

The past week was consumed with planning for either working remotely or adopting social distancing guidelines for businesses that remained open. But, this week has been a little different as the planning phase has been completed and now it is time to execute the plan. And, if you are like me, you have a little more unstructured time on your hands. So, the question is – how do we make the most of this time?

Last fall, after returning from a journey on the Camino Frances, I spent a lot of time learning how to be more intentional – with my time and my focus. Through this, I developed some great tools that I use every day, week and month to keep me focused on the right things. I think these tools are very helpful, especially as we face our current situation. At the bottom of this post are links to those articles.

If you want to skip through reading the posts and go right to execution, I have compiled all of them into a single presentation that I can review with your or your team. All you need to do is send me an email, or call me (360-975-8110) and we can get an on-line meeting scheduled.

We will get through this time! And we might as well make the most of it! It definitely beats binge watching Game of Thrones, baking cookies (I mean, where did all those flour hoarding bakers come from?) or playing drinking games every time someone on TV says COVID-19.

Stay healthy! Be Productive!

Goal Setting Process
Weekly Planning Process
Time Management Tips
Managing Emails

What Now?

Let’s Sharpen our Tools!

This past week has changed all of our lives.  I don’t think any of us could have predicted the canceling of sporting events, closing of schools or even suspending travel from Europe.

We have been working non-stop, trying to reach our goals, closing new deals, striving to grow our business.

But, all of a sudden – things have ground to a halt.  And we have time on our hands, time that we have never had before.

Yes, there is some fear about what the future holds.  But, what we do know is that things will improve.  Our lives will resume.  Our businesses will rebound.

But what can we do right now?  How can I get my team to get the work done when we aren’t in the same office? Or, now that I have a little extra time on my hands – how can I use it wisely?

Now is the perfect time to stop and sharpen your tools.  This includes:

  • Formulating a plan around a business opportunity you have had in the back of your mind
  • Enhancing your team’s time management skills to increase productivity and effectiveness
  • Creating an action plan around executing on a key strategic initiative
  • Improving your sales team’s close ratio

I’ve done these types of sessions with many teams and they have achieved tremendous benefits including:

  • Increased close ratio from 50% to 90%
  • Formulated and executing on a strategic plan in less than 90 minutes with the entire management team
  • Enhanced productivity by 30% for an engineering team

Let’s use this time to be as productive as possible.  Call me (360-975-8110), text me or email me. We can get through this together!

Tying it All Together

Tying it All Together

A business needs a product and sales.

A thriving business needs a product, sales, leadership, and innovation.

Here is how each of these contribute to the success of a business:

  • The product is the cornerstone of the business.
  • Sales provides cash flow to continue producing the product and to fund the business.
  • Leadership sets the vision and focuses your resources in the right direction.
  • Innovation creates new products, improves the way things are done, and helps implement the details behind the vision.

My consulting practice focuses on improving my clients’ profitability by focusing on these areas for any thriving business: Leadership, Innovation, and Sales.

Let me give you an example. A mid-sized manufacturing company was selling product in the highly competitive automotive industry. Their production line was struggling, resulting in $80,000 in scrap every month. This was crippling their company and damaging relationships with their key customers, because they couldn’t deliver their product on time.

I was able to quickly identify what was causing their scrap issues.  Together, we put processes in place to address the gaps and strengthen existing systems.  Once this was complete, I trained the engineers, supervisors, and operators on the new processes. Within six months, the cost of scrap fell to just $1,200 per month and throughput increased.

With additional capacity, stronger processes, and greater technical depth, the company was poised to pivot to a higher-margin, less-competitive industry. But in order to do that, they needed to develop a strategy for their sales and marketing team. Using my background in sales, understanding of the company’s plant capabilities, and the needs of the target industry, I led the sales team through the transition. Within a year, they had gained the recognition of the industry as a supplier who delivered on time with excellent quality. The company has been able to grow sales in their target market at a 20% increase year over year with a gross margin more than triple their automotive margin.

If your company wants to strengthen its internal processes in order to transition into a new market, I can lead you through the process, providing guidance and expertise along the way. Email me today to start on your journey tomorrow.

PAID to Act: A Proven Process to Assessing Employees

PAID to Act: A Proven Process to Assessing Employees

There comes a time in nearly everyone’s management career when he or she must decide whether to keep, redeploy or release an employee. A number of factors need to be considered when making this decision, and while the emotions should be removed, this decision also requires compassion. I thought I’d share my process, which I call PAID to Act, for helping clients ensure they’ve considered all the factors.

Does this employee demonstrate a desire to be in the position? This comes across in more than just words; it includes actions, non-verbal cues and attitude. What signals are they sending to let you know they have the desire to perform at the required level?  Do they exhibit energy when assigned a new task?  Are they willing to spend the extra time to make sure a job is done right? Or are they out the door at the end of their day?

