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Might “Return On Trust” be your Long Term Play?

How to Build Trust and Enhance Your Influence with Content ...

Return On Trust? I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit after reading an article from the Detroit News, that was forwarded to me by a FB friend.  I want to share the article with you.

Finley: How to do business, and stay safe–Detroit News

500 employees running strong.  Only one infected by COVID-19, who has recovered.  Lots of concrete advice on how to run a manufacturing operation safely and productively.  Certainly pay attention to how they are doing it, the procedures and methods this company has implemented to create both a productive and safe work environment for his staff and company.

Yet there is more to this than procedures and methods. 

What struck me about this story, is the high level of trust and compassion that exists in this community.  Autocam Medica is a community of people, leaders through front-line that has a high level of trust and compassion for each other.  This couldn’t be pulled off without it. The leadership and front-line and everyone in between needed to rely on each other to deliver these results.  Transparent intentions, collaborative dialogue, clear alignment on objectives.  So much more.

Autocam Medica didn’t become a trusting community when COVID-19 hit.  My guess is that they were trusting community beforehand, working hard at it over the years.  Right now they are building an even higher level of trust.  Which brings me back to the term “Return On Trust.”

What kind of “Return On Trust”  is Autocam Medica getting right now?  While COVID-19 is a threat to everyone.

What kind of “Return On Trust” will the be getting once they get to the other side of this?  It’s doubtful that it could be calculated, but this is for sure, they’ll be further ahead than their peer companies.

Do you have a community of trust within your company? Be critical with yourself about this.  And ask some people within the company, other than your leadership team, if this is true, people that you know will give you the straight poop. If it turns out you don’t have trusting community, a crisis is a great time to build one, around the common bond of getting through the challenge together.  If you do, how are you going to build on that trust for the long term future?

Do you need some help with this?  It certainly isn’t easy.  But it’s doable.  Let’s have a meeting to talk about it. I want you and need you to get to the other side.  Learn about “Get to the Other Side Coaching” and let’s have a conversation.    Let’s Put Something On Our Calendars

Be Safe, stay well, do good.


Do You Deal with Toxic Behavior or Focus on the Crisis? It’s an “And” not an “Or”

Loving Community – It Was a Good Friday – The Genius of the AND

What a dilemma!  The pandemic crisis is right in front of you.  It’s the main priority.  Getting to the other side.  So many things to do.  Preserve the cash, pivot your business model, keep your employees safe, build relationships that will lead to business on the other side, talk to bankers and accountants, figure out how the government will help you, etc.  These things are the obvious priorities.  They are hard, they are too much for one person to handle and it’s what you have to focus on.  So you’re thinking “maybe I can kick the can down the road on the toxic individual that is causing so much commotion right now…..and deal with it later”

It’s not one “or” the other, it’s a one “and” the other. 

This is a principle outlined in Built To Last by Jim Collins (I find myself referring to Jim Collins more and more each day during this pandemic).  It’s the called the “Tyranny of the ‘Or,” and the “Genius of the ‘And.’” Collins noticed that the Great Companies never thought through things using an either/or approach.  Always approached things with “how do we do both”   Either/Or thought processes lead to poorly thought out decisions and then the repercussions of them, which down the road become extremely painful.   Toxic behavior or the crisis, this is one of those “And” situations.

A crisis like this requires alignment, unity, trust, selfless behavior and clear thinking. 

This is difficult in ordinary times, more difficult now, but absolutely more important.  As a CEO or Owner  you can’t do it all right now,  you have to build trust, use trust, and rely on trust to get to the other side.  All hands-on-deck, full trust in the intentions of others, open dialogue on most everything, commitment to decisions, accountable to actions, and get to the other side.  (if you haven’t noticed I’ve just reviewed Pat Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team, someone else I find myself referring to often in this crisis).

Toxic Individuals need to be eliminated or isolated.

