Business Coach Growth and Profit Tips

Three Issues Likely Disrupting Your Growth and Profits

Having worked with several Fortune 500 organizations and many fast-growing mid-market companies, I am alarmed by how inefficient and ineffective many have become. Often, the leaders were unaware of their inefficiencies and ineffectiveness; they acted like the large institutional companies they swore they would never become.

Consider this, the CEOs and leadership team rarely recognize they have a problem. They may feel that something may not be right, but it is usually worse than they imagined. Despite facts to the contrary, CEOs will indicate pride in their leadership teams and the organizations. Influenced by external circumstances, leaders justify their approach to decisions, overcomplicated processes, and bloated organizations. Meanwhile:

  • Revenue growth rates are inconsistent or shrinking
  • Headcount is growing faster than revenue
  • Overhead as a % of revenue is increasing
  • Turnover is higher than the industry average
  • Net profit margins are shrinking.

I will never forget a discussion I had with a $5 Billion CEO. Growth rates were lackluster, and profits were dismal. They were considered a leader in their industry, yet performance did not support the hype. Others in their industry grew far faster and had much higher profit margins. When I talked with the CEO, I identified two moves that would double their profits, eliminate four layers of management, and eliminate several contracts that represented 10% of their revenue. These moves were worth $200 million in net profit, could likely double or triple the stock price, and would remove a lot of bureaucracy. The CEO decided against it and was replaced 18 months later after the company failed to break through lackluster performance.

Are You Efficient but Ineffective?

Today’s world is full of rapid, unpredictable changes and complex inter-dependencies. Traditional organizational models built on efficiency and optimizing predictable systems are no longer suited for these challenges. In “Team of Teams,” General Stanley McChrystal presents a new way of thinking and leading that allows organizations to adapt and innovate nimbly in a complex world.

Team of Teams is about the General’s process of restructuring the Joint Special Operations Command and making it more adaptable. The military was efficient at fighting traditional wars but not effective against Al-Qaeda in Iraq. General McChrystal began questioning whether a rigid structure inhibited their ability to respond quickly to threats and meet mission requirements and objectives.

Modern military management originated with Frederick Winslow Taylor’s work at the 1900 World’s Fair. He believed that there is a right way to do anything, and he built reductionist processes to streamline how production employees work. In these schemes, employees focus only on their role and don’t have to communicate with other employees or ask their managers about the bigger picture.

Taylor’s ideas revolutionized the way people work. His ideas were implemented in soldiers’ lives through rigorous routines, uniforms and equipment, and a lack of communication and involvement with decision-making processes. This excessive compartmentalization between intelligence operators and analysts in Iraq contributed to the failure to prevent the 9/11 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

General McChrystal describes how he built his team of teams, inspired by the Navy SEAL training and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. His core principles to create an efficient and effective team were awareness, empowerment, and a common purpose in an unpredictable environment, where hands-on command management styles are rewarded.

The general taught us that an efficient system is not necessarily effective. For example, if the output of a system doesn’t meet the needs of its users or it’s not using available resources effectively, it’s considered inefficient. To make an ineffective system more effective, you can sometimes reduce its efficiency by adding new features that improve performance and usability. To be more effective, we must create the right vision and empower people to make decisions at the front lines. We need to stop the need to run decision-making up the ladder to execute change, maximizing flexibility and agility.

A Bloated Workforce Equals Ineffective!

Many organizations use the wrong measures for determining how to manage human assets. Labor rates, turnover, and other commonly used measures only take you so far. In Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!: 4 Keys to Unlock Your Business Potential, Greg Crabtree and Beverly Harzog introduce the Labor Efficiency Ratio™ (LER). LER is used to determine how well your company manages its human assets.

I like LER because it gets more to the heart of the matter. LER expresses labor as a multiplier, not a fraction. In simple terms, it helps quantify how many dollars in gross profit is returned to you for every dollar you spend on labor. When you begin to learn how to look at LER, you may start calculating how to increase your multiplier instead of looking at labor as a cost of sales. When you look at labor as a cost of sales, you can observe each person in a role, see varying returns, and understand why that return varies. It helps you get comfortable paying one person twice as much as another in the same role—you can see that you receive a more substantial return from one person than the other. LER is also a crucial tool in forecasting and planning scenarios and makes profitability analysis much more straightforward than other methods. LER is the ultimate measure for helping management determine whether they are optimizing labor properly or not.

Commonly, we view high performers as outliers and remove them from our calculations to determine the right Labor Efficiency Ratio™ for a position. My challenge to leaders is to gain an in-depth understanding of why the outliers perform as they do. Usually, these people do not have exceptional talents, do not appear to work harder, and are not smarter than the rest of their team members, but they are doing something different. If you can identify that difference and disseminate it as a best practice, you will increase LER for a function or role.

There are three general categories of labor efficiency: direct labor, sales labor, and management labor. Many leaders make the mistake of trying to use one overall LER calculation, which can be very misleading. One of my clients was trying to use the one-size-fits-all method. After breaking down the calculation into the three categories, they learned that they were overinvested in the management-labor area, masking that they were understaffed in indirect labor to handle growth. Had they not realized this, they would have instituted a hiring freeze and missed a big last-quarter surge in sales. Additionally, we find in the many organizations whose sales teams are not performing that instead of addressing the issue, they start cutting labor costs in areas such as customer service and product quality, unintentionally causing severe problems for those functions.

Are You Playing to Win or Not to Lose?

Emotions were running high in the last quarter of 2008, with the banking debacle, stock market meltdown, the soaring foreclosure rate, job losses, poor earnings reports, and dismal projections. Finally, the government, which had long denied the obvious, admitted that we were experiencing an economic recession.

Nobody wanted to use the word “depression” about the economy, but that’s the word best describing the country’s mood. The result: Businesses and Consumers put on the brakes. Most everyone started operating in a “playing not to lose” mindset. They stopped trying to win and completely went on the defensive. However, an opportunity had just knocked for a small group of well-informed individuals. They took advantage of the inexpensive real estate market, stole market share, acquired quality talent, and bought stocks and other investment products at bargain-basement prices. In the process, they ended up making millions of dollars. It reminds me of that famous Kaizen principle – 

”Chaos, for those that are prepared, bring opportunity.”

Great leaders and strong businesses recognize opportunities and proceed accordingly. Their desire to win is so strong it overcomes their fear of losing. They do it through sheer will and the right balance of a positive attitude. I am hopeful your business does not find itself in the dire situation we experienced in 2008. Still, the absence of dire circumstances doesn’t mean attitude and desire shouldn’t remain like the small group of opportunistic individuals who took advantage of the situation. A “scared to lose” mentality can be costly for your career or business.

