SCALES: the Key to Mastery!

music-104607_150Six months ago I took my flute out of the closet. It’s been with me since I was 12, but hadn’t been played for nearly 25 years. I was amazed at how much I remembered. Sure my technique was rusty and I fatigued easily, but it was encouraging to be able to play it at all!

I started lessons. I started practicing. And along the way amazing things have happened. Research shows that it takes 10,000 hours to become world class at something. At this stage of my life I don’t have 10,000 hours to devote to playing the flute! But I have one hour a day. And so here is the interesting question. What can I do in one hour a day to maximize my time? After all there is so much to learn.

My teacher, who is amazing I might add, gave me a practice schedule. 75% of my time is spent practicing scales and tone studies. While that may sound boring to you, what I discovered is that in every piece of music I want to play there are scales. And in every piece of music I want to play beautifully I must create beautiful sounds. Once I realized that, I began to love to practice scales and tone studies. In fact sometimes my hour is over and I haven’t gotten to the music!

In six months my progress is amazing. My technique has returned to where it was as a music student at Indiana University, and the sound….I have gained so much control of the instrument that when I play I can play from my heart. I can play what I feel. After all what is music but feeling which we express freely when we trust our technique.

I could end on that note and this blog would be all about me, and my flute. But the point I want to make is that in everyone’s work (or play), there is the equivalent to what scales are to a musician. Something that requires constant improvement in order to get more from your endeavor. It doesn’t matter if the thing you want to improve is related to work, an avocation, a sport, or a hobby. Finding the “scales” for that endeavor, and then allocating the majority of your “practice” time to that activity, will guarantee you get most for your time and effort.

 Enjoy your “scales”!!

Laurie and the Ledger

What do QuickBooks, an iPhone and the Internet have in common? They connect us with timely information.

What do business people need? They need reliable information; quickly, cheaply and efficiently.

What do we do with all this information?  We make decisions!

I would ask only one more question: Is unlimited information helping us make better decisions, or is it complicating our decisions?

I grew up before the digital age. It was a time where the ‘establishment’ or ‘keepers of the information’ were my parents, teachers and the encyclopedia. As odd as it may seem to young people today, those limited sources were actually sufficient to prepare me for a successful career in business.  Some might say it was a simpler time. I prefer to say it was a time with fewer distractions; and this leads me to the title of this blog – Laurie and the Ledger.

I mastered business accounting not by being given tons of electronic information and data, but by simply learning to use a ledger – a proven and easy to understand way to keep track of money.

So let’s roll back the clock. I’m 10 years old (ok…a long time ago), and I’m in my Dad’s store on 33rd Street in New York City. Across the street is the Empire State building. It’s big, I’m little. The workday had started.  My Dad’s bookkeeper, Dora, taught me how to use an adding machine. She would hand me a stack of sales receipts and I would add them up.

When I finished my job I handed it to Dora. She took out a big black binder and recorded the numbers. She wrote the information on the sales receipts page, imprinting by carbon on a second page, right behind the first. I knew this as double entry accounting. It was the way a business owner tracked expenses, revenue, and profitability.  Since each entry was posted on two different ledgers simultaneously, it resulted in a debit and a credit, and the books would always balance. If they didn’t, you knew you had to go find the error.  The bookkeeping records provided a quick, reliable and efficient snapshot of the company.

By learning how a ledger worked, I learned what mattered and how to account for it.  That business wisdom has never left me; providing a keen sense of awareness to practicality.

Today, when I search the Internet for new information that might help me make decisions, I don’t get confused or distracted. I just remember what really matters: The basic and timeless lessons I learned on the ledger. 

I need timely information from a trustworthy source that is both concise and straightforward.  The information must come from a competent source that has a proven track record and is respected in the specific industry I am working with.  My decisions are made based on the efficient delivery of information; similar to the practicality of the double entry bookkeeping ledger of my youth.

What have you learned in your life experience that is your source of wisdom?   Where and how was your knowledge base built?  When you recognize the important lessons you have learned in your past, you will be able to make sound judgments as you sort through the plethora of online information.

Ideal Clients Bring Ideal Results

Being able to describe your “ideal” client can really make the difference between having a business that fulfills your goals and visions, and one where you struggle with the mundane, the disruptive, and the resulting dissatisfaction you feel.

Yes, that is how important it is! And here are the three reasons why.

1. Your ideal client is one who believes they benefit from your service. They want what you have to offer. They come back to you over and over and then, they refer you to others.

2. Your ideal client makes you feel energized. Because you are clear on the value you bring, working with your ideal client validates your work and makes you want to do more of it.

3. Your ideal client is a better person because of you! When you connect with and serve your ideal client you enrich their lives, which in turn impacts the lives of everyone they touch.

