The Triumphant Trio: Mastering Quality, Service, and Cost in Your Business Strategy

Today, we’re delving into a compelling business conundrum: the challenge of providing high quality, high service, and low price all at once. Traditionally, businesses are told to pick only two of the three – quality, service, and cost. Usually, offering a premium product or service implies higher prices, and low-cost providers often compromise on either product quality or customer service. So, is it possible to excel in all three areas? Let’s explore with real-world examples.

Amazon, Costco, IKEA, Southwest Airlines, Xiaomi, ALDI, Google, Zoom, Spotify, and Trader Joe’s have all notably disrupted their sectors by providing a balance of quality, service, and price that is typically considered unattainable. From cost-saving online distribution models to strategic partnerships and economies of scale, these companies have leveraged various tactics to buck the conventional wisdom.

The key challenges in simultaneously combining high quality, service, and low price arise from economic and logistical factors. Economically, premium materials and top-notch service typically come at higher costs, which must then be passed on to the customer. Logistically, managing a broad supply chain and maintaining a consistent level of service can be complex and resource intensive.

What if a company chooses just two of the three? This is indeed a common strategy. The choice largely depends on the company’s core values and the market segment it targets. For example, if your target market values high quality and superior service, and is willing to pay a premium, focusing on these two areas would make sense. Alternatively, suppose your audience is price-sensitive but still demands quality. You might choose to offer high-quality products at a competitive price, while keeping customer service at a functional, rather than exceptional, level.

Size and scale are vital in achieving all three—quality, service, and cost. Larger operations often mean economies of scale, allowing companies to purchase materials in bulk at reduced costs or spread operational costs over a larger output, lowering per-unit costs. However, this is not a hard and fast rule, as some smaller, agile businesses can also excel in all three areas through innovative approaches and efficient operations.

Contrary to popular belief, significant funding is not always required to achieve the ‘trifecta.’ While funding can accelerate growth and provide a safety net for experimentation, what’s crucial is strategic investment and smart resource allocation. For example, focusing on technological advancements can lower costs and improve product quality and customer service.

So, how can you apply these concepts in your business? Here are three actionable steps:

Identify Your Core Competencies

Understand what you do best and leverage those strengths to deliver exceptional quality or service while optimizing cost.

Innovate Your Business Model

Look for unconventional ways to manage your supply chain, deliver your product or service, or structure your operations to decrease costs without sacrificing quality or service.

Scale Strategically

Plan your growth to maximize your economies of scale and maintain your commitment to quality and service.

Remember, the ultimate goal is to deliver value to your customers. Whether that’s through quality, service, or price will depend on your unique business context.

For a more in-depth discussion on optimizing your business strategy, reach out to Activate Group, Inc. We specialize in helping businesses identify and overcome their unique challenges to achieve sustainable growth and success.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore, CEO of Activate Group, Inc., is a top business growth expert, serial entrepreneur, and author of The Leader Launchpad. He specializes in helping businesses create a culture of accountability and foster innovation to achieve sustained success.

Crafting Your Corporate Dream Team: Harnessing the Power of Advisory Boards and Boards of Directors

In the world of C-suite leaders, the terms Board of Directors and Advisory Board often come up. However, effectively understanding the difference and leveraging each remains a mystery to many. Whether you’re piloting a small startup or steering a multinational corporation, the value of a well-structured board cannot be understated. For any business, from thriving startups to established multinationals, there’s often confusion in the boardroom – specifically, between the roles of a Board of Directors and a Board of Advisors. Both serve crucial but distinct functions within an organization. Understanding these differences can supercharge your company’s success.

A Board of Directors carries formal authority and is legally responsible for governing your company, making binding decisions, and appointing key executives. They’re your organization’s guardians, meeting legal and fiscal responsibilities. Their role carries significant legal and financial implications.

On the other hand, a Board of Advisors is the mentor to your organization. They offer strategic advice, industry expertise, and potentially lucrative connections, but their recommendations are not binding. The Advisory Board’s role is consultative, often comprised of industry experts, experienced businesspeople, or influential individuals providing valuable insights.

Consider Lisa, the CEO of an emerging tech startup. Packed with tech veterans, her Advisory Board provided invaluable insights to navigate the industry’s competitive landscape. Meanwhile, her Board of Directors ensured the company stayed compliant and financially healthy during its aggressive expansion phase.

What is the Difference Between Boards of Directors vs. Boards of Advisors

While the Board of Directors and the Board of Advisors might sound similar, they have different organizational roles, responsibilities, and legal obligations.

Authority and Decision-Making:

Board of Directors: They hold formal authority in an organization and are legally responsible for its operations. They make binding decisions about the company’s strategy, appoint and remove key executives (including the CEO), approve budgets, and ensure the company meets its legal and fiscal responsibilities. In a publicly traded company, the directors are elected by shareholders. They have fiduciary duties to the shareholders, and their decisions have significant legal and financial implications.

Board of Advisors: On the other hand, this board serves in a more informal and advisory capacity. They provide strategic advice, industry expertise, and networking opportunities to management, but they don’t have the authority to make decisions on behalf of the company. They have no fiduciary duties, and their role is often consultative. They’re usually composed of industry experts, experienced business people, or other influential individuals who can provide useful insights and connections.

Legal Responsibilities:

Board of Directors: The members of this board have formal legal responsibilities and liabilities. They must act in the best interests of the company and its shareholders. They can be held legally accountable for their decisions, especially if they lead to financial loss or violate laws or regulations.

Board of Advisors: Since they don’t make decisions on behalf of the company, they typically have no legal responsibilities or liabilities associated with their role. They are there to provide advice and counsel, not to oversee operations or make binding decisions.

Structure and Formality:

Board of Directors: This board tends to be more structured, with formal roles (such as Chair, Secretary, etc.), scheduled meetings, and official minutes that are recorded and maintained. There are often legal and regulatory requirements about how the board is run.

Board of Advisors: This board tends to be less formal and more flexible. There may be fewer scheduled meetings, and the format of those meetings may be more relaxed. There are typically fewer regulations governing this board.

Selection and Tenure:

Board of Directors: Directors are typically elected by shareholders and serve for a specified term, which can vary depending on the company’s bylaws. They may be re-elected for additional terms.

