1st days of school 010_edited-1There are fleeting moments in life that we rarely think twice about, until we look back and see that they are a part of our greatest successes.

When I took the responsibility of dropping my son off at Kindergarten this past year I thought I had taken on an extra “thing” to do. However, I was surprised the first week at how much I enjoyed parking the car and walking him to class. The second week of school my heart stopped for a moment when he told me he was ready to walk into the school from the car drop-off and find his classroom without my assistance. Every morning I told him “I love you” as he left the car, and he would smile and tell me the same. As I left the parking lot each day he would stand at the edge of the sidewalk calling and waving “good-bye!” until I had driven away and was out of view.

It is interesting that as I look back at those kindergarten drop-offs I compare them to my businesses successes of this past year: I have been able to bring steady work in the door in a terrible economy, I have had the opportunity to speak several times, I have been published multiple times, the Design and Construction Network has grown much further than I ever imagined, and I realized a dream when I received a copy of the multi-author book that I had co-authored. Yet all of these work related successes pale in comparison to the personal relationship I cultivated with my son this last year.  It is in this realization that I again find the resounding truth: success is always found in relationships.

True Success

It is no secret that the greatest successes and failures in life have nothing to do with money, power, stature, or a lack of these things. Yet even with this knowledge we as humans have an innate tendency to push towards these quantifiable objectives rather than the one which we inherently know will yield the greatest life rewards: relationships. We allow relationships to crumble for the sake of our ambitions based on the belief that relationships will come and go with the ebbs and flows of life. Yet when we look back at our greatest moments, it is long lasting relationships that are always at the center of our true successes.

Your turn

What are you going to pursue this week?

Dream Big

ladderI like being comfortable. It is so easy to enjoy the normal flow of life, the moment by moment interactions of daily living. Yet every once in a while my life is shaken from the inside out by a force that boils up from within me, a force that demands that I do something incredible, achieving something that is greater than myself.

It is in these moments that I truly understand what I am capable of, the realization that I am able to do so much more. I struggle to find dreams that are big enough; I look in vain for obstacles that can’t be conquered.

I find it strange that throughout my life I have worked to suppress this force through logic and rhetoric.  “I can’t do that because…” and “if that were possible someone else would be doing it.” Yet today, I can see that success isn’t found in a single accomplishment, it is one’s approach to life that makes greatness. It is something that I can do and live today.  A choice to rejoice in the past, plan and dream for the future, and live life to the fullest in the present.

Your turn

Monday morning has its own way of reminding us that life happens not in individual moments of greatness, but during everyday actions. It is the culmination of your actions today and tomorrow that will turn into your greatest successes. So today what are you going to pursue that is greater than yourself?

Why Help Other People

holdingbulbsmallI believe that the best way to succeed in life, and business, is to help other people.  A life built around helping others will yield not just the joys of relationships, but also the sweet success of achieving your own goals.  Here are just four of the reasons I choose to live my life by focusing on helping other people:

  1. The Principle of Give and Take – The best way to motivate someone to help you has always been to help them first. Help someone 20 times and they will have a healthy desire to return the favor. This basic principal allows us to understand the power of living a life centered on helping others.
  2. The Power of Friendship and a Strong Network – Most people recognize that it is people (both personal and professional) that lead to the greatest successes in life. Helping others builds a foundation for new relationships and opens the door of communication that can lead to mutually beneficial relationships.
  3. A Historic Perspective – Without question an individual that has left one of the greatest impacts on the world was a carpenter’s son from 2000+ years ago who lived his life to help other people. While many people differ on who Jesus was, everyone agrees that his life has had unprecedented impact. He spoke about this philosophy by stating that you should “love your neighbor as yourself.”
  4. A Life Worth Living – Finally, even if I am wrong I note that I will have lived a life worth living, with a legacy that I will be proud of. We will all know when I turn 80 how successful this approach is, but till then I figure I am living a life that has purpose, meaning, and one that my three children will be proud of when I am gone.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments.  Please feel free to send me an e-mail or to contact me though the ‘About the Author’ Tab.

Tim Klabunde

Be selfless

elephantsBack in my college days I was living in a small town south of Rochester, NY. Winters in New York have a way of rapidly rusting mufflers, so I found myself dragging a muffler into a repair shop (literally) in the middle of January to get a quote for a new muffler. When the owner learned that I couldn’t truly afford to get the muffler fixed he did the unthinkable: he took out some sheet metal and welded my old muffler back together to get me through the semester. Why? He understood the power of being selfless.

The power in helping

There is an innate power in helping other people just because you want to and not because you want something. John F. Kennedy’s speech that included the words “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country” was so powerful because it represented the idea that collectively and individually we are better when our focus is outward rather than inward. 

So What?

