By Michael Kline
Many a venture has failed due to a lack of resources. According to so and so, most businesses are underfunded, according to someone else, most business fail due to poor management, according to the guy selling business planning software, it’s the lack of planning that leads most failures to the brink. According to my own research, surveys show that the over 120% of statistics are exaggerated! In case you didn’t take statistics in school, that was a joke – I like to point out my humor as I know I can’t afford to lose even the smallest chuckle.
I don’t care what the statistics say – anytime anyone quotes the SBA, or the National Association of Charging Businesses to Belong, (I think it’s NACBB), I ask one or two more questions and never get any more answers – just headlines, really. So what does it take to make a business work? What resources do you really need to open or grow a business? This is a question I have been both asking and taking stabs at answering for over twenty years.
First up, I don’t buy the blaming. It’s never a lack of money. It’s never too much government regulation, lazy employees, a jerk for a landlord or stupid customers who don’t appreciate your quality. I’ve been through all of those personally, and I promise that while all the above may make grown men cry like a congressman, they are not valid or acceptable business failure reasons. Those are the excuses we create to soften the blow to our egos for a while, but the reason a business fails is because of the owner; no one else has the job of being responsible for the business. You will notice I didn’t say the blame belongs to the owner, just the reason. Sometimes, closing a business is a good decision and can be something to be proud of, not ashamed of. If a business model no longer makes sense, or the market disappears and the business has no interest or talent in developing a new product line for a new market, then only an ego-driven maniac would continue indefinitely.
Certainly, resources are needed; not just financial, technical knowhow and marketing savvy, but also emotional stamina, never-ending creativity and general resourcefulness. If you were a manufacturer of buggy whips when the new “horseless carriage” came out, you could have gone out of business and blamed the auto-industry. Or, you could have come up with one of the bazillion auto-related accessories to manufacture instead. If you closed, it’s not the lack of demand that drove you out of business; it’s your lack of desire to continue with something new that drove you out. You see, I’m not picking on owners to place blame; blame never empowers. Rather I’m trying to create a gift – by making it clear that you and only you have the power to make it work. Responsibility empowers. Don’t let foreign competition, or a slow economy, or competition decide for you. If you’re ready for a new chapter in your life, move on or move up. Even when most people are down, there’s always someone who is up. That could be you. If you’re ready to commit to do whatever it takes, then assume responsibility and call on your own resourcefulness.
Coming from a place of no tangible resources myself, I find that resources are not nearly as important as resourcefulness.
Making Money from Kindness
Conway Daily Sun Wed. May 25, 2011
By Michael Kline
Does Kindness Weekend have anything to do with business or is it just about school-yard bullying and politicians? I’d say it has to do with every aspect of our lives, but this being a business column, we should discuss kindness and its role in making money. I know; I’m crass.
First let’s get passed the actual business side of this particular kindness event. In life, as in business, we get that on which we focus our attention. If you want more sales, focus on your sales efforts; if you want more kindness in your life, focus on kindness. It is more effective to focus on sales than to focus on fear of financial failure. It is also more effective to teach and practice kindness, than focus on fear of bullying or conflict. Focus on what you want. This event is simply a community wide focus on kindness.
Cynics might say this is some sort of business gimmick, and I’m devaluing the message by talking about making money from it. Being involved in the event, I can tell you first hand it is about quality of life; both the benefits of kindness and making money. Kindness Weekend was conceived out of a desire solely for public benefit. To fund the event, the N. Conway Village Association invested in it to bring traffic to the valley, so it is being promoted as another reason to bring families to the valley for Memorial Day weekend. Of all the things we could create to sell for a profit, what could be more beautiful? The event is sponsored by The Evergreen Institute for Wellness, with their message that Kindness produces physical health benefits for the giver of kindness. When you do something for someone else, it can reverse feelings of depression, provide social contact and decrease feelings of hostility and isolation that can cause stress, overeating, ulcers, etc. With everything to gain, nothing to lose and no cost, who would even want to argue with that? So, what about you making a profit from all this?
Business is about making money. Some think it is more profitable to be unkind. They are wrong. K=R=P is a formula Tom Peters uses to explain the impact of kindness on business. In 1982, Tom Peters authored the world-changing business book In Search of Excellence, and more recently, his new book 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence. The formula stands for Kindness = Repeat Business = Profit. Far be it from me to challenge the mind of Tom Peters, but I would change the R to stand for Relationships. The repeat business he talks about comes from the same relationship-building trust that increases productivity, reduces turn-over, sick time and labor problems with employees. Better relationships also help negotiate better terms with suppliers. So my version of the formula K=R=P is Kindness = Relationships = Profit.
Consider an extreme example featured in a New York Times article in May 2008 – American Airlines and Southwest Airlines held annual meetings in Dallas on the same day. Airline pilots picketed the American Airlines meeting while Southwest pilots bought full page newspaper ads thanking founder Herb Kelleher for his 37 years of service. Animosity between management and labor is near impossible to navigate when there is no trust. We see this in our political system globally, nationally and locally. We see it sometimes with our own staff relationships. Without kindness, there is no trust, without trust, there is no relationship. Without relationship, we’re fighting and clawing our way through all our dealings. Kindness is no longer an option in business. It is critical to the customer and the employee and if you’re smart (and I know you are), you’ll make it critical with the supplier, landlord, neighbor and even wrong numbers. Everyone is a potential relationship.
My regular seminar students and column readers know I talk a lot about building trust. In all business relationships, trust reduces cost and increases speed. Dr. Stephen Covey calls it “moving at the speed of trust” in his book Predictable Results in Unpredictable Times. If your customer needs a lawyer before signing a contract, it is far more expensive and time consuming than making a hand-shake deal. If you have to “sell” your employees on a new idea, you would enjoy greater productivity if you had instant buy-in based on trust. This is not to say you should expect people to follow blindly doing as they are told; those days of curmudgeonly bosses are long gone. This is about leadership, which involves employee in-put, which is a form of kindness. I hear some of you grumbling, so hear me out. I know that you know what you’re doing. I know you don’t have time for every employee’s ideas. I know you want to be able to trust your employees as well, to empower them to be their best. So how do you become the cultivator of employee engagement? We have a system for that! Yes, we have a system for everything, as you have surely read in previous columns. An effective business development process has a management system that provides the framework and structure for employee engagement in an orderly fashion that respects input efficiently, maintains focus, creates accountability and drives productivity like nobody’s business. It allows for, no – it requires kindness. Good thing kindness is free.
In researching this column, I was online listening to Tom Peters lecture at Cornell University. When Tom tells you that his ridiculously over-the-top-big-time selling book In Search of Excellence really didn’t say anything more than take care of people – maybe there’s something to that. How to make it fit in the real world can be complex, but the message is simple.
Albert Schweitzer said: "Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust and hostility to evaporate."
That’s good for business.
Michael Kline is a local retailer, success coach and trainer. He may be reached through his website, www.klineseminars.com, or e-mail, email@example.com.