Board of Advisors: Advisory board members are usually selected by the company’s management or the board of directors. They serve at the pleasure of the company and can be removed more easily. Their tenure may not be defined, or they may be appointed for a specific period.

Pros and Cons

Each type of board comes with its pros and cons. A Board of Directors provides robust governance but may also bring regulatory complexity. An Advisory Board offers strategic insights without legal complications but lacks decision-making power.

When designing these boards, consider their size, diversity, expertise, and dynamics. Carefully select members who understand your industry and complement each other and your management team.

When to Use Which: Directors, Advisors, or Both?

Smaller or early-stage companies might prefer an Advisory Board for their strategic insights without the formal responsibilities that come with a Board of Directors. As your company matures and the governance needs become more complex, a Board of Directors becomes essential.

High-growth companies with aggressive expansion plans might find the strategic decision-making authority of a Board of Directors particularly useful. Conversely, those with a niche focus might value the specialized advice an Advisory Board can provide.

Some companies combine their advisory and directorial boards. While this might seem efficient, it often leads to confusion over roles, potential legal implications, and governance challenges. Maintaining separate boards ensures clear delineations of responsibility and function.

Best Practices for Compensating Boards

When it comes to compensating board members, the best approach varies depending on your company’s size, sector, and the board member’s role. Generally, Board of Directors members receive a combination of cash compensation and equity. The equity part aligns their interests with the company’s long-term success.

Advisory Board members, in contrast, are often compensated with a smaller equity stake, with or without additional cash compensation. Since their role is consultative rather than decision-making, their compensation is typically less than that of Directors.

Remember that compensation should be competitive enough to attract top talent but balanced against your company’s financial capabilities and objectives.

Actionable Steps and Takeaways

(1)  Evaluate your business’s needs, size, and growth plans.

(2)  Define clear roles for each board type.

(3)  Choose board members based on their ability to fulfill these roles and the value they add.

(4)  Regularly review your board’s structure and performance.

(5)  Balance compensation to attract top talent while aligning with your company’s financial capabilities and long-term objectives.

In Conclusion

Understanding and effectively implementing Boards of Directors and Advisory Boards can give your business a significant strategic advantage. Remember, these boards are not static – they should evolve as dynamically as your business.

Whether you need the legal oversight and strategic decision-making of a Board of Directors, the tailored advice and industry expertise of an Advisory Board, or both, choosing the right board structure can drive your organization to unprecedented success.

Corporate governance isn’t a ‘set it and forget it‘ concept. It needs to be as dynamic as your business, evolving with every stage of growth and challenge.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore, founder and CEO of Activate Group Inc., is a leading business growth expert. With an uncanny ability to help businesses unlock potential, Howard is your strategic partner in achieving exponential growth. He is the author of “The Leader Launchpad” and has worked with over 300 companies across multiple industries.

 

Breaking Barriers: Strategies for Middle Market Consumer-Based Businesses to Disrupt Traditional Industries

As a middle-market consumer-based business, it can be challenging to stand out in a crowded market and increase profitability. However, by adopting innovative strategies, these businesses can disrupt traditional industries, increase market share, and become more profitable.

One inspiring example is Thrive Market, an online membership-based retailer that offers organic, healthy, and sustainable products at affordable prices. They disrupted the traditional grocery industry by providing a unique value proposition to their customers.

Thrive Market achieved this by leveraging technology to reduce their operational costs and offer products at lower prices than their competitors. They also focused on customer experience by offering personalized recommendations, easy-to-use search functions, and a convenient online shopping experience.

Another way Thrive Market disrupted the industry was by focusing on social responsibility. They offer a free membership to low-income families, donate a portion of their profits to non-profit organizations, and source their products from sustainable and ethical suppliers.

So, how can middle-market consumer-based businesses apply these strategies to their business? Here are some ideas:

Leverage Technology

Look for ways to use technology to reduce operational costs, offer products at lower prices, and provide a convenient online shopping experience. Embrace innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation to stay ahead of the competition.

Prioritize Customer Experience

Focus on providing personalized recommendations, easy-to-use search functions, and a convenient online shopping experience. Build a loyal customer base by investing in customer service and support.

Embrace Social Responsibility

Develop programs that help your customers achieve their social responsibility goals. This could include sourcing products from sustainable and ethical suppliers, offering free memberships to low-income families, or donating a portion of your profits to non-profit organizations.

In conclusion, middle-market consumer-based businesses can disrupt traditional industries by leveraging technology, prioritizing customer experience, and embracing social responsibility. By following the example of companies like Thrive Market, these businesses can increase market share, disrupt the industry, and become more profitable.

Call to Action: If you’re a middle-market consumer-based business looking to disrupt the industry and increase profitability, consider adopting these innovative strategies. By doing so, you can break barriers and achieve new levels of success.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore founded Activate Group Inc., a consulting firm that helps businesses achieve their potential through strategic planning and leadership development. He is the author of “The Leader Launchpad” and has worked with over 300 companies across multiple industries.

Why Knowing Your Leadership Style is So Important

In today’s business world, successful leadership isn’t just about holding a high-ranking title and having your name on the door. It’s about your capabilities, your qualities, and, most importantly, your leadership style. As I often say, “You don’t want to be a leader who’s just filling buckets; you want to be the one who’s building pipelines.” Understanding your leadership style allows you to create these pipelines, leading to better team performance and overall business success.

What is Leadership Style?

Leadership style is the manner and approach of providing direction, implementing plans, and motivating people. It’s how you communicate, manage, respond to crises, and make decisions. Each style has strengths and weaknesses; understanding your own can help you be more effective and impactful.

There are several recognized leadership styles, but let’s focus on two: transformational and authoritative.

Transformational leaders inspire and motivate their teams to exceed ordinary expectations and achieve extraordinary results. They’re champions of change, often challenging the status quo and encouraging innovation. Shore aptly describes these leaders in “The Leader Launchpad” when he says, “They build a culture where every team member feels they’re part of something bigger than themselves.”

Authoritative leaders, conversely, are clear, concise, and firm in their guidance. They set high standards and closely monitor their teams. They command respect, and their word often goes unquestioned.

Discovering Your Leadership Style

Identifying your leadership style can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. An executive coach can be an invaluable resource in this journey. They can provide an outside perspective, helping you see your strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement.

