What Does Professionalism Mean To You?

logo-subheadingThis past weekend was the annual Wish Group Kickoff event, where we meet up with all of our employees to discuss what we accomplished in 2014, where we met our goals and, more importantly, where we didn’t meet our goals. I truly believe that in order to move forward, you need to take an honest look at your shortcomings and use those to get a better understanding of where you need to improve.

We always tie in a theme with these events to drive home our focus to the team. This year our theme was professionalism, and what that means to us. To communicate this better, we compared the professionalism of pro athletes and the incredible lengths they go through to achieve success. These were the most important comparisons that we made:

Visualize It – One of the biggest differences that you’ll notice when pro athletes get interviewed is that they mention that they have been dreaming of playing at the pro level since they were a kid. They would visualize hoisting the Stanley Cup over their head, along with the feeling of immense pride that comes with it. Visualisation is a powerful thing, especially when setting personal or professional goals. If you can picture your company doubling their sales or experiencing immense growth in a year, then that image will be a powerful motivator to continue pushing forward.

Cool Down Time – Once a big game is over and done with, athletes generally take some downtime to cool off both physically and mentally. This is a time for them to figure out what worked during a game and what needs improvement. Cooling down is critical for any profession, as it gives you a chance to take re-evaluate. Let’s say you had a really good client pitch – why did it go so well? Is there a chance that you can replicate it? On the flipside, if something didn’t go well in a meeting with a potential client, why didn’t it go well? Always try to analyze things when you have time to do so, as you’ll be able to look at things free from all the pressure that you were facing at the time.

Have A Coach – Natural talent is certainly beneficial, but that will only get you so far. All of the best athletes have enthusiastic mentors behind them, pushing them to their physical brink and helping them improve their techniques along the way. Without these coaches behind them, it’s debatable to see how far these athletes would have gone on their own. I’ve discussed the importance of mentorship in the past, and how having someone who can offer you advice is a crucial asset. A seasoned professional can offer you many insights to help guide towards better running your business, as well as avoiding any pitfalls that they’re encountered in their career.

This kickoff event is important for the Wish Group, and a tradition we’ve had for 11 years now. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend gathering together with your team to discuss the direction that you want to go in 2015.

Setting Standards and Expectations

setting-expectations-and-standardsSurely you’ve heard people mention in passing that they live by a “code”, but what does that mean exactly? While I could delve into many different territories here, something that I believe all “codes” follow is that they set certain standards and expectations.

Standards and expectations are important because they dictate vital elements of how your business will operate, like how you’ll treat your clients and who’s accountable in your organization. If you try to operate your business without setting any form of standards to follow, the results are guaranteed to be disastrous.

To me, these are the three most important people you need to set standards and expectations for:

For Your Clients – This should naturally be your priority. Who will be the point of contact for clients? How will you communicate with them? What type of tone will you use, professional or casual? How do you want them to perceive your organization? These types of questions may seem arbitrary, but if nothing is set in place before your team starts liaising with clients, the disorganization will be obvious. There are few things more annoying than multiple people from your organization reaching out to a client to ask the same questions.

For Your Co-workers – Another equally important set of standards that you need to have in place are for your coworkers. You may think that you have them in place, but are you sure that everyone truly understands what they are? This goes far beyond simple things like a dress code. This means that everyone understands deliverables for each project, how much time to allocate for different clients and who will deliver what work. Again, this may sound arbitrary, but you might be surprised once you discover what people on your team are expecting from each other – and from you.

For Yourself – This point ties in with what I was discussing earlier when I mentioned living by a “code”. When you set standards for where you work, then it makes sense that you should set standards for yourself, correct? While everyone’s idea of ideal expectations will differ, sit down and pencil out what exactly is important to you. How will you treat your clients? How often do you want to regroup with your coworkers? Are you realistically making enough time for yourself and your loved ones? These things matter in the long run. Once you have an idea of what people can expect from you, make it known to them.

One last thing I want to mention about expectations and standards is that once they’re set, don’t neglect them. While not having standards can be pretty rough, setting them and not following through is much worse.

When is the Risk Worth Taking?

entrepreneurial-riskEntrepreneurs are known as risk-takers. Whether the risk involves investing a large sum of money into a new venture or hiring a new employee, it’s critical to evaluate whether the risk is worth taking.

