A Gift, From You, To Your Business This Year

Tis the season… What gift will you give your business this year? I asked some friends that on Twitter.com yesterday – following are some of the great responses:

  • @misscmac Give your business the gift of TIME – what you put into it is what you get out of it!!
  • @barefoot_exec gift to my biz would be effective exposure
  • @valeriesteinier I will give my company positive energy to make my time productive in giving a customer 100 percent satisfaction strategy.
  • @quietrevolution A list of all the ways I have mismanaged it, and my action plan to correct said mis-steps in the New Year
  • @boutiquegirl Ahh that is easy. A new organized office space!
  • @indiesmiles : New business cards, new graphics, new advertising campaign!
  • @blukentucky give your business a gift… yes.. time away from to refresh..gain an attitude
  • @SlowDownFAST How about the gift of self-reflection? Personal development for all parties.

…and my favorite:

  • @CreativeTutors give ur biz ur undivided presence – Thanks to Sheila Sifferman for that one.

What does it mean to give your business your undivided “presence”? A few quick thoughts off the top of my head:

  1. Balance – My undivided presence does not mean my undivided attention, time, or devoted mental and emotional energy. In fact, the only way my business can have my undivided presence is to gain some balance. Get a life, take time off, not to re-energize (that is recovery time, not time off), but to smell the roses, grow personally, and live out the values and passion that brought you into business in the first place. As my Irish friend, John Heenan has reminded me many times: (said with magical Irish accent) – “Give from your fruit, Chuck, not from your root.”
  2. ON vs. IN – My undivided presence means I spend time away from the daily grind, away from “production”, and devoted to strategic planning, review of the past, and preparing for the future. Joseph Kennedy tried to build a national construction company for years until he semi-retired and went fishing a few days a week. Very shortly after, his business went national because the time spent fishing got him far enough away from the “bark” to see the trees and the forest in his business. Give your business the gift of working ON your business, not just IN it. Regularly, weekly.
  3. Honest input from others – A friend of mine did a study on leadership and found the single most common factor among great leaders was the willingness to be transparent and submit themselves to peers who had the altitude to call “B/S” on them when they needed it. And conversely, those that failed insulated themselves from honest feedback. Give your business the gift of peers, a mentor, and a peer advisory group.
  4. Cover your weaknesses – We’re only good at a few things. Give your business the gift of involving others in your business who can do the things you aren’t good at. You can’t give your business your undivided presence if you are buried in the details.
  5. Know where you’re going – Have a business strategy (not a traditional business plan, they are nearly worthless) and invest every day in accomplishing the strategy. Give your business the gift of clarity of purpose.

The above is just a quick thought-stream prompted by Sheila’s gift of “presence”. I’ve likely missed some great ways you could give your business your undivided presence.

What gift would you give your business in the coming year, and how will it help you give your business your undivided presence in 2009?

The Single Most Important Question in Business

…is the one we ask least often.

As responsible business owners, we invest a lot of time answering the “what” question. What will I sell? What should my price be? What kind of marketing should I do?

We find “how” intriguing as well – How will I find clients? How will I make ends meet this month? And we’re even okay with “who” (who is my ideal client) or “where” (where do I locate, advertise, network, etc.?).

All of these questions – who, what, where and how can be just plain fun to play around with. Why? (hint – this is a pretty important question) – Because they are largely theoretical questions. I can answer ALL of them brilliantly and do absolutely nothing – frozen in my tracks but feeling as if I’ve made great progress. But we’re really just playing office again. Merely doing complex (but easy) things that make us feel important and impress others.

The 2nd most important question in business (see last week’s post) is “when”. We avoid it like the plague because when we attach it to all the other questions (who, what, where, and how), we suddenly lose control of our future. Instead of managing our plans, we are now managed by our Plan, required to take action and move forward when we’d rather sit around thinking about it and just play office some more.

But the biggest, most important question in business is avoided even more then “when”. And it’s the most important question for determining our success.


On the most strategic level, if you don’t know why you’re in business, you’re going to fold when the going gets tough. And on the most tactical level, if you don’t know why you want to buy that snazzy new printer, you’re going to wonder why you can’t make money.

