Your Business Advisory Board

Every business owner benefits from the wise counsel of a select group of experts, who offer a differential diagnosis that brings fresh air and information into the room and drags us out of the echo chamber of our auto-pilot habits and ingrained perspectives.

Fortunately, life equips us with an advisory board, whether or not we recognize it as such. Unfortunately, most of the advice we receive is bad, starting with what know-it-all cousin Howie and meddlesome Aunt Sheila have to say (those two will have you broke in six months!).

No, our real advisory board must be carefully curated. One must know whose advice in general should be heeded and whose should be ignored. The advisory board that we create can be informal. It is not necessary to charter a formal board unless the business demands it. We should consult our advisory board regularly, to find out what is new on the horizon, figure out how to solve problems faster, brainstorm intriguing new ideas and overall learn how to work not just hard, but smart.

Clients

As numerous experts repeatedly recommend, listen to your clients and receive a wealth of information. Customers give the outside-in, other side of the desk view and what they value most is sometimes surprising. You cannot always fathom what customer priorities will be and you won’t know until you let them tell you.

Customers are vital members of our advisory board. They represent the marketplace and when the market speaks, business owners must listen. Ask for customer feedback in the form of evaluations, surveys, or plain old Q & A over coffee. Ask what they like about your products and services; ask what would enhance the experience of doing business with you; ask business clients about upcoming trends and challenges in their organizations and figure out what you can monetize.

Employees

If you have employees, seek out their insights and advice on how your business protocols might be improved. Employees are in the trenches and often know better than the owner about how the business is perceived by customers. Employees are uniquely positioned to give very valuable feedback. Owners and managers should be smart enough to listen.

Likewise our accountant, attorney and other professional service providers, through the unique prism of their specialty, may offer useful advice that can have a positive impact on the business. A wise business owner creates an environment where employees and customers know that their opinions and advice are welcomed, respected and at least occasionally implemented.

Competitors

Do speak with experienced people within your industry, including competitors. Many will be happy to share a few pearls of wisdom with you, especially if they operate in another geographic locale. Marketing tips and other promotional strategies can be good topics to discuss, as could the types of services that resonate most with clients these days.

Roundtables

Additionally, you may find it useful to have also a structured advisory board experience and for this I recommend membership in a peer group, also known as a CEO forum or roundtable. Groups consist of perhaps a dozen business owners in non-competing industries. They are often segmented by number of employees and annual revenues and usually meet monthly for about 2 hours. The idea is to assemble a group of business owners who share a similar profile and who therefore have the perspective to offer relevant advice and support to fellow members.

When properly facilitated, group members function as each other’s board of directors. There is guidance and support on decision-making. Members celebrate successes. New ways to view and resolve business challenges are put forth. Opportunities may be discovered, goal setting is encouraged and members hold one another accountable for progress and achievements. Peer roundtables can provide a welcome source of support and inspiration and do much to overcome the isolation that many business owners experience.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

7 Best Things You Can Do With Amazon Echo

Do you have a new Alexa device? It might be the Amazon Echo, the Amazon Echo Dot, or the Amazon Tap. The Amazon Echo has earned tremendous acclaim since its launch last year. It’s important to know the features of your new smart assistant. That’s how you can exploit it for all its benefits and use it up to its full potential. The Echos’ virtual assistant, Alexa, can do a lot of amazing things on your command. Now, there are two ways you can use it. You can either waste your precious productive time fooling around with it or read the top benefits right here.

Here we list the 7 best things you can do with the Amazon Echo.

1. Call Your Contacts

Amazon Echo brings the traditional landlines back into business. The assistant allows you to call any number in your contact list. You can use your Alexa device to make a voice call to any of your contacts who also have the device. Additionally, you can even leave a message if the person doesn’t respond. Currently, the assistant offers no option for blocking specific numbers.

2. Grab Your Meals and More

Echo isn’t confined to just placing orders on Amazon. You now can use Alexa to order other things as well. It incorporates the two-hour daily delivery system of Amazon. For now, the service is only available in some selected cities and is valid for items of daily needs and other household items. However, there are some cities where you can place an order for food and even alcohol as well.

3. Plan Your Day

This is unmistakably the topmost feature. Yes, Alexa can help you plan your day. How? The modern smart assistant tells you about the weather outside your house and the happenings around the world. You can have a complete overview of the day and a quick recap of the news around you. Additionally, you can also check your to-do list for the day. Utilising these features you are able to plan and choose your clothing and events according to your schedule.

