Monday, December 15, 2014

“The Times They Are A Changin’…”

Today we have a guest blog from Elizabeth Andreini:

With apologies to Bob Dylan, the title of his song and album often comes to mind as I watch today’s dynamically shifting business landscape. You probably feel it too. The market is shifting, your competitors are making adjustments, customers’ needs change and your business continues to evolve. Nothing stays still for long.

One of the most challenging situations occurs when your business evolves so that your target customer isn’t the same as portions of your existing customer base. Your customers’ business needs may have shifted and you may no longer be the best match for one another. Other times a customer base is built opportunistically, and becomes a hodgepodge of different customers with different needs and wants, and these conflicting requests become a strain on company resources. Sometimes a low price competitor comes in and targets smaller customers who are more price (than value) driven and starts eroding your market share.

Here are some of the topics you might consider when you need to focus resources and clarify customer fit and changes to your ideal target customer:

Fit & Alignment
  • How profitable are your existing customers? Are certain segments more profitable for you or are there certain situations where the solutions you offer are a better fit?
  • Has your target customer changed or are your current customers’ needs changing so they want different products and services?
  • Is your customer base a better fit for your older products & services? Have newer products & services been more successful with different types of companies? How similar are these two groups?

  • What is the level of effort and cost it takes to service your current customer base? How far are you willing to go if a customer insists on a product or service to keep them but it isn’t one you want to offer broadly?
  • What is the process for proactively deciding if you want to continue to meet a customers’ product (and services) needs? If you don’t, how do you mitigate the risk of them leaving or creating dissatisfaction in the marketplace?
  • Do you want to “grandfather” existing customers so you continue to serve them while you focus on new or different customers and passively allow customer turnover?

Alternative Considerations

  • Will holding on to your existing customers help block any competitors? What, if any, extra work or services will you have to provide to keep them satisfied? What is the resource cost of providing these extra services?
  • Are there alternative products and services that can be offered to customers and others in their market segment if their needs have changed? Would a “lite” less expensive offering or a differently bundled offering keep them satisfied?
  • How different is your ideal customer from your current customers? Is the difference size, type or location? What are the similarities and can you leverage any portion of your current customer base to help you move into a new market?

Not every customer is profitable and although it can be hard saying goodbye to a long-time customer, sometimes needs and the price a customer is willing to pay are no longer a fit for your company. It helps to take a step back and make sure customer needs and wants, what they are willing to pay and what you want to offer are still in alignment. Every choice a company makes has a resource and opportunity cost that limits your business’ ability to pursue other choices so make sure you are saying “yes” to the right customers.

Elizabeth Andreini

As the President of Accelerate Marketing, LLC, Elizabeth Andreini, is the "secret weapon" CEOs turn to at key growth points when they need to transform marketing and product management to grow their customer base, increase revenue & scale their business. 
 In addition to providing experienced executive insight and guidance, Elizabeth often works as an interim CMO or VP to provide the hands-on leadership needed tore architect marketing and product management and improve execution from the inside.  

Elizabeth Andreini, founder & president of Accelerate Marketing, LLC Accelerate Marketing, LLC
206-769-3420 or
Twitter: @acceler8mkting

Monday, December 8, 2014

Do You Taste Like Chicken?

Today we have a guest blog from Dan Weedin:

If your business looks, tastes, and smells like any other business or competitor, why would someone work with you? Uniqueness is critical for businesses trying to influence new customers and clients. It’s easy to slip into “same old, same old,” which ends up the equivalent of “tasting like chicken.” This article will show you how to spice up your business.

I remember attending a Wild Game Dinner fundraiser several years ago replete with exotic hors d'oeuvres featuring animals that I was most familiar watching roam the prairies and jungles on the old television series, Wild Kingdom. They served antelope, wild boar, alligator, and cougar. The one thing that I most remember of the experience was hearing the servers proclaim about almost all the offerings, “Don’t worry…. it tastes like chicken.”

