We’re days away from Christmas and even without the snow the buzz is definitely in the air. Here at Wish Group we’re feeling even more in the spirit than usual. I had blogged about my thoughts on the importance of corporate giving a few weeks ago and talked about open submissions to our Holiday Wish contest for 2015. The goal was for Wish Group to be able to give back in a way that we felt would make a real impact on someone’s life.
We received an amazing number of entries from people who wanted to nominate themselves, friends and family. Each and every story was full of heart, compassion were all deserving. After much contemplation and review by the entire team of presidents we were able to select our winner Paul Totten at United Way, a valued conferencing client of Evolve Collaboration.
Paul had nominated his co-worker Nicole Graham who was in much need of some holiday cheer. We could not be happier to have been able to help him send Nicole home to her family.
With last minute work that inevitably takes up the final few days in the office, it is easy to get bogged down and sidetracked from the spirit of the season. Our way to stay reminded of everything we hold so close to our hearts is to share this initiative organization wide which includes our extended team of valued clients and contacts. It has worked to strengthen our corporate culture, create a real sense of team and brought a personal level of pride in the company for each individual that is part of Wish Group.
I can’t believe it’s almost 2016! There are a number of exciting new initiatives lined up for the various companies here at Wish Group and we’re rearing to get moving with the New Year around the corner.
With that said, the focus right now is on reflecting on the year passed-how else can we effectively decide how to proceed into the future? I find that this is a major issue for many entrepreneurs (who may be operating as solopreneurs) where go go go means no time to think, reflect, strategize and plan for the coming years.
Huge mistake! It can be cumbersome but if you can implement a process the following years will fall into place and more importantly, your strategies and operations will become more transparent to your teams allowing them to be more efficient and proactive as well.
For us there are a number of key areas to review aside from sales and the bottom line. The largest of these areas is of course, expenses. Where can we optimize, where was money spent, where are the opportunities for cross promotion and where do we need to invest in order to meet objectives.
My biggest piece of advice –be honest with yourselves as a team, department and organization. For example, if you wanted to collect 90% of receivables by quarter’s end and you’re at 60% because of lack of manpower it is a clear indication that you have to replace resources or add to your workforce because the workload may simply be too heavy. It is definitely the one area that small businesses want to spend the least amount of time and money on but without the right team in place the business will not operate at its max. If resources or time to source these resources are an issue our team at Peoplesource can help. Based on your budgets our agency can save time and reduce the hassle of hiring while finding the perfect match for part time, full time and contract opportunities.
Another key area to consider is technological advancements and how you fared over the past year as well as how you’re planning to deal with the affects or opportunities for your business in the coming years. Are there any tools that you didn’t utilize that would have helped increase overall business efficiency or reach goals? Here at Wish Group we finally implemented HootSuite for our internal businesses as well as for our Mike Agency clients. Using this application allowed the team to engage with various groups in an organized manner as well as create a manageable process in house.
Remember that although you may have started out with a plan for the business that change is inevitable. Direction, competition, the exchange rate and global business policies are not stagnant meaning neither is your business plan.
It is important to have your key executives and team members get together to reflect on what the business did in the past year compared against the original plan the year before and where you had to diverge. For example take a look at the ongoing issues that Chipotle is currently having with E. coli breakouts and the focus on building their food safety policies. Not something they banked on having to deal with and something that they need to now work to address with all of their locations. These areas of adaptation can help to dictate what may be coming up as well as shed light on pre planning for changes that occur in the year ahead.
In an entrepreneurial environment where there never seems to be an end in sight, consciously taking the time to sit down, lay it all out and plan for the coming years can seem cumbersome. If there is one thing I can say about this it is to find a way to build some momentum and motivate yourself and your teams to commit to doing this. It will be the most important thing you can do for your business all year. Like Thomas Edison said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration!”