Toxic Individuals don’t care about trust.  They manipulate it to serve their own selfish ends, whether they know it our not.  People need to be aligned with them, not the organization.  They create havoc to personally benefit from havoc.  They make every little thing more difficult for others.  There is a book based on a study of this, but you probably don’t have time to read it.  The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton.  Don’t read it now, save it for after the crisis. But here is a one sentence summary.  Toxic individuals, no matter the level their contribution, should be eliminated from your organization, and if not, isolated from others.  In other words, no leadership responsibility.  Work alone or leave.

Toxic individuals fester dysfunction and multiply the complexity of dealing with the current crisis. 

Have a situation like this?  Book a meeting on how to proceed. No Charge.


What’s Your Path Through This?

We needed some time to chill out from the stress of the pandemic crisis this past weekend.  Fortunately we were able to pack up the car and drive about two hours to the farm of a friend of ours.  No one else was there, but probably more important was the lack of cell phone reception and very weak Wi-Fi.  We spent the weekend eating and reading and playing cards and being with each other and our kids.  We also went on hike.

There wasn’t an obvious path to follow, just the creek. 

Our friends recommended taking a 45 minute hike up the creek to see a waterfall and that’s what we did.  It turned out to be quite an adventure.  We ended up finding our way through brush, climbing over and around fallen trees, wading int the creek, crossing it a number of times, all while not really knowing the way or what we would encounter along the way, unknown terrain with each step. Each of us fell at least once, but it seemed like we fell forward, going further even then.

Eventually we came to a waterfall.  It wasn’t much of one, and being both mentally and physically tired we thought about turning back.  Martha, my daughter, encouraged us to go at least 100 yards further to see if it was worth continuing.  The creek and it’s bed at this point was both shallow and wide, so I went with her.  In 100 yards we saw it.  A bigger and prettier waterfall, 200 yards further up the creek, over much more slippery and tricky footing.  The rest of the family joined us and we made it, feeling proud that we didn’t quit.

That’s the journey we are familiar with as business owners. 

We know the objective or outcome we want to accomplish.  We don’t exactly know how to get there, but we plow ahead, working through or around obstacles repeatedly until we get there.  And we look for more.  It’s entrepreneurial way isn’t it.

The journey back down was different. 

It certainly looked different going down than coming up.  Since we weren’t climbing up, the footing was more slippery and treacherous.  When we fell down, we fell backwards, onto our bums, and then slid down the creek or the terrain.  Falling backwards usually ended up meant we fell much further that we were comfortable with.  I know I spent much more time thinking through each and every step, instead of just plowing through like before, knowing that I could get injured much more easily on the way down than on the way up.

Handholds, became much more important, both with family members helping each other, and grabbing onto trees and branches as we eased our way down.  It’s not that we didn’t help each other and grab branches on the way up, but then it seemed more automatic, easy, and the polite thing to do. On the way down it was difficult, absolutely necessary, and hard to figure out.  One couldn’t make one’s way without help.  I remember thinking, “this is much harder than before.”

The path through the pandemic will be like going down, not going up. 

The path through the pandemic, won’t be like the hike up to the waterfall, a desirable outcome. It will be much more like the way back down the creek.  Handholds will be much more important and essential to get to the other side of things, than when you were building your business.  It’s more slippery, the falls might end up being further and faster than you are used to or comfortable with.  Everything is at risk when you are going through something like this.

What’s the way through for you?   

It requires thoughtfulness, firm footing, and lots of handholds. You can figure it out with the help of your team, your peers and your advisors.  We made it back with only a few scratches and no broken bones.  You will too.

Looking for some handholds?

It’s one of the things I’m good at.  Check in regularly at as I add tools and resources for getting to the other side.

Set up a phone call or zoom call with me at

And by all means, hold out a hand for someone else looking for a handhold along the way.

Whose Expertise Should You Follow During the Pandemic?

Whose Expertise Should You Follow During the Pandemic? by Michael Synk - Image has a sticky note that says Let's Talk.

There is an overwhelming amount of information being pushed out about what to do during this unprecedented time. “Expertise” seems to be coming from everywhere. First and foremost, whose expertise should guide you?

