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CEO Mindset-Could You Kill Your Darlings?

strategic sacrifice, business, CEO MindsetSmall businesses are often touted as being nimble or agile in their response to market and industry changes. And this is true to an extent as long as the decision maker(s) are willing to manage their uncertainty and be honest with themselves.  For many leaders and their teams, it means asking difficult questions and risking conflict.

*Jane and the darlings

One of my clients (we’ll call her Jane although that is not her real name) has recently taken on the role of CEO in her family’s manufacturing company. The company is currently experiencing a slowdown despite having products that sell well. Jane wants to steer the company away from the piecemeal approach they have taken with e-commerce and target specific customer segments that are more likely to be profitable and play to the company’s current strengths.  In a recent team meeting, the response was mixed. On one hand, the company could use the revenue. On the other hand, the current e-commerce strategy  does not produce predictable sales. It  ties up energy and resources that could be devoted to marketing to more specific customer segments who are more likely to create sustainable revenues. And yet…there is an emotional attachment to this e-commerce approach.

But that is not all. Part of the team has been invested in landing a major distributor in their industry. The big win will make a huge difference in the bottom line. There has been some connection made but nothing concrete. It is so tantalizing to continue to approach this big distributor.

Maybe the darlings have to go

Jane’s dilemma is guiding the team to take a hard look at the current ecommerce strategy and the not-quite relationship with the big distributor and ask if it is really worth the small percentage of income it produces or the hope of income. It is not the information. In black and white, it is clear that focusing only on specific target customer segments will position the company better and increase revenues. The team has to decide whether sacrificing either the ecommerce part of the business, letting go of the uncertain relationship with the big distributor or both are the best strategic choices.

In John R. Bell’s book, Do Less, Better: The Power of Strategic Sacrifice In a Complex World, he writes about making short-term strategic sacrifices to set the stage for long-term growth and sustainability. In fact, he writes about how he had to eliminate a line of products (a money-making one, in fact!) to simplify and focus his company’s growth during a turnaround. A gutsy move that paid off!  While logically one might see how a particular course of action is not producing a certain result, there is still the emotional side with which to contend. The catch here is that making a gutsy move is one choice and could be the best choice but it is also the scariest and most uncertain. This emotional stuff is where most of us get stuck.

3 Common obstacles that prevent us from strategic sacrifices

We have certain cognitive biases that create blinders and they are fueled by emotions. You may have even noticed them in yourself and called them mental blocks. They are the same thing. We experience a moment when we simply cannot conceive of another way.

  • Sunk cost fallacy. I’ve written about this one before but it has a way of convincing us to continue a product line or a course of action simply because we have invested so much time, money and/or energy. There is a sense that “I gotta see this through” even when it is obviously unsustainable.
  • Don’t want to get it wrong. Also known as loss aversion. We actually perceive loss in similar ways to how we perceive physical pain. It is much more difficult to let go of something that is almost working. It is even more difficult to let go of something that is working. Pruning away certain revenue lines might feel painfully risky.
  • Overconfidence.   You may have too much faith in yourself and/or your team so you follow the path that nothing much has to change and it is just a hiccup. Simply put,  you (or your team) disregard new information because it does fit your mindset. Another client of mine has a tendency to tell me that he has led his company through turbulent times before and balks when I suggest that there are different circumstances in the current situation that need to be taken into account.

It is not that people want to make bad or shortsighted decisions. When it comes to getting rid of something you are emotionally invested in, it is tricky to circumvent our habitual thinking.

Do you kill your darlings or hold onto them?

Your emotions are going to play a role in how you choose whether a product line or service is terminated even if it is clearly time to stop and determine what still fits the business goals and the current vision. There may be products or services that were the lifeblood for the company in the early days or they may have taken so much energy, time and resources that you want  them to pay you back.  They could be the pet project of someone high up in the company. It may even simply be inertia that keeps certain products or services in place. Think of those as a kind of “we’ve always had them and people still buy them.” All of these become your darlings over time. Another thing that keeps people  holding onto their darlings is the feeling that any revenue is better than no revenue during turbulent times.

Some questions to get you started in evaluating your darlings

The most natural time to have these conversations is during your quarterly reviews. You are already evaluating the progress of the business goals. Another time that makes sense is when you are beginning a transition of some kind.