That adage has become a part of American culture, whether you’re describing frog legs, kangaroo, or cane toads. Chicken has become the generic standard that we base all other meats to. If it tastes like chicken, we are “safe.”

Here’s the problem. If everything tasted like chicken, it loses that joy of adventure and curiosity. It becomes stale and uninteresting. It’s just chicken.

The very same problem can happen to you and your business. If your customers and target market consider you to “taste like chicken,” then you’ve sunk into the abyss of ordinary and generic. You’re boring. When that happens, your viability is as threatened as a chubby chicken wandering aimlessly in a poultry farm. Dead meat walking.

How do you know if you “taste like chicken?” Consider these 3 signs:

  1. You have no new clientele. The same people and businesses use your products and services, yet nobody new seems interested in your work. This appears to be success, yet it’s a fatal trap. No new blood means no energy, no interest, and no sustainability.
  2.  You haven’t produced anything new in years. Whether yours is a service or product, stagnation is a killer. The world renowned speaking coach Patricia Fripp has said that sameness is the enemy of a speaker. Sameness is also the enemy of a business. No innovation leads to decline.
  3. You live in a culture of “same old, same old.” If that’s your mentality when you get up and go to work; if it’s the mentality of your employees; then you’ve got a serious problem. In the rapidly moving business world brought about by escalating technology and global thinking, being in “same old” mode will get you run over. That chicken trying to cross the road today can’t take the same path he did 10 years ago or he will be road kill.
If any of these signs pervade in your company or in you, then you’re probably beginning to smell like the chicken dinner your grandmother used to prepare. Here are 5 strategies and tactics that you can implement immediately to mix up the menu to bring new flavors and add spice to your world and to your customers:

  1. Create new intellectual property or products. Remember what I said about “sameness?” I don’t care what you do or what industry you’re in, you can create something new and exciting to offer your target market audience. It might be a workshop; a newsletter; a free webinar; or a new product that you created to help them when they didn’t even know they needed help! It doesn’t matter initially how successful it is. What really matters is that you have something new to talk about. Do something different than what everyone else is doing!
  2. Boost your marketing. In the height of the recession, many small businesses hunkered down and hoarded cash for fear of running out. One of the areas they stopped was marketing. It should have been where they placed MORE resources. Boost your marketing by utilizing more technology, ask for more referrals, send out more press releases; seek out more interviews; and attend more networking events.
  3. Fix Your Own Swing. My golf swing is terrible right now. I’ve been golfing for over 30 years and it’s time to get it fixed, so I need a lesson from a pro. Regardless of how long you’ve been in business. You can use your own “swing fix” from a professional coach or mentor. In fact, the longer it’s been since you’ve had one, the more you will need it! You can’t be brilliant or as creative by yourself. Seek help and utilize it to maximize your talent and opportunity. It’s worth the investment.
  4. Get Out of the Office. We’ve become too tied down to our desks due to technology. Email has changed how we communicate in good ways (speed of information) and bad ways (stopped actually talking to people). Get out and see people face to face. Visit your best clients and customers. Make phone calls to those that you can’t readily see in person. Business is still about relationships. Remind them of what you look like.
  5. Change the Culture. If the chicken taste has seeped into your workforce, it’s time to shake things up. How do you do this? Simple. Make work more fun by challenging your employees to create new things; help them grow personally and professionally; and offer mentoring to them to help them more rapidly succeed.
Bottom line ~ if you are perceived to be chicken, your goose is cooked. The business world demands difference and innovation; speed and accessibility; and technological sophistication and savvy. These are now becoming the new normal and those norms will continue to change and evolve just like menus in the finest restaurants in the world do. Does your business taste like chicken? If it does, don’t despair. You can always change the menu as long as you have the courage to do so. 

Who’s hungry?

