I have been studying goal setting for years. I find it amazing how easy it is to set a goal, break down the actions required into daily tasks, and then making sure I do the required actions. The other amazing thing is … although it is so easy, it is even easier NOT to do it!

I made a firm decision earlier this year to take a full day and put serious thought into what my goals would be for the remainder of this year. I included goals for my health, family, career, my finances, and also Mindscape. Once I determined what those goals were going to be, I chose one task I would complete each day which would move me in the direction of attaining each specific goal.

This exercise was different than any time I had done it in the past. I approached this day with enthusiasm and put a tremendous amount of thought into each segment of my life and how I would like to improve in each area. I quickly realized that if you are ready, and approach a decision with complete passion, the excitement you experience is unbelievable. While I was coming up with these goals and working on finishing up the last of the action plan, I felt as if I had started a new chapter of my life.

I won’t bore you with the individual goals I set for each segment of my life, nor the specific progress I’ve made. I am proud to say I have hit 80% of the targets I set that day though, and I will share with you what I believe was the difference between this and the many other times I went through the same exercise. I placed my focus on getting better every day in every segment of my life. Once I had this focus it was easy for me to set measurable goals, and with a little thought, I was able to develop an action plan.

Every person going through a goal setting exercise will experience the uncomfortable feeling of breaking old habit patterns. Once this happens it’s much easier to go about your day the same way you did in the past. Whenever these feelings of settling for mediocrity crept in, I would remind myself of my desire to improve in all segments of my life, and asked myself, “Is this going to help me accomplish my goal?” If the answer was “no,” I’d immediately change course and take the less comfortable path.

You can do the same with your company. At Mindscape We have a meeting each and every week with the different departments. Our goal is to discuss the state of each department, identify areas of need, and assign tasks to help improve each area within the company. I get most excited because I know Mindscape is going to be a better, stronger company every single week. I know this because each of us is working in a focused direction to make sure this is going to happen!

I don’t think it is ok to settle for less than the best. The only question is how good can the best be? I am excited to try to figure that one out! 🙂

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I just returned from a nice long four day weekend. Nope, it wasn’t a holiday that you weren’t aware or. It wasn’t a planned vacation either. In fact, I have a four day weekend twice every month at Mindscape! You are probably thinking … “Must be nice to own a company and get to schedule a bunch of time off.” I’d love to say, “heck yeah, ownership does have it’s privledges,” but I can’t. EVERY team member gets a four day weekend and they absolutely love it!

It seems the norm in business is to milk more and more billable hours from each employee by increasing efficiencies, utilizing technology, and dropping huge numbers to the bottom line. At Mindscape we have a different view of things. Yes we definitely utilize technology to increase our efficiencies, but we don’t take those savings and use them to penalize the people that helped develop the processes, by milking even more billable time from them. We actually reward them for their innovative ideas and give them incentive to come up with more efficient processes.

I guess I should back up a bit and let you know how we came to this point. My business partner (Paul Ferrier) and I were finding ourselves chasing our tails working more and more hours each week to grow the company. We often found ourselves so consumed by working “in the business” that we couldn’t find any time to work “on the business” except if we burned the midnight oil. I often had discussions with Paul telling me how he had worked until 5:00am only to wake up and arrive at work by 8:00am the same morning.

While away on vacation(a vacation he badly needed), Paul read an article from a brilliant guy who seemingly found the answer! He eloquently related how he had recently switched from working seven days a week to a schedule of Monday through Thursday. He actually lengthened his days during the time he worked, but spent the additional time off with his family and friends. The most important piece of the article was him pointing out how when he was on his death bed, he couldn’t see himself saying, “I wish I would have worked a little more on this or that project,” or “I wish I could have spent more time in the office.”

I believe this type of “awakening” will happen to almost every hard working business person. I also believe when it does, it will typically be too late to correct it. We were determined NOT to find ourselves in the same position. Like with everything else, we also wanted to make sure our team members had the same benefits and lack of regrets. We took out a pad of paper and sketched out the possible scenarios. We found a few very surprising things.

Increased Focus Time

When looking at a typical 8am – 5pm day we found these interesting facts. Typically the first 20 – 30 minutes were spent chit chatting with co-workers and finding out what happened the previous night. Once this ended, each person typically checked email and could possibly get routed to different fires for the next 30 minutes to an hour. This would keep us consumed until approximately 9:30am which was when the focus could begin on the normal billable projects. If by some miracle nothing popped up, the team member would have two uninterrupted hours until lunch time. Once lunch happened and we returned to the office it was 12:30pm and another “ramp up” period with email checking would carry us over until around 1:30. Now another miraculous segment of the day with zero interruptions and we had a whopping 4 hours of uninterrupted time. That would take into consideration that we didn’t receive any email which would be constantly distracting us by the endless “ding” of the email notification.

