Climbing the Right Mountain

Climb Right Mountain

Like many leaders I can be described as driven, relentless, aggressive, determined, focused, and other common traits of “type A” personalities.  Have you ever considered how these traits may be causing you to be less productive? As an executive coach, I have found many well-intention “Type A” people are actually causing themselves and their organizations to be less productive.  Often, we self-deceive ourselves into believing that we are productive most of the time and downplay the impact when we are not.  The justification is our success track record. We see this success a result of making quick decisions, moving fast, pursuing excellence, and using our drive to move things forward. While these traits are valuable, when overextended it works against us.

Could you unconsciously cause yourself and others to climb the wrong mountains? You are doing it far more often than you realize. Many leaders enjoy and love to solve problems.  When they see them, they want to solve them.  The more problems solved the more accomplished one may feel.  However, what if the problems you solved are the wrong ones? Or worse, they are really speed bumps taking you away from the climbing the right mountains.

I COULD HAVE STOPPED AND DID NOT BECAUSE OF A RELENTLESS PURSUIT TO RIGHT A WRONG.

I was inspired to write this article after a recent experience where I ruined a Saturday. This all happened because I felt compelled to fix a wrong. On the surface, it seemed like the right thing to do. However, my relentless pursuit to right a wrong led to an odyssey that I could have stopped at any time and did not.

I had purchased some headphones (an Apple product) from Verizon. They were shipped to me because a lack of inventory.  When they arrived one of the headphones had a button that was stuck. While they worked well-enough, it bothered me that one of the earpieces was damaged. I could not use the button to accept calls, pause and start music, and so on.  I felt entitled to have a product that worked properly and was perturbed that $200+ headphones did not work as they should.

Long story short, I spent 5 hours in-store and on the phone trying to get Apple to repair or replace the headphones.  After all of this effort, they agreed to repair them. In the end, they were returned to me still broken and with out the earpieces that accompanied them.  Yes, the situation was now worse. I submit!

The real issue was me! Once I had momentum to fix my perceived situation, there was no stopping me.  After all, I take pride in making things happen. If I was not so focused and determined I should have aborted? Yes, I received damaged goods.  But they worked fine…just not perfect.  And, in my defense, if you told me in advance, I could get them fixed but it would take 5 hours of my time, I would never have left well enough alone. $200 is not a big deal for me and I could have easily tossed them without a sweat. After all, I have tons of headphones sitting in a drawer because I disliked them for one reason or another. The real issue was me. In the end my time was more valuable then righting this wrong.

IT IS FAIR TO ASSUME THAT THE AVERAGE PERSON WASTES AT LEAST 20% OF THEIR TIME EVERY WEEK CLIMBING THE WRONG MOUNTAINS OR TAKING THE WRONG PATHS.

You are probably asking yourself, what does this have to do with you as a leader and how does this affect your organization.  The fact is, all day long we have people doing the equivalent. They spend time on $200 headphones when there are much better uses of their time.  Worse, when they start down the path of solving a very important issue and don’t pull back when it is obvious they are headed down the wrong path. It is fair to assume that the average person wastes at least 20% of their time every week climbing the wrong mountains or taking the wrong paths. We need a process to see when we need to consider aborting.  Most “Type A” people miss these moments and take others with them.

USE THE SYMPTOMS TO FIND THE MOUNTAIN!

In Your Business is A Leaky Bucket, I opened with a story about a client who was nine months away from the end of an earn-out period from the sale of their company. They had a lot of money at stake and were not sure how they were going to maximize their return.

They brought me in to help figure-out how to close the gap.  After meeting with their executive team, there were a few factors that were apparent:

 – The existing team seemed overworked.

 – It appeared that had to fill too many open positions and did not believe they could fill them in time to take advantage of the earn-out period.

 – They were afraid if they pushed people any harder more people will quit required them to fill more positions.

 – Most importantly, their sales team was spending far too much time working on administrative issues rather than selling.

