Letters From Lisa – January 2020

Today one of the greatest challenges we face in business is staying relevant. Consumers have far more distractions, cautions, choices, opportunities and ways to study and communicate than ever before.

I was recently presenting at the GMDC, a big conference where all the big box store retailers come to find new products. One of the key speakers was the head of Microsoft’s Business Innovation Department. Learning how they “track” consumers to get relevant intelligence about them was fascinating, actually a bit scary. However, the one thing he said that I found most amazing was that today, “data that is more than two weeks old is not relevant, so don’t study it.” With this new two week parameter, most of us will not be good at being relevant.

That definition of relevance is difficult to implement, but with an open mind, I think we can do it! Of course, the question is how. I think if we focus on the below and then have the open mind needed to change appropriately, we will get there. Yes, WE MIGHT HAVE to CHANGE. Yes, WE CAN DO IT!

  1. Spend time where your customer spends time every day.  To stay relevant, we need to make sure we are getting the right information about needs, wants, expectations etc. from our targeted audience. This means spending time with them face-to-face, spending time with them virtually, spending time with them however we can. As soon as we are disconnected from our customer in any way, our relevance starts to diminish.
  2. Connect how your customer wants to connect. There are tons of ways to communicate, the challenge when it comes to staying relevant is ensuring that we are communicating in a fashion that is relevant to our customers. If they are embracing a new social media platform and we are not, clearly there are issues ahead. We need to be nimble and flexible and connect how our customers want to connect, not how it suits us or is easy for our business’s current staff.
  3. Two way = more effective communication. If you want to be relevant, communication needs to be much more about engagement as opposed to a one-sided stream of information. We need to find a way to communicate that builds a meaningful flow of information, and that means a two-way flow. At BioZyme® we call this type of communication crosstalk. The term came to us from a 16-year-old German customer within the context of improving our social media strategies globally.
  4. Welcome critical thinking. We all know that resisting change is deadly. A culture that embraces and encourages innovative thinking to keep the business relevant is a must. We need to be aware of the signs that might suggest our culture is not as welcoming of critical thinking as we need it to be (resistance to change, lack of creative problem solving, negativity toward anything new, etc.).
  5. Embrace industry innovation. All too often we look for innovation within our own business or own industry. From my experience, we are far more likely to find innovative ideas that we can adapt and use in our own business from outside our industry. We need to become students of other industries and innovative communities (online and offline). With Google this is possible from your home late at night, so we have no excuse to not getting it done.

In simple terms, relevance provides meaning in our lives. Relevance is the full experience of a product, brand or cause that we can relate to; it’s an experience that not only changes minds, but, more importantly, changes behavior – and sustains that change.

Staying relevant has got to be one of the hardest tasks in business. Relevance focuses on results. Relevance is about the ultimate goal – triggering the desired behavior. People are awash in choices about where to spend their money and place their loyalty. If you aren’t relevant, they will go somewhere else. Please don’t let that happen.

 

Letters From Lisa – December 2019

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, who will stick a penny in the sweet blonde’s hat (figured it was worth a try)? This time of year, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the holiday hustle and bustle and spend the entire month of December running around like a crazy Kris Kringle. Add getting all your 2020 budgets and business planning done along with December’s tasks, and one can tend to forget the real reason for the season.

In short, the Messiah’s reasons should become our motivators always, but especially in the month of December. If we listen to John the Baptist carefully, we will hear that there’s never one reason that defines Jesus’ arrival. The Good News is more than just a headline. The Good News and the God who brings this message is everything between you and the infinite.

According to Simon Sinek (whose voice carries much weight as the third most-watched Ted Talk of all time with 46 million views), “the minute we’re born, we’re players in the infinite game, and that means we get one choice in life: how we want to play. We can choose to live our lives with a finite mindset, which means trying to get richer, more powerful than all of our friends, to get more, have more – but what is the point?

“Rather, we want to live a life of service, and that’s what we write on our tombstones – what we did for others. ‘Devoted mother,’ ‘loving husband,’ ‘she inspired us.’ To live an infinite life means to live our lives so that others may benefit from the work that we do – so we will literally live on forever, because we will look at ourselves and say, ‘I am who I am today partly because I carry with me the spirit of someone who’s no longer here, and I will pass their lessons on to my children and my colleagues and my friends.’ In an infinite-minded life, just like in business, trust is better, cooperation is better, ideas are stronger and remarkably those ideals live on beyond us. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Most days, it’s too easy to stay focused on our own lives – our work, our problems, what we have to accomplish and what is stressing us out. But it’s easy to forget that everyone else in the world has just as much on their plate as we do – sometimes even more. During the holiday season especially, it’s important to remember that every person you come in contact with has his or her own story and sometimes all it takes is a simple gift – a sturdy pair of shoes, a warm winter coat, a blanket, a cherry limeade or just a hug. These things may seem small, but they may be the gift that helps to get someone else up on their feet.

