Relationships Are Key

If you haven’t seen this in the news, McDonald’s is installing self serve kiosks in all of their restaurants. Recognizing McDonald’s may not be the pinnacle of the customer experience and for all the arguing we heard in the news a while back about people wanting to get paid $15 to flip burgers, this is certainly a great cost-saving measure for McDonald’s that comes with a twist of irony. It also highlights an interesting trend that seems contrary to everything business ought to be.

The backbone of any business is the relationship it has with its customers. Good experiences and interaction for the customers keeps them coming back, and placing them ahead of profits ensures they do so for years to come. Placing profits ahead of customers might mean we make a boatload of cash in a short time frame, but at what price for the long term? Obviously McDonald’s is a huge corporation and the idea that they would make this move without a lot of research and development seems highly unlikely. It also seems unlikely that customers will enjoy being treated with such little regard over the long term. On the other hand, their business model is all about delivering cheap, crappy, over-salted food to customers as fast as they can and perhaps removing part of the human interaction really is the ideal move for them. Time will tell.

To be fair, fast food has never been my business model, but this still feels counter-intuitive to all I believe about business. To get back to the original point, the advent of computers and even more so the internet makes it too easy for us to get sucked into the idea that relationships aren’t as important as they once were. We only need to look at upcoming generations with their permanently bent thumbs over smartphones and tablets to see how these tools can easily separate us when they should be the ultimate tools to pull us together.

The other part of this could have to do with the scale of the product that’s being exchanged;  perhaps a commodity as common as a cheeseburger doesn’t fall under the same rules of building relationships with customers, but a kiosk isn’t likely going to be able to answer questions as fast as a person can, nor are they particularly good at smiling or interpreting the customer’s mood and body language.

As we continue to conduct our own business, let’s take a closer look at how we are interacting with our customers and clients. Do we see them or our products and services as our commodities? Are we actively working to increase trust with our clients and build our relationships with them, or are we just trying to squeeze every last penny out of them that we can?

Obviously we need to make money lest our businesses just become really expensive hobbies, but if we follow the principle that money follows value, we can dramatically improve the customer experience, which in turn boosts our reputation, and the money takes care of itself. It might be a longer game to play, but it’s also more enduring and frankly it’s just the right thing to do.

Work vs Luck

Work ethic trumps most anything else when it comes to business. Of course we want to work smart and that’s the goal we should be continuously driving toward. However, skills can and need to be developed and when we’re not entirely up to speed with our skills we pretty much have to do whatever it takes until we’re running more smoothly. If we’re being honest with ourselves, we will find there are always ways we can improve and expand upon our skill set, which will still require we put in the work to see our plans come together.

We’ll find plenty of people along the way that want to count all our successes as luck or good timing. They tend to call it luck or good fortune. What they don’t are all the days and nights we’ve invested, the struggles along the way, the planning and strategizing, overcoming failures and trying again until we finally figure out what ultimately makes our businesses tick.

The fact that Jefferson spoke of these things several hundred years ago demonstrates there are some fundamental principles at work that we are wise to adopt should we also wish to achieve our success. Most importantly, get to work and you’ll sort the rest out along the way.

Get Yourself Focused

It’s way too easy to get distracted these days. There have always been the demands upon us for our time with family, friends, and work needs. Past that there were commercials on the radio and TV, billboards, and various forms of print advertising. To shut those off we pretty much just shut of the TV and radio and skipped the newspaper and magazines.

Nowadays we throw in a constant stream of cell phones, text messages, email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube… And it all comes to us on a handheld device you can literally put in your pocket. In fact if you’re not reading this on your phone, it’s a safe bet to say it’s within reach of wherever you’re reading these exact words.

All of these things can be handy and even enjoyable, but overdone they can take away from what it is we should really be focusing on. It can take some extra discipline at times to keep focused on what most needs to be done. Try turning off the phone, all the additional distractions, the social media notifications when you most need to concentrate and see what happens. Getting your primary tasks out of the way first will make you far more productive and you can add those other things back in later on as you have the time.

You Gotta Be Bold!

Smart and bold aren’t always measured correctly in this world.

Too often we think we have to wait until we have all the answers before we take any action. We can get ourselves stuck, looking for one more answer, one more fix, trying to get “smarter” until we get ourselves so confused and stuck in an endless circle that we forget we need to at least take the first step.

That’s where boldness comes in: having faith that we know at least enough to get ourselves in motion and adjust along the way as we learn. Growth never comes from inside the comfort zone. In fact that’s not even a proper name for it; we’re better off thinking of it as the “familiar zone” because let’s be honest, are we ever really comfortable when we’re having a hard time paying the bills or wondering how we’re going to get off the plateau we’re currently stuck on?

