Who Has Time for Projects?

May 31st, 2009

Typically no one; however, it is critical to make the time. In our current, turbulent economic times, it is all the more essential to prioritize your activities and focus on key projects. I hear the comments all the time – we reduced staff and don’t have the time, we are struggling to get our normal jobs done and don’t have the time for extra work, etc. So, why is it so important? Many times, the quickest path to increasing productivity, profitability and cash flow is to get the right group of people together to focus on a priority activity that will directly relate to driving profit to the bottom line.

For example, throughout my career, greater than 80% of the most successful activities that directly impacted business performance were the direct result of a project. At first, I thought it was surprising that I haven’t seen more examples of solely individual successes (including my own) that impacted the bottom line. I believe this demonstrates the value of a team effort towards a common purpose – and typically delivering bottom line business results involves multiple functions, partners (suppliers, customers etc), etc. Thus, think about reprioritizing your activities and/or learning more about project management – what is most impactful to your organization and for your career path?

Why Does 2 + 2 = 7?

May 27th, 2009

From a relationship, alliance and marketing perspective, 2 + 2 = 7 or you shouldn’t pursue it! What in the world am I talking about?

We can waste an incredible amount of time working on marketing ideas and business partnerships and alliances where 2 + 2 = 4. Why bother? If you aren’t going to significantly better your results, why invest time, resources and potentially money into something that is likely to turn out as a negative return on investment when everything is considered? For example, I pursued a potential business alliance that would be the equivalent of each of us contributing the effort of $1 in order to make $2. What’s worse is that I also spent considerable time and wasted energy in the process. With that said, there are times when I still deliberately follow this course if I’m not sure whether it could turn into $7. OR if I am getting enjoyment or some other benefit from the process – money is definitely not all that matters.

On the other hand, I’ve recently had several examples of 2 + 2 = 7. I’m extremely glad I took the opportunity to pursue those alliances/ marketing ideas, as they delivered! I spent much of the Memorial Day weekend working on website updates, and if it wasn’t for the valuable input/ feedback of a relatively new friend and business alliance partner, Andrea, I could easily have spent twice as much time to achieve half the results. Another example relates to a friend from my most recent consulting project, K: we have kept in touch, and I’ve driven 3-4hrs round trip (in bad traffic) on multiple occasions to have lunch and keep in touch. One might wonder if I was off my rocker in terms of time management – and I think some did; however, my friendship and business association has definitely turned 2 + 2 = 7. She is not only a valued friend but she has also helped me overcome what seemed like insurmountable obstacles (isn’t it funny how they usually seem that way at the time?) on numerous occasions. I have not typically been known for pure creativity (re-application in new ways, seeing trends and hidden opportunities I can do, but I’ve typically left pure creativity to the experts). Therefore, I panicked when I had to develop a new graphic for my first case study – had no idea in the world where to start. I might as well have been trying to write in Russian. So, I called my friend and asked for help – of course, she not only helped me think through the process but also had a key benefit to add to another section of the case study that I had overlooked. Since leaping over the first hurdle, I suddenly had the ability to develop the next set of graphics on my own. I could give you at least a 1000 examples….

Have you considered re-thinking how to create an environment where 2 + 2 = 7 for you or your business?

Should we Follow OLD Yet Timeless Advice?

May 21st, 2009

Why not get advice from the best? I’ve been fortunate to have several conversations with a successful investment banker / turnaround expert who is 92 years old. He had a 100% success ratio – why bother asking anyone else? Of course, since I had the opportunity to ask about his secrets to success, I took my opportunity to find out how he achieved such a fantastic track record. Interestingly, his advice was largely common sense but obviously overlooked by all the companies he worked with and/or recommended for purchase/ turnaround. I’ll discuss a few of his tips in future blog posts; however, recently he mailed me an obviously old, beat up laminated card with a few business tips. He was inspired by reading my newsletter and thought I might be interested. In the cover letter, he said that he used these consistently in his past and believes they are most likely as true today as then. When someone with his success rate not only carries the laminated card around while working deals but also saves it for YEARS and YEARS and then sends it to you, it is a treasure.

On one side of the card is the following advice on “How to Handle a Problem”. The high level is as follows: Determine objective. 1) Get the facts 2) Weigh and Decide 3) Take action 4) Check results. On the other side of the card, it is labeled “Job Relations”. A supervisor gets results through people (As an aside, I was thrilled to see the connection to my newsletter). And, it continues with the “Foundations for Good Relations”: 1) Let each worker know how he is getting along 2) Give credit when due. 3) Tell people in advance about changes that will affect them. 4) Make best use of each person’s ability. Then, underlined and capitalized at the bottom is the statement, “PEOPLE MUST BE TREATED AS INDIVIDUALS”. Sounds exactly like my HR mentor Debra!

Isn’t that absolutely timeless advice? Why do we hang onto fads and the latest and greatest technology and forget the timeless, proven, simple advice?

Does Working 24/7 Work?

May 18th, 2009

Over the long term…..No! Of course, I’ve tried this approach in my past – from time to time, every successful person most likely has to work long hours (whether for yourself or someone else); however, I’ve found taking a break can make you far more productive. Last week, I went to North Carolina to visit with my close friend from high school and college. We were at the beach for a few days with some new friends and then took a 3hr round trip to visit with former colleagues/ friends for about 40 minutes since that happened to be all the time available that day. Then, after returning home and going to a jam-packed meeting day for my business, I was able to get away with great friends in Catalina. Many years ago, I’m sure I would have been very stressed at taking off time when I should be finding prospective clients and working, working, working. Thank goodness, I’ve found that taking a break and enjoying family and friends is not only enjoyable but also add a touch of productivity to your business/ job.

How? Well, for many people, getting away from the day-to-day grind can free up thinking which creates even better productivity upon your return. Also, I find that I am able to learn new and relevant things on trips and with people. For example, I spent the ride home from the beach with a new friend, and we brainstormed about marketing activities for real estate, which can have some direct correlations and insights into marketing for consulting businesses. Also, in re-engaging with old friends/ former colleagues, it reminded me of events and reenergized me with respect to a few subjects. And, it reminded me of why I wanted to stay in touch with such fabulous people.

I find you can learn something from every experience. In Catalina, I went golfing because one of my friends, a high school student, was interested in golfing, and it reminded me of the value of practice. At first, my golf balls went all over the place (since I haven’t played in years), and so I convinced my friend that we should have a maximum # per hole; however, after several holes, I could see my swing coming back and the balls at least got off the ground and a few were solid shots (of course, it is easy to still screw up a solid shot with 4 putts but that’s another story).

The bottom line for me is to make sure to enjoy life, keep and maintain valued relationships and to keep an open mind as you never know where your next great idea will come from!

Beat the Recession – Stand out in the Crowd

May 5th, 2009

In today’s turbulent times, it is no longer easy to find clients, find a good job, find capital/ cash etc. However, those that are able to stand out in the crowd will be the ones to thrive amidst the chaos. If you are excellent / stand out in a crowd, be persistent and don’t give up – even in tough times, you’ll prevail. So, how can you stand out in a crowd? 3 tips include 1) be contrarian, 2) be exceptional, 3) think solutions. To read more about these tips, please refer to my recent newsletter: (click here)