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You Can't Know Everything

By our very nature we humans are fallible beings and as such you can’t know everything. It is however the mark of the mature person that we understand this, and strive always towards seeking knowledge and learning from life’s many lessons.  To wit:
We all have “blind spots”: blind spots are the areas we don’t even see as risks or potential deficiencies because we don’t even know they exist.
These can be unforeseen market circumstances, or skills we have lacking.  The challenge is, EVERYONE has blind spots.  It’s the things we don’t even know we don’t know and they often come back to bite us in the…
Arrogance is NOT the same as self-confidence: Having a calm assurance that we possess the knowledge, skills, desire and resources to succeed is self-confidence.
Arrogance resides just across the border from self-confidence in that toxic land fill area where people condescend others, put on an air of superiority, devalue others and their contributions.  It is self-destructive and alienates others.
Find coaches and mentors at every stage of your career: The most mature professionals and business owners are keenly aware that they have had help throughout their career and are always in a stage where they can benefit from the experiences and insights that others can provide.  In fact, these mature people actively seek out confidants and advisors.
Mature people embrace uncertainty and the unknown: In biology, the term entropy is the state of all matter deteriorating into disorder.
It is the rare individual that accepts chaos is a part of existence and prepares for opportunities that spring out from the weeds.  They do this by hiring top talent, entrusting others, pursuing lifelong learning and the acquisition of skills, expertise, and experiences that they can leverage in unique and new ways.
Surround yourself with super talented people and listen to them: The mature business owner is not intimidated by hiring highly successful people. In fact, they actively seek out the best talent available to them as a key competitive advantage.  They hire the best talent, and really nurture these top performers (Jack Welch called them his “A” people.)
Once you hire the best talent, you can and MUST provide them with the resources, skills, guidance and independence they require in order to make great contributions for your organization.
Create a culture that asks WHY and WHAT IF?: Most of us stop asking such questions around the age of five.  There is a reason we learn nearly everything we need to be successful by the time we reach Kindergarten.
It is the truly mature professional that continues to seek new heights, challenge convention wisdom/thinking, and pursue the unexplored as areas for the greatest potential result.
Empower your people: Nothing speaks to a mature and self-aware leader like the act of entrusting the people you hire who are closest to your customers, systems, and processes to make the right decisions for the greatest good and benefit to your organization.
Know successful people: It is extremely beneficial to align yourself with successful individuals, but don’t engage with them solely for the purpose of doing business with them: In the mind set of success by closeness we can learn quite a bit from highly successful people.  The trick is to be close to them to connect with them and watch out for successful behavior that we can internalize and emulate. The goal is not to find them and try to sell to them.
You can’t do everything on your own: In summary, the mature and constantly evolving professional understands they cannot be successful as an island unto thyself.  Those people that are most productive find great allies, align themselves with people that share their passions, values and sense of mission and build strong teams for mutual and shared long-term success.
Here’s to your continued success in 2014!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Executive Coach, Management Consultant, Business Coach
> Plan > Launch  > Grow Your Business.

Doing Small Things Well Pays Off Big

Doing small things well pays off big!
Having spent a majority of my career in marketing roles, I can attest to the critical importance of sweating the details of doing small things well.  For starters, you have to select the right audience for your product and service offerings, and define in minute detail who these people are.
Once you define your ideal target customers that you plan on selling your stuff to, you have to research the things that motivate these people, in order to craft compelling messages that engage your prospects emotionally.
You have to figure when and where they are when they are MOST likely to receive and listen to your messages.   As if all this sweating the small stuff wasn’t enough, you also have to measure the results in detail to determine the ROI for each and every campaign.  Then, you have to keep tweaking your efforts to see what continues to work when it comes to special promotional offers, messages, and target segments.
“If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.”  – Napoleon Hill
Now as a business coach and management consultant, I see first-hand and get to directly influence how organizations either do or don’t pay attention to the details.
Most specifically, the attention to detail of focusing on doing the small things well begins with an organization’s business plan and strategic planning.  How do you as a business owner focus on the fundamental building blocks of your business to perfect the needed small things?  Conduct a top-down business audit.  Investigate the operational imperatives, those things that are mission critical to operate your organization on a high level.
Other strategies you can implement to ensure you are focusing on building a solid foundation include delegating, empowering your workers, creating strategic partnerships with vendors, suppliers, and customers, and constantly gathering feedback from those folks that have a direct impact, and stake in, the ultimate success of your business.
From the first time you greet a potential customer to how your treat your employees, to your store’s physical layout, to your website design all of the small things your business chooses to focus on will have a direct and pronounced effect on your performance.
“Great things are not done by impulse, but a series of small things brought together.” – George Elliot
Consider the following questions:
* How do you capture all of your contact information in one place?
* Do you set out of office greetings/messages on your email and voice mail?
* Do you have written standards for how and when you respond to leads?
* Is your brand messaging consistent across all mediums including online and offline?
* Does your website contact us form work? Do you know how visitors engage your website? How do you interact with people on your website, and customize messaging to each visitor?
* Do you have a written vision and mission statement? If so is it prominently displayed in your office, on your website, included in your job postings?
* Do you train your employees to treat each and every visitor that enters your establishment pleasantly, professionally, and identically?
* Do you have a formal written return policy?
The devil they say is in the details.
For some inspiration check out the book entitled: “The Power of a Lot of Little Things Done Well” about John Wooden, UCLA’s revered basketball coach.
And finally, remember:
“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”  – Vincent Van Gogh
Here’s to your success doing the small things that lead to your continued success in 2014!
  Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Executive Coach, Management Consultant, Business Coach
> Plan > Launch  > Grow Your Business.

