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The One Leadership Trait That Will Ensure You Succeed At Anything You Do

Can you adapt when the tough times hit?

Matthew Toren

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Very few things are certain in entrepreneurship. Regardless of how much your preparation or previous experience, obstacles and events you never considered are bound to creep up. Things will not go as planned. And while that does not mean a lack of planning is okay, it does mean that you need one critical leadership trait to survive and thrive – not just in entrepreneurship, but in all you do.

But, before I get to that, I have a story for you.

Several years ago, my brother Adam and I met an entrepreneur who had been somewhat of a strip mall king in a certain part of the U.S. He shared his story with us one afternoon, and we were amazed at the turn of events he had experienced in the previous few years. He had owned about 60 strip malls and, up until 2006, had been expanding pretty quickly.

He explained that he had put a hold on expansion because he was one of few people at that time who saw the looming real estate collapse that was about to hit. Not only did he see it coming, but he was actually very excited about it. He considered it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and he spent considerable time and money preparing to capitalise on the downturn. He liquidated much of his stock portfolio, downsized his company and even sold several properties while he knew he could get top dollar – all in preparation for a strip mall buying spree once the time was right.

Related: Sales Leadership: The New Frontier

When the crash finally hit, about six months later than he originally predicted, he was shocked when it didn’t go as he had hoped. In his area of the country, commercial real estate faired better than in most areas, and the amazing deals he expected to see just weren’t there. He was able to close some bargain properties, but his “spree” fizzled pretty quickly, and he was stuck with liquid capital that needed a home – and one that offered the kind of return he had originally planned for.

With no experience in residential real estate, but knowing there were plenty of fire sales going on in that sector, he set out to change his entire approach, focusing on buying single family houses. He ended up purchasing nearly 2,500 houses (mostly from the banks), and in many cases, was able to rent them back to the original owners, allowing people to stay in a house they would otherwise have lost.

While still real estate-related, this new venture was a far cry from the strip mall business. But, as residential property values have recovered, you can imagine the return he’s enjoyed from his investments. Today, his portfolio is diversified among commercial and residential, and he’s waiting for the next once-in-a-lifetime scenario to come along.

The one thing

What was it that this entrepreneur had – and I would argue every successful entrepreneur has – that allowed him to be ultra-successful, even when things didn’t go as planned? It’s flexibility. Having the ability and willingness to pivot when something gets in your way is crucial to your success.

There is not a single thriving business that looks exactly like its founder envisioned it when he or she started out. Mark Zuckerberg had no idea Facebook would be what it is today and had no way of knowing the giant obstacles he’d encounter along the way. The same goes for any successful enterprise. And the one thing that the leaders of those enterprises had to have had is flexibility.

Related: How You Can Make Leadership Excellence An Effortless Effort

Just as important as being flexible is knowing when to pivot (or “flex”). Someone who pivots at the first sign of change ends up being all over the place – unfocused and scattered. The key is to know when flexibility is necessary to stay on a course to success.

One great indicator that it’s time to pivot is when you feel like giving up. When a challenge presents itself that’s so daunting that you consider throwing in the towel, think flexibility instead. How can you change direction – maybe toward something you never even considered – to stay in the game?

Don’t be so married to your ideas that you must either rigidly pursue them or give them up completely. Incorporate flexibility into your life in a smart way, and you’ll be a leader in all you do.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.

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How Entrepreneurs Can Make Good Decisions Quickly

Below are some tips on how you can do just that.

Amy Galbraith

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As an entrepreneur, you have to face difficult decisions on a near-daily basis. These can range from deciding on what marketing strategy suits your business best or choosing what new talent to hire for your team. Making good decisions quickly can be tricky, even more so if you are pressed for time. However, there are methods you can use to do this.

Decision-making is an intrinsic part of being an entrepreneur, and once you know the answer to “What is decision-making?” you will be better able to make good decisions, quickly. Below are some tips on how you can do just that.

Acknowledge what you are trying to accomplish

Making decisions can be difficult if you do not know what, exactly, you are trying to accomplish. Before you reach a decision, you will need to carefully look at what you are trying to accomplish and optimise. Once you have done this, you will be able to make the right, and quickest, decision.

An example of this is changing a marketing strategy. Are you trying to reach a new audience? Are you trying to release a new product to the public, or are you trying to change your brand’s image? Once you have acknowledged what you are trying to accomplish, you can decide on what options best suit the situation. This process might take time at first, but, once you have done it a few times, it will become second nature.