Not working with ideal clients (and not saying “no” to less suited clients) costs you time, money and aggravation.

My Father Gave Me a Silver Dollar Mind Set

When I was seven, my father launched my career as an entrepreneur. He owned a store that sold office equipment in New York City right across the street from the Empire State building. On days when I wasn’t in school he took me to work with him.

Setting out before dawn we left our suburban home for the city. Upon arriving I’d watch as he lifted the big heavy gates, turn off the alarm system, and turn on the lights. The day had begun!

He looked serious at the start of the day. Sometimes I thought he looked worried. However today I know it was focus. He had a job to do and he was intent on doing it.

In a little while the employees would file in. Repair men, truck drivers, sales people, and office staff. There was the usual banter of people getting their day started.  I was fascinated with the complexity of the city. Trucks, noise, smells, skyscrapers, and people… lots of people!

Back then my jobs consisted of filing, adding numbers, typing invoices, running the postage machine, and greeting customers. I was eager to learn and my dad’s employees enjoyed teaching me. It was exciting and the day flew by.

At the end of the day when everyone had gone, I’d walk by my father’s side as he went through the building turning off lights and doing his last check on things. Finally, we’d end up in the store where he would open the cash register, thank me for doing a good job, and hand me three silver dollars.

Many years later I realized the profound meaning of those silver dollars. At the tender age of seven I learned a set of values that have guided me in everything I’ve done. I learned that work was fun because there was so much to learn and master. I learned that work was meaningful because I did things that needed to be done.

I learned that if I did a good job I got paid. I received a great lesson about how money and values interact. And I learned that if I saved money I had control. I could make decisions about what I wanted without asking for anyone’s help or permission. That’s my silver dollar mind set!

Thank you Dad!

When the Student is Ready, the Teacher Appears

We’ve heard it; we’ve lived it, and know its truth. Learning a new skill requires desire, perseverance and practice. It also requires the right teacher.

I was fortunate early in my life to study the flute with Robert Morris from the NY Philharmonic. He patiently guided my musical development so that to this day, I still enjoy playing my flute.

In my 30′s I wanted to learn to play golf. Before I even picked up a golf club I went to a PGA pro. I knew how hard it was to unlearn bad habits, and I didn’t want any. I practiced at the range and when I wasn’t there, I was practicing in my living room. The practice, the visualization and the lessons paid off. In three years I had an 18 handicap – and no bad habits to unlearn!

Last week I attended a Professional Speaking Bootcamp. The facilitator was a well known speaking coach. After demonstrating some great speaking techniques, she asked for volunteers. My hand shot up and before I knew it I was in front of 30 people telling my story.

I took the opportunity to be bold: to tell a very personal story that’s been burning to be told. In 5 minutes of coaching, she helped me unlock the power of my story. Now I am ready to use it in presentations to make a powerful point come alive to my audience!

I’ll close by saying perhaps my greatest teacher was my father who from the time I was 6, introduced me to the world of business and remained my mentor, confidant and guide for the rest of my life.

So in short, when you are ready to learn you are ready for a teacher. With a clear goal in mind, choose the best teacher to guide your journey. Trust that teacher and apply yourself with disciplined behaviors and repetition. Your level of achievement will reflect your level of commitment, the effort you put into practice and repetition, and the quality of the teacher/mentor/coach you choose to be your guide.

The Secret to the “Secret”

Are you looking for talent for your company, or another “ideal” client to serve? Or perhaps an investor for your new project? How do you find them? Where do you look?

While you might think it sounds too simple, trust me when I say that all you have to do is ask for what you need…and it will show up in abundance.

However in order to make this work there is one essential thing you must know, and then another that you must do. It is the “secret” to getting things done and it has been done this way for as long as human beings have existed.

First you must be a part of a group. You must know people and they must know you.  Seth Godin calls this your tribe, in his book by the same name. Your tribe is made up of the people who have come to know you, like you and trust you.  They are friends, past clients, business associates and members of your community. The one thing they all have in common is a relationship with you. They joined this “elite” status because of something you did that was beneficial or meaningful to them.

Second you must communicate with your tribe. They must hear from you on a consistent basis, and what you say must mean something to them. Learning to connect with others in a compelling way will deepen your relationship and then…

Once you’ve established your tribe and communicate with them regularly with heartfelt messages, they become an incredible source of connection for everything you need;
Referrals, resources, talent, opportunities.

I know this from personal experience. I met my business partner Tina this way. And recently we worked with two of our clients to create a “missing person” letter which we sent to their tribe. And voila – the universe responded with the best talent they’ve ever hired.

So build your tribe, put a system in place and communicate with it regularly. Ask for what you need, and watch your venture grow!

Speaking to the Point

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to make their point so clear and memorable? Here’s a tip I learned that has changed the way I communicate.

