It’s About Time: Hacks to Make You More Like Warren Buffet

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If you had to assess the time you spend at your job or working on your business how efficient would you say you are?

It will come as no surprise to you that legendary businessmen like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are meticulous time managers, and that level of discipline is certainly something to aspire to, but if we’re being honest, most of us are still at a stage where we have some decent chunks of unproductive time in our days.

It can be difficult to make the leap from where you currently are to emulating Warren Buffet’s habits, but there are small changes you can make to yield big results. One of the most striking ideas around time management that I heard recently is centered around the idea of taking just 15 minutes a day and being super efficient with that time. If you do this every single day you actually gain 90 hours – or 2.25 work weeks – a year. When you think about the things you can accomplish in 2+ super focused weeks, the 15 minutes each day spent not checking emails or surfing the web seems like a small price to pay.

The habit of continually checking email and social media is a monumental time suck and makes efficiency practically impossible. Instead of being a slave to your notifications just turn them off and schedule in a few times a day to check your emails and other messages. Unless you’re in the middle of an actual crisis (as opposed to a perceived threat), no one is really going to care if there is a slight delay between when they sent their email and when you respond to it.

And then there’s trying to avoid anything that you know is a time suck: conference calls where your input is not needed, inefficient meetings, writing proposals…  Until you start questioning some of these things they might seem unavoidable (and granted, you may not be able to avoid ALL of them), but try looking at your schedule and get creative with your thinking. The first time an ad exec told me that his very successful firm rarely, if ever, wrote proposals, I was floored. So much of my time was spent doing just that, often for potential clients that never ended up signing with us.

After grilling this guy on his methods I made some big changes in my own company and saved myself thousands of hours over the years. Now, instead of being so quick to say yes to writing proposals, we work harder to pre-qualify people and we have a much better process of presentation, which often gets us to a yes without going through the whole bidding process. I don’t know if we ever would have changed had I not had that conversation, but in this case changing “the way it’s always been done” was really not a big deal, and was certainly a huge benefit.

So, go ahead and take a look at your own business. What conventions can you challenge and time can you save? Because after all, the old cliche about time being money is not inaccurate. And what business doesn’t need a little more of that on the bottom line?

 

Guided by Instinct

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The other day I got to talk to Seth Godin and it was awesome (the link to that interview is below). The way I got that opportunity had everything to do with stepping out of my comfort zone, and lessons learned in the process are so relevant to how you’re running your business today.

How do you run your business? Is everything you do based on data, numbers and empirical data or are you operating on a combination of instinct and cold, hard facts? I’d like to make the case for basing your decisions on both of these things. Numbers and charts without any nod to the “gut instinct” will never tell the whole story.

And the instinct could be wrong – no doubt about that – so it makes sense to have lots of arrows in your quiver: analytical evidence AS WELL AS “a good feeling” about something.

In my experience the world is never black and white. Any time I am faced with a tough situation and am not sure how to proceed I always look at the facts but then also like to hit “pause” and ask myself what my instincts are telling me to do. It’s very interesting, because so often I’ll get the urge to call a certain person or to hold off on sending an email. I can’t tell you how many times acting on these kinds of instincts have worked well for me.

The “why” behind this can’t necessarily be explained by science, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. I like to use the example of something most of us have experienced: thinking of someone “out of the blue” who you haven’t spoken to for a long time, and then within minutes that person is calling you. No logical explanation, yet it happens.

Those are the same “super powers” that can by used to apply to business if you’re willing to follow your instincts. If you’re feeling the urge to call one of your old clients for no logical reason, why not go ahead and do it. You probably have nothing to lose and you never know… that person might have been wanting to reach out to you anyway.

Or if you get the crazy idea to do something outside of your comfort zone and it feels right, why not go ahead and give it a try. That’s how I got to interview Seth Godin for my podcast. I’ve long been a fan of his, and the other day when one of his blog posts resonated strongly with me I had this weird instinct to reach out to him and ask him to be on my show.

And here’s the thing: I almost talked myself out of it! I heard these things going through my head:

“My show has a small listenership. He’ll never say yes.”

“He’s way too busy to talk to me.”

