Year-End is Time for Vision Making

Each year, a few days before New Year’s Eve, I head off to my mountain retreat in Big Bear Lake, California, to recharge my batteries. It’s a great opportunity to spend time with the family and prepare for the onslaught of the coming year.

It’s also a good time to give some thought to the vision you have for your business and life over the next year.

It’s hard to hit a target you’re not aiming at. The new year is a great time to think about some of your plans and goals for the next 12 months (and beyond). Even if all you have is a couple days, take the time at the end of every year to slow down and do some “vision making” for your business. Remember that a successful businessperson needs to work “on” the business as well as “in” the business. Work “on” your business this month by creating your vision for 2012.

This is what I did back in the mid 1980’s when I had some time to reflect on this little networking enterprise that I started, called BNI.  It was during one of these year-end retreats that I created an organization chart for my company as part of my 5 year plan.  At the time, I had two part-time employees.  However, I created an organization chart with 15 different boxes on it.  I put my name in about 11 or 12 of the boxes for the areas I was responsible for and I put my part-timer’s names in the boxes for the areas they were responsible for.

Over the next 5 years, I scratched my name out of each box and put someone else’s name in that box as I hired someone to handle that area.  It was a great exercise that helped me achieve my goals over the next 5 years and it came from one of my year-end retreats.  Clearing your mind and thinking about your the future of your business can be a very good thing this time of year.  Even if you only have a couple days – get away and do some vision making.

If you use this time of year to think about your goals for the future, tell me what you do here in my blog.

Have a great New Year!

Ivan

 

Yeah, But I’m Different

An old friend of mine, Don Osborne, shared with me some material he wrote many years ago about how many of us use the “I’m different” syndrome to simply avoid doing something we don’t want to do. I’ve revised it a bit and am sharing it with you here today.  I hope you find it interesting.

When it comes to ourselves, we’re always the exception.  Everybody else should do what’s been proved to work. Personal development works as soon as we stop treating ourselves as the exception. True, everyone is unique–but not different when it comes to self-development. 

 Perhaps it’s only procrastination that leads us to declare that we’re “different.” Or our “circumstances” prevent us from agreeing to follow proven methods of self improvement. Maybe it’s the fear of success or failure in making changes. There are all kinds of legitimate concerns, but none is an adequate excuse for not engaging in self-development activities. There is no good excuse for not following the basics. 

Everybody who has achieved success has succumbed to the basics. In fact, many success stories talk about fighting the urge to reinvent the wheel and sticking to what’s been proved to work. Why we fight city hall on “I’ll succeed without doing what’s been proved,” I don’t know. But it’s a fight you’re going to have to lose if you want to win the battle for an improved lifestyle.

It shouldn’t take a tragedy or a major event to send you down the road of self-development.  True, most of the success stories we hear about or grab the headlines are like that. You could wait for, or create, a spectacular situation to spur you on. Most stories of success go untold because they weren’t born out of tragedy. Rather, they were born out of frustration, and being sick and tired of being “sick and tired.”

The reality is that most of us are living out our own story in quiet desperation. A story sufficient enough to make you different. The kind of different that qualifies you as unique and, therefore, a candidate for the tried-and-true methods of self-development.

Stop hiding behind the excuse of “I’m different.” Accept what all who have succeeded know: The basics work, no exceptions.

Census Survivor

logo_censusYour first thought after reading the title of this blog might have been . . . “Census Survivor,” what’s there to survive?”  Well, for one medium-sized suburban district office of the 1980 census, not that much . . . unless you count six dog bites, three car accidents and 11 attempted assaults (two at knife point, four at gunpoint, two with a baseball bat and the rest merely by hand), as well as a census worker who fell down a flight of steps, another who had a door slammed on her hand and, of course, the census worker who fell in a hole in someone’s front yard.

These were but a few of the challenges I ran into when I was the field operations supervisor of the 1980 Census in Covina, Calif.

The battlefield of suburbia was not the greatest problem faced by enumerators. Maintaining their sanity in the face of adversity was the greatest challenge.

