How Do We Create: Repeatable, Sustainable, Profitable Growth in our organizations?…Study Both Market Leaders and Market Losers

 

 How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In

 

 

 

As leaders we are drawn to success stories. We study businesses teams that seem to defy the odds and win. Teams that realize profitable sustainable growth, even in the worst economic conditions, command our respect and admiration. However, for us  as leaders to create teams that drive ; repeatable, sustainable, profitable growth we must study both the market leaders like Apple as well as those that were once leaders who fell from grace like Zenith.

I just finished another book that will definitely be on my must read list for business leaders; How the Mighty Fall; and why some companies never give in, by Jim Collins. As I page through the book once more I see page after page with highlights, underlining’s and notes in the margins. I have been a fan of Collin’s since Good to Great. I enjoy his non emotional, almost scientific approach to the dynamics of business.

Collins identifies the value business leaders can gain by studying companies who did not win and actually fell from grace.

I remember Zenith TV’s when I was a child growing up in Cleveland, Ohio in the 1960’s. They were the best TV’s. If you were to ask anyone who the leader in TV’s was they would have said Zenith back then. However today they are non existent. What happened?

How does this fall from grace occur?

 

What did they do wrong?

 

Is it something that was preventable or inevitable?

Are their common early warning signs we can watch for so our teams do not move from a position of “market leader” to “market loser”?

 

 I particularly found his identifying the stages of decline brilliant as I have lived each with various clients over the past 25 years.

Stage 1: Hubris Born of Success

 

           Stage 2: Undisciplined pursuit of More

 

                      Stage 3: Denial and Risk of Peril

 

                                Stage 4: Grasping for Salvation

                                             Stage 5: Capitulates to irrelevance or Death

In addition to providing the common steps once market leaders often faced on their fall, he also provides what he calls; “markers” or early warning signs to see if your team is in one of the five stages of decline.

I highly recommend this book for business leaders who want to passionately serve their markets while increasing their shareholder value. In this book he draws on an analogy of how a “sick” business is like a sick person. On the outside they may look fine, but upon further investigation you find illness. If you find” Sickness” early enough you can take corrective action to cure the problem and avoid future pain. If arrogantly left unchecked, often due to the “hubris” of stage one, businesses become sick and it can be terminal.

 

How about your organization? Could your team be in one of the five stages of decline right now?

 

 

Does your business need a check up?

 

 

Does your team have a culture that would admit a problem?… or do you have Hubris? (Excessive pride that brings down a hero)

 

 

Are you battling an 800 pound gorilla in your market that is in denial? Is your team positioned to help your market when they fall?

 

 

 

I want to leave you with a couple of my favorite quotes from this book;

The path out of darkness begins with those exasperatingly persistent individuals who are constitutionally incapable of capitalism

 

 

“There is no law of nature that the most powerful will inevitably remain at the top. Anyone can fall and most eventually do”

 

 

“There are more ways to fall than become great…”

 

 

“Great companies can stubble badly and recover”

 

 

 

I think it was Lincoln who said; “those who do not study history are destined to repeat it” I recommend you and your leadership team read and discuss; How the mighty fall. I ask you humbly challenge yourself and your leaders to insure your team are destined for profitable growth and not a fall. 

Are Your Salespeople Selling In The “Domain of Losses?”…If so It’s Costing You

 

 

The economic climate has changed the buying process, and thus the sales process as I discuss in my blog: Are you Enabling your Sales Force or Emasculating them?. Buyers are taking longer to make purchases, they want better prices, extended terms, some of your competitors are making irrational price proposals just to pay their light bill, and there are now more people and they are often C-level executives the buyer’s company involvd in the buying process.

Having led sales and marketing teams for over 20 years, through good and bad times, some of your salespeople may be in a dangerous ( and costly) place…

The Domain of Losses.

 

We’ve either been their personally or witnessed the following.

You are in Las Vegas, or another gambling location and you (they) are wining. It feels like you can do no wrong; you are “lucky” tonight. Then something changes…the dealer at the blackjack table, new dice, a new ball for the roulette wheel and the next thing you know you are losing. Bet after bet you are loosing and very quickly you are no longer playing with the house money you won but now you are dipping into your own. What was fun and the time of your life has become something that makes you anxious and irritable. You know you should walk away and live to fight another day, but a strange little voice whispers to you; you will have to bet more to get back to where you were when you were wining. Most of us can resist this voice and walk away.

