Business Banking E-Newsletter - January 2014
7 Time Maximizing Tips for 2014
Successful people are masterful at maximizing their time. They’ve learned that squandering productive time eats away at high-level success. Time management is for people who have modest goals. If you want to join the ranks of the highly successful, you must learn to maximize, not manage, time.
Time-maximization is not about being a slave to the clock or e-calendar alerts. It is about mental toughness. Mental toughness is one’s ability to focus on and execute solutions, especially in the face of adversity. People set goals for the New Year without any plan for how to accomplish them. In 2014, make maximizing time your goal.
Here are seven ways to do it.
Strengthen Your Accountability Muscle
Commit to full accountability for the next 24 hours. No matter what comes up, follow through with every single thing you said you would do or had scheduled. Doing this may mean letting emails sit in your inbox unopened for a few extra minutes, or letting phone calls go to voice mail. It may mean staying late at work or postponing your workout. Whatever it takes, notice how you used your time and dealt with distractions. This simple exercise will make you more aware of whether you use time optimally, or it uses you.
Set Short-Term Goals
The more successful one wants to be, the smaller the unit of time one must think in. Long-term goals—like the quarterly earnings or performance reviews corporations tend to use—can be the enemy of goal achievement for an individual. It is human nature to put things off or to not feel the urgency if the goal is too far away. Small goals that you achieve on a regular basis will move you closer to achieving your potential.
Make two separate to-do lists daily. One list is for the most important daily activities, and the other one is for urgent, but not necessarily the most important, tasks. Focus on, commit to, and finish the first list, without fail, every day. With whatever time you have left, start in on the second list. Complete your priorities at the start of the day, before distractions interfere and new problems intrude.
Create Rituals To Lock In Priorities
Take a few minutes to ritualize some of the more important things you need to prioritize. You create a ritual when you get in the habit of behaving in certain ways consistently over time. An easy way to do this is to plug priority behaviors into your daily calendar. Having a fixed amount of time set aside to complete your goal each day will help you turn this behavior into a habit. Be realistic in estimating the time you need to fully complete your priorities so you can experience consistent success throughout the day, every day.
Attack The Open Space
Whenever five minutes of time become free, ask yourself the following question: “What can I get done in the next five minutes?” By using five-minute time frames, which often show up two to three times a day for a busy person, you may be able to check off three or four extra items from your daily to-do list.
Trim the Fat from Appointments
We waste a lot of time in appointments, between showing up late, small talk at the beginning, having no agenda, or straying from the agenda. Observe your interactions with others and try to identify the behaviors, yours and theirs, that use up precious meeting time. Try cutting half- hour meetings to 20 minutes. Make hard start and stop times. You’ll be amazed at how much “free” time you gain which you can now use being productive.
Identify Your Time-Maximization Unit of Time
Write down three examples of time wasters, and the amount of time you generally waste doing them. For example, one of them might be that you spend 15 minutes each morning on social media, catching up with the activities of friends and family, instead of doing this later at home. So, 15 minutes is one of your time-maximization units of time. Now start thinking, “When this unit of time shows up, I’m going to commit to using that time productively.” It will not be easy, but your intensity and productivity will increase dramatically by identifying your time-maximization unit of time.
3 Things That Small Companies Can Learn From Large Companies
Leaving a giant like Google to launch a startup doesn't mean starting from scratch. Some of the big boys' systems and policies are worth integrating no matter what size your business is.
Four months ago, George Arison left Google--an amazing company full of some of the greatest people he had ever met, with an incredibly positive culture that helps you perform better every day--to launch his second startup. Some days, when having his new team working out of his house gets to be too much, he misses the creature comforts and security of a large company.
Luckily, those days are few and far between. The scrappiness and agility of a small company makes this the best experience of his life. But every day he goes against the grain of the so-called "disruptors." While everyone has become obsessed with the lean startup -- the idea that gigantic companies are somehow doing something wrong by being so large -- he’s learned to reflect and understand what big companies do right.
Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of things that a small company can learn from what the big boys are up to. Here are the three of the most important ones.
