YOUR STRENGTHS > YOUR FEARS

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WHO WOULD YOU BE WITHOUT YOUR FEARS?

Your Strengths > Your Fears

Me: What is your greatest strength?

Client: My honesty.

Later in the conversation…

Client: I often don’t confront issues because I don’t want to hurt others’ feelings and I don’t like the drama.

Me: So, are you being honest then? How do the people in your life get to benefit from your Strength of Honesty if you are unwilling to offer it?

It is these kinds of conversations I frequently have with my clients. And they are why I do what I do.

If my “honest” client shields the people in her life from her genuine thoughts, are they able to experience the BEST of her, or is she shortchanging them? What would her relationships be like if she showed up as her authentic self? How much richer would her life, and the lives of those she loves, be if she were confident in her Strengths?

How often do you hold back your strengths out of perceived deference? How many times have you said to yourself something like this:

  • They don’t really want to hear what I have to say
  • She doesn’t want to know what I think
  • He won’t like my answer
  • If I take charge they won’t like me
  • If I do it “my way” she’ll reject me
  • Every time I’m “myself” I lose friends

You know what we are VERY good at doing? Becoming what we THINK “they” want us to be. When we come to terms with who we genuinely are, we find that no one knows us…not even ourselves. We think we are an honest person, but then we see the truth that we tell lies all the time. Oh no, not the bold-faced ones; but we tell “white” lies or “fib” consistently in an attempt to be accepted. And what are other people accepting? Not who we really are! No, they accept the illusion we have crafted.

What fear is causing you to deny your authentic self? The fear of rejection? The fear of failure? The fear of discomfort?

What conversations would you have? What experiences would you pursue? What would you create? Who would you ask out? What business would you start?

 WHO WOULD YOU BE?

 

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THE BUSINESS INTERNAL SCORECARD: THE BASICS OF A FEEDBACK SYSTEM TO GAIN VALUABLE INSIGHTS FROM YOUR TEAM.

Business Internal Scorecard

 

How to gain valuable feedback from your own team.

This post is Part 2 in our series on “3 Things Every Successful Business Does.” If you missed Part 1, CLICK HERE.

The Business Internal Scorecard, as executed by our Team here at Vision Consulting Group, is something of a hybrid between an employee engagement tool, and a collaboration tool. It creates a feedback loop for both areas. The feedback it provides may be used for navigational and operational purposes.

Often, as business owners, we tend to believe that we stay deeply in touch with our teams. We think that we know what the team wants, know what the team knows, understand what is important to the team, etc. Others of us may even feel these things are of no importance to running a successful business. (If you fall into the latter category, please take a moment to read this article from Gallup: http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/163130/employee-engagement-drives-growth.aspx, pertaining to the sheer financial benefits of engaged employees. If you’re not interested on a socioeconomic level, at least consider what the data indicates about the financial impacts to your organization.) In between these two poles lies the typical business owner. We see the value of having the feedback but figure “Hey, we work together every day! If the team has something to say, they’ll say it!”.

Unfortunately, many times we have a very haphazard system for gathering this information, or we have no system at all. We just assume that we have all of the above-mentioned information and insights. Like many things, we only need a little structure to GREATLY improve our results!

Okay, here’s a practical outline of the basics of creating a feedback system – an Internal Scorecard. Think of this like you would a customer survey, except in this case, it’s not for your customers it’s for your team members!

Here are 4 key components to a good internal scoring or feedback system:

  • Anonymity from the top executive or owner (or at the VERY least – asylum from retribution). It is ABSOLUTELY IMPERATIVE that each team member be allowed to speak freely about things which might be difficult for the owner or top exec to receive.
  • A physical questionnaire in some form. There’s something powerful about the team member writing - or at least typing - in their answers, then holding them physically as they discuss them with an interviewer. An electronic document to be printed and filled in works very well. The basic outline – no more than 5 questions, ideally 2-4. These questions should be very open ended and answering them is not optional. For some team members, this will be difficult and they will tell you what they think you want to hear. For others, the opportunity to speak freely will result in a gushing of information - much of which will be of tremendous value if properly synthesized and utilized. Simple questions such as “What do you love about your job at ABC Company?”, “What would you do differently if you were in charge?”
  • A one on one, behind closed doors, meeting to go over the answers to the survey. Ideally this meeting would be conducted by a third-party, outside of the organization. This meeting will often take an hour or more. The first 30+ minutes will be an attempt to convince the team member that their opinions really ARE valued and that they will NOT be penalized for speaking freely, the last 30+ will be the speaking freely that ensues.
  • Synthesize the information from the team and analyze looking for patterns. Anytime a significant percentage of people (or number of people in large organizations) mention the same positives OR the same negatives, you have cues to help you determine how to make your organization better. LISTEN TO THEM!

The above information is by no means exhaustive, but it gives an idea of the basics of an internal scoring system. Additional value components of the Internal Scorecard can include deeper insights on the organization’s customers, products, and competitive insights. These would be tangential to the operational components outlined above, but very often insights come to the surface during the open communication opportunity provided by the process.

One final note on anonymity or safe asylum. Anonymity is absolutely superior to an attempt to guarantee safety. The only thing that truly guarantees a lack of retribution IS anonymity. Options for anonymity are to bring in a third party, or at the very least, use an executive VERY near the top of the organization (not the owner or top exec) to collect and synthesize the information and conduct the interviews. The purest form of feedback would be that collected by a 3rd party. There is a reason that bosses go “under cover” in their organizations. They want to know what’s REALLY happening and what people REALLY think and want. 😊

As always, should you run into a snag while creating or implementing your Internal Scorecard system, we’re here to help you get it done. Every phase is available as an al a carte service, and of course we also offer the entire process “turn-key”.

 

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THREE THINGS EVERY TRULY SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS DOES

successful businesses always keep

Three things you can do to ensure the success of your small business.

Welcome to part 1 of a 4 part series covering 3 things which are vital to the success of every business.

OK, to get started, we’d like to remind you that we know where you’re coming from. We’ve owned and operated small businesses. We absolutely understand that making the time to work “ON” the business rather than “IN” the business can be quite tricky. However, most business owners and executives would agree that time must be made to do both.

Let’s outline 3 “on” the business things that are vital to good business performance. These make a very solid foundation for that “ON THE BUSINESS” time that you’ve set aside.

  • Internal Scorecard – Knowing what your team knows. As a business owner, I understand, You think you know what they know. However, I can tell you from experience (both in our work with business owners and as one), they likely know a lot more than they’re saying; about your products, your services, your competition, your quality, your customer experience, etc. If you ask them, they will tell you. Yet, most small businesses think they ask, but the team members do not agree.
  • Market Scorecard – Knowing what your customer thinks/feels. just because they continue to purchase from you does NOT mean that they always will. In his best selling book Good to GreatAuthor Jim Collins quotes the CEO of A&P as saying “You can’t argue with 100 years of success”. Well, in 2015 A&P closed it’s doors. It was 156 years old when it died. With all due respect, the market determines success, and it will absolutely argue. A blind eye is an exposed flank – ALWAYS.
  • Competitive Scorecard – Knowing who your competition is – both inside AND outside your industry. competition comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes it’s not (Just ask the folks who were making buggies before the automobile was invented, or those manufacturing typewriters prior to the age of the personal computer). A constant finger on the pulse of competitive landscape is a must to ensure long-term survival, much less success.

Over the next few weeks we’ll open up each of these 3 components for the purpose of helping you know where to aim the precious resource of your time. 

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TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS = TAKING CARE OF PEOPLE

concert

 

The most important asset of your business is the PEOPLE.

I know it’s cliché, but the reality is that most of the business world still doesn’t get it!

Here’s what’s interesting about this subject: 90% of small business owners, executives, and managers would say that they agree with the above statements. However, if we look closely at our organizations, little, if ANY, time or money is invested directly into our PEOPLE. Yes, we probably have some picnics or some holiday parties, maybe even beer Friday’s or taco Tuesday’s, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Those things can be TEAM-building but they are not PEOPLE-building.