 

 

However there are those few who enter a dark, anxious and fearful place; The Domain of losses. In this zone studies show  people make unethical decisions when they are under goal. Their desire is to see those chips (commissions) grow rapidly again and they start making irrational long shot bets to get whole again. As the losses continue to increase the aggressive irrational strategies increase and the losses grow exponentially.

 If any of your salespeople are in this fearful and irrational place after missing quota for a number of months and having little if any personal commission contribution,…

 

you  must pull them away from the table. (Their market) or it could cost you for years.

 

 

 

What signs indicate a salesperson is in or may be in; The Domain of losses?

 

1. Every sale has a price concession

 

2. Customers pay their invoice short due to un-communicated “deals” your salesperson gave them to get the sale.

 

3. The salesperson’s Accounts Receivable exceeds other regions selling the same products by 10 days or more.

 

4. You notice an increase in expenses

 

5. They complain about product quality more than other sales representatives selling the same product in other regions.

 

6. They focus on features competitors have and your product lacks

 

7. When asked to create a plan to correct their performance you receive a strategy that is basically doubling down. Their entire year hangs on the thread of landing that new account they have been promising they would close for the last six months.

 

8. You lose key customers in their region who have been with your organization for years

 

9. As an individual they are living beyond their means

 

10. They act alone, no sense of teamwork or trust in other department competencies…” I’ll have to do it myself”

 

11. You receive complaints from your internal customer service and accounts receivables  about this person, their mistakes, and poor overall attitude with the rest of the team.

 

12 . You catch them lying to you about meetings they had with accounts

 

If you read the above and you have someone on your team with three or more of the above you need to help them push away from the table (market) as.. .

 

They are scrambling in fear, when they should be focusing on real opportunity.

 

As the leader you must recognize the warning signs early and take bold corrective action;

 

  • pull them away from the table

  • seek to understand their fear drivers ( income, job loss, loved one pressure)

  • help them rewrite the stories , thoughts that have become beliefs in their minds with tactics and outcomes their irrational thoughts could not see

  • if they do not change quickly…Fold (their membership on your team)

 

 

 

 

 

Having been a salesperson and managed salespeople for years,we are a rare breed. Ideally you want someone who understands their market, your product and the problem it solves for the buyer, and they have relationships built on trust with their key account buyers. The trouble is this requires skill, art and science. I prefer the Mavericks who break though the roadblocks to a sale than the Gelding’s waiting for direction on how to overcome the objections they are experiencing.

When the chips were flowing in regardless of what your team did, they did not need to be all that good.

Challenging economic environments will help you to quickly identify the sales leaders from the sales losers.

 

If you are the person in fear mode, doubling down to get caught up you first need to;

 

Recognize what you are doing , and that it never works

 

Connect to your fear driver

 

Challenge your fear driver(s) to see if they are true

 

If not true- you need to intentionally re-write the thoughts that become beliefs so you leave the domain of losses and your fears subside so your creative problem solving returns

 

If true ask for help

 

 

 

As CEO, has your VP of Sales said something like: “you are right, Bob’s numbers are way off and his expenses seem high, but he has always come through in the past” make both of them leave the table.

 

 

How about your team?

Do you have any team members in the domain of losses?

 

 

Could other departments also enter this zone? If so provide examples.

 

 

Has a key account complained recently about their bill being wrong?

 

 

Is your entire team in the Domain if losses?

 

 

Have you pulled team members away and helped them return after training to exceed expectations? …Tell us about it.

 

As the leader you must be constructively paranoid about your buyers, their buying process, sales, and sales team members.

If you see any of the indicators I discussed above do yourself a favor and pull them away from the table sooner than later. Your shareholders and key accounts will thank you, and when you change your salesperson’s perspective… they will thank you.

