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Living in the Present While Planning for the Future

Choose a doorHave you been told that it is best to live in the NOW moment?  That sounds great when we are sitting at the holiday dinner table and just soaking in all of the energy of our family members, but what about when running a business?  Don’t we have to make plans for the future in order for our business to grow, move, and survive?

 

How do we live in the present and make plans for the future?

What does it mean to live in the future?  The future is uncertain.  There are a myriad of events that can occur between now and then that we might or might not be able to control.  When we live in the future, we bring in the stress and anxiety of living in uncertainty.  All sorts of mind games start.  “What about this, what about that?”  “Will I be able to survive this, can I afford that?”

Instead of worrying about the future in the present moment, a better way to use this moment it is to plan for the future.  Planning is a present moment activity.  Yes, we think about the future and we lay out as many possibilities as we can, but we also look at things we can do now to guide our business in the direction we envision.  Good planning also sets our business up with contingency plans for unforeseen events.

If you find yourself in a mind spin and a body clench about the future, use the NOW moment to do what you can do right now.  Plan!

AirBnB and the Red Ocean

I have been spending a lot of my time lately examining the Bed and Breakfast Industry. One of the hot topics right now is AirBnB.com.

I saw an article the other day that spoke of a long time Bed and Breakfast that was shutting its doors.  They totally blamed AirBnB and the local government for their collapse in business.  Ouch!  Was this fair?  It is what got me motivated to write this article.

What is AirBnB?

AirBnB has come about as a result of the ‘sharing’ economy.  You know, I have something that I own (like an extra room in my house) that I could exchange for something you own (like a room in your house, or for money).

Anyone can sign up and post a room available for short term rental.  Others sign up and look for the place they want to stay and they get connected.  You can review each other and say all of the good things and bad things about both the renter and the rentee.  Seems fair and simple.

So what’s the problem?

I guess that you could say that the government is the problem.  What I mean is that hotels and B&B’s have to play by certain rules that the local governments have set up.  These rules protect the consumer against fraud, keep the neighborhood as it was intended according to local zoning rules, ensures proper insurance is in place, AND provides a process for collecting any taxes that are mandated for short term stays.

Legitimate B&B’s have gone through the process of getting licensed, buying insurance, and pass on the taxes that they collect.  All of this takes time and money.

house 6-2013-6The problem comes when any Tom, Dick, or Harry decides that they want to pull in a bit of extra cash by renting out their house or a room.  They can post the availability on AirBnB, set up the deal and fly under the governmental radar.

Many B&B owners have reported the ‘illegal’ B&B’s posted on AirBnB.com, only to be told that there is just not enough personnel available to be shutting down these rentals.  In some places, like New York City, there is more attention on this issue and regulations are being put into place to try to get it under control.

Since I first wrote this article, NYC has enacted some strict regulations.  Click on over to see an overview.

A short business lesson about the ocean of competition

There is a great business book entitled, “Blue Ocean Strategy” by Kim and Mauborgne.  It describes the concept of sharks swimming in the ocean.  If the ocean is red, it is filled with blood, from sharks who are all feeding on the same prey.  If the ocean is blue, then you are out there all by yourself and don’t have to fight off the other sharks to get at your target.

They claim that if your business is offering the same benefits as everyone else’s, then you are swimming in the red ocean.  The competition is fierce.  The goal is to swim in the blue ocean, by offering benefits and results that are in demand, yet others have not figured out how to offer them.  They call this ‘making the competition irrelevant’.

What’s a B&B owner to do?

Today’s B&B is not like your grandma’s B&B.  It is not just a room in someone’s house that you stay in for a night as you motor your way across Great Britain.  Today’s B&B offers you an experience.  Each one focuses on a different experience.  It may be Victorian elegance, romantic fireplaces and jetted tubs, beautiful views, gourmet breakfasts, afternoon happy hours, and on and on.  No longer are successful B&B’s just offering a room.

Things change around us and as they do, it is up to the business owner to become aware and then decide how they want to make changes and adjustments.

In the case of AirBnB, they just opened up the ocean to a whole new school of ‘sharks’.  No wonder the ocean is red!  The savvy B&B owner is figuring out how to make that crowded field irrelevant.  They are focusing on the experience that they offer, the type of guest they want to have come to their inn, and how to relate all of this on their website.

