The Cobbler’s Kids Have No Shoes

Is it easier for you to promote yourself or would you prefer someone else do it?  If you are like me, you’d really prefer someone else do it.  That has become a problem for us since that is what our business Turn Lane Consulting provides for our clients – but we have not been focused on doing it for ourselves.   Recently, we decided that we would like 1-2 more clients needing to outsource some or all of their marketing to us on an ongoing basis.  In effort to do that, I have been reaching out more to my network for leads and referrals.  What I discovered – or probably knew all along but didn’t want to admit– is that people don’t really know how to refer business to Turn Lane Consulting unless they have hired us in the past.  They are not completely clear as to what we do – not good.  What is business development consulting anyway?

I kept hearing, “I am not really clear about what you do,” so I decided that maybe it was time for the cobbler (Turn Lane) to give the kids (my website) some new shoes and step up our own marketing. Practice what you preach – right?  We help clients:

  • Identify their core strengths and value proposition
  • Differentiate themselves in the market
  • Build their brand
  • Communicate effectively to their audience
  • Build clean websites
  • Develop & implement strategic and marketing plans

So why were we not doing that well for ourselves?  Why did the cobbler’s kids have no shoes?  The answer is complex.  The cobbler’s kids did have shoes – but not the best shoes.  In part, we have been busy serving our clients, and working on a few labor-of-love type projects that have distracted us temporarily. If I were my own client I would say, “those are excuses.”  The truth is that doing this for ourselves isn’t as easy as it is for our clients because we are too close to it – just like you are too close to your business to see it objectively.

Finally, I admitted to being STUCK and sought a third party objective view point.  Angela Loeb, of InSync Resources Consulting helped me identify our value proposition and the holes in conveying those in our marketing.  While Angela is best known for her work as a career coach, her gift is helping people see their own value proposition and how best to present it.  In just two hours we were moving forward.  Thanks Angela.

Let’s face it – it doesn’t matter how good you are, there is great value in being able to see your business and yourself through the eyes of another.  That knowledge is powerful.  When used effectively it can generate positive profound change in the business.  Feedback is not always easy to hear but is necessary in maximizing your potential.

If you need some new shoes we would be happy to help you get them fitted!

Turn Lane Consulting works with businesses, organizations and leaders to help them discover what is in their blind spot and how to utilize that information to build better systems, more efficient work environments and more profitable companies.

From Good to Great: A relatively easy step

Patti DeNucci’s book The Intentional Networker is a delightful read for the seasoned networker or those new to networking.  Her book is full of great tips, humorous stories, and practical advice.  Visit the book’s website at http://www.intentionalnetworker.com/ 

Patti is an author, speaker and entrepreneur and her company’s website can be found at http://www.denucciandcompany.com/ 

This is a Repost from Patti DeNucci’s Intentional Networker blog at http://www.intentionalnetworker.com/category/blog/:

Ever notice that the people who need help or enlightenment the most are often the least likely to: a) know they need it and b) seek it out?

My friend Nishi Whiteley of Turn Lane Consulting and I compared notes on this today. After reading my book, The Intentional Networker, and giving it a thumbs up, Nishi said, “Patti, the people who read your book are probably the ones who are already pretty good at networking, but they’ve decided they want to be really great networkers.”

Sounded like a reasonable theory to me.

Likewise, I noted that the business owners most likely to hire Nishi for her business development expertise and objective guidance are probably the people who already run pretty good businesses, but they’ve chosen to run and grow really great businesses.

The pattern was obvious. Whether you’re talking about networking more intentionally or building a thriving business, it seems to be a more difficult stretch to move from “mediocre to good” than to progress from “good to great.” We wondered why.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle might be overcoming the blind spots that keep people and businesses in states of perpetual average-ness. Or maybe it’s a momentum thing. Once you know what you don’t know, it’s easier to take the steps to move forward.

Whatever the case, where do you see yourself? Whether it’s your networking, your business, your career, or even your tennis game or your ability to cook a great meal. Are you blindly stuck in a state of not knowing? Oblivious to how much better you can be? Or are you past that; knowing you can improve and taking the steps, even the small ones, that will move you from good to great?

