21 Şubat 2008 Perşembe

5 More Tips for Maximum Business Success

1. Expanding awareness is the master-key. A Business doesn't generate $1M, $5M, $10M, or whatever it generates because that's all they want to generate. It's all they are aware of how to generate. By expanding awareness within the business, revenue can be increased. As long as employees only know A, B, & C, they can only produce C-level results; they can only recognize C-level opportunities. But, the moment employee's awareness is expanded to understand D, E, & F, now they can produce F-level results; they can recognize F-level opportunities.

2. If a business is doing business the same way they were 5 years ago, they're going out of business. For some, the "going out of business" process may be only a few months while for others it may take years. But it's happening nevertheless. In simple and plain terms, business owners and executives must either maintain a constant drive to get better or they better figure out how to liquidate and get out before they and the other people in the business get hurt.

3. Mental laziness, paradigms, habit patterns, conditioning, the pull to be like others, the ego and arrogance of success - these are the enemies of every person and every business and they must be overcome on a continual basis. The determining factor for a business is whether or not the folks at the top of the business overcome in these areas. If the thinking and attitude of the folks at the top is "soured", then the really good employees will move on to a better environment while all the remaining employees simply conform to what they see at the top.

4. Customers will sell for you when you go the extra mile, when you give them more than they expect. Any business can just sell a product or service - and that's all that most of them do. But, that's not enough. Just selling a product or service leaves you in a vulnerable position - you're just another commodity item. What can your business do beyond the selling of your product or service? What can you do to make it an EXPERIENCE for your customers? Providing an experience is another way to differentiate yourself from the competition. If your customers are businesses, what can you do to expand their business or bring more customers to them? If your customers are consumers, what can you do to give them greater enjoyment and fulfillment in life? What else could you do for your customers that no one else is doing? What could you give them that no one else is giving them? How can you give them the recognition, the approval, the affirmation - or here's an idea, the convenience - that is way beyond what anyone else is giving them? A word of warning; before you go the extra mile or give customers more than they expect, make sure you have your order-takers ready...

5. Business is a game that requires different kinds of strengths and insights. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has things they see that others don't see and things they don't see that others do see. That's why we all need other people - so their strengths can cover our weaknesses - so they can see what we don't see. There's no shame in tapping into the strengths and insight of others. In fact, the business owner or executive who feels it's essential to be a part of a "mastermind group" and who frequently solicits "outside perspectives" is the one who ALWAYS wins in the game of business. In contrast, the business owner or executive who tries to know it all, do it all, be it all and closes out others - holding to a self-fabricated position of power - is the one who ALWAYS loses in the game of business.

Knowledge is Everywhere

As I eased into the chair at the shoe shine booth, I half-jokingly asked the man if he could make my tired shoes look like new again. To my surprise, he answered, "You have to do a lot of things for your shoes long before you get them shined if you want to keep them looking like new!"

What followed was a five-minute clinic on shoe maintenance. "First," he told me, "you have to get cedar shoe trees. Put them in immediately after taking your shoes off at night, and they will prevent your shoes from looking like Ali Baba's. In other words, your shoes will keep their shape. Secondly, buy some lanolin cream like the stuff I'm using right now and apply it every couple of weeks. That will keep the leather soft and moist, prevent cracking and prevent embedded creases from developing."

As the lesson continued, he performed what was easily the most efficient shoe polishing I had ever experienced. I was told to only buy shoes with thick soles, since thin soles don't look as "strong or confident." He recommended that I use a shoehorn in order to keep the backs of my shoes in good shape. He also said that I should only wear lace-up shoes for business. "Loafers are for loafing," he said. When it comes to tying the laces, he told me to start by taking the right lace over the left and then tie the bow. Done this way, the bow will ride across the shoe rather than sit at an angle. "They just look more finished that way."

So why am I sharing this with you? Because I want to remind you that knowledge is everywhere, and that you can use this fact to your advantage - if you are willing to look for knowledge in all sorts of places, to listen to it when you find it, and then to act upon it.

If you read one book a month on business development strategies, you would be in an elite group. And you can do even more to gain knowledge. Study your business. One thing you might want to consider is how you attracted your favorite clients. Many business owners expend considerable energy in time-consuming and labor intensive tactics designed to attract new clients. However, they rarely attract their favorite clients through these seminars, direct mail campaigns, trade shows and cold calls. Use your time and energy efficiently: replicate your best successes. Look at where your best clients came from. For example, if your favorite clients were referrals, then you should invest your time and money to elicit similar quality referrals.

My favorite business philosopher, Jim Rohn, taught me that a formal education will help you earn a living and that on-going self-education can make you rich. It is true that income rarely exceeds self-development. Self-development shapes character and philosophy, and these will help you to build relationships with your clients. And while it is important to know your business, success also depends on your ability to develop chemistry with clients.

My best advice for improving your practice is to look around and pay attention. Look for approaches that you can adapt to your situation. And tap into the knowledge of others in your business, and to the ideas of experts. Always be aware, because you never know when the guy shining your shoes will offer you an idea that will improve your business. As Confucius said, "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear." But don't delay - after all, "when all is said and done, often more gets said than done." If you are committed to building your business, now is the perfect time to get busy.

Consistency, Referrals and Moving Day

A true parable that illustrates (yet again) the way people value consistency, and the way this information can help you enjoy a steady stream of qualified referrals,

My wife and I bought a new house last year, and one of my colleagues (let's call her Ann) referred me to a moving company she had used recently. She said that they had done a terrific job for her. My wife and I were looking forward to the same kind of treatment. Alas, in the moving business, apparently things are not always what they seem.

The Move

It's no secret that moving stinks at the best of times and my wife and I were grateful that we did not have to interview moving companies on top of everything else. Without looking at different options, I called the moving company and booked an estimate for a Saturday afternoon. After all, the company had been recommended to me by someone I trust.

The appointed hour for the estimate came and went, and yet no movers came. Finally, an hour and a half later, the head guy, "Brutus," called. "We are having a difficult day," he explained. "Could we rebook for Sunday?" he asked.

These things happen, of course, and I agreed. Sunday's appointment time in the early afternoon came and went, and yet no movers came. Six hours later (and without a courtesy phone call to explain the delay), Brutus showed up.

"A day to forget." Brutus muttered. "Our truck got stuck between two buildings."

"That is unfortunate," I said. "What I am having trouble understanding is why you couldn't find the time to make a 30-second phone call to let me know about the delay. Is this what I can expect down the road?"

"Maybe we should just forget about the job," Brutus said. That's when (and believe me, I do not need much of an invitation in this type of situation) Brutus got a "customer service tune-up"

Brutus Gets a Schooling He Didn't Request

In my front foyer, I explained to Brutus what I do for a living, and then I reminded him that my colleague had recommended him to me.

"Remember Ann?" I asked. "Have you ever stopped for a second and calculated how valuable Ann is to you?" I asked. Brutus really didn't answer that one, so I was happy to continue. "Right now in my office," I said, "is a lady who talks you guys up every time the conversation turns to moving or buying a new house. Let me translate that for you. I don't know how many moving companies there are in this town, but I didn't even bother to check the Yellow Pages. You were hired before I even called you. Isn't that neat?" Brutus grudgingly nodded a nod that seemed to indicate that, yes, that was neat.

The Best Business Call You Can Get

"Is there anything better than a phone call like that?" I inquired, "when the person calls your business and says, hi, you don't know me, but 'so and so' said that I should hire you." Brutus granted me another nod that seemed to indicate that yes, that was a pretty good deal. He was starting to come on-side.

"Well then, Brutus," I said, "Seeing as you seem to agree that you have a pretty sweet thing going here with this referral business, you should be warned that you are about to torpedo your own gravy boat." Brutus grimaced at my bad analogy.

"Here is the clincher, Brutus," I said, "You need to remember that the person who hires you based on a recommendation will probably being talking to the person who recommended you sometime in the next 30-60 days. This is as close as you can get to a sure thing. Sooner than later, Ann will be asking me how things went with my move and your company, and I will have one of two answers for her."

Here are the two possible answers:

1. "Ann, referring me to Brutus was the best thing you could have ever done for my move. I cannot thank-you enough. Brutus made me feel like a king. Have a piece of my Granny's homemade shortbread, Ann. Have two, in fact."
- or -

2. "Well Ann, things didn't go too well, actually. Brutus was late the first day and rescheduled, and then he was six hours late the second time. He didn't even call me to say he would be late. I guessed things have started to break down since you used Brutus' services. Thanks anyway, though, it's not your fault."

"Brutus," I continued, "I'm sure you realize that the first scenario is one where Ann feels just great because she was able to help out someone in her inner circle. It will probably inspire her to brag about you the next time someone talks to her about moving or buying a new house. If you treat me extremely well, I benefit, Ann benefits, and so do you!

"Or, there is that second scenario, Brutus," I said. "If you continue on your current path and continue treating your referrals in an inconsistent way like this, your referrals will dry up in a heartbeat. In that scenario, I recommend a name change to AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA Moving and praying that potential clients travel alphabetically through the Movers section in the Yellow Pages." Brutus was beginning to see the light.

At Your Office

Although the preceding story of inconsistency is a little on the extreme end, one of the classic missteps we see in our work with professionals is that they start a decent customer service activity and then stops it after a while to try something else. However well intentioned, this is borderline insanity (to put it mildly). There are a variety of reasons for this bizarre behavior: Some want to 'mix it up' a little and try something new, some do not have the patience to see the first initiative through and some do not get the instant gratification they were hoping for.