The mind does funny things when faced with adversity. Negative events result when people fail to look at their businesses and careers in an informed and critical manner. When you aim to preserve the status quo, it is not unusual to draw ill-advised conclusions. Below are five common bad decisions that are often enabled by a protectionist mindset:

  • Decide not to replace “B” and “C” players with “A” players, using cost as an excuse. This is a silly decision because “A” players can do the work of as many as three average players. “A” players are employees who consistently meet productivity requirements (performance standards) and consistently live your company’s core values. If you hire “A” players, your overall wage costs will be lower as a percentage of revenue because fewer people accomplish better results.
  • Stop advertising. This decision, in some circumstances, results in a threefold increase in the acquisition cost per client in the long run and dramatically reduces the leads that come to the sales force. In other words, you increase your costs and reduce your sales.
  • Fail to do the things that create a positive environment for your people and cut off training. Employees thrive on positive energy; when they lack it, they do not take on extra assignments, do not develop innovative ideas, and are not at the top of their game. In the end, your business suffers.
  • Management accepts external events as an excuse for not meeting targets and stops holding people accountable. Common logic leads us to conclude that most companies own less than 1 percent market share within their target market. Therefore, there is no reason not to grow and achieve targets.
  • Executives become very conservative and averse to any risk in their decisions. This usually means doing what they have always done. Following that logic, if you had a bad year last year, you know what you can expect this year. Also, you miss challenging your people to see the opportunities right in front of them

These practices can be very harmful. It may not be today, tomorrow, or even a month from now. But you will eventually feel their impacts and fall short of your potential.

I challenge you to determine how you allow negative people and your environment to prevent you from maximizing your potential. If everyone was playing to win within your value system every minute of every day, what would or could they be doing differently? What are the top one or two things you could be doing right now to make a difference for your company? Are you spending most of your time focusing on that? If not, can you say you are playing to win? Michael Jordan said, “I play to win, whether during practice or a real game. And I will not let anything get in the way of me and my competitive enthusiasm to win.”  The same could be true for you and your business. You have to play to win. Its value is almost immeasurable. Creating a strong business plan and strategy, and finding the right balance between efficiency and effectiveness will help you maximize Growth and Profits. Maintaining an opportunistic attitude and even remaining open to assessing and taking a risk will help you win and maximize your potential.

Next Steps

Be self-aware and provide yourself with honest answers. Are you efficient but ineffective? Are you playing to win or not lose? Are you using the wrong measures for determining how to manage human assets? More importantly, are you asking the right questions to help your organization reach its full potential?

Most companies have a lot more growth and profit potential staring them right in the face. I have found that most executives are great at solving problems but are bad about asking the right questions. And, when they ask the right questions, they are not good at answering them honestly. This is where outside facilitation can help. They focus you on the right questions by providing the tools and processes to help you make better, more informed decisions, leading to more Growth and Profits. 

If you want help unlocking your potential, don’t hesitate to contact us at activategroupinc.com or 305-722-7216.

Howard M. Shore, Founder and CEO of Activate Group Inc., is a bestselling author and serial entrepreneur. A business coach specializing in liberating leadership teams from the barriers holding them back personally and professionally. Howard has helped create over $1 Billion of value and authored two best-selling books, The Leader Launchpad and Your Business is a Leaky Bucket.

Your Philosophy Around Talent Makes A Difference

Your Philosophy Around Talent

Your Philosophy Around Talent Makes A Difference… Having a company full of “A Players” does not guarantee success, but it significantly raises your prospects.

As a Business Coach, I have worked with many organizations and see the differences between the companies that produce short-term success, long-term success, and those that flounder. There is a vast difference in how the long-term winners build their organizations and their results versus everyone else. The factors that cause these results are known, often discussed, and rarely emulated. Your philosophy around talent matters!

Identify any company you consider great, and you will find that the greatness was 20 years in the making. You have probably heard revenue is vanity, profit is sanity, and cash is king. If you are producing high levels of success in all three measures, you should be proud. Not many companies can boast such performance. And still, you may not be built to last. What worked in the past may not work for the future. 

Most businesses will never be innovative, transformational, or trailblazers. However, all can have extraordinary growth in revenue and profits. An example most of us know is Southwest. They don’t have the most revenue (10th), largest fleet size (5th), or passengers flown (3rd). However, they broke the mold when measuring cumulative profit over 30 years. And, they copied and better executed another companies business model. 

As a business coach, I help companies build great companies and develop the best leadership practices to stay great. I help address organizational habits that cause growth ceilings. Or worse, your habits could lead to a decline or even failure. I see my job as a blind spot remover. One of the keys to your success is your leadership philosophy around talent.

First Who Then What

You can’t discuss enduring success without addressing the elephant in the room. Your business will only be as good as the people that operate in it. Jim Collins nailed it in “Good to Great, “first who then what!”

Many companies have a few great people, but few can boast the best talent throughout the organization. Most leaders will tell you that they are great at selecting people, but the data proves otherwise. Most companies don’t have the measures to know and only use their income statements as their measuring stick. The stark truth is that at least 30% of your employees are not performing and hiding in plain sight.

As I wrote in Your Business is a Leaky Bucket, even great leadership cannot overcome the limited abilities of “B” or “C” talent. Often, leaders can only go as far as those they lead. Think about it from a coaching perspective. You could have a world-class coach, but if you have a team of players with mediocre athletic ability, you’ll only get so far. The coach can draw up all the plays he wants, but the team has to execute them on the playing field. Players have to make split-second decisions and make the plays as the game unfolds. The players determine whether you win or lose. Business is no different.

Great leadership puts a person in a position to excel and succeed, but that person still has to do all the heavy lifting. It has been said that a great leader is like a gardener who plants seeds, makes sure that the soil has the right nutrients, and then nurtures the soil. The gardener cannot grow his crops, and he can only provide the right conditions for growth and plants the right seeds. 

Trust me when I say it is imperative to have A-rated talent to obtain optimal results. Then it takes leadership to keep them at that level. Now, don’t think of this as a process of rating people. Instead, it is about establishing the standards for every employee. Only after specifying measurable objectives can you hold your team accountable. Incomplete hiring and accountability practices, not putting people in the right seats where they can excel, failure to hold people accountable to key outcomes, and weakness in your culture represent poor leadership.

One of the biggest profit leaks in your company may be related to your philosophy regarding personnel. The highest cost in most companies is payroll; therefore, your biggest asset or investment is people. How seriously are you and your company taking this investment, and how disciplined are you in demanding that it produces an adequate standard of performance?

I have enjoyed coaching excellent teams and have experienced the pain of excessive numbers of wrong team members. It is no surprise that when the leadership team is weak, so is everyone else. An “A Player” will not survive a “B” leader or tolerate being surrounded by “B” coworkers. Birds of a feather flock together. We have looked at the success rate of our engagements, and Clients that put heavy investment in filling their organizations with “A Players” far outperformed the rest. Worse, companies with “B” leaders, particularly CEO, moved sideways at best. We would use the same process, same coaches, and double the effort to help the “B” team. We always fail to make sustainable progress with a “B” team.