(Ok thanking you probably is a push…, they will perform and you will go home at night and be able to sleep)

Walls Don’t Solve Problems…They Create New Ones

20 years ago today the Berlin Wall came down. It was described as “the triumphant end of a failed system”. Like the Berlin Wall, organizations throughout the world have walls, inner kingdoms, silos, that add no value to their markets. As I discussed in a previous post ; Silos are Great for Shooting Missiles not for growing Market Leading Organizations, “Tear Down Your Dysfunctional Silo’s and become a Market Leader. If your organization has silos, walls built around business units designed for kingdom building and a self serving desire to feel superior its time to change. As your business prepares for 2010…tear down those walls!

 
 
Market leaders identify and solve market problems.
Market leading organizations understand the value of having every team member aligned around the corporate mission to serve their market.
Market losers have inner kingdoms, silo organizations within the organization that add no value for their markets.
One of the greatest challenges facing organizations is the ability to execute effectively and efficiently.

Walls built between organizational units like; sales and marketing, and or marketing and engineering add no value. These inner walls have a negative impact on your organization’s ability to be competitive with nimble competitors who do not have the added costs of kingdom protection built into their overhead. Walls are propped up by insecure leaders who are more focused on their personal goals and compensation than that of the organization. A quick way to identify one of these kingdom builders is their frequency of blame storming other departments when they fail to meet their Key Performance Indicators. These Lords and Ladies of the castle rarely use words like “we” and regularly use sarcasm when referring to other silos not within their command. The outcome of inner walled organizations is bureaucratic processes and procedures designed for individualized leader safety and not growing the organization.

Attention All leaders…tear the walls down and prepare for 2010.
How about your organization…..
Do you work for a market leading organization focused on serving its market? Or do you work for a market loser that allows walls and silos to form to create internal kingdoms for individuals and groups?
Does your culture allow walls?
If you culture does allow walled departments loyally guarded against other departments…how’s that working for you? More importantly …how’s that working for shareholder value?

Rip Off the Band Aide(s) and Position Your Business For Growth in 2010

What are you aware of that is broken in your business? You know that area, person, process, perhaps website that is not producing? It’s that area that you know you need to address, but you have tabled for now as you focus on bigger fish to fry. If you can’t admit perhaps it’s” broke”,(like a number of those who ask for my help)  let me ask you another way: What is that area that you know is just not right, but you slapped a band aide on to “get through until the business comes back to normal again”?

The reality is you will never see your business like it was unless you identify the areas that are roadblocks or worst yet broken ,and fix them.

I remember when my children were very young and when the would fall down playing and scrape a knee or elbow they did not want me to clean the minor scratch or put some medicine on it….they wanted a band aide. Band aides are magical in that once the problem is out of site they were miraculously healed. Tear filled faces became filled with smiles and the desire to get back to the play that resulted in the injury in the first place.

The difficulty came at night, before their bath when we had to remove that band aide. Back in the day, in an effort insure they did not fall off,…band aides were once glued   your skin and the removal of them caused some pain and or irritation. So what do you do? Do you slowly pull the band aide off? No, what you learned to do was to rip the band aide off quickly. Yes there is a momentary pain, but not nearly as long as trying to slowly remove it. Once the band aide is removed you can assess the true nature of the injury, clean it, and apply medicine to insure it heals and does not become infected.

As I work with a variety of companies in a number of industries I uncover band aides in a variety of areas; broken processes, people who are not adding value and should have been dealt with long ago, people in the wrong roles, websites that scare customers away instead of begin a discussion, antiquated costing systems, poor marketing, the use of old selling practices, …and the list goes on.

What I find is most leaders are aware of the problems, but quickly mentally ranked them, they performed a triage and determined what needed to be addressed immediately, soon, or something we can slap a band aide on and deal with it when the business gets back to normal. There is also some who seem to hope and pray they just go away.

The reality is you may never see the days you consider normal again.
If today is the new normal , what would you do differently moving forward?

The recommendation I give to my clients is to; reset their understanding of the market and their business. In that process we will identify band aides that were slapped on areas that needed repaired and now have become infected. The only way to determine if those broken areas miraculously healed themselves, or if they became infected and may be costing you business, is to rip them off quickly, and rip them off now.