Consistent and Steady Wins the Race

Once you begin a solid customer service activity you must never stop. Repetition is not dull; it is wonderful. More than ever, people crave consistency in their lives.

Being inconsistent, regardless of how well meaning your intentions are, will erode trust and will limit the recommendations that you receive. It can also cause the client to wonder, perhaps aloud, why your professionalism is slipping, and to perhaps question your competence in other areas.

Consistency is one of the primary reasons that the best in this business have replaced the element of 'chance' within their businesses with the element of 'certainty.' You would be hard-pressed to find another business-development characteristic that provides as big a payoff; the practice of consistency produces better results than any other discipline.

By the way, my moving saga ended on a high note. Brutus apologized and promised to henceforth 'treat me like a king.' My wife and I went ahead and had Brutus move us. I even got the deal of a lifetime on three days storage. To summarize, Brutus made amends, and then proceeded to exceed my expectations. I also told the entire story to Ann, and I encourage her to recommend Brutus and his team to absolutely everyone she can. I know I will.

Building From Your Core: The Secret To Exponential Business Growth

Why have only 7% of all businesses hit double digit growth
during the past 10 years, while 93% have plateaued or are

Why are 3 out of every 4 business growth strategies failing today?

These startling statistics drive home the same message for both
large and small businesses. The “old-style” growth strategy
-- ie., launch ... sell as rapidly as possible ... diversify ... go
international ... pursue the next hot opportunity ... repeat as
necessary -- no longer works.

What do the handful of today’s high growth businesses know
that the others don’t? What’s their secret to creating
impressive profit gains -- even in no or slow growth times?

“Growing your business BEYOND your core ... not FROM your core.”

In order to experience double digit growth in today's economy, you must learn and master the following 2 principles:

HIGH GROWTH PRINCIPLE #1: To start, you must KNOW what your
core is. Your “core” consists of 2 elements:

** Knowing what business you are ** really ** in

** Knowing your core business strengths, competencies, assets (also known as your competitive edge)

As basic as the above sounds, it is amazing how many companies
have never taken the time to define their “core.”

HIGH GROWTH PRINCIPLE #2 : For strong sustainable business
growth, focus *only* on opportunities ADJACENT to your core.
Ideal adjacent opportunities are 1 step away from your core.

You can move adjacent to your core in such ways as: new
related customer segments, geographies, products/services,
value chain steps (forward or backward) and channels.

The difference between an “adjacency move” from other growth opportunities
is the extent to which it draws on your customer relationships, technologies, skills or core competencies.

its direct sales model -- successful with computers -- to
market hand held computers and printers. Nike applied its
core success formula with athletic shoes to one sport after
another - from basketball to tennis to soccer to golf.

THE BOTTOM-LINE: Those businesses who grow FROM their core
experience *exponential growth.* Such growth is systematic,
high leverage, high return. Those businesses who grow BEYOND
their core are at high risk of *failure* and 3 out of every 4
expansion efforts will misfire.

Acquisition binge can cause indigestion

Over-eating or bingeing is detrimental to one's health. Similarly, over-acquisition can cause corporate indigestion such as over-leveraging, integration difficulties, cultural misfits etc. You are what you eat.

While fast growth through acquisition is a thrilling experience in running businesses, it also holds much more risks than meets the eye. When the company is in trouble, some CEOs also go on a shopping spree - acquisition. It is more glamorous and exciting than trying to fix mundane turnaround issues back in the office. It takes shareholders' attention away from the domestic problems and impressed them with expansionary programs. Rapid acquisition done in haste with inadequate homework, wrong timing, egoistic reasons and impatience for success can result in calamity.

Harvard don, Michael Porter studied the success rate of 33 highly regarded companies over a 36-year period of acquisition. His data revealed that over half of the 'unrelated' acquisitions were later divested. Research by McKinsey & Company found a failure rate of 61% in acquisition programmes, with failure defined as not earning a sufficient return on the funds invested. Sometimes these failures are due to the fact that the acquisition was a mismatch in the first place, with small odds for success.

A high percentage of merger difficulties and failures are the result of defective management. Target companies are strategically sought and stalked, but then the follow-up acts are poorly orchestrated. Often people in both firms will be seriously troubled about how the acquisition may affect their personal careers. A good part of the merger/acquisition planning should be aimed at deciding how these concerns will be addressed. For instance, Novell's merger with WordPerfect caused people in both organizations to experience dismay and the combined company teetered subsequently on the brink of disaster.

After buying WordPerfect for US$855 million, Novell sold it to Corel less than two years later for only US$115 million. Media companies faced similar problems of acquisition binge. The conventional wisdom in the industry that spur such manoeuvre was to grow the business by acquisition. Sony Corporation (Japan) was a case in point of being one of the first to venture aggressively into music and films. The same course of action was adopted by Vivendi Universal (French), Bertelsmann (German) and AOL Time Warner (US). It was believed that a product could be developed, then marketed through a wide range of in-house channels, from compact disks, DVDs, Web sites and even theme parks. This led to a proliferation of businesses requiring different skills and expertise, resulting in the failures of these acquisition ventures.

In their haste to capitalize on the boom years, many companies reckoned that the fastest way to beat the competition was to join in. After all, if you cannot beat it, join it. Thus goes the acquisition spiral. With each new acquisition, it is assumed that revenues automatically jumped up, while margins presumably stayed within acceptable ranges, especially if the deal is accomplished through stock swaps. The growing company acquires not just the market share but the expertise as well. Everything seems to augur well especially from the stock market as long as the company grows and numbers are good. However, therein lies the fundamental flaw with the growth-by-acquisition strategy.

This is what Herb Greenberg of Fortune magazine commented of the US corporate scene: "As with any addiction, the growth-by-bulk acquisition approach necessitates increasing doses of the drug to preserve the high. The only way to keep revenues growing fast enough for Wall Street is to buy ever more companies." Once the growth curve halts and the stock price plummets to an extent that initiates a vicious downward spiral. The company loses its leveraging ability when capitalization decreases and interest expense increases to service the loan financing for acquisition. In the bid to reduce costs, the company starts trimming corners at the expense of quality, customers, and employees.

Therefore, the adage still holds true, "Do not bite more than you can chew". It can become toxic for the company if they go into acquisition binge.

6 Steps to Making Centres of Influence Work

A Centre of Influence is a fancy way of identifying people that have a hugely positive impact on your business. They often refer people and business to you, and are actively glowing about what you provide and how you provide it. Every business needs a couple of these gems, and once you have them, you should bend over backwards to make sure they continue to think positively about you.

But how do you find and connect with these people? Here's an Action Plan that will help make things move faster.

1. Let them know they are special Tell them they are a top client, and let them know about any special treatment or offers that entitles them to.

2. Keep them updated about your business If you want them to continue to refer ideal business to you then you need to let them know what a perfect client or opportunity looks like. If you take on a new direction, or change your products and services, why not take them out for coffee and update them on what's happening.

3. Surprise them regularly Always give them a reason to love your business. Find ways to add value to their business at no or low cost. Send relevant articles or information. Identify web sites of interest. Send them some free product for no reason.

4. Expand their networks Arrange for them to meet others in your network, or invite them to a workshop, seminar or function where they can make valuable new contacts themselves.

5. Design a 'Stay in Touch' system Once you've established the foundations with a Center of Influence, you need to keep your ideas and value in front of them. How will you do that? An eZine, personal mailings, telephone calls or in-person get-togethers?

6. Reward them for referrals When a Center of Influence sends you a lead to a new potential client, make sure you show your appreciation. A phone call, a hand written note and even an appropriate gift lets them know you that you don't take their assistance for granted. Also, keep them in the loop with your progress with this lead.

If you don't think you have any Centres of Influence, why not identify a couple from your existing clients. Use these 6 steps to build on your relationship and cultivate them as future Infleuncers. I have worked with clients who have developed relationships with just two or three good Centers of Influence who have brought them hundreds of thousands in new business. With a focused, intentional plan you could be doing the same.

10 Strategies for Avoiding Overwhelm in your Business

How many of us have been in a position where we have more to do than can realistically fit into one day, or week. So we spend all of our time feeling rushed, being rushed, and wondering how on earth we are going to manage. If you are having that feeling of overwhelm in your business, it's time to take stock of what's going on.

How well you manage yourself and the time you have, is crucial to your success. Wasted time equals lost opportunities. Lost opportunities equal lost business and profits.

Time can't be "saved" - it's an impossibility. You can't find more of it - it's a fixed commodity. You can only manage your activities as time passes. So how are you spending the 60 seconds in each minute - the 60 minutes in each hour - the 1,440 minutes in each day?

What you need is to achieve is working on your top priorities in the most effective way. Here are 10 great strategies for doing just that.

Lesson 1: Prioritize Aside from just listing what needs to be done, rank them from most important to least important. And then complete them in that order. Too often we start with the easy stuff or the quick stuff, regardless of how important it is. Look at the list of things that need to be done. Hi-light the activities that you could put on hold if you had to. How much time could you free up if you put some of those activities on hold?

