When it comes to business and sales, building a strong relationship is critical. The stronger your relationship is with your customer, the more likely they will refer others to your business.
Every day we have an opportunity to connect on a human level with our customers. We live in an age where efficiency is the byword. Our communication boils down to a text message, a quick email or a telephone message. Human contact is put on the back burner. So how do we keep the human contact with our customers alive in today’s fast paced marketplace?
The last thing you want to do is make your customers feel like a statistic.
When given the chance show them that their business is appreciated. Talk to them, strike up a non-business conversation with them. It could involve just about anything, such as the weather, sports, a movie, and pets. This doesn’t need to be a long conversation. You can make it ‘short and sweet’ as they say. The key here is that you are making a human connection and not acting like a robot.
Non-business conversation puts your customer at ease and gets them talking. The more they talk to you, the more they will open up to you. This gives you a bit of a window into their lives allowing you to understand them better. The end result may be an opportunity for you to make more sales. My cautionary point here is for you to be genuine and not seen as manipulative. Customers seek genuine interactions and they can see through manipulative communications.
Keep your conversations simple. For starters, get to know your customers by name, then address them by name. Say things such as, “how’s it going today Bill?” Or “how was your weekend Wendy?” Or “is there anything I can help you with today George?” Make your presence known and felt.
You can use the same tactic when communicating by email, text message or telephone message. Use your customer’s name. Their name is important and is tied to their identify.
Your customer wants to feel appreciated, so take a few minutes of your time to show them that you care about them as a person.
Another way to strengthen your relationship with your customer is to keep a Rolodex or digital address book handy with a list of all of your customers birthdays, anniversaries, and special events. Keep your eyes and ears open for when customers talk about upcoming events in their lives. Such as children’s birthdays and graduations.
When the appropriate date approaches, send your customer a card, whether it is a holiday card, a birthday card, a graduation card, or a congratulatory card. Just send it.
Your customers will appreciate the fact that you remembered them on their special day. This will only strengthen the relationship you already have with them.
By the way personal cards, via snail mail, is appreciated a lot more by the elderly than emails. This is an important factor once you recognize that the elderly population comprises over ten percent of your customers and depending on the products and services of your business perhaps an even greater percentage. The elderly comprise a significant number of people, often forgotten, in the age of push button communications.
There are many reasons to build a strong relationship with your customers. I suggest two of them:
One main reason is that customers value and appreciate good customer service. They want the peace of mind of knowing that if something ever happened with their product or service, that they would have you to turn to as their go to person.
This is significant because your customer will have this in mind when your competition moves in to take them away.
And believe me, your competition will try to take them away. As long as you provide excellent customer service, you have a much greater chance that your customer will stick with you.
There is no substitute for excellent customer service.
Customer service is the most important thing to a customers, even more important than what they pay for goods or service.
The second reason building relationships are so important is because of the referral process.
A customer that is treated with respect and provided excellent customer service will most assuredly refer their family and friends to you. Why wouldn’t they?
Your most important asset is your customer, so build and strengthen the foundations you have with them. By building strong relationships, you will be building your sales.
Thank you for reading,
Richard P. Fontanie
For more than 25 years, I've dealt with bankers that have supported my clients' growth and successes
Therefore, I feel highly qualified to know a great banker when I see one. And I've had the pleasure of working with many great bankers, and continue to meet dynamic new bankers who will definitely help my clients—and their clients—grow.
You know you've got a great banker when your banker:
A great banker can help you grow your business and build your business wealth as much if not more than your best customer. They provide the fuel that helps you go fast and far!
Phil Symchych, The Business Wealth Builder. Printed with permission.
Entrepreneurs and business owners are the modern-day heroes in our economy.
However, they don't have a government pension. They don't get two months off in the summer. They aren't guaranteed a paycheque. They sign unlimited personal guarantees to the banks. They take risks that most people are unaware of and unequipped to handle. But it's all part of a normal day for an entrepreneur.
Globally, entrepreneurs support 54% of the gross domestic product in the top 17 economies, according to the World Bank. They create the most net new jobs. And they employ a lot of people that enhance the quality of our lives.
