IS WORK/LIFE BALANCE POSSIBLE FOR ENTREPRENEURS?

IS WORK/LIFE BALANCE POSSIBLE FOR ENTREPRENEURS?

Recently, at one of my mastermind groups, someone asked our guest speaker, Tony Robbins, how he managed a work, life balance. You want to know how he answered?

He laughed.

Ask any super successful, driven professional how they balance their work life and their personal life and you’ll get the same laugh. Or, maybe you’ll get an eye roll or some other dismissive answer because the reality is:

If you’re obsessed with being successful, with creating something bigger, with making a real difference in this world, there’s only one answer- There is no “normal” balance of work and life.

You work. All the time. And you find ways to integrate your life into your business lifestyle if it’s important to you.

One of the main keys to being successful is having clarity. If you’re wondering whether you’re one of these success-driven people, start by asking yourself these questions:

  •      Where did you start?
  •      What do you want to achieve?
  •      Are you obsessed with what you want?
  •      Are you willing, and motivated, to do whatever it takes to get there?

If you’re really obsessed with what you want, it truly becomes about how to make life work when you prioritize business. Yes, it’s much easier for someone like Tony Robbins to bring his kids along with him when he works because he has access to private planes, the ability to homeschool his kids, and pay for a support network to help when he can’t.  Now you, you have the ability to make life work for you, too. You just have to get clear about your priorities and take it from there.

If you work all the time, you HAVE to integrate the rest of your life.

Since you’re still reading, I think it’s safe to say you, like me, spend all of your time thinking about your work and how to make it better. It’s true that today I can afford to hire people to help me with my four dogs, but it wasn’t always that way. What I knew how to do was find a support network that had the same goals as me.

My first tip for how to integrate life with work is to talk to the people in your life honestly about your schedule. If there’s a partner or spouse, be clear about your goals and make sure they understand how those goals might impact their life. In my case, my fiancé shares my vision and goals, and she’s on board with my schedule. We find ways to make it work, but it started with an honest conversation about my lifestyle and how she would fit into that. Including her in those discussions allowed her to feel good about the choices we’re making together.

Maybe there isn’t a significant other, but most of us have people in our lives that can help when we’re focused on building an empire and may not have time to take care of everything else. Even if there aren’t people like that in your life, think about what kind of support you need.

I admit that there have been times I paid an assistant more than what I was making because it was important to make sure I had the uninterrupted time I needed to accomplish my task list. Equally important ,was having what I needed when I got home so I wasn’t deprived just because of my schedule.

In summary, first clarify your priorities so you can determine where you need to focus your time and where you need others to help fill in the gaps. Second, talk to those people in your life to make sure everyone’s on the page so you can make the best of the available time you have. Finally, if you’re able, delegate responsibilities and find someone to help do the things that make life comfortable, since you may not have the time to do yourself.

Listen to the full episode our new podcast, Chris Collins Unleashed, on Apple PodcastsStitcherGoogle PlayYouTube or chriscollinsunleashed.com.

 

Think I’m onto something? Disagree entirely? Reach out to me on Twitter at @bulldogcollins. I’d love to know what you think.

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HOW TO COMPETE AND WIN IN BUSINESS

HOW TO COMPETE AND WIN IN BUSINESS

 

Want to know your advantage in the marketplace and how you fight the big boys to end up on top?

CUSTOMER SERVICE.

What nobody thinks about when it comes to customer service is if you’re selling a commodity, somebody else can sell it for less. If you have terrible customer service and your employees aren’t building good relationships with customers, then it all comes down to price. If you’re not the lowest price AND you have bad customer service, your business is going to fail.

Your most valuable advantage in the marketplace is the experience your customers receive and the customer service that you offer. Truth is, customer service and experience never really come down to the commodity, they come down to your connection with the customer.
For example, I go out and buy a book at the local Barnes & Noble that’s been downsizing for years. In a Barnes & Noble you have to wait in line and then they make you feel like a jerk because you don’t have the Barnes & Noble “Club Card”. It’s a total shit-show. The employees have good intentions, but they don’t care. They aren’t asking you about your day, or if you found what you’re looking for.

On the opposite side of the coin, you have Powell’s Books in Portland, OR. You go into Powell’s Books and everybody who works there is super into books. You go up to the cashier up they say, “Aw, wow. This is a great book.” They ask where you’re from and it creates a conversation. It’s never really about the book, it’s about genuinely showing interest in what you’re doing. The book is a commodity. I could go on Amazon and buy the book.

That’s the difference. When it comes down to price you’re going to lose every time because somebody’s going be bigger, they’re going to have more money, they can wait you out, they can play poker longer than you can, right? So, customer service becomes your best weapon.

The key to good customer service is understanding the three different types of employees.

