Helping professional service businesses and independent professionals attract more clients, do better business and find that "balance" that has continued to elude them. Learn a new way of doing business and transform your strategy into results. It all starts with a vision - so Be BOLD!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Management versus Leadership

Do you know the difference between Management and Leadership?

Below are distinctions between management and leadership and a few features each tends to emphasize.

1. One who leads or guides others to destinations they would not go alone.
2. Vision & Inspiration
3. Leadership of people
4. Effectiveness “doing the right things”

1. One who handles, or directs
2. Control
3. Management of things, resources, schedules
4. Efficiency “doing the things right”

Most people have a higher comfort level for management tasks, and I don’t mean only the management of staff. I mean the overall, day-to-day function of managing and doing 'things'.

I also believe that most organizations are “Managed” and that few are actually well-led. This is a key reason why many businesses are unable to break away from the pack, to differentiate and to see the big success they know should be possible.

You may be limiting your own success and that of your business, not for the lack of motivation or the lack of management skills. You may be limiting your growth by the lack of a strategic vision; by not “seeing” your organization thriving and reaching new levels of performance.

It has been proven that having a strategic vision adds real power to setting directions, motivating action, and guiding the decisions you make. Why then do so many organizations shy away making the visionary process part of their normal planning? Perhaps they are uncomfortable with a process they view as a “foo-foo” or “touchy-feely”. Or, perhaps they consider strategic vision to be impractical, too intangible or based on “fantasy”.

When done with precision, a strategic vision is intensely practical, reflects your values and ideals and is based on facts. Things to consider when framing your strategic vision include:

Scale – How big do you want to be?
Scope – What business expansions / contractions do you want in the future? Products, services, industries, locations, special niche focus, etc.
Competitive Focus – Differentiation between your offering your competition. Remember your competition includes businesses that are competing for your customers’ dollars, not necessarily providing the same products and services.
Image and Relationships, A.K.A. “Brand” – How do you want others to “see” you? What image do you want to project?
Organization and Culture – What are the underlying values that will guide your organization’s behavior and reputation? To what extent do you want to consider strategic alliances with other institutions?

Right now, take a few moments to envision 12 months into the future. Your business, your service or product, your life; describe them as if you were painting a picture or telling a story. Where are the results you will have achieved 12-months from now to have made this possible? Think about where you want the scale, the scope, the competitive focus, the brand, and the culture of your organization to look like or be at the end of 2006. Create your strategic vision. It doesn't need to be lengthy or eloquently phrased pros. Just write something that gives a clear picture of what you want your organization or business to become. This will give you the direction and sense of purpose that will guide your day-to-day decisions and actions, as well as those of your employees. Leverage your future to grow your present.

Until next time – Bold Results start with a Bold Vision! Go out there and Be Bold!

(The inspiration for this article came from a 1996 speech by Ian Wilson, in June, 2000. Thank you, Ian.)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

High Performance How-To

Businesses are always looking for ways to make their management and staff more productive and their companies more profitable and competitive. Many companies have turned to training and development that may bring about temporary improvements. Others have created rigorous strategic plans that don’t deliver the full expected outcomes.

Not to get to egg-head on you, but I read an interesting article recently and I would like to share some statistics. According to authors Michael C. Mankins and Richard Steele in the August 2005 Harvard Business Review article titled ">“Turning Strategy Into Great Performance", on average only 63% of the objectives of strategic plans are achieved. This means that 37% of the plan objectives are NOT achieved - a 37% performance GAP. Or, in other words, if a sales plan calls for $100,000 in new business, $37,000 would have been left on the table. That's a lot to lose.

Why? What are these organizations doing or not doing to result in such a big difference between an organization’s strategic goals and the actual results? What gets in the way?

Surprisingly very little is attributed to a "tangible", such as lack of or unavailable resources. The key issues are how well the team communicates, aligns around top initiatives, creates short term and long-term plans, and holds themselves accountable to deliver the results.

Intellectually, most people know the importance of communication and accountability to successful achievement, yet they don't have the know-how to do what it takes to improve these skills. Or, more likely, they lack the discipline to do what they know is needed each and every day. What needs to happen may be common sense, but it is not common practice.

Communication, Leadership, Perseverance, Accountability, etc. - are often referred to as “intangibles” because the loss incurred by the lack of these skills is difficult to quantify in the traditional sense, i.e. Dollars & Cents. Therefore, most organizations don’t rate the importance of these skills to successful performance as high as they do the more typical indicators of success.

Yet research clearly shows that these “intangible” skills and disciplines are the biggest differentiating factor between organizations that do consistently achieve their planned strategic results and organizations that do not. The top "intangible" issues contributing to this performance gap are:
  • Poorly communicated strategy 5.2%;
  • Actions required to execute not clearly defined – 4.5%
  • Unclear accountabilities for execution – 4.1%
  • Organizational silos and culture blocking execution – 3.7%
  • Inadequate performance monitoring – 3.0%
  • Inadequate consequences of rewards for failure or success – 3.0%
  • Poor Senior Leadership – 2.6%

What can you do to close the gap in your business? Start by acknowledging that your people are your business. More than your strategy, your marketing plan, your IT system or even your entire finance department full of spreadsheets, management information and predictions; people are the key to your success. To transform your business, transform your people.

