7 Keys to Working Smarter and Being Highly Successful

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

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

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

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

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

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

(1) Manage Your Thoughts

(2) Have a  Strategy

(3) Be Strategic

(4) Work a Plan

(5) Be Disciplined

(6) Resilience Rituals

(7) Build Wealth

Manage Your Thoughts

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

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

Have a Strategy

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

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

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

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

Work A Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Disciplined

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

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

Resilience Rituals

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

 – 1/2 hour of daily exercise

 – 15 Minute breaks between meetings

 – 15-30 of Meditation

 – 15 Minutes of Quiet reflection

 – Spending time with friends and family

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

 – Monitor and control my work hours

 – Weekly Massage

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

Build Wealth

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

In Conclusion

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


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

Trying to Sell an Apple to Someone Looking for Chocolate?

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

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

Are You Answering the Right Question?

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

Have You Identified the True Problem?

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

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

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

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

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

Stop Trying to Convert the Heathens?

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

Conclusion – Ask Yourself… and Take Action!

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

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

Three Keys to Maximum Business Performance

3 Keys to Maximum Business Performance

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


The Difference Between Speed, Velocity, and Acceleration!

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


Every Business Has the Same Fifteen Leaks

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

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


The Three Primary Reason Business Leaks Occur

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

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

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

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

– The cost of keeping underperformers

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Rebuild Your Business the Smart Way

Has your business been severely affected by the 2020 recession? Did you lose your largest customer, one that produced over 30% of your revenue alone? Chances are, your business is in the phase I refer to as Rebuilding.

We recently shared the five phases we believe companies find themselves in—what we refer to as the 5 Rs: Regressing, Rebuilding, Restarting, Resuming, and Rocketing. Last week, we discussed the Regressing phase. Today, let’s talk about Rebuilding.

A company usually finds itself in a Rebuilding position because of an external factor, like a change in the economy, their supply chain gets shut down, or their customer base or market has shifted. It’s different from the Regressing phase because, in Regressing, your growth is relatively flat—maybe 3-5% or declining, when your best competitors are more accustomed to 20% or more. You typically have enough cash and enough business to have the cash runway to do okay, but not great. So, you’re not feeling as much pain.

When you’re in the Rebuilding phase, you’re in a lot of pain because you’re trying to build back volume. Your market may have shifted, and the landscape looks very different. Growth is nil, and your cash runway is short. All is not lost, but the road ahead sure looks tough.

What to Consider as You Rebuild

There are three things essential to understanding your next moves when rebuilding:

  1. Understanding your cash situation
  2. Understanding the nature of your circumstances
  3. Recognizing that conditions will persist

It may or may not about finding new customers. It’s about understanding the best course to take until the market resumes an average pace. It’s about looking for opportunities and moving quickly. It would be best if you had a firm handle on your cash runway. You may need to change how you do business to acquire, keep, and serve customers well.

So what do you need to consider as you move forward? Here are a few key things to keep in mind.

Your Market

Do you want to serve the same market as before? Perhaps you were too concentrated in certain customer bases or industries? What moves can you make to start going after other segments that are doing well and could become a stronger long-term position for your company? Then, as the old customer segments come back, you’ll be well-positioned in the new customer segments, and you’ll then have a choice to either exit the other category or stay in both, and have a much bigger, more robust company, as you come out the other side.

Be Careful Who You Cut

Who do you need on your business’s “plane” so that, as you’re going up that cash runway, you have the strength to be able to take off and to service customers?

The first area that most companies unconsciously cut is too many customer-facing positions, costing market share and affecting reputation for the future. These positions have higher levels of mastery. So, keep those customer-facing roles and look at other areas.

Redefining and Restructuring the Organization

How can you redefine and restructure the organization, so it’s far more profitable in the future than it is today? Over time, many companies inadvertently create a bureaucracy with many people at the corporate and leadership level that really aren’t justified. They didn’t add enough value, and all this bureaucracy did was screw up their cash model.

So as you rebuild, we would challenge you to shrink the number of levels between the CEO and the frontline employees. Rethink how you treat and manage employees going forward, so those frontline employees play a more significant role in creative thinking and decision-making. Learn how to empower and incentivize workers so that more of your ideas come from them. In the end, this will allow you to remain flat (structurally), reduce overhead, and gain scale as you move forward.

