• Dennis Kelley

    David Kelley

    Dennis Kelley is a seasoned professional with over 30 years experience leading teams and coaching people to success. Dennis is in high demand as a speaker, consultant, trainer and an author... Read More

    David Kelley

  • Inspirational Quote

    “The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” -- Michalangelo
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  • December 2018
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Do You Love What You Do?

60The recent economic crisis has caused many people to reevaluate their business or career interest. As a result of the turmoil, I have had the opportunity to speak with different individuals and groups about the concept of finding your true passion in business. The idea that what you do is what you love to do. Knowing yourself, finding your true purpose in life, is the essence of true and real. You have to be, before you do, to have lasting inner peace. In other words, making a living is not the same as making a life. Find what makes your heart sing and create your own music.

Many people work all their lives and dislike what they do for a living. In fact, I was astounded by a statistic in a USA Today survey that said 53 percent of people in the American workplace are unhappy with their jobs. It is amazing that the majority of people don’t like their jobs. How can you be productive and dedicated to something you don’t like to do? Loving what you do is one of the most important keys to living a “true and real” life.

You can’t fake passion. Passion is the fuel that drives any dream and makes you happy to be alive. However, the first step to loving what you do is to self-analyze, to simply know what you love. We all have unique talents and interests, and one of life’s greatest challenges is to match these talents with career opportunities that bring out the best in us. It’s not easy – and sometimes we can only find it through trial and error – but it’s worth the effort.

Ray Kroc, for example, found his passion when he founded McDonald’s at the age of 52. He never “worked” another day of his life.

John James Audubon was unsuccessful for most of his life. He was a terrible businessman. No matter how many times he changed locations, changed partners, or changed businesses, he still failed miserably. Not until he understood that he must change himself did he have any shot at success.

And what changes did Audubon make? He followed his passion. He had always loved the outdoors and was an excellent hunter. In addition, he was a good artist and, as a hobby, would draw local birds.

Once he stopped trying to be a businessman and started doing what he loved to do, his life turned around. He traveled the country observing and drawing birds, and his art ultimately was collected in a book titled Audubon’s Birds of America. The book earned him a place in history as the greatest wildlife artist ever. But, more importantly, the work made him happy and provided the peace of mind he’d been seeking all his life.

Can you say the same about what you are doing today? Do you get out of bed every day looking forward to your job or to running your business? You may love the work you do but maybe struggle with some of the challenges you face. Don’t give up on what you love…find a way to get the support you need to find your sense of fulfillment. Of course, if you’re not doing what you love then it is time for some self reflection and maybe a change.

The current theory is that this economic crisis has changed the way we will live our lives for some time to come. Now is the perfect time to take a critical look at yourself and your passions and determine what changes you need to make to help you live the life of passion that fuels success.

To your success,
Dennis

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7 Questions to Ask Yourself to Confirm Your Leadership Success

puzzzle peopleIt’s no secret that leaders today must be able to balance many responsibilities and roles in their quest to succeed in business. Leaders are pulled in many different directions and can find themselves caught between what they need to do in order to create a winning team and keeping all their constituencies happy.

One of the big mistakes a leader can make is to believe the development of their team isn’t their top priority. The best run companies are the ones that devote significant time and resources to developing the skill, values, beliefs and identity of their team. It is impossible for any single person to accomplish everything that must be done in order for a business to grow and prosper. That is where the team comes in. A leader with a strong team around them will see exponentially greater results than a leader with a mediocre team. There is no greater responsibility for a leader than to recruit, train, develop, coach, recognize and reward the people who are responsible for the success of the leader’s business.

In order to make sure you are devoting the time and effort necessary to build a winning team ask yourself these seven questions and see how well you stack up. If you are strong in all these areas, then congratulations – you are well on your way to the highest levels of leadership success. If you still need to work on some or all of these areas, then make a commitment to yourself and your team to get started today.

Does your team possess a clear understanding of your vision?  Many companies spend time developing a vision but only communicate it to the senior team. A vision is useless unless the people responsible for delivering it through the company’s products and services know, understand and live the vision. As a leader, you must have a laser focus on your vision. You must communicate it to the team and then reinforce it through coaching, at meetings, and through your recognition and reward programs. People want to feel significant in the work they do. When they understand the company vision and how their job fits into it, they will feel connected and valued.

