2019 Business Excellence Forum – Blinding Flashes of the Obvious – Part 1

For the fourth year in a row, the Business Excellence Forum (BEF) grew and exceeded the previous years in attendance, presenters and content.  This year there were more than 700 business owners, executives, team members and business coaches in attendance in Charleston, SC.  With that many attendees, there was an abundance of formal and informal exchanges of ideas, strategies, success stories and best practices. This year’s forum had an extensive list of keynote speakers whose presentations yielded many Blinding Flashes of the Obvious (BFOs) and new ways of looking at things.  The following are some of the BFOs that struck a chord with me, all of which will enhance the value I bring to my clients.  I am sure that some of these will have a similar effect on you. The event began with Dr. Mark Thompson and Dr. Bonita Thompson, authors of “Admired – 21 Ways to Double Your Value”.  Their presentation was about “Being The Most Admired Brand.”   They presented the five factors needed to be an admired brand:
  1. Who do you admire?
    • We admire people with the same values as us
    • We all need “Power Partners” – mentors
  2. Productive PARANOIA
    • Steve Jobs 1.0 – was fired from Apple. At that time, he was ambitious, arrogant, and lacked humility
    • Steve Jobs 2.0 – re-tooled himself and built Apple into one of the most valuable companies in the world
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  1. Value-Creators – If your house burned down, would you:
    • Rebuild the same House?
    • Using the same Process?
    • With the same Team?
    • What about your business? Does your business create Value?
  2. Never-ending Mission – four parts
    • BHAGs – Big Hairy Audacious Goals
    • OKR – Objectives and Key Results
    • Simplicity
    • Urgency – Creates Learning & Growth
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  1. Deliberate Practice – 6 Parts
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  1. Redefine Success – What is your definition of Success?
img_2846-for-blog They concluded with the secret to passionate growth: img_2849-for-blog And Number 7 Gratitude. Our next speaker was ActionCOACH Chairman and Founder, Brad Sugars.  Under the often-repeated mantra of going back to basics, Brad presented some reminders and updates to the Six Steps to Massive Results seminar.  Highlights include:
  • Don’t fall in love with your product or service – break out of your rut and continually improve and innovate
  • It is no use building your marketing if you can’t keep the customers – make sure you can consistently deliver
  • With the internet and social media, marketing has shifted toward labor, away from spend
  • In the ActionCOACH concept of Test & Measure – testing has become extremely easy because of all the statistics that are available
  • Use the ActionCOACH 5 Way Formula backwards, from Profit up – 5 years, 4 years, …
Stay tuned for the next installment of BFOs from the 2019 BEF.

You Can’t Do It All

The cover story in the current (January-February 2019) edition of Entrepreneur Magazine is a profile of Michael Strahan (Link to the article).  Not being a daytime TV viewer, or a NY Giants fan, I was not very familiar with him.  Until I read the article, I was almost totally unaware of Michael Strahan’s many accomplishments after retiring from the National Football League.  There are a few things we can learn from his business career after his playing days were behind him. It Is What It Is Until It Isn’t – Not unlike many pro athletes, Strahan had no plan what he would do once the game ended for him.  Nonetheless, he piled up an impressive playing record; fifteen seasons (the average NFL playing career is only 3 years).  That level of longevity speaks to a dedication to be the best defensive end he could be.  He gave his all to his football career until it was over.  Are you totally engaged in your business? Deal With Pressure – After the NFL, Strahan went into sportscasting.  Leaving football introduced the concern and possibility the he would “suck” (his word) at something.  “You don’t want to be the weak link.” He said.  He realized that facing a 350-pound opponent who was trying to smash his head in was more pressure than “shaking a dude’s hand and asking him a few questions.”  He put the pressure of a new role into perspective.  Are you putting the day-to-day pressure you face in your business into perspective? Build Your Team – Along the way, Strahan, influenced by his career in professional football, a team sport, assembled a very effective team.  As he said in the article:

“I understand that it’s a bigger team than just you on the camera.  The most important people are the ones behind the camera.”  He went on to say, “You understand how important the support system is in sports, and that has carried over to me in business.  Because there’s nothing worse than feeling that you do a job no one values.  Each job is important – I don’t care if you’re cleaning out the garbage cans or working the phones or running the company.  Everybody has value, and football taught me to make people feel that value to get the best out of them.” (emphasis added)

Great insight toward building an effective TEAM. If you want to build a highly effective team for your business, a team that will enable you, your business and the team itself to bring amazing value to your customers and community, my ActionCOACH colleagues and I are ready to help.  All you must do is pick up the phone, tablet or keyboard and contact an ActionCOACH business coach.

