Wednesday, 8 October 2014

How to Be a Successful Business Leader Instead of a Turkey this Thanksgiving


As our Canadian Thanksgiving is next week (I know our neighbors in the States don’t celebrate for some time yet), I thought it appropriate to give thanks to you – our dedicated and loyal followers with my top five leadership tips.

Don’t be a turkey this holiday season, be the leader your people want to impress and follow, by deploying these tidbits in your business.

1. Open Doors Create Open Communications

The biggest challenge in every office is getting everyone to simply talk to each other. Everyone from the janitor to the CEO gets so caught up in their own thing, they fail to take – no – make – time to talk to others.

Your door should always be open – except when you’re in a meeting or really can’t be disturbed – so that your teams feel comfortable approaching you when they want.

Leaders that sit behind closed and locked doors shut out their people, and remember, everyone follows your lead. If you are a closed mind, your teams will be closed minds too.

And you don’t want that – so always keep your door open.

2. Create an Open Dialogue with Your Teams

Building on the previous tip, having an open door is just part of the communications solution, as the leader, you have to set the example and the tone. TELL every single person you work with – whether they report to you or not – that your door is always open. Invite everyone you work with to come and see you for anything – no matter how silly or small.

Encourage your people to be just as approachable with each other. Reward those who follow through, and demonstrate their openness to other team members. Mentor those that aren't being open, they may be shy, or just need a little inspiration to get going.

3. Get Out of Your Office

Last one on communications – I promise! Having an open door policy and encouraging people to be approachable again is only part of the communications solution. You need to get out of your office and make cubicle visits.


Throughout the week, randomly walk amongst your team members, asking them how they are. Ask them about their work. Tell them you are here to help – ask how you can help them – then do whatever you can to help.

Be it assigning another resource to a project, re-evaluating a project's budget, even rolling up your sleeves and taking on some of the work – that’ll really impress your team, because it’ll show them how helpful you are, and that you really are in their corner.

4. Reward Don’t Punish

To err is to be human, we all make mistakes. The best leaders reward those who do good, the poor leaders punish those who don’t.

When I worked for American Express, our leader would publicly humiliate, chastise, and ridicule anyone that screwed up during our project meetings. She was demeaning and cruel, and everyone feared and hated her.

No one gave her their best effort, and the projects – and ultimately the company – suffered because of it.

Don’t be a tyrant and a bully like my former vice-president at Amex
.
Even you make mistakes – yes you do.

How would you like it if someone yelled, cursed, hissed, and angrily stared you down publicly in a room of 50 or more of your co-workers?

Sometimes, I swear I saw gobs of spit spewing out of that horrid American Express leader. How she got to be in charge of anything bigger than a broom closet, for the third largest credit card company in the world, is beyond me . . .

Reward those who do amazing, wonderful things.


Reward those that do good too – everyone should be made to feel successful and on the right track – no matter how big or small their contribution is to your team.

And when someone messes up, don’t get your up against the wall and punish them. The best leaders teach, instruct and inspire their staff to do good. Show them how they can do better, and guide them through it.

5. Share the Spotlight with Your Team

At a party full of people, there is always that one person that naturally attracts others to him or her. They are the ones making everyone laugh and smile. They are the ones telling the greatest stories, getting into the best conversations, having the biggest laughs, the most smiles. They own that room, even if they aren’t the host.

Ever wonder how that one person somehow manages to attract everyone?

Here’s the secret – although they appear to be the centre of attention, actually they aren’t. They are sharing the spotlight with everyone around them.

They laugh and smile invitingly to everyone that is in on the joke. They are extremely observant, and draw people in by noticing the little things about those around them, and then showing a genuine interest in those little things.

It’s like they bring their own spotlight, stand in the middle, and anyone that walks by, they engage on such a personal level, that passersby naturally wander into the spotlight, and share in its warm glow.

Share the spotlight with your team. Be the person that everyone wants to be around, by simply being engaging, inviting, interesting, and above all else – genuinely interested in everyone around you.


People respond when you show a genuine interest in them and their well-being.

Combine that interest, affection and sense of fun with the other tips above, and whether the people on your team stay with you forever, or move on in their career, they’ll always fondly think of you as the best boss they ever had.

As a leader, you want that. You want that bad.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Entrepreneur Life Lessons: Never Cheat Your Customers -- Ever



Recently, the girlfriend and I went to a local cafe to grab a light snack before lunch. It was a sunny Saturday in Toronto, Canada, and we were enjoying some together time on the weekend.

