Don’t strive for perfection; that takes too long. Just be better at what you do than everyone else.

June 29th Robert Levin  THE REPORT BLOG

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David Meerman Scott has a fantastically contrarian post titled; Everybody Is Wrong

What conventional wisdom that “everybody knows” can you challenge?

For leaders in the SMB space – I challenge you to challenge yourself on what everybody knows!

Here is why!

Everybody knows exactly what service or product you provide in one glance at your web site. Or do they? Enter in ignorance and take a second look.

Everybody knows what you meant when you outlined the project in that kick off meeting right? Or do they? Hint: communication is only complete when the message is understood. Which in some circumstances can be less then 35% of the time.

Everybody knows that your initiative is high priority right? Or do they? If there is not one individual accountable for facets of it – it is only a good intention.

The SMB Takeaway

Don’t Forget the Basics.

Every body may not know

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Do Leaders Matter?

June 26, 2009

A great conversation happening in two parts with Tim Walker at  Hoover’s Business Insight Zone

Mr. Walker starts out referencing Atlantic Monthly’s recent article, Do CEOs Matter? in this post titled; Who’s the best CEO in America?

It is followed up by expanding on comments to that first post in this; This is why I love blogging

So lets back up a bit, as a CEO (or general manager) in the SMB space, does leadership matter?

I say it does

And to back up that statement, let me paint a little picture.

Have you ever seen a horse race?

Second, have you ever seen a horse race where an unfortunate jockey has fallen off of the horse?

If you haven’t, the riderless horse does not not stop and turn around, it does not take its saddle and bridle and walk home.

That riderless horse keeps going in the race.

It keeps on with the herd!

But by itself?

By itself, Here is what is won’t do

It won’t find a seam to get through the obstacles, or take to that inside rail either.

For that?

For that it need the experienced hands of the jockey to point the way.

And a leaderless business can just follow along the track too. The business does not implode in seconds, it lopes along (usually in mediocrity.)

Leadership is just that. Hands on the reins to provide the adjustments and ideas necessary to win that race. Guiding through that seam, or providing that incentive and drive to get to that inside rail.

PS, look closely at this image, yes the jockey has fallen – the horse beside the jockey in red close to the rear, if you can’t quite see it, click the link, the image owner has it highlighted

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Photo Credit Michael Spencer via flickr

Laptops - Backup!

Laptops - Backup!

Like phones and PDA’s. laptops are mobile devices.

They can move around daily, plus, as they aren’t nailed down they are at a much higher risk of theft and can breakage.

Yet even though laptops have this higher risk of losing some of your corporate data, too often they rarely (if ever) have all of that corporate data on them backed up!

With desktop PC’s, it is easy to have a policy that all critical data be stored on your servers. It is even fairly easy to simply schedule data backups of those workstations if you so choose.

But with laptops?

If they are not in your office – well, a backup gets harder to do.

You can try to get people to regularly move their data to your network servers – but people won’t. Too much effort or too much time, or too hard.

Mobile vs. Remote

When looking at ensuring that data on laptops is properly backed up, it can help to divide your laptop users into two camps. The first one, lets just call Mobile.

These folks work primarily in your office, may travel once in a while, and generally use the laptop because it adds flexibility to their work environment.

I personally would fall into this category, the laptop basically travels between my office and home as it allows me to get caught up with work that is behind, plus allows me to quickly respond to alerts and problems with our IT infrastructure.

Then we have the truly Remote.

These men and women are either true Road Warriors, gone for days or weeks at a time, or they work out of remote locations or offices, visiting your facility a few times per year.

The Backups

It can be easier for the ones I simply define as mobile. You have the choice of a policy that all corporate data resides on servers, and and that only copies be carried on the laptop, or you can possibly have a backup job that runs during the day, specifically for the laptops.

Personally, I don’t like doing backups during the day, but as a small business I compromise. Those of us lower on the corporate totem pole have the server storage policy, but an exception made for the senior executives.

