Just be yourself!

September 14, 2009

This is a prerequisite if you want to grow and be happy in life, as well personally as professionally.
Although it would sound like an easy thing to achieve, too many people seem to have difficulties getting there. Many internal and external reasons can explain that, but it is always possible to change for the best.

If you are not a superhero, it is OK

If you are not a superhero, it is OK

Why is being yourself so important?
Quite obviously, if you are not yourself, then who are you? Just this question makes clear that it will difficult to know who you are. If you think you are some of your role model, realize that s/he probably was him/herself, and that is why they got in that position of role model.
Moreover, if you are playing being someone else (like the example on the right), you will miss the opportunity to genuinely improve yourself and achieve higher fulfillment in life.

How can you be yourself?
This can take more or less time between people to find out, but it is possible and not that complicated. All you need is to have people you trust to give you candid feedback. You have to understand that even the most popular people are not perfect and that they have their insecurities as well. An easy way of discovering yourself it to find what you like most and what you like less in life. Capitalize on your assets and limit your liabilities. Accept your limitations and enjoy your talents! After all no one is talented in everything, and all you need to be happier is to do what you do best and like it. To find out who you are and to be yourself, you are just going to need to determine how much will, dare, capability and knowledge you have.

Deal with other people’s judgment!
Unfortunately, everyone has an opinion about other people, and most of the time it is based on very partial information. Most disputes are the result of a lack of communication, not of knowing each other well. I often tell the same joke about how lucky I have been in life to meet only great people who unfortunately for them all have seemed to be surrounded by idiots.
Realize that you cannot please everyone, and whatever you may do and whoever you maybe, there always will be someone out there to criticize you. The only feedback that counts is the one from people who really know you well, and that you trust enough to give you their opinion. Such an exercise is not about passing or failing, but it is about self-knowledge and possibilities of improvement. True friends will not shoot you down. In this exercise, they will tell you what you could be better at.
Also realize that it is better to get some bad feedback on who you really are than on whom you trying to be, because in that case, the information is useful for you.
If you find difficult to accept yourself, you need to consider two things. First, you are not the only person who feels that way; a large of majority of people tends to underestimate themselves. Secondly, most people have much more potential than they think; all they need is to take more chances. You need to show the world what you can.
Finally, always make sure that you are the one deciding for yourself. Peer pressure and your social environment, not even to mention marketing and the media have a very powerful impact on how many people think they should be. It is not to them to decide about that. Dare to challenge them. Also, realize that people who are themselves always attract compatible people, thus making their lives more interesting and fulfilling.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Are you living your dreams?

September 3, 2009

Dreaming your lifeFrom early childhood, we all have had our ideas and dreams about how life would be later. You know, when I grow up, I want to…
Yet, later in life, many people seem to have forgotten about these dreams or, worse, they have given up on them. This is sad, because there are not many things that can energize and motivate you as the pursuit of something very dear to you: being the person you always wanted to be.

Personally, I have been blessed with supportive and open-minded parents. They always encouraged me to pursue what I really wanted to do, if that was indeed good and important for me. The fact that they also taught me boundaries made such encouragements even more stimulating: if they supported me, I knew that it was because what I was aiming at was worth it. Consciously going after something meaningful is one of the most motivating things I can think of.

This has allowed me to be aware of my personality and of my possibilities at a young age, which made it possible for me to decide much of how my life would be like. Like everyone else, there have been bumps on the road once in a while, but knowing what I wanted always helped keep the course, and that has brought me lots of satisfaction and the privilege of living quite a few of my childhood’s dreams.
As I grew a little less young, I also discovered that dreaming is a work in progress. It is nice to pursue your childhood’s dreams, but sometimes, circumstances change, or the dreams appear to not be as realistic or sensible as they seemed first, and we left them aside. That is not really a problem as long as we keep the ability to keep envisioning who we want to be. With age comes more experience, more self-awareness and this is why it is never too late to think of what we want to be later. This process has nothing to do with any mid-life crisis, as that is something else, which is not about dreaming about the future; it is the mourning of the past.

I have been lucky to live most of my youth’s dreams and it has brought me to where I am today: a happy and fulfilled man who wants to make it possible for others to experience the same. It has made me able to look at my life in a dynamic manner and constantly think of how and in what I can grow further, and the ideas keep coming.

Who you want to be is the mix of what you love to do, what you do best, what your values are, and of where and with whom you want to make this happen.