This year, after you’ve opened your gifts and shared a few laughs with family and friends, think back on the true meaning of the season and what Christmas means to you. As the always wise Doogie Howser, M.D. said, “Getting is good. Giving is better. Once you understand that, it’s always Christmas.”

Merry Christmas, from all of us here at BioZyme.

Letters From Lisa – November 2019

Last month we talked about working on your business instead of in it. We are going to continue that discussion by focusing on some thought processes that might help you stay focused on just that.

The ways we think about past experiences can help or hinder the development of insight that makes working on the business more difficult than it is just by its nature. When we make decisions based on habits of the past, we lose out on some of the great changes possible in our lives. Working on the business means not forgetting the past but leaving it in the kitchen while sitting at the dining room table.

Working on the business should allow one to achieve performance breakthroughs, or in other words, create impact in the areas that drive the improvement we all desire. I like to use the term A to the 4th power (A4) to help me stay true to working on instead of in business. The four terms come from Scott Snell and Ken Carrig’s forthcoming book, “Strategic Execution: Driving Breakthrough Performance in Business”, and are Alignment, Ability, Architecture and Agility.

ALIGNMENT

Alignment conveys the deceptively simple notion that execution depends on everyone working together toward the same goal. Alignment is the “sine qua non” of execution; without it, nothing else much matters.

It provides clarity of purpose and direction, momentum to overcome inertia, a focus for decisions and actions, and resilience in the face of change or disruption.

Today, misalignment has become the norm, not the exception. There’s often a substantial gap between understanding the requirements of strategy and each person’s work. Disengagement can create this misalignment, which unfortunately leads right into working all day in the business instead of on it.

It is, therefore, a constant challenge to emphasize the mission-critical elements that unite the organization toward its strategic purpose and work to achieve those outcomes. An important part of alignment is clarifying with others how work that they are accountable for leads to those strategic outcomes, or in other words, how overall success is attributable to them.

ABILITY

In any endeavor, whether it’s business or sports, great execution requires great skill.

Usually, what begins with a discussion of alignment often evolves to a deeper discussion of ability. This isn’t just a focus on productivity, but on attracting and developing; raising skill levels; all while keeping aligned accountability.

ARCHITECTURE

The design of your organization, as well as its underlying infrastructure, processes, technologies and controls constitutes the domain of organizational architecture. Your organization’s design makes a big difference in terms of reliability, alignment and continuity of performance.

In terms of working on the business, ensuring a valid organizational architecture is critical for resource flows, information availability, decision-making and processes that propel the organization forward.

Try to focus on ways to streamline your organization’s architecture, simplify structures, improve processes, and clarify roles, responsibilities, accountability and communication flow. This includes building connections and opportunities (meetings AND one-on-one conversations) to improve joint decision-making.

AGILITY

The ability to respond and adapt is critical for achieving organizational goals. Ironically, one of the most common inhibitors of agility is our approach to execution. In an attempt to drive better performance and maximize efficiency, many organizations create a situation in which change is difficult. The harder they work in the business instead of on it, the more challenging it is for them to see the need for change, or to flex, adapt and adjust appropriately. People hate change, but in reality, if you are not constantly changing you are not working on your business but in it.

There’s a great book (see picture) that summarizes these concepts way better than I have. Take the time to read it and then get to work ON your business at the dining room table, not in the kitchen.

Letters From Lisa – October 2019

Balance: How to spend time on your business, not just in your business

Balance is defined as “a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.” To be honest, having all the elements of life in balance has never been easy for me, because I love to work. I am always thinking up a new, amazing change to implement with all sorts of “positive” ramifications, and I just don’t take much time for balance.

I don’t think I will be able to change that about myself, and to be quite honest, I do not desire to change. However, what I also do not do very well, but do desire to change, is the time I spend working on the business versus in the business.

In entrepreneurial circles, there’s a well-known book called “The E-Myth Revisited,” by Michael Gerber. He popularized this concept of working on the business as opposed to in the business. Easily put, working in your business achieves results for your customers, while working on your business achieves results for the company and your customers.