  • What are the darlings in our products and services?
  • How much does each one contribute to current business goals?
  • Why are we still offering them?
  • If we didn’t have them, what would the company be offering instead?
  • What emotions and thoughts do you notice when you ask these questions?
  • What actions do we need to take now?

The discussion these questions should prompt will not be comfortable. Remember we put an emotional investment into these particular products and services. Our fears of change, failure, success, consequences and punishment as well as potentially disappointing or angering others are triggered when we start to critically think about the darlings. However, without even asking the questions, you may be stifling innovation and inviting stagnation. Sure, there is a risk of alienating someone or even choosing the wrong action. Leaders who use the CEO Mindset tolerate the discomfort and consciously choose what stays and what goes.

What would you do if you were Jane and her team?

How have you examined your darlings? What was the result?

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Feel Like You Have No Time? Try These 6 Tactics

Managing your time when your day is filled with meetings, work on specific projects, business development and the inevitable interruptions is one of  the biggest challenges my clients report. All of  the leaders I coach are the CEO-type person in their small to mid-sized company so the demands on their time and energy are simply part of the day-to-Task Management, organization, leadersday experience. They often discover that it is not really about managing their time but more about managing the tasks.

When everything is important, where do you begin?

Leading a company comes with certain responsibilities. It is no secret that time is limited and there is plenty to do. Instead of managing your time, think about managing your tasks. It is a good time to use the CEO Mindset© and note what are true priorities, opportunities to delegate and what needs to be postponed no matter how exciting it seems at the time.

Living example

Matt (not his real name) is the president of his small company. They do a combination of research for private companies and governmental agencies plus develop products from their research. On any given day, Matt could be contributing his technical expertise, meeting with potential investors, overseeing the project managers, following up with the manufacturing of prototypes, meeting with customers or dealing with the administrative parts of small company. The list goes on and on.

One of Matt’s challenges is that he is not a natural checklist kind of guy. He certainly is aware that organizing his time makes a difference to his direct reports and to the financial growth of the business. A part of our coaching has been to find his best method that balance his natural tendencies with getting his work done.

Does Matt’s story sound familiar?

The particulars may vary from one leader to another but the experience is still often reported. It is easy for everything to feel important. There are many important tasks that need to be done. So you could fill your time with trying to do them all. Or you could do something more organized and focused. Productivity is less about time and more about working smart.

  • The Pomodoro Method- This is a simple method of focusing on a task needs only one piece of equipment…a timer. Set your timer for 20-25 minutes and simply focus on one task or one part of task. When the timer sounds, you end there or set the timer for another 20-25 minutes and resume your task. Great for working around those interruptions and meetings!
  • Be absolutely strict with setting priority tasks- Not everything has to be done in one week nor even in the current month. Identify what is truly a high priority task and focus your plan on that. You can follow this by moving other items up the priority list as tasks are completed.
  • Delegate, delegate, delegate- This cannot be said enough to leaders of small to mid-sized businesses (I’ve written about this before). You have been a hands-on person because you had to be but your company needs something different now. Identify which tasks you must do or are best suited for and give the rest to the appropriate team or staff member. Take it from one of my clients, you don’t have to be only person who knows where to find the Ice-Melt.
  • Apps on your smartphone, tablet or laptop- There are some great tools out there like Trello, Asana or EverNote that provide ways to track your tasks and tasks assigned to others.
  • Use a sticky note with 3-5 daily (or even weekly) tasks- Sometimes handwriting your list is a more effective reminder than an app. The downside to using an app is that it can be out of sight, out of mind. Using a sticky note to your laptop or some other prominent place is a visual reminder and the act of writing can be a memory aid as well.
  • Use a task log like the CEO Mindset© Task Management Log- Kudos to Matt for inspiring this tool! It is also a handwritten way to keep yourself on task. This month-long organizer enables the user to keep track of both the tasks you are responsible for and any tasks assigned to a member of your team or staff. To use the log, you write in all of the tasks you are organizing. Then you note who is designated to complete the task, if you have to provide an accountability check in and check if it is due this week, next week or by the end of the month. There is a final category which denotes when the task is completed. Post this somewhere highly visible so it is a visual reminder. You can download a version of the CEO Mindset Task Management Log here.