We had water ballons dropped on enumerators at a local university, we did a set of interviews at a nudist camp (OK, in all honesty, the Census taker in that situation didn’t mind it too much), we had enumerators being propositioned–a lot–and we even got informaton about residents from dog tags!

My favorite tactic was used by a woman who would go to particularly unwilling individuals and sing Happy Birthday To You to the unsuspecting person, who would say, “It’s not my birthday,” to which the enumerator would say, “Really? When is your birthday?” The resident would blurt out the date and the enumerator got some basic information.  Generally, the resident thought that was so clever, he or she would then cooperate.

I’d like to say that I miss this experience but . . . I don’t. It was trial by fire. That said, I am very glad I went through it. It gave me an opportunity as a young man of only 24 to manage and supervise a crew of more than 300 people. I hired (and fired) more people in six months than I did in the next 20 years of my career. It was an experience I will never forget and always be grateful for . . .  mostly. 

The majority of the census for 2010 is over. However, there are probably a few diehards out there who haven’t cooperated. If someone shows up at your house and starts singing “Happy Birthday” and it’s not your birthday–cut her some slack. It’s probably a census taker.

Entrepreneur Magazine’s Winning Strategies for Business Conference

Entrepreneur magazine’s Winning Strategies for Business Conference is being held in Long Beach, Calif., on Oct. 5. If it’s possible for you to attend, I highly recommend that you go. This event offers serious educational value, plenty of opportunities to network and, best of all, registration is FREE!

I’ll be giving the keynote presentation, “Networking Like a Pro,” during the morning session and I’ll be talking about how to create, maintain and serve a wide network and enjoy great business and personal rewards as a result.

If you can make it out to the conference, I’d love to have the opportunity to meet you, so please take a moment to introduce yourself during one of the networking sessions or after my presentation.

The focus of the Winning Strategies for Business Conference is to show you everything you need to know about how to go further and achieve more by teaching you proven tactics that will impact virtually every aspect of your business. Bruce Kimbrell of Disney Institute will be giving the afternoon keynote presentation, “Disney’s Approach to People Management,” and there will be a handful of other dynamic speakers presenting on topics such as SEO, social networking and PR, fundraising, launching a new business, brand building, driving sales and more.

There will also be a one-of-a-kind opportunity for you to pitch your business to Entrepreneur‘s editors for a chance to have your business featured in either Entrepreneur magazine or on Entrepreneur.com

(Now that is a great opportunity!)

Hope to see you at the event! CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR FREE or to get more information on Winning Strategies for Business.

What’s the Best Way to Follow Up?

When I taught management-theory classes at a Southern California college, students would sometimes say to me, “Look, you’ve just walked me through ten different theories of management.  What’s the best one to use?”

I would answer, “The one you consistently apply.  Why would I say this?  The reason there are different ways of managing people is because people are different.  They have different personalities, different approaches, and different techniques.  The tried-and-true method that you consistently and effectively apply is the one that’s going to work best for you.

Follow-up is a similar issue.  For example, I know that handwritten notes are considered to be the best way to follow up.  The problem is . . . I just don’t do them consistently.  Therefore, are they really the best technique for me? No, because I know I’m not going to do them regularly.  I prefer to follow up with an e-mail message, a phone call, or better yet, a card using something like the SendoutCards.com system.

The truth is, almost any follow-up method will work if you use it well and consistently.  The best method for you is whichever one you are most comfortable with and can do every time the need arises. 

The reason is simple: whatever you do, you’ve got to do it well, and if you feel obligated to keep doing something that you don’t like to do, you won’t do it well–at least not consistently.  And, a late-arriving, clumsy, or half-hearted note in your own messy handwriting is going to make a worse impression than a less “proper” but more heartfelt and immediate telephone call.

Xerox, A Love Story

I love a company that takes care of its employees.  When times are tough, you hear one story after another about companies callously letting go of the very people who drive the business.  Well, here’s a story that I think every company should emulate.

A number of years ago, Xerox had some big cutbacks.  A large government contract had not been renewed and Xerox was forced to close down work being done in one of its large plants in Southern California.  Unfortunately, three buildings had to be shut down, and virtually all the employees working in those buildings had to be let go.  My dad was one of those employees.  He was 62 years old and had worked for the company as an electrician for nine years and 8 months.  He was, unfortunately, only four months short of vesting in his retirement and medical benefits.  When management discovered this, officials worked with him to change his classification and to allow him to help clear out, board up and shut down the three buildings.