The last department that every startup integrates is Human Resources, if only because it seems like the CEO can bring in layers of perks and office goofiness to make up for it. The culture of "crushing it" has led to the idea that you have to work on your startup all the time. While it's undoubtedly true that people go into a startup knowing that they will work a lot more hours than at a large company, if you invest every waking second you end up not being effective.
Yes, many large companies work people to the bone, but there are specific work and vacation hours. You have an office. You work. You leave. The office is the office, the company is their company. When it's a startup and you are an early employee, that line becomes blurred--it's so much more about personality and personal investment. However, it's hard to be creative and passionate when you are overtired and overworked. That's why Mr. Arison has an under-60-hour-a-week policy for his team. A startup is about people, and destroying someone's personal life in the process will harm the startup.
Comprehensive Employee Review
Many people will roll their eyes at the idea that employee reviews are necessary. But they are, in any company, of any size. When you work for someone, or they work for you, you should know what they think and understand it. Reviews allow employees to improve in areas where they need it. Creating a review process that helps ensure that employees get real-time feedback is something small companies can take from large companies. For example, digital design studio owner Greg Hoy created a 360-degree peer feedback evaluation as part of his fledgling company, but left himself out. When he let himself get reviewed, his employees tore into him.
The natural reaction to any criticism can be (as Hoy experienced) anger, depression, anxiety, and other maladaptive psychological conditions. The truth hurts. But the truth that comes out in reviews can improve a company--even a startup with only a few people.
Clear Results, Objectives and Timelines
Conventional wisdom is that startups are built with a lack of strategy--something people associate with the "agility" that means that anything can change or be fixed at any time. They see a corporate goal system as stodgy and antiquated; the idea that someone should directly map out their journey is silly, because startups can change a great deal.
The truth is that long-term strategy with clear objectives and milestones is necessary and actually relieving. Living life as a reactive businessperson results in a guaranteed ulcer.
At Google, Mr. Arison saw this in action with Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), a methodology that the company has perfected and lives every day. Google focuses on incredibly specific dimensions and goals to complete a particular task, large or small. It seems exhaustive (and exhausting) to write down everything you are planning to do instead of spending time doing it, but it also allows for the consistent monitoring of the way in which a company is built. Are specific people or specific parts of the company regularly missing goals? Using task management systems like Asana, you can accurately measure these elements. Data entry is dull, but necessary at times to build real, lasting structure and a base from which a company can grow.
True, overreliance on data entry can stifle creativity and innovation. Mr. Arison has seen almost every system known to man that requires you to log calls, tasks, and ideas, and he agrees that many need to be tightened up. However, if done right, systems like OKRs can be incredibly effective at clarifying goals, making sure that everyone is transparent and knows what others are doing. He created a specific OKR system not so that he can be the panopticon of the company, but so that everybody--including himself--is held accountable for his or her actions and can understand what is going on.
That, in fact, is one of the greatest advantages of the startup. A gargantuan company like Google could never adapt a completely transparent system. Nobody at the entry level needs to know what Sergei Brin is up to. However, in a company of 5, 10, or 15 people, that level of transparency can build a backbone of education and trust.
We can all melodramatically claim that startups are the best businesses, and that nothing the big companies do is worth our time, but they're large for a reason. They have systems that work. Instead of arguing that you want to "disrupt" them, find a way to do some of the things they do--in every way--and understand what has made them a success. That's the way to greatness.
3 Ways to Drive Crazy Increases in Customer Loyalty
Most small business owners intuitively understand the power of loyalty. They instinctively seek to turn new customers into regulars and regulars into word-of-mouth advocates.
Besides improving product and service quality, the most common loyalty tactics among small business owners are simple rewards programs. And they work. But are there other loyalty tactics owners should consider?
Sure, it’s great for your business when customers pay ahead of time, but what about prepayment as a loyalty strategy? If structured correctly, prepayment can drive huge increases in customer spend--customers, after being incented to prepay, significantly increase spend because their prepayment acts as an ever-present motivation to get the most out of their investment.
