Accountability, Bears and the Entrepreneur

Here are several scenarios. Tell me what’s missing. A manufacturing operation is experiencing an alarming increase in the number of product rejections. A child chronically fails to turn in his homework assignments. Monthly financial reports for a company seem to always be delivered at least two weeks late and sometimes more. Customer service ratings for a particular business are abysmally low. Bears are constantly getting into trash bins in a neighborhood and making an incredible mess.

So, what is it? What’s missing? It’s a concept that can sometimes be elusive in entrepreneurial environments and often in our personal lives as well. It’s called . . . accountability. Accountability has four basic components – understanding, commitment, responsibility, and consequences.

A failure to understand what is expected can obviously lead to an overall failure in whatever operation is being performed. The manufacturing rejects could very well have been caused by a machine operator not understanding a critical step in his or her process. It’s hard to hold this person accountable if there was a lack of training to ensure a full understanding of the process.

Without commitment full accountability is impossible. The child must not only understand how important it is to submit his homework, but he must also be committed to the notion as well. If he refuses to commit to turn in his work, then he will refrain doing so. While it’s true we can hold him accountable for his actions, it’s unlikely that we’ll achieve the desired result.

The path to accountability involves a willingness to take responsibility. “It’s mine (or ours) to do” becomes the mantra. In unhealthy organizations there may be a great deal of finger pointing. “It’s the fault of Marketing.” “No, Sales screwed up!” No one seems willing to step up and claim whatever “it” is. Taking responsibility is a sign of integrity and sacrifice, especially if things go wrong.

Finally, there are consequences. We may think of consequences in a negative sense but of course consequences can also be positive. The accountant who finally figures out how to deliver the financial reports on time may benefit from positive consequences in the form of a bonus. On the other hand, the customer service department that gets consistently poor ratings might suffer the consequences of being terminated. It’s important to note that for negative consequences to be administered fairly, the individual(s) in question must have a clear understanding of what they are supposed to do. One of the most common mistakes that is made in the accountability process is firing someone for their failures that are really the result of their not clearly understanding how to perform their role.

So, let’s put it all together in a positive scenario. Mike and Susan are a two-person team employed by Newco, a tech start-up. For the first week after they are hired, they undergo intensive training that provides them with the knowledge and understanding they need to undertake the functions assigned to them. The second week they work with “buddies” that scrutinize their work and ensure the finished product meets quality standards.

At the beginning of the third week the company founder sits down with Mike and Susan and asks them several questions about the work they are doing. He inquires as to whether they are clear on what they are supposed to do and how to do it. When they answer affirmatively, the founder asks if they are fully committed to do their part as a team in delivering a flawless product to the customer. Mike and Susan now have understanding and commitment.

One day a customer complained that two of the units she had purchased were defective. Upon further investigation Mike realized that he had missed a step in the production process. He wrote a note to the customer offering his apology and made sure the founder knew that the error was totally his and not Susan’s fault. Thus, he took responsibility.

Over the course of a year, Mike and Susan performed in exemplary fashion. They were accountable to each other, to their company and to their customers. As a result, they were both promoted to supervisory positions and received generous raises. All in all, the consequences were positive.

When we have understanding, commitment, responsibility, and consequences we have full accountability. And that’s how we keep the bears out of the trash bins.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The “Disneyland” Entrepreneur

We’ve explored the concept of Vision in this blog before. But I’d like to share a technique that has worked for me – perhaps you’ll find it valuable too. Simply put, vision is “what it looks like when we get there.” Remember when we were young and a family vacation to Disneyland was being planned? What was the focus? It wasn’t so much on the long journey to get there. Instead, we could see ourselves riding in the Tomorrowland Jets (long gone now) or in a Matterhorn Bobsled. We could taste the cotton candy and hear the whistle on the Mark Twain Riverboat. In other words, we had a vision in our minds-eye of what we were going to experience.

As entrepreneurs we have that same vision. The problem for most of us is that it remains trapped inside our heads. We struggle to articulate it to others. And so, our team members punch the clock every day with no clear idea of “what it looks like when we get there.” It seems clear to us, but they don’t have a clue.