When my dad finished the job early, Xerox found other work for him to do.  The company ended up laying off every employee in those buildings, including my father’s supervisors.  However, it kept my dad on until he hit 10 years and one week of employment.  Then the company laid him off with all his fellow employees.  However, he was now fully vested in his retirement and medical benefits, which completely changed his lifestyle for the better during his retirement years.

Most companies, under these circumstances, would have let an employee go without blinking.  Most companies would not have cared that an employee was only four months short of retirement.   Xerox cared.  I love that about the company, and I love its product. This happened more than a decade ago.  I promised myself that I would only buy Xerox copiers from then on.  The latest one is in my office today.

I love a company that cares about its people this much because it speaks volumes about the company’s ethics and loyalty–it shows me that it does what’s right even if it doesn’t necessarily benefit the company.  A company that cares about doing what’s right is a company you can trust; you don’t have to constantly look over your shoulder and wonder if it’s going to take advantage of you or rip you off.  To this day, I have great confidence in Xerox as a company and I am more than glad to give it my business.

If you have had a great experience with a specific company, why not pay them a little lip service?  I, for one, would love to find out about great companies that probably deserve my business.  Leave a comment here and tell me what company you love and what it is about them that makes you love it.

Back to the Future

Networking is the kind of social and professional interaction that came naturally to businesspeople throughout most of this nation’s history, especially in smaller communities. But as villages grew into towns, towns into cities and cities into megalopolises, the sense of community and the close, personal business relationships that went with it gradually disappeared. The rise of large retail chains and multinational corporations, along with the demise of small businesses under the stiff price competition from these giants, further weakened the natural networking that existed.

The disappearance of community-based networking has left a vacuum that is now being filled by strong-contact networks. Business networking organizations such as BNI create a virtual main street for business professionals–an environment and a system for passing referrals that is the 21st-century equivalent of the traditional model for doing business.

As Eric Lesser, in his book Knowledge and Social Capital, notes, “Without a shared understanding of common terms, activities and outcomes, it becomes very difficult to reap the benefits associated with building social capital.” The power of business networking organizations is that they provide these common terms, activities and outcomes in a system that is designed specifically to accomplish this goal.

When you join and attend meetings in a business networking group, you build social capital in a number of ways. You gain the trust and friendship of fellow members; you provide valuable referrals; you contribute knowledge and skills to the effort; you become more knowledgeable and improve your social and business skills. Not least, you get out of your cave–the self-imposed isolation that many business people fall prey to.

Like financial capital, social capital is not only earned and accumulated, it can be spent. The international networking organization BNI has Givers Gain as its guiding principle: The good you do comes back to you over the long term and often in indirect ways. You accumulate social capital by providing help, advice, information, referrals and other benefits to your fellow networkers, with no thought of a quid pro quo. By gaining the trust of others, gratitude for value provided and a solid reputation for integrity and expertise, you become a person whom others wish to help whenever an opportunity to do so presents itself.

A colleague of mine worked for several years with a financial advisor who was a very passionate networker. In fact, he founded a chapter of an international networking organization and became very active as the president of the chapter. He gave more referrals than anyone else in the chapter; however, he got very few referrals back in return.

He came to my colleague a little frustrated about this. My colleague told him it takes time to build trust, especially in the financial services industry. He recommended several books on the subject and suggested that the advisor attend some training programs my colleague was offering. The financial advisor’s reply was a complete surprise. He said, “Train me to train the programs.”

My colleague said, “Aren’t you concerned that you’re already giving a lot more that you’re getting?”

He said, “Yes, but I know that trust takes time, and giving people valuable training at my expense will build trust.”

He became my colleague’s lead trainer and assistant director in Winston-Salem, N. C., and continued to give even more of his time and energy than he ever had before–even though he had been very active in his previous leadership role. His network rewarded him in an amazing way. Over the next 24 months, he received referrals worth $36 million–proving once more that givers always gain in the end.

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