Big data is critical to business success because it provides leadership with important insights and information. Large enterprises use sophisticated systems to track data and often have internal analysts on their team to crunch their numbers. Or, they hire outside experts to do it for them. Yet any enterprise can take advantage of big data, no matter their size, especially if you re-frame your definition of “big.” You can use your data to better understand your customer needs and buying patterns to further develop strategies that could impact sales. Insights like those developed with data become amazingly useful to any size enterprise!
Slay Your Fears!
You’ve heard some people say, “I’m really not a numbers person.” Perhaps they use this as their excuse for avoiding using data, much less big data, because they might feel reluctant to dive in and give it a try. You do not need an MBA or finance degree to begin working with the data associated with your business, regardless of its size. Anyone can learn and understand at least a couple of the key metrics that impact how they operate and what drives financial success.
If you are reluctant to launch into data analytics, being with some baby steps. Start by identifying two or three key metrics you want to better understand about your business or your customers. Once you have these key metrics identified, then focus on getting the data you need to help better understand what drives these metrics and how you can use the data to increase your enterprise performance. Then those metrics become the fundamentals that shape your thinking about your business strategies and what you need to do to better achieve your business goals.
Focus on how the data you have or can gather links to your business strategies. The key is to search for the critical data metrics that influence decision making. Look for the information that provides you with insight on the variables that impact your revenue and profitability.
Use the Information and Tools You Already Have
You do not need a complicated computer system or major data management firm to figure out what you are already using in your business for data capture. Frankly, many organizations are not fully utilizing the existing software they already have to gather basic information.
Frequently, software programs have the capability to export information into analytical programs such as Excel. Once the data is put into an analytic format, you can do all sorts of data evaluation based on key variables such as customer demographics, profitability, geographic location, purchasing patterns, buying volume, etc. Reviewing data points for various time horizons provides a comparison to see how much is changing during different time periods. Engaging in analytical assessments of your data often provides valuable information on shifts in your target market and identifies new sales opportunities. You might even uncover areas of business vulnerability before they cause major challenges.
Many companies do not fully access the information they have already obtained about their customers. Taking time to input detailed information into a Contact Relationship Management (CRM) system can be a first step. Consolidate the insight from your other information systems to develop a comprehensive customer profile. Then drill down into the information on your customers and tie them to financial measurements such as sales volume, degree of profitability or key target marketing variables.
It is not uncommon for smaller enterprises to have their most valuable customer information written down on sheets of paper or in someone’s head. If you enter your data into a CRM or Excel, you establish the foundation for a more robust data assessment. Then you can begin to pull insights by looking carefully at key variables. You will have a more effective way of targeting your desired consumers as you drill down deeper into the data to see which customers are most valuable to your business. You will be able to make better decisions if you are using thoughtfully mined data. You will also minimize the vulnerability to not having good information to work with if a key employee becomes ill or leaves.
Create Metrics and Dashboards
When you begin working with data, it is essential to create metrics and dashboard reports focusing on the key information so it can be tracked on an on-going basis. Then set up the mechanisms and policies that ensure it is tracked by your employees. Holding your team accountable for reliably gathering the data and tracking it in a timely manner are also important steps to effectively use data.
You can certainly do some of this work yourself, but it might be even better for you to loop in your key employees who are better skilled than you at putting it together. Then you can review the information and draw conclusions.
Another option is to work with an outside consultant who does this all the time and is not going to struggle with a learning curve. Outside experts can help you discover details you might have overlooked while managing the enterprise day-to-day. You are likely to gain better insights – and move much faster – by bringing in outside expertise for a short duration engagement rather than trying to struggle through setting it up by yourself. It is not a cliché that “time is money.” Invest in learning from an expert and then take it over once you develop the foundational skills and have gained some confidence in your own abilities.