Go ahead and get a little wild and do something today that stretches you outside that familiar zone. That’s both bold and you’ll be amazed and how much smarter you get along the way.

Do it Now!

It’s pretty straightforward.

The past is gone, the future isn’t here yet, which leaves us only the present. Time is the only resource we can never renew and the clock is ticking. Why would we waste another minute once we know who we are what we’re aiming for? And when is there ever going to be a better time?

Is there anything else to say?

Accept Responsibility For ALL of it…

Let’s be blunt: if you truly want to succeed in life and business you need to take responsibility for everything you have ever done and said. Not just the parts where everything is shiny and perfect, but all the bumps and rough spots, too.
 
Not only is a function of being honest about who you are and what you stand for, it’s a function of integrity and doing the right thing. This doesn’t mean we have to beat up on ourselves when something hasn’t gone according to plan. One would hope your intentions are good and that the mistake just boils down to a miscommunication or error in calculation. That and accepting responsibility for our mistakes is also the fastest path to making corrections so we can put things back in order for the benefit of everyone involved.
 
The bigger bonus is this means we also get to accept responsibility for our triumphs as well. As long as we don’t get carried away into ego, we’re then also free to celebrate our successes for a job well done in solving the challenges in front of us. This boosts morale for all improved and keeps everyone on the team focused forward for the next round.
 
In both experiences we’ve grown, conquered, and ready to tackle the next great thing we’re ready to do. Accept responsibility for all of it, and you’ll be at the top of your before you know it.

Integrity

Integrity. A quality we often speak of yet don’t always fully grasp its full meaning.

In short we hope and expect people to do what they say they are going to do when we make agreements with them. It’s an essential factor in moving both our personal affairs and businesses forward.

How often do we consider what it means for our own actions? It would seem reasonable if we expect these things of others that we should offer the same respect in return, not only for the other person, but ourselves as well.

Keeping in integrity with ourselves, in seeing challenges through regardless the personal inconveniences not only demonstrates to others character they can expect and trust, we increase in our own values and personal assessment. We know we are capable of greater things by staying true to the smaller things. As we grow in trusting ourselves we indeed accomplish more.

As we grow in character we need fewer rules because they are no longer a question. We just do the right thing and our lives and businesses expand accordingly.

In The Beginning

It’s easy to find people that will talk about the great things they intend to do: bigger dreams, bigger plans, some way of making an impact on the world. Many will even get started only to find out their goal is going to take more work than expected, they don’t have the right resources lined up, or some other issue they didn’t first anticipate.

When we find ourselves in this position, it’s almost invariably a lack of clarity or vision. It’s not uncommon and certainly not a reason to give up or throw out the plan for what we want to do. The first stages of a new business are always going to be the most challenging because there is no demonstrated routine and not everything is obvious to us just yet on where exactly the business is going.

And that’s totally okay. The early stages of business are also when we have the most flexibility and can more easily adjust as we get better focused on our intended goals. Obviously the faster we can dial in our focus the better, but getting our foundation solid should be the higher priority. Doing so plays better to the long game, and in business, longevity counts.

Opportunities Abound!

Never in all of history has so much information and opportunity been so readily available to so many. We are practically drowning in it! The advancements of the internet are changing the way we communicate and we’ve barely even begun to see the long range effects, but it’s not hard to see it’s going to be a wild ride! It’s more important now than it’s ever been to know what it is you want out of life.

As you consider all the opportunities in front of you, remember you also have the option to not pick any of them and create something entirely new. There are countless untapped angles waiting to be explored. You have knowledge and expertise others don’t, and even if it’s an area that’s already been covered, nobody has your particular point of view.

Why not shed your light on the topic? Why not sure what the world exactly what you know? It’s okay if it’s outside what we’ve already seen. In fact that’s even better! All the tools are available for you to step out on your own: all they need is your decision to do something with them.

Clocks and Hourglasses

The way we have clocks set up is a problem. It doesn’t even matter if we’re talking digital clocks or the old fashion style that go around in circles. Actually, those ones are even worse. We see the clock spinning around in circles and think they’re just going to go on forever.

How different would we view our lives if clocks were designed like hourglasses? What would our decisions look like if we knew how many grains of sand we had, or how many times our heart would beat before we move on to the afterlife?

That’s the key point. None of us know the time our hearts will take their last beat. We only know that it’s coming.

This isn’t meant to be morbid or depressing! In fact quite the opposite. But it should be a wake up call.

Knowing that time is the only resource we can never renew, why would we waste any of it in negativity, or on activities that drag us down instead of build us up?

Take a few of those precious moments and think about what matters most to you. Figure out how to prioritize your activities so you can do more of the things that matter most to you. Life is too amazing and your passions are too important to waste, and you deserve to enjoy all of it.