I was reading the Wall Street Journal and found this article: Three Best Ways to Get Lean, March 28, 2010. It talks about how layoffs are not the only option for saving. They provided three best ways.

1. Consolidate your workspace

If your business is run out of more than one rented office, consider consolidating the next time a lease expires. Not only will you save on real-estate costs but also utilities, cleaning services and other regular expenses. If you operate out of one location, but want to reduce overhead, consider sharing work spaces through “co-working” arrangements.

2. Shop Smarter

Start comparing prices on supplies and services, which might then give you more muscle in negotiating with vendors. I’ve been looking at this for thinkspace and there are a few key areas that I’m considering to make changes, but, this requires a line item by line item review of every expense and figuring out what’s needed and what’s not.  It also means comparison shopping your existing vendors and seeing if they are willing to review their contracts.  I’ll share more after I’m done cutting away those non-essentials.

3. Rework your work force

Consider tapping freelancers in lieu of staff employees. Here’s an area that I’m looking at very closely. I’m primarily looking at the non-customer facing activities. I won’t sacrifice the customer facing activities because I care too much about quality, however, there are some non-customer facing activities that I want to outsource.  I’m looking into tapping freelancers with specific skill sets.

There are two areas that I personally want to strengthen: 1) Communication and 2) Leadership. Over the last few years, I’ve come to recognize that in order for thinkspace to be a place where amazing things happen it requires people and a team that are highly motivated to do remarkable things. A team that understands and embraces the vision for the company which is to create a community that fosters inspiration and passion. This last week, I’ve read two articles that touch on both communication and leadership. The first article is from Art Petty’s blog where he talks about “Leadership Caffeine: 7 Odd Ideas to Help You Get Unstuck“.

“Take comfort in being uncomfortable about being comfortable” – Art Petty

That pretty much sums up what I’ve been expressing to my team. In order for the business to grow and be remarkable, it’s about getting out our comfort zone and thinking about ways to do the same thing better or come up with some crazy new ideas that haven’t been done before inside of thinkspace. It’s about taking existing processes and challenging the status quo.  It’s about asking questions like why do we do things this way and what are ways where it can be done more efficiently and save us money.  Ultimately the goal is to do these things that impact the customer experience, to make that experience remarkable.

The second article that I read was by Scott Berkun (@berkun) who gave a speech on Innovation at The Economist. Scott brings up that in order for their to be innovation you have to have a couple things:

Culture of Trust:

“First, most teams don’t work. They don’t trust each other. They are not led in a way that creates a culture where people feel trust…Without trust, there is no collaboration. Without trust, ideas do not go anywhere even if someone finds the courage to mention them at all.” – Scott Berkun

Leaders that take risks:

“Second, most managers/leaders are risk averse. This isn’t their fault, as most people are risk averse. We have evolved to survive and that typically means being conservative and protecting the status quo.” – Scott Berkun

“But without the ability to take risks, innovation and progress can not happen. Even if you have a good idea, to bring it into the world is risky.” – Scott Berkun

These two things resonate with me. In order for there to be trust there needs to be good communication. Understanding each other on the team is a big part of that. Understanding each others communication styles is also very important. I recently took a Leadership DISC survey to better understand myself. It was a bit of an eye opener when I read the words used to describe me when I’m under pressure are: “abrasive, demanding, and aggressive” not exactly flattering. Some other things that the DISC report said that I am a “Change agent–looks for faster and better ways”; “People oriented”; and “Forward-looking and future-oriented”. I’d like to share the entire report with my team and find ways to improve my communication and grow as a leader. It’s through these things that I feel will help build a great company.

Today I spent half my day at an Entrepreneur Organization (EO Seattle) event.  Mark Moses was the speaker.  Mark spends the majority of his time working one on one with CEO’s and organizations helping them with strategies to grow their business, grow revenue and increase profits. He knows what makes ordinary people do extraordinary things. He knows that a CEO doesn’t grow a business, but grows people who grow the business. Mark is known for using unconventional strategies for making his point. When he wanted his young company to “think big” he rode into the annual meeting atop an 8,000 African elephant. The elephant immediately took root in the company’s culture and “thinking big” became second nature.

Mark went over 1) Vision; 2) Cash; 3) Right People in Right Jobs; 4) Relationships; and 5) Learning

I’m only going to touch on a couple points…

Continuous Learning

While Mark didn’t spend a lot of time talking about learning, I really think that is one of the key things that an entrepreneur, CEO, key employee, should always be doing.  It doesn’t matter what size company you are running be it a $250K, $1M+ and even a $100M+ company.  You’ve got to have a thirst for knowledge. I’ve learned an incredible amount from being in the Entrepreneur Organization over the last few years. There are things that I’ve learned from other successful entrepreneurs who are running $1M+ companies that have allowed me to side step potential landmines. Also working inside a place like thinkspace has also helped me make invaluable connections to other entrepreneurs. We’ve also created a place where there is easy access to learning. Each month is have a Brown Bag Lunch in which we bring in successful entrepreneurs who share their amazing and inspiring stories.