Once we looked at our typical day, we were actually quite surprised how we ever got anything done! I am quite sure any business owner would find him self in a similar situation if they took the time to analyze their operations. We looked at the possibility of taking our current work day of 8am-5pm and expanding it to 7am-6pm. Previously we required each team member to complete a minimum of six billable hours each day. We believed that everybody needed a minimum of two hours each day to handle email, and other non-billable work and that was fine with us. When we looked at expanding the day we realized this number of two hours to handle non-billable items would still hold true. If that were the case … each team member would be completing 32 billable hours a week instead of 30! This was surprising and very exciting.

When looking deeper into the expansion we also realized the ramp up time would negatively impact our schedule less by allowing us two additional focus hours each day. We were quickly realizing by working less … we could complete more by giving our team more time to focus on their income producing tasks. This made the switch an easy choice.

Client Focus

“Oops … what’s going to happen if a client needs something on Friday and we aren’t there?” This question popped up and forced us to be creative with the scheduling. We didn’t want our clients to think we were slackers or all of a sudden adopted an attitude that it was all about us and our comfort. We determined it would be best if we didn’t all take a three day weekend every week. We figured if we split up the team and flip flopped the weekly schedule, we could each have a four day weekend twice each month. This was MUCH better and everybody loved it. Paul and I decided it was a great move for the guys, but since we owned the company we’d  work all five days each week to assure everything went well.

Great Summer Weather = Jealousy

The feedback from the team was amazing! It seemed as though every business owner I was talking with was asking me NOT to tell their employees since they would be jealous. The guys were constantly telling us how long their weekend seemed. They also made strange statements like, “I was actually happy to be coming back to work.” WOW!!! We were experiencing an incredibly beautiful summer, and we had a company full of happy team members whose families were very grateful to be enjoying the summer with them. Then the jealousy crept in. The strange thing is the jealousy came from Paul and me! We decided it was unfair for everyone to get a four day weekend twice a month, except us. We then decided to make the same move. 🙂

Incredible Life

Paul and I will both testify that we have just experienced the most incredible summer we’ve had since we were kids. Cutting back the amount of days we spend focusing on building the business, and giving ourselves more days to focus on our friends and families was the answer. Instead of focusing on work, who the next client was going to be, or how the bills were going to be paid, we got to focus on enjoying life! And what an incredible life it is!

Increased Energy and Excitement

The new schedule added an incredible amount of energy and excitement within Mindscape. Every day it seems as if team members are knocking on my door with another idea that could assist us in making our jobs easier and more efficient. We have implemented a great deal of these ideas right on the spot, and watched our efficiency soar through the roof. We have grown from a company of six team members to twelve in less than five months and it is all a result of working less!

I’ll share more of the steps we’ve taken to raise our efficiency in upcoming blog entries. The most important message in this entry is this. As a business owner, take your focus on the “bottom line” and change it to “quality of life” for you and your team. Once you sincerely and passionately make this change, the sky will be the limit. You’ll find yourself enjoying your life, your company, and your team. It may sound strange, but it works!

Team vs. Company PART 2

October 18, 2007

I’ve spoken with a few people regarding yesterday’s post and they told me I should have included more on how and why Mindscape has implemented this “team concept” within the company. Through these conversations I see how it could be helpful to explain how we arrived at this point so here goes….

I am a firm believer that that most efficient way to improve is to allow past experiences be the teacher. And if you learn from those lessons, you can succeed much faster and less painfully. When I was only a couple years out of high school I got married and had my first child. I didn’t last too long in college and therefore settled for a job making very little money. I figured working for a few dollars an hour was barely providing me with enough income to keep my family fed and the lights on, so I knew I needed to find something else. The pain of being broke all the time prompted me to look at many different opportunities. I didn’t have a college degree nor any “trade skills” so my options were limited.

After about six months of searching I found a guy that was extremely successful in my eyes and I asked him if he’d teach me to do what he did. He had a distribution company and marketed products throughout the United States. The idea that someone thought enough of me to spend their time teaching me how to improve my financial life was extremely exciting to me! He had only met me a few times yet he was willing to potentially waste his time on someone like me. Wow!

I made the decision to work my hardest and do everything he told me to do so he wouldn’t be wasting his time. Over the course of the next two years I built a network of sales people across the country which were producing over 1/2 million dollars a year in sales. With this experience I realized one of my first lessons in my early business life.

It is much easier and quicker to succeed by being “dumb enough” to follow a proven system, than it is to figure it out on your own.

Shortly after the second year in business the supplier decided we were making too much money and decided to change the commission structure. This reduced our income by close to 70% and devastated the morale within my organization. I spent the majority of the time attempting to keep everyone positive and working so our income didn’t completely evaporate. Soon after this point we found a different supplier and moved on. The original company was out of business in less than a year.