Emerging Opportunities

What new, emerging opportunities are available if you pivot quickly enough? I know the CEO of a large business that made ties and bow ties. When the market shifted in early 2020 and retail stores closed, he was faced with letting most of his seamstresses go. But then he saw the massive need for masks and redeployed. He has one of the largest selections and biggest tractions in the mask business because he pivoted quickly and saw an opportunity. And, he is actually paying his employees better than he was before with new bonuses. He’s slowly rebuilding the tie business, but he’s generating more revenue and more business in the mask business today than he did in the tie business.

A Rebuilding Case Study: Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines, and how they’re handling all of the shifts that have carried over from 2020, provides an excellent example of Rebuilding. Consider the following.

After a year like 2020, the number one thing some businesses need to think about in 2021 is, “How do we make customers feel safe enough to do business with us?” Southwest was the last of the major air carriers to open their middle seats.

They also were not forced to lay off staff in 2020, which puts them in several very good strategic positions.

  • If they have all their employees, they can still provide the higher levels of service that Southwest has become known for compared to their competition.
  • They can turn planes faster because they still have an experienced workforce.
  • Their planes are going to be better maintained, so we have more safety.
  • Their employees are going to be more loyal compared to the employees in other airlines. It’s like a trifecta of vendors, customers, employees who will be more loyal to this company.
To learn more about how to take your business to the next level, order Howard M. Shore’s Wall Street Journal bestselling book, The Leader Launchpad here

Of course, to do that in the Rebuilding phase, you need to make sure you’ve built up your balance sheet, and you understand that cash runway well enough to understand the moves you make, so you can execute the strategy that you need. If you’d like to discuss ways your business can achieve this, we invite you to set up a FREE 30-MINUTE NO OBLIGATION CONSULTATION where one of our expert business coaches can ask you a few more in-depth questions and quickly pinpoint actions you can take to get your business back on track.

Want Greater Stability, Revenue, and Profits? It Starts with Knowing Your R!

In my 30 years working with CEOs and executive teams, I’ve found five phases that a company is typically in. And while years like 2020 certainly seemed to exacerbate some of the issues companies are dealing with, once you recognize which phase your business is in, you can take the corrective steps needed to right your ship or propel your growth to the next level.

The Five Rs

Businesses are usually in one of these five phases: regressing, rebuilding, restarting, resuming, or rocketing? Which one of these sounds like where your business currently is? The answer to the question is essential for determining the next steps.

Let’s take a look at each R.


You once had an amazing business—stable, profitable, growing—then the unforeseen happened. Perhaps it was an economic downturn, an act of mother nature, or, as in 2020, an unimaginable virus or social unrest. It could be as simple as what you have always done got you here but won’t propel you to the next level. Whatever the cause, now your business is going backward or has lost momentum. Cash flow is down, and perhaps you’ve had to lay off staff—or you’re considering it. Maybe the demand for your service is gone, you lost your largest client, and your customer base will likely not coming back. At this point, you’re not even sure where to begin to fix it.

If you’re regressing, you’re not able to resume yet because you’re still sliding down the mountain.

Contrary to what you might think, regression typically represents a company problem, not an industry one. It would help if you had a better strategy to ignite topline growth. Your strategy problem may have been caused by a change in the market you have failed to address. There is plenty of opportunities to grow! The right strategies allow you to increase your market share.  In regression, I find that companies have captured the bulk of efficiencies from operational effectiveness and have squeezed much of what is possible out of the existing revenue base. The problem is understanding how to grow faster while increasing operational effectiveness.

All is not lost for businesses in this phase, but strategic moves need to be taken to turn the ship around and start sailing again.


Did your business get derailed in 2020? Perhaps you had to close down while we were all sheltering-in-place? Or your business experienced a substantial downturn due to a poor economy or an act of nature? Are you burning through your cash reserves?

