Running Your Business like a Referee

April 21, 2010

They are referred to as zebras but their ‘real’ title is official or referee. They stand right in the middle of the chaos and decide when someone breaks the rules, goes out of bounds, or catches the ball.

The referees all follow the same basic signals which tell us what went wrong or right. As entrepreneurs, we can learn how referee’s signals can help us in our businesses. The various signals let us know when something has gone wrong, when we’re making progress, and when we’ve made a touchdown.

Crowd Noise Signal – Are you spending too much time on non-business related conversations or out on errands when you should be working? Do you spend half your day opening, reading, and responding to emails? Excessive crowd noise in a game creates a virtually impossible situation for the visiting offense to communicate. It may be time to hush the crowd noise in your home office by focusing on tasks at hand first. This same signal can also mean dead ball. When you foolishly waste your most productive time doing non-productive tasks, it can mean a dead ball as far as your time. Quiet crowd noise and focus on your priority list.

Personal Foul Signal – This comes in many forms; roughing the kicker, roughing the passer or face mask. As business owners, we are often kicked around by rude vendors, high maintenance clients, or even social media discussions that get out of hand. Let’s make sure we aren’t the ones causing personal fouls and penalty yards to others by our bad behavior and loose lips.

Time Out Signal – When you’ve been working hard, accomplishing your to-do list with a vengeance, and not wasting time with non-essentials, it’s o.k. to take a time-out. Take Friday afternoon and get a massage. Meet with a friend for some ice-cream. I take every Wednesday mid-day to attend a Bible Study at my church for an hour (www.corchurch.org). Time outs are good when they refresh you and get you back in the game.

Player Being Disqualified Signal – Don’t disqualify yourself with negative thoughts or a defeated attitude. You won’t please every client every time. Sometimes, it’s just not a good client/vendor match. You disqualify yourself when you give up or work lazily.

First Down Signal – Gain 10 business yards by sending a handwritten note to a client. Include a personalized article, relating to your client’s interests. Call your present or former clients just to say hello and ask how their business is doing. Send an email and include a helpful tip that your client can put to use right away.

Touchdown Signal – You have scored! You’ve nailed a project exactly how your client was expecting it. You’ve received a glowing endorsement from a client, raving about your service or product. You’ve reached a major milestone in your business plan. Feel free to do a victory dance in your end zone.

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Half-Time

January 30, 2010

Whether a team is winning or losing…it’s inevitable…half-time WILL come. It’s a time when sports announcers  banter with each other and aggressively give their take on what’s happened in the first half. It’s a time when advertisers unashamedly flaunt their wares with multi-million dollar ideas. It’s also a time that coaches have to lay groundwork for the second half of the game.

Coaches are well aware that they have only 15 minutes at half-time to:

  • Analyze the competition and make necessary adjustments
  • Refresh, rest, and rehydrate the team
  • Motivate and focus on team strength’s
  • Keep their game face on while players offer feedback

Half-time often comes to businesses too. You’ve gone through the opening kick of start-up, you’ve toiled through the downs of marketing attempts and client interaction, and have more than likely reached the goal line of an increased client base and referrals.

Now, half-time comes and you find yourself needing to do all the above bullet points. I’ll break them down so you can go into your second half, revived and ready to give your all.

  • Analyze the competition and make necessary adjustments. Have you looked at your competitors’ websites lately?

Their call to action? Special offers?

Are there any adjustments you can make to keep yourself ahead of your competition?

Perhaps a website copy analysis? A press release to announce your latest product/service offering? A revised auto-responder to draw in a greater number of respondents and increase sales?

  • Refresh, rest, and rehydrate. How many hours a day/week do you work? I’ve consistently worked more hours than I ever have since I’ve been an entrepreneur. I attend a 6:00 a.m. resistance/strength training class to energize me for the first part of the day. I take an afternoon break during my body clock’s dip time, then it’s back to work until around 7:30 or 8:00 p.m.

The more I move up the field as a self-bosser, the more I realize I need to aggressively take time to relax and refresh myself. I have to make a conscious decision to get up at least once an hour and stretch, I need to re-fuel with food every 3-4 hours, and drink plenty of water.

I’m talking to myself when I tell you to take a break and read for 30 minutes. Go for a short walk. Eat a little chocolate (I don’t have any problem with that one). I’ll often take Friday afternoon off to pick up my 6-year old granddaughter for a sleepover. Of course, the piggyback rides and chasing games serve to exhaust me to new heights.