Take responsibility

AirBnB has created change.  Change is inevitable and we don’t always know where it will come from next.  But, let’s not sit around and moan about it.

All businesses face change that they had not planned for.  Whether it is the economy of 2008, the shift from baby boomers to millennials,  the introduction of the internet, or mobile devices, a successful business will be looking to make changes itself.

Take responsibility for keeping your business thriving, no matter the changes around you. Otherwise, you have lost your power and are at the mercy of the unknown change that is just ahead.

A Post Script…

I hear that AirBnB is very interested in getting the ‘illegal’ offerings under control. There are links to pages that will help you with the local ordinances.

Also, legitimate B&B’s are being encouraged to also post on AirBnB.  Some have had good results and others not so much (kind of like anything, right?)  AirBnB is not the enemy. There are just some kinks to be worked out… in my opinion.

Creating Your Vision – Step 2

This process of creating a compelling vision can be overwhelming.  In previous blog postings I talked about taking it one step at a time.

The first step was to focus on what part of your life you want to focus on.

The second step is to choose a timeframe to focus on.

First, take a look at how far out in time you would like to imagine.  When would you like to have your life look like your vision?  Of course it would be great if you could have that right now, but there is an element of reality that only you can define.  Make the timeframe too short and you will not believe that you can meet your goals.  Make it too long and you will not be inspired to take the actions needed to get you what you want.

Clock - what everTake a good look at the factors you see limiting your progress.  Some of these limitations are real:  kids graduating from college, Social Security kicks in at age 62, 100 pounds does not go away in a month, there are 3 more years until full pension kicks in.  These help you to set time boundaries and can be helpful.

Some limiting factors are just small thinking.  They may seem like they are not moveable or flexible, but some creative thinking will show that there is at least a possibility that the limitation can be changed.  For instance:  I will need to work 5 years to save $50,000 to invest in my new business.  Other options could be to borrow the money, to bring in investors, or to start smaller with less investment.  The important point is that you recognize which factors are true limitations and which ones are just challenges.

When choosing your timeframe be realistic but also stretch your boundary of comfort.  If you really want to live the life you envision, see how close you can bring your timeframe.  A bit of discomfort is challenging.  Too much discomfort is discouraging.

So by now, you have created boundaries for your vision so that you have an aspect of your life to focus on as well as having a target timeframe to achieve it.  Hopefully you will feel some of the overwhelm starting to ease up so that you can start to be inspired.

 

Imperfect Action

Imperfect Action is better than No Action!

What is that all about?  If you are a business owner, you know what it is like to get stuck, not moving forward, looking for everything to be in place before you take action.  You may say, “When I have that Sales Script down pat, I will start to make sales calls.”  Or “When I have my 12 month program completely written, I will try to sell it.”  Or “When I have the perfect business card, I will go networking.”

We are waiting for our action to be perfect before we show it to the public.  There are some things that this may be valid for, but in many cases, we learn so much from our imperfect action.  We learn where to make adjustments to the Sales Script.  We get practice delivering the Sales Pitch.  We learn which tweaks will help us to feel more authentic in our sales.

Ask yourself, “What is the worst that can happen?”  If you have a Sales Conversation and it is not perfect, what is the worst that can happen?  You may feel a bit foolish or awkward.  You may not get the sale (this time).  What is the best that can happen?  You actually are successful with the sale and you are now moving forward.

Take a look and see where you are not taking action.  What are you waiting for?  If it is important, then get on it.  If ‘good enough’ is ‘good enough’ for now, then get into action, even if is not perfect.  Get started, and get your business moving!

Busy Work – The Death of the Entrepreneur

As an entrepreneur do you find yourself very busy, yet you don’t have the business that you want?  This happens quite often with new business owners.  Many of us have been told that if we don’t work hard, we will never succeed.  So, we go about doing things, no matter how useful or useless, just to fulfill that subconscious need to be working hard.