First, there’s the engineer type. In a restaurant, this would be the cook. In a car dealership, it’s the mechanic. These are usually very knowledgeable people, but they’re more introverted. For most purposes, you don’t want them talking to customers.

Then, there’s the second type—the sales people. A salesperson could be a cashier at a Starbucks, but it could also be the waiter. These are your closers—often a bit too much for customer service.

The third person is support and customer service. This person answers the phone, works as the hostess, maybe they’re a cashier in a coffee shop. It’s a blend. But, this is the person who is interfacing with customers.

Herein lies the problem. Most businesses don’t have a system for hiring people that sets out looking to hire the right TYPE of person for an open positions.

The best tool I know of to make sure that you’re hiring happy people who actually like other people, is group interviews. The way a group interview works is exactly how it sounds—you have a group of people interviewing together in one room. The people who like people, who can easily converse with others and are happy and smiling, they stick out. The people who are introverts stick out, too.

You can always tell who the people are who want to make everyone else in the room comfortable. You can see them. Personally, I could sit in a group interview wearing earplugs and just by watching, I can identify the ‘people’ people  because they radiate from the group.

The best way to improve your customer service is during the hiring process. Hire people who really care and who want to engage with people. The group interview is great because if they can’t shine in a group interview, they’re not going to be good under pressure when the phone’s ringing, or when somebody’s standing in front of them, and definitely not when they’ve got somebody who wants to return something. They’ll ultimately fold.

Another tip is to carry business cards with you. Any time you get good customer service from somebody, give them your card and get them in for an interview. The best indicator of future performance is past performance. If somebody connected and engaged with you, you know that’s their thing.

Customer service starts at the top. It starts with the leader of the company making a big deal about customers always being right, and always being happy. Next, hire people with the personality for customer service. These are folks you can constantly train and work with to exude customer service and connect with people on something different than a commodity.

Being able to connect on a different level is your SUPERPOWER. We have a customer service video where I tell this story about going to a vet for my bulldog.. It’s called, Pet the Dog. Watch it and have everybody watch it that is interacting with your customers. Connect deeper and become a customer collector. No one can compete with that.

 

Listen to the full episode our new podcast, Chris Collins Unleashed, on Apple PodcastsStitcherGoogle PlayYouTube or chriscollinsunleashed.com.

 

Think I’m onto something? Disagree entirely? Reach out to me on Twitter at @bulldogcollins. I’d love to know what you think.

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THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A BOSS AND A LEADER

THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A BOSS AND A LEADER

Being a leader, as well as a boss, is critical to getting your employees to perform at their best. Not sure about that? According to Gallup polls:

  •   Poor leaders in the workplace are the number one reason people quit their jobs.
  •   Poor management can cost a team 50% less productivity than well managed teams.
  •   Poor management can cost a company to make 44% less profits.
  •   75% of employees say dealing with direct supervisors is the most stressful part of work.
  •   Gallop estimates that $960 bil – $1.2 trillion is lost a year due to poor management.

A lot of people think of the Meryl Streep character from The Devil Wears Prada as the token stereo type idea of a boss, right? She’s the real to-the-point, perfectionist, do it or you’re fired type.

There’s a flip-side to that. There’s also the boss that’s what I like to call, the “keeper of the keys,” or the “Charlie Brown”. They can unlock the door every day. They’re reliable, but they’re not a leader. They’re not making the numbers go anywhere. They’re not propelling the business forward. I have a theory on the difference between any manager or boss, and a leader. There’s one thing that happens that changes everything, that most bosses or managers never actually do. They can go far in their career, but they’ll never transcend. They’ll never really know what their full potential is, or how they can add a ton of value to other people’s lives.

The difference between the two is raising your hand and saying, “I’m going to be the leader”.

Something happens in your psyche when you raise your hand and you say, “I’m going be the leader”. At that point, you accept all responsibility. The biggest difference between a boss and a leader is the responsibility part, the owning it. Owning the result until the end. The outcome is yours.

I think the way it was described to me early on in my career by one of my mentors was saying that managers manage things, leaders lead people. You can’t manage people—you can try, but once you get out past a hundred or so employees, it’s really hard because you can’t see them all. You can manage inventory, you can manage resources, you cannot manage people. You’re better off leading them so that they follow you willingly instead of standing on top of them.

When you accept full responsibility, you focus on the results more than the feelings. A lot of times, managers are led by feelings, not results. It’s tricky because it’s easier to create feelings around your comfort zone than it is to create feelings around the actual result. Raising your hand and saying, “Hey, I accept this. I’m going to lead us out of this valley,” is a magical thing in a lot of ways. It is at that point you’re committing to the result.

When you raise your hand, you’re committing to improving all the time. As the leader, you’re saying, “I’m constantly going to get better.”

Jim Collins said, “We found, instead, that they first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And then they figured out where to drive it.”

