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I’ve been talking with quite a few people who are looking ahead to the day when they can retire as company owner. This is uncharted territory for most of us, though; it’s yet another phase that nobody prepared us for.

It doesn’t have to be as scary as you might think.

I’ve worked with several clients who are working through this transition, hoping to leave a healthy and prosperous business. Read the rest of this entry »

We’re always looking to fix problems. Most of the time, problems are addressed by making our systems more complex.

We add new rules. We create new process steps. We insert new reviews and checkpoints.

This happens in government, of course, but also in each of our companies. It’s the way we think about addressing issues.

The net result is that overhead continues to increase, things slow down, and you lose innovation. Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve been frequenting a local frozen yogurt shop for a couple of years now. It’s a wonderful break, especially during the summer. But they’ve been through rocky times, with changes of ownership and rebranding.

Ordinarily this would make me optimistic, but in this case the company seems to have lost its way. Honestly, I’m surprised it’s still in business.

This isn’t about a company’s size. Read the rest of this entry »

By Publishing House Mérida (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsYou want energized and enthusiastic employees, right?

A great way to grow a group of fantastic workers is to give them the ability to create, to innovate … even to play. But how do you keep them from wasting time and being distracted?

It all comes down to defining a great “playground.”

Read the rest of this entry »

For more than a century, smart leaders have promoted the concept that “the customer is always right.” Marshall Field and Harry Selfridge popularized this in the retail space, but it’s spread to being a general business maxim.

Taken literally, though, it’s not true. An amusing example is in recent MetLife ads, where Lucy Van Pelt from “Peanuts” stubbornly declares that the price for everything should be five cents. Clearly the customer can’t be “right” in the sense that she can make your business decisions.

Let’s not get too cynical, though. The customer holds the keys to your revenue stream, and without that, you don’t have a business.

Read the rest of this entry »

Most for-profit companies exist to make a profit. To make money, they deliver a valuable product or service to an ever-growing customer base. They hire employees and spend money in order to provide that, but the name of the game is maximizing revenue and minimizing expense.

End of story, right?

Not exactly. Read the rest of this entry »

“I don’t even have time to think any more.”

Owning a business is all-consuming. Even when you’re not “on the job,” you’re worrying about all the issues that came up today and the fires you’ll have to put out tomorrow.

But I hope that you want your company to thrive for years and decades to come. Read the rest of this entry »

plus minusI find that many businesspeople are frustrated with the complexity of developing great employees. They’d love to find a quick and easy solution to giving each person exactly what he or she needs.

Here’s something that might be quite helpful.

In 2011, the Journal of Consumer Research published a study titled, “Tell me what I did wrong: Experts seek and respond to negative feedback,” by Stacey R. Finkelstein and Ayelet Fishbach.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bad stuff happens.

You have to close a store, you have to downsize, it’s time for a major restructuring. And this is going to be something which shakes the confidence of your employees. So you spend some sleepless nights trying to figure out how to approach the announcement.

I’ve been on both sides of this, and have come to realize that there are some fundamental principles which can help you navigate these treacherous waters.

Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve been talking with several people recently who are looking at their business agreements. I don’t know if it has anything to do with being at the beginning of a new year, but it’s a great exercise to do regularly.

Every business contract you have is intended to last for an extended period of time. After all, you put an unusual amount of effort into it, so you should be getting a higher return than just a one-time transaction. Read the rest of this entry »

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