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Kenneth W. Keller: The future begins today

Brain Food for Business People

Posted: November 10, 2009 9:54 p.m.
Updated: November 11, 2009 4:55 a.m.
The diet of bad economic information continues to the dismay business owners who are “working twice as hard for half the return.”  

“Having lost sight of our objective, we redoubled our efforts” is accredited to the comic strip Pogo. Hard work and long hours goes a long way, but that no longer cuts it. Hard work combined with solid strategy and an action plan that is implemented daily is a much better combination.

Issues, concerns, problems, challenges, opportunities or whatever they are called need a different perspective these days. This requires, literally, putting on a thinking cap and reflecting on how things can be done differently.

n Do you have customers or clients? Now is a great time to do the research and find out how to start making the conversion. Customers are good, clients are preferred.

n What are you doing to improve your business model? How can you get ongoing revenue streams from clients to stop having to market continually for new clients? What are you doing to lock in and keep clients for longer periods of time?

n Are you truly focused on improving cash flow? Are you watching every penny or is that just what you tell yourself? While cutting back is part of the answer, a better way to look at cash flow is as an investment for the future. Does your cash flow reflect an investment for the future of your business?

n Are you charging enough for what you sell? Or is it simply enough to get the business? Put differently, are you a Starbucks or Peet’s (perceived as the highest quality) or a Denny’s or McDonalds (still pretty good but not the highest quality)? Premium products deserve a premium pricing position. Can’t raise prices? If you believe that companies are not raising prices, think again. Many are.

n Have you surrounded yourself with the best people possible? Not the people you are comfortable with, but people that will force you to improve by pushing you out of your comfort zone and have you seeing things differently? Forrest Gump said “Stupid is as stupid does.” You won’t fly with eagles when you spend time with turkeys.

n Are you taking care of your body by eating right, keeping hydrated and getting enough good sleep? Health needs to be a priority. Everyone could use more and better sleep, could stand to eat better and drink more water.   

n Have you set high enough goals? Are your goals stretching you to ask yourself: “How can I do this; how can I make this happen”? Rockefeller continually asked “how” as he started and grew Standard Oil. He got wealthy as a result. Most owners know what to do and stumble on the how.  

n Are you taking action every single day towards goals? Do you make a list of action items or simply react to what comes your way each day? Begin your day with a top ten list to accomplish and keep that list in front of you. Do this every day for a week and it will be the most productive week in memory. Do this every week and you’ll have a great year.

n Do you have an eye on the future? Have you defined it for yourself? Most owners aren’t afraid of the future; they simply have not defined it. Set aside some time to visualize what your future looks like. Use a vision board, a vision statement or a single sentence that defines your business in five years. This gives you something to work towards.

n A high number of people have already given up on 2009 and aren’t looking at anything new until 2010 begins. This is a total admission of defeat; praying as if some miracle will occur on New Years Day that will change everything. With six plus weeks left in the year, the smart owners are not whining, they remain busy making things happen.

For many owners, this is the worst time in decades. But no one has to eat and drink the steady diet of bad news. You can create your own good news. You have the tools. You know what to do. Understand that nothing will happen until you take action. Get out of your own way by ceasing to make excuses.

Quit thinking about yesterday and whining about the present. If you are going to have a future, it begins and ends with what you do today.

Ken Keller is president of Renaissance Executive Forums, which brings business owners together in facilitated peer advisory boards. His column represents his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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