Why Should I Be Your Customer?

I often ask my clients to answer, “Why should I be your customer (client or patient) (CCP)?” from the point of view and value proposition of their ideal CCP’s, not their point of view.  That question is also featured in many of my seminars and workshops.  In fact, I posted a blog in October 2015 entitled “What is Your Product or Service?” which expanded on that very important question.  I just finished an article in the December 2018 edition of Builder magazine entitled “Closing The New vs. Existing Divide” by Vincent Salandro which offers another very practical take on this subject. While focusing in on the factors that lead home buyers to buy newly constructed homes rather than existing homes, the article presents a statistical approach to understand home buyer preferences and how a builder might increase their market penetration.  The article quotes data from the Zillow Group New Construction Consumer Housing Trends Report 2018 to make a strong case for developing a very deep understanding of the value proposition of the ideal customers of new home builders. The Zillow Group report found that while 38% of potential home buyers considered buying a newly constructed home in 2017, only 11% purchased one.  In delving deeper into the data, the author expands on many of the factors that would be useful in refining a builder’s definition of their ideal customer.  Some of the factors included where:

  • Age – new home buyers tend to be older
  • Ethnicity – 74% of new home buyers self-identified as Caucasian/White
  • First-Time buyers vs. Moving Up or Downsizing buyers
  • Geography

The article goes on to look at the top fourteen reasons buyers purchase new homes.  Such factors as:

  • Everything is new/never used – 48%
  • Ability to customize features of the home – 23%
  • Ability to have smart home features – 6%

These were a great look at new home builder’s customer value proposition. Finally, the article looked at how new construction home buyers shop for their home.  Most who purchase newly constructed homes relied on technology, 68% using a laptop or desktop and 46% using mobile devices to shop for their home.  Only one-third of new home buyers used mobile, much less than buyers who purchased existing homes. What does this have to do with your business?  To answer that, I have a homework assignment for you.  I suggest you ask yourself the following questions:

  • How well do you understand your ideal Customer, Client or Patient? – When is the last time you gathered any market statistics that might be used to refine who your ideal CCP is?
  • How well do you understand ALL the various factors that make up your ideal CCP values? – Have you asked your CCPs why they buy from your company?
  • How well do you understand how your ideal CCPs found you? – Are you “hanging out” in all the places you should?

My colleagues and I are well equipped to assist you to better define, understand and find your ideal customers, clients or patients.  The better you are at serving them, the more successful you will be.