I struggled to communicate my vision for many years. I often launched initiatives and undertook projects that all made sense within the framework of my vision – but to others it seemed like a helter-skelter approach to something that was undefined. At times, members of our team expressed frustration with the process and begged for a clearer picture. I had tried reducing my vision to writing, but a few bullet points later even I was uninspired.

At the urging of a friend and former colleague I took another stab at it a few years ago. But instead of trying to put it on paper in a concise one or two paragraph manner I went a different direction. I decided to tell a story. I mocked up a Wall Street Journal masthead and put myself in the shoes of a WSJ reporter writing a profile of my company – ten years in the future. I picked the name of a real reporter and the date on the masthead was really ten years out. And then I told the story in considerable detail. What unfolded were several aspirations; explanations of how the aspirations were to be achieved and ensuing measures of success. I quoted real people. I talked about how our customers were going to feel. Our culture was highlighted, and several strategies were outlined. One thousand seven hundred and seventy words later a clear picture emerged representing “what it looks like when we get there.”

For the past two years I’ve been explaining the vision story to everyone in the company. My vision needs to become a shared vision and I’m eager and willing to tweak it so that it is inspiring to as many members of the team as possible. We’re beginning to work backwards from what it looks like ten years in the future, to identify the various strategies that will be needed to reach the vision. Clearly there’s a lot of work to be done – but finally; for the first time in 50 years, everyone has a clear picture of where we’re going.

If you’ve been having a tough time articulating your vision, I encourage you to write your own story. And if writing isn’t really your thing, sit down with someone who has the gift of prose and tell him or her the story from your heart. This person can serve as your translator and put on paper the story that you will share with your team. You’ll have several re-writes. You’ll add, delete, clarify, expand, and fine tune. Just remember that the final product should be inspirational. It should be as big and bold as you desire. And anyone reading it should come away without any doubt about “what it looks like when we get there.”

We all have a Disneyland image of some sort for the organization to which we have committed so much of our lives. We can share it with others through a storytelling process that creates clarity and a call to action.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Respect-Earning Entrepreneur

Successful entrepreneurs display many different leadership traits. But there’s at least one aspect of leadership that an entrepreneur cannot just automatically possess – instead it must be earned. Of course, I’m talking about Respect. Many believe that respect should be granted simply due to a station in life or perhaps a position that is held. Certainly, there may be some truth to this, but true respect is not something that is simply bestowed. Yes, the Queen of England, the President of the United States, and other heads of state command respect. But it’s for the office and not necessarily the individual.

Rodney Dangerfield made a living as a comedian with his trademark phrase, “I don’t get no respect.” With apologies to Rodney, respect is no laughing matter. It should be viewed with the utmost of seriousness because it can be a life-or-death factor for businesses and organizations of all sizes. When CEOs misbehave not only is the individual disgraced but the company he or she represents is shamed as well. On September 28, 2015, the EPA announced an order to recall Volkswagen cars built from 2009 – 2015 due to software that was programmed to cheat on emissions testing. Two days later the company admitted to this malfeasance and on September 23 the CEO resigned. Volkswagen has since paid well over $20 billion in financial penalties and legal settlements – not to mention the long-lasting reputational damage that would bankrupt smaller firms. Rebuilding the respect of the public for the VW brand will be a long and arduous process. And who knows if the former CEO will ever again be truly respected.

Earning respect doesn’t just happen. There is an intentional process that is required, and it consists of multiple facets. From my perspective it all starts with integrity. Do we always do the right thing even if it’s seemingly detrimental to our best interests? And do we always do the right thing even when no one is watching? Integrity cannot be turned on and off on a whim. Either it’s there or it’s not. Our team members, customers, suppliers – everyone is watching. If we keep our moral compass centered, we will have taken a giant step toward the pinnacle of respect.

Together with integrity is authenticity. It’s impossible to be authentic and genuine without integrity. Are we comfortable enough in our own skin to be ourselves? We’ve all seen others who are struggling with inner demons and insecurities. They “put on airs” and engage in bragging and blowhard behavior. It’s hard to respect someone who is living in disguise and can’t deal productively with his or her personal issues.

