The Coronavirus Crisis and Your Business

Risk Vs Reward Pyramid Balls Return on InvestmentThe Wall Street Journal and every other major news service is reporting that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) expects the Coronavirus to spread in the United States. The agency expects “sustained spread” and calls for efforts to “prepare for diagnosing and treating a large number of cases.” They caution it’s not a matter of if, but when and how bad. US officials say a vaccine is 12-18 months away. It’s been a major topic for both federal and state lawmakers, and it must be one for you both individually and as a business owner or leader.
This article is meant to provide business owners with some immediate steps to take to best prepare your organization and employees. Please share with anyone you think might find it valuable.
To begin with, this concern cannot be taken lightly. While pandemics in the past have fallen short of predicted spread, we have to believe that this is a credible threat to our continent with huge personal and business ramifications. This morning, I read that the first confirmed case in Brazil occurred from a man traveling in Italy. The amount of global travel done by North Americans to Asia and Europe dramatically increases our risk, regardless of who the travelers are. Because of the ease of spread, you or an employee might just need to be sitting near someone in a movie theatre.
While this sounds frightening, we can only control what we can control. The duty of a business owner and leader is to best prepare their people and company to deal with a serious situation. To that end, I’m offering three immediate steps to take for that readiness and preparation:
First: Identify what products and services are most and least at risk. Create a spectrum of exposures around the issue with a prevention, response and recovery for each. The more “hands on” your business is (restaurant, hospitality, retail, medical practice, real estate, etc.), the higher the direct risk. This identification should be done as a leadership team to brainstorm the most risk. Example: A restaurant might say the biggest risk is having a local outbreak that keeps people at home and not going out to eat for an extended period of time. While that peril might be impossible to prevent, a response and recovery might be to create a delivery service planned (with appropriate prepared marketing), to keep some revenue coming in.
Second: Now is the time for employee education. Don’t ignore this issue; everyone knows about it. Talk with your employees about best practices surrounding personal hygiene and health, especially while traveling. This isn’t about generating fear; it can be part of an overall best practice of safety that includes CPR, First Aid, and other emergency training. Bottom line: The better you train your employees, the more reduced your risk becomes.
Third: Your Business Continuity Plan MUST contain a plan for a pandemic, or in this case the Coronavirus. The consequences of a population spread as predicted would be damaging for any business; employees can be adversely affected, events might be cancelled, and the financial marketplace can be influenced (as we saw on Monday).
If you don’t have a Business Continuity Plan, then now is a great time to create one. At the very least, you can start by creating an organizational plan around this current Coronavirus crisis. A Business Continuity Plan is your organizational guide to survival of a peril that threatens your ability to operate. This crisis has already had massive financial and impact due to reduction in travel alone. If it spreads here as feared, every business can and might be affected. Being ill-prepared is negligent.
I hope you find these three steps of value. If you have questions or if you’d like to discuss your situation, email or call me at (360) 271-1592. We can discuss how to create a robust Business Continuity or crisis plan to deal with this and any other crisis situation that threatens your company’s ability to operate and your financial risk. By assessing your company’s Daily Risk, we can prepare a plan to minimize any loss.
Final thought: I fervently hope the prognosticators are wrong. This is an incredibly frightening situation for people. Even if they are not, as business owners and leaders we must be ready to prevent, respond, and recover from any crisis event. We owe that to our employees, clients, and communities. Let’s be ready for anything.
© 2020 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Hard Work vs. Hustle. Which one are you?

jojo2

I’m the co-host of a nationally syndicated podcast called The Shrimp Tank. We interview CEOs and entrepreneurs from the Puget Sound area. Last month, one of our guests was Poulsbo-based Aljolynn Sperber, CEO of Lady Box, Inc.

She founded a startup subscription-based business after 10 years as a marketing executive in the Los Angeles area. We asked her what one of her early revelations has been. Her answer was gold. She said she called her former CEO and said she finally understood the difference between hard work and hustle. She told her, “I worked hard for you every day, but you hustled.”