We saw a quaint looking coffee shop -- The Grind Cafe -- in the underground at Toronto’s busiest intersection – Yonge and Bloor streets.

The gourmet tea selection won us over, and we each picked one to try, along with a puff pastry filled with cheese and other yummy stuff.

The cost for our light snack came to $11.42.

The barista behind the counter asked for $11.45.

With the elimination of one-cent from Canadian currency, the federal government has implemented guidelines for business owners in rounding to the next whole cent.


According to their guidelines, $11.42 should be rounded down to $11.40 – NOT up to $11.45. Actually, it’s also basic elementary school math – round up for numbers ending in five or higher, and down for everything else.

“It’s only three cents,” protested the man behind the counter when we politely reminded him of his error.

Yes, it is only three lonely cents, however that’s not the point. You don’t reject your customer’s objection, you should politely answer it – even if you’re wrong – because picking a fight with a customer just isn’t good business.

We paid the extra three cents, though as we sat in the lovely cafe, sipping on our teas, the experience just wasn’t as cozy as we had hoped.

Great customer service makes people swoon, and want more – horrible customer service makes you want to head for the exit and never look back.

As we exited the cafe, we strolled past a Shopper’s Drug Mart – one of the largest chain of pharmacies in Canada, owned by the Weston Family (they own Loblaws grocery stores and the President’s Choice, and No Name labels of products).

We needed a few items we know we’d find there, so we went in.

“Do you need a bag for that?” the person behind the counter asked, as we were at the check out.

We did, which she proceeded to charge us five cents for.


In 2009, the City of Toronto implemented a poorly executed by-law, requiring retailers to charge five cents for every plastic bag given to a customer. It was poorly implemented, because it wasn’t enforced, nor was it ever really clear where that nickel per bag was going.

The city claims it was being put into an environmental fund, to promote environmental practices and keep the city clean. However, as it was up to each retailer to manage the collection and distribution of the funds, most of those fees just went back into the pockets of greedy retailers looking to make a buck.

The original intent of the five cent fee was to reduce plastic bag use, in favor of reusable cloth bags.

In 2013, under Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, he killed the five cent per plastic fee, however, because it never was managed well, the city didn’t end the program well either, leaving it in the hands of greedy retailers.


If the city really wanted to reduce or eliminate plastic bags from the city’s landfill, they should have banned them outright – which they eventually did – however the plastics industry sued and the city quietly cancelled their ban in 2013.

So, now wherever you go in Toronto – and even in the areas surrounding it – you never know if you the customer will get dinged an extra five cents for giving someone your business.

“Where does the five cents go?” I ask the kid behind the counter at the Shoppers Drug Mart.

“I dunno, probably somewhere good,” she says.

Yes, it probably lines the pockets of the executives running Canada’s largest pharmacy-retail chain.

Although charging for plastic bags does reduce their use – a City of Toronto report claims a 53 percent drop in 2012 over the three years since the five-cent fee was initiated – that’s a drop of 215 million plastic bags – the money collected for an environmental initiative shouldn’t be used as a revenue stream off the backs of customers.

Never lie to a customer, because if and when you get caught, you’ll never see that customer again. And worse, using a social cause (such as environmentalism) as a way to make money is the ultimate way to cheat your customer.


This got us thinking about our earlier experience with the Grind Cafe. We figured, if that store wrongly rounds up it’s prices for everyone, then that three-cents quickly adds up, giving them an additional revenue stream. For every 20 customers wrongly rounded up, that’s about a dollar in profits. That adds up day-in, day-out.

However, again, you never want to cheat your customers, because that’s not a great way to keep them coming back.

Numerous studies prove it’s a lot easier to please and retain customers, than to pay for marketing and advertising to acquire new ones, some going so far to say it costs between four to ten percent more to acquire new costumers.

So you never want to do anything – anything – which could cost you a customer, especially cheat them out of their hard earned money, such as the examples used above.

There are great retailers that don’t round up – when they should round down – and that don’t nickel and dime their customers over a plastic bag. Or those that do charge for plastic bags honestly, inform and educate their staff as to where those funds are actually going, rather than “somewhere good,” which in business, just doesn’t cut it.

What’s the entrepreneurial lesson here?

Simple.

Be honest with your customers unless you want them to feel cheated, lied too, and that something just isn’t right.

Because once your customer feels that something just isn’t right, they stop being your customer. And you never want anyone once willing to pay for whatever you sell, to stop paying for what you sell – ever.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Just Do It – Spine-Chilling Last Words That Mean Everything to Entrepreneurs

On October 7, 1976, Gary Mark Gilmore was convicted of committing two brutal murders in Utah, USA and sentenced to death. The following year on a cold January morning, he was executed by a firing squad.