So what IS people-building? I’m so glad you asked! People-building is a process by which an organization takes an active, constant, and authentic stake in developing each individual toward their own success. This is personal development, not group development.

Here’s the thing; great teams are made up of great players. Coaches only orchestrate and develop the talents of individuals who are already GREAT! As business owners and managers, we need to understand that if we don’t invest in the INDIVIDUALS to make them strong, happy, fulfilled, and engaged, the PLAYERS on our team are underequipped.

Let’s look at an orchestra. Let’s say an orchestra conductor takes a group of musicians with strong natural talent and tries to conduct them BEFORE they fully develop the individual skills associated with their talent. Not only would that conductor produce poor musical results, but they would be in for quite a bit of drama as they attempt to bring together two very different processes: one being the process of building a great musician; the other being the process of orchestrating those musicians into glorious symphony.

So here’s the bottom line: Every individual has a unique offering to the world around them; a “talent”, if you will. Organizations who recognize this fact, and help the individuals on their team learn about themselves and develop in their unique strengths, WILL build great teams. They’re effectively developing the raw “talent” of each individual, finding the best fit for that individual on the team, and continuing to nurture that relationship over time.

Don’t have any idea what I’m talking about? No worries. Start by reading this short article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/ekaterinawalter/2013/08/27/four-essentials-of-strength-based-leadership/

And remember, Vision Consulting Group is people-centric. We are always ready to help you learn about, develop, and engage your team! http://www.yourfutureaccelerated.com 

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WHY SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSES NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE UNSUCCESSFUL ONES.

 

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 Business survival / mortality rate; what does it mean for currently successful business owners?

For the first time in more than 35 years, business creation TRAILS business closings. (USA Today) This means that we are witnessing a trend that, if not reversed, will kill entrepreneurship and small business.

Of course, I realize that I’m speaking to many established business owners whose businesses are not closing, and who may, in fact, be doing very well. But here’s the part that should concern all of us: The primary reason that small businesses are struggling is down to one mean and nasty word: regulation.

Now, let me be VERY clear about the fact that this blog will NEVER be a political platform. So the side of the aisle each of us falls on matters not. What matters is that, for the first time in 35 years, fewer businesses are being created than are closing. As business owners, THIS is what must occupy the forefront of our thinking!

With that in mind, I think we are all smart enough to understand that changing the regulatory structure is not a fast process. At the moment, there’s not much stated political pressure on changing it at all. What this means is that as small business owners it’s unlikely that there’s any regulatory “cavalry” coming to rescue us. No, if we are to beat this trend of business failure, we’ll have to do it with our own cunning. But, hey, that’s nothing particularly new for us. We’ve beat the odds before, we can keep doing it.

What is critical for us, though, is understanding that we MUST focus on innovating our business in ways that we may not have needed to innovate in the past several decades. Why do I say this? Well, let’s look at the past two decades:

The decade (2005-2015) is earmarked by the worst recession since the Great Depression. During this period, most small businesses had no time nor money to “innovate”. The key was to have more staying power than our competitors, which came down to savvy financial management. (Basically it was a “Rocky Balboa” strategy: Just go the distance.) Some made it; many did not.

The decade before that (1995-2005) saw UNBELIEVABLE growth in most sectors, with small businesses in much of the country reaping the benefits of loose lending and an extremely hot real estate market. The key during this time was to “grab all you could” and try NOT to scale for the blitz in such a way as to be unable to easily scale BACK. Obviously, the businesses who did not cling to this strategy during this time-frame had a much more difficult time surviving the next decade.

The point is, that for the past 20+ years, we, as small business owners, have not NEEDED to find innovative, cunning ways to survive in the same way we will be required to do so going forward.

During the last 20+ years regulations have been a good bit lighter than they are today. That we cannot change (at least today). What we can change is how engaged our team is and how we use data to drive decision making. These are fine points of business management which have been applied in large organizations for many years. They have not been “required” in small business but “…the times--they are a changin’”. The time is coming when every business will need to understand their market, their employees, and their products / services in a way they’ve not had to before…because our survival will depend on it!