“He probably doesn’t even write, much less read, his own blogs.”

And on and on. That inner voice can be very negative and challenging sometimes! In this case, however, I heard the voice and made the conscious decision to reach out to Seth anyway and was so thrilled when he said yes. Interviewing him was one of the highlights of my podcast – so far – and was a lot of fun, too. I think it’s a great example how listening to instinct over logic can serve us well, and how stepping out of the comfort zone is the best (only) way to grow.

If you’d like to hear Seth’s interview here’s the link to the podcast page. You’ll also find links to subscribe to the show from your favorite service. Please do. I’m really passionate about this show and amazing guests are lining up to come on. I think you’ll really enjoy the authors, thought leaders and sports stars that will be sharing their stories with us in the coming weeks.

Thanks for taking the time to read this story and the next time you get the sudden urge to do something crazy but potentially beneficial in your business, listen to it. Your inner voice may say, “But what if you fail?”

And your answer must be,  “Ah. But what if I am successful beyond anything I could have imagined?”

 

 

Do I Know You?

How well do you know your customers, really? Do they tell you one thing while they’re thinking something else entirely? Are they reacting to the offerings that you’re bringing to the table and neglecting to tell you what they really want? Do they even know what they want?

These are questions that many of us forget or neglect to ask when it comes to our customers. Taking the time to not just get to know those customers but to understand their problems and issues with “out of the box” thinking is what sets you apart from every other salesperson who comes calling.

Read between the lines, ask the tough questions and consider how you could tweak your approach or your offerings to make their life just a little bit easier. When you do this not only are you deepening that relationship with the client but you’re also going to be providing a service that is ultimately more valuable, leaving you in a position as a trusted and strategic partner, moving forward.

So instead of listening to only what is said the next time you meet with your client, tune into your intuition and listen to what it’s saying about what is really going on. And ask the tough questions…

WHY does that matter to you?

HOW do you want to be perceived by your customers? WHY?

WHAT is it that really “lights you up” about your business? WHICH parts are you most passionate about and most drawn to?

Once you start connecting with your customers and clients on this new authentic level that is when everything starts to change. At the end of the day you can never go wrong by committing to become more real.

Up For the Challenge

How are you – as a business owner, entrepreneur, wife, husband, daughter, friend, employee – challenging yourself today? How are you getting smarter, more successful, and better than you were yesterday?

Are you getting by with the same old same old, or are you being very deliberate about your growth and development? The good news is, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Here is what has worked for tens of thousands of people who have gone before you:

  1. Find a mentor. Find someone you really admire who is better than you – smarter, richer and living a life that you admire. Find a person like that who is willing to teach and guide you, then take the time to truly appreciate them and listen to what they have to say. When you find such a person make sure you realize their worth and tell them frequently how much you appreciate their time and help. A good mentor can easily make the difference between you staying stuck and getting to where you really want to be.
  2. Get some good books. Embrace reading .- or audio books or podcasts – as an opportunity to get smarter and to get an edge over your competitors and others who are in the proverbial room. Reading and learning helps to keep your creative juices flowing too, so be sure to dedicate time every day to this practice.
  3. Examine your habits and figure out which ones are not serving you well. Which habits are bad for your health, are unproductive or even harmful? Which habits do you need to shed and which other ones should you be cultivating? If you can make good habits as much of a no-brainer as brushing your teeth you’re going to start seeing tangible results, pretty much guaranteed.
  4. Rub shoulders with the upper crust. If you aspire to be more successful, richer and more influential than you are now, it’s important to start associating with people of the caliber you wish to become. Please don’t take this as permission to be a fake friend or a “social climber” but do take note of who you’re spending time with. Create and cultivate real friendships with people you actually like, but also think about doing this somewhat strategically. If you want to be an artist you’re probably going to be more successful if you start hanging out with other artists and get into the circles of buyers and gallery owners. The same goes for almost every other industry I can think of.
  5. Think good thoughts. You have to teach yourself to focus on positive, not negative, thoughts. Learn to imagine life as you would like it to be, and not focus on the problems at hand. When you do this you’ll be much quicker to shift your energy into being productive, and you’ll also turn into a kind of magnet for others who will show up and want to do business with you, or help you out in some way. All of that positive energy will make you practically irresistible!