Aljolynn explained that employees who “work hard” invest the energy while at work and can then go home and unwind. Entrepreneurs that “hustle” are constantly thinking about ways to improve, grow, and build their business.

I thought this was brilliant and would like to expand on the concept.

Listen to the entire podcast

This is not a message that besmirches the concept of “hard work.” In fact, it’s a compliment to any employee who invests maximum effort into what they do. Organizations are dependent on it.

Research shows that “hard work” is not as prevalent as it used to be. “Presentism” has become a norm in many businesses, especially those that are office oriented.

According to a 2018 study by Udemy, more than 70% of workers report feeling distracted on the job, with 16% saying they almost always feel unfocused. The average worker checks their email 36 times an hour and takes 16 minutes to refocus after handling a new email. Social media, now available easily by personal mobile devices, is constantly accessed during a business day. According to the study, all this lost “hard work” is costing American businesses upward of $650 billion per year!

If you as an employer get consistent hard work from your employees, you are not only fortunate, but also incredibly more profitable. If you are an employer that feels might be a contributing part of this research data, then your job is to find ways to influence a change.

My focus for the rest of this column however is on those who “hustle.” Aljolynn’s assessment of the difference is compelling because it provides all of us who are CEOs and entrepreneurs a road map to harnessing that hustle, so it not only is more lucrative, but also that it doesn’t burn us out. To that end, allow me to share three ways to maximize the hustle and protect your life balance.

First: Create metrics of success. All hustle without a goal results in becoming that crazy hamster running on the wheel. You will exert a ton of mental and emotional energy, with little to show for it.

Your daily activities should have some metric for success. Examples include: How much time will you be investing in marketing activities? How many people will you be meeting with that will directly lead to new business? Are you focused on tasks someone else can do or on priority projects that only you can do?

Setting up your daily activities focused on your strengths and what you bring to your company is critical to maximizing your time and effort. If you are the business as just yourself or less than five employees, this focus is even more imperative for profitable investment of your resources.

Second: Learn to say no. This is a hard one for many entrepreneurs. However, you must understand the resource of time is finite. You can always make more money, but you can’t make more time.

By identifying my “5 Priorities for Profitability,” you will be able to not only maximize your time, but also create more discretionary time for yourself. The “5 Priorities for Profitability” are:

1. Prioritize your time on what you most contribute to the company (e.g. sales, relationship development, strategy).

2. Prioritize your time on acquiring new business.

3. Prioritize your time on managing and controlling cash flow.

4. Prioritize your time on developing relationships that produce positive results.

5. Prioritize your time on people that bring you delight rather than drama.

Third: Stay in the moment…always. Easier said than done, and the one I personally work hardest on as a daily discipline.

It’s easy to do two things, bemoan past failures and be anxious about future uncertainties. As those who must hustle to create lifestyles for ourselves and loved ones, it’s easy to fall into both traps. We all make mistakes. While we learn and move on, sometimes are minds don’t really let go. We can get caught becoming despondent over mistakes and blaming ourselves. If you recognize this in yourself, two words for you: stop it!

If you’ve ever woken up at 2:30 in the morning drenched in anxiety and stress, welcome to the club. It’s not just money; this includes your reputation, your brand, your employees, and a million other things. If this is you, go back to sleep!

It’s hard. It happens to all of us. The solution is to become ultra-focused on the moment. While you can learn from the past and strategize for the future (and you should do both), where you are today must be focused on who you’re with and what you’re accomplishing right now.

We all have an expiration date that’s invisible until it’s upon us. We might as well love what we are doing, enjoy who we are with, work with people we like, and focus on what’s right in front of us.

Bottom line: Hard work and hustle aren’t synonymous. If you work hard as an employee for someone else, good for you. Your boss will thank you. I hope you appreciate the hustle they have to go through to create job opportunities for others. If you’re the business owner, you live the “hustle.” Make sure that the process is exhilarating and the results truly gratifying.