We ALL Lose Our Productive Ways Sometimes

This time of year, it is REALLY hard to stay focused, remain positive, and be productive.
If you’re feeling a little bit “stuck” these days, unfocused on your work or unable to move forward you’re NOT alone.
In my work providing consulting to entrepreneurs, start-ups and business owners, and delivering career coaching to job seekers there seems to be a general malaise affecting our collective ability to remain productive.
For example, can you relate with any of the following:
* By now our New Year resolutions seem like a VERY distant memory;
* We have this stressful event in front of us called filing our taxes;
* Our business is experiencing flat or (even worse) declining sales;
* My job search is stalled!!!  Heck, no-one is even responding to my inquiries;
* Mother Nature has been bombarding us with snow and freezing weather for over TWO months…enough already!
As hard as it might seem to stay on track or get BACK ON TRACK, here are a few sure-fire ways you can pick yourself up and march proudly forward into Spring.
How You Can Unstick Yourself:
* Change Your Priorities: in the spirit of…”if it ain’t broke, break it” sometimes we need to take a step back and ask ourselves: are we really focusing on the right things.
* Revisit Those Annual Goals: Circumstances change often at a rapid pace.  So, are the goals you set for yourself in 2013 still goals you want/need to be striving to achieve.   Are your annual goals still realistic?
Gain some perspective by asking yourself: “Are the goals that I set for myself at the end of last year still relevant?” If they are…great.  If they’re NOT…change them.
* Nurture Your Spirit: listen up!  We have been in a recession/Depression SINCE 2008!
If you think you have not been personally affected by the trauma of these past six years you are fooling yourself.  We all need to “check in” with ourselves to make sure we’re alright.  You can achieve peace of mind and renewed clarity for regaining productivity through meditation, by taking a yoga class or beginning/resuming a fitness regimen, playing a musical instrument, even singing.  BEST of all, I recommend my clients go to their very own “quiet place” every day for 15 minutes and just sit alone and do deep breathing exercises to open your mind.
We all need to disconnect from the world, in order to recharge our batteries.  Leave the cell phones, tablets, laptops and computers behind!  Take a few minutes to nurture your essence and fall back in love with yourself.
* Go Back to Basics: If the things you’re trying to achieve are not happening, perhaps you’ve overcomplicated things.  Go back and look at what you are trying to achieve and strip down the associated tasks to their most basic elements.  It is the Samurai pursuit of perfection.  The concept here is to devote a lifetime of trying to be “perfect” yet knowing full well that perfection is a motivating  force but NOT achievable.  WHY?  Because we are all humans, and as human beings inherently fallible.  It is okay to fail, heck it is even DESIRABLE assuming we learn, adapt and adjust for survival.  Be DARWINIAN!
* Lean on Your Support Network:  Pity the American “Cowboy” culture and individual ruggedness of trying to “go at it alone.”  News flash, John Wayne and the great push West in pursuit of gold are long since gone.  In today’s hyper-stressful, always connected, global competitive world we need to fall back on our support networks for fuel.
Lean on those that know us best and care for us most as a source to validate our sense of belonging and self-worth in the world.
It is so easy to fall into the trap of mistakenly believing we are all commodities and don’t matter, especially folks that suffer day in and day out to survive in corporate work environments where the human spirit is devalued and employees are under-appreciated.
Seek out those friends, family, family of friends, friends of family that support you.  Conversely avoid like the plague those people that only deride you and contribute negativity to your life.
* Block Out Interferences: You know it, I know it, we ALL know it.  Interferences are  a fact of life.  You need to keep them at arms length, whether it’s the phone, email, intruding friends and family.  We need to set up defenses to protect our castle, so any way you can block out those interferences will help you survive these times of emotional duress.
What are the moats, draw bridges, and burning oil strategies you can employ to defend your CASTLE of being productive?  Block out times, set out of office greetings for email when you don’t want to be disturbed, leave out of office greetings on your voice mail.
* Pursue Your Passions: Write down all the things you absolutely love to do that you are good at.  It can be past jobs, volunteer work, hobbies.  Make a list, but don’t edit yourself.  The goal is to capture every item, write EVERYTHING down.   Once you have a comprehensive list going back as far as you can remember, highlight the things you have done in the past that you were really good at AND you loved to do.   This is absolutely CRITICAL…they have to be BOTH!
Either you embrace these passions as hobbies, outside interests.  Better yet, perhaps there is a way to package those into your next job or (even better still) is to pursue these passions as a business you can launch.
*  Take a Vacation:  Nothing helps clearing the mind, refueling the cells and re-acquiring clarity of focus quite like getting away does.  Take some much needed (and deserved) time out.  It doesn’t have to be an expensive or lengthy trip, just get in the car and go.  Drive to a nearby lake or beach, head up to the mountains, visit the shore.  It’s called mixing things up.  Taking a little unplanned time to get out of a rut can be very empowering and help you regain your productive ways.
Well, that’s it for now.  Let me know what you think!
Now…go recharge those batteries, it’s going to be a GREAT second quarter, an amazing spring, and fantastic rest of the year.  It’s time to regain your productivity MOJO!!!

