Climbing the 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

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 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

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 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.

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.

Team-Building

STOP…wasting money on team-building exercises and retreats that, in the end, fail to bring about the desired results anyway. A significant reason that team-building initiatives fail is that too much emphasis is placed on the misconception that team-building should be fun. The purpose of team-building is to improve the performance of a work group, thereby creating better outcomes. This requires change, and for most people change is not fun … it is hard work. Team-building can be fun… if the members of the work group enjoy the learning process and relish the opportunities that change will bring. This is where a business coach plays a vital part in successful team building that brings results.

Key Elements For Driving Team Performance

If you want to improve teamwork and performance in your organization you have to look at the four core elements to driving team performance: relationships, goals, roles, and rules. All four of these elements must be executed well for the organization to flourish.

Focus on Improving Relationships LAST

Ironically, improving relationships is probably the last area you should focus on. Yes, the area that most leaders spend most of their time addressing is usually the symptom, not the problem. Almost every organization that has team-building issues will find their root of their problems in goals, roles, and rules. In my experience, when we address goals, roles, and/or rules, many of the relationship problems disappear.

State Your Goals

The first step toward achieving success as a team is to state your goals properly. You know your goal is well stated when anyone who reads it knows exactly what you are trying to accomplish and in what time frame. The better a person states the goal, the easier it is to create the action plan. An acronym commonly used for stating a goal properly is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistically High, and Time-based).

Understanding Your Roles

In order for a team to function properly it is important that every member of the team understands specifically the actions and/or activities assigned to them. This is not as simple as some make it out to be, which is why this is usually an issue for team. There are two different types of roles: task and maintenance. The “task” roles relate to driving the desired outcome of a team. The “maintenance” roles relate to managing team processes and relationships among people on the team.

Rules Must Apply to Everyone

Rules are a very important component of teamwork. This is one of those areas many leaders, particularly in entrepreneurial and family-owned businesses have the biggest concern with. Everyone is fine with rules as long as they apply to others. You cannot have one set of rules for some people and another set for others.

Contact us if you need team-building ideas.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert and business coach 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 305-722-7213 or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Are You a Growth-Oriented or Execution-Oriented CEO?

One question you may want to ask yourself is, “What kind of CEO am I?” My observation over the years is that most CEOs fall into two categories. The first category consists of those that are very growth-oriented, focusing mainly on sales and marketing activities. They find money everywhere. Remember my “Revenue is vanity, profit sanity, and cash is king” motto here. You may be good at growing the top line, but if you are not careful you may find weak net profit margins compared to some of the other top companies in your space. Another potential pitfall is inadequate margin on your revenue, which will cause you to be prone to finding yourself with little cash and to giving up too much equity to others to feed your revenue habit.

The Execution-Oriented CEO

The second type of CEO is very execution-oriented. If this is you, you and your team are masters of your craft. When I go into your businesses I find you are excellent at what you do. You pay close attention to every detail, and can show me tons of metrics as to why you are great. The reason you’ve hired me is that you do not have the revenue to show for it. You spend the majority of your time perfecting processes and creating perfect products and services. It is common for you to get and keep a customer forever. However, your perennial problem is getting more customers. You have little sales and marketing orientation, and if you’re honest you will tell me that you hate selling and think that marketing is a waste of time and money.

Strategy vs. Execution

You can see the real challenge. There is a never-ending conflict between strategy and execution. It is yin versus yang. Strategy is about growth and execution turning revenue into profit efficiently and removing waste. They often bang up against each other, and if you do not hear a lot of conflicting opinions you know you have a problem. Growth without discipline and making choices creates a lot of waste and burns cash. You rarely have one leader that is good at paying attention to both.

I raise the original question, “Are you growth- or execution-oriented?” If you are one or the other, it will be important to go back to your people section and ask this question, “Do I have enough of the right types of the right people on my team to scale the company?” Do you have a tendency to squeeze out the opposite type of person because of your preference?

Call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.

Do You Have a Follow Through Problem With Your Business Work?

Follow Through in Business

If you are like most leaders, you more than likely have a follow-through problem. You may not realize it, and it is costing you revenue growth and profit margin. As a business coach, I have had the benefit of observing business leaders of many high-growth companies. While many of these companies are on Fortune magazine’s list of fastest-growing companies year after year, they could be growing faster and could definitely more profitably. From the long-view, these are highly successful people and organizations. As you begin to look closer, you find that (like all high performers) they have opportunities for improvement. This article discusses the issues that commonly cause follow-through problems in an organization.

The Common Issues that Cause Follow Through Problems in an Organization:

  • The decision-making process
  • Leadership
  • How often final decisions are being changed
  • Leading by consensus
  • Not understanding all aspects of the decision and outcome before making a final decision
  • Not including all decision-makers within the decision-making discussion at the same time
  • Not finishing discussions or making a final decision

Lack of Follow Through in the Workplace

Lack of follow-through in the workplace could be due to how frequently “final” decisions are being changed. When a decision is made, it should be made based on certain assumptions, directed by key questions that were answered using facts. Once you have made a solid business decision, you should only change that decision if new facts invalidate the answer to your original questions or you find that you missed a critical question that could be catastrophic to the final outcome. However, this should be an exception –not the rule. In many organizations, final decision changes are all too common; and not because there was any evidence that the original decision would cause a catastrophic change in outcomes. As a result, the organization loses a lot of time and money failing to follow-through on solid decisions in a timely manner and rethinking the same decisions over and over again.

The Importance of Follow Through in Leadership

Are you trying to lead by consensus? I find that leaders often change their decisions because they want consensus; believing that consensus is necessary in order to have commitment to the decisions that are made. In order to gain commitment, it is necessary to permit everyone to be heard and to allow for healthy debate. Once this is done, you should have the commitment you need. Immediate consensus should be less common than you think, and when you get it, beware. It means that you probably have a bunch of “yes” people in the room, or you have failed to actively engage everyone in the discussion. It is a mark of a strong team when there are diverse opinions on important business topics. The most senior leaders need to be able to elicit these different opinions, listen to everyone’s position, and then make a decision. The rest of the leaders have to be strong enough to accept that their views will not always be accepted as the right way to go. Even if you are right and the team goes in a different direction, that is just how things go.

Understanding The Decision THOROUGHLY Before Making a Commitment

Do you ever find that a decision is made and a few days later everything changes? Worse yet, weeks later things change again. Business leaders will blame this on entrepreneurship and the nature of business. However, when this occurs often and you take a closer look at the issue, it is almost always a leadership decision-making problem. When you watch how decisions are made, you will see that most people-leaders are also problem-solvers. They look for the first problem they can solve, and off they go. This may work with little business issues and problems, but it does not work with the bigger ones that cause the most harm. Before embarking on a new project or deciding to invest in that new system, there are few questions that need to be answered that I find are often overlooked:

  • What factors are the key assumptions that will be used to make our decision?
  • What questions need to be answered in order understand each assumption?
  • Are we going to say yes regardless of what we learn?
  • What information is needed to answer these questions?
  • How fast do we need to make our decision, and what are the consequences of waiting?
  • What is this decision’s priority versus all the other important decisions that need to be made?

Follow Through and Commitment Issues in The Organization

Are you allowing side discussions? This is another follow-through and commitment killer. It is critical that all decision-makers and influencers are in the room at the time of the presentation. Otherwise your project is going to start, stop, and reshape as the others eventually join in on the discussion at hand. Doing things this way will lose a lot of valuable time, and you also run the risk of losing trust within the organization. It is important to have everyone together so that everyone feels heard and can respond to each other’s positions. Some of your team leaders are masters at being passive-aggressive. They have found it advantageous to get you alone because they know that no one else can challenge their positions. They prefer not to be challenged, and they think of themselves as above everyone else. This needs to be stopped.

Improve Follow Through by Finishing Discussions and Making a final decision

There are some leaders that do not let things end. You need to see a discussion through to its end and make a decision. This is a real problem in many organizations. When you have a habit of decisions not being final, it makes it very hard for people to charge ahead with action plans. They have no confidence in you. Once you have shown a tendency to vacillate on decisions, you are branded. Your team is going to wait to see if it really sticks. This means valuable execution time is lost because your people do not trust you.

If you’re having issues with following through in your business or organization, call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.

Is There a Difference Between Innovation and Disruption?

The Technology Leader Awards Committee of the Greater Miami Chamber, of which I am the recurring chair, met the other night. We were establishing the categories for this year’s awards when a great question arose. Is there a difference between innovation and disruption? It stimulated a spirited discussion among the committee members, and I realized that it’s a very important discussion to have when considering the strategy for your business. While we used the terms disruption and innovation in the context of technology, they can be looked at in broader constructs such as your business model. While one could argue that there is a difference between the two, my position is that disruption is a higher form of innovation. The reason is that all disruptors are innovations, but not all innovations are disruptors. The more disruptive the innovation, the higher the stakes and the value you can create in your business.

What Is Innovation?

In simple terms, innovation is just finding a new way of doing something. If you are running a business, it is developing ways to provide a product or service better, faster or cheaper. It is about improving every process with fewer defects, requiring less labor, increasing throughput, etc. It is about changing the usefulness of a product or service. From an even more important standpoint, it is about creating new demand and fulfilling a need that no one else is currently fulfilling. For example, our phones now go everywhere, serve as computers, calendars, watches, and many other things. It is about changing your online experience so that now you can order many products and get them delivered same day. Innovation is about seeing possibilities that others cannot see and making them happen.

Sustaining Innovation versus Disruptive Innovation

When we were discussing categories in my committee, we should not have been asking if there is a difference between innovation or disruption. The real question is “what is the difference between sustaining technologies and disruptive technologies?” While both are innovative, there is a huge difference and advantage to having both.

Sustaining technology improves a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically changing designs to address different consumer sets or by allowing a lowering of prices in more mature markets. A disruptive innovation helps create a new market or value chain and eventually disrupts an existing market. Disruption is much more substantial than sustaining innovation because it changes how we think, behave, do business, learn, and go about our day-to-day. Harvard Business School professor and disruption guru, Clayton Christensen, says that a disruption displaces an existing market, industry, or technology and produces something new and more efficient and worthwhile. It is at once destructive and creative.

