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Buck the System

Buck the System

Systems don’t always work. Sometimes systems are broken and a complete makeover is necessary before it kills your business. Sometimes years of experience can be wrong. Sometimes, your superiors are just comfortable with their way and don’t want you to upset the apple cart. Maybe you are a follower and want to go along with a system just because you are told to. Maybe you are working in a sales factory that suppresses your creativity and is holding you down. (more…)

Smart Leaders Give Freedom

Smart Leaders Give Freedom

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series Building a Smarter Team.

Business is not easy. You can’t get too cocky with your victories because a lump on the head is right around the corner. You can’t get too down with a defeat because a win is coming. However, defeats can become too frequent and cause you to spiral downward if you do not learn to enable the right people and let go of the wrong people.

My current business has been profitable from day one, but our revenue goals are much greater than what we are currently experiencing.  I believe that to achieve the lofty aspirations we currently desire, we must have the right people on our team. Unfortunately that means making some difficult decisions concerning personnel. Finding the right people and releasing the wrong people is something that has been difficult for me, because I have never wanted to hurt my people. However, as I have become a better manager that insists on accountability and performance, I have realized that keeping the wrong person on my team is not helping them or me. It is far better to release them and hope they will learn for their next venture or find an environment that better suits their skills. (Releasing a team member in Direct Sales may be as simple as moving on to another, more motivated person. I do not encourage removing them from your team, but instead, refocusing attention to someone else.)

Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, says great companies, “don’t “motivate” people—their people are self-motivated. There’s no evidence of a connection between money and change mastery. And fear doesn’t drive change—but it does perpetuate mediocrity.” Concerning change within an organization, he says, “…dramatic results do not come from dramatic process—not if you want them to last, anyway. A serious revolution, one that feels like a revolution to those going through it, is highly unlikely to bring about a sustainable leap from being good to being great.”

Collins says that leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with “where” but with “who.” Collins compares a company to a bus and filling the seats with people. He says that companies should start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And they stick with that discipline—first the people, then the direction—no matter how dire the circumstances.

You should find the right people who can be motivated by excellence and are excited to make your business better. These people don’t work just for more money, but they work first for the satisfaction of accomplishment and the ability to be creative. Although this may seem obvious, few businesses make the right personnel decisions. Many so called leaders say they want self-motivated people who will work for the betterment of the business, but in reality, many business people have too fragile of egos to have a team member have a contrasting opinion. They are really looking for obedience to their word, not creativity and independence.

When you find the right people and release the wrong people, freedom to work within creative boundaries, and giving your people the freedom to make choices can be a very powerful tool. Freedom of choice is inherent in the spirit of man. Without waxing too political or religious, the agency to choose is our inherited and inalienable right. When your business reaches the point where your leaders are free to make creative choices within a mutually desired direction, greatness erupts. I believe in this and I am becoming more and more vigilant of this within my own company. I am confident it will take us from profitability to greatness.

The world’s greatest leaders have based their leadership on the principle of freedom or agency. Although poor decisions have consequences, such as loss of trust or dismissal from a team, the best leaders do not advocate forcing anybody to follow. They invite others to join them through living what they are preaching.

It is the responsibility of your team members to choose their own path to success.  You cannot force your path to success upon anyone. You will find that by concentrating on rewarding those who produce and releasing those who don’t, your business will achieve levels never possible with the wrong people.

Insist on Personal Growth

Insist on Personal Growth

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series Building a Smarter Team.

Business leaders with large teams constantly receive calls from team members with problems that have more to do with emotional needs than figuring out how to make larger bonuses and commissions.  The bonuses and commissions that leaders make has very much to do with the state of mind of their team. As a part of developing a smarter team, self-reliance and the ability to solve issues outside of business can become a very important issue in developing a sustainable and profitable business.

Your role as a leader is not and should not constantly be a shoulder to cry on. Although it is necessary to understand your team and occasionally help them work through some of life’s problems, you cannot become your team’s psychoanalyst.  Your job and main responsibility it to help people help themselves. If you cannot develop needy people into strong, self-reliant members of your team, you will never grow a large and sustainable business.

As an entrepreneur and business owner, you may sometimes feel like a church priest or bishop rather than a capitalist. You will see in a short period of time as a business owner, that anybody who has a struggling personal life will be affected in the business. It is a rare person that can be going through a personal hell and still be unaffected in business. Understand that you will be thrust into the personal lives of your team members, but how you handle those situations is vital if you really expect to help them out.

Whether you are a manager in a traditional business, or you are a network marketer that is beginning to see his or her team member grow, understand that you should be proactively encouraging your people to participate in personal growth activities and studies. You cannot be expected to constantly help an individual who is looking for a quick handout or personal counseling system. You simply cannot grow a large and productive team by constantly taking a careful inventory of all personal outside influences to their lives.

By developing a sales team or networking marketing downline, you have chosen to be a part of people’s lives.  However, you are also in business, and it is not an unkind or an unfeeling business leader who requires a team member to buck up and become a little more self-reliant before you can spend too much time in their business development activities that are devoid of momentum.

Personal independence and self-reliance is a sustaining need for your business to grow. If you rob your team members of their ability to figure out their own problems, how will they ever become leaders themselves?  How can they ever have the strength to grow if you are not around? Worst of all, how will you ever have time to spend time with the people who are willing to be more self-reliant?