Be realistic about the number of priorities you have. Most of the activities we are involved in are things we want to do. The problem with overwhelm is that there are many more things we want to do, than we physically have time for. So create some space by telling yourself that you are just putting some activities on hold for now. You are not giving them up forever, but you are giving yourself permission to put some activities on hold - so you can focus on the most important priorities. This may force you to make some tough choices - but it's a pretty empowering thing to do.|

Lesson 2: Be ruthless with e-mail. What a productivity killer email can be if misused. Use a private email address for clients and customers. Get everything else sent to a generic or alternate email address. That way you can deal with your client issues first, and the rest when you have time.

Only respond to your emails at set times during the day. I personally do emails first thing in the morning, and between 2 and 3pm each day. There's no need to respond the instant that you receive an email. This approach simply means you get interrupted all the time, and your productivity remains low.

Lesson 3: Restrict your use of the telephone. Try to devote a certain time of the day to both return and originate phone calls. Carrying a mobile telephone makes us feel as though we've got to be "connected" at all times - but this is just plain crazy. And just because someone calls us doesn't mean we have to answer immediately. Some people I now work extremely effectively by restricting calls to two periods during the day - one period in the morning to make all their calls, and another in the afternoon to return calls and to followup. At all other times, voicemail takes any messages. This may not work for your business, but the idea of not answering the telephone unless it is at a good time for you can really help you with the continuity of your work

Lesson 4: If you don't have time for something, just say so. There is no need to listen politely if you've already decided the conversation is not of interest. Simply say - "I am sorry to interrupt you, but I don't have time for this right now." Yes it's direct, but then you are not sitting there feeling frustrated about the time you are wasting.

Lesson 5: Limit your availability: This is one of the keys to beating overwork. Unexpected and unplanned interruptions and distractions can "steal" your day. An "open door" policy is fine, but not if it has a negative impact on productivity and profitability. Actually schedule time when you can't be interrupted, and let everyone know about it. During that time you don't answer emails, you don't answer the phone and you don't talk to others - you just do whatever it is you've got to do - no interruptions.

Lesson 6: Protect your productive time Each of us knows if we are a morning person or a night owl. We know if our peak productivity times are at 7 am or at 11pm. So make sure you are free and uninterrupted at those times. Try and make this time just for you and devote the activities that need your brain the most at the times you are most productive.

Lesson 7: Plan your day the night before I know - you've heard it before. But spending 5 minutes at the end of the day preparing for the next day helps to orient you in advance and mentally sets you up. So when you get up in the morning, you're ready to go! Do whatever works for you - make lists of activities, check your calendar, enter tasks into your electronic task list, schedule a couple of uninterrupted hours in your diary, tidy away your papers and get tomorrow's ones ready to go. Do whatever you need to to feel comfortable about the next day's work.

Lesson 8: Don't get buried by paper When possible, try to "touch" each piece of paper only once. File it, act on it or toss it! (Periodically, every quarter, purge your files. If you haven't touched it in 3 months, you probably never will...so toss it!). As the saying goes: "Do it, ditch it, or delegate it!"

Lesson 9: Group your appointments If you have several appointments or errands, try to group them all in the same day so that all of your external travel and time is scheduled for one or two days in the week. That leaves you 3 full days in the office without the need to go out for meetings.

Lesson 10: Confirm appointments: Never assume that your 1 o'clock is on! The realization that you've been "stood up" is both frustrating and irritating. A simple phone call or e-mail message, saves time, energy and anxiety.

Management expert Peter Drucker, once declared, "Time is the scarcest resource." Time really isn't scarce, it's uniform and constant. However, your ability to manage it is crucial to your success. If you can't get this part right, you may not need to not worry about cash management!

Onward and Upward

I lost a big job a couple of weeks ago. It was really good job, too. A couple of episodes guest starring on one of the most popular shows on TV. Good role, good money, good timing---everything was perfect. Which should have told me something, but sometimes those perfect opportunities work out. Right? Not this time, they picked somebody else.

You might say, "what's the big deal, you work all the time"-----well, maybe more than most but never as much as I'd want. But that's not the point. Once I'd gotten the call my first reaction was that I was disappointed. Then I felt a little angry, as anyone would be when they didn't get something they wanted and worked hard for. I had a few moments of that and then I said to myself, "What's next?"

Almost immediately I began to search for the next thing to focus on, to strive for that would take me forward. I wasn't thinking, "Give me something to make me forget this," but rather accepting the reality of the situation I needed to get energized toward the future instead of wallowing about my loss.

Wallowing is bad news for everyone. Giving unlimited amounts of emotional energy to something that can't be changed is crippling and useless. What good will come if you scream, yell, drink--whatever you do--for hours on end lamenting this bad thing? How is that going to make you better? And even more importantly, how will it help you reach your ultimate goals? It won't and it could even set you back.

I had one of those experiences when I was very young in my career where I was angry for several days when I felt I was wronged because I wasn't the actor selected. Not only did it not change the original outcome, it put me in an emotional state that I know caused me to lose even more work that I auditioned for during my dark period. How smart was that?

My problem then, which is the same for everyone who dwells too long on what's wrong, is that my ambitions were too small. I had no big picture of my life and career; I had a very tunnel-versioned image of what I wanted and it was all about "right now." No tomorrow or next year, but "What do I want now and how do I get it?" Period. That's it.

The higher you focus, the bigger your dreams, the less each misstep along the way matters. It all fits in its proper place within the bigger picture; it is not the picture itself.

Set your goals high about the most important things in your life and focus on moving forward no matter what happens. Everything that happens, not succeeding at certain steps along the way, can take you forward if you let it. Because of my not being chosen for the job above, I have since used that to open other doors that are already proving fruitful.

It's all about choices. Choose your goals over your losses, what you have over what you don't. You'll be a whole lot happier and keep yourself on track to bring even more happiness your way.

Principle Wins

Have you ever been asked to compromise your values? Been offered a chance to score big-time money or a huge promotion if you'd only bend the rules just a little bit? People who declare themselves to be your friends are tossing excuses at you like "No one will ever know" or "People do it all the time." You begin to think that they may be right and you'll never see an opportunity as great as this again. If you just do it this one time, you can enjoy your newfound success and pledge to never do it again. You're a good person and even though this may be unethical, it's only one time and you'll still be a good person.

It's tempting. We see compromise and a lack of ethics all around us to the point that it seems to justify the idea that any means necessary are acceptable to achieve as long as you get the payoff. And, boy, the payoffs are amazing! These hyper-driven types that take no prisoners are driving some nice cars and living in some mighty palatial digs. The last thing you want to be is the guy who's on the outside looking in. It's a dog eat dog world and you don't want to be the milk bone!

So your intense desire to reach the top combined with a lack luster feeling about your current situation, leads you to have that inner dialogue that says it's OK to break some rules or hurt some people if it means that you get ahead.

Here's the truth as I see it: you compromise your principles, you can never go back. From here on out, you'll know that what you did belied who you are and that will torture and inhibit you forever. Going against your core values in order to achieve material gain will forever change the way you view yourself and how others view you. Yes, sooner or later, people find out. Word will get around about your visit to the dark side and you'll have a lot of fun running away from that.

I'm a union guy, have been for over 20 years. The performers unions have been good to my family and me and I have an impassioned belief in the value of organization. With membership comes a commitment to only work union. But, I see too many examples of members who have cheated on their commitment to our unions by doing nonunion work. In that case, our collective power is weakened as they selfishly pursue more money at all costs.

Have I ever been offered these sorts of opportunities? You bet--even at times in my career when I needed the money! I can honestly say to you I have always and will always say no. And not even so much for the sake of the union, but primarily because it's not who I am. I made a pledge and I plan to keep it. No amount of money for one job is worth giving up on a long term commitment. At the end of the day, I have to look my family in the eye and know that I am who I say I am. I can't do that knowing that I gave up a part of me so I could score a big job.

For years I've always told my students "Don't give yourself away." This business will ask a lot of you as you work towards your dream of being a successful, working actor but you can't compromise who you are in the process. You'll be pushed to the line morally and ethically but you have to hold firm on what matters to you. In the end, your truth is all you've got. In any business, you are your greatest asset. Who you are, what your gifts are, what you stand for, your work ethic, are the most vivid definitions of how you benefit the world around you. Giving up even a part of that weakens the power of your whole being. One union member working "off the card" hurts every member. A chain is only as strong as it's weakest link.

Stand up for what you believe in and pledge to never comprise yourself in order to get ahead. You don't need it! Trust in your gifts and your commitment. Legitimate hard work and talent do win out, even when you see those around you taking the low road and seemingly winning. No matter what that little voice may be saying to you in your moments of doubt---principle wins.

Kicking Bad Habits for Business Sanity

-Get out of your comfort zone

I know a lot of people out there who are dead set on staying within a certain comfort zone. I'm not one to do the same things the same way all the time. I like to explore, try new ways, do different things - but it's natural for me. I was born this way. For those of you who have a hard time getting out of your comfort zone, I recommend starting with baby steps. Don't tackle anything that will completely turn your world upside down, instead maybe try turning left to go to work vs turning right. You never know what you might find. The point is to be open to new things not only from others but take the initiative and do it yourself.

-Be Global

I never realized how many different types of languages, people, traditions, and way of thinking could exist in one place. During a trip to the French Polynesian we had to adjust our American way of thinking in order to be open to learning new things. We experienced at least 5 different languages (other than Spanish, Chinese, and French), 3 different types of traditions, and multiple different views on life. It was amazing.

