Recently I was reading this Wired Science Article and discovered the Aral Sea and the haunting images of it’s slow death. As I was looking through the images, I was struck by the similarities I found in what happened to the Aral Sea and what can and has happened to business owners. It seems as though there are more lessons to be learned from this man made disaster.
For those of you who may not know, the Aral Sea was once the world’s fourth-largest lake that lay in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and employed nearly 40,000 people in the fishing industry. Since the 1960’s, when it’s water was diverted by ill planned irrigation projects, the Aral Sea has been steadily shrinking. The inland sea that once covered 26,300 sq miles and provided a prosperous fishing industry is now aiding to local climate change and polluted with not only chemicals but ghost ships.
You may read the title and think “What the hell can a man made disaster teach me about business?” and my answer will be . . . PLENTY.
Don’t divert your businesses resources.
All too often, as business owners, we can get caught spreading ourselves too thin. You are the primary resource that makes your business a success. If your energy and your focus is off, it will impact your business in negative ways that may not be visible to you at first. In the process of trying to do it all we end up killing not only our productivity, but what has made us and out company a success. Learn to say no, delegate and protect your family and your you time.
Other resources you may inadvertently be diverting from your business are; valuable online training, networking and trade events, workshops, industry magazines, banning the use of/ignoring social media . . . ask yourself what resources will feed your business to reach your goals and make it priority NOT to divert them.
Listen to your experts.
Whether it is your board of advisors, accountants, managers, team leaders, marketing/web agency or mentors – when they bring something to your attention, are trying to teach you something to make you better at what you do, tell you about a great learning opportunity, advise you to join an industry group or simply update you on challenges they are facing . . . the best thing you can do is listen! Put down your phone, close your computer and pay attention to what they are sharing.
Improve your management.
Whether it is through reading a book, attending a seminar, hiring a personal coach, delegating tasks to a personal assistant – what ever works, it is up to you to improve the achieve organizational goals through effective management of your company.
Review your policies.
There are times when it’s necessary to review our company’s policies and make some changes to not only what they are, but how they are implemented. If your billing cycle is a net 30 and you have clients that are paying your company on a net 90 – you need to have penalties for late payment and enforce it. But I must add that you shouldn’t be afraid to be more adaptable by altering your policy terms. Talk to your clients and team members and vendors to find solutions that compromise to please everyone.
Also, it helps to establish, up front, what your policies are for payment and delivery of goods or services. By clarifying needs, establishing boundaries and setting clear expectations with your clients and vendors, your team can focus on growing your business.
Free yourself from toxic relationships.
Whether it’s personal or professional I’m sure you’ve heard that 20% of your relationships will give you and 80% percent of your headaches. Well, you are the only one that can set your self and your business free. As Renee Zelnick says in this great post about Toxic Clients, “the toxic client is more problem than profit. . . . You will grow your business by focusing on the 80% of the clients you enjoy.”
Throw out the old adage that everyone must like you. It’s bullshit. Never compromise your values and standards to fit into someones budget or box. By spending so much time “people-pleasing” those who will never be happy with you, your business or your product . . . essentially you and your company are NOT spending time on those clients who do appreciate your time/services/product.
By making room for those who genuinely like you and your company for who you are, and what you stand for – your business will not only grow, but your stress level will nearly disappear.
Evaluate your losses.
We all have tried things that didn’t work. A hair style or a fashion fad is easy to overcome but what happens when you’re not paying attention to specific methods or strategies as part of a production/delivery process that are costing you and your company money? Understanding where you are losing money and time will ultimately help your business dam up the leaks and begin to rebuild your reserves.
Don’t be so set in your ways that you fail to act upon, change or eliminate those things that are costing your company progress.
If you own you own business than more than likely you have been multi-tasked into exhaustion. By learning how to be a lean leader of your company, you make using the least of everything a priority. But don’t confuse lean with cheap.
Lean is learning how to reduce your company’s waste, whether it’s with your time, process, procedures, policies, tools or money. By eliminating those things which don’t add value to your product or service, you free yourself and your team to focus on the tasks that bring your business the revenue it needs to succeed and build lasting client relationships.
Where have you found unexpected lessons in business?
How are you stabilizing your business to succeed?