What Are “A” Players?

 “A” players are employees who consistently meet productivity requirements (performance standards) and consistently live your company’s core values. Your productivity requirements should be set at a high bar and be readily achievable. Do not place the bar so high that it takes a unicorn to fill your position. Regardless of the role, strong performers can produce at two to three times the output of their peers. Many organizations, however, label the wrong people as their “A” players. You may be favoring people you can identify with more personally, that you have less conflict with, who have organizational tenure, who have the most institutional or industry knowledge, or that you consider loyal to you. They are not necessarily “A” players. If you are like many leaders, you may be giving more weight to only a few attributes or qualities you find important. Unfortunately, those may or may not be critical to the position’s real mission, purpose, or success.

I had a client who had an issue with his controller and was leaning toward dismissal. This was a sales culture, and the CEO favored outgoing and communicative people. He felt the controller did not fit his culture. The controller was reclusive and preferred to work in a quiet place to concentrate. Also, this controller was not afraid to tell the CEO when the company was wasting money, even if it was the CEO doing so. The controller was very focused on precision and getting things right. She often voiced concerns when other leaders exaggerated their points or made decisions with no supporting data.

The CEO failed to realize the issues he had with the controller were not related to her skills and talents. Instead, they were related to her behavioral style, which differed from the CEO. The controller’s behavioral style helped balance the leadership team and was essential to her being a suitable controller. Being the decisive and outgoing communicator that the CEO preferred was not a necessary quality for being a competent controller. The controller lived all of the core values of the business entirely. Moreover, everything produced by the department was helpful and accurate. Furthermore, she treated the company as if its assets were her own, protecting the owners.

So what causes someone to be categorized as a “B” or “C” player? A “B” player consistently lives all of your organization’s core values but is not meeting 100 percent of their position’s productivity requirements. A “B/C” player performs at the required levels but does not consistently demonstrate one or more core values. “C” players are failing to meet the performance and values standards. In all cases, anyone who is not classified as “A” should only be kept on your team if management believes they can become “A” players with proper training and coaching within an acceptable period. If not, the best thing you can do is replace them speedily.

Three Types of A-Players

Earlier in my career, I took over a new role and fired our top producing salesman. The owners thought I was nuts. We had about 20 salespeople and his book represented 20% of our revenue. What the owners were not seeing was how he affected everyone else. I spent approximately 5 hours a week dealing with issues presented because of this person, including a sexual harassment claim, which turned out to be a repeat offense. I stuck to my decision and fired him. In the end, our company, which had been declining in sales the three years previous to my being hired. After firing this toxic employee, revenue started growing immediately. Within 30 days of firing him, our largest client (representing 10% of revenue) called the President and said it was about time. They had been diverting business to our competition because they found him toxic. They immediately began ordering more from us.

There are three types of “A Players:”

A1 – They are great in their current position. We would hire ten more just like them. These people are not promotable, love what they do, and are passionate about their work.

A2 – Is someone you believe can be promoted 1 level. They have done very well in their current role and have the skills, desire, and ability to take on higher responsibilities. They can help produce more people just like them by sharing their knowledge and experience and representing your core values daily.

A3 – Is someone you believe can be promoted to two levels or more. They have traits, capabilities, and the desire to lead others.

One last comment about “A Players.” Too often, leaders create arbitrary performance standards. I have found this to be a large problem. The standards are set, and no one consistently hits them. When people miss them after giving 100%, they can be labeled as “not performing.” This leads to lower performance and eventually termination. I recommend you use much rigor in developing reasonably high-performance standards. Failure to do so costs you a lot more than you realize.

Eight Questions to Ask When Someone Does Not Perform at an “A” Level:

(1) Have you adequately communicated expectations?

(2) Has this person been an “A” player in the past? If so, what has changed?

(3) Does the person have the skills and knowledge necessary to perform his or her job at a high level?

(4) What training is required to get this person to peak performance?

(5) Has the organization created unnecessary barriers to this person becoming successful?

(6) Do you believe this person will achieve productivity within a reasonable amount of time?

(7) Does this person believe in your core values, and is he or she willing to live them?

(8) Which processes, if fixed, would lead to better success in the future?

Answering these questions will help you diagnose the issue(s). Sometimes team members are well past the rebound zone. That is, you simply cannot resurrect their performance. Other times, with a little redirection and emphasis on coaching, mentoring, or training, an underperforming person can bounce back. Either way, you have to determine the exact problem and then take great strides to address it.

Why is the “B” and “C” Performance Issue Not Being Addressed?

The primary reason employees are permitted to underperform is a lack of clarity in leadership. Leaders are often too busy doing their jobs to focus enough time and energy on what they want from their team. And when they have a good idea of precisely what they desire, often they do not adequately communicate it. Even then, performance is usually not being measured to allow a person to be held accountable.

Most sharp business owners do measure the performance of their businesses on at least a monthly basis. Still, they fail to relate that measurement to individual employee performance properly. By not requiring a specific level of performance, monitoring that performance, and holding employees accountable, you allow your employees to establish their performance requirements. Common sense tells me your employees will set lower work standards for themselves than you would.

You may be wondering how “B” and “C” performances can cost a company millions and go unnoticed and unaddressed. The primary reason: There is no financial statement line item to quantify the cost of the lost clients, lost productivity, mistakes, and lost opportunities attributable to these nonperforming players. This begs the question: Why would you ever even consider keeping a “B” or “C” player?

 When Do You Keep “B” or “C” Players?

Keep a “B” or “C” player when you confidently believe they will become an “A” player within a reasonable amount of time. If you cannot define how and when that will occur, stop fooling yourself and cut the cord. With that said, you may have to keep a person on board until hiring their replacement. At times, prematurely forcing a vacancy will be too disruptive. Be careful. I find that keeping the wrong person is costing you far more than you ever imagined.

Leaders have many excuses for not replacing their “B” or “C” players. All of the reasons boil down to either leadership laziness or just plain poor leadership. Let’s again clarify the definition of the “A” player. They are not extraordinary. They are people who meet the requirements of their positions and fit your culture. Anything less, and you are overpaying for a position.

Every company leader I have met who had a cash flow problem or was unsatisfied with their growth or profits also had a people problem. Growth problems attributable to bad strategy are the result of people problems. Companies that choose the right people (including advisors, consultants, and coaches) are less likely to have strategy problems. Think about it. The employees of any business are like the cogs that keep a machine running. Doesn’t it make sense that the machine won’t operate at optimum performance when you have broken, incorrect, or rusty pieces inside of it?

It is rare to find a company that already had the processes in place to allow them to demonstrate that at least 75 percent of its employees were “A” players. In fact, most had 40 percent or even less. Many initially believed they had 75 percent or more, but that was a wish and a prayer, as they were not tracking any performance indicators to prove their people were performing.