  • Motivate and focus on your strength’s. You’ll find plenty of ways to motivate yourself, you just have to look around. A simple Google search will produce millions of results of motivational content to uplift and inspire you. Also, make a list of your strengths.

It took those strengths to start your business and it takes your strength and talent to manage it. After all, what do football players think about…how inadequate they are? That they have no talent? Huh, I don’t THINK so or they’d have a one-way ticket out of the NFL.

  • Keep your game face on while others offer feedback. If you want to improve your business, you’re going to have to ask for feedback from your clients, your peers, and your mentors. How do you react to feedback when it’s less than what you expected? What if the feedback comes from a trusted source and is still not what you wanted to hear?

Do you keep your game face on or fall apart?

Do you get mad and hurl negative comments back?

Do you wince and glare with nonacceptance of critical comments, even when they’re meant to improve your game?

You can do whatever you want to with your game face in private but keeping your game face on in public is essential to show that you’re a professional – teachable and humble.

Half-time can be a time of commiserating, re-hashing mistakes, mishaps, or a symphony of woe-is-me’s, or it can serve as time well spent. How will you spend your next half-time?

Player Down

January 12, 2010

Player down are the two words no coach, player, or fan wants to hear. When Al Michaels, Phil Simms, or any other announcer says those dreaded words, all action stops – our eyes are glued to the field in hopes the injured player gets up and walks off on his own accord. Trainers rush. Medical personnel hover.

Of course, there is the dreaded fear of “the cart.” Definitely not a good sign.

Throughout a football player’s career, he may suffer injuries such as multiple concussions, broken collarbone, broken ribs, broken nose, broken thumb, broken legs, torn ACL/PCL’s, groin pull, hip pointer, turf toe, shoulder dislocation and torn rotator cuff, not to mention all the hamstring, calf and back mishaps that can happen.

As entrepreneurial business people, we believe “Player Down” would never be part of our vocabulary or experience. But it is.

We can and do suffer injuries of the heart due to discouragement and disappointment.

We can suffer broken trust when we deal with not-so-honest vendors or clients.

We can suffer dislocation of our time when we lose focus and go in a direction that isn’t in line with our goals and objectives.

We may even need “the cart” when we’ve experienced a major setback.

Just as a player can’t avoid sudden injuries (after all, it’s the nature of the game), we can’t prevent outside circumstances beyond our control from dealing a crushing blow on our business or personal life. Players have a team of experts immediately at their side, to tend to their injuries and provide the safest, fastest way back to wholeness.

What can we do to recover from our own cry of Player Down?

1. Stop. Be still. Breathe. Acknowledge it happened. Give yourself the gift of time to gather yourself.

2.  Forget the stiff upper lip, be honest that it hurts, try a little transparency and give the key people in your life a chance to uplift and encourage you.

3.  Put one foot forward. When you put one foot forward, the other one will naturally follow…in forward motion. Step out to the library, a new networking group, a cooking class, or just around the block. Do something or go somewhere you wouldn’t ordinarily go, even just for a few minutes.

4.  Keep yourself on the active roster. Travel somewhere you’ve never considered before (even a day trip), change your scenery, eat somewhere new. Get your endorphins involved by daily walking and gym time…keep your body in motion.

5.  Just let it go. Holding onto hurts and heart/trust injuries holds you captive. Re-hashing and re-living setbacks prevents you from using that same energy on new, positive directions. I’m not saying a major devastation or loss is not painful. I’ve had plenty to deal with during my 53 years. But, once you’ve felt all there is to feel about it, what purpose does it serve to stay down?

It’s time to just let it go and move on to living new life chapters, in full color. Greater self-discovery will present itself along the way if you let it.

Once you’ve come to terms with whatever happened; acknowledge, be transparent, keep your forward motion, make sure you stay on the active roster, and then just let go. Really enjoy what new opportunities, people, and discoveries come your way!

One Play Wonder

December 23, 2009

Imagine if a professional football team had only one offensive play. That play was highly successful the first time they used it; worked like a charm. Short screen pass to the right. Then, over and over and over again, they used that same pass for every play, every game.

Opposing teams would know exactly what to do to defend the play. No surprises. No anticipation. There’s three words to describe this one play wonder…boring, lifeless, ineffective.

The same philosophy applies to your entrepreneurial efforts. Are you a one play wonder?

Do you rely on a single method of marketing and selling because you had great results once?

Have you forged a badge-of-honor because you’ve “always done it like this before?” After all, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Do your clients yawn at your “canned” approach to marketing and CRM?