So which issue do you address: recruiting, retention, workload, or sales team productivity? Most leaders would say we have to address all of them.  They would push everyone to work on the symptoms.  The symptoms would have been the wrong focus.

We found the mountain, that when solved, would make the other mountains go away.  The mountain was “waste.” They had 175 employees, most of which were the right people in the right seats.  When I asked, “was it possible that, on average, everyone wasted 10 percent of their time doing things that did not help them add customers, serve existing customers, or improve the profitability of the organization?”  I got a hearty laugh from everyone in the room.  Everyone believed they spent over 20% of their time in unproductive meetings, developing unnecessary reports, creating redundant procedures, and so on.  In the end, it was agreed that a 10% organization-wide waste goal was conservative. To put this into perspective that represent approximately forty-five thousand hours of work.  The equivalent of 21 people.

Without going into a lot of detail we climbed the forty-five-thousand-hour mountain. They engaged every employee in the company to help identify the waste. They challenged everyone to double the amount of time salespeople spent selling without adding any employees.

It was a big success! The employees submitted far more than 45,000 hours worth of suggestions, many of which were addressed in 60 days.  The result:

 – Record growth rate – sales people far more productive

 – Record net profit margins – Driven by higher growth and eliminating the need for headcount.

 – Record employee engagement scores – Aligning and enrolling all employees to eliminate workload lead to employee engagement scores that have never been replicated.

 – Everyone was working similar hours and felt less burnout.

TAKE A GOOD LOOK… ARE YOU AND YOUR ORGANIZATION CLIMBING THE RIGHT MOUNTAIN?

Can you be guilty of chasing too many issues rather than fixing the one big one?  One way to know is to look at the list of company priorities.  If there are more than 3 it is likely that you are not focusing and failing to properly prioritize.  Look at the usual symptoms: 

 – Difficulty filling positions

 – Higher turnover

 – Failure to grow faster than the market

 – Net profit margins are not in the top 10% for your industry peer group.

 – Time is controlling you

 

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. 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.

Use Metrics to Propel Business

business metrics

Several years back, I was the Business Coach for a mid-sized company in the healthcare industry.  When I first started working with the leadership team, the company grew rapidly and was on the path to insolvency. In nine short months, we were not only able to accelerate their growth but turn them into a highly profitable company with plenty of cash in the bank. The company did so well that it sold for a high multiple only 18 months after our initial meeting.  The secret to the turnaround was found in how we used metrics to propel the business. The turnaround happened so quickly and easily that one of the senior leaders insisted that I had played with numbers.  He could not comprehend how we so quickly turned the company around. I want to share with you how you can use the same steps to ignite the growth and profitability of your company.

In Your Business is a Leaky Bucket, I identified how small improvements could lead to huge improvements in the bottom line. I identified 15 ways (I refer to as leaks) to improve your financial results in the book. I provided an example whereby improving revenue, cost of sales, and overhead each by 1%, a client could improve profit by 42%.  That client made three seemingly small moves that increased their bottom line from 3% to 20% of revenue in one year. Proving that small moves good lead to big results.

HOW WELL DO YOU UNDERSTAND YOUR FINANCIAL STATEMENTS?

One of the keys to achieving higher results is understanding your financial statements better. Most accountants produce financial statements and fail to help you determine how to propel your business forward. This is a big weakness among the leadership team. And you don’t have to be a Certified Public Accountant to learn how to understand them in a highly impactful way for your organization.

One fact that does not get talked about often is that those financial statements, while important, are missing some of the most critical information for you to build a better business. Your financial statements are not wrong. They are just limited because they only capture financial transactions. They don’t capture the metrics needed to help understand the cost of the organizational missteps. In most organizations, the costs of these missteps usually can triple your net profit.

Generally accepted accounting principles don’t help you measure the business leaks happening in plain sight. For example, there is no financial statement line item measuring the costs of keeping poor performers, deals that you lost because of inept salespeople, margin lost because of poor pricing, and so on. It would be best if you used the metrics to propel your business.

