Over the Hill or Through the Woods

iStock_000021617437_ExtraSmallThe beginning of every year is an opportunity to set your direction and communicate your path forward. It gives you the chance to review and define your goals, personally and professionally. For everyone else, it gives them the ability to know how to best support and follow the leader. Does everyone that can impacts your business know your 2013 plan?

The lack of a defined plan for the year, leaves everyone taking their “own” best path forward. In the end, this may not produce or represent the organization’s goals or objectives. People will be moving, activities will be happening, yet you may be headed to exactly where you did not “plan” to go. It is up to you to stop the wandering effect of your business and your followers. Set the direction. Communicate your exact plan.  If you don’t have a plan, create one now — before it is too late.

If you have a plan and you have not shared it, this is the week to get it done! People and businesses need goals and plans. You can work endless amounts of time, expend great energy and spend a lot of money to end up in the wrong place. How did that happen? Usually it is because everyone is not working collectively on the same outcome. Everyone is heading in a direction, but it may not be the “right” direction.

As a leader, it is critical to everyone working with you that they understand your strategy and goals for the business. A plan provides the road map empowering you to define the activities and tasks. It opens the door to assigning responsibilities and setting accountability. More importantly, it gives you the capability of making a pivot or shifting your plans by creating a benchmark for how you will measure success along the path forward.

Working on a shared and communicated plan, gives business leaders a reason to stay in touch with employees, measure their progress and assess performance. People thrive on accomplishments and desire feedback. Knowing how they are contributing to the success of the business can only be measured by stated goals and objectives.

Get everyone working together. Options may be limited or options may be bountiful based on the path you choose to take the business. Communicate your choice. Will you be headed over the hill or through the woods. What will be in the basket full of goodies you will offer to your customers, vendors, employees and partners. How do they prepare to avoid risks? What will be awaiting when they arrive at the determined destination?

Your team is waiting for you to tell them the story. How it begins this year and how it will end. Provide regular updates and know that people will be looking for you to lead them in the direction you have shared.

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”
— Henry Ford

Jamie Glass, Founder, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

2013 is Here to Stay

ImageAnother New Year.  We made it, despite the ominous predictions of the Mayans and challenges that seemed insurmountable. We have a whole year to put four new numbers at the end of every month and day — 2013 is here to stay.

As the hours tick away and we realize there is no turning back to a year gone by, we may spend time reflecting on the past for all the greatness or demands that became part of our personal history.  How much time should we reflect on what was and what might of been?

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves and others as we leap ahead into the first day of a new year. Though the date is only a marker in time, it brings significance to recall where we have been and where we want to go.  We are conditioned to set goals, broadcast resolutions, make commitments.  We are all lined up in business to start our annual sprint toward revenue targets, profits and sales quotas.  Departments and executives lay out the vision and business plan. We stand and cheer as we round the corner and “pass go” to do it all again. We give ourselves and others another year to achieve great success.

Yet it can be hard to forget some of our nagging challenges and failures of the past 365 days. The reflection of what we did not accomplish can cloud our view of what lies ahead. Obsessive reflection deters progress. Could have, would have, should have really needs to be can, will and shall in the coming year.

We are all moving forward, together!  The earth is rotating and time is passing.  We can not stop our momentum. Some may want to slow the inevitable; however, there is not a time machine to take us back.  If we continually reflect on the better days of the past, we will miss the turns we need to take in the future.  We will be left behind.  It happens to very successful businesses and leaders as they get mired in their own greatness and fail to see what lies ahead.

We must focus on what can get done, what we will accomplish in the New Year. Historical performance gives guidelines of the best path forward.  At every fork, we need to turn to previous decisions and analyze how well we executed on each task or goal to determine the reality of which turn we take in the future. We don’t drive always looking in the rear view mirror. Watching what is behind, does not allow us to focus on what’s ahead — in life or in business.

Memories serve great purpose. Predicting the future requires history.  It is important to use past performance, decisions, data, research to better predict future outcomes.  It does not mean we should get buried in our past or mesmerized by our own reflection so that we fail to see the path forward.

We should all take time to reflect – briefly.  Use our past to build our map to the future. Know our goals.  It’s time to move ahead. The 2012 bus is leaving the station. The calendar tells us so.

As we move forward into 2013 with celebratory optimism, it is up to everyone to make choices that make us better and more prosperous.  Hope burns eternal. So, clink that glass half full and let the confetti fly! One thing is absolute, 2013 is here to stay.

Happy New Year!

Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Vision Statements are Worthless without Disciplined Focus

Entrepreneurs can spend countless hours crafting their vision and mission statements.  It is often assigned to every leader as a required task in strategic planning.  Business investors and advisors will ask you, what is your vision?  Imagine answering, “I don’t know!”

Do you have a vision? A mission? Business values?  Often guilt rises in those that have not defined their vision when questioned by those that “know”.  Thus the ritual begins.  The business owner starts to define the grand vision: What do I want to be?  What is our ideal universe?  What is our big hairy audacious goal (BHAG) as a company? What motivates us?

Tah-Dah!  The task is complete. Yes, you have a company vision.  Check the box.  Your purpose for existence as a business, which is now articulated in a small paragraph, makes it’s debut on websites, in business plans and sales presentations and supported in company marketing communications.  What is the value of this exercise?  Can you translate it to revenue? There are businesses that have you memorize the vision. Vision testing. They are driven by the belief that if everyone is united by a common vision, they will achieve more.

Granted, there is no argument that you need a strategy to win.  If your vision consists of words to satisfy the strategic planning process, your vision is worthless. A vision must be supported by disciplined focus to accomplish your business goals. It is what differentiates the good from great.  Why?  It is the ability to look beyond the visionary clouds and execute on your strategy.  Disciplined focus delivers results.