Research shows that replacing even one “B” or “C” player with an “A” player has a significant impact on a business. Some companies misunderstand what could happen if they commit to doing what it takes to achieve A-player performance in every position in their company. They create walls or personal obstacles, some of which sound like this:

 – There are not enough “A” players out there.

 – It will take much longer to hire people.

 – It is too complicated.

 – It takes too much workforce.

 – It can’t happen in our industry.

 – I have to fire everyone who is a “B” and” C” player.

 – “A” players must be paid more than “B” and “C” players.

The truth is that these are all myths and limiting beliefs, allowing leadership to continue to justify poor hiring practices and maintain the status quo.

The Container Store provides one of the best examples of building an organization with “A” players. I was fortunate to hear Kip Tindell, founder of The Container Store, share his formula for making a great organization. He built his company from a small start-up to one of the most respected businesses around. By enforcing an “A” player mantra, his company grew 20 percent a year to well over $1B in revenue. His formula has five crucial keys to success:

(1) Pay – They paid 50 percent to 100 percent above the industry average. Tindell knew one great person could do the work of two to three ordinary people. “A” players pay for their “extra” salary threefold, so overall labor costs are lower than the competition. His people are incredibly proud to be part of the company.

(2) Recruiting and Retention – To win, he knew he must only hire great people. “A” players only like to work with other “A” players. They do not want to be surrounded by mediocrity. They would choose to be in his company to be on a great team. They wanted more of the best and brightest out of school. This means his recruiting process had to be phenomenal to find and select the right people and never settle. This resulted in less than 10 percent turnover in an industry that typically experiences over 100 percent turnover.

(3) Training and Onboarding. Tindell provides eighty-four hours of formal training in the first year compared to the industry average, which is eight hours.

(4) Real transparency and communication. Your leaders and managers can thrive with clear communication and transparency. If they don’t feel sufficiently informed, they feel left out, and their performance will suffer.

(5) Culture is everything. Free the employees to choose the means to the ends, but tell them the foundational principles to use in making those decisions. All employees will give you 25 percent of their efforts, considered the bare minimum amount of productivity required to keep your job. To get the other 75 percent, they have to love their manager and culture.

In each of these steps, you’ll quickly come to a singular conclusion: Great leaders invest enormous time and energy into their team. They create a culture that invites in “A” players and demands an A-level performance.

 Actions to Take

What steps can you take to build a high-performance organization? Just like any machine that takes proper maintenance and attention to run smoothly. Lack of timely care to problems leads to more costly repairs. So likely, we can all agree it is much more efficient and cost-effective to ward off those repairs. People already spend enormous amounts of time interviewing candidates. They need to learn the right techniques and processes to determine whether the people they interview are the right choices for the positions. The real challenge is instilling an organization-wide commitment to high-performance standards, and practice makes perfect.

There is no one-size-fits-all sort of remedy. Different companies require different solutions. Remember that you’re dealing with real people and problems, so do not remove the compassion from the equation. Classifying someone as “C” or “B” in their current role does not mean they cannot become an “A” player in another position or possibly in their existing position, with just a little more training.

It has been said, “That which gets measured gets done!”When measurement tools are in place, leaders are shocked by how many employees fit the categories of “B” and “C” players. This performance gap costs companies millions in profit leaks. However, you can take several steps to resurrect and improve your organizational productivity.

 Six Steps to A-Player Status:

(1) For each position in your company, identify two to three key performance indicators that the person in the position has direct control over and would prove they are performing well in their job. Establish a high but realistic standard for each indicator.

(2) Communicate these indicators and the standards to the person in the position and measure actual performance versus the rules you’ve set.

(3) Establish a process for continually reinforcing your core values with all of your employees.

(4) Every quarter, review how consistently each member of your team lives your core values and meets the performance expectations of their role

(5) Put employees who are not living your core values or meeting performance expectations on definite performance plans to direct them toward achieving the desired performance.

(6) Take immediate action to help employees who are not meeting their requirements. Those who cannot meet your standards should be replaced.

 

Howard M. Shore, Founder and CEO of Activate Group Inc., is a bestselling author and serial entrepreneur specializing in liberating leadership teams from the barriers holding them back personally and professionally. During his 35+ year career, Howard has helped create over $1 Billion of value and authored two best-selling books, The Leader Launchpad and Your Business is a Leaky Bucket. Howard cut his teeth as the owner of several successful companies and executive for Fortune 500 companies like Ryder Systems, AutoNation, and KPMG. Howard has become a sought-after business mentor, executive coach, and keynote speaker. His clients work in family-owned, multi-national, public, and private companies ranging from $1 million to over $1 billion in annual revenue. With a 30-year track record of success, he guarantees any organization using his methods and systems will become more profitable, stable, and scalable.

7 Keys to Working Smarter and Being Highly Successful

After observing thousands of leaders in companies from startups to over $20B in revenue and helping create over $1 Billion in business value, I noticed one superpower in highly successful people. They worked smarter, not harder, and derive much higher results in less time than almost everyone else. These very successful leaders tended to value highly the Management Strategies and Learnings obtained through Business and Executive coaching channels.

For clarity, I deem someone to be successful if they can accomplish three times more than their peers,  have more joy and happiness, and do all of this in less time.  Now, I have to draw a line as many of us are highly ambitious, driven, and are classic workaholics. Most workaholics do not commit to reducing the hours they work and find work exhilarating. Regardless of your view, it would help if you wanted to achieve three times the results and earnings in less time. What you do with the extra time is your business.  But everyone should want to work smarter and not harder.

I am often exposed to CEOs in the same industry and have always been amazed at how varied leader’s approaches are.  To me, the right approach is the one that produces three times the results with a similar effort.  Let’s take the restoration industry.  I have met many CEOs who started their business 20 years before and are stuck at $5M in revenue or less. Also, I have met others that were in the industry for just a few years and had revenue over $5M.   I do not only find revenue disparity. I also find profit and time gaps.  While the average company earns a net profit of 5% of revenue, we have helped companies generate over 20%.  Would you rather be a $10M company that produces $500K of net profit or a $5 Million company that produces $1M in net profit?  That was a trick because you should want to be the $10 Million company generating $2 Million profit, expecting the growth and the profits.

The most successful CEOs build far larger companies, have higher growth rates, have more free time, and have 3x the net profit margin. And, yes, there are other measures of success. I want you to consider that working more hours than everyone else, regardless of what you earn, is a fool’s choice! All I want to do is challenge us to work smarter continually.

Which leads us to the big question: “How can we make it easier to achieve our success goals faster?”  How can a person make far more, achieve their intended impact, and work a lot less? Not only is this possible, but others are already doing it. After watching these leaders, I noticed they were not necessarily smarter, more creative, lack ethics, or privileged.  I have met many highly successful people, some ultra-wealthy, and found that they were formerly homeless, living in trailer parks, had no college degrees, and so on. I am sure all of us are capable of high levels of success.