I Cannot Hear Your Voice in Email Communication

When I coach my business clients how to communicate effectively one of the first things we discuss is their use of email communication.
The truth is, email enables us to be much more efficient in our business communication.  However, it also can pose many unplanned crises when we are not careful about the tonality we use in our written correspondence.
The primary challenge in using email is, the recipient uses their own tonality as they read your email message and their perceptions of you and your relationship with them will cause them to apply an emotional component to your message that may or may not accurately depict the intent  of your message.
Therefore, there are a few guidelines you can follow:
1. Never EVER send an email when you’re angry – It may feel good (for a brief moment) but the repercussions can be deadly.
2. Avoid using emoticons – they may be cute, but they dilute your reputational brand by showing a lack of professionalism.
3. Try not to bombard the recipient – if you find yourself writing the next great American novel, chances are that email is not the right delivery mechanism for what you’re trying to convey. Call them instead.
4. Don’t email someone the first time you are attempting to contact them – with spam filters someone that has never received an email from you before may have your email land directly in their spam folder.  So, have them be on the look out for your email by calling them first.
5. Have someone proof your message – use quality control by having someone read any and all highly important email communications for grammar and content.
6. Use larger point sizes and easy to read fonts – fonts without headers and footers (ex. Arial, Geneva and Tahoma) tend to be easier to read.  You should also adjust your settings so the point size is not less than 12-point. Hint: letter point size refers to height. 72-point is ONE inch tall.
7.  Use a signature block – always have a signature block with all of your contact information at the bottom of your email. You can create a signature block in your email settings.
8. Use “Out of Office” greetings – if you are going to be away for more than three (3) business days, be sure to set an out of office greeting.
9. Empty your in-box immediately – apply the same rule of thumb for your email that you should for all of your paper documents.  Immediately move all emails into folders, so you can go back to them/find them later.
10. Empty your email folders on a regular basis.
11. If an email is very important, call the recipient to confirm they received the email.
12. Use engaging, creative subject lines – they can’t read your message if they don’t open it.  Ensure they open your email by engaging them in the subject line. Consider it the equivalent of a headline in a print ad.
13. Leave the “TO” field blank – If you are working on an email in DRAFT mode, leave the recipient box empty until you are absolutely sure it is ready to send.
14. Test it out on yourself – If the email is important enough, send it to yourself first as a test to see how it looks and reads. Better yet, send it to someone whose opinion on such matters you trust.
15. Use the Carbon Copy (:CC) and Blind Carbon Copy (:BCC) lines judiciously.
16. Organize your email folders the way you organize your business folders.  Keep it simple so you can find emails quickly.
17. Keep a separate file for the people you communicate with most frequently.
18. Use a “CLOSE” – If you are going to follow up with them on a set day and time or want them to follow up with you, indicate it at the end of the message.
19. ALWAYS be cautious of the REPLY and REPLY ALL functions.  They can be deadly when you want to reply to one person on the distribution list and you send your response to everyone.  This can be especially damaging when what you have to say about one or more of the people on the list is less than flattering.