Just prior to his execution, he was asked if he had any last words.

“Let’s Do It,” he said.

A decade later, advertising guru Dan Wieden was sitting in on creative meeting, brainstorming ideas for one of his clients. For reasons only known to Wieden, Gilmore’s famous last words came to mind. Though being the creative type, he just had to tweak the wording a tad, to “Just Do It.”


“Just Do It,” not only became the legendary new slogan for sports clothing giant Nike, but also increased the brand’s popularity so much, it’s footprint in the American domestic shoe business jumped from $877 million to $9.2 billion in just under a decade.

Ever since, the popular catch phrase has been popularized by entrepreneurs, executives and business leaders to inspire and invigorate action.

Either we live in very interesting times, or most don’t know that the catch phrase they love to quote originated from a convicted criminal’s mind, just prior to his execution.

Playboy billionaire Richard Branson has used the phrase “Let’s Do It,” when faced with a potential business opportunity.

And just about every entrepreneur has either read or heard the spine-chilling last words of a killer ringing in their heads, as “Just Do It,” has become the ultimate idea every business textbook, how-to be an entrepreneur self-help book, business professor, business coach, business mentor and successful entrepreneur attempts to plant in those seeking out information about starting their own business.

Eerie. Creepy. Spooky.

“Just Do It.”

Originally, a macho mantra instructing the firing squad to just get it over with, has become the inspiration igniting the fires of those sitting at their desks with amazing ideas, to “Just Do It” and start their business.

Ironic, how the famous last words of a murder, have come to stand for so much to so many.

“Just Do It,” symbolizes the mental madness that entrepreneurs face so well. Most entrepreneurs are perfectionists, we want to get everything just right.



We plan, we mind map, we do GAP analysis, we conduct market and customer research. Then we plan some more.

The hardest thing – the one thing really – that separates entrepreneurs from those just with a great idea – is action.

Inaction keeps many people from becoming entrepreneurs, because they just want everything to be perfect. They get stuck in the planning phase, and never “Just Do It.”

“Just Do It,” has become the mental kick in the pants that moves wantrapraneurs to entrepreneurs. It’s what separates the entrepreneurs, from everyone else.

Because to “Just Do It,” you have to take a leap of faith.

You have to be bold.

You have to be brave.

You have to “Just Do It,” otherwise all you’ll ever have is just a great idea.

And great ideas don’t make money.

Taking action does.

So, to paraphrase a convicted criminal: “Just Do It.”

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Okay Google – Top Secret Hidden Resources for Entrepreneurs



Being an iPhone-type, I don’t take advantage of many of the popular Google apps my fellow entrepreneurs use. Such as Google Docs (I use MS-Word), Google Sheets (I use MS-Excel) though I do use Google Drive and Google Maps.

This got me thinking, what top secret hidden resources does the all-knowing Google have that every entrepreneur should use – including those of us using iPhones, or other non-Android-based tech?

Here are my top secret hidden gems – that every entrepreneur should know about.

Google Trends

Whether you are brainstorming a new product, or starting a new business, if you want to see what is trending on Google (and the Internet for that matter), check out Google Trends. You can see what’s trending locally, nationally, and internationally, in various categories. 

Entrepreneurs searching for a new business idea, or if you want to check and see what is trending in your market or industry – this is the place to go.

Google Correlate

Once you’ve found what’s trending, you can use Google Correlate to get the metrics behind that trending data. You can correlate current trends to actual publicly available data, to see if there are any patterns. For example, you may find that the new product or service you want to launch typically trends in warm, dry summer weather – or that it is popular with balding men under twenty – and many other useful stats which any investor will be wowed by when you go looking for capital.

Google Public Data Explorer

Speaking of using Google to gather data, Google Public Data Explorer is an amazing resource of publicly accessible government and non-government data from around the world. Want to find out the current unemployment rates for your neighborhood? Not only will you get the latest figures, it breaks it down visually, with charts and graphs, so even your five-year-old could understand it. This is a phenomenal tool for any business owner trying to break into a new market, or someone creating a completely new business – and as with all the tools here it’s FREE.

Google Scholar

Once you’ve exhausted the public treasure chest of info, check out what academics from around the world are working on. Chances are, there is a university or college somewhere around the world doing deep thinking on your market, sector or business lines. Google Scholar is a great place for entrepreneurs to track down published academic papers on just about everything. 

You could use this resource to validate a business idea, or if you need a quote from someone with lots of letters after their name to entice customers that your cure for some horrible disease actually has some merit. 