As with all of the tools, avoid biting off more than you can actually manage. They are all about setting priorities. When everything is important, you must identify which things are more important than others. Another caveat is the number of tasks you assign yourself. Just this week, Matt identified 8 things on his weekly list. When I asked him about them, he explained that four of them were simple progress updates. Most of the time ( and most of us) manage three to five priority tasks per week. Whenever possible, set up tasks into chunks of work so you can easily work on something and walk away when necessary.

Less about time management and more about task management

This cannot be said enough. Choose a tool that makes sense to you (modify it if it helps) and make it a practice. Matt has discovered that he is much more focused and clear about what tasks he must do. He has also discovered more clarity about what can be delegated. Another plus for Matt is that it has strengthened his ability to see what is on the short term horizon so deadlines not surprise him. Growing a small to mid-sized business takes concentration and effective decision making. Using a tool that supports better task management will support you staying fresh, alert and organized.

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3 Ways a Living Business Plan Supports Decision Making

living business plan, decision making, leaderHow many decisions do you make every day in regards to your business? Are the decisions totally in line with the business plan? A leader who cannot make heads or tails of a plan or simply avoids using the plan risks scattering valuable resources, wasting time and/or harming the morale of team.

For a growing business, it makes far more sense to have an easy-to-use document that you can refer to, scribble on, make changes and rewrite without angst or aggravation. The answer…a living business plan.

What is a living business plan?

A living business plan is a stripped down version of your business plan and it is meant to be an internal document for the business owner (and his/her team) to use. These are the areas you want to make sure you include:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Services and products offered
  3. Marketing strategies
  4. Desired client profile
  5. Financials
  6. Company goals and objectives

It is far too easy to get sidetracked by day to day work, exciting opportunities or negative events. Having a simplified tool helps you focus and remain agile as you grow your company. By writing it in a format that makes sense, it becomes clear what needs attention now, potential problems and who is responsible for each business goal.

Smooths the path for better decision making

Decision making is part and parcel of making your plan work. Here are three ways that a living business plan supports effective decision making by the leader and/or the team.

Provides only the necessary data for what is happening now and what is likely to happen in the next quarter or even year.   By looking at current information and plugging it into the overall business goals, you and your team can know how much progress is being made.

Quarterly (or even monthly) reviews offer you the opportunity to measure, evaluate and/or learn what is and is not working. Regular reviews take the current data and allow for discussion about how things are progressing and where potential problems could arise. There is a process for adjusting the plan as needed and avoiding impulsive responses. An added bonus of regular reviews is the use of accountability partners which prevents everyone from getting distracted.

Provides accountability. Since the living business plan includes specific measurable goals, it is easy to see what needs to be done and by whom. There are clear expectations and a built in mechanism for keeping up momentum and discovering obstacles.

These three ways are just the tip of the iceberg when you use a living business plan. There are common traps that growing companies fall into when they use overly complicated business plans or ignore their business plans altogether. There is a tendency to only look at the positives, only look at the negatives or to get sidetracked by something that is close but does not really fit into the overall business goals. With the living business plan, it is much easier to stay focused on the stated growth plan and to consciously adapt as needed.

Decision making is about managing information

 Current research into how the brain works has discovered that more information actually hinders good decision making. This means that leaders can find themselves ignoring crucial information or getting bogged down in trying to understand it all at once. A good decision maker knows that it is necessary to tolerate uncertainty and that most decisions are imperfect at best. Colin Powell probably said it best when he described how he wanted to people to report to him. He said, “Tell me what you know. Tell me what you don’t know. And then, based on what you really know and what you really don’t know, tell me what you think is most likely to happen.” A living business plan does this. With its simplicity, it tells you how the company is performing. Through discussions, the leader and the team can take the knowns and unknowns and make the best decision possible. The living business plan streamlines the foundation of your business, the overall goals and the evaluation of progress so you are more effective as you make decisions during times of growth, change and uncertainty.

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Gratitude Is Good For Leadership…But Why?

Gratitude, leadership, organizational growthWith the celebration of the US holiday of Thanksgiving, it seems fitting for gratitude to be a topic in leadership circles. And it usually is for those of us in leadership and who work with leaders. However, there is is more to this than a feel-good exercise.