Learning to leverage data is essential to impacting the growth and success of any business. As you become more comfortable using your initial metrics, you can add on additional key metrics. Using a disciplined approach and continue to look for more metrics to measure. Have fun with it! You will soon have a robust data management system that you and your team can use to more effectively manage your business and your customer relationships. This will provide you with new pathways for business growth and enhanced success.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jill J. Johnson, MBA, is the President and Founder of Johnson Consulting Services, a highly accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the bestselling book Compounding Your Confidence. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted more than $4 billion worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information on Jill J. Johnson, please visit www.jcs-usa.com.
“I wish I could rewind the clock and do it differently.” Bob, CEO of a mid-size organization lamented to his former colleague, Rick. A week earlier he had sent out an internal memo warning that things were about to change. Their entire industry would soon be affected due to emerging government regulations.
The day after the memo was sent, worst case scenarios were circulating throughout the company. The gossip mill was in full swing. Fear quickly spread to vendors and customers. Within 48 hours, Bob had hundreds of emails from concerned workers, vendors and customers.
“What could you have done differently? You shared the information you had at the time.” Rick earnestly attempted to support his friend.
“Rick, I didn’t have much information from the Feds. I should have been upfront with people that I was also in the dark.” The CEO confided.
“I know but you couldn’t have anticipated that people would react so badly.” Rick responded in a compassionate tone.
“I underestimated the importance of doing more than sharing facts. My memo wasn’t very warm and friendly.” Bob admitted.
For the past two decades, Bob had focused on building a loyal team around him. He had worked hard to build their trust and was confident he had achieved it. Now, with one poorly written document, he was surprised to see how quickly that trust could erode.
Here’s what also surprised Bob: how differently employees read written communication during times of stress and change.
Bob made some blunders. You don’t have to repeat his mistakes. As a leader, you can build trust during turbulent times by following these four writing tips:
Tip #1: Choose Every Word Carefully. This is critical. During times turbulent times, every word you write to your employees about the crisis will be scrutinized.
Bob’s Blunder: He used ‘unfortunate’ in his memo. Employees obsessed about the use of this word, convinced it reflected some dire meaning.
Do This: Before you press send, ask yourself, could my reader derive some unintended meaning from my wording? If you are not sure, get a second opinion! (or third or fourth!)
Tip #2: Make a Human Connection. It has been said that people will forget what you said, but they will never forget how you make them feel. This also applies to written communication. During turbulent times, employees look to leaders for reassurance and empathy. Conveying a human connection through writing fosters trust in leadership.
Bob’s Blunder: Bob’s memo came across as uncaring to employees since it lacked any expression of emotion.
Do This: Before you press send, ask yourself, what expression of genuine emotion could I share with my readers to let them know I care?
Tip #3: Be Transparent. When you don’t have the full information to share, be willing to honesty explain your constraints. If you do not show transparency, you risk breaching the reader’s trust. In your writing, what you leave unsaid can be as important as what you say.
Bob’s Blunder: Bob’s memo left many questions unanswered. Bob failed to share with his readers that he was limited by the lack of information he was receiving from his source, the federal government.
Do This: Before you press send, ask yourself, have I articulated why I can’t provide more detail?
Tip #4: More is Better. During a crisis, people can get overwhelmed. This reduces their ability to retain information. Your message may get lost. To ensure your communication is received, aim to increase the frequency of writing to employees about important issues. Repetition is key. Find ways to communicate important messages in different ways on a frequent basis during turbulent times.
Bob’s Blunder: Bob waited a few weeks between his first and second written communication about the changes and this caused concern among employees.
Do This: Before you press send, ask yourself, have I communicated how I will continue to keep people updated?
It has been said that the only constant in life is change. This may be truer than ever. How you communicate in writing during turbulent times can leave a lasting impression on those within your organization and beyond. Your people are watching not just what you do, but how you do it. By following these four tips, you can leave a lasting legacy within your organization – one that you will not look back and regret like Bob did.