© 2014 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved

Dan Weedin, CIC, CRM
The Crisis ConquerorP.O. Box 1571 / Poulsbo, WA 98370

Blog –
Skype: danweedin

Inducted to the Million Dollar Consultant™ Hall of Fame – 2012

“Dan’s guidance helped us crystallize our somewhat vague ideas about what we would do in the event of a disaster, into a well-thought out (and written) Crisis Prevention & Disaster Recovery Plan.  We appreciated Dan’s ability to combine his subject matter expertise with an easy to work with approach.  Hopefully we will never experience a disaster, but there is great peace of mind knowing we have a plan in place for that eventuality.” ~ Steve Richardson, CFO AEC, Inc. (Portland, OR)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Intentionally growing your company - The changing role of the CEO: Your business model is a Key Performance Indicator

Recently, I began teaser introductions to the following five topics.  I believe that each topic is a key issue for growing your company from 15 to 50 and then to 150 people or more.  So, here is my take on that Holy Grail, on what companies and my clients need to focus:

Know Thy Self  
Look at Your People 
Business Model

Today we will focus on #5, Business Model.  When asked, almost everyone says they have a business model.  The question should be, does your business model work? 

At 15 employees, most companies take any customer and are delighted with them all.  What most often happens is that many businesses at this level, essentially focus on materials, direct labor and determine profit. 

At this stage most companies business models don’t take in to consideration all of the cost factors that have to be included in operating their company.  This recognition failure means that they become resigned to staying at this level.  The two most overlooked cost factors seem to be administrative and Top Management (owner may be taking a salary or may not; the owner may be doing what will become two or three full time positions). 

The personal costs are failing to pay the owner as an employee of the company.  Often, the owner is both General Manager and Sales force.  If the owner is not separating out their roles and the value brought in to the company from the ownership value, then it becomes very difficult to afford hiring the right people as the need arises and the owner let’s go of some of their roles. 

The administrative costs are especially front and center when a business begins to come up against competitors.  Pricing in small companies almost never takes in to account the costs of having people who don’t directly support the sales and production part of the business.  Initially, this gives the small company an advantage over larger competitors.  As the Company grows and G&A increases in both real dollars and possibly in percentage of G&A to the rest of the company, it will continue to be important to manage/control expenses and it will become more important to understand how to include G&A as a part of your business model. . 

As companies grow towards 50 employees one of the big learns is when a company analyzes its customers and find that some make them lots of money and others don’t.  This is often the beginning of a shift/change in the business model because quite often the early customers (who are loyal and love the company) are not what the company needs in order to further grow and develop.  This quite often means that the tough decision to move on from (get rid of) these customers has to take place.  Also, at about 30 employees on the way to 50, it is often the time that a company has to move to more experienced/skilled managers.  What often happens is the existing key employees dig in their heels around letting go of old/core customers. 

On the way to 150 employees, the business model again needs to morph.  The complexity of the business requires further analysis of who is a target customer, how we profitably address their needs, are we aligned to service that kind of customer and how do we close the gaps as we begin to compete with more sophisticated larger companies? 

At both the 50 and 150 employee stage, one of the largest issues is ROI (Return On Investment).  Companies find that they must re-invest in people and equipment with significant cost tags.  Much of the time, this is when a company that has been profitable, become unprofitable.  Anticipating these growth needs and keeping an eye out toward what the needs will be and when are critical factors in success at these stages. 

At what stage are you?  What is your business model and at what point do you think it may not work anymore?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Intentionally growing your company - The changing role of the CEO: Processes and Systems:

Recently, I began teaser introductions to the following five topics.  I believe that each topic is a key issue for growing your company from 15 to 50 and then to 150 people or more.  So, here is my take on that Holy Grail, on what companies and my clients need to focus:

Know Thy Self  
 Look at Your People 
Business Model

Today, let’s look at #4, Processes/Systems.  I have found three issues recurring so often they feel like rights of passage. 

My experience with companies at the 15 and 50 stage is that systematic anything is pretty rare.  These companies have either started out with a founder who has an exceptional  ability to sell or produce product or create excitement and service relationships (occasionally all three), or there are long standing employees who know the business as it is and keep a great deal in their heads. 