The research so far…

Over the last several years, Robert Emmons Ph.D. of University of California-Davis and Mike McCulloch, Director of Evolution and Human Behavior Laboratory at University of Miami and many others have studied gratitude. The studies have found strong correlations between benefits and the practice of gratitude. For leaders, it is worth highlighting these benefits:

  • Prevents and/or reduces toxic, negative emotions
  • Supports resilience (to stress)
  • Encourages feelings of interconnectedness with people

By modeling gratitude, leaders can continuously nurture a positive organizational culture which leads to feelings of satisfaction, higher levels of productivity and fosters open mindsets. All good for responding to the ups and downs of any business.

Where does gratitude fit in with being a CEO?

As I have written on this blog before, your title doesn’t always reflect your role in your small to mid-sized business. You are the CEO with or without the title. It is more about using the CEO Mindset. Gratitude fits right in there. For a lot of business leaders, it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activity. Sure, there are things you must do every day but there is also a need to prioritize and even let go of responsibilities that could be done by others or simply don’t fit your organizational culture or structure anymore.

Practicing habits of gratitude fits in with being a CEO. Here are some to think about:

  • Positive mindset so you can stay open for problem-solving, new ideas or whatever may pop up during the day
  • Increased patience so you can effectively train and delegate tasks to your team, particularly when your company is about to make a big leap
  • Noticing others’ contributions and saying “thank you” makes people feel respected and appreciated. This has a  direct effect on productivity and morale
  • Increases self-awareness by taking time to examine your day and list what you are grateful for. This process enables you to notice blind spots, mistakes, strengths and moments of joy.

  These may be just a starting point but it is interesting to see how gratitude supports what you want most for your company.

Reason(s) to incorporate gratitude into your leadership style

Incorporating gratitude into your day mindfully will certainly bring health and psychological benefits for you individually. However, in your role as leader, it is so much more. Leaders are always looking for ways to support productivity and high performance from their teams and employees. These are directly connected to the bottom line. Leaders who practice gratitude avoid taking their people for granted, foster the exchange of information and cooperation and build trust. Research keeps telling us that these qualities (among others) create much stronger business results. Imagine how you could positively affect your organization when you add gratitude to your leadership style!

 Image by GustavoFrazao/Fotolia

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9 Questions To Stress Test Your International Strategy

Irish SME owners, stress test, expanding internationally, growing international businessWhen you are on an island, you have to look beyond the borders. So many of the conversations I have with Irish SME owners is about where they are going to expand next. Popular answers are Europe, China and the US but occasionally I will get a surprise answer like Australia or Dubai. Australia? Dubai? Well, why not?

What information are you gathering?

As leader of your SME, you probably are tracking trends so you know how your market is performing. These trends could be impending governmental regulations, visitors to your web site or industry trends. Not only could this data be an indication of where your business might grow but you might be meeting people via trade missions or conferences. Perhaps it is even a long-held dream to set up shop in a particular part of the world. All of this leads to a moment when you realize that there is substance to expanding your SME internationally.

Preparation is everything…

Like any growth plan for your business, developing a strategic plan is the first step. However, it is easy to get caught up in the excitement and let your attention slide from the details. However, given the expense and potential legal and regulatory pitfalls, it is a good idea to stress test your international strategy.

Here are 9 questions to get you started:

  1. What is your intent? Be clear about your dreams and aspirations. Expanding is not about prestige or the cool factor. There has to be a solid business reason.
  2. Who is your customer?  Different countries have different emotional touchpoints. Do the market research early.
  3. What variables are you measuring? Clarify what targets (i.e. number of customers, revenue levels) are to be met, the timeline and indicators of when it is too expensive, too time consuming or too resource-hungry.
  4. What systems or policies need to be put in place? You are likely to be out of the office frequently traveling or in meetings. Identify which team members are leading the home office, how communication will be handled and which decisions can be made with and without your input.
  5. What are the potential obstacles and how would you handle them? There are different types of obstacles and even barriers (regulatory, political, social, legal, employment, etc.) to your entry in a foreign market. Take the time to investigate and devise a plan to handle them.
  6. What makes your product and/or service so special to this particular foreign market? Write your value proposition
  7. What criteria would tell you that expanding in X country is a bad idea? Simply put, what you don’t know will hurt you.
  8. How will the international part of your SME be funded? Making sure there is enough capital to support this venture is key so knowing if the headquarters is supporting it or it is to be self-funded is crucial.
  9. How will you staff the the international branch of your business? There are advantages to sending your own people as much as hiring locals or even a combination of both. It gives you a chance to explore HR policies and employment law.