Your own, of course.

This may not be what you were expecting, but stick with me. As the CEO/owner of your organization, you have substantial expertise to fall back on during this crisis, and you should use it. That doesn’t mean to exclude other experts.

Let’s talk about the other expertise available to your right now.

From the Medical Profession

Their expertise lies in how one passes along the virus, how one catches it, and the symptoms. Heed their advice, because it’s spot on.

From Public Heath Professionals and Scientists

Their expertise lies in how the virus will progress through communities and how well our health systems can handle it. They are watching the curve and making predictions, so pay close attention.

From Economists and the Big Consulting Firms

Sure they understand recessions, which we are entering. However, do they understand pandemic driven recessions? Some of their stuff makes sense, although it’s mostly for big companies. Remember that no one alive has lived through a pandemic like this.

Now We’re Back to You

You have loads of expertise to leverage. Who knows more about your particular business delivery model? Nobody but you. You are experts about your customers and why they buy from your organization. Do you think there’s someone who knows more about your people and how to lead and deploy them? No, you’re the expert here, too. That’s what you’ve got to work with.

You’re expertise will guide you in figuring out how the pandemic will affect all of the areas mentioned above.

I’m confident that you can figure it out. You just need a bit of focus and confidence in what you know.

There are six areas of focus for you, the CEO or owner.

  • Your personal health and well being. This covers both physical health and mental health. Make sure you take care of these things first. You can’t help others if you aren’t healthy yourself.
  • Your vision of the near future. Determine you worst case, best case, and middle case scenarios. Follow the middle road.
  • Do your numbers. Don’t wait; do this right now. Figure out what 15%, 30%, and 45% drops in revenue and what actions to take to break even in each case. After you complete this task, you’ll know the trigger points for action and the actions you will need to take. You’ll then be clear and confident about them.
  • Communication and leadership. Your team wants to know where you are headed. Tell them. Be FREQUENT and TRANSPARENT with your communications.
    • Communicate that your objective is to get to the other side in good enough position to grow again. This current time will pass.
    • You need to communicate the company plans for when one of you gets sick.
    • Communicate the specific actions you are doing to get through through this.
  • Cash and profitability.  Watch the cash like a hawk. Anticipate the impact of supply chain disruptions, and talk to creditors about extending your credit.
  • Opportunities. There is always opportunity in disruption. Mitigate risk, but spend some time finding opportunities.
    • Can you improve your COGS and add offerings to improve your margins?
    • Is there a way to reach more customers?
    • Can you improve your processes and maximize your cash conversion cycle?
    • Can you “gussy up” any in thing else in your business in anticipation of the recovery?

I’m available to walk and talk you and your leadership teams through these conversations. I’ve opened up more of my schedule to accommodate your calls for quick chalk talks to get your started on finding your “middle road” to the other side of the pandemic. Here’s the link to my calendar to set up a call

Two final thoughts:

  • Many others are experiencing the same bad luck you are.
  • No one will get through this without help from others, so welcome the help.

Set Up Discovery Meeting with Michael Synk

How To Be More Confident with Service Providers

Do you wish you had more confidence in your service providers? I’m not talking about service providers like internet or cell phone service or delivery services like FedEx or UPS. This is in reference to those professional service providers whose advice and expertise you rely on regularly. They are there to keep your business running successfully and profitably. Service providers like attorneys, bankers, advertising agencies, marketing firms, P.R. companies, accountants, software developers, and IT companies that keep your computer networks running can be important.

These service providers are necessary partners in your success.

They can keep you out of ditches, finance growth, build the right kind of infrastructure, count your money, pay your taxes, help you land clients, and get the word out about your company. Most have expertise you don’t have, making them very valuable. Yet, this can also make them confusing to deal with, unless you have previous experience in their particular area of expertise. They have different views of the world and how it works than you do. This can be confusing at best and intimidating at the worst.

How do you really know the true value of the advice being given or the actions being proposed?