Related: 6 Common Decision-Making Blunders That Could Kill Your Business

Use available data

Having evidence or data to help with a decision can be highly useful for any entrepreneur. And in today’s online world, you will be able to find enough of both to help you make any decision, whether it is big or small.

Using data and evidence, you will be able to see how your company is currently performing and make a business decision based on this data. The key to making good decisions in the shortest amount of time possible is having the right evidence and information available. You will need to be sure that you understand the data and evidence in order to use it as part of your decision making.

Give yourself a deadline

It is important to set deadlines for decisions. This way, you will be able to make them quickly, effectively and before any problems become bigger than they need to be. For example, set a deadline for deciding on a new employee a week from their interview date. This gives you time to examine their strengths and weaknesses in depth before deciding.

Having a deadline creates a sense of urgency, meaning that you will spend less time procrastinating and more time on the actual decision-making. It will keep things moving forward and you will avoid “paralysis by analysis”, a common occurrence in entrepreneurs and business owners. Deadlines help to keep the goal in sight, allowing you to make a decision quickly and easily without overthinking it.

Get an outside opinion

Even the Khaleesi in Game of Thrones has an advisor to help her make decisions. And if she has one, it makes sense that a business owner or entrepreneur should too. It is a good idea to get an outside opinion, especially if you have been thinking about a decision for a long time.

An objective voice can help you to reach a final decision, as they can help you consider points that you might not have thought of. You could ask your friends or your colleagues for help, but be sure that they do not have any attachment to the decision. This can make it difficult for them to give objective advice. If you have a mentor, this is the best person to ask for advice.

Related: 5 Bad Decision-Making Habits That Can Destroy Your Business

Reframe the problem

Step back from the problem or decision you are facing and look at it from another angle. Often, reframing a problem or situation can help you to reach a speedy conclusion, especially in terms of business.

Try to see the issue from as many perspectives as possible, as this will help you to ensure that you are not emphasising one aspect and neglecting another. This is all a part of the answer to “what is decision making?” as seeing a problem from another perspective can help you to see the bigger picture. You should try to think of at least three different ways to see the problem and work from there.

Keep calm

One of the most important ways to make good decisions quickly is to keep calm. By keeping your emotions in check, you will better be able to make a decision that is smart and objective. The steps in decision-making include knowing what you want to accomplish, using the data available to you, giving yourself a deadline and asking for an outside opinion. Once you have taken all of these steps, you will be able to make efficient and effective business decisions.

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Simple Ways To Make Your Small Business More Professional

If you are looking to boost your business success and look more professional to clients, read on for some top tips on how to do so.

Amy Galbraith

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Owning and operating a small business can be tough, time-consuming and at times, frustrating. There is always a business out there that is more efficient, funky or more professional than you. But you can get an edge on the competition if you strive to be better.

One way to bring in more professionalism is to send your staff on office administration courses so that they are able to perform administrative tasks to improve efficiency, or you could hire a professional administrative assistant to do the job. If you are looking to boost your business success and look more professional to clients, read on for some top tips on how to do so.

Create a modern website

In today’s modern, digital age, the very first thing that people see when looking for your business is your website. And, having an unprofessional, outdated and badly designed one will send potential clients running for the hills before they even contact you to find out about your products or services.

It is not enough to have a Facebook Business Page, you will need to have a professional, modern website that tells clients exactly who you are, what you do and (most importantly) what you can do for them. You will also need to include your contact details, office address and business hours, so that your clients can reach you when they need you. A modern website will entice customers to find out more about your company, too.

Related: Government Funding And Grants For Small Businesses

Always use a business email

You might think that creating another email address is tedious, but think about how embarrassing it would be to email clients from your current one that you might have created in high school (BarbiePrincess89@hotmail.com is hardly going to impress anyone).

If you already have a business website, then setting up a business email is quick, simple and more often than not, free. You can use Google My Business or other similar tools to create a business email that reads YourName@yourbusiness.com, which is much more professional and will send the right message to your clients. A business email also makes it easier for you to answer work emails quickly and efficiently, as you will not be scrolling through your personal inbox, trying to find them.

Have someone to answer your phones

If you have employees for your small business, you should look into sending someone on office administration courses so that they are able to answer your office phone quickly, effectively and in a professional manner.

Having a receptionist or office administrator to answer your phones immediately makes your small business seem more professional. And it will allow you to focus on more important tasks, rather than having to answer a ringing phone all day. Your office administrator will be able to forward calls to you, take messages and answer any queries that clients may have. This will give clients a positive experience when dealing with your business too.