A huge concern for business owners regardless of size is always human resources. These are the people that form your teams and inevitably drive the day to day operations to ensure that your vision is carried out. Continuing to build a lean and effective team is the goal of all entrepreneurs and this means matching the right person to the right job. The problem with growing a team however, is headcount and the costs associated with them.
I have found that when there is no additional budget to increase full time head count that sourcing the right intern can do the trick. In fact, over this past year our team here the Wish Group has implemented a successful internship recruitment program for key departments in the organization currently in growth phase to help sustain the influx of projects and work load while also strengthening the quality of the output. There are definitively hiccups along the way but once you have a vetting process in place and the right senior management to onboard your team of interns, you’ll find the new additions rewarding on a number of fronts.
So aside from the cost savings, the most valuable facets of an internship program in my opinion is the ability to build a future team of employees without having to deal with letdowns of permanent hires. The hiring manager, the company as a whole and the business owner (make sure you make the time to engage with them) all get to see what they can expect out of the new intern, as well as gauge how they fit into the overall company culture.
A recent study by NACE showed that the average retention rate was five years for employees that held a previous internship or co-op opportunity with an employer. As a business owner this is huge, especially when the average cost of turnover is in the hundreds of thousands annually. Finding someone that fits that stick with the company longer than average is a huge win.
Boost of Energy
With the continuous pressures that each of your teams have, adding an intern can really work to increase morale, lighten the work load and optimize team dynamics. Interns are typically looking to learn and much as possible and ask questions forcing employees to be in the know and in some cases inadvertently justify their decisions, actions and output. The right intern can add a new source of energy to your team and be a highly beneficial addition.
Creating A Future
My absolute favourite part of the internship program, in line with my blog from last week on mentoring, is that our company is able to give back through our program. The best way to learn how to do something is to do just do it! Interns have an opportunity to get their hands into real work with real clients and actual outcomes which is something that they simply can’t get in school alone. Employees also get to help hone new skills and teach these younger students about the business, best practices and the industry as a whole before sending them back out into the workforce or back to regular semester sessions.
Timing Is Everything
Internships run throughout the year and depending on what your business is looking for, there is an opportunity to set up internships for Fall, Winter and Spring. We have found it beneficial to connect with internship program managers at various universities and colleges here in Toronto as well as other external sources like LiveGood that work to find the right match for eager interns while also helping to subsidize part of the costs. Reaching out in time for each of these sessions ensures we have a great pool of potential candidates and helps to then plan out deliverables on upcoming projects.
While business is about the bottom line at the end of the day it is simply not enough to stop there. It is every business owner’s responsibility to find ways to give back to the community and establishing a strong internship program is just one of the many ways to do this. Try it out yourself-you’ll be happily surprised at how helping this group of youth will in turn further help your business grow even faster.
While everyone can use a mentor in my opinion, the benefits that the right mentor can bring to an entrepreneur are even greater.
The key reason for this is that there are no right answers when you’re creating something and running it on your own. Instead you can try and use the market’s best practices, feedback from valued employees that you’ve brought on board and then of course the constant input from colleagues, friends and family. But the truth is, none of these people may actually understand where you’re coming from, what you’re dealing with and what needs to be done in order to continue to grow your business.
If you don’t naturally fall into a mentor mentee relationship you’re going to need to approach someone that you feel could make a difference in your life and more importantly in your business know how. When searching out the best mentor for you, there are a few aspects that I personally think are critical to look for.
A mentor who has walked miles in your shoes has already passed the trials and tribulations that you’re about to face or have been dealing with and has been able to conquer them. You can’t put a price on having a map to your treasure, or at least a guide of sorts versus navigating blind.
A mentor who has taken an idea and turned it into a business understands the stress, anxiety, fear, excitement, highs and lows that are experienced day in and day out. Talking out these issues with someone that can listen but more importantly provide advice can bring some sense back to the chaos that you may find yourself in and help you remember that you’re not in this alone.
A mentor who has made contacts and connections to increase business success to date and knows where and how to get things done. If this person is in the same field you’re in an even better place with the ability to increase your network with the help of a mutual source that is trusted by all parties.