The Essence of Business? It’s the People.

Small business people  understand that cash flow, policies, and the company’s focus are all directly tied to actual people. Larger companies, however, seem to often forget this fact.

“I’m just a paper pusher.”

“I have to keep my team efficient and make our numbers.”

“Our bottom line is better this year so management is happy.”

In thinking about business, work and careers it’s easy to narrowly focus on your role, responsibilities and metrics for success. This tendency may be amplified if you work for a government agency or large company.

And yes, those metrics are important, but what if you start thinking about your job in broader terms – in terms of the lives of people that you (yes, you) are directly affecting?

Business is ultimately about people. Not just the people at the top. Not only the owners, CEO’s, presidents and the folks with the corner offices. Not just the people who work at a particular company. It’s about all of those people, of course, but in reality is about much more than that.

This “ripple effect” is far-reaching and it’s both real and important.

The often forgotten mass of those affected by the actions of the employees of “Comany A” are people who work for and with companies that do business with the main company. Too often I’ve seen representatives of large organizations adopting a lackadaisical attitude when it comes to processing invoices or approving purchase orders. Taking weeks or months to get that paperwork through might not seem like a big deal to the state employee or to the corporate VP. After all, their paychecks are probably not directly affected by this. But the fact is, to the little guy – the one feeling the ripple down effect – those actions might make the difference between being able to afford groceries or not.

The consequences of our actions are not always immediately apparent to us but that doesn’t mean they aren’t real, both in life and in business. Even seemingly mundane tasks can make a big difference in someone else’s life. Yes, all of the business metrics are important and we have to fill out reports and other paperwork, but ultimately it’s the people who matter. Real people with real lives. It matters that invoices are processed quickly. It matters that lab results are reported correctly.

It matters that someone does their job right the first time, not just to please your boss but because somewhere down the line you’re touching someone else’s life. And what could be more important than that?

How Does Your Money Flow?

Money, in and of itself, has no value. In order to mean anything it has to circulate. It must flow.

I had an interesting conversation the other day that I want to share with you. I was talking with a woman who is a professional writer and she was telling me about her early career where she was a single mom struggling with money. She described how she was forced to buy the most basic necessities, and how, as a side effect of that, her kids learned the value of money and of working hard.

But what was really interesting about the conversation was when she told me that during that challenging time in her life she was always volunteering to bring food in for food drives or for church functions, how she’d bake brownies for school or donate to local charities. All of that from someone who had nothing, yet somehow they always had enough.

In fact, she told me that the only time she literally couldn’t make ends meet was after she started questioning her generosity and when she had made a decision to stop giving so much.

It’s ironic, but I’ve experienced the exact same thing, as have countless other people, I am sure. I know that for myself, every time I give (even when I feel like I can’t afford to be doing so), I always end up receiving more wealth in some form or another. I might pick up a new client who I wasn’t expecting to approach me, or I might get a forgotten about tax credit in the mail. However the money come back it happens, in one way or another, without fail, and I really do find it very interesting.

In order for money to come to you it also has to flow out. In order to experience being abundant or wealthy you also have to give, spend and act generously. Of course, you don’t always have to do this with money – time, expertise and even sharing a kind word are certainly other ways to give – and they leave you feeling good.

When you hold too tightly to money (or anything else for that matter), you never get to truly experience its goodness or full potential. And guess what? The same principles apply to business, too. On a very base level the whole purpose behind any business is to serve, to help support the employees and others who benefit in some way from the existence of the business. It is not only about (or should not be, anyway) getting the highest number in the bank account.

In my opinion it is bigger than that. And of course money and profits are hugely important, but they’re not as important as the lives that are impacted by the business and by the positivity that it has the power to spread. At the end of the day we are all in this thing called life together, at least at some level.

So, let the money flow for good causes, for helping your employees, vendors and others achieve financial freedom. Become prosperous so you can fully enjoy life, but share in that prosperity too because that is where the real value, joy and meaning ultimately comes from.