I’ve taken my own share of risks from the time I started my first business to now owning multiple businesses, and I’ve come to notice a few distinct methods I use to make my decisions whenever risk is involved. Here are a few tips I can offer from my time as an Entrepreneur:

Evaluate What’s at Stake – When presented with a major decision, I sit down and jot down what I’ve got to lose, as well as what I have to gain. Keep in mind that it’s not always money that’s at stake – you could also have personal stake or even mental stake in something. If you’re in too much mental anguish over a big risk, it’s often best to just let it go.

Estimate the Probability of Loss and Trust your Gut – Although you may not be able to determine the exact probabilities of success and failure, you should be able to reasonably estimate it thanks to your time as an entrepreneur. Sometimes though, this means that you’ll have to trust your gut. I can understand that sometimes it’s hard to listen to a quiet voice from within, but if you listen hard enough you’ll sometimes get the most profound wisdom. However…

How Realistic are your Fears? – Listening to your gut sometimes means listening to your fears, and let’s admit it: sometimes you over-exaggerate a negative outcome because fear comes into play. I’ve mentioned this before in the past, but it’s important that I reiterate it here. Take a step back and seriously consider how realistic your fears are before you back out. Don’t let a moment of fear become a lifetime of regret.

Discuss It with Mentors and Peers – Like with most things in life, you can accomplish much more with people than you can on your own. This means seeking out advice when you need it as well. Don’t just think that a mentor can provide you the best information either. Talking to your leadership team, your whole entire team or even just close friends will give you much needed perspective and let you truly evaluate how big a risk actually is.

Take the time to take a step back from a major risky decision in order to get an objective view on it. Sometimes things aren’t as bad as they seem – and sometimes they’re worse. These are just a few of the tools that I have found useful when I am just stuck and don’t know whether to accept a risk or let it go. How do you decide whether or not to take risk?

The Challenges of Executing and Delivering

Wish_Group_Summer_ReunionWhether you only have one employee or 50 employees, execution will always be difficult. By execution I mean of course the way that you are completing tasks that will grow your business, and deliver positive results either to your leadership in the company or to yourself.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, the Wish Group went away for our bi-annual team building trip a couple of weeks ago. During these trips we like to have an overall theme for the event that will put a focus on the learning we’ll accomplish, with this year’s theme being execution.

The main goal for these trips is of course team building, but taking the time to discuss challenges and triumphs with your team is also an excellent way of doing that. When it comes to executing, we focused on four different areas that were loosely based on the four disciplines of execution, with a spotlight on sales of course:

Make Important Goals – The only way to achieve great success is to make goals that you can focus on. It may sound simple, but without a goal to focus on you simply won’t have the same drive that other sales people or companies have. One of the tasks we asked everyone at our Summer Reunion to complete is to write down their Wildly Important Goals for the year. This first step is really what sets the tone for how you’ll achieve success, since it’s important to actually define what success means to you!

Define Your Lead Measures – Even if you have a goal, what’s the point if you don’t have a practical way of reaching it? I put an emphasis on practical because it’s common to rush towards a goal instead of tackling it strategically. The best way I can explain this is with a common weight loss analogy. Your important goal may be to lose 50 pounds, but you can’t just make this goal and hope for the best. You’ll be keeping track of how much exercise you’re doing daily and even how many calories you’re taking in. The same thing applies to your sales team. Sure, they want to close a certain amount of deals, but victory lies in preparation. They’ll need to keep track of who they’re contacting, what prospects make the most sense to reach out to and what hasn’t been working for them in the past, just as a few examples.

Track Your Progress – It’s hard to admit, but there are only winners and losers when it comes to sales and business. People don’t pay to see two sports teams kick a ball around and not keep track of who wins. We pay to see one team win, which means another team has to lose. Keeping a scorecard of all of your successes will keep you focused on your goals in two ways. On one hand, having a visual record of the times when you didn’t quite reach your goals will motivate you to keep trying harder to turn those failures into triumphs. On the other hand, with the notes you keep from your lead measures combined with your scorecard, it’ll be extremely rewarding to have a solid trail of your success and how hard you’ve worked to get there.

Accountability to Yourself and Your Team – Your plans, your efforts and triumphs don’t mean anything if you don’t hold yourself accountable by actually following through with your action plan. It’s important to understand that this means keeping track of your failures too, because you’ll never be able to improve if you don’t look at both sides of your endeavors.

