A little bit about myself: I was the middle child, does that explain much? Seriously, I’m a bit on the conservative side. I like to believe that I am into continuous improvement, not just in business, but in all parts of me.

While trying to learn more and more, reading books to improve myself and also listening to podcasts. I thought I should start a blog so I can share things I’ve learned over the years along with new ideas that I have learned and compiled in my brain and try to put them together in a way that could help others, or at least help others think things through to help themselves and/or their business.

I graduated from Western Michigan University as a non-traditional student with a BBA in Business Management with an emphasis in Operations Management. I have worked in grocery stores, restaurants and factories. I have over 30 years experience in manufacturing. Lists of real world experience that I would say “I won’t do that again” and also “that went well, I hope I can do that again”.

I hope that as I start this blog that I can help someone, either strike a cord that they can relate to, or help them ask the right questions to get the answers they need or that I can provide the answers to help them along in their journey.

Lead and Learn

It is often difficult to get time to sit and read a good leadership book, there are times after a few minutes, a quote hits the spot where I need it most that day.

“A person must be big enough to admit their mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them” – John Maxwell

I know it has been quite a while since I have posted. I need to do better, learn more, structure my schedule better. We can all learn and do better.

What have you learned from 2020?

What have you learned in 2020? I am a big-time advocate of continuous improvement. Part of improving all the time is learning all the time, whether it is learning from events in my life, or learning from watching others. 

Pivot – use basketball example I learned from all American college player, pivot to the hoop. 

I have heard the word pivot in the last year or so more than I would like to. I am not so sure I feel like everyone is using it to their full capacity. 

When I was in high school our basketball coach brought in a former All American college basket player. We had a very informal 2-day basketball camp. One of the moves he taught us was a pivot move. Someone would pass the ball to the forward near the baseline. As soon as we received the pass, we would pivot and quickly launch toward the basket and make a slam dunk, well, he was the only one who slammed it, the rest of us made a layup. 

I have heard a lot of people talking about pivoting in their business. I believe there is a difference from just doing a pivot and doing a pivot to win. Let me explain. 

For the sake of this discussion, I will use some examples of restaurants that I have seen over the last year. When Covid hit it wreaked havoc on most businesses and service businesses seemed like they have taken the hardest hit. Restaurants, health clubs, tattoo parlors, just to name a few were mandated by governing authorities to not allow in person contact. 

There were some restaurants that just closed, apparently, they did not have the will to fight. They might even have already been in dire straits financially before Covid, so it is possible they did not have the resources to try to fight and carry on. 

I have seen some restaurants, let us say they were old school. They did not have a significant online presence and only relied on their ability to provide good service and good food to keep the supply of customers coming in the door every day. This worked well for the in the past and that is has gotten them where they were before Covid. 

When Covid came and they were ordered to close, they then pivoted and revamped their website and advertised that they would be staying open and started delivery and pick up orders. 

For a ton of people Covid changed a lot of people’s habits and routines, so I am sure that being able to order from their favorite restaurant was a welcome opportunity. The restaurants still needed to provide good food and service to stay in business. The ones that were successful were the ones who pivoted and went straight to the basket for a sure score by maintaining the fundamentals that kept them in business while still needing to change with the times and getting over the hurdles that were placed in their way. 

I see some restaurants still closed. I am not sure what will become of them. The need for businesses to always stay alert and pivot and move forward constantly. Always be moving towards the basket and going for the score to get ahead. Remember, change is inevitable, be prepared and ready to move to stay ahead of the competition.

SWOT Analysis and Your Business

The other day I was walking by a bank and saw a driver exiting a drive through at the bank and he turned too early and scrubbed his tires. Just while the car was scrubbing their tires I was thinking, “what could they have done to prevent that?” Maybe the only damage might be the rubber being rubbed on the curb, but the possibility could’ve been worse. He could have damaged a rim. He could have knocked the bead off the rim and cause all the air to pop out. When I was thinking about that, I thought what the root cause for that to happen?

Obviously, they did not consider the obstacles that were near them or they misjudged the distance of the curb. If they thought to look around and observe the obstacles near them, how close, what location, how to avoid these obstacles?