I was amazed at how we all worked so hard and were so devoted to the success of this supplier and they didn’t seem to appreciate it or even recognize it. It was as though the management figured they were the reason the products were flying off the shelves. They got greedy and their egos got the best of them. This was lesson number two.

Never forget who is responsible for your success. Most importantly never let the responsible parties forget how much you appreciate them!

When I started in the Internet world I did so with absolutely zero knowledge of what it took to design a website, or how to write one line of programming code. This may seem like an incredibly stupid thing to do since I didn’t have the ability to do any of the work within the company … and it probably would have been if I didn’t learn this lesson.

I started in this business determined to find the best people I could possibly find and reward them as much as possible for the work they produced. I did this knowing full well THEY ARE THE REASON we would succeed and that I played a very small part in that success. I also made a decision I would never allow my ego to get the best of me and do what the management from the supplier did.

I believe every single person in a company makes a contribution toward the success of a company and any person in a leadership position that loses focus of that FACT will soon be facing failure.

I received a comment on the post yesterday which mentioned how they believed when companies started to implement a “team philosophy” there could potentially be internal competition between the employees. I believe this could be the case if the implementation of this philosophy was simply a gimmick used for motivation. If this philosophy is something the leadership and team members are passionate about and completely “buy in” to, this competition won’t exist.

If you are going to build a team instead of a company and everyone vows to set aside the battle of egos and focus on the success of the organization, which is going to ultimately benefit them financially, and give them an incredible quality of life, these issues won’t exist.

I know this may sound like some “polly anna-ish” fantasy, but it can work! I often want to pinch myself as I feel this reality every day at Mindscape. We have an atmosphere of people coming up with new, exciting ideas almost every day! It isn’t any one person that makes Mindscape successful. It is each and every member of the team and EVERYONE KNOWS IT!

Great ideas and contributions need to be RECOGNIZED to create the energy to come up with the next idea! These ideas don’t just work with companies of our size (11 team members). I met with a company earlier today which has over 110 employees and does over $60,0000,0000 in sales. They have the same culture and the team members leave each night with a smile on their faces ready to come back each day to make another contribution.

I am sure there are many people who feel this is all simply a fantasy and that is fine. Those of you who believe it might be possible and give it a try will be extremely happy you did.

Team vs. Company

October 17, 2007

I am one of “those guys” that has a strong emotional attachment to the teams I follow in sports. It doesn’t matter if they are the tops in the league or the bottom of the barrel which is typically the case for my NFL team The Detroit Lions. I find myself anxiously looking forward to each and every game and letting the outcome of the game affect my feelings for some time after the game. If they win, I am on cloud nine, and conversely, if they perform less than what I expect and lose, it is wise to stay away from me for a bit until I get over it.

I am getting better as the years go by and I can now look back and see how silly I used to act, and to a certain point, how I still react. It isn’t like I have the ability to affect the outcome of the game, or that they can hear me screaming at the TV screen telling them to make the play! Yet I still do it. Thankfully I know I am not the only person in the world with this “disorder” or my wife would have me locked up.

I’ve often wondered why I get so passionate about the success of my teams and find it very difficult to pinpoint the answer. I also wonder what would happen if the millions of people with this “disorder” refocused this passion toward the company they are a part of? It would be amazing if every company out there was full of people that sprung out of bed in the morning excited to speed down the highway to work and see what they could do to contribute to the success of their company! I am certain it would be extremely annoying to the “normal” people who dreaded work each day. You know who I am talking about. The people who work harder at skating through the day and put zero focus on making the company a better place.

This is kind of crazy if you look at it logically. Take a second to look at the rewards generated from your team winning the “big game” or upsetting the defending champion. You’ll soon realize you feel great for a very short period of time and then it goes away. All this passion exerted on something that will give you a few hours, days, or weeks of “high spirits” which you absolutely know will come to a very abrupt ending.

Imagine if you were able to fall in love with the company you are working with …

You’d find every day exciting because the effort you put forth would result in a stronger more prosperous company. You’d also find the people around you that are typically whining and complaining and skating by would be so disgusted at your excitement and passion, they wouldn’t hang around and would soon be seeking more people with the same frame of mind as them. The “borderline positive” people would be attracted to you and soon that group would outnumber the negative people. Imagine a company full of like minded, passionate people working together towards the success of their company…

The rewards would be limitless!

I believe there is a way to accomplish this. It is really simple actually. The company needs to be viewed as a team where the contributions of each and every member of the team are very important and valued by the leadership within the company. Leaders need to put ego aside and realize without the efforts of each person in the company, there is no way it will be successful.

