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.

2018 Business Excellence Forum – Blinding Flashes of the Obvious Part 2

While reviewing my notes for this blog, I noticed that I omitted two Elizabeth McCormick BFOs from Part 1
  • When thingsimg_1523-for-blog get hard, ask yourself “Do I Want This?”
  • CAN
    • Communicate – Positive & Proactive
    • Aviate – Take Action
    • Navigate – Clarity
  Elizabeth McCormick was followed by Chris Voss, CEO of The Black Swan Group, LTD and co-author of Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It.  He spent 24 years working in the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit and was the FBI’s chief international hostage and kidnapping negotiator from 2003 to 2007.  There were only a few BFOs from Mr. Voss, however they were MAJOR.  During negotiations:
  • Banish “I Understand” from your vocabulary. It is condescending.
  • Build confidence & trustworthiness – “Will you listen to what I have to say?”
  • Open by asking a question or making a statement with the expected answer or response of NO. For example: “It looks like there is no way to get the hostages released safely.”  Going for the NO gets the other side to tell you what they are really after.  Chris gave several sales-oriented examples: “It looks like you are not interested saving money for payroll processing while getting quicker service.”
  • Never say “you’re right” only say “That’s right” and then shut up!
  • Perceived EMPATHY is a Truth Serum
Our next speaker was Dr. Tony Alessandra, CEO of Assessments 24×7, LLC.  Dr. Alessandra is a prolific author with 30 books translated into over 50 foreign language editions, including the newly revised, best-selling The NEW Art of Managing PeopleCharismaThe Platinum RuleCollaborative Selling; and Communicating at Work.  ActionCOACH has a strategic partnership with Assessments 24×7 that enables my colleagues and I to offer a variety of online assessments, including the widely used DISC profile, the Hartman HVPMotivators (Values/PIAV) assessment, and several 360º effectiveness assessments.  BFOs from Dr. Alessandra include:
  • “Prescription before diagnosis is malpractice.” This represents a prime reason we at ActionCOACH offer a complementary diagnostic coaching session before suggesting a coaching program to prospective clients.
  • Establishing a competitive advantage is founded on an understanding of customer needs (not wants) and the ability of competitors to meet those needs. Understanding your competitive advantage allows you to sell value, not price.
    • Understand your Uniqueness’s, Advantages & Disadvantages
    • To dig deeper and to differentiate your offering from your competition in a given situation use this tool
Your Advantages compared to competitor Your Disadvantages compared to competitor
Competitor A ? ?
Competitor B ? ?
Competitor C ? ?
Competitor D ? ?
  • Feedback Questions
  • How well does our solution address the needs and goals you expressed earlier?
  • What other advantages do you see in our solution?
  • How closely does this solution fit your budget & timeline?
  • How will you determine the success of our solution?
  • What needs do you see that I might have missed?
  • Alessandra presented three case studies on the effectiveness of using various combinations assessments during recruiting and hiring. As the saying goes, “your results may vary.”  Nonetheless, using assessments before offering a position to a candidate increases the likelihood of a successful hire.
This concludes the major BFOs from the first day of the Business Excellence Forum.  Stay tuned for day 2’s BFOs, coming soon.