My point is: if you’re using only direct mail…try building your social media network too. If you’re spending hours a day managing your social media network…try outsourcing that task to a freelance site like www.guru.com, www.elance.com. or www.odesk.com and make a few cold calls.

If you only rely on cold calling to market yourself, mix it up and try a combination of cold calling and direct mail. If you use the same tired sales letter for every mailing, supercharge it for more power. If necessary, hire a copywriter to kick it up a notch. If you are used to sending snail mail sales letters, create or re-design a dynamic website or homepage to draw a larger audience.

Can your competition “read” your same ‘ol marketing plays and beat you to the client?

Remember the no surprises, no anticipation reaction of the opposing team mentioned above? That’s what your clients and competition experience when your approach to marketing and CRM is a one play wonder.

Add some spice and variety to your marketing and CRM! You’ll not only see an increase in your client base, you’ll punt your competition to the other side of the field.

Fanatical Fans

November 16, 2009

Last week I was at the Chicago Bears/49ers game at Candlestick Park. I had a pre-game field pass for this particular game and it gave me an entirely different vantage point from which to look at the fans in the stands.

It started me thinking about what makes sports fans all over the country holler till they’re hoarse, paint their faces in an array of colors, sit in snow and rain for hours to watch games, spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars for tickets, and anxiously hold out footballs, jerseys, and other paraphernalia to be signed by their favorite players.

I also thought about what has made me a lifelong Dallas Cowboy fan and the reason I have no less than 10 Cowboys t-shirts, plus jerseys, jamies, sweatshirts, ticket stubs, signed hats from training camps, and even earrings.

Ponder how the following sports fan traits relate to your business success:

1. Loyalty to a group – People have the need to feel like they belong. They need connectivity. Fair weather fans come and go but loyal fans attend games, buy season tickets, purchase apparel, and follow the team on television and on the Internet. They’re proactive in supporting their team.

Think about what loyalty means to you in your business. Are you loyal to your vendors, your clients, and your networking circle? In balancing work and play, are you a loyal friend? A loyal spouse? Are you loyal to your own journey of success?

2. Observing Examples of Excellence – I believe another reason we see fanatical fans is that they realize in a deep way, the effort, guts, determination and sheer hard work it takes to play and excel in their sport. It’s not all glitz and glitter; there’s constant preparation, both mental and physical; it’s moving beyond average into greatness with every single decision.

Think about examples of excellence you’ve observed from people in your own sphere of business and personal relationships. Who has spurred you onward to your own pursuit of greatness? Who has inspired you to move past your challenges and to not allow them to penalize your own determination? Have you thanked them lately for being part of your team?

3. Because of the “great ones” who have gone before – When I think of great ones, I tend to think of the legendary coaches of times past like Tom Landry, George Halas, and Vince Lombardi. Of course, there are players who will forever be etched in my memory for their consistent excellence on the field; players like Emmitt Smith, Roger Staubach, Walter Payton, Joe Montana, and Jerry Rice.

Think about the great business and entrepreneurial mentors of times past as well as current ones. Who can you “adopt” as a personal mentor, whether through books, DVD’s, e-newsletters, or seminars? Whose example can you follow to take your own business success to the next level? Who can YOU be an example to?

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Focus…man…Focus

October 9, 2009

Without focus, football players miss passes, field goals, and audibles at the line of scrimmage. Without focus they can also miss correct formations, called penalties, and kick-off returns.

With the power of focus, players make Hail Mary receptions and speed through the line with force and fury. Blitz’s work. Nickel and dime  packages make defensive strategies look like child’s play.

No doubt, focus makes and breaks games. It creates great players. Legendary coaches are made by laser focusing on how to best utilize the team’s talent.

We may be a team of one but nonetheless, focus is just as important if we want to score success in our personal and business lives.

You cannot focus if you don’t know where you’re heading. John Maxwell, in his meaty book, “Talent Is Never Enough” quotes Bill Copeland, private investigator and author. “You’ve removed most of the roadblocks to success when you know the difference between motion and direction.”

John elaborates by saying, “Have you asked yourself what you really want to do? And have you determined that you will pursue it against the odds, despite the obstacles, and regardless of the circumstances? Being intentional is about focusing on doing the right things, moment by moment, day to day, and then following through with them in a consistent way. As President John F. Kennedy asserted, ‘efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.'”

