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.
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:
- What products or services does this huge portion of the population need as they become “senior citizens?” And they are living longer.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Time – The owner of a prepared business will have more time and freedom to pursue other interests, be they business or personal.
- Harmony – We all seek work-life harmony. A well designed, prepared business enhances their owner’s ability to achieve work-life harmony.
- Contribution – A well prepared business will deliver more value to its customers, clients, patients, team, owner and community.
- 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.
One of the most important concepts my colleagues and I at ActionCOACH coach our clients on is being proactive. Everything from our GrowthCLUB (90 Day Planning Workshop), our use of the ActionCOACH Business Chassis (5 Way Formula), to the alignment consultation we use to start each of our client’s coaching programs, is aimed at promoting proactivity. Unfortunately, too many of the businesses I am introduced to operate on a reactive basis, reacting on a daily, sometimes hourly, rhythm of solving crisis after crisis after crisis. The consequences of operating in reactive mode are many; lack of growth, low company morale, low or no profit, high levels of stress, and in some cases, bankruptcy!
Chief among the steps toward proactivity is to periodically Stress Test
your business. Here are a few of the tests you must perform:
|What if this works?
||“What if this works?” is one of my best coaching questions. You cannot achieve continuing success without preparing for it. This doesn’t mean starting a second shift before your sales increase, for example. It does mean having the plans and processes for starting a second shift prepared as part of introducing your new product.
|What if a key part of your business goes down?
||Machinery breakdowns, illness of key team members, storms, key team retirement or resignations, etc. are a fact of business life. How much cross training and employee development is part of your daily routine? How many strategic alliances have you developed? Do you have succession plans? Being prepared is a major responsibility of business ownership and leadership.
|What is my customer retention?
||Low customer retention, and/or a low customer referral rate are leading KPIs, indicating a need to proactively redesign your operations. Simply, if you are not at minimum, satisfying your customers, you have a big problem. Of course, your goal should be to consistently WOW your customers. Customers who are only satisfied are not loyal, raving fan customers.
The results of these stress tests and others, whether good or bad, should lead you to proactive activities. My colleagues and I at ActionCOACH are ready to assist you to stress test your business and to implement proactive processes. All you need to do to start your proactive journey is contact us.
Work on your business, not just in your business.
I am currently re-reading “Built to Last” the great book by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras. In Chapter 6, entitled “Cult-Like Cultures” the authors discuss their finding of almost religious adherence to a company’s culture within the companies they have labeled as visionary.
Following a section describing one person’s experience at Nordstrom, they revealed that contrary to their initial expectation, they found that many of the visionary companies were not great places to work unless team members completely bought the company’s culture.
“We learned that you don’t need to create a “soft” or “comfortable” environment to build a visionary company. We found that the visionary companies tend to be more demanding of their people than other companies, both in terms of performance and congruence with the ideology.” ““VISIONARY,” we learned, does not mean soft and undisciplined. Quite the contrary. Because the visionary companies have such clarity about who they are, what they’re all about, and what they’re trying to achieve, they tend to not have much room for people unwilling or unsuited to their demanding standards.”
My coaching clients have taught me that Mission, Vision and Culture (MVC) are extremely important toward consistently delivering long-term value and success, both to the community, the company and the team. This brings me to a major set of questions:
- If a demanding MVC reduces the number of people who will be happy working at your company, and if there is virtually full-employment in your area, how will you be able to bring value to a growing number of customers, clients, patients (CCPs) if you cannot recruit team members who will embrace your MVC? GROWTH
- If due to a lack of viable candidates, you lower the bar and begin to hire team member who are not totally committed your MVC, will your business’ MVC deteriorate? Will you lose your competitive advantage? CULTURE
- Finally, does all of this remain completely relevant as the pool of candidates shifts toward millennials?
I admit to not having complete answers to these questions. However, I do think that businesses that deliver value to the world will be much more attractive to potential team members, regardless of their age group, than companies that exist simply to make money. What do you think?
I just finished reading a very insightful article entitled The Race To Reinvent Everything
by Tom Foster in the May 2018 edition of INC Magazine. The article is about direct-to-consumer (DTC) startups, companies that are emulating the Warby-Parker model for many other product categories. Products currently offered by more than 400 DTC startups range from bras to tampons. While the article made many interesting points about the challenges and opportunities these startups are faced with, two points resonated with me.