The first thing to remember is that no one knows your business as well as you. Advisers can never know what makes your business tick as well as you. Notice I said the word “can” and not “do.”  It’s not a given that you, as the owner, know your business as deeply or as thoroughly as maybe you should. You can know it well and completely, but many owners don’t or don’t have confidence in it.

As I write this, I’m reminded about the client I was working with a few years back. This person employed a high-powered marketing expert whose hard charging advice he deferred to. Her advice and background caused him to doubt his deep expertise and experience in his business. Therefore, the excellent strategic plan we had put together was ignored. He spent $200,000 plus in radio advertising. That service delivered exactly no customer traffic to his location. His core customers were out-of-town convention visitors and vacationers who didn’t listen to local radio stations. He later apologized to me for not trusting his brand promise in his strategic plan. After all, it was derived from his deep understanding of his core customer.

Develop a good strategic plan.

The best way to make sure you truly understand the dynamics of your business is to study it under the guise and guidance of a good strategic planning process. Put your leadership team, and other sharp people, together for some self-examination of company. Turn what you learn into a strategic plan. This can be a do-it-yourself project, especially when your organization is small. The larger it gets, the messier the creation of a good strategy gets. More people in the company means more complexity and more confusion.

Get an experienced strategy coach who follows a proven methodology to help you.

What a good strategy coach does is to make you examine and dig into the expertise in your business. You very likely may have forgotten what you have. He’ll dig it out of your collective brains. A good strategy coach will force you to challenge the accuracy, relate it to your current circumstances, and help you apply to your future. You’ll find out you know more than you thought about your strengths and weaknesses, market conditions, purpose and values, and why your customers buy from you. I am completely convinced that my clients really know this stuff better than they think they do. I find this especially true when it comes to information about their customers and why they buy.

A good strategy coach helps you define all of this and evolve it.

Then you’ll differentiate it. When you have this down, in a simple and understandable format, you now have the expertise at hand to advise the service providers mentioned at the beginning. You’ll be able to deal with them as partners with equal levels of expertise, albeit in different areas. You’ll be able to understand their expertise more fully and advise them more accurately on how they can help. Furthermore, you’ll be able to select partners whose expertise fits your situation best.

Now equipped, you’ll have confidence in service providers abilities to assist and deliver.

Develop a strategy plan using proven strategic planning methodologies that is based on what you can know better than anyone else: your business.

Set Up Discovery Meeting with Michael Synk

Leadership Lessons Learned at Duck Camp

Michael Synk and friends at his first duck hunt where he learned some leadership lessons. #GetInSynk

Recently, I checked an item off my bucket list. You see, I’ve really wanted to go on a duck hunt, therefore a combination duck hunt / leadership development trip was just what I needed to do.

I took charge of the leadership development portion, and my host took charge of the duck hunt.

I’m not a hunter. Nothing against hunting, it’s just something that I didn’t grow up doing. I’m a big city kid who did the four-sport rotation growing up. In my case, in Michigan, that was baseball, football, hockey, and basketball with some soccer, golf, and swimming thrown in for good measure. Consequently, that meant no duck hunts.

Since I moved to Memphis 26 years ago, I’ve been intrigued by the passionate duck hunting conversations between my duck hunting friends. I’ve really wanted to see what goes on during a hunt that makes these guys so passionate.

The collaborative conversations that took place to plan out the next morning’s hunt were the first things that I noticed.

They came to agreement on the who, what, when, where, and the logistics of how the hunt would take place. No blaming, no shaming. All were aimed at coming to agreement on a plan of action that took in the input and talents of everyone going on the hunt, including me, the rookie on the team.

The special duck hunting language and lingo ensures that everyone knows what’s going on and what their roles will be. Everyone was fully engaged.

Come to think of it, that’s great business practice.

The next morning, the plan from the evening before was fully executed. Not that there weren’t obstacles along the way, but because all the objectives were agreed upon and committed to, the hunters were able to flex their way to the duck blind. No time lost. Everyone had each other’s back.