Some of the academic journals restrict their free access to their students and staff, but allow you to pay for a subscription to their journal.

YouTube Trends Dashboard

Quick – what’s the number one search engine in the world? Okay – we all know it is Google, but the second most popular search engine is YouTube, which is also owned by Google. If you’re in the digital world, or want to see what is currently trending on YouTube, check out the YouTube Trends Dashboard. You can see what’s trending on the popular video search site locally, nationally, and internationally.

Google News

Stuck trying to figure out what the next big thing will be? Catch breaking news from around the world on Google News. Google News shows the trending news stories on Google – often these are the top trending items on Google. 

As with all of Google’s trending feeds, you can break this down by local, national and international news trends, or by specific categories, such as business, the environment, technology and politics.

Got a cool hidden Google, or otherwise unknown resource that you think every entrepreneur should know about? Please let me know in the comments below or by tweeting me @jordanhgreen.



Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Is Every Business Idea Gold? Maybe You Have Entrepreneurial ESP.



Some people have the gift of the gab. They can talk about anything on the spur of the moment.

Others are walking calculators – quick – what’s the square root of 87? (It’s +/- 9.32739 for us mathematically challenged types).

Then there are those that have the amazing ability to take an idea out of thin air, and somehow turn it into a successful business.

Steve Jobs not only did this for Apple, but also helped create the magic of Pixar – their initial blockbuster film “Toy Story” was largely his doing.

Steve Jobs’ legacy continues to this day – Apple is building a mega-huge facility that looks like a round spaceship – which was designed by the late Apple founder. This spaceship campus eliminates internal barriers, supposedly to house a more creative space where software and hardware engineers can freely walk over to each other’s desk, to inspire innovative technologies.

Elon Musk shook up the automotive world, by launching the first high-performance electric car – the Tesla Roadster – which looked like a supercar, but was powered exclusively by electricity. That formed the basis for the Tesla Model S, which became the first luxury all electric car. And, despite tackling the very tight automotive sector, his company recently released the Tesla Model X, the first all electric cross-over vehicle.

You don’t have to be a big name entrepreneur to have “the gift.”



If every business idea you’ve ever had turns to gold, maybe you have entrepreneurial ESP?
ESP – extrasensory perception – has never been something that I’ve really believed in.

The ability to read another person’s mind has no basis in science. Nor has any of the other claims from those who say they have a form of ESP, such as moving objects with their mind, or predicting the future.

However, perhaps ESP isn’t so much a mysterious mental ability and really is just a heightened sense of cognitive awareness.

Case in point, those of us with the gift of the gab are probably just more linguistically and socially aware, those of us who are walking calculators are more numerically and logically aware, and those of us that can turn an idea into a profitable business are more entrepreneurial aware.

This heightened awareness isn’t some special power, it’s based on our own experiences drawn from life.


Perhaps those who have the ability to turn an idea into a successful business have Entrepreneurial ESP – but it’s no mystery where they get their mental abilities from.
They learn how to tell which ideas would make good business ventures, and which ones would not, from doing.

Because ultimately, the most successful entrepreneurs take action on their ideas.
Entrepreneurial ESP is like all skills, it is something developed over time, from learning from one’s mistakes, and successes.

Which means, those who appear to have Entrepreneurial ESP probably made some mistakes along the way – not all their ideas turned into successful ventures.
It is a learned response, just like riding a bicycle or eating with chop sticks – which I still occasionally need a bib for to catch the bits that slip through.

So, if you want to develop your Entrepreneurial ESP – or any special skill – get out there and do it.

Practice makes perfect – or at least – creates the perception of perfection.


And isn’t that what ESP really is?

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Entrepreneurship Lifestyle -- It Isn't What You Think



Many people envision entrepreneurs as always driving the latest luxury sports car, wearing the hottest most expensive fashions, living in mansions around the world and going to all the A-List parties.

Not so.

Yes, you can make it big, and have all that -- and more.

But the whole point of being an entrepreneur is to turn your passions into profits. Do what you love, yet trick the world to pay you for it.

That's the essence of being an entrepreneur, otherwise, you'd just be working at some company, to make money doing something you hate.

Most people have jobs they hate. Well, hate may be a strong word. They tolerate them, they've accepted the fact that this is what I'll do, forever, and ever, because everyone has to have a job. Everyone has to work for someone. That's how you make money to enjoy the few hours you get to yourself each week.


Or at least that's the myth society sells us.

We're taught to stay in school, so you can get an education because a good education is important in getting a job. Oh, and you'll get one of those too. A job.

