Category: Strategy

Business Support, Consulting, Leadership, Strategy

Invest in the Infrastructure

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Businesses can learn lessons from the past three US Presidents. If you invest in the infrastructure, it supports everyone and supports business growth. President Obama invested in the banks, airlines, roads, and social safety net for citizens President Trump invested in public health, mental health, and immigration and border security. President Biden has invested in roads, transportation, green energy futures, and the economy. Regardless of your political ideology, there’s a common thread here about how investments in infrastructure are keys to sustainability and progress.

For businesses, investments in infrastructure are critical to maintaining the health of any company, supporting your employees, and being strategic about your performance and goals. Companies who take their eye off of their infrastructure will find themselves with a crumbling foundation that will erode performance and culture. Each business should spend time focusing on some key areas that will provide a strong foundation for economic growth.

When I talk about infrastructure, I am referring to the areas of keeping the business operating and successful. These areas include human resources, finances, information technology, data, collection and reporting, marketing, customer experience and support, and board, investor, and partner relationships. For businesses with the resources to have staff in these key areas, there is an easier time managing the infrastructure, as long as the staff is confident to do so. For small businesses, they often have to make decisions where to invest in the infrastructure while investing in service delivery. Finding a balance between the two is hard, but necessary. When your resources are limited, this is a Sophie‘s choice scenario. The investment decisions you make will have a cause and effect on your business. How you secure and invest in your company infrastructure will determine your success. 

The infrastructure list I provided is long. If your resources are limited, you may not be able to invest in all areas simultaneously. You will have to make some choices on three to four infrastructure areas to invest in year to year. This is where your business must be strategic in its decisions to maximize success. 

For many, the three key areas that are critical are human resources, finance, and information technology. For others it may be human resources, finance, and marketing. I would argue the three key areas are finance, client experience, and board, investor, and partner relationships. This may surprise you because I often talked about the importance of employee support. I would agree and say my number four is human resources, although I have my own issues with Human Resources, but employee support is important. I digress the reason why I believe finances, the client experience, and board, investor, and partner relationships are more important is because without the financial resources, your impact is limited. When I am asked to consult to support a company with infrastructure improvement, my first conversation is around current revenue and new revenue opportunities. Therefore, when I see the budget the puzzle becomes more clear. Many do not have a plan for revenue diversity or new opportunities. I found a clear correlation between the lack of revenue and a crumbling infrastructure. 

Once I understand revenue, debt, and contracts, I move on to understand how they are investing in their infrastructure. Where are they strong and weak in the areas of human resources, finances, information technology, data, collection and reporting, marketing, customer experience and support, and board, investor, and partner relationships. Lastly, what are the company goals and where do they want me to focus my energy? How can I lend my expertise to help them move their needle on business growth and impact?

If you are struggling with your company’s infrastructure, reflect on the questions below.  

  • Are all of your business licenses and contract deliverables in compliance? 
  • Are you in compliance with both your city, county, state, and federal requirements?
  • Are you current on your billing? 
  • How are you on your accounts receivable aging?
  • Are you in compliance with the department of labor standards and HR practices?
  • Do you have the right business tools and place to manage your compliance and run your business?
  • Do your employees have the right business tools to do their jobs?
  • Do your employees feel supported?
  • How would you describe your company culture?

If your company is struggling, there still may be time to turn things around. Having strategic conversations at the executive level, with investors, and with your board and employees is a great beginning to identify your opportunities and risk. Once you have some information, you can start putting together a strategy to make improvements to your infrastructure. The hardest part is allocating or finding resources to execute your strategy.

If your company needs additional guidance or support, contact us at Pensivetastic. Let’s collaborate to define your path forward. We’ll help you get there. 

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Consulting, Leadership, Marketing, Strategy

Hey, What’s Your Story?