For the truly remote workers, it gets more difficult. I can supply backup devices that plug into their laptops, I can even subscribe to online backup and storage services.

The Problem?

People are people – and unless you make it automatic – most simply won’t do it. Part of it is regularly communicating the risks, and if you are just reviewing backup services for remote workers, ensure that minimal user intervention is required. The more automatic it is for those remote workers, the better off you will be when it comes time to rescue that data.

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Big Hairy Audacious Goals

Big Hairy Audacious Goals

Jonathan Fields dives into a great comparison of goal setting via James Collins’ BHAG‘s (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) vs. more incremental Baby Steps in this post titled; Goalsetting Smackdown: Big Hairy Audacious vs Baby Steps

He prefers BHAG’s – follow the link to read more!

But First…….

I have to make a preface here! If you are a dozen people in a dorm or basement intent on generating revenue directly through technology by inventing the Next Big Thing, or building that killer iPhone app the world does not know it needs yet, this is not for you.

Because in that type of environment you have (by default!) set your sights on that Big Hairy Audacious goal, the Game Changer! the World Beater!

But for the majority of us in the SME space?

Well, we run on a continuum from fairly low technical maturity where technology is just to run accounting and E-Mail, to higher maturity levels where technology is used to enable and improve business processes. Either by assisting in revenue generation or reducing costs.

In our case, we are not trying to invent the next Twitter or Friendfeed.

Sure – We want to beat the world too – but by reducing cost of sales, getting word of our product or service out there. And reducing our SG&A.

And in our IT Goal setting, do we want BHAG’s or baby steps?

Well – Here is one warning with BHAG’s when it comes to IT goals.

The effects of change on both business and IT processes from any change in your IT and IT strategy are not linear. Like mortgage interest, they are compounded.

And like compounded interest, a little change can have some big time effects. And larger changes? if you change X Y and Z all at once, odds are that something is going to break, and as 80% of outages and IT related downtime is just finding out what broke. Well you see the risk.

Sure Keep Your Eye on the Prize!

Maybe that goal, or that prize is a BHAG – a Game Changer.

But I recommend you get to it by baby steps. Or as I have called it before, Learn To Dance.

Step, Pause, Adjust, then step again.

Enough from me – which do you prefer?

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Photo Credit NASA

Leaders who dwell in the land of ideas too long tend to accomplish very little. Leaders who keep their noses to the grindstone and never get off the ground might accomplish a lot but chances are it will be a lot of the wrong thing

Gwyn Teatro

The SMB Takeaway

It is not Strategy or Execution

It is Strategy and Execution

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I can guarantee that if you look hard enough, you can always save a dollar or two buying IT related services or supplies at a different spot each and every time.

But before you do that, ask yourself; are you are building a supplier relationship that is a win-win situation?

A win-win situation is collaborative, it is trusting, it is knowledge.

Anything else will most likely be just adversarial. And when the chips are down, adversarial won’t help you too much.

Try to cultivate a couple of suppliers. And work to maintain them as you would a large vendor or customer.

One good reason for doing this? – If you have particular industry specialty requirements, if they have that expertise, they can be a valuable source of advice.

And second, if you are treating your suppliers in a win-win manner, when there is a problem, you are more likely to get the ‘A’ team to help you.

Case In Point

I had a complete system failure of a critical piece of IT infrastructure. With nothing more than a phone call, replacement gear and service techs were on site replacing the dead pieces in just a couple of hours.

If I had spent the last five years beating them up on nickle and dime differences from Joe’s PC Supply, would there be that same relationship?

I doubt it.

I am not advocating following military spending habits and dropping 5 Thousand dollars on a hammer!

But bouncing around your suppliers trying to get each one to drop a dollar to meet the competition until there is only one left standing does not do a hell of a lot for you in the longer term.

So cultivate them, treat them with respect. Like any relationship, debate costs, even constructively argue!

Because at some time when the chips are down, collaborative beats adversarial

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Photo Credit Aidan Jones via flickr