Understanding your cash situation, the nature of your circumstances, and recognizing the conditions will persist is essential to understanding your next moves. In many cases, it’s not about changing your business model so much, and it’s not about finding new customers. It’s about understanding the best course to take until the market resumes an average pace. You must have a strong handle on your cash runway, decide how many people to keep on the payroll, and have strict cost controls. In some cases, you can or must pivot to take advantage of short-term opportunities.  You may need to change how you do business to acquire, keep, and serve customers well.  You’re not giving up on your business; you know, it’ll be good again. More permanent market shifts may require a new business model. Most importantly, you mustn’t run out of cash before you can recover.

The first industries that come to mind when I think are rebuilding include event, entertainment,  travel, hospitality, and dining.

 When rebuilding, there are several vital questions:

  • What is your cash runway?
  • How can you lengthen your runway?
  • Do you need to pivot?
  • Who do we need on the plane as you go down that runway?
  • Is there a more profitable model to take advantage of the situation?
  • Is there a short-term market opportunity you can exploit?

Businesses that are rebuilding need to identify shortcuts to rebuild faster and more effectively.


When you’re in the Restarting phase, you’re doing just that—restarting—and most of the time, you’re doing it from scratch. It’s Day One all over again!

Perhaps you had to close your business during the lockdown, or you were affected by a natural disaster that forced you to close for an extended time. You may have lost your office or retail space, and you probably lost your employees as well. You may have a great product and a valid business model, but you’re essentially opening again, so you have to hire mostly new employees and maybe find a new location. Or perhaps you’re now taking everything virtual, and you have all new software—so much “new” to deal with.

When restarting, you need to make sure you’re taking advantage of strategies that will get you back into profit and positive cash flow quickly.


If your business is in the Resuming phase, then things feel like they’re business as usual. Maybe you experienced a slight hiccup during shelter-in-place, but you still have a good cash reserve, cash flow is still positive, and you’re continuing to operate without much disruption.

The tricky thing about being in this phase is that, while things are humming along fine and dandy, you’re likely missing out on golden opportunities available for business owners in your position who may be sitting on a strong balance sheet with lots of cash. Many businesses are taking advantage of the weak players and using that cash to acquire market share, talent, or technology. Not everyone is in your situation, so this is the time to find opportunities that will likely benefit both you and the other company.

The other thing you should do during this time is to make sure you have a strategic plan to avoid having to pause your business in the future. Make sure you can weather any storm.


This last phase—Rocketing—would seemingly be a great place to be…and it is! And it’s a much more favorable place to be than Regressing, Rebuilding, or Restarting! Your business is skyrocketing in terms of growth, scale, and profit. And like a business in the Resuming phase, there are many opportunities for a business in your position.

Is your challenge that you are too busy managing your day-to-day operations even to see these opportunities? Or maybe you’re too burnt-out to think about these opportunities, much less find them? Did you find that your business was not built for this level of scaling? In many businesses, operational effectiveness falters as growth accelerates. When that happens, you squander cash and profit opportunities. Revenue is vanity, profit is sanity, and cash is king!

Did you know that some of the biggest companies were bought, acquired, or built when there has been a significant economic downturn? Now is that time again. So if you’re not thinking, “Hey, how do I become an opportunist,” then you’re probably missing out on your next-level growth. It would be best if you found ways to take advantage of your momentum. Don’t take your feet off the gas!

You must continue to look out at the future! Past performance is not a guarantee of future success. You need to consider how to sustain your growth for years to come. To quote Marshall Goldsmith, “What got you here won’t get you there.”

Businesses that are rocketing need to find ways to keep the rocket soaring while also finding ways to take work off your plate so you can do what’s important to you.

What to Do Next?

Which of the scenarios above sounds like your business? Not sure what to do next? We want to offer you a valuable option to get—or keep—your business on the path of exponential growth, profitability, and increased cash flow.

To learn more about how to take your business to the next level, order Howard Shore’s Wall Street Journal bestseller, The Leader Launchpad, here.

Sign up for a free 30-minute consultation where one of our expert coaches will address these five things:

  1. How to get new clients without changing your sales team or process
  2. How to scale without your profits shrinking
  3. How to create consistent growth this year, so it’s not always up and down
  4. How to make the crucial decision of hiring more or letting go to make sure your payroll works in this changing time
  5. How you, as a CEO, can get half of your time back

No high-pressure sales…that’s not who we are. You’ll get value from our time on the phone and will have actionable steps to begin applying right away.

