Small Biz

Values

One of the most frequently asked questions we get is, “Should values be my personal values or the values I see for my business?” The answer is your values should be the same or at the very least, aligned. Otherwise you are potentially sending conflicting messages and are headed for chaos.

Take a word of advice from Jesus Christ regarding the wise man and the foolish man: “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27 King James Version (KJV)

Your values are the ROCK your business is built upon. Are your values for your business consistent with your personal beliefs? What message are you sending to your customers or clients? Do they know what you stand for when they see you out of the context of your business?

Guiding Vision

Have you ever been in a position where you were searching for a word to use and you kept calling out every word possible, BUT the word you were looking for? The English language is riddled with words that sound similar but can mean the very opposite of each other; for example, “evade” and “invade”. One means to sidestep and the other means to enter.

There are also those words spelled the same but mean different things. My favorite is “desert”. Now you didn’t confuse this word with something that means a sweet treat following a meal (dessert), did you? “Desert” pronounced one way means a dry, arid terrain. Pronounced another way means to abandon or leave.

Growing up in the United States, I have become accustomed to the idiosyncrasies of the American English language. That still doesn’t help me when I am searching for a specific word, so now you know why the dictionary and I are good friends. I mention this hurdle of confusion in language, because as we look at the Vision statement, it occurs to me that there is a lot of confusion around the subject.

When Joanne and I were first working on the Dynamic Strategy program we found folks writing a vision statement that, in fact, was a mission statement and vice versa. The two are not spelled the same and while the two sound somewhat similar, they are two very different statements and are defined differently. We define the Vision statement as the long-term view of a possible future of the organization; it outlines what the organization wants to be and concentrates on the future.

The vision is a source of inspiration and provides clear decision-making criteria. This is a crucial point and can’t be underscored enough. It means that as a leader, in your day-to-day activities of running the organization, when you have decisions to make, big or small, you want to consider what your organizational vision is and what impact your decisions will have on it.

Many organizations lose their focus over time and this is where it may start. They become content with the present circumstances, remaining in the present with no thought of the future. This leads to a loss of direction and motivation for the organization. Understanding that a Vision statement needs to motive others, we also can see why it is used to direct an organization’s future. It answers the question of where the organization is going. Without it, an organization can be lost.

Is your Vision statement clearly defining the future-state of your organization? Does your Vision statement provide clear decision-making criteria? Do you and your employees know, with out a doubt, where your business is headed?

Values

As a business we are always trying to match our customer’s needs with our product or services. Matching needs is also applicable when we are working on our business values. It is important to understand what our individual needs are from the business and what the business needs from us to make both of us successful.

We should be mindful that when these needs match, we are more likely to be successful and not sending out conflicting messages. For example, if I have a personal need to write and work alone for long periods of time, but my business demands that I am in the public arena for a minimum of 16 hours a day, it doesn’t take much to see that failure is in the near future.

In the Bible, the account of the Exodus gives us a good example of matching needs. In the Ten Commandments, God provided a list of things he needs from his people and throughout history, people cry out to God with their needs from him. In our modern world, organizations try to present and demonstrate their needs in their values or value statement. They further expand on the values with their vision and mission statements. It occurs to me that the original values were presented in the Ten Commandments. Think about it. Values like honor, integrity, love, honesty, respect, discipline, dignity, and many others can be identified or at the very least, interpreted to match each of the Commandments.

What are your personal values and what are your business values? Do they match or at least align? Should they? What happens if they don’t?

Getting On the Same Page

Think back through your life about the places or companies you have worked. Can you quickly identify what they each exemplified, beyond their primary product or service? If it takes you a while to think about that question, you may not be alone.

When I think about it, the first thing that comes to my mind is I wasn’t too concerned about “them”. I was more concerned about my personal connection with “them”. For example, is there a career path? Will this position help me further my personal goals of providing for my family, excelling at my strengths, furthering my education, and making a positive difference with those I associate with at this organization?

At first glance, it appears to me I am being a bit selfish! After all, they are doing me the favor of employment. But when I look deeper, I realize what I was attempting to do was match what is important to me with what is important to the organization. The organization needs competent, dependable, trained, and educated employees. I want to provide to the organization the benefits of my strengths (education, training and experience).

The organization is willing to compensate employees for the organization’s needs. I want to provide financially for my family. After some conversations and deliberations, the organization and I can determine if we are a good match. When was the last time you thought about whether you and your organization were a good match for each other? Perhaps it is time to take a closer look!

A Dream on a Firm Foundation

It was a vision, a hope, a dream. One moment it was clearly in sight and moments later the clouds and fog rolled in and the vision was gone. Uncertainty overtook hope and doubt crept into the thoughts where dreams once lay. It was paramount to take those wispy initial thoughts and solidify them into a firm foundation that would stand firm during the darkest storm.

With ideas tumbling around, it can be hard, but not impossible, to build that foundation alone. Good business advisors play an important role in sorting out and guiding the discovery process. Either alone or with assistance, start now to discover or rediscover what your purpose is in this new world.