Working with a coach involves self-reflection, observation, and feedback. They’ll help you understand your behavioral patterns and how they affect your team. Once you know your style, you can refine your approach, aligning your leadership style with your organization’s needs and culture.

Case Study: From Good to Great Leadership

Let’s consider a real-life example. A senior executive at a leading tech firm, Jane was well-respected but struggled with team engagement and performance. She worked with an executive coach to understand her leadership style.

Jane discovered she was predominantly an authoritative leader, which, while effective in some situations, created a barrier between her and her team. Her coach guided her to incorporate elements of the transformational style into her leadership. She began to foster a more inclusive, open environment, promoting innovation and encouraging her team to take ownership of their work.

Over time, Jane saw remarkable improvements. Her team became more engaged, productivity improved, and morale skyrocketed. The combination of authoritative and transformational leadership was a winning strategy for Jane.

How to Apply These Concepts

Now it’s your turn to make a change. Here are three actionable steps to find and refine your leadership style:

Self-Assessment: Reflect on your behavior, decision-making processes, and how you interact with your team. Seek honest feedback from colleagues and subordinates.

Get a Coach: Consider working with an executive coach who can provide valuable insights and guidance. They can help you navigate your leadership journey.

Experiment and Adjust: Try out different strategies and observe the results. Not every technique will be right for you, but through trial and error, you’ll find your unique approach.

By understanding your leadership style, you can become a more effective, respected leader, leading your team to new heights of success.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore is the CEO of Activate Group Inc., a business and executive coaching firm. As a seasoned business executive and coach, he has helped countless leaders discover their leadership styles and unlock their potential. Shore is the author of two books, “The Leader Launchpad” and “Your Business is a Leaky Bucket,” providing practical strategies for business success.

Scaling Your Business: Strategies for Breaking the $50M Ceiling

In the world of business, growth is the ultimate goal. Every entrepreneur dreams of building a company that generates millions in revenue, employs hundreds of people, and dominates its market. But the harsh reality is that most businesses never make it past the $10 million revenue mark, and many end up selling in frustration before they ever reach that point. In this article, we’ll explore why this is the case, share some lesser-known case examples, and provide ideas on how a company can separate itself from the pack.

The Statistics on Scaling

Before we dive into why most businesses fail to break $10 million in revenue, let’s look at some statistics. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 32 million businesses in the United States, but only around 0.5% of those companies ever surpass the $10 million revenue mark. Even more startling, less than 0.1% of businesses reach $50 million in revenue. These numbers make it clear that the path to significant growth is challenging.

Reasons for Stagnation

There are many reasons why businesses struggle to grow beyond a certain point. One of the most significant factors is a lack of scalability. Many companies are built around a single product or service, which limits their ability to expand and diversify. They may also lack the infrastructure and systems necessary to handle rapid growth, which can lead to operational inefficiencies and customer dissatisfaction.

Another common problem is a failure to differentiate from the competition. In crowded markets, standing out and attracting new customers can be difficult. Businesses that fail to offer unique value propositions or exceptional customer experiences will likely struggle.

In some cases, businesses may be limited by external factors, such as regulatory barriers or a lack of available funding. However, more often than not, the biggest obstacles to growth are internal. Founders and leaders may lack the vision, skills, or resources to take their companies to the next level.

Some Case-Examples on Falling Short

While it’s easy to point to well-known companies that have achieved massive success, such as Amazon or Google, there are many lesser-known examples of businesses that have struggled to grow beyond a certain point. One such example is the DVD rental company Redbox. Despite achieving tremendous success in the early 2000s and expanding to over 40,000 locations, Redbox has struggled to compete with streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. In 2020, the company’s revenue was just $564 million, far below the $2 billion it generated in 2012.

Another example is the grocery delivery service FreshDirect. Despite being one of the pioneers in the online grocery space, the company has faced stiff competition from Amazon, Walmart, and others. In 2019, FreshDirect’s revenue was just $752 million, well below the $1 billion mark it had hoped to reach by that point.

What Companies Can Do to Separate Themselves and Grow 

So, what can companies do to separate themselves from the pack and achieve significant growth? Here are a few ideas:

(1)  Build a Scalable Business Model: Companies built around a single product or service are unlikely to grow significantly. Businesses must be scalable and diversify their offerings to break through the $10 million revenue mark.

(2)  Differentiate from the Competition: Standing out in a crowded market is essential. Companies offering unique value propositions or exceptional customer experiences are more likely to attract and retain customers.

(3)  Develop a Strong Company Culture: A strong company culture can help attract and retain top talent, which is essential for growth. Companies prioritizing employee engagement and development are more likely to achieve long-term success.

(4)  Embrace Technology: In today’s digital world, technology is essential for growth. Companies that embrace technology and leverage it to improve efficiency, enhance the customer experience, and expand their offerings are more likely to achieve significant growth.

(5)  Focus on Customer Acquisition and Retention: Acquiring new customers is important, but retaining existing ones is equally essential. Companies prioritizing customer retention and loyalty are more likely to achieve sustainable growth.

(6)  Build Strategic Partnerships: Strategic partnerships can help businesses access new markets, technologies, and resources. Companies that develop strong partnerships with complementary businesses are more likely to achieve significant growth.

(7)  Invest in Marketing and Branding: Building a strong brand and investing in marketing is essential for growth. Companies that effectively communicate their value proposition and differentiate themselves from the competition are more likely to attract new customers and achieve significant growth.

In conclusion, while the statistics may seem discouraging, it’s important to remember that achieving significant growth is possible. By building a scalable business model, differentiating from the competition, developing a strong company culture, embracing technology, focusing on customer acquisition and retention, building strategic partnerships, and investing in marketing and branding, businesses can separate themselves from the pack and achieve their growth goals.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore is the founder and CEO of Activate Group Inc., a business consultancy firm that helps entrepreneurs and business leaders achieve their growth goals. With over 30 years of experience in executive coaching, leadership development, and business strategy, Howard has helped countless businesses achieve significant growth and success. He also authorizes two books, “The Leader Launchpad” and “Your Business Is A Leaky Bucket.”

State of Expansion: Key Steps for a Successful Business Transition to a New State

As the CEO of Activate Group Inc. and author of “The Leader Launchpad.” As someone who’s seen the intricate mechanics of business growth from a unique vantage point, I’m here to share some indispensable steps for successfully expanding your business to a new state.