Which made me think that this would be a good example of how businesses do not look ahead and/or plan and consider their long-term strategy. In business, there are tools to use that can help break things down to help see obstacles or possible obstacles and start making plans to be able to not only avoid them, but pull away and prevent possible damage and be able to successfully pull ahead of obstacles and the competition.

One of the tools that could be used is call SWOT analysis. SWOT analysis is a tool we learned in business school. Interesting that I have not really heard anyone talk about it since. I feel it is very necessary tool to look at and work on when reviewing your company’s strategy. SWOT analysis stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Small businesses tend to get into the problem of busy-ness and do not get around to looking at their long term strategies.

What to watch for:
Planning your strategy is not only for when starting your company, but is very important to review and re-plan your strategy often, at the minimum once a year. You could make it a fun event, like a getaway for your top executives or just yourself. Getting out of the normal culture can sometimes help with focus on forward thinking that you need to be doing. What is Important to remember, the old adage, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

You should be reviewing what your company does best. What ways can you capitalize on them? What and how to do more of what you do best? Are you the top company out there that is doing what you do best? Make sure to honestly evaluate can you stay on top, and how to improve in order to fend off other competitors. I like to think about when I was a kid and playing king of the mountain.

What is your company weak at? How can you get better? How bad are these weaknesses? Do you need to hire someone to compensate for these weaknesses? Depending on the situation, you may need to make an honest assessment: are these weaknesses going to drive the business down.

What are some ways you can capitalize on your strengths? What can you do to try to improve upon your weaknesses? Are there actions that could increase sales? Or profit margin?

Are competitors knocking at your door? Are they pulling far ahead? What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? Can you exploit their weaknesses? (Legally and ethically). Is there some area or market they are not serving well? Are you vulnerable to theft: physical and intellectual.

Who moved my cheese:
There is a book written by Spencer Johnson call “Who Moved My Cheese”? The Premise is that the world is constantly changing. You need to be paying attention to details of your business environment, making sure to be able to look ahead and make educated anticipation about where the market is heading and what you need to do to get out ahead and stay ahead of the pack.

Strategic planning is your organization’s process of defining its strategy, or direction and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue the strategy. Minimizing obstacles and threats to adjust and plan around those obstacles for safe navigating. As the Leader of your organization, you need to be leading your team in a path chosen and in the direction of growth to ensure success.

What to do When Calamity Hits

Life has hardships, you can’t avoid them. Very recently we lost a close family member. It is still difficult to talk about it. I started to think about how it affects you when you suffer loss. It really can be difficult to process. Difficult to move on. Many mornings it is hard to even get out of bed. I thought I would share a few thoughts that came to me in the shower the other day.

There are different types of things that can happen that might put you as an owner or manager into a “funk”. We won’t be able go to into everything that could happen, but I’m hoping that you can relate to something that might prepare you so that if something were to happen, that you could pull yourself up and continue on and possibly end up in a better position someday.

Sometimes personal loss can be very devastating. We recently lost our son in an accident. The grieving process can really make decision making difficult, if not completely hindering decision process altogether. There can be many other personal losses that can keep your mind elsewhere and not on the task of your work.

There can be Business loss, a loss of a key team member. Could be a loss of a big customer or product line. Could be a fire or a natural disaster. Could be a product recall or legal issues. Or even a serous team member injury. Legal or workplace fines. Could be someone you trusted skimmed a lot of money leaving you and the company totally devastated. A divorce or friend or family relationship falling apart might. Whatever the case may be, you will not be back to normal overnight. You need a game plane to get you though and you need help.

Go into survival mode. Sometime when you have issues with your computer, when you need to reboot and start in safe mode. Only the essential operations are working to keep the resources available as needed, that what mode you need to go into. It is important to stay away from big decisions during this grieving and recouping process. Keep decisions on day to day operations, now is not the time to be deciding to expand or buy expensive equipment. Remember you’re in survival mode.