P.S. Subscribe to The Shrimp Tank Podcast (Seattle) on iHeart Radio, iTunes, or Google Podcasts!

© 2020 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Extra Points: The Thing About Windshield Wipers

Dan_Weedin_034Many of you are probably like me and have at least two cars. Our two cars have several differences; one is an automatic transmission and one is a manual (which I love); one is a sedan and one is a compact (guess which one? That’s right, the manual!); one has the gas tank on the driver side and the other on the passenger side.
The one minor difference which is less distinguishable but more of an irritant to me, is the direction required to engage the windshield wipers. The car we’ve had the longest requires a downward nudge, while the newer car requires a tap up. Muscle and mind memory often kick in and then I don’t know if I’m turning the wipers on or off! It’s so annoying that it sometimes gets me to start muttering to myself in unpleasant words.
Why would I regale you with this seemingly insignificant observation? It’s because I think you can learn three things about yourself and your business. Let’s find out…
First: Note that I said that the older car has engaged more muscle memory for me. In other words, we get a false comfort of doing the same thing over and over again. We don’t even think about it anymore.
Just like I mindlessly flip down at the controller which starts the wipers, we in business might continue to invest in marketing and advertising that hasn’t worked for years (or ever). We might overlook inappropriate on-the-job behavior by some employees, which causes unneeded anxiety and poor morale for others. We might also fail to maintain equipment and facilities, thus leading to an increased likelihood of calamity. The uninterrupted sequence of habits might not be an issue for many things, however it only takes a few to become a serious issue for profitability and success.
Second: There is more than one way to proverbially “skin a cat;” or get your windshield dry. While sometimes irritating to the operator, both the upward and downward motion on separate cars gets the job done. Patience is a virtue; and many times that patience leads to thinking about multiple forms of success and growth in business. Don’t get married to any one way of doing things; be open to change and innovation.
Third: The same result requires a different process in different cars. I can try as hard as I want to make the downward push work on the Volkswagen, but it never will. I have to understand the cars have different processes. I’ve heard business owners say that every employee gets treated equally. We know that’s not true. While everyone should be treated fairly, we know that equal is a fluid situation. One of the greatest lessons I ever learned in coaching high school basketball is that I needed to treat people differently in order to influence them to be their best.
People learn differently (e.g. visual vs. kinesthetic); they respond to criticism and praise differently; and they all have different levels of confidence, courage, and skills. Treating employees fairly is the right thing to do; discovering the best means to influence and motivate employees to be their best for themselves and the company is good business.
Doing these three things will increase your ability to avoid rainy days and assure that you can see clearly through any tough weather.
Be Unleashed!
Quote of the Day:
“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”
~ W. Edwards Deming (20th century American scientist)
© 2020 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Unleashed is the registered trademark of Toro Consulting, Inc.

Shrimp Tank Podcast: Aljolynn Sperber, Lady Box

Check out my latest guest on the Shrimp Tank Podcast. Aljolynn Sperber went from a successful marketing career in Los Angeles to starting her own business back in her home town.

Watch the video wrap-up above and listen to the entire podcast here! You’ll learn how she talks about the difference between hard work and hustle!

P.S. She has a special offer for Shrimp Tank Podcast listeners and viewers. Watch the video to find out how you can take advantage!

© 2020 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Extra Points: Like a Dog With a Bone