Understand State-specific Laws and Regulations

Before setting foot into a new state, it’s essential to understand its laws and regulations – employment laws, taxes, permits, and licenses. Failure to comply can lead to penalties and tarnish your brand reputation. For instance, I once knew a small technology company that made a rushed expansion to another state without fully understanding the employment laws there. They ended up with a lawsuit that cost them dearly.

Actionable Step: Hire a local attorney who specializes in business law and can guide you through the legal maze.

Market Research

Understanding the market landscape in the new state is critical. Each state has unique cultural, social, and economic factors influencing consumer behavior. Remember Target’s failed expansion into Canada? It’s a classic case of neglecting market research leading to misreading consumer needs.

Actionable Step: Conduct comprehensive market research to understand local consumer behavior, needs, and competition.

Consider Logistical Requirements:

Moving to a new state means dealing with new logistical challenges. This includes supply chain management, transportation, and warehousing needs. Underestimating these can lead to operational bottlenecks.

Actionable Step: Build a robust logistical plan considering the geographical and infrastructural realities of the new state.

Assemble a Strong Local Team:

A local team understands the market pulse and can provide valuable insights. They can also help in establishing connections and building relationships.

Actionable Step: Prioritize local hiring. If you’re moving existing employees, ensure they have the resources to adjust and settle in the new state.

Community Engagement:

Integrating your business into the local community can significantly enhance your brand reputation. I recall a retail brand that launched in a new state and won the community by sponsoring local events and contributing to community development.

Actionable Step: Plan for CSR activities or community events that resonate with the local community.

Conclusion

With careful planning and execution, expanding your business into a new state can be rewarding. As a C-suite leader, understanding and executing these steps can turn this daunting task into a successful business adventure.  I invite you to click on the following link and check-out the short video I created for one of our trusted partners and just posted.  It will provide you with more comprehensive content and perspective. Additionally, following are the links to the first two articles in this series of three; Recognizing the Signals to Expand and Evading Common Pitfalls.

If you found these insights useful and want more such strategies, please consider subscribing to our newsletter at www.activategroupinc.com. Remember, a successful business is built not just on big leaps but on meticulous steps.

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore is the CEO of Activate Group Inc., a recognized authority on business growth, and the author of “The Leader Launchpad.” Howard has led countless businesses towards exponential growth with his unique insights and strategies. His passion lies in helping business leaders turn their ambitions into achievements, making him a trusted advisor for businesses on their path to success.

The Decisive Second Step: Evading Common Pitfalls when Expanding to a Second Location

Congratulations on the success of your first business location. With flowing revenues and a high-spirited team, an expansion is the next logical step. But as you embark on this exciting venture of opening a second location, it’s paramount to anticipate potential pitfalls and strategize to avoid them, ensuring a smooth continuation of your brand’s success story.

As the CEO of Activate Group Inc and advisor to many high-growth organizations, I am often asked how best to approach the opening of a new location. The second location may be harder than the first. And this decision usually takes longer to become profitable and is more costly than imagined. In this article, I share with you some crucial insights that could change the trajectory of your business expansion plans.

Pitfall 1 – Not Replicating the Success Blueprint

The first mistake businesses often make when opening a second location is overlooking the replication of the successful elements that made the first location thrive. A real-life case in point: A popular sandwich shop famous for its distinctive, homey interior design opens a second outlet in a bustling city area but neglects to replicate its unique ambiance. The regulars walk in expecting the same comforting atmosphere but are met with a stark, impersonal setting. The result? A downturn in customer retention and, ultimately, revenue.

Actionable Step: Document the key elements contributing to your brand’s success, like interior design, customer service approach, and product presentation. Ensure these elements are appropriately integrated into your new location while tailoring them to the local context.

Pitfall 2 – Overlooking Market Research

Second, never underestimate the power of thorough market research. Just because a concept worked wonders in one location doesn’t mean it will work in another. A classic example? Walmart’s failed venture in Germany. Despite being a big hit in the United States, Walmart couldn’t resonate with the German market due to cultural disparities.

Actionable Step: Invest time and resources in rigorous market research before you expand. Understand the local market dynamics, customer preferences, and competition. If possible, test your strategies through a pilot program.

Pitfall 3 – Spreading Resources Thin

Rushing into opening a new location without a clear evaluation of your resource capacity can lead to disaster. Both locations may underperform due to insufficient financial, human, and operational resources.

Actionable Step: Undertake a comprehensive resource evaluation. Develop a well-structured business plan, complete with budgeting and financial forecasting. Make sure you have a robust team to manage the new outlet.

Pitfall 4 – Ignoring Entry Strategies

The path to a successful second location also depends on the entry strategy. In the restoration industry, we’ve seen that companies who either entered with a strong client base or acquired an existing company with a client base and team have been most successful.

Actionable Step: Evaluate the pros and cons of various entry strategies. Whether you choose organic growth or an acquisition, make sure you have a strong foundation – a solid client base and an efficient team.

Pitfall 5 – Overlooking Talent Pool Considerations

Lastly, never underestimate the importance of talent pool considerations in your new location. A client once chose a location near his beach house, which though pleasing to him, failed to attract the right talent due to the long commute and unaffordable living costs relative to their compensation structure.

Actionable Step: Consider the availability of talent, commute times, and living costs when choosing your new location. Remember, a thriving team is fundamental to the success of your new venture.

In Conclusion

As a CEO, your primary goal is to make strategic decisions that drive sustainable growth. By steering clear of these common mistakes when expanding to a second location, you set the stage for continued success.

Expansion is a bold and ambitious step, but it needs to be taken with caution, planning, and foresight. I invite you to click on the following link and check-out the short video I created for one of our trusted partners and just posted.  It will provide you with more comprehensive content and perspective.

For more insights, strategies, and advice on growing your business, please consider subscribing to our newsletter at Activate Group Inc. (click-here).

 

About the Author: Howard M. Shore is the CEO of Activate Group Inc., a seasoned business leader, and the author of “The Leader Launchpad.” With years of experience helping companies achieve exponential growth, Howard is passionate about sharing his insights to empower other business leaders to achieve their potential. His approach combines strategic analysis with hands-on, actionable steps, making him a trusted advisor for companies aiming for success.

