In the earlier part of my career, I was a CPA with the firm now known as PricewaterhouseCoopers ("PwC"). I quickly gravitated into PwC's highly profitable corporate finance consulting practice as a Director in the firm's Atlanta office, where I spent 10 years specializing in Financial Advisory Services to Fortune 500 companies. The last 15 years of my work life have been oriented around my new passion -- human resource development and career development services targeted toward business leaders, executives and senior managers. My experience at PwC "grounded" me in the mindset of analytical problem-solving, "process-based" thinking and "bottom line" orientation. This article reflects a blending of thinking between these two phases of my career, both of which I cherish immensely.
At first, this may seem like a bit of a bold statement, but as you read today's article, I hope to convince you of this important FACT. Working from the standpoint of understanding and embracing this important fact will empower you to peak performance and maximum achievement in your career and work life. Ignoring it or dismissing it may truly be a risky proposition and may ultimately limit your career growth and income-producing potential.
Today's market and economic situation really bring this to light -- brought to light because we read about layoffs and downsizings on a daily basis, AND we hear about job security fears constantly from friends, family members, business contacts and work colleagues. As the market improves over the coming months and years and as unemployment rates ultimately return to "norm", this second FACT only becomes less visible and newsworthy. The FACT, however remains. It is therefore important that we make a paradigm shift from thinking about working FOR others in a JOB -- TO working for ourselves and producing income streams -- regardless of "place" -- whether through a single source (working at a company) or multiple sources.
This shift in thinking does not necessarily change WHERE we work, but it definitely affects HOW WE WORK and HOW WE THINK ABOUT where we work and what we work on.
YOU are a Profit Center and Sustainable Income-Producing Entity
So, let's talk about what all of this means in terms of HOW WE WORK and HOW WE THINK ABOUT WHERE WE WORK. If you shift your thinking to a framework where YOU ARE IN BUSINESS FOR YOURSELF and you represent YOUR OWN PROFIT-CENTER, the following critical shifts in thinking will manifest for you:
• Focus on Sustainable Income Streams. Income can come from a variety of sources. Plan ahead and be prepared. Consider alternative and complementary income sources; draw upon your outside interests as possible income sources. Think like a business and consider the risk of "putting all of your eggs in one basket." This is DEFINITELY a new way of thinking.
• Always Deliver Excess Value. Stay attuned to and measure the value you deliver against your cost(s). If you're employed full-time at a company, then your "cost" is your salary and benefits, and it is incumbent that the value you deliver to your employer exceed your total cost of employment. Put pencil to paper and analyze it...often. Value can be intangible and difficult to measure accurately, but you can't ignore the principle.
• Anticipate and Respond Quickly to Market Opportunities. Be alert to market trends and movements...ahead of time. If you're in a "business" that is not solving an existing market problem or responding to an existing market opportunity, you'll have a difficult time surviving in the intermediate and long term. The business of "you" needs to be fully attuned to changing market conditions and opportunities. If you're "reading the writing on the wall," it's too late -- you need to be one of those crafting the message that GOES on the wall.
• Take Ownership for Your Learning and Development. A successful business is a learning organization. Self-improvement and learning is COMPLETELY YOUR RESPONSIBILITY...period. Staying competitive and in-tune with the latest thinking in your field demands time for learning and knowledge development. Make learning a priority and make it happen... consistently and habitually.
• Promote and Market Yourself Constantly. Take responsibility for "tooting your own horn." Stay in touch with and nurture your business network -- on an ongoing basis.
• Focus on Exceptional Customer Service. Customer "experience" with you and the product/service you deliver creates "gravity" if that experience is exceptional. Gravity holds the relationship in place. Your clients are your customers as are your work colleagues - your boss, your peers, and the management team at your employer all represent your customers. It is critical that they all KNOW WHO YOU ARE and have memorable service delivery experience with you. One misstep is often the the last thing on their mind. Recover quickly from your missteps and deliver exceptional service to your customers at ALL times.
• Deliver an Outstanding Work Product. Deliver high-quality, error-free and highly professional work product. Take ownership for EVERYTHING you deliver -- services, communications and collateral material. Develop processes to help you ensure exceptional quality is delivered consistently.
• Develop and Communicate Your Personal Brand. What are those things that make you unique and set you apart from your peers and competitors? What do you do differently? What makes you memorable? Take inventory of your personal brand elements and highlight them through the work you do.
• Manage Your Cash Flow, Liquidity and Reserves. You simply cannot run a business effectively without managing your cash flow, liquidity and reserves. Develop a budget and financial plan that you review and update regularly. Manage your cash inflows and outflows carefully. Maintain adequate reserves and savings. Manage yourself like a well-run business; stay focused on the bottom line and control your costs. ALWAYS think like a business owner.
• Know Your "Exit Strategy". Plan ahead and map out your "exit strategy." Build wealth and formulate a strategy for accumulating capital. Work closely with a personal financial planning specialist and your CPA. Plan, plan, plan.
Bottom Line: Think from the mindset of business ownership -- The business of "You" -- and let that mindset guide your approach to how you manage and conduct your work life.