Highlights from My Vacation Reading

I took the first two weeks of August for a trip to Europe with my wife, Tammy.  Tammy joined one of Berkshire Choral International’s groups which rehearsed and sang in Budapest, Hungary.  While she was in rehearsals I toured Budapest and caught up on my reading, both business and pleasure.  Following are comments about and links to a few of the articles that struck a chord.
  • Jason Fried in the July/August 2017 issue of INC Magazine in an article headlined Starbucks Wasn’t Built in a Day, subtitled “Entrepreneurs are told to go big or go home. Stop obsessing over scale, and perfect the basics.”   In the article Jason talks about John who wishes to open a tea shop, but often drifted to talking about his next shop, and his next shop, etc.  He advises John to slow down and get the basics right before focusing on rapid growth.  I have long agreed with this philosophy.  While there is nothing wrong with having big long range goals, we emphasize long term planning at ActionCOACH, one needs not to get ahead of one’s self.  One of the major points of the ActionCOACH 5-Way Formula is that a business must be built in balance.  Before I joined ActionCOACH, I had several turn-around clients.  One in particular, a consumer goods company, had great marketing and product, but couldn’t reliably deliver their products to their customers, the retail stores.  Ultimately their customers abandoned them in favor of suppliers that had great product, marketed well and consistently delivered.  My client had grown their business out of balance, and could not cover the basics.
  • In the July 2017 issue of Golf Digest an article about confidence by Sam Weinman titled What If Everything You’ve Been Told To Think Is Wrong? caught my eye. Within the article are several concepts that apply equally to business as well as golf.  One very important concept was highlighted by a quote from Dr. Fran Pirozzolo, a sports psychologist and mental-skills coach “Confidence is a garbage term in that it induces illusions of competence.”  If in business, we confuse confidence with competence, our mind will be closed to our limitations and that will limit our ability to construct plans to overcome them.  It is the difference between an “I Know” attitude which cuts off learning and an “Isn’t that interesting” attitude which encourages learning.

Another concept applicable to business revolves around Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck’s division of our mind-sets into two categories:

– Fixed mind-set – people who seek validation of their abilities – Growth mind-set – people who believe their skills can be cultivated through effort

The final concept that jumped off the page also came from Dr. Pirozzolo – “Don’t believe the hype.”  During my career in the fashion industry, I was aware of countless fashion designers who crashed and burned because they believed the hype and were unable to adjust to changing market and business realities.

  • From the September 2017 issue of Success Magazine John C. Maxwell has an article about time management 4 Tips to Set Yourself Up for a Better Tomorrow Today.” The title of the article says it all.  In our TimeRICH seminar, we encourage the audience to be militant about their time.  Along the militant line, Maxwell’s article contains a great quote I intend to add to the TimeRICH presentation:

“Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Improve them, and they will become the brightest gems.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

These are just a few of the ideas I gleaned during my vacation reading, I hope you will find them useful.

2016 Business Excellence Forum – Blinding Flashes of the Obvious Part 2

More BFOs from Day 1 of the 2016 BEF, Troy Hazard continued. Troy told a story about car salesman who had sold him a luxury car in Australia where he lived before moving to the USA a few years ago. The salesman asked how often he traded cars in, Troy answered about every 4 years. The salesman began contacting Troy about every 6 to 8 weeks, by mail, email, telephone, you name it – when Troy moved to USA permanently the salesman continued kept in touch.  After about 4 years the salesman called to say it’s time for a new car.  Troy told the salesman that he permanently moved to US and salesman continued to stay in touch.  On a family visit back to AU, Troy dropped into the dealer and asked the salesman why he continued to stay in touch, answer … “I sold more than 100 cars to your friends.”  The business question to ask yourself is; How is my business staying in touch with our customers, members, advocates and raving fans? (See the following section – day one BFOs from Brad Sugars – The Ladder of Customer Loyalty). Next, Troy urged us to always have absolute clarity of where the money/profit comes from.  His example was an electrician who repositioned to being a Total Energy Solution. Troy also told us about one of his companies that had five salesmen.  Following a typical bell curve, at one end of the curve was a salesman who was only doing about $60,000 in commissions and was way below quota.  In the middle were three salesmen at or slightly above quota, earning $100,000 to $125,000 in commission income.  At the other end of the bell curve was a salesman who was pulling in about $275,000 in commissions.  Troy then threw a trick question at us, asking who he fired.  Most guessed the $60K salesman.  In fact he fired the $275K salesman, explaining that he was disruptive, not a team player, stealing leads from the others, didn’t embrace the company culture, etc.  The business question here is who on your team is not fully engaged with the mission/vision/culture of your business?  By the way, he also fired the 60K salesman. The final BFO from Troy Hazard was very simple; Change or Die, one change at a time!   Our next speaker was Brad Sugars, the founder and chairman of ActionCOACH.  Brad opened with the statement that “Profit comes from REPEAT BUSINESS.” Next Brad presented the ActionCOACH Ladder of Customer Loyalty. IMG_7935 small The first rung of the ladder is Suspect – a target or an ideal customer.