Good Enough Never Is

I am re-reading “Built To Last” the 2002 book with the subtitle of “Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras.  In Chapter 9, entitled Good Enough Never Is (I borrowed it as the title of this blog), the authors make the following key points:
  • The critical question asked within many of the visionary companies cited in the book is “How can we do better tomorrow than we did today?”
  • The companies in the book institutionalized the asking of that critical question as a way of life.
  • The visionary companies attained their extraordinary position because they were very demanding of themselves, never content to cease building and improving.
  • The author’s research clearly supports a strong correlation between the success of the visionary companies and the concept of “continuous improvement (CI)”, in some cases going back more than 100 years (way before CI became a management catchphrase in the 1980s).
  • Visionary companies put mechanisms of discomfort in place as a defense against complacency.
  • While taking the long-term view, the visionary companies did not back away from pushing for current growth at the same time they pushed for growth in the future. In other words, they didn’t plan for lower sales this year to fund higher sales next year.
  • The visionary companies consistently invested for the future.
These key points and several others were nailed down in the book with specific examples from the author’s research of both the visionary companies and the lower performing “comparison companies.”  For instance, in the case of Marriott (the visionary company) and Howard Johnson (the comparison company) they point out that in 1960 Howard Johnson was one of the best-known American companies.  J. W. Marriott, Jr. said at the time that he hoped that the company he had inherited from his father could one day be as successful as Howard Johnson.  By 1985, Marriott was seven times the size of Howard Johnson.  The book credits this to “Marriott’s relentless self-discipline as a continuous improvement machine versus Howard Johnson’s complacency.”  Marriott instituted mechanisms to stimulate improvement, including:
  • “Guest Service Index” reports – a major KPI based upon customer comment cards and surveys.
  • Annual performance reviews for every employee – EVERY EMPLOYEE.
  • Incentive bonuses.
  • Investment in extensive interviewing and screening of potential new hires.
  • Management and employee development programs.
  • Investment in a corporate “Learning Center.”
  • Employing “Phantom Shoppers.”
In comparing Motorola with Zenith, the author’s point out that Zenith squandered its reputation for quality by becoming complacent.  Zenith was the last company in their industry to invest in solid-state electronics, printed circuit boards and was late to get into color TV.  As an aside, I was in Chicago last month and noticed that the former Zenith headquarters building was being demolished. So, considering this, the questions I want you to ask yourself are:
  • What “mechanisms of discomfort” can you create to defeat complacency in your company?
  • What are you doing to invest in the future of your company? Leadership development? R&D? Enhanced recruiting & training? Technology?  Before your competitors do.
  • When business takes a dip, does your company continue to invest for the future?
  • Does your company’s culture not accept “comfort”, or do you constantly work to do better tomorrow?
You may be thinking that your company is not nearly as big as Marriott or Motorola (now part of Zebra Technologies).  They all started as small companies but adopted these concepts very early in their history.  You can too. Both the good news and the bad news from the author’s is “Good old-fashioned hard work, dedication to improvement, and continually building for the future will take you a long way.”  There are not shortcuts, magic potions or work-arounds. “Success is never final.” My colleagues and I at ActionCOACH are ready to assist you to build your company to last.

Why You Should Prepare Your Business To Be Sold (Even If You Don’t Plan To Sell It)

One fact I often site is that on average, 10,000 baby boomers in the USA turn 65 every day.  This has been going on for the past seven years and will continue for another eleven years.  This fact presents two major opportunities to the business world:
  1. What products or services does this huge portion of the population need as they become “senior citizens?”  And they are living longer.
  2. Many Baby Boomers are business owners. Their businesses will eventually be sold, transferred, or they will use some other form of exit in the coming years.
This leads me to the main point of this blog … preparing businesses and business owners (even if they are not Baby Boomers) for their exit, even though they have no plan to exit soon.  Here are the top six reasons you should prepare your business for exit:
  1. Maximize – A business that is prepared for the owner’s exit will be much more valuable than a business that is dependent on the owner’s day-to-day contribution to operations. During ActionCOACH training we learned that a business owners’ product is the business, not the product or service of the business.  Therefore, we coach our clients to invest a major portion of their time toward working “ON” their business, rather than only working “IN” their business.  An owner’s prime responsibility is to design and create a business environment that enables their team to succeed.
  2. Money – A business that is prepared for the owner’s exit will be more profitable than a business that is totally, or partially dependent on the owner’s involvement. Owners need to design their operations to maximize the leverage of their and the team’s time and talents.
  3. Time – The owner of a prepared business will have more time and freedom to pursue other interests, be they business or personal.
  4. Harmony – We all seek work-life harmony. A well designed, prepared business enhances their owner’s ability to achieve work-life harmony.
  5. Contribution – A well prepared business will deliver more value to its customers, clients, patients, team, owner and community.
  6. Protect – A business that is designed and built for the owner’s exit will provide protection to the business’ team and the owner’s family. There are too many instances of businesses that failed after an owner’s disability or death.  The potential for destruction of value, jobs and fortunes is reason enough for you to prepare your business for your exit.
One of the main focuses of the ActionCOACH coaching process is preparing our clients and their businesses to be sold.  If you wish to prepare your business for your exit and earn more money until you decide it is time to exit, my colleagues and I are ready to assist you.