- Not All Products Offer the Same Opportunities – Warby-Parker has been extremely successful due to two main factors:
- They offer superior value to their customers. Warby is selling a formerly $500.00 item for less than $100.00
- This value proposition enabled their customers to own many pairs of glasses, converting a category that was a necessity into a fashion category
The article went on to compare several other products where either the value proposition is not strong enough (sofas), the category is flooded with many DTC startups (Razors), or the major players in the marketplace have the technical resources to jump into the category on a DTC basis in addition to their customary channels of distribution (Razors again). If you are considering starting a DTC company, you must carefully consider your proposed value proposition along with product costs, including sales and marketing. Further, this article is a strong primer on the DTC landscape.
- Key Performance Indicators – DTC vs. Bricks and Mortar – The article mentioned some major differences between DTC and traditional retail’s ability to collect actionable KPI’s, giving the advantage to DTC. Specifically, DTC companies can capture essential KPI’s, such as customer acquisition cost, number of leads by source or campaign, and conversion rate by source or campaign more rapidly and accurately than traditional retailers. Customer lifetime value is another very important KPI which is just as hard to predict for DTC startups as it is for traditional retailers. However, DTC companies can have statistically valid lifetime value data sooner than traditional retailers. The increased accuracy and timeliness of KPI’s allows DTC startups to finetune their model as early as possible. Traditional brick and mortar retailers are faced with the need to collect these same KPI’s. However, it can be more difficult, be less accurate and take more time for traditional retailers. The section of the article where this is presented is a good summary of Buying Customers a book by Brad Sugars, Founder and Chairman of ActionCOACH.
Whether you are starting a direct-to-consumer or traditional retailer, you should read this article to achieve a strategic advantage over other potential startups in your planned market space. The article contains lots of additional information you will need BEFORE you get too far on your startup journey. My colleagues and I at ActionCOACH can further assist you in sorting out your options and planning your success.
While flossing my teeth this morning I recalled my late mother’s expression “It never fails.” I decided to write this blog about my top three list of things that never fail, well almost never fail.
Of course, top of mind and number one on
The second “never fails”
- The last piece of dental floss in the container is too short to be useable – Unless you are a dental floss savant, this “never fails” is based on pure luck.
applies to most amateur golfers:
- A golf ball that strikes a tree on either side of a fairway will (almost) always bounce away from that fairway – While this “never fails” has an element of luck associated with it, a golfer could improve their odds by being coached and taking lessons with a PGA professional. As their ability to hit a golf ball where they aim increases, they will reduce the number of trees hit. By the way, a great golf KPI is number of fairways hit.
on the list of “never fails”
is about, unfortunately, most business owners and their businesses:
- A business owner without written plans will fail to reach their business and personal goals – My colleagues at ActionCOACH and I have witnessed too many businesses that have grown organically, without plans. Before I joined ActionCOACH I had several turn-around engagements. Every company I worked to rescue exhibited a lack of planning. The effect of lack of planning was a major reason they arrived in a turn-around situation.
Our ActionCOACH clients benefit from our planning culture. All my clients have some, if not all of the following plans:
- 90 Day working on the business plans
- Classical business plans with budgets, cashflow, revenue and expense projections
- 1, 3 and 5-year Organization Charts
- Hiring plans with trigger benchmarks
- Marketing plans
- And others
As the expression goes; “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
The benefits of planning are numerous:
- Plans, especially written plans, have a very high correlation with success.
- Plans are essential if you have a team. They communicate your goals and engage your team toward goal achievement. Simply put, plans help you, and your entire team get leverage of skills, knowledge and time.
- Plans inoculate your business against failure. While there are no guarantees, planning certainly stacks the desk in your favor.
- The process of producing and maintaining your plans is just as important as the actual plans. It is a major part of your responsibility as a business owner to create a success environment for you and your team.
- And many more.
If your business is not about to require a rescue, it is not too late to become a proactive, planning high-achieving business owner with an exceptional business. The choice is up to you, don’t plan to fail!
Should you choose not to plan to fail, my colleagues and I at ActionCOACH will be happy to assist you on your path to business success. Simply contact me or your local ActionCOACH.
Finally, please let me know what some of your top “never fails”
are in your comments to this blog.