We agree, it sounds great, but what do you get out of being selfless? Nothing and Everything. The moment you are selfless you receive nothing but a feeling that makes you remember what it is like to be appreciated (Perhaps that is more than nothing). However, in business when you are regularly selfless you also get everything: a network of clients, friends, and relationships that want to help you and want you to succeed.

Your turn

If you are under the weight of achieving your own success, perhaps it is time that you consider that the easiest way to achieve that success is to be selfless.

Defining Success

tree-in-palmAs a marketing professional I would have previously defined success as my ability to bring work in the door. Several years ago, I came to the conclusion that success did not come down to winning projects, but rather, it came down to relationships (through which you can also greatly increase your ability to win work). However, as I grow, I continue to learn and dig deeper into this idea of success.

Success for me
A light came on a couple of years ago when I was reading the networking chapter in Ford Harding’s book Rain Making. In that chapter he reminds us that networking is really just about helping other people. From this simple concept I have developed an approach to networking and life that I believe yields success. I summarized these thoughts in the post, Why Help Other People, when I wrote that “I believe that the best way to succeed in life, and business, is to help other people.  A life built around helping others will yield not just the joys of relationships, but also the sweet success of achieving your own goals.”

Your turn
My real question here is for you; how do you define success? I am working to refine my own thoughts on this topic and would appreciate your insights. At the top of this post is a link to the “comments” section. Please use it to let me know how you define success, so that I and hundreds of others can learn from you.

Four Steps to Changing Corporate Culture

Corporate culture doesn’t change overnight, just as it was not built overnight. It is not always an easy process, but by looking at the thousands of firms that have gone before us we can identify a systematic process that yields success through a cultural change. That systematic process can be broken down into four easy-to-understand steps that will allow you to take control of your cultural change:

Step 1 – Educate and Encourage

Education and encouragement are the foundational step of any cultural change.  Without the knowledge of how to succeed in a new culture it will be impossible for employees to move towards that new culture.  As an example I am going to focus on changing corporate culture toward a culture that embraces Rainmaking.  Under this example, the first thing people need to know is how to “make rain” or how to bring work in the door.  This will require training in areas such as networking and business development. During and after training it is important to encourage employees to try out their newly acquired skills.  Through this process you will begin an ongoing process of training and raising up a company that embraces the new culture.
Step 2 – Define Expectations

The second step in changing a corporate culture is defining expectations. This should not be done in the context of threatening or coercion, but rather by clearly identifying what is expected of employees in the company.  Note the emphasis on individuals in each step; changing corporate culture is dependent on changing one person at a time. This also means that what is expected of individuals may vary, a project manager may be responsible to achieve specific business development goals while a receptionist may be responsible to learn people’s voices on the phone and address key clients by name.

Step 3 – Acknowledge & Celebrate Success

Acknowledging and celebrating success is the most important step in changing corporate culture.  Firms often begin the process of change by bringing in outside training and defining new expectations, but the culture change never takes root.  The reason is that culture change is dependent on the acknowledgement of success at the highest level. Taking our example of building a culture that embraces rainmaking, this could be accomplished by the CEO taking the time to walk into individual’s offices just to say “thank you” to an employee for bringing work in the door.  That brief moment of acknowledgement will ensure that the individual knows what they did was important, not just to their manager, but that all the way up the chain their efforts are being appreciated.  In addition to acknowledging success you can celebrate success through popping a cork on a bottle of champagne when a new client signs up, or with bagels the next morning for the department with a note of thanks.

Step 4 – Reward Success

The final step in changing a corporate culture is rewarding success.  Title changes, bonuses, parking spaces, raises, and office locations linked to culture change successes ensure the long-term success of your cultural change.  This final stage should only be implanted after the other three steps as it can backfire without the proper foundation. The goal is to build the cultural shift based on people that are working to build a better company for themselves and others.

A Final Note

It is important to measure your success in changing your corporate culture one person at a time. Your culture didn’t instantly become what it is today, and it will not instantly become what you want it to be.  Rather, focus your attention on the success of individuals, by doing this you will see a wave of optimism unfold as these individuals begin to build your new corporate culture.

For more information on each of the Four Steps to Changing Corporate Culture see the links below:
Step 1 – Educate and Encourage

Step 2 – Define Expectations

Step 3 – Acknowledge & Celebrate Success

Step 4 – Reward Success

A Values Based Business Marketing Approach

I have seen the remergence of a refreshing way of doing business that is nothing less than exciting.  It is the idea that being simply honest with your clients is no longer enough to separate you in the crowded marketplace.  Rather companies are beginning to embrace the idea of ‘going the extra mile’ for their clients, the concept that I like to refer to as Values Based Business.  The exciting thing about a Values Based Business approach is that it generates a marketing mechanism that cannot be stopped.  I have seen companies that use a Values Based Business Marketing Approach enjoy rich profits, extremely loyal clientele, and a satisfaction that only doing a great job can give.

