Business Theory

You see them all the time…one article after another on business theory: optimism, realism, passion, perseverance. There is a lot of theory out there and some of it works some of the time but these are just theories and the complexities mean none of them work all the time. Ultimately, you take what you have in front of you and work with it.

  • Gather your facts. Be clinical and leave emotion out of the analysis. Once you allow fears or hopes to enter this analysis you’ve contaminated it and it’s less valuable.
  • Know your fears and hopes so they don’t subconsciously get in the way…and they will.
  • List your assets. People? Financial assets? Location? Partnerships?
  • List your liabilities. What’s holding you back? Opposition? Location? Debts?

These are basics. Right now I’m in a new situation and everything has to be redefined. The landscape has changed which means I’m in the process of coming to know my environment. What are my limitations? What are my assets? What partnerships survived the change? Which ones didn’t?

I’m still an analyzer but the work I’ve done in the past needs to be re-evaluated because the game has changed. I need a new game plan.

Stacy Brown

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When the Impossible Turns Out to be…Impossible

I’m a great believer in overcoming “impossibilities” but even hard-working eternal optimists get hit with the reality that impossible sometimes exists. Tristar MGA is closing her doors on February 15, 2012 after 21 years and those of us who believed in her are trying to find new homes for our clients as well as for ourselves and each other.

One of the best qualities of Tristar MGA was the love her employees had for her. We took 16% cut in pay three years ago, worked long days and every weekend without any overtime pay in order to help her survive. As far as I know, none of us looked for jobs during these difficult years…we genuinely wanted Tristar to recover. Every lay-off brought more heartbreak but I don’t think any of us ever gave up until Tuesday, February 1, 2012 when we were told it’s over and we have 2 weeks to close everything up.

That day we started looking after our clients, knowing we had to get the work we’d done to someone that could take over for us. None of us wanted all that hard work and sacrifice to get lost. Right or wrong we had invested in this company as though it were our own and it matters to me and I think to most of us that Tristar closes it’s doors only AFTER her clients have found a new servicing agency.

Fortunately, Tristar partners with Allied Solutions and now with WNC First. Our clients can now be cleanly transferred to another agency that will be able to provide the same level of service using the same tracking system we’ve been using. The impossible has once again become possible…in less than two weeks we will be able to shift our services from Tristar to our partners without losing data integrity and with minimal negative impact to our clients.

Yes, we’re processing all the expected emotions, sadness, regret, anger, fears…but we’re still working overtime and still focused on making sure the data we transfer to Allied Solutions and WNC First is clean and up to date.

…Tristar may not have a reputation to protect but we’re individuals now and my reputation is at stake too. That makes me mad but anger is energy and it’s turning into determination to protect the work I’ve done here.  So it’s Saturday but I’m shutting my laptop down and will be on my work computer for the rest of the morning and into the afternoon. I’ll be back on it tomorrow so I’ll be better prepared for my last full week as QC Manager at Tristar MGA.

Stacy Brown :(

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Fighting the Persistent Perception

What happens if you come across a persistent perception that stands in your way?

You get tested…so does your own perception.

It’s ok to question your optimism, in fact it’s always a good idea. But once you’ve decided a project or effort is going to fail, you have failed. That is a perception that will be self-fulfilling. Like I said in my previous blog, perception of reality, whether factual or not, influences reality. Project Managers have to monitor perception internally as well as externally to make sure the project isn’t impacted by a negative perception or an expectation of failure.

The team has to be convinced that the project is not only going to be successful but is worth their time and effort. Ignoring perception will quickly lead to mediocre efforts and that’s the beginning of a downward spiral. How do you prevent a negative persistent perception from impacting your project?

  1. Take control of perception. This involves open communication. If you aren’t willing to communicate with your team then they’ll make assumptions or gather their information from other sources that could negatively impact their perception.
  2. Set short-term goals so the team can see progress. Even a small success story can impact a pessimistic attitude.
  3. Don’t hide problems – be willing to face them openly. If you’re “perceived” to be hiding a problem that will be viewed as a sign that the project may be in trouble or that you as the project manager have run into a problem that can’t be overcome. Problems are opportunities for innovation…as I said in my last blog.

Perception isn’t everything but it will impact success or failure and it’s easy to handle if you take the necessary steps.

Stacy Brown

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The Persistant Perception

Perception can not be dismissed, regardless of how factually inaccurate it is. Marketing experts know and utilize this truth through advertizing that seeks to influence perception, sometimes without regard for reality but sometimes they just want folks to look at a different reality, focus on the benefits rather than the limitations of a service or product. The truth is we’re all in Marketing, from influencing how people perceive us as individuals to how people perceive the organizations in which we are participants.