Getting your employees, across the organization to work together, communicating with trust, taking personal responsibility for their own performance, as well as that of the overall business will generate considerable improvement. The secret lies in making sure that everyone in your business – including you – has the right attitude and is taking the right actions to produce results, time after time.

There are a number of options businesses have that can help them address the performance GAP. The particular program I use is called Best Year Yet, a planning and implementation process designed to bring about sustainable change for improved performance. This is the program I’ve found successful for myself, as a business owner, and in helping my clients.

The specific program, however, isn’t important. The important factor is to bring about sustainable change in the organization that will result in improved, lasting performance. For this to happen, make sure any effort taken addresses all of the issues noted above AND make sure there is unwavering support for this initiative “new way of doing business” at the top.

Until next time – Bold Results start with a Bold Vision! Go out there and Be Bold!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Sales Secret Common Sense but Not Common Practice

So, you need to build your business, make more sales, and increase your revenues. It’s universal; what business person doesn’t? But did you know that one of the most effective, easiest and least expensive things you can do to accomplish all of these is also one of the most overlooked sales activities?

Follow-up. Yes, FOLLOW-UP!

How many networking events, client meetings, etc., have you attended where you made solid contact with someone that is a candidate for your services or products? They may not have run at you with their check book, but they fit your “good client” profile. What did you do? Trade business cards, chit-chat and then… what? You took all those business cards you collected back to your office and added them to the box, the folder, the heaping pile of other cards from other events….. If you’re really good you may have actually entered the prospect’s information into a contact database. But, do you have a process in place to follow up with these people, especially those who weren’t ready to write you a check on the spot?

A successful sales person has to have a process – an order taker does not.

For example: In the early to mid-‘80s Fidelity and Vanguard funds were THE 401(k) provider of choice. This was, in large part, because Fidelity and Vanguard started the “bundled 401(k) program” by including all the participant recordkeeping, compliance and administrative services for “free” if their funds were the plan’s exclusive investments options. For the next decade, Fidelity and Vanguard needed “order takers” to sign up new clients; people who understood business and 401(k) programs. There was no selling involved. Their “sales” reps were fielding calls left and right and if they didn’t follow up on an inquiry, there would be ten other calls coming in the next minute. Ah, those were the days…

Alas, things change. Fidelity and Vanguard are still leaders in the mutual fund industry today. They are not, however, the only game in town any more. Fidelity and Vanguard actually have to sell their services these days; they have to differentiate themselves, articulate the benefits unique to their investment philosophy and yes; they are even known to negotiate on price now and again.

If you’re business is not the only game in town and responses to your audio logo or elevator pitch don’t normally include “Yes! That is exactly what I need; how much?”, I guarantee you can increase your business significantly by just following up correctly.
Selling is all about trust and relationships. When you follow up it is important to:

· Be consistent. Follow up is a process. It isn’t a single call. You want to develop an ongoing and positive relationship with your target market. You and your business should be first-in-mind when the need for your product or service arises. Consistency is the key here.
In addition, follow up isn’t just for prospects. For most companies, developing new business with existing clients costs less than half of what it costs to win new clients. Don’t forget your current customers!

· Be genuine. People like to do business with people they like and trust. Get to know your client and prospect and develop an understanding of the issues and challenges they face. Don’t try to be something you’re not and don’t misrepresent your product or service. This might sound like a no-brainer, but even the slightest omission or exaggeration can kill a relationship.
· Focus on adding value, not on closing the sale. Follow-up doesn’t mean ‘close the sale’. You follow up to stay in touch, provide information and develop the relationship. Doing all of these things will bring you closer to closing the sale, but you and your prospect will arrive at that point together; you won’t be dragging them there. Going for a ‘close’ before your prospect or client is ready is one of the biggest mistakes small business owners and sales people can make.

For all of you self employed and small business owners who hate to sell, you will see your business increase if you’ll just follow up according to these 3 principals. If you haven’t already, it’s important that you invest in a database; a single, computer/PDA-type repository of all your customer / prospect information (name, contact and business information, past call reports/communications, specific interests, etc.) ACT!, Goldmine and Outlook are three well- known contact databases out there. As your client and prospect lists grow, you’ll be thankful you made the investment in a quality contact database AND in learning to use it!

If you do nothing else to improve your sales and business growth this year, show a genuine interest in your prospects and clients through consistent follow up with a focus on helping them find solutions to the challenges and issues they face. You will see your business take off.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Bold Vision Business

This is the first of a series of articles I’ll be writing to help you start, run and grow your business. Topics will many subjects, such as sales, networking, advertising, leadership, ect. but I want to start with one of the ‘intangibles’. I want to begin this series with what I feel is at the foundation of success, business or otherwise; that is our our attitude.