Meaning, you really have to understand that there are people out there who just aren’t meant for what you’re trying to do. Don’t spend all your time trying to convince them. Go find people that want to change the world and be a part of what you want to do. If you spend all your time trying to convince somebody who doesn’t believe, it will demotivate you and may ultimately stop you. More than anything, you have to have a sense of who you’re letting on your team.

To break it down, the real difference between a boss and a leader is raising your hand and owning every result that happens—it’s when every customer interaction, every misfire, every bullseye, is on you. The good and the bad. You’re going to manage to the middle. You’re going to be stoic. You’re not going to get too excited or too depressed about anything because you’re constantly moving forward. By raising your hand, you’re saying that you want to be the leader who gets better, who constantly improves. The one who is managing by the results, not by the feelings, and you’re humble enough to tell your team that you’re not perfect, and by doing everything together as a team, you’re stronger and better.

What do you think? Do you think leaders are born or make the choice to be leaders? Have you ever raised your hand? Let us know!

 

Listen to the full episode our new podcast, Chris Collins Unleashed, on Apple PodcastsStitcherGoogle PlayYouTube or chriscollinsunleashed.com.

Think I’m onto something? Disagree entirely? Reach out to me on Twitter at @bulldogcollins. I’d love to know what you think.

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GOING INTO BUSINESS WITH FAMILY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS

GOING INTO BUSINESS WITH FAMILY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS

Should you? Or, shouldn’t you?

People have wildly different opinions about whether it’s a good idea to go into business with family and friends, and for good reason. Personally, I have dreams of grandeur that in some situations it can go well, but plenty of my close friends and colleagues have warned me against these optimistic notions. Some have gone even further, warning me about near brushes with divorce over working with a spouse.

The biggest issue I’ve heard about is that you lose all sense of boundaries. Particularly with spouses, or partners, who work together—it’s never clear where the business stops and the marriage begins. They blend together and it can get rocky because no one knows their role. It’s often the same when people go to work for their parents—there’s a weird power balance in the office, or getting caught in the middle between other employees and the parent, or boss. God forbid, you get into a situation where you have to fire a spouse or family member.

In fact, according to psychologists, couples who work together experience an overload and interference. Overload because couples have insufficient time and energy to perform both as a family and business owner. Interference because work and family activities occur at the same time so it becomes hard to know when family begins or ends.

On the other side of the coin, the biggest upside of having family in your business is trust. In most cases… For example, with businesses like car washes, bars, places that are cash heavy, it helps having people up front who you can trust. As long as you trust your family members, they’re the best people to have handling your cash.

The other huge benefit to working with family or partners, is having someone there to be the rock. When everything’s going chaotic in your in business, you’re behind on your taxes, you’re bouncing checks, you’re trying to make payroll, you’re having to do all these things that an entrepreneur who’s starting up has to do, you need somebody there to hold you together. Someone who will put you back together and fix your wounds and send you back out to do more.

If you’re lucky enough to have that healthy business/personal relationship with a family member or partner, that’s great. If it becomes unhealthy with the family member for any reason, then the work should probably be removed because you don’t want to jeopardize the one person who you can count on above all else.

At the end of the day, whether going into business with friends and family is a good idea really depends on who your friends and family are and what your relationships with them are like. It could be the best situation—it could be the worst. So, get real clear on what kind of business partners you want. If your loved ones don’t fit the bill, or might not be able to handle your ambition, work with people you feel comfortable pushing and keep your loved ones safe from the ups and downs of the business life.

Do you have any experiences working with friends and family?

Reach out to me on Twitter at @bulldogcollins. I’d love to know what you think.

Listen to the full episode our new podcast, Chris Collins Unleashed, on Apple PodcastsStitcherGoogle PlayYouTube or chriscollinsunleashed.com.

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HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A GOOD IDEA AND A GOOD BUSINESS

HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A GOOD IDEA AND A GOOD BUSINESS

Lots of people have great ideas – my doorman pitches me a new business every week. But great ideas don’t always translate into a great business. To prove my point think about these stats:

  • In 2013, there were 406,353 startups of new businesses and 400,687 firm closures.
  • Out of these new businesses, only 7 out of 19 survive for more than 2-years (36%)

As part of your entrepreneur’s survival guide, it’s critical to ask yourself questions before you rent office space and start asking friends and family for money you’ll never be able to repay.

First, what is my goal? Sometimes people go into business because they inherited Aunt Ginny’s favorite cookie recipe, but what’s the goal? To make money? For everyone in the world to taste Aunt Ginny’s cookies? Are you willing to do this for free? If you’re interested in making money be very specific. Do you want to make $50,000 a year or $100,000,000?

It’ll serve you well to have a disciplined approach to your profitability, finances, and bookkeeping from the start. Because believe me, there will come a time you’ll need investors, or to borrow money, and you need to be prepared for that. You also want to know every month if you’re winning or losing so you can make informed decisions moving forward.

