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.

The Usual Risk

We sure do talk about mindset a lot around here. It’s probably because it’s more critical to our success in all areas of life than anything else. Letting our mindset get too settled into unquestioned patterns runs the risk of getting us stuck in the wrong ones, ultimately grinding us down into a rut until we have a hard time seeing over the edge and how to escape.

For the sake of this conversation let’s call this pattern the usual, and if we want out of that pattern, we’re going to have to change up our thinking. It’s going to require we be willing to question pretty much everything we know and believe in our efforts to find something greater.

It might seem scary at times, yet we’ve done it so many times already. Think about the first time we switched jobs, or dated somebody totally new. Heck, go back to our early childhood and look at how risky it was to learn how to walk or say our first few words.

Should we decide to remain in our current patterns then we are always going to get what we’ve always got. It’s pretty much that simple.

If you want something different, then it’s time to look around and see what else is out there. You might be surprised.

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.

True Ignorance and How to Overcome It

Closed minds aren’t open to new ideas, new input, fresh perspective, and a whole other pile of things. They are led to overloaded ego, pride, prejudice, bigotry, and fail to explore their creativity or see beauty in life. If the flow of life is a river, then a closed mind is a swamp.

We talk all the time about the evils of these things, yet how often do we close our own minds to new ideas? I don’t want to suggest we’re all walking around with swampy heads, but it’s worth exploring where we stand and how open we are to new ideas. Or more importantly, where are we going to get our information and what are we looking to improve upon?

Instead of our broke neighbors, perhaps it’s worth talking to someone who better understands business and the proper handling of money. Or if we want to improve our relationships we talk to couples that have survived a lifetime of growing theirs instead of our friends that still struggle to get a date. It’s not that these people would intentionally steer us wrong, but do they really have the information we need?

Far better we work on keeping our minds open rather than shutting down the first time we hear something that makes us a bit uncomfortable, particularly when it means we have to shift our thinking. It doesn’t mean we have to accept every last bit of advice we ever get, but we must consider the source of information and whether it will help us before we just reject it on account of making us uncomfortable.

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?

Daily Motivation

The secret to our success can be found within the pattern of our daily habits. Whatever we repeat on a daily basis reflects what is going on in our minds and that in turn is reflected in our results.

And of course we like the idea of the bigger successes, the toys and rewards. They’re rather exciting! But what do we do to maintain that excitement?

Taking on the bigger goals requires additional work, stretching outside our comfort zones, and creating a new routine. We’re creatures of habit and don’t readily adapt to change. To keep progressing toward our goals we are wise to continuously renew our motivations. Preferably daily! Otherwise it becomes too easy to push off the things we need to do for another day, slide backwards into old patterns, and can even start convincing ourselves that the new goals we set don’t matter.

Consider posting your goals in a place where you can review them frequently. At your desk, your computer, next to your bed so you see them first thing in the morning, on the mirror in the bathroom… Anywhere you’ll see them often to maintain your motivation. It might sound ridiculous, but there’s incredible power in such a simple practice.

YOU Are The Solution…

You’re the only person in your life you’re ultimately accountable both to and for.

How’s that for a bold statement?

Think on it, though. Every single relationship we might form in this life has the potential to go away. Our friends, family, work partners… All of them. At the end of the day it’s the person we see in the mirror that we are ultimately accountable to.

What to make of this? If it seems a burden, please think again. When we understand it is the sum total of all our decisions that have led us to this exact moment we can see it as blessing or a curse. In a very real sense it can be both.

Of course there have may have been bad things that have happened that were beyond our control. Accidents happen, injuries, abuse… Plenty of things. This isn’t to suggest it’s our fault that we’ve had the experiences we have; only that we are responsible for our responses to what has happened. We can let them defeat us or we can use the experiences as stepping stones to something else.

Which is where the blessing arrive. If we don’t like where we’re standing, we also have the power to change it. Recognizing that we are 100% responsible for our lives isn’t meant as an anchor to drape around our necks; it’s a declaration of freedom! If we have the absolute power to make decisions then to get different results we only need to make different decisions. It’s literally that simple! It may take some effort and work, but this is the truth.

Hence Bob’s simple statement is so brilliant because we really ARE our greatest solution.

You Can Choose Your Destiny

We spend much of our time cruising along through life doing whatever we have crafted into our routine. Even those of us that are more restless and easily bored still have our patterns that over time become predictable.

Whether we realize it or not our daily patterns are the result of decisions we’ve made leading up to this point in time. On the higher levels we consider things like thoughts of how we conduct ourselves, the kind of work we do, and the type of people we interact.  On the lower levels we think about how we dress, the words we speak, or how we brush our teeth. It could be an extensive list should we want to create it, but the point remains that all of our decisions ultimately make up who we are

What we don’t often realize is how much control we have over our decisions. This world does not lend itself much to independent thinking, yet those that reach the highest levels in business, leadership, and other assorted callings are the ones that have mastered the art.

Nor is it as complicated as one might think to achieve greater success: figure out your long range goals and then start shaping your decisions around how to get there. We commit to the journey, we take one step at a time, looking around us daily with the long range focus in mind, and we can accomplish many great things.