 

Unfolding Opportunities: Recognizing the Signals to Expand Your Business to a New Location

I am Howard M. Shore, CEO of Activate Group Inc. and author of “The Leader Launchpad.” With years of experience strategizing and guiding businesses towards growth, I have gathered some key signals indicating it’s time to expand your business to a new location.

Consistent Business Growth

If your business has seen consistent growth over the years, it strongly indicates that you’ve developed a successful business model. Remember the story of Starbucks? They started with just one store in Seattle and noticed a steady rise in sales. Recognizing this as a sign of successful growth, they ventured into new locations and are now globally recognized.

Actionable Step: Conduct a thorough financial analysis to ensure sustainable growth.

High Market Demand

If you’re constantly turning down orders or your customers are traveling long distances to reach you, it’s a clear signal that there’s a high demand for your product or service.

Actionable Step: Conduct surveys to identify the demand in potential locations.

Healthy Cash Flow

Expanding to a new location requires a significant financial investment. If your business has a healthy cash flow and good profit margins, it might be time to consider expansion.

Actionable Step: Prepare a financial forecast to estimate the cost of expansion.

A Successful Team

 A confident, efficient team that can take on challenges is a great asset. If you have such a team and can replicate it in a new location, expansion could be on the cards.

Actionable Step: Evaluate your team’s readiness and willingness to expand.

Attractive Market Conditions

 If market research indicates favorable conditions—like a growing target audience, low competition, or advantageous real estate prices—in another location, it might be a sign to expand.

Actionable Step: Research and analyze the market conditions of the potential location.

 

In Conclusion...Recognizing and strategically acting on these signs can open new avenues of success for your business. As a business leader, it’s up to you to seize these opportunities and navigate the expansion journey confidently.

If you found these insights helpful and are looking for more business growth strategies, consider subscribing to our newsletter at Activate Group Inc. After all, recognizing the right opportunities at the right time is half the battle won in business.

 

About the Auther:  Howard M. Shore is the CEO of Activate Group Inc., a celebrated author, and a seasoned business growth expert. With a keen eye for recognizing business opportunities and a wealth of strategies at his disposal, Howard has been instrumental in turning growth goals into reality for numerous businesses. He continues to inspire and guide business leaders, making him a trusted name in the world of business growth and expansion.

Innovative Strategies for Middle Market B2B Companies to Disrupt Traditional Industries

Staying relevant and profitable in traditional industries can be challenging for middle-market B2B companies. However, with the right strategies, these companies can increase their market share, disrupt the industry, and ultimately become more profitable.

One example of a middle market B2B company that disrupted the industry is LaSalle Solutions, a leading provider of technology lifecycle management services. They achieved this by redefining what it meant to be a technology lifecycle management company.

One of the ways LaSalle Solutions achieved this was by focusing on innovation. They introduced new services, such as IT asset disposition, which helped their clients dispose of outdated technology in an environmentally-friendly way. They also developed a cloud-based platform allowing clients to manage their technology assets more efficiently.

LaSalle Solutions also focused on customer experience, investing heavily in customer service and support. This allowed them to differentiate themselves from competitors and gain a loyal customer base.

Another way LaSalle Solutions disrupted the industry was by embracing sustainability. They developed a program called “GreenNurture“, which helped clients reduce their carbon footprint by donating used technology to schools and non-profits.

So, how can middle-market B2B companies apply these strategies to their business? Here are some ideas:

Focus on Innovation

Look for ways to improve your services and processes by embracing new technologies and exploring new ideas. Invest in research and development to stay ahead of the curve and cater to evolving customer needs.

Prioritize Customer Experience

Invest in your customer service and support to differentiate yourself from your competitors. This will help you gain a loyal customer base and increase your market share.

Embrace Sustainability

Develop environmentally-friendly programs that help your clients reduce their carbon footprint and achieve their sustainability goals. This will not only differentiate you from your competitors but also help you connect with customers who prioritize sustainability.

In conclusion, middle-market B2B companies can disrupt traditional industries by focusing on innovation, customer experience, and sustainability. By following the example of companies like LaSalle Solutions, middle market B2B companies can increase their market share, disrupt the industry, and ultimately become more profitable.

 

About the author:  Howard M. Shore is a business growth expert who has helped numerous companies succeed in their industries. With over 30 years of experience in business growth and leadership, Howard is a sought-after speaker and advisor who has worked with companies of all sizes and industries. He is the author of the book “The Leader Launchpad: Five Steps to Fuel Your Business and Lift Your Profits.”

From EOS to the Next Level: How an Advisor Can Help CEOs and Business Owners Achieve More with Less Effort

As a CEO or business owner, you may have already implemented the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) or similar approaches like Scaling Up and experienced significant progress in improving your leadership operating systems, meetings, metrics, and priorities. However, there’s always a next level, and you may wonder if there’s a better, faster, and more comprehensive approach to take your business to the next level of excellence.

At Activate Group, we believe that evolving as leaders, teams, and businesses is crucial to success. Growth is like software versions, and there’s always a better version that can produce more output with the same effort. EOS is a great starting point for smaller companies, but you need a more comprehensive approach to scaling as your business grows and becomes more complex.

You likely need a different approach to take your business to the next level. Thanks to Marshal Goldsmith for pointing out that what got us here won’t get us there. We must go beyond EOS execution systems and look at the broader business ecosystem. We must advance soft systems, such as culture, team cohesiveness, and human capital management. And hard systems such as strategy and cash. We believe leaders need to shape and evolve their business ecosystem to grow with the company.

A challenge for successful CEOs is that they usually perform well in two of the six systems: strategy, execution, cash, culture, human capital management, and team cohesiveness. They must work on the other four systems to achieve significant growth and profits. Unfortunately, overconfidence in themselves and their teams can cause them to miss this critical development aspect.

Many people fail to get results with advisors because they don’t invest in the right type of advisor. There are coaches, consultants, and trainers, each with unique strengths and approaches. To succeed we must combine all three aspects into a customized formula focused on outcomes instead of processes. This comprehensive approach helps identify and address the gaps in your business ecosystem and help you achieve your goals with less effort.

Choosing the right advisor can be challenging, especially with so many options. Referrals are an excellent starting point, but your advisor may not be the right fit for you. You need to tailor the approach to your specific needs and goals, ensuring you receive the support and guidance needed to succeed.

