Monthly Archives: April, 2017

What is that supposed to mean? Nothing is holding me back!

April 27th, 2017 Posted by Blog Post, Business is ART, Inspiration 4 thoughts on “What is that supposed to mean? Nothing is holding me back!”

Laura Harting – Urbana University

As discussed in a previous blog, I had the great honor of having my book used in a 300-level course on strategic management and leadership at Urbana University this semester. Last week I met with the students from the class to listen to their feedback on the book.

The following critique and testimonial was written by one of the students, Marketing and Management major Laura Harting, who gave her permission to post it in its entirety here.

Thank you very much, Laura and here’s is to a great future!

Laura’s Review

Generally, I really enjoyed using the Business is ART book.  Jon’s advice and instructions in the book felt genuine and straight from the heart. He really had a way of engaging his readers and being relatable.

The end of chapter questions were among my favorite parts. They helped me bring the things I read full circle and relate them to my own life and my future plans, along with previous experiences.

Before I began reading Business is ART, I will say I was skeptical. But what I found within the book was not what I was expecting. Not only was the book insightful, but it really brought things in my own life to my attention.

For example, in Chapter 1, the end of chapter questions talked about our vision and how we define success. This made me think about what I want in my future and the steps I need to take to get there. Thinking about my vision for my life was an eye opener. It made me realize that I had not really done any prior planning for post-graduation.

In Chapter 2, we were asked about the things that we feel are holding us back. At first I kind of brushed this question off, thinking, “What is that supposed to mean? Nothing is holding me back.”

But this is really not the case. In fact there are a lot of things that have been holding me back – a lot of that being fear of the future. I realized that my hesitation to move far away from the place I have known and loved my whole life was holding me back from some amazing career opportunities.

At the beginning of this course, my plan for graduation was to apply for jobs close to home. Now, less than a month from graduation, I have had phone interviews for out-of-state jobs and even traveled to Nashville for interviews in order to explore career opportunities.

Without Business is ART, I feel I would not have realized that my fear of the unknown was holding me back from amazing career opportunities. I realized that being tied down to next to nothing was not limiting me to stay in Ohio and close to my family. Business is ART somehow managed to get me to see things about myself that I was not seeing before opening the book.

Overall, Business is ART, and the end of chapter questions were very useful to me as a soon-to-be college graduate.

An apology

To Laura’s friends and family that may not want her to relocate…uhhhh…I’m sorry.

A note to all

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Lessons learned – stop talking, start listening, start conversing

April 25th, 2017 Posted by Blog Post, Business is ART 0 thoughts on “Lessons learned – stop talking, start listening, start conversing”

Students of MGT 315 at Urbana University

This past semester, Business is ART was used as the textbook for MGMT 315 – Strategic Management and Leadership, led by Cate Brinnon, assistant business professor at Urbana University in Urbana, Ohio. But it was I who took away several valuable lessons.

Just before the course began, Cate asked if I would be open to sitting in with the class near the end of the semester to listen to their feedback.

For a little over 3 months, I waited anxiously, perhaps a bit nervously, to see how the book would be received by the students. After-all, it was not written as a textbook for classroom purposes.

That day of reckoning finally came last week, and we got so caught up in conversation that we had to schedule a second visit (also last week).

The experience left me both humbled and impressed by an articulate, intelligent group of young people. It was a fantastic experience that I’d repeat any time, over and over again.

Listening is key to learning – and leading

One of the things Cate emphasized to me before I visited her class was that the students are bombarded every day with people that just want to talk to them. They get enough of that. She encouraged me to listen to them. Let them talk.

As Cate stated in a news article that ran in the Urbana Citizen regarding the course, “I believe there have been some revelations with some of what it is [the students] truly wish to do with their lives in the short and long term.”

That was confirmed during my visits

Through the course, several students had in fact figured out exactly what they want to do in the near and long term. At least one student is already actively planning the launch of a business. Others are at least thinking about where they might be headed, perhaps for the first time ever really asking themselves, “Why am I doing this? Why not that?”

Many of the students indicated they most benefitted from going through the exercise of developing a personal vision and roadmap to success. In the book, I call it a “self-assessment.” In the Plan Canvas software (the planning software based on the book), it is referred to as a Personal Plan.