What is busy work?  Answering emails as soon as they come in.  Taking phone calls, no matter what you have scheduled yourself to work on.  Stuffing envelopes.  Surfing Facebook or Twitter.  I am not saying that these things may not have a value to your business.  It is the way that you approach them that makes the difference.  I think that we all know that we can get distracted and off on tangents while on social media or even on the phone.  Be honest with yourself and ask if what you are spending your time on is productive.  Better yet, ask yourself if what you are doing is helping to improve your business and make it into the life that you want.

The key to being busy with productive things is to schedule them.  Just putting a time in your schedule to work on your business is not enough.  Before you even get to that, you want to know what you will be working on.  What are the projects that are going to move your business toward your vision?  What are the action items that will move that project along?

Prioritize your projects.  Prioritize your action steps.  You can’t do it all!  If you try to work on all of your projects at the same time, you will get into overwhelm.  Pick one or two projects and break them down into actions steps.  If you don’t know the action steps, then just pick the first step to get you on your way.

When you have your scheduled time to work on your business, just go to your list of action items.  Start working on them.  It is that simple.  When you finish an item, write down the next step.  If you have time to work on it, that is great.  If not, it will be there for your next scheduled time.

This is how you focus your time and energy on moving your business forward.  It may be ‘hard work’ or may be enjoyable for you.  In any case, it will not be useless busy work.

Managing Volunteers – Part 3 – The Volunteer Board of Directors

Organizations that are governed by a volunteer based Board of Directors have their own brand of ‘volunteer issues’.   In previous postings we talked about organizations with Volunteer Labor.  Here we will discuss volunteer Board Members, what makes them tick, and how to create an environment that attracts and keeps your most valuable players.

Why do people volunteer to be on a Board of Directors?

There are various reasons why people will volunteer to be on a board of directors for an organization.   Boards are a long time commitment.  It is not like volunteering to collect tickets for 2 hours at the school play.  Most people can do that without a really strong commitment to the organization.  Board members believe in the purpose of the organization and what it is there to accomplish.  They are therefore willing to make the time commitment required.

Given that they believe in the purpose of an organization, what else drives them to commit their time and energy to a particular board of directors?  There are various reasons.  Some are good and some of them are not.  Here are some to look for when choosing new board members:

1.  They feel that they have a talent to contribute to the board.  A strong Board is made up of individuals who have various talents which complement each other.  Once the member is on the Board, ensure that they are given the opportunity to use their strengths.  It makes the member feel needed and that they are using their time in a way that is useful.

2.  They want to see the organization move forward based on their own concept of how things should work.  This can be a double edged sword.  Bringing change to an organization can help the organization to move forward and grow.  It can also bring disruption and chaos.  If someone is presenting ideas of change and upheaval before they are nominated, consider carefully if this is just the change you have been looking for, if you are ready for it, or if there might be a better candidate for your board at this time.

3.  It looks great on their resume.  Watch out for this one.  All Board members need to contribute.  Just being on the Board does not help.  All Board members need to contribute something in the form of ideas and action.

4.  It gives them high profile exposure to more people.  This only works in favor of the member if they are able to showcase their talent.  If all they do is sit on the board and do not contribute, their exposure will highlight their weaknesses instead of their strengths.

A bit of advice to those who are looking to join a Board of Directors:  Make sure you are dedicated to the cause, and be prepared to put in time, energy, and talent over the course of your tenure on the Board.  If this doesn’t sound like something you can commit to, then do the organization a favor and let someone else fill the seat.

How do you attract and retain quality board members?

1.  It is essential that the purpose of the organization is clear.  Don’t assume that everyone knows what the organization or the board is there to accomplish and its reason for existence.  People get their own ideas about what they think an organization should be doing.  Make sure that the board members are crystal clear about the purpose of the organization.  If they have other ideas, goals, or ambitions, then they need to find a different organization that will fulfill those ideals for them.

A clear purpose helps to set boundaries within which to work.  Setting boundaries for an organization does not mean inhibiting creativity or new ideas.  These are certainly welcome and essential to moving things forward.   The boundaries ensure that the purpose of the organization is being fulfilled.  They help the board to decide if new ideas are helping them to further their purpose or if they are getting outside of what they are chartered to accomplish.

