Monthly Archives: August 2012

How Grandma Would Transform Your Business in JUST ONE DAY.

Embrace an Entirely New Business Leadership Style.

“My, What Big Business Plans You Have Grandma.”

I have been thinking (and writing) a lot lately about ways that entrepreneurs, start-ups and business owners can improve their business (go from good to great) by practicing exceptional business leadership skills. To transform your business, now is the perfect time to go back to your start-up roots and rekindle the passion you had when you first launched your business. Go “old school” to revisit the time-tested to grow a successful business that you may have gotten away from in the hustle and bustle of operating your business.
You can’t get any more “old school” then asking: “What would grandma do to transform my business if I put her in charge for just one day?
Embrace the Art of Gift-giving: Grandma would come to the office with gifts. Did you ever bake and bring in a homemade apple pie (yum, pie!) for your employees? Did you ever knit a sweater to celebrate an employee’s birthday, or a special accomplishment? Grandma always knew how to welcome people in her home with open arms. She made us feel special, wanted, and appreciated! How do you make your employees, clients, vendors and partners all feel special, like grandma?
Do you make your newly hired employees feel good about joining your team? Do you welcome each and every one of your new hires? I’m not talking about shaking their hand as you lead them to their cubicle (cage) but MUCH more. Do you take them out for breakfast their first day on the job?? How about taking the time to walk them around and introduce them to everyone? Do you check in with them in the middle and end of their first day on the job, to see how they are doing? Do you ask new employees what their experiences were like their first day on the job?

Hug Your Employees: We’re not talking about physically hugging. In today’s politically correct business culture that would mean opening yourself up to a sexual harassment claim. Do you emotionally embrace your people, make them feel good about you as their leader? After all, your people spend more time at your place of business then they do in their own homes. Show them how much you appreciate them. Grandma cooked us our favorite meals. You can certainly reward, recognize, coach, mentor, and promote people. Give people increased responsibilities. Make all your employees feel equally special. DON’T pull a grandma and show favoritism to that one most favored grandchild. In the grandparent business, it’s called providing unconditional love. In best business practices, it’s called visionary business leadership.
Love Your Family Unconditionally: Your people are going to make mistakes. Instead of punishing them, follow grandma’s lead. Encourage them to be their best, take risks, embrace the discomfort of tackling the unknown. challenge them to fail greatly. Grandma would go even farther. She would get to know their hopes and fears, talk to them often about the very real challenges they face in balancing their home and work life. Lend a shoulder to lean on, and provide an ear to bend as you truly LISTEN.
Sit Up Straight, Make Eye Contact, and Behave: Grandma would provide much-needed executive coaching and professional development best practices to your management team. She’d start by telling you to stop slouching, sit up straight and make eye contact! Be proud of who you are and your accomplishments “deary” and always look others square in the eyes so they can trust you.

Grandma would remind you that your word is a promise, and trust is absolutely critical not only in business, but in life. She would then lecture you (lovingly) about how we could all do with a bit more trust in one another these days. She’d also add that it’s important to say “please” and “thank you.” She’d also remind us the business world wouldn’t have had to deal with Bernie Madoff, Enron, Adelphia, Global Crossing, Halliburton, British Petroleum, etc. if more of us business owners acted with the highest ethical standards. She would pinch your cheek and suggest that the most profitable businesses operate in the highest ethical standards and true leaders take their business along a course guided with a strong moral compass you summarized as “DO GOOD.”
No Pink Slips, Just Pink Booties: Grandmas don’t fire, layoff, right-size, down-size, re-engineer, off-shore, or outsource their people…ever! Once they bring you into the family, you’re family. If an employee was valuable enough to bring into your organization, then they should always be able to contribute especially if you develop them professionally. Every grandma know that! They don’t believe in pink slips, but they may just knit your infant a pair of pink booties.
Understand the Value of a Dollar: Grandma survived the Great Depression. Could you? Manage your business finances with a militant view towards keeping your debt down. Watch your cash flow and manage your business expenses. Take advantage of limited time free offers, make purchases using bonus points, take advantage of promotional offers, and use coupons. Have you ever heard the phrase: “Watch your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves?” That’s a grandmother speaker. They also like to say: “penny wise, pound foolish.” That means NOT cutting back on the expenses needed to take care of your people. In fact, a grandma would know it makes brilliant business sense to spend money for special gifts on your employees to make them feel special and appreciated.
Conflict Resolution With Fresh-Baked Cookies: If two co-workers aren’t getting along, Grandma would make them sit together and work through their issues over her freshly baked cookies and home made hot cocoa. Honestly, how could ANYONE stay angry after enjoying piping hot chocolate chip cookies served with steamy homemade hot cocoa (and whipped cream?)
Well, the workday is winding down and Grandma’s work is done. Your people are happier than ever, your customers feel a lot better about you and your business, and things are humming along. Grandma would love to stay, but she has to get home to watch Wheel of Fortune and Skype with her grandson, who just left for his first year of college.
She’s turning your business back over to you, and ask you when you are coming to visit. You tell her “soon grandma” but first you have to plan employee appreciation luncheons, client roadshows, a town hall meeting, and find worthwhile causes for you and your employees to get active in. Watching her treat people the way she does all day long really affected you. You promise her you’ll change as a business owner. She just smiles, pats you on the cheek and says: “of course you will.” Because that’s what grandmas do.
Here’s to your continued business success.