Storytelling

We all have a story. A journey to share that charts our path from past to present. Sharing our story is vital to crafting and selling our personal brand and building goals for the future. Well, businesses have to tell their story to elevate their company brand. Sharing your company history and future vision helps businesses connect with customers that share their ideals. How does your business craft a story that resonance with customers? It’s not unlike crafting your personal story. 

Personally and professionally, our need for storytelling is powerful and built into our history as a species. Storytelling originated with visual cave drawings before shifting into an oral method. Stories continue to be passed down orally by each generation, often in camp stories and songs. In our modern history, stories take many narrative forms, including spoken, written, printed, and typed. These stories transcend blogs, books, the internet, movies, sung, and TV.

One of the keys to storytelling is understanding your essence, the core values that define your brand. A well-known proverbial expression created by William Shakespeare is “To thine own self be true”. It was written in his masterpiece Hamlet. This expression means ‘be true to yourself”. As with your personal story, there is always an evolution to your business story. Spending time understanding your business journey and values is vital to future success. 

  • Why do they exist? 
  • Has your mission or vision changed? 
  • What makes your business unique? 
  • What makes your business stand out from its competitors? 
  • How can your business better the world? 
  • What philanthropy are you putting into the world that can make your brand stand out?   

So what’s the story your business wants or needs to tell? Your business story has a motivation or purpose to carry your brand, leadership, and employees forward. It is essential to stop, reflect on your path, and find a new way to tell your updated story. Journalists have a process to address the fundamental questions that define every story. The Five “W”s are the foundation of crafting any story. 

  • Who?
  • What?
  • Why?
  • Where? 
  • When?

In addition to the Five “W”’s, add how. I recommend focusing on the How and Why to start your story. 

  • How did you get here? 
  • How will you move forward?
  • How is it possible to move forward successfully?
  • Why are we in business?
  • Why did we start? 
  • Is why we started the business resonating and essential to our messaging today?
  • Why and how are we critical to our customers?

These are the most important questions to get to the core or heart of your value. You must understand your business motivations, purpose, and vision to craft an authentic story that will resonate with others. It takes time to get to your story. Keep it simple. Test your message before going public. Make sure it resonates in the way and conveys your intent. Creating or changing messaging is a journey, not a destination. 

If you need additional guidance or support in your messaging and branding, contact us at Pensivetastic. Let’s collaborate to define your path forward. We’ll help you get there.

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Consulting, Leadership, Strategy

“Kill ‘Em with Kindness”

Kill_Em_With_Kindness_(Official_Single_Cover)_by_Selena_Gomez

Hopefully, you know of the actress, advocate, celebrity, and singer Selena Gomez. For those who are not Selena Gomez fans, find a millennial - they will help get you on board. There is a terrific song on Selena’s Revival album called “Kill ‘Em with Kindness”. It’s a set of poignant lyrics tied to a catchy beat. I recommend listening to it and adding it to your exercise playlist.

This simple song starts with a firm declaration:

          “The world can be a nasty place

          You know it, I know it, yeah

          See, we don't have to fall from grace

          Put down the weapons you fight with

          And kill 'em with kindness…”

So far, so good? Although, if you’re in a fight, please don’t surrender your weapons. I digress. 

She continues the song with these impressive statements. 

           “We're running out of time chasing our lives

           Every day a small piece of you dies

          There's always somebody you're willing to fight, to be right

          Your lies are bullets, your mouth's a gun

          No war and anger was ever won

          Put out the fire before igniting

          Next time you're fighting

          Please, kill 'em with kindness”

I was stunned the first time I heard this song. Let's face it, deep-meaning-dance songs are not a genre. If so, I would be a devotee. This section of the song speaks to me the most. In our overly busy lives, it can often feel like a little piece of us dies every day. I mean, we do get older daily, so it’s technically accurate. 

The song was written about treating haters with kindness. It was inspired by the hate Selena received on social media during a trip to Mexico. Pictures of Selena on a beach surfaced online and she was body-shaming by media outlets and social media. 

Selena Gomez expressed the inspiration behind the song. 