Does your team have clear, specific, measurable goals that support the vision? Once you communicate the vision and your team understands how their role fits into it, you must now make sure they have specific goals to measure their progress. The power of goals cannot be understated. Goals bring accountability to the team and allow the leader to measure how the team is doing in accomplishing the vision. It allows you to reward team members who contribute to the success of the team, and provide appropriate support to those who don’t.

Does the team understand the system of rewards and consequences? Strong leadership requires that your team understand the consequences of their performance. Too many businesses fail to develop and communicate clear systems for handling team performance. This is like a disease within the team. It destroys morale and creates mediocre performance because the team members begin to recognize that no matter how hard they work – or, for that matter, how little they achieve – they will be treated the same as everyone else. Why work harder or do more than expected if there is no consequence? Make sure the team understands there are consequences to not contributing to the team and consistently apply them.

Do you pull the weeds when you need to? Believe it or not, your team will respect you and perform better for you when you remove the weak members from the team – pull the weeds. Think about a garden of beautiful flowers and what happens when a weed shows up. The weed starts to grow and before you know it, it starts to choke off the flowers. More weeds grow and more flowers disappear.

The same is true on your team. If you have a team member that does not perform or creates conflict on the team, you must be willing to deal with it. Do not pretend it will get better or hope they choose to leave. One of the major mistakes leaders make is to let these non-performers pull the whole team down. The strong performers know who isn’t performing and they will respect you more if you deal with it.

 Does your team receive regular communication, coaching and development? Once you have communicated the vision, provided clear goals and communicated the consequences now you can kick back and take it easy, right? Of course not. Strong leaders are also great communicators and coaches. Your team will require regular communication as the business and environment change. Adjustments must be made to the strategy. The team must be kept abreast of updates and issues impacting their roles.

Does your team fear the “F” word? Teams that are in fear of failure in their day-to-day attempts to become better at their job will become paralyzed by that fear. They will fail to take action without first checking with you on even the most trivial point. Winning teams are willing to do what it takes to get the job done and will take reasonable business risks.

As a leader, you must support this risk taking. Trust your hiring decisions and your coaching talents and let them do their job with minimal interference. If you and the team communicate regularly and you are coaching effectively, your level of risk will be minimal and their development will soar.

 Does your team trust you and respect you? There is a saying in sales that if your customer likes you, trust you and believes you then, they will buy from you. The same is true in leadership. Understand that you are selling your team every day on what you need them to do and why they should do it. If your team does not trust you or respect you then they certainly will not buy what you are telling them. If you lose their trust and respect, it will be very hard to get it back and it will have a negative impact on their performance. Do what you say you will do – even if it is not popular.

Be fair, honest and ethical in your dealings with them and they will follow your lead. Never compromise your ethics or tell your team simply what they want to hear. There are times when confidentiality will prohibit you sharing everything with them, but do not hold it over their head. Deal with them honestly and keep their trust – it will pay big dividends.

As a leader, your primary role is to create the strongest possible team you can. The more successful the team the more successful you will be. Many people say that your employees are your greatest asset. The truth is that it is the RIGHT people on your team, doing the RIGHT things, which are your greatest asset. Work harder on developing your team than on anything else – if you do then you will be successful.

To your success,
Dennis

It Takes 100% Commitment to Your Plan to Succeed

Stay committed to your plan to reach new heights

Stay committed to your plan to reach new heights

There are three areas you must focus on in order to achieve the success you desire. In difficult times like these it is absolutely critical that you learn these three key skills and apply them every day in your business and life.

Self-Discipline

One of the most difficult things to master when you are self-employed is maintaining self-discipline. It is too easy to become distracted or lose sight of what is really important. In times like these it is very important to stay focused on the big picture. There may be times when you need to deny yourself small things until you can achieve the big goal you really want. That is what self-discipline is all about. It is important to recognize that our mind plays tricks on us. Sometimes it will attempt to divert us from achieving our goal when it looks too much like work. Sometimes we stall our own best efforts by not practicing self-discipline.

Learning to be self-disciplined helps to nip this problem in the bud. So, what does self-discipline mean? It is the ability to do things we need to do even when we don’t really feel like doing it. The hardest part is staying focused on doing what needs done. The good thing about developing self-discipline is that it is fairly easy to train your mind to it. It can be compared to training a muscle. When you exercise it on a regular basis, it becomes strong and healthy. On the other hand, if left unused, it will weaken and atrophy.