The Foolproof Forumla
The concept of a positive mental attitude and the role it plays in the results we see, the success we achieve, has been around for centuries. Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone wrote the best seller “Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude” in 1960. (This is a must read book, by the way, for anyone striving to get to the next level.) Almost 200 years earlier, Benjamin Franklin spoke to the importance of having possitive “expectations” in his quote, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”

So I start the series of articles with this, the one lesson that, if learned, will have the greatest impact on your success as a business owner, manager or everyday person-on-the-street:

Your attitude effects the actions you take and
The actions you take determine your results.
  • The balance between Attitude - what you're thinking and feeling, and Action - what you're doing - and - is critical.
  • When you seem to be taking all the right steps but making little or no progress in getting the results you want, the problem is usually on the inside. What you're thinking and feeling are arguing against your success.
  • When you're feeling great about your chances but still not moving toward your goals, you probably aren’t doing what you know you need to do. You need to take action.

Imagine making sales calls for appointments to introduce your business. (Who can’t imagine this?) So, you sit at your phone and dial number after number, talking to prospect after prospect (action). All the while your attitude is, "I HATE making these calls. It takes 15-20 calls before I talk to even one person...and what's the chance of that one person accepting an appointment anyway!" With that type of attitude, you may as well NOT make any calls. Your lack of enthusiasm and your “I hate to do this” tone of voice will travel over that phone line delivering a message to your prospect that says "I really don't care if you do business with me or not! In fact, if you’ll just say “no”, I can hang up faster."

But change your attitude so your thought process goes more like this: "I know I have a solid service / product that can solve my targeted prospects problems. It's all a matter of timing. Not everyone will be ready for my solution/product, and that’s ok. Someone out there is ready and waiting for me to call with a solution to their problem. I just have to get through those that aren’t to the ones that are and that takes a little time and effort." With this kind of tape playing in your mind, the prospect on the other end of the line will hear a positive message in your voice that says: "I want to help you solve your problems." The response can be dramatically different.
The unbeatable combination of Attitude and Action, the Foolproof Formula, as coined by Best Year Yet, LLC, enables you to take meaningful steps and keep moving toward completion of your most important goals, and nothing short of disaster will get in the way. Put this principle to work for you and you will be unstoppable! BE BOLD!

If you think you are beaten you are;
If you think you dare not, you don't;
If you want to win but think you can't;
It's almost a cinch you won't.
If you think you'll lose you're lost;
For out of the world we find Success begins with a fellow's will;
It's all in a state of mind.
Life's battles don't always go To the stronger and faster man,
But sooner or later the man who wins
Is the man who thinks he can.
-- Author Unknown

Monday, May 23, 2005

Businesses Planning to Increase Productivity .... So what's new?

I just read a recent e-BizJournal article about Watson Wyatt's new survey that indicates U.S. companies are launching a push to raise performance goals and sales quotas. ?? This is NEW? I'm wondering if there was ever a time when survey results came back and showed companies were absolutely pleased about their performance and weren't going to do a thing. Silly.

It was interesting, however, that the report said more performance-based pay programs are being put in place for sales units. From my experience in a sales and client management role for JPMorganChase, I know that the performance-based pay programs are a double-edged sword.

There are two kinds of sales; transactional sales (retail sales, car sales, medium to small price-tag sales) and relationship sales (big ticket sales, sales that require a major transition of process, assets or a physical relocation).

I think that pay programs based exclusively on performance (i.e. closed sale) are more appropriate for the transactional sale where, if you lose one deal, you've got 10 more potential closes the next week. Relationship sales typically take months or years to develop. You may have an opportunity to close 10 deals all year, if that many. You tend to have less of an opportunity to recover quickly from a loss on those big, relationship sales that took you 2 years to get them to the table.

Also, depending on the structure of the company, there can be so many things outside of the control of the sales person that can break a deal. I hesitate to dwell on this because, while it is true, so many sales people point the finger at the boss, at operations, at accounting, everywhere else when the deal falls through. I know there are sales people out there that would be so much more successful if they would just take responsibility for themselves and do their job. However, when you're asked to sign up a client on a premium fee schedule because your operation costs are twice that of the competition's, it makes it tough for the sales person to win - and perform.

Watson Wyatt looked at 186 companies with more than 100,000 sales professionals and found that 75 percent have increased the 2005 performance goals and quotas that sales representatives must achieve to earn a commission or bonus. Twenty percent left their quotas where they've been, while 5 percent lowered them. (wonder who they were?)

Watson Wyatt also found that employers are expanding their sales forces at the highest pace in nearly five years. One of three employers plans to increase the sales team staff in 2005 while the percentage of companies that reported trouble attracting key sales talent increased from 82 percent in 2002 to 92 percent in 2005.

Hmmm. 75% of the companies increased the performance goals and quotas and 92% are having trouble attracting talented sales people.

What do you think? If you're in sales, tell me how your compensation / bonus program is has changed recently, if at all.

If you're a business owner with a sales staff, what do you think?