If an employee has the passion, the next question is whether they have the skills needed to perform. There may be times when the employee needs training or coaching in order to increase their skill set. If the employee lacks competence but shows a desire to improve, then it’s still possible to retain the employee and develop their skill set. But there are times when it isn’t possible for the employee to develop the needed competence in order to fulfill the position. And that is when managers must make a hard decision: release or redeploy.

An employee might have the desire and aptitude to be in a position but might not understand its importance. Some positions come with a higher salary but also demand more time, a higher profile and the ability to make difficult decisions. Many people, especially younger employees, express a desire to be a supervisor manager without really understanding the responsibilities that come with those positions.  Some management positions can mean additional hours and stress without any added glamour. Without a doubt, though, entry-level managers and front-line supervisors are the backbones of many companies. These individuals are often tasked with implementing the company vision while responding to each employee’s needs. No matter the role of the employee being evaluated, it is critical that he or she understand and embrace the responsibilities of the position.

You can’t make this decision without doing some internal reflection to ensure you have created an environment that provides the greatest opportunity for success. This can be a difficult thing to assess, but you must do so honestly. This includes asking yourself the following questions:

  • Have I provided honest, direct feedback on the employee’s performance?
  • Have I provided the tools the employee needs in order to thrive?
  • Have I listened and understood the employee’s responses?
  • Can I say with peace that I have done everything I could to provide an environment for success?

If you believe you have done everything possible for a successful outcome, then the time has come for action. This action needs to Be Bold. Don’t hesitate or second-guess your decision. The longer you wait, the greater the risk for unintended consequences, including built-up resentment, degradation of team performance or spreading discontent to customers or suppliers.

Do you need help deciding on the best course of action?  My proven process will assist you in reaching a decision.  Call or email me today so we can decide the best course of action with all parties involved.

Learning from Others

Learning from Others

The Underlying Cost of Not Being Bold

Last week, I gave an example of a client who chose to be bold when addressing an employee-performance issue.  In that case, the results turned out to be positive for both the employee and the company.  Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way. So, if you’re hesitant to deal with an employee-performance issue, you might want to consider what that issue is really costing your business.

According to Gallup, disengaged employees have higher absenteeism, lower productivity and lower profitability.  Gallup estimates that a disengaged employee will cost their employer 34% of their salary, meaning that a disengaged employee making $50,000/year will cost you $17,000.  Multiply that by 10 employees, and you’re losing $170,000/year.

That number seemed a little high at first, but then I went back and looked at some recent engagements and what each client’s situation was really costing the business.  Here are some examples:

  • A mid-sized professional services company had a department manager who didn’t have the skills to manage his team, resulting in reduced productivity, more mistakes and a lower-quality product leaving the department.  The owner estimated that this was costing his $40M business about $325,000 across the entire company, in key employee losses, additional installation labor and product redesigns.
  • A $20M low-tech manufacturing company was struggling with lack of engagement in the supervisor who oversaw its highest-revenue, most technical department.  Over a period of six months, the company missed more than $1.2 million in shipments and $300,000 in revenue and 50% of all shipped product was rejected by the customer.  These two issues nearly put the company out of business.
  • A manager at a highly technical manufacturing company lacked the interpersonal skills to manage a rapidly growing department.  This resulted in a $457,000 drop in profitability in just three months due to numerous errors in quotes to customers, inefficient processes and a growing scrap rate.

If you have concerns about how a key employee is performing, are you ready to Be Bold and take action?  Email or call me today and we can immediately begin to take steps to correct this situation.

Be Bold!

Be Bold!

As I was writing my last newsletter, on 10 Mind-Altering Tips to Maximize Your Impact in 2020, one tip I wanted to include was “Be Bold.”  Having a list that can go to 11 is good, but I didn’t want to overwhelm your altered mind.  So I stuck with 10.

But I believe being bold is key to success.  So, what does “Be Bold” mean in business?  It means making the decisions that you know are the right ones even if they might require hard work to implement.  It means having the courage to say no when you feel like you should say yes.

A client recently had to face the realization that an employee in a critical position wasn’t performing at the level they needed in order to achieve their strategic vision.  I was asked to assess the employee and his contribution to the company.  Could the employee be coached for success or was he subject to the Peter Principle?

Fortunately, I was able to recognize the areas that needed coaching and development and work with the employee to augment those areas.  The employee emerged with a stronger vision of leadership, a sense of direction for his department and the skills to hold his team accountable for results.  This engagement increased departmental productivity, resulting in an annualized profitability increase of $125,000.  While the end of this story was a good one for the company and the employee, sometimes the difficult decision has to be made to free the employee to excel in another organization.

Many businesses will accept reduced performance from a long-time, loyal employee.  But at some point, every business reaches the conclusion that not addressing the issue will impact the health of the company.  The business owner willing to Be Bold will see that issue and take steps prior to allowing it to impact performance.

Do you feel like you could be bolder in your leadership?  Are there opportunities for your employees to increase their performance?  If you answered yes to either of those questions, call me or email me.  I can help you address those areas and get you on the path to profitability.