Self-discipline is built from habits and repetitive patterns of behavior. When you establish a pattern of achieving your goals, it creates momentum. This makes it easier to stay committed to your objectives. After you have experienced the satisfaction of completing a few of your goals, you will be more disciplined. You will want to achieve the next goal and then the next goal until you have reached your dreams. Show self-discipline toward the goals you have set, and you will have the outcome you are aiming for sooner instead of later.

Risk versus Reward Analysis

Any path you choose will have a variety of risk and rewards.  Of course, the ultimate reward will be achieving the success you are working toward. Throughout the journey to success, you will be making risk reward assessments. The analysis should be to look at the objectives you set and verify they align with your ultimate goal. This exercise will help to increase your level of commitment providing encouragement that you are on the right track.

When you compare the action you are currently undertaking to a long-term goal, the positive feelings associated with those dreams are reinforced. Stirring these feelings helps to increase the power of the vision you have of your ideal life. The reward you are giving yourself will outweigh the risk of taking the step you are committing to get you closer to your goal. 

Of course, if you do this risk reward analysis and determine the step you are about to start doesn’t get you closer to your objective, then you will determine not to do it. Don’t forget about the importance of giving yourself small rewards as you accomplish certain milestones. The determination of the rewards you will receive by taking action against your goals will dramatically increase your commitment to taking the needed action.

Focused Attention

You get what you focus on in life. By controlling our attention, we are able to control our outcomes. By focusing our attention on what it is we want in life, we are keeping it off the things we do not want. Whenever you find yourself beginning to drift away from the things you want to accomplish in life, then re-focus your attention. 

Your short-term goals help you determine areas in your life to focus on for the purpose of achieving that goal. It can be any of the goals you have established including financial, spiritual, mental, physical or educational in nature. Select one specific area and decide that you are going to focus your attention on it today in order to understand how you are creating improvement or change there.

If it is financial, focus your attention on how your money is spent by keeping records to review. If it is spiritual, determine where you need to focus your attention to better connect spiritually. If it is mental, determine what is causing the mental concern and seek advice about overcoming this concern. If it is physical, ask yourself what you need to do to improve the physical situation and create a plan. If it is educational, determine what book, program, class, job or other format will provide the knowledge and focus on completing it. A strong focused approach to taking the steps you have outlined in your success plan will keep you committed to them. 

Focus your attention first thing in the morning to set your mental focus for the day. Do it again at bedtime to lock in the progress you made during the day. This allows your mental state to stay focused on the positives. You achieve what you focus on, so keep your thoughts locked in on what you want and what you have achieved. Be pulled into action each day by keeping positive focused attention on your expected outcomes. 

To Your Success,
Dennis

The Movable Mountain

I just finished reading a chapter in the book ThinkerToys by Michael Michalko. I have found this book to be fascinating and highly recommend it. Michael has packed this book with a ton of creative ways to look at business problems and attack them to find solutions.

One thing that struck me today was a summary he gave for a chapter on a Tug-of-War strategy to problem solving. He summed it up with the following;

“Once there was a man who died and found himself in Hell, with the road to Heaven blocked by a huge mountain. Although indignant that he was in Hell, the man assumed he could do nothing to change his situation and settled down to an eternity of suffering. He never discovered that the mountain was on wheels – to reach Heaven he needed to only push the mountain aside.”

He went on to say, “Once you identify the forces operating in your challenge, they become as negotiable as a mountain on wheels. You can either learn to live with the negatives by limiting your options and compromising your goals, or you can change their position and neutralize their impact.”

Wow! How many people accept their current situation and settle down for a life of mediocrity or, even worse, misery? What are the forces operating against your goals? Have you created options to get them out of your way? Don’t compromise — create a plan for your life; determine what is in your way and find creative solutions to remove them. Once you move the mountain out of the way, there’s nothing to stop you but you!

To Your Success,
Dennis

ps. if you need to get out of your own way to achieve your goals then pick up a copy of my book, Achieving Unlimited Success, and get started building the business / life you always wanted!

What if It Cost You Money to Buy Time

Lost time = lost money!

Lost time = lost money!

If you are a solo-preneur, a sole-proprietor or a small business owner, then one of the biggest double edged swords in your business is that you don’t pay “cash” for the inventory of time you sell. One edge of the sword is the amount of money you can make selling your time. The other edge of the sword is the self-defeating tendency to give away your time for free since there’s no hard cost associated with it.