A mentor who will give it you straight. Coddling or softening the inevitable blows that an entrepreneur consistently faces will not help you. As William Arthur Ward said, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
A mentor who can help you grow but is also looking to personally continue to grow by sharing their experience, know how, contacts and lessons learned with their mentee. I have been lucky enough to mentor individuals that I have partnered with in creating the companies here at Wish Group and have found on the flip side that I have gained new perspectives, energy and amazing personal relationships that would not have otherwise existed.
If you’re able to source a short list of people that you feel fit these criteria what are you waiting for? Find a way to establish contact. Use mutual contacts you may have to make an introduction, reach out via LinkedIn or send the person an email with a brief background and your thoughts followed by an invitation for coffee to meet in person.
I know that we’re all extremely busy and an entrepreneur has little to no time for day to day operations let alone setting up time to meet and talk to someone that is not directly affecting your bottom line. With this in mind I would still have you think long and hard about one question. Would you rather eat for a day, or would you like to feed yourself for a lifetime?
I believe that it is something any successful entrepreneur will eventually do. It’s a mix of wanting to do something outside the day to day business, feeling the social responsibility to make your community a better one and finally the realization that your business flourishes because of the support of employees, clients, customers, and other stakeholders. Although it will be drastically different for each individual and organization, social responsibility is a key pillar on what I believe creates any good Canadian businesses foundation and one that I personally take very seriously here at the Wish Group.
For years I was donating to various charities, buying good for fundraisers and corporate sponsorships at events. This seemed to be at its heights during the holiday season. After some time I began to find this a bit cumbersome and began to think about how the Wish Group and I could actually give away something of immediate value to someone in need and create an impact during this time of the year.
After talking to a number of people and recalling chats from years past, a prominent theme that kept coming up was people who were unable to see loved ones that lived out of the city or country during the holiday season, usually due to some kind of financial constraint.
I felt that if we could alleviate that stress for at least one family per then we could actually make an impact in somebody’s life, which is the underlying purpose of the Wish Group. It seemed so obvious then and led to the creation of our Holiday Wish initiative in 2014. The Holiday Wish is designed to allow people to send in their stories of whom they’d like to see flown home to Toronto for the holidays or nominate a person or family that they feel could use some holiday cheer. Once selected, our winners or their family are flown in to spend the holidays together!
What I love about this program is actually seeing firsthand the positive powerful impact for an entire family. Our first one last year was amazing and bringing together generations of a family from great grandmother to grandparents and grandchildren not only validated the mandate for the initiative but brought an addition sense of joy to the entire team at the Wish Group.
I’m excited about our second year and encourage you all to share the Holiday Wish with friends, family, employees and even think about someone you’d love to see for the holidays personally this year!
Remember to give your little piece back to the community this year. Big or small it really doesn’t matter as long as you feel the impact of it in your own way.
Lately I’ve been pondering how I want the next chapter of my life to unfold. For many years I had a vision for what I wanted my adult life to look like. The dream included running a successful business, driving fancy cars, living in a modern home and vacationing in an ocean front condo in Miami with my beautiful and healthy family.
That has been attained for quite some time now and although I’m as motivated and inspired as ever about growing The Wish Group, I can’t help but rethink the goal when considering the pain and struggle that I inevitably know is required to continue to step out of my comfort zone to grow. I don’t know if this strikes a chord with you but the issue is really being ready to step up to deal with the struggles that will come with the aspiration to do more now that I can say I’ve overcome the initial struggles more financial in nature.
Regardless of the levels of success you’ve achieved or if you’re stuck and feel you can’t break through, what one has to realize that you really are a product of our struggles.
We want the business but rethink the sacrifice, hours and risk involved. We want the toned body but not the countless hours in the gym. We want the perfect relationship but aren’t willing to be the proactive one to kick start the love cycle. We want kids who respect us but don’t call them out each time they are disrespectful.