Over the next series of posts I plan to share the process I have used to help businesses; launch new products, launch into new markets, grow in existing marketing, and rebound when they were faced with rapidly decreasing sales, profits, and market share. My commit to you is they are practical and you may even scratch your head and say “well it can’t be that easy”…the reality is; yes, it is.

I am not sure what caused it, or when it occurred , but leaders at some point decided problems were complex and therefore required complex solutions that none of us could execute if we had to … if the truth be told. The reality is when you boil problems down to their true essence there are no new problems. The problem may on the surface look or feel new, but in reality it has existed before. Identifying problems and the road blocks standing in the way of your team’s success and solving them is what we are paid to do.

How about your business…when I ask the question; what is broke and you know you need to fix it but it will be painful? …do you think about?
Are you sure the band aide you slapped on it long ago is working? How can you be sure?
Are you sure underneath that band aide you don’t have a festering infection that may spread throughout the body of your business? ( and worst spread to your customers)
Did you just address an area by “Ripping off the Band Aide”? If so please share what your learned.

Top 20 Entrepreneurial Best Practices to Make Sure 2010 is a Profitable Year

 imagesCAO622DS

When I wrote my EBook: 50 Ugly Truths About Owning and Running Your Own Business…and 5 reasons why you should do it anyway I was responding to a number of misperceptions I was hearing from entrepreneurs.

Historically, at any given time six out of ten US adults is thinking about starting their own business. A number of new entrepreneurs are emerging that  I refer to as “necessity-preneurs “who were downsized and can not find new employment, are deciding to launch their own businesses as they want a much more active role in the security of their careers. The last group are cashing in their 401k and or borrowing from friends or family to buy an existing business and in a short amount of time realize they really just bought a job and they are quickly running out of cash.

One thing I have learned over the past 25 years of identifying roadblocks impeding businesses profitable growth is there really is not any new creations in terms of problems and strategies to grow a profitable business. Peter Drucker simplified it even further; there are only two considerations; innovation or marketing.

Just as I shared 12 mentor moments that I have used personally over the years to help businesses grow profitably, I have the Top 20 entrepreneur best practices that I have observed and lived over the years.

#1 “More” Sales or “Create Sales Velocity”?

#2 Dismiss or Distribute “Yafo’s” quickly …

#3; If Sales are Scary, You Can NOT Afford to NOT get Creative..

#4 Remember “The Law of the Locker Room”… it truly is a small world after all

#5 Tailor Questions for your buyers that Illustrate your Expertise and Prepare you to Serve their Needs

#6 Learn To Cut Bait …early

#7 You are Not Your Market

# 8 When Sales Get Rough…Look for Diamonds

#9 Don’t Let the Two Most Important Plates Drop

#10 “How” you “CHASE” New Business Matters….Do you want pepperoni with that new checking account?

#11 Follow the leader is a dangerous game, particularly when you follow Hippos…

#12 An “Idea” is not a product…and it’s definitely not a business

#13 Hire Strategic Partners… Not “Marketing Tools”

#14 Customers will Stiff you…But Don’t Let Them Burn you…

#15 Beware of “Smores”…Social Media Whores

#16 “Make a Wish” come true with Focused Passion

#17 intentionally reward the customer behaviors you desire …

#18 You will Receive Your Best Tips To Grow Your Company From Prospects Who Do Not Buy From You…

#19 Interview those who Exit and identify Roadblocks to Achieving Your Strategic Objectives…

#20 Exercise Your Power of Choice in Choosing Your Role on the Team…If Your Gift is Being a Duck….Be a Duck!

 

 

The above are by no means an all inclusive list of every entrepreneur best practice but they are some of my favorites. The post that seemed to resonate the most and create the greatest number of discussions was the difference between creating “more” sales versus “creating sales velocity” ( entrepreneur best practice #1).

 

 

How about you….do you have an Entrepreneurial Best Practice you use regularly and would like to share?

 

 

Of the above which best practice(s) resonate most with you?

 

 

Which of the above do most entrepreneurs struggle the most with based on your observations?

 

 

Is there a Key best practice not identified? (If so please add to the discussion)

 

 

As we move into 2010 which of the above Best practices do you feel will resonate most? Why?