Avoid formal titles on your business cards

If you are a “one-man-band”, so to speak, it can be tempting to call yourself the CEO of your business, or a similarly formal title. After all, you are the one putting in all the work, right? However, clients will not be impressed by this title and it could backfire rather than work in your favour.

More often than not, calling yourself the CEO of a one-person company will make you look unprofessional and appear to be a “small-time” operation, especially as the CEO is the one chasing up clients and running around doing all the grunt work. It is best to simply leave it at your name and the name of your business. You do not need a title to prove that you are good at your job, rather let your products and/or services speak for you.

Related: How South African Small Business Owners Can Overcome Economic Uncertainty

Lease a professional office space

If you are just starting out or your small business has not yet taken off, you may not have a professional office address or space. While it can help to cut costs to operate out of your home, it will not help to raise your level of professionalism in the eyes of your clients.

You could look into leasing a workspace in a coworking space such as No 80 Hout Street in Cape Town or Worq in Pietermaritzburg. Having a professional space to meet with clients and to conduct your business will increase your success and will help you to stand out against the competition. Coworking spaces are highly popular among young entrepreneurs and you might even meet like-minded people who you can collaborate with on projects for clients.

Professionalism is in the eye of the beholder

Going on office administration courses, having a modern website created for you, creating a business email and hiring someone to answer your phones are all highly effective ways to make your small business more professional. Clients will appreciate the effort that you have put into crafting a professional presence, no matter if you have one employee or ten.

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8 Steps For Conducting Difficult Conversations At Work

There’s no avoiding it. Whatever your role, it’s inevitable that sometimes, you’ll need to have difficult conversations at work. Handled poorly, these conversations can make bad situations a lot worse. Handled right, they can improve performance and strengthen relationships.

Taryn Nightingale

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Whether you’re an entrepreneur handling a crisis with a client, a manager addressing a performance issue like absenteeism or an employee tackling a disagreement with a colleague, these eight actionable steps will help you navigate a tricky conversation with finesse.

1. Set a date

Formally schedule a meeting and send the person you need to speak with an invitation, briefly outlining what you’d like to discuss. Avoid going into too much detail, especially if there’s potential for conflict. Stick to facts and don’t get personal. This way, you keep the playing field open and neutral, and allow the other party to prepare for the discussion.

2. Create a safe space

People communicate best when they know they’re in environments where they feel safe. So ensure the space you meet in is private, reasonably comfortable and free from distractions.

Related: Your Team Will Succeed Only If They Trust Each Other

3. Prepare what you’d like to say

Get all your facts straight. Gather and review all the information that led you to identify the need for a discussion in the first place. Then take time to write down what you want to communicate. It’s important to do this so that during the actual conversation, you don’t get side-tracked or drawn into making unnecessarily personal comments. Plan to end the conversation with a resolution on the way forward.

4. Find a common goal

According to author and leadership advisor, Mike Myatt, people are more likely to be open to collaborating and resolving issues when they feel their objectives are being taken into account. Initiate this process by introducing a shared goal for the conversation – like agreeing to find a way to work in harmony.

5. Stick to “I” and avoid “you”

Speak from your perspective and avoid playing the blame game. If you’re at fault, accept responsibility, and, if the situation allows, offer an alternative you can commit to. If you need to address poor behaviour, focus on exactly that – the behaviour, not the person.

“Late reports make us look unprofessional” is much better than “you’re tardy and making us look bad”.

6. Paraphrase

Summarising what you’ve heard the other person say in your own words forces you to absorb their perspective, gives them the opportunity to correct you if you’ve misunderstood, and proves you were really listening and trying to understand.

Related: Can Your Words Be Used Against You?

7. Anticipate strong reactions

Ensure you’re emotionally ready to handle an intense reaction. Tears, denial and finger-pointing are all likely responses to hairy conversations. If you’ve anticipated these types of responses, it will be easier for you to control your own emotions. Keep calm and either steer the conversation back to finding a solution or, if appropriate, end the conversation. If someone is too emotional to talk about something, it’s healthiest to reschedule the conversation for a better time.

8. End with a plan

Make sure you conclude with a plan that meets both your objectives and serves the common goal established near the beginning of the conversation. Aim to get the other person’s agreement to strive to meet this target and book a follow-up meeting where progress can be reviewed.

See difficult conversations as an opportunity

Although difficult conversations can be stressful they can provide you with the ideal opportunity for positive change and growth. Shoving issues under the carpet can breed resentment and distrust. Having hard discussions that focus on finding solutions gives you the chance to build better relationships.

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