It is important to focus on the desired outcomes and not just the process. Often, we confuse activity with productivity. I see many leadership teams following the selected approaches and experiencing less than desired results. And many coaches and consultants focus on the mechanics of the process and are blind to the lack of outcomes. The right advisor will help you see your blind spots and challenge you to address them.

A great example was our helping a leadership team see that there was an opportunity to improve their business model through pricing. After some resistance, the CEO saw an opportunity to change his pricing structure. They have a recurring customer model that increases average monthly recurring revenue by 20%, ultimately improving his business valuation by approximately $40M.

In conclusion, while EOS and similar approaches can be a great starting point for smaller companies, successful CEOs and business owners must look beyond basic execution systems to take their businesses to the next level of excellence. At Activate Group, we provide a comprehensive approach beyond EOS to examine all aspects of your business ecosystem. Contact us today to learn how we can help you achieve your goals with less effort and drive significant growth and profits.

 

About the author: Howard M. Shore is a business growth expert who has helped numerous companies succeed in their industries. With over 30 years of experience in business growth and leadership, Howard is a sought-after speaker and advisor who has worked with companies of all sizes and industries. He is the author of the book “The Leader Launchpad: Five Steps to Fuel Your Business and Lift Your Profits.”

Coaching vs. Consulting: Which One Do You Need and How to Choose the Right Advisor

Are you looking for guidance to improve your business? There are two main approaches to consider: coaching and consulting. While both aim to help individuals or organizations achieve their goals, their methods and outcomes differ. Understanding the differences and choosing the right advisor can significantly impact your success.

Coaching empowers individuals and leadership teams to discover solutions to challenges and develop their potential. Coaches are trained to listen actively, ask powerful questions, and provide constructive feedback. They encourage self-reflection, self-awareness, and both personal and team growth. Coaches often work one-on-one with clients but can also facilitate group coaching sessions.

For example, a business owner who wants to improve their leadership skills may hire a coach specializing in leadership development. The coach would work with the client to identify their strengths and weaknesses, set goals, and create an action plan. The coach would then support the client in implementing the plan, providing guidance and accountability along the way.

Consulting, on the other hand, is more directive and focused on providing expert advice and solutions. Consultants are typically subject matter experts with specialized knowledge and skills. They analyze problems, identify opportunities, and make recommendations based on their expertise. Consultants often work with teams or entire organizations, and their work may result in tangible deliverables such as reports or action plans.

For example, a company that wants to implement a new technology system may hire a consultant who specializes in that area. The consultant would analyze the company’s needs and capabilities, evaluate options, and recommend a specific solution. The consultant may also support implementing the new system and training employees.

So, how do you know which approach is right for you? Coaching may be the way to go if you need someone to help you develop your skills, overcome challenges, or achieve personal growth. Consulting may be the better option if you need expert advice, specialized knowledge, or a specific solution to a problem.

Once you have determined which approach you need, and the answer may very well need to be a hybrid, the next step is to choose the right advisor. Here are some tips to help you find the right fit:

Expertise

Look for an advisor with expertise in your area of focus. An advisor specializing in your field or industry will better understand your challenges and goals.

Credentials and Experience

Check their credentials and experience. Look for advisors who are certified and have a track record of success.

Style and Approach

Schedule a consultation. Talk to the advisor and understand their advising style and approach. Make sure you feel comfortable with them and that they fit your personality and goals well.

References

Ask for references. Talk to other clients the advisor has worked with to get an idea of their experience and results.

In conclusion, coaching and consulting are both valuable approaches to improving your business. Understanding the differences and choosing the right advisor can make a significant impact on your success. By following these tips, you can find an advisor who will help you achieve your goals and reach your full potential.

 

About the author:  Howard M. Shore is a business growth expert who has helped numerous companies succeed in their industries. With over 30 years of experience in business growth and leadership, Howard is a sought-after speaker and advisor who has worked with companies of all sizes and industries. He is the author of the book “The Leader Launchpad: Five Steps to Fuel Your Business and Lift Your Profits.”

Disrupting Traditional Industries: Strategies to Increase Market Share and Profitability

In the fast-paced business world, staying relevant and profitable in traditional industries can be daunting. However, it is not impossible. With the right strategies, any business can increase its market share, disrupt the industry, and ultimately become more profitable. This article will explore ways to change your business in traditional industries and make it stand out in the market.

Let’s take the example of WhiteWave Foods. This company started as a small organic farm in Boulder, Colorado, and grew into a leading food and beverage company with a market capitalization of over $10 billion. WhiteWave Foods disrupted the industry by redefining what it meant to be a food and beverage company.

With an increasing number of people becoming health-conscious, WhiteWave Foods recognized the need for plant-based alternatives that could replace dairy products. One of the ways WhiteWave Foods achieved this was by focusing on plant-based dairy alternatives. They introduced their signature almond milk, which quickly became popular among consumers. This move not only helped WhiteWave Foods gain market share but also disrupted the dairy industry.

Another way WhiteWave Foods disrupted the industry was by embracing sustainability. They became one of the first food and beverage companies to publicly commit to sustainability goals, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, and waste. This helped them connect with consumers who prioritize environmentally-friendly products and gain a competitive edge in the market.

WhiteWave Foods also focused on innovation, constantly exploring new ways to improve its products and processes. They invested in research and development and introduced new products such as non-dairy yogurts, plant-based creamers, and coffee creamers. This allowed them to stay ahead of the curve and cater to evolving consumer preferences.

So, how can you apply these strategies to your business? Here are some ideas:

Focus on Innovation

Embrace new technologies and explore new ways to improve your products or services. Look for ways to add value to your customer’s lives and make their experience more enjoyable.

Embrace Sustainability

Become more environmentally friendly by reducing waste, using sustainable materials, and investing in renewable energy. Consumers are increasingly aware of the impact of their purchases on the environment, and are more likely to support companies that prioritize sustainability.

Offer Alternatives

With an increasing number of people looking for options and choice, consider offering alternatives to your products. This could open up new markets and help you gain market share.

Collaborate with Other Companies

Look for opportunities to collaborate with companies in your industry or related industries. This could lead to new ideas, products, and services you wouldn’t have thought of on your own.

In conclusion, changing your business in traditional industries can be challenging, but it is not impossible. By focusing on innovation, embracing sustainability, offering alternatives, and collaborating with other companies, you can disrupt the industry, increase your market share, and ultimately become more profitable.