The second day of BEF began with Darren Hardy
, former publisher of Success
magazine, and founder of Darren Hardy, LLC Success Mentor to CEOs & High-Achievers. His presentation was entitled Productivity Secrets of SUPERACHEIVERS and was based on what he learned during his many interviews with some of the most successful people in the world. The following are a few of the many BFOs I got from Mr. Hardy’s presentation:
- YES is easy. NO is the master skill
- 3 Activities – consider:
- What should I have said NO to last week?
- What should I say NO to next week?
- What should I say NO to on my Idea, Project, Commitment & Communication Lists?
- “To many choices create paralysis”
- Warren Buffet’s Method
- Step 1 – WRITE all your priorities
- Step 2 Narrow the list down to your TOP 3
- Throw the rest of the list away
- Don’t mistake:
- Movement for Achievement
- Activity for Productivity
- Rushing for Results
- Create a “Give Up” list
- Identify your Vital Few Functions
- Delete / Delegate
- Find & Focus on and leverage VITAL FUNCTIONS
- “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” – Peter Drucker
- To be a SUPERACHIEVER
- Stop doing
- Master the Vital FEW
- Out FOCUS
- Out LAST (consistency)
- Out GROW
- Out FAIL – learn from mistakes
Our next speaker was Travis Bell
, The Bucket List Guy. Travis was a speaker at the 2017 BEF (see 2017 Business Excellence Forum – Blinding Flashes of the Obvious Part 4 for my BFOs from 2017). Travis repeated a presentation he delivered to the ActionCOACH coaches only. This year he presented to the entire audience. There is a few additional BFOs added to last year’s Travis Bell BFOs:
- The ultimate KPI is How Many People Come to Your Funeral
- Go from Selfish to Selfless
- Separate bucket list from to do list
Our next presenter was Steve Rogers,
CEO of Alchemy Advisors. Before founding Alchemy Advisors, Mr. Rogers was the President of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services. Here are a few of the many BFOs from Mr. Rogers:
- There is no perfect
- The constant question – What will have occurred in the next 12 months to consider it a very successful year?
took the stage to wrap up day 2:
- All of my clients have a Future Organization Chart (3 to 5 years in the future) These need to add a Timeline & Triggers to each new position on the chart
- “Saving a wage cost me a fortune” – Brad Sugars
- Hiring is not the same as Recruiting
- Have at least 1 personal goal in your 90 day plan
See Your Goal
Understand The Obstacles
Create a Positive Mental Picture
Clear Your Mind of Self-Doubt
Embrace The Challenge
Stay On Track
Show The World You Can Do It
Day 3 – A few BFOs from the coach’s session
From ActionCOACH Kevin Simpson, a coach in Canada. A few insights from his clients:
- His bike shop client reduced the number of bikes on the sales floor, resulting in selling more units at higher prices
- Conversation around what is possible. In the 19th century during the construction of a railroad, 32 spikers hammered in 63,000 spikes, each averaging 600 blows per hour for 14 hours. They constructed 6.3 miles of track that day, which at the time was a record. So the question is – Do we limit ourselves by our perception of what is possible?
- To eliminate Bottle Necks – Communicate Priorities
- be in Area 4
- Area 1 – Intention & Attention / no money – EXCUSE (below point of power)
- Area 2 – Money & Intention / no attention – BLAME
- Area 3 – Money & Attention / not aligned – DENIAL
- Area 4 – Congruency (above the point of power)
And finally, from a couple of conversations during breaks:
- A business is finished (Step 6 of 6 Steps to Massive Results) when it achieves the ActionCOACH definition of a successful business
- Content is GREAT / Context is IT!
- “Where there is SHIT, there is FERTILIZER“
I hope you have formed your own BFOs from this blog series.
The 2019 Business Excellence Forum will be in Charlotte, SC from February 17th to the 19th. If you wish to join me and about 1,000 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
While reviewing my notes for this blog, I noticed that I omitted two Elizabeth McCormick BFOs from Part 1
- When things get hard, ask yourself “Do I Want This?”
- 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 People
; The Platinum Rule
; Collaborative 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 HVP
, Motivators (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
- 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.
For the third year in a row I must say, the Business Excellence Forum (BEF) gets better each year, and the 2018 event was no exception. This year there were more than 700 business owners, executives, team members and business coaches in attendance in San Diego, California. 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, most 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.
