technology

Yellowstone & Business

At a recent One2One meeting with a long-time Convene member, Steve—a man with a great heart for God, family and business—shared about a recent vacation to Yellowstone National Park with his extended family (wife, 4 daughters with husbands, and grandchildren). He described the park as a sanctuary of geothermal activity, forests, mountains and wildlife in an ever-evolving landscape. Steve was evidently moved in spirit by this experience. Steve described Yellowstone in this way:

  • “The environment is constantly changing”
  • “Only the strong survive”
  • “God’s hand is so evident there”

My immediate reaction was to ask, “How is that like your business environment?”

For certain, in our information-deluged and technology-advancing world, the environment is constantly changing. How does your business keep up with the pace? Our Convene team has a saying, “What got you here, won’t take you there”.

For certain, in our still-precarious economic environment, the strong survive by great leadership and team building, innovation and operational efficiency. How do you hone your leadership skills?

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”—Proverbs 27:17.

For certain, God’s hand is active in your business. How do you stay focused on God’s intent for your company and your stewardship thereof? Convene helps to impel your decisions through the filters of Kingdom Purpose, Vision and Values.

Could your business have a legacy like Yellowstone?

Let us not give up meeting together…but continue to encourage one another”. Hebrews 10:25

TIME—a Strategic Corporate Asset

Thinking  of Time Management, most of us are considering the complex time balancing issues we leaders face with the opportunities/demands from family, church, business, staff,  and many other sources.   Wikipedia--Time management is the act or process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectivenessefficiency or productivity. We can learn about Time Management from Dale Carneige.com, Mind Tools.com, Dartmouth College, and hundreds of other expert sources.

Does the electronic/digital age create too many time indicators for us to follow?

Some researchers indicate that meaningful communications and conversations with associates and loved ones are disemboweled with frequent “productive” glances at the inbox; smart phone clock, thus our ability to think is decimated by the distraction of the ping and the ring. We maintain a state of chaotic mental activity that some call psychic entropy. This is the opposite of the optimal psychological state of flow, where attention is allowed to linger, to sink into an activity without distraction.

Andy Stanley has stated--“Direction, not intention determines your destination.” –If we look at this statement from the time management axis— would say that “Schedule management, not distractions , determines successful completion.

Are you focused on corporate time management at this time?

For most enterprises- this is the season of  annual budget/planning.  Businesses are gathering forecasts, planning for marketing/sales activity, developing the annual budget with some consideration given to multi-year expectations.  As this annual plan is developed—are we as careful considering time as a planning variable and asset as we are when considering financial capital.

Does your  performance reporting and variance analysis deal primarily with financial measures or does it also focus attention on corporate and individual time management issues?

Procrastination and poor time management: is one of the leading reasons small businesses fail--Putting off tasks that you don’t enjoy will sink your business faster than anything else. You can’t afford to waste time on unimportant tasks while critical tasks pile up. All tasks need to be done; if you don’t like to do them (or don’t want to spend your time doing them), hire someone to do them for you. If your time management and prioritizing skills are rusty, hire a small business coach or take a class to help you. - See more at: http://www.passionforbusiness.com/articles/why-businesses-fail.htm#sthash.LSZvoq3L.dpuf

Time management is a booming business—everyone wants to get more done and control time wasters. But for Christian business leaders the need to manage time is even more urgent.  We are Stewards of the Business God has given us.  Poor time management in our business is a waste of God’s resources.  Be sure your annual business plan gives significant focus to TIME as a critical investment asset.  Consider Time KPI’s on your management dashboard.

It has been stated—“No CEO/Owner can let the business run out of Cash”—Likewise, no CEO/Owner should let the business run out of Time”

“Walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

Sage Innovation: Apple Watches, Tesla Batteries, and Roast Pig

  I so loved Charles Lamb’s A Dissertation upon Roast Pig (ref. 1) that I once commissioned a never-performed operetta based on it. I still have the lyrics somewhere. The essence of this great tale is that of a pyromanic son of a swineherd in ancient China named Bo-bo who invented pork BBQ by unintentionally burning down his father Ho-ti's hut with a litter of pigs inside. The overwhelming aroma of roasted pork overcame both his fear of being punished as well as his father’s intention to punish him. They feasted on this newfound delicacy and promptly built another hut so they could burn it down and have roast pig again.

The villagers around them observed that every time new pigs were born, Ho-ti’s hut burned down. Watching and catching them in this act of intentional destruction, they arrested and transported them to Peking to stand trial. The judge sampled the still warm pork and promptly pronounced them innocent. He rushed home to burn his house with pigs inside in order to enjoy such delicacy. Soon homes were burning all over China, only to be rebuilt and then torched again so that roasted pork could be enjoyed.

The housing industry boomed until there was little timber to be found. Insurance companies went bankrupt. Pork producers enjoyed great success initially but couldn’t meet demand. An economic crisis loomed over the high societal costs of this BBQ craze. Finally, an innovative sage introduced the disruptive technology of a spit over a much smaller fire. Sanity and stability returned. The cost to participate steeply declined.