If you want to achieve sustainable long-term results for your business, you’ll need to do both. For me, staying focused on working on the business is hard. I know it is the right way, but before I know it another month is gone, and all I have done is work in the business. One way to check yourself on this is to start a journal and record everything you do for a week and then categorize everything into either an “in” or “on” column. Your time must be weighted to “on” if you want the financial results of the company to continue to grow. Here are some lists to help you choose the right column in your journal and keep you honest.

I know from experience how easy it is to just work IN your business for weeks and weeks and even months without doing anything to work ON your business. Every day stuff happens so you deal with that stuff, and if you aren’t very careful, the day will end without achieving much at all to help your business move forward.

So, give the journal a try. It doesn’t take much to get started, even 30 minutes a day to begin with to get into the habit. The great thing about working ON your business is that very quickly it will make working IN your business a lot easier and more rewarding.

September 2019 – Letters From Lisa

Strategy has been studied for years by business leaders and theorists. Yet, there is no definitive answer about what strategy really is. One reason is because people think about strategy in different ways.

For instance, some people believe that you must analyze the present carefully, anticipate changes in the market or industry, and, from this, plan how to succeed in the future. Meanwhile, others think that the future is just too difficult to predict, and they prefer to evolve their strategies from just looking inside their own walls.

A simple definition of strategy can be: “Determining how we are going to win in the period ahead.” The biggest problem with the way organizations think about strategy is they confuse strategy with plans. They aren’t the same thing.

A strategic framework must establish what the business will do to deliver value for which customers are willing to pay and how it expects to hit target revenues and profits. The strategy doesn’t answer all the questions required for implementation — that’s planning, but it clearly establishes the game you are playing and how you expect to win. It also identifies the games you aren’t playing — the things you have no intention of delivering, even if your best customer begs you.

This framework helps us make decisions about how we will play the game of business. These decisions, which occur daily throughout the organization, include everything from capital investments to operational priorities to marketing, to hiring, to sales approaches, to branding efforts, to how each individual shuffles his or her “To Do” list every single morning. Without a strategic framework to guide these decisions, the organization will run in too many different directions, accomplish little, and suffer enormous confusion that ultimately stifles any plans or goals, good or bad.

Let’s pause a minute and look at this from the reverse. When should one not build a strategic framework:

• No time
• No resources
• No commitment from leadership
• In an acute crisis or transition

Or in other words just before the doors close. If you are reading this VISION article, your doors are not closing, so it’s time you choose to build a strategic framework and then use it every day as your guide in the planning and execution of tactics.

August 2019 – Letters From Lisa

The companies that achieve the most growth, that create the best products, and that are consistently thought of as industry leaders, are also the companies that are the most excited about all facets of the future. They allow that excitement to permeate through everything they do, as well as share and showcase that excitement every chance they get.

So how does a company foster that excitement? Interestingly enough, as I googled the topic, I found a bunch of articles with titles that included this same phrase, “how to get excitement back into your business.” That pretty much stopped me in my tracks, as to me the words “get back” means something has been lost. Lost excitement is deadly to business. However, keeping the excitement flame alive can be difficult. There are a number of ways you can work to boost excitement inside your business. All of these ways focus on your team. People are the face of excitement and must be where all of your efforts are focused.

Rid the Rotten

To create excitement today, you might have to get rid of what was. Getting rid of old ideas and behaviors is harder than changing to new ones. Eliminate any “rotten” ideas and behaviors that may be dragging your team down, so you clear the way for a new, exciting approach. It’s hard, but doing it builds excitement. I don’t like to share my “rotten” things so I will leave this one to each of you to “just do it.”

Build Belief in Tomorrow

Explore your team’s belief in itself and discover ways to build and sustain the belief in a strong future. What are you working on today that might not pay off until years from now? Whatever it is, share it in a simplistic, passionate way. At BioZyme®, we are working with 6,000 fruit flies in Germany to teach us the precise challenges that our AO broth impacts. These fruit flies are primarily used in human research, so getting to use them for animal applications is exciting and certainly builds belief in tomorrow.

Do Something Unexpected

Doing something unexpected can boost your team’s confidence in your willingness to take the risks that are necessary for an exciting future. It’s easy to do these types of things, but for some reason most of us do not. Sending a short, hand-written note of appreciation, staying late to help the team finish a project, giving an unexpected day off or coming to work as a leprechaun (yes, I did this) creates “crazy” excitement.

Get Rid of Secrecy

Nothing is more destructive than keeping information from team members—except telling them that you’re keeping information from them. Sure, there is sensitive information in any organization that must be handled appropriately; however, think twice about what “secrecy” really does to excitement. Employees are more likely to grow a company’s productivity when they have access to the knowledge they need.