The worst thing to do to oneself being not to try at all, and regret it for the rest of one’s life, the question that you must ask yourself is: Are you living your dreams?
If not, what happened then? More importantly, what are you going to do about it? Can you think of better objectives today, thanks to a better knowledge of yourself? What is keeping you from trying, and how can you overcome such hurdles? It is only by trying over and over again that one succeeds.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


The Life Plan will help you increase personal fulfillment

August 4, 2009

Your level of happiness or fulfillment is generally a direct consequence of how much you live your life and live in an environment that matches your values.

Here at The Happy Future Group, we have developed our Life Plan program (see the presentation under “Personal Programs“) to help you identify how balanced your life and your values are, and from there we help you build your own specific action list.

The process is simple. To identify your values, you will confront your own findings with some of your friends’ assessment of what truly drives you. Involving trusted friends to participate makes this process more fun and more rewarding. It also avoids this search to feel like a questioning, and at the same time, it will give you a much more objective feedback. After all, every person is who they really are, but also whom they show and who others think they are. By reducing the discrepancy between these three apparently different persons, your level of happiness will naturally increase.

By assessing how much fulfillment the different parts of your life match your core values, you will get your own “fulfillment index”. From that index and its analysis, it will become rather easy and obvious what actions you will need to take to increase your level of fulfillment.

The philosophy of the action list is all about incremental improvement. Consider your current life as being the ground zero. Each action when completed will help you live more to your values, and therefore you will achieve progress one step at a time. The timelines are the ones you feel comfortable with. All you need is to fully commit to the process. Should you “soften” a bit, we will help you remember what you promised yourself to achieve.

All you need to complete this process to success is to have the willingness to make it work, to be yourself and to spend the necessary time and energy.

To be happy, you do not need to go up the mountain to find yourself. It is all here and now, inside and around you!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


How to be happy

May 11, 2009
A few days ago, I saw on CNN the title of one of the topics of the day: “What really makes people happy”. A whole program!
Of course, this being a dear topic of mine, I clicked on the link and read this article, written by a collaborator at the Oprah Magazine. If it is linked to Oprah, it has to be true.

Well, I read it, and like most article on the subject, it gives a number of examples of what makes some people happy. It also refers to some professor and some science about hormones, since we have to try to explain everything. It mentions the connectedness between people, and being involved in something bigger than yourself. To that, I yawned and said blah blah blah, because once you are finished with that article, you honestly have not learned much, if anything.

So here we are, with a bit of science, a bit of spiritualism, a bit of humanism, a bit of metaphysics trying to find the absolute recipe for happiness, the ultimate quick fix. And out there, you can find an army of people who try to sell exactly that. This is just like the get-rich-fast-and-safely non-sense. It does not really exist, and that is a good thing, because that feeling of earning what you have is so much more satisfying!

Happiness simply does not come to you that way!
In my life, I have helped many people to express their potential, I have opened their eyes, I have transformed their lives for the best, and I have made them achieve things that they did not even think they could ever do. And I have developed all those “techniques” on myself as well. Therefore, I know firsthand what works and what does not.
And here is the simple truth about happiness: there is no universal or absolute method on how to be happy. However, there are a few truths about the process of becoming happier.

Happiness is being in balance with yourself and your environment
balanceIn order to be happy, you need to know yourself. This sounds obvious, and yet because of lack of self-awareness, many people look for answers in all the wrong places, and can spend their whole lives being unhappy.
Then, you also need to know your environment. Who are your friends, your relatives, your colleagues, your neighbours. Do you really want them? Are they bringing you what you are looking for? Are you in the right place or do need to consider a change? And is that change about your environment or about you?

You must incrementally meet your needs and your values through action and objectives
Everyone has his/her very own and very specific cocktail of values, needs, desires, goals and dreams. It comes from their personality, their upbringing, their education, their social circle, you name it. This is why what makes one person happy does not necessarily bring any satisfaction to someone else.j0438395[1]The first step to increase your level of happiness is to identify the ingredients of that cocktail. The following steps are about setting targets on how to meet those values and needs more as time goes by. Trying to satisfy needs you do not really have, will not work on the long-term. Just look at a child at Christmas: the new toys are exciting the first day, a bit less the next day and soon they will be boring. The toys met a short-term desire, in most cases inspired by outsiders, especially marketers, but did not answer a true deep wish. And I am sure that you can find many similar examples of meeting the wrong needs. It might bring short-term satisfaction, because a nice surprise is always nice, but it will not last because it is not the right answer.
Having objectives, or you can call them wishes, desires, dreams, is of utmost importance to be happy. It gives a feeling of purpose to your life, and therefore to you! Objectives are powerful drivers to grow and gain wisdom. If you doubt this, just try to imagine having to spend the rest of your life with no goal at all. How does that idea make you feel?