Entrepreneurs who have empathy and genuinely care about others are more likely to earn respect than an insensitive tyrant. Think about this. An individual is completely honest; does everything in an above board and straight forward manner; is totally authentic – but he’s also a flaming a-hole. How much respect do you suppose those people with whom he interacts have for him? Treating people poorly is a fast way to lose the respect of others. The leader who is courteous and thoughtful is earning respect. The leader who shows a real interest in others and their welfare is earning respect. The leader who subordinates his needs or desires to the wishes of another, is earning respect. When a leader enjoys success but publicly gives the credit to members of his team, he is earning respect.

Consistency is the final ingredient in this recipe for respect. We can’t be hit or miss with our integrity, authenticity or in the way we treat people. Inconsistency sows seeds of doubt about our real motives. In a worst-case scenario others see us as being manipulative and conniving. Clearly when we stay true to our principles, we have no problem remaining consistent.

Earning respect takes time, and once achieved the quest to maintain it should be sacred. Earning and keeping respect is best accomplished through integrity, authenticity, empathy, and consistency.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Entrepreneur’s Personal SWOT

Almost every entrepreneur has heard about the acronym, SWOT. It stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Typically, the SWOT analysis is used as a corporate assessment. We gauge each of these areas relative to our own businesses and then create strategies to respond accordingly. But there is another application of the SWOT analysis that I have rarely (maybe never) heard utilized. And that is to perform a personal SWOT analysis. As the entrepreneur, it is a good practice to self-perform the SWOT. But it would also be enlightening to have a peer or trusted colleague do the same to gain an additional perspective.

We start this process by analyzing our personal Strengths. Are we strong leaders – if so, how is this demonstrated? Are we persevering? Do we have exemplary resilience in the face of adversity? Perhaps we have a strong innovative flair. Could we safely say that we are calm, patient, kind or generous? We should identify and assess the strengths that matter most.

Seeing our Weaknesses may not be so easy especially if we aren’t an introspective type. This may require help from that trusted colleague or a peer who is not afraid to tell it like it is. Do we have a temper? Does our ego ever get in the way? Do we always treat others with respect? Are we perceived to be of high integrity? Do we give up too easily? Maybe we tend to lose focus.

Analyzing our Opportunities is an exercise in determining whether our glass is half empty or half full. Think about what we personally have the potential to do. Could we become more philanthropic? Is there a mentoring or coaching opportunity in our future? Do we begin speaking at industry conferences? Perhaps we could develop a new product or service. Ultimately this is about how we can become more fulfilled as human beings as well as becoming even more valuable to our enterprise.

Finally, we must look at our Threats. Could our lifestyle be a threat to our health? Is there a lurking situation that could degrade our financial security? Does our mindset work for or against us? When we evaluate Threats in a corporate sense, we generally are contemplating external pressures that we may think are beyond our control. As we consider Threats from a personal standpoint, we find that most will be of an internal nature. We can be our best friend or our worst enemy.

Once we complete an honest and realistic personal SWOT assessment, we need to take the next step of creating strategies that bolster our Strengths; resolve our Weaknesses; take full advantage of our Opportunities and eliminate our Threats. The ensuing plan can become the centerpiece for leading a balanced work and personal life. And revisiting it often will ensure its implementation.

A personal SWOT analysis can be an invigorating and exhilarating process. When done in concert with a SWOT for a company, the results can be a powerful catalyst for positive change in both the entrepreneur and his or her enterprise.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Social Media Savvy Entrepreneur

In the old days if a product was lousy, it was hard to get the word out to the public. Short of taking out a full-page ad in the newspaper or standing in front of a store handing out flyers, there really wasn’t an effective way to inform unsuspecting customers about a flawed product or terrible service. Social media has changed all of that in a good way for the most part.

Do you ever read online product reviews? Smart companies give customers the chance to rate a product or service and write a short statement about their experience. And smart companies constantly monitor the ratings and reviews and take immediate action to resolve issues as they arise. I don’t know about you, but I have been paying more attention to ratings and reviews when I make purchases on Amazon and in other internet stores. Social media provides entrepreneurs with a terrific opportunity to “up their game” so to speak. Failure to deliver top quality or resolve customer problems can have severe consequences. In an instant the whole world can learn about a bad experience. And when too many bad experiences are chronicled online, an entrepreneur can lose business in a big way.