Out with The Old, In With the New Achieves Business Transformation

Make 2014 The Year You Achieve True Business Transformation
During my weekly radio program this morning “Chazin The Dream” on the UR Business Network, I discussed the importance of taking risks, trying new things, and tossing away old habits in 2014 as a means toward achieving your personal, career, professional and entrepreneurial  start-up goals.  Make 2014 the year you achieve true business transformation.
For starters, make 2014 the year you finally embrace chaos and the fact that change is a true constant. to do so effectively, we must be willing to make critical decisions with less than complete information.  While I don’t always suggest that my coaching clients take a READY-FIRE-AIM approach, I do tell them that you won’t always have complete information and a clear picture when you are forced to act decisively.
Therefore, make 2014 the year you embrace the mindset that opportunities will present themselves to you only if you are willing to make a gut decision to take advantage of unforeseen opportunities.
You take advantage of the unforeseen by making 214 the year you use strategic planning to maximum effect.  Write a business plan, complete with many different scenarios.  Ask yourself “IF” such and such happens, then “WHAT” do I do.  For every given scenario, you need contingencies (options) so you list your Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, etc. actions you would take.
It is absolutely CRITICAL that you write it all down in your business plan!  A plan that is NOT written down is a dream.  You need a written plan to serve as your roadmap to follow, your blue print for success.  By considering different scenarios to act when unexpected surprises pop up, you are doing contingency planningand risk mitigation to remove some of the threats from your business.
Toss away all the old habits.  If something works for you, keep doing it.  If it doesn’t…well Dr. Phil would ask “How’s that working for you!?”  Said differently, Albert Einstein called the act of repeating the same act and expecting a different outcome the true measure of insanity.
Take glorious risks!  If you are going to fail, then by setting wildly aggressive goals for yourself, even if you fall short of the stars you will still reach the moon.  Make no safe or conservative goals.  All your goals should be “STRECTH” goals that force you to act in new, different, and bold ways just to come close to achieving those goals.
Take  a perasonality /assessment/skills inventory test, whether it is a DISC tool, Myers-Briggs, Birkman or another assessment.  Let me know if you would like me to send you the personality survey I developed for my entrepreneur, start-up and small business clients.  By knowing yourself, your values, strengths, core competencies and your willingness to embrace change and risk-taking, you will know when you need to hire outside expertise.  You will also get a keener understanding of the types of people you an forge the strongest partnerships as business partners, clients, vedors, and your suppliers.
Learn a new language.  Take up a new musical instrument.  Pursue a new hobbie or follow your interests.  Take out that gym membership.  Make 2014 you achieve true business transformation by achieving a greater WORK-LIFE balance to maximize your sense of self-worth and derive pleasure outside of your business by doing more things that you enjoy.
Find a new attitude for achieving true business transformation.  Researchers have found that 65% of everything that evey person says TO THEMSELVES about themselves is NEGATIVE.  To avoid this pitfall, make 2014 the year we change our mindset from “CAN’T” to CAN! Make 2014 the year we say with much enthusiasm “I WILL” so we don’t experience the let-down  and regret of having to say frequently I SHOULD HAVE, I COULD HAVE, or I WOULD HAVE, but…
Why not begin blogging to build your subject matter expertise as a means of achieving business transformation?  Serve on a panel discussion.  Try to get published in your local town newspaper.
Join new business organizations.  Go to one new MeetUp group every THREE months.  Embrace the unknown.  Try out new marketing tools, make at least 2 new friends every month.
Fear of failure can be a debilitating force.  Make 2014 the year to say: “I WILL fail so why not fail GREATLY! good is the enemy of GREAT, so it no longer helps to be good enough.
Make 2014 the year you finally decide to go after your DREAM job!  Fight all those negative thoughts about why you can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t embrace the unknown and start your own business!   If you are not ready to plan and launch a new business on your own, then find a partner or partners.  Not sure if you can create a business from scratch?  Take on side business to do out of the comfort and security of your home.  You can always explore franchising as a viable option to dip your toe in the shallow end of the pool of entrepreneurship. Consider these steps baby steps on the path to entrepreneurship.
Make 2014 the year you finally achieve true and lasting business transformation.
Here’s to your success in taking new approaches to realize an entirely NEW YOU in 2014!
  Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Executive Coach, Management Consultant, Business Coach
> Plan > Launch  > Grow Your Business.