You need to enlist help if there is not someone readily available that has your company’s best interest at heart. If your company is small you might need to be looking outside to a consultant or someone in your personal or corporate network. It’s very important to find someone who is looking out for your interest. Maybe a business coach is necessary, at least for a short term. Enlist someone who can help evaluate and interview consultants or coaches. Someone that it outside of the affected grieving sphere that can be objective to find the right person to help in this time of need. It could be a vendor or supplier or even possibly a customer if there’s the right relationship there, that can help in the interview process. Please do not forget to seek professional help for yourself as well. Could be a lawyer or counselor.

You need to constantly be evaluating the risks of your business and yourself. It may be difficult but you need to keep the finger on the pulse of your business and be constantly evaluating the risks and you are moving through this phase of recovery.

Work the plan. I would think a good coach or consultant could help you put together a 90 day plan that might be moving you and your company through the tough times and on track to getting to a more normal business. Some grieving processes could take longer that this, but a 90 day plan would be a good start.

You need systems in place! Real life can hit us hard sometimes. SOPs (standard operating procedures) on how you do everything in your business is not only necessary but help you look at how efficient your processes are. The best we can do to prepare for calamity is to learn and hedge what you can now before anything bad happens. I sincerely hope no one must go through some devastating grieving process like what we are going though right not. I’m hoping that this post can help someone now or in the future. My next post will help look at evaluating your company and breaking down different risks so you can make plans to minimize your risks.

Know Your Numbers

How important is knowing your numbers in your business?

I have seen small businesses survive just like many Americans do in their personal life. Many live by the skin of their teeth and paycheck to paycheck. As a small business it may be difficult to scribe out some time to look at the details. Without seeing the small details, you could be missing some very important elements. Over the next few posts we will be looking at some details most businesses tend to slip through the cracks.

Most small businesses start because they fill a need for their customers. I can visualize what many small businesses tend to do as they start to grow. A term among entrepreneurs and podcasts I’ve listened to is CEO – Chief Everything Officer. First, we are going to look at a little foundation of how this could have happened and maybe it sounds like someone you might know.
So let’s name the small business and the owner to help us visualize and imagine what could be happening. Let’s call the business Widget Builder and the owner Sam. Sam starts Widget Builder because he had a friend who needed someone to build widgets. Sam starts the business and starts building widgets on the side of his full-time job. Soon he’s working 3 or 4 hours a day on his side business and he’s finding new customers who also need widgets built. Before too long Sam quits his job and runs the business full time. Then he needs to start hiring people and before he knows fully involved and years and years just fly by.

What happens most of the time is Sam is mostly putting out fire after fire and working 60, 80, even 100 hours a week and doesn’t seem like he can keep up. Mostly reactionary decisions are being made and planning and analyzing the business gets pushed off for future and ends up never getting done.

Recently I heard a business owner that called into a radio show trying to get advice on whether to file for bankruptcy. His company has 1.5 million in sales. How can we get that far out of touch of the condition of our businesses that far in trouble before we seek advice? Perhaps trouble could have been avoided by staying in touch with certain key elements that I will be writing about.

One of the keys that most businesses either do not track, or neglect to keep up with. Cost of acquiring customers (CAC) and is very often not even calculated. I was reading about a business that their price for the item they are selling is $97. When calculating their CAC it was $143. What is wrong with that picture? That business probably won’t be around long with numbers like that.

The CAC is calculated by taking everything spent on marketing, including salesmen, website, advertising, etc. and divide into how many items sold. With numbers like this example I would tell that company to raise the price to $197 until they can figure out how to acquire customers at a much lower cost. One might argue that they would lose to many customers if they raise the price, but you cannot run a business with negative. It is important to have enough margin to generate the cash flow to spend more money on acquiring more customers to continue to grow.

The main point I am trying to make is you must make time to look at important numbers. CAC is just one number that I believe every business should be looking at, adjusting and modifying, always tweaking focusing on continuous improvement to always get better. If you don’t have time to find and study the numbers, then you should investigate finding someone who can do that for you. It is just so important to make sure you are staying or getting profitable so your business can thrive and serve your customers.

Over the next several blogs I will dive into some key elements that managers and owners might forget to check, or keep and eye on to help track, and redirect the track their business is on. Keep watching for the next several posts and we will investigate more items to get into your business.

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