It's different from going to another country or out of town. We were literally in the middle of nowhere and that's the amazing thing about it. You can actually catch a flight to the middle of nowhere - do you know what I mean?. The point: Don't just think globally be global. You're not the only one - share and be global.

-Be Truthful with Yourself

Start being truthful about everything and just see what happens. As you know, I've always been one who is very direct and as truthful as I can be - but now I'm more truthful with myself so now its easier for me to share. I don't hold back. Try it for a week and just see what happens, you might create a new habit - being truthful with yourself!

-Be Your Own Best Friend

This one is easy. You've heard it before. Go shopping with yourself, take yourself to dinner, go on a trip with yourself, or whatever floats your boat. Depending on where you are in life, you will become a magnet for great people. It is a must as an entrepreneur to surround themselves with like minds and great people. Begin this process by surrounding yourself with yourself.

-Go to Bora Bora and Go Topless! (for women only)

Yes, I said topless! It means be free, take chances, open yourself up completely. It's the most liberating thing you could experience. It's about experiencing life to the fullest. Can you say that your doing this now? If not, you've got some work to do.

-What does all this have to do with business?

Everything. In order for you to be the business owner you aspire to be, you have to be a leader. In order to be a leader you must set examples. Before you can set examples you have to be an example for yourself.

The Power of Decision

Copyright 2006 William Frank Diedrich

Back in the early seventies there was a poster that read: "Not to decide is to decide." Most of us live in this state, the state of indecision. We dream about the book we will write, the trip we will take, the business we will start, the great relationship we will have, or the creative project we will begin. But we don't do it. We decide not to decide, and that becomes our decision.

Deciding not to decide creates ambivalence, and ambivalence feels unsatisfying. Ambivalence is where we dream and then we hope everything will turn out well. Hope becomes a substitute for action. Hoping some external thing will occur that will make us happy, save us, or fulfill our lives creates pain.

What if you decided to decide. To decide is to act. I have written and published three books. With each book, I envisioned the book idea, played with the idea for awhile, thought about how I would do it, and talked about it. I didn't decide to write the book until I sat down at the computer and started typing. I never said "I am trying to write a book." I decided and I started writing.

What about you? What great project have you considered but not taken action? Where are you ambivalent? Where are you "hoping" something good will happen but not actually doing anything to make it happen?

We are powerful beings and the power is in our decision. We often use our power to make ourselves powerless. This is where we decide to be a victim of circumstances. We join the If Only Club. I would write that book if only... I would be a better manager if only.. I would love my spouse more if only.. I would grow that business if only... and so on.

"If only" is a decision. It comes from asking the wrong question: "How do I get rid of this situation that I don't want so I can move forward?"

A more effective question is: "What do I want?" Decide what it is that you want and focus your energy on it. Begin it. Find some way to get started. Focus your attention not on your perceived barriers, but on knowing that the way will be shown to you.

Years ago I decided to put on an audio visual production with live music at my church for Mothers' Day. I had no idea how I could do it, but I decided to do it. My vision was to create a show that would leave almost no dry eyes in the congregation. I started talking about it and asking people to help. Amazingly musicians, equipment, and the right people showed up to help. They all had great ideas and lots of talent. Our production was seen by 300 people and there was hardly a dry eye in the house. That experience taught me to act upon my visions without worrying about how they will work out.

Over the past few years I have made many decisions. I have decided to love myself. I have decided to love others. I have decided to move beyond blaming and to be at peace with all others. I have decided to be joyful. What this means is that when I experience conflict or negative emotion, I remember my decision. I remember my decision and I move my thoughts and actions in that direction. My decision is more important than the approval of others; more important than money; and more important than being right. Decisions are priorities.

Love, peace, joy, success and other positive emotions are not merely the results of things going well. They are the cause of things going well. These positive emotions don't just happen if things go the way we want. We bring these positive thoughts and emotions to our relationships and to our endeavors. They are intentions. They are decisions we make.

Whatever you truly want, you have the power to decide it and to do it. Refuse to blame yourself for all the things you haven't done and focus on what you can do now. Clarify what you want; envision it; and decide to do it. Boldly begin it. Don't worry about what everyone will say. The world is not your audience. Listen to your inner voice and bring the full power of your commitment and passion to whatever you decide to do. The power of decision is yours.

Beating Your Competitors

A great product does not necessarily mean you'll even make enough money with it because your competitors with not-so-great products can sell more of theirs if they use certain marketing strategies that you're not. We can learn some of the strategies and tactics used by some of the Master Marketers of not-so-great products and apply them to our great products to:

1. Beat our competitors to a pulp; or 2. Create an impenetrable barrier for new competitors; or 3. Ensure our survival where competition is fierce; or 4. All of the above.

An excellent case in point is Microsoft's dominant Operating System (OS) software for computers. It started off as MS-DOS over a quarter of a century ago, and eventually became Windows XP today, with the next version called "Vista" on the way.

Microsoft's OS is generally felt to be inferior to Apple's Operating System in many ways, even to this day - but yet it became and remains the dominant OS, powering over 90% of the world's computers at this very moment. Over the years, I've had my fair share of Microsoft OS crashes, "Illegal Operation" messages, security problems, viruses and so on - yet I still buy computers with the Microsoft OS installed, despite Apple's best efforts to get me to switch over.

How then did Microsoft become an 800-pound gorilla with such an inferior product, and Apple such a minnow although it has a vastly superior product for so many years? The answer lies in Bill Gates' vision, software pirates (you have no idea how much of a debt Bill Gates owe them), some lucky breaks and Microsoft's competitors' vital missteps.

Here's what happened, in a nutshell. It started with IBM and its huge ambitions. The first computer for the consumer were created in 1974/75. They were the Scelbi, Mark-8 Altair and IBM 5100 Computers. IBM, the largest IT company in the world, failed to capture any significant market share through the IBM 5100. The Apple II appeared on the scene in 1977. It looked like an oversized calculator with too many buttons. Apple's legendary design sense were not yet evident then.

The demand for home computers was growing steadily leading into 1980. In 1980, IBM wanted to create a new computer for the masses called the "Personal Computer" (PC) to give itself another shot at the growing market. It wanted to do this quickly since Apple and a few other brands were already dominating the market. Because of this urgency, instead of building the entire hardware on their own like they usually would do, its engineers bought off-the-shelf computer parts to put them together to create their PC. However, it didn't have an Operating System to run their PC.

IBM officials looked for Bill Gates of Microsoft Corporation, who suggested that they looked for a Gary Kildall of Digital Research to write an OS for the PC. Gary had written the most successful operating system for computers of that time called "CP/M". IBM officials went to Gary's office to meet him, but he was out for the day. They met Mrs. Kildall instead, who refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement with them. They left.

They then returned to Bill Gates and awarded Microsoft the contract to write the OS. It was called the "PC-DOS". Bill Gates managed to get IBM to agree to let Microsoft retain the rights to the OS. Microsoft called their OS "MS-DOS".

IBM released the IBM PC in 1981 which became a hit. But because IBM put together its PC using off-the-shelf parts, it meant others could easily put together a PC clone, if they could reverse-engineer the computing code in the ROM chip found in IBM computers. And they could. ROM chips control the various hardware components of a PC.

And because Microsoft Corporation held the rights to the OS, it could license the OS to the PC clone manufacturers too. This was also beneficial to the latter because rather than investing tens of thousands of dollars of their own money and many months writing their own OS (an area they had no expertise in), the PC clone manufacturers would simply install a ready OS on every machine they produced! PCs and clone PCs (labelled "PC-Compatibles" by their manufacturers) all running on MS-DOS swept the entire world.

Each PC running on MS-DOS meant license fees for Microsoft Corporation. There are millions and millions of PCs in existence in the world, with millions more being bought every day and another huge number upgrading their old OS to the latest version. This is how Microsoft became the world's largest software company and Bill Gates the richest man in the world.

Elsewhere in the world, clone PCs running pirated MS-DOS appeared on the scene. This added to the PC's dominance in a short period of time. The pirates certainly fueled this development and Microsoft truly benefited from it many years later even as it was losing millions in revenue to the pirates then!

In the meantime, Apple continued with its development of its own line of computers running on its own superior OS, leading to the ground-breaking Macintosh computer. Apple tried to implement a Mac cloning program to tackle the PC's dominance in 1995 but was unsuccessful. It was already too late to make any difference, and the cloning program was cancelled in 1997.

"WordPerfect" from WordPerfect Corporation became the dominant Word Processing Program running on PCs in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Microsoft's own "Word" word processing program wasn't doing very well, as it was very buggy and lacked the powerful features WordPerfect version 5 had.

"Lotus 1-2-3" from Lotus Corporation was the dominant spreadsheet software in 1983. Microsoft developed the Excel spreadsheet program in 1985 and by 1988, outsold Lotus 1-2-3. The electronic spreadsheet was the killer application for the PC then (word processing wasn't) and Microsoft scored big with it. It was the only software of quality that Microsoft had ever created that captured a market on its own merits.

Microsoft then created the Office Suite of applications in 1993 containing a word processor (Word), spreadsheet (Excel), database (Access) and a presentation software (PowerPoint). Every PC running Windows had the MS Office Suite out of the box so everybody could become productive immediately. This enabled MS Word to gain market share on WordPerfect as there's no need for the buyer to buy a separate word processing program like WordPerfect anymore.