2.  Accomplishments are well defined and easy to describe.  When volunteering time, people want to know that they are helping to make a difference.  Don’t assume that everyone can see what has been accomplished over the past month, quarter, or year.  Knowing the goals for the future allows people to see how they are going to contribute.  It keeps them interested and involved in the organization.

3.   Respect the time of all board members.  Most board members are busy people.  They typically have a ‘day job’, whether it be business related or raising a family.  They have taken their time away from their family to dedicate time for a cause.  It is important to respect their time.  How do you do this?

    • Have an agenda for every meeting.
    • Start the board meetings on time.
    • Stay on track.
    • If there is no apparent reason for the meeting, then don’t meet OR, make the meeting about figuring out what else the board can be doing to improve the organization.
    • Have tele-meetings when appropriate.  Only have one or two issues to discuss or vote on?  Consider meeting via the phone lines.

4.  Ensure that the Bylaws are clear and Understood by all members.  The bylaws are there to give the organization direction and boundaries within which to function.  It is important that all members of the board have read the bylaws and understand how they guide the organization.  Disagreeing with the bylaws and going off and doing things outside of them is not an option.  Board members that disagree with the bylaws are probably not good candidates for the board.  A good member who sees where a change could benefit the organization needs to go through the process of getting an official change made to the bylaws (this process should be stated in the bylaws).

Volunteers on a Board of directors will continue to serve when everyone is working together.  Following the bylaws means that everyone knows the boundaries within which to work.  Good members will leave a board if things start to run in a loose and undirected fashion.

How do you create a board where everyone is sharing responsibility? 

Have you ever been on a board where a couple of people end up doing most of the work and others seem to not be contributing?  I have seen this far too often.  Why does this happen?  Here are some things to look at:

1.  One or two people are more extraverted and ready to jump in to volunteer before the others get a chance to even think about it.  If this seems to be the case, those that are doing all of the work need to take a step back and consider how their behavior may be impacting the ability of others to contribute.  Remember, we all have different ways of viewing the world and responding to it.  Others may need more time to understand a situation or to know whether a task is suitable to their talents.  They may even need to be asked to take on a particular task or if they can do it with the help of another.

2.  Know the talents and gifts of your board members.  People like to contribute from their strengths.  Don’t expect everyone to be happy about doing every task that comes along.  Figure out their strengths and what they enjoy doing.  Make sure they are aware of a task that comes along that they would enjoy taking on.

3.  Choose and recruit your board members wisely.  Look at the talents that are missing on the up-coming board and seek out someone who can bring that to your board.  Having a whole board of people good with numbers will not move your group forward.  Neither will one filled with visionaries or sales people.   You need a balance of many talents to form a really strong board.

If you find yourself saying, “But, but, but… I had to do it.  No one else was stepping up to the plate.” Consider this:

Why would people volunteer to be on a board and then not want to contribute?  If they truly just want to show up to be seen, then you have the wrong person on your board.  It is a privilege to be on a board.  If you are in a situation where you are begging people to be on your board instead of choosing those that would benefit the organization, then there is a more serious core problem. Go back to some basics, as outlined in the section about “Why do people volunteer”.  See if any of these points sparks something in you that could be of help.

Consider a special board ‘retreat’ to focus on the board and how it functions.  This is about the board, not about the organization.  It is a time to be honest with the other board members and to express what is working and what is not working.  It is a good time to see how to strengthen the board as an organization.  I highly recommend that you bring in an outside person to facilitate the discussion and to help you to set up an agenda and expectations ahead of time.

Summary – Part Two

Volunteer Boards can be very rewarding.  Realizing that volunteers usually contribute with different standards than paid members is important to setting up a successful board.  Having the structure of a clearly defined purpose and a good set of by-laws is your first step to success.  Utilizing the talents of your members not only makes the volunteer happy, but it also benefits the organization.  Finding the balance between structure and allowing each member to contribute their gifts is the key to turning your board from good to great.

If you have been a volunteer yourself you can probably relate to the concepts brought out in this series of blog posts.  Whether looking to recruit volunteers to help you, or looking to improve your board of directors, there are a few things that seem to be common to volunteers:

They want to make a difference

They want their time and talents to be respected

They want to be appreciated

Establishing an environment to satisfy these three things is the key to running a successful volunteer organization.