Not All Disruption is Created Equal

The innovators’ dilemma is that not all innovation is created equal. There has been much innovation that has turned out to be worthless. In 2010, Time Magazine published a list of The 50 Worst Inventions Of All Time, here are few of my favorites:

  • The Segway – Give inventor Dean Kamen this: he’s a master of buzz. A closely guarded secret that was supposed to change the world upon its release in 2001, the Segway never brought about its promised revolution in transportation. Though the technology is pretty cool — very expensive gyroscopes make the thing nearly impossible to tip over (though George W. Bush found a way) — the Segway’s sales far underperformed vs. Kamen’s predictions. It lives on as the vehicle of choice for mall cops and lazy tourists, but the Segway’s best contribution might be as the vehicle of choice for failed.
  • New Coke – Marketers should have known — don’t mess with consumers’ sentimental attachment to a product. Especially when it’s 99-year-old Coca-Cola. The “newer, sweeter” version, introduced April 23, 1985, succeeded in blind taste tests but flopped in the real world. Phone calls, letters and rants from Coke die-hards flooded in and just three months after its debut, New Coke was removed, and the word Classic was added to all Coke cans and bottles to assure consumers they were getting their first love.
  • Airbnb – When disruption goes your way it can be enormous, such as the Airbnb.com story. Airbnb.com has changed the landscape for people that need a place to stay around the world. Airbnb is a website for people to list, find, and rent lodging. It has over 1,500,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries. Founded in August 2008 and headquartered in San Francisco, California, the company is privately owned and operated and booked more rooms than Hilton last year.
    Airbnb figured out how to enter the vacation rental marketplace without owning any rooms. Unlike traditional hotels, Airbnb scales up not by scaling inventory but by increasing the hosts and travelers and matching them with each other. It has no need for all of those employees and is not held accountable for the customer service problems you find in hotels, such as waiting in long lines for check-in. Its model runs on a marketplace platform where it enables transactions between hosts and travelers, all online. This is definitely an innovation you can categorize as disruption.

Value of Disruption

In today’s fast-paced world, disruption seems to be short-lived. It is critical that you do not go bankrupt trying to create your innovative idea and that you have plenty of capital behind you to take advantage of your position once you have the opportunity. Speed is also essential. Take the Airbnb example. Given that that the primary key to their success was a website to match hosts and travelers, scaling up quickly to have the largest inventory on a global basis with a lot of traveler traffic to their website was essential. Moving early and fast allowed them to build their brand and presence with no marketing budget. They built their entire empire through social media. The value of their innovation and how they approached is the exception and is what all disruptors should seek to accomplish.

Call Howard Shore for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business or become a more effective leader.

How Strong Is Your Leadership and Management Team?

When evaluating your company’s ability to grow and to really scale itself, there is one question you must first ask yourself. How strong is your leadership and management team? Depending on your size, you may only have one level of management. As you grow, there will be multiple management levels to monitor. No matter the number of levels in place at this moment, your ability to grow will be dependent on leadership and management strength. Would your competition be jealous of your leadership and management team?

Leadership From the Bottom to the Top

“A fish stinks from head to tail.” Too often I hear the management team complaining that their company would be so much better if they had better people. If this problem is occurring in your company, start scrutinizing leadership. If you have the wrong team, you likely have problems at the top. The problem at the bottom will not be fixed until you fix the problem at the top.

EVALUATING MANAGEMENT

Do you have the right people in the right seats? “The right people” refers to company culture. Does each of your leaders and managers exemplify your company’s core values? If not, they are creating the wrong standard of behavior for the rest of the team and will infect your business culture.

“The right seats” refers to performance. Does the person you have chosen to perform in a leadership or management position produce the outcomes required of that position? In many cases, leadership is not held to the performance standards required of lower-level employees. If I were to ask you which top 2 to 3 key performance indicators are used for each leader on your team as standards for good and bad performance, would I get the same answer from you and each subordinate? If not, how do you know you have the right people in the right seats? How do you know whether any part of your organization is suffering because its leader is underperforming?

Are They A Strong Team?

Here is where things are usually the most difficult. Do you find it hard to get people with different personalities, experiences, beliefs, and functional skills sets to work together? Do you find imbalance in how much of the leadership weight is being carried by various leaders? Do you find it strange that people who are supposed to be working together work at cross-purposes? It is frustrating how seemingly smart people can spend so much time putting out fires rather than addressing the issues that would prevent the fires in the first place. When I have met strong leaders this is what I find:

Characteristics of Strong Leaders and Managers:

  • People that never stop learning.
  • Smart and talented people who have humility.
  • Answer-seekers that ask a lot of questions.
  • Knowledge and experience combined to co-create.
  • Balance in contribution from team members in meetings.
  • All team members seek each other’s opinions on various issues.
  • Healthy conflict and debate on key issues.
  • Alignment on the priorities.
  • Decisions made and commitment from all team members.
  • Team members hold each other accountable.
  • They get the most important priorities done and consistently achieve their goals.

How to Improve the Leadership and Management Team

Understanding the necessary qualifications of a strong leader and building a strong management team takes experience and dedication to the employee. Sometimes an executive coach is needed to help increase the effectiveness of leadership and improve management skills. To learn more about how an executive coach can help your leadership and management team, call Howard Shore – one of the top executive coaches in the United States – for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 or contact Activate Group Inc. today!

Are You Failing the Internal Customer: “The Employee?”

The Importance of Internal Customers

If you ask most CEOs what makes their business different from their competition, the most common answer received is “service.” This makes particular sense in South Florida, where the majority of industry is comprised of hospitality, healthcare, and other businesses whose end product is service. I look at these organizations and wonder if they are a product of their product. To be truly successful, a business really has to serve at least two customer bases. The customer base most focused on is typically the one perceived as the revenue-generating one. However, considering cause and effect, the internal customer (the employee) should be on at least an equal footing with the external customer. This leads me to a question to those of you who lead or manage people:

If you considered the people that worked for you as your largest and most important customers, would you behave toward them or see them any differently than you do today?

Do All Employees Get Treated the Same Way?

I recently had a usual bi-weekly executive coaching call with the CEO of one of my clients that has multiple locations. He had been encouraged to go out in the field more to really connect one-on-one with his operations people. He was stunned to learn how many employees were considering leaving because they felt disconnected from his vision the rest of the organization, and, more importantly, felt mistreated by his headquarters team.

Through additional research and dialog with his headquarters team, he determined that they did not consider visiting the field important for decision-making. People at headquarters were not speaking to field people with the same respect they gave to headquarters colleagues. They were not serving people in the field the same way they served other headquarters people. It left him with the question, who exactly did the people at headquarters think they were serving? Did they understand why their positions existed in the first place?

Leaders Serve Employees, Not the Other Way Around!

For those who have a tendency to lean on authority to motivate their employees, let me give you something to think about. Reporting to you on a daily basis means that we have a customer relationship! I say this because if I do not keep you satisfied, you are going to help me move my career in a new direction. However, if I am not satisfied with you, I have two options. I can resign or go on silent strike. If I choose the latter, I will give you only the minimal performance to keep my job, but you are never going to be able to get spectacular results from me. While this is scary for any business, it can be devastating in a service business.

Internal Customer Relationships

Let us consider internal customers from three different perspectives: external customer, other internal customers, and bottom-line impact. From the external customer standpoint, they are going to be most comfortable dealing with familiar faces that know exactly what, when, where, and how they like to receive their service. Given that most of us are creatures of habit and routine, every time that routine is broken, I believe you put your customer relationship at risk.

From the “other internal customer” standpoint, things work the same way. The longer people work together, the more familiar and comfortable things get. We really can build a strong enduring team as long as we do not get complacent and employ proper leadership and management techniques. However, the rules change dramatically every time someone leaves or someone new is introduced to the team.

The Cost of Poor Internal Customer Service Can Be Huge

Let us not forget about the bottom-line impact of internal customers. I have read all kinds of statistics that range as high as 25-times-salary for turnover of a key management position. While I cannot validate that number, I can point out that you will potentially incur recruiting costs, lost sales, overtime pay, and other costs as a result of employee turnover. This has to add up to a minimum of 3-times-salary. On the upside, think about the results accomplished by your most highly motivated employees, particularly with regard to attracting, servicing, and keeping external and internal customers. Keeping these individuals gives your business a tremendous competitive advantage.

Review our website to understand how an executive coach or business coach can help you increase the success of your career and business, or contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7213.

The Most Important Conversation You Should Have

Throughout my career I have seen history repeat itself over and over again: leaders making important changes without having a conversation with their most important sources — their customers. You see, what leaders are looking for is data that supports the path they have always followed or believed to be the best strategy for their organizations, but when you look carefully you will see that what the data supports is the opposite.

Things Are Always Changing

What worked in business years ago does not work today. Times are changing. Customer wants and needs have also changed. Imagine twenty years ago, when some technologies didn’t exist, and customers’ desires were different than today. A great example is the fast food industry. The menus are constantly changing. They are always trying to keep up with what their customers’ needs are. Are you?

Change Starts With You Too

The obvious place to start is with your customers. Create solid questions to receive solid feedback. Analyze the solid facts. Most importantly, take what you have learned and implement it into fixing your current strategy. When Americans started eating healthier, McDonald’s reacted to it by including healthier options to their menu. Did the trend take anything away from them? No, because they now can have customers who became health-conscious continue eating at their establishments.

Don’t Go With Just Your Gut Feelings

With so much competition and new products and services coming out every day, businesses can no longer act on whims. There must be secure, solid systems in place to learn how to grow your organization. Leave the “I feels” at home and state the facts. Customers often shop based on emotion. Businesses do not succeed based on emotions. There’s a difference.

To learn how to start collecting solid customer feedback, check out my previous article “Business Strategy Based on Knowledge Instead of Belief.”

We can maximize your team’s success. Contact us for a free consultation to learn how Business Coaching can help your organization, or check out the testimonials page for stories from other leaders we have coached.

How Showing Up Early May Help Increase Revenue

Showing Up to Work Early

We all know that missing meetings, showing up late, or canceling at the last minute causes a bad reputation, which leads to lost income. Well, have you ever thought that showing up early to a meeting could actually increase your revenue and business growth?

The Factor of Time

We all have built a lifestyle where we really could use a 36-hour day vs. a 24-hour day. Time management is key to making the best of your days and keeping commitments. Imagine you are heading to a meeting. You have no time to spare. You rush in, imagining the others are already a little annoyed because wasted minutes seem like wasted hours, and you scramble to get everything out to begin your presentation.

Now picture yourself arriving early. You stroll in calm, collected and have a chance to take in your surroundings. The people you are meeting with are feeding off your energy. Your chances of getting the sale increase dramatically because you seem dependable from the beginning. The factor of time just helped your image and pockets.