Suspects are moved up the ladder to Prospect via marketing.  Prospects have taken some action; responded to an ad, visited your store, called to ask buying questions, etc.  The BFO here relates to the ActionCOACH 5 Way Formula, “if the Conversion Rate is low, the Target is WRONG!”Prospects are moved up the ladder via sales to Shopper. Shoppers have made their first purchase.  The BFO that Brad mentioned here is “the 2nd purchase is 10 times more important than subsequent purchases.”

Shoppers become Customers when they make that all important second purchase.  This is where you begin to build a relationship with your customer.  Have a consistent point of contact and establish genuine know-like-trust in the relationship.

As you develop stronger and stronger relationships with Customers they can become Members.  Members will develop a sense of belonging.  The sense of belonging must be enhanced by superior, personalized customer service and continued relationship building.  The BFO here is Great Customer Service starts with doing business with those you want to do business with (see Target above).

Continued relationship building and consistent superior customer service will result in your Members moving up to Advocates.  A major BFO here is every customer defines customer service differently, that is why building strong relationships is the KEY.  Advocates will refer their friends and network to your business.

If you consistently deliver exceptional customer service and continue to build relationships, your Advocates will become Raving Fans.  Raving fans will refer all of their friends and their networks to your business.

Whew, this wraps up my BFOs from only the first day of the 2016 BEF.  Stay tuned, there is much more to come.

2016 Business Excellence Forum – Blinding Flashes of the Obvious Part 1

I must say, the Business Excellence Forum (BEF) gets better each year.  There were more than 500 business owners, executives, team members and business coaches in attendance.  With that many attendees, there were plenty of formal and informal exchanges of ideas and best practices. This year’s forum had some amazing keynote speakers whose presentations yielded many Blinding Flashes of the Obvious (BFOs).  The following are some of the BFOs that struck a chord with me.  I am sure that some of these will have a similar affect on you. Our first speaker was world-class branding expert Sally Hogshead www.howtofascinate.com (yes, that is her real name “With a name like mine, I had to be successful.”) discovered a new way to measure how people perceive your communication, through the Fascination Advantage® system. Sally is the author of two books “How The World Sees YOU” and “Fascinate – How to Make Your Brand Impossible to Resist” Before researching the science of fascination, Sally rose to the top of the advertising profession in her early 20s, writing ads that fascinated millions of consumers. The title of her presentation was “How to FASCINATE: From First Impression to Lasting Value”
  • Over deliver in One area – Stop trying to be all things to all people
  • You do not have to fix anything – you do have to accentuate your most valuable areas
  • Avoid your competitive disadvantages
  • Every time you communicate, you are either adding value, or taking up space!
  • IMG_7875 small
  • Sally told of going to an theme park where she saw a ticket booth that sold tickets to two rides.  The orange ticket was for a ride with multiple safety warnings.  There was a long line at the entrance to the orange ride.  The other ticket was green, there were no safety warnings posted about that ride.  Also, the was no line for the green ride.  She went on the orange ride, it was great.  Later, she got curious and went on the green ride.  She found the rides were IDENTICAL.  The business point is the theme park understood their target customer’s value proposition and desire for a little danger.  Do you completely understand what your target customer values?
Our next speaker was serial entrepreneur Troy Hazard, www..troyhazard.com author of several books including “Future Proofing Your Business” and “The Naked Entrepreneur”.  The title of Troy’s presentation was “Purpose, Passion, People & Profits”
  • Always respect the business corrections and cycles
  • There are 4 cycles
    1. Your Revenue
    2. The Economy
    3. Your Industry
    4. The emotional cycle – market sentiment
      • Opportunity occurs where these cycles converge
  • In addition to understanding the value your business brings to your market, you as a business owner, must know what you want your business to do for you
  • Every day Troy asks himself and his team the following two questions:
    1. “What is your greatest success and what can I learn from it?”
    2. “What is your challenge and how can I help you?”
  • The five keys to leadership he learned from being a father (E I E I O)
    1. Engage energetically
    2. Inspire greatness (strive to have tomorrow be better than today)
    3. Evoke conscious thought (give everyone a voice)
    4. Involve everyone (don’t under estimate before you understand)
    5. Organize Yourself first
  • Use your ideal (3 – 5 years from now) organizational chart to challenge your team to become who they need to be to fill the positions above them
This is just my BFOs from about 60% of the first day of BEF.  The best Troy Hazard BFOs are yet to come.  To be continued …

