The Keys To Achieving Your Goals

Another year and another set of resolutions. If you’re like most people, you’ll probably forget your goals by mid-February. So how do you make your resolutions actually happen this year?

First, keep in mind that goals are dreams; but don’t stop at just dreaming. Turn your dreams into bite-sized pieces that will gradually create a big event in your life. If you’re waiting on an outside variable to change your life, you have a long wait. You have to do something. It’s your responsibility to fix your life, not someone else’s. It’s time to sit down, make some goals, and take control.

Goal setting is how you win. Once you’ve made your resolutions, they will drive you forward. The goals will motivate you to seek activities that will help you succeed. It’s not always fun, but those exercises bring you closer to your goal and make you a winner.

If you want to actually achieve your goals this year, then consider the following:

 

  1. Be specific.
    When setting goals, be specific in what you want to achieve. Vagueness will only cause you to feel overwhelmed, and you will just give up.
  2. Make your goals measurable.
    In order to know if you achieved the goal, it must be measurable. For example, if you want to lose weight, don’t simply write down “lose weight” as a goal. How much weight do you want to lose? Or don’t just write “spend more time with family.” How much time do you want to spend with your family every night?
  3. Are they your goals?
    Only you can set your own goals. If your spouse, co-worker or friend sets a goal for you, you’re not going to achieve it. Taking ownership will give you more incentive to meet your goal.
  4. Set a time limit.
    Setting a time frame will help you set realistic goals. For example, if you want to save more money, list how much money a month you want to put into your savings account.
  5. Put them in writing.
    Putting your goals in writing will make you much more likely to achieve them. Write down your goals and review them often. This will give you motivation to make them a reality.

This is the process to succeed. Successful people reassess their lives and then start living intentionally, in writing, on paper, on purpose. Make your resolutions a reality in this year!

7 Easily Avoidable Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Fail-by Jeff Haden

You have no excuse not to see these potential hurdles coming–so don’t let them trip you up.

Failure–and the importance of failing quickly and often–is a trendy topic.  Learning how to overcome obstacles and setbacks is in fact incredibly important, but at the same time failure can also be incredibly painful, both financially and emotionally.

Lessons learned aside, when you own a business and it’s your money and your future on the line, failure sucks.

That’s why no one sets out to fail–unless, of course, they do one of these things:

anxiety-pano_22878

1. Assume easy entry equals great opportunity.
Some businesses are easy to start. For example, anyone with a little time on their hands can build an e-commerce website and sell products that others will fulfill. E-commerce is easy to do, hard to make money doing.  The same is true with apps. One guy makes $400,000 off a game he developed in a week, so thousands of people try to create their own apps. Creating apps is easy to do, hard to make money doing.  Businesses that are easy to enter typically only pay off well in the early stages of a new industry. Excess profits breed ruinous competition–and so does easy entry.  Taking the hard road is generally the best way, if only because a lot fewer people will be walking that hard road with you.

 

2. Go contrary without a plan.
Every trend starts with people who go against the crowd. Dell ignored in-store retail. FedEx introduced speed where there was no existing demand. eBay predicted buyers wouldn’t need to actually touch what they purchased. I can list hundreds of examples. So can you.  All of them went contrary–but they all had a plan.  Think you can succeed by launching a Web design business even though that service has largely become a commodity? Think you can open a funky little clothing store downtown even though many local retailers have gone out of business because foot traffic is down and unemployment is up?  You can but you better have a plan.

 

3. Mistake your social media networks for your safety net.
Building a network of friends and connections certainly can be helpful. But face it: If you lose your job, most of your LinkedIn connections will not ride to your rescue. If you need financing, most of your Twitter followers aren’t going to open their checkbooks.  Only your old-school personal connections will pick you up when you’re down.   Absolutely spend time building social media networks, but spend more building old-school connections. Your Facebook friends might commiserate with you but your real connections will have your back.

 

4. Assume somehow, some way, your mileage truly will vary.
I’m willing to bet there’s a building in your town that’s housed four or five different restaurants in the past years: the Greek restaurant fails; another entrepreneur revamps the décor and opens an Italian restaurant (re-using all the fake columns, of course), and it fails; another entrepreneur gives the building a facelift and opens a trendy little sushi place… the cycle goes on and on.  Each assumes somehow his venture will be different, ignoring fundamental problems like a terrible location, limited parking, no real market potential, etc.  Assuming that your venture will be different just because it is your venture never works. If others have failed, understand why they failed and then determine the steps you can take to make sure you succeed.  The same is true with business careers. Most follow a typical path, and yours won’t be markedly different unless you are willing to do things differently than the typical entrepreneur.