Underneath all of these questions is a key piece of preparation so here is a bonus question for your discussion:

  • What possible effect could international expansion have on your existing business? Asking this question will help you and your team determine if your SME can handle your absence, the financial commitment and any other possible effects.

Stress testing can be an eye opener

So many of the conversations I have had with Irish SME owners has ended up with them saying, “there is more to this than I thought.” One of the ways to get the information for your stress test is to do a PESTEL analysis. Often it can be helpful to hire a consultant so no one is tempted to avoid any of the questions. No matter how you go about the process, conducting a stress test on your international strategy will support better business planning.

Related posts: 8 Tips For Expanding in the US For Irish Small Businesses

Expanding In the US: Choosing the Right Place For Your Business

Irish SME Owners…Introductory Post About Growing in the US

 

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5 Reasons Delegation Is So Hard For Leaders

business owners, leaders, difficulty with delegationYou have probably thought about delegating some of your work to others. Maybe you have had these thoughts:

“I don’t time to train someone to do this right now.”

“It would be quicker if I did it.”

“I’ll just have to fix what he did later.”

“But they won’t do it like me.”

Sound familiar? In my last post, I asked if you were developing the right skills. Since that post, people have mentioned how challenging they find delegation. Or course, the first step is to notice that you are trying to do too much or even doing things that are simply not necessary for you.

The hurdle for many a business owner

For business owners and executives, one of the key realizations is that there are different kinds of demands on your attention and time as the business grows in revenue and sophistication. And it is hard to know what to delegate, when to delegate and to whom. This difficulty stems from our thinking and feelings about our identity, fairness, perception and a host of other things. Yet, as Gene Marks points out in his post, not delegating creates a handicap for both you and your organization.

Take a moment to think about the role of a CEO

No matter what your title actually is, you are doing the job of a CEO. Here are the basic responsibilities:

  • Sets the vision and tone of what “X Company” is all about
  • Designs and explains the strategy of how the business will develop and grow over time
  • Seeks out the talent to make the above happen
  • Keeps everyone accountable to the stated business goals Makes sure that revenues (and even profits) are healthy

Essentially, your job is to lead and manage. When you have been one of the primary people responsible for the products or services and looking after the day-to-day operations, the adjustment to a different role is not necessarily clean or clear. Yet, without delegating mindfully, it is much more challenging to be adept at leading, managing and thinking ahead to how the company can grow and respond to the marketplace.

Reasons delegation is so hard for leaders

That’s all well and good, you might say. We know that delegating certain aspects of our work is key to becoming more successful. But that is our rational side talking and…well, that isn’t always running the show. If we look at the statements I wrote in the beginning of this post, what is underneath all that? Beliefs that may have been true at one point or were never true but have sunk into the backs of our  minds and influencing our decisions.

  • Being busy means I’m doing work- This belief confuses the idea that serving your customers or creating the product or service is the only way you can justify your existence. You’re not shirking; simply shifting gears to do other tasks that are important to the business goals.
  • Asking for help or expertise is a sign of weakness- First off, it is humanly impossible to know everything. Secondly, you hired talented people to be your team and/or staff. Leverage their capabilities.
  • Need/Desire for control- This isn’t always articulated clearly. However, most business owners/ executives have a long history of making things happen with their own skill and determination. A company will not be successful if the leader micromanages how things get done. Providing planned accountability is a better way to allay your own anxiety and support the work.
  • Lack of faith/trust- This is more common with leaders new to their positions. It is understandable that you want to minimize the risk of having someone else do the work. However, your team/staff will pick up the message that you don’t believe they are good enough. Take the time to train and mentor your team so they understand both the culture and brand of your business.
  • Past experience- It may seem disconnected but our childhood experiences can often influence our leadership and work styles. It is not so uncommon to carry a belief that you are responsible because you were the eldest child, you need to contain things because you had an alcoholic parent or that you need to prove you are good enough. These things can influence how we interact, trust and assign responsibilities to others.

 These are five reasons why delegation is so challenging and there are more. The main thing here is to ask yourself what is driving your reluctance to delegate.