Achieving success is simpler than you think but not easy. If it were easy, everyone would do it.  The strange part is that we are familiar with the concepts but not living them. Here are the principles you must follow to work smarter and not harder:

(1) Manage Your Thoughts

(2) Have a  Strategy

(3) Be Strategic

(4) Work a Plan

(5) Be Disciplined

(6) Resilience Rituals

(7) Build Wealth

Manage Your Thoughts

There are three dimensions to managing our thoughts: awareness, intention, and perseverance. Our mind is a potent tool. How you think will change your outcomes for better or worse. Thus you need to be aware of what you are thinking. For example, if you make up your mind that someone cannot do their job, your words and actions will differ from those based on the premise they are capable of. Your thoughts need to be congruent with your intentions. If you intend on accomplishing something and focus your thoughts on contrary purposes, you will fail. Imagine you plan to have a good day but your spend most of your day angry about something. 

Once our thoughts and intentions are in unity, we need to have perseverance. When was the last time you set out for something new and challenging, and it worked out exactly as planned? Most often, we find we run into unforeseen difficulties and roadblocks.  If you allow your mind to waiver from the finish line, you may not get there in a practical manner.

Have a Strategy

Too often, I find driven people are in constant motion. They confuse activity with productivity. When they see a problem to solve, they are off to the races.  Often leaders are solving the wrong problems or not taking the best route to solve their problems.  By doing so, you may feel better in the short term, but it could have long-term negative consequences.

I recently witnessed a senior leader get angry with a subordinate because he felt they were taking advantage of the company.  He immediately launched into attack mode and let the employee know how he felt.  While the concern was merited and the employee course-corrected, there were longer-term consequences.  You see, the leader was so busy being right that he lost one of the highest-performing people in the industry. That employee decided to quit his boss.

In the end, the leader was not strategic.  Had he been, he would have waited until he wasn’t angry and would have developed a strategy to course-correct the employee in a manner that was okay for both parties involved. Instead, he may need two people to do the work the one accomplished, and his reputation may cause other competent people not to want to work for him.

While I used a personal situation, the same goes for taking on projects, lofty goals, and conquering the competition. One thing we have all learned is that there are many ways to accomplish an objective. Being strategic requires you to consider achieving the ideal outcomes, choosing what “not” to do, using the least amount of resources, and within the desired time frame. It is usually best to consider expanding your options before choosing a path.

Work A Plan

We are working on a plan ties to being strategic.  However, the critical difference is that the strategy is the vision of where you want to go, and the action plan charts your course from beginning to end—many of us are big picture people. We can see what is possible and have a “can-do” attitude.  The problem with visionaries is they believe everything is simple and underestimate what it takes to achieve the outcome.  Taking the ball down the field is usually someone else’s problem.  To achieve grand visions, I recommend the following project management techniques:

(1) Be specific – The objective has to be clearly stated so that anyone could step in and know what needs to be done.

(2) Make it Measurable – Identify the measurable milestones and deadlines that indicate you are on track.

(3) Action Steps – Identify the action steps necessary to achieve each milestone.

(4) Monitor Progress – There must be processes and systems in place to monitor progress.

(5) Course Correct – When progress is insufficient, it is essential to revisit your plan to get back on track.

Be Disciplined

Whether you are working on getting healthy, achieving your sales goals, accomplishing a major project, it takes disciplined action.  Too often, we like the idea of the outcome but are not disciplined enough to achieve it. Think about dieting. If I eat healthily and eat the right amount of calories for three days a week but overeat unhealthy foods the other 4, it will take a lot longer (if ever) to lose the weight. Where if you ate properly every day, that takes discipline.

My brother Matt is the President of Steven Douglas, one of the fastest-growing recruiting and staffing agencies in the US.  Matt has been a top producer every year since he entered the industry almost 20 years ago.  Most people in his industry only dream of producing his revenue production.  Matt shared with me that he has hundreds of employees, and none of them produce as much as he does. Given that he is President, he spends far less time than full-time salespeople. This caused me to ask his secret. Matt has a list of 300 key contacts he calls every sixty days.  He does this by setting aside one hour daily for outbound calls.  This single disciplined activity has helped him achieve more in 5 hours a week than others can produce in 60 hours.  Successful people are willing to commit to such discipline. I have shared this technique with at least 100 people over the years, and none has had the discipline to implement it.

Resilience Rituals

The airlines taught us a very important less when they told us that we must put our oxygen masks on first before helping others. I have found that highly successful people have a regimen of activities that they use to recharge themselves.  Here are my resilience rituals:

 – 1/2 hour of daily exercise

 – 15 Minute breaks between meetings

 – 15-30 of Meditation

 – 15 Minutes of Quiet reflection

 – Spending time with friends and family

 – Take 4-6 weeks off on vacation throughout the year.

 – Monitor and control my work hours

 – Weekly Massage

It would be best to have the same level of committed discipline to your resilience rituals as your business routines.  For example, if you work out 4 hours in one day, it will not have the same effect as 1/2 hour per day.

Build Wealth

Too many of us are so busy working that we don’t spend the right amount determining how to build wealth. Every very wealthy person I met has at least three streams of significant income.  It is essential that you identify, develop, and give enough attention to your various income streams.  Most people will tell you that the most significant part of wealth came from income streams outside of their day job.  The day gave them the financial start in investing in other activities. Still, many of those activities require learning about and developing strategies and plans to develop each stream. 

In Conclusion

While you can be highly successful without practicing the above activities, it does not invalidate them.  However, by managing your thoughts, being strategic, working a plan, being disciplined, practicing resilience rituals, and building wealth consistently, you will find your path to success with less friction.  Now I challenge you to determine how to use these principles to work smarter and not harder, so you have more time to do the things that are most important to you.

 


Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm, please visit his website at Activate Group Inc or contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216.

Trying to Sell an Apple to Someone Looking for Chocolate?

Recently, I facilitated a meeting for one of the most innovative companies I work with. The leadership team is one of the smartest I have ever worked with, and there is a clear vision about solving gaps in their market. Moreover, they arguably have the best SAAS platform to serve their target segment. Yet, they have struggled to grow.

Have you ever wondered why some companies seem to grow with ease while others don’t? I have pondered this question because I have seen far too many organizations struggle to grow. For the SAAS Company, the secret showed up in a strategy session I recently facilitated. The conversation centered around one key question, “Why is this SAAS company finding it so difficult to acquire new customers? The answer was not what you would expect.

Are You Answering the Right Question?