 

The Only Thing You Need to Know

The single most important ingredient for growing any business is the creation of customers who are so happy that they tell your friends about you. That’s it, plain and simple. But how many companies lose sight of this critical element and focus instead on any number of other things: cutting corners, increasing profits, beating the competition…

But what it really comes down to is this one thing. If you can find a way to make sure your customer feels special, feels heard and feels well-served then tell me, how easy is it going to be for your competitor to steal that customer away? Probably not very easy at all, because people will pay a little more and will even go out of their way for a company and a brand that they feel “gets” them and treats them well.

This type of thinking has led people to be able to successfully create restaurants and other businesses that are miles from the nearest town, yet people will go out of their way to go there because of the way it makes them feel once they arrive. It’s also one of the key reasons that some companies succeed while those right next door to them do not.

While building customer loyalty is a long game, more marathon than sprint, it’s also well worth the investment. Customers who are valued and who feel connected are much less likely to chase the next shiny object that comes by, and that’s true even in a world of ever-shortening attention spans.

So, what can you do today to say thank you to your customers, to let them know you care? Give it a try and see what happens. You might be very pleasantly surprised.

Stronger Together

Indisputable Truth: The solution to a problem is often right in front of you but cannot be teased out without some creativity and thought.

I recently participated in a workshop where we were presented with a problem involving rare pheasant eggs. This supplier has a certain price that he needs to get for his eggs, as there is a limited supply and his boss is pressuring him to come back with at least a certain dollar amount. Three buyers come forward with offers on the eggs but none are offering enough to satisfy the boss’ requirements.

One buyer wants only some of the eggs because a limited amount of the shells for a pharmaceutical product his company produces. Another buyer wants to sell the eggs in very high end restaurants where they are made into a special meringue-like delicacy and the other buyer wants to buy all the eggs for a nutritional supplement that his company makes, but he is not authorized to spend as much as the seller needs to receive.

Negotiations ensue but are guaranteed lukewarm success unless one thing happens. Have you guessed it yet? It’s a creative solution and requires a level of cooperation, but because all the buyers actually need a different part of the eggs, it is feasible that everyone could work together to get what they want and the seller can over-deliver to his boss on the money front, thereby guaranteeing himself a nice fat bonus.

Now, before some smarty pants comments on this blog about any technical reason that the above scenario couldn’t work, I ask you to please not bother. That really isn’t the point. I’m not an expert on eggs, nor do I wish to be, but what I do know about is strategic partnerships and cooperation. And after I started to change my business strategy to that of a lone wolf to an expert collaborator and partner, everything really start to shift for me in a very positive direction.

Any small to medium sized business person will tell you: life can be very lonely when you’re trying to run your business. You most likely have limited resources and are wearing a few too many hats. And trying to carve out your slice of the pie in a crowded marketplace can prove to be very challenging, to say the least.

This is where strategic partners can come in and become an important part of your high-level plan for sales and growth. If you can identify other businesses with complimentary products or services to your own, and come up with a plan that both sides benefit by, it becomes an attractive prospect to consider. Sure, it may take come creativity as in the egg example, and you may even find yourself working together with one-time rivals, but if you’re open to experiencing the magic of partnerships and collaboration you may quickly see how your influence can quickly extend to a whole new sphere of people that you may not have had access to before.

Now, of course I probably don’t need to explain to you what the word “strategic” means. Partnerships of any kind are never something that I would enter into lightly. There are a million reasons why they may not work, and whenever you do anything like this, I would strongly suggest a lawyer looks over any agreements that you decide to abide by.

But for all of the potential headache or risk, I would still contend that strategic partnerships are well worth exploring. If you can find other companies whose services dovetail or compliment your own, and either become an affiliate seller of those services, or if the two of you agree to team up and work together you will most likely find that your company is quickly getting in front of customers that you would not have been able to serve on your own. And in that exposure lies enormous potential and opportunity for growth – for both you and your partners. And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

 

 

Take Little Steps or Keep Standing Still?

How many excuses do you think there are for not starting a business, or launching a new venture or initiative?