Improve Business Performance in ANY Economy

Improve Your Business Performance in ANY Economy.

How Entrepreneurs, Start-ups and Business Owners Can Achieve Business Success.

If you are an entrepreneur, start-up, or small business owner, chances are these last 4 years have hit you hard. Are you struggling to improve your business performance? Have clients stopped buying your products and services, or they are cutting back drastically on the business they used to give you. You might be struggling to find qualified leads that you can close to generate new business, or you are having a tough time converting repeat customers into raving fans.
Are you struggling to find creative ways to engage your employees? Do you ask yourself how you are going to motivate your people to find creative solutions to your business challenges? Perhaps you have lost suppliers, or vendors you relied on have gone out of business? Do you feel like every networking event you go to is a room full of financial advisers and sales reps from that legal services MLM? Most likely, it’s been a combination of “all the above” as you grapple with strategies to turn your business around and improve your business performance.

Fear not! Following are proactive steps you can take to improve your business performance, unstick your business and get on the fast track to renewed progress heading into the fourth quarter of 2012
Take a fresh NEW look at your client list: Identify those clients that are your most profitable. Come up with a “Best Customer Profile” and write down in as much detail as you can all of the qualities, features, and attributes of your ideal, most valuable customer. Where are they located, why do they buy from you, why do they stay with you, what if anything special do you do to service and maintain their account (and keep their loyalty?) This ideal customer profile will serve as your target / “bulls-eye” for identifying highly qualified SIMILAR contacts at organizations for you to aggressively target. Be as specific as possible to build a complete picture of your most profitable client.
Identify your most valuable (profitable) clients: Chances are, they are your most loyal customers. They always refer new business your way, speak well about the service you provide, have given you testimonials. They are your “Apostles.” Make an apostle appreciation tour, take these clients out to lunch and let them know you’re here for them. DON’T ask for referrals. It’s a “Thank you for your support” lunch, not a shakedown.
Change your approach…if it ‘aint broke…BREAK it!: There is a word for doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. It’s called INSANITY. Re-evaluate ALL of our systems, processes, and procedures. Why do you continue to do things the way you used to? If your answer is laziness, sheer habit, or that’s how it’s always been done then it’s time to find a new approach. There are no SACRED cows in today’s 21st century global contract workplace. When organizations with 100,000 employees can go out of business seemingly overnight and entire industries implode, the old ways of doing things are not a safeguard but a recipe for disaster.
Create a networking plan: When you created a profile of your most profitable client you should also capture information on where these individuals meet, through their professional Associations, business clubs, organizations. You must identify these key annual trade shows, conferences, and events. Make a point of attending as many as you can.
Become a subject matter expert: Write! Write! Write! Become an authority of any and all subjects that are near and dear to the hearts of your target profiles. You want to author blogs, articles, white papers, anything you can to get your name in front of your ideal client profiles. While you’re at it…SHAKE THINGS UP! If you spend a lot of time in your office, GET OUT! Schedule as many meetings out of the (home) office as you possibly can. While you’re out, spoil yourself. Buy yourself something nice. Go to an afternoon matinee. Do something you wouldn’t normally do, as a way to say “thank you” to YOU!
Revisit your partner strategy: Identify the organizations in your professional network with complementary products and services that fit nicely with your offerings. If you already have partners and there is no synergy then cut those relationships loose. While we on the subject of products and services. Now is a great time to rethink your product and service offerings. Is there something you can offer that you aren’t? Ask your apostles on your appreciation tour. Take an END-OF-YEAR look back NOW. Don’t wait for the holidays. You’ll be drowning in eggnog, Depression, and holiday distractions. Volunteer what little spare time you have to charitable organizations, not-for-profits, your local church, synagogue, homeless shelter, senior citizen center. Go back to school! Take a class, learn a new skill, attend a Webinar. You should always find time to develop new skills.
Re-engage your industry: Pursue the trade Associations that serve your industry with renewed vigor. If you haven’t already done so, consider renewing your membership in your local Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Club, Toastmasters, Rotary Club, whatever! Become active on a Committee, help plan their end-of-year gala. Now is NOT the time to stick your head in the sand, and hope that things will get better. Stay focused, re-evaluate your business, keep active but working aggressively. Channel your efforts towards re-discovering your clients and the reasons you started your business.
Here’s to your continued success.