Strategic planning seemed valuable as well, while business plan development was less important at this stage of their careers/lives – except for the student who is launching an actual business and the students who had to develop business plans for a separate course.

When I mentioned the possibility of publishing a second edition of the book – one that is geared more toward students and startups – a student urged me not to make it too much like a textbook.

Don’t talk down to us

She said, “All of our textbooks talk down to us, but your book doesn’t. It has a conversational style.”

What a great complement and something we should all carry forward, not just at work, but in our personal lives as well. Stop talking to. Start listening to. Start conversing with.

Rest assured, these students taught me many great lessons. I’ll share more of them in a subsequent post.

Let’s keep in touch

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The Cost of Lying

April 20th, 2017 Posted by Behavior, Blog Post, Leadership 0 thoughts on “The Cost of Lying”

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Lying. Hey, it’s not so much a lie as it issssssssss….an exaggeration of the truth. What’s the harm, right? Nothing personal, right? It’s only business. Bada-bing, bada-boom.

Sometimes, being an entrepreneur means acting like you’re a bigger deal than you are to land a client. Or saying you know how to do something and then figuring it out as you go.

But there’s a difference between “not yet knowing how you’re going to deliver” and “knowing you can’t deliver”. Between “selling your vision for the company” and “lying to get a sale”.

Even altruistic business owners can find themselves tempted to bend the truth for the good of the company.

But the hard truth is, lying isn’t good for your company. Even when it seems you’ve gotten away with it, sooner or later, it’ll catch up, and someone will ultimately pay for it. Just look at the disastrous fallout from the Enron scandal or the housing market crash.

And once you start, it can be hard to stop.

Lying is a Vicious Cycle

The first lies told are usually very small and harmless. You stretch the truth or without even thinking, a false answer comes out in a moment of fear and insecurity. But over time, lies escalate.

Studies have shown that with each lie you tell, your brain becomes desensitized to the action. This is especially true when it comes to lies that directly benefit you.

You think a lie will give you more control over a situation, but you’re actually losing a piece of control with every lie you tell. The part of your brain that questions and analyzes your actions grows numb, and you can quickly become lost in the lies.

This not only makes it easier to lie to others but to yourself as well. When entrepreneurs start lying to themselves, they lose their ability to properly manage their business.

How to Stop Lying

The best way to stop lying is to tell the truth. It’s really that simple. If you’ve already started down the road of dishonesty, you may need to go and confess to some people. Even if it could cause harm to your business or relationship.

You’ll be surprised by how many people and businesses will actually respect radical honesty, even when the truth isn’t pretty.

Any success you’ve built upon lies isn’t real in the first place. Business owners usually have good intentions for their company when they lie. They want to help their business. That’s why they do it.

But lies shouldn’t have any place in your business plans. They simply delay, and often escalate, confrontation and consequences. Just ask Bernie Madoff (Madoff with your money).

So don’t do it.

Should you find that you have habitual liars on your team, it’s best to get rid of them – even if it’s difficult to do. They are damaging your business and undermining your goals, and that should be the last thing any business owner wants.

I ain’t lying to you

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How do you stay motivated when you just don’t wanna?

April 18th, 2017 Posted by Blog Post, Inspiration 0 thoughts on “How do you stay motivated when you just don’t wanna?”

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How do you stay motivated? Do you have a few tricks?

There is an old adage that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. I’m generally an optimist, but with a heavy dose of realism and a hint of skepticism, so I tend to believe that even the most motivated of the motivated who love what they do so much they just burst from so much sun shining up their butts have days in which they’d just rather not.

Staying motivated when you’re emotionally drained from something outside of work

Work can actually be a distraction from the noise and drama surrounding your personal life. Treat it that way. Try very hard not to bring that drama in to the workplace and try very hard not to be a part of workplace drama.

If you think of work as an escape from that very personal emotional stuff, it can become a bit of a safe-haven that you want to protect. Just don’t make it such an escape that you spend all of your time there, and none of it dealing with the outside drama and emotions.