About the Author
Dr. Julie Miller is President of Business Writing that Counts! Over the past 30 years, more than 750,000 people have participated in Business Writing That Counts! on-site and online writing courses and walked away with dramatically improved writing skills. Dr. Julie and her team are focused on increasing our clients’ bottom line by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of employees’ writing. Contact her at www.businesswritingthatcounts.com
Working from home by choice or by mandate presents a unique set of opportunities and challenges. If you’re new to telecommuting, you might find that without some discipline, you’re waking up well beyond normal work hours and adopting behaviors you would never exhibit on your worst day at the office.
In the beginning you might welcome a day or two late mornings and wearing pajamas past noon. However, sloth mimicry is a habit few professionals would enthusiastically adopt long term. To get the most out of telecommuting, you need to master some best practices.
Create and Maintain a Routine
Recognize the fact that telework requires self-discipline. A day of waking up at 5:00 am followed by one where you rise at 9:00 and another at 10:00 is a pattern on the path to disaster. Adopt some desk hours and stick with them. Also, be sure to take some regular breaks. You need to eat, you need to stand, and you need to stretch. You also need to turn off work when it’s time to go home. Unless you’re in a field that demands it, checking email at midnight is not a good idea. You need to establish psychological boundaries to keep work hours work hours and home hours home hours.
Learn New Technology and Leverage Old
When working from a distance, you should learn how to use popular web-conferencing software, get comfortable on camera, and get ready to meet regularly online. The world is moving to the virtual conference room, and you need to know how to operate in that space. “I don’t like being on camera,” “I’m not a tech person,” and “I’ll just call in,” are excuses that will leave you behind. Nobody looks their best on a webcam; that’s a fact. It’s also a fact that facial expressions, body language, and other visual cues are a big part of communication. If they’re missing, you’re missing out.
In addition to mastering video conferencing, if you’re working with a single screen, consider investing in one or two more. The extra room is a game changer, especially if you don’t have access to a high-speed printer and find yourself having to read a lot of documents on screen that you would have normally printed at the office.
Working alone saves hours, but the lack of chit chat created during casual interactions can also cause your relationships with your coworkers to suffer. To remedy the problem, you need to be deliberate in your communication and schedule time to catch up.
Set aside some minute during your workday to check in with coworkers. Not working on a project that requires meetings? Consider setting up a virtual lunch date instead. Most people who wake up one day feeling isolated and in a funk don’t have a contact plan in place. Prepare for regular social interactions before you start missing them.
Seek Out Opportunity
If you’re working from home and find yourself with extra hours on your hands, it’s time take initiative and learn some new skills. Anything you can do to expand your knowledge, work practices, or professional network could help you later.
- Consider developing an education plan for yourself. For example, instead of faking your way through PowerPoint, learn how to use the slide master, templates, and other features so that tool works for you the way in which its creators intended.
- Look for ways to make your work more efficient. Is it time to organize your email system? Could you benefit from creating rules, using folders, and getting your electronic communication under control once and for all? It can be done, it takes time, and if you have any minutes to spare that you otherwise would have spent commuting, seize the day.
- Get online and expand your business network. Brush up your LinkedIn profile, and start making connections. Look for people with whom you grew up, attended school, or shared an employer at some point during your career. You never know how your efforts to connect could benefit you and others in the future.
Working from home means you have to become more self-reliant. For example, an ounce of prevention can make all the difference when you encounter a tech upset.
Start with the basics. Think about your files and the tools you need to complete your work. For example, do you have a cloud backup? Do you have remote access software so someone in IT can help you if you hit a roadblock?
In addition to technology surprises, consider your short- and long-term goals. If your employer decided to eliminate telework, or your position for that matter, what would you do? Do you have a plan? It’s a lot easier to enact something you created when you weren’t stressed than to craft and start working on a solution when you are.
Create a disaster plan for one, and you’ll be ahead of most people when challenges arise.
Following routines, leveraging tech, being deliberate with communication, setting aside time for growth, and preparing for uncertainty are five ways you can get the most out of a work-at-home experience.
About the Author:
Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com.
Entrepreneurs, business owners, and company leaders in every industry are living in a state of overwhelm right now.
