What Family Taught Me About Business

December 12, 2018

business systemTo be successful in business, you have to be constantly learning.

I just came back from an incredible business event in London with all kinds of great ideas and inspiration. But learning also occurs in the most unlikely places. In the line at the grocery store.  In a flash of inspiration in the shower. Watching the waves pound the shore.

I had one of those unlikely learning opportunities one day when I was staring out the window watching my family.

I was sitting at my desk working on a PowerPoint presentation when I became aware of the buzz of a chainsaw outside the window. When I looked out, I saw my family, all working together to make sure we had the wood we need to heat our home for the winter.

As I watched the process, I realized our annual winter preparation is a great example of a business system. When it’s time to build the wood pile, everybody gets into the act. We have a plan. We have a system.

From the youngest to the oldest, everybody has a job. Grandpa finds the fallen trees and clears the path. Maybe he cuts down a dead tree that hasn’t fallen yet. Mom uses the chain saw to cut the tree into manageable chunks. Not too big, not too small. Just the right size for the chopping block.

The oldest child has splitting duty. The two middle children load the wheelbarrow, aiming for a perfect load…enough to make the trip worth it, not so much that the barrow is impossible to push. When the wheelbarrow is full, they take turns rolling it to the patio where the wood pile is built. Sometimes it takes them both, an exercise in cooperation.

At the patio, the youngest has unloading duty, taking the logs one at a time and carefully building the stack. When they get impatient, the middle two unload and go back to where the action is happening, eager to build the next load.

It really is the perfect machine. Everybody has a job suited to their ability and one job can’t start until the one before it is completed. To be efficient, the jobs must be synchronized, or somebody is idle for too long, while someone else is overloaded. We have a pretty good estimate of how much wood we’ll need (with a little help from Farmer’s Almanac predicting how cold the winter will be.) When we get that amount, we do an extra load or two, just for good measure.

When the task is finished, our little machine has done its job. We’ve worked together and have what we need to be warm all winter…and I have a great lesson on what it takes to build an effective business system:

  • a specific goal
  • a clear plan
  • the right talent in the right job
  • communication and collaboration
  • correct sequencing and synchronizing of tasks
  • having a backup…just in case.

Thanks, family…both for the lesson and for the wood.

Where is your next business lesson coming from?

Go forth and do great things,

Martha & Chris

You Failed. Congratulations.

December 5, 2018

Amazon awarded its HQ2 “prize” to Crystal City, VA and Long Island City, NY just a couple of weeks ago.

Two winners, and the rest of the 238 cities and regions became losers.  They failed in their earnest attempts to lure Amazon to their area.

Let the crying over spilt milk begin!

Not so fast.  Maybe not.

Can failure actually become a win?

Several areas already are experiencing success due to their failure to win over Amazon.  Pittsburgh, PA is attracting other tech companies to the area due to all the preparation the city did in order to submit their bid for Amazon HQ2.

Pittsburgh studied its school system, road infrastructure, housing occupancy and more, and the city began improvements to bolster their case with Amazon.

All those improvements are now attracting other companies to Pittsburgh…without the onerous financial concessions Amazon required.

Success pulled from failure.

When and where have you done the same? 

If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you’ve experienced failure.  Something didn’t happen as you planned.  Maybe something big.

But when you look at that failure from the vantage point of a longer term, rather than in the moment, that failure actually becomes a success.

You reaped unexpected benefits.  Something greatly beneficial and unforeseen came your way.

But have you taken a moment to recognize that success?

Have you given yourself the opportunity to recast what you believed to be a failure as a success?

So often in your business you see the downsides of your actions because, in-the-moment, you didn’t reach your objective.

But with a longer vision, or the ability to see a much larger picture, your failure led you to someplace rewarding.

Today, identify your failure turned success.  Pat yourself on the back and wipe that belief of failure out of your mind.

You succeeded.  Congratulations.


Go forth and do great things,

Martha Hanlon & Chris Williams

Start Tracking Next Year Now

November 28, 2018

Right about now is when most small business owners are taking a last look at their 2018 goals and figuring out what they need to do in the next 30 days to make sure they hit their target.

It can feel scary if the gap between where you are on November 30 and where you want to be on December 31 is too big.

Don’t be tempted to look back with a lot of “should-a, would-a, could-a” or to kill yourself trying to make an impossible leap.

Tell yourself the truth about what you can honestly do in the next 30 days that still allows time for eating, sleeping, and family.

Commit to doing that.

And then, start tracking toward December 31, 2019 right now.

Here’s how:

  1. Estimate what your total annual revenue for 2018 will be if you have a really successful December (I know you will, if you take the good advice we’re giving you this month.)
  2. Look at your revenue for the last 3 months of 2018. Use that quarterly number to set an annual revenue goal for 2019 that’s a stretch, but attainable.
  3. Divide your revenue goal by 12 to see what you need to be earning each month to meet that goal.
  4. Identify the gap between your November 2018 income and what you need to earn in January 2019.
  5. Tie that gap to increased sales of specific goods or services that will fill that gap, taking already committed recurring revenue into account.
  6. During December, make as many of those additional sales as possible, so that you get a running start for 2019.

Start tracking now. You’ll be ahead of the game when January 1 comes around.

Doesn’t that feel good?

Go forth and do great things,

Martha & Chris