There is good news for you regardless of which phase your business represents. You need to take the next best steps to get you where you want and need to go.

Convincing Others To Willingly Accomplish Your Goals

Great leaders have mastered the art of getting things done through others. Even more impressive, their people do things required of them because they want to. This is a foreign concept to the many leaders and managers that seem to only get things done by doing it themselves or by brute force. Great leaders are able to achieve amazing things while the masses find themselves awake at night.

A key difference between great leaders and everyone else is found in understanding the distinction between “power” and “authority” and how to utilize them effectively. Unfortunately, these two words are typically used interchangeably. Understanding the difference between the two concepts can result in very large returns for you personally and financially. Before I begin, I have two questions:

Would you rather have “authority” or “power”? Why?

Authority derives from organizational title or position the right to enforce the rules, exact obedience, and command, determine, or judge. On the other hand, power may be defined as the ability or capacity to perform or act effectively in ways that influence the behavior of others. This is a personal talent that can be developed. It has little or nothing to do with title, rank, or authority. We can see this in our everyday world. How often do you see people in the same organization with the same position, title, or rank, yet one possesses far more influence in the company than the other? I have even seen those with far lower rank exact much more influence than their superiors.

Authority is necessary and serves a very important function in the operation of any organization, and it can be an efficient tool of management when used judiciously. However, I have seen many powerful leaders and managers allow authority to go to their heads. They get themselves so caught up in their own self-importance and expeditious attitudes that it destroys their power and ultimately company value. In other cases I see people trying to get promotions and accepting new positions to obtain authority when it is power they are really craving. While the ideal situation is to achieve both, every employee should start out each day asking “what can I do to increase power (influence) today.” The result will eventually lead to more power, job satisfaction, results, authority, personal growth, and profits.

How Do You Increase Power?

Power is earned, not given. It begins with building trust. A person that is not trusted unconditionally by others will never have true power over them. There are a lot of factors that go into building trust. However, my own coach actually shared with me a very powerful secret to earning more power that I would like to share with you. It is best illustrated through an exercise.


On a piece of paper draw a 3 inch line, and label this line “responsibility.” On the left side, write “least,” and on the right side, write “most.” Think about an organization where you have worked. Now in that organization I would like you to think of the person that took the most responsibility and write his/her name next to “most.” From that same organization, I would like you to think of the person who took the least amount of responsibility. Underneath the first line, I would like you to draw a second line and label it “power.” On the left side of that line, write “victim,” and on the right, write “master.” Thinking back to the same organization, if you are like most of my clients, you would put the person who took the least amount of responsibility next to “victim” and the person who took the most responsibility next to “master.”

Therefore, the secret to earning more power is taking more responsibility. If you find yourself feeling or acting liking a victim, ask yourself, how can I take more responsibility? In the end, you will find that you and others with more power find ways to take ownership when things go wrong and set things on course. Pointing fingers and placing blame on others, even when justified, does not earn you any power.

How do I know if I have Power?

Look at behavior and see how you answer the following questions:

  • Are my people regularly performing at exceptional levels?
  • Do I get what I need from others when I need them?
  • Are people on time for meetings with me?
  • Do people regularly cancel meetings with me?
  • How happy do my people seem to be when they are in my office?
  • How frequently do my people want to be in my office?
  • Do I have regular turnover in my departments?
  • What is the absentee rate in my department?
  • Do people in other departments regularly seek out transferring to mine?
  • Do people that do not report to me regularly seek out my input? Would they do this if they did not have to?
  • Am I invited to meetings that do not directly involve my department?
  • Do others regularly invite me to lunch at all levels in the organization?
  • When I invite others in the organization to lunch who are at or above my level, are they regularly too busy?

The decision is up to you! Master the art of earning power or using authority sparingly, and the results will speak for themselves.

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 [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Reference and excerpts taken with permission from Leadership published by Resource Associates Corporation, Mohnton, PA.

Employee Motivation – 5 Steps to Apply When Mistakes Occur

The better a man is, the more mistakes he will make, for the more new things he will try. I would never promote to a top-level job a man who was not making mistakes … otherwise he is sure to be mediocre.
– Peter Drucker, leadership expert

What do you do when you make a mistake? How do you feel?

