Insights about Growth and all things impacting it within your organization
Recently, I spent some time with the president of a manufacturing company in St. Louis. I wasn’t there to solicit their business or coach them; I was there to learn from them. A client of mine in Memphis recommended that I get to know them, because my coaching of him seemed so similar to how they run their business. He suggested that we were of like mind, and it would worth getting to know this company’s president, Marc Braun.
My client was right.
Cambridge Air Solutions has a phenomenal culture that drives their continued success. They don’t need any help from me, but I learned so much from observing them.
There was one particular observation I made that I want to share.
The biggest learning moment for me came as I witnessed what I’m calling a “live the core-values hack.”
We were walking through the plant. I noticed it was very organized, very productive, and very engaged in lean process. Marc stopped to talk to Davie, an new employee who had started three days earlier. Davie knew the president’s name. He was on top of what he was doing. Also, he was excited about his new job and his new company.
Marc went on to introduce me and asked Davie to explain why he was wearing an optic yellow vest. This was one of those vests that you see road crews wearing. I looked around and didn’t see anyone else wearing one, and this wasn’t a traffic intersection. I was intrigued.
The man in the bright yellow vest explained.
“I’m wearing this so that everyone can help me succeed as a new employee. The vest says to everyone that I’m new, and highlights to everyone else that I could use some help getting up to speed. Everyone has been so kind, introducing themselves to me, helping me, encouraging me, telling me ‘well done.’ It’s been great.”
What a great hack!
I see this as a type of hack that companies need to develop in order to communicate the core values and purpose of the company. In this case, the company has a overriding core value of “Enriching the lives of others in everything we do.”
The yellow vest made it easy for the team to live that core value with Davie. It surely enriched his life. You can bet he’ll return the favor when working with the next person wearing a yellow vest. I’m betting this company has many more practices that make living their culture easy for the team. I can’t wait to learn about them.
Before you go out and purchase a case of optic yellow vests, there’s important work to be done.
Get clear on your core values, purpose, and strengths. Communicate them clearly and often to everyone. Then ask your team, “how can we make it easier for you to live the core values?” I’m pretty sure that if you do this, you’ll come up with something that fits your situation. It’ll work as well as the optic yellow vest Davie was wearing.
Helping CEOs, owners, and entrepreneurs is what I do. We identify core purpose, core values, core customers, brand promise, and core strengths. Then, I use that information to design executable strategic plans that deliver and sustain growth.
Need me or know someone who does? Let’s talk.
That word “growth” is bandied around a lot isn’t it? So much of the talk out there is advice about how to grow your business. We all seem to believe the adage “if your business isn’t growing, it’s dying.”
Have you defined exactly what growth means in your business?
After you consider the question above, you need to answer the follow-up question. Have you considered how much growth is right for you?
Traditionally, growth is often measured by growth in revenue, the top line. It’s what we can easily compare between companies and organizations, so we are bound to look at this first. It relates to bringing in business; more business equals growth, right?
However, we also