Pirated versions of Microsoft's Office Suite ended up in clone PCs running pirated versions of Microsoft's Windows OS all over the world. This resulted in even more users of Microsoft's products at a much quicker pace which then created a "trap" for its users that very few managed to get out of. They wouldn't want to use any other word processing, spreadsheet, database or presentation program because it would mean re-training themselves. There was no reason to do this, and very few people were using the other competing programs anyway.

As a result, Microsoft's Access became the dominant database program for the PC. Microsoft's Powerpoint became the dominant presentation program for the PC. Microsoft's Word became the dominant word processing program for the PC. Microsoft's Excel remains the dominant spreadsheet program for the PC.

Netscape Navigator was the dominant browser in 1994 with millions of downloads. It had a spectacular IPO in 1995 - the first for an Internet company. Netscape started charging for its browser which was a big mistake because Microsoft bundled its inferior browser, Internet Explorer with its OS for free. Internet Explorer (IE) became the dominant browser within a few years, effectively killing off Netscape completely. It remains the dominant browser today despite stiff competition from Mozilla's Firefox.

Because the IE browser starts by displaying the MSN web site, the MSN Search Engine is a major player in the search business, ranking at No.3 behind Google and Yahoo. This is because most users will not bother or don't know how to change the Start Page of their Internet Explorer browsers.

Outlook became the dominant e-mail program because it is another component of MS Office. Sun Microsystems' software Suite called OpenOffice that is free to anybody who cares to use it is barely being noticed.

Today, we'll likely have to buy the MS Office Suite separately when we buy a PC as it is no longer bundled together with the OS. And we will gladly fork out more money for it, because we're trapped by our need for familiarity and low tolerance for re-learning competing software that isn't necessary for us to achieve our objectives. If you were forced to use a Mac computer, you wouldn't know what to do to start a word processing program, or even open a window - and you'll be begging to be given a PC to use in no time.

To be fair to Microsoft, they have used their business advantage to improve their products significantly over the years. However, there is another aspect to it - more money in newer versions. But that's another story.

Anyway, here are the lessons that we can learn:

1. Inferior products can still be marketed and outsell superior competing products, but you can't outsell superior products on your inferior products' merits alone; 2. Superior products can lose out to inferior products if the latter have a Trapping Mechanism to assist it; 3. Therefore you must set up your own Trapping Mechanism even if you have a great product!; 4. Microsoft's Trapping Mechanism is its OS that powers over 90% of the world's computers, and its bundling software with its OS when necessary; and 5. Trapping Mechanisms need not necessarily be hated by your customers. In fact, the reverse can be true, where your customers welcome them!

Training and ROI

Turnover continues to be high; new hire costs are on the rise--I've seen anywhere from $6500 to $10,000 quoted per agent! At the same time, losing customers because of bad call experiences negatively impacts your bottom line. What can you do? How do you justify the training expenditure?

Research has been making a case for how spending in human performance areas such as training, translates into bottom line growth. Accenture's study on the impact of training on ROI has some interesting results. (Smith, David. Y. and Waddington, Ted. Running Training Like a Business: Determining the Return on Investment of Your Learning Programs, Outlook Point of View, March 2003.) First, in the area of recruitment, training opportunities were among the top three criteria people considered when deciding where they want to work (the others are the opportunity for advancement and a good benefits package).

In the area of productivity, as a result of training, employees were:

17% more productive 20% higher performance levels relative to their peer group Stayed with the company 14% longer

In the area of retention, employees who had access to the training were:

More than 2 times more likely to expect to be with the company in 2 years More than 6 times more likely to think the company is a 'great place to work' More likely to think they are fairly compensated

Dollar figures associated with their statistics for a fiscal year report the annual per person net benefit or $25,324. They multiplied this number by their 50,000 employees yielding a companywide benefit of training of $1.26 million. By dividing the benefit by the cost of one year of training ($358 million), researchers concluded that the ROI (at Accenture) is 353%.

Negative Customer Service Experiences?

How many of you know (and track) what percentage of your calls are bad experiences? Hopefully, you do know the number, and they're in the low single digits. In a recent study, in answer to (1) did the agent satisfy your needs in the call, and (2) based on any negative experience, would you stop using this company and go to the competition? the results were:

Ages Would Stop Using the Company in the Future 18 - 25 100% 26 - 35 97 36 - 45 53 46-55 50 56-65 33 Over 65 63 Source: 2003 Purdue University/BenchmarkPortal.com

As you can see, there is a strong correlation between participant's age and his/her tendency to stop using the company after a bad experience. Notice that younger participants were less tolerant, more likely to go to the competition, and those over 65 are more demanding that those in middle age.

Therefore, it's very important to take great care of your younger callers so as to maintain their loyalty. Callers above 36 have more of an 'emotional bank account' with the company they're dealing with-probably had some good experiences and are more willing to 'forgive' a bad one.

If you know your percentage of bad experiences, put a dollar amount on that call and then total it out for the year. I think you'll be very surprised at the amount of lost revenue. Now if you have a 1% improvement, as a result of a training initiative for example, the amount of recovered revenue (and customers) is very encouraging. This is just another means to tie soft skills to ROI, and to include your front lines as part and parcel of the revenue-producing operation of your companies.

Customer Satisfaction Driver #1

We all know first call resolution (one and done) is the #1 driver for customer satisfaction with best practices reported at 86%. However, if your center is at 86%, this means that 14% of your customers are contacting you more than once to resolve their issues! This not only frustrates your CSRs and yourselves, but your customers as well. Repeat calls are costly not only to operations and the bottom line, but they negatively impact customer satisfaction, and ultimately, customer loyalty.

How do you define first call resolution? And how do you--if you do--calculate it? Research shows that there is no common measuring method. However, what gets measured gets managed, and what gets managed gets better.

In a recent study (Ascent Group) more than 90% of companies measuring first call resolution reported improvement in their performance. Another study (callcentres.com) reported a dramatic fall in call volume--identifying that a minimum of 20% of all calls were repeat calls from customers needing an answer or help they didn't get. Further, that the absence of first call resolution was found to account for a minimum of 30% of a call center's operational costs!

The bottom line: Invest in your people--give them the training, the tools, and the authority to get their job done right the first time. After all, CSRs are the interface who handle customer issues. One of the foremost methods to boost customer satisfaction--and improve first call resolution--is to consistently and ongoingly train, train, train your CSRs in world class customer service skills.

Rosanne D'Ausilio, Ph.D., industrial psychologist, master trainer, best selling author, is president of Human Technologies Global Inc, a full service training organization specializing in human performance management providing needs assessments, instructional design, and live, customized, world class customer service skills training across industries. Also offered is university certification of agents and/or facilitators from Purdue University's Center for Customer Driven Quality.

Known in the industry as the 'champion for the human,' Rosanne is the author of Wake Up Your Call Center: Humanize Your Interaction Hub, 4th edition, Customer Service and The Human Experience (co authored with Dr. Jon Anton), Lay Your Cards on the Table: 52 Ways to Stack Your Personal Deck (now with a 32-card deck) all available at www.human-technologies.com, and her 'tips' newsletter on How To Kick Your Customer Service Up A Notch at www.HumanTechTips.com.

She sits on the advisory board of Help Desk Professional Association, is a columnist for TMCnet.com on Call Center Training, and represnts the human element for an Italian Software Company's advisory board, as well as being a dynamic, much sought after keynote speaker.

How to Build a Business Empire with Only One Employee: YOU!

You're probably one of those aspiring entrepreneurs who wants to start a profitable business, whether it's brick-and-mortar or online by nature. You've got a terrific idea for your venture, and now you're browsing over your business plan again for the nth time. Since the name of the game is to be profitable while maintaining operations as cost-efficient as possible, you need to make sure that all areas of your business is well thought, and that includes your staffing needs.

You have several options at your disposal: a) hire a regular staff, b) hire a temporary staff, or c) do everything yourself. As natural as these choices are, it pays to do a little more foresight on what you can expect with each choice.

Hiring a regular staff: The tried-and-true model for most businesses. Hire a competent staff and retain him or her in your payroll. While this is the most likely route most startups will consider, there is a downside as well. As with any new company, it usually takes time and patience to build your customer base and generate enough sales to make your venture stable. During this period, your cash reserves will probably deplete faster than it being replenished (with sales), and a big portion of your expenses will go to employee salaries. Also, consider the costs of retaining a regular employee: not only do you have to contend with the usual salaries and government taxes, you also have to consider the other expenses associated with hiring one: office equipment, paid vacation/sick leaves, insurance, bonuses, training, and so on. If your business is just starting, this can prove to be both inconvenient and expensive.

Hiring temporary staff: While not exactly on the same level as hiring a regular employee, and may also prove cheaper, you are still most likely to encounter a majority of the expenses mentioned above. You will still have to train them, pay for taxes, insurance, etc.

Do everything yourself: This is to assume the role of the proverbial "chief cook and bottle washer". While there is also nothing wrong with this model, as an entrepreneur who's starting to build his or her business empire, you have to ask yourself some fundamental questions: will I be spending my valuable time more effectively if I, aside from building my sales network and marketing my product, will also have to finish my sales journals, do the inventory, answer phone calls, maintain my website, etc.? Perhaps not. You'll be spreading yourself thin on so many areas of your business that at the end of the day, you may not have enough energy left for yourself for the next day.