How do you react when others mess up? How do you make them feel?

Do you find a way to gain benefit from mistakes and prevent them from taking you and/or your organization off track?

As an executive coach, I find many business owners, CEOs, and other leaders that continue to recycle employees who failed to make perfect decisions and act properly every time. On the surface you might be thinking, how big was the mistake? Many of these executives also use the cliché, “We pay them the big bucks NOT to make mistakes.” When you read my upcoming article, “Passing the Buck – Taking Responsibility for Mistakes,” you will see why blame is typically being placed on the wrong people. Worse yet, the leaders who don’t tolerate errors typically hold people to standards higher than those that they themselves achieve and attainable by less than 1% of the population, if that much. These are the very same leaders who cannot understand why their employees are not motivated, the same leaders who typically offer better-than-average compensation to keep people, yet still find it difficult to retain or attract top talent.

In a well-run organization, you should expect that the more “senior” the executive or leader is, the more mistakes he is likely to have made. As Peter Drucker says in the above quote, if they are not making any mistakes, they are mediocre at best and should never reach the senior ranks. The higher the position, the more responsibility, the greater the range of decisions and issues, and the more likely that mistakes will occur. It does not matter how many battles a leader has fought and won … no one can possibly know or have seen everything. The world, people, competition, and issues are constantly evolving, and so must leaders.

Even the greats like Jack Welch provide volumes of examples of when they have made poor decisions, handled a person incorrectly, misread a situation, and just did things that their bosses disapproved of. It is human nature and part of the game of business. Imagine that Jack Welch’s bosses ignored the great things he did and only saw his mistakes. They would have stifled and eventually lost one of the greatest leaders of the Fortune 500.

When problems occur, the challenge faced is not the mistakes, but the attitude towards them. Past errors, failures, and negative experiences do not inhibit the learning process – they actually contribute to it. Some of the best products in the world were the result of mistakes, and some businesses emerged from events considered mistakes. Here are some examples:

  • In 1905, eleven-year-old Frank Epperson left his fruit flavored soda outside on the porch with a stir stick in it. The drink froze to the stick and tasted good. He called his treat the Epsicle. Eighteen years later, in 1923, Epperson applied for a patent for a “frozen ice on a stick” called the Epsicle ice pop, which his children re-named the Popsicle. In 1925, Frank Epperson sold his famous Popsicle to the Joe Lowe Company of New York. Good Humor now owns the rights to the Popsicle.
  • Post It® Notes was a mistake that turned into big business. They are probably all over your computer at work. You use them at home to post the shopping list on the fridge, to leave a telephone message where it will be seen, or to flag a page in a catalog. This product innovation was actually considered a mistake since it was an adhesive that was not sticky enough for the project then at hand. Now it has become an office-supply staple produced in a myriad of sizes and colors.
  • One more well-known mistake was New Coke. New Coke was the unofficial name of the sweeter drink introduced in 1985 by The Coca-Cola Company to replace its flagship soda, Coca-Cola or Coke. Properly speaking, it had no separate name of its own, but was simply the new version of Coke, until 1992 when it was renamed Coke II. Public reaction to the change was devastating, and the new cola quickly entered the pantheon of major marketing flops. However, the subsequent reintroduction of Coke’s original formula led to a significant gain in sales.

Does the way a person respond to a mistake define him/her as a leader? Leaders who regularly punish and criticize people for mistakes, regardless of position, will actually reduce their personal power within an organization. The leader will eventually lose the respect of others, reduce motivation, and hold back the company. Moreover, by not utilizing mistakes as a learning tool, one is persisting in mediocrity, creating an environment where people will “play it safe” and “do things the way we always have” in order to avoid disfavor. Leaders might verbally tell people to “think out of box” and/or reinvent their positions; however, actions, body language, and tone can speak much louder than the words.

By attacking others for mistakes or mistakenly finding that it’s “easier just to do it myself,” a leader prevents others from learning what they are capable of becoming. Or, if a leader depends on someone else to prevent the possibility of failure, they will find that they are actually preventing themselves from developing leadership. Further, many leaders make the mistake of trying to be involved in every decision so that mistakes will not happen. All they accomplish is to make a bunch of people depend on them and stifle their organization. They need to stop taking themselves so seriously, and let their people develop.