 

 

Thanks for hanging with me  in this series of posts and I want to particularly thank those who have reached out to me personally to discuss this series of posts. As I have discussed, I enjoy helping entrepreneurs realize profitable growth and the strategies discussed are not new. One of my goals in blogging is to help business owners who may not be able to afford outside help at this time and I hope this blog adds value.

If you are wired to take on the 50 Ugly truths of starting and owning your own business and you have intentionally chosen to do it anyway I hope the above best practices were of value to you and your team.

Entrepreneurs will lead our country to economic recovery and I am proud to serve this innovative group of passionate problem solvers along with my other clients.

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #20 Exercise Your Power of Choice in Choosing Your Role on the Team…If Your Gift is Being a Duck….Be a Duck!

 duck

As the entrepreneurial leader you have natural gifts. Market leading entrepreneurs understand a key principle; you have the power of choice…chose to exercise your power of choice in choosing the role you will play on YOUR team. Market losers focus on what they are not, and try to become experts in all the areas of business and thus dilute their personal giftedness and ultimately their contribution to the team’s bottom line. Market leaders know what they know as well as what they don’t know.

Our Pastor at church has started a series on how we have a role to play in adding value based on the spiritual gifts we were born with coupled with those skills we developed over our life time. This message resonated with me both personally as well as made me think about a meeting last week.

When I meet with business owners and leaders the first thing I do is perform a triage of sorts. I ask a number of questions. I identify first if this is someone and a business I want to help. For example, I was asked to meet with a local entrepreneur about two years ago and when I discovered he wanted my help launching a smokeless cigarette that could help more consumers get addicted to nicotine and caffeine,..I chose to pass.

 

Secondly is the problem this business experiencing one I can solve? If not I refer them to one of my trusted network partners. I have a number of questions I use to identify what is and is not happening in the organization. Often the owner’s inability to answer some of my questions are answers in and of themselves. One area I need to focus on early is the owner’s objectives and motivations. Once I understand the true goals I can serve their team and provide the maximum value in the shortest time.

One of my questions that consistently creates a “pause” with entrepreneurial leaders is;

What are your dreams, your goals for this business and what do you personally want to do, and where do your gifts add the most value? ( not what you like to do…but what are you good at?)

 

What is often the case the entrepreneur started their business based on their personal gifts and seeing how their gifts can solve a particular market problem. They launch and realize success. Their desire to serve the market grows into a business and things begin to change. They start hiring team members, dealing with vendors, promoting the business, funding the business….and as time passes they move into a role of running versus doing their business. The shame is they focus so much energy on areas they are not naturally gifted in and they end up moving farther and farther away from their personal giftedness. When this occurs the owners stress increases, she feels like she is being pulled in 100 directions and nothing is getting done. The joy they once experienced when they first launched their business is gone…and now their business has become a job and no longer is a passionate quest.

I often shock business owners and leaders in this first meeting when I say;

There is a big difference between “making” widgets, and “running “a business that makes widgets…where are your gifts best used?

 

We are all uniquely wired with blessings we are to use to serve others. As that business consulting expert Jimmy Buffet shares…

“A blessing can become a curse if you keep it to yourself”

 

Our Pastor shared a story Sunday that I have heard before but this time resonated in a new way. It seems at the time of creation all the animals got together and decided they needed to focus on specific gifts as a group ; running, swimming, climbing and flying.

So the duck was an excellent swimmer but struggled with running. Not wanting to let the other animals down, he decided to focus on becoming a better runner. He trained to run faster and in the process got marginally better but tore the webbing in his feet. When he returned to the water he found he could not swim with the same expertise and speed he once had.

The rabbit was an amazing runner, but had difficulty swimming. So he focused on improving his swimming. In the process of doing so the muscles that made him a swift runner atrophied and when he tried to run, he could not run as fast as he once ran.

The squirrel was an amazing climber, but no matter how hard he tried he as not good at flying. After multiple attempts that ended in crashing to the forest floor he permanently injured his legs and this hampered his ability to climb with the same speed and efficiency he once had.