Often, leaders are trying to solve their growth issues by centering on the wrong questions and problems. Typically if you asked the question, “How do we increase sales faster,” you would hear answers like:
• We need more revenue.
• We need more leads.
• We need higher quality leads?
• We need better salespeople.
• Our sales manager is not doing her job.
• We need better marketing.
• We need more marketing.
• We need more salespeople.
• Our customers don’t understand why we are different.
• We have failed to articulate our value proposition well.
• Our salespeople need a better process.
• Our salespeople need better training.

Have You Identified the True Problem?

While the above may be components of solving your growth issues, it is likely not your problem. I often see companies spend significant money and time addressing all the above. After years of frustration, they find themselves right back where they started from. They find other companies in their industry growing far faster, and some started much later and far larger. Your company has likely developed great products and services, cares about your employees and customers, works very hard, and has many loyal customers. In addition, your company might have implemented best-practice execution processes like EOS and Scaling Up, and yet the growth outcomes are not getting much better. What gives?

The right approach is to change your question. In my client example, we changed the question from “how do we increase revenue” to “why is it so difficult to acquire new clients ?” I asked the leadership to answer the question with a question. We brainstormed for 10 minutes until we complied with enough inquiries related to the initial question. Here are some of the questions they came up with?
• How do we remove sales friction?
• What would we need to do to increase market share dramatically?
• Why can’t we sell product “A” to our target market?
• Why is there so much friction in acquiring new customers?
• Would it be easier to sell a product that is on par with our competition?
• What do we need to shift in sales and marketing?
• Who is our real target customer?
• What is the evolutionary path for customers?

After developing 25 questions, I asked the team to narrow down the list to one critical question that would address almost all of the questions. The answer was, “why can’t we sell product “A” to the masses?”

By using the new question as a focal point, we were able to discover their real problem. The market was desiring a product they were not offering. Worse, they had the perfect product, and it was bundled into their more sophisticated product. In the long run, their product was more complete and would better serve their target market. The problem, most companies were not ready to consider their full suite, and they were trying to force it on them.

While there is a lot more to this story, I was hoping you could recognize that these extremely smart leaders were essentially trying to sell an apple to people looking to buy chocolate. When the prospect did not see the chocolate, they moved on to the competitors. We realized that we had to metaphorically get the customer into the supermarket and sell them chocolate before they were willing to consider the apple. Chocolate was their primary need. Once they loved our chocolate, we could take them down more isles and sell them more of what they needed.

Stop Trying to Convert the Heathens?

Are you guilty of ignoring the market? This is a common mistake. My client was a great example. They had the perfect product but were so enamored with their complete solution causing them to ignore the market expectations. While they are correct, their product can and will solve bigger, more complex problems, there were too few leaders that were aware and ready to solve them. They were getting ahead of themselves. And, like a good priest or rabbi, they were delivering sermons to inspire and convert the heathens. The problem was that the disciples were not listening. When this occurs, the sermon is white noise. Their best approach was to get the easy win, earn the customer’s trust, and use that as a platform to cross-sell later.

Conclusion – Ask Yourself… and Take Action!

If you are like many leaders, you know that your company can and should be growing much faster. Have you found the right question to answer? Do you know the primary problem? Are you spending enough time facing the brutal facts?


Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about Howard Shore or the firm, please contact Activate Group or call (305) 722-7216.

Three Keys to Maximum Business Performance

3 Keys to Maximum Business Performance

While people have been impacted by globalization, technology, and other circumstances, achieving business success has not changed. Over time, you will need to discuss changing conditions and have a robust operating system maneuvering these issues. But I have concluded that while most entrepreneurs pride themselves on their speed in getting things done, I see them running in circles. More creative entrepreneurs may make lots of rapid right turns instead of circles. Still, they find themselves in the same place and with the same problems as the people running in circles, never achieving acceleration.

 

The Difference Between Speed, Velocity, and Acceleration!

Acceleration in performance should be the goal of all leaders. Most people use the words speed, velocity, and acceleration interchangeably. However, these are three different outcomes. Speed defines how much distance has been covered in a particular timeframe. Velocity is the rate of change of distance in a particular direction concerning time. And acceleration is the rate of increase in velocity. Great companies achieve far greater velocity than “good” companies.

 

Every Business Has the Same Fifteen Leaks

As I wrote in my first best-selling book, Your Business is A Leaky Bucket, there are fifteen ways every business is leaking growth and profits. The bigger the business, the bigger the leaks. No business is immune. The odd part is that you likely already know you have the leaks. And, all fifteen leaks had a centering cause…leadership. They result from poor leadership. These leaks individually and collectively slow velocity, and large leaks can cause demise in your business. My book helps you identify and quantify the leaks. More importantly, I prescribed how to address each leak. Average companies achieve speed, good companies achieve velocity, and great companies achieve acceleration. The latter spend specific leadership time narrowing the fifteen leaks.

Leaders I work with are stunned when they realize how easily they can improve a business. But are often surprised by the dollar value in the improvements. However, easy does not equal simple. It takes discipline to work on the business rather than in it. It takes perseverance to stick to your plans and focus on a limited number of objectives while saying “no” to others. It takes rigor to drive excellence.

 


The Three Primary Reason Business Leaks Occur

There are three primary reasons why those leaks continue to recur throughout the life of your business:

1. Mediocrity—You know your organization and people are capable of more, but you allow average to become the standard for your business. Sometimes, this happens because you attempted but failed to raise the bar in the past. There is also a tendency to compare your business to industry norms and become comfortable if it’s doing better than the industry average—even if that industry average is a massive bottleneck in your business. Accepting the lower standard may be common in your industry, so you accept it, too. For example, high turnover has become the accepted norm in certain positions in some industries. But excessive turnover is a significant drag on a company’s ability to grow and scale. Ask yourself, how often have you taken too long to replace someone you know is not capable of doing his or her job? These are examples of accepting mediocrity!

2. Mastery—It takes discipline and perseverance to continually improve and address the issues that cause slower growth, lower profitability, and cause leaders to be tied to their work. Let’s be honest; when you started your career, were you thinking, “I am going to be a master craftsman at culture, team cohesiveness, strategy, people, execution, and cash systems?” Each of those areas requires skills and knowledge, continuous learning, and continuously increasing your level of mastery. However, as your business grows, so do the challenges in these areas. The typical leader would prefer to focus on industry knowledge, serving customers, and making better products and services rather than think about, discuss, and address those other, less tangible issues. In reality, culture, team cohesiveness, strategy, people, execution, and cash are the business operating systems that you use to run your business.

3. Invisibility—Financial statements do not capture the substantial costs of the weaknesses in your business operating system. Generally accepted accounting principles are only designed to capture actual transactions, assets, and liabilities. There is not a place in accounting principles to capture the cost of mediocrity and lack of mastery. Like most leaders, you do not go out of your way to quantify these costs. Here are some examples of mediocrity that should be monitored and will not be found in your financial statements:

– The cost of keeping underperformers

– The cost of lost sales because of mistakes in the sales process

– The cost of customers who left because of their disappointment with your quality and bad processes

– The cost of a bad strategy leading to higher customer turnover or slower customer growth

 

There are no financial statement line items for these costs, yet they exist in every business. Such losses are much more significant than you want to face, so you don’t! You are complacent with being good enough, especially if you are growing rapidly and profitably.