Have a conversation with yourself

Listening to your thoughts and feelings can give you information about whether you are listening your irrational side. If it is one of the reasons listed above, get as explicit as possible with your belief. How true is it? Why is it true? It may even be worth having a conversation with a mentor or a coach. The best CEOs know self-awareness prevents a lot of unnecessary stress. Becoming clear with why delegation feels so difficult supports your growth as leader and manager.

Aside from weaknesses in a team member’s skill set, what are other reasons why business owners/ executives struggle with delegation?

Related posts:

5 Tips For Better Delegation

Managing the Small Business Owner: Control, Influence and Limitations

6 Ways SME Leader’s Role Changes When Growing Internationally

 

 Image: ©Lucien_3D/Fotolia

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CEO Mindset: Are You Developing the Right Skills?

How do business owners/ executives encourage or even inspire their team without being a good model? According to a recent survey conducted by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, only 9% of their executive respondents chose “practices self-development” as their primary skill a leader needs. Becoming CEO of your small organization is a process of learning and developing as you understand your changing role, the roles of your team members and how the business works relies heavily on your ability to develop yourself. New challenges crop up all the time. Self-development is happening, one way or another.

James* (not his real name) is typical of many small business leaders. He was telling me in a coaching session that he was having difficulty moving out of his typical “I’m one of the team” style to one where he is out of the office meeting potential partners, looking at possible acquisitions and prospective higher level customers. He is excited about where the company is going but he is feeling a little strange supporting his team as they become the safety net for current customers and day-to-day operations. James, like a lot of blossoming CEOs, is discovering that his communications skills need some enhancing so his focus is on identifying his expectations, how he influences the corporate culture through his actions and words and making sure his messages are clear.

Is self-development misunderstood?

You may have read that meditation is the latest leadership and management “thing.” It is easy to imagine that self-development is only about deepening your self-understanding through some sort of esoteric process. However, it is something you can do on a daily basis that goes beyond the latest fad or even deep self-exploration. The kinds of skills needed by business owners/ executives often depends on the company’s growth plan. Like many of my clients, James is learning how to delegate some of his responsibilities to particular team members. To accomplish this, he had to identify his beliefs about where he fits into his organization, how he trusts his team and determining the strengths and weaknesses of his team and staff. This is all self-development (and he is learning quite a lot about himself along the way).

Four questions for self-development

Whether you are the sort of person who seeks out self-understanding on a deep level or not, there are probably skills that you would like to build up so you can be the best leader of your company. Frequently, the specific areas that a business owner/ executive targets for improvement are tied into the business goals. That saying from Marshall Goldsmith, “What got you won’t get you there” is a good reminder that each stage of your company will teach and enlighten you. Simply put, old behaviors don’t always get the same results and can even lead to failure. These four questions are a good conversation to have with yourself:

  • Who am I?
  • Where am I going?
  • Why am I going there?
  • Who is going with me?

Becoming a leader is an evolutionary process. Discovering how your thinking and feeling grows and adapts over time makes it easier to notice which skills need attention. This is all part of the CEO Mindset.

Are you developing the right skills?

Embracing the role of CEO is often one of accepting that you are a steward. Sure, you might be a key part of business development or a sponsor of a potentially innovative product. But your role is more the Shaper than the  Actor.  The “right” skill for you may be accepting the role of steward and dropping role of  technical expert or it could be speaking less and listening more. The “right” skill may be improving your presentation skills so you can pitch effectively to investors or a more sophisticated customer. Identifying and learning the skills you need for the next stage of your business will support your team and staff staying focused on the business goals and doing what they do best.

Related posts: What Stories Do You Tell Yourself While Growing Your Business?

Using the CEO Mindset For Smarter Communication

6 Ways SME Leader’s Role Changes When Growing Internationally

 

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Expanding In the US: Choosing the Right Place For Your Business

expanding in US, Irish business, costs, locationOne of the common topics that come up with the Irish business owners or managing directors I speak with is just where in the US to set up their business. Common themes are familiarity with a part of the US where they studied or worked years ago, wanting to be near hubs of a particular industry or a place that holds resonance or romance (New York and Boston get mentioned a lot!). Noticing a trend or under-served market is only the beginning. Choosing the right place for your business will support how your business grows as well as how your employees develop. This segment of your planning is an important part of the expansion process.

What is most important?

Underneath it all, the location you pick has to be consistent with the vision and goals in your business plan. There are a few things to consider as you settle on the best place for your expanding business.