Mistakes and errors are necessary steps in the learning process and can be a powerful tool in motivating employees to help take an organization to the next level. Reviewing errors should be a means to an end – not an end in itself. Once they have served their purpose, mistakes should be forgotten. No one enjoys making mistakes, but everyone makes them. Your leadership progress is determined by your attitude toward yourself and others. “Failure” is a state of mind, but when leaders view errors as learning experiences, organizations bounce back even stronger.

Apply these Five Steps when mistakes occur:

  1. Get the Facts – Learn all you can about the mistake.
  2. Reflect – Understand what might be done differently in the future and determine how to turn this into an opportunity for you and others to learn and to make the organization stronger.
  3. Communicate – Positively communicate what has been learned and what should happen in the future.
  4. Reassure – No one likes to make mistakes. Reassure those involved in the mistake that you are on the same team and that you view mistakes as progress.
  5. Forget – Do not dwell on past mistakes. Move on and think positively as to how you will bounce back even stronger.

Review our website to understand how an executive coach or business coach can help you increase the success of your career and business or call Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”], or e-mail me at shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Reference and excerpts taken with permission from Leadership published by Resource Associates Corporation, Mohnton, PA.

My Give a Damn’s Busted

Is it possible that your employees are singing “My Give a Damn is Busted”? A common complaint of many business owners is that their employees lack motivation. However, the real problem is that employees are under-engaged, and there is plenty of research to support this.

The most common reason for under-engagement is the very owners who are complaining. These leaders have accomplished much in their careers and have confused accomplishment with competence. Truth be told, the leader is often the direct cause of many daily workplace problems.

The best way to illustrate my point is to share with you a story about the worst case I have encountered. One thing that made this case particularly challenging was that the business had done well in spite of leadership shortcomings. This leader measured performance based on what had been accomplished rather than what should have been accomplished. Worse, his only measurement system was his own financial net worth, which did not take into account the number of “dead bodies” he left along the way. As in most situations, the CEO caused a majority of the damage.

According to “Top Grading” by Bradford D. Smart, the cost of having a poorly performing CEO is 24 times the CEO’s base salary. Interestingly, I had estimated that my case company was operating at one-quarter of the profit it should have made. This shortfall was equivalent to 24 times the CEO’s base compensation.

Mr. Smith, CEO of XYZ Company, embodied many of the reasons why employers find their employees working far below their potential. This CEO had two partners, and the business had existed for almost 20 years. Mr. Smith came to our firm because he was “having trouble with one of his partners.” In other words, he wanted me to fix his partner. In addition, he had read a book about customer service and wanted to build “extreme” customer service into his business.

As is customary, I met with all the partners and some key employees. Based on their input, we concluded that the CEO was the real issue. To put it bluntly, if Mr. Smith died in his office, almost every employee, particularly his partners, would be suspects in his death. While I do not believe this to be Mr. Smith’s true self, his actions were perceived by others to demonstrate a very poor value system.

The following are some examples of Mr. Smith behaviors:

  • Competed with his employees – Whenever someone in the organization appeared to have a lot of influence/power with others or was more knowledgeable in certain subjects, Mr. Smith would go out of his way to denigrate them or directly reduce their power.
  • Lacked follow-through – Chastised individuals for their lack of follow-through when he was typically the least reliable when it came to delivering on a commitment.
  • Stifled innovation – Encouraged employees to “think outside the norm,” but penalized and publicly humiliated anyone who had an idea he did not agree with.
  • Handled mistakes poorly – Became overly emotional when people made mistakes. Worse, it was impossible to become a star employee as one mistake was all it took to have you marked as a problem employee. Two years in a row, an employee recognized for exceptional performance in one year was let go or driven out of the business the following year.
  • Lacked commitment to goals­ – The CEO consistently lacked commitment to goals and regularly changed them. When new initiatives were launched, it was not unusual for employees to not take them seriously. They expected things to go back to the old method within 30 to 60 days.
  • Rewarded the wrong behaviors – Rewarded people on how well they pleased him rather than on actual work performance.
  • Talked behind people’s backs – Regularly talked poorly about people behind their backs in order to try to boost his own image.
  • Divulged confidential information – When people shared personal/confidential information, they could rest assured he would not keep it to himself. He would also demand and pressure employees to do the same.
  • Lacked integrity – Insisted that his employees read books about actions and behaviors he did not practice.