To help my clients and entrepreneurs, and owners of mid-market companies everywhere, I recommend they develop structures that enhance the creation and protection of their business wealth. Because, if they don't, they could lose everything.
As always, consult with qualified professionals including financial planners, accountants, lawyers, and tax advisors to ensure your structure is optimized for your unique situation and your goals. Be careful when using advisors who are not compensated directly by you and only receive commissions from products they sell. When in doubt, take a commissioned advisor's advice to an independent professional for assessment.
Figure 32.1 Structures to Create and Protect Business Wealth
Savings and Pensions
First, pay yourself first. We can all take advantage of government supported savings programs like Registered Retirement Savings Plans, or RRSPs in Canada, and 401Ks in the US. In Canada, RRSPs are protected from business and personal creditors. If you're not maximizing your RRSP savings or other type of company pensions, then you're not optimizing your wealth.
Second, utilize legal structures that allow you to hold assets in one company, such as a holding company that owns the land and buildings necessary for your business. Then, your operating company pays fair market value rent to your holding company. Your holding company can be a long-term revenue stream from rental revenue, even if you sell your operating company or move it to a different location. This also protects the assets in the holding company from actions of unhappy people who deal with the operating company.
Third, develop tax efficiency among the entities in order to maximize your after-tax cash flow and build your wealth. Tax efficiency includes the use of dividends between companies and to shareholders (by class of shares held), income splitting using fair market value salaries, and many other fine points of tax planning and legitimate deductions beyond the scope of this article.
Do not minimize your taxes in your operating company. This is a common and serious mistake that is advised by many short-sighted accountants.
Minimizing taxes hurts your operating company's balance sheet because you don't build up equity in the form of retained earnings. A lack of retained earnings limits how much you can borrow to fund and accelerate growth. That hurts your wealth. I've calculated that paying taxes can, with an inventory turnover of four times and a gross margin of 40%, generate an ROI of over 1,000% to your wealth.
If you're planning on selling your business, you need to have a proper tax structure in place for at least two years, or you could lose out on the capital gains exemption and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax, unnecessarily.
Good Debt and Security
Finally, borrow wisely. When you're a small business (under ten million dollars in annual revenues), the bankers will demand that you sign unlimited personal guarantees as security. That's because often the business lacks the retained earnings and stable cash flows to give high levels of comfort, so the bank improves their security position by taking everything you own as backup collateral. That's normal and often unavoidable when you're a small business.
The goal is to provide only enough security for the borrowing, and no more. Mid-market companies often grow beyond the capacity of a personal guarantee and the company can support the debt. That's a good thing.
Always protect yourself first. That's the only way you will be able to grow and control your future. Otherwise, everyone else will take as much as they can get and you might be left with nothing, despite taking the most risks.
From Phil’s Vault:
The basic structures to build your wealth include:
1. Protected personal savings
2. Legal structures to minimize risk and increase flexibility
3. Tax efficient planning that does not minimize short term taxes, and
4. Smart borrowing where security is balanced to the debt.
Are you using all of these structures to create and protect your business wealth?
If you're a business owner and you'd like to discuss how to optimize your business wealth structures, give me a call. We'll have a half-hour complimentary conversation that is guaranteed to give you some ideas that you can discuss with your professional advisors.
Phil Symchych, The Business Wealth Builder. Printed with permission.
Last Month Phil Symchych outlined his Financial Manifesto, this month he outlines his Manifesto For Business Growth. Copied with Permission with some minor format changes..
Achieving profitable business growth to build your wealth is neither simple nor easy. However, by keeping focused on critical factors that ensure profits and growth, you can be successful in growing your business and building your wealth.
Here is my Growth Manifesto
Part I: Performance and Growth
Part III: Living and Leaving a Legacy
My colleague Phil Symchych in his newsletter #27 "Cash Isn't King, It's the Ace - The Financial Manifesto" writes "after 25 years as a management consultant and CPA advising private companies on growth and building business wealth, I have developed these 12 financial philosophies and strategies that help clients to accelerate profitable growth, maximize the valuation of their companies, and dramatically increase their personal wealth.