You only live once and I for one will not sit here a year or a decade from now upset at myself that I didn’t kick my own butt sooner! We’ve all felt lazy, stuck, depressed and overwhelmed with that little voice in your head urging you to throw in the towel and avoid the pain, but I urge you to stick to consistent action and actually train yourself to embrace and even love the struggle. Carry it around like a badge of honour like all hard working athletes, musicians, artists and leading business leaders do. The reality is someone out there has got it worse and someone’s getting ahead who is less talented than you are. Someone is working with what they’ve got and they’re getting it done. Do you actually want it or just say you want it? You’ll know the answer by your actions.
As Mark Manson recently wrote about: “If you find yourself wanting something month after month, year after year, yet nothing happens and you never come any closer to it, then maybe what you actually want is a fantasy, an idealization, an image and a false promise. Maybe what you want isn’t what you want, you just enjoy wanting. Maybe you don’t actually want it at all.”
Who you are is defined by the values you are willing to struggle for. People who enjoy the struggles of a gym are the ones who get in good shape. People who enjoy long workweeks and the politics of the corporate ladder are the ones who climb it. People who enjoy the stresses and uncertainty of the starving artist lifestyle are ultimately the ones who live through it and make it.
This is not a call for willpower or “grit.” This is not another admonishment of “no pain, no gain.” This is the most simple and basic component of life which is our struggles determine our successes. So choose your struggles wisely and turn those wishes into reality.
Simply put there are just not enough hours in a day for an entrepreneur. Wearing the number of hats that one does, there seems to be never ending decisions, tasks and distractions to deal with day in and day out. In order to be successful however, goals must be set and continuously achieved but the question is always, “Where am I going to find the time?”
My response to that is forget about where will you find the time and focus on, how can you optimize your time?
For some people an early start creates the most efficiency. A recent article by Jim Citrin at Yahoo! Finance reported that 80% of CEOs he interviewed said they wake up before 5:30 a.m. to get a jump on their day and succeed because of the noise they sort through before their in office time begins.
For others, being alone in the office after everyone has left for the day allows wind down time with zero distractions and limited new emails coming in the door as people begin their evening social rituals.
Regardless of what the best time of day is for you, I recommend that you identify what works quickly or you will continue to uselessly chase time which you will never catch.
Day or Night
Try and identify when you have the most energy in a day. I thrive in the early hours of the day before going home to the family responsibilities that take away from the Wish Group. Research has shown that energy is lowest after a large meal and highest after physical activity. If you’re trying to increase your energy levels later in the day or in the mornings, changing what you eat or adding in some cardio may have some great impact.
Do Not Disturb
Another important factor to consider is distractions. Some are planned like meetings or client calls but others are unexpected like computer glitches or employee needs. Try and figure out the time of day with the least amount of planned distractions. If most of your staff seem to take early lunches mostly from noon to one or two, you can count on less knocking on your door and minimal meetings with the team.
Plan It Out
There are thing that you’re excited about working on and those that are draining on your soul! Manage your planned tasks according to you energy levels leaving the most challenging to the times where energy is at its peak and the easier or more enjoyable items to times where you may not need the same mental capacity or concentration.
Work Smarter Not Harder
The biggest misconception for a business owner is that being busy is being successful. Not true. There’s a reason the saying goes as it does and it is usually the hardest thing for entrepreneurs to identify and change. Take some time and plan things out. This means putting the day to day aside for a short period of time in order to strategize the future. For example I facilitate a strategy summit with the executive team annually. This is an offsite event for two days where business leaders are physically away from the office and working collaboratively to understand and design the business for the year ahead. It is definitely a challenge for everyone and me most of all to unplug for a period of time but it truly works to create a smarter path going forward.
Day, midday or night it’s up to you-just remember timing is everything!
Bills to pay, staff to train, marketing to run, competition to take on and profits to report. The list of worries on any entrepreneur’s mind is endless. The biggest worry however, is the looming thought of failure.