If someone is guilty of one or more of the above actions on a consistent basis you may rest assured they are reducing organizational performance. In the end, it comes down to the values you project to others by your actions, not your words. Unfortunately, many leaders do not consistently display the values that drive top performance and in most cases are the cause of their employees singing “My Give a Damn is Busted.”

Visit 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 [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Productivity Gains Through Positive Motivation

To paraphrase H.W. Beecher, “God made people to go by motives, and they will not go without them any more than a boat without steam or a balloon without gas. Find out what motivates individuals, and we can touch the button and turn the key that makes them achieve.”

As leaders, we are trying to make the whole organization equal to more than the sum of its parts. In today’s business environment, it is essential that we find ways to make our organizational resources more productive. In many organizations, the most prominent and expensive resource we have is our people. As a result, a lot of time is spent on creating processes and conditions that drive and motive our employees.

While I will devote much of this article to discussing motivation, let us first address the objective of motivation… to create enhanced productivity. Let me start by asking a question. How would you define “people productivity gain”? The obvious and most natural response is  “to get more out of existing personnel.” On the surface this is simple, but as you dig deeper, productivity gain requires a lot more thought as it is much more than one individual performing more of something in the same prescribed time. It is an organizational culture that stimulates an environment that inspires an individual and groups of individuals to strive for excellence in everything done to realize the company vision. It is about every individual satisfying their needs in such a way that it inspires a sense of belonging, involvement, satisfaction, success, respect, mastery, recognition, accomplishment, creativity, growth, maturity, and independence.

Over the years, I have noticed leaders trying many ways to motivate their people to higher levels of performance. Even the best leaders have experienced the frustration of leading someone who seemed to refuse to live up to expectations. The fact is, the leader was not recognizing that motivation develops internally from a personal desire to achieve goals that are important both to the individual and to the organization. Motivation is the force that prompts you to take action.

A lot of research has been conducted over the years to identify the factors that have the most dramatic impact on productivity. While pay, fringe benefits, and working conditions are important, research has shown that absence of these factors produces a lack of motivation, but their presence has no long-range motivational effects. The long-range motivation factors are recognition of a job well done, sense of achievement, growth, participation, challenge, and identification with the company’s goals and vision.

In spite of these facts, leaders and managers spend a lot of time trying to find ways to motivate employees through fear and “incentives.” The very essence of fear is negative and over time has diminishing effects as employees develop attitudes that lead to a decrease in quality, commitment, and production. Fear can be highly motivating, but not in conjunction with positive results for any length of time. Incentive, on the other hand, is a positive motivator that is a reward exchange for a specific behavior. This also has diminishing returns as employees expect fair compensation based on their long-term contributions and, many times, there is a disconnect between what the employee usually desires and what the employer is willing to pay. Ultimately, employees start gravitating toward desiring more of the intangible rewards such as respect, growth, knowledge, prestige, and recognition (to name a few) that ultimately govern their internal motivation. The challenge for the leader is to recognize each individual’s unique desires.

Here are a few ideas to apply in your business:

  • Make an effort to compliment each of your direct reports on at least a weekly basis. If you cannot do this, then you need to look in the mirror, as you are probably causing negative performance.
  • Make employee development and retention a primary objective of each manager and leader and reward results accordingly.
  • Involve everyone at all levels in the goal-setting and planning processes, particularly if they are responsible for the results.
  • Establish robust performance management systems that involve a continuous, timely, and constructive basis and a fair and equitable compensation program.
  • Let people know what is expected of them, and do everything you can to make them successful.
  • Develop a “servant leader” attitude. Be there for your people rather than having them there for you.
  • Make sure that everyone knows how they contribute to the overall vision.
  • Treat everyone with dignity and respect.

Review our websiteto understand how an executive coach or business coach can help you increase the success of your career and business, or contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Reference and excerpts taken with permission from Leadership published by Resource Associates Corporation, Mohnton, PA.