How to Achieve Business Success

How to Achieve Business Success.

How Entrepreneurs, Start-ups, and Small Business Owners Can Achieve Business Success.

Recently, I have been receiving a lot of inquiries from business owners, start-ups and entrepreneurs about the best practices they can use to launch a successful business. Following is a list of my favorite recommendations and strategies that my clients use to plan, launch and grow a successful start-up business. Happy reading.
Launch your business where you were born/grew up: Chances are you will be more successful if you launch your business win your home town or the place where you have lived most of your life. Given that home is where you made most of your contacts, conducted most of your past business dealings, and feel most comfortable as your base of operations this makes perfect sense. Of course, if you receive funding from a Venture Capital firm and they ask you to relocate, you will follow the money to go where they ask you.
Dare to fail greatly: I have found that a universal trait shared by all successful entrepreneurs is an innate willingness (actually a desire) to take tremendous risks. all the most successful entrepreneurs embrace the creed of failing greatly. They understand that taking risks is a win-win proposition. Either they achieve phenomenal results OR…even by falling short they achieve results fr beyond what most people unwilling to risk failure can ever hope to achieve. This does assume that people actually learn from their mistakes, which is a true pattern of behavior for most successful serial entrepreneurs.
Pursue and combine what you love doing and are best at: Spend considerable time in self-assessment to determine the things that you are MOST passionate about, and are best at. The intersection of these two will tell you where you should focus on starting a business. It simply is NOT enough to be passionate about something if you lack expertise, nor is it enough to be technically competent but lack passion for something. Only when you are most engaged, feel the greatest passion about something you are really good at will you ensure that you will be successful.
Have a (written) plan: Your business plan is your road map, and an effectively written one will serve as your blue print for business venture success. You do NOT have to have an overly detailed and complex plan. A concise, sharply focused business plan can and should be approximately 20 pages, and you can always have a more detailed version which is significantly longer.
Prepare to work harder than you EVER have before: Entrepreneurs that I provide business coaching to are always amazed just how hard it is to launch a business. Well, the fact is you never will work as hard in your life as you do when you launch a business. BUT…you will never be happier, feel more engaged or happy when you succeed, as when you go into business for yourself.
Here is a GREAT article from Forbes…Start Up Success: Is Hard Work Enough
Surround yourself with nurturers: Since you will be working harder than you ever have before and invest all of your time, effort, resources and savings into this life calling, the LAST thing you need is for relatives and/or friends who try to convince you to give up. People in your social circle will tell you you are making a mistake. You need to tell those people they have to support you or, you must distance yourself from them as you plan and launch your business. Starting a business is hard enough. It is a huge monster of a roller-coaster ride of emotional highs and lows. It is going to be hard enough for you to maintain your positive mindset as you go through the process of starting your own business, without having nay-sayers doubting you at every turn and warning you to quit.
Maximize your investment through self-funding: After you have thoroughly research your proposed business and completed your 20 page business plan, you should have a clear understanding of the total capital required to launch your business and support your business venture for the first year of operation. To the extent possible you will have to contribute as much up front investment yourself, with business partners, and family & friends, then pursue other traditional sources such as local/community banks. also consider non-traditional lending sources such as advertising agencies, business incubators, and micro-lenders.
Ask tough questions, be BRUTALLY honest: Two of the hardest questions that any entrepreneur can ask her/himself as they plan to start a business are:
1. Why am I choosing to launch this specific business; and
2. What makes me uniquely qualified to be successful starting this business.
The answers that you provide to these two critical questions will enable you to effectively articulate your vision statement, mission statement, and your unique selling proposition. your answers will also help craft your personal brand as a business owner, and scope the promotional copy you will use to market/sell your business.
Following are some very useful and inspirational resources for your business start up pursuits:
* Top 10 list of why some business ventures succeed (and why many more fail) from BusinessInsider.
* An article on failing gracefully: “Failing Gracefully: The Secret to Start Up Success.”
What do you think? What additional characteristics do you think make for business start up success?