I challenge you to “reinvent” your company culture and focus on building a strong team instead of a strong company. You’ll soon see a passion like you’ve never imagined. You’ll soon have people coming to you excitedly with new ideas which will help the company get on a fast track to success. I guarantee you it will be the most amazing experience you’ve ever had. You will also find that the “high spirits” will hang around much longer than a victory from your favorite team.

I believe I’ve heard the saying a million times, “it’s not personal, it’s just business.” For years I’ve struggled with how to “fix” my views towards business and just can’t figure out how to get it done. I’ve watched people who I believe to be very kind, warm hearted people outside the workplace turn into nasty, seemingly cold hearted people within the workplace. Whenever I’d ask them about it I’d hear that comment and wonder to myself, “Why can’t I do that? I must not be as good a business person as them.”

As the years have passed and I’ve struggled to be a “solid” business person like those people that can turn the emotion off at work and back on again in my personal relationships I’ve finally realized something. That old saying IS NOT TRUE! It is personal!

If you take the time to analyze your average week you’ll soon see what I mean. Let’s do that for a second …

  • A week consists of 160 hours
  • “Normal” people sleep 56 hours a week
  • Normal bodily function and cleansing time of 7 hours a week (I don’t even want to be close to people that spend less time)
  • Drive time for commuting and other “alone time” of 10 hours a week

That leaves each of us with a maximum of 87 hours each week to interact with people we love and care for and the people we work with. The average person works 40 hours a week which accounts for nearly 46% of our available “interaction time.” How can that not be personal? How can we turn off who we are for that length of time and be someone else with no emotion? I don’t believe we should even try!

Since coming to this conclusion I’ve felt like a million bucks! I’ve finally realized the problem isn’t with me, it is simply a problem with the way some business people feel it “should be.” I enjoy the people I work with and every time we have the fortunate opportunity to bring someone else on board, I get excited. I know by doing so I get to expand my circle of influence and I will be exposed to a different perspective on almost every thing I do.

My advice to business people who don’t look at their company as “personal” is …

MAKE IT PERSONAL!

You should be in business for more than just the monetary benefit. I personally get excited knowing that by making my business personal, it will be impossible for the people I work with to get the wrong message. People are smart and can see through false intentions. If your goal is simply to make a ton of money from the efforts of your employees or the buying decisions of your clients … they will see that and the quality of your product and success of your company will soon reflect it as well.

Try the opposite of what you may have learned is right. Wake up every morning with the intention of making your products and your company better by focusing on making your business personal. Take a personal interest in making the lives of your employees and clients better. By doing this, you will soon discover a new found passion for your business and good things will follow.

It’s funny how long a company can exist before truly finding its identity. This seems to be an issue with companies of all types and sizes. You can spend thousands of dollars on branding campaigns or coming up with that perfect marketing message, and still be experiencing an identity crisis.

Mindscape was started in November of 2001 to assist companies with their online presence and show them a clear return on investment by streamlining their processes through the implementation of Web based tools. We were amazed how some development companies were charging tens of thousands of dollars for simple brochure sites that communicated a company’s message similar to a print ad and we made a decision we would not be the same. We would spend the time to develop a creative solution that would directly save our clients time or money and make the money they spent with us a true investment…not an expense.

The early days of Mindscape were filled with exciting opportunities stretching across dozens of industries. We enjoyed the diversity and challenge of understanding how different industries worked and loved coming up with creative ideas and figuring out how to translate those ideas into an improvement of our client’s bottom line. We had an interesting mix of personalities on our team which helped us approach our solutions from many different angles and we always had open communication and placed a high value on each team member’s opinion.

As we’ve grown from the original four to the current size of twelve we’ve always had the same focus on ROI for our clients and also team wide input on what we could do best to help our clients. This is the one component of our company which has remained consistent. We’ve gone through a maturation process as the years have passed and slowly learned our sweet spot as a company. This process, not unlike the process a child goes though, has been very frustrating at times. We’ve experienced the typical issues of cash flow troubles, scheduling conflicts, and job quoting challenges.

The one challenge we’ve been successful at avoiding is employee turnover! Mindscape began with a solid foundation of creative thinkers joining together to solve company issues and have consistently added to the intellectual capital by the addition of very talented team members. Each time we’ve added a new person to our team, Mindscape has grown in value due to the different thoughts and views which are added along with the new person. There isn’t one day that passes where Mindscape’s knowledge stays the same. Due to the collaboration of the team members, our intellectual value increases exponentially and that is extremely exciting to all of us!

Although it has taken us a long time to find our identity, now that we have the real magic can happen! I will be updating this blog frequently by focusing on different processes and ideas which are emerging from the Mindscape collaborative process. I hope this gives you an excellent view “Inside Mindscape” and helps you get to know us much better.