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this number may be one of those ad infinitum situations. Excuses are easy to come by, but excuses don’t build dream companies, nor do they create change in anyone’s life. So, if there is some idea that has been nagging at you, some creative idea you want to explore or a new business that is fueling you with a passion, today may be the day to flip the switch and start turning your dream into reality.

Whoa. I hear those voices in your head and that cacophony of reasons why you can’t do that thing you really want to do just hit me hard.

“But I don’t know how.”

“I’m not sure how to get started.”

“I don’t know if there is a market.”

“I’m not experienced enough.”

“Someone else is already doing this (bigger, better, etc.)…”

 

What if I fail?  A million phrases like these prevent the majority of people from ever starting anything, but I’m sure that we can also agree that anything that currently exists was started from nothing. How many startups began in garages, coffee shops, bedrooms?

How many people just got on with it and figured it out?

See, I believe that it is not necessary to have every step of your journey mapped in advance. In fact, I think that knowing all those steps up front is practically impossible. Sure, you can plan and strategize, but you’re never going to be able to accurately predict every detail of your journey, and believe me, even if you could do that it wouldn’t be wise.

If you really knew up front how everything was going to play out, where would be the room for spontaneity, for miraculous serendipities and coincidences, for things to turn out far better than you were even imagining?

I think that, rather than waiting until you think you have the “how” all figured out, that a better strategy is just to start. Start by figuring out what success looks like – what your vision is, and decide that “this or something better” is what you’re going to create.

Then the fun begins and it’s just a matter of taking little steps towards your goals. Figure out small “bite size” things that you can do to support your dream on a daily basis. You might call someone up to ask advice, or put up a simple website. You might send out ten emails and follow up with calls. You might do a free talk or offer a class to your community. Maybe you start a blog or just start talking about your new venture and watch who starts showing up to support you. When you start to see the journey as the fun part you begin to shift your whole attitude. Instead of focusing on how far you are from the top of the mountain and how many thousands of steps it’s going to take to get there, you begin to see the whole trek as an adventure of epic proportions, and rather than dreading the start you begin looking forward to whatever lies before you.

This, my friend, is how great adventures begin and how great businesses are born – with an inspired idea and a determination to make it work. But please, whatever you do, don’t forget to enjoy the journey and to stay open to new opportunities along the way. You’ll be amazed at what starts to show up.

Good luck and bon voyage!

What’s Your End Game?

 

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In the game of business as in life it’s imperative that you have goals and I think that it’s fair to say that most people have at least a vague sense of what those goals are. But the problem is, it’s hard if not impossible to be laser focused on where you’re going if your goals are little more than a fuzzy idea or a wistful daydream.

Now, I know that many of our readers are business men and women who may be sitting there smugly thinking, “I know the answer to this one. My goal is to make X dollars this quarter with profit margin of at least X percent.”

Well… that’s not exactly what I’m getting at either. Sure, numbers are part of it, but if you’re designing a business and a life that is really going to work for you then your end goals are going to have to be more meaningful than just numbers. You’re going to have to start thinking about what you really value in life and work on designing how you’re going to get that.

Let me give you an example. My friend Karen has built a successful business and she always has a very good handle on her cash flow, balance sheets and all of that. But one of the core values that she held near and dear from the very inception of her business was that time was what she wanted most of all. She committed to only working in the office from the very beginning of her business, and she continues this practice to this day.

On the days she’s not in the office Karen may be networking, speaking, or otherwise advancing her business. But she may also be out with friends, swimming or at a charity function. Her business is thriving and she has designed this life for herself because she was very intentional about what she wanted.

So, in order for you to welcome the highest level of success (however you choose to measure it) into your own life and business, you’re going to have to figure out what is most important to you. If your dream is to live in Hawaii, then focus your attention on making that happen. If you aspire to have a huge sum of money in the bank then you’re going to have a different focus and you’ll be making different choices then someone else whose big desire is to go on a big international trip every year.

Whatever your core values and big dream is, make sure it resonates with you and then structure your activities so they all support you attaining that thing it is that you really want. When you step into fully being aligned with your purpose not only will you succeed better and faster, but you’ll also have far fewer regrets than the person who puts off what they really want until the ever-elusive “someday”.