2017 Business Excellence Forum – Blinding Flashes of The Obvious Part 4

Paul Dunn continued with his presentation by switching gears to speak about the concept of price anchoring. He presented a case study based upon the fact that most people remember the last thing they see or hear.  The case study involved adding eight words at the end of a price quotation for a product or service img_9693-small img_9696-small Result: 30% conversion rate for price alone, 90% conversion rate with the addition of those 8 words! Paul finished up by returning to his original concept by saying “The shortcut to more is to MATTER more.” img_9713-small img_9714-smallimg_9716-small And a quote by Richard Branson img_9720-small   A very impactful speaker who spoke briefly the afternoon of the first day and then returned to speak to the coach’s conference (day 3) was Trav Bell, the Bucket List Guy (http://www.thebucketlistguy.com/).
  • After saying that a bucket list is about what you learn about yourself during the journey, he had the entire audience participate in two hands-on exercises:
  1. We were given 10 minutes to begin writing our “reverse” bucket list – a list of things, adventures, accomplishments, and people we had already met or achieved that we were proud about. We then shared items from our list with a partner.  This was a great exercise, one which I completed on my return flight to NY.
  2. After presenting his acronym MYBUCKETLIST as a framework for our bucket lists:

Meet a personal hero Your proud achievements Buy that special something Ultimate challenges Conquer a fear Kind acts for others Express yourself Take lessons Leave a legacy Idiotic stuff Satisfy a curiosity Travel adventures

Trav gave us 15 minutes to select a letter, add an item to our list and then act on that item.  Many in the audience signed up for guitar lessons or made pledges to their favorite charity.

Both exercises were empowering and great examples of coaching.  I highly recommend you seek out a partner, or coach to create both bucket lists.

Trav concluded by saying “People are dying at 40, being buried at 80.”  Don’t be one of them.   Another presenter to the coach’s portion of BEF was Traci Diaz of Break Free Consulting.  Traci gave us many ideas, one of which stood out:

The Central Question to ask yourself several times each day is: “What choice can I make, and action can I take, in this moment, to create the greatest value?”

  The BEF was concluded by Brad Sugars.  Brad stretched everyone’s vision by challenging everyone to create their 100-year vision!  He reiterated an Owner’s/CEO’s/ Leader’s responsibility to enroll and inspire their team:
  • Vision – 100 years in the future, if the mission is accomplished
  • Mission – the value your company brings to the world
  • Culture – the rules of the game
He reminded us of the ActionCOACH formula for success Dreams X Goals X Learning X Plans X Actions = Success It is useless to lead a team that is not confident and productive Productivity comes from passion and focus Realize that the better you get at _____ the easier it becomes – tackle the difficult to make it easy. After drawing the following flipchart, Brad added that you MUST be congruent with your identity, or create MORE identity img_9728-small A case study example of expanded identity:

A doctor raised his identity from doctor to entrepreneur who happens to be in the medical business.  Result – went from one office with him as the only provider to nine offices with more than 400 providers.

We coach for break-throughs, not just learning.   After the conference, I observed a great example of communicating a Unique Value Proposition in the parking lot of my hotel: img_9772-small img_9771-small I hope you have formed your own BFOs from this blog series. The 2018 Business Excellence Forum will be in San Diego from February 18th to the 20th.  If you wish to join me and about 700 other business owners, CEOs, leaders, executives and business coaches, or if you would like to accelerate your success, please contact me or any of my ActionCOACH colleagues.  Our mission is to create