Next, is there a demand? Doesn’t matter whether YOU love your product, or whether it’s good if no one wants it. So, you need to find out and test the market. Handsome coffee is a great example because whenever there was a cool event they were there with a little kiosk, making coffee and selling bags of coffee. They had something like 80 wholesale accounts before they even opened their doors. It’s possible to test without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, and anything can be tested.

How committed are you? Are you willing to sleep on your mom’s couch as an adult to make this work? I’m not kidding because the time will come for any entrepreneur when you run out of money, something goes wrong, someone tries to sue you, whatever… Expect things to go wrong and know going into it how you’re going to handle it when that inevitability happens. The time for a gut check is before you go off and spend a bunch of time and money.

Also, the best time to work out an exit strategy is at the beginning. Put it in writing and make it clear what’s going to happen if it doesn’t work out, or things go wrong.

What’s the monetary of the system you’re going into? Most successful businesses have different ways to make money so you need to understand the monetary system, and all the streams of income. For example, if you have a wine store it might end up that your wine club makes more money than bottle sales. Create a consumption plan for your customers because they’re looking to you to guide the experience.

Who, or what, is your potential competition? This can make, or break, a new company because if you don’t know who you’re up against there’s no way you can put the right strategy into place. The last thing you want to do is compete on price with someone who has it locked down. Sometimes you have to take a hard look in the mirror and ask yourself, is my product really better? But better to ask yourself that question before you find yourself competing with Starbucks. Tivo is the perfect example because they had a great product, and was first to market, but they never made any partnerships so when all the companies came out with their own version than they lost their edge, and ultimately all their business.

Finally, what’s the relationship with the customer? At Virgin Airlines, they’re selling an experience—a really great experience. The result of that is the customers grow accustomed to that first-rate experience. They like it, and then they count on it, so when it’s gone they feel a gap.

So early on it really serves you to create a relationship and build a list of raving fans. So, every time you interact with someone they walk away thinking that was really good. Exceed their expectations. Even slight differences can make all the difference in the world.

Think I’m onto something? Disagree entirely? Reach out to me on Twitter at @bulldogcollins. I’d love to know what you think.

Listen to the full episode our new podcast, Chris Collins Unleashed, on Apple PodcastsStitcherGoogle PlayYouTube or chriscollinsunleashed.com.

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GAMIFICATION: YOUR HACK TO MAKING HAPPY, PRODUCTIVE EMPLOYEES

GAMIFICATION: YOUR HACK TO MAKING HAPPY, PRODUCTIVE EMPLOYEES

Wouldn’t work be amazing if everyone did their job? Seriously, how many times have you asked your employees to do something only to turn around and realize they didn’t do it, or did it half-assed? That makes me extremely unhappy, and I’m pretty sure you feel the same.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are lots of great employees—the kind who work hard, take pride in their performance, and act like a committed member of your team. And, we appreciate them. But, even those special types struggle if they’re not in the right environment. So whether we’re talking about service advisors, service managers or service technicians, how do you get people to willingly do their best all the time?

The answer is Gamification, and it’s exactly what it sounds like—using game playing to increase employee productivity and drive results. We’ve been doing this in the car industry for years—using games to motivate our teams. In the 400+ dealerships I’ve turned around, Gamification is still the best way I’ve found to drive momentum and results and get better work out of your workers. We are a competitive species. And the proof is the gaming industry. As of today, it’s worth $200 billion.

The point is if you’re not playing games with your employees, then they’ll just be playing games on their phones, instead of working. And, we all know how frustrating that is. So let’s get into the best ways to use Gamification. First, keep in mind the key to Gamification is anything can be a game. Don’t over-complicate this, or get caught up in too many rules. Get a deck of cards, or some dice—certainly keep things simple to get started. At Chris Collins Inc. we play games every day. Some of our favorite in-office games are dollar poker, baseball, bozo buckets, or anything that involves shooting things.

You can gamify your MVP’s— your most valuable products—you can gamify systems, sales, information gathering, call times—you can gamify almost anything, any system, any customer-facing interaction.

If you aren’t already a Gamification pro, you can get the specifics on how to set up games from this week’s Service Drive Revolution show. And, you can always get my book, Gamificationif you struggle with coming up with ideas. There are hundreds in there and they have instructions. Our guest host on the show this week, Mario Pernillo, talks about choosing games that have the right vibe for your tribe, and how you should pick a game that you think might work well for your group, and the issues they’re struggling with.

As the leader, boss, or manager it’s your job to get Gamification started, and create that energy. Make it exciting and show the guys you have prizes to give them. If you take the time to implement fun games, with rewards, the results will speak for themselves. Your employees will be more upbeat and more productive. We know – from experience.