Filed under: Business Growth, Profitable Growth, Top Line Growth
You may know my daughter has cystic fibrosis. I’m not asking for a donation or sympathy, but instead, that you gain from my experience. I hope you never have a loved one in the hospital, let alone for months. Nonetheless , spending nearly a year in Pittsburgh and Cleveland’s finest health facilities have taught me how to manage doctors, and as it turns out, how to manage subcontractors. Here’s what working with doctors has taught me:
1. As the patient’s advocate, you serve the role of general contractor and treat the whole patient. The doctors, gifted specialists that they are, serve as the role of gifted subcontractors responsible for excellence in their specialty. Therefore assume and take responsibility for assuring that your patient (much like a client) is best being served by the subcontractors you oversee.
2. Hospitals must focus first on the patient and treating his or her problem. The burden on you as the advocate/general contractor to manage the process will be profound. Budget for and expect to have your notions of time, energy and resources stretched beyond reason.
3. Teaching hospitals have righteous but conflicting priorities which create a problem for you the general contractor. Indulging the apprentices (residents and interns) so they can report up to their fellows and attending (master craftsmen) does less for your loved one’s health care but more to further the body of medical knowledge. Expect them to have read the charts and respect your loved one’s needs.
Beyond the hardships and indignities both to the patient and you the general contractor, your doctors are brilliant selfless experts under constant pressure to see more patients, learn more science and avoid all mistakes. Still, both in the medical field as well as in the business world of subcontractors remember to delegate the task but not your responsibility.
Filed under: Business Growth, Profitable Growth, Uncategorized
In our nation’s post-recession, “progressive” economy, I’ve spoken with many businesses still struggling to adapt to the “new normal.” Most owners I work with are more worried more than ever. Why? Because now, credit comes with strings-attached, sales people often cost far more than they sell and while the Internet has changed everything, most owners still describe their social/digital strategy in terms of money spent instead of clear ROI’s.
And when it comes to reaping the rewards for decades of sacrifice, millions of baby boomers have learned their firms aren’t worth much. But just as passionate in our society are all the voices who take the profitability of small businesses for granted and assert that every firm must pass litmus tests of being clean, green, sustainable, inclusive, local and socially-focused, regardless of whether they are thriving or surviving.
If your business is finally having a decent year, and someone demands why you aren’t doing more good, remember, a great dignity itself lies in running a profitable business.
Here are four reasons to challenge all the reasons you are given to do more:
1. You can’t do much good over time if you don’t do well most of the time.
2. Your good years have to make up for your bad ones.
3. You have your own charitable and social priorities.
4. You took the risk.
This article may rile many who feel that focusing on doing well is an excuse for not giving to the millions of truly needy people and causes. Admittedly. doing both well and good is ideal. And a company who covets all its profits is a heartless organization, but a firm that embraces every form of social good may soon be looking to someone else for a handout. Creating social change from a position of strength is critical. Here and here are some suggestions.
Steering Clear of the Pitfalls: How to Do Well and Good
1. Charity Begins at Home. Make sure your employees, customers and vendors are healthy and give of your time and energy to see this happens. Americans are the hardest working people in the world. Anyone who is working hard for you deserves the help you can give.
2. Tie Your Charity to Your Best and Highest Use®. Strive to give away what you are best at doing to make your chosen cause better. For a professional service provider to sit on boards that do not exploit his or her skills is a terrible waste of time and talent. Find a cause that ties your skills to your passions and give this away. As the father of a handicapped child and as a businessman who serves entrepreneurs, I am always pleased to provide some pro bono help to business owner who is similarly challenged.
3. Run a Meritocracy and Demand Excellence. Avoid favoring employees, vendors or customers who are justifying their poor products or services by all the good works they must provide as well. Support your charities consciously; do not unconsciously let your business subsidize ones that may be subverting the needs of your customers.
4. Stay Connected to Your Customers, Employees and Vendors. Live and give in the real world of those you know and work with. Just as it is critical to understand your customers, make sure you comprehend the troubles and pains they face. The single cause I see for local companies declining to do this is how disconnected many have become from the needs of their marketplace. Understand the pains of your marketplace as well as you do of your charities.
5. Give Results and Outcomes Rather Than Money and Time. Every time I attend a big benefit, I always wonder how much I am really helping the people or problem the sponsor represents. Doesn’t it feel good to provide the person confronting the problem with the help, tools or actions he or she needs to succeed? So often, going right to the source gives you, the owner, a completely new understanding of how to resolve the pain and suffering you see. Just like finding new customer pains to solve, directly helping someone in need may take some interesting twists and turns and may reveal even better unconventional solutions.
Social good should be tied to your business goals and should never impede them. By focusing on your best and highest use, leveraging your good fortune to help others and expecting a positive result from every investment you make, you can truly do well and do good. By doing both, you can make an ever larger impact through your business, your charity and your legacy.