World Abundance Through Business Re-Education

2017 Business Excellence Forum – Blinding Flashes of The Obvious Part 3

Day two was kicked off (no pun intended) by Tim Brown, 1987 Heisman Trophy winner, NFL Hall of Fame member, and very inspirational speaker.  Here are some of my Tim Brown BFOs:
  • Be the coach
    • Be sure of yourself & your approach
    • Emphasize team
    • Look for & guide team members to see their abilities & potential
  • Talent is not enough – you need mental strength to succeed
  • Realize that sometimes a mindset change may be required to move forward
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  • Seek mentors …
    • Who can show you something about yourself
    • See what you cannot see within you
    • Say what you need to hear, not what you want to hear
  • Don’t be adverse to using a proven system from elsewhere
  • Little things lead to big results
The next speaker was Richard Maloney, President of Engage and Grow, a strategic partner of ActionCOACH.  In the course of presenting the benefits and outline of the Engage & Grow 12-week program, Rich enlightened us about the current poor state of employee engagement, strategies to raise the level of engagement and the benefits thereof:
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across the USA only 24% of employees are highly engaged.  Another way of looking at that is img_9638-small on average two out of every ten of your team are so highly disengaged that they would sabotage your company, or jump ship.  If you think your team would score as more engaged, think again.  A survey of their clients found a 30% gap between senior management’s guess and the team’s actual level of engagement. img_9640-small The Engage & Grow program taps into the science of motivation.
  • A Deloitte survey found that companies with highly engaged teams were eight times more successful over a ten year period than industry peers with lower team engagement.
  • Our job is to change the lives in front of us.
Next up was Paul Dunn, Chairman of B1G1, a global business giving initiative on a mission to create a world full of giving.  Paul’s presentation was in keeping with this year’s BEF theme of Serve More to Earn More. Paul opened with the following quote from Sir Issacs Newton: img_9666-small Using www.internetlivestats.com in order to show that time is increasingly compressed, he displayed some live global stats for that moment: (2/21/2017):
  • 7,519 tweets / sec.
  • 2,472 Skype calls / sec.
  • 58,875 Google searches / sec.
  • 68,234 YouTube video uploads / sec.
  • 2,566,295 email / sec.
  • 42,125 gbytes / sec.
And img_9670-small He quoted Peter Diamandis: img_9674-small He urged us to EARN more to GIVE more, and vis-a-versa: img_9676-small to address these global issues There are two choices we can make: img_9678-small or img_9679-small “The challenge is not to be successful, the challenge is to matter more. – Seth Godin From Simon Sinek’s “Start With WHY” img_9684-small img_9686-small This wraps up part three of my 2017 BEFA BFOs.  There will be more Paul Dunn and Brad Sugars in part four.

Going That Extra Mile

I recently used eBay to sell a file cabinet that I no longer need.  Oh, the benefits of more and more of my business being conducted online.  Because of its size and weight, the file cabinet was listed as local pickup only.  When the auction was completed, the buyer paid immediately and contacted me to arrange a time to pick the cabinet up.  When I met Leo, the buyer, at my storage facility I was surprised to be introduced to a Chinese man in full business attire, three-piece suit, beautiful silk foulard tie, the works.  The buyer was accompanied by another Chinese gentleman, John, who was dressed in business very casual attire, khakis, polo shirt, sneakers, you get the picture. While John maneuvered the van into one of the loading bays, Leo and I took a dolly up to my storage unit to retrieve the file cabinet.  By now you are thinking what does this have to do with business? While in the elevator Leo explained that he was on his lunch break from Bank of America, and John is his client.  John, he told me, is in the process of opening a daycare center and mentioned that he needed a file cabinet.  When he asked Leo for advice on where to purchase a used file cabinet, Leo suggested eBay.  John had never used eBay so Leo went the extra mile, logged into his eBay account, placed the winning bid, completed the transaction, and accompanied John to pick up the cabinet and to translate.  For me, that was a WOW moment, I was quite impressed by Leo’s dedication to his clients. So, here are three business related questions I want you to consider:
  1. When was the last time a banker, especially from one of the giants, demonstrated that level client focused service? Or for that matter, what is the service level of many of the large businesses you regularly business do with?
  2. What is the service level you routinely offer to your customers? Do you WOW them on a regular basis?
  3. What would be the resulting increase to your bottom line if you separated your business from your competitors by raising your level of service to WOW?
As Brad Sugars, the Founder and Chairman of ActionCOACH said at our 2017 Business Excellence Forum last month, “Serve more to Earn more.”  Leo is certainly doing just that.  If you would like to make more by serving more, my colleagues and I at ActionCOACH will be happy to assist you.