  1. Define key words that will form the building blocks of your foundation– Vision, Mission, Values, and Purpose.
  2. Select four – six values that are vital to you and your organization.
  3. Based on the values, develop your mission, vision, and purpose statements.
  4. Finally develop strategies to achieve your vision though execution of your mission while staying true to your purpose.

The dream will become a reality when built upon a firm foundation.

Emerging from Whatever

As the country begins to lift the restrictions on business closures, I took the opportunity to observe some of the general characteristics of our small business owners.  In an earlier message, I referred to business owners as either those who dug in, waiting to be rescued from a plight not of their own making or those who were agile and adapted quickly to that same plight.  Today, I want to share an observation based on those two types of business owners and what, beyond mindset, drives the differences.

For those who chose to dig in and wait on government assistance, I noticed they were relatively lacking in adequate resources even before government restrictions were levied.  For example, their bottom line was weak, cash flow was non-existent, the business was already stagnant or at least lacking in creativity that could grow the business, and in almost all businesses that ended up closing, they were stretched beyond their means and the quarantine served to underscore a business being poorly managed.  For startups, you might want to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I question if they were truly even ready to start a business if this event, in their eyes, caused their demise.  For the long-standing business, in existence for a generation or more, their closure certainly cannot be solely blamed on COVID-19.  My guess is they were already contemplating a sell or a closure and took advantage of the situation.  Probably not a bad idea, but why not be truthful with your customers and just tell them, “It was time.”?

For those who were agile and adapted quickly, we all need to focus on those models and gather insights for best case design.  For example, very few if any suffered from resource issues.  They had the recommended 3-6 months of business savings in the bank (a lesson learned from as recent as 2008-2009).  The labor pool became their dream.  So many folks quickly let go could be snatched up, trained and productive in relatively short order.  Raw materials were quickly available and for many, it was raw materials they were not ordering in their normal line of business.   But the number one characteristic these small business owners possessed was the ability to recognize the environment around them changing at lightening speed and their own confidence to take the risk and make a CHANGE.  OK, maybe that is mindset, but without the financial reserves, ready labor and materials, even the mindset wouldn’t be enough to get them moving as fast as was required! Bottom line:  ALWAYS BE PREPARED!  (Where have we heard that before?)

Claudia

Broken or Reborn

Have you ever watched that reality cooking show “Chopped”?  Talented chefs compete to test their abilities to create, reinvent, and execute a meal under intense time pressure.  All they know coming into the competition is they will be preparing dishes in each of three rounds for a panel of highly qualified judges using the food items in a covered basket within the time constraints provided.

For small business owners, the first half of 2020 has been much like being a contestant on that reality show.  It is more than your skill and reputation on the line.  It has not only been their livelihoods, but that of their families and employees.  Business owners have had many choices to make and are still making them.  The ability to be agile, flexible, innovative, creative, and above all fearless in the face of uncertainty, has determined their place in the competition. 

One thing we are learning is business owners can resolve to dig their heels in, ride out the storm and expect to be saved or they can create their own future understanding that forward motion moves fastest when staying alert to meeting the needs of others.

Claudia

A Christmas Miracle

Tonight, two days before Christmas, I witnessed a miracle. There is no other way to explain the coincidence surrounding the incident.

I was the fourth car waiting in a left hand turn lane. When the green arrow indicated we could safely turn, the cars in front of me didn’t move and one of the drivers impatiently honked his horn. It was then that I noticed the first car in the lane had changed his, or her, mind and was pulling into the right hand lane. Just as they finished the awkward maneuver, a semi-truck barreled through the intersection. The truck definitely didn’t have a green light or the right-of-way. I am absolutely positive that if any of the cars in my turn lane had been in the intersection at that point in time, they would not have survived the impact.

That car in the wrong lane, stopped traffic in both lanes long enough to save our lives. To that unknown stranger and to a loving Heavenly Father, I say thank you and Merry Christmas.

Small Business Saturday

November honors veterans the fist week in November with Veteran’s Small Business Week – supporting our veterans is a great way to say thank you.

The last Saturday in November is Small Business Saturday® – a day to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for their communities.  Please remember to support your local small business by shopping at a small business.

As a shopper, you can participate by shopping at the small businesses in your area.

As a Small business owners, you can be prepared and put your best foot forward on the last Saturday in November. You can host and event and serve cookies and warm cider or holiday punch or join in a community hosted event. Offer a special and rally your friends and neighbors to join you.

There is more information about support from American Express at https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/Shop-Small/

The program is sponsored by the SBA – Small Business Administration so look through their site for my information. http://www.sba.gov/smallbusinesssaturday

Exceptional Service

While I often wonder if exceptional service will become a thing of the past, I am reassured by the exceptional support received at two different Microsoft stores in the past six months. Both were the result of dropping a Surface and breaking the screen. One entrepreneur had a  Service Plan and one didn’t. Both owners received fast, efficient, and exceptional service with no interruption in connectivity or work. Both were extremely happy with the results!

Small Businesses have always excelled at exceptional service, but Microsoft has demonstrated twice that they are committed to customer service as well. So service comes in small and big packages. Thank goodness!