 

5. Confuse advice with knowledge.
Say you have an idea. You ask a friend for input. He says, “Oh, no, I wouldn’t do that.” You’re discouraged.  Don’t be: You haven’t learned anything.  Ask more questions. If you want to open a manufacturing facility and your friend says the capital requirements are too high, ask why. Ask how he arrived at a figure. Ask what you can leave out. Ask how you can acquire facilities or equipment without making purchases. Keep asking follow-up questions.  Eventually you’ll learn one of two things: You may find out your friend doesn’t have a clue about manufacturing and his advice is worthless. Or you may gain greater insight into start-up costs and financing.  Never ask for advice unless you’re willing to ask plenty of questions to uncover the reasoning behind that advice.

 

6. Play covert operations.
Several times a month someone says to me, “I’ve got a great idea for a business. I can’t tell you about it right now, but you’ll see… it will be awesome.”  Why the secrecy? They’re afraid someone will steal their idea.  Please. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Implementation is everything.  Most people keep their ideas a secret simply because they don’t want to hear conflicting opinions, since conflicting opinions spoil the dream. If an idea can’t survive the cold light of day then they think it’s not a great idea.  Talk about your ideas. Talk about them a lot. At the very least you’ll get helpful input.  You may even find a partner.

 

7. Let ego override reason.
A friend admitted the main reason he wanted to open a business was because he loved the idea of being able to decorate his own office. He didn’t love the idea of selling, running an operation, and leading people.  Another opened a winery because, well, owning a winery seemed pretty darned cool.  Lots of people start businesses with their ego as the primary consideration, but offices and tasting rooms quickly pale when you don’t enjoy the core of what you do.  Ego doesn’t pay the bills. Success pays the bills, and success is based on making objective decisions.

Don’t worry: Work hard to be successful and your ego will do just fine.

 

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business. @jeff_haden

Treadmill Desk

Ever thought that a treadmill desk could kill two birds with one stone?  Well I have “thought” that but still have yet to try it.  Instead of spending long hours at your desk then hitting up the gym afterwards to only put in more time, maybe it is time to try to do both at once.  Phoenix, Ariz.-based Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic says “Individuals who sit at their desks all day long are prone not only to obesity, but diabetes, blood pressure problems, cancers, depression and premature death.”

We live in a world where the lines from home to work and work to home are very blurred; why not start to incorporate your active time with your work?

Levine is the brain behind the “treadmill desk” — a standing desk that is built around a treadmill and is designed to help office workers counteract the negative effects of sitting. “I analyzed the data [on the harmful effects of sitting all day] and thought the difference between someone who’s lean and someone who has obesity is 2 ¼ hours of walking time,” says Levine, who built the first treadmill desk prototype in 2005 out of a hospital tray and a $300 treadmill.

18fitness.600

In a recent study Mayo Clinic researchers estimate that overweight office workers who replace sitting computer time with walking computer time for two to three hours per day could lose 44 to 66 pounds a year (!!!) walking at a slow pace, without even breaking a sweat.

“I really wanted to maximize the amount of activity I do and integrate it into my day,” says Levine. The treadmill desk has benefits that go beyond the physical. “People feel more energized, productivity improves, people with back and joint problems get better, and people feel brighter,” says Levine.

I don’t think that I will be running out to buy a “treadmill desk” however this is defiantly food for thought (pardon the pun).

Steve Jobs’s Tips for Hiring Your A-Team -Jay Elliott

Define the requirements but don’t be rigid.
At first glance, this point will sound painfully obvious. But too often, the person doing the hiring hasn’t given enough thought to defining the need precisely enough. You might be interviewing the perfect person and not realize it. Or the person in charge of filling the position might be looking for the wrong type of candidate. Worse, you run a high risk of hiring the wrong person.

Steve always had a very clear grasp of the need. Yet at the same time, he was not at all rigid about what qualifications he was looking for. Sometimes his choices surprised me, when he saw something in a candidate hardly anyone else would have seen — something that told him, “This is the right person for the job.”

That’s what happened with Susan Kare. At her high school in Pennsylvania, Susan had known Andy Hertzfeld, who would become one of the early Mac team members. Steve was captivated by the “graphical user interface” he had seen at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center, which used icons on the screen to make routine operations obvious and easy; you use such an icon every time you drag something to the trashcan symbol.

