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Why You Hate Your Boss

September 8, 2016 Leave a comment

20 Under 40 20_3This is the second of a three-part series for my Kitsap Sun business column…

This is the second of a three-part series on running a family business profitably and equitably. Over the past 27 years, I’ve worked with hundreds of family businesses. Even though the industries differ, the challenges surrounding them are very common. In the next two columns, I will draw attention to the three most critical topics that all family businesses need to address for both profitability and family bliss.

So you work for “the man,” do you? Or maybe, “the woman?”

So much of our popular culture revolves around the conceptualization of the persecuted and overburdened employee who works for a horrible boss and uncaring business. A modern day Willy Loman character that is doomed to a dreadful employment while the boss lives a carefree existence carousing on their yacht and mansion.

When it comes to small family businesses, the true picture is often very different.

I find that a very high number of business owners fled one horrible boss for an even worse boss…themselves! So many of you — yes, you — have started or inherited family businesses and find yourselves being treated more contemptibly than you’d accept from any other employer.

Let’s do a quick check:

Do you start work at 6 a.m. and then stop at about 8 p.m. (or later)?

Do you take fewer vacation days than your employees?

Do you accept and return work calls and email until you go to bed?

Do you go to work sick, even when you’d not allow employees to do the same?

Do you fear leaving your business unattended by you for more than a week? So much so that you constantly are checking in when you’re away?

Do you hate your boss?

Let’s be clear. I’ve seen all of these iterations in small family-run businesses over the past 27 years. I’ve heard all the usual excuses:

“I have to make sure the work is done to the company standard…”

“No, I really thrive when working in chaos for 12 hours a day…”

“I have to set a good example of work ethic or else nobody would work hard…”

“I’m not a micro-manager; it’s just that I need to know everything that goes on in my business…”

“My employees feel empowered when I’m always around. They hate it when I’m gone…”

“Oh, I’m only being controlling until (fill in the blank)…”

I could go on for the entire column. In fact, you may have others to share, especially if you are employed at a family business!

Here’s the stark reality of the situation — if you own and operate a small family business and can’t walk away for two months without touching it, then you don’t have a business, you have a job! In my experience, entrepreneurs start their businesses not to have a job, but to create jobs; create value; do what they love; and eventually sell that business to fund the rest of their lives. If you work yourself to the bone and create a condition where you’re always stressed out, burned out, and dreading your work, you may not have a much of a life left to enjoy.

The answer is to stop hating your boss. Here’s my five-step process to doing that quickly:

1. Empower your employees: That means train and then trust them. They want autonomy and the permission to fail and learn. That means delegate things that you shouldn’t be doing anymore. It means that you must create a culture and operation where you’re working yourself out of a “job!”

2. Take time off: Force yourself to take vacation time. You can still make yourself accessible in the event of an emergency, but in most cases it won’t happen. Your life balance requires relaxation and recharge. Take it.

3. Give yourself a break: Too many CEOs by their own actions seem to require perfection in themselves. If you do that, stop. You don’t require perfection from employees (and if you do, stop that, too). Allow yourself to be human, to make mistakes, and to be resilient. By doing this, you’ll alleviate stress and anxiety in yourself and your employees.

4. Ferociously guard your time: I cover this in my book, Unleashed Leadership. Learn how to prioritize by triaging what is urgent, important, and normal. The bulk of the time will actually be spent on the last one. Your time is extremely valuable. Save it for what only you can do and what you want to do.

5. Commit to having fun: That’s right. You can have fun. What does this look like? For the savvy CEO of a small family business it looks like actually enjoying what you do and manifesting it through your self-talk, your behavior, and your leadership. You must have a passion for your product or service; must enjoy people; must be a lifelong learner; must be a risk-taker; and must be an encourager. You must be able to reward and forgive yourself; seek out new challenges; create and innovate; and be a positive influence in your company.

People don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses. You’re stuck with yourself. You’d better come to a lifelong “employment agreement” where you wouldn’t even dream of working for anyone else.

Next month, Part 3: Dysfunction junction — What’s your function?

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

What’s My Lie?

August 18, 2016 Leave a comment

Dan Weedin Unleashed-40It looks like the story of the four U.S. swimmers being robbed is a fabrication. If that is clarified, it takes on the impact on the grand scale of former NBC news anchor Brian Williams and his expansion of the truth dealing with his involvement with enemy fire in the Middle East. Believe me, the new “enemy fire” will be aimed right at these four swimmers and will haunt them for years, if not their entire lives.