As a budding entrepreneur building a business empire from the ground, it pays to know that there is a fourth alternative whose appeal is increasing these days: hiring a virtual assistant. A virtual assistant (or VA in short) is a highly skilled professional who provides administrative, technical and/or creative support to business owners or other professionals. Virtual assistants have a variety of business skills in the field of administrative, marketing, secretarial, customer support and other areas of expertise that you can use to help you become more effective and productive in your business.

In effect, you can practically outsource any task, however significant they may be, to one or several virtual assistants, freeing you of time which you can spend more on building your network, marketing your product, meeting your clients, dinner with your family, or simply brainstorming on the "next big thing". Distance is no longer an issue; with the advent of the Internet, hiring the services of a virtual assistant is both practical and convenient, however remotely located they may be. Real-time distant support from virtual assistants can be as ubiquitous as you need them, as if these individuals were physically present in your office or work area. Additionally, you won't have to put up with the usual expenses associated with hiring regular staff (ie. office equipment, software, training, insurance, taxes, etc.), because a virtual assistant is expected to handle these on their own. All you get and pay for is professional, dependable service when you want it, where you want it. That leaves you with only one regular employee left to take care of, yourself, and as a one-man business empire, isn't that the only person that matters most?

Building a business empire with only one employee is possible and need not be a lonely effort. There are alternatives available to you, and hiring virtual assistants is a good way to get that much needed support in your chosen venture.

Strategic Planning; a Must for all Organisations

Strategic planning, the what and the why of planning, is often overlooked by organisations who concentrate on tactical planning, the how of planning. The resultant business plan is overwhelmed by tactical initiatives and pet projects. Alignment with a strategy to attain the organisation's goals is achieved by accident.

Strategic planning is often seen as unnecessary or at times, not even contemplated in an environment benign to the organisation, e.g. high levels of market growth or monopoly situations. In my experience, a strategic plan based on basic critical thinking is a precursor to developing a competitive advantage where often none has previously been seen.

The dotcom boom and bust during the last decade is the clearest example of the adage, "failing to plan is planning to fail". A Boston consulting study in 2000 revealed that the key problems resulting in failure of companies were 59% poor revenue cost and profit model, 55% no competitive advantage and 34% lack of consumer benefit. It is clear from the study that many fewer dotcoms would have started and many fewer would have failed with some strategic planning.

In the arena of public organisations the discussion of the last few years in Brazil, California, Queensland and Fiji over the adequacy of planning for electricity requirements leads one to consider what level of strategic planning occurred in those organisations over the previous five to ten years. The problem of capacity is not of current management's making, but of management five or more years ago.

Strategic planning is a fairly simple process. Unfortunately it has been made to appear difficult by many of my current profession. Consultants desire to use tools to explain strategic concepts in a graphical sense, combined with their use of acronyms or two and three word descriptions of their pet methodology has shrouded strategic planning in an unnecessary mystery.

Who can or wants to remember what Porter's five forces analysis, PESTLE analysis, directional policy matrix, Anshoff matrix and game theory are? They are consultant tools to help explain the current or future environment of the organisation. For some consultants however they become the end rather than the means.

Strategic planning must start with the end in mind. Take care not to fall into the consultant-speak trap taking two days of management time to carefully craft a vision statement which nobody understands. It is better to actually think about what you want the organisation to be doing in three to five years time. So that you know whether you have successfully got there, the "end" or goal had better be quantifiable. The "statement" will take care of itself.

After sorting out what success looks like, the next step is to understand both your current external and internal environments. That is, what things are happening external to your organisation, e.g. public tastes, government policy, global trade and within your organisation, e.g. employee competence, productivity, systems integration, that will have an impact on reaching your goal? There are tools that can help, but all that is really needed is your team armed with data about your organisation and the external environment.

Data comes in four levels of increasing dependability, internal opinion, external opinion, internal fact and external fact. The dependability ranges from when three salesmen have a talk over a beer about what customers want (internal opinion) to quantitative research using appropriate quota samples (external fact).

The required outcome of the analysis is to understand what strategic changes (what and why) your organisation needs to make to reach your goals in your current and future competitive environment, taking into account your current level of capability.

In private enterprise, the outcome will include quantitative time based goals (usually financial or market related), brand, products and services, external customers (consumers or businesses), internal customers (other functions or company owned supply chain members) and channels (where do customers buy from).

In public enterprise the outcome will include time-based goals (usually service or public outcome based), services, external customers (the public), internal customers (other government departments), and channels (who does what to deliver the service).

Unsurprisingly, strategic planning in the private and public sector have similar outcome deliverables, even though the nature of the products and services and their environments differ significantly.

Business planning, the how, in both cases will have outcomes which include competence, intellectual property, policy, assets, processes, organisational design, measures, rewards, systems and risk management.

Developing a business plan in a static environment without understanding what services and products we are going to deliver to which external and internal customers through which channels for what benefit to our organisation and our customers is a risk. Doing it in our rapidly changing environment is a folly that will manifest itself as a problem for future managers.

The time to begin strategic planning is now.

Branded! How To Build Brand Identity

You've heard the saying, "Image is everything." It's not only true, it's also a commanly-used slogan in advertising. Businesses like McDonalds ("I'm lovin' it") and AllState Insurance ("You're in good hands") use slogans, or tag lines, to help build brand identity. It's part of a bigger-picture marketing strategy and it's important that businesses, no matter what size, implement such a strategy to carve out their own niche in the marketplace.

Even if you're a solo entrepreneur, you want your customers to identify you as the "go-to" person in your field. That's what brand identity does: It helps differentiate you from the competition--it tells your customers, "This is who I am and what I stand for, and this is my approach to business."

But how do you, the small business owner, go about building your brand? Do you have to spend big bucks on an image consulting firm or a public relations company? The short answer is: no. What you basically have to do is figure out exactly what your core product or service is, and then decide what direction to go in order to achieve the maximum profit potential from it.

According to expert Vickie Sullivan ("http://www.sullivanspeaker.com"), you need to:

  1. Determine your business model (what do you do--what do you have to offer--what are your strengths?)

  2. Identify revenue streams (what are the different ways you can make money from your expertise)

  3. Establish your manifesto ("put your flag in the ground": This is what I do and this is my approach)

  4. Plan strategies for executing your business model

She calls this strategic planning "Marketing Intelligence"--plotting your course by looking at the marketplace to see which segment you should target to make the most money from what you do. After all, you deserve to make top dollar for your services, so it only makes sense to approach the customers who can afford to pay what you're worth, right?
This method emphasizes your approach rather than the tools you'll use to implement your plan. In other words, identifying the highest paying segment of your market will help you determine what product or service to offer, and what marketing methods you should use to reach that segment.

When you think about it, this is a great way to figure out how to build brand identity. You'll use only those marketing methods that target the kind of customers you want to sell to, and you can customize your "brand" using the tools best suited for attracting those particular people.

Marketing tools can include:

  • The media (local, national, or international)

  • A website

  • Publications (books you've written, articles written about you)

  • Promotional materials (company brochure, trade show giveaways, direct mail)

Regardless of the tools you use, your message, or signature style, will remain consistent--it's your platform, or brand identity, expressed in your slogan, logo, elevator speech, sales pitch, etc. When you develop your style that says: "This is who I am and this is my approach," you've established your brand identity.

What Does Your Business Do?

At this point in the business startup (or reinvention) process, you should be clear about your life's mission. Your next step is to determine what goods and/or services your business should offer that will best contribute to that mission. Never forget that your business must exist to serve your needs, never the other way around. Far too many entrepreneurs trade the "oppression" of the 9-5 workday for the "freedom" of the 6-midnight at a job they can't simply walk away from. You don't want to be in that position.

Resist the temptation to offer too broad a spectrum, especially in the early stages. Focus on doing one thing extremely well instead of many mediocre things. I'm not saying you must only offer one product or service. You should, however, make sure that everything you offer falls into the same narrow range that will greatly simplify your marketing and management. Keep in mind that the actual things your business offers are almost afterthoughts compared to the many things that must occur for the business to remain open. For example, if you are opening a bakery, then the actual baking will be a very small part of keeping your doors open every day. Every variable you add to your offering mix ha s an exponential impact on management.

So you've determined that your business is the right one for you to be in and have settled on a suitably focused range of offerings. Now it's time to look at the other businesses in your area that offer similar things to determine how your business will stand out from the competition. This process involves the following three steps:

First, get out a blank sheet of paper and a pen (I strongly recommend doing this by hand instead of on a word processor). On this sheet, list every conceivable benefit to customers of doing business with you. Don't confuse benefits with features. What's the difference? A feature is a "what" (a bell or whistle). A benefit is a "so what", (what customers get from doing business with you). Be brazen! Hey, if you're not your business's loudest advocate, who will be?

Second, examine the competition. If you're opening a traditional "brick and mortar" business (storefront or office), then take a good look at your local area. If you're opening a virtual (online) business, then your search must be much wider (nationwide or even worldwide). Each of these businesses offers benefits, many of which duplicate yours. Find and eliminate these duplicates from your list, which will soon bear an almost painful number of scribbles and deletions. Fear not, because this is a good thing. In fact, it's a very good thing.

Third, look at the remains of your once-proud list. If you did your job correctly, then most of your work will be obliterated. How can this be a good thing? Take a closer look and you'll see a few things that you haven't deleted. This is what sets your business apart. This is where you are going to hang your management, marketing, and planning hats. This is the foundation upon which your business will be built or rebuilt.