JackYou’ve heard that old axiom, “like a dog with a bone.” It means holding on to what you love with a ferocious intensity. Maybe the person that coined the phrase owned a Jack Russell terrier.
Captain Jack has two speeds: Off and Jack modes. When he’s in “off mode,” he appears to be the sweetest, most serene dog you’d ever like to see. He “attacks” his rest period with the same level of concentration that he exhibits when he moves to Jack mode.
Jack mode is an intensity, desire, and ferocity that is unrivaled. The key attributes of it is are steely stare, a body position that appears ready to strike after a snake or rodent, and a dogged indefatigability that refuses to give up regardless the odds against. As I write this missive, I just watched an Under Armour commercial that declared, The Only Way Is Through. That’s Jack Mode.
In business, we often start our careers and businesses out in full “Jack Mode.” We have everything to lose so tenacity is our mindset. All too often, it’s easy to lose that mode subsequent to some success and comfort. The problem with this trap is that it’s really difficult to escape once ensnared. Falling into a “comfort mode,” like a dog who has given up on bones, may be one of the top financial and viability risks to any business. And there’s no insurance to cover it. Once in this mode, stagnation and decline follow. Morale drops, revenues, drop, and before one knows it, company valuation and wealth are all chewed up.
The goal is to have a healthy balance of “Off and Jack” modes. We need to approach our businesses and careers with that high level of determination and resilience; in other words moxie, grit, and doggedness. This means a steely focus on revenue growth, marketing, profitability, employee morale, brand and reputation, and (this one is really important) emerging opportunities and risks.
The balance part means to know when to be like Captain Jack and turn it off to refresh and rejuvenate. Dogs are innately aware that rest is critical to being on top of their games when the time to “work” comes. We should do the same. Practice your own balance activities to make sure when it’s “Jack Mode,” your way is “through.” That will lead to dog-gone great results for your business, career, and life.
Be Unleashed!
Quote of the Day:
“The suspense is terrible. I hope that it will last.”
~ Oscar Wilde
© 2020 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Unleashed is the registered trademark of Toro Consulting, Inc.

Extra Points: Love: Let Me Count the Ways

Dan_Weedin_022As we approach Valentine’s Day, it got me thinking about how we show love to those we care about. There are the normal signs of “affection,” from flowers, to chocolates, to dinner out (or maybe even a home cooked romantic dinner!). I’m not going to wax poetic on what you should concoct for your spouse or significant other. What I do want to discuss is ways to really express love for your company and your loved ones. Let me count three ways!
First – A current personal will and Buy-Sell Agreement: Everyone has a will; some have a formal one that has been legally created and vetted with your exact wishes cleanly laid out so that nobody can misunderstand your intentions. The others who don’t have this legal document; their will is presided over by the government. The state will be the judge of how your estate gets transferred and how long it will take. How do you feel about that?
A Buy-Sell Agreement is a business will for the partners of a business. Even in a closely-held family corporation, a Buy-Sell Agreement will detail what happens in the event of one of the four “Ds:” Death, disability, divorce, and disengagement (including retirement).
In both cases, it shows “love” to your heirs and company that you cared enough to leave nothing to doubt on how your estate and company will financially deal with your demise. While not everyone may “love” your final wishes; they won’t have to guess at what you want.
Second – Lifestyle insurance (aka life insurance): Yeah, I know; nobody likes to talk about life insurance. The reality is, that for both loved ones and company, the benefit left to beneficiaries might mean the difference between financial freedom and disaster. My guess is that in the history of life insurance, no beneficiary ever said to an insurance company, “No, that’s way more money than we need. Go ahead and keep it.”
I call life insurance “lifestyle” because when done properly, it assures your loved ones their current lifestyle for the remainder of their lives. In business, life insurance “funds” the Buy-Sell Agreement. In other words, in the event of the death of the CEO or business owner, the company will be able to deal with the financial challenges that come from that without worrying about getting loans or using cash reserves. Now that’s love.
Third – Long-Term Care: This one hits close to home for me as both my parents required long-term care at some level for nearly five years (at the same time). They didn’t have the same opportunities to purchase insurance like we do today.
Here are some facts: First, there is the growing population of elderly. By 2030, it is projected that the number of individuals age 65 and older will be more than 71 million, almost twice the number today. Second, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 70% of individuals over age 65 will require at least some type of long-term care services during their lifetimes. Over 40% will need care in a nursing home for some period.
Of men turning 65 years old, 58% will need some long-term care. Women are more at risk than men once they turn 65 years of age; 79% of women will need some long-term care at some point before death. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
P.S. Men are now living longer than in past generations. We will catch up…
We are living longer than ever before and we have four options to pay for our long-term care, if needed: The government can offer limited assistance, if you make under $10,000 per year; your personal investments and savings (though I’m guessing you might have wanted those for your children and grandchildren); your children’s money, and insurance.
Long-Term Care is starting to become a bigger topic in political campaigns, however my crystal ball never sees it as something that can be funded by taxpayer money. The cost of skilled nursing today is about $120,000 per year. Think about what will happen in 30 years. How will you pay for it if you need it? The money you worked so hard to accumulate over decades? Your children’s money? I encourage you to “show the love” by putting the financial burden of your elder care needs on a faceless insurance company and let your money be for you and the ones you most care about.
Bottom line: Love is expressed in many ways. The normal commercialized forms work great for Valentine’s Day. However, your life and your business loved ones need some love, too. You can show that love by making sure their financial futures and lifestyles are safeguarded. Now that’s a love that will last for generation…
Be Unleashed!
Quote of the Day:
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
~ Martin Luther King Jr.
© 2020 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Unleashed is the registered trademark of Toro Consulting, Inc.