Great Advice from Crain’s New York Business Hall of Fame Inductees

While reading the September 14, 2015 edition of Crain’s New York Business” I was energized by some of the advice given by almost all of the 2015 inductees to the Crain’s Hall of Fame.  Following are a few of the best quotes along with commentary relating the quotes to my philosophy of business. First up are a couple of quotes from Larry Fink, the founder of Blackrock, the world’s largest investment firm.  Blackrock has more than $4.7 trillion under management.  He said “I’m a student of the markets.  If you stop being a student, you will fail.”  This takes our often mentioned phrase “you’ve got to learn to earn” to a whole other level by stating the consequence of stopping your learning … failure.  He goes on to say “I tell my leaders – my leaders are going to be teachers – if you’re a teacher who stopped being a student, you can’t be a good teacher.”  I’ve always said the one of the best ways to learn a subject is to teach it. From Shelly Lazarus, former CEO and Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather we get several great pointers.  “You need to have a team that believes in you and people who believe in each other and people who can work together.  Without the people around you, you are never going to be successful.”  This speaks to the idea that true success in bound up with accomplishing a broader impactful mission, a mission that you can’t accomplish alone.  She goes on to say “It surprises me over and over how people don’t realize that you have to treat the people on your team respectfully; you have to let them share in the problem and the solution. You’re only going to be as good as the people who want to work with you.” (Emphasis added)  “Who want to work with you” … that’s the operative phrase.  Not easy, but essential to lasting success. Pamela Brier, current President and CEO of Maimonides Medical Center, said something simple but very, very profound “It takes more than medical care to make healthy people.”  This speaks to the point of my previous blog “What is Your Product or Service?” where I discuss the total definition of a product or service.  Later in her interview she highlights the concept of inclusive management “…includes the notion that people close to the work not only have a stake in making a place work better, they also know a lot.  Tell me that who mops the floor in a patient’s room doesn’t know a lot about what’s going on with that patient and the family.”  Finally, she says “There is nothing inherently politically incorrect about being a tough-minded manager who does what you have to do to give an institution the financial wherewithal to do good work.”  You must continually achieve your mission to have impact.  In order to do that long term, the financial foundation has to be strong. Emily Rafferty, the retired president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art talks about timing and personal being.  “Timing is everything, and if we make a mistake, often it is about not getting the timing right.  When you get it right, it lets us soar.  That’s what makes the difference, I think.  Our timing has to be right within ourselves and within our personal growth before it can work in the workplace or anywhere else.”  A prerequisite to success is preparing for success, BE + DO = HAVE.  Acquire the being of success in order to do what you need to do to achieve success to have success. One of the primary purposes of coaching, whether business coaching or other forms of coaching, is to increasing the clients being.  My colleagues at ActionCOACH and I can work with you to increase your being.

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.

Effective Delegation Part 3 – What You MUST Delegate If You Want Your Business To Grow

As part of my on-going series about the art and science of effective delegation, and in response to questions I have been asked, I have developed the following Top 10 List:   The Top 10 Items You MUST Delegate

10. Activities that will speed up your cash flow – This includes collection calls, invoicing on a timely basis, responding to inbound customer inquiries, processing and shipping orders and making it easy for customers to buy from your business, to mention just a few.