On to the plan.

At the blind, we took up our assigned roles. Two hunters called the ducks in and also directed the rest of us on when and where to look to shoot. The tension brought everyone to full attention. Ducks were called, announced, and then fired upon, with the dog being released immediately to fetch the kill.

Then, we were off to a celebratory breakfast in town with more conversations.

Stories, stories, stories.

That’s when I really understood what was going on and the passion for it. Duck hunting is a culture. One that’s built on camaraderie, conversation, inclusion, celebration, and alignment around a common goal. We came, we saw, and we conquered. Veni, vidi, vici.

A good leader aims for the same thing in an organization. Imagine if your culture was as intense and engaging as the duck hunters on a hunting trip. It’s possible, and it’s what I work on with my clients. When my clients achieve it, the hunt is on and growth ensues.

7 attributes of agile growth

Planning Perfectly?

Planning Perfectly? Business Blog by Michael Synk - #GetInSynk Business / Executive Coaching

Planning for a new year is not an unusual undertaking. You may even have meetings several times during the year dedicated to this purpose.

Do you try to make your plans perfect during the process?

You may be hurting your organization with your planning more than helping. In the planning process, when you try to make perfect plans, you are holding yourself back. You’re probably restricting your organization’s growth, as well.

Strategic planning trumps perfect planning.

Strategic planning is the ongoing process of setting the direction of your company. It’s an ONGOING process. Get your plan right for the time being, and then get going on getting it done.

There is quote, that has been paraphrased repeatedly, that applies to this discussion. “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.” Those words came from General George Patton.

It’s impossible, and it’s always been impossible, to create a perfect strategic plan.

Stuff happens too fast for a perfect plan to remain perfect for long. However, the direction of the plan can remain true and can be adjusted and refined over time. The major areas of emphasis to achieve the plan have to be decided on but can’t really be perfectly defined. Your path to the future will not be straight. It will evolve over time.

Keeping all of this in mind, don’t go for a perfect plan. Go for the right direction, and get going.

Are You Tough Enough To Be Coached?

Are You Tough Enough To Be Coached? business blog by Michael Synk #GetInSynk

As business owners, we all know that being in business is tough, right? At my Rotary Club meeting, of all places, I learned a new definition of being tough or toughness courtesy of Nick Sabin.

I believe if you adopt this definition of tough, you might just change the game for yourself and your organization.

The speaker at this particular meeting was a four-year starter at the University of Alabama and three-year veteran of the NFL. He spoke to the club members about what it was like to play football at Alabama and for Nick Sabin; it was a motivational speech. It was actually the kind of speech I’m not usually excited about. He started reviewing the five core values of the Crimson Tide football team (I’m not sure he called them core values, or pillars, or standards, but you get the picture).

A new definition of toughness came from his review of the values shared by his Alabama football team.

Frankly I didn’t remember four of the five core values, because I became obsessed with understanding of the core value of being “tough.” (Thanks to a friend of mine, who provided a picture for this blog, you can see all five values.) According to the speaker, Coach Sabin says, “You aren’t tough, if you aren’t coachable.”

He went on further.

You can be the most talented player, smartest player, meanest player, fastest player, strongest player, or most coordinated player, but if you aren’t coachable then you are of no use to the team. Let that sink in. Unwilling to be coached equals being NO use to the team.

To be coachable, you have to be vulnerable and admit you don’t know everything. You have to be able to learn, even when you don’t want to learn. In order to be tough enough to be coachable, you have to be open to input and suggestions. This means even when you don’t like the person giving the input or the way they are making the suggestions. To be coachable, you have to be open to new ways of thinking and doing things. To be coachable, you have to be able to suppress your ego for the good of the team. If you aren’t coachable, you can’t get better. If you can’t get better, you can’t become great.

It takes toughness to be coached. Are you tough enough to be coached? If you are, how about scheduling a discovery meeting with me?

Roll Tide! Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer! As a Michigan Wolverine, I can’t believe I just said those things!