BUSINESS METRICS DEFINED

Before I take you through the thought process that will help propel your business, I want to clarify some terminology. There are several terms used in business that represent different types of metrics. Metrics include goals, targets, critical numbers, and key performance indicators. Business metrics allow you to determine how well each employee and the company perform. Metrics help measure whether you are on track to achieve annual and quarterly priorities. There are many metrics (profit/loss, balance sheet, departmental, people, process). It takes discipline and skill to find the smaller number of metrics that make the most significant difference to your organization.”

While we recognize all metrics as important, the “critical number” designation means this metric is the main priority for the company. We must not have more than two. We need two for balance—if we are too focused on performance indicators, we may damage our relationships, and vice-versa. This metric(s) should help you focus on the biggest obstacle(s) to achieving your goals.

What is a key performance indicator (“KPI”)?  KPIs are either leading or lagging metrics identifying activity, inactivity, and effects of accumulated decisions.

  • Lagging indicators are metrics that portray the performance of the past.  Examples of lagging indicators include revenue, gross margin, net profit, cash in the bank, and turnover.
  • Leading indicators are those metrics that help us forecast and predict future results. Leading indicators are those measures that focus on today’s actions that impact the lagging indicators.  For example, all businesses have revenue goals.  The starting point to generate revenue is interacting with a potential customer. Leading indicators for revenue include the number of qualified leads, number of appointments, dollars in the pipeline, etc.

Many metrics can be leading or lagging indicators.  For example, I had a Business Coaching Client that recently missed their revenue goals for the last two months.  When evaluating why the goals were missed, they concluded that they failed to use their marketing budget fully or misallocated what was spent. While the marketing costs were a lagging indicator on their financial statements, how and how much was spent on marketing led to insufficient leads and fewer sales. 

Business goals describe what a company expects to accomplish over a specific period. Goals might pertain to the company as a whole, departments, employees, customers, or any other business area. Goals are metrics and key performance indicators. Targets are the long-range metrics we aim to achieve. Targets are a little more difficult to forecast than 90-day and 1-year goals and metrics.

Goals and targets are the terminology used in business planning and priority setting. While you could use these terms interchangeably, I consider goals well-developed metrics that we feel confident in achieving. You should not call something a goal unless you are committed to achieving it.  Not reaching a goal is a failure in performance.  On the other hand, targets are typically lofty goals with much lower certainty, and we have not determined how to achieve them.  Targets are helpful because they stretch us to develop new strategies and tactics to improve our business model.  Falling short on targets is not necessarily a failure.

There are three primary ways we use metrics to propel a business:

  • Goal Setting
  • Perspective
  • Momentum

IS YOUR GOALSETTING PROCESS BROKEN?

My first objective with many business coaching clients is to shift them from arbitrary to well-thought-out goals.  An arbitrary goal has little basis. Just because you grew 30 percent last year does not mean you will continue to grow at that rate. 

Learning how to develop goals does not require a Ph.D. in quantum physics.  It requires the leadership team to identify key metrics, the assumptions that need to be considered and establish metrics expectations. 

A key sign that you will likely miss your goal, or achieve it for the wrong reason, is when there is little debate.  I often find the goals could be set much higher, but the leadership team is too focused on how they have been doing things rather than how things could be done. The secret is in debating the assumptions and asking questions like what must happen and be true to achieve the goal.

Let’s use my client that failed to achieve their goals for two months. To develop their revenue goal, they need to make assumptions about the following metrics:

  • # sales people
  • Dollars spent in marketing
  • # leads generated
  • # of leads converted to appointments
  • $ of appointment converted to clients
  • Average $ earned on each client

Each of the metrics has a range of potential outcomes. For example, how many of the salespeople will meet their quota?  How many will leave or be fired?  How many do we have to hire and by when?  Can we hire that many people at one time? And so on?  How can we influence each of these assumptions? Where do we like confidence? How can we mitigate risk?