Increase Worker Productivity With a Human Capital Audit

Unleash the Untapped Talents of Your Employees.

Increase Worker Productivity With a Human Capital Audit For Competitive Advantage.

Imagine if every single one of your employees, from front-line staff to senior management, was 100% engaged.   What would that look like?

Your people would all be doing work that enabled them to be true to their values and beliefs.  Each employee would be able to contribute to the success of your organization, by focusing on their core competencies.  Can you envision the collective power you would unleash?  No laggards…just a company filled with rising stars.  Absenteeism would drop instantly, worker defections to your competitors would cease entirely.  Entire Departments would start exceeding quotas.
You would become a preferred employer that people would bang down your door to work at.   Employee recruitment would be so easy, because you could hand pick the most talented people you wanted.
What if I told you this CAN be achieved and WITHOUT the tremendous cost and resource drain of investing in hard-to-measure training and professional development programs?  That long sought after seat at the Management Table would suddenly materialize for you, Human Resources executive.
Does this sound too good to be true?  Well, it’s not.  There is a beautifully simple tool called a human capital development audit that you can implement immediately to achieve these results.

Here’s how it works…for each employee in your organization, you match the roles and responsibilities of the job they are employed in with their skills, core competencies, and experience.  Be as expansive and broad as possible in identifying their skills.  Consider their academic training, software skills, certifications, professional development, leadership, cultural diversity…everything!
Imagine that we would need to create a human capital audit for our fictitious customer service representative, Jessica Rivera.   After identifying all the roles and responsibilities she is tasked with accomplishing, you then detail her skills.  Use a spreadsheet and simply line up the roles and skills along one another in facing columns.

These should be obtained through interviews with Jessica, her current (and any past) managers, her coaches/mentors, peers she has worked with, etc.

After that is accomplished you drill down to identify which skill sets that she possesses are NOT being utilized.  In order to maximize the positive impact to your organization from an ROI perspective, you should prioritize those skills that she is NOT currently using, based on her ability to generate revenues, reduce costs, improve your organization’s processes, etc.
Next, you must develop an action plan for all of the highest priority non-leveraged skills that Jessica possesses.  For each untapped skill, set a time-frame for completion and any contingencies, or potential barriers that would prevent her (and her Manager) from making those untapped skills part of her newly redesigned job description.

In Jessica’s case, she is adept at using her persuasive, outgoing personality to suggest complimentary products to cross-up sell to her company’s existing clients.  It’s her nature to take care of her clients, and she naturally knows how to ask probing questions. She also has an uncanny knack for being a leader on her Team.  She’s the one that other customer service reps in her unit turn to for advice, even before they engage their own line managers. These are powerful skills to have in a customer care manager and yet, they are not being leveraged in this scenario.
For this human capital audit to work, it has to be embraced by your senior management, owned by Human Resources, and conducted for ALL departments and levels of your organization, to maximize your firm’s labor productivity.  It should be reviewed quarterly, and merit-based compensation plans should be developed for employees that integrate untapped core competencies into their new roles and responsibilities.
In these challenging economic times, even if you only achieve a 50% increase in each employee’s productivity the positive potential impact to your company would be great.
I guarantee that a 50% increase in your entire organization’s productivity will force Senior Management to take notice of Human Resource’s role as a strategic partner in driving value through the organization.