"You have to wake up with yourself every morning, and people are going to give you their worst, and it's so easy to be mean. I'm Latin; I can be mean, real fast, if I want. But I don't feel good about myself, and I think people need to hear a message like this. I do know that deep down in my heart that I have to believe that we can love each other and always be kind no matter what it takes in us. I believe that we can do that, no matter what."

We can all agree there needs to be more songs about putting haters and bullies in their place. A long line of amazing artists has rallied against the bullies and haters in music. You can Google them. Make sure you support them. 

There is one line in the song that Selena repeats several times that I want to address. It's an important statement for reflection. The lyric is, 

          “There's always somebody you're willing to fight, to be right.” 

That’s powerful. This song is not just about taking the high road when angry. It is also about checking your ego. Ego is “a person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance.” The ego is the “I” or self of any person. The thinking, feeling, and willingness, and distinguishing of a person's self from the selves of others. We all have moments in our careers when our hubris gets out of control. Whose ego hasn’t gotten in the way? It is human nature. Here are some questions to help you reflect on the impact of your ego on others. 

  • When does your ego go too far? 
  • When your ego is in the way, how do you regulate it? 
  • What mechanisms do you have in place to put your ego in check? 
  • How do your leaders and employees react when your ego makes demands on them? 
  • How do you apologize to your leaders and employees when you lash them with your ego?

Our ego gets in the way as leaders when we wage war during a simple battle. I suspect it is as Selena said when “…you're willing to fight, to be right.” Is waging wars with others over being right the sword you will fall on? How often do you fight to be right? Do you always have to be right? Is that what’s important? We should not war all the time. If you are, then you’re not listening enough. Conversations are not a competition outside a courtroom. Fighting to be right is just another version of perfectionism. 

I recommend Selena Gomez’s advice. Stand up to the bullies and haters, kill them with kindness, and release your ego. When do you “Kill ‘Em with Kindness”? Michele Obama always says, “When they go low, you go high”. In situations where there are egregious bullies and haters, it is excellent advice to go high and kill them with kindness. It is hard to go high when you are being attacked. However, speak up! Label the bully's and hater's behavior publically. Let them know that you see them and the unnecessary and unprofessional behavior they bring to the table. Their words are not tolerated. When picking your battles, you often must let the microaggressions float by you to move forward. It is professional to smile, excuse yourself, and quickly remove yourself from the situation. Don’t continuously put yourself in unhealthy situations. Your mental health and reputation deserve better. 

Let’s collaborate to define your path forward. If you are still struggling or need additional guidance, contact us at Pensivetastic. We’ll help you get there. 

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Leadership, Strategy

Finding the Strategic “Yes”

Business team celebrating a triumph with arms up

The Strategic “Yes” is a series of thoughtful questions aimed at converging your decision point with your company strategy and aligning it with the voices of your leaders and employees. In my career, I’ve participated in numerous conversations with leaders and decision-makers as they recounted how they arrived at their decision points. For the majority, their decision was based on thorough research and following best practices. While those are essential steps of due diligence and noble pursuits, there is an additional recommended guidance to finding the Strategic “Yes”. Using these Strategic “Yes” questions allows your company to continue its vetting process toward a healthier decision. When asked how you got to your Strategic “Yes”, you can detail your full due diligence journey to make your board, investors, partners, and employees more comfortable about the forward direction.First, we must talk about the Always “Yes”. Many articles have been written about positive and negative uses of the Always “Yes”. The Always “Yes'' philosophy (saying “Yes” to everything) is toxic positivity. This movement can dismantle company culture. For new companies, the Always “Yes” can bring remarkable success and help to refine the company strategy. Once your company has matured, the Always “Yes” will begin to damage your company’s soul, culture, and maybe reputation. Doing your due diligence and saying “Yes” strategically is critical to your credibility as a successful leader and building a healthy company culture.