Who was going to dream up those icons, and the other parts of a pleasing and easy-to-use onscreen design? Andy suggested Susan, whom he knew had become an accomplished artist. Almost any other executive in those circumstances would not have agreed to let Susan come in for an interview: She was a creative artist who knew nothing about technology. She had “not qualified” written all over her.

But Steve saw in her a spark, the ability to catch on quickly and the kind of creativity that suggested she would be able to offer the kind of inventive contributions Steve was committed to having. He decided that Susan’s talent, passion and flair were more important than the fact that her background in technology was a big blank. He accepted her as a key part of the Mac team.

Don’t limit your search to the usual methods.
Steve’s accepting invitations to lecture to classes at Stanford University became part of his routine. The students considered it a rare privilege to be able to discuss real-life business problems with an entrepreneur whose start-up company was already in the forefront of the new industry of personal computers. But it was a two-way street. Steve felt inspired and energized by the students. And everywhere he went, he had his antennae up to find likely candidates for the Macintosh group.

Mike Murray was a 20-something MBA student at one of those sessions. Steve spoke plainly about Apple and how we were trying to change the world with personal computers. That was all Mike needed to hear; he wanted to be part of it. Steve was impressed, and Mike was given the job of heading up the marketing group for the Mac.

Bob Bellville was 21 in the spring of 1981 and about to graduate from Stanford. For some eight years, he had been working at least part time at Xerox. Steve saw that Bob had a deep insight into how to build technology into a total product. Bob also had valuable insight into how a company should operate, which Steve liked. He saw a very smart engineer who had independent thought and technical leadership abilities.

Someone at Stanford gave Steve the name of Mike Boich, a former Stanford undergraduate who had gone on to earn an MBA at Harvard. Steve got in touch with Mike and hired him. It was Mike Boich who tackled one of the toughest challenges facing the Macintosh when it was launched, coining the word “evangelists” for people on the team he helped assemble: Their job was to persuade software developers to create software programs for the Mac, and it proved to be a very successful effort — so crucial that the Macintosh might not have survived without the evangelists.

Talented people know other talented people.
Steve often said, “Make sure you’re hiring only A-players.” Hire a few B-players, he said, and they hire B’s and C’s, and pretty soon the whole operation is going to pot. Obviously not everyone can afford to hire only A-players. So how do you find people who are exceptionally talented and a good fit? One of the greatest sources is your own employees. Really sharp people generally prefer the company of other really sharp people. When you need to hire someone, you ask the people on the team to recommend somebody they admire.

Getting Organized for the New Year

The final month of the year is here, a time of wrapping things up before the New Year rolls around. Even though the approaching holidays make this a busy time, consider taking a little time to look at the systems you use to stay organized, and see if you can improve them.

First, clear off your desk. It is easy to set things aside to deal with “later” until the desk is no longer visible under the stacks and piles that quickly accumulate. Go through the stacks, shred or throw away anything that is outdated or unnecessary, and file the rest in the appropriate place.

Clean out your paper files. Even with “paperless” systems becoming more common, most of us accumulate way more paper than we need, and much of it ends up in our file drawers. The end of the year is a good time to free up space in your files to make room for next year’s documents. Spend some time going through your file drawer and see if the papers in there are still necessary and relevant. Look through your files and shred or recycle what you no longer need.

While you’re in your file drawer, take a new look at how your filing system is set up, and make any changes that will help it work better for you in the future. Do the file names make sense? Are the tabs and folders clearly labeled? Are you trying to stuff too many documents in a slim hanging file, when a box-bottom file is a better fit? Now is a great time to change file names, re-label, and get the right supplies to improve the system.

If you look through your office supply cabinet, you will probably find that you have supplies hiding in there that have never been (and likely never will be) used. Free up space by getting rid of those things you either never used or just don’t need. Most non-profits are happy to take office supplies off your hands. You may even get a tax deduction for donating these supplies to a charity.

Finally, delete junk from your computer. Files stored on your computer may not take up room in your desk, but they can fill a hard drive surprisingly fast. Delete drafts and out-of-date versions of files if you no longer need them. Use the search tools on your computer to find duplicate files, and keep just the ones you need. Clean out your email inbox, then check your other folders and delete any messages that are no longer needed. These can take up a surprising amount of space! This is also a good time to run a disk cleanup and defragment if they don’t run automatically on a regular schedule.

Something Scary for Halloween

It was a dark and stormy night.