Errors Take Up Time & Money

When you are rushed, you tend to overlook things. You skip things because you are crunched for time, and you try to stay focused on what the meeting was supposed to cover. There is no time for extra questions or small talk. The clock is ticking, and your peers/clients are rushed with you. When you are rushed, the room for error increases. When there are errors, you waste time fixing them, and that results in losing money.

Business Reputation

If you are prone to being late, you need to find a system that works. The label of always being “late” labels you as not being dependable or respectful towards the people you are meeting. Set your clocks ahead 15 minutes to trick yourself into thinking you do not have enough time. Space out your meetings by another 15-30 minutes so you do not run over and become late for the next one. Give yourself the chance to appear dependable. Do not take on another task or start something you know you cannot finish because you think you have some time to spare. Take that time to walk into your meeting with a clear mind, ready to close the deal.

Increase Revenue & Business Growth

Activate Group, Inc. 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. Learn more about Activate Group or contact Howard Shore at 305.722.7213.

How Does Your Level of Trust Affect Performance?

The Impact of Trust on Performance

Do you consider trust as something you have or don’t have? Do you give the same level of trust to everyone and at all times? If you are really aware, you will notice that you expect everyone to trust you all the time while you give varying degrees of trust to everyone else.

Trust is important because the feeling of having it or not having it affects behavior, critical thinking, creativity, speed, likeability, energy, and overall happiness. In other words, the trust levels in your organization can dramatically affect your company’s culture or harmony, employee engagement, and employee retention. If you have problems in any of these areas, then I am certain you cannot be maximizing business growth and profits.

The Attitude of Trust in Leadership

It is critical to realize that trust is an attitude that reflects your belief system. Our beliefs lead to our actions, and these actions cause results. When you distrust someone or they distrust you, all interactions are different than they would be if there was a certain level of trust. So if you as a leader have a prevailing belief system of mistrust, then it is imperative that you address this issue immediately.

What Trust Factors Should Be Considered?

In a relationship, people have “free will” and use it to choose whether they will give trust to another person. They do so with the expectation of receiving a mutually desirable outcome and that the other person will act with the right intentions.

Realistically, to give trust, a person must be willing and prepared to suffer a loss. Often things do not go as hoped. Yet, as long as intentions were appropriate by all parties, we should not stop trusting the other party because we did not like an outcome. With that said, I also do not think one should give trust blindly.

Employee Trust Factors

Often, these key factors are not considered when deciding to trust another or not:

  • A person’s past experience with you and/or your organization
  • Experience with the matter at hand
  • Someone’s attitudes about trusting others in general
  • The number of factors controlled by the person/organization being trusted to deliver outcomes
  • Perceived cost in terms of time, energy, and/or money that an investment of trust may be putting at risk

What Level of Trust Do YOU Offer?

All trust is not created equal. In John Maxwell’s work on this subject, he identified the following levels of trust:

1. Contractual Trust:

Trust exists only to the extent that things are explicitly agreed upon. You only trust what people state in formal agreements.

2. Tentative Trust:

People earn trust by proving themselves. Full judgment is reserved to future behaviors.

3. Cooperative Trust:

When this level of trust pervades a partnership, each member actively seeks ways to further understand the other and reconcile differences.

4. Unconditional Trust:

Unquestioning faith is placed in the values, intentions, actions, and decisions of another.

Improving Employee Trust and Workplace Performance

Knowing the trust level is crucial to understanding how to interact with others. Developing cooperative and unconditional trust among customers, employees, vendors, and others can be a definite performance accelerator. Decisions can happen faster, and complexity can be reduced.

However, it is common for people to get sloppy with one another. They take the trust for granted and fail to explicitly agree upon things where appropriate. People may act differently from expectations, causing the trust level to drop to a “tentative” or “contractual” level. Lastly, in instances when you feel that trust has been broken, make sure to get the facts. Often times I am amazed at how quickly trust can be lost completely in unjustified circumstances.

Creating Trust in the Workplace

An executive business coach can help maximize the trust level of your business by identifying current leaks, improving productivity, and increasing your effectiveness as a leader. Learn more about our business coaches and how Activate Group Inc. can help you create a trustworthy and inspiring workplace environment.

Contact us today for a FREE consultation or give us a call at 305.722.7213 to get started right away.

Profit Leak 2 — Is Poor leadership Holding Your Company Back?

Employees and Leadership

Gallup, Inc. recently updated their well-known State of the American Workplace Report. From 2010 to 2012, they surveyed 25 million employees in 189 different countries and 69 languages, asking them their famous 12 questions for measuring employee engagement. The results essentially showed that only 30% of all workers could be referred to as “Engaged Employees”.

Engaged employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward. The scary part of the survey results was that these were the best results ever, and that the improved statistics were still ugly.

Employee Engagement

According to Gallup, essentially 70% of today’s workforce is being paid to be “not engaged” or “actively disengaged.” A staggering 52 percent of employees are “not engaged”, meaning they essentially do just enough so they won’t get fired – but not more. The remaining 18% who are “actively disengaged” employees aren’t just unhappy at work, they’re busy acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish.

What is clear by findings, leadership is causing the 70% who are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged.” The evidence is supported by the fact that the 70% was not spread equally across companies and there also were differences within the companies. The primary difference was to whom those employees reported. This is important because when employees you have invested in are not engaged, you get less return on your investment.

Poor Leadership

By allowing poor leadership, you are deciding that the person designated to lead has more to offer than everyone else put together… a fool’s bet. Your inept leaders cause everyone around them to perform at lower levels, and you lose access to a lot of great ideas. People are less apt to willingly give extra effort.

So if you have leaders on your team that are not able to get top performance out of their teams, stop harassing the front-line people and address your real issue at hand… leadership.

Improve Your Leadership and Team

If you are interested in addressing your “profit leaks,” let’s schedule a time to further discuss your business and how we might work together to patch up your leaky bucket. Contact us for a FREE consultation or give us a call at 305.722.7213.

Profit Leak #1: Are You Losing Productivity on B and C Players?

Profit Leak #2: Is Poor Leadership Holding Your Company Back?

Profit Leak #3: Are You Too Focused on Tactics Rather Than Strategy?

Profit Leak #4: Are Vacant Positions Affecting Business Performance?

Profit Leak #5: Do You Have Retention Issues?

Profit Leak #6: Is Your Business Strategy Causing Lost Opportunities?

Profit Leak #7: Are Your Customer Attrition Rates Too High?

Profit Leak #8: Do You Know What Mistakes Are Costing Your Business?

Profit Leak 1 – Are You Losing Productivity to B and C Players?

Lost Productivity in the Workplace From Employee Performance

One of the biggest profit leaks in your company may be related to your philosophy regarding people. The biggest cost in most companies is payroll, and therefore, the biggest asset or investment is “people”. How seriously are you and your company taking this investment?

What Are A Players?

In our experience, A Players bring two to three times the productivity of employees who do not, regardless of their function.

A Players are employees who meet the productivity requirements of their position and your company’s core-values requirements.

When measurement tools are put in place, business leaders are shocked by the high levels of B and C players they have on their teams. The employee performance gap costs companies millions in lost revenue and profit. This gap doesn’t get enough attention because there is no financial statement line item for the lost customers, lost productivity, mistakes, and lost opportunities attributable to these nonperforming B and C players.

How to Measure Employee Performance

Most sharp business owners measure the performance of their business on at least a monthly basis, and fail to properly relate that performance back to individual employee performance. Worse, the lost performance from your poorer performing team members may exceed your annual income.

By not requiring a specific level of employee performance, monitoring that performance, and holding your employees accountable you are allowing your employees to establish their own performance requirements. Common sense tells me they will set lower work standards for themselves than you would.

Maximize Employee Motivation

To maximize employee motivation and raise standards of performance, it is imperative that you establish key performance indicators for every position in your company. A standard should be set for each indicator, and all employees should be expected to consistently live all of your core values.

Once these are benchmarks are established and communicated, you should measure performance against the requirements on at least a quarterly basis. Immediate action must be taken to help employees that are not meeting their requirements, and people that cannot meet your standards must be replaced.

If you are interested in addressing your “profit leaks,” let’s schedule a time to further discuss your business and how we might work together to patch up your leaky bucket. Contact us for a FREE consultation or give us a call at 305.722.7213.

Driving Change In Your Organization

Most executives experience frustration when:

  • trying to drive necessary changes in the way things are done;
  • to take business in new directions;
  • or even to continue down existing paths.

As a business coach, I help clients through these issues to drive change within their organization and increase profit margins.

Similar Mistakes CEO’s Make

I recently watched a client botch-up a necessary change in the business. As I watched my client ignore my coaching, I realized I had watched the same story line unfold in many other companies. All I had to do was change out the names of the CEO, company, industry, and employee group. The story reads something like this:

  • Change in the industry causes the owner/leader/CEO (“leader”) to sense that things need to change in the company.
  • Without a formal plan or fully organized thoughts, the leader starts tinkering with ideas out loud, scaring key people.
  • The leader does not like the responses received and may even get aggressive with a few people.
  • The leader goes back to the management team convinced something needs to be done and creates a little bit of a plan, but runs off ready to pounce.
  • Meanwhile, key employees who do not like change start banding together to discuss how the leader does not appreciate how hard they work and has lost touch with what is going on. The defense against change is building.
  • The leader enters the room with a fresh Power Point presentation and a big smile and presents his case. Most people stay quiet because their belief is that in a few months the boss will forget about this, and things will go back to “normal”. Just in case it does not go away, a few people that feel honest (and brave) today speak up and share their opinions, which are different from what the boss presented. This, of course, infuriates leadership. Some heated discussion ensues, and with the leader declaring that this how things are going to be, the meeting ends. Many attendees leave confused as to whether the leader has really thought this through.
  • Leadership leaves angry and cannot understand what just happened.
    Have you ever experienced this?

3 Main Issues Harming Business Growth

I find there are 3 issues that circumvent business growth and cause leaders to unconsciously derail their change initiatives:

1. Trust in Leadership

People don’t believe a leader is capable of making the key decision, don’t believe he gave the decision enough thought, or don’t feel that valid concerns have been heard. Worse and most common, the leader has a history of changing course midstream or not following through on decisions.

2. Clarity in Business Goals & Objectives

Inability of the leader to help the team see what he/she sees. When the team asks questions, answers are evasive or shallow. It is also important to give people the necessary time to allow them to process what you are telling them.

3. Weakness in Overcoming Obstacles

Employees will pounce on this. In my experience as a business coach and leader, employees will spend more energy attacking weakness and trying to change a decision than to overcoming obstacles to execute a decision.