Deliver What Your Customer Values

I am a picky eater; I tend to frequent restaurants with menus that have items and preparations that I like.  In addition, I prefer restaurants that are flexible, and I’ve walked out of more than one after hearing “Sorry, no substitutions.”   My wife, not so much.  She has a very brave palate and is always willing to experiment with the new and unusual.  So imagine our delight when we found a restaurant in the Stockbridge, MA area many years ago that had a menu that appealed to both of us. The restaurant was very successful and always crowded.  We appreciated the reasonable cost, the dependable quality of the food, and the reliable service.  The place was a home run for us and for the other residents and visitors to the Berkshires. A few years went by and for reasons that are unknown to me, the owner hired a new chef who promptly – and completely – changed the menu.  For some people this would be an adventure.  However, to my wife and me – and judging by the decline in customers – this was business suicide.  I know we are not returning when my wife tells me that she has trouble finding something to order.  Gone were our favorite dishes.  Gone were the selections that catered to the bland eater and the daring.  Worse, they instituted a “no substitutions” policy.  We kept checking the restaurant’s website hoping that the owner and chef would come to their senses and revise the menu.  No such luck. As you can probably guess, the restaurant closed within a few months of this change. In business, there are thousands of examples like this.   A successful business sells a product, then ostensibly to entice another customer base, creates a product that is not of value to the targeted new customer and worse, alienates the long time patrons.  Ultimately, the business fails. So, what is the lesson here?  As a business owner, you MUST understand three things about your offering:
  1. You MUST understand what your customers value, not what you value. Oftentimes, they are very different things.
  2. You MUST understand all aspects of your offering, not just the obvious. For example, the obvious offering of a restaurant is the food.  Patrons also value the service, flexibility, décor, parking, dress code, cleanliness, consistency, reputation and variety, to mention a few.
  3. You MUST understand that every customer will value something different from other customers. Joe will value the food, but Mary will value the ambiance. And they seldom value the same aspects that you value.
Failure to fully understand your customer’s value proposition and consistently deliver that value is a recipe for disaster.  Yes, it’s important to grow, to improve, and to innovate your product base to give people options and to attract new customers.  However, if you consistently deliver great value to your customers you will be blessed with many raving fans. If you would like to increase the value your company offers to your customers to accelerate your growth, my colleagues and I at ActionCOACH are ready and able to assist you.

Is Your Business Commodity or Value Based?

While reading Architectural Record the other evening, (Yes, I still keep up with my original profession) I was struck by an article entitled “How to Make Money” with the sub-title of “Firms improve the bottom line by expanding the definition of architectural practice” by Martin C. Pedersen.  What struck a chord with me is the fact that you could substitute any profession, service or product in place of architecture and the core message of the article would still be applicable. So what is the core message of this article?  Basically, your product or service will fall into one or the other of the two (and in reality, the only two) business models based upon the perception of your clients, customers or patients (CCP).  The first and most common model is the commodity model.  When your service or product is perceived to be a commodity, you are forced to compete primarily on price.  In the long run this is a very dangerous game.  There is always someone or some company who will find a way to offer a lower price than you and your business. In that situation, how can you make a profit?  You must build the proverbial better mousetrap.  You must find ways to operate more efficiently than your competitors.  In the short to medium term, this is possible.  However, sooner or later, a competitor will figure out a way to operate more efficiently than you.  Welcome to a game of business leap-frog. To quote Mr. Pedersen’s article, “So how do firms escape the commodity trap and achieve what management consultants call “value pricing,” a fancy term for something fairly basic: a profitable fee? It helps to understand the needs of your clients and speak a common language.”  (Emphasis added)  The alternate business model, based upon offering value has many advantages and one significant disadvantage compared to the commodity model.  On the plus side, your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) is yours.  Your competitors may attempt to copy it, but they will find it very difficult to capture the underlying essence and complete definition of your UVP.  Also, you will not be competing solely on price, or playing business leap-frog.  Obviously, if you are not competing on price, your profit margin will be much higher than that of your competition. So what is the disadvantage?  “It helps to understand the needs of your clients and speak a common language.” – This is not easy to achieve and consistently deliver.  Why is this hard?  Because to design your UVP you must determine your CCPs definition of value, not necessarily the same as your definition of value.  For example many physicians value where they went to medical school, numerous studies have shown that patients view this a being near the bottom of their lists of factors they consider when choosing a doctor.  Once you have determined your CCPs definition of value, you must marry it to your product or service (the total definition of your product or service, the subject of my next Blog) in order to have your UVP. If you can design your offering to deliver true value to your CCP, and do it consistently, you will establish a very long term competitive advantage.  If you are looking for assistance in determining your UVP, please contact me or any of my ActionCOACH colleagues.  We will be happy to help you grow your profitability.