This morning’s NY Times story – read here – is shedding light on what really happened a few nights ago in Río de Janiero.Ryan Lochte is the most well known of the quartet of athletes and he served as the poster boy for the media. His tale is all about having a gun pointed to their heads and fearing that they wouldn’t make it out alive. Well, he made it back to the United States before his buddies, who were unceremoniously dragged off the plan by Brazilian authorities for more questioning.

You can read the entire story for yourself. Suffice it to say, there appears to be some monkey business going on. This “tall tale” looks like it’s been invented to cover up for some misdeeds committed after the swimming competition was over, and the Americans shone as one of the brightest stars.

How does this affect you?

As a business leader (owner, manager, executive), you deal with people all the time that have reason to be untruthful. Your biggest concern should be with your employees. While I believe you should begin any relationship like this as trusting, you need to be vigilant on what the truth is becasue it affects your company. While you may never get into fabrications as large as this one, small white lies can cost you money. They can range from untrue resumes, explaining why someone is consistently late to work, to thievery (I have one client that had $25,000 stolen over time from their bookkeeper).

You also have an obligation not to be untruthful with employees. There’s ample opportunity to withhold information or stretch the truth for your own purposes.

Look, the bottom line comes down to trust and transparency. This incident is going to have serious ramifications on the swimming program and the United States. Lying is most often used to cover up something that is awkward, unpleasant, or embarrassing. If we are honest, at some point in our lives we have all been guilty to some extent. However, creating a culture of playing for each other (as outlined in my book Unleashed Leadership), will prevent the really embarrassing and potentially damaging consequences for you and your business.

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

 

Family Matters: Part 1 – The Corporate Conundrum

August 17, 2016 Leave a comment

20 Under 40 20_3This is the first of a three-part series on running a family business profitably and equitably. Over the past 27 years, I’ve worked with hundreds of family businesses. Even though the industries differ, the challenges surrounding them are very common. In the next three columns, I will draw attention to the three most critical topics that all family businesses need to address for both profitability and family bliss.

Corporations use boardrooms to create initiatives, develop strategies and settle disputes (among other things). Family businesses frequently use kitchen tables, backyard decks and hospital waiting rooms to do all of those, including determining perpetuation and ownership. The biggest problem I’ve encountered in working with countless family businesses — regardless of success level — is that they don’t treat themselves as a corporation, but rather an amalgamation of family members that all have an interest (and often an agenda) for the family business. Without a process and culture of a corporation, at its best it’s adequate, but not as efficient as it could be. At its worst, it’s a dreadful comedy of errors that merges the Corleone family and Modern Family.

Family businesses are typically founded by someone with skill and passion around a service product and the courage of entrepreneurship. At certain points in the life cycle of the business, spouses, children, siblings and in-laws are inserted into the mix. Frankly, that’s one of the ways that this country has grown and prospered. The problem is that, unlike major corporations that require it, the process of developing and implementing “rules of engagement” around succession, company shares, employment, and individual rights gets tossed to the back of the priority list. They tend to rear their ugly heads at the worst possible moments, leaving the family members scratching theirs.

So without belaboring this issue any further, allow me to dive into ways that any family business can rapidly improve the easily fragile dynamics of their business. It simply falls under the heading of “going corporate.”

Far too many family businesses treat the business — and each other — like family. That’s fine for the Thanksgiving gathering but not for the non-family member employees, the customers, and the partners. Here are my Seven Simple Rules for Converting From Family to Company:

1.    The CEO rules. In any corporation, there is a boss: the CEO. Your family business requires a boss. It’s where the proverbial “buck stops.” It’s the final say; the vision; the voice. It might also be the father, brother, sister, son or daughter. Everyone must disengage the familial relationship and respect the position and person in charge.

2.    Family members must get a job. The best dynamics I’ve seen are when family members must get a job outside before being eligible to join the family business. This improves diversity of thinking; reduces entitlement; accelerates skill development; and improves profitability.

3.    Create a clear path for perpetuation. This is all about “inheritance.” There must be clarity around succession. Having this conversation in the midst of a crisis hurts the entire company. Because this can often be an emotional and difficult conversation, I recommend hiring a facilitator to help with the process.