Are You Trying to Avoid Conflict?

In general, people like doing things the same way and staying comfortable.

I am sure you looked at my 3 issues and said, “Yeah, that was pretty obvious.” However, I cannot tell you how often I point these issues out to leaders only to have them tell me, “I know, but I can’t deal with it.” For some reason they would rather avoid the conflict of addressing the issues head-on than deal with years of ongoing performance issues caused by not following through on their decisions.

How Leaders Affect Trust & Organizational Change

The trust issue is the hardest one. Leaders violate trust without realizing it, and when you try to call them out, they have trouble understanding what others clearly see.

For example, you recommend changes to a recruiting process, and they tell you how great they are at recruiting, so changes are not needed. You then bring them data that proves that in the last 5 years they have had a 100% failure rate in hiring the right people. All the people they hired are mediocre or downright poor performers. Their response to your data should be, “Good point, let’s go with a different process.” Instead they give you an “ego” response like, “I have a profitable business, so I must be doing something right.” They do not realize they have lost trust because the receiver hears, “Forget the facts, my ego is more important than making my company better. I do not find your ideas important. I do not respect your point of view, and since I do not have a good answer and I am the boss, you just have to go away.” As soon as that happens, you feel disrespected and no longer trust the leader.

In summary, if you have a history of experiencing too much pushback when trying to implement the necessary changes in your business, look in the mirror. You are probably unconsciously suffering to some degree from one or all of the above issues.

Driving Change in Business

Drive change in your organization! To learn how a business coach can help to improve your growth potential, contact Activate Group or give us a call at 305.722.7213.

Building Your Sales Force in 2014

Building a strong sales force is a key to success for many companies in 2014. There are many factors that can lead to disappointing results or actual failure including: bad company strategy, poor leadership, lack of management, failure to provide adequate training, and lack of infrastructure to support the sales force. I find that, whether or not the above-mentioned problems are present, most companies do not interview sales candidates properly because they fail to understand the complexity of the task.

Questions to Ask When Hiring a Salesperson

Sales is a very broad profession with many different types of salespeople earning between $30K to more than $1 million per year in a wide assortment of compensation structures. The salespeople you need for your situation require a special mix of skillsets, personality types, experiences, knowledge, and likeability to succeed. To give this some perspective, here are some of the different factors that one needs to know about a salesperson’s prior positions:

  • Where type of selling were they conducting: outbound and/or inbound selling over the phone, face-to-face, trade shows?
  • How much hunting/prospecting did they have to do?
  • What was their role in closing the deal?
  • Did they make presentations once or multiple times, and were these presentations to a single person or to groups?
  • How much management pressure did their previous companies place on them?
  • Were the products and services they offered top of the line, middle of the pack, different, a little behind?
  • How were they compensated?
  • What was the work environment like?
  • Did they grow existing accounts, get new accounts, or both?
  • Did they handle major accounts, national accounts, or mega accounts?
  • Was their selling direct or through an agent (channel)?
  • Were they selling to residential, corporate, small business, or institutional clients?
  • Was the initial person they called on the Ownership/C-level, Management, Business User, Procurement Agent, or Consumer?
  • Did they spend all day writing RFQs?  Have they every developed and submitted an RFQ?
  • How much resistance will they face versus in the past? For example, will they have more or less resistance with your brand, product or service?
  • How much more or less competition will they now face versus before?
  • Were they usually competitive on price?
  • What was the average size of an order compared to what you expect?
  • Can they sell custom-engineered solutions, conceptual services, commodities or products that can be demonstrated? What do they prefer?
  • What is the sell-cycle time they are used to? What are they suited to?
  • Are they more suited to selling and moving on, selling on a regular basis, selling and renewing, selling and servicing?

The mix of answers produces different types of challenges and explains why you might hire someone that was successful in one situation and fails to succeed for you. It is critical to understand your situation and the composition of skills, experience, and knowledge needed for success in your company. Your job is then to screen and interview for people that have this composition. Most companies do not spend enough time trying to figure this out. They also fail to have the patience to wait for the right people to present themselves.

Most companies have either a poor screening process or none at all. Given the range of considerations presented above most companies fail to produce a large enough candidate pool that would produce the success they seek. The more difficult your sales situation (e.g. unrecognized brand, average product or service, little differentiation, product is not a necessary purchase, complex product, lots of competition, etc.) the more candidates you will likely need in your candidate pool. I recommend a good assessment tool as your first screen and then a strong phone screen with the right questions. This will help you widen your pool of candidates and efficiently and quickly narrow it down to a short pool of 3 to 5 great candidates.

Questions to Ask During an Interview

Once you get to the first interview, you really need to do a good job of crafting your questions. The traditional behavioral interview will fail miserably with salespeople. You need to probe deeply. After 45 minutes to an hour you know you have done your job well if you can properly:

  • Assess the candidate’s past experience and determine how well that experience matches what your needs are.
  • Assess whether the candidate will fit into your company’s culture.
  • See how effectively a candidate will perform under pressure.

Call me, Howard Shore at 305.722.7213 if you think you want to address a challenge in your business or if you want an executive coach that can help you think differently.

Business Plan Advice Services – Focusing on the Next 90 Days

As a Business Coach that offers business plan advice services I have created and reviewed hundreds of quarterly business plans. What I am finding is that companies are doing a poor job of creating their plans, and it is costing them serious growth in revenue and profits.

We were preparing our content for our next Four DecisionsTM public workshops for another client which are developed from “Scaling Up” by Verne Harnish. A differentiator in this process is the One-Page Plan and the fact that we do not just stop our planning after setting the annual priorities. The most successful leaders realize that to move their businesses forward they need to move on their biggest priorities immediately. As a result, the key drive in making sure annual initiatives are achieved is what you do over the first 90 days. This may sound basic, but the fact is that most organizations fail to achieve their annual initiatives, and a primary reason is failing to master the quarter. I believe procrastination is the biggest issue. Leaders typically underestimate the amount of effort, time, and number of obstacles they are going to encounter in order to achieve their initiatives. As a result, they get started too late, if at all.

In order to help clients master their quarter, our business plan advice services include helping them establish their quarterly “Rocks.” These are the 3 to 5 most important priorities for the company, the ones that must be done in the next 90 days. By helping the management team agree on these priorities, you can increase intensity and focus on what matters most for your business. Many leaders try to make everything important and thus nothing is. The more you can focus your people around specific priorities, the more traction you will gain toward accelerating the growth of your business.

“Rock” is a term used interchangeably for “initiative” for a very intentional reason. You may have read about this in Stephen Covey’s book First Things First or seen the following exercise done in a leadership or time-management training program you have attended. Picture a glass jar on a table. Next to it you have large rocks, gravel, sand, and water. The leadership trainer typically fills the jar with the big rocks first and then asks the group if it is full. Everyone says yes. The leadership trainer then pours gravel into the jar and shakes it around to fill in all the holes. He then asked the audience “is this jar full?” Now of course there is reluctance to answer. The trainer then takes the sand and pours it into the cracks in the jar. He then asks again, “Is this jar full?” The same happens with the water. What the trainer wants you to consider is that the rocks are your main priorities, the gravel represents your day-to-day responsibilities, the sand interruptions, and the water is everything else that you get hit with during your workday. If you are like most people, you pour the water in first, the sand in second, the gravel in third, and rocks last. The lesson is that if you do not put your rocks in first there will never be room for them.

When setting your quarterly Rocks, here are a few things to consider:

  • Less is more – 80 / 20 Rule here.  Remember that you are going to have water, sand and gravel. What “Rocks” will give you is 80% of the impact you need to propel your business forward.
  • Linkage to Annual Priorities – Ideally your “Rocks” should be linked to your annual priorities.
  • More Focus on Higher Priorities – Make sure that you have more activities going toward bigger / higher impact “Rocks.”
  • Communicate your “Rocks” – Make sure that everyone knows what the “Rocks” are and that their personal priorities are aligned with the company priorities.
  • Track Progress – You should be discussing status and progress on your “Rocks” weekly in order to make sure that they are getting the proper attention and resources. At the end of the quarter it is easy to rationalize why someone did not get their part done. In my experience, they are only excuses, and actions could have been taken that could have changed circumstances.

Quarterly planning is not as easy as it appears. There are some tough trade-offs. Many times it is hard to see the excuses as all the members of the team are stuck in the same sand and water. This is where good business plan advice services can make a difference.

 

 

Commonality Between Virginity and Integrity

These are two serious subjects that are usually only talked about when we want to appear deeply philosophical or when someone has already messed up. The commonality between the two is that once you have lost either one, you never get it back.

Lost Trust = Lost Productivity

For the most part, loss of virginity is an individual’s deliberate decision. With integrity things are a little more complicated. Integrity usually implies honesty, and we usually associate trustworthiness with integrity as well. Yet different people handle trust differently. Some people find it hard to trust any other person, others are too trusting, and most regard others with varying degrees of trust. Trust is usually extended based on topic, and I have found that a person can be trusted for some things and not others, or by some people and not others. I am going to focus the rest of this article around trust, as that is the part of integrity that costs your company the most money because it results in the most lost productivity.

Integrity in Business

My hypothesis is that most people do not wake up in the morning planning to do, not do, say, or write something that will cause another person to trust them less. However, many inadvertently cause trust issues daily without even realizing it. The more you interact with people through e-mail, on the phone and in-person the more chances you have to violate trust. It is a numbers game. The more interactions you have, the more chances you have to mess up.

C-level executives have to be very careful as their actions, comments, inactions, and silence (together referred to here as “Transactions”) are magnified 10 times compared to the Transactions of staff-level employees. This is one of the prices people pay for deciding to be a leader. Ironically, most leaders are naive in this area. Many are so self-possessed that they believe that being the boss entitles them to not have to watch how they handle their Transactions. The problem with this belief system is that it is wreaks havoc on their businesses. A company loses productivity every time a Transaction is construed as being inconsistent, untruthful, underhanded, immoral, or illegal. It will be deemed by the other parties as “a breach of integrity.” Thus, a common way to express that one has experienced an integrity issue is to say, “I do not trust the boss.”

Do Your Team Members Trust You? Find out if you have trust from your employees.

Leadership Integrity

People known to be decisive, impulsive, and quick to act frequently push the integrity button without realizing it. I have a number of well-meaning clients who have partners and subordinates who have just come to expect them to constantly breach integrity. I want to suggest that it does not have to be this way, that these leaders should try to modify their styles. Sometimes leaders who have a tendency to make statements before thinking things through are actually thinking out loud. They do not realize that by doing so they appear to be disorganized and inconsistent to their subordinates, and give the appearance of changing their word. As a result, the employees do not believe they can count on their leaders to keep their word and that directives will be the same week to week, adversely affecting their productivity and motivation.