One of the most famous examples of how prepayment drives out-sized gains in loyalty is Amazon Prime. Amazon customers essentially prepay for their shipping fees for the year when they sign up for membership at $79 per year, but analysts estimate that Amazon Prime customers spend on average 150 percent more after they join, which more than pays for that free shipping.
Another famous example is the Starbucks loyalty program. Customers can prepay to earn rewards like a free drink on their birthday or free refills. By putting rewards and prepayment on the same card, Starbucks has essentially combined two loyalty tactics (rewards and prepayment) into one. One study I read estimates that Starbucks customers who prepay spend 162 percent more than the average Starbucks consumer!
It's not just for big business. Here are three suggestions on how you might try to do this:
1. Membership Fees
This would be like implementing your own version of Amazon Prime. If free shipping is not relevant for your business, consider other benefits like a permanent discount on drinks or on the total bill or even a special VIP-access that allows members to always get a reservation. While it may seem counter-intuitive to offer discounts and benefit, you need to trust that the increase in visit frequency will more than pay for the discount. Basically a membership fee locks your regulars in even more and provides an additional incentive to make your business their first choice.
2. Cash Bonus for Prepayment
You could also experiment with turning gift cards around and making them not just gift cards for the friends of your customers but prepaid cards for your current customers. In return for a cash bonus like 10 percent or a free gift on every load, you'll most likely see that customers that prepay will come back even more frequently and spend more when they do. When we rolled this scheme out to the merchants that work with my own company, we saw existing loyal customers increase their monthly spend by 50 percent after prepaying to get a 10 percent cash bonus on a re-loadable card.
3. Monthly Subscription
This is a tactic that's increasingly being used in retail. Amazon has its own version called Subscribe & Save. Basically you are turning your regular customers into subscribers who commit to buying on a regular basis in return for an ongoing discount. This again is playing with the idea that a pre-commitment will drive outsized gains in lifetime purchases, which far outweigh the discount offered.
While the above strategies may seem counter-intuitive, they are proven by some of the most innovative companies in retail. Try to experiment with these ideas to get some crazy increases in loyalty at your own business in 2014.
6 Habits of True Strategic Thinkers
You're the boss, but you still spend too much time on the day-to-day. Here's how to become the strategic leader your company needs.
In the beginning, there was just you and your partners. You did every job. You coded, met with investors, emptied the trash, and phoned in the midnight pizza. Now you have others to do all that and it's time for you to "be strategic."
Whatever that means.
If you find yourself resisting "being strategic," because it sounds like a fast track to irrelevance, or vaguely like an excuse to slack off, you're not alone. Every leader's temptation is to deal with what's directly in front, because it always seems more urgent and concrete. Unfortunately, if you do that, you put your company at risk. While you concentrate on steering around potholes, you'll miss windfall opportunities, not to mention any signals that the road you're on is leading off a cliff.
This is a tough job, make no mistake. "We need strategic leaders!” is a pretty constant refrain at every company, large and small. One reason the job is so tough: no one really understands what it entails. It's hard to be a strategic leader if you don't know what strategic leaders are supposed to do.
