David Dowdy ActionCOACH Blog

Swimming in Pickle Juice

So many owners are currently struggling with finding great employees and keeping them.  What happens in many cases is that employers are not happy with the team they have, and so they want to upgrade when they add new people.  But what happens?  That promising new Rockstar of an employee gets worn down by the influence of their environment (your business).   It’s not their fault. Just like a crisp, tasty, fresh cucumber is affected when immersed in pickle juice, it changes.   It changes into a pickle!  It can’t help it…

What’s your “juice”, or that of your company?  As with the Identity Iceberg, the biggest influencer on any of us is the environment we find ourselves in.  If you want to shift responsibility and accountability, change the environment.  If you want to change cooperation and collaboration, change the environment.  If you want to change productivity and results, change the environment. 

Is it simple? Yes.  Is it easy?  Not really.  It takes a decision on your part to own it.  It takes your commitment to cultivate and develop the environment that you want in your business.  After all, it’s your business, and you get to decide the culture.  If you don’t, someone else will.   And you probably won’t like it.   So, get busy in the process of making your own ‘juice’.  And yes, a process takes time.  Can you think of a better time to start than now?  

Full disclosure, this resonated with me, so sharing with you here. I heard pieces of this analogy from a colleague. It originated with Rob Statham (www.goosebear.com).   

Weeds!!!

As they say, “April showers bring May flowers”.  What a great time of year.  New life. Bright colors.  Lots of activity springing forth.  Well, the water makes weeds grow too! 

A garden is fertile soil that’s recently come to new life. It’s the mix of all the good nutrients, the seeds you’ve sewn. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stay that way for long.

In your business, let’s say you’ve worked it and have put out really good seed, positive and encouraging words and practices.  Good for you! (It’s worth considering, what have you really sewn?)    And as they take root like the seeds in the garden, know that contaminants are drifting in or showing up, just like the birds and other critters leave ‘droppings’ in your beautiful garden.  That other stuff starts to sprout and grow too.  Amazing how it seems to grow faster, taller, stronger than what you’re actually trying to cultivate and grow!.

What’s the answer?   Keep working it, every day. Pay attention. Pay attention constantly. As you see a ‘weed’ poke through, pull it. Don’t simply nip it.  Get rid of it!  For clarity, I’m not suggesting get rid of your team member. I’m recommending you deal the negativity, self-centeredness, whatever it is.  Deal with it immediately before it spreads, because you know it will. You’ve seen it before all too often.   If you’ll care for your business and its culture through the seasons, it gets easier, and you’ll enjoy much, much more come the harvest.

Gratitude

It’s one of my core values.  Yet sometimes other values work their way up, and which means gratitude falls.  Being intentional to pause and consider my values takes effort. After all, my brain is designed to protect me.  It takes the easy and the most comfortable way.  And you know what? Often, that’s not the best way.  You’ve heard of fight or flight, right?  Always looking out for threats. And if there’s not a threat, then cruise on through life… ahhhh.  Really nice here in my comfort zone.  But wait, how is it that I’m comfortable?  To a large degree, because I’ve ‘been here, done that’ before. Same, same.  Then there’s no growth, no stretching. No new experiences.  Safe, but boring.

It takes intentionality and energy to step out and try/learn/see/hear/experience something new.  And until I do, I really won’t know if I’d consider it good or bad.  And the cool thing is, it doesn’t really matter.  It is what it is, and as one of my coaches has impressed upon me lately:  everything is neutral until I assign meaning to it (thanks Bruce Wilson!).   Either way, I’ve got a new experience and perspective. And for me, that makes me grateful.  Might be grateful for the growth. Or grateful, now that I have a point of reference, for what I already have. 

As I consider this, and reflect on Easter, where we celebrate the sacrifice and the resurrection, I’m truly grateful that my God was loving enough to provide a way, through the blood of Jesus, to be right with Him.  And it has nothing to do with what I do. He’s done it all for me.  And for you.

Big Engine, Big Power?