4.    Never talk about the family outside of the family. Don Corleone made this clear in his family business; you should, too. None of the employees care about the family dynamics. In fact, it makes them uncomfortable. Someone should be able to walk into a business and not be able to identify that it has multiple family members.

5.    No perks allowed. My wife worked for a family-owned bank 30 years ago. She recalled to me the founder/chairman’s wife being incensed when her adult son was properly charged overdraft fees, and then insisted they be waived. I’m pretty sure that advocacy was never passed on to the other customers. While this example sounds extreme, what seemingly unobtrusive perks are taken in a family business that can lead to discontent from employees or customers?

6.    Preparation for the separation. Ever see the founder “retire” but keep coming back and giving “suggestions?” The irony is often the successor to the patriarch takes the company to greater heights! There must be corporate rules about interference from retired family members, regardless of what their role was. The company must prepare and set policy on this and then communicate it.

7.    Perfect the balancing act. As much as “going corporate” relates directly to the business environment, likewise it pertains to family time. There should be a clear delineation and rules about what is appropriate in family gatherings. Just like employees don’t want to hear about your family issues, family members not involved in the business don’t care to hear about the business. In addition, everyone needs a break from the business to secure a strong life balance. Employees get to do it; so should you.

Bonus: You can still enjoy a “family atmosphere” by acting like a corporation. In fact, it’s more likely to be achieved that way!

It doesn’t matter if you’re five or 50 employees in a family business. Do yourself, your employees and your profitability a favor by acting like a corporation. You might be amazed at the results of reduced drama, increased engagement, less strife, improved employee morale, and more enjoyable family gatherings. Owning a family business is a wonderful thing as long as its shadow doesn’t own you.

Next month: Family Matters, Part 2: Why you hate your boss

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All rights reserved

Dangers to 2nd/3rd Gen Family Biz

August 5, 2016 Leave a comment

20 Under 40 20_3I was just interviewed for a newspaper article on the topic of the dangers to 2nd and 3rd generation family small businesses. The question was – What characteristics or temperament does a second- or third-generation small-business owner need to survive? What challenges do they face?

Allow me to share my response with all of you…

  1. Must have worked somewhere outside the family business before coming back. Diversity, different ideas, and making it somewhere outside the family circle will all bring a perspective and depth of business acumen that often is lacking in family that never “leave the nest.”
  2. Must be able to effectively create a transition point from past to present. This includes past generations of family that at what time were the bosses, AND importantly the employees that have spanned generations. There needs to be clear messaging on who’s in charge.
  3. Must be a strong communicator and influencer.
  4. Must be able to separate family from business. I call it the “Godfather” trait. It’s not personal; it’s business. Not allowing family members to feel entitled, or allow them to not do good work is critical to creating a string employee culture and business reputation.
  5. Find expert help. Consultants, coaches, mentors, mastermind groups, executive groups, and associations all can provide help to avoid stagnation in thinking and ideas.

 

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Just Doing It

August 4, 2016 Leave a comment

TWoodsNike just announced that they are dumping their golf product line, which means no more manufacturing of golf balls, bags, or equipment. This has stunned the golf world, especially the tour players that are under contract for them. The three biggest names that featured the equipment and the swoosh are Michelle Wie, former World #1 Rory McIlroy, and of course, the once invincible Tiger Woods. Heck, Nike even named a building on the campus after Tiger.

The fallout has created confusion among the profile athletes in the golf world, and unfortunately has cost many Nike employees that were representative of Nike Golf, their jobs. As an avid golfer – and actually a guy that plays Nike golf balls, sports a Nike golf bag, and hits a Nike driver and hybrid – I have been more than intrigued and fascinated by this sudden and unexpected turn in events. In the process of learning more, I believe there is a lesson here for small and medium size enterprises and the CEOs and Presidents that run those companies.

The golf industry is highly competitive. Nike was much more significant when Tiger was prowling in his decade long run as arguably the greatest golfer ever. However, He now has nearly a 10-year drought in winning a major championship, hasn’t won any tournament in three years, and hasn’t played due to injury in one year. Rory McIlroy hasn’t won a major since 2014 and Michelle Wie has been under-performing for over a year. This doesn’t help the brand and even though it sounds like they make a lot of money from golf, Nike has been hitting out of hazards over the last several years.