Staying motivated when you literally just don’t feel well

If you can, and you have the option, work from home. If you can’t work from home, take a day off. Your not feeling well could be emotional, but it could also be that you are carrying around some kind of bug that your co-workers and customers don’t want, so be mindful of that as well.

If you’re suffering from the brown-bottle flu, suck it up, Buttercup, and get to work.

Staying motivated when you are burned out

You might love your company/employer. You might even love your job – usually. But sometimes, you just get burned out on it and need a break.

If that happens, volunteer for special projects or to cross-train in another area. Something, anything that productively breaks the monotony of doing the same things every day.

If that is really not an option, flip your focus. Start thinking of the things you could do outside of work that excite you and then begin thinking of work as not just a way to pay the bills and eat, but a way to fund those interesting activities.

You might even have to keep telling yourself, “I’m doing THIS because I love doing THAT.” Maybe it will help take the sting out.

And remember, we all need a break now and then. It doesn’t have to be the expensive vacation you see your friends posting about on Facebook. But take a break from work. Use the vacation time you’ve earned, even if all you plan to do with it is sit in the backyard sipping on an ice cold beverage of your choice.

Set goals and write them down

All of the feel-good gurus out there will tell you to set goals for yourself – and with good reason. Science backs up the claim that if you set goals and write them down, you are much more likely to stay motivated enough to achieve them.

And that’s really what Business is ART is all about (ART = Articulate, Revise, Track). Articulate what you want (goals, objectives and actions). Revise your plans as you move along. Track your progress so that you can make better, more informed decisions – and reward yourself and your stakeholders for achieving those goals and objectives.

How do you stay motivated?

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If You Have to Meet, Run Better Meetings

April 13th, 2017 Posted by Behavior, Blog Post, Leadership 0 thoughts on “If You Have to Meet, Run Better Meetings”

meetingMore meetings! Ugh!

Everyone is busy. Sometimes the thought of adding another meeting to the calendar is cause for an anxiety attack. How can you get anything done when you have to go to all of these meetings?!

You’re not alone if you feel this way. A large percentage of the workforce does.

But not everyone hates meetings

There are more options for meetings than ever now, so it isn’t always a major inconvenience to attend them. There are many free or inexpensive collaboration softwares and services making it easy to attend meetings from wherever you sit.

You might not even have to put pants on since all the other attendees may potentially see is your shirt and face – unless you stand up. TMI?

Some people thrive on meetings. Need them. Enjoy them, just as much as others may hate them. Regardless of which camp you are in, there are a few tricks to make meetings more productive and less of a waste of time. Here are a few.

Have a published agenda

You’ve heard it a million times and yet you probably, right now, today, have attended, are currently attending, or are preparing to attend a meeting that has no formal agenda.

It may have a meeting title like “Discuss Lewicki Account” or “Catch-up on Recent Shit.” But it has no agenda. Usually, a result is no one knows if they should go, what or if they should prepare, what anyone hopes to get out of it, and what actually was accomplished…if anything.

An agenda also helps keep meeting attendees “on point.” If someone is running the meeting, an agenda provides them with a polite way of saying “Let’s stick to the topic at hand,” which leads to the next point…

Have someone lead the meeting

It doesn’t have to be the big cheese, and running a meeting doesn’t make you the most important person in the room. But it is important to have someone that is driving the agenda, making sure the meeting stays on track, and making sure things stay on time. Which leads to the next point…

Start and end the meeting on time

It should go without saying.

Don’t fill the room with bodies

You probably don’t need to attend every meeting you are invited to and you certainly don’t need to invite everyone and their mothers to every meeting. Create a culture in which people understand that just because they weren’t invited to a meeting, it doesn’t mean they aren’t important or not part of “the club.”

Time for everyone to put their big boy and big girl britches on and realize the world doesn’t revolve around you. Life will go on if you are not invited to a meeting. You are still loved and respected if you aren’t invited to a meeting.

Have a point to the meeting

And finally, when you publish your meeting agenda, include somewhere in there what the purpose of the meeting is. What is its objective(s)? What outcome are you looking for? Otherwise, you may as all well sit in the room together scratching your properly-panted butts.

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Can You Turn Your Hobby into a Business?