There are a number of factors that can contribute to the health of your business. These include the market that you’re operating in, the lifecycle of your service or product, the state of the economy, the team that you’ve hired, your available capital, competitors and technological advances that are born every day. With all of these factors weighing in on day to day operations, failure is not as uncommon as we would all like to believe.
Although failing at your business undoubtedly plagues your thoughts day and night it doesn’t mean your story is over, it simply means that it may be time to move on to the next chapter. You are one of thousands of entrepreneurs dealing with this same burden but the successful ones are those that can turn that failure into something positive to move forward.
You Are You. The Business is What You Do.
One the most common traits amongst entrepreneurs is tying the outcome of their business to their personal worth. Therefore, the business fails and that makes you a failure. Not true. Take Robert Herjavec, star of Shark Tank and Dragons Den who has a net worth of $100 million dollars. He recently revealed his suicidal thoughts when dealing with his post-divorce depression. In this case, his incredibly successful businesses did not reflect the same in his personal life or his mental and emotional state. The same too can be said for those businesses that are failing. You may find that your idea or business is dead in the water but that doesn’t mean that you have drowned.
A perfect example-Bill Gates. Yes, Bill Gates was not an overnight success. If fact, the richest person in the world today, with a reported net worth of $72 700 000 000 failed miserably at his first endeavour called the Traf – O – Data 8008 because the demo actually didn’t work! It was his ability to recognize the faults and harness his entrepreneurial drive that led him to create Microsoft and become a self-made billionaire at only 31 years of age.
There Will Be Set Backs
You may not hit ground zero but still find that your business feels like it’s far from the heights you have in site. All businesses deal with set back and some may be more devastating than others. As difficult as it may be, perseverance in this instance is critical to keep your business afloat.
Take Walt Disney for example. When he first came to MGM studios with Mickey Mouse he was shut down and told that women would never take to a life-size mouse on the big screen! He continued to deal with setbacks along the way and even had to shut down his first animation company in Kansas because he couldn’t pay his bills and was surviving off eating dog food! By the way, the net worth of the Walt Disney brand today is $179.5 billion.
Learn and Move On
Knowledge is power. Remember this when you feel like all odds are against you. The one thing I can attest to without any doubt is that learning from your mistakes is one of the biggest contributors to your success down the road. I have continued to learn from mine and will continue to do so as we build out the Wish Group day in and day out. Each time you go back out into the world, donning your entrepreneurial badge armed with your new knowledge, you are going to come that much closer to your Microsoft, Mickey Mouse or seat in the Dragon’s Den. As hard as it is to believe, failure can actually lead to your success.
It’s almost Halloween and as friends, colleagues and employees are working on ways to create their scares for this weekend, business owners are dealing with fear every day!
One of the scariest parts of being an entrepreneur is leaving the critical elements of your business’ success in the hands of others. What’s scarier still is the thought of high turnover which results in lost output and inevitably, higher costs- from thousands to millions. In order to maximize every dollar spent on human resources it is really important to truly understand who you are hiring and to recognize that something new is brewing on the workforce front. The change is led by a new group, increasingly entering the workforce and is called Generation Y.
Generation Y are those born between 1981 and 2000 and are a breed of their own! For many business owners they are truly a scary group with an entirely new workforce demeanor, as compared to Generation X or the Baby Boomers.
Generation Y brings a number of challenges to the workforce that I continue to hear about and experience first-hand via the team at Peoplesource, one of the holding companies at Wish Group. Aside from an undeniable feeling of entitlement this group of individuals also require constant feedback, a voice at every table, extremely detailed instructions on responsibilities and expectations, constant coaching and a strong recognition and rewards program. The hardest part to deal with is the idea of a level playing field for everyone in the organization regardless of job title or experience, and where respect is not given it is earned. Remember the days when the boss spoke and everyone did? Not so much the case anymore!