One of the issues that looms largest for a company wanting to grow to the 50 employee level is translating company knowledge to others and making this knowledge replicable (meaning that it can be provided to others without the founder or key employee).  The hurdles to move through this no man’s land are usually: Culture, perceived value of processes/systems and some discipline. 

Culture of smaller companies is usually one of heroics, someone or some few who do things in a n exceptional manner.  Perceived value is either personal or cultural (“I don’t need it, why can’t they just do it too”).  Discipline raises its ugly head when priorities are made.  Getting started on creating replicable processes and systems usually loses out to “We have business that we have to attend to.”

For 50 employee companies, the two issues that most often come up is failing to develop processes that are appropriate for the size and focus of the existing/near term business and second is the issue of making sure that processes, and the people who use them, actually work/serve the goals everyone has for the business. 

At 150 employees companies often come up against issues of complexity vs. the fit of the processes/systems.  All too often there is a disconnect between the people being asked to follow the process and who is developing the process.  Investing time and resources on acceptance, use and implementation of the process/system is all to often overlooked or minimalized. 

So what are the issues you have had to address in adopting/creating and implementing  processes and developing systems?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Intentionally growing your company - The changing role of the CEO: CULTURE

Recently, I began teaser introductions to the following five topics.  I believe that each topic is a key issue for growing your company from 15 to 50 and then to 150 people or more.  So, here is my take on that Holy Grail, on what companies and my clients need to focus:

 Know Thy Self  
 Look at Your People 
Business Model

Today, we are touching (and I do mean touching... this is a very large topic) on #3, Culture.  My experience with companies at the 15 and 50 stage is that culture is almost never an intentional act.  Most founders, and most of us, stand for beliefs.  In a company you may start with, “We are about unparalleled customer service.” So, you work 24/7 and every customer expectation is met or exceeded. You hire friends or others who are just as excited about cigars, pools/spas, making after market auto products or providing marketing services.  Everyone is in heroic mode (saving the day or making customers ecstatic). 

Then your company gets to $1M in sales (this might start earlier or later by $500K) and you begin hiring people rather than zealots.  In most cases, what happens is that the culture of heroics and zealotry starts falling apart.  I have experienced companies reaching up to $5M before they actually confront the failing culture.  For the ones that survive this first culture stage, three things become paramount: customer focus, developing their first systems and moving from holding knowledge as power (the important stuff is in people’s heads). 

So let’s assume you make it through this first stage, what is culture likely to be?  Most often, I find that the culture focuses on work harder.  The survivors have revisit customer focus again.  This time, they confront and develop a clear idea about who their best customer, who they serve best and what kills their ability to make money.  The culture shifts from personal relationships and anecdotal business practices to systems.  Either outsiders come in and begin this process or the owners find good consultants.  The first formation of a management team happens along the way and often it is populated by survivors (people who did well in the company up to now).  There is still little intention or conscious focus on what culture we live and what culture and values we want to live. 

At this stage, with fifty employees, the culture usually gets murky.  It is one of the signs that the company is, again, in a no man’s land and often G&A costs are rise to a point where the company must confront: whether their business model works anymore; too many mini-cultures often from having brought in more people; and why the owners are in business (asking why you are in business is often met with blank stares at this stage, when at $3M the answer was clear and crisp). 

At 150 employees, there is a need for systemic culture and often CEO’s who’s companies are troubled as they approach 120 million have not focused on two things: spending most of their time on coaching their direct reports and keeping their culture alive and central to all of the business. 