Over the years I have assisted over a 100 budding entrepreneurs as they developed their businesses using their home office as their first base. Those were heady and exciting times, both for me as I learned about their businesses and for them as they ventured out into the marketplace with their products and services. We discussed five essentials, among others, as foundational for adjusting to their home office. They were important then and they are just as important now if you are thinking about establishing or have already established a home-based business.
Discipline: I encourage you to review your disciplinary practices. Just as there are distractions at a external office setting – people interrupting you, desktop messes, noise, emails, shifting priorities, you get the picture – there are distractions in the home setting – television programs, social media, friendly telephone calls, poor priority setting, a neighbor dropping by for a coffee, and desktop messes to name a few. I have often said that sometimes it takes more discipline to operate a business from home than from an external office. At home there are no supervisors or minders watching you and urging you on to better perform. At home you are the leader-manager in charge. It is completely up to you. Your performance or lack there of falls completely on your shoulders. And to perform well you need discipline to:
Take Breaks: You can get lost in your work especially if you feel you are on a roll and ideas are flowing and tasks are getting accomplished. However, a huge mistake that home-office practitioners make is not taking nutrition or energy producing breaks. What I mean by ‘energy producing breaks’ are breaks that take you away from what you are doing at the moment and giving your mind some rest time. Energy producing breaks include going for a quick walk, tending to a household chore, taking a five-minute meditation break, or fueling up with an energy bar or a dish of fruit. The point here is the need to break from your office work and focus on something else for short periods of time. This gives your brain rest and up ticks your over all energy. Research suggests that 90 minutes of concentrated effort and then a ten or fifteen break produces more in the long run and contributes to alleviating burnout.
Separate Office: It’s important that you find office space for yourself and your business. This is somewhere in the home or apartment that you can call your office. For some this is initially on the dining table or in a bedroom. The point here is that you need a space to conduct your business, where you can keep all the important stuff related to your business. For some that means a place for your computer, paper, envelopes, books and whatever else is needed; for others who claim they are completely mobile - everything they need is on their mobile device – that means they also need someplace within their home to call their specific office space. To those who fall into the latter category I have yet to find a serious business person who has everything on their mobile. If you cannot find a space within your home, consider the growing number of co-op offices that are popping up where business owners can rent a desk or small office at a reasonable rate.
Network: Working from home can be a lonely and isolating experience. We know that business grow based on relationships. In order to build relationships we need to be in contact with people. Simply stated we do this is by getting out of the house or apartment and meeting customers and colleagues in the field. It is important to expand relationship building reach by joining a professional association, a business network association such as Chamber of Commerce, a women or men’s business network, a service association such as Rotary and Kiwanis International, or becoming active in your faith-based community. Getting involved in outside activity helps you build necessary relationships and provides a social outlet that you would not experience by keeping yourself isolated in your home office.
Administration: One of the things I heard most often from home-based business owners was their push-back on administrative tasks. This is one area where procrastination was the word of the hour. Administration is often seen as an afterthought, but not paying attention to the detail that administration asks of you, may cause serious difficulties in the long run. Take for example not paying attention to outstanding bills, up-dating client information, attending to customer invoicing, or submitting due taxes. In the long run not doing due diligence on these matters costs you money, affects your cash-flow or impacts your customer relations. So before procrastinating on administrative tasks think about the loss of income, customers and cash-flow. Three important ingredients for a successful business.
Thank you for reading
Richard P. Fontanie
Since the advent of on-line shopping I have been interested in its impact on in-store retail outlets. During the past ten years I have noticed two significant shifts: 1) Big Box retail outlets keep closing their doors or reducing the number of stores they operate; and 2) Small Box retail outlets are refining the customer experience.
The "click and buy" internet experience tends to be impersonal and cold, however, it is balanced with convenience and timeliness. We can purchase items, any time of the day or night, pay for them with a click, and receive them at our door step within a day or two. But, the experience lacks the social aspect of the shopping experience. That may not be important for the harried professional and time pressured young family, but it is important for those who want and need attention for a special purchase or the meet-and-greet of neighbors and acquaintances in an ever-disintegrating community fabric.