The rules of business have changed seemingly overnight, and many are struggling to adapt to the new normal of our current reality.
The number of decisions business owners and leaders need to make daily is staggering. How do we communicate with customers? What do we do about projects put on hold? How do we keep our employees safe? What kind of infrastructure do we need to support our remote workers? And of course, the biggest decision of all, what steps must we take to ensure our business survives this crisis?
Being a business owner or company leader requires you to be nimble and ready to react at a moment’s notice. But that doesn’t negate the fact that you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Now more than ever you need to commit to your goals and squash any fears that may be holding you or your company back.
The following 5 strategies will help you persevere through any challenge, stay on track with your dreams, and emerge from the crisis victoriously.
STATEGY ONE: Be Tenacious
As an entrepreneur, business owner, or company leader, you likely made the decision to be tenacious long ago. After all, if you hadn’t, you wouldn’t be in the position you are today. Now is the time to double down on that commitment, not back away from it. Times of crisis demand boldness, innovation, and tenacity like no other. If you feel your tenacity wavering, pick a mantra that is powerful and motivating for you and have it play on a loop in your mind. Some common mantras leaders use to build their tenacity are “never give up,” “tough times don’t last; tough people do,” and “persistence breaks down resistance.” Pick a phrase that works for you and use it as your guide.
STRATEGY TWO: Look to Your Past Challenges and How You Overcame Them
We’ve all had to overcome challenges in the past. Whether it was a business failure, a job loss, the death of a loved one, or anything else, no one’s life is without obstacles. And, believe it or not, that’s a good thing, because by living and working through those setbacks, you learned some important and useful skills. Even though the current global challenge facing us may seem different than anything anyone has experienced in the past, the fact is that the skills you have honed over the years during other challenges are the same skills that will get you through the current crisis. Just as a skilled cyclist picks themselves up after a wipeout and can ride again, so can you if you focus on the skills you already have.
STRATEGY THREE: Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
During times of crisis, you will need to try new things—maybe even things you never imagined you’d do. Often, that means being uncomfortable. For example, many business owners are now doing live videos on social media to stay in front of customers and prospects. While they may be very comfortable giving scripted messages to the camera, talking off the cuff, in a casual setting (such as their home), is very different. During any crisis, “business as usual” isn’t enough. Therefore, think about what new, uncomfortable things you can do to keep your company top-of-mind for your customers.
STRATEGY FOUR: Reinvent Your Message
If your sales have dropped or projects have been put on hold, taking a “wait and see” stance is dangerous. You need to keep your business profitable during the crisis, so you may need to reinvent or reposition your message and your offerings. The key is to find the pain your clients are having right now (which may be very different from the pain they were trying to address a mere 3 months ago), and then deliver solutions to meet their current needs. Realize that repositioning your offering often requires only a slight pivot, not a 180-degree change. Look at some examples currently occurring in communities across the country: restaurants offering grocery delivery services, distilleries making hand sanitizer, apparel and shoe makers adding face masks to their product line, etc. You already know how to reposition—you did it when you started your business or leadership position. Simply put that skill to work again now.
STRATEGY FIVE: Protect Your Company’s Culture
In order for your business to survive and thrive during a crisis, you need to nurture and protect the company culture you’ve worked so hard to create. This requires you to model strength for your employees, and to communicate honestly and often with them. The goal is to keep fear at a minimum and to make your employees feel safe. Let them know that they are doing a fabulous job during all the changes. Listen to their ideas. Ensure they feel part of the team and valued. Above all else, make sure they know—both by your words and your actions—that you are going to lead them through the storm.
STRATEGY SIX: Embrace the Challenge
They say that necessity is the mother of invention. And it’s true! In fact, often the best innovations come during times of crisis. The key is for you to assess the situation, determine where your business can add value, and then take action using the strategies outlined here. When you do, you’ll find that your company can weather any obstacle and emerge as the marketplace leader.