What about you? Now that you have the raw blueprint for your business in hand, you need to start thinking about your ideal life (the life you'd live if freed from all constraints) and life's mission and start figuring out what your role in this business is going to be. How will you balance the three competing forces of forward-looking visionary and dreamer, present-day technician who actually does the work, and backward-looking manager who constantly tries to apply some logic and order to the whole endeavor? Chances are very strong that you are a technician, a very grounded live-for-the-moment person who loves doing whatever your business does (such as baking). I've lost count of the number of people who tell me "I'm a _______, not a businessperson!" The time to start defining your role in this business is right now. If you are in business or are thinking of starting a business and you have not read Michael Gerber's The Emyth Revisited, then I urge you to run, not walk, to your nearest bookseller.

By now, we're fairly far along in the process of defining your business and how it fits into and serves your needs. Notice that I haven't talked about a business plan yet. Starting with a business plan makes the whole effort revolve around the business when it should revolve around you, then around your customers. Next week, we'll start talking about how to make sure your business revolves around its customers. Stay tuned!


A very large and well-known soda manufacturer once decided that their name means beverages. So they bought a winery, which tanked- and not in a good way. After this, they decided that their name probably means soft drinks and refocused on their core business.

What about your business? What is your focus? Are you making, doing, or selling anything that distracts from that focus? Remember that marketing encompasses all contact between your company and the outside world. Its as if your business is projecting a message. Products and services that deviate from your focus blur the signal. Instead of seeing a crisp clear message, potential customers see a fuzzy picture that makes it harder for them to figure out what youre all about. That lack of clarity makes it harder for them to decide to spend their money at your business. Who loses? You.

For example, one of my clients was seeking ways to boost her profits. We separated her services into logical divisions and looked at the profits by division. We soon discovered one set of services whose profits were far lower than the others and that required far more resources than the other divisions. She shed the losing services and referred those customers to other companies who specialize in those specific services. Result? She got more time to provide the services that generate the most profit and netted some fusion marketing partners to boot.

Take a good hard look at your business. How can you organize your products and services into divisions? Having accomplished that, calculate each divisions costs, revenue, and profits. If you find any that are performing far below average, consider dropping them and referring those customers to other businesses who specialize in what youre letting go of. See if these other companies will refer business to the parts of your business that you excel at.

How powerful can this be? Say Division A earns $10,000 in profit on $100,000 in earnings. Division B profits $5,000 on $75,000, and Division C profits $15,000 on $125,000. With this example, your business is profiting $30,000 on total revenue of $300,000- a 10% profit margin. Division B is clearly the losing horse in this race. Dropping Division B and doing nothing else would have your business profiting $25,000 on $225,000 in revenue- a profit margin of 11.1%. Just like that, youve increased your profit margin by 10%. Not too bad for simply letting go.

Freeing yourself from the constraints of losing product and service divisions lets you devote more time and energy into growing the most profitable parts of your business, which can only increase your profits even more. In the above example, were I the business owner, Id expand Division C to fill the vacuum left by dropping Division B. Doing this would give me more profit and a higher profit margin than I started with. It would also help reduce competition and increase goodwill by referring customers to other businesses.

Money aside, casting off anything that is slowing you down will give you far more time and energy to use any way you wish- possibly even in parts of your life that have nothing to do with your business. How many of us could use more personal time? I sure could.

Find and maintain a laser-like focus on the products and services that produce the most profit with the least cost and you will enjoy higher profits, more time and energy, fewer hassles, and a lot less stress.


The dictionary defines elegance as refinement, grace, and beauty in movement, appearance, or manners. Watch a true professional at work, be it washing windows, digging ditches, gardening, building, you name it. Contrast that with an amateur doing the same thing. For example, a professional window washer wields a squeegee with sinuous movements that achieve far cleaner results in far less time than most of us can ever hope for. There is nothing menial about that or anyone who has elevated their profession (however humble it might seem) to a state of elegance, for that is art. How can you elevate your business to an art form?

A client of mine has been struggling to expand her profits and working ever-longer days in that quest. She has reams of data and analysis and has been banging her head against walls trying to think her way through. The good news is that she recently discovered how to roughly triple her profit with no additional effort. The problem is that further growth will require either more hours (not good for the soul) or hiring additional help (and there go the newly found profits). One of the things she misses most is enjoying her art (watercolor, dance, and singing). By thinking her way through, she was stifling her creativity and sinking deeper into the struggle of growing her business.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? If so, I have a few questions: What if nothing is sacred? What if the mere fact that your business has certain processes and certain ways of doing them means nothing? What if you could dance, paint, sing, or sculpt your way to ease and joy?

I invite you to forget everything you know about running your business. Pretend youre back at the beginning, those heady days when ideas flowed like water and the excitement was electric. Let those wonderful feelings surround and permeate you. Then build your ideal business, only dont do it with business plans and calculators. Instead, express your vision through your art.

If youre a painter, paint your ideal business complete with every step of every process. If youre a musician, compose a piece that does the same thing. Sculptor? Actor? Author? Mime? Same idea. This isnt about painting diagrams, sculpting floor plans, or committing your employee handbook to song (unless you want to). Rather, the goal is to create artistic representations that may bear no logical resemblance to what they describe. And thats OK; the idea is to stop thinking and allow your creativity to do what it does naturally: create.

Because youre creating an expression of your perfect business, your subconscious mind will be going over every last little aspect of that ideal vision while your conscious mind is creating something that may seem totally unrelated. Youll start coming up with lots of ideas about what is and is not essential to your business and ways to make each essential piece as elegant as possible. The process of creating art is the process of creating elegance. That elegance is what draws people to museums, theaters, concerts, and more. It is what will draw you toward realizing your ideal business.

My client reserves one hour each day for personal time. She lamented the prospect of budgeting even more time to squeeze in her art. Imagine her delight upon learning that her personal hour can also be her time for artistic expression and that freeing her creativity would benefit both herself and her business. Just like that she gained an hour filled with abundant joy, fulfillment, and productivity. One can only imagine the transformations to come as this seed takes root.

Elegance: refinement, grace, and beauty in movement, appearance, or manners. What elegance will your inner artist create for your business? Give it a try; the results will amaze you.


Does your business serve you or are you serving your business?

Finding that answer is as easy as answering the following question: When is the last time you did something that was totally and completely all about being good to and pampering yourself? If the exact particulars of date, time, activity, and people involved have not already sprung to mind as you read this, then its been way too long.

Do you fit into this category? If so, did you go into business expecting freedom from the restraints of a traditional job only to find yourself trapped by the many demands of owning and operating your own concern? By now, youve probably discovered that your product or service is almost an afterthought compared to the many tasks and processes required to keep a business up and running. Far too many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of being slaves to the businesses that should be serving their wants and needs. This leads to burnout, a variety of attempts to cope, and possibly even failure.

A long time ago, I learned a very simple lesson: No one on this planet is so important that the world cant get by just fine without them for a little while. Same goes for your business. Whether you believe it or not, you can step away for a little while and things will keep humming merrily along. So what are you waiting for?

As soon as possible (certainly within the next two weeks), I urge you to leave your business and do something to pamper yourself. It could be as easy as going for a hike or watching a sunset. It could be as involved as getting a complete spa treatment or a night on the town. You decide. The only criteria you need to meet is that whatever you do must be completely and totally about you and no one else.

Try to relax fully into the experience once it occurs instead of worrying about the many things that might (but probably arent) going wrong in your absence. Do that and youll emerge with your batteries recharged and ready to go back to work. The trick is to do this as regularly as possible to keep your stress level down and to create a strong mental association between your business and being good to yourself. You created this business. Shouldnt it be good to and for you?

What does any of this have to do with marketing?

One word: Energy

A stressed-out boss spreads that stress to her or his employees and creates a tense vibe that permeates the entire business. Customers experience this vibe the moment they walk in the door and get a double dose when they encounter your employees and receive curt and/or inattentive treatment. I once stepped into a restaurant where it was clear the owners had been arguing only moments before. The tension was so thick as I ate that I never returned. Did the owners stress levels affect their bottom line? You bet.

If time management is your issue, my previous column has some quick tips to help you start getting a handle on your time and there are plenty of great resources out there. If youre worried that less time in your business means less profits, I know at least one person who is on track to triple her profits while cutting 15 hours per week off her schedule.

If cash flow is your issue, there are many things you may be able to do to boost your profits immediately. Ill be writing a future column about pricing. Beyond pricing, you may be able to reduce expenditures in various ways by increasing efficiency and/or closing down unprofitable parts of your business.

If a strong sense of duty is your issue, well, yes, you must give your business the attention it deserves. The flip side of that is that your business can only be as healthy and vibrant as you are. If there is something wrong with your business, the mirror is usually a good place to start looking. Never forget that your prime duty and responsibility is to yourself for without yourself, you have and are nothing at all.

Be good to yourself and your business will be good to you. Just as importantly, it will be good to your customers, who will be far more likely to visit you again in the future.

So how are you going to pamper yourself this week?


What kind of guarantee do you offer on the products and/or services you sell?