The “why” question should be attached to every other question you need to answer. What should I sell (why should I sell it)? How will I find clients (why do I want those clients)? Where should I locate (why is this a great place to be?)

And most importantly, “why” even needs to be attached to “when”. When do I want to be at 100 clients (why then and not later/earlier)? When do I want to have a fully mature business (why then and not later/earlier)?

When we ask why, we have a better chance of making decisions that are all aligned with our long-term plan (asking “why” makes us get a long term plan). When we avoid asking why, we make individual decisions in individual vacuums and wonder how we ended up right where we started at the beginning of the year. The result – a business going many directions at once and ultimately going nowhere.

Why gives us clarity of purpose.

If you won’t ask why, don’t bother with the other questions. They are all mechanical questions and don’t matter outside of “why”.

Why are you in business? Why do you do business they way you do? Why do you think it will take you 20 years to grow a mature business (why not 5)? Why do my customers buy from me? Why am I stuck at the same revenue as last year?

Why don’t you ask why more often?

Seth Godin wrote a book called The Dip in which he contends we quit when we shouldn’t and don’t when we should. If we asked why more often in business, Godin, wouldn’t have had a book to write. Answering why helps wake us up to stupid habits that aren’t helping us but just make us comfy (or impressive). And more importantly, answering why we’re in business gives us the motivation to push through the dips, to move from survival, through success, to significance.

Every time you ask a who, what, where or how question, ask “when”, then ask “why”. You’ll make more money in less time. Why do you think that might be true?

The 2nd Most Important Question in Business


“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Mark Twain

Jeanne, a friend of mine who owns a corporate training company told me how she got started. Or actually didn’t.

She had all the plans, the syllabus, the locations. She was building a network, too, but couldn’t figure out how to actually get business. Then she went to a conference for HR professionals (her target market) – about 100 people showed up.

The moderator started the day by asking if anyone had any workshops, seminars, or events to announce, and if so, would they like to pass around a sign-up sheet. Jeanne didn’t have anything planned at the time, but realizing this was her best shot to reach 100 people in her target market, she took a yellow pad, made up an event title, put a date on it, and passed it around.

One guy signed up. Jeanne was disappointed in three ways: 1) One guy signed up, and 2) now she was committed to an event that she hadn’t planned and wasn’t ready to execute, and 3) she would likely lose money on the event.

Even though the event was only four weeks out, she ended up getting 18 HR pros to come and it was a big success. After a few months of going nowhere in her business, she had made a big splash and was on her way. Why?

Because she decided to do something, and more importantly, she put a date on it.

And she couldn’t weasel out of the date because others knew about it and were depending on her to follow through.

It is amazing what happens to us when a) we decide to do something, b) we put a date on it, and c) we go public with the date.

Know anyone who has been engaged for years? That’s because they decided to get engaged, not get married. When they actually decide to get married, they’ll put a date on it, and both of them will be changed forever.

Planning an event or setting a Waypoint in our business won’t change us like setting a date to get married, but you get the point. It will change you. Try it.

Get started. Create a Waypoint for increased sales, for firing your job and going out on your own, or replacing an employee, or an event for potential clients. Then put a date on it. Then make sure enough people know about it that you can’t weasel out. It will create a sense of urgency that will change the way you do business.

And check your “goals” and next years “business plan” for dates. “1st Quarter” is not a date. “2009” is not a date. Put specific dates on every action you plan to take, and watch what happens. For some it’s even a good idea to put a time of day on it. Even if the day/time is months away, you will see the clock ticking in your head when you do this.

“When” shouldn’t be such an unusual question in business, but there’s no secret as to why we avoid it. It actually makes us change, and we don’t like change, even when we’ll make more money in less time by changing. So we “make decisions” that aren’t decisions to avoid actually succeeding.

A decision is not a decision until we put a date on it. Until then, we’re just playing office.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Mark Twain What are you stuck on? Put a date on it. Let other people know. It will change you and you will make more money in less time.

Next week we’ll hit the most important question in business.