As you can clearly see, executing is by no means an easy task, and overnight results shouldn’t be expected. Like with most things in life, if you want to achieve greatness, you’ll need to take it one step at a time. And like most things as well, the first step is always the most difficult – but after that I guarantee that you’ll be able to do it!

Brazil Showed Us That You Can’t Always Be The King

Germany-2014-World-Cup-ChampionCongratulations to Germany – they clearly played better than the other teams this World Cup, and their dominance will be discussed for a long time to come. One of the things that will clearly be a talking point for quite a while is their dramatic win over Brazil.

I was in a meeting for the first 35 minutes of that game and was stunned when I finally had the chance to check up on the score. It was stunning because Brazil has been known as the undisputed king of soccer for years, and they ended up suffering the worst defeat possible – in their own home no less. What was once the best and highest scoring soccer team in the world has now been officially eclipsed by Germany.

This loss made me reflect a lot, because I see this exact same thing happen to companies all the time – they become the best, then underestimate the competition, eventually losing to them. As an entrepreneur, it’s important that you keep working hard, even if you’re the “king” of your industry. Here are a few lessons that I think entrepreneurs can learn from Brazil’s loss to Germany.

Overconfidence Can Ruin You – A lot of soccer fans were hoping that Brazil could take pride in winning the World Cup in its home continent. Despite the support of their fans, in all the games Brazil played in they either barely won, got lucky with their win – or both. As an athlete or entrepreneur, overconfidence will hurt you. Overconfidence leads you to under estimate the efforts you need to put in to achieve greatness, meaning that someone else who knows the value of hard work will eventually usurp you.

The Unexpected Can Strike Anytime – Change is the only constant. While Brazil’s defeat could be attributed to the loss of their two key players before the game, it was really their inability to adapt to change. Sometimes you won’t have the resources available to appropriately deal with change, but those are the instances where you experience the most growth and reach new limits. Accept the situation you have been presented with and use your creativity to find a new solution.

If You’re Going To Lose, Do So With Dignity – One thing I have to commend Brazil on is keeping classy while they were trailing far behind. Too often you’ll see a team go out of their way to injure players to make sure that they have a rough time in their next game. But hacking and slashing your opponents in order to jeopardize their chances is undignified. If you’re lagging behind your competition with no realistic chance of pulling through, take the fall from grace with class.

As much as we want to thoroughly enjoy our triumphs, it is important to stay humble. Doing so will allow us to accept the challenges when they are thrown at us and make us more willing to put in a fair effort to overcome them.

How Do You Keep Moving Forward?

Keep_Moving_ForwardBy nature, an entrepreneur runs head first into things regardless of the risk, meaning that sometimes we make mistakes that make us want to quit. Though it’s hectic and overwhelming, especially when dealing with multiple businesses, you need to learn to move past these small missteps to truly succeed.

Throughout my years of being an entrepreneur, I’ve realized that wanting to quit is inevitable – but failure isn’t. Every time I want to throw in the towel, I know that it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate before I move forward again. The real question is, what can you do to ensure that you keep moving forward instead of quitting?

Take a Step Back and Look at Yourself – Take a second to examine the path you’re taking. What’s brought you this far? Determine whether you’re the person stopping yourself from your own success. Sometimes the problem is simply self-doubt and in that case, you need to find ways to overcome it.

Be Brutally Honest With Yourself – Take the time to question if you’re making excuses or whether a certain venture is a bust and you need to start over. If you can’t move past a particular mistake, is it due to a missing skill-set? If so, why haven’t you reached out to someone to overcome this? You need to be resourceful and keep on asking why until you get to the source of the problem.

Clearly Define Your Goals – When you’ve clearly defined where you’re going, it’s easier to pick up momentum and keep going forward.  Your small positive efforts will turn into larger positive returns in the future. It’s important, however, to create a plan for yourself so that you know which steps to take next so you don’t burn yourself out. Even if your steps are small, every step is a step forward.

Put it in Writing- Do you ever break contracts with your clients? I sincerely doubt that you’ve done it on purpose, so why would you a break a contract with yourself? Write down your commitments and put it somewhere that you can see everyday so you’ll always feel accountable.