Next, I have a question for you. Are you comfortable saying “No” to others? Saying “No” is not hard to do. Go ahead - say “No” out loud - right now. See! Saying “No” is not hard. It is a crucial part of growth and reflection. So why are you reluctant to do it? Don’t let the fear of the “No” cripple your truth or dismantle your company culture.

Many employees are challenged against saying “No” by leaders. Leaders still think “No” is a negative strategy from others to derail or reject their plans. Leaders rarely reward a “No” or acknowledge it consistently as part of a company decision-making conversation. I can count on one hand the times I said “No”, it was proven correct, and was praised by others.

All leaders must let the “No” be voiced in meetings and not silenced. Once the “No” is given a voice, it creates an open space for dialogue about how to move forward. Leaders should not let the “No” be heard, pretend it didn’t happen, and move on with the agenda or decision. Let the voices speak their truth with our censure. Open dialogue is part of your diligence.

For some, saying “No” at work is an impossible feat. Navigating company politics, company culture, and the politics of your role can make saying “No” or even disagreeing with leadership a death sentence. When leaders shoot down a vocalized “No” without listening and engaging in a complete discussion, this signals to employees that the company culture is a farce. Your actions speak volumes about and do more to represent your company culture than any of your written values, policies, or DEIA statements. The silencing of “No” perpetuates a groupthink mentality. Company culture prays at the alter of group think. Groupthink mentality forces contrary employees into an Unwilling “Yes”. Unless your company has a robust rock-solid culture where all employees are heard, respected, and valued always, groupthink is a manipulative and retaliatory company practice fostered by company leaders.

A homogeneous group can only innovate with agitators, architects, disrupters, and visionaries voicing their contrary opinion often and having safe forums to be heard with open dialogue. The perception and unhealthy response to going against the grain signals agitators, architects, disrupters, and visionaries their success or tenure at the company is tainted. When employees don’t feel safe and that their voice is protected - they leave. Silencing contributes to the turnover and loss of great talent and institutional knowledge. The company culture erodes as this becomes a consistent company practice, perception, unwritten rule, or policy.

You can not say “Yes” to everyone, every partnership, and every decision. This is unhealthy for the organization. Leaders must say a Strategic “Yes” to grow the organization. How do you get to a Strategic “Yes”?

Below is a guide to get to a more Strategic “Yes”. Does this:

  • align with your mission?
  • align with your strategic plan?
  • make sense for your organization and its current product and service delivery?
  • allow your organization to start a new business unit, grow its capacity, or scale healthily?
  • move your company closer to achieving your vision, big goal, or healthily pivot the business?

I refer to “healthily” for you to consider how this decision will impact your bottom line, leaders, and employees. It should work for everyone. Consistently practicing a Strategic “Yes” takes practice. It is hard work - put in the effort. It will change your company and evolve your leadership style. If your answers to the above questions are not a “Yes” in the majority, this is not a Strategic “Yes”. You are not being strategic in your decision and might be a Strategically “No”! After performing this full due diligence, you may have more in common with the Strategic “No” than you realize.

Finally, besides the guidance above, do a gut check, smell test, check in with your feelings, or consult your intuition - whichever resonates with you. If your gut screams “No”, please listen to its cries. Don’t ignore it - reflect on what makes you uneasy. Sometimes to get to a true answer - you need some distance. You must re-evaluate if your intuition and Strategic “Yes” are conflicting. If that is the case, take the time you need to reflect. You should trust your gut instincts - that inside guiding voice - to aid you in getting to a Strategic “Yes”.

If the conflict continues, especially when your inner voice is a loud “no”, walk away. Walking away can be temporary. It may be the wrong partner, time for your company, or it could damage your employees and culture. There may be a similar opportunity in the future that will be a better fit and a true Strategic “Yes”.

Use this Strategic “Yes” guidance, consulting your intuition, and balancing those with the other voices at the decision-making table. If you are still struggling or need additional guidance, contact us at Pensivetastic. Let’s collaborate to define your path forward. We’ll help you get there.

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