Embrace Conflict as a Good Thing

Conflict is a by-product of creating excitement – it needs to be acknowledged and dealt with to keep excitement alive. I recently read a great book by Patrick Lencioni, called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. It does a great job of teaching how to embrace conflict as the positive it really is.

When a person is excited, their emotions become more powerful, which can affect their decision-making abilities. Excited people are more likely to make decisions. Use this to your advantage as you implement these strategies in ways that cause great enthusiasm and eagerness.

June/July 2019 – Letters from Lisa

This past month was our 6th annual dealer retreat. This event brings together our top volume dealers to challenge all of us on how we can be the best versions of ourselves in our day to day business. This year’s theme was Decode the Mystery of Growth.

Mystery is defined as something that is difficult or impossible to understand.

This recent article in Feedstuffs is a mystery to me. How can I include chocolate as 30% of my diet without affecting my carcass composition?  Seems if I just include it at .000003 percent it significantly impacts my carcass. Now that is a mystery.

The “love of gain” is human nature. So, a desire or even a need for growth is not mysterious. It’s how to create it that’s mysterious.

We must work every day to solve that mystery using a variety of ways including:

  1. Investing in human capital
  2. Committing to learning
  3. Standing out
  4. Setting bold goals
  5. Making big changes

The common point to all of these is ACTION – Nike says Just Do It.  If “just do it” was enough, we’d have already just done it by now.  So, if all we need to do is “just do it,” why do we go through one year after the other without “just doing” the things we know we need to do to grow?

Because successful growth isn’t about just doing, it’s about:

  • Identifying the need for change
  • Creating that change
  • Preparing for the challenges that will present themselves along the way of change
  • Grabbing a hold of an “all in” belief so you don’t just give up

If you skip any of those steps, whatever you “just do,” won’t be sustained long enough, repeated often enough, or executed well enough to create the action needed to grow.

Once you know what actions you need to take each day; you’ll find that “just do it” is the effective warning it was intended to be.

May 2019 – Letters from Lisa

Education is Part of Care that Comes Full Circle.

At the risk of singing to the choir, I am going to attempt to share how all of us can educate others about our industry and the importance of what we do using “care that comes full circle” as our guide.

According to a study conducted by The Center for Food Integrity, 56% of consumers say they know just a little bit about the farming practices that produce their food, but 80% want to know more. More than half are interested in affordable, healthy food and are confident in its safety. Unfortunately, that means half are not. Stats specific to livestock found that 38% desire meat that is derived from humanely treated animals, while 48% are unsure if that is important to them or not. In addition, 54% are concerned about antibiotic residues in their food.

The study also found that trust is the key to consumers when it comes to sharing information (educating). What drives this trust? Shared values.

A good example of doing this is found in a response by a veterinarian mother.

“Hello, I’m Dr. Dorman! As the mother of three children, it is vitally important to me to ensure that antibiotics are effective when I need them most: when one of my kids is sick. As a veterinarian, I also recognize the importance of antibiotics to the welfare of animals. I took an oath to protect animal health, prevent animal suffering, and to promote human health. Remaining true to this oath is very important to me.”

With these stats and insight, the question is how do each of us educate and then advocate for our industry? I believe the three thoughts below uses a “care that comes full circle” approach. In other words, it is based on the idea that if we take care in our approach to educate; the other party will care enough to listen back with an open mind due to shared values.

  • Listen without judgment to their values to find out what is important to them.
  • Ask questions to acknowledge their perspective and then dig deeper to show you want to understand things more, while trying hard not to comment back or use a defensive tone in any way.
  • Share your perspective through your values and then use resources that have supporting information to that perspective.

If you are interested in seeing this approach in action, you can watch a helpful video that AFIA produced at https://vimeo.com/219907731/df206803cd.

Interestingly enough, this approach is just as useful with things around your business. That might be a great place to practice this approach.

Whether training employees or teaching consumers about agriculture, I think you will find this three-step approach helpful. Listen, ask and share. If we listen before we share, we’ll seem genuinely interested and that is the first step in “care that comes full circle.”