I purchased a battery-operated handheld drink mixer for use in mixing a supplement I take daily. The device worked quite well for a few weeks. And then it became temperamental and would only work intermittently. Eventually it stopped working altogether. I had tossed the packaging, so I wasn’t sure how to contact the manufacturer. The easiest thing was to simply post a review on the website from which I had purchased the item. I stated that the product was flawed and presented the facts about my experience.

Within 20 minutes of the post, I received an e-mail from the owner of the manufacturer. He expressed genuine concern that I wasn’t satisfied and said he would send me a full refund, send a replacement item, or provide tips on how I could get the unit to work properly. Apparently, my issue was fairly common, and the fix was relatively simple. I liked the mixer and told him I’d take him up on his tips which he quickly sent to me. He also reminded me that his product had a lifetime warranty. I was able to use his tips to get the mixer working properly and have been able to keep it running ever since. I quickly wrote an updated review congratulating this gentleman on his customer focus and endorsed his product.

This entrepreneur did it right. He smartly monitored his reviews. When he saw a negative one, he quickly reached out to his customer with the singular objective of doing whatever it took to make the customer (me) happy. There was never any hint of defensiveness in his responses. His lifetime guarantee is impressive. What he did was turn a potential disaster (bad review) into a stroke of brilliance by getting a positive re-write of my review – by the way, he never suggested that I do this. Better yet, the way I re-wrote the review recounted my initial dissatisfaction and all that the owner did to resolve my issue. Potential customers reading my review should take comfort in knowing that this entrepreneur stands behind his product and only wants his customers to be totally satisfied.

No matter how hard we try, things can go wrong. Stuff breaks. Customers can be cranky. Social media has created an environment where we are very vulnerable as entrepreneurs. Committing to move with lightning speed and doing whatever it takes to ensure total customer satisfaction will help keep us out of the ditch. The Pony Express days of customer service are over. This is as it should be.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Golden Rule Entrepreneur

A lot has been made in recent times over insensitivity, hurt feelings and words that are seemingly offensive. There are many sociological factors in play – I’m going to refrain from debating them. Our culture is shifting in seismic fashion and where it will end is anyone’s guess. It’s easy for the modern entrepreneur to get caught up in this brouhaha which I can assure you is a losing proposition. Staying out of the fray is relatively easy but requires discipline.

There are two sides to this coin. Let’s start with our reaction as an entrepreneur to things that are said to us, and actions directed our way. We are going to take slings and arrows from a multitude of constituencies. Customers may say horrible things about us and our product or service. Team members may accuse us of a wide range of transgressions. What our competitors say may be even worse. Regulators, bureaucrats, politicians, and members of the public in general may be generous in taking their shots at us. At times it may seem that we’re a punching bag and a pin cushion all rolled into one.

So, here’s where the discipline enters the picture. It’s 100% our choice whether we let ourselves be hurt or otherwise impacted by what others say and do. This isn’t just a matter of having thick skin and amazing resilience. When someone says or does something to us that is negative, we must be able to dispassionately analyze the words or deeds and look for the truth. For example, suppose we are slammed by a customer for a defective product. A product review is posted online that says among other things, “the ABC Company produces a substandard product, and their CEO is a crook for taking my money.” Actually, this is a pretty mild review but will work for illustrative purposes.

What is the truth here? Does our company really produce a substandard product? We must be able to objectively evaluate this claim. Have there been other complaints? If so, how many? Is there a chronic problem with the product or do we truly have a Six Sigma level of success? Assume for a moment that our extremely low error rate is exceptional which allows us to know the truth . . . we do not produce a substandard product. And the personal statement about the CEO is easily dismissed as an ad hominem attack. Personal attacks like this can generally be completely ignored because they are inherently dishonest. Of course, we want to try and solve the problem encountered by our customer, but we choose not to be hurt by what has been said. Boiled down to its simplest form, this is a case of, “if the shoe fits, wear it.” And if it doesn’t, then don’t.