See the original post at: http://www.intentionalnetworker.com/2011/10/from-good-great-relatively-easy-step/

Storytime

During the Fourth of July weekend, my family and another family went fishing in Rockport, Texas.  It was so HOT that we decided to spend our days at the beach or the movie house and our nights fishing on the pier.

We had two grandparents, three parents, an aunt, a fiancé and three kids (two boys ages five, ten and a sixteen year old girl) in tow to the pier.   The boys play well together –  except when the younger one gets a bit tired.  When that time came, I opened my big mouth and offered to tell them a story.  How many times have you offered up something in your business and realized what you had said after the words left you mouth?  Well, there I was… It was time to perform.

Both boys got as close to me as they possibly could get.  And, under the fluorescent light on the Copono Bay Pier I told story after story after story.  The ocean breeze and the sound of the waves made a great backdrop for my extemporaneous (totally made up BS that I literally pulled out of thin air) story hour.

For a brief moment I suddenly became afraid of my audience.  Four eyes peered up at me with great expectations about what I was going to say.  So I began…. “Arlen of the Forest”….   The hero of the story was a little boy who was able to speak with the plants and animals of the forest.  His super power was that he could get those plants and animals to do anything necessary when evil forces were in play.

I will spare you the full detail of each story (although they were pretty good if I do say so myself).  Midway through the first story I thought to myself, “How could I possibly tell a story that would be interesting enough to keep their attention?  Would they be so bored that they would walk away in mid-sentence?”  As I warmed up with Arlen of the Forest, I realized that my imagination was fully available to me and that each story was a blank canvas.  Then it became a fun game to see how many wonderful life lessons I could weave into these crazy stories of adventure and intrigue. Instead of trying so hard to impress the kids, I let the stories flow.

The more I got into the groove, the stories seemed to flow from me with each one better than the last.  Franklin the Flashlight made children feel safe in the dark.  He came to life just before bedtime to keep the children entertained with light shows and shapes on the ceiling until they fell asleep.  Twin brothers Tickle and Pickle discovered on a family vacation that they could speak and live underwater and how important our oceans and marine life are.  Tommy the Surfing Lion and Bimber the Jumping Jellyfish came from two different worlds but became great friends as they learned to play off of each others strengths realizing they were stronger together than alone.  And lastly there was Mr. Fuffernuffin the Baking Rooster – I can’t remember him as I was exhausted at this point.

But the kids LOVED it!  They laughed and asked for more.  The older of the two even went and shared the stories with his mom and sister.

I have noticed with my clients that when we have the courage to share the most outrageous solutions, craziest suggestions and tap into our creativity and let our imaginations flow miraculous things begin to happen.  Although business is a serious game, there are real benefits to being more playful or childlike when it comes to visioning, planning, problem solving and marketing.  Offering up wild answers to the question, “What If?”, is a wonderful way to brainstorm.

My dear friend and colleague Dianna Amorde of Inspired Leap Consulting frequently writes about the importance of using our “wise mind” versus the traditional left brain thinking.  In her book Aha! Moments – When Intellect & Intution Collide she explains that the wise mind is the combined use of left brain or more analytical/logical thought, combined with the more intuitive/creative qualities of the right brained.  She says that by playing more, we open ourselves up to more inspired action and highly productive thinking/action.

Imagination, playfulness and creativity are NOT traditional business words – (unless you work for a toy company or an ad agency), but they should be.  A very wise client helped me discover the importance of fun in business.  In our first meeting he said that he wanted me to help him figure out how to make working in his engineering firm more fun.  Through working with him, I discovered that laughter is a great barrier breaker and team builder.  Ultimately we agreed to a one-day company strategic planning meeting.  The first half of the day was devoted to learning and team building through play and the second half to planning.  Several people commented that they couldn’t remember when they laughed so much.  Our laughter and freedom to be creative and imaginative gave way to exceptional planning and goal setting that would otherwise been impossible had we not engaged both sides of our brain.  The results for this company were profound.  They experienced more profit and better morale instantly.

What wonderful story would you like to create for your business?

How are Dancing and Running a Business Alike?

I was in the sixth grade when I learned to dance.  My parents took my sister and I, along with their dear friends the Wilsons and their two sons dancing at the SPJST hall in Round Rock, Texas.  We thought we were hot stuff to be at dancehall while most of our contemporaries were at home watching re-runs of Saturday Night Live or playing Pong on their Atari.