It’s always fascinated me the power of a big, 18-wheeler.  I’d thought they had big, 16-cylinder engines. Turns out, the most common engine in these big rigs is 6 cylinders.  Huh?  A little research showed me a number of high-end cars actually utilized 16-cylinder engines, primarily because of less vibrations and a smoother ride.  But the power was the same.  6-cylinders- same power, quicker/easier/cheaper to build.  16-cylinders- more difficult, longer and more expensive to build.  But the ride. Oh, how smooth it is.

Finding, hiring, and keeping employees is the #1 concern of many business owners right now.  Using the analogy of the engine, we should look at the employee as a 16-cylinder engine, whereas most look for the quick and easy 6-cylinder, just to get the job done.  The breakdown?  Of the 4 components, Body (the physical ability to do the job) accounts for 3 cylinders.  And Mind (the mental ability to cognitively process and perform the role) accounts for another 3.  And there you have it, the average employee hired today.  Do the ‘job’, the tasks of the role.  Do the same thing, the way it’s been done before.  That’s how you get the same results you’ve gotten before.

But isn’t the goal to get better?  See, the job responsibility rarely includes the added part of improving, both self and company. Sure, the position requires tasks to be completed, but add in “and whatever it takes to grow the business”.   That’s where the other 10 cylinders come in.   Heart (morals, values, desires) accounts for 5, and Spirit (bigger purpose) accounts for the remaining 5 cylinders.  And yes, those 10 outperform the usual 6.  You can train and teach the body and mind.  But the heart and spirit are what they are.  If you’ve experienced the 10, you know the difference. 

Slow down, and look closer before hiring. Together, heart, spirit, body and mind sure do make for a smooth ride in the business. 

2? 4? 

Change just keeps coming.  Ever get tired of it?  Yea, me too.  But it’s sort of funny to still be getting frustrated with it since I’ve been experiencing it 56 years now!  Why would I, in my somewhat right mind, expect things to stop changing and become more consistent and predictable now?  It’s unrealistic.

What’s changed in your world lately? Let me guess a few: Covid-19.  An election and new President and new policy.  A new way of doing business and reaching your prospects and customers.  And maybe even a new way of helping your kids learn and grow their education.  Change in your income, due to the economic turbulence.  Change in your health, as exercise is different, if it’s even happening. Meals have transitioned.  Worship is even different.    Miss the embrace of a handshake or a hug? Miss seeing the smile of a warm greeting, now hidden behind a mask?

2? 4?  Yes.  A teaser.  It’s really ‘to?’ or ‘for?’   What’s your mindset? Has Covid, has the election, has the list of changes over the last 12 months been impactful to your life?  Have these events got you down, scared, and on your heels in a defensive posture?  Are you asking why is this happening to you? And to your family and friends?  Yea, it doesn’t seem fair.  That is, if you’re the proud owner of a victim mindset.  Time to snap out of it! 

There’s never been a better time to be alive, and to be a small business owner. There are so many businesses flourishing right now. There are so many opportunities!  But the victim perspective prevents many people from seeing it.  I’m choosing to look at it as if these things are happening for me. That’s right, they’re creating opportunities left and right. Some come from small shifts. Some require bigger shifts.  What was, is no longer. I can get upset and try to make it go back to what’s familiar, but that’s futile. The landscape has changed, and with the shift in vision and perspective I’m referring to, it looks pretty amazing.

Choose to focus on the things you can control and influence and let go of worrying over those things you can’t.  It’s your choice and your future. How will you see change moving forward? Is life happing ‘To’ you or ‘For’ you?

Oh, to be like Santa…

Another Christmas holiday come and gone.  And as I reflect on the busy-ness of the season, it’s kind of crazy. What if we had to keep that pace all year? Talk about exhausting!  And the reality is that’s exactly the way it is for a lot of small business owners.  Exhilarating for a while, but eventually completely exhausting.  

Santa’s go it figured out, though.  He’s running his own business, right? Think about it. 

-        He gets to do what he loves! 

-        He’s working a market that never slows down, regardless of what’s going on in the world.

-        He’s got a vision. A big one at that! 

-        From a leadership perspective, consider how many followers he has! 

-        He’s recruited and built an amazing team.  Those elves have genuinely bought into Santa’s vision, and really take ownership of the process themselves. 

