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  1. Learn to read the signs

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    When I was visiting my brother’s family after my first niece was born, he asked me to put a car seat in his vehicle while he got my niece ready to travel. He said that it was easy to install the seat into its base; his actual words were, “It’s intuitive.” I’m normally good with gadgets and assembling things. Putting this car seat into its base puzzled me.  I spent almost five minutes trying to figure out how these two seemingly simple pieces fit together before he came out holding my niece in one arm and grabbed the car seat in the free arm. With one move, he put in the seat and it clicked securely. I did not comment on what I was thinking: intuition or experience? To him, it may have been intuition, but from my standpoint – as a bachelor, non-father – it seems like experience would make it easy. I didn’t have time to search YouTube for a tutorial on the model of car seat. Now my niece is old enough to instruct me on its assembly if I’m asked to put it together again.

    I pay attention to the physical signals I experience. Sometimes I can tell when a sinus issue is starting, and I’ve stopped avoiding the doctor. Now I go as soon as I recognize the symptoms. Recently I woke up with an eye issue. Not being able to readily tell what was wrong, I had the doctor look at it. I wasn’t sure if it was an allergy issue or if it was the beginning of conjunctivitis. I knew there was a problem, but I needed someone with experience to give me a direction and advice. I had the data; I needed a diagnosis from someone familiar with dealing with the data.

    In business, it is important to pay attention to the signals the business sends. Some is joy, some can be pain. It’s important to keep careful records of what is happening to see patterns and make predictions. Predictions are a diagnosis.

    Marketing deals with analyzing trends. It takes both intuition and experience to decipher. Good business owners recognize the patterns of their companies. They also know that sometimes there is a quirkiness that comes and needs to be analyzed further. Sometimes a business owner can self-medicate, and sometimes a business owner needs the assistance of a marketing professional, either from within or without.

    This shows a difference between marketing and advertising. Marketing is much more than simply promoting a service or product. Data analysis is very important. More data is better. More applicable data is priceless to a business. It is sometimes difficult to separate the company data wheat from the chaff.

    I have consultants for my business needs like legal and financial. Sometimes I turn to these professionals for advice when I come across something for which I do not have an intuitive feel. They know that marketing is important for their businesses. They may have a marketing person on staff, or they may employ an outside professional or team for help.

    It is important that companies pay attention to the signs their business gives them to stay healthy. It is healthier to be proactive and get ahead of an issue than it is to be reactive to fix an issue.

  2. Businesses need health checkups too

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    Health can be reported in different ways because it can be viewed in different ways. The educational health of a student is told with progress reports and report cards. The health of an employee is reported in a performance review. Regardless of the method used to measure health, a simple word – checkup – can send a shiver up a spine.

    These are just tools. Certain standards have been set, and these report the comparison against those standards. If the standard is consistently not being met or is met with too much ease, the standard should be re-evaluated.

    Businesses have measurements too. It helps to set a goal. And, it helps for the business to understand why it fell short, met or exceeded the goal that was set.

    I’ve taken business courses, and I’ve taken courses that train Boy Scout leaders. One of the common areas to both is the importance of S.M.A.R.T. goals. The letters can stand for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. If you look up S.M.A.R.T. goals on the internet, you’ll see that there are other similar words to create the acronym. Regardless, the exercise is to create a goal that can be met or exceeded but not so easily that there is no challenge. This is used to start a path. It’s a good exercise to keep the goals on track and realistic.

    Benchmarks are useful tools, but I really like when the benchmark has to be increased. In pole vaulting, it’s called “raising the bar.” It’s a great feeling to get a call asking, “What on earth are you doing to get those results?” I like the word “overindex.” But, if the goal is set too low, these aren’t true accomplishments. As well as set too low, sometimes the bar can be set too high. That causes a lot of angst and worry. So it is important that the goal be true and not artificially underinflated or overinflated. Once the goal is set, it should be monitored so that any adjustments can be made where necessary.

    Other words used in goal setting are “targets” and “projections.” It is important for a business to look at itself from an outside perspective. It is too easy to get stuck in the day-to-day activities of the business to see the outside influences on the business. What is the economy doing? What is the employment rate? How is competition doing? How are the suppliers doing? These answers may have some insight into the business’s performance.

    There is no crystal ball that will give us the answers we seek. Through data collection and analysis, we can certainly see trends in our business and in our industry.

    The importance of a business checkup is to evaluate how the business is doing and to made adjustments to keep the business relevant and profitable. There are generalists and specialists who can aid businesses in their quest for longevity. These professionals aren’t medical doctors, nor do they have to have Ph.D.s, but they can certainly help a business owner look at the business from another vantage point.

    Poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself….” No business is an island either. It is our connections with others that help us stay healthy and point out things we cannot see in ourselves. Sometimes checkups can be uncomfortable, but they do not have to be. And, they beat the alternative.

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