Weigh in here.... agree? Disagree?  What have been your experiences in getting the gap closing?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Intentionally growing your company - The changing role of the CEO : Look at your people

Over the next few weeks, I will chat with you about five topics.  I believe that each topic is a key issue for growing your company from 15 to 50 and then to 150 people or more.  So, here is my take on that Holy Grail, on what companies and my clients need to focus:

 Know Thy Self 
Look at Your People
Business Model

Today, we are tackling #2, Look at Your People.  My experience with companies at the 15 and 50 stage is that after, and along with the owner CEO, the key employees are the biggest reason that companies get stuck and do not make it to the next level.  Most often the Owner does not start by looking at themselves and getting others to weigh in on their gaps in experience, skills and capabilities and then determine whether they will continue to hold the top seat in their organization or apply themselves to the place they provide the most value.  If they decide to continue to remain CEO, most do not develop (on their own or with others) a professional development plan, including a set of specific actions and on a timeline. 

Part of developing and executing such a plan is that it forces the Owner to confront the brutal question... can they learn, get experience, etc. what they need to and within the timeframe that will work for the company and their exit?  The second result is that they begin holding themselves out as a model for everyone else and the expectation around developing key employees shifts when this happens.  I have worked with Harvard MBA’s who either got stuck on telling themselves (and everyone else), that they had no need of a development plan or they figured out where their gaps were and addressed them. 

At 15 and 50 people, many Owners feel that they can’t afford to hire the right people and make do.  I also hear from some that they can’t afford the coaching or other outside help that will close their or their employee’s gaps.  If this is the case, you probably do not have a sustainable business model, or are over-valuing what salary you should take out of the company.  Seriously, if you are going to do your first company, or CEO position or ..... you should plan on having some one in a trainer position and the amount of time/cost and be tailored to budget.  Just don’t convince yourself that you can’t afford it.  The potential consequences are too large. 

At 150 people or greater, the issues begin to change and often the Owner is in a position of having to deal with their ego (keeping up with bright people who have already done and experienced where you want to go).  In these cases, it is important to have some conversations about expectations regarding roles, responsibility and authority. 

Weigh in here.... agree? Disagree?  What have been your experiences in getting the gap closing help you need in sports, fitness, marriage/relationships or other areas, including business? 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Intentionally growing your company - Know Thy Self

Over the next few weeks, I will chat with you about five topics.  I believe that each topic is a key issue for growing your company from 15 to 50 and then to 150 people or more.  So, here is my take on that Holy Grail, on what companies and my clients need to focus:

Know Thy Self
Look at Your People
Business Model

Today, we are tackling #1, Know Thy Self.  Why is self-knowledge so critical to growing a sustainable company?  Ultimately, because culture is key (yes, I know I listed it as #3) and creating a culture from awareness and intention has got to be one of the most difficult undertakings imaginable. 

Why awareness and intention?... because most of us don’t sail through life creating those things perfectly by just being us.  We miss cues from others and from ourselves. 

My experience has been that unaware CEO’s get in their own way.  At some point, whether at 15, 50 or 150+ employees, they top out and their companies stall.  Unawareness come in lots of packages.  Do any of these resemble you?

1) Do you have to be the top dog and think that you have to the title?  Often these Business Owners would be happier by taking another title then CEO and doing that job;

2) There are those who are very bright, learn quickly and do things better than most of us.  This describes the vast majority of my clients.  These type often are unaware that they are stifling their companies because they are the smartest gal or guy in the room.  Everyone waits for the smartest guy in the room to solve the problem and none of their people ever get to make mistakes, learn and develop. 

Then there is group #3) There are those who just can’t delegate.  They have to control or their standards are really high and they feel no one meets those standards. 

Whatever the reason for the lack of awareness, many business owner’s don’t know themselves and usually don’t see the wake they are leaving.  If you resemble any of the above and are still reading this blog, congratulations! 

You are a member of an elite group, those who are willing to learn and grow.  Find someone or some group who will be unfailing in their support and challenge of you.  Place yourself in a position where you are more likely to observe and from what you observe, grow yourself. 

As an example, I asked one CEO who I work with to turn over management meetings to others and forbid himself from talking at those meetings.  Both he and his team learned that the team was valuable and had to step up when he was not there to save them.  The results for both sides was good. 