10 Mind Altering Tips to Maximize Your Impact in 2020

10 Mind Altering Tips to Maximize Your Impact in 2020

We just started a new decade! The following list was created to get you started on achieving your 2020 vision.

  1. Be crystal clear on what you want to achieve. I was recently reading the book titled “Train Your Brain for Success.” If you tell your brain where you want to go, it will start working on how to get there. But if you aren’t clear, the brain will wait for further clarification. The analogy the book used was this: imagine telling your GPS you want to go to a bank. It will start searching for banks, but will wait for further instructions before it begins developing the route.  It is imperative that you tell your brain exactly what you want to achieve.  As soon as you do, it will get to work on making sure you achieve it.  This applies to individuals and to organizations. If your team isn’t sure about direction, they will stay on the same path until they feel comfortable that a new direction is set.

  2. Instill the necessary discipline. I’m not big on having structure. I like the freedom to do what I want to do. But I know without the necessary structure, I won’t get to where I want to be. So I’ve been working on putting the framework together to ensure l’m completing the necessary activities to achieve my goals, without overburdening myself with too much structure. Ask yourself, what structure do I need to put in place to keep me on track? Be honest with yourself. Then build that structure into your weekly schedule and honor that structure.

  3. Don’t confuse activity with accomplishment. I think many of us get caught up in the busy-ness trap. But being busy doesn’t mean we are being productive. Do you know what you need to accomplish on a daily, weekly or monthly basis in order to achieve your goals? Most people don’t schedule time for those important things because they are busy doing the more fun and easy things. I recommend that you look at what you need to do in order to achieve your goals, and then schedule those first. Then fill in your time with the other, less important tasks.   My greatest gains come from the tasks described as “important but not urgent” in Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Those tasks may require more thinking and less doing. But if you spend more time on them, your productivity will skyrocket.

  4. Be open to new experiences and ideas. For years, I have heard about the value of meditation, but I kept pushing it off as a new age movement. As I found it harder and harder to focus, I started searching for ways to reduce the clutter in my brain. Turns out, meditation is a powerful technique that people have been using for thousands of years. Teaching my brain to be more present helped reduce stress, increased focus and provided more calm. After incorporating this into my life and enjoying the benefits, I realized there have been other areas in which I have been close-minded. So one of my goals for the past year was to try something new every month. This goal has helped me expand my mind and be open to new experiences.

  5. Be aware of the limitations you place on yourself. Have you listened to the words you say to yourself? Negative thoughts impact what we believe we can achieve and what we are willing to attempt. If you want to reach your full potential, be mindful of this. Henry Ford said it best when he said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t—you’re right.”

  6. Be authentic. When I hear the word authentic, I think of Brene Brown, but l‘ve also heard many other people talk about the importance of being authentic. This is something I’ve been working on as it isn’t something that comes naturally to me.  However, I do know that when I share my authentic self, I have the opportunity to connect more deeply with individuals around me, and I am continually reminded of just how precious those connections can be.

  7. Take care of yourself. Let’s face it, we aren’t getting any younger, and we only get one body for this journey. Eat well, drink lots of water, exercise and sleep. You can’t perform at the level you desire if your body isn’t healthy. And remember, taking time to care for yourself isn’t selfish, it is essential if you want to love and support those around you.

  8. Look beyond yourself. It is possible #7 and #8 are at odds but I don’t think so. If you care for yourself, then you’ll have the energy to look beyond yourself. And while I find myself to be very interesting (I mean, who doesn’t), I find helping and caring for others much more rewarding. Put yourself in another person’s shoes and try to see a situation from their perspective.  Then act in a way that acknowledges that you see them and value them: the personal reward will be priceless.

  9. Never stop learning. My father turned 80 years old last year. He continues to expand his mind through reading, learning foreign languages and keeping up on the latest technology in his field. Together with my mother, he started a foundation that serves the underprivileged in Haiti; he also volunteers his time at a local free clinic and spends time with his family to help them reach their full potential.  He is a great role model for those of us who want to continue to grow and expand our mind.  What areas do you want to gain knowledge in? Those areas may not be related to your field of study, but they can help enrich your life.

  10. Enjoy the journey. Not every day is going to be fun. There will be times, tasks and experiences that you won’t automatically enjoy. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to enjoy them. In a book called The Highest Goal, author Michael Ray introduces “Live-Withs.” The idea is to find ways to make the most of things that you don’t enjoy. If you have a traffic-filled commute, how could you learn to enjoy the commute? For me, it would be to listen to a great podcast (Revisionist History) or practice my Spanish. But the idea is to find ways to bring enjoyment into areas that are lacking.  So, I’ll challenge you by thinking about how you can change your vantage point in order to “enhance the ride.”

Do you feel you have areas that need some strengthening in order to maximize your 2020 impact? Do you or your team need help becoming crystal clear on what you want to achieve in 2020? If so, give me a call or send me an email. In a short 90-minute meeting, we can outline your goals and identify the critical success factors to help you start this decade with a clear direction and a sense of purpose.