April 11th, 2017 Posted by Blog Post, Entrepreneur 2 thoughts on “Can You Turn Your Hobby into a Business?”

hobbyMany successful businesses trace their roots back to a hobby. You may have heard a motivational business speaker share their story about how they realized one day that they could make money simply doing something they enjoyed.

A hobby certainly isn’t a bad way to start a business.

After all, hobbies tend to be low cost and low commitment. And generally, they involve something you love. You probably already have a hobby or two. The question is…

Should You Turn Your Hobby into a Business?

The idea sounds great: make money while doing something you love.

And you can deduct purchases and expenses for it. That’s something you can’t do with a hobby.

However, you might end up disliking this activity you once loved. Turning a hobby into a job can make you suddenly lose the joy that comes from doing it. As an example, I love to cook. I love to experiment with new recipes and make stuff up as I go. But would I enjoy running a restaurant?

If you’re not worried about that, then here are some questions you need to ask yourself:

  • Will I be able to get enough business to make a living, earning what I want or need to earn?
  • Can I get others to understand the value of my hobby?
  • Can I grow the business at a sustainable rate?

If you’re answering yes to all of those, then you’re ready to start seriously considering making the leap from hobby to business.

But first….

Do Some Research

There’s usually no point in starting a business if there’s already someone succeeding at what you want to do on a level you can’t perform – or if you have no differentiator. What are the market and competition like? Is there a niche that’s being overlooked?

If the marketplace is already pretty full, try and think of a different way you can transform your hobby into a business – do something to make it unique and stand-out. Think about how to be a market disruptor.

Strategize and Create a Business Plan

Despite what some may say, you should develop a strategic and a business plan (there’s a difference). Start with a strategic plan and graduate to a business plan. This will help you create a foundation from which to build your business. It doesn’t have to be overly complex, and you’ll certainly change it along the way.

But start with a simple, concise strategic plan. Speaking of starting simple….

Start Small

You may have big dreams, and that’s great. But big dreams aren’t accomplished overnight. Instead, break the big goals down into smaller, actionable steps and objectives. Get a few sales under your belt. Figure out your flow. Make some mistakes.

And then, once you’ve settled into the idea of your hobby being a job, start building.

Treat it Like a Job

The only way people are going to take your business seriously is if you do. Once you’ve decided to turn your hobby into a business, it’s no longer just for fun or whenever you have a free time. Get up early. Work late. Be regular. Stay consistent.

Even if you’re doing something you love, it’s not always going to be enjoyable.

Get Another Hobby or Outlet

Now that your hobby is becoming your job, you need something else in your life to release tension and enjoy. Consider starting a new hobby that’s purely for pleasure. It’s important to maintain balance when starting a business.

For more guidance on starting a successful business, make sure to check out Business is ART, available now at Amazon and other booksellers.

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5 ways to add new life to your tired business

April 6th, 2017 Posted by Blog Post, Inspiration, Leadership 0 thoughts on “5 ways to add new life to your tired business”

successYou’re tired. You’re angry and frustrated. Employees keep leaving and those who remain are less than enthusiastic about staying. You are working your tail off to add new customers. You continue to cut costs, but just can’t seem to get profits up to where you’d like them.

You’re thinking about throwing in the towel, cashing out and starting over. If you truly have viable products and services, you might not want to go nuclear just yet.

Here are 5 things you can do that will add new life to your tired business.

Practice the ART of business

ART = Articulate, Revise, Track.

Articulate what you want. Revise your plans as you go. Track your progress.

So many businesses come and go without ever having practiced the ART of business. If nothing else, you should do so for these basic, foundational keys to success.