Another way to get some self-awareness is to use one of several scientifically calibrated surveys.  These are not tools like DISC or Myers Briggs.  While those two tools have some uses, the uses are limited. 

Scientifically calibrated surveys are tools that use a large pool of people (in this case executives who have been successful) and calibrate their responses to create a norm of where a CEO should fall on things like aggressiveness, diplomacy, initiative, certainty, etc.  Be sure to have your survey explained to you by someone trained in that survey and who is prepared to work with you on creating a professional development plan that will serve you.

So, Self-awareness is key to figuring out whether you are a good or bad fit for what you do and how you might improve from whatever level you are now.  Then you have to do something to close the gap around your weaknesses and develop your strengths. How have you learned to increase your self-awareness?  What would you recommend as a step?  Is learning something you do regularly and frequently? 

IMPACT 2014 Highlights

Each year, CEOs from leading companies in the Puget Sound meet to Further develop their leadership, improve their companies, network and have fun. 

 This is IMPACT. 
 IMPACT 2014 was held at Semiahmoo Resort over September 26-28th.  Click through to the video on this year’s event to remind yourself of the great time you had and the value of:

  • Getting to meet and know 64 other CEO’s, executives and business owners in our Friday afternoon ice breaker and distillery tasting
  • Learning about how other CEO’s/Executives/Business owners added value to their companies, during our Friday afternoon business owner panel and about making money off of the “seams” in capitalism from Brian Turner, our Friday night banquet speaker
  • Benefiting from Saturday morning workshops on adding value in to your business 
  • Playing golf, a relaxing afternoon at the spa or deep sea fishing
  • Social time to develop friendships with others like yourself at Saturday night’s beer and pizza party
  • Contributing to and receiving from your participation in the Sunday morning best practices roundtables

Monday, October 13, 2014

Intentionally growing your company

I work with CEO’s/Business Owners.  One of the areas my clients and I focus on is how to grow their companies sustainably.  To me, sustainably growing a company, means it is profitable; creates enough cash for its growth (or has a reasonable strategy for obtaining growth cash); does not need me, or anyone’s heroic actions; employees at every level are engaged in and feel their work is satisfying; its customers/clients can’t pull their money out of their pockets fast enough to hand it over (meaning they are ecstatic with the products/services of the company. 

One of the advantages that consultants have is that they see lots of businesses and know that their businesses have trends and share in similar growing pains.  One of the disadvantages that a business owner may experience is that they think what they experience is unique. 

About 2/3 of the businesses I deal with have 15 to 150 employees (about a third of them have 150 to 1,0000 employees). There are fairly big shifts that businesses experience at around 15-20 employees and again at around 50-70 employees and then at around 120-150 employees. 

The Holy Grail is figuring out how to help those businesses through the no man’s land - the grey areas - that are these transition points.  So, here is my take on that Holy Grail, on what companies and my clients need to focus on in order to grow sustainably:

1.    Know Thy Self:  Figure out what you do well and what you don’t.  Even more importantly, figure out what you like doing (gives you energy) and what you don’t like doing (takes away energy).  Focus on what your role is now and what it will become as you grow.... a hint... the larger your company grows, the less time you should spend on actually making product or providing service and the more time you should be spending on coaching and leading those who do make the product or provide the service.  What will that mean for you and will you like what you will be doing? 
2.    Look at Your People:  What do they do well?  What will they need to do well at the next step in your company’s growth?  Do they have the skills to take that next step?  If not, can they acquire those skills (close the gap)?
3.    Culture: What is it now?  What will it need to be at 50 or 150 people?  If it should be the same, how will you make sure that the culture/values continue?
4.    Processes/Systems: Do I have any?  Are they broken? If I do have processes and systems that work now, at what point won’t they work or need to be changed/adapted? What do those processes tell me about #1, 2 and 3?
5.    Business Model: Am I profitable now and how much cash does my company throw off/create?  Will my business model work at the next stage of growth (50 or 150 people)?  Why might it not? 