Big Box Resizing
The "click and buy" internet experience has had a significant impact on the "Big Box" stores. Often sheer size alone makes them less flexible to meet changing demands. In the past five years we have witnessed retail outlets that have either closed their doors or in the process of significantly reducing the number of their outlets throughout North America. Here are just a few “Big Box” stores that had strong brand power in the not too distant past and are now closed or reduced in numbers: Eatons, Sears, Radio Shack, JC Penny, Payless Shoesource, K-Mart, Zellers, Ben Moss, Danier, Guess, Chapters-Indigo, The Gap, Hudson Bay, and Macys. Who would have thought that these household retail names would disappear or find themselves in such economic straits that they need to close hundreds of stores, placing thousands of people out of work? (Read more: "over 5000 stores closed in 2017" ; "Major US Retailers Are Closing More than 6000 Stores" ; Canadian Retail Continues to Polarize as Stores Close
There are several reasons why stores close their doors or downsize besides an inability to keep pace with on-line shopping. These may relate to: an inability to keep up with consumer trends; old management processes, systems and technology; a response to economic downturns within their local marketplace; and the fluctuation of taxes and the Canadian dollar.
Another major factor may relate to the 'big box experience.' The 'big box experience’ is one that often overwhelms customers by the: size of the store, expansiveness of the merchandise, sparsity of customer service personnel, quality of products, pressure to push them through the payment line-up, and intrusiveness of security mechanisms. All of which take away from a ‘positive customer experience’.
We do see, however, "Big Box" stores attempting to keep pace with the changing customer needs. Walmart has realized that their personnel need customer service training and improved wages. They are also gearing up to give Amazon a run at on-line shopping. I have also noticed that many of the "Big Box" stores are re-designing their expansiveness by developing specialty stores within their stores. These includes everything from coffee shops to banking outlets. They are trying to turn themselves into ‘customer convenience stores’, or a concept of a mini-mall within their store. And, most of the "Big Box" stores that have downsized are frantically trying to catch up with the "click and buy" phenomenon. The question is, is it too late for them?
Small Box Refinement.
What the "Big Boxes" and "click and buy" lack, the "Small Boxes" replenish. The owners and service personnel of small boxes were always close to the customer. They knew the regulars by name, their sizes, preferences, and in many instances their family members. They connected both on a social and an emotional level. They couldn't compete with the Big Box stores on price and quantity, but they could outwit them with service and quality.
The "Small Box" stores are finding unique ways to draw new customers. They are combining their customer service strength with new approaches to further advance the customer experience. They are not "pushing the sale," but guiding the customer in making decisions and offering opportunities for them to test products. They are creating convenience, ambiance and activity to attract customers. They encourage, what may be called ‘encounters over the counter’, such as: special tasting times in bake shops and coffee outlets; come and go evenings to try on new clothing coupled with refreshments and meet designers and tailors; or, enjoyable conversation and a free cup of brew while you browse.
Although they don’t have the selection and quantity of merchandise they do have access to the manufacturers and can bring a product in within a few days, or have it delivered to the customer's door - just like their big brother counterparts. Price may be a different matter. Often their limited purchasing power doesn’t allow them to compete on price, so they scale up on product knowledge, quality and service.
Employees find a greater sense of purpose working in the "Small Boxes" because the relationships are more meaningful. They are not hired just to stock shelves. They are there to build relationships and create a "Cheers-like" culture where "Everybody knows your name." Their face-to-face encounter is further enhanced through social media and email follow-up. The result is that the employee retention rate for the "Small Boxes" is much higher and customer loyalty is strengthened when compared to the "Big Boxes". (Want to know more: Money Magazine, Kristen Behler, "The Future of Shopping" December 2017; Carl Sewell and Paul B. Brown, "Customers for Life" How to turn that One-Time Buyer into a Lifetime Customer; Darrell Rigby, Harvard Business Review, article https://hbr.org/2011/12/the-future-of-shopping
Where Do Customers Really Shop?