 

About the author: Howard M. Shore is a business growth expert who has helped numerous companies succeed in their industries. With over 30 years of experience in business growth and leadership, Howard is a sought-after speaker and advisor who has worked with companies of all sizes and industries. He is the author of the book “The Leader Launchpad: Five Steps to Fuel Your Business and Lift Your Profits.”

From Surviving to Thriving: How to Adopt a Growth-Oriented Mindset During Downturns

In times of economic downturns, many companies make the mistake of focusing solely on cutting costs. While this may provide short-term relief, it often comes at the expense of long-term growth. Adopting a growth-oriented mindset is crucial to thriving in today’s competitive marketplace, even during difficult times. In this article, we’ll discuss steps companies can take to shift from a cost-oriented approach to a growth-oriented one, using a real company example to illustrate our points.

First, it’s important to recognize that cutting costs alone is not a sustainable solution. In fact, it can even harm a company’s future prospects. For example, let’s look at the case of Kodak. When digital photography emerged as a major threat to its traditional film-based business, Kodak responded by cutting costs and reducing investments in R&D. This strategy provided short-term relief but ultimately proved disastrous. Kodak failed to adapt to the changing market, and the company eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

Instead of focusing on cost-cutting, companies should adopt a growth-oriented mindset that prioritizes innovation and investment in the future. Here are some steps to help make this shift:

Reframe the Conversation

One of the first steps in becoming growth-oriented is to reframe the conversation within the company. This means moving away from discussions solely focused on cutting costs and instead emphasizing growth opportunities. This can be done by setting new goals and KPIs focused on innovation and growth rather than just cost-cutting.

For example, let’s look at the case of Amazon. In 2001, the company faced a major challenge when the dot-com bubble burst. Many companies were cutting costs, but Amazon took a different approach. Instead of focusing solely on reducing expenses, the company set a goal to achieve profitability by Q4 of 2001. This goal helped shift the conversation within the company and encouraged employees to think creatively about achieving it. Amazon ultimately succeeded in reaching this goal, setting the stage for the company’s future growth.

Invest in R&D

Another important step in becoming growth-oriented is to invest in R&D. This means dedicating resources to developing new products and services that can help the company stay ahead of the competition. While R&D can be expensive in the short term, it’s critical for long-term growth.

For example, let’s look at the case of Apple. In the early 2000s, the company faced a challenging market, with declining sales of its core products. Rather than cutting costs, Apple invested heavily in R&D, developing new products like the iPod and the iPhone. These products not only helped to turn the company around, but they also set the stage for Apple’s continued success in the years to come.

Focus on Customer Needs

A growth-oriented mindset also means focusing on customer needs. This means developing products and services that solve real customer problems rather than just trying to cut costs or maximize profits.

For example, let’s look at the case of Airbnb. When the company first started, it faced significant challenges in convincing people to rent out their homes to strangers. Rather than giving up, Airbnb focused on understanding the needs of its customers and developing solutions that addressed their concerns. This included developing a robust verification process to ensure the safety of hosts and guests, as well as building a community of users who could vouch for the quality of the service. This customer-centric approach helped Airbnb to overcome its early challenges and paved the way for its continued growth.

Embrace Risk-Taking

Finally, a growth-oriented mindset means embracing risk-taking. This means being willing to take bold steps to pursue growth, even if it means taking on some degree of risk.

For example, let’s look at the case of the clothing retailer Zara. In the early 2000s, the company faced stiff competition from other fast-fashion retailers. Rather than focusing on cost-cutting, Zara took a bold step and invested heavily in its supply chain and logistics. This allowed the company to dramatically reduce its lead times, meaning that it could bring new designs to market much faster than its competitors. This focus on speed and innovation helped Zara to become one of the world’s most successful clothing retailers.

In conclusion, while it can be tempting for companies to adopt a cost-oriented approach during economic downturns, it’s important to remember that this approach can ultimately harm a company’s long-term growth prospects. Instead, companies should adopt a growth-oriented mindset that prioritizes innovation, investment in R&D, customer needs, and risk-taking. By doing so, they can position themselves for success both during difficult times and in the future.

As Howard M. Shore said in his book “The Leader Launchpad,” “Leaders who understand the importance of growth over cost-cutting are the ones who will thrive in today’s rapidly changing business environment.” So let’s embrace growth-oriented thinking and help our companies succeed, even during the toughest times.

 

About Howard M. Shore: Howard M. Shore is a growth-oriented leader passionate about helping companies achieve long-term success. With over 30 years of experience in business leadership and entrepreneurship, Howard is a trusted advisor to CEOs and business leaders worldwide. He is the founder of Activate Group Inc., a consultancy that helps businesses across a range of industries to adopt growth-oriented strategies. Howard is also the author of two books, “The Leader Launchpad” and “Your Business is a Leaky Bucket,” both focused on helping leaders drive growth and innovation within their organizations.

How to Increase the Value of Your Business Before You Sell

How to Increase the Value of Your Business

Is selling your business a future consideration? If you are like many business owners, you know you will one day sell your business. Too often owners take time for granted. They always believe they have more time to consider how best to prepare their businesses for sale. The flaw in their thinking is that they really do not know whether the best time to sell is this year, next year, or 50 years from now. I have heard so many stories from people who were offered a lot of money to sell their businesses and turned down the offer, only to find five years later that they could only attract fractions of that offer. It is important to understand how to increase the value of your business before you sell, and it’s equally as important to determine the right time to sell.

3 Primary Reasons For Buying A Business

The primary reason for buying a business is return on investment. They will pay what they consider is a fair price based on 3 primary factors:

  1. Does the purchase remove a business barrier?
  2. Does the purchase eliminate competition?
  3. Is the purchase a strategic fit in terms of :
  • Geography
  • Customers
  • Employees
  • Tangible and/or intangible assets

7 Ways to Increase Valuation

You should build your business as if it might sell tomorrow. By continuing to improve and monitor the following valuation levers you can increase the value of your business and possibly identify when it is time to sell:

1. Profit Growth Rate

Profit Growth Rate – how predictable and consistent is your profit and revenue growth rate? The higher, more predictable, and consistent the pattern, the better. These are two crucial measurements that determine the health of your business. Great businesses are able to reliably predict their profit growth rate, and are rewarded handsomely when they are ready to sell. Understanding, monitoring, and improving the predictability and consistency in your profit growth rate will help increase business value for the right sale.