Now to the other side of the coin. How is what we say and do impacting others? This also requires discipline on our part. But again, it’s really very simple. We practice the Golden Rule whereby we treat others as we would want to be treated. Do we make it a practice to denigrate or berate others? Are we guilty of making ad hominem attacks of our own? Before we say something potentially contentious to someone else, do we stop for a moment and measure it against the Golden Rule? While it’s true that we all make a choice as to whether we will be hurt or offended, it’s important that we as entrepreneurs try and avoid putting others in the position of having to make such a choice. This doesn’t mean we have to walk on eggshells or adopt political correctness. Instead, we must understand our audience and try and be sensitive to how they might react to us. I’ve always found that focusing on the Golden Rule in such situations is usually sufficient to avoid trampling on the feelings of others.

The interpersonal functioning of society today is fascinating but can also be bewildering. We choose not to be hurt by what others say and do, and we practice the Golden Rule when communicating or acting. Taking this approach will help us skirt around the current cultural minefield.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The BIG Leap Entrepreneur

It’s Leap Year! When you check on this statement you may be confused because it might not be officially true – at least according to the calendar. But from an entrepreneur’s perspective, it IS Leap Year. OK – some additional set-up is in order. Let us think about where we are in our lives and in our careers. What have we achieved? Does it seem like we may be putting one foot in front of the other and carefully walking down the street? Is something holding us back from bursting into a full sprint? Do we have a gnawing feeling that we are behind the curve and maybe even falling short?

I would like to tell you a story about a friend of mine. I have his permission to share this, so I am not talking out-of-school. More than 20 years ago he asked me if I could mentor him in a life-coaching sense. He had a great job with a well-known and highly respected company and was climbing the ladder. He had the opportunity to move to another city with the same company and eagerly did so. He continued to excel in the corporate world and was financially secure. But he was yearning for something more.

This individual had a passion for the outdoors and loved to go rock climbing and whitewater rafting. It was his release from the stress of his daily routine. Eventually this passion became a part-time business. My friend began guiding trips for other entrepreneurs that had a similar passion for the outdoors. He became a master at juggling his day job with his new hobby-business. Ultimately, his yearning overtook the conservative, safe side of him and he quit his very lucrative corporate job to work for himself. Today, I am proud of the fact that he has built a successful company providing a wide range of guided outdoor excursions to a variety of destinations.

Of course, the path taken by my friend was neither direct nor smooth. He struggled mightily to make the final decision to take the Big Leap. But in the end, he did, and it has paid off mightily for him. He is a happy man who is in charge of his own destiny and blessed to be able to provide a good life for his family. So, how did he do it?  

The Big Leap is undoubtedly different for each of us. But it requires some of the same basic elements. First, is the element of Strong Desire. Do we really want it? The Big Leap can happen when Strong Desire becomes overwhelming. We really, really want something to happen. It is stuck in our consciousness every day. It’s a craving. All we can think about is that which we envision becoming a reality for us.

The second element is that of Knowledge. My friend amassed considerable Knowledge by experimenting with his business ideas while still working his full-time corporate job. He did this for a period of years – not weeks or months – and was able to learn what worked and what did not. He achieved a deep understanding of the market opportunities as well as the pitfalls to avoid. And the more Knowledge he gained, the more his Strong Desire became even stronger.

The third element is that of Confidence. I watched with admiration as my friend’s Confidence soared over time. His Strong Desire supported by Knowledge had become a quest. We worked through an Opportunities-to-Fail exercise where we inventoried all the risks we could think of and how he would mitigate those risks. This all unfolded in a measured way. We did not rush but we also didn’t tarry. His Confidence grew as the result of a process.

Finally, the last element of the Big Leap is that of Faith. I am not referring to Faith in a religious sense. Instead, it is a belief that goes beyond the empirical nature of Confidence. In this case, my friend had reached the point where his Strong Desire, Knowledge and Confidence coalesced to produce a belief that he would absolutely succeed. Oh sure, there were still moments of doubt. But they did not shake his Faith that he would be able to make his new venture work.  