-        He’s got 5-star ratings and reviews all over the place.  Customer Service pays attention to every detail and makes sure things are accomplished in a timely and thorough manner.

It’s not just the business.  Santa’s got it really good personally, as well. Sure, Christmas is a 24-hour whirlwind of travel, climbing, and cookie eating.  And Santa seems to really enjoy that stuff.  But come on!  He works a few days of strategic planning, reviewing lists and checking them again. And then there’s the big day. But what’s he do the rest of the year? That’s right…  whatever he wants to!   Like many others, he’s built a business that can operate without him.  Now that’s a successful business.

-        Clear vision

-        Clear mission and purpose

-        Inspiring culture

-        A team of committed, amazing workers that love to show up and be part of the great organization

-        Products and services consistently in high demand

-        Rewards beyond measure

Oh, to be like Santa…

Happy New Year!  

Let’s talk about how your business can work like Santa’s and make 2021 Your Best Year Ever! 

Planning Takes Planning

Stephen Covey suggested: “Start with the end in mind”.  What is it you want? Where you are today is actually irrelevant.  As you look to set goals and outcomes for 2021, please don’t start with 2020 results and figure out your increase of 10% and make that the goal!  NO!!!  What’s happened in the past is in the past. What is it you really want? 

There are so many more aspects of life and business, but many owners start with revenue as the goal. (Profit is the goal! But we’ll start with revenue for this conversation.)  So, just because you did $500,000 this year, does not mean the goal is $550,000 for 2021. That’s not a stretch. You’d do that anyway doing the same stuff again next year. The real question is what do you want?  If you had to start over, would you want to be in the business you’re in?  Has the pandemic shifted the market/world to where your current business model will no longer get you where you want to go? 

What if you really want to 10X your business instead of 10% it?  AWESOME!  Think of the choices in life you’d have then!  You’d likely have the team to run and grow that business whether you’re there or not.  Now that’s the business you probably dreamed of when you started.  So, let’s get back to that.  Start with the end in mind.  Put some details around that image.  And then some more details. What’s it really look like?  Now, that’s exciting, huh?

Warning!  Your mind is likely to kick into gear with all the reasons (those are high quality excuses) it’s not possible.  Force those thoughts out of your mind.  Focus on the ‘What’, not the ‘How’ right now. 

Done with the ‘What’?  Good. Business is logical. And now it’s time to think logically.  What’s would have to happen? What would you need to learn? What would you need to get to that business you’ve envisioned and want?  It’s just a series of steps. Lay out the path.  And decide which steps you’ll need to take in 2021 to make the right progress toward that end.  It’s just logical, like the steps you take traveling on vacation, going from one town to the next on your way to the destination. Or building a house, one step at a time with the construction plans in hand.  Logical.

It starts with you opening your calendar and booking a time to think about this and put it on paper.  Plan to make your plan. Do it now…

It stinks to be stuck…

Football Friday Nights?   Not this year, yet.  The image remains in my mind of when we’d arrive early for my son’s game (South Iredell HS).  The team would hit the field in a well-orchestrated set of drills and stretches.  And the coaches were off to the side, not needed at that point, because they had prepared the team.  It sure is easier when you’ve done it before and you know what you’re doing, huh?

As I talk with a lot of business owners, many are ambitious and committed, and they know they want more.  Generally, that’s interpreted as more money and working less.  But they’re stuck.  Many are in unfamiliar territory.  Either busy and experiencing overwhelm, or they’re ok, but frustrated, unsure what to do next.  That’s what coaching is about, right?  That coach you had as a kid helped with a plan to get ready for the game.  Tweak technique. How to work as a team.  Up your leadership on the field. Give you tips, tricks, and tools. He’d have you do some things not for this season, but to prepare you for the years to come. And of course, that coach was there with you at the game, encouraging and coaching as you went.  That coach knew, cause he’d seen it all and done it hundreds of times before.