Vision is unlimited.  Vision gives you big picture, inspiration and motivation.  Focus influences your capability to execute on what is most important.  Real power to deliver on a vision comes when you narrow your focus, allowing you to concentrate and build confidence. Disciplined focus enables you to positively face challenges and create sustainability in your business.  It is the foundation for growth. “My success, part of it certainly, is that I have focused in on a few things.” — Bill Gates

Have you ever watched a 3 year-old in a grocery store walking along side their adult companion.  They seem to lack much interest in the whole shopping experience.  Suddenly, they set their sights on what is intentionally positioned at their eye-level to grab their attention. They make their escape with remarkable strength.  Bolting in a straight beeline, with determination, to the prize!  They have disciplined focus on the outcome.  They grab and go!  Vision. Focus. Results.

If you have a vision or are thinking you need to craft a vision statement, take a few minutes to define the expected outcomes from your declaration.  How does the vision help you focus on what is most important for your business?  How do you use your vision as motivation?  How will the vision help employees be better in their roles?  How will the vision drive the business forward?  Once you know the desired results, you can apply the disciplined focus to execute your strategy and accomplish your business goals.

“A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power.” — Brian Tracy

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Entrepreneurial Spirit or Stress

High energy and optimism drive entrepreneurs to overcome the daily challenges of starting and running a business.  It is drawn from the spirit of achievement.  A belief in winning.  The achiever reflects on the vision supplanted in the back of their mind that reminds them they can do it.  Entrepreneurial spirit motivates. Unfortunately, entrepreneurial stress can be harmful.

Often times I see business owners who fight gallantly and passionately to get their businesses off the ground. Overcoming every obstacle with stamina and vigor.  Then the really hard work begins, as if the launch wasn’t difficult enough.  Selling. Operating. Scaling. Funding. HR, PR and avoiding the ER.

Days begin at 5AM and end around midnight. Sleep is sacrificed in place of getting more done.  Family and friends watch on the sidelines as the entrepreneur climbs to the top.  They are the cheerleaders, sounding boards and allies.  They see the competitiveness to win, so they encourage you more.  You’ve got spirit! You can do it, yes you can!

Our colleagues and advisors rarely say stop or slow down.  Why?  They don’t want to crush the dream.  They want to keep the spirit alive.  Businesses are built with emotions of positive thinking, ambition and heart thumping enthusiasm. They are also built with blood, sweat and tears.  We chant faster, better, more.  We ignore slower, take a breath, and reminders to enjoy the journey.  We convince ourselves we work better under pressure and stress.

As we are conditioned more than ever to reach for the stars, who is telling you to chill out?  It seems counter intuitive to being an entrepreneur.  Is it?  Can you get more accomplished when you are relaxed and well rested?  There are countless studies that prove stress is bad for your health.  It increases heart disease, inflammation, chances of having a stroke, weight gain, and even increases odds of catching a cold.  Relaxation studies show we can counterbalance many of the health risks.  Yet, out of fear of failing, the entrepreneur presses on and tries to do more.

I am reminded of a wise mentor who once said, do you want your epitaph to read “I Worked the Hardest”. Know anyone that has health issues from living stress-free or being well rested and relaxed?  Know anyone with health issues from living in the hyper stress mode, working 18 hour days, not sleeping, and sacrificing all “me” time?

Take this advice from a self-subscribed workaholic, it may be time to relax!  Here are a few ideas on how to get back to the spirit and reduce the entrepreneurial stress.

1.  Remind yourself of the WHY.  Why are you building a business?  Why are you working so hard? Why are you driving yourself and probably your family crazy?  Write down your why and review it daily. If it is for your retirement, for your security, for your family or for your employees, they will all tell you they would rather have a bit more of the relaxed you than a bit more stress.

2.  Turn off the electronics.  We are more wired and connected today.  Checking emails first thing in the morning can create stress before you even get started.  Smartphones, laptops, computers, TVs, off!  Set a schedule for when you will be connected and give yourself the freedom to be off the grid.

3.  Say hello!  Reach out to past colleagues and mentors.  Get together in real time, face to face.  Perhaps they are in the same predicament of being overloaded and overworked and are looking for someone to help give them a reprieve.

4.  Read any good books lately?  No one can argue that reading is good for the mind and soul.  Take 20 minutes a day to refresh your mind.  Give yourself time to escape, explore and grow.

5.  Prioritize.  Do you have a list of priorities?  Take your list and categorize the A list, all which have to be done by a committed deadline.  Next is your B list, those items that are important but are less urgent.  Finally, your C list that captures those tasks that would be nice when completed; however, do not endanger your well-being or put the business at risk.

6.  Escape.  If your business can not survive without you for a weekend, a week or even two, you do not have a sustainable business.  How would an investor perceive your business if it can not operate without you.  In other words, the business is you. Do not believe you are helping your customers, your investors or employees by being the one that makes it all run.  It is bad for business and bad for you.  No one can sustain the pressure of being the sole enterprise.  Delegate and escape.  Force the business to run without you.

If you get to the end of the road and the sign blazes with bright lights that you made it, congratulations.  You did it.  Now, look back and ask was it worth it? Did you enjoy the journey?  If you are still on that journey, stop and breathe.  Relish in the spirit of being an entrepreneur.  Enjoy the growth in your business and your personal experience. Don’t miss out on life to get to the end.

There is no recovery from lost time or relationships.  Make sure it is really the entrepreneurial spirit that is motivating you, not the stress controlling you. Live Long. Be Happy. And Prosper.