  • Infrastructure: This is a major consideration. Evaluate your access to established warehouse, lab or retail space, the ability to ship easily (highways, railways, water and air) and other similar companies in your or complementary industries.  You may even want to note the specialties of local universities, entrepreneurial/innovative communities, strategic alliances or partners and/or the investor community.
  • Costs: It is a good idea to get a sense of what labor, renting or buying property and proximity of  supplies might cost in each location that you are considering. Also learn about business taxes, income taxes and other start up expenses for each potential area. It is worthwhile to compare the incentives offered at the state and local level (many towns and cities in the US are competitively looking for companies).
  • Customers: You can discover this through market research. Locating close to actual and potential customers will aid in networking and customer service.
  • Hiring locals: Besides becoming aware of the specialties of local universities, you may need to know what costs are involved in attracting employees. Certain industries attract people to settle in specific area so certain skill sets are readily available. Assess whether it makes sense to have expats or locally-based staff for compliance with employment and immigration laws.
  • Ease of travel (home and nationally): Being near major roadways and airports will support your access to customers everywhere. Also, it may make a difference when you (or any expats) want to get home without a lot of hassle or expense.
  • Quality of life: As you acclimate to the US, there are times when you are going to feel homesick and want the tastes or sounds of home. Check the area for groups from your home country and restaurants that serve authentic food. Also learn about the various residential areas (like anywhere, US cities and/or towns can vary in wealth), the cost to rent or own, cost of living and how easy it is to buy groceries, send children to school and recreational activities.

These are just a few of the considerations you will have as you look at all of the places you might settle your business in the US.

Professional help makes the path smoother

There are a lot of details to arrange. It may make sense to work with a trade organization (such as Enterprise Ireland) or a consultant who specializes in connecting companies with the necessary resources (something akin to a concierge and advocate).  It may even suit your purposes to work with both. Having someone based in your desired area sets you and your company to work with more appropriate resources. While you could do all of this on your own, time zones and frequent travel will not only get in the way of what you do best but could open you up to greater expense. Keep in mind that each region of the US has its own quirks- accents, idioms and customs. Working with a well-connected  professional can help you put real numbers and deadlines into your business plan plus introduce you to the resources you might want or need.

Choosing the Right Place For Your Business

Expanding in the US is an exciting process and can even be fun as you meet new people who are excited and interested in your business. Everyone may express an eagerness for you to choose their particular location. However, the process of evaluating each location to see if it is the best place for your organization must be more than a feel-good exercise. Combining the hearts and minds of your and your team will help you decide if your desired location supports your vision and business goals.

Related articles: Irish SME Owners…Introductory Post About Growing In the US

6 Ways SME Leader’s Role Changes When Growing Internationally

8 Tips for Expanding In the US For Irish Small Businesses

 

 

 

 

 

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CEO Mindset: Be the Goose, Be a Better Leader

empathy, leaderWhat does being a goose have to do with being a great leader? Well, it starts with a story…

The Farmer and the Goose

Once upon a time, there was a farmer who had a flock of geese. One day a fox came into the yard where the geese lived and tried to snatch a goose. There was a terrible flurry of wings and beaks pecking at the fox. Eventually the fox was driven off but one goose was left with a broken wing. The farmer saw all of this and went to help the goose. But the goose kept hissing and running away from the farmer. After chasing the goose around and not catching it, the farmer asked, “how can I be the goose?”

Concerns and assumptions may interfere

There are times we avoid asking certain questions like “how can I be the goose?” because we think it is not becoming or appropriate. After all, generally being a goose is associated with foolishness. Also there are times when we feel disappointed in or angry with a team (or staff person’s) member’s behavior.  But at the same time, who will get things running smoothly again? Ultimately, it is our model that shows others what is expected. Asking ourselves to examine more closely why we are avoiding the difficult situation or people can highlight what concerns and assumptions are going on in our heads.

Great leaders are empathic

There is some confusion as to how an empathic leader behaves. Empathy is not sympathy or pity. It does not imply or state agreement. Empathy is putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and understanding his/her perspective. You do not even have to agree but acknowledging the other person can give you insight so you can identify the actual problem (which can be very different from what is being reported), if your vision and expectations are clearly communicated or the strengths and weaknesses of your team. While people like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are lionized for being harsh, driven leaders, the statistics of disengaged workers (63% of workers worldwide are not engaged) is a wake up call for leaders in small and large companies. In a 2014 survey conducted by Lee Hecht Harrison, it was reported that 58% of managers fail to show understanding towards their employees.  And how many anecdotes have you heard about people enjoying their work but unable to tolerate the organizational culture?

