Who has the time to continually learn?

August 25th, 2009

No one; however, you MUST make the time. I realize that it is often times at the bottom of your priority list, as there are endless daily tasks – people to call, work to complete, events to attend, etc. And, these tasks can be important to your career, finding / retaining a job and to your family life. Of course, it is not a good plan to ignore your family in order to continually learn; however, life-long learning should be one of your key priorities throughout the year.

Why? In my experience, those people with a life-long learning attitude end up with the best of all worlds, even though they undoubtedly sometimes depriortize those daily tasks in favor of life-long learning. There are no “magic pill solutions”. It is a philosophy of daily life, similar to how quality and safety programs do not “work” if they are just an event; they only “work” if they are integrated into daily operations. Life-long learning tends to make the person an item of interest. How can it not be a good idea for your personal life and career to be an item of interest? After all, especially in today’s business and job market, if you do not stand out in the crowd, you have lost the race before you get off the start line.

This subject came to me when I met with a friend and former business colleague last week. Instead of just going to lunch to catch up on what’s happening in our lives, she suggested a tour of her manufacturing facility prior to lunch. While on the tour, I thought about how similar completely unique businesses’ manufacturing processes can be. Now that tidbit will likely come in handy in a future client conversation. Also, this friend is a life-long learner and was getting ready to start tax classes in preparation for learning the next level of tax planning for the upcoming tax season, which is obviously quite different from her daily job related to inventory and procurement. Lastly, she gave me a brochure for a trade show she thought might be of interest to me. Now, how’s that for value? In another example, I recently took my brother for a medical procedure, and we talked about his electrical engineering job while waiting. He is a life-long learner. Although an engineer, he is continually reading and has a degree in English as well; however, recently, he realized that he needed to continually refine his technical skills and so took 4+ classes in various subjects he thought might prove useful for his knowledge.

I’ve always believed in this concept but lately I’ve noticed the significant difference it makes over time. And, it is NEVER too late to start. I read within the last year about a 100yr old who graduated from university. I bet she brought a different perspective to the classes she attended!

Why pay attention to trends?

August 24th, 2009

In my experience in working with multiple companies ranging from a 1-person inventor to multi-billion dollar international companies across multiple industries and working internationally, it’s noticed that one common denominator is that trends are critical. Noticing trends has been some of the most significant value I’ve provided to clients – after all, more than half the battle is “being ahead of the puck” instead of always playing catch-up.

If you are able to find a hidden opportunitiy by the virtue of noticing trends in the marketplace, industry, economic environment and even your people prior to your competition, you’ll be able to create an opportunity to leapfrog your competition and/or propel your results. Of course, noticing trends alone is useless, as taking action is key. For example, if you notice markeplace trends and see an unfilled need emerging, whether it is a $10,000 observation or a $1 million observation doesn’t matter unless you take action on the trend – bring the appropriate experts together, develop a way to fill the need and launch it to your marketplace. Typically I find that execution is the critical component in most businesses; however, in this case, it can be equally important to notice the trend. Otherwise, the opportunity wouldn’t exist. This concept is just as appropriate to your career and your personal life as it is to business success. There is no doubt that if you become expert at spotting trends and tie it together with solid execution, you’ll be successful.

With that said, do not despair if your expertise is not in identifying trends. If you own a business, hire this expertise. If you are focused on your career, hire this expertise (in a mentor) or create a group where everyone has a skill that can be shared (where you are able to in essence trade your expertise for someone else’s trend-spotting expertise). And, in your personal environment, collaborate with your family and friends. Again, relationships are key. No one is expert in everything. Lastly, develop this skillset.

There are many ways to develop this skill. First, just by paying attention to potential trends, you’ll be practicing this skill. Second, several of the options described above can also help you refine this skill. For example, a mentor will not only help you identify trends but will also help you learn how to develop this skill on your own. Third, start by collecting the data. You might not be an expert at identifying trends seemingly “out of the blue”; however, you could be an expert at analyzing data. Once you have put a set of metrics in a trend line (such as year-over-year performance or a monthly trend), it becomes much easier to identify trends.

What’s the harm in putting additional thought into paying attention to trends? Give it a try.

Partner with a competitor?

August 19th, 2009

It might sound outrageous but it can work. In this week’s LA Business Journal, there is an article about just this topic………the Orange County Register will soon by distributed by their #1 competitor, the LA Times, which will result in a savings of $1 million per year. It sounds outrageous but partnering and/or brainstorming with competitors can yield results – not just in terms of operational efficiencies but in terms of new business opportunities, etc. Be creative and think outside the box in terms of what types of deals are possible when considering your business and a competitor’s business – are there areas where there are potential synergies which are not a competitive advantage? Become extremely familiar with your competition. Not only it is a common sense, good business practice to know your competitors intimately but there also could be an opportunity if you consider options. Instead of thinking of “yes but’s”, think about “how can we utilize this idea?”. It might just yield significant savings and/ or leverage opportunities.

Do you want to build value in your business?

August 13th, 2009

This is a bit like asking whether a company could reduce inventory – OF COURSE! After working with many companies, both nationally and internationally, across many industries and with different types of management teams, there is no doubt about it – every company needs to build value. Whether your company needs to build value because it needs to survive and make payroll (rather important when cash is tight) or whether you’d like to increase profitability in order to prepare the business for sale or whether you’d just like to return additional value to shareholders and employees, building value is always critical.

I’ve found that you can learn something everyday – even the best of the best are able to find something to learn everyday. In a business environment, I’ve been able to learn from the management team, peers, my employees, clients, suppliers, customers, etc. Some of these tidbits I’ve picked up along hte way have been the most beneficial in my success – you never know. Similar to networking where you cannot stop providing value and building relationships, you cannot stop learning.

Join me for the next, free interactive discussion in the Building Business Value series to continue to brainstorm and discuss this topic. Join business, banking and financial experts at Pacific Premier Bank in San Bernardino on August 20th at 7:30am for the next session – click here

Should you focus on life balance in the midst of a recession?

August 2nd, 2009

Many people would say absolutely not – and it is quite understandable as it is common to be concerned about what the next day will bring in the midst of such turbulent change, lack of cash flow and unparalleled level of volatility in the recent past. However, I believe it is exactly when you need to focus on it!

As my HR mentor told me several years ago, life balance is critical – not only will it likely add to your enjoyment but it also makes you more productive and successful in the work environment. My current newsletter feature article focuses on this topic and goes into detail about three key elements to creating life balance: 1) don’t go it alone, 2) knowledge expansion, and 3) life experiences.

There are compelling reasons to force yourself to set aside time to create life balance. Read more about it by clicking here.