Your time is one of the most valuable assets you have. Giving it away for free just doesn’t add up. Think about it like this. Imagine that every day you show up at work and before you can begin work you have to pay $800 to purchase a bucket with eight gallons of liquid time in it. You have to sell those eight gallons during the day. If you don’t then you won’t have the cash you need to buy your liquid time tomorrow. Of course, your goal is to sell those eight gallons for more than $800 so you can make a profit. 

Also, the bucket has a small hole in and will leak liquid time and there isn’t anything you can do about it. This hole represents the amount of time wasted from interruptions, distractions and delusions during the day. In order to not lose too much of your valuable time, you need to stay focused on selling it quickly. The more time you waste the more time runs out of the bucket and won’t be available to sell.

Regardless of the type of business you are in, you have to ask yourself if you are being honest with yourself. Are you frustrated every day because you know that you are wasting your time on insignificant things that you really shouldn’t be focused on? It happens all the time where business owners become so bogged down in the day-to-day minutiae and don’t sell their time for the maximum value.

Becoming or staying profitable is all about doing less insignificant activity! Remember, you can buy a bucket full of time for a personal assistant or virtual assistant for a lot less than what you can sell your time for. You can outsource your bookkeeping. You can delegate less valuable task to subordinates, or simply cut out those things that aren’t necessary. 

The real key is having the discipline and accountability to minimize “procrastination” or “avoidance” behaviors yourself. If you take a hard look at your day you’ll know what I mean. Staring at your emails while they download, surfing the web, doing non-productive tasks and the list goes on and on while your bucket continues to leak your time away!

One of the biggest mistakes small business owners make is letting the fear of paying for an assistant hold them back. They see the cash expenditure required and tell themselves that someday they will be able to afford it. Meanwhile, they will continue to perform administrative duties they could pay someone $8 – $9 an hour to do while they could be selling their time (products, services, advice, etc.) for 5, 10 or even 20 times that amount. 

Ask yourself, how much an hour of your time really is worth. If you were out doing the things necessary to build your business, sell your products or services how fast could your business grow? How much would you need to sell in order to cover the cost of a part-time or even full-time assistant? Way too many businesses are held back from reaching their full potential because the owner isn’t applying their skills and talents to the most important part of the business. 

Your bucket continues to leak all over the floor while you are doing the minor work that best fits someone else’s skills. Make the decision to invest your time in those things that will bring the highest return for your business. If you want to someday become successful enough to step back and enjoy the fruits of your labor, then you need to begin right now. Be honest with yourself and evaluate how much of your time is leaking out of the bucket each day and then fix it.

A Champion Does it Again

I just finished watching the Jack Nicklaus Memorial Golf Tournament and once again, Tiger Woods made a big comeback to win the tournament. I have a special affinity to the Memorial Tournament because I grew up in Columbus where the Memorial is played (actually it is Dublin which is a suburb of Columbus).

For the last several years that I lived there I was able to attend the tournament. It is a beautiful course and I was able to watch the greatest golfers in the game play golf the way I only wish I could play.

Watching Tiger play is always fun. He really looked like the pre-knee surgery Tiger this week. There is so much you can learn from him.  He is a true champion who never gives up. He started the final round four strokes behind the leader and ended up winning my two strokes.

The rest of the pack knows when Tiger is in the hunt and you can see it in their play. His intensity is amazing and you will never see defeat in his face. When he doesn’t win, you don’t hear excuses from him. Even before his knee surgery, he never used it as an excuse. You won’t hear him blame the course setup, the weather, his health or anything else. He takes responsibility for his play and is continually improving.

All of us, me included, can learn a lot from Tiger. We need to never give up; take responsibility for our successes and our failures; and continually learn, grow and change. If we take this attitude and approach to our work or our business – every day – then we are sure to be a success. Go ahead – be a Tiger.

To Your Success,
Dennis

Build a Successful Business Through the Art of Budgeting

Budget Your Way to Success

Budget Your Way to Success

Statistics show that only 43% of small businesses that have employees prepare a budget that projects revenues, expenses and profit. If you include sole proprietor type businesses then that number is closer to 80%. There are many reasons for this staggering statistic. Many owners simply believe their business is too small to need to budget. Others feel they don’t have enough money to worry about budgeting. Probably the biggest reason small business owners don’t manage their business with a budget is that they don’t like to do it and they don’t know how to do it. 