Filed under: Business Growth, Pittsburgh, Profitable Growth, Uncategorized
Recently, I had an experience here in Pittsburgh to join several dozen local executives who were divided into a day-long game of coexisting as four cities. Unfortunately, my fellow citizens were given no money, jobs, opportunities, or options to survive. Simply put, we lived in a ghetto, had had to fend for ourselves and to rely on charity from the richer cities. Conventionally, our group bonded, organized and negotiated, but to no avail as ultimately we perished from illness and incarceration.
Being on a losing team with no hope was tough, but for an out-of-the-box problem-solver, the experience of losing control over my own survival was crushing. As owners, we assume we can at least provide for ourselves, let alone what society demands of us. If you want to feel this futility for only two hours, just rent “The Pursuit of Happiness” starring Will Smith. As business owners, we take risks based on our confidence to control our destiny. What can we learn from being in the very condition we spend our whole lives avoiding and our taxes and charity trying to fix? Here’s what I learned:
1. Before offering charity or solutions, ask a destitute or damaged person or customer what their goals are. The more we were offered options to abandon our homes, the more resolved most of us were to remain. All we wanted was the opportunity to get a job, make a living and have the right to seek our own destiny.
2. When offering help, don’t assume that your money, direct involvement, or your lifestyle is necessarily what someone wants. Some of us who chose to relocate, returned as we were unhappy despite clearly better conditions.
3. Whatever your agenda is for fixing a problem or situation, don’t assume it’s shared by those with the problem. It was remarkable how well-meaning our benefactors really were and how we misread their pure intentions.
This brief experience of absolute destitution and total futility was eye-opening for me. As a firm believer in the free-enterprise system, the experience validated my optimism that most people want to take responsibility for improving their conditions, as long as they can do so their own way. The experience also reinforced how important it is as a benefactor to ask and understand what help someone wants, and then to understand what other alternatives they may pursue as they act on their good intentions.
Filed under: Business Growth, Pittsburgh, Profitable Growth, Uncategorized
When Leadership Pittsburgh offered me the chance to witness live police work, I jumped at the chance and chose Pittsburgh’s highest crime zone on a Saturday night, graveyard shift. Arriving at midnight just hours after two murders in the precinct was jarring, but the sergeant’s calm, terse orders gave me no time to reflect. After roll call, I was introduced to my officer and we drove off in response to nonstop calls about gunshots, domestic violence, armed intruders, crack-addict beatings, fugitive surveillance and after-hour gang hangouts. Amid the adrenaline, false alarms, driving into forbidding alleys and criminal behaviors, I was struck at the incredible judgment an officer must have just to stay safe and work effectively. Here are 5 lessons I learned that apply to all our businesses.
1. Confidence is survival. Watching all the officers in action is a primer on courage. Every stop is dangerous, and one cop remarked that he feels there is a 60% chance he will be hurt or worse each shift. “You can’t show fear or you will be hurt on the job,” he said. “But you can be afraid and then you can confront it.” As business owners operating in risky times we all need to balance confidence and conviction with objectivity and perspective.
2. Fighting insurmountable odds means setting boundaries. When working as a team, officers must prioritize which 911 calls to cover first. Covering a horseshoe-shaped territory requires coordinating who’s first, second and third on the scene. This maximizes officer safety, response time, situation assessment and quick reassignment to the next call. How can and should your business respond to challenges and opportunities?
3. Errors of omission mean life or death. Errors of commission mean punishment. Forgetting which gangs, after-hours bars and meth labs are “running hot” spells certain trouble for an officer. Misjudging a domestic disturbance call can mean disciplinary action. Experience on the job enables an officer to categorize mistakes and make fewer and fewer of them. How does your staff make mistakes and react to your rules?
4. Work with what you have. Officers don’t let their lack of resources compromise their abilities. Old vehicles and communications technology are facts of life but texting and personal cell phones provide adequate work-arounds. As business owners, all of us are used to working without all that we need. Are you aware of all the ways your staff gets their jobs done?
5. Communicate, communicate, communicate! You can manage adrenaline and fear by checking with your teammates. It takes only ten seconds to get a second opinion or plan a better response from a trusted peer. How much trust has your staff built with and without you?
Police work in a crime zone is a study in watching expert human beings react and respond to symptoms of dangerous, intractable problems. Without the resources to resolve the root causes, these fine men and women learn how to rely on each other and stay alive so they can help whom they are able to as much as they can. Passing judgement on their performance without understanding the context for the decisions they make is impossible from a distance. As a business owner, the biggest lesson I took away from this unforgettable night is how critical it is to always gain and respect field knowledge from those who have it.
Thank you, Pittsburgh’s finest!