4. Make Your Home Smarter

Amazon Echo can easily turn your home into a smart home. The Alexa is equipped with a smart home tool to let you master most operations of your smart home. So, now with Alexa, you can switch your lights on and off and even change the colors of your lights. Additionally, you can change the temperature of your room according to your preference. Also, you can control all the door locks of your home easily. And, that’s not all. Alexa can control anything that’s smart in your house.

5. Read Without Reading

Alexa can help you to “read” several books without truly having to read them. Another Amazon-powered feature packed in Alexa is ‘Audible.’ It reads audio books for you while you’re occupied doing other things. The book stays in sync across various devices to let you start from the point where you left off at the last time. You can play or pause a book, advance or turn it back by 30 seconds and even set a timer for the play or pause functions.

6. Play Your Choice of Music

Alexa can play nearly any music or song that you feel in the mood for. Although the default music player for Alexa is obviously the Amazon player, Amazon isn’t that stubborn. Alexa allows you to set your own music services like Spotify or other such apps. So, all you have to do is just set your favorite music service as the Alexa default, and you’re ready to rock and roll. Your assistant is smart enough to find and play your favorite music or song from its catalog.

7. Make It Do Anything

Alexa connects to a lot of devices, but not all. There are quite a few devices that aren’t compatible with your smart assistant. But that doesn’t mean you can’t control them. You can train your assistant to do more. The feature that enables your Alexa to connect with unsupported apps, devices, and websites is called IFTTT. Even though unsupported devices can’t be controlled with voice commands to the Alexa, you can still program your assistant for various tasks using IFTTT.

So these are our picks for the best things your Amazon Echo can do for you. Apart from these, the assistant has a plethora of functions. You can get to know them all over a period of time using it. So, get smart, and get the Amazon Echo.

What’s Haunting Your Business?

Lot’s of businesses have ghosts of things past that haunt them on a daily basis. In fact, there are probably a few ghosts or goblins hanging around your company. Even when you don’t see them, they can hide in plain sight and hold your business back from reaching its full potential.

These are not real ghosts (if there is such as thing) but shadows of poor decisions, past employees and customer relationships that died a slow painful death. The shadows of these events color employee perspectives, inhibit risk taking and undermine motivation.

Like most entrepreneurs, I’m an optimistic and prefer to look on the bright side rather than dwell on the past. If you feel the same way, you may find it challenging to think about exorcising the demons you can’t see when there is a new deal to chase or a fresh opportunity on the horizon.

Even so, it pays to take some time periodically to go ghost hunting and you can free your business from these pesky and potentially painful echoes of your business history. Things that can haunt your business include the ongoing effects of…

  • A bad-apple employee who undermined trust and disrupted your company culture.
  • A poor manager who was divisive and created lasting walls between team members.
  • A customer relationship that soured, leaving bitter feelings behind.
  • A partnership that derailed, unraveling business opportunities and hurting revenue potential.
  • Legal issues that contribute to a culture of fear and reduce risk-taking or innovation.
  • Financial challenges that undermine investment opportunities and inhibit growth.

To get rid of these ghosts for good – or stop them from taking up residence in the first place – try this:

Discuss and debrief. When a business faces a setback it is tempting for employees and management to deal with the issue by pretending it never happened. A healthier approach is to acknowledge the event with a debrief session that allows people to express their feeling and observations. Sharing the impact of the experience allows people to unburden themselves rather than dragging extra baggage around and suffering from the excess weight they’re carrying..

Learn the lesson and move on. Every situation holds lessons to be learned, but in the rush to “get back to business” its easy to lose sight of them. Use your debrief sessions to uncover that was really learned by your team, even if this process requires some probing, poking and prodding. Once you find the lessons, work on internalizing what you’ve learned so you don’t end up stuck in the past, repeating old mistakes.

Undo the damage. Even after you learn the critical business lessons from these events, the damage can echo on. Watch for ripple effects that linger. These may include subtle cultural shifts like hyper conservative decision making, employees fearful of retribution when risks don’t pay off or a general reluctance to stretch outside the norm. If you notice your team is boxing itself in to avoid repeating a painful past, tackle the problem head on. Address the issue openly and encourage a return to a healthy environment.