Their decision and verbiage on the press release is telling. They state that, “We’re committed to being the undisputed leader in golf footwear and apparel…” Basically, the golf equipment game was a risk they were willing to take when they had the biggest name in golf. Without him, it began not making economic sense. So they decided to “just do” what they do best. According to Trevor Edwards, president of Nike Brand. “We will achieve this by investing in performance innovation for athletes and delivering sustainable profitable growth for Nike Golf.”

They will focus on what they do best…

I talk to my clients all the time about their value proposition. The value proposition defines what you do best and how you improve the condition of others. Be it product or service, what is the one thing that you excel in? What are you the undisputed leader in doing?

Many small and medium size businesses will take forays into new ideas, new products, and new services. Innovation is great and I endorse that type of thinking. However, it better still be around your value proposition. It should still feed into what you do best. If it doesn’t, you may find that you lose a lot of time and money.

If you want to profitably grow your business, determine what you do and do more of it in a myriad of ways. Dump products or services that no longer work or showcase your value. Nike realized that the run was over. It truly ended being artificial because it was fueled by one profoundly valuable asset in Woods. Without him, they are just another “name” in the game, and well down the list. In their eyes, their value is in clothing and footwear.

Take a few minutes and look at your business. Are all your efforts focused on your value proposition and being an undisputed leader in your field or industry? Or, are you still dabbling in things that distract, confuse, or lose money? It’s better that you stay in your own fairway by improving your strengths and building a profitable and fun business.

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Heavy Traffic

August 3, 2016 Leave a comment

As many of you know, my daughter Mindy was recently married. It turned out to be a gorgeous Seattle summer day. After the wedding, I piled in the car my other daughter Kelli and her friend Gina to head from the church to the reception at a downtown hotel. As we hit the overpass to take a left on to the freeway, we were greeted with bad news. The traffic.

Saturdays in Seattle during the summer months can often cause congestion on the freeways. Today was due to be a higher with a concert at Century Link Field. We didn’t expect a parking lot.

As I merged into the left-had turn lane, Kelli exclaimed that she knew a back way to get to the hotel faster. She had her mobile phone GPS poised in hand and was adamant that we could get to our destination twice as fast. I took her information and quickly went into decision mode. I had about 5 seconds…I asked her one last time, “Are you sure?” she confidently said “Yes!” I made the quick turn out of my lane and down the road I was on to execute Kelli’s plan.

We then hit traffic…again. My initial response was , “great (dripping with sarcasm).” Kelli said to relax; that this was the only bad spot and it would open up. She was right. In the end, her calculations were spot on and we got their in a 200% faster time.

Here’s the moral to the story…

You make “traffic decisions” in your business almost daily. Some are more critical than others, but the process doesn’t change.

  1. Quickly identify the problem. Sometimes this easy (like visually seeing bad traffic), and sometimes it’s not (cash flow problems). Assess “how bad is it?” Sometimes we make a mountain out of a mole hill and sometimes it’s significant. Make a quick call.
  2. Get input from your leadership team. Kelli volunteered hers – do you have leaders that will do the same in a tight spot or do they wait for you? Kelli’s idea was hatched by her knowledge of the area and virtual traffic report. Where do you get your information, is it credible, and is it fast?
  3. Rapidly consider your options. Emphasis on rapidly. I took about three seconds. You may have five minutes or an hour; regardless smart people make fast decisions. Don’t over think, over complicate, or call for committee meeting. Do your own quick cost-benefit in your head. Ask one last time for input if you must – like I did with Kelli – and then…
  4. Commit to a course of action. Time means everything in business today. Speed is king, so your decision-making must also be mercurial. I’m not saying to be reckless; just to trust your gut and your information and go.
  5. Be patient. I almost considered turning around when I hit traffic again. Kelli encouraged me to be patient and she was right. Your decision may not yield immediate results, but be patient becasue it more than likely will.
  6. Be nimble. You may need to make small revisions along the way. Commit, but be willing to be flexible.

While my decision in traffic may seem to trifle compared to other weighty business matters, it was very important to us at the time. That’s the thing about being resilient; your challenges are important to you and require decisions. Learn how to react quickly and decisively and double your own results by doing so.

At the light, take that next right and step on it!

