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I just landed in Chicago (photo to the left flying over downtown – note: the flight attendant is telling me to put my phone away right at that moment!) –  getting ready for a business leaders in conference which starts tonight.  Tomorrow I’ll be speaking on innovation and expanding the business through creativity.  This conference is geared to business owners with a focus on building the business, increasing profitability, and creating financial stability.  Some of of the other topics include; reducing executive stress, reducing healthcare costs, developing employee character and conflict resolution, negotiating, international trade, reducing debt, and much more.

If you own a business and you don’t take time to develop yourself as a business owner – away from the daily work, you are likely missing some great opportunities.  Today’s business environment is competitive, demanding, and changing.  Make sure you schedule time to get away, spend time with other business leaders to exchange ideas, seek out executive coaches and seminars designed to educate business leaders, and read meaningful books…a few things most of us need to do periodically:

  1.   Step back periodically to see where your company actually makes money.  Over time businesses change, needs change, and bureaucracy creeps in.  Find out where the money is coming in, and focus on improving the things that are working.  Too often I see business owners spending too much time and money trying to fix something that just doesn’t work.  Many times this involves people who just don’t work.
  2. Review your message.  How long has it been since you updated your marketing copy?  Have you read your website recently and do you know what it says?  Is it still relevant?  Are you still using data sheets and are they meaningful?  Chances are you printed a bunch of materials long ago – it’s time to toss them.  Move to electronic copy and keep it up to date.
  3. Where is your pricing?  How long has it been since you have raised your rates.  Are you still charging T&M?  It’s difficult to raise a T&M rate, however, it is much easier to increase fixed fees – especially when you can demonstrate greater value based on outcomes.
  4. Are you reaching deeper into the current customer base?  Chances are they have more needs to be met.  This is a great way to expand your company.
  5. Test your program – does it really meet the customer need?  Are there areas you could be serving but aren’t?

New ideas don’t just happen.  They come as you collaborate, brainstorm, work with outside coaches and facilitators, and spend time reflecting and thinking about your business.  None of this can really happen while you are working “in” the business…

© 2012, David Stelzl

Over the weekend I met with (SMB) business leaders in Chicago to discuss principles of running a successful company.  My topics included Hiring Principles of Successful Companies and a session on Time Management.  We also heard from experts from the World Trade Center on setting up international trade relationships, methods of reducing company healthcare costs, establishing systems for success, negotiating skills, and a lot more.

A few points from my talk on hiring:

1. One of the best firing decisions I have ever made – a system engineer who thought that his skill set was so important that he could repeatedly show up for work late without excuse.  He told me our company would fail if we fired him since our current projects required his skills.  I let him go, hired a guy with half the experienced, and within a few months that new hire passed him in ability and went on to generate more profit for our company than any other engineer on the team at that time.

2. One of the biggest hiring mistakes I have ever witnessed (not in my company – but a close work associate), ended with that newly hired financial officer essentially taking over the company, selling it, and cutting the original owner out of the deal.  This guy was clever, experienced, and a professional criminal.  I shared with the attendees how it happened, and how to avoid it – bottom line, make sure you know who is managing your money.

3. One of the best hiring decisions I have ever made involved a school teacher looking to enter the IT consulting world.  He came on at an entry level salary – but eager to learn and happy to have a salary that exceeded his teaching income.  Within a short period of time he proved himself capable of taking over our support center, recreated the entire system including terms and conditions, SLAs, and pricing, and oversaw the entire operation.  Very patient with troubled clients, and doing well today, still working in this industry!  Of course his earning potential multipled quickly.

Hiring and firing – it’s not always obvious what to do, but it pays to learn how to identify great potential.  It also pays to look beyond a person’s current skill set.

© 2012, David Stelzl