With such great affection for this story, I couldn’t help but think of it when reading Tesla’s recent announcement of a deeper move into localized and distributed power (ref. 2). The technology behind their car batteries can interface with solar panels mounted on household rooftops, creating a renewable and storable energy supply—in Tesla batteries, of course.

The idea holds great appeal. However, purchasing and installing the technology does not yet create savings for most consumers. It is just too expensive at the current, experimental and early adopter scale. Without major utilities embracing the distribution of this equipment to the individual consumer instead of building and maintaining large power plants built on fossil fuel consumption, the costs remain too high for the average person to unhook utility wires. A lot of economic wobbliness looms until sagely innovators find a way.

Let’s bring the Apple watch into this muse. With the announcement that approximately $83 (US) in parts is being sold for $349-$10,000, depending on the type one purchases, there will be a lot of room for innovation and disruptive technology to bring down the price, and without long delay. However, the market for wearable technology is finicky and not well-defined. Best Buy and other merchandisers are changing their displays almost daily as new and updated products are being rolled out. A lot of resources will be wasted (invested?) by manufacturers, merchandisers and consumers until this market stabilizes. It wasn’t that long ago that PCs and then Laptops, office suite software and large screen television went through similar convulsions until price stabilized and the product became ubiquitous. Apple might make a lot of money initially in wearable technology, but it is far from certain that they are a lock on being the dominant player forever.

Someone, somewhere is going to innovate, drive the price down and improve the way the world works. Resources will be wasted while figuring it out. Fortunes will be made and lost. The sage innovator does not participate just to make money. They do it to reduce suffering and heighten hope, doing it in such a way as to sustain their enterprise next year too.

If anybody holds a commitment to sage innovation, it is the Christ follower called to a business vocation.

Ref. 1. in The Essays of Elia, New York:  The F.M. Lupton Publishing Co, 1823, pp. 193-202.
Ref. 2. Wall Street Journal, 2-3 May 2015, p. B1
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Mark L. Vincent, PhD, CCNL is a Convene Chair and CEO of Design Group International, an organizational development company providing wise guidance for enterprise, nonprofits, and ministry organizations. Out of a life spent building an enterprise and dealing with a prolonged health battle, Mark and his wife Lorie pared and honed and answered the question, “if there is just one thing to which you could give your life, what would it be?” The answer for Mark is to love leaders as they claim their life vocation as stewards of enterprise.

 

Don’t Tweet! (Yet)…Four Foundational Growth Elements

“Should I Be Tweeting?”… as a guy who has had executive marketing roles, I get my fair share of questions that are some form of “what should I do about” and then insert your favorite social media platform.

My normal response is, “Let’s get back to that.”

There are a lot of great people that can help small to medium businesses with a lot of good tools - Facebook, Twitter, e-mail newsletters, mass media, YouTube…and now, there’s more tools than ever.   And even better, the ability to have some measurement of what current and potential customers look at, open, click, etc. is a lot clearer direction than the days of “advertising is 50% effective, you just don’t know which 50%.”

But how do you know which tool to use?  How do you know if you need a hammer or a wrench?  You can’t do much building if you don’t first have a solid foundation.

There are four elements that are a great foundation for growth:

- Know “who” your business is

- Describe your target customer well

- Ensure the pictures match the words

- Define a simply understood strategy

I’ll write about these in the months ahead, but if you’d like, you can visit http://www.upstairsconsulting.com/#!blog/c154h to see the additions to this list posted in the weeks ahead (and / or subscribe to the monthly e-mail).

Know “Who” Your Business Is

As the owner of a small to medium sized business, who you are is a big part of “who” the business is.  What you hold dear is probably what the organization will also highly value - whether it’s stated or not.  Those you hire will likely have similar values – at least at first.

How well do others know you and what you value?   And if these are the values you want to continue on and cascade throughout the growing organization, you need to display them - in words, actions, and pictures.  Otherwise, how will others know?  How will they reflect the decisions that are made up against them?

There are some great resources to help you sort through the “who” of your business.  At my last company, since facilitation was a skill I’d developed over the years, we facilitated the sessions internally.  Jim Collins, from Good to Great fame, has some great free resources on his website (http://www.jimcollins.com/tools.html) and Patrick Lencioni has several free resources as well as more in depth kits that are based on his “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” book (http://www.tablegroup.com/teamwork).

If effective facilitation is not a skill you would say is one that is well developed in you or someone on your leadership team, then bringing in someone from the outside probably makes the most sense.  It either case, it will probably take a half-day or so to resolve “who” the business is, depending on how close the team is and how large the organization has become.  If you can carve out a day or two, you can go a lot deeper in the the team dynamics you’d like to see as a result of “who” you are as a company.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at mpowers@convenenow.com.