Show Client Appreciation ALL Year Long

Show You Appreciate Your Clients and Employees ALL Season Long
Earlier today during my weekly radio program “Chazin The Dream” with Rick Brutti on the UR Business Network, I lamented that most entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners fail to understand and value the importance of showing they appreciate their customers and employees.  I talked about the many lost opportunities in building lasting relationships by waiting until the END of the year to say “Thank You” using a cold and impersonal e-greeting card.
Then lo and behold, just now I received a knock on our door.  My dog Molly jumped up from her day-long deep slumber to bark at the door.  Who was it that dared to interrupt her 23 hour nap?  Our  dog walker Giovanni came out in the rain to hand-deliver my baby a Christmas gift, as a sign of his appreciation for our business this year.   Molly was so happy, she proceeded to run around playing with it for hours and tore it apart as a sign of her personal brand of client appreciation.
You can BET Giovanni is going to get our business next year.
Which goes to show how powerful an impact your efforts at demonstrating your client (employee, vendor, partner, supplier)  appreciation can have on positive feelings about you and your business.  This relationship-building through appreciation can have a major positive impact on how people engage and support you, especially in times like we face today with significant competition on all fronts.
There really are NO excuses for showing those that are most important to the success of your business how much you appreciate them.  There are so many simple, inexpensive ways that you can show your client appreciation, employee appreciation, and thanks for support from your many stakeholders, the only limitation is your desire to treat people this way and your own creativity.   Therefore, the question is:
How come so few people invest the time and effort the ENTIRE year showing other show much they appreciate their support and business?
There are sooo many opportunities to thank your customers for their business, not just when they buy from you (though that’s a great start!) The past five years have been extremely challenging to all businesses. How often do you call or visit your top customers to take them out for breakfast or lunch to learn more about their challenges and assure them that you are there for them?
How often do you allow your best customers to waive their past due accounts, set payment on their terms, or give them an allowance to push payments out or consider their accounts paid in full when they experience financial hardships.
Do you wish them happy birthdays or congratulate them on promotions, anniversaries or other key events?  What do you do all year long to assure your best customers that you are an invaluable partner and will help them achieve their short and long-term goals to succeed?
Do you ever ask your best customers if you can ride along with them on THEIR sales calls, to learn first hand the challenges they  face servicing their customers?
The same standards and guidelines should apply to your efforts at employee appreciation as a key differentiation in your business relative to the competition.   How you treat your people has a direct impact on their productivity, the loyalty they feel for you and the degree of engagement they have in seeing to it that your business will succeed…or fail!
News flash…employees ARE not assets, they aren’t photocopiers with limbs to be “managed.”
How often do you show your appreciation to your people? no, a paycheck is not a sign of thanks. For many of your people in fact they see your compensation as forced servitude.  It takes so little to unleash your people’s untapped talents and leverage their background and experience for long-term competitive advantage. Yet so many business owners fail miserably.
Start by soliciting their feedback on ideas for products, services and ways to improve your business. Empower them to serve your clients in ways that create constant compelling moments of “Wow!” customer care greatness.  Allow them to work on their own schedules, set their own goals, give YOU reviews, bring their children to work, take their own days off. Appreciate them, reward, recognize and challenge them.  Give them the resources they need to succeed, then get out of their way to let them shine.
Your people want to be engaged.  By working for you they have already made the ultimate commitment to your business. Compensation is pretty far down on the list of things employees are seeking from their employee. They want to be treated with respect and civility, appreciated, listened to, rewarded, empowered, and trusted.  How do you do this all year long?
The holidays and end of year are a great speed bump “TIME OUT” to revisit how you treat all the people around you and especially your client appreciation, from your family and friends to your clients, employees, vendors, partners, service providers.
At the end of the day all we have to go on for continued marketplace success in this cold and impersonal 21st Century global online competitive landscape is  our reputational brand.   The BEST way to develop and nurture a lasting brand is by building and maintaining meaningful relationships based on mutual trust and appreciation.
Sending a holiday e-card at the end of the year just isn’t enough to show your client appreciation.  Begin working NOW to make 2014 the year you truly take advantage of the strong and lasting relationships you need to establish.
Here’s to your success maintaining those valued strategic business relationships in 2014!
  Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Executive Coach, Management Consultant, Business Coach
> Plan > Launch  > Grow Your Business.