The Redcoats Are Coming!

The midnight ride of Paul Revere through the Massachusetts countryside and on into history is one of the great American stories. His message was concise, immediate and actionable. The men that night knew exactly what he meant, they understood the urgency, and, with that information, they joined forces and took necessary action.

The crystal-clear communication drove thousands to the cause of team collaboration, thereby avoiding devastation. Your business has much to do with Paul Revere's ride. That night's lesson is applicable and valuable to every businessperson β€” including you and your fellow spa and pool professionals.

COMMUNICATION, COLLABORATION & VICTORY

The principle is simple and still applies today: Communication enables collaboration, which leads to victory β€” profits, operational improvements, increased quality of life, or other measurable forms of success.

In a way, the very purpose of AQUA Magazine is to let you know that "the redcoats are coming!" and provide the tools you need to prepare, innovate and strengthen your business. Communication and collaboration are two such tools, and they can help you overcome numerous obstacles, from economic downturns to more-aggressive competitors. And, just as the British were better equipped, better prepared militarily and certainly had greater numbers of men in arms, some of your competitors may be, metaphorically, the same. Perhaps they've even heard a different alarm "you are coming!" and are rallying their resources to counter your advances.

COMMUNICATING INFORMATION

Communication is the sharing of information between people, but it must be mutually agreed upon in understanding, which requires effective listening. Its effectiveness depends upon the technique used (for example, in some situations a personal phone call may work better than an e-mailed financial report, or sometimes not), as well as the quality of the information (Is it accurate. Timely. Worthwhile.).

Verbal and written communication have existed for thousands of years, but it was not until Johannes Gutenberg invented the first movable-type printing press in 1447 that the sharing of information really skyrocketed. This was arguably the most important information advancement event in human history. All of a sudden books did not have to be hand copied - a process that could take years for a single copy. Books started .ying off the presses, beginning an unstoppable .ood of information to the masses. The 1800s ushered in the telegraph and the telephone, followed by television in the middle of the 20th century, microprocessor chips in the 1970s and the Internet tidal wave in the early 1990s. The theme at the opening of the 21st century seems to be "anytime, anywhere access to everything." It encompasses mobile phones, wireless laptops, remote software application access and countless other tools.

These watershed events are occurring at an increasing rate, begging the question, "What's next and how will I keep up?" The answer is to get current now, stay current as time goes on, and be ahead of those who aren't.

Indeed, from the earliest Babylonian clay tablets to modern wireless gizmos, success still depends on quality communication.

STRUCTURE AND KNOWLEDGE

Applying structure to your information and communications creates actionable knowledge. Structure might involve prioritizing work orders based on product availability or customer demand, as opposed to working your way through random stacks of papers. Actionable knowledge is organized information upon which you can take meaningful action. On that long-ago night in Massachusetts the action meant picking up a musket and shooting the guys in red coats. Today, it means knowing which work order to fulfill first.

COLLABORATION

Collaboration occurs when people work together to achieve common goals based upon the information and communications received. Effective collaboration involves maximizing synergy in your business - meaning interested parties are interconnected, well informed, task efficient and moving in the correct direction. Collaboration produces better overall solutions while reducing interpersonal con.icts.

COMMUNICATE AND COLLABORATE

More important than the specific communication and collaboration tools is the philosophy you follow. For example, a person may consider herself a knowledgeable collaborator, operating always for what she sees as the greater good, while everyone else sees a condescending, cold-hearted dictator.

Here are four basic communication and collaboration philosophies:

1. The Hollow

2. The Hub

3. The Hurricane

4. True Collaboration

THE HOLLOW (SEE FIG. 1)

There is no communication or collaboration in the hollow. Everything and everyone .oats randomly. Your employees are not aligned with your needs or vision, your vendors are out of touch and your customers are either blissfully oblivious to or furious about your products and services. When it comes to accountability, everyone runs for shelter and hides.

THE HUB (SEE FIG. 2)

You, the control freak, see yourself as the indispensable hub. Everything runs through you. Employees are not empowered to solve customer concerns and vendors are not empowered to help your employees. You really aren't in control and are likely headed for eventual burnout. You may think it's your personal problem, but your actions affect numerous other people. No one person can do everything. Hence, you must collaborate.

THE HURRICANE (SEE FIG. 3)

You see yourself as the calm eye of a chaotic hurricane. Your immediate vicinity is quiet, while the rest of the world rages around you. With nothing to secure them, customers, employees and vendors whirl wildly, dragging you along for the ride. Customers may request change orders that employees provide free of charge, while vendors push unnecessary or lower quality products on both. You calmly observe the destructive disorder, while heading for a catastrophe.

TRUE COLLABORATION (SEE FIG. 4)

True collaboration is your objective. Most recognize "we're all in this together." You provide the relationship glue that facilitates overall success. Communication is encouraged, others are empowered and you are kept "in the loop" β€” without the need for constant control or the fear of being disconnected.

TODAY: Examine which philosophy you typically exhibit. How can you heighten your true collaboration skills. You might need professional help to answer this and achieve significant market domination. E-mail or call me and we'll work on it together.

COLLABORATION TOOLS

Tools range from simple "while you were out" notes to powerful information technology groupware. The former conveys basic communications or task assignments. The latter may offer individual and group scheduling, resource allocation, task delegation and completion tracking, centralized customer contact and marketing systems, and companywide knowledge bases that store every piece of information needed to successfully run your business.

Leading groupware systems include Microsoft Exchange Server (http://microsoft.com/exchange) and WebOffice (https://weboffice.com/). Exchange provides a powerful serverbased system that uses Microsoft Outlook or a Web browser as its user interface. WebOffice is a subscriptionbased online system.

TODAY: Commit to strengthening your communication and collaboration capabilities. Visit strategicplanet.com/aqua for a more detailed review of groupware solutions, or simply google "groupware solutions" to do more research.

NOTHING TO HIDE

Laying everything out on the table for everyone to see is the best policy. Increased information sharing and improved communication will produce better collaboration. This, in turn, creates greater success. Conversely, hiding and hoarding information, including business financial statements, price lists and the like, produces the exact opposite.

TODAY: Decide to open up, share more information and be consistently direct. You will be applauded and rewarded for your actions.

ENCOURAGE COLLABORATION

You cannot collaborate if you do not communicate. You cannot effectively communicate without information. Make sure you are getting accurate and timely information about your business. You will then foster three key traits for lasting success:

1. consistency β€” accuracy through regularity,

2. cooperation β€” group buy-in of overall objectives, and

3. accountability β€” delegated tasks completed and reported.

As you set the example and encourage collaboration you will immediately experience measurable improvements in your areas of greatest challenge. Work will be completed correctly, internal and external parties will pool resources and assist each other and obligations will be fulfilled with accountability.

Remember: The redcoats are coming! It's time to get moving!

TAKE ONE HOUR RIGHT NOW: Act on the "today" tasks I have presented. Also, share this article with another person, so you can begin collaborating for immediate success.

Please communicate and collaborate with me by giving immediate feedback on this article at StrategicPlanet.com/aqua. While there, enter to win one of 20 gift packages of Gourmet Boston Baked Beans β€” in honor of Paul Revere, of course! We will also send you additional Fuller/Maynes' tips on successful collaboration.

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