Seven Steps to Delegating for Results

Have you ever noticed that great leaders are also excellent delegators? Delegation saves time, develops and motivates people, and makes an organization more productive. Therefore, it is fair to say that this is one of the most critical skills for any leader or manager to acquire. For this reason, I encourage every leader to become a master delegator.

On the surface this seems like an easy task. Give your work to someone else; sounds nice, doesn’t it? So why are so many leaders so reluctant to delegate? And when they do, why do so many leaders delegate so poorly?

The problem is that many leaders have acquired the skill of delegation through on-the-job learning. There is no course in school and only minimal reference to delegation in textbooks at school. Delegation is not easy and is a process that has a sequence of steps. Like any process, if you miss a step, it does not work properly

There are Seven Steps in the Delegation Process

1.Defining What to Delegate

There are really three reasons to delegate work: to better control our use of time, to build our people, or to motivate our people. So the first question you will need to answer is: why are you delegating? When looking through these three lenses, we usually find a reason to assign most of the work on our desks to others. The higher you are in the organization, the more your role should be growing and developing the organization and less “doing.” Delegation is the primary tool!

2. Selecting the Individual or Team

Too often leaders go to the same people over and over again. They get too comfortable with specific individuals or teams. This is usually a mistake as it demotivates other team members in the organization and may even compromise the performance of your “A” team. That “A” team usually depends on support from the rest of the organization to get things done. Silos form in the organization, and this prevents the entire organization from coming together to its fullest potential.
While I think we should always give our most important projects to our best players, we need to involve and delegate to the entire team at some point. With each person, consider why you are delegating (motivation, growth, or time management) a task, and match the appropriate tasks to that person’s capabilities.

3. Assess Appropriate Level of Delegation

Typically, leaders delegate using the same style for every person on their team and this is a mistake. The level of delegation should be adjusted based on the task and the person being delegated to. Delegation is not just telling people what to do and expecting them to do it. There are many different degrees of supervision and involvement required of the person who is delegating the task. The more experienced and reliable the other person is, the more freedom you can give. The more critical the task, the more cautious you need to be about extending a lot of freedom, especially if the company’s financial future or reputation is on the line.

4.Communicate Tasks In Specific Terms

This is where most delegation fails. Many leaders and managers do not do a good job of expressing what they want. People are not mind-readers. Many hours have been wasted doing re-work because leaders failed to explain what they wanted up front.
If you want something done a specific way, tell them. If you are not clear about what you want, take the time to brainstorm with your colleague before they start working. Employees find it frustrating and get demotivated when they feel like lab rats or are spinning their wheels.

5.State Measurable Results

Explain how a task fits into the overall organizational picture, describe the measurable results you are looking for, and let them know how you will rate their performance.

6. Agree on Deadlines

The deadline is the most underappreciated part of delegation. Too many leaders give people tasks without asking what else they have on their “to do” list. This is a motivation killer.  Not only is it disrespectful to the recipient, it is disrespectful to anyone who is depending on the person you just delegated to. Most people are trained to never say “no.” They have been wired to say “yes,” even when they know they already have too much on their plate. Often, the delegator already knows this, but chooses to take the position of “not my problem,” which in the long run destroys trust and respect for the delegator and decreases employee morale, organizational productivity, and profitability.
When you delegate a task, you must sit with the person you are delegating to and make sure that realistic deadlines are being created. It is your job as the delegator to help your people be successful and not set them up for failure. If you are delegating to someone who has a history of over-committing, it is important to help reconcile commitments to make sure that the most important things get done first.

7. Follow-up and Feedback

It is essential that you have a feedback system in place so that you know that things are on track. Provide support should your delegatee need help in getting the task accomplished. It is essential to let the person know how they are doing and whether they did a good job. In the end, you should take the blame for failure and pass on the credit for success.

Delegation is one of the most important tasks as a leader. When done correctly, it develops your succession, increases your personal productivity, and motivates your people. Many leaders develop excuses not to delegate that include: they can do things faster themselves; they like doing things themselves; their people are not ready. These excuses and others all have short-term benefits but long-term adverse consequences. However, the investment in delegation is usually worth the positive long-term benefits.

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 [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.