Although there is an increase in the number of people shopping on-line one recent Global study by GfK (Growth from Knowledge) found that people still want to shop in-store. The research pointed out that yes customer's felt that on-line shopping, saves money, is easier, has better selection and shopping is faster; but, in store shopping allows customers to feel and see the products before they buy, is also easier, and makes it easier to return products. The interesting finding from my perspective was that: getting information about a product or service and better pricing or saving money was about equal between the two choices for shopping.
The implications for retailers are two-fold: a) "it is imperative that retailers (and their manufacturer partners) innovate to create reasons to visit, to increase propensity to buy your store, category or brand…and that retail touch points will become more important than ever." and the "second implication is that, to succeed in the future, retail needs to create synergy between on and offline, not diversity. …In future there will be less debate about on and offline, and renewed focus on the fundamentals of choice, price, convenience and experience, and how to meet and exceed shopper expectations in each and across all."
Here Comes the Future
Retail outlets, from my way of thinking, will always struggle to find the balance among the pressures of quality, quantity and price. "Big Box" stores often sacrifice quality in the interest of quantity and price; and "Small Box" stores sacrifice quantity and price in place of quality. Both are continuing to search for ways to attract and retain customers by providing an improved customer experience and timely service.
However, today's retail businesses are not waiting for the future, for them the future has already dawned. Here are just a few examples:
Drone delivery. Drone Delivery Canada has a developed a drone that can deliver goods, food, medicine, bulk mail, and emergency aid. Amazon is testing merchandise delivery via drones.
Robotic service. The Japanese are experimenting with robotic service within the hotel industry, and China is experimenting with robotics in the restaurant business.
3D printing. Home grown manufacturing with 3D printing is well underway. We can now replace parts, make new objects, tools and even medical devices. Go to Youtube.com and type in 3D printing and you will be able to view several examples of the technology.
Augmented Virtual Reality. With virtual reality we will be able to: try on clothing in the style and color we want without leaving our home, test drive vehicles, and purchase virtually anything we want.
Facial recognition. Many countries and major outlets are now experimenting with facial recognition, not only to control fraudulent behavior but also to track customer data. This is still fraught with privacy issues, but the technology is available and being used today.
Driverless Delivery trucks. Europe, United States and Canada are experimenting with driverless delivery trucks, which may shorten delivery time, reduce traffic accident deaths and put thousands of truck drivers out of business. There is still some time to go for this to happen. Some futurists see the requirement for drivers in the city, while hubs will emerge on the outside of the city where driverless trucks take over. Read more
Omnichannel retailing: The name reflects the fact that retailers will be able to interact with customers through countless channels – websites, physical stores, kiosks, direct mail and catalogs, call centers, social media, mobile devices, gaming consoles, televisions, networked appliances, home services and more. Conventional merchants will need to adopt a new perspective – seamless. Read more omnichannel experience.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie
For the past several years during the month of April, Jake and Kate land in our backyard fishpond. Kate nests near-by and Jake goes out to forage. Early in the morning and evening, during the nesting period, Kate comes back for a dip in the pond and looks for the food we put out for her. We look forward to our Spring visitors as we know Summer is just around the corner and the flowers will soon bloom. We believe our back yard has become Jake and Kate's private resort for a Spring Retreat as they prepare for their off-spring. Once the ducklings have hatched Kate trots them off to a bigger pond. Jake and Kate are only with us for a short but a very productive time.
Spring is a great time to renew your business with a Strategic Planning Retreat. A Strategic Planning Retreat is a short and productive time away from your busy place of business to look back at what your organization has accomplished over the past year and to look ahead and set new goals for the future. Here are six ingredients to prepare for a successful Strategic Planning Retreat.
Be clear about its purpose
A Strategic Planning Retreat is an opportunity for a business leadership team, board members, management and selected personnel to focus their energies on such areas as organizational renewal, strategic and long-range planning, values clarification, new policy directions and macro change requirements. In most instances a Strategic Planning Retreat sets the direction for change. If change is not on the agenda, then the retreat is all about continuing the "same old stuff." And, if that is the case the planners are dealing with the present and extending what the business is "doing" today into the future, rather than peering into the future and making changes to achieve higher levels of success.