Creative Problem Solving for Small Business Owner Success

Critical thinking and creative problem-solving for entrepreneur, startup and small business owner success.
Entrepreneurs and small business owners always ask me what they and their employees can do, to achieve maximum success in their
business planning and business strategy.  While having a well developed business plan is a head start and using social media,
interactive marketing, and traditional marketing all help, I encourage them to apply critical thinking and creative problem-
solving which begins by asking “What?” and “What if?”
Business owners have got to get used to giving  up control to their employees by listening more and talking less.  The best performing organizations see their employees as a goldmine of resources to give them lasting competitive advantage,. Unsuccessful failing business owners see staff as head count, a cost to be managed, manipulated, and down-right controlled.
Instead, unleash your people’s talents. Solicit their ideas constantly.  I read an article recently about a small business that gave their employees a month of paid leave to come up with ideas (on their own or in teams) to present to the company as a competition.  The best ideas were implemented immediately and everyone participated, even the owners and everyone had equal voting power.
How do you encourage your employees to constantly think what they can do to better service your clients, care for your partners,vendors, suppliers?
How do you address problems that don’t even exist?  Do you have employees train in various functional departments using job rotations?
Do you send your employees out to spend a day with your top customers to better understand their challenges? Do you take your top employees to breakfast,
ask your people what they like most/least about your company?  Rather than brainstorming, a way to solicit employee feedback is brain writing.
you present a challenge to your people in a closed door setting, they are write down their proposed solutions, then you take their papers back,
shuffle and redistribute. Give their ideas to others who comment on the proposed solution, and you do this 3-4 times then as a whole discuss
each stream of ideas and comments and agree to the best ideas to pursue/implement.
There is one approach to problem solving called the “DO IT approach:
D Define the problem you and your team are facing
O Open your mind & apply creative techniques to come up with as many implementable solutions as possible
I Identify the best/most practical solution(s)
T Transform: implement the solution using an action plan and transform your business
The Four (4) P approach is another good process your business can go through for team-based creative problem-solving.
Product/Service Perspective: your team assesses your products and services with by concentrating on whether or not something’s WRONG with your product
Planning Perspective: Are our business plans faulty?
Potential Perspective: If we increase our workload, projects, service offerings, how would we achieve this?
People Perspective: Do we have the right people in the right jobs to be successful?
Another creative approach to problem solving is called the star-bursting method or the 5W & H approach that journalists apply:
Start out with your central business problem/challenge then have your team go through a complex process of answering: Who, what, where, when,
why and how…do we resolve this key business challenge.
Have your team apply metaphorical thinking. Metaphorical thinking is an approach where your team comes up with seemingly divergent unrelated
business practices, process, ideas, or concepts.  For example, you’ve heard the phrase “time” is “money.” But is it…really? Of course not.
The synergistic connection is something you have to make a formal connection on by equating the value of your staff’s time, effort, and resource investment as well as the potential monetary or business impact of accomplishing solutions.
Dare your people to be great. Just allowing your employees to be good enough leads to failure due to poor business performance.  That is what Jim Collins wrote about in his book: “Good to Great.”
Top performing organizations that dare to be great embrace a culture highlighted by owners, managers, and staff that as a whole:
* Take Calculated Risks: Reach for the stars, if you fall short you still reach the moon.
*  Set STRETCH Goals: Every employee goal should be a stretch. Meaning if they work as hard as they can, challenge themselves
constantly then they MAY achieve their goal. Even if they “fail” they still will exceed your wildest expectations on what each
employee and your business as a whole can and will achieve.
* Embrace Change: Whether you like it or not change is constant in today’s global transformational workplace and business climate.
Technology changes at unheralded speed and competition can come from anywhere.
* Run Towards Challenges: The best businesses and leaders lead their people into challenges not running away to hide from them.
Case in point, managers who fail always react to economic hardship by laying off employees and cutting back spending on marketing and advertising.
Best run businesses see challenging times as a chance to steal their competit5iors’ best talent and expand their promotional programs to achieve maximum
results because their competitors are all cutting back.  Buck conventional wisdom. If it ‘aint broke, break it!
* Lean Into Discomfort: It’s easy to be a business owner that seeks stability. Unfortunately we simply cannot run our business by going back to what used to work.
Pursuing the status quo is a surefire recipe for failure. you can tell the worst business owners who, in response to being asked why they practiced certain business
processes, procedures, and practices their response is: “that’s how things have always been done around here.”
* Take on New responsibilities: Top performers are always looking for new roles and responsibilities. Top performers are inner directed, and they
seek out opportunities to develop new skills, acquire additional talents, certifications, and training.
* Find GREAT Allies: The best businesses and visionary leaders are small business owners who are always looking for successful partnerships.  They see
every relationship as a chance to strengthen their own organization. These leaders are philosophically committed to the value of relationship-building
and serving others. their strong corporate culture is based on giving back to the community, doing good, and encouraging all their employees to make a difference in the world.
According to Steve Jobs: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. . .”