Want to learn how to be more resilient professionally and personally to grow your business more profitably and create a better life for yourself? Check out my new lifetime membership program, Unleashed Universe. Early bird discounts through August.

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© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

 

 

What Message Is Your Company Sending?

July 15, 2016 Leave a comment

20 Under 40 20_3Last month, I went on my annual weekend golf outing with my high school buddies. We go somewhere new every year and play four rounds of golf, eat too much food, and generally pretend we are still in high school. At our final course this year, I went to pay for my green fees with my American Express card and the employee behind the counter said, “Sorry, you’ll have to pay with Visa or MasterCard.”

I found it odd that a golf course the caliber of this one didn’t take every single credit card on the face of the earth! I shrugged and changed cards and went to the first tee. After our round, we had our final lunch together, and as is the case with all our meals, we draw two credit cards from a hat and those two “losers” get to pay the check for the group. Unfortunately for me, this time I was one of the “losers.” When I received my check, I noticed that imprinted on the leather-bound cover was the American Express logo as the desired method of payment. This made me chuckle. Either the employee at the golf shop didn’t get the memo or they had two sets of rules for the same place.

Regardless of the reason, one thing was certain. The golf course and restaurant were sending a mixed message. One side of the company accepted a form of payment, and the other side didn’t. Is your company inadvertently sending mixed messages both internally and externally?

It’s not uncommon for companies to send out mixed messages to employees. Notwithstanding a company’s size or industry, humans are susceptible to such errors. For example:

• Inconsistent treatment of employees when it comes to promotions, pay increases, and time off

• Inconsistency regarding discipline and reasons for termination

• Inconsistent hiring practices and training

• Lack of follow-through on new procedures and practices

• Failing to properly communicate changes

• Failure to set adequate contingencies, leading to confusion and frustration in time of crisis

• Saying one thing and doing another

Don’t tell me this only happens at other companies; that you’re immune to it. I have yet to observe a company that doesn’t have at least a few inconsistencies that lead to internal strife. To fix these issues, allow me to offer some internal best practices and suggestions:

1. Don’t worry about being perfect. I talk to business owners that aspire to have a perfect culture, perfect employees, and perfect harmony. There is perfection in imperfection as long as it’s part of the humanness of a company. Take perfect out of the equation and strive for exceptional. There’s a big difference.

2. Be consistent. Just like one organization should accept the same credit cards, you should be consistent with how you treat employees when it comes to benefits, pay increase opportunities, and advancement guidelines.

3. Become fluent in speaking their language. Make sure you’re clear in how you communicate your message, your priorities, changes in procedures, or anything else that requires education. It’s your message, yet you need to deliver it in way that is understood and implemented.

4. Get help. Subscribe and join associations and groups that provide information and education on human resources. Hire experts to help you navigate challenges and find solutions. Be vulnerable enough to admit that investing in help will ultimately make you a better company.

It’s also a reality that messages can get mixed up externally, just like my story depicts.

• Is your sales team making promises it can’t keep?

• Is your brand clear to your target market, or are you trying to be everything to everyone?

• Is your website current? The worst thing you can do in 21st-century marketing is becoming obsolete in a post-Yellow Pages world.

• Does your customer service team treat customers as you wish they would? How do you know?

• Are you accessible to people you most value as customers and clients?

To fix these issues, allow me to offer some external best practices and suggestions:

1. Invest time, money and resources into assuring your sales message and vision resonates with the entire operation. Sales must know what is practical for steady growth without becoming a burden to operations.

2. Create a plan to monitor your cyber presence. That includes your website and social media platforms. Respond to concerns and stay current.

3. Hire and train customer service people that like talking to people. I’m not kidding. Have you ever had a conversation with a customer service person that was surly, uninterested, or even just rude? You know what I mean then!

4. Engage your employees. Ask them for help and suggestions for improvement when it comes to your external message.

If you want to truly be significant and successful in business, you must communicate your message both internally and externally. Your employees must understand and exemplify your mission and vision. Your clients and customers need to know what you do and how you’ll help them.

It’s pretty basic, but important. Sort of like knowing which credit cards to accept, right? Make sure you keep your message clear and concise, so that your company can be Unleashed.

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Want to get powerful and exclusive tips, tools, and techniques to grow you business, build your career, and enrich your life? Check out my lifetime membership as part of the Unleashed Universe.

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