And you'll be at that job forever, commuting in traffic to get there and back, until one day you're given a gold watch and a blue box with all your personal things in it, and wished a happy retirement.

That myth is dead. Has been for a long, long time.

Though our society is still stuck in that myth, so anytime someone bucks the system and bolts for the door of entrepreneurship, they are automatically called a "rebel," a "troublemaker," and considered the darkhorse of the family.

"You don't want to end up like your crazy uncle Harry, do you?" is often heard at family functions.

No one knows what crazy uncle Harry does, other than he'll always show up late in his big and shiny European car from some automaker no one has heard of, arms full of gifts for all the naysayers.



Crazy uncle Harry is known as a person that likes to party. His big full-on laugh can be heard miles away, he's always the center of attention, flanked on all sides by others, laughing at and with him, and just as he arrived late to the party, he'll leave late too -- usually closing the place down.

However, it isn't is party-hard persona that scares people. It's the fact that Harry doesn't work for anyone. He's never had a regular nine-to-five job. Ever.

But that's still not what really scares people about Harry.

What really makes everyone worry and wonder about Harry, is this:

Why is he always so happy?


How come he never counts down the hours until he has to go back to work?

How come he never complains about his boss?

He's crazy -- uncle Harry.

Harry isn't crazy, he's an entrepreneur.

And like most entrepreneurs, he's living the life he's always wanted too.

That's the entrepreneurial lifestyle -- living life on your terms -- not living the myth society tells you is "life."

So the next time you see that relative that's been labeled the black sheep of the family, pat him or her on the back, smile, and ask them for some advice on starting your own entrepreneurial journey.

Then one day, if you're lucky, you'll be the one that gets the word "crazy" appended to their name at family functions.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Isn’t Social Media Just Shameless Self-Promotion – YES IT IS – That’s Why You Need to Be Using It to Shamelessly Self-Promote Your Business


We live in a very anti-social, social media world.

No, that’s not a typo – social media is anything BUT social.

Think about it – how many “friends” do you have on Twitter that you actually know? And by know, I’m not talking about sharing tweets.

Let’s put it this way, how many “friends” do you have on Twitter that you’d invite into your home for dinner? Not a coffee shop, not some sleazy bar, or worse – street corner – your own private residence.

Asking myself that same question, I currently have 4,376 followers on Twitter. Of those amazingly awesome folks following me, I’d guess I probably really only know a couple hundred, when you consider friends, family and business associates.

Of those 200 people, I really only know about 50 that I know well enough to invite into my own, personal, private, living space.

So, out of over 4,000 “friends” on Twitter, I really know about 50 of them. Do the math – I only really know 1.25 percent of my Twitter followers.
According to statistics, that’s about right. Studies show the average Twitter user only really knows between one to two percent of those who follow them.

One to two percent – that means, on average, 98 to 99 percent of those happy smiling faces that follow you on Twitter are complete strangers.

Doesn’t sound all that social at all.

Twitter is just like walking down a busy street, yelling: “look at me.”

BINGO!

Social media is just shameless self-promotion, that’s why you need to be using it to shamelessly self-promote your business.

If everyone is using Twitter, facebook, YouTube, Google Plus, Vimeo, Pinterest, Instagram, even Linkedin to shamelessly promote themselves – then you need to be doing that too.

I know – that’s not very social. Walking down a busy street, yelling: “look at me” is hardly the behavior that’ll win you long lasting friends you can count on when you really need them.

But that’s the new world order, thanks to smart phones, tablets, free WiFi, and coffee shops filled with people, none of whom talk to each other -- even at the same table!

Talking?

That’s old school.

Besides, no one cares about you.
They are too busy taking selfies to show off their new hat, tweeting about what they had for lunch, or posting a really nasty review about the waiter that kept putting his finger in everything he brought to the table.

No one cares about you.

They are busy shamelessly self-promoting their own self interest.

However, the smart social media entrepreneur knows that social media isn’t about making friends, fans and followers.

No.

It’s about doing something that gets you noticed by the most self-absorbed generation since – well okay – there never has been another generation so interested in themselves, that they will walk into on-coming traffic, because they were eyes-down, self-absorbed into their mobile device.


You have to use social media as a business person to get into the eyeballs of your customers, so in their own self-interest, they share your posts with their friends. And their friends share it with their friends, and so on, and . . .

That’s the real power of social media in business.

Despite it being wrongly named “social” – it really should be called “self interested media” or “anti social media” or anything but social.

Social media is just shameless self-promotion, but that’s why you need to be using it to shamelessly self-promote your business.