I remember all four of us kids laying on the edge of the dance hall floor laughing and giggling and trying to figure out how everyone was moving their feet.  Not too long after that, our parents arranged for us and several of our friends to have our own two-step and jitterbug class.  We would meet at the elementary school cafeteria where many of us had gone to kindergarten.  Oh, we had so much fun.

We learned how to initiate the dance, stand, hold our bodies, lead, follow, and navigate the other people (who were more like obstacles) on the dance floor.  Although our first class probably wasn’t very pretty in terms of style, we improved with every class.  I can imagine our mothers laughter as they peeked around the corner watching us try to navigate our way through the mechanics of the two-step.

Through the different twists, turns and dips our instructor would remind us to stop watching our feet.  “Look up!  You cannot navigate the dance floor if you are looking at your feet!”  Truer words have never been spoken.   Those words are as true in business and life in general as they were back then on the dance floor.

On our next family outing to the SPJST hall, we had so much fun dancing and trying new things.  The more we danced the better dancers we became and the more fun we had.  Before long the dance moves became second nature.

As I reflect on those good times it dawns on me that there are many business lessons in what seemed back then to be simply a good time.  Here are a few that are top of mind:

  1. Always look up and ahead so you can be fully informed about your next move.  Looking at your feet is short-sighted and will lead to a series of tiny, poorly executed moves.
  2. The leader’s job is to be firm and decisive as well as thoughtful so the follower can do so with ease.  A good leader makes it enjoyable for everyone by bringing out the best in the follower.
  3. Followers excel when they can trust the leader.  Otherwise, there will always be a power struggle.
  4. Mistakes will be made.  Learn from them and move on.  Everyone makes mistakes – it is simply part of the learning process.
  5. Don’t take yourself too seriously.  If you can relax, have some fun and not let your ego get in the way, great things will happen.

Don’t Kill The Baby

Every one of us who has loved a product, idea or service enough to start a business around it knows that it is your baby.  In the last 18 years I have watched hundreds of people bring the baby to life and then kill it.  Few of their babies have turned into thriving businesses.

In the planning phase or the gestation period, you plan, dream and sacrifice for the baby to give it everything so that it may become all that it can be.  Opening the business is like the birth of a child.  You are happy and excited but also terrified!  But no matter what, you cannot help but be optimistic about how your new baby/venture will grow.

Now comes the hard part….letting others love, nurture, feed, diaper, teach and discipline the baby.  The most successful entrepreneurs are able to let others care for the baby as much as they do themselves.  They realize at some point that they cannot raise this child on their own.  Being a single parent is rarely ideal and can be exhausting and all consuming.  Just ask your favorite single mom.  Raising your baby with the expert experienced support of others who share your enthusiasm for the baby results in more and better care being given to the baby’s growth and development.  I can promise you that NOT one great business leader has EVER made it to the top on their own.  Building a business is a TEAM sport.  (I am not screaming – just raising my voice.)

Many of my clients have struggled with letting others be a part of raising their baby.  They are so passionate about their business that they think no one else is qualified to handle caring for it in the same way that they would.  Those who are able to overcome this are more likely to build a thriving business that will make it past its infancy.  In fact, entrepreneurs who are able to let others participate in caring for the baby then have time to work on their business instead of in their business which makes it possible to focus on the big picture.  Those who are not able to overcome their need to control every aspect of the baby’s care thwart the baby’s growth or end up killing the baby all together.

What can a business owner do to prevent this from happening?  Here are 5 things entrepreneurs can do to keep their baby alive and have a chance for thriving:

  1. Seek input, observations, ideas and solutions from others.  For many entrepreneurs this is really difficult.  The reasons for that are a discussion for another blog post.  Employees, customers, suppliers and even friends and family are rich sources of information. They can help you see what is in your blind spot if you are willing to listen. If you do not know where to start, cannot make the time or this is hard for you, consider hiring a third party to gather this information.  Our clients have benefited greatly from the insights we gathered by talking to their customers and employees.
  2. Engage your employees in the problem solving process.  Brainstorming with employees at all levels creates a sense of teamwork.  People feel engaged in the process and therefore care more about being a part of the solution.
  3. Hire people who LOVE to do the things that you do not and get out of their way so they can do their job.  Too often entrepreneurs micromanage their people.  It is true that no one is going to do something exactly the way that you are going to do it.  And so what if they don’t?   They may very well do it better.  Is the world going to come to an end?  Hire competent people.  Give them excellent direction and the tools they need to do their job and then leave them to it!  Nothing kills engagement, motivation and the baby quicker than micro-managing.
  4. Have a shared vision.  When employees know what the company’s vision, mission and goals are they will work to achieve them.  However if the “end-game” is not so clear then they will not work as hard.  Whether you are a young restaurant that needs to increase sales by $10K a month or a semi-conductor manufacturer that needs to improve productivity by 5%, your employees will help you get there if they know where “there” is.  Better yet, go back to points 1 and 2 above and engage them in creating the plan of action to execute the vision, mission and goals.
  5. Have processes.  So many of my clients have found that when they create a system or a process for the repetitive parts of the business, they become more efficient and flexible.  This also reduces the dependence on one person’s knowledge or skill.  One of my clients realized an immediate 4% increase in profitability, a decrease in 3-5 hours a week of overtime for 3 of their 12 personnel and a huge decrease in internal strife because their system made it possible for everyone to know where they were in the project.  They stopped recreating the wheel, duplicating efforts and miscommunications and started working together.  Additionally, they started having some fun and found that clients were infinitely more satisfied with their performance and customer service.

Letting others love your baby is not always easy.  But as every parent knows, the more people you have to love your baby, the better chance your baby has at thriving!

Turn Lane Consulting works with businesses, organizations and leaders to help them discover what is in their blind spot and how to utilize that information to build better systems, more efficient work environments and more profitable companies.

Blind Spot

The dictionary defines a blind spot as an area or a subject about which one is uninformed, prejudiced, or unappreciative; an area where signals are weak and reception is poor.

Have you ever tried to change lanes only to hear the loud blaring of a horn?  When you move back into your lane, you realize that another vehicle was in your blind spot.  Not only did you have NO idea they were there, your lack of awareness almost cost you and the other driver dearly, and most certainly scared everyone half to-death. Everyone around you could see what was happening but you.  If you had seen the car in the other lane, wouldn’t you have made a different choice?

Often my clients find the same is true in business.  Valuable information lies within the blind spot.  When a company or a leader has the courage or foresight to discover what is in the blind spot, they are rewarded with information for enhanced decision making.  As we all know information is power.

My clients have different reactions to exploring their blind spot. It can be threatening, exhilarating, comforting, puzzling and so on, but no matter how you slice it, discovering what exists within your blind spot will be rewarding if you have the courage to look. Our clients have discovered many different things that allowed them to improve their business.

Discoveries have included: a) an owner who had no idea his right hand person had a particular skill set in a different area than that which they were originally tasked.  If focused in the new area, they could generate efficiency and savings for the company and the employee would be much happier; b) the company that was known for subpar work in one of the key areas of service but exceptional in another; c) the business website was hard to navigate and resulted in lost business; d) and the non-profit organization whose marketing message was not resonating with the target audience.

The best thing about discovering what is in your blind spot is that once you know what is there you can do something about it.  Take the restaurateur who spends his life savings building the eatery of his dreams.  Everything is perfect except one thing: the food.  In the end he goes out of business because no one told him there was a problem. He thought all was well.  When he asked customers about the food, they told him it was good.  They lied!  They lied probably to protect his feelings because he was so hospitable. In the end, his blind spot killed his business and his dream.

Although he asked the right question, he didn’t allow people to give him the information in a way that was safe for them to be honest and tell him what he needed to know.  There are many ways to explore your own blind spot.  Begin with asking the right questions of the right people in a way that makes it possible for them to be honest with you. There are so many great and easy ways to do that now.  We help people to utilize on-line surveys, suggestions boxes, social media, focus groups, polling, 360 assessments, other consultants and to look at what your competiton is doing.

Whatever resides in your business blind spot, I can assure you that it is an opportunity to create operating efficiencies, better work environments, improve profitability and build an overall more prosperous and sustainable organization!  What is in your blind spot?

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