Lack of Integrity in the Workplace

The following are common trust-busters that I’ve seen in my clients’ companies. We all do these things on occasion. You should be careful to avoid consistently doing any of the following as you can be having a large negative impact on your team members:

  • Not keeping your word
  • Not giving your word
  • Talking behind people’s backs
  • Being judgmental
  • Being overly critical
  • Twisting the truth
  • Place personal needs over the company’s best interests
  • Blaming others for your own bad decisions
  • Being inconsistent
  • Not treating someone with respect
  • Withholding information
  • Assigning multiple people to work on the same project
Are you negatively affecting employee motivation in the workplace? Learn the 10 ways leaders destroy employee motivation.

The Importance of Integrity in Business

Working on building trust within your organization can have dramatic impact on overall performance on a company in many ways. First, workers who trust their managers and co-workers are more likely to put forth extra effort, voluntarily help each other in times of need, make fewer mistakes, have higher job satisfaction, and maximize work output.

CREATING TRUST IN THE WORKPLACE. An executive business coach can help maximize the trust level of your business by identifying current leaks, improving productivity, and increasing your effectiveness as a leader. Learn more about our business coaching and how Activate Group Inc. can help you create a trustworthy and inspiring workplace environment.

4 Big Ideas: Powering Your Business

Your team is probably fired up about grabbing more market share this year. But if you want to achieve that goal, it’s time to look at your operation through a fresh lens. There are some great ideas brewing in the global community that will help you outdistance your competitors.

One of the most important business concepts of the century is “return on luck” (ROL) . As Jim Collins explains in Great by Choice, all business leaders are being bombarded with both great luck and bad breaks. The smartest CEOs learn not to squander sudden opportunities and figure out how to turn dismal news to their advantage—multiplying the benefits of whatever hand they’re dealt.

Maximizing your “ROL” should be top of your list, every day. But your ROL is just part of the picture. Here are some vital ideas for powering your business that will help you achieve great results.

1. Big Data

There’s no excuse anymore for not having the latest information about your market at your fingertips. For the first time, even tiny companies can search the vast information on the web that corporate giants use to uncover brand-new opportunities, using inexpensive cloud-based technology.

To feel the power of what big data can do immediately for your business, try SizeUp. Within seconds, this free site will tell you how many competitors exist in a specific locale, how your revenues stack up against theirs, and where to hunt for new business.

2. Reverse Innovation

It’s time to forget the days when innovation flowed one way — from rich nations to poor ones. There’s a lot we can all learn from entrepreneurs and organizations working with scarce resources, says Dartmouth professor Vijay Govindarajan. He points to a hospital in India that specializes in heart surgeries, achieving better outcomes with its $2,000 procedures than U.S. hospitals that charge $20,000 or more.

How does the hospital get such amazing results? By specializing in a niche, it runs more efficiently. For instance, while a general hospital typically needs to buy a vast array of equipment to perform every operation under the sun, this hospital needs equipment only for cardiac operations. And it gets a great return on its investment in the equipment it does buy, because it puts these tools into service all day long.

Expect to see this idea coming soon to the shores of the U.S. Meanwhile, we all need to comb the globe for other ideas from the world’s most resourceful innovators in our industries.

3. Newsjacking

In today’s teeming marketplaces, you need a savvy approach to public relations to stand out from the crowd. As marketer David Meerman Scott points out in his book Newsjacking, you don’t have to bankroll a massive PR campaign to propel your company into big news stories.

By offering journalists a fresh, interesting perspective on big developments in your industry, you may be able to “hijack” media reports that are in progress and turn their focus to your company. For instance, a reporter who is looking for a colorful way to illustrate a particular trend might welcome an anecdote about your company to put in the lead of his story.

Of course, you’ve got to know what stories reporters are covering at any given moment to do this. To connect with journalists about stories they’ve working on, sign up for Help a Reporter Out, a free crowdsourcing tool. Reporters from major publications send out alerts each day seeking sources for their stories. I recommend that you monitor HARO daily to see if there are any stories where you can lend your perspective—and get your name into the headlines.

4. Robots per Capita

I’m fascinated by the ability of this simple metric to predict the prosperity of a country (and a company). It’s a great indicator of a nation’s economic efficiency and potential future growth. Thus, it didn’t surprise me to learn recently from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers that Germany, with its thriving economy, has double the robots per capita of the U.S. — Germany has 163 robots for every 10,000 workers, while the U.S. has only 86, just above Spain.

However, I was surprised that Japan, which has suffered a slow economy for decades, has double the robots per capita of every other country. This may indicate that the country is likely to experience a resurgence.  And countries like Singapore and South Korea are showing sustained economic growth from their already high robot per capita ratios.

It’s a key performance indicator worth considering when looking at your own company.  Are you leading the rest of the competition in dramatically automating your business?

Focusing On The Core

I recently read a white paper entitled “The Focused Company”, produced by Bain and Company. As a business coach, I have found that while most clients understand the importance of prioritization and focusing, they fail to achieve either. Why does this occur?

As an owner of three businesses, I can appreciate the challenge. There are so many things that must be done in order to be successful in business. As a result, it can be hard to see what is crucial. The natural entrepreneur has the “shiny object” syndrome. We are interested in pursuing the “shiny object”, which distracts us from concentrating on the matter at hand.

Why We Fail to Focus

Business executives mainly fail to focus because of the way in which the human mind works. We operate more on a subconscious versus a conscious level. We tend to learn by repeated behaviors and allow those repeated behaviors to take precedence over conscious learning. In other words, our brains have us operating on auto-pilot. We may know consciously that the way we have behaved in the past is not working, but our subconscious knowledge still drives future behavior.

According to the Bain report, “… 80% of CEOs expect high levels of complexity over the next five years. Far fewer feel prepared to cope with it. A truly focused company, one that has cut complexity to the minimum, does not invest to win in every element of its business. It invests primarily in its core, the business in which it can outperform everybody else. A focused company does not try to appeal to every potential customer. It concentrates on the most profitable customers, those who it can serve better than any competitor can.”

Having a Focused Business Strategy

As many of my readers know, I am a certified Gazelles Coach. As such, we take our clients through a process known as the “Four Decisions,” which was derived from a well-read book, “Scaling Up” by Verne Harnish. The power of the “Four Decisions Program™” process is not producing the “one-page business plan.” While that is the output of the process, the true value derives from the discovery that occurs by going through the process.

We recently worked with a multinational public company that operates with several billion in revenue and has little-to-no profit to show for it. By working with their coaches, they found that the secret to achieving greater growth and profitability is predicated upon how well they are able to focus. The leadership team was stunned to realize that they had grown to several billion in revenue, and they were struggling because of their failure to have a focused strategy. Our client discovered that their focus had been on how much supply of product they had versus possible customer requirements. If you wanted to analyze their customer base and go-to-market strategy — there was none. As a result, they had no customer loyalty and were more susceptible to market pricing than if they had focused on a core customer and mastered those variables in their business that were important to the core customer.

Addressing Your Customers Needs

Now that this has been discovered, it will be important that their coach continues to help them focus products and services in a way that best addresses the needs of the customers that they believe have the highest profit potential and will stay loyal as a result of addressing these needs. We concluded that, if they do this well, they will be able to use up 100% of their manufacturing capacity by serving much fewer customers well. Rather than being supply-driven they will become customer-driven. To accomplish this, it will be important to design the organization in a way that supports making critical decisions rather than supporting existing processes. Also, by being customer-driven rather than process-driven will result in integrated process efficiency rather than functional efficiency.

In the end, companies must attack complexity in their business. Focus is a never-ending journey.  Business must focus the majority of organizational emphasis on a very few key areas that are costing too much or causing some type delay in order to best serve core customers. We also recommend that businesses should focus their activity by quarter, treating each quarter as a 13-week race. Race to improve one major area of your business. What you will find is that fixing one area will reveal sizable opportunities for simplification elsewhere for the next quarter.

Improve Your Business Strategy

Howard Shore is an executive leadership coach and founder of Activate Group Inc. based in Miami, Florida. His firm works with companies to deliver transformational management and business coaching to executive leadership. To learn more about executive leadership coaching through Activate Group, please contact us today or give us a call at 305.722.7213.

Improving Business Execution

I recently read a compilation of books written by my colleague, John Spence. Spence is a voracious reader and I have yet to meet anyone that reads as much as John. The following are some key excerpts and my thoughts that are critical to effective business execution.

Execute the Right Business Plans

Success comes from executing the right plans, not from the business planning process itself. This is a main reason why the most successful business leaders have found it useful to hire a third-party to help hold them accountable. It is not unusual for the CEO to have the most discomfort during this process. After all, most of them are in this position as a result of their self-motivation, drive and confidence.

These same traits work against them as they typically fail to focus on anything long enough. As a result, their team members fail to achieve desired outcomes. They are too busy trying to address the many conflicting messages. Case in point, recently I did an organizational survey with the top 10 executives in preparation for their annual planning retreat. We found that the CEO commonly provided this team with 25 new initiatives every week, even when the last 25 were barely addressed.

Common Issues With Planning & Execution

The above situation is not uncommon and we typically find the following additional issues:

  • That the CEO was good at understanding what needed to be done, but failed to recognize the resources required to do it.
  • The CEO was failing to prioritize and was making everything appear important.
  • While the CEO may be a master at time management, his leadership approach was having a negative impact on a subordinate’s ability to manage their time well.
  • Too often responsibility and accountability are given without authority to accomplish the work.
  • There is not an appropriate dashboard of key metrics to isolate progress in the essential areas of the business.

How to Improve Business Execution

In order to improve business execution of strategy, we recommend the following:

  • Help your team members create a specific roadmap to success.
  • Remember that a poor strategy, well executed, provides poor results.
  • Align your incentives with strategic objectives.
  • Give leaders, clear, measurable, specific goals with target date.
  • Leaders need to get their hands dirty and be willing to be in the trenches with everyone else.
  • Ensure that there is not more than one person accountable to any initiative, process, and desired outcome.

Howard Shore is an executive leadership coach and founder of Activate Group, Inc. based in Miami, Florida. His firm works with companies to deliver transformational management and business coaching to executive leadership. To learn more about executive leadership coaching through Activate Group, please contact Howard at 305.722.7213.