Create Your Personal Mission Statement for Career Success

Create Your Personal Mission Statement for Career Success

A critical step in your journey of career exploration is to be able to define what values and beliefs you hold most dear.  The development of a personal mission statement is an absolute necessity for you to adequately prepare for a career in the highly volatile twenty-first century global workplace.

The personal mission statement is an elegantly powerful resource.  It is simply a two to three sentence declarative statement about the ideals, values and beliefs you hold true.  It defines your goals in your personal and professional career.  Best of all, you can leverage it in order to match your ideals and what you are seeking in a career with the appropriate culture of an organization that matches your beliefs and values.  It is succinctly, your elevator pitch, a summarized sales pitch of the product called YOU.
Thomas Moore said: “It isn’t enough that we have meaningful work. What is also required is work that satisfies the soul.”  You can begin the process of writing a personal mission statement with a technique called “visualization”, a technique that world-class athletes use.  Ask yourself what your ideal dream job would like.  Where is the office located, what type of people would you be working with?  What are you doing every day, what does your workplace look like. Will you be working alone or with a diverse group of people? Are you traveling? Working abroad?
After you have given this considerable thought, you must write it ALL down.  A plan that is not written down is a…dream.  Once you write it down it takes on a life of its own, a permanence that you can match your progress against.  Next, identify your likes and dislikes, the things you are most passionate about.  Have you been involved with any social causes?  Think back on  any volunteer work you’ve done.   Be sure to write this all down, as well.
Your goal is to develop a mission statement that enables you to define your DREAM job.  A dream job constitutes good work that will enable you to combine the following attributes: the ability to achieve excellent performance, the ability for you to express your ethics, and a pleasing sense of engagement (as defined by Howard Gardner, psychologist at Harvard University.)

Next, you will need to evaluate your goals. Start with your classes, and academic focus.  Then slowly expand that by thinking about all the jobs you’ve had, and times when you were working and you felt the most energized, fulfilled, and rewarded for the work you did.   You will need to identify your strengths and areas for improvement, new career opportunities, the ideal industries for you to work in and the companies you want to work for, as well as your preferred working style.
Ask yourself what values and beliefs do you hold most dear.  What principles do you choose as the foundation for the rest of your life, and your career by extension? What would I like to accomplish and contribute?  What would I like to be?  How do I fit into my family and community?  What are my strengths?
Steven Covey defined the process of crafting one’s mission statement as: “connecting with your own unique purpose and the profound satisfaction that comes in fulfilling it.”

After you have done all of the above, you are ready to apply this to the following four-step process:
1. Identify Your Past Successes
2. Identify Your Core Values
3. Identify Your Contributions to Society
4. Identify Your (Short & Long-Term) Goals
Complete this process and you will have developed your very own personal mission statement.  An example:
My personal mission is to live completely, honestly, and compassionately, with a healthy dose of realism mixed with the imagination and dreams that all things are possible if one sets their mind to finding an answer.”
Your personal mission statement gives you a concise, effective elevator pitch summarizing what you define as your key life’s goals, values, and beliefs.  This is a powerful summary of what you hold dear, that forms the foundation (along with your core competencies and success stories) of how you will sell yourself during interviews, in a confident and assertive manner.
Here are three excellent resources to help you on your way to crafting your personal mission statement:


Here is to your continued career success.