This is not a passive process; you must have a plan, practice and train regularly
To do the above, nothing beats making a plan. It has to be a plan shaped around your values, in which you will determine your needs and set up a number of steps and set time lines to achieve them.happy
Happiness will not fall upon you per accident. If you want to be happy, you need to want to be happy. Nothing nice will happen to you unless you initiate the process and keep its momentum going.
Happiness will not stay with you, unless you nurture it. You have to work on being happy on an ongoing basis. If you stop your efforts, you will see your level of fulfillment drop over time. Being happy is an active process, and just like sport, your performance at it will decrease if you become complacent. And this is where so many fail at happiness: it takes discipline and persistence.
Happiness is not about being in a state of permanent bliss. It has its ups and downs. Being happy does not mean that you never experience negative feelings like disappointment or frustration. This happens, and it happens to all of us. But truly happy people know how to find the resources to overcome such negative feelings, to refocus on what will make them feel good, and take the proper action to correct that temporary setback.

So, now you know how it works. Have you noticed that I do not bring any explanation that involve money, religion, spiritualism, love, friendship, meditation, science or any of the so many terms that usually are used when talking about happiness. That is simply because they are all valid, but they are not all valid for all of us. Everyone must choose what works for them!

For those of you interested in the CNN link here it is: What really makes people happy

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Everyone has potential, just allow them to show you!

May 11, 2009

j0414117[1]To illustrate this, I cannot think of a better example than one of my employees when I was in the aquaculture business.
She used to work for the accounting department of a different division, and her performance was not great. At that time, I needed someone to help us out with administrative tasks and with the processing of information.
I was offered to hire her, although all the negative feedback I had heard was not encouraging. Fortunately for her, the manager under which she was working, was not exactly an example of trustworthiness or integrity, and I decided to meet her and see for myself who she really was.
I remember meeting her on a ferry to one of the islands off the coast of Vancouver Island. She was sitting in her car and did not expect much good from me, as I am known as quite straight forward and decisive.
Anyway, we had our meeting, which went rather well, and I decided to have her meet further with the rest of my team to discuss the operational needs a bit more in details. As there still was some hesitation about her real abilities, I decided to give her a chance, under the condition that we would review her performance after 3 months and then decide. If the performance was satisfactory, she would stay; if not she would go.
And what a transformation! From an unmotivated and dull person, she turned into a dynamic and resourceful collaborator. She did an amazing work, had a great productivity and came with many great ideas on how to process and present the information we gathered.
Later, the person to whom she was reporting (who reported to me) surprised us with a change of attitude for the worst, and unfortunately, I could not have her to tell me what the reasons of that change were. After several attempts to get her getting back to her former self, it appeared that this would not work, and I fired her, which left a hole in a rather sensitive position. I went to the other lady, and asked her if she felt she could take over from her supervisor. She was a little hesitant about a fairly big step forward, but as I guaranteed her that I would fill in temporarily for the areas that she did not master, yet, she agreed to take the plunge.
It was a position with much more responsibility and that needed decisiveness and authority, as she basically had the mandate to stop the plant if production was not in order. And once again, what a beautiful transformation it was!
She not only adapted to a higher position, but delivered a quality of work that I rarely had seen elsewhere, and I had been in quite a few many places!
She became the best QA Manager in the seafood business that I have met in British Columbia, and she has survived 2 mergers where I am sure she was in competition with people who had a much more solid academic background. She now is in charge of Food Safety for the largest salmon farming company in BC (and in the world)
All that was needed, was for her to have the chance to be able what she really was made of, and that would have never showed up on her resume. It was selection on the job, in the real world!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