5 Ways to Recruit and Keep Productive Talent

One common challenge I am hearing daily from CEOs is whether there really are any secrets to getting better talent. In addition, wages are starting to increase as the job market continues to tighten, and you’d better believe that wage inflation will go up. What are some things you can do to win the war on employee talent?

How to Recruit & Retain Talented Employees:

On the employee recruiting front, some companies are having an easier time than others. There are some companies where no matter how much they are willing to offer candidates, they can’t seem to find any. I reached out to some of our best middle-market ($10M to $100M in revenue) clients to gain insight into why they are having better success. A few things we noticed about companies that are able to recruit and retain talented employees:

1. Great place to work

All of the clients that can fill positions quickly and with quality people are great places to work. People love to work for their managers, feel they are treated fairly, and feel respected.

2. Wages were average

Contrary to common belief, these companies were paying the average market wage. They found that being a great place to work allowed them to keep wages at a reasonable level.

3. Plenty of employee referrals

Candidates were coming from employee referrals. Some companies have decided they would rather give large referral bonuses (sometimes as much as $20,000) to their employees for filling key positions than pay recruiters. This was considered a double play. The employee referrals tended to be better candidates and had a high close ratio.

4. Leaders must bring in candidates

A critical measurement for leaders in high-performing companies was the number of people leaders were meeting with in the community that could be potential employee applicants. This was a key performance factor on every leader’s scorecard.

5. Healthier Workplace

Another area for differentiation in companies is developing creative ways to offer something other than healthcare as benefits to your employees. While health benefits have gotten to be an expensive offering, they are just table stakes at this point. In addition, health insurance does not produce healthier and happier employees. However, healthier and happier employees usually lead to higher retention and greater productivity.

Cost-Effective Tips for Retaining Top Talent

Again, we did some research to identify some things you can do that may not cost a lot of money and could have huge benefits toward winning the war on talented employees. Here are a few cost-effective suggestions for retaining top talent:

One of my clients, Sapoznik Insurance recognized this issue several years ago and stopped focusing on just selling insurance. They designed and developed programs that help foster employee engagement. They realized that wellness programs were a great way to do this and had an extra benefit for employers — it could help them reduce costs in their company. Most importantly, companies with robust health and wellness programs find that employees feel engaged and cared for by their employers.

I have worked with Sapoznik for several years and here a number of ways I have witnessed them create wellness programs:

  • Provide branded water bottles – This is a trifecta; promoting hydration, sustainability, and company pride in one by giving your team branded reusable water bottles.
  • Provide your employees with healthy office snacks and stop offering low-quality snacks – Healthy snacks aid in weight control, improve mood, and boost energy.
  • Offer almond and coconut milk in addition to regular creamers and milk – Be mindful of the vegans and dairy intolerant folks.
  • Publish a workplace wellness newsletter – Highlighting the best fitness, nutrition, and educational content. There is a lot of free content you can gather on the internet.
  • Offer standing desks – Some of these desks allow users to easily switch between standing and sitting while working.
  • Order in lunch for the office, especially during crunch time on big projects – Keeping people in the office allows them to get home earlier, and you can help them make healthier choices.

If you are not getting the results you want or are not getting and keeping the talented employees you need, it is time to act! Be creative, and the results will show.

Need help with Employee Recruitment & Retention?

Call Howard Shore, one of the top executive coaches in the United States, for a FREE consultation at 305.722.7213 or contact Activate Group today to see how an executive business coach can help you run a more effective business and become a more effective leader.

Your Return on Luck: The Key Strategic Insight

Hunkering down in year-end strategic planning sessions, you and your team are probably thinking hard about what’s next for the economy and how that will affect your business.

Slow down. You should really be laser focused on maximizing what Jim Collins, in his book Great by Choice, calls your “return on luck” – what I consider one of the most important business concepts ever articulated.

As Collins points out, great companies don’t have better luck than other companies. Sometimes, they get a bum deal. After all, they’re subject to the same economic forces as any other companies competing within the same regions.

But what differentiates the great companies is their attention to maximizing their return on luck. They look for opportunities in whatever hand they’ve been dealt—and then find ways to grow from the situation exponentially.

This point often comes into my mind when I am talking with growth-company CEOs. The standouts among them—the folks I consider the next Steve Jobs or Michael Dell—don’t view their companies as victims of economic uncertainty or market forces. No matter what the economy does, they will find opportunity in it.

They think like one of my mentors, who made a fortune in commercial real estate. He invested in an empty, commercial high-rise in Houston during the depths of a severe recession—and turned it into a thriving storage facility at a time when no one could find ways to rent out commercial properties in that market. That smart move enabled him to ride out the recession and, once it was over, make a bundle when he sold the building.

Rapid changes in the global economy can shake up your company’s current situation at any time, so we all need to be prepared to maximize our return on whatever lucky, and unlucky, breaks we face. Once you and your entire leadership team start consciously thinking about doing so, every day, you will be surprised by how much power you can unleash by simply asking this question.

Your year-end strategic planning sessions are an ideal place to do this. When you’re thinking about your goals for 2013, it’s important to take a look back at your luck in 2012.  Ask yourself and your team: Where did we maximize our return on luck? And where did we fail to do this? This will give you some ideas on what to continue doing – and lead you to untapped opportunities to act upon.

Then look at the situations you’re facing currently. Where are you experiencing good luck—and bad luck? How can you make the most of your current fate, and turn the situation to your advantage? By incorporating your ideas into your plans for the year, you will find it easier to execute them rapidly.

But strategy sessions will only get you so far. Execution is key when it comes to maximizing your return on luck, as I’ve seen time and time again with fast-growth companies. You’ve got to be ready to act on your ideas for maximizing your luck all the time, or you will miss out on valuable opportunities.

To execute your ideas successfully, however, you need to create the right environment. I came across some great ideas for doing so in a recent post by Sardek Love, president and founder of Infinity Consulting and Training Solutions, on his Think2Success Now! Blog.

Love, also a fan of Great by Choice, suggests building a “luck network.” By bringing more successful people into your professional network—perhaps by taking a leadership role in an industry organization or through social media—you can add to the pool of opportunities available to you, he explains.

Perhaps Love’s most valuable piece of advice is to create a “luck investment account.” Often, it takes capital to invest in new ideas. If you don’t have any cash on hand, you’ll miss out, which ties to one of the other findings in Great by Choice – the winners had multitudes more cash reserves than the comparable companies – and thus had enough staying power to weather the bad luck and capitalize on the good luck.

The time to start tucking money into your account, of course, is long before you find yourself with a great idea to pursue.  Once you get in the mindset of maximizing your return on luck—whether it’s good luck or bad luck—you’ll be surprised by how quickly you can grow your company.

Add Process Excellence to Art of Selling

Standards and processes permeate nearly every functional area in business, from accounting, finance and operations to IT, human resources and now, even marketing, and for good  reason. Processes and standards enable management to control the controllable so they can focus attention and resources on the more difficult issues that can stagnate sales and revenue and disappoint shareholders. Standards and processes drive predictability, consistency and efficiency, and when properly integrated across the organization, radically improve sales performance.

Despite the tremendous benefits that standards and processes can deliver, sales organizations have been much slower than other disciplines to move down this path. Imagine how much better sales managers could manage if they had consistent, objective criteria to evaluate the status of opportunities and accounts in each sales rep’s funnel. Or, imagine how much more efficiently account teams could collaborate on large deals if they used a common language. And how much better a CEO would sleep at night if he knew his sales force had a consistent, professional approach to interacting with customers! An improvement in these factors helps drive revenue predictability, reduces costs associated with obtaining sales and increases sales force productivity—all critical business objectives.

Our research clearly shows that “Winning Sales Organizations” take a much more scientific approach to selling and sales management than others. While there will always be a certain art to selling, it’s an increasingly sophisticated business world. “Winning Sales Organizations” prove that establishing standards and defining processes create a significant competitive advantage. However, the transition from “art” to “science” is not easy. It requires a sound foundation,strong commitment and precise coordination for widespread cultural adoption.

That’s the challenge!!


Louis Partenza is a sales and business consultant and partner of Activate Group Inc, based in Miami, Florida. Activate Group brings science to the art of selling. We help you develop the strategy, implement a practical process and build sales skills to rise to the top of your game, hit your numbers and make quota. We help sales organizations drive revenue, predictability, operational efficiency and superior performance. Learn more about how we can help.

How to Help the Salespeople Win

Early Autumn should be the time of the year when executives begin to worry about next year’s performance and to contemplate changes that can improve their chances of success. Many put this off until it’s closer to year-end and should have been thinking about this much sooner. The easiest target is usually the sales organization, and many companies decide that they just need to “upgrade their sales force with real rainmakers.” It sounds pretty easy and compelling. Just go recruit some great salespeople, and suddenly things will be growing again. Forget the product issues and discounted pricing problems. Customer service is overrated anyway. Marketing has generated virtually no interest, and the sales model is all wrong.

Just hire some great salespeople and growth will return. Not likely. Even sales superstars will not succeed in an environment that can’t support them.

The  truth is that when it comes to driving sustainable sales force effectiveness, there is a lot of heavy lifting that needs to happen in order for the rainmakers to make rain:

  • Company-wide understanding of why your customers do business with you. What is it they value? What makes you different and unique? How do they incorporate you into their overall strategic objectives? Do the other areas of the business understand these things, and are they in alignment with the views of the sales force?
  • Disciplined processes for how the sales force finds new opportunities, develops them, turns them into customers, and then manages these important new clients moving forward. This can’t be left to chance or to the individual whims of each and every salesperson. In fact, until the company decides on what they want a successful sales call to actually look and feel like, it is really impossible to figure out if a new sales hot shot would even be the right person for the job.
  • Clear definition of the role of sales management. What is their role in development? What is the value of leadership skills? Do they understand how to execute the company strategy?
  • Territory planning, incentive systems, technology enablement, and alignment with marketing.

Top salespeople perform best when they have a strong infrastructure to support them. All of the above items are components of a successful company’s selling system, and they are all interdependent on each other. Tweak one area, and it will affect all of the other areas. So, while I continue to hear about the necessity to muscle-build sales organizations, I want to continue to urge executives to build a strong foundation that helps the rainmakers win. Driving consistent performance in a sales organization is a lot more complicated than just hiring new salespeople.


Louis Partenza is a sales and business consultant and partner of Activate Group Inc, based in Miami, Florida. Activate Group brings science to the art of selling. We help you develop the strategy, implement a practical process and build sales skills to rise to the top of your game, hit your numbers and make quota. We help sales organizations drive revenue, predictability, operational efficiency and superior performance. Learn more about how we can help.