Working late, you had almost finished updating your customer database, when lightning struck, and the power went off. After what seemed an eternity of searching for flashlights and candles, the lights came back on. You turned on the computer, accessed the program to complete the job and hand…and found NO FILES in the database!  Was the information stored somewhere on a flash drive? Maybe, but when was the last time it was updated?

Data backup is a lot like flossing. We all know we really should do it, but we tend to forget about it more often than not. When you’re running a business, losing all your data – even on one computer – is a very high cost to pay for procrastination.

Backing up data is about repetition and reliability. Your data backup needs to run automatically and do the job well. Your data should be backed up in a single, reliable location. Instead of each computer having its own backup solution, it’s better to have a specific location backup. Often, a small office may designate one computer on the network to be a file server that the rest of the computers store files on. Ideally, the data on the file server computer should be backed up to an external drive to be stored off-site in case of a disaster at the office location. However, this computer is just as prone to failure as any of the other computers. Also, this computer will be on continuously as well as dealing with multiple file saving locations, and the drive will invariably fail faster.

The best way to convert to a more secure system is to set up a cloud-based syncing program. You may have an onsite backup hard drive; but when was the last time you checked to make sure it even worked? People often discover that the server or external hard drive that they’ve been backing up to has failed – and discover it while they’re trying to recover data.

Cloud backup doesn’t depend on the infallibility of a single computer. Once you have it set up on the computers you need to back up, you can just forget about it. Syncing is all automatic so you won’t have to deal with the possibility of forgetting a nightly backup or an employee forgetting to save to the backup server. One downside to relying entirely on cloud-based backup solutions is that you have to be connected to the internet for it to work. There are many options available for backing up data to “the cloud”, some are purchased by monthly or annual subscription based on the amount of data to be stored, while others are free for a limited amount of storage. This CNET article talks about some of the options available at http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-33153_7-57387515-10391733/reader-poll-whats-the-best-free-online-backup-solution/.

Customer Experience, don’t underestimate it!

I believe there are three ways a company can compete: price, product/service quality and customer experience. You could make more groups, but I think in the end it comes down to those three very important categories.

Competing on price can be tough on the bottom line especially for small businesses, but for companies that do it well (WalMart), it can lead to great financial success. Competing on the quality of our product is necessary, but it can be difficult for us to educate the marketplace on why ours is superior and why that means they should pay more for it. The customer experience, however, is something that we can make uniquely ours. The first two points we are trying to convince the customer why they should pay more for the product or service, but when it comes to the customer experience all we have to do is our job.  Think about how often you chose to do business – or not do business – with a vendor because of your experience with that company.  For example I love going to our local grocery store because I know all the cashiers, I can request the store stocks an item I would buy frequently, and they always answer my questions.  It is the service I get that keeps me going back because I can buy chips anywhere, I just can’t get that extra service with it.

How does a company deliver excellent, sustainable customer experience? I read about a great example recently, the companies name is MarcParcValet. MarcParcValet was recently named by the Washingtonian as a “2011 Best Wedding Vendor” for Valet and Transportation services. Like all the companies founded by Marc Slavin, MarcParcValet embraces the concept of not leaving the customer experience to chance.

Mike Jasser, the vice president of business development, shared a few of the actions and investments the company takes to create excellent, sustained customer experience:

1) Heavy Supervision. A dedicated supervisor and an event manager oversee the success of each event.

2) Recruiting. Applicants are initially processed by an online service called FastRecruiting. If they pass this initial screening, they are given an on-site interview and a driving test (including a manual transmission). After the interview and test, a background check is conducted (criminal record, driving record, references, etc.). If everything checks out, the candidate is sent an offer letter and is scheduled to attend MarcParc University.

3) Training. MarcParcValet has made a significant investment into the development of MarcParc University. An employee’s first day is spent going through four hours of training with a heavy focus on customer service. At the end of the training, the new employee must complete a written exam before he/she can be a concierge valet. Training doesn’t stop there; employees are trained continuously on MarcParcValet’s “people-first” philosophy and are encouraged to achieve “Silver” valet status.

How has it worked for MarcParcValet so far? Besides winning the Washingtonian award, the company provides service to over 1000 events a year, including such prestigious events as the National Gallery of Art’s 2010 Holiday Party. The Gallery praised MarcParcValet for providing their guests with “perfect” service.

What’s the take away? It’s not enough to just talk about how important the customer experience is for your company. You must invest in it.

Have any great examples of excellent, sustained customer service? How about sharing them as a comment below?