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Onboarding Customers to Increase Sales

Onboarding Customers to Increase Sales by Michael Synk

Recently, I spent a day with Joey Coleman. Joey is the author of Never Lose a Customer Again. Over the course of that day, he shared some ideas we have all heard, but regularly over look, when trying to increase sales.

There’s a basic theme to all of his advice.

“Create a great customer experience, not just in landing the customer and client, but also in the onboarding process, and continue it along the way. Do this with every customer, and you’ll increase your sales at least 25%.”

In his book, Joey outlines a process to follow to build an onboarding process for new customers. It will ensure they will never consider leaving. Without giving his secrets away (they are in his book so they aren’t all that secret; pick up the book), the main message is communicate, communicate, communicate. Do it in ways meaningful to the customer using all forms of communication. Think about using phone, email, snail mail, texts, video, and gifts. Use them in a coordinated way that connects the sales team to the customer care/service team in onboarding and communicating with the customer. Do it intentionally.

What happens is two things.

The customer readily and easily will do more business with you in more ways than the original one. Then, they’ll tell others and influence them to buy from you as well.

Joey is not saying to stop selling. Just make sure the experience of buying from you the first time is incredible, and continue that incredible experience as the customer continues to buy more and tell others about you.

All his advice lines up well with a couple of other books.

Selling Boldly by Alex Goldfayn, and my first book from way back when, The Cheers Model of Marketing: How to Create Customers as Loyal as Norm Peterson. Both advocate that customers that like you will influence others to buy from you, and companies and their sales and service teams need to leverage that.

There’s another post relating to this topic, A Fresh Look at Operational Entanglement, and I’m working on another about Actual Value, Strategic Value, and Influential Value.

I have some copies of The Cheers Model of Marketing at my office, so send me and email if you are interested in getting one. I think I’m going to issue and updated version.


A Fresh Look at Operational Entanglement

A Fresh Look at Operational Entanglement - business blog by Michael Synk

Not too long ago, one of the buzz phrases in the business world was “operational entanglement.” The term described the practice of creating a high value for your customers as you served them. Their successes would be so dependent on you that they would never think about leaving you. It would be painful to switch to another provider.

If you could accomplish the above, you and your customer would be an example of operational entanglement.

I learned the idea a while back from the customer relationship management expert, Don Peppers, who wrote a seminal book on this titled The One to One Future. I recommend this book. Get it, read it, and figure out how to do it.

I’ve been a fan of the book for a while now. Several years ago, it inspired me to write my own book. It, along with an experience at a seminar with one of my fellow attendees, led to The Cheers Model of Marketing: How to Create Customers as Loyal as Norm Peterson. More on that later.

Then, a good thing became something else.

Unfortunately, as far as operational entanglement, many people took the term to mean that you wanted to make it hard, maybe even painfully hard, to disengage from buying from you. The emphasis changed from making your customer’s success an essential part of your service. Instead of never wanting to leave, some took it to mean locking customers into your company so that it would be difficult to leave. Make it so they couldn’t leave, or try to make it feel that way. Services would be interwoven into the way of conducting business, whether high value was being delivered or not.

Think about the pain of switching banks. The same thought can be applied to cellphone plans, internet service, etc. These are good examples of painful operational entanglements. I’m sure each of you reading this can add additional industry specific examples.

I encourage you to go back to the original intent of the term.

Create great customer experiences. Make your service so great,, that it creates such success for your customer and delivers such value, that going elsewhere wouldn’t even be a consideration.

The inspirational experience mentioned earlier? My friend, who will go nameless, drove into New York City from our seminar to eat at his long time favorite restaurant. He hadn’t visited in a number of years. When he walked in the door, the bartender shouted out his name, brought him his favorite style Manhattan, and ordered his favorite steak. It was all from memory without even asking him. How’s that for delivering value and anticipating needs? No wonder he drove two hours to have dinner there. I said to myself, that’s just like on Cheers when Norm walks through the door of the bar. The very next day, I started writing my first book.


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