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Vol. 78: 12 Holiday Morsels to Strenghten Your Business

“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” — Yogi Berra

Yes, the holidays are here and already the list of things to do continues to grow – completing the annual budget, planning parties, visiting with friends, figuring out what to get who for when … and so it goes. Yet, my spirit remains strong, so I’ve prepared a menu of 12 holiday treats that I hope will slide down like Amaretto eggnog in front of a winter fire.

I’ve even scoured some of my earlier columns to find the most delectable morsels. So, here’s a smorgasbord of lessons learned – a few appetizers, a choice of entrees, a little dessert – from executives of both extraordinary capability and numbing incompetence  — that should grace your executive table.

1.     It’s never about you. It’s always about them. Customers, employees, suppliers … family, friends, colleagues. Be clear about it and thrive. Get it backwards? Fail.

2.     If you don’t think you’ll ever have a management succession problem, you already have one.

3.     Build your compensation plan based on performance. Period. Skip all of the egalitarian schemes and make sure you’ve set clear expectations so that the rewards actually promote your objectives.

4.     Forget about economic news. Don’t allow the naysayers to take you off your game. Press forward, be aggressive and instill a positive attitude throughout your organization.  George Bernard Shaw famously said, “If all economists were laid end to end they would not reach a conclusion.” So, focus on what you can control. Change what you can. Leave the rest to someone else.

It’s never about you. It’s always about them.

5.     Get out of the discounting mindset. Think value, service, delivery. How can you defend your value proposition and find a way to nudge prices upward and increase value? The discounting path is a descending staircase … and we all know it’s much harder to climb the stairs than to go down.

6.     There’s no such thing as over-communicating. Talking too much, yes. Saying little, not good. But reminding your colleagues, customers, employees and vendors what you stand for, where you’re headed, how you’re going to get there? Keep saying it. Again and again. You can’t say it often enough.

7.     Growth is a magic elixir in many ways. It stimulates stronger relationships, greater buying power, opportunities for people development … and the list goes on. It’s also a death trap if it’s not managed. The unexpected lack of cash surprises companies on a growth path more than those struggling to survive. The latter group understands the problem clearly. The first group doesn’t know there is one.

8.     Banks and accountants are valuable allies. Don’t go into battle without them. If the relationship’s not working, check the mirror. The solution is probably smiling back at you.

9.     While this is an appropriate time to remember the “family” part of the “family business,” never overlook the equally important discussion about the “business” of the family.

10.  “Incentives are the cornerstone of life” sayeth Steven Levitt in “Freakonomics.” Figure out if they’re working and if not, fix them. If you don’t have any, get some. They work. Believe it.

11.  Most experienced executives know the right answer, they just don’t like it. As a result, they get wrapped around the axle and trapped in inaction justifying all the reasons they can’t decide. If you’re right, you’re right. Make the decision. It will work out.

12Have fun like Jimmy Buffett. He always seems to be on a beautiful tropical island, sipping margaritas, guitar in hand, sun baking the sand. An occasional company picnic or an after-hours pub-crawl isn’t enough. Neither is a ropes course or a team-building cook-off. They’re the ruffles and flourishes. The heart of a company is its values; its brain is a leadership team that’s serious about its mission but doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Make sure you take some time to have fun. Just for the fun of it.

KBO

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Lary Kirchenbauer is the president of Exkalibur Advisors,providing practical business strategies for family and other privately owned businesses in the middle market. Exkalibur works closely with senior executives and their businesses in the wine and other industries, and hosts the Exkalibur Leadership Forum for leaders of middle market companies in the North Bay. Please visit Exkalibur.com for a library of valuable resources, articles and insights or connect on Twitter, LinkedIN or the Exkalibur fan page on Facebook.

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The North Bay Business Journal, a publication of the New York Times, is a weekly business newspaper which I have served as a regular columnist for about three years. The Business Journal covers the North Bay area of San Francisco – from the Golden Gate bridge north, including the Wine Country of Sonoma and Napa counties.

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Article published as Vol. 78 on December 4, 2010: The electronic version of this article, as published by the North Bay Business Journal, may be found here. ******************************

Any related materials or articles referenced in the published column, or otherwise applicable, are referenced in this digital version of the article.

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