So, what is a Values Based Business Marketing Approach

A Values Based Business marketing approach is running your company not to make money or to grow, but specifically to help other people.  It is the idea that, by running your business with integrity and honesty, faithfully serving your customer instead of your wallet or your own interests, you will experience true success.  Let me clarify true success here: more profit, less hassle, a peaceful satisfaction every day on your way home from work, and a good nights sleep (this last one is for all the business owners that haven’t had a good night of sleep in years).

What it looks like

Values Based Businesses do several things that most profit and growth oriented businesses have a hard time swallowing.  Here are just a few examples:

  1. They always do something extra for free:  I used to go to an auto shop that would always do something unexpected for me free of charge.  They rotated my tires, replaced light bulbs, oiled squeaky doors; the list goes on and on.  In return can you guess what I did?  I never had my vehicle serviced at another shop and told everyone I knew to take his or her cars there.
  2. Take on pro-bono work: Vales Based Businesses help out non-for-profits, low-income families, and even their everyday clients.  They do it because it is right and because they really care.  Finally, when they do it, they treat the non-paying client just as good as the paying client.
  3. They treat every client like a first class client: Taking calls and returning e-mails promptly is just the tip of the iceberg. Values Based Businesses see what their clients need and help them to achieve it, even if it is out of their scope of work.   

The Result

By putting others first you are beginning the process of controlling your own destiny.  Values Based Businesses leverage their entire business as a marketing tool that uses referrals, recommendations, references, and relationships as their primary marketing vehicle. This allows a company to increase profitability and to grow far beyond that of a typical money and growth focused company.

Firms that practice this philosophy have strong client bonds based on trust and respect.  They have a client base that refuses to work with anyone else because it is a known fact that you will always go the extra mile and never compromise the customer relationship. They have employees that are excited about coming to work to do something good. They have managers that choose what work they want to do and who they want to work for.  Perhaps developing your company as a Values Based Business, focusing on others first, will allow you to achieve the success you have always hoped for.

A final note: Isn’t it amazing that when you change your focus to people instead of the bottom line, you begin to experience the success that you were looking for when you were focused on the bottom line.

Eight guidelines for business/marketing success

boat crewMark Buckshon, the President of Construction News and Report Publishing Inc., discusses several of his personal ‘lessons learned’ regarding marketing and management in has recent blog Eight guidelines for business/marketing success (or eight lessons learned the hard way).  Below are four of the eight lessons (my favorites)…  a quick visit to his site is well worth the time to read the other four.

“…From 20 employees and publications in five Canadian and U.S. cities, we were briefly down to one part-time employee. The painful failure and surprising resurgence have taught me some important lessons about business. The school of hard knocks can, indeed, teach us some important lessons.

You need to connect face-to-face with your community and market

For years, some of our salespeople insisted on doing everything by phone — or, in the rarecases when they would meet someone, the meeting had a sales purpose in mind. Our editor would go out to some events but in the latter stages, as cutbacks intensified and demoralization set in, he started relying as well on the phone and press releases! Bad move. Face-to-face contact without worrying about or forcing the actual sale is really important in business, especially these days when so much is conducted online and by email. When you see people, you get feedback, interaction, mutual respect, and new ideas. Get out there.

Your employees need a mixture of freedom and accountability (with the emphasis on freedom)

Pure unbridled freedom invites abuse and abuse by one employee can spread to others, resulting in a breakdown of order and priorities. Equally, employees are adults and should be treated that way — I respect the people who work in our organization to be able to think for themselves, solve problems without running to the boss, and respond swiftly when something isn’t right. In exchange they don’t need me breathing down their backs.

Have systems but remember people, ideas, and clients make the business work

We obviously have systems, but are not bound in knots by policy rules and directives. Take for example our travel policy. You can stay where you like, eat what you want, and do what you like — just use common sense and think about it as if you are spending your own money. Once, for fun, I bought a full fare business class ticket for a key employee so we could go to the airline lounge and sip on a few drinks. We then refunded the ticket, and hopped on another flight with a discount airline. We won’t do that every trip, but I shudder to think about how that would fit within any ‘travel policy’.

Have fun

When business becomes (mostly) unpleasant work, change things so that you can enjoy yourself again. I can’t see anything worse than being stuck in a dead-end and demoralizing space because you need the money to survive. I realize that not everyone has this freedom, but I think we can all take at least small steps to gain control and have some satisfaction in our work. As an employer, I want to be sure that this company’s employees, most of the time, really enjoy what they are doing. This is common business — and marketing — sense, because if the employees are happy they will interact with current and potential clients with the same level of enthusiasm and, indeed, that is the best way to find new business and grow the current one.”