Many businesses have fairly restrictive refund policies and limited to no guarantees. A very sensible approach. After all, who wants to be saddled with returns caused by everything ranging from defects to wishy-washy customers? The paperwork alone is a nightmare let alone trying to wrangle credits from vendors because the whole commercial engine is geared towards driving products to consumers, not away from them. Increase your guarantee and your returns will skyrocket along with the numerous headaches they bring.

This logic is perfectly sound.

Paradoxically, however, the reverse is true: The more liberal the guarantee, the fewer returns come in. Yes, you read that correctly: Increase your guarantee and your rate of returns will decrease. Pretend you walk into Store A and see an item with a 30-day guarantee. Store B carries the exact same item and offers a 1-year guarantee. Store C offers a lifetime guarantee: If the thing ever breaks or becomes otherwise unusable, bring it back for replacement or refund.

Assuming all else is equal about the product, which store would you purchase from? I for one would be very surprised if you said anything but Store C. But why?

Think about the subtle, almost subconscious implications behind the 30-day guarantee. It literally tells you that youd best figure out pretty darn quickly whether you made the right decision or not. It also makes you wonder if your purchase will last much beyond Day 31. Do you get my point? The restrictive policy sends a clear message that you dont have faith in your own products, or that your faith is only good to a limited point. That message makes customers wary to make the purchase in the first place and more apt to return the product later. If you offer a 30-day guarantee, expect to see lots of returns by around Day 28 or so. The 1-year warranty is much better. However, it too sends the same message, albeit not as strongly as its 30-day cousin.

And the unlimited guarantee? Think about it a moment. The seller is so confident in his products that he is perfectly happy to stand behind them 100%. Confidence is contagious. We all like confident people. We want to know that the people we spend our increasingly hard-earned dollars on will be there when we need them. When do we need them? When things go wrong.

Whether you offer products or services and no matter how you offer them (retail location, online, in person, etc.), there is one question Id like you to ponder: What can you do to transfer the risk of purchasing from your customers shoulders to your own? Caveat emptor (buyer beware) may have worked in past centuries but it wont work in the new millennium. Ill say it yet again: Making a purchase, actually forking over money, is the ultimate act of commercial faith. Thus, my question stands: How can you make that decision as risk-free as possible? Answer: A strong guarantee. Find a way, any way, to relieve your customer of as much risk as possible.

Costco has one of the most liberal return policies I know. If something breaks or if you just dont like it, take it back, and youll receive full credit. I love Costco and have purchased my share of big-ticket items from them because I know they stand behind what they sell. They can do this because they sell truly excellent stuff. How can you emulate that model?

In my own business, I offer all new clients an initial consulting session. If they opt to continue using my services, I offer three more sessions. Then and only then do I bill for those four sessions, provided that the client is delighted with my services. If they are not delighted, we discontinue the relationship and they owe me nothing. Going forward, I bill at the end of every month of service. In this way, the risk is always where it belongs- on the sellers shoulders. My return (non-payment) rate among people who go the month is zero. Can you do something similar in your own business?

Yes, there are some things you cant and shouldnt take back, and Im sure you can think of examples without my having to go into detail. Yes, there is also the potential for abuse. The good news is that diligently tracking your sales can reduce any abuse to a very low level. You do track your sales, dont you? If not, there are lots of reasons why you should. Well get to that in a future column.

Find ways to reduce the risk to your customers and your profits will increase. I guarantee it.


Last week I mentioned that one of the first things for any entrepreneur to decide is how youll know when youve won the game youre about to play (such as starting a new business). For example, football has rules about the methods and time constraints for scoring points. At the end of the prescribed period, the team with the most points wins. You must define your goals in equally specific terms. For example, passive income of $5,000 per month within one year is very specific.

Defining specific goals is a mandatory first step and laudable in its own right. The danger is that saying you want to achieve something is a far cry from actually doing it. The things you say you want to do and accomplish are the things youre interested in. The things you actually invest time and resources in are the things youre committed to. If your interests and commitments match, then all is well. The problems begin when commitments dont match interests. Think about it: If you say you want to build a passive income of $5,000 per month and spend your time sitting around dreaming about how youll spend all that money instead of taking steps to earn it� See where Im going?

Thankfully, reconciling interests and commitments is very easy.

Begin by writing down your total net monthly earnings on a sheet of paper. Now itemize each of your expenses by category (food, shelter, utilities, debt, entertainment, etc.) making sure to include everything, even incidentals and investment contributions. Subtract your expenses from your total earnings. How much is left over? On a side note, if this number is zero or less than zero, then you may be using debt and/or draining assets to maintain your lifestyle- an extremely dangerous habit.

Look at your schedule next. A week has 168 hours, 56 of which should be spent getting 8 hours of sleep per night, leaving 112 waking hours. Add up all of the time you spend working, playing, commuting, bathing, eating, waiting in line, etc. On another side note, if your time commitments exceed 112 hours per week, then you are not getting 8 hours of sleep per night, which could be causing or contributing to any number of health problems.

In theory, all unallocated funds and time are available for any purpose you choose. Question: Are these resources enough for you to achieve your goal? If so, great! But if not, then you need to start making some choices.

Can you divert funds and time away from other pursuits towards this goal? For example, could you eat out less often to save money or shop at different hours to save time? If so, then making these changes will help you on your way. If not, if you are truly locked into your financial and time constraints, is there some lesser goal that you can achieve on your way to the bigger one? I for one have yet to see anyone unable to make at least some progress.

Are you willing to make whatever changes you can for the sake of achieving your goal? If so, go ahead and make them. If not, thats OK too. In this case, however, you must adjust your interests to suit your commitments. This may mean deciding to build only $1,000 of passive monthly income in the first year to help you take the next step. You could also decide to give yourself two years to achieve the whole thing. The bottom line is that you must make adjustments because you cant or wont act on your stated goal for whatever reason. Your commitment does not match your interest.

Keep in mind that this has nothing whatsoever to do with judgment or blame. It has everything to do with balancing your interests (what you say you want) with your commitments (what your actions create for you) so that you can decide and act on the things that matter the most to you. Life is too short to waste doing anything else.

This lesson applies to any goal in your business or personal life because each is a series of choices and compromises. Want to launch a new marketing campaign? If so, how will you measure its success and what are you willing to do to accomplish that success? Want to hire some part-time help to reduce your workload? If so, can you afford it or make changes to be able to afford it?


Christmahanukwanzaa heralds the end of the year. It is a time for celebrations, gifts, and looking to the future. It is also the time when most businesses (probably including yours) are getting ready to close the books on the year in anticipation of starting fresh on January 1st. This year, Id like you to go one step further by taking a long look at your business over the past year and asking yourself some probing questions. Here are just a few:

Has your business served your needs and enabled you to live your ideal lifestyle, or has your life revolved around your business?

Are each of your business processes truly necessary or do you find yourself doing some things because youve always done them? Of the necessary processes, how many of them are running at peak efficiency and how many could be streamlined? How could this streamlining occur?

Do you have the information you need when you need it and does this information contribute to your decision-making process? If not, where is the chain broken? Do you need to purchase new accounting software, create customized reports, or rely more on the numbers instead of gut instinct?

If you vanished tomorrow, would your business keep running smoothly, sputter, or fail altogether? Why? How can you create a business that stands on its own two feet instead of sitting on your shoulders? Far too many entrepreneurs reach retirement and try to cash in their businesses only to realize that they themselves are the business, which lacks any real value beyond them. What this question really boils down to is: Is your business building equity that you can cash in later or do you need to think of other ways to fund your retirement?

Is your business self-sustaining or it draining resources from loans, capital, personal infusions, etc? If your business needs additional resources to remain open, are you a start-up? Is this business a hobby where you dont really need or want the money? Or are you struggling? If so, why? What can you do differently to ease this situation?

Have you examined your products and services to determine your most and least profitable lines? Would eliminating the underperformers boost your bottom line? Remember that profit, not revenue, is what matters.

Are you protected in the event of calamity? For example, do you have enough insurance to guard against disasters? If your business requires your presence in order to run, do you have enough disability insurance to replace your income if you are no longer able to work?

Is this business fulfilling or allowing you to fulfill your dharma or lifes mission, or is it limiting or even preventing you? Our time on this planet is limited and the two words no one should have to utter in their final moments are if only.

Do you have a solid, well-defined marketing process that converts leads into prospects into customers into clients into referral sources? Do you see your marketing as a strategy where every tactic (Web site, brochures, signs, etc.) has its defined place and role? Or do you think of marketing in terms of things to do with no unified purpose?

I am sure you can think of many more questions to ask yourself. I hope you take the time to answer them fully and honestly because doing so will paint a broad picture of your businesss strengths and weaknesses.

This is the seasons for celebration. List all of your successes and make sure you celebrate them with your loved ones and with the people (such as your employees) who helped make them possible. You deserve to reward yourself for every single accomplishment.

This is also the season for reflection and looking ahead. List all of your businesss problem areas and your ideas about why those problems exist. Examine each problem from cause to process to effect. Then celebrate again! Why? Because you have successfully identified things to change or eliminate altogether and have learned and grown as a result. Each item on your list represents an opportunity for you to innovate and experiment, a chance for you to recapture the thrill of discovery you undoubtedly felt when you launched your business.

Identifying your strengths and weaknesses will help ensure that your business thrives in the new year. It is not about finding fault or assigning blame. It is all about clearing your slate of anything that might be holding you back from the success you want and deserve.

I wish you and your loved ones a safe and joyous holiday season.