How to “do” empathy?

As Henry Ford  once said, “The secret of success – if there is one – is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes, and to consider things from his or her point of view as well as your own. ” It is both easy and hard to do.

  • Quiet yourself- If you have a chatterbox in your head, you will remain focused on your opinions, assessments and thoughts.
  • Listen actively- Ask questions, reflect back what you heard, summarize both agreement and disagreement and request suggestions for resolving the issue

  • Watch the nonverbal cues- Eye contact, tone of voice, speed of speech, posture and choice of words are all hallmarks of how engaged the person is in a conversation. If something feels off, even if you cannot identify what, acknowledge the disconnect by stating, “I think I missed something here” or asking “do you have any additional concerns?”.
  • Lend a hand- Asking how you can help get a task done opens the door for conversation. Your team member may say he/she does not need the help but your offer lets them know you noticed.
  • Practice, practice, practice- Even the most empathic of us have off days or get distracted by the enormous amount of work and responsibility. If you are new to expressing empathy in a leadership role, it might feel awkward. No matter your experience level or stress level, empathy is improved with use.

“How can I be the goose?”

Asking the question is the start of empathy. When you see a staff member struggling, you are like the farmer wanting to help the goose with the broken wing. As you go along, you may notice that some people respond well to questions about how the work is going while others may need to hear you tell them to take a break and refresh themselves. Empathy gives you a better sense of how your small business is functioning and lets your team (and staff) know you want them to be well and perform well.

 Related posts:

    How To Be the Sun When Leading Change

    Great Leaders Develop Via Relationships With Self and Others

    Leadership, Mindfulness and Practical Enlightenment

 

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CEO Mindset: Are You Contagious?

CEO Mindset, emotional contagion, neuroscience, Imagine you start your day in a terrific mood. The birds are singing, the sun is shining and you are looking forward to today’s client meetings. Then, you meet the office curmudgeon on the way in and have a conversation. Suddenly, the day isn’t quite so wonderful or your work so engaging. What happened?

 You caught the bad mood

Yes, seriously. People have this ability to both sense and take on another person’s mood and it is called emotional contagion. It can work both positively and negatively. While this may seem a bit on the strange side, consider this. Humans are social animals so we have the ability to read both verbal and nonverbal cues. This includes empathy and other aspects of social connectedness. Research since the 1700′s has noted that people will unconsciously adopt the posture, tone of voice, facial expressions and other outward signs of emotions. It seems that the nonverbal cues, including micro-expressions, are the most powerful and we will mimic or synchronize ourselves to match another person.

Recent neuroscience research

Curiously, we have a section of our brain called the insular cortex (which is in the cerebral cortex which is located in the front of your brain) which is thought to be responsible for perception, motor control, self-awareness, cognitive functioning and interpersonal connectedness.  Since our brains work so quickly, we are often unaware of how well we can both sense and blend ourselves in relation to another person’s behavior. Essentially, humans are wired to note both subtle and overt clues to begin, maintain and grow our social connectedness.

What does this mean for business owners and executives?

If you are a business owner and/or an executive, you are in a position of authority. Leaders create, by words and actions, the value system and preferred behaviors. With this authority, your staff and/or team watch you more. There is a much greater likelihood that you can infect your company with your moods. This can put you at odds for creating that warm and human-centered organization you imagine.

Try an experiment…for about one week, stop yourself 3 times every day and ask yourself,

  • What do I feel?
  • What am I doing?
  • How is my team/staff acting right now?
  • How is my team’s behavior reflecting my mood(s)?

Supporting your CEO Mindset

Noticing your own emotional state will help you determine if you are contagious in a positive or negative way. And reinforce your emotional and social intelligences. Using the CEO Mindset is more than understanding your role in your organization. It also facilitates how you understand the effect you have on your staff/team.

Are you contagious? And is it more positive or negative?

Related posts: Leadership, Mindfulness and Practical Enlightenment

                         Giving Thanks Is a Hidden Leadership Tool

                         Using the CEO Mindset For Smarter Communication

 

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