While these are all issues that business owners must address they are offset by a number positive traits that this group encompasses. Harnessing these are the key to truly optimizing your Generation Y staff. They are highly collaborative and accustomed to connecting worldwide. They are also extremely creative, highly adaptive, quick learners and enjoy being coached and mentored. This combined with their tech savvy creates a huge opportunity for business owners to take their businesses to new levels if molded and supervised effectively.
This part of our business at the Wish Group is really in the hands of Teri Scott, and her team at Peoplesource. When dealing with Generation Y here’s what the experts suggest.
Help Me Help You
This generation is used to constant collaboration on all fronts and work is no exception. Daily huddles, defined agendas, flushed out descriptions of expectations and deliverables and the open door policy are all successful tactics. Rewarding this group is most cost effective than trying to reprimand.
Clear a Path
Generation Y is ready to learn and needs guidance. This is a huge opportunity for employers. Dictating will not work in this scenario. Instead take the emotion out of any situation and explain the why behind decisions and process.
This group needs to feel like they belong, and are good at what they are doing or understand clearly how to do better. Create this environment by creating champions. If an employee has a question about technology for example, try giving the opportunity to a Generation Y employee to tackle. In most cases they’ll find the solution and two problems have been solved!
Respect is Earned
It is critical that managers ensure that this group is as involved as possible in the organization or department that they are a part of. Through this interaction they will see the value, expertise and knowledge that other team members bring which in turn will foster respect.
Be Ready for the Challenge
Generation Y could not be a more suited name! This generation will challenge anything that they don’t understand or agree with and ask why? Again, clear definition of expectations, processes and procedures is key. When in a meeting be ready to give everyone a chance to speak and voice their opinion because they are sure to have one!
The good news is that one of the key qualities of this group is loyalty, and they will stick by your side if they feel like they have found the right place for them. This group does have the ability to make some real change in the world and although trying to understand them can be scary at times, you’ve dealt with much worse!
Last night was an exciting evening not only for the city of Toronto but for all Canadians. The Blue Jays have united a whole country with their recent run so it was exciting to see the big bats come out again on Monday and the liberal party has seemingly done the same in a historic revival of the liberal party going from third to a majority government with the biggest turn around in Canadian Political history. Regardless of your sport or political affiliation, there was some inspiring lessons from the feat that I’d like to outline how you can apply to your personal business.
Although Canadians were eager for a change, and with his political lineage and charm he may have made it look easy, insiders will tell you Justin lead the Liberals to a monumental victory by deploying old school campaign tactics and good old fashioned hard work. It won’t be easy for the Jays to come back and win this series against Kansas City, but regardless of if they win or lose I’m proud of the foundation they have set by improving the talent, values and thus the culture of the ball club. This formula should result in a competitive team with a winning culture for years to come which will hopefully produce multiple championships like they did in the early nineties.
Although Justin won by majority vote we must not forget that it took hard work, discipline, dedication and determination to succeed. While studying these elections, I’ve noticed that various parties try to come up with so many different ways to creatively entice voters to vote for them. Whether it is by implementing PR stunts or by creating controversy to sway voters from voting for the opposition. What I loved about Justin’s approach was his will to succeed regardless of the naysayers, his secret to success was by beginning his campaign over three years ago by meeting as many Canadians as possible. In fact, he visited their living rooms and dens coast to coast actively listening to what Canadians want and need for their future. This personable approach led to a great campaign roll out as Justin took the time ‘touching’ the people.
You can actually tie this strategy to business and sales. Regardless of the latest and greatest techniques to build your sales funnel, business or connections, the ‘old-fashioned’ way will always guarantee results. By investing time in making the phone calls to get in front of clients and prospects and getting to know their goals and objectives – you set the proper foundation for a great working relationship to ensure you know how to help them obtain their business goals. You’re setting up both your clients and yourself up for a great future.
This approach has helped us at The Wish Group produce 7 different Profit Hot 50 Star up companies over the past 11 years and it will definitely help invigorate your business as well for years to come. Canada still has a lot of great potential and I’m excited for change and the new challenges it brings.