In the book Fish! A Proven Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul and John Christensen, the third floor had a multi-faceted perception problem. Their reputation within the bank was damaged in that they were considered very hard to work with and no one within their own company wanted to utilize their services. On the other side of that coin is the perception of individuals who were working on the third floor. They felt unfairly treated and unappreciated. This is one of those Chicken/Egg scenarios…which came first? Both perceptions work together to reinforce the other, figuring out which came first involves the blame game and may be an obstacle to finding a solution.

The solution is always yours to figure out. In other words, we are all subject to the perceptions of others and it is up to each individual or organization to monitor and either reinforce or change the perception others have. The good news is that you can change a negative reputation into a positive one by consciously making changes that will alter the perceived reality of key people.

Whether or not a bad reputation is deserved it has to be addressed. Organizations and individuals must take responsibility for their reputation. Whether you created it or not, take ownership of the problem and find a solution. This can’t be about accusations or the blame game. That isn’t going to change perception…it would more than likely reinforce it.

You have to consciously put perception to work for you…or you may find your weaker competitors have used it against you.

Stacy Brown

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Acres of Diamonds (Part 2) – A Great Story to Kick off 2012

Acres of Diamonds (Part 2) – A Great Story to Kick off 2012.

Creatively exploring new possibilities is a big trend, mainly because of today’s economy. We must be leaner and implement more effective, efficient methodologies in order to compete. That means exploring areas we would have ignored in a plusher economy.

Stacy Brown

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Innovation vs Quality Control, A Non-Existent Battle

The thought of Quality Control makes most people cringe and start hiding stuff. That hiding stuff method of living is problematic for me and I spend most of my time trying to get people to fess up to their mistakes so they can find ways of overcoming limitations. I fight this in my own life, it’s called “living an examined life” and I’m not saying it’s easy, just more rewarding.

Innovation and Quality Control are mutually beneficial, not warring philosophies. Quality Control seeks to improve processes, searches for ways to save money, explores new methodologies to improve P/L Statements as well as product and service improvements. As QC Manager I must be careful not to allow my procedures to discourage innovative thinking. Mistakes are mistakes…I hate them but I don’t want to pull them out from under the rug just to berate a new victim. I want to look at our mistakes and openly discuss new methodologies that will help us prevent them from happening again.

Mistakes are opportunities for innovation.

I’ve been called a perfectionist before, to my dismay. Perfectionism is not really an encouragement for innovation, it’s an inhibitor. Perfectionists tend to avoid participating in activities they don’t understand or in which they are not proficient. If they have to stretch, have to allow themselves to make mistakes then they are more likely to avoid participating. How can you be an innovative thinker if you’re unwilling to explore the unknown? Impossible.

Creating a culture that allows individuals to openly embrace the possibility of making mistakes means making it safe for them to make mistakes. This tendency to hide stuff stems from fearing consequences of making mistakes, like a two-year-old with chocolate all over their face insisting they have no idea what happened to the cookies. It’s a learned response from childhood so I understand it but that fear limits our ability to become better at whatever we’re doing. Stagnation. Ugh, I hate it…I fight it daily in my own life. I do not want to grow old and stale and set in my ways with no hope of learning and growing. Once that happens, it’s time for a kick in the seat of my jeans. …Hey! Is that a line forming?! Back off! I’m not stale yet!

The first thing a QC Manager has to do is create the culture of innovation. Only then can they tackle the areas that need improvement and that is with the entire team participating, innovating and creating process improvements on their own.

Stacy Brown

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Online Marketing & Twitter

I’ve started following a few online marketing experts on my private Twitter account, partially as an experiment and partially because I found some people I want to hear more about, like @berkun (Scott Berkun.) As soon as I followed Scott and a few other bloggers I’m interested in, I started getting followed by a bunch of marketing experts, who I followed back.

…ugh, big mistake.

Some of these guys do NOT understand how to utilize a tool like Twitter. I’m getting a bunch of adverts now in my @ stream…those are the tweets that are directed to me specifically. Now I’ve turned what used to be an advertizement free entertainment into “…and now a word from our sponsor.”

So, what to do about it. I have some ideas…that’s a word that usually gets me into trouble…”ideas.” But I’m game for a bit of trouble, it’s the holiday after all and we all celebrate in our own way. My favorite past-time is to play games that people don’t know I’m playing. I’m not going to explain the rules of the game here but this is a prime opportunity to start a new game.

I’m going to start communicating with these advertizers and see what kind of information I can gleen from them. If they don’t respond at all then I’ll know it’s just a program some asshole started up that contaminated my Twitter stream. If they respond then the game is on.

It’s time to challenge a few folks to up their game. In fact, I may start a new Twitter account to work this game a little further.

Stacy Brown

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