You Should Be Able to Attract Technology Talent

One of my clients recently wrote an article that was picked up by the Miami Herald. To avoid bad links, with David’s position, I will republish his article as he wrote it, below. His article runs contrary to some of the things typically heard from CEOs inSouth Florida. David Clarke, CEO of BGT Partners, has built a fast-growing company in the digital space and has a team of top technology talent approaching 200 in number. Many believe thatSouth Florida does not have the caliber of talent David has amassed over the last five years. His team is strong enough to service a number of Fortune 100 companies and primarily services companies with very large investments in the Web.

Many of us have learned that you create your own reality. If your pre-conceived belief is that the talent your firm needs does not exist or won’t come toSouth Florida, then you will not try hard enough to find and attract them. Activate Group has been amassing data that proves what successful companies believe; it is hard work to find the right people, but its work worth doing.

The strong CEOs determine exactly what they need and will not compromise. They create a culture and incentives to attract the team they want, and they invest in helping their people to be the best. David has built a team of young talent and has been developing programs (including hiring us for leadership development and coaching) to help his people reach their potential.

The following is the article that was published in the Business Monday section of the Miami Herald in the on 10/10/2012. I find that the points David made could be applied to any technology company in our region. Enjoy!

Article:

I thought I would I wouldn’t have said this five years ago, but now in 2012, I’m happy to state that there’s no better place to have a wonderful life and rewarding digital career than South Florida. With exciting work, multicultural digital experts and the ability to live in paradise, South Florida stands out. Our digital community is extremely active, and the real challenge is finding more talent to fill the myriad of open positions.

Think we’re not the next digital hub? Here are nine reasons why South Florida is the best place to work in the country for digital professionals:

1. Better quality of life: As the digital industry ages, our needs change. Having a family and raising kids in Silicon Valley orNew York City is an exercise in compromise and penny-pinching. Why face such challenges when South Florida’s unparalleled quality of work and life is an option?

2. Digital job variety: A smorgasbord, if you will. From one of the country’s fastest-growing mobile companies, 3Cinteractive, to the world’s hottest fitness company, Zumba, to the global cruise leader, Carnival Cruise Lines, hundreds of digital jobs are available.

3. Enjoy the wide open space: Tired of cramped quarters? By relocating toSouth Florida, you’re almost guaranteed more square footage and an upgraded work space.

4. Work hard and play hard: This lofty goal is achievable inSouth Florida. In fact, studies have shown that if you’re happy outside of work you’ll probably enjoy your working hours even more.

5. Career growth: Companies are looking for both junior- and senior-level talent, so opportunities abound. If you’re willing to put the time in, you can rise up the ranks.

6. Sophisticated challenges: South Florida is home to industry leaders who are extremely active in the digital realm, and their award-winning work is done by locally based agencies.

7. Multicultural and international character: Miami is the “Gateway to Latin America” and South Florida houses many headquarters for theSoutheastern U.S. This means most of the digital jobs will be national and international in scope. Additionally, working with multicultural teams adds a unique global perspective that enhances effectiveness.

8. Livable cities: South Florida’s cities are some of the most livable in the world with beautiful weather, stunning beaches and thriving urban cores. Miami was named a Top 10 Best Place to Live and Fort Lauderdale is increasingly becoming attractive to young professionals.

9. Happy @work: South Florida professionals are happy people. In fact, Miami was recently rated the #1 Happiest City for Jobs, beating out the likes of New York, San Francisco and Boston as the choice place to make a career move.

The last few years have been strong for South Florida’s digital community. We saw an influx of talent from inside and outside theU.S., our national recognition as a digital hub is mounting and companies within the region are expanding their marketing budgets. This is an opportune time to make a career move, and as a New York transplant I can tell you that it’s well worth it.

Howard Shore is an executive leadership coach and founder of Activate Group Inc., based in Miami, Florida. His firm works with companies to deliver transformational management and business coaching to executive leadership. To learn more about executive leadership coaching through AGI, please contact Howard at 305.722.7213 or email him.

Using Sales Process To Build A Culture of Winning

In sales, the main objective is to WIN the deal. In our experience working with many great sales teams, we’ve found one overarching commonality: If you want to win, you must always know where you are in your organization’s sales process, and what next steps are necessary to effectively close the deal.

The concept of a sales process is not new. It’s been around for a long time for a reason—it works. A sales process works for direct sales, inside sales, channel sales or internet sales. It works whether your sales price is $10 or $500,000. We guarantee that if you honestly look at your sales successes, you will see that they’ve been based on a series of steps that you replicated from deal to deal.

So, what makes up a winning sales process?

  • Clearly defined steps
  • Goals for each step, such as:
    • Key activities and milestones
    • Key actions to be completed
    • Sales tools
    • CRM integration

Some of the biggest mistakes we see that individuals or organizations make if they do already have a sales process in place include:

  • Skipping steps, or key activities within a step. You lose deals by doing this!
  • Forcing a canned sales process or methodology onto the sales team that isn’t tailored to the organization’s short-term and long-term goals
  • A lack of training for sales professionals on the steps, activities, and tools in their sales process

Understanding your customer (WHO you sell to) and understanding your solution (WHAT you sell) is a clear competitive factor. By institutionalizing a customized, defined sales process (HOW you sell), you can streamline your sales force and reduce costs, increase win rates and watch your organization efficiently scale and grow.

Louis Partenza is a sales and business consultant and partner of Activate Group Inc, based in Miami, Florida. Activate Group brings science to the art of selling. We help you develop the strategy, implement a practical process and build sales skills to rise to the top of your game, hit your numbers and make quota. We help sales organizations drive revenue, predictability, operational efficiency and superior performance. Learn more about how we can help.

Leadership – Are You Too Trustful?

Many times I find that my colleagues and clients are mistaking trustful people as being too trustful. I found this topic to be of great importance because it is common knowledge that a team cannot function without trust, a sales person cannot get business if their prospects do not trust them, and it is very difficult to earn someone’s trust without giving it.

6 Common Beliefs About Trust

In John Maxwell’s “Monthly Mentoring” session entitled “Trust – The Foundation of Leadership”, he identifies research and data on 6 common beliefs about trust, and you may find the following conclusions remarkable.

  1. Contrary to popular wisdom, trustful people were no more likely than the mistrustful ones to seem gullible to their friends.
  2. Trustful people are more perceptive than mistrustful people of what others are really feeling.
  3. People with a poor opinion of themselves are less trusting than people with a good opinion of themselves.
  4. Levels of intelligence have no impact on how trustful a person is.
  5. Mistrustful people rely on others to direct their lives for them. Trustful people rely on themselves.
  6. Trustful people are more trustworthy than mistrustful people.

Trustful People Are Gullible.

Julian Rotter, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Connecticut, conducted a study to test this belief. When he compared the gullibility scores to trust scores of participants that knew each other well, he found that, contrary to popular wisdom, the trustful ones were no more likely than the mistrustful ones to seem gullible to their friends.

Trustful People Are Less Perceptive Than Mistrustful People of What Others are Really Feeling.

Ronald Sabatelli, psychologist, and two colleagues at the University of Connecticut tested 48 young married couples for trustfulness, using Rotter’s Trust Scale. The husbands and wives were secretly videotaped as they individually watched a slide show. Some slides were scenic, some sexy, some repulsive and some strange. Finally, each spouse was shown pictures of his or her mate’s expressions and asked to identify what the mate was feeling in each case. The results contradicted the popular belief. Those who scored high on trust were better than the mistrustful at interpreting their spouse’s emotions. The likely reason: If you can’t “read” other people well, it’s easy to be suspicious of them; if you can, it’s easy to trust them.

People With A Poor Opinion Of Themselves Are Less Trusting Than People With A Good Opinion Of Themselves.

This feels right, though many of us might not be able to explain why. Several studies show that people who score high in tests of self-esteem score high in trustfulness. The explanation, cited in a 1985 report by the psychologists John Rempel, John Holmes, and Mark Zanna of theUniversityofWaterlooinOntario, is that a person’s self-esteem contributes to the extent to which he or she is willing to take emotional risks. Or, more simply: Those with high self-esteem are more likely to think well of others; those with low self-esteem are less inclined to do so.

People with Lesser Intelligence Are Trustful; Smart People Are Mistrustful.

This is not true. Research by a number of psychologists at various universities consistently has shown that people with high college aptitude scores or high scholastic scores are no less trustful and no more skeptical than people with low scores. Evidently, being intelligent doesn’t necessarily make one mistrustful of others, nor does being dumb make one trustful.

Trustful People Rely On Others To Direct Their Lives For Them; Mistrustful People Rely On Themselves.

Exactly the opposite is true. Three different teams of researchers at theUniversityofConnecticutfound that people who feel controlled by outside persons and forces are relatively mistrustful. In contrast, those people who feel pretty much in charge of what happens to them tend to trust others.

Trustful People Are More Trustworthy Than Mistrustful People.

The ancient Greeks used to say, “He who mistrusts most should be trusted least.” Geraldine Steinke, psychologist, in her doctoral dissertation research at theUniversityofConnecticut, gave volunteers a test at which it was easy to cheat, telling them that the best performer would win a cash prize. What she didn’t tell them was that she had rigged it so she could tell if anyone cheated. Her finding: Low trusters cheated distinctly more often than high trusters.

Rotter explains: “If low trusters believe that other people cannot be trusted, they feel less moral pressure themselves to tell the truth. They may feel that lying, cheating, and similar behavior are necessary for defensive reasons — because everybody else is doing it to them.”

Why Myths About Trust Matter

Here is why these myths should matter to you:

  • Trustful people will be trusted more often.
  • Trustfulness complements intelligence and intuition rather than detracting from it.
  • You should help a team member that is low in trust to raise their self-esteem.
  • Being more trustful can lead to being liked by more people.
  • Being trustful and trusted leads to less distress and thus more productivity.
  • Trustful people will tend to be less stressed and thus in better health than mistrustful ones.
  • If you can’t “read” other people well, it’s easy to be suspicious of them; if you can, it’s easy to trust them.

Howard Shore is an executive leadership coach and founder of Activate Group Inc. based in Miami, Florida. His firm works with companies to deliver transformational management and business coaching to executive leadership. To learn more about executive leadership coaching through AGI, please contact Howard at 305.722.7213.

Achieving a Successful Business Turnaround

Business turnaround is about reversing a business’s decline, restoring it to stability and then re-growing its value. But business turnarounds are about healing the sick, not attempting to raise the dead.