The eagle was amazing and the best at flying high above the earth and then quickly swooping down to capture her prey. He could catch the currents and seemly soar and dive without effort, but he was not efficient as a climber. He worked tirelessly to be a more effective climber, but in the process his wings became weak and he could not catch the updrafts he once could and could no longer soar to the heights he once exclusively owned.

 

Market leaders understand their gifts and use their gifts to serve their internal and external customers.

 

Market losers spend time trying to perfect areas that are not within their natural giftedness and ultimately reduce the value they provide their team and their market.

 

How about you…do you know your natural gifts and are you using them?

 

Are you in a role on your team that uses your gifts?

 

What should we do if we are in a role that does not use our natural giftedness?

 

As a business leader, entrepreneurial owner do you feel comfortable returning to your giftedness and hiring someone to run your business that is gifted in growing businesses?…why or why not?

 

 

I am not saying don’t learn about the other skills that can add value to your business. What I am saying is stay focused on serving your team and your market with your gifts. As the leader you will want to become aware of other skills , but do not try to become an expert in these areas as it will only dilute your gift’s contribution to the bottom line

 

I find one of the quickest ways to help businesses grow is to identify the various team members’ gifts, starting with  the leader and or owner, and making sure the role they play on the team is in alignment with their gifts. What is often he case is I give the owner a pink slip in running the business and I help find someone skilled at running businesses so the founder can return to their gift. They often express a sense of ….”am I allowed to do this…or is it OK for me to have fun again? “and my answer is always Yes! ( after all it is still your business)

If you are a duck…be a duck! You will swim much faster than those other ducks that are spending hours of frustration trying to become faster runners. While they dilute their gift you will remain focused on adding the maximum value by exercising your gifts.

 

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #19 Interview those who Exit and identify Roadblocks to Achieving Your Strategic Objectives…

exit sign

Market leading entrepreneurs value data and feedback. They seek and are constantly sensing the changing needs of their internal and external customers. When an account or employee exits your team, make the time for an exit interview with the mission of identifying roadblocks that are standing in the way of your team’s performance execution and success.

I shouldn’t be surprised, as it happens so often… a key account leaves an organization and very quickly the team moves into “good ridden mode” with comments like; well they were slow pay anyway. Or “they were a pain since the day we signed them” …or “they were not all that profitable anyway”…and so on. Team members assume they know why the customer left and often quickly close the file, and or arrogantly say …” they will be back, our competitor sucks and is not as good as us…”

Market leading organizations understand the value in interviewing customers who chose to leave to improve the overall experience of the customers that stay and future targeted new clients.

When you contact a client that has chosen to leave your organization the key thing to remember is the goal of your call; gain insights into why they left and not try to sell them or win them back. I have often been the one to make those calls as the salesperson who served the account can not help but try to win them back. Your mission is to understand, from the client’s perspective why they chose to leave, take detailed notes without “defending the fort” and reflect on that information. As you review what you learn look for roadblocks and “no-see-ums” in the overall customer service experience. Your team will be “assuming” it was price. However I have found price is rarely the true wedge that drove the relationship apart.

road block

Just as you interview clients that leave, you must also conduct exit interviews with your team members that voluntarily or involuntarily leave. In this interview you are trying to gain insights into roadblocks and or disconnects in initiatives in relation to your teams flight plan or roadmap. You will need the emotional intelligence to handle the often harsh criticism particularly if the separation was not voluntary. However the leaving team member has no incentive to play politics and their raw feedback is actually something market leaders value as it is can be acted upon once verified. For example you may learn you have dysfunctional “kingdoms”, silos within your organization that are more about the silo than achieving the strategic plan. You may learn that a perception senior management has is a significant disconnect with the market reality of today.

Team members who leave have information that others who may be busy blame storming are not articulating.

Interview team members who are leaving before they leave and you may be shocked that a key assumption or two the senior management team has is a significant disconnect with the reality of the market today.

 

How about your organization…..

 

 

Does your team have a procedure to interview clients who chose to leave you?

 

Do you interview employees who are leaving your team?

 

When you conduct those interviews do you have the emotional intelligence to listen and later validate or do you defend the fort?

 

 

Market leaders value feedback. Market losers believe the only view that matters are theirs…what kind of a team do you serve?