Over the next few weeks, I will focus on each of these five topics.  What is missing from this list?  What would you add or take away? 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Why the Right Attitude Builds Super Teams

Today we have a guest blog from Earl Bell:

Building a super team in the workplace (compared to a very average team) comes down to having (or not having): (1) talented employees with (2) the right attitude.  Both characteristics are important but I’ll take the right attitude over talent any day.  The right attitude builds super teams!

To use a metaphor that goes back to the day of coaching select players on super-teams in the world of youth baseball, we had the best team strengthening conversations after each practice and game.  They usually lasted less than 10 minutes but I believe them to be most important 10 minutes we could ever spend as a team.   By the way, these players and teams later competed in Cooperstown, NY and the Little League World Series.

Our format was always the same:  First, the players would take turns talking about what they saw another teammate do either during the practice or game that was exceptional or noteworthy.  No player was allowed to talk about themselves.  Second, each player was given opportunity to point out one thing they could have done better and will commit to, so that they can improve the next time…

So what were the outcomes of these meetings?  First, players offered personal observations about why their teammates and team were awesome.  This part of the meeting couldn’t help but pump up the team and reinforce positive behaviors.  Second, each player owned up to what they could control and do to become a better player and teammate.  This brought accountability and exposed each individual’s desire and commitment to help the team succeed at the next game or tournament competition.

The desire to compete and win, be part of a team and get better each day applies in both sports and business.  In the business world, sharing publicly when employees truly appreciate their co-workers achievements and success is extremely powerful.  Building a culture of trust where employees openly can talk about what they will do to get better creates a dynamic where the greatest fear for an employee is not letting themselves down, but instead letting their teammates down, is a powerful element of team building. 

You want employees that have the strength, persistence and desire to be a great teammate.  This job is not for everyone.  However, this is exactly what part of the job description should be for your employees, if you want to compete and win in the game of business.  What are you currently doing to create a super-team at your place of business?  What can you do in the future to improve upon what you are currently doing?  What is the value to your business in “getting it right?”  What is the cost to your business if you “get it wrong?” 


EARL BELL is the author of, Winning in Baseball and Business, Transforming Little League Principles into Major League Profits for Your Company, which provides a roadmap to success for leaders that desire to build thriving companies in a very competitive 21stcentury business environment.  Earl believes that “everything you need to know about business, leadership and team building can be learned from Little League baseball.”

Earl conducts workshops, coaches and consults with owners, business leaders and their teams, teaching them how to dramatically reduce the time it takes to improve profitability, customer experience, employee engagement and company value, while simultaneously increasing discretionary time and reducing both stress/employee burnout.  He believes the secret to winning in baseball, business and life can be summarized in a simple formula:  Winning = Service + Humility. His motto is that Winning in Business is a Team Sport!

Earl has served in the Chief Financial Officer role for numerous companies throughout North America. His personal passion is youth sports and he has coached 28 teams since 2002.  Earl is a CPA, graduated from SU (Seattle University) with a BA in Accounting and from the MILL (Mercer Island Little League) with a Master’s in Youth Baseball.

Earl Bell can be reached at and 206-420-5946

Monday, September 29, 2014

What’s so hard about getting people excited - Working on vision

I just finished a short book by Bob Rotella, Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, which may be the best business book I read in the last three years.  Dr. Rotella is a sports psychologist who has worked with some of the top professional golfers and some of the top sports figures too.  Every important point made in this short book is applicable to running a business and, I might add, improving your life. 

Today, let’s just take one of those points... working on vision.  Many of the Executives I work with have a hard time with vision.  It is too soft for them and I often hear them complain about working on vision as something that business professors think is important and its just not what real business is about. 

Rotella presents vision in a simple direct and accessible way.  Essentially, he is saying, you need to be specific about what you want to create (in business, vision is about creating something that does not yet exist).  The more specific you can get, the more likely you will hit your target.  His second point is that you must find a way to viscerally feel the steps that will accomplish the vision. 