I always try to end a blog on a positive note, so here’s today’s inspiration: In every crisis there are three parties--those who warn, those who heed the warning, and those who don’t heed the warning. Storms aren’t nearly as scary when you know they’re coming and you’re prepared to weather them. Heed the warning and begin TODAY to look at your business very closely. Don’t assume ANYTHING. Don’t assume you can’t fail, don’t assume that the current blast of business you are enjoying will be here for years (or even months). No, look at the equation very pragmatically. Of course there are dozens of questions you could ask yourself but start with some like these:

1.) Could my business weather another 10% increase in regulatory costs per employee?

2.) How can I connect with my team in a way that inspires them? (Remember that inspiration and motivation are not synonymous in this context.)

3.) Does my product / service communicate with laser-like clarity, and are we marketing assertively (if not aggressively) to our market with the same laser-focus?

Be honest with yourself. Take the tough answers from your team and begin to make evolutionary changes. If we, as small business owners, change the way we’re leveraging the assets around us, we will not only survive this pressure, but we will thrive!

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AN OPEN LETTER TO BUSINESS OWNERS EVERYWHERE.

successmoney sign web 

Some thoughts on good form from one business owner to another.

Dear Business Owner,

Let’s begin by being totally frank about one thing: Business owners are independent people. If we weren’t independent, we would be working for someone else, building their dreams instead of grinding out our own, day in and day out.

Since we’re independent, here’s where it gets a little challenging for us: We need to be able to be honest with ourselves, and admit that even though we know a LOT, and we are independent and strong, we don’t know everything. If we can admit that one thing, we can keep ourselves open to learning, improving, and developing. The output of which is a better version of ourselves and a better running, more profitable business!

So, how about it? Are you ready to jump in and see how your business stacks up? Do a basic good old SWOT analysis:

Answer these 4 questions, What are my...

- Strengths

- Weaknesses

- Opportunities

- Threats

Technically, there are no wrong answers, but fudging doesn’t help anyone. If you see a weak spot, dig in and go to work on it. Of course we’re here for you should you need us along the way. Finally, remember this: You are among the very few business owners who are willing to continue to learn and improve, even after 10, 20, 30, or more years of business success.

To your success,

-David

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Sometimes the “new tricks" just can't outgun the “proven”.

If it were easy

 

The lessons of a start-up consultancy. Sometimes the new tricks ultimately circle back around to the old ones!

So over the past several months we’ve been busy “pivoting and tweaking” our firm’s business model. The process reminds me of learning to ride a bike. You can’t really learn without being in motion but the motion exponentially increases the risk.

I’m not gonna lie, the process has been a little uncomfortable. The output of the process, however, is that we have closed in on a MUCH more direct connection between our business DNA and our public face. That, my friends, is what it’s all about. Unfortunately, like it or not, we can’t get there without risk.

Now, since we’ve gotten ourselves more tightly defined, it’s time for the blog to properly reflect our conclusions.

Interestingly enough, “blogs” started life as “weblogs” and they were actually just random musings about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. Then, as time wore on, these musings became valuable, and then…BOOM! Blogging became a business. Thanks to this evolution, when we began blogging, we viewed the whole mechanism as a kind of platform. A platform for me (us) to project information which we felt would be valuable or helpful to our target audience – business owners.

Well, I’ve made a big counter-cultural decision here. (I know, right? David Kraft going counter-cultural?!) I’ve decided to take this blog old-school. I’m going to post organic musings which are topically relevant to business owners, but everything else is going to be loosely formatted. I’ll have no target length, no specific agenda and I’m not attempting to shape everything into a “how-to”. Heck, I may not even put up an image! (Please don’t email me about how bad this is for search and engagement; I’m aware. J) The point is: Those who connect, will connect.

Meanwhile, just in case you aren’t familiar with our firm, Vision Consulting Group, Inc., I need you to understand a little bit about our DNA. We are serial entrepreneurs and multi-industry business owners who launched a consultancy to serve other business owners. We’re people-centric and almost annoyingly authentic. For more on us click here: www.yourfutureaccelerated.com.

So, on to today’s random musing. It’s sponsored by the phrase “If it were easy, everyone would do it.”