2. Industry or Market Segment

Industry or Market Segment Attractiveness – What does the future look like? What do experts say about it? How is your company uniquely positioned to get its fair share? Positioning your business in a growth industry and targeting the right market segment will be an important factor in the continued success of your company. Being in a growth market will improve the valuation for your business as buyers will pay more for companies in growth markets.

3. Low (Relative) Market Share

You want to be seen as a business leader, but you don’t want to be seen as a risk because you have saturated your portion of the market. As a business effectively continues to grow and increase its market share, the more profit potential they have.

4. Customer Concentration

Customer Concentration – a company must not be overly dependent upon a single customer or customer group. Customer (or revenue) concentration can be one of the biggest risks to your company’s profit. No customer should make up 10% or more of your revenue. With the right business strategy and tactics, you’ll be able to bring that number down to 2%. Having a low concentration risk will increase your business valuation, making buyers more likely to pay more.

5. Recurring Revenue

Recurring Revenue – this is one of the most favorable ways to increase business valuation because it supports consistency and predictability. It also allows for focus on decreasing delivery costs to customers over time – thus increasing profitability through time. The higher the level of recurring revenue, the more you will increase the value of your business before you are even ready to sell.

6. Company Size and Location

In terms of revenue, employees and geographic locations play a role in salability. Buyers see smaller companies as more of a risk than larger companies. The same goes for geographic location. If the business is in an area with a dwindling economy or even a lower population than one with a larger / steadily increasing economy, they automatically see this as a risk to potential profit that they more than likely won’t be willing to take.

7. Management and Executive Team

Management – seasoned and experienced managers in the industry with a track record of success are very important. It is hard to find great management talent. Skilled employees and executives often times will know exactly what it takes for the business to see growth in profit, making them key aspects to a new business owner. Buyers want to see a team of employees who are willing to work hard and are dedicated the overall success of the business. Hold on to your top-performing players and offer them incentives to want to be with the company long-term.

Need help with increasing the value of your business before your sell?

An executive business coach can help increase profit margins, improve predictability, and increase valuation to properly prepare your business for sale. Call Howard Shore, one of the top business coaches in the United States, for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business and become a more effective leader.

Does a Remarkable Company Culture Equate to Superior Performance? You Bet It Does!

I’ve had the opportunity to work with many amazing clients over my decades of coaching businesses and their executives, and I’ve been able to learn and confirm many eye-opening things about what made them great. One thing that proves true time and time again is this: The organizations that exemplify sustained superior performance all have a remarkable culture—without fail! While it is true that you need products or services to make money, the prevailing attitudes and behaviors that characterize your people are what fuel success. In other words, the core values practiced daily have helped top companies be more successful than their competition.

A Case in Point – “XYZ Company”

The best way to get your attention is through the eyes of a real company. This company, which for our purposes shall simply be referred to as XYZ Company, significantly underperformed against its competition. Its curse was that its performance level provided an adequate income for its main shareholder and leaders. What it did not want to address was what everyone who visited the company could see.

XYZ Company had approximately $1 Billion in sales. I met with the senior management team to understand the circumstances faced by the company. They were looking for someone to conduct training with their sales force. While it would be nice for me to have an engagement to develop 150 salespeople, I always first assess the company’s real need. What this company needed was more sales, not training and development.

The facts were alarming. I found that the company did not have clear goals, did not fire non-performers, did not have good hiring policies, did not tie compensation to performance, etc. In the end, I asked the magic question, “What are your company’s core values?”

The silence that followed was a bit deafening. The leadership had never defined or implemented core values to make this company great. What resulted were unwritten core values that were unflattering:

Mediocrity – Salespeople were not working hard or trying to be the best. When selling to customers, they would give in on price because they believed they were second-rate compared to their competition. Very few salespeople would proactively go to training, and when the company offered it, they would not show up.

No Accountability – If people did not hit their sales targets, it did not matter, particularly if they had been with the company for several years. They were just “forgiven” and still paid handsomely.

Mistrust – The organization would not follow-through on initiatives. They would talk big and act small. Consequently, when they said they wanted to create change, nobody took them seriously. Additionally, while the leadership indicated they had a “consumer-oriented” strategy, 80% of its products were “commodity-based.” The company generally operated as if their strategy was “low cost.”
Disrespect – Senior Management would begin initiatives only to have the CEO come and usurp them.

XYZ Company was growing slower and had lower margins than their competition even though their product was just as good, and in some cases, better. Many of their employees, including senior management and salespeople, came from the competition. While they thought sales training would solve their problem, they were not facing the core issue, which was values. My recommendation was to address the real issue first so they could get a real return on their training investment.

Find Your Core Values

As you can see with XYZ Company, if you do not plan your core values, they will happen anyway, and the results can be devastating. When it comes to a company’s culture, the longer you wait to define and instill the right core values in your organization, the harder it will be to achieve your ideal culture and maximize performance.

This does not need to be a prolonged exercise, and I do not recommend copying someone else’s values. I have worked with many companies. Typically, we bring together the senior management team and identify and define core values within 1 to 4 hours, depending on how large the group is. It can be fun and is critical to understanding what is important to driving your company’s vision.

Here is an example of one of my small-company clients’ core values, whose growth is more than 20% per year:

Trust is Everything – Decide, speak, and act to enhance our reputation.
Speak Up – Challenge the status quo.
Have Grit – Give 100%! Be process-focused, driving consistently high outcomes, and no excuses.
Make It Happen – Ask “How can I”…inspire action and results.
Be Humble – Be curious and inquisitive, and never stop learning.

So, if you want to reach a place of sustained superior performance, take a look at your company culture and the core values established by the leadership. If your core values aren’t clear, lock your senior managers in a room and have them clearly identify and define what those values are. That’s where it starts.

Once you have defined your core values, the real work begins. While it is essential to know what those values are, it is equally vital to institutionalize them. I’ll share more on this in my next blog. Be sure to join me then.

In the meantime, let us know how we can help launch your business to the next level, even in a pandemic. Receive a free 30-minute consultation from one of Activate Group’s expert coaches. No strings attached. We just want to help you during the COVID crisis.