Extra Points: Groundhogs Day

IMG_2123Groundhogs Day seems to trigger one of two (or maybe both) visuals. The first is that little furry creature named Punxsutawney Phil who tells all about the upcoming Spring season based on if he sees his shadow or not. The second is the face of Bill Murray in his classic movie where he lives the same day over and over. So will this missive be about coming out of the shadows or living the same day over and over? Well…both.

Legend has it that on the morning of February 2nd, if a Punxsutawney Phil can see his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If he cannot see its shadow, spring is on the way. At the time I write this, Phil hasn’t come up to check out the day, so I don’t know what 2020 holds for us yet!

That being said, people allow other “groundhogs’ to influence their thinking about their business and lives. Predictions abound from pundits about the economy, politics, the financial marketplace, world events, sports, and business. These “groundhogs” don’t always live within social media. All too often, those most close to us can become the predictors if we allow them. It can be well-meaning family and friends, competitors, and other “experts” that can influence thinking. And the worst offender…might just be ourself. We can become prone to allowing negative thinking, bad experiences, bad luck, and bad timing cloud our perspective of the future. The consequences are far worse than additional six weeks of winter. Which brings me to Bill Murray…

In the move, Murray’s character lived the same day over and over. It’s human to nonchalantly fall prey to the daily grind of “same old, same old.” If that daily grind becomes focused on the negative attitude and poor prognostication of the future, one can start dreading the next day, the next month, and the next year.

The biggest risk to business and financial success is allowing the negative groundhogs in our lives (including us) to prevail. We all have those positive groundhogs in our lives that will keep us focused on a course for bright future days. We should listen to those.

Bottom line. Don’t believe all the prognosticators who forecast cloudy days. They likely don’t know what they are talking about. Heck, Punxsutawney Phil probably wonders why he is forced from out of a warm sleep early every February 2nd. Don’t get stuck seeing your own shadow and racing back into your den of fear; instead keep that inner groundhog speeding ahead towards new opportunities for your business, career, and life.

Be Unleashed!

Quote of the Day:

“Every failure is a step to success.”
~ William Whewell (19th Century English Philosopher)

© 2020 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Unleashed is the registered trademark of Toro Consulting, Inc.

Creating a Clear Vision for Your Business

He is ready to fight for success

I have a new “toy” as part of my office equipment. I’ve wanted a stand-up option for my computer because I always felt tired of sitting so long during the day. I’m now the proud owner of a standing desk so I can stand and sit when I want. This is an extremely valuable addition to my work process.

An interesting adjustment has been with my glasses. I wear progressive lenses when working on a computer. I’ve found it works well for moving my gaze from the computer to the keyboard and occasionally to the television in my office. It can also turn around and keep a focus on what Captain Jack is doing behind me!