April 2019 – Letters from Lisa

When a gosling hatches, it immediately looks around until it locates a bright moving object and then instinctively follows that wherever it goes. Following is the most natural thing on earth. Leading, on the other hand, takes work. Leadership is many things, but it is not a target or something that can be figured out or wielded only when a situation demands. It is a skill that needs to be constantly practiced and developed. It is a verb not a noun. John Kennedy said it best when he wrote, “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

A couple of years ago I attended the University of Chicago Booth for a week-long executive class called High Performance Leadership. I loved it. As we studied leadership the professor made it clear that about 2% us will never have leadership capacity, and 2% of us can do it in our sleep. However, most of us or 96% have an average level of leadership capacity. It’s the most of us that have the opportunity to develop the courage, capacity and wisdom to increase our leadership capacity. My teacher, Linda Ginzel, believes that very few people are born leaders and very few don’t have the capacity at all. She wrote a very good book called “Choosing Leadership.” Bottom line from the class and the book: you can’t wing leadership. And so that means all the qualities in the diagram are important for leaders to think about and intentionally work on every day.

Let me give you a true Lisa example. In the Chicago Booth class, we had to share something that people who we work with say about us directly to us or what we hear from others about what they say. Mine was easy. The first thing people always say to me when they address me is, “I know you are so busy, but . . . “(this really bothers me as I never want to be too busy for our employees).

The class then asked me to explain my typical day. I leave my house on the phone to one of my BioZyme® colleagues. I drive to work still on the phone. I pull into the parking lot still on the phone, usually to a different colleague. I get all my stuff out of the car still on the phone. I go into the building and walk all the way down the main hall to my office on the phone. That’s where I got stopped by my classmates. They said that my entrance into the building and hall walk sends the message from the git-go that I am busy. That’s winging it. I can’t wing it. So, now I sit in the parking lot until I can be off the phone and come in and continue all the way down the hall saying good morning. This seemed a bit dumb to me as I felt I was just maximizing time, but the more I studied choosing leadership, the more I realized talking on the phone like that is winging it and not focusing on being more sincere.

Taking this type of action (changing) is hard work but choosing leadership as a skill not a trait and honing it through both reflection and practice will change your future, and it’s a verb worth embracing.

March 2019 – Letters from Lisa

Collaboration is a hot buzzword in the business world. And with good reason. Working with people who have different perspectives or areas of expertise can result in better ideas and outcomes.

We often think of collaboration as this big thing that the whole organization has to improve, but collaboration is something that happens on a smaller scale. Collaboration is about two or more people working together on shared processes to achieve a common goal. If people are working together, but have no common goals, they are cooperating, not collaborating. Cooperation is usually much more lightweight than collaboration and often has less focused goals. Cooperation is certainly not a bad thing, but collaboration just gets us one step closer to being WOWing.

So how does one achieve collaboration?

Ensure a Clear Goal Exists
To begin collaborating on something, you need a shared understanding of what you are trying to do. Without a clear and common goal, it’s difficult to do anything as a team. The goal can be as simple as a statement everyone agrees on. I like to use a hypothesis to state the clear goal. A hypothesis is a proposed explanation made as a starting point for further investigation. I have found that doing this reduces team defensiveness.

Encourage Real Relationships
Team members will work together better when they have real, genuine relationships with one another. Of course, you can’t force that to happen—rather, you have to facilitate the building of relationships organically. It’s easier to build relationships when people work face-to-face and when people can relate to and empathize with one another.

Encourage Open-Mindedness
Individuals will likely be paired with others who have different perspectives and experiences at some point during the collaboration. All team members will need to come to know and understand one another in order to create a sense of security within the group. Openmindedness leads to a safer and more comfortable collaborative environment. Sometimes at BioZyme® I will title meetings as the _______ Party. Just using the word “party” changes how people come to the table. If you use this approach, you must take the theme to the decorations and have food, but it seems to help with open-mindedness.

Spread the Tasks
You don’t want the same people calling all of the shots all of the time. When this happens, individuals start to feel powerless, as if they have no influence or impact on the team. That causes passion to leave the team. You want to spread important tasks across a wide range of people. This actually has a dual-positive effect—not only does everyone feel valued and that they have an important role to play within the company, but you also keep individuals from feeling overloaded and overwhelmed.

Track and Share Results
The results of every collaborative effort should be tracked and then shared with the team. If you don’t share the results of your collaborative efforts, you not only rob your organization of valuable information, you minimize the impact of the collaboration itself.

In the end, collaboration happens when teams work together to generate an end result (product, change, policy, etc.) that’s greater than the sum of each individual’s contributions. Collaboration needs seamless, continuous communication and a commitment that ensures teams have everything they need to collaborate with ease.

Charles Darwin credited collaboration with mankind’s success: “In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” It’s tough to argue with Darwin. So, I won’t. In fact, as it relates to business, I agree that collaboration is essential. As a matter of fact, I believe collaboration is not just a business buzzword, it’s what drives successful WOWing businesses.