  1. Vision – How you see things out into the future
  2. Mission – What you do
  3. Purpose – Why you do it

Set value-based vs profit-driven goals

Are you doing it because you love it? Are you doing it because it’s a family tradition? Are you doing it for the money? It may be a combination of things.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with doing it for the money, but there is a wrong way to go about it – by focusing solely on the money. I subscribe to the school of thought that if you focus on the other things, like bringing value to your many stakeholders, the money follows. Here is a quick order of business to do just that:

  1. Focus on Social Responsibility – it leads to…
  2. Focus on higher Employee Engagement – it leads to…
  3. Focus on higher Customer Engagement – it leads to…
  4. Higher Sustainability and Profit

Define “Success” on your own terms

Don’t let anyone tell you what YOUR success should look like (unless that someone is me…kidding). Success is personal. Define it on YOUR terms. To do so, work on identifying:

  1. Long, medium and short term goals and objectives
  2. The actions necessary for achieving them
  3. A priority order for tackling them

Define employee incentives that they can control or influence

There is not much that is less motivational than defining incentive plans that are unachievable, either because they were right out of the gate or because you keep moving the bar. Equally as bad is defining incentive plan objectives that are completely outside of the control of the employees.

The goal is to incentivize behavior that will help the business or organization achieve its objectives, goals and vision.

That said, consider a 3-tiered incentive program that incorporates 3 major components:

  1. Individual targets
  2. Team/functional area targets
  3. Organizational targets

Up your social media and online game

The vast majority of U.S. consumers conduct some form of online research before making a purchase – no matter what kind of business you have. So, you have to have an online and social presence. The best advice I can give you is not to try to do this on your own and shop around for assistance. There are a lot of “professionals” out there more than happy to help you part ways with your money, so be careful.

Whatever you do, have a little fun with it. Here are a few online things you can do to step up your game:

  1. Run ads and specials online
  2. Conduct giveaways
  3. Recognize individual customers on a regular basis (with their approval)
  4. Write regular, informative blogs posts
  5. Provide links to valuable or interesting information
  6. Push quick “Did you know…” tidbits that don’t necessarily have anything to do with your business specifically
  7. Be personal – share things from your life and the lives of your employees (with their approval)

Good news

The good news is we have tools that can help. My book, Business is ART, gets in to all of this and more. Start with it, available at Amazon and several other resources. Then follow our progress on the beta test of Plan Canvas, the business planning software based on Business is ART.

Let me be your free consultant by inviting you to never miss a podcast, blog post or newsletter. Sign up here. I don’t spam and try very hard to bring you informative and entertaining content as well as useful tools to increase your odds of success.

Want to Get Ahead? Be a Consultant to the Boss

April 4th, 2017 Posted by Behavior, Blog Post, Inspiration 0 thoughts on “Want to Get Ahead? Be a Consultant to the Boss”

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“Make the boss look good and you’ll look good.”

That was some early advice I received in my professional career. There is a lot to that statement, and a lot of room for misinterpretation. A few meanings include:

  • Don’t showboat
  • Don’t try to one-up the boss
  • Don’t publicly call-out the boss on his/her mistake
  • Don’t go over the boss’ head (unless there are valid reasons for it, like legal, ethical, etc.)

But primarily it means just what it says. Prop the boss up. Do what you can to make the boss look good.

I can hear some of you now. “My boss is a clown and a jerk. Not gonna do it.”

That, of course, is your prerogative. But in my experience, the vast majority of the time, people take notice of YOU when you do your best, unselfishly, to make the boss look good, as opposed to trying to make yourself look good. It will take you much further in your career than doing the opposite.

Note: There is no FINE line between being a brown-noser and making the boss look good. It’s a big, fat, hairy, audacious line. Know the difference and don’t be a brown-noser.

Consulting is a lot like that.

Consultants aren’t paid to save the day. They aren’t paid to bring in that one big idea that is going to make a millionaire out of you. Sorry about that, Ace. Consultants are paid to help you look good. How?

Sometimes it’s through:

  • Bringing specific, sometimes hard to find, expertise/experience to the team
  • Providing a little inside industry knowledge that helps you make better decisions
  • Sharing tidbits of actionable information
  • Introducing a method or tool to help you do a better job
  • Taking on some of your workload
  • Helping you hold yourself accountable

A lot of the time, it’s simply by providing you with a sounding board (aka…just listen to you).

Note: A consultant is NOT there to tell you how badly you’re messing things up or how to run your business. Nor is a consultant there to tell you how handsome or pretty you are, or that you are God’s gift to all things everywhere.

Want to get ahead at work?

Be more than a great employee that is good at your job. Be a consultant, coach or advisor to your boss. Sometimes, that is more valuable than being the best task-master on the team.

More ways to get ahead.

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