Running backs don’t focus on tackling, they focus on running. The center doesn’t focus on graceful catches, he focuses on getting the ball to the quarterback. As entrepreneurs, we should be focusing on activities that increase our sales and productivity, not on time-wasting rabbit trails that simply lead to busyness.

Focus on your strengths. Focus on your talents. Focus on your goals. Focus on the positive results you will achieve.

Write down five things you will dedicate yourself to focus on this week. Tape it to your monitor or bathroom mirror. I keep a list taped to my bathroom mirror of the weekly, monthly, and yearly goals I want to accomplish. Do I hit every single one every single week? No. Does it help me stay on track? Certainly.

Now, go for it. The goal line is waiting…

The Uniform

September 12, 2009

How do you dress for work?

If you’re a college or pro football player, you wear protection from head to toe. For safety. To avoid injury to important parts. To cushion the falls.

As entrepreneurs, we don’t think much about that in our daily business lives but maybe we should. Let’s take a look at the various elements of a football players’ uniform to see if we can’t relate it to our own internal and external attire.

Helmet & Facemask

The helmet is obviously meant to protect the head against concussions. The facemask acts as a rolling bar for the player’s face to protect against pokes and hits and damage from falling on his face.

My guess is that you don’t wear a helmet during your workday. You’d look pretty ridiculous if you did and the nice people in the white coats would probably take you away.

But, what about starting your day with meditation, prayer, positive thoughts, a thankful spirit, and reading the Bible or other devotional book?

Doing those things on a daily basis protects your mind from potential injury from circumstances or various outside influences that come your way on a daily basis. It might even cushion you from mental and emotional falls.

Shoulder Pads, Hip Pads, Knee Pads, Flak Jackets

Again, all meant to protect different body parts. Football is a game about the power of muscle, not the ability of the body to absorb everything.

Do you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders? Is that what your shoulders were meant for?

Do the pressures of your business keep you up at night? What purpose does that serve?

Are you chained to your desk for long periods? Are your muscles so tight that you groan when you get up to take a break? Your body was not designed to be in a frozen position for long periods of time.

Do you take regular breaks during your work day to revive and restore your mind and body? Protect yourself from wear and tear…nobody else will do that for you.

Have you taken the time to strengthen the power of your own muscles with regular exercise, strength or weight training and cardio? If not, start today.

It’s all about the Shoes

Players wear different types of shoes for different playing surfaces. Depending on the playing surface and condition of the surface, longer or shorter cleats are worn. The bottom line is that cleats give players better traction in varying field conditions.

As an entrepreneur, have you adjusted your approach to clients, depending on the circumstance?

Some clients are firm; I call these ½” cleat clients – you need to be business-like, no-nonsense, and to the point.

Other clients are just average; 5/8” cleat clients – you can give a little leeway with your terms and be a wee more relaxed with communication.

Still others are mushy (touchy, feely, emotionally-charged); ¾” cleat clients – you’ll need to balance that out with some bottom-line statements, a firm stance, and maybe a little humor.

Then there are the 1” cleat clients – they are messy and muddy (temperamental and demanding) and cause miserable playing conditions. You’ll have to remain strong in your stance, not slip in their mud with any verbal giveaways, and not be afraid to take them out of your game.

Outer Wear – Jersey, Pants, and Socks

These are the outer clothes that players wear on the field. Many specific rules are linked to a players’ uniform but all for a reason. They don’t call it a uniform for nothin’. The uniform is governed closely by the NFL. If violations occur, the player is fined.

All those rules make me glad I can wear any old thing while I’m working at my desk at home. However, when I’m meeting with clients, some rules apply.

When you have a client meeting, do you show up, dressed for success, with a professional demeanor? Hair groomed? Nice aroma? Clean, pressed clothes? Minty breath? Notepad and pen ready to work?

All these seem like a no-brainer but I’ve heard horror stories about client meetings with vendors showing up, looking like they just rustled themselves out of bed. I’ve also heard about entrepreneurial folk answering their phones with the first phrase being, “Hey, I’m stepping out of the shower, can I call you back in a sec?” Oh my, these things ought not to be people.

If you’re meeting with a client in a casual setting…sure, ditch the suit and tie and go business casual. Depending on the client, dress the part…wear your “uniform” to the game. Don’t penalize your credibility for your appearance. Show your client you’re on his team all the way.

I’ll ask you again…How do you dress for work? Make sure your internal attire…your mental attitude, your emotional well-being…is in check. Also make sure your outer attire…your appearance for clients…is fit for the occasion.

Hurray! Football season is here! See ya’ll on the field.