After two decades of advising organizations large and small, my colleagues and I have formed a clear idea of what's required of you in this role. Adaptive strategic leaders — the kind who thrive in today’s uncertain environment – do six things well:
Most of the focus at most companies is on what’s directly ahead. The leaders lack “peripheral vision.” This can leave your company vulnerable to rivals who detect and act on ambiguous signals. To anticipate well, you must:
- Look for game-changing information at the periphery of your industry
- Search beyond the current boundaries of your business
- Build wide external networks to help you scan the horizon better
"Conventional wisdom" opens you to fewer raised eyebrows and second guessing. But if you swallow every management fad, herd-like belief, and safe opinion at face value, your company loses all competitive advantage. Critical thinkers question everything. To master this skill you must force yourself to:
- Reframe problems to get to the bottom of things, in terms of root causes
- Challenge current beliefs and mindsets, including your own
- Uncover hypocrisy, manipulation, and bias in organizational decisions
Ambiguity is unsettling. Faced with it, the temptation is to reach for a fast (and potentially wrongheaded) solution. A good strategic leader holds steady, synthesizing information from many sources before developing a viewpoint. To get good at this, you have to:
- Seek patterns in multiple sources of data
- Encourage others to do the same
- Question prevailing assumptions and test multiple hypotheses simultaneously
Many leaders fall prey to “analysis paralysis.” You have to develop processes and enforce them, so that you arrive at a “good enough” position. To do that well, you have to:
- Carefully frame the decision to get to the crux of the matter
- Balance speed, rigor, quality and agility. Leave perfection to higher powers
- Take a stand even with incomplete information and amid diverse views
Total consensus is rare. A strategic leader must foster open dialogue, build trust and engage key stakeholders, especially when views diverge. To pull that off, you need to:
- Understand what drives other people's agendas, including what remains hidden
- Bring tough issues to the surface, even when it's uncomfortable
- Assess risk tolerance and follow through to build the necessary support
As your company grows, honest feedback is harder and harder to come by. You have to do what you can to keep it coming. This is crucial because success and failure--especially failure--are valuable sources of organizational learning. Here's what you need to do:
- Encourage and exemplify honest, rigorous debriefs to extract lessons
- Shift course quickly if you realize you're off track
- Celebrate both success and (well-intentioned) failures that provide insight
Do you have what it takes?
Obviously, this is a daunting list of tasks, and frankly, no one is born a black belt in all these different skills. But they can be taught and whatever gaps exist in your skill set can be filled in.
How to Manage Your Passwords
Throw out the sticky notes. These programs are a better way to go.
Security experts tell us to create long, complex passwords (think numerals and symbols) for every online account. But how are we supposed to remember all of those mind-numbing character strings?
Enter software that manages your passwords for you. These programs allow you to store your passwords in one file by creating one ultra-secure master password to serve as the portal to all your other user names and passwords. Here are three great examples.
Dashlane: This is an excellent choice for the password-challenged. Not only is it highly secure, but it’s also a breeze to use. Dashlane is a free download for Windows and Mac PCs and most smart phones and tablets. Enter a master password (be sure to remember it because Dashlane doesn’t save it) and the app automatically encrypts your passwords and other private information using military-grade AES-256 encryption, which has never been hacked. Dashlane imports new and existing passwords from your Web browser into its “vault”; the program can remember your shipping and credit card information, as well as auto-fill online checkout screens.
Dashlane also works within your Web browser to monitor your online activities. When you log in to your e-mail, for instance, Dashlane pops up and asks whether it should save your user name and password. Plus, it rates the strength of your existing passwords (and tells you if they should be changed), and it generates strong passwords for new sites that you join. If you signed up for two-step verification using Google Authenticator (you need a code generated by an app in addition to your password), you may continue to use it.
Although Dashlane is a dandy password manager, the free version is limited to one device. If you’d like to use it on several gadgets, you’ll need to buy the premium edition ($20 per year), which syncs passwords and backs up data across multiple devices.
LastPass: This is another top-notch free password manager. Like Dashlane, LastPass prompts you to create a master password (it, too, uses AES-256 encryption), integrates with the browser, detects when you log in to password-protected sites and asks whether you want it to remember log-in information. Like Dashlane, LastPass generates strong passwords for new sites and auto-fills credit card and shipping information. And LastPass has added the ability to rate the strength of existing passwords.
LastPass stores your data online, which lets you access your credit card numbers from any Web browser. (The downside: You may be uncomfortable with having your sensitive personal data stored in the cloud.) The app also supports Google Authenticator, but you’ll need the premium version ($1 a month) to use LastPass on a variety of smart phones and tablets, including Android, BlackBerry, iOS (Apple) and Windows Phone devices.
Keeper: If all you want is a free password manager and little more, Keeper is appealing. Like its competitors, the app uses bulletproof AES-256 encryption. The app supports two-step verification, but it doesn’t rate the strength of your passwords. The free version works well on a single device, but you’ll want Keeper Backup ($10 per device per year) to sync among several PCs, tablets and phones.