My progressive lenses work fine when I’m in the sitting position, but when I stand, they become blurry and more than a little annoying. The lift in the desk creates a different eye angle. That angle requires a different pair of lenses, so I use my cheap readers. The adjustment I had to make was important because without a clear vision, I couldn’t effectively work, and my results would suffer.

What pair of glasses are you peering through for your business? Isn’t 2020 the perfect time to make sure your vision is crystal clear?

Every business requires specific vision and clarity to improve performance and productivity. Without this specific and clear direction, then nobody in the organization would be seeing the path to success, and results would be less than expected, morale would be lower than desired, and the financial risk to your business would increase exponentially.

Every January, I visit my optometrist to get an exam. This exam clarifies the health of my eyes and resulting vision. Let’s do a quick check on your vision. Here are my five best practices to improving your corporate vision and clarity.

1. Get a new “exam” on your company mission, vision, and values (MVV)

Some of you may not have a written MVV which means you are long overdue for your exam! The MVV is critical to clarity because without it, you’re flying blind. If you do have one, congratulations. Now check the expiration date. If you haven’t reviewed or worked on it for more than two years, you’re overdue. Just like your eyes can change over time, so can your mission and objectives around it.

A review shouldn’t be painful; it does need to be honest and involve other key people in your organization.

2. Focus on activities and results

Too many MVVs suffer the same fate as New Year’s Resolutions. The resolution is to “lose weight;” yet misses the daily activities, disciplines and accountabilities required for positive performance and success.

This is where reverse engineering success comes in. What’s your objective? Is it to increase gross revenue by 15%? That’s a good quantifiable metric, but how will you do it? Reverse engineer your sales process. What do you need to do to improve from the year before? Is it more sales calls, more referrals, new equipment, an improved social media presence, or something else specific to you?

Your MVV must include the disciplines around activity that are required to achieve ultimate success.

3. Accountability

Someone must be responsible for all these daily disciplines or they won’t get done. We are all human; very few of us can robotically work through our action plan daily. We all need someone to hold us accountable.

While accountability is easy to understand conceptually, the hard part is the process. Most accountability requires some level of consequences for not getting done. In decades gone by (and unfortunately in some businesses even today), the old “control and command” method was in vogue. I tell you what to do and you do it, or else you’re demoted or fired. I prefer a more collaborative approach, but still with some level of consequences. The consequences might small at first; however, if they persist, it may become apparent that someone might be self-selecting themselves out of the company! If the accountability is on us as the business owner, then vision might be the problem. That would require a re-commitment to a new vision with better clarity.

4. Get a different perspective

The most successful business owners I know all invest in some form of advisory or coaching. This is important for two reasons.

First, we all need someone to examine what we are doing and challenge us. It’s easy to get myopic and start breathing our own exhaust. Those results are deadly! A coach will be able to expand your worldview and make you do your own vision testing to become more focused on your goals.

Second, everyone needs another person to share both failures and successes. While spouses, children and the family dog (all of which might be part of your company structure, by the way!) might offer a sounding board, a coach offers both sounding board and next steps.

5. Make this process fun

If you’re like me, you like to do fun things. While we all have parts of our work that aren’t quite as enjoyable, what we do better be fun or else we are in the wrong business. Life is too short to waste on going through the motions.

While “process” sounds daunting, it’s not. Think of it as the building blocks to the ideal business and lifestyle. Just like going to the optometrist on a regular basis improves the likelihood of lifelong eye health, investing time and finances into this process will have the same results for your business. You have control over the process and if it’s fun. There is a correlation to fun and success.

Bottom line: The concept of a specific and clear vision isn’t new. It starts with leadership and moves through the organization. Regardless of what you have in place today, invest the time in creating or updating your Mission, Vision and Values. Your vision will immediately be better and brighter!

© 2020 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved

My February column for the Kitsap Sun, part of the  USA Today Network