When you’ve never done something (or done it well), it’s easy to get stuck.  When you’re stuck, not moving, you have unlimited options staring at you. 360 degrees. That can be paralyzing.  Which way should you go???  The answer is to just start going!  You don’t have to go so fast you’re out of control, but go.  Trust yourself. You’ve made it this far, and the mistakes you’ve made in the past haven’t killed you, and you’re much smarter after having made them anyway.  So, the direction you take won’t be completely wrong.  It may not be exactly ideal either. But what you will do is start moving, and with movement you’ll learn more and be able to adjust, making those fine course corrections (or maybe big shifts) that are only available after you start.

You’re in the profession of business ownership.  You’re a business owner.  Your family, your employees, your community, your vendors, your customers are relying on you to lead.  That means moving, so take a first step.  You’ve got this…   There’s never been a better time to be a small business owner than right now!.

People complain… and settle in

I hate wearing a mask. It’s hard to speak with people. It irritating and hot. And my glasses keep fogging up! I know, it’s the right and respectful thing to do. (agree/disagree: NOT the topic today) What’s interesting is what was so difficult a few months ago is now much easier, relatively speaking. People tend to settle in. They’re wearing masks now as the default behavior. Not shaking hands or hugging. Leaving a little more space between each other, respecting the ‘bubble’. We don’t necessarily like some things, but we get used to it, and gradually it becomes more accepted and ‘natural’. Sure, we remember the way it used to be, and often long for those good old days. But, it is what it is. Might as well get used to it. Seems that applies to business, too. The way many people run their business is often subject only to outside influence. Sort of take what comes, adapt, and hope tomorrow is better. Wait, that means the marketplace, people, the news are running your business, not you! It happens so easily, without even realizing it.

We just finished reading The E-Myth (by Michael Gerber) in our BookCLUB. One takeaway is that most business owners, despite the excitement and passion when they start their business, settle into the ‘technician’ role doing the work of the business. After all, that’s what he/she loves to do, and what they have experience doing. The problem is, who’s filling the role of the ‘manager’, building reliable processes and systems, and watching results? And who’s looking at the future and new opportunities, where the market is shifting, and how to take advantage of it to get an edge up on the competition, making more money, and building a business that works so you don’t have too? Usually no one! And that’s the role of the ‘entrepreneur’.

Take it as it comes, settle in, and make the most of it and hope things get back to ‘normal’. Or, step back and look/think/imagine/dream… what if we shifted a little and start _________? Hey now, that’s the entrepreneurial spirit! And that’s how you can take control of your future again, instead of letting someone or something else steer you. You started your business because you wanted more money, freedom, time, control. Step up and out. There are so many opportunities now. No one has a stronghold because everything is shifting! PLEASE, don’t settle in. Make a plan to take advantage of it and lead on!

7 Lessons Learned at Our Professional Development Day

During our recent Professional Development Day where all the local ActionCOACH community and clients gather quarterly, 7 lessons (among many others) rose to the top:

1.Competition is funIt just comes out in us, whether it’s competing against friends or fellow business partners,  strangers, or ourselves.  It’s fun to push yourself.

2.Everyone makes mistakes. You can recover, even if you spin out!  Help is available. Get back on the track and get going. This life and your business is a marathon. It’s not about a finish line, but about the race.  It’s ongoing, continual growth and development of yourself.

3.We’re running laps, and what we experience will come back around. Learn, because there will be another opportunity to handle it better next time.

4.Always be looking ahead.  There’s curves and other obstacles that can sneak up on you in a hurry if you’re not looking ahead far enough and planning accordingly.  Along with that, smooth transitions seem to work better than full throttle or slamming the brakes! That’s when you tend to slide out of control.

5.Confidence builds quickly. Help is available for coaching and advising from experts. Listen, learn, and put it into practice. Once you see it working and yourself improving, you’ll confidently put your foot on the gas and amazing things start happening.

6.Straighter is faster.  Know where you’re going and don’t vary from that course. Try pushing a kart with the wheels turned slightly vs. straight. You can feel the extra energy it takes to move it.  How much extra energy is it taking for you personally, and/or your team because you’re not aligned?

7.Everyone can win in this race, and in business. Yes, only one person came in first. But for this race, everyone had a blast! Laughing, sharing what they experienced, what popped up and what happened next. Better lap times. Confidence. And fun. Pure, exhilarating fun. Together.  Improving. Growing. Everyone wins when you play full out with the spirit of abundance.

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