About the Author: Shelley Armato is CEO at MySmartPlans, a provider of best-in-class SaaS construction technology that eliminates risk, creates transparency and protects the budget. She provides professional construction services to some of the most prestigious business owners in the healthcare, scholastic, government, and other commercial market sectors. Contact her at www.mysmartplans.com.
Is Fear Holding You Back from Achieving Your Goals? By Angela Civitella
Research first diagnosed the fear of success a couple of decades ago. The findings, at the time, related to fear of success in women, and the results proved incredibly controversial.
Since then, however, most scientists and psychologists agree that the fear of success exists for both men and women. Fear of success is similar to the fear of failure. They have many of the same symptoms, and both fears hold you back from achieving your dreams and goals.
Signs of Fear of Success
The biggest problem for many people is that their fear of success is largely unconscious. They just don’t realize that they’ve been holding themselves back from doing something great. If you experience the following thoughts or fears, you might have a fear of success on some level:
- You feel guilty about any success you have, no matter how small, because your friends, family, or co-workers haven’t had the same success.
- You don’t tell others about your accomplishments.
- You avoid or procrastinate on big projects, especially projects that could lead to recognition.
- You frequently compromise your own goals or agenda to avoid conflict in a group or even conflict within your family.
- You self-sabotage your work or dreams by convincing yourself that you’re not good enough to achieve them.
- You feel, subconsciously, that you don’t deserve to enjoy success in your life.
- You believe that if you do achieve success, you won’t be able to sustain it. Eventually, you’ll fail and end up back in a worse place than where you started. So, you think, “why bother?”
What are the Causes?
The fear of success has several causes:
- We fear what success will bring, for example: loneliness, new enemies, being isolated from our family, longer working hours, or being asked for favors or money.
- We’re afraid that the higher we climb in life, the further we’re going to fall when we make a mistake.
- We fear the added work, responsibilities, or criticism that we’ll face.
- We fear that our relationships will suffer if we become successful. Our friends and family will react with jealousy and cynicism, and we’ll lose the ones we love.
- We fear that accomplishing our goals, and realizing that we have the power to be successful, may actually cause an intense regret that we didn’t act sooner.
Overcoming the Fear of Success
You can use several different strategies to overcome your fear of success. The good news is that the more you face your fears, bring them to the surface, and analyze them rationally, the more you’re likely to weaken those fears – and dramatically reduce your reluctance to achieve your goals.
Take a realistic look at what will happen if you succeed with your goal. Don’t look at what you hope will happen, or what you fear will happen. Instead, look at what is likely to happen.
It’s important not to give a quick answer to this. Take at least 15 minutes to examine the issues, and write down your answers to questions like:
- How will my life change?
- What’s the worst that could happen if I achieve this goal?
- What’s the best that could happen?
- Why do I feel that I don’t deserve to accomplish this goal?
- How motivated am I to work toward this goal?
- What am I currently doing to sabotage, or hurt, my own efforts?
- How can I stop those self-sabotaging behaviors?
Another useful technique is to address your fears directly, and then develop a backup plan that will overcome your concern. For instance, suppose you don’t push yourself to achieve a promotion, and the biggest reason is because you secretly fear that the additional income and recognition would jeopardize your family relationships and your integrity. You’re worried that you would be so busy working to maintain your success that you’d never see your family, and you might be forced to make choices that would destroy your integrity.
To overcome these fears, start by addressing your workload. You could set a rule for yourself that you’ll always be home by 7 p.m. You could tell this to your boss if you’re offered the new position.
For issues involving integrity, you always have a choice. If you set maintaining your integrity as your top goal, then you’ll always make the right choice. By creating backup plans that address your fears, you can often eliminate those fears entirely.
Fear of success is common, and many of us don’t realize that we have it. If this is your current situation, it’s time to let go of the chains that are holding you back from reaching the ultimate level of success in all that you do. Trust me, once you break free, you’ll never look back.
Angela Civitella is a certified business management coach and the founder of Intinde. www.intinde.com