During the opening session, Brad Sugars
, founder, and Chairman of ActionCOACH shared the following during a presentation of the 21 Biggest Mistakes in Marketing
- Mistake #4 – No Numbers / At ActionCOACH we have the concept of Measure & Test. For example, in creating marketing materials, such as advertisements, we coach our clients to test multiple headlines and measure the level of response, rather than simply using one headline. After measuring response, our clients can hone in on an effective headline. Brad suggested that Google or Facebook are perfect venues to test marketing headlines.
- Mistake #9 – Going for 1 sale vs. 100 / The concept of marketing for multiple sales, rather than going for one sale. This involves targeting out-bound message, while calling for in-bound response.
- Mistake #12 – Wrong Words/Pictures / Marketing materials must address your target’s values, not your company’s values.
I will be blogging and tweeting more of the 21 Biggest Mistakes during the next few weeks.
Our first Keynote speaker was Elizabeth McCormick, an amazing lady. Ms. McCormick was the first female helicopter pilot in the US Army. In addition to teaching the entire audience how to fly a helicopter, she laid out many gems, here are a few:
- “If you believe that something is hard, it will be hard. If you believe something is easy, it will be easy … not as hard”
- She demonstrated the “Can you exercise.” She asked a volunteer to the stage. The volunteer extended their arm out to the side with their thumb down. Elizabeth then:
- Pushed down on the volunteer’s arm while the subject was resisting to establish a benchmark of the amount of force needed to overcome the resistance
- Next, she had the subject say “I can’t” three times. When she pushed the volunteer’s arm down this time she was able to easily overcome the resistance.
- Finally, she had the subject say “I can” three times. This time she had to apply much more force to overcome the volunteer’s resistance.
Just in case we thought she was faking, the entire audience paired off, did the exercise and came up with the same result.
- The purpose was to move us from our comfort zone to our Potential Zone.
- “We all have a responsibility to lead from where we are.”
Stay tuned for the next installment of BFOs from the 2018 BEF.
Since the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) has declared February to be National Time Management Month, and in honor that, I’ve decided to vary from my usual theme of effective delegation. So here are a few strategies and tips that will help you better manage your time, and ultimately, yourself. As it has often been said, time is our most precious resource. At an ActionCOACH conference a few years ago, Stedman Graham summed it up saying that time is the great equalizer, no matter who you are you have twenty-four hours in a day, no more, no less.
For the most part, billionaires use their twenty-four more effectively than the rest of us.
The following tips, strategies and tactics are from the ActionCOACH TimeRICH seminar:
- When you have a choice, use the following two factors to decide to invest your time on an activity or task:
- Is this “thing” worth more than your minimum dollar threshold (whatever you decide that number to be)? If you haven’t yet developed your “worth” invest some effort to calculate an hourly dollar value of your time as soon as possible. This is very important because every time you say YES to an activity or project, you are effectively saying NO to many others.
- Does this “thing” contribute toward accomplishing one or more of your goals? You must strive to relate EVERYTHING you invest your time in to your goals.
- Build an extended team, not only employees, that you can delegate (not abdicate) items to. That’s how the billionaires get leverage, you can too. If they are knowledgeable about the “thing” you are delegating, your extended team may include your CPA, attorneys, family, mentors, etc. Do not delegate to unqualified people. Also, remember in a corporate environment, if you are careful, you can delegate upward.
- One of the best habits I adopted after I completed ActionCOACH induction training is – Never finish today, until you plan tomorrow. Before I leave my office, I list out my must achieves for the next day.
- Be Militant about those who undervalue your time by interrupting. You can:
- Get lost – work remotely
- Not answer the phone – call screening works
- Regulate email – you can set the polling interval in most email apps
- Be busy and be obvious about it
- Set the timer on the bomb (my favorite), “I have a call in five minutes”
- Block your time – create a default diary (ideal calendar, default calendar) communicate it and stick to it.
These five tips are just the tip (no pun intended) of the iceberg. My colleagues at ActionCOACH and I have a wealth of effective time management strategies at our fingertips. If you are find that there are not enough hours in the day, or you are totally overwhelmed by the “things” on your plate, WE CAN HELP!
Just contact me or any of my ActionCOACH colleagues.