9. Tasks that are already streamlined and documented – This is one of the keys to achieving both leverage and consistency in your business. Without leverage and consistency your business will become increasingly chaotic as it grows, if it grows at all.

8. Tasks that involve government or other outside, often-changing regulations – You simply do not have the resources to keep up with regulations. Make sure to delegate to trained professionals whose job it is to be up to date.  For example, a while ago I was introduced to a customs lawyer.  She told me that her new law practice was booming because U.S. Customs is now part of the Department of Homeland Security.  She mentioned she found many companies that have been importing materials for years, always completing the paperwork the same way that are un-wittingly, no longer in compliance.  Worse yet, the potential penalties are many times larger than before DHS was formed.

7. Anything that you want your team to master – You will never achieve leverage in your business if your team does not master operational tasks. Mastery supports consistency.  Consistency is a prerequisite to growth.

6. Tasks where you are the bottleneck – If everything goes through you, your company can only work at your speed and capacity.

5. Areas that are beyond your skill-set or competence – Simply put, if you are not good at it, you shouldn’t be doing it.

4. Anything that you shouldn’t be doing – If you are tempted to do that low-value task that is not time sensitive, stuffing envelopes, shredding out of date documents, etc., you are keeping yourself from adding the most value you can to your business. Remember, all of us ultimately are compensated for the value we add, not for the time we devote.

3. Tasks that keep you from growing your business – The main responsibility of ownership, whether you actually own a company or simply take ownership of your responsibilities, is to develop and grow your business.

2. Anything you hate to do – If you hate it, you most certainly will not do it well.

1. Anything that requires specialized knowledge – You cannot possibly be an expert about every subject necessary to build a successful business. You can never go wrong delegating to expertise on an as-needed, demand basis.

Bonus – Any subject where you can benefit from someone else’s experience – We are not omnipotent; learn from the mistakes of those who went before you.

One very important word of caution: You must not abdicate any of the above; you must learn and practice effective delegation. Please share your experiences and results from delegation or abdication with my growing community.

Would I Fire My Client If I Owned His Company?

During a coaching session the other day, one of my clients asked me a very interesting question.  To paraphrase his question –> given his shortcoming number one, and shortcoming number two, and etc., “if you (meaning me) owned my (meaning his) company and I was your employee, would you fire me?”  At first I was, I must admit, speechless.  After gathering my composure I realized a couple of things:
  • All of the shortcomings he mentioned represented areas that are outside of the ownership zone. They all focused on working IN the business rather than working ON the business. They revolved around tasks that he could, and should delegate.  My client owns a mid-sized manufacturing company with a front office team that has the theoretical capacity to accomplish most, if not all, of the items he mentioned.  On the other hand, his front office team may not be the right team to accomplish the items.  Which led me to my second realization …
  • Being an owner is very different from being an employee. An owner has several prime responsibilities, among them are:
    • To create and maintain a success environment for his team
    • To create, communicate and live the company’s Mission, Vision and Culture (M/V/C)
    • To design, build and lead the company and its team to ensure consistent delivery of the company’s M/V/C
So my answer to his question was that as an employee I might fire him.  As an owner however, he, as is the case for all of us, could improve.  I told him that it is time to build the kind of team to whom he could confidently delegate, not abdicate, those items that he shouldn’t be doing, is not good at or simply doesn’t like doing.  Effective and successful delegation will enable him to concentrate on working toward growing the business and fulfilling the company’s M/V/C, in other words, to grow as an owner.

How To Grow My Business And Not Lose My Edge?

During many coaching sessions with my clients one theme that constantly reappears is how to grow a business in balance.  For growing businesses, losing sight of their culture, their mission, their excellence, or their operational consistency is a constant concern.  The faster the rate of growth, the greater the danger. I recently read a great article by Leigh Buchanan in the March 2014 issue of Inc Magazine that addresses exactly this important concern (http://www.inc.com/magazine/201403/leigh-buchanan/how-to-scale-your-company.html).  I am sure you will garner a few useful insights that will help you grow your business in balance.