The best time for prospecting

April 5, 2009

In most cases, companies do their prospecting at the worst time, which is when they have surpluses to sell.
This statement might sound a bit surprising at first, but as I am going to explain, this will make quite some sense.
As long as sales are in balance with production, most companies will try to find commercial arrangements with existing customers to deal with minor volume fluctuations. After all, when you deal with a regular business contact who knows your company and products, it is easier to set up some promotion deals and move extra volumes.
In the same idea, as long as companies can move their own production without much trouble, they do not see the point of actively going out there prospecting for new customers, as they have nothing to offer. Or so they think.
When surpluses reach levels that are not manageable anymore with the regular customer base, then they initiate a massive prospecting campaign to be able to move the extra volume.
All of this will sound like plain logic to most business owners, so why is actually the best time for prospecting the time when you are sold out?
The answer is simply because it puts you in the driver’s seat, which is not the case when you need to get rid of your products.
In many industries, surpluses for sale rarely happen to an isolated company, but very often the whole sector is suffering. The reason can be because the recent times had been quite good and everybody thought that they should increase their volumes to meet demand, but when a whole sector takes this kind of action at the same time, you can be sure that this volume increase is also going to come onto the market at the same time. The result is a saturated market, in which all participants need to move the extra volumes, sometimes at any price (and also at any cost). So prospecting in such conditions gives all the power to the buyers, who have nothing else than being patient as the sales people will come over and over again trying to out-price each other so that they can move their production. This results only in margin erosion.
In the same way, when you are short of product, in many cases there is a fair chance that your competitors have to deal with the same, and are not able to satisfy demand from their own customers
Why prospect when you have nothing to sell?
There are two main reasons for this. First, because this way, there is a lot less pressure to reach a deal, which helps you being much stronger in the commercial negotiation. Secondly, because this could be the time that you mean the most to a customer by helping out, as you could fill a gap left by one of your competitors.
Of course, you might ask how to help out and sell something you do not have. Massaging your sales and production planning can be a way to do this, or playing broker for once can do the same, and helping out makes your company look quite good, which will be useful when you are the one who needs to be helped out.
Prospecting, not out of necessity, but as a strategy to grow your business at the expense of your competitors is the way to go, and is also the most cost-efficient way. After all, remember that, on average, prospecting to get a new customer costs between 10 and 20 times as much as growing with an existing one. So, it better be well-targeted, margin oriented and fitting in a sound business strategy!

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.


Intelligent growth

April 4, 2009

Everybody in the business community will tell you: you must grow your business.
But what does this mean exactly? What do you grow? How do you grow?
For having seen the good, the bad and the ugly of growth, these questions are quite important.
My answer is: Grow your business intelligently! And of course, all business leaders do exactly this, don’t they?
Well…
So let’s get back to the basic questions first!

What to grow?
This is the tricky area.
The risk for a successful business is to think that growth will be linear. In other words, if you produce x units and make a profit of y, by growing to 2x you will make 2y profit. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t.
Good business people want to make money and what you should grow is your profit. There is no point of selling more if you do not make more profit, as that means that you do not make money on the extra sales. Then, why invest and hire and complicate your business if you do not have any marginal advantage in doing so? This sounds obvious and yet the number of companies that do exactly the wrong thing is amazing. Volume matters within certain limits but margin must come first.

How do you grow?
The first thing you need to know is how big is the market, who are your competitors, what do they plan to do and how do you compare with them. If they are stronger than you , maybe you should keep a low profile and not go into a frontal confrontation with them.
If you are the stronger player, as most CEO’s like to think of their companies, realize that this does not make you invincible.
The key is a sound and realistic business plan.
Start with the sales plan: how much more can you sell for a profit in the market? Then you have an idea about the required volume of your operations.
Then review all the costs implications that the new situation will create and look at the bottom line. Here the key is to not do any wishful thinking or to make the numbers match because your boss demanded some bold performance from you. A helpful rule of thumb is that you probably will sell only half of the extra volume for the profit you think you can make, and the extra costs will be double of what you expect. Enter these revised numbers in your P&L budget and see what comes out.
Base your assumptions on ambitious but realistic data, and while having a dream is nice, do not let you lead by vain objectives. It is nice to be the largest, only if it makes your company the richest, too. Market share is nice, but it is not an indicator of success, never forget that the force that will drive your ability to get the price you want is the law of offer and demand. Even if you had a market share of 90% but had grown the business beyond what the market can absorb, you will not be able to keep the prices high, and depending on the elasticity for your product, you can very well end up selling at a loss. Always be market-driven!
There is nothing wrong with being conservative. There is much wrong in having your organization taking too many risks.
Another key point in your growth plan is the phasing. You need a longer term view on where you want to be and set yearly goals for your growth plan. Be aware that you can go only one step at a time and that you cannot skip steps. Like with building a house, you start with the foundations, then build the floors one after another, and you do not build floor#2 before you have finished floor#1.
And finally, you have a choice of either growing organically or acquiring another company (see my previous article on M&A).

Remember that the most important for a business is to keep existing, and growth is only one of the ways to achieve this.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.