I agree that this seems like a lot of hard work, but it is necessary. All of the issues will be faced during the year.  You will have a higher success rate if you plan to improve the right steps in the process rather than wing it and hope that you will make the right moves.  Hope is not a strategy. Through discussing these assumptions, you will find the key success factors that need to be addressed in your business plan.  You will have established the foundation to propel your business by prioritizing and addressing success factors.

IT IS NOT THE BUSINESS METRIC…IT IS WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM IT

Consider evaluating the effectiveness of you are using metrics to propel your business.  I often find that leaders are using metrics but from the wrong perspective. If you are one of our business coaching clients, you evaluate metrics when creating your budgets and forecasts. The metrics used to create them are based on what you have learned from daily, weekly, and monthly reviews of leading and lagging metrics.  It is not only possible but probable that you are going through these rituals and missing the majority of the value of the process.  When done properly, you drive continuous improvement, debunk flawed assumptions, and increase momentum in your business. This all happens through continuous improvement, not a once-a-year budgeting process. By debating and discussing your metrics, you can make more of the right moves to improve your results faster.

It starts with budgets and forecasts.  A common mistake is not to include the entire leadership in their development.  Your financial function can lead the process and construct the financial model, but the functional leaders own the inputs.  We want a leader to own and know their numbers.  When taken seriously, developing functional contributions to your forecasts causes the leader to consider improving their metrics in the coming periods.  And, you want the leaders developing their targets considering and company-wide view.  You need to bust siloed thinking. Doing this helps leaders understand how they and their functions contribute to the overall numbers. When done well, the forecasting process leads to continuous improvement.

You must use a widget-based approach to budgeting and forecasting.  A widget is a primary input that drives your business model. The widgets are leading indicators to success, such as # of Leads, # of Clients, # Jobs, and so on. Why widgets? The lagging results, such as sales, are important, but you cannot manage sales. A key to optimal success is driving the inputs that cause sales. A widget-based forecasting approach allows the leadership team, not just the CFO, to own the forecast. Using widgets as inputs, you can improve forecasting accuracy and easier forecast cash.

Depending on the nature of your business, many widgets should be developed and tracked weekly.  You might be thinking, what is in it for you? We have found that prioritization and focus get much stronger. One of our software-as-a-service business coaching clients focused all their energy on building better software.  While this was important, looking at metrics from a holistic standpoint, the leadership team recognized that their marketing and sales functions were performing poorly.  This was perplexing because they had built one of the best platforms in their industry segment. Using the key marketing and sales metrics, we focused on why the metrics were below expectations.  This led to a deep discussion that you can learn more about by reading my blog post Trying to Sell and Apple to Someone Looking for Chocolate.  That discussion led to substantial changes to their go-to-market strategy, and I am proud to say that momentum changed almost immediately.

IS YOUR BUSINESS GAINING MOMENTUM?

One of my all-time favorite books is Good to Great by Jim Collins.  In that book, Jim discusses the Flywheel effect. The following is an excerpt that can be found on his website.

No matter how dramatic the result, good-to-great transformations never happen in one fell swoop. There is no single defining action, grand program, killer innovation, solitary lucky break, and miracle moment in building a great company. Rather, the process resembles relentlessly pushing a giant, heavy flywheel, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough and beyond.

Picture a huge, heavy flywheel—a massive metal disk mounted horizontally on an axle, about 30 feet in diameter, 2 feet thick, and weighing about 5,000 pounds. Imagine that your task is to get the flywheel rotating on the axle as fast and long as possible. Pushing with great effort, you get the flywheel to inch forward, moving almost imperceptibly at first. You keep pushing and, after two or three hours of persistent effort, you get the flywheel to complete one entire turn. You keep pushing, and the flywheel begins to move a bit faster, and with continued great effort, you move it around a second rotation. You keep pushing in a consistent direction. Three turns … four … five … six … the flywheel builds up speed … seven … eight … you keep pushing … nine … ten … it builds momentum … eleven … twelve … moving faster with each turn … twenty … thirty … fifty … a hundred.