To succeed in business, leaders must have a business operating system and toolkit that help them work on the business in a way that allows their team members to make clear decisions and act regardless of the noise. Success is the result of your commitment to that system and how well you use the tools that support it. For the past 100 years and into the next 100, you will find that business challenges are the consequence of how effectively leaders handle these six operating systems:

(1) Culture
(2) Team Cohesiveness
(3) People
(4) Strategy
(5) Execution
(6) Cash

 


Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about Howard Shore or the firm, please visit our business coaching page or call (305) 722-7216.

How Do You Build a Valuable Business?

If you would like to learn how do you build a valuable business and get top dollar for your efforts, read further. Many business owners spend years building and working in their business with little or no thought about their value creation. One of my responsibilities at a Fortune 500 company was building one of its divisions through acquisition. While we successfully grew the division from $400 million to $600 million in revenue, I am most proud of the fact that we received almost $1 billion when selling it. This price was 38% higher than anything imagined internally or by investment banks we hired to explore alternatives. This had everything to do with how value was created.

There are a many factors to consider when building value. In this article I want to address the following:

  • What are motivations for selling and buying?
  • What can my business do without me?
  • What should I be doing while I am going through the process?
  • When is it the right time?
  • What do I do when I think it is time to sell?

What are motivations for selling and buying?

To build value it is important to understand why selling and buying occurs. This understanding can be the difference between receiving top dollar for your financial and “sweat” investment, selling in a position of need, or worst of all, getting nothing. For example, by positioning yourself to appeal to more types of buyers you can be more selective in your suitor and auction your company to a higher bidder rather take the only offer that comes to the table.

The top reasons to sell:

  • Lack of operating capital
  • Need for growth capital
  • Elimination of personal guarantees
  • Age
  • Health
  • Boredom/burnout
  • Liquidity/cash out
  • Perceived incongruence between risk and reward
  • Market opportunity

The primary reason people buy a business is for return on investment. The justification for a return will include:

  • Remove a barrier to entry
  • Eliminate competition
  • Strategic fit
  • Geography
  • Customer
  • Employees
  • Tangible and/or intangible assets

What can my business do without me?

Imagine going to buy a used car, and the existing owner wants to sell it to you for top dollar. There is a catch, you can only have it without the engine and the seats. In this scenario, it is likely you are going to look for a different vehicle. It is not that you cannot put a new engine and/or seats in the car, but why buy that car in the first place? If your business success is primarily dependent on 1 or 2 people, and you are one of them, you are going to have a very hard time selling your business, if you can sell it at all. It is common to find a business that has not invested in finding, developing, and nurturing the best talent.  As when buying a used car, you want to know that you are buying a reliable car that will run long after you take over the keys and title.

What should I be doing while I am going through the process?

For those of you who have children, have you had one of those moments where you took your eye off the baby, and he or she disappears? You felt fortunate nothing terrible happened. Well, watch your baby. Whether you have a strong business or one that is on life support, I recommend that you continue to run your business as if your life depends on it. On average, it takes 12 to 18 months to sell a business. Worse, sometimes they do not sell at all. Your competition, customer, and employee needs do not change or go away because you decided that you want to sell. The last thing you want is to lose a major customer or key employee while going through this process. In addition, some of the things you are going to be evaluated on include: how strong your growth potential is, customer and employee retention, strength of employees, and operating effectiveness. While they do look at the past, buyers will give more attention to today and will pay more when the trajectory is upward.

Most of us have gone house hunting and would agree that you are willing to pay more for a house that you think is going to appreciate more in value than others, has all the extras, is on a great lot, nice paint job, no clutter, good lighting, happy atmosphere, and great landscaping. Invest in your business like never before. I would invest in people development, brightening the atmosphere, team building, paint job, and signage. Hopefully you have been doing these things all along. If you haven’t, you are going to be pleasantly surprised by the results you have been missing.

When is the time right?

Sell when the market is ready. Waiting until you are ready can be a big mistake. The idea is to sell high and be careful that you are not overpaying to keep working. I attended a seminar offered by SmithBarney Citigroup, and they presented a very interesting analysis about paying for the privilege of working. The Geneva Capital Strategies group did an analysis of historical transactions and showed where owners were actually losing money by keeping their businesses. They actually would have been better off reinvesting the net after-tax proceeds from their sale into other investments and not working at all.

It is typically not a good idea for you to sell your business when it is down, or if you think that prospects are not good. Buyers see the same things you do and rarely buy what the seller thinks he is selling. Even if they don’t agree, buyers are usually going to try to take advantage in terms of price. It is always best to sell when business is good (e.g. market share and sales are growing, margins are expanding, and business climate is strong).

What do I do when I think it is time?

Do not try to go this alone. I can tell you from first-hand experience that people who hired the wrong type of advisors or none at all cost themselves 20% or more in sale price. There are reasons why people make a living in this arena. For example, structuring your deal incorrectly can cost you 20-50% of the cash in your pocket. In addition, it is very important to get assistance to bring multiple qualified buyers to the table and to have someone very experienced at negotiating the sale of a business. There have been cases where sellers have been able to more than double their price by bringing in competitive parties and having a seasoned negotiator working on their behalf. Just because you have good negotiation skills does not make you qualified to sell your business.

The following are some of the different advisors that can help you to build your valuable business and you should consider contacting when selling:

  • Business Valuation Experts – Independent of any business intermediary, hire a valuation expert to determine what your business is worth. Contrary to common opinion, there are no rules of thumb that can be used to determine worth. Every business is different, and you need to know what you are worth before you get into the emotions of the process.
  • Business Consultant – Before you hire someone to market the business for sale, you should do all you can to increase value. Bringing in a consultant to look objectively at how to increase profits and strengthen your team can yield huge dividends. Depending on how the buyer is valuing your business, every $1 you increase in profit through revenue growth or cost savings may multiply by $10 in sales price.
  • Mergers and Acquisitions Experts/Investment Banks – They will help you at every step of the acquisition process. They will help develop your offering circular, develop a selling strategy, identify potential suitors, provide advice on pricing, packaging and positions, and most important give your business maximum exposure in a confidential way. They typically have ready and qualified buyers, access to the right people, highly qualified staff, and excellent negotiation skills.
  • Business Brokers – In the case of smaller deals, a business broker can help you market the sale of your business. You are not going to get the same quality as Mergers and Acquisitions or Investment Bank experts. You want someone that is going to bring you multiple buyers and negotiate effectively on your behalf. Many in this industry are not working on this full time and act very much like real estate brokers. However, the good ones can bring a lot of value, help you dramatically reduce the time it takes, and increase the value you get for your business.
  • Accountants and Lawyers – Obtaining good legal and accounting advice is a must. However, many people place too much trust in their accountants and lawyers to consult on value creation, finding the deals, and evaluating the deals. These are not their areas of expertise, and they are not best suited to help you in these areas. In some cases your lawyers can be helpful in negotiations, but that depends on their practice specialty.

