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Many people in need of something often wish for or ask for that very thing to some other all-powerful entity. While some, of course, will own their “bad luck” in life, they will not take a single step so that what they need or wish for can be materialized. This is particularly true in modern corporations with all sorts of challenges: global competition where different national and corporate cultures mean different production costs, volatility of good professionals due to their shortage in the market, the need for a happy workforce so that productivity is at its best, developing offers in terms of what customers need and understand, etc.

Corporations, as well as people, are wrong in assuming that their well-being is in the hands of some entity outside of their own walls. Outside, there are challenges, and as Captain Jack Sparrow from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean says, “The seas may be rough, but I am the Captain! No matter how difficult, I will always prevail.” Actually, Jack Sparrow is an excellent example of always taking the first step toward a solution of a problem, either by encouraging his team, being political, fighting, making agreements, and whatnot.

"I just don't have the time."
Ok, this is the jackpot complaint. I believe you when you say you don't have enough time. I share your pain, because time, once lost, can never be recovered, but what do you do with this time? I know that people, namely, high-level managers, tend to waste time in a vast list of incredible ways.
  • “Everything must be brought to me before a decision”: This is a classic and also a classic for disaster. The middle managers are there for a reason and so are monthly reports that, if well done, will provide the necessary knowledge for high-level decisions.
  • “I have to go to the office in order to sort out my paper work”: This is also a classic and also a classic for disaster. Nowadays, no one needs to go to the office to take care of the paper work. All documents can be digitized and sent, searched, and processed from whatever location at whatever time.
So, what are the first steps in order to find time? Ask yourself the following:
  • Are you really sure that the decisions you are making are for your pay grade?
  • Do you trust your middle management?
  • Are you afraid of new solutions?
  • Are you afraid to allocate time for yourself?
  • Are you afraid of allocating time for your family?
  • Are you uncomfortable to take your business with you on a mobile device?
"The staff is gray. The staff is not cooperative. The staff is not creative."
Well, how is your hierarchical implementation? Can you talk to them? Do you usually walk around and sit for a coffee with employees and ask them about their daily difficulties, whether small or large? Do you ask them for suggestions to solve the problems they have mentioned? Is there any kind of awards policy for production/efficiency suggestions?

"The good managers don't settle down. They come and go."
When they apply for the position, do you ask them what they want from their professional life? Money is (almost) never the issue. Mostly, it is the company. The company will be your employee’s second family. Eventually, they will spend more time with the company than with their own families.
  • Is your company a good family?
  • Are managers empowered?
  • Do managers have the necessary slack to make their own staff happy?
  • Do you check if they have enough experience and/or knowledge?
  • Have you ever considered if the human resources (HR) manager is the right one for your company?
"I have a good product, but I don't sell enough."
How do you know it's a good product? Surely not because you have been selling it for the last 20 years. Have you asked for an independent opinion? Have you considered choosing another supplier for this type of product? Have you considered producing it yourself? Have you read about and discussed it? Are you sure your reasoning is not under any kind of prejudice? If you conclude your product isn't good anymore, then you need to find alternatives, but it may just happen your product is a good one, so what is the step you must take?

You must talk to potential customers and understand why they aren’t understanding the message. Perhaps, they don't know your product exists or what it allows them to achieve. No one needs something they don't know exists. On the other hand, it's not the features that the potential customer is interested in; it's all about the benefits. Most likely, your customers can’t understand the features because they are usually too technical, but they can appreciate benefits, since benefits make the problem go away. You don't sell features; you sell problem solving. Have you talked to potential customers? Have you talked to existing customers? Do you know, first hand, how existing customers are using your product? Do you go along with your sales staff to customer presentations? All of these are absolutely essential first steps.

There is a parable that clearly illustrates this issue. It goes something like this: Every morning, a man enters a church and, kneeing in front of the altar, asks, “Please make me win the lottery. I have a job where I work a lot, but the salary is not enough. I have a family that I must provide for. Please let me win the lottery.” Month after month, year after year, day after day, the man would step into the church and ask the same thing over and over again. One day, a miracle happened. In a flash of light, Jesus looked down at the shocked man and made his own plea, “Please John, go and buy a lottery ticket.”

Whatever your business, whatever your problems, go and buy a lottery ticket.

Joao Penha-Lopes specializes in document management since 1998. He holds two postgraduate degrees in document management from the University Lusofona (Lisbon) and a PhD from Universidad de Alcala de Henares (Madrid) in 2013, with a thesis studying the economic benefits of electronic document management (EDM). He is an ARMA collaborator for publications and professionally acts as an advisor on critical information flows mostly for private corporations. Follow him on Twitter @JoaoPL1000.

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