What is a budget? A budget is a plan that establishes goals for how you will manage the financial resources and expenditures for your business. It is a simple equation of revenues (sales) minus expenses (costs) to determine profit. An annual budget, commonly referred to as an operating plan, broken down into monthly projections allows you to capture infrequent expenditures as well as see trends and the seasonality of your business. 

A budget creates the plan that allows you to determine if you are making progress toward your goals. It gives you the information you need to make informed, intelligent decisions about how to run your business successfully. Budgeting is important because it helps you determine if you have enough money to fund operations, expand the business and create profit and long-term wealth for the owner. Every small business owner should budget, no matter the size of the business. 

In 84% of small businesses, the owner or a partner prepares the budget. This can be done in conjunction with your accountant or CPA. There is nothing difficult about this task, however, most small business owners are not familiar with the process and therefore avoid it. 

Business budgets do not need to be a monster. You can create simple and effective business forecasts using a simple set of guidelines. If you are still unsure of how to approach it, ask your CPA or a trusted business peer. There are also many great resources from books to on-line programs to seminars on the subject. Accept the fact that there will be a learning curve in both how to create a budget as well as how to use it to manage the business decisions. 

Here are some guidelines to follow in creating an operating plan and using it to build a strong company that provides a great return for you. 

Review Your Financial History or Industry Standards

If you have been in business for a few years, pull out your records from the past 2 or 3 years and build a spreadsheet of the revenues and expenses. Break the expenses into fixed costs and variable costs and by easily identifiable categories. If your business is new, research industry standards to determine your starting point. Not all businesses are alike, but there are similarities. You can also check the IRS Website to get an idea of what percentage of revenue goes to various cost groupings. Once you have this information, you will be ready to build your forecast. 

Build a Spreadsheet with Your Expected Results

Construct a spreadsheet to estimate the dollar amount to budget for each revenue category and expense category. Review your history and / or research to determine how much to budget for each category. As your revenues increase, your expenditure for materials and other variable costs will also increase. Be sure to consider this as you create your spreadsheet. Factor in any seasonality to your estimates. Don’t just decide what your annual expense is and divide it by twelve unless your business has not seasonality or you are not expecting growth. Don’t forget to budget for marketing and promotion to build your business. 

Look for Ways to Reduce Costs

Now that you have your revenues and expenses plugged into the spreadsheet, take a look at the difference between the two. This is your profit. Is it as large as you want it to be? Fine-tune your numbers by looking for ways to cut cost. Where can you get a better deal from suppliers or make adjustments that will add to your bottom line? Or you can reallocate to give you more money for marketing that will improve results. Every penny saved in expenses will boost the bottom line. Small changes can add up quickly. 

Err on the Side of Conservative

Watching expenses and cutting wherever possible is important however, you still need to be conservative in your estimates. Be realistic in your revenue expectations and build in some cushion for expenses, as there will always be surprises along the way. 

Review Your Results Against the Plan Regularly

After each month, compare your actual result to your budget. Look for any variances and make sure you can explain them. By understanding why you missed the budget you will be able to better manage the results. If costs increased then maybe you need to review pricing or service providers. Are lower revenues a result of ineffective marketing, pricing or some other factor? If necessary, make some minor adjustments to the plan to improve your forecast for upcoming periods. By actively reviewing your results, you will quickly get a clear picture of your business and be in a position to manage it effectively. 

Use Your Budget as a Form of Restraint

The budget is not intended to constrain your business but to help you restrain from making poor decisions. Sticking to a solid plan is the most effective teacher of fiscal restraint and teaches discipline. However, don’t let the plan keep you from busting the budget on occasion should something exceptional occur. As an example, if you have discovered a marketing program that drives exceptional results, invest more in it even if it exceeds the budget. Take advantage of opportunities that arise to grow your business and adjust your plan accordingly. 

Budgeting is an easy but essential process that all business owners should use to forecast results. The goal is to provide enough fiscal discipline to keep your business running smoothly and growing to ensure success. In addition to the operating budget, it is critical to develop a cash flow budget to monitor cash levels. This is a separate but critical budget for business owners. Learning to apply the fiscal discipline of budgeting to your business will keep the business healthy. 

To your success,
Dennis