We can make every year Leap Year. When we are ready to shake out of the same-old, same-old and take that next big step, we can do so when the four elements of Strong Desire, Knowledge, Confidence and Faith are combined to buttress the big idea that we have.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Puffery and the Entrepreneur

Unique. One-of-a-kind. Award-winning. Leader. State of the art. Cutting edge. Bleeding edge. Next generation. Revolutionary. Robust. Extraordinary. Legendary. Transformative. Groundbreaking. Best in class. Magical. Out of the box. Feature-rich. World class. Dynamic. Premier. Amazing. Iconic. I think you probably see where this is going.

Ah yes, the world of superlatives and puffed-up buzz words. As an entrepreneur, I want to persuade you that my product or service is the best thing since sliced bread – maybe even better! And thus, I tend to use embellishments to convey a certain sense of excitement that will emotionally influence you to buy what I am peddling. Sometimes advertising and marketing that exaggerate are just plain fun. Dos Equis beer uses a spoof in its commercials of The Most Interesting Man in the World. Generally, this sort of marketing is easily identifiable, and the audience goes with the flow.    

What we want to avoid is falling into the “salesmany” stereotype. When I hear entrepreneurs use terms like “crushing it” or “killing it,” I cringe. It is one thing to extoll the virtues of our product or service, but when we cross over into too much puffery our credibility suffers. Is it possible that being more quiet and understated in our approach to marketing and sales could produce the results we seek?

Our customers do not really give a whit whether we are “#1” or provide “world class service.” What they are interested in is how our product or service solves their problem or provides them with real value. Here are a couple of example marketing statements to compare.

Statement #1: “At XYZ Motors we sell more Kias than anyone else in the universe! We’re also number one in service and have won more awards from Kia than any other dealership in the country.”

Statement #2: “At XYZ Motors we are creative and will help figure out a way to put you in a new car that can fit comfortably within your budget. We are also pleased to keep our service department open every weeknight until 10:00 PM because we know that many customers can’t bring their car in until they get off from work.”

Obviously the first statement is full of back patting and chest thumping. The focus is completely on the dealership. The second statement is customer centric. Here, XYZ Motors shows great empathy for both the customer’s pocketbook and his or her busy schedule.

One of the reasons that businesses use hyperbole is because they have not figured out how to differentiate their product or service. This is especially true for companies that compete in the commodity space. Apparently, they believe that yelling as loud as they can, will motivate customers to show up and shell out their hard-earned dollars to save a cent or two. And there is no question that some people are inclined this way. But I think that most people are not thrilled to be insulted by such boorish and uninspired messaging. An alternative approach might be for the business to become much more creative in determining its value proposition and then develop a marketing campaign around the benefits to the customer.

Entrepreneurs must also be mindful of how different generations respond to marketing and salesmanship. But as political campaigns have become more and more over-the-top with either fluff or mudslinging, I think there is a carryover impact on the business world. All consumers, regardless of generation, are more skeptical of dubious claims and mindless drivel. Instead, they want facts and substance. They need real data that supports a marketing/sales pitch and explains the WIFM in plain English. And of course, WIFM means “What’s in it for me?”

Laying out the case for how our product or service solves a problem for our customers can be done in an innovative fashion. And we do not have to appear like a stereotypical pushy salesperson to do so.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Affirmation-Focused Entrepreneur

Words, words, words. Research by Louann Brizendine of the University of California indicates that on average, women speak 20,000 words per day and men speak 7,000. I share this to point out how many opportunities we have as men and women to create positive or negative energy with what we say. Our words can be uplifting or demoralizing; they can be helpful or hurtful, and they can be passive or aggressive. In my opinion one of the most important things to remember is that what we speak is an affirmation.

As entrepreneurs and for everyone in general, we want our affirmations to be positive. Affirmations have power. They pattern our conscious and subconscious minds. The seemingly innocent things we say are cumulative and can have a profound impact on our lives. Let us look at some of the “benign” statements that are made every day.

