I love to read. Books, magazines, blogs … reading feeds the mind. Unfortunately, the speed of life can make reading a luxury that gets relegated to downtime during vacations, a few minutes before bedtime and interludes in the loo (ahem). However, if you own a business, reading is an essential tool that can help you be a shrewder entrepreneur, stronger leader and sharper individual.
Here is a short list of books that I believe should be in every business owner’s bookcase. Buy them. Read them. Use them to enhance your enterprise.
Poet Robert Frost once described the brain as something that “starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office.” Okay, so you can jump start it again with a stiff cup of Folgers. The point is, much of what passes for work in the workplace requires—admit it—very little of your cerebral cortex.
The mundane tasks that constitute the average workday are often far from intellectually stimulating—but that’s probably a good thing. A certain amount of routine helps us balance the stressful elements of operating a business. Too much novelty can lead to overload and burnout.
Nevertheless, we all enjoy occasional opportunities that seriously engage our gray matter. Otherwise, going to work can become a daily visit to the Zombie Zone. Facilitating regular brainstorming sessions for employees at every level not only creates an environment for generating ideas, but also establishes an invigorating atmosphere for energizing employee enthusiasm.
Have you ever had to renovate your occupation? By that I mean: pursue a new profession, acquire a new skill, launch a new business or product line or just expand your thinking about why you do what you do. I did that recently. Surprise, surprise … it’s exacting, exhilarating and exhausting.
When I passed my 60th birthday, it dawned on me that it was a good time to rethink how I would spend the remaining years of my work life. As a leadership coach for the past 20 plus years, I enjoyed working with business owners who wanted to improve their management skills and improve other aspects of their enterprise. However, that path began to get a bit mundane. I wanted to interact with entrepreneurs in a new way.
Some years ago I attended a seminar presented by the Disney Institute, a training program for business professionals created by the folks who gave the world Mickey Mouse. The five-hour seminar, “The Disney Keys to Excellence,” addressed topics such as leadership excellence, employee loyalty, management creativity and customer satisfaction.
Now this is an organization that knows something about dealing with large numbers of customers—or in Disney-speak, “guests.” One of the “fun facts” included in the seminar materials puts the numbers in perspective: Each year Walt Disney World guests consume almost 9 million hamburgers, 7 million hotdogs, 9 million pounds of French fries, more than 275,000 pounds of popcorn and more than 46 million Coca-Cola drinks.
At the conclusion of the seminar, attendees received a copy of the book Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service. The book explains the “practical magic” behind creating the “Disney difference” for customers by focusing on five key areas.
I’m surprised at how little it takes to make me a happy customer. I’m not a demanding guy by nature, so a business simply has to offer me decent prices and good products or services to get me to come back. If the business’s salespeople treat me like a fellow human being, then that’s icing on the cake. But it’s icing I really like.
Lately, I’ve been thinking that my attitude about customer service is an unfortunate sign of the times. You may feel differently, but I view bland or poor customer service as the rule, rather than the exception. Occasionally, I’m pleasantly surprised when a clerk, receptionist or telephone order-taker does something to violate my expectations. But more often than not, I walk away from a business transaction shaking my head rather than nodding in approval at the way I have been treated.
When you were preparing to launch your business, a key consideration was the graphic design of your business logo, website, signage, letterhead, business cards and other tools for giving your business a distinct identity.
The ChristianFamilyBusinessCenter.com logo colors reflect the meaning of the words they represent.
What value would you place on your faith in Christ? In 1 Peter 1:3-7, the apostle says that Christ has given us a new birth into a living hope, an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. Our inheritance is kept in heaven. When our faith is tested during difficulties, Peter says, it is refined and of greater worth than gold. Gold seemed an appropriate color for the first cornerstone of CFBC. Not the gold of earthly treasure, but the precious inheritance that awaits us in eternity.
Good morning, Mr. (or Ms.) Proprietor. Your business, Wonder Widget, has just celebrated its first birthday. Intelligence reports indicate the presence of a positive bottom line. However, some ominous occurrences signal trouble ahead.
Productivity has begun to slip. Your employees are becoming complacent and susceptible to surfing the net and texting their friends. Your competitors have gained ground on you and kidnapped some of your customers.
Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to craft a business mission statement that will fire up the troops and focus their work, catapult Wonder Widget over its competitors and capture new customers. As always, should you or any of your team members be conflicted or confused, your office manager will figure it out for you. Good luck!
Clara Peller made an indelible impression on television viewers in a 1984 Wendy’s commercial playing the part of an elderly fast food patron who wasn’t happy with her meal. Remember the scene? Clara and her friends are standing at a restaurant counter eyeing their food order, a tiny burger sitting atop an immense bun. Suddenly, Clara bellows, “Where’s the beef?”
There was something irresistible about the diminutive octogenarian snarling at the fast food chain’s competition. Wendy’s credited that ad with helping boost sales 31 percent and profits 24 percent in 1984. Furthermore, the “Where’s the beef?” line became a national catch phrase for demanding quality. Vice President Walter Mondale even used it to suggest a lack of substance in his 1984 presidential primary rival, Gary Hart.
In 1987 former President George H.W. Bush took a lot of flak for a comment he made in response to the suggestion that he turn his attention from short-term objectives and look to the longer term. He appeared to brush off the idea by saying, “Oh, the vision thing.”
Political commentators had a field day with Bush’s apparent belief that his job as president was tending to the day-to-day challenges of running the nation efficiently and dealing with problems as they emerged, rather than articulating and pursuing a vision for America’s future. Then along came Bill Clinton with his campaign theme song, “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow,” and America swooned.
Americans are big on the concept of vision. Early in our schooling, we learned that our nation was born from our founding fathers’ vision of freedom. As youngsters, we were confronted with the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Upon beginning our careers, we were challenged to set and achieve goals. Virtually every endeavor we undertake has an implicit desirable future outcome. Your business should be no exception.
On a recent visit to an auto parts store to return a previous purchase, I encountered a counter person who gave me a great topic for a post … unintentionally.
Ready to pay for my purchase, I stood there while the employee finished a loud and obviously personal conversation with a co-worker in the back room. The counter guy was about to say hello to me when another co-worker indicated that a phone call was for him. I guess he figured, Oh what the heck, I might as well take care of this customer while I take my call. I suppose I should have been glad I didn’t have to wait until he was finished rehashing the previous evening with his buddy.