Rotella urges golfers to see exactly where the ball is going to end up, be able to watch (in your head) the flight path of the ball.  He then provides a couple of anecdotes about how to bring in other senses to add to the concreteness of what you feel. 

He mentions a renowned player who tells Rotella about the player’s method for staying loose and focused: First, choose the club you want, shrug your shoulders to loosen your muscles and then imagine/feel the time when you hit that club the best you ever hit it (all of us who golf know that time when we hit an effortless, smooth and magical shot with a certain club). 

So, working on your business vision, can you see, feel, taste and hear the vision you want to create?  Are you able to make it specific, the more specific the better? 

Now here is something that Rotella does not address (after all, golf is a one person game, rather than a team effort):  Are you able to communicate that vision to a variety of people in a way that communicates the feelings and magic about your vision? Are others around you excited by what you want to create?  If not, why not? How do you create this kind of excitement?

The earlier you are in your company’s development, the more likely you have people around you who believe in you and/or your vision.  Ask them to answer a few questions:  First, is it you or your vision that creates excitement?  If its not your vision, ask them how big the vision is?  What would make it bigger?  What would make it more specific?  How would their life be different if the vision came to pass?  What would they need to see/feel/hear/taste/smell for the vision to be really visceral/specific?  Now you can begin to work on your vision and get further feedback as you go. Have fun.  

Monday, September 22, 2014

Your Role as Chief Communication Officer: How do you rate yourself?

Today we have a guest blog from Lauren Owen:

External Communication

If you are like most leaders, you probably have a high standard for all of your company’s external client communications. Your standards might look like these:
  • We respond ASAP to a client email or phone call.
  • We regularly update our clients and customers with company news.
  • The customer is always right! Or, at least deserving of very patient listening to his or her point of view, followed by a thoughtful response.
  • We take their suggestions seriously, acknowledge them and let them know how and when they will be incorporated, or if not, why.
Internal Communication

But what about your internal communication?  If you are completely honest, you will admit that most likely there is a discrepancy between how you communicate with your clients and how you communicate with your co-workers. For example,
  • Do you have the same response standards for internal emails and phone calls?
  • Do you inform them of company news? Ask them for feedback? Let them know if and how you used their suggestions?
  • How often is communicating with employees pushed off to the bottom of our lists, especially when you get busy or stressed?
Jim Hessler, author of Land on Your Feet, Not On Your Face: Building Your Leadership Platform, titles this leadership role: Chief Communication Officer, or CCO. Jim notes that as a leader, you set the tone and quality standards for the rest of our company. While it’s hard to measure the costs resulting from this disparity between internal and external communication standards, here’s an example of some compelling positive ramifications when one leader decided to take his role of Chief Communication Officer seriously.

One Leader’s Story

Richard Brown, General Manager of The Box Maker, headquartered in Kent, Washington, was frustrated about his inability to effectively reach his employees, who are scattered throughout two states in seven different locations.  Working with producer Lucas Mack at 4th Ave Media, he launched a weekly internal video newsletter, Inside the Box, to spread news and information, share coworker success stories, and keep his people up-to-date on the latest happenings at the company. The results?  After just two months and twelve episodes, he notes that:
  • Productivity and innovative ideas coming from employees are up significantly
  • Turnover and absenteeism are both down throughout the organization; and to his immense delight,
  • “For the first time I can walk through one of my plants and people actually come up to talk to me instead of avoiding me.”

Call to Action:

So, how are you doing as your company’s Chief Communication Officer?
How would your employees rate you as CCO?
What’s the one thing you could put into place in the next 30 days that would have the biggest impact on your communication effectiveness?

What is the impact of doing nothing?


Lauren Owen, Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching

Lauren works with businesses leaders who want to develop and execute succession plans, sharpen their business practices, strengthen their leadership, and create long-lasting value in their businesses. She is a certified Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Leadership Coach. She is also a leader of the Excell Puget Sound Southend Group.

(206) 427-2856, (253) 245.3518