“I didn’t have time . . .” I have been working hard to eliminate from my vocabulary any reference to not having enough time. I realize that I make a choice about how I spend my time and I am not somehow under its spell. Sure, there are things that do not get finished, but I chose which tasks those were. Understanding this has helped me become much more adept at prioritizing what I do each day.

“I can’t do . . .” This one is dangerous. The more we say this, the easier it becomes to admit defeat – and “I can’t” is clearly the flag of surrender. As cliché as it may seem, I try to replace “I can’t” with my childhood memory of the 1930 story by Watty Piper, The Little Engine That Could. I have decided that I would rather “think I can,” try and fail, than “think I can’t” and not try at all.

“I’m sick.” I refuse to acknowledge this. It is true that I may get a sniffle from time-to-time, but I am not about to affirm that I have succumbed to ill health. If I do feel a bit under the weather, I will affirm that I am healthy and whole. That, along with lifestyle changes I have made, powers me past whatever may be trying to ail me.

“I hate . . .” I am guilty on this one and realize that I need to change. I say things like “I hate red lights, idiot drivers and incompetent bureaucrats.” Unfortunately, there is a touch of anger – albeit fleeting – that is present when I say, “I hate.” And anger – even a short and subtle burst – can have a physiological effect on our bodies. A combination of brain chemistry and muscular response can weaken our immune systems.

“Why did this happen to me?” There are a multitude of variations of victim-speak. “He/she screwed me,” or “I didn’t win the contract because my competitor is unscrupulous.” I have been working for years to recognize the fact that I am in control of my own destiny, and I am not about to give my power to others, especially through verbal (and negative) affirmations. If I lose it is going to be of my own doing and not because of someone else.

That which we affirm has a higher probability of manifesting than that which we do not. Why then would we want to affirm anything but positive results for ourselves?

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The First Impression Entrepreneur

Most days are good days for me. Every once in a while I will feel a bit more intense and may have a tendency to behave in ways that are out of character for me. Recently I observed a situation that reminded me of how dangerous it can be to let my guard down in this way. Allow me to set the stage for this story.

We were vacationing with friends and enjoying breakfast in a small outdoor café. A mid-60s couple was sitting at a nearby table. The woman was seated next to a small ledge and unwittingly shifted her chair and toppled over backwards. Immediately my friend who was closest, jumped up and rushed to her assistance. With her glasses askew and an embarrassed look on her face, she got back on her feet with my friend’s help. Fortunately, she was not hurt.

The focus of this story is not on the woman’s accident but on the husband and how he reacted. He just sat there. While my friend came to the rescue, the husband just sat in his seat drinking his coffee like nothing had happened. At one point he joked to his wife that she “looked like a circus clown.” Once she regained her composure, the woman left the café – smiling but humiliated. After a moment, the husband looked at us and said half in jest, “Well, you sure made me look bad.” And then he left.

Now here is the most instructive part of this episode. Once the husband was gone the café patrons were abuzz and angry. People could not believe the husband had treated his wife this way. As she cleared the table, the server exclaimed, “He just sat there. I can’t believe he didn’t get up to help her!” I heard references to “jerk,” and “a**hole,” just to name a few.

This man was being judged by a jury of his peers and he was found guilty. He left a lasting impression on everyone in that restaurant, and it was 100% negative. Just a single action. For all we know, this man might be one of the finest, most generous, and thoughtful human beings on the planet. He might have just donated $100 million to build a new wing on the local hospital and named it in honor of his wife. But at that moment in time, and without any other context, he was an ogre to his jury and will forever remain frozen in that image.

Most of us care about how others see us. We want to be viewed in a favorable light or at worst, in a neutral manner. The husband in this story obviously had enough self-awareness to realize he was wrong as evidenced by his statement that, “You made me look bad.” Unfortunately, that comment probably sealed his fate for the onlookers. He chose to blame my friend for how others saw him rather than taking responsibility for his own poor behavior. I would bet that if he apologized to his wife in the restaurant and admitted that he had a momentary lapse in judgment, the impression he left would have been different.

We all have momentary lapses in our behavior. But it is important to take corrective action to repair the damage as quickly as possible. Failure to do so may result in an extremely harsh and lasting judgment by a jury of our peers.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.