People who don’t own a business, really don’t get what I mean when I say that business owners and entrepreneurs eat, sleep, and breathe their business; but we do. Just remember today that no matter what new law has you worried, no matter what weird employee confrontation looms, no matter what other dark cloud may be on the horizon, you’re not alone and “If it were easy, everyone would do it!”

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WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER HIRE A CONSULTANT (LIKE ME).

Vision Blog Hire A ConsultantSince I've vowed to be honest in this blog, I'm gonna jump right in: There are two primary reasons people hire a consultant. (Or a personal trainer, or a financial advisor, or a nutritionist, or an executive coach, etc)

One, they recognize that an outside perspective is likely required, in order to truly do EVERYTHING possible to produce the highest level result - and they desire THE HIGHEST LEVEL RESULT. Two, they seek validation that they have already done (or are doing) EVERYTHING humanly possible to produce the highest level result.

Now, to me, only the former of these makes sense. However, every year, small business owners spend millions of dollars paying consultants to do the latter. Even as a firm which stands to benefit from this behavior, this is disappointing.

Understanding that most business owners and execs don't have a lot of "free time", typically they favor direct, honesty in the form of practical business principles, delivered quickly and cleanly. 

Well...here's today's practical, quick, clean truth: Whether you aim to develop yourself as a leader through books, classes, or the advice of a consultant, YOU have to DO THE STUFF. It's like when you hire a personal trainer to transform your body from a Homer Simpson physique, to a Mark Wahlberg physique. You gotta DO THE STUFF. If you don't, you will remain the likeness of Homer.

So bottom line: All of the BEST business theory in the world cannot help you if you are unwilling to implement the principles laid forth, and experiment with how they impact your organization. This is why if you're "not gonna do the stuff" you should never hire a consultant (like me). If you're only interested in validating your current actions, save the money and use it elsewhere in your business or life. Because, let's be realistic; if I do my job well, I'm not going to pat you on the back and say "Keep up the great work!". I'm going to challenge you to see more, be more, and do more! 

 

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WHY IS EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT SO IMPORTANT?

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Well, let’s look at what some experts and studies have to say on the subject.

“These latest findings indicate that 70% of American workers are ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ and are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive.”

Seventy percent is a BIG number. That’s a lot of disengaged people. I know what you’re thinking though: “I’m a good business owner. I have a great Team, we’re like a family. My employees are plenty engaged!” Well, at the risk of raining on that parade, our consultants have interviewed team after team and NOT ONE team has been 100% engaged. Sad, but true.

“Gallup estimates that these actively disengaged employees cost U.S.(businesses) between $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity. They are more likely to steal from their companies, negatively influence their coworkers, miss workdays, and drive customers away.”

Disengaged employees range in intensity. The actively disengaged employee is a powerful virus which can have a VERY large impact on a small business. Even mildly disengaged employees in a small organization can have a LARGE impact. Think about this: If your company has 20 employees and 4 are disengaged and 1 is actively disengaged, then 25% of your entire organization is likely to be exhibiting behavior which is costing you money. The more these team members control the “customer facing” component of your business, the higher the impact on your bottom line.

“High employee engagement is actually critical to a company’s performance and, according to Gallup, it impacts nine key performance outcomes in these ways:”

* 37% lower absenteeism
* 25% lower turnover (in high-turnover organizations)
* 65% lower turnover (in low-turnover organizations)
* 28% less shrinkage
* 48% fewer safety incidents
* 41% fewer patient safety incidents
* 41% fewer quality incidents (defects)
* 10% higher customer metrics
* 21% higher productivity
* 22% higher profitability

The above list shows VERY clearly the measured positive impact of strong employee engagement. Just run those percentages, one by one, on YOUR mental profit and loss report. Disengaged employees cost money, but engaged employees are a HUGE and valuable asset.

” …it is surprising that 75% of organizations have no engagement plan or strategy, although 90% say engagement impacts business success.”

This statistic should scare you. What it’s telling us is that only 1 in 4 organizations have any engagement plan or strategy. This despite 9 of 10 organizations reporting that they know there’s a relationship between engagement and success.
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