So, to achieve a turnaround, you will generally need to have the following seven things present:

  1. A viable business: Some core business that has future potential growth and profitability around which the business can be rebuilt.
  2. Time: Real turnarounds take time and if they are not started early enough, they will either fail or require protection through an appropriate insolvency procedure.
  3. Cash: Turnarounds need money, often there are costs associated with the initial restructuring  and then to finance the future regrowth of the business, and this money must be found either from within the business (‘bootstrapping’), or from outside by way of new investment or refinancing.
  4. Vision: A clear goal to which the business is to be directed, to provide both a target and motivation.
  5. Management: Who have both the will to achieve the turnaround (it’s your plan and vision) and also the skills (functional and situational) to make it happen, or access to external resources who can provide these skills when required.
  6. Stakeholder support: Management cannot do it all by themselves. They also need to take suppliers, customers, staff, bankers, shareholders, and other stakeholders with them.
  7. Confidence in the process: The stakeholders need to see how management (who will be regarded as having got us into this mess) are going to get us out again, and this has to entail a structured approach in dealing with the problem.

Turnarounds tend to divide into three key phases and while each phase needs to consider finance, people and marketing issues, there is definitely a shift in priorities over time from finance to marketing.

The first phase is normally crisis management, focused on short-term survival and restructuring down to a viable core concentrating on solving the immediate financial crisis. During this period, you may need to reduce employee numbers but it is important to keep key staff committed and businesses often also slim down their portfolio of products and markets to only those that are clearly profitable.

The second phase is one of stabilization and preparation for the relaunch of the business. This involves putting both appropriate financing arrangements to support increased trading levels, and the right management team who can push the marketing and delivery of growth products.

The third phase is then regrowth based on achieving long-term sustainable competitive advantage. To do so involves managing the business’s working capital cycle to support the business as it grows and recruiting and retaining the right people to drive growth of turnover and profits.

Louis Partenza is a business turnaround consultant, business coach and partner of Activate Group Inc, based in Miami, Florida. His firm works with companies to deliver transformational management and business processes to their executive leadership. To learn more about business turnaround consulting through AGI, please visit activategroupinc.com, contact Lou at (305) 722-7215 or email him.

Is Customer Loyalty in Your Strategic Plan?

In his book, Customer Satisfaction is Worthless:  Customer Loyalty is Priceless, Jeffrey Gitomer said, “Satisfaction is no longer the acceptable measurement of customer service success”. This is the reality of business today: No matter how satisfied you think your customers are, you need to make an emotional connection and develop a long-term relationship, or that satisfaction is ultimately worthless. You customer loyalty program needs to be part of your overall strategic plan.

Here’s why…

Great customer service is all about sending customers away happy and bringing them back for more. They need to be happy enough to pass along positive feedback about your business to others who may then try your product or service and hopefully become repeat customers themselves.

Why Customers Come Back

Customers will come back, with their family and friends, if:

  1. The experience at every touch point of the buying process was so strong that it left a mark on their memories.
  2. Your relationship with them is based on trust. You want your customers to seek your personal assistance, and be willing to pay for it.
  3. They feel you really care about their needs. Always put your customer’s interests and needs ahead of yours.

Here are some statistics that provide proof that emotional connections with customers matter:

  • A typical dissatisfied customer will tell 6-10 people about their bad experience.  A typical satisfied customer will tell only 1-2 people.
  • It costs six times more to get a new customer than it does to keep an existing one.
  • Of those customers who don’t return, 68%of themdon’t because they experienced indifference from the company or an individual.
  • About 7 out of 10 complaining customers will do business with you again if you resolve their complaint to their satisfaction.
  • If you resolve a complaint on the spot, 95% of customers will do business with you again.

Pretty powerful stuff!

Do You Believe Your Customer will Recommend You

Ask yourself this question: On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely is it that your customers will recommend you to someone else?

If your answer is below seven, or you don’t know the answer, it is time to think about developing a customer loyalty strategy as part of your strategic plan and start creating the emotion in the experience with your business.

Howard Shore is a strategic planning consultant, business coach and founder of Activate Group Inc, based in Miami, Florida. His firm works with companies to deliver transformational management and business coaching to executive leadership. To learn more about strategic planning through AGI, please contact Howard at 305.722.7213 or email him.

Is It Time to Bring on a Business Partner?

How do you know when it is time to bring on a business partner? I just brought on an executive leadership partner, and am so excited for the great opportunities this will bring to AGI. My new partner, Lou Partenza, brings amazing business expertise, new business development experience, and will help me expand the capabilities of AGI and take it to the next level.

Until Lou came aboard, I was spread pretty thin, which was preventing me from growing the business the way I envisioned. We all have our capacity limits and I was reaching mine. I have an amazing team, but I was carrying too much of the load myself. The sheer volume of accounts and potential new business demanded I bring another executive-level person into the fold. I brought in Lou as my partner, and by doing so I immediately increased my company’s capacity.

Define Business Partner Needs

Besides increasing capacity, there are other very good reasons to consider bringing in a partner. Maybe you want to enter a new geographic market or start selling in a new community with a culture and/or language barrier. The long-term goals of your company should weigh heavily in your decision to bring in a partner and the type of partner you seek.

The first step is to decide what role you want the partner to play. Do you need someone for an executive leadership role for business guidance, or do you need someone with a total focus on new business development?

Based on the desired role, define the skill set for this person. The search process should be similar to bringing on a full-time employee. You want to look for a partner that has a set of complementary skills—skills that you may not have but really need in your business. The difference between a partner and employee is your partner will be someone who will assist you in making key decisions for the company, so they should be someone with whom you really mesh. You need to be able to bounce ideas around and have equal amounts of commitment to growing the company.

Define Success

Once you identify your potential partner, be careful to clearly define the role that you want them to fill, and define success metrics and expectations around that role.

Finding the right partner isn’t something that happens overnight. My advice is to start looking passively now. Even if you aren’t sure you need a partner (or a full-time employee for that matter) you should be in a constant state of recruitment. Great talent—especially at the partner level—is not easy to find. Talk, ask around and always be looking for great talent for key areas of your company.

Don’t Rush Into a Business Partnership

One caution: don’t make the mistake of bringing on a business partner too soon. Make sure you are eating well before you bring someone in. It takes energy and money to bring someone in as a partner. It’s important to be able to recognize where you are in your company’s evolution and know that you are financially stable before you commit to that extra executive salary.

Howard Shore is an executive leadership coach who works with companies that need leadership development and business management coaching. Based in Miami, Florida, Howard’s firm, Activate Group, Inc. provides strategic planning and management coaching to businesses across the country. To learn more about executive leadership coaching through AGI, please contact Howard at 305.722.7213 or email him.

Customer Service Points You Have to Get Right

A few weeks ago, JD Power released its list of 2012 Customer Service Champions. I found it interesting that there were three airlines on the list. You don’t usually think of the airline industry as customer-focused. Yet three airline companies managed to impress JD Power with their fanatical attention to customer service—so much so that they made it onto this list of just 50 companies that are “champions” of service.

I am not surprised that the three companies are Southwest, Virgin America and JetBlue. These airlines have used customer service as differentiators for some time, each in their own unique way. Their customer service is finely honed and crafted especially for their core customer, which is why they all have such impressive brand loyalty.

The important thing to note is that great customer service is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. The customer service experience is drastically different between all three airlines, and that is by design. The loyal Southwest customer is drastically different from the loyal Virgin America customer. These customers expect different things and demand different experiences, and you could never interchange them. In all likelihood, a loyal Virgin customer would hate the experience of flying with Southwest.

Think like these customer service champions and design your customer service experience around the preferences and demands of your core customer.

Define Customer Service “Moments of Truths”

When I work with a company as a strategic planning consultant, one of the most important company functions we examine is customer service. When we evaluate their service processes, we identify their “Moments of Truths”. These are essentially their most crucial customer touch points—the times and places in their new business acquisition, servicing and retention processes that are so impactful to the customer that if they don’t get them all right, it could cost them that piece of business.

Every company and industry has three to five service “Moments of Truth.” How you touch your customer at these points defines your service experience. Let’s look at the restaurant industry as an example. Every restaurant must meet a certain standard in four key areas: Service, Price, Food Quality and Cleanliness. These are the four Moments of Truths for a 5-star restaurant or a fast food joint. However, how these two very different businesses deliver on these touch points is highly important for their core customers.

The 5-star restaurant customer expects extremely attentive and formal service, gourmet food and impeccable cleanliness, and for that they are willing to pay a premium price. The fast food customer still expects cleanliness, but service should be quick and casual at a low price. Both restaurants can be customer service superstars, but they must understand their core customers and design the service experience around them.

What are the Moments of Truth in your customer service experience? Define them and define the ways that you will use them to differentiate your company in the marketplace.

Howard Shore is a strategic planning consultant and business coach who works with companies that need customer service strategy and coaching. Based in Miami, Florida, Howard’s firm, Activate Group, Inc. provides strategic planning and management coaching to businesses across the country. To learn more about strategic planning consulting through AGI, please visit activategroupinc.com, contact Howard at (305) 722-7216 or email him.

One Success Metric You Shouldn’t Ignore

When evaluating performance, company leaders—even some leadership coaches—often focus on lagging indicators like revenue, profits and other metrics found on the income statement and balance sheet. While it is important to keep track of lagging indicators, it is far more productive to understand leading indicators—the forces driving revenue and profits.

Here’s an example. Let’s say your total sales goal is $5 million dollars, and a salesperson has an individual sales goal of $1 million of that total. Start by determining your average sale amount. Once you have that number, manage your salesperson’s quota by tracking their number of phone calls, meetings and proposals. A predictive pattern will emerge that shows you how many connected phone calls lead to a meeting, how many meetings lead to a proposal, and how many proposals lead to a sale. By managing these leading indicators, you can predict whether or not your salesperson will achieve that $1 million goal, determine which people need training and coaching, and which ones are not capable of doing the job.

You can identify leading indicators for every item on your income statement. Simply break down the end numbers into the activities that produce the results and track them over time to identify the patterns. Then, work to measure and improve upon each indicator.

Don’t make the all-to-common leadership mistake of failing to recognize cause and effect. By inspecting and improving the items that cause the monetary results, you can figure out exactly how to improve those results with very real metrics.

Howard Shore is a leadership coach who works with companies that need leadership development and business management coaching. Based in Miami, Florida, Howard’s firm, Activate Group, Inc. provides strategic planning and management coaching to businesses across the country. To learn more about sales force development through AGI, please visit activategroupinc.com, contact Howard at (305) 722-7216 or email him.