It’s important to realize that you’re not the only one experiencing these challenges. A challenge may end up sucking your energy for an entire day or even a week, but that doesn’t mean that you have to call it quits for good. How do you keep pushing yourself forward when you’re close to calling it quits?

Failure Isn’t The End

Failure-Isnt-The-EndThere’s a big misconception when it comes to failure. Ever since we’ve been children, we’ve seen that failing is nothing but a negative experience. Teachers would be disappointed and parents would yell at you for failing a test. If you failed a course, you’d use up your valuable summer time taking make-up courses. There has always been negativity associated with failure.

Things change once you’re an entrepreneur. By no means am I saying that failure gets easier. It still sucks, and it still stings and lingers with you for quite a while. However, when either your business or your product fails, it doesn’t mean that you should call it quits and give up. Quite the opposite, actually. I’ve touched on this in a few previous blog posts, but I thought it was time to dedicate an entire post on the often not discussed upsides of a failure.

It Makes You Stronger: As I mentioned in my previous post, when an athlete experiences failure, they don’t let it crush them. How many times have you seen a team lose a game, only to have the whole team give up? Obviously they don’t and neither should you. There is no one failure that should completely make you give up entirely. You need to dig deep and find out what you could have done to prevent the failure. If you couldn’t have prevented it, at the very least the experience will make you a better person and teach you about yourself.

It Teaches You Multiple Lessons: Besides teaching you about yourself, you’ll also learn a lot about your business. Specifically, it’ll teach you about the strengths of your team, which is always valuable to know. While you shouldn’t necessarily blame a team member for the failure, you’ll know what areas they can improve on, and where you can mentor them to become better. If the failure revolves around a product launch, you’ll be able to pinpoint what needs to be changed about your product and why the market didn’t latch onto it.

It Makes You Re-Evaluate: Once failure teaches you a lesson, the obvious next step is to re-evaluate. As hard as it might be to accept, perhaps there simply isn’t a market for your product, or perhaps there’s a crucial element that you’ve over looked. This is the time where you make changes to your work formula and make some tough decisions to continue moving forward. This is also the time to listen to any feedback that you’ve received, particularly negative feedback, as this is what will accurately tell you what you need to reconsider.

At the end of the day, don’t let one or even multiple failures stop you. You need to build your own path, and stay strong while you’re on the road to greatness. I’m curious to know what failures you’ve had as entrepreneurs, and what lessons have they taught you?

The Difference between Being a “Boss” and Being a Leader

difference-between-a-boss-and-a-leaderWhen you’re an entrepreneur who runs their own business, you might find yourself questioning your leadership techniques from time to time. Being a leader is no easy task, and business owners should take the time to reassess how they’re influencing their co-workers and staff. Over the past 12 years of my entrepreneurship, I’ve had my share of triumphs and failures concerning leadership. I’m constantly trying to re-evaluate and change my methods to ensure that I’m not “bossing” my team around, but that I’m providing an avenue for personal and professional growth instead.

The terms “boss” and “leader” are often used interchangeably, but there is actually quite a big difference between the two. A boss watches and supervises workers to ensure that tasks and projects are getting delivered on time without any difficulties. A leader will give the same list of tasks, but also brings with them a level of inspiration and guidance. Leaders are there for their employees, and instead of telling their team to complete a task, they provide guidance and offer different methods to complete them.

Another quality that a boss possesses is that they only focus on their projects one at a time, and once those projects are complete they move on to the next item on their list without considering the big picture.  Leaders understand that every project your team completes should grow your company in some shape or form, be it financially or professionally. This isn’t limited to simply successes either – even a failed project or a lost client can help your team grow by realizing what mistakes you need to avoid in the future.

Lastly, a boss will examine their employee’s work and criticize their mistakes, while a leader will view these mistakes as coaching opportunities. It’s vital that instead of simply telling your staff why something is wrong, you coach them through their mistakes, tell them what they can do to avoid these mistakes in the future and how they can improve their work. There is nothing worse than having someone on your team who is too afraid to approach you with their best work because they’re concerned with how much you’ll dislike their efforts, instead of providing them with advice on how they can improve.

Of course, the transition from being a “boss” to becoming a leader takes time. I find myself struggling with these challenges almost every day, and even after 12 years I constantly remind myself to look for all of the coaching opportunities available for my team. It will take time and dedication, but the outcomes are well worth the effort.