Clarify who is involved
It is important to view a Strategic Planning Retreat as a fundamental requirement for the continued growth of the business or not-for-profit organization. It is an on-going process and not a one-time event. The leadership team must be committed to the process and dedicated to subsequently lead and manage the results of the retreat.
Key people required for a retreat include: Business Owners, Board Members, Executive and Senior Managers from all departments, and, others as deemed necessary for the success of the retreat. Small organizations include most of their employees.
Planning for a retreat begins several weeks and often months in advance. Tag someone with the responsibility to scan the environment for information that will impact the organization in the long term. This person scans newspapers, magazines, news bulletins, industry literature; and looks for legislative or regulatory changes, industry developments, public policy issues, changes within the marketplace, competitive and collaborative activities, research developments, and pressures within the organization. The information is collated and sent out to the attendees with the expectation that they will read it and come to the retreat prepared.
Depending on the size of your organization, it is also advisable to identify: a) an internal coordinator for administrative purposes with authority to book facilities, arrange for lodging and meals, set up rooms and order special requirements; and b) someone who is an objective outsider with strong facilitative skills who will enable full participation of the attendees and guide the process to a successful conclusion.
The best time for a Strategic Retreat is at least two months before preparation of an annual budget. This allows the leadership team to incorporate the new initiatives and change requirements identified at the retreat into the budgeting process. If this is a first retreat, then hold it at least three months in advance of the budget planning cycle.
The length of the planning retreat could last up to two and one-half days. The length of the retreat depends on the numbers in attendance, whether the retreat is a first, the size of the organization and the change issues that need to be resolved.
Planning retreats are best held outside of the office complex. This frees those in attendance from unplanned interruptions and distractions. The location should lend itself to informality; the room set up should allow for all those in attendance to see each other, such as a horseshoe seating arrangement; and there should be opportunity for small group breakout sessions and for fresh air walks.
Our best retreats are held in park settings and resorts. However, It is critically important to remember that this is not a vacation. It is a short, intensive working session that requires concerted individual and team mental effort.
The attendees bring their creative intelligence and any documents circulated to them in advance to the planning session. As a back-up, the coordinator should make sure that there is at least: one copy of all materials that were sent out in advance, a copy of the previous year's planning document, an organizational chart and any other documents describing the organization and its intention.
What to do
Learn from Jake and Kate who annually home in on their Spring Retreat and make it a practice to renew your business with a Planning Retreat every year. It will pay dividends for you including:
Auther: Richard Fontanie MSW, FCMC
Up-dated from Fontanie Learning March 1, 2018
During my career as a social worker I had the privilege of working with many individuals who found ways to overcome adversity. However, it is with my work as a business coach and consultant where I gained the greatest insight about people overcoming tremendous odds. This work spans over 30 years and included working with over 180 Start-Up businesses.
I have worked with business men and women who turned their backs on addiction, poverty, depression, and unemployment. Some were mothers and fathers who deeply desired to give their children a loving and secure home even though they became mothers and fathers too soon; and others had dropped out of school at an early age only to return at a latter age.
These were people who, in most instances, did not come from privileged backgrounds. They were unable to obtain bank loans, lacked financial resources and had no angels to back them. They were people who are often viewed as individuals who don't succeed in our society. Yet they did, and continue to do so.
As I reflect on my work with these business men and women I have tried to garner lessons about what sets them apart. Their life stories point to several common themes which I believe are the stepping stones to their success, and which are signposts for all of us who strive to better ourselves in business, at work and in life. Here are six of those signposts.
1. They made a clear choice. They made a choice to rise above their perceived limitations, and the limitations others placed on them. This was fundamental to their new-found freedom. As one couple told me, “we decided that we were not going to live like my parents and siblings. We were not going to live in poverty, and the only way we could see ourselves out of that 'jungle' was by choosing to move out of it and making a commitment to stay out of it. It wasn’t easy. It still isn’t, but we did it and we continue to do so.”