Right People in Right Jobs

Prior to attending the event, we were instructed to take a Leadership DISC Survey and then review the Behaviors and Motivators Report.  The report is designed to increase the understanding of an individual’s talents. My report is 47 pages long. I think it’s incredibly interesting to understand what makes me tick and the report provides me suggestions on how to communicate with others. I want to be a good communicator, I also want my team to have good communication. I’m looking into hiring a business coach to work with my team so that we can have amazing communication within our team and with our customers. The other key thing is hiring the right people. Mark suggested that you ask yourself a question “Do you ever compromise on quality when hiring?”. He also said that you should make a list of people that you wish you could hire.  Hiring mistakes are very costly and in EO there’s a motto: “Slow to hire, quick to fire”.

If you’re interested in hearing more or seeing the packet that Mark provided to us, swing by and tell you more!

I’m delighted to introduce Danielle Bartoletti to our thinkspace Community.  Danielle is a Coug. (yes, Dawgs and Cougs can co-exist on the same team).  Danielle went to WSU and has BA in Sociology with a concentration in Business and Economics.  My personal feeling is that this type of degree is excellent because life and business is all about people, and it takes a smart person to understand people, connect and make meaningful relationships. It also takes a person with a good heart which Danielle has! Danielle also has extensive work experience in the hospitality and event planning industries working at the Hilton and Washington National Golf Course (Home of the Huskies!).  Danielle is a golfer who can drive it 200 yards and is now in charge of planning the 3rd Annual thinkspace Golf Tournament! Please stop by, say hello and welcome her to our community!

My Anti-Creativity Checklist from Youngme Moon on Vimeo.

I was reading the Harvard Business Review and stumbled into this video about “The Anti-Creativity Checklist“. I watched this video and loved it, so I wanted to embed it over here on the thinkspace blog. Everywhere I look, I see companies with imagination, innovation, and out-of-box thinking. We’ve got an amazing community inside thinkspace! When you come by to visit thinkspace, ask to see our team wall where everyone on the team contributes ideas regardless of title. It’s our “Dream it”, “Like it”, “Work it” wall.  Post-its full of ideas, sometimes crazy ideas!

Listed below are the ways to be ordinary, soul-less, and boring.

  1. Play it safe. Listen to that inner voice.
  2. Know your limitations.
    • “I’m not an artist.”
    • “How should I know?”
    • “I’m not an innovator”
  3. Remind yourself:  It’s just a job.
  4. Make skepticism your middle name.
    • “Our organization’s not set up for that.”
  5. There’s no evidence that will work.
  6. Respect history. Always give the past the benefit of the doubt.
    • “We’ve always done it that way” — (I absolutely hate this one)
    • “The industry will never accept it.”
  7. Stop the madness before it can get started.
    • “How are you going to solve the human resource problem?”
  8. Been there, done that. Use experience as a weapon.
    • “You haven’t been around long enough to understand how things work.”
  9. Keep your eyes closed. Your mind too.
    • “I refuse to get caught up in all these technology fads.”
  10. Assume there is no problem.
    • “It was a tough year, but we can blame the economy.” (I hate this one too! No excuses!)
    • “Our next product release will kickstart our turnaround.”
  11. Underestimate your customers.
    • “Our customers are not going anywhere.”
    • “They are not ready for that.”
    • “They aren’t used to that.”
  12. Be a mentor. Give sound advice to the people that work for you.
    • “Just keep your head down and do your job.”
    • “I got where I am by not rocking the boat.”
  13. Be suspicious of the “creatives” in your organization.
    • “Those guys just don’t understand business.”
  14. When all else fails, act like a grown-up.
    • “I really don’t have time for this.”

thinkcamp 2010 is going to be a blast! We are now only days away from this amazing annual event and we know that this year will be the best yet! And, that is all thanks to our wonderful sponsors!

Matt Heinz, owner of Heinz Marketing has been an awesome contact over the past six months. He attends all of the great networking events and sponsors only the very best (wink, wink)! His company does some absolutely amazing stuff for their clients  that really deliver results above and beyond their clients’ expectations! Heinz can help you identify and execute a sales & marketing strategy focused on driving cost-effective, accelerated growth for your business. To find out more, head over to Heinz Marketing’s website. Also, follow Matt on Twitter.

D.T. Marshall Printing is another amazing company who are creating prints for us for thinkcamp 2010. They’ve got  28 years of experience in the commercial printing business under their belts and create quality work every time! thinkspace uses them for all of our printing needs! Check out DT Marshall’s website.

Grand Peking will be serving the food at thinkcamp 2010 and we are extremely excited to be offering a free lunch thanks to them! They specialize in Mandarin and Sichuan cuisine for both Chinese and American tastes. Check out their menus at Grand Peking’s website.