Review our website at to understand how an executive coach or business coach can help you build a valuable business, or contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”].

Evidence Sales Management is Hurting Performance

If you have low turnover in your organization right now, it may be the result of bad management rather than stellar performance. How many of your salespeople regularly provide acceptable returns on investment for the organization? Do you have a healthy turnover in your sales organization? Does the average person stay long enough to provide a return on investment? Are you regularly increasing your sales force because you know it will add value?

Dave Kurlan of Objective Management Group recently issued his white paper, The Science of Sales Turnover, and he issued statistics to show that sales managers are not managing their people. By definition, good sales managers hold their salespeople accountable, are good recruiters, motivate, coach, and mentor their employees. That is how they should spend roughly 80% of their time.

According to Kurlan’s study on turnover, more often than not, turnover is voluntary, and the employee resigns when income, culture, degree of difficulty or management practices are not to the salesperson’s liking. Involuntary turnover occurs less often because most sales managers are too patient, accept mediocrity, and avoid confrontation, especially potentially uncomfortable terminations. Kurlan’s statistics show that:

20% of sales managers have need for approval issues – the need to be liked – and shy away from confrontation.

30% of sales managers accept mediocrity, and tolerate poor performance.

61% of sales managers aren’t inclined to upgrade their sales force.

60% of sales managers have less than 65% of the attributes of accountability. 

If you are not getting the proper return on investment from your sales department, look no further than its management. If it’s not performing properly, get help! There is no other department that can pay for itself more quickly than a high-performing sales organization.

Contact me if you want to receive the entire white paper at shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Are You Really Coaching Your People?

There is a big difference between having conversations with people on a regular basis and coaching. Coaching is not giving advice, pointing out to someone that they did something wrong, or showing them how to do something. It is also not giving your people face time. So what is coaching?

Coaching is a process whereby you bring out a person’s potential so that they can overcome obstacles to achieve their goals. The role of the coach is to provide a process of discussion using the subject’s own goals and recent experiences to help the person uncover their constraints to greater success. It takes time and patience to help them discover what they might not be seeing.

Many times the coach can immediately see the issue but has to patiently allow the person being coached to discover it for themselves by asking questions and probing. The coach also has to be careful to leave out personal bias and not make any assumptions. By doing so, the person being coached is permitted to develop the thought patterns necessary to go it alone when similar circumstances arise. If you circumvent this process by giving them the answers you run the risk of avoiding some key factors they must process before the learning process is completed. The end result is a much more lasting advantage. It becomes co-creation, and the coach and the person being coached will be able to achieve significantly better results together than either could have achieved alone.

Here are five key questions that indicate whether you are really coaching your direct reports or not:

  1. Can you finish most of your coaching sessions with them by answering their questions with questions?
  2. Do you give your direct reports your undivided attention for at least ½ an hour twice per month to talk about whatever they want to that you would call just coaching?
  3. How much time do they talk during the session versus you?
  4. Who develops their solutions and answers when you meet one on one?
  5. When you finish a coaching session do you ask the question, “what did you take away from today and what are you going to do about it?”

You should know whether or not you are being a good coach to your people by answering the above.  Coaching takes time, but its benefits are huge.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm please contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Making Lofty Goals Realistic

Many organizations set goals that are not realistic and are in the habit of not meeting their objectives. Others achieve some of their goals by accident, and some could achieve a lot more. The first questions is, “Are your goals mandatory, or are they something you set out to try?” If they are mandatory, then I suggest you make sure that you are planning for success instead of failure. Many organizations set their goals without considering the obvious reasons they may not be achievable. By addressing these reasons up front, an organization can dramatically increase the likelihood of success or know that they must adjust them to something more realistic.

Here is a common list of possible circumstances that cause organizations not to achieve their goals:

  • Has consideration been given to the capacity of the target market (growing-shrinking) and what a realistic share of the market can be?
  • If revenue levels were achieved, considering seasonality effects, what is the ability of the organization to deliver the products and services at the optimum level while keeping its brand promises?
  • Can the company finance growth; should it grow faster than its ability to self-fund?
  • What advertising or marketing support will be needed to support the goals, and are there finances in place to support it?
  • How will competition respond to your strategic moves, and are your marketing and sales forces well prepared to properly differentiate the company?
  • What is the performance track record of the people that need to deliver, and will your new goals require a significant increase in performance?
  • Are there enough sales and sales support people based on: the amount of time to make the appropriate amount of sales calls; the number of meetings it will take to close a deal; how many proposals one has to write; the time it takes to process a deal, given the normal sales cycle, based on the average close ratio, the average size of deals closed, and travel time?
  • Will you need to introduce new products, by when, and how much of your sales volume depends on it?

Lofty goals require a regular regimen of adjusting your resources (time, people and money). As an organization answers the above questions, inevitably they should be considering upgrading some people, increasing some resources, moving some around, refocusing time, etc. Significant goals, those that require growth rates and increases in profit margins that are large improvements over prior years, need refinement on a monthly and quarterly basis. As we are trying things, we will make mistakes and/or see more opportunities for growth. The great leaders are the ones that are making these adjustments.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert that works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm please contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Are You Watching the Right Score?

Too often management focuses on lagging rather than leading indicators. Lagging indicators are revenue, profits and other measures that you find on your income statement and balance sheet. While it is important to keep track of lagging indicators, it is more productive to understand which leading indicators drive those lagging indicators. By identifying and focusing on leading indicators, management can control its own destiny.

Sales is the easiest area to provide an example. Let’s say you have a sales goal of $5 million dollars, and an individual salesperson is supposed to drive $1 million of that goal. You need to break that number down into the average sale. After you have figured that out, you want to manage your salesperson’s number of phone calls connected, meetings held, and proposals presented. After a while, you will see that there is fairly predictive pattern of how many connected phone calls lead to a meeting, how many meetings lead to a proposal, and how many proposals lead to a closed sale. These numbers will vary by salesperson because not all salespeople are created equal. By managing these leading indicators, you will be able to predict whether or not your salesperson will achieve that $1 million goal and determine which people need training and coaching and which ones are not capable of doing the job.

You can find leading indicators for every line item on your income statement. You must break down the end numbers into the activities that produce the results and place the ideal measurements that cause the results that you want. These leading indicators are what you want to measure and improve.

The mistake leaders make is spending too much time looking at the lagging indicators and failing to recognize cause and effect. By inspecting and improving the items that cause the desired results, one can make business more predictive and successful.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm please contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.