2. They took control of their lives with a sense of hope and optimism. They didn’t like talking about their past. Some were willing to share their story to those who lived in situations similar to the the one they had left so that they could be a role model for them. They were future focused, optimistic and full of hope. At times, some were slow to trust, but when they did they trusted whole heartily. They were not concerned about the downturns in the economy, because they knew they had reached their own bottom and had dug themselves out of it. When others talked about economic troubles they reflected on what they had overcome and understood what it meant to struggle through adversity. However, like most successful business people their optimism was also tempered with caution. They watched their pennies. They didn’t want to lose what they had gained.
3. They had a deep belief or faith in a power beyond themselves. Many of them were not religious or church-going people but they often pointed to a conversion or a healing process that was beyond their own making. Their stories were told both with a sense of humility and a sense of awe that can be described as “I have been blessed and I am thankful to be in a space where I am today, especially when I think about the bleak future I once faced.”
4. They had a sense of determination and tenacity born from overcoming a difficult time in their lives. They were concerned about slipping back, but that concern seemed to push them ahead. They were single minded and unwilling to let the challenges that confronted them, win. Their sense of determination and tenacity was often expressed in ways that affirmed their optimism such as: “been there, got the T-shirt, so this is just one more challenge to overcome;" or, “We face the world with optimism, we will overcome this too;" and, in a more vernacular language, ”sh*t happens. Let’s get on with it. I’m a determined bu**er, you know.”
5. They were eager to learn. They didn't pretend to know everything about their business. Sure, they made mistakes, mostly from a place of "unknowing" rather than from a position of “knowing it all.” They were grateful when a coach or a mentor came along to assist them with difficult decisions. They also surrounded themselves with people who compensated for their weaknesses. A common comment from them was, "I employ people smarter than me." Something that I often hear from most successful business people.
Openness to learning was one of the criteria our firm used when we screened those who wanted to start a business. Our experience and assessments determined that this was one of the essential ingredients for their success. It was also one of the most telling markers when we reviewed why they failed. Those that didn't make it unfortunately didn’t learn from their mistakes, read, or seek out a coach or mentor, and in general they thought they knew all.
6. They rejected toxic influences and celebrated their journey. Many faced one of their most difficult decisions - to escape from the milieu that pulled them down. For some this meant leaving a dysfunctional family, siblings, and/or relatives; for others, it meant turning away from so-called friends they knew for most of their lives. They had to make that hard decision and not to look back. They knew that if they didn’t reject these people they couldn’t improve their lot in life. More than one individual said (and I'm paraphrasing), “it wasn’t easy leaving family and friends behind, but if I didn’t I would be in the ‘hell’ they are in now.”
The most successful of these business men and women learned to become comfortable within themselves. They continue to project a humble self-confidence, give back to their community, have become role models for others, and often celebrate their difficult journey on the road less traveled.
None of them are saints, and all of them have weaknesses just like the rest of us. I have been enriched by knowing them, and I have the utmost respect and admiration for what they have accomplished in their lives and in their businesses.
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere in ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in the wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by.
And that has made all the difference.”
Robert Frost, from The Road Not Taken.
Thanks for Reading
Richard P. Fontanie MSW. FCMC
We learned last month that another national store, Sears Canada is currently closing dozens of its stores and laying off over 2900 staff across Canada. I'm struck by the number of businesses that were once thriving and are now no more or in the process of massive restructuring.. What happened? The answer is quite simple: The market shifted while the business didn't shift with it. It reminds me of the saying, "if we don't keep up, we will be left behind."
Just look at some of the market shifts that have taken place in the past five to seven years:
Businesses of all sizes need to keep their eye on the “shifting winds of change” if they want to survive. They will either have to close, adapt or continually diversify their products and services.
Two Important Questions: What is happening in your marketplace that will affect your business? Are you keeping abreast of emerging trends and technologies that will impact your business? Keeping a close eye on future developments may allow you to survive the next shift in your marketplace..
Richard P. Fontanie, MSW, FCMC Up-dated from the archives Fontanie Learning Solutions
Image: Clip Art