When you want to make a point, think in 3’s. Start with “The 3 most important things I’ve learned about…” or “The author makes 3 points in this article….” or “Our project was successful because we did these 3 things…”

When you do this, an amazing thing happens in your brain. Even if you weren’t thinking about the three most important things, your brain knows exactly what they are and organizes them for you.

And for those of you who might wonder what to do if after naming 3 there is a 4th, simply say “And if I had to include a 4th it would be ……”

This method will help you think clearer, hold people’s interest, and make a memorable imprint. It will also help you organize your thoughts so that you are more focused and confident.

The Art and Science of Marketing

Communicating with your target market is an art. It is also a science. The art comes into play because you must be authentic. Anything short of that is a waste of time and money. The science is about the systems you use to deliver your messages, your offers, and your value proposition.

So first is the art. How do you express who are you and what makes you special? Why do people do business with you? Recently we developed a newsletter for one of our clients in the auto body business. Finding content that would interest his clientele was a challenge. People come to an auto body shop under dire and distressing circumstances, and hopefully not too often. Telling them about paints and processes didn’t seem compelling.

After a couple of weeks we realized the owner  had a passion about auto safety. Keep in mind if cars don’t get banged up he won’t have a business. Yet, he cares about safety and knows a lot about it! We positioned his newsletter around the theme “Safety Matters” and his clients love it. 

Second is the science. How do you communicate with your clients? Is it once in a while, just when you think of it? Or, is it done consistently and purposefully? The owner of the auto body business said his previous attempts to market created “orphans”. These  were gimmicky ideas that were quickly abandoned when they didn’t work.  

Now, with our help, he has the systems in place and is communicating valuable information and offers that his customers want and need. And, he’s doing it on a regular, consistent basis. His tribe is growing. His vision and enthusiasm for the growth of his business is being unleashed.

What we have learned  is that successful businesses have a database, they  add people to it regularly, and they communicate with it on a scheduled basis. They have systems in place to manage the costs and track the effectiveness of their marketing. When this becomes as natural to you as delivering your service, your business will grow and you will be able to expand your vision.

So make sure that your messages capture who you are. Tell your story often and with authenticity. Speak from the heart!  Avoid  canned material. Your customers are too busy to be bothered by impersonal and uncaring messages. Show them you care, that you listen to them, and that you are in business to serve them. You will build clients for life.  You will be mastering the art and the science of marketing.

Hey, I’m Not a Customer Number!

I’m having a strong negative reaction to the phrases “customer list” or “database”. After all I am a person. I don’t want to be a number on someone’s list.

However, the reality is that we have the tools, techniques and systems to communicate with an ever growing community of people we know. It is tempting to assume that if we add them to our list, we will advance our cause.

But that is proving to be antiquated thinking. Interrupting people with annoying canned newsletters and ads for things they don’t want or need is NOT creating a bond.

So here’s the age old secret to growing your enterprise; Increase the number of people who know you, like you and trust you. It’s that simple! Think of it like planting seeds. Plant an ever increasing number of them and watch them sprout into people who do business with you and refer others to you. Well, it may not be a secret but it is age old wisdom.

And while this sounds like an organic process, it isn’t. That would be like planting seeds in the ground and forgetting to water them. No, we need systems to insure that our crops grow.

At My Ops Zone we understand how to grow great relationships from the ground up. We put systems in place that are both high-touch and high-tech. 

High-touch is achieved by a process which reveals just who you are and what you stand for. High-tech is how we get more people to know about you so that they can decide. They will either like you better or leave you but either way it is important, because you are building what Seth Godin refers to as “your tribe”.

That takes me full circle. Yes, you do have a list- a client list. And when you communicate consistently with those people you build relationships. When you start revealing who you are and what you stand for, you connect with people on a level that builds trust. And the fastest way to get things done is through trust.

Why Build An Enterprise?

Why would anyone want to own a business? Businesses require lots of time, energy and capital. Businesses are like communities. They have infrastructures and complexities that take skill and focus to master and deliver.  There is risk involved and often uncertainty.

Yet owning a business, bringing a vision into reality, bringing value and service to those who join you as employees, clients, suppliers and community, is one of the most exhilarating and creative experiences one can have.

How do I know these truths? Why share them with you? I know the truths because I have been on this journey for a long time and enjoyed the rewards from building enterprises that were both profitable and purposeful.  And I want to share them because I believe that NOW is the time for those who have dreamed of owning a business to make it a reality.

There has never been a time in our history where more things need fixing, improving and creating then now. And there has never been a time in human history where being the change you wish to see in the world is more possible. Join me and the other members of our team at www.FreeEnterpriseWarriors.com on the path to building businesses worth owning and lives worth living.