Don’t be afraid to let your team members make a mistake. Don’t be afraid to let them mess up a presentation.  We live in a fast food society that demands gratification. If we think that we can solve the problems for our team and still develop leaders, we are kidding ourselves. A new team member is going to feel some disappointment, fear, anxiety and failure. Not every call will result in a presentation. Not every presentation will result in a sale. Teach your team that a miserable experience now and then may just be a part of a profitable business. Help them understand that just because they are taking lumps now, that things will get better if they continue to self-improve and get better

There is enormous personal growth that your team members will obtain when they learn to overcome their obstacles. There is great power in becoming self-reliant. Becoming self-reliant will be fundamental to developing a strong team and ultimately a fulfilled life.

Business Tips from a Fanatical Entrepreneur

Business Tips from a Fanatical Entrepreneur

I am a fanatical entrepreneur, I admit it. I love the thrill of attempting to organize chaos.  I love taking new and undeveloped ideas and making them a reality. I love challenging myself and others. I started my first business when I was 8 buying candy in bulk from a wholesaler and selling it to the neighborhood kids at retail. I have helped raise millions of dollars for two startups and I have had some great successes. I have also had some miserable failures.

For you new business owners and also you job-laden entrepreneurs seeking to strike out on your own and throw so-called security to the wind in hopes of achieving the seductive dream of riches and independence, I speak to you. I embrace you, my fellow entrepreneurs, and applaud that fire in your belly that keeps you up at night seeking something more, but I also have a couple of suggestions and warnings.

1. Estimate how much money it takes to run your own business, then double it. Felix Dennis, a famous magazine publisher, described how to get capital: inherit it, steal it, win it, marry it, earn it or borrow it. I certainly don’t advocate stealing it (and few of us are lucky enough to marry, win or inherit it), which means most of us must earn or borrow it.  Never underestimate the financial requirements of getting a traditional business off the ground.  If you fail to properly finance your company, you will never be able to gain enough business momentum to make it past your first year.
2. Learn how to deal with people and study the art of sales. If money is tight, consider a business that needs little startup capital such as a home-based business or consider taking a commission-based job before you venture into business ownership. There are many companies that have tremendous sales training and educational systems that teach you how to make money from sales-based activities. If you can’t make a living selling, you will struggle to make it as a business owner. Business owners must sell to prospects, employees, vendors and their significant other.  However, in addition to their sales responsibilities, business owners also have the combined duties of company accountant, gopher and janitor.  Learn people skills and get a sales background, it will become invaluable as you grow your business.
3. Have a written plan. After a couple illustrious childhood entrepreneurial ventures of selling candy and mowing lawns, my first real venture into financing my own company came in 1996 when I put $10,000 on my credit card to have an online information portal built by a local web design company. The site was built on the latest technology and was a great reference tool. It was everything I dreamed it would be, but I had forgot to figure out how to monetize the thing. Three months later, I was paying interest at 15%, wondering why such a great site with so many visitors didn’t have any income.
There are many entrepreneurs that practice the philosophy of “Take a leap and a net will appear.”  I know I sure did in the beginning, and I have to fight from doing it still today. It can be disastrous. Entrepreneurs are confident and often cocky because they truly feel they can accomplish anything out of sure grit and determination.  Many entrepreneurs think that they will figure out the details as they go. However, taking the time to properly run some numbers and research new or profitable niches will give you the focus to truly exploit them.  You will spend less time jumping from idea to idea and have more time to use your creative resources to sell your product or service.
It does not matter if you are in a home-based business, network marketing distributor, or even if you are working on commission for someone else, a game plan is never a bad idea.
4. Spend $500 on an attorney.  I went to three years of law school to be better at business, not to become an attorney. Trust me, legal protection is important. For a small investment, you can protect your personal assets by forming the right legal entity or by protecting the partners from each other.  If you plan on having a business partner, you better understand the rules of engagement.  Partnerships work great until you start making money, or after you’ve lost all your money.  Either way, protect yourself by having a good legal entity and a real understanding of your partnership responsibilities. I frequently say that partnerships are like marriage without love. For better or worse, you are stuck together once you open that bank account together. If things fall to pieces, divorces are always easier to settle when you know who gets what.
5. Get Lucky. Luck doesn’t just happen. I have yet to win more than $5 on a lottery ticket and besides, Vegas-style roulette is a bad way to cover payroll.  Edna “E” Mode from Pixar’s The Incredibles says it best, “Darling, luck favors the prepared.” Luck rarely finds those unwilling to take a chance. Sweat, passion and perseverance are the most important ingredients to “getting lucky.” Constantly educate yourself on your industry. Study successful businesses. Read books and work hard on finding employees that buy into what you are doing.  When you are really prepared, you may get lucky.

Advice from an Incurable Wise-Ass

karen-duffy-bookI subscribe to an online newsletter called the SalesLadder and I get weekly information from a writer Marc Cenedella.  He has some great stuff, you should check it out.  Here are some excerpts from his latest email when he interviewed Karen “Duff” Duffy the MTV VJ who has been battling sarcoidosis. (more…)