Then, at some point—breakthrough! The momentum of the thing kicks in in your favor, hurling the flywheel forward, turn after turn … whoosh! … its heavyweight working for you. You’re pushing no harder than during the first rotation, but the flywheel goes faster and faster. Each flywheel turn builds upon work done earlier, compounding your investment of effort—a thousand times faster, then ten thousand, then a hundred thousand. The huge heavy disk flies forward with almost unstoppable momentum.

Now suppose someone came along and asked, “What was the one big push that caused this thing to go so fast?” You wouldn’t be able to answer; it’s just a nonsensical question. Was it the first push? The second? The fifth? The hundredth? No! All of them were added together in an overall accumulation of effort applied in a consistent direction. Some pushes may have been bigger than others, but any single heave—no matter how large—reflects a small fraction of the entire cumulative effect upon the flywheel. Here’s what’s important. We’ve allowed the way transitions look from the outside to drive our perception of what they must feel like to those going through them on the inside. From the outside, they look like dramatic, almost revolutionary breakthroughs. But from the inside, they feel completely different, more like an organic development process.

As a business coach, I have witnessed companies that can show you excellence in their processes but have little to no momentum.  I recommend you develop your flywheel and measure momentum.  Using metrics in conjunction will help the leadership better understand creating momentum. There is a direct correlation between developing and analyzing metrics and the flywheel effect.  When constructing your metrics and priorities, you need to consider how this will help momentum in your flywheel faster.

CONCLUSION

When leveraged properly, metrics lead to propelling your business forward. Metric development and review is a critical skill that all leaders must master. It takes practice, practice, and more practice like any other essential skill. You can only get better at forecasting and using metrics with commitment, discipline, and continuous improvement. And the Finance department is not solely accountable for forecasting. Instead, it is a process that requires input from everyone. All leaders need to help develop the metric targets related to their departments. It is also helpful to run the standards by the employees that must deliver on them. The feedback is where the gold lies.

The review and discussion process as results are occurring is crucial to having a predictable business gaining momentum. By critically reviewing actual versus planned results, you help everyone see where the critical leaks are in the budget. Not only do you need to identify the leaks, but you must also address them.  You must identify the few big leaks that are slowing momentum. Once identified, discover the problem that is causing the metric.  Be relentless in truly addressing the issue by ensuring that you have company initiatives that will remove the bottleneck.

With practice, I believe every leadership team can produce highly predictable results. Each time you evolve a new forecast, you will learn new ways to improve performance and strengthen accountability in your organization.

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 www.activategroupinc.com or contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216.

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.

Lack of Accountability is an Epidemic

Have you ever been frustrated because a colleague had failed to follow through on a critical priority? You are not alone. I have concluded that lack of accountability is an epidemic in most organizations. The good news, this is solvable.

I recently had a C.E.O., Rocky (not his real name), tell me that he felt his team wasn’t following through on the key priorities. Worse, they agreed to them! Rocky felt that maybe his team thought that what they chose to work on was more important than the agreed-to strategic initiatives. I found this puzzling and needed more context to diagnose and develop an action plan. After all, I knew his team members. All possessed high integrity and the required intelligence, and all worked hard. I doubted that any of them were willfully sabotaging the company, mainly since this was a group issue.

So, I asked if I could sit in on their next weekly meeting as an observer. What I found was eye-opening!

Rocky led the meeting with his entire team present, and they all actively participated. After the meeting concluded, I debriefed his whole team. I complimented them on their high energy and congeniality and asked if this was a typical meeting. They said it was. So, I pointed out that even though they all effectively worked together to solve a business problem, there was one key item missing from their meeting, and probably from their others, as well. All heads turned to me.

Now that I had their attention, I explained that not once did they discuss their key quarterly priorities and the corresponding key measures developed to provide headlights. In other words, Rocky wasn’t holding his team accountable for focusing on achieving their strategic initiatives. And, by extension, if Rocky wasn’t holding them accountable, I asked if maybe they thought that where they chose to begin wasn’t that critical? I saw a couple of heads nod. However, the most common response was that they didn’t fully grasp what they were supposed to do.

My colleagues and I at Activate Group, Inc. have been exposed to thousands of leaders spanning most industries in businesses ranging from start-ups to billions in revenue. We have learned that a lack of accountability typically stems from a lack of clarity. After all, it is hard to commit to something if you don’t fully understand it; and, if you’re not committed, you can’t subscribe to the need to see it through.

In his excellent book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni talks about how, for a team to get the desired results, it first needs to work its way up through four other levels. It starts with trust. This is the foundation required from which they can effectively engage. Next, a strong team will engage in constructive conflict and dialog to allow everyone to be heard, gain clarity, and consider more alternatives. After everyone is heard, it is crucial that you ask for and gain commitment from all stakeholders. It is at this point that engenders the necessity of accountability to drive results. When you skip any or all of the first three steps, you tend to lose clarity and commitment.

In my client’s case, it turned out they didn’t spend enough time engaging in constructive conflict. While they had developed a solid foundation of trust over the years, they didn’t spend enough time in having that constructive dialog so that everyone clearly understood the initiatives and could commit to supporting them as priorities.

The other mistake I found—and find often—is a lack of a clear accountability system. Within this system must be clear on who is accountable to make sure a particular thing gets done, what must get done, and when. In many cases, that assignment is left ambiguous, and, as a result, no one feels accountable.

I helped my client implement several steps that you can implement in your organization:

1- Leave plenty of time on the agenda to make sure that everyone was clear on the priorities.

2- Ensure that the priorities are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound—the useful acronym S.M.A.R.T.

3- Limit the number of priorities assigned to each executive to make sure you spend enough time in a constructive discussion (Specific, Measurable, and Relevant) and that they aren’t stretched to the point that they might drop some balls (Attainable) during the upcoming fiscal quarter (Time-bound).

4- Assign accountability to only one person. Others can help, so they can delegate responsibility for any number of tasks, but only one executive would be held accountable.

5- Create an Accountability Dashboard so that anyone could review it and understand the status of each priority. The Dashboard has to be updated before each meeting.

6-  Change meeting agendas so that time is allocated to priorities and key measures first, and other topics are addressed as time permits. The Dashboard now becomes a tool to be reviewed.

7-  Create a powerful meeting tempo for each week to allow the team to stay current with all key aspects of the business and get help with their stuck priorities.

The above changes have become ingrained in the company, and the level of team engagement has far exceeded Rocky’s expectations. As a result, by driving clarity and, thus, accountability, the company has managed to grow during the three most recent quarters, all during the pandemic! They grew sales by 20% and increased their profitability by almost 30%!

Want to Learn More about Accountability?

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

How to Remove OVERWHELMED from your Business Vocabulary

HOW TO REMOVE OVERWHELMED FROM YOUR BUSINESS VOCABULARY

The CEO of one of my Business Coaching clients, let’s call him Joe, was very highly strung when I first met him. He was saddled with both working on the business and working in the business. He felt that his management team was inadequate for the job and had to step in and do the job for them constantly. As a result, he was always tired, impatient, and short-fused. His team members frequently walked on eggshells to avoid the fallout of Joe unloading from feeling overwhelmed and over-worked.

That was a year ago. I recently picked up a new executive coaching client, Mike, who was a referral from Joe. After going through some pleasantries in our first call, I asked him why he wanted to work with me. He told me that he has known Joe for years and has noticed a remarkable change in Joe’s behavior. He now found Joe much more relaxed, Mike continued, and it was fun to hang out again. Additionally, he noticed that Joe now appeared to be more focused and took the time to work on his business expansion, as well as made the time take a long overdue vacation with his family. Mike wanted that for himself, as well! He felt that he was facing burnout and needed to reverse that trend.

Many business owners and CEOs find that they, too, can feel overwhelmed and over-worked. Sometimes, they behave like Joe, and other times they just check out and disappear, trying to hide from the demands and the fatigue. These are all symptoms of burnout, just from different ends of the spectrum. It is always a big red flag when the CEO is the busiest person in the Company.

There is no magic formula for the CEO to change this dynamic. It’s about adopting new habits, both for themselves and their management team, to give them the freedom to spend more time working on the business. Here are the things you can implement to help not feel overwhelmed and burned out:

-1-  Create a Culture of Learning – The entire team was assigned a reading list and we did follow-on discussions and exercises. I curate the reading list to focus on gaps in the desired behaviors the team needed.

-2-  Create a Culture of Accountability – If you’ve read my previous blog, you learned that the lack of accountability typically stems from the lack of clarity. After all, it is hard to commit to something if you don’t fully understand it; and, if you’re not committed, you can’t subscribe to the need to see it through.

-3-  Prioritization – Implement a planning process (Strategic and Operational) that identifies the key priorities and aligns the management team’s members. Use a balanced set of metrics to provide both headlights and taillights so that everyone knows how they are performing.

-4-  Talent Scorecard – Implement a talent scorecard to determine if you have the right people filling the right seats. The scorecard is used to evaluate everyone in the Company, including the CEO.

-5-  Communications – Create a strong communication culture by implementing proper meeting rhythms and employs active listening.

-6-  Transparency – Fostered organizational alignment and improved operational velocity and effectiveness through clarity and accountability. Everyone in the Company knows what is going on and how you are doing. Everyone must understand the Company’s purpose and values, its priorities (for the quarter, year and beyond), and how success is measured.

By applying these six key principles, Joe’s Company is growing at a healthy clip and year-over-year profitability has improved by 20%. Also, employee turnover has dropped, and most employees think it’s a great place to work. Joe has developed and made his bench of managers stronger and more capable; and the trust in the leadership team is at an all-time high. He now has the freedom to focus on other higher-value initiatives and activities. Most of all, Joe no longer feels overwhelmed. He is working on growing the business and finds the time to spend with his family and hone his golf game. Joe is a happy man, and his team sees that too. He is still busy, but he is now only pursuing strategic business objectives and lives a balanced personal life.

Want to Learn More about Removing that Feeling of Being OVERWHELMED?

Mo Rousso is a business growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving execution. To learn more about him or the firm, please visit our website at www.activategroupinc.com/contact or contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216.

Think Before You Communicate

So often verbal communications do not work out the way people want. They cause a completely different outcome from their intended purpose. The challenge is not just the words one uses. It is the tone and body language of the delivery. Research tells us that words make up only 7% of the communication we receive. Body language accounts for 55%, and tone 38%. Meanwhile, people spend the majority of their time thinking about the words they want to use. I would suggest that not enough thought is given to timing and method of delivery.

The more prominent a person’s role in an organization and community, the more important it is for them to be a master communicator. Their prominence results in their communications touching and impacting larger audiences of people. For example, let’s look at Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. His comments after LeBron James announced his decision to go to the Miami Heat will have a profound impact on his organization and his community. In case you missed it, he denounced the player who won MVP in the league for the last 2 seasons and carried his team to the playoffs for the last few seasons, making statements publicly that included the following:

  • Heartless and callous
  • Shocking disloyal
  • Shameful display of selfishness
  • Cowardly betrayal

Mr. Gilbert then went on “to personally guarantee that the Cleveland Cavaliers will win an NBA championship before the self-titled former “King” wins one. You can take it to the bank.”

The consequences of these remarks served little purpose other than to embarrass Dan Gilbert and his organization and to hurt his community. It put the team in a position where LeBron might never consider returning to play in his home town, Cleveland, regardless of what trades they made. Gilbert violated the rule of “never burning bridges.” Had the Miami Heat or Alonzo Mourning done something so foolish back when he had health issues, Alonzo might not have returned to play a critical role in helping the Heat win the NBA title. There are many cases where players have returned to a former team later in their careers and played crucial roles.

In addition, the people in the city also should have thought before they burned their LeBron jerseys. All of these people acted in a shockingly disloyal and selfish manner toward a player who brought them incredible baskeball for the last 6 years and donated a lot of time and money in their community. Many stars continue to support their home towns after leaving for another team. Now these shortsighted people are alienating him. What are the chances that he will want to continue to give back to this community? What purpose is their communication serving?

The lesson here is that one must think before communicating. I would bet that many communications would never happen because they serve no useful purpose. They are often just an outlet for some to free their anger; as above. In the process they hurt themselves and others. There are only two proper purposes for communication: 1) to transfer information, and 2) to encourage others to behave or act a certain way. You know you achieve that goal when the information has been transferred properly or the other people are behaving or acting the way you desired. If this is not the case, you failed in your communications. If your purpose with communication is to hurt someone or to cause anger, it usually acts as a boomerang.

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.

Accountability and Championship Teams

The true test of your team’s commitment and buy-in to its goals is accountability. Without accountability teamwork breaks down. Sports teams provide us with a great look at what happens when a team is working right. Have you ever noticed that the players on championship teams hold each other accountable? They will not stand for other members of the team not playing their role to win. Failure of one team member means failure of the team. As a result, they are all watching to make sure each other do their part to win.  The coach does not even need to get involved. Each player knows their job and so do their teammates if someone fail they know it and so does everyone else. It is not unusual for someone to apologize to the other team members when they fail to be in their position or a man gets by them. 

Are you creating enough clarity around roles and specific outcomes for each team member so that they can self police? It is essential that everyone knows what is expected of them and that this is public knowledge.  The more clarity and specificity the better! When someone fails to achieve their part of the plan they need to be held accountable and exceptions should be rare. If you create an environment where only some people are held accountable or goals are only sometimes achieved then you will not be able to create a championship team.

Thanks Steven Slater and Jet Blue

I have been reading about Jet Blue’s flight attendant’s meltdown, and whether or not Steven Slater started the affair or the passenger did, it still highlights something that we can all probably agree on. People in general have lost their manners, and society needs to get back to basics. Whether we are on the road, in an airplane, in the workplace, shopping, or at home, people are not treating each other properly and in many cases are just downright rude and disrespectful.

I could never talk to my parents the way I hear kids speak to theirs today. The quality of communications among people has declined thanks to e-mail, text, twitter and other reasons not to talk face-to-face. Texting and e-mails have caused more strife between people than ever could be imagined. People do a poor enough job expressing themselves in person.

Even without the messaging problems, the basics have just gone out the window. For some reason, it seems that as generations go by, people think that it is okay to be disrespectful. Common courtesies have gone out of fashion like clothing. For example:

  • How often do all the ladies leave the elevator first?
  • How often are people holding the door open for people or just rushing in?
  • In South Florida I do not think anyone is ever on time. When someone is late, they are showing lack of respect for the people waiting for them.
  • When someone cancels a meeting at the last minute, they are showing disrespect for the other person’s schedule.
  • How often does someone see someone else carrying something heavy and pretend not to see them instead of offering assistance?
  • People do not return phone calls, e-mail, or invitation responses.

So after pondering these thoughts, I was considering some of the companies in the world that are known for their customer service. These customer service techniques are rooted in good manners. Saying thank you and you’re welcome, holding open the door for people, and other basic good manners.

I recently visited Aruba and was amazed at how friendly everyone was. I do not care who it was. You could talk to anyone, and they were helpful. The Aruban economy is clearly dependent on tourism, and the small country totally gets it. Compare that to say, Miami, which also heavily depends on tourism, and I would say half the hotels are not nearly as friendly and helpful as some of the street people were in Aruba. There was no surprise that in Aruba they have 2% unemployment, low crime and what they call a “happy island.”

So maybe if our state and federal governments want to spend money on something useful to improve our economy, they should require every American to attend good etiquette and customer service training. This alone might put our economy back on track and give us a competitive advantage over other countries.

If the government cannot see the forest through the trees, business owners must. If your company does not have a large loyal customer base, take a look at how well the staff treats each other and its customers. If you do not think they are setting an example in how well they treat people as human beings, I am sure it is having a negative impact on your top and bottom lines.

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 or contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.