Business Mindfulness

After completing another hectic day at work, putting out fires, answering a myriad e-mails, and dealing with accumulated issues and problems, most of us just want to crash out, do nothing strenuous, or pacify ourselves with the latest Netflix episode. Nevertheless, tomorrow will bring new challenges at work with their inherent stresses. This creates a vicious cycle that drains energy and contributes to early burnout. Most of us just accept this as the nature of the beast. Work is fundamentally stress-filled and there is very little that we can do about it.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Eastern belief systems have shown us the way to a more tranquil mindset, which can be applied to the business environment. Stress is a condition that we inflict on ourselves. Operating from a calmer mindset, problems and issues that arise during the course of the day can be handled with more equanimity. This approach usually transforms itself into better solutions, because we take the time to carefully weigh the cons and pros without rushing into decisions. By slowing down the brain we permit it to arrive at more well thought-out solutions.

The beauty of this type of approach is that anyone can gain this calmness of thought and action with some practice:

Calmness before and after the storm – Most of us operate a hectic schedule and find that time is very constricted. Setting aside ten to fifteen minutes of meditation time before and after work seems like an impossible sacrifice. But time is often dissipated on unproductive thoughts and activity that leads to waste. A calm mind is a more focused and less disturbed one, able to concentrate and prioritize better. Meditating for 10-15 minutes before the storm – in the early morning – takes some time but its net effect is time saved..

Review your day in a more relaxed state – After the afternoon meditation, let your mind quietly review the day’s activity, interactions with other employees, customers, and any unsolved problems and issues. Solutions will come with unexpected ease, so that you can be more prepared to tackle accumulated problems the next day. Dedicating 10-15 minutes after work will suffice and should create a more efficient flow of ideas. Just sitting down in a quiet space and slowing down your breathing may be all that is needed. You can accomplish this without anyone being aware that you are meditating. There are many free tutorials available on the internet. You can choose one that best suits your lifestyle and schedule. A helpful book on this subject written by a business person can be found on Amazon:

Eliminate the small stuff – Our minds are often entrapped in petty thoughts that take on a disproportionate amount of time. Many of these deal with ego and status infringements by others. We spend time overacting to perceived slights and negative remarks by work colleagues, family members, Facebook friends, and others. The old cliché of not sweating the small stuff can be more easily managed by a calm mindset. Name and breathe out these petty concerns during meditation.

Prioritize the big stuff – The same process can be used to prioritize the really important tasks that have to be undertaken the next day. A calm state will facilitate the choices that you have to make, and add an intuitive spark to the thought process. By being prepared for tomorrow you break the stress cycle, and begin operating in a more relaxed and productive state. Unexpected and disruptive events will always shake things up, but now there is recourse to a better approach.

Stop the brain traffic before bedtime – In order to start the next day on the right foot, we need a good night’s sleep. But the neurons and synapses of the brain keep transmitting all sorts of information and causes us to unnecessarily dwell on it. The solution may be to open up a book and read ourselves to sleep. If this works, then this becomes a form of meditation. If not, try a short form of meditation while lying down in bed, where you concentrate on your breathing or on a single sound (mantra). Try using a prolonged sound that resonates in the brain and removes all other thoughts (like sorrr.., or ommm..).

The one-minute meditation – Author Ken Blanchard wrote and influential book on management two decades ago called the “One-minute Manager”. It continues to be popular to this day because it simplifies the process of management into its essentials: the one-minute goal, one-minute praise and one-minute reprimand, etc. To this it would be very useful to add the one-minute meditation. Utilize this to prepare for any important meeting or event, to relieve stress and clear the mind of distractions. Either take a series of deep, prolonged breaths, or repeat a mantra sound internally for the one-minute duration.

The Value Of Women In Business

When we think that gender inequality has been defeated in the advanced economies of the world, recent statistics clearly show that there is still far to go. On the average, women earn 83% of what a man gets for the same job description. This ratio has progressively gone up in the last two decades but there is no reason that the gap should still be so significantly high. The last vestiges of gender discrimination is partly to blame, but it is also a question of self-confidence, value assessment, and an objective approach to salary negotiation.

These personal traits hold true not only for female employees but also for business owners who tend to undervalue their products and services, and price them below the average market levels. This mindset, that in order to compete for a job or in the business world, women have to somehow be more accommodating has held back their progress towards full equality. There are well established strategies and techniques for getting the best possible outcome that apply to both men and women. For the latter, it is a matter of building up a higher confidence quotient. Not allowing others to determine their value is one of the main paths to pay equivalence and pricing maximization. It is also a practical means of boosting self confidence.

Perform a self assessment – Many women and men make the mistake of waiting for that annual performance evaluation to determine their value and scale of pay. It is essential to use the same employee evaluation format to perform your own self evaluation long before the scheduled review, and be totally prepared with statistics, specific references to contributions, and research on comparative earnings both inside and outside the company. The internet is very helpful in providing wage and salary data across different geographic regions.

Create your own job performance criteria – If the company’s job description are too generic and do not incorporate measurable job performance requirements, then define this yourself ,and show how you have directly contributed to the major business drivers such as revenue growth, productivity, cost reduction.

Use a scoring method to define value – On a level of 1-10 score yourself on the following key job related factors: Education degree or certificates; advanced courses completed; years of experience; knowledge of work; level of independence in job performance; judgment; creativity; team cooperation; leadership; overall performance; outstanding contribution during the year. Add the score and use it as a negotiating strategy. Be ready to respond to any negative feedback.

Learn how to blow your own horn – Female employees and business women sometimes feel that talking about yourself in a positive and confident manner can appear abrasive and clawing. This can indeed be so, if done with arrogance, and too much bravura. However, when this is performed diplomatically, at an appropriate moment, and supported by statistics, it can be very persuasive. Keeping the tone and body language at an even keel adds impact.

Avoid language that diminishes you in any way – When this is done it downgrades personal value in the eyes of others. Stay away from expressions that contain words such as small, little, insignificant, poor, low etc.. If you have done well in a business venture, don’t bashfully refer to it as my small business, or that you have played a small part in the company’s success.

Price your products and services objectively – There should be very little emotional content in pricing. The focus should be on achieving a profit that is commensurate to the industry in which you are competing. The pricing formula must be based on the data for direct and overhead costs, and gross profit found in the historical financial accounting records. Being competitive is not solely a matter of price, excellent customer service often compensates for a higher price, and women are particularly good at using empathy to that end.

How To Be A Consistent Winner In Business

There are individuals who are more consistently successful in business than others. This does not mean that their record of success is totally unblemished. It does mean that they eventually win because they are able to bounce back from adversity, learn from their mistakes, and ultimately succeed in achieving their goals and objectives.

These may vary from one individual to another. Not everyone measures success on strictly monetary metrics. Becoming a billionaire is not on everyone’s radar. For some, it is a matter of achieving consistent growth in revenues and profits so that they can gain financial freedom. Others encompass the welfare and happiness of their employees in their calculus of success.

No matter what the underlying reasons are, in business there is no escaping the fact that winning relies on building a viable and secure platform, which can withstand the vagaries of time, creative destruction, hyper competition and globalization. Just surviving in this environment is difficult, thriving requires a winner’s mindset. It is worthwhile to pin down the factors that contribute to winning:

Boost your knowledge – Recognize early on what it is that you know about the business and what intelligence you lack to succeed. It requires an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses and how they may affect the company’s performance. Certain weaknesses can be compensated for by hiring somebody who possesses the missing skills and knowledge. However, people that are hired do not necessarily become permanent cogs in the organization, and may choose to move their services elsewhere. Winners are fully cognizant of their missing links, and make the commitment to reinforce them by registering to online courses, subscribing to continuing education, or seeking experienced mentors. They understand that you cannot fully rely on others to fill the gaps.

Take the long term outlook– To win in anything you start of by building a solid foundation that will endure over the long term. While setting objectives in a five and even ten year time frame, you cannot get there without shoring up the company’s short term needs. It is only through a strong organizational structure, intrepid marketing, optimal productivity, and solid financial controls that the business can succeed over a much longer time horizon. This requires other talented players in the organization to work in close proximity and cooperate in setting goals and objectives.

Leverage through delegation – In any organized endeavor you win or lose as a team. This is as true in sports as it is in a business environment. You require total synchronization, cooperation, and commitment of all players. The coaches can’t succeed on their own, they need to delegate and distribute responsibilities to each member of the team. The key word here is delegation, and successful managers know that they cannot move forward without delegating responsibilities and authority to fulfill the different functions in the organization. They possess the necessary confidence to let go of the “B” list of responsibilities and allocate them to others without fear of losing control. They are also aware of the “A” list consists of and focus most of their energy there.

Turn failures into opportunities – Nobody goes through life without some failures in their personal or business life. The business environment is a risky one, particularly in the initial years. Forty percent of companies fail in the first five years. This can undermine confidence, destroy personal and business connections, and make it difficult to fashion a comeback. But to win, you must possess the drive to get up from the mat and find a way to overcome adversity. A good start in the case of initial business failure is to learn from the mistakes and forge a new, more sustainable plan for the future. In order to win you may have to start by losing.

Get others on board – A winning profile always includes great communication skills that promotes morale and group cohesion. This is evidenced by motivating, coaching, mentoring others to up their game in the performance of their duties. It is an indispensable trait that is either inborn or needs to be developed. The adept communicator of today does it well not only through verbalization but is also highly capable of using the internal and external communication media to their advantage. Effective company e-mails are important, but just as necessary is the ability to use social media to capture and influence a wider audience.

Manage time well – No commodity is more precious than time, yet it is often wasted on dealing with upside down priorities. The winners realize that their time must be focused on the items that are in synch with their stated responsibilities and are intrinsically tied to the achievement of revenue and profit goals. Time is managed through tight scheduling of priorities that include not only company obligations but also personal commitments. One can easily undermine the other. They are constantly aware of what the “A” items are on their schedule and deal with these first.


Become a Dataist – Transform Your IT

Super algorithms aided by bots with artificial intelligence are making it possible to harvest data from a large variety of sources. Social media, banks, online e-commerce businesses such as Amazon place tremendous value on data. Mergers and acquisitions, worth billions of dollars, are often guided by the quantity and quality of data that they bring to the table. This data allows a laser sharp definition of target markets, which can now be focused on a single individual. Customer targeting is made with precision that was not available even three years ago. Cloud based data storage has made it possible to store immense quantities of data, and then convert this huge flow of information into useful market insights. We are now fully immersed in the era of mass data.

The large multinationals are at the cutting edge of this movement, and have become prime movers in applying the harvested information to grow their market share. The potential for data is vast and it can transform any business. Marketing strategies, targeting, segmentation, and operations can all be made more productive and efficient through better data.

Small businesses must embrace data – But is the small business sector at a disadvantage in this data onslaught? They certainly don’t have the size and heft to gather and use data to the same extent as the large players. But they can surely establish a creative IT department that can organize their data flow better, and tap into the data banks of others. Government legislature is moving towards increased sharing of data so as to create a more even playing field for all. The European Union has taken a lead in this direction and is expected to draft regulations on this crucial matter soon.

Become good data flow managers– Small businesses must take up the challenge of modernizing their IT departments to compete in the global market with the big players. By transforming themselves into good data flow managers they can fuel their performance at every level. Not getting on the data bandwagon is no longer an option, it is a path to obscurity. But solely gathering data is not the solution in itself. The challenge is to turn this data into an actionable plan.

Obtain outside assistance – IT know-how can be leveraged by employing the services of outside experts who specialize in data utilization. This can offer a more competitive boost to small businesses unable to afford the top talent. In this age of specialization and global connectivity trusted IT consulting companies can be used as mentors and facilitators for small business. Empowering the IT department in this way should be part of every business plan.

The data loop – Access to mass data allows companies to keep up with technological transformation. This is accomplished by analyzing the volumes of data generated during design and production. Every company can, to some degree, convert their data into a continuous loop of useful feedback for improvement.

Match IT solutions to specific industry needs – This is a fundamental principle of marketing. Mass data optimizes this connection, and provides a much sharper image. IT departments must also learn to anticipate change in this age of rapid creative destruction and find a way to adopt to innovations like machine learning, 3D manufacturing, robotics and even cyborgs.

Check the cost benefit of IT investment – Most small businesses don’t have deep pockets, so the investment in IT must be tied to tangible results in sales and profit growth . It is important not to get caught up in the technological buzz, and incorporate changes without analyzing the cost to benefit. Leveraging the IT department with outside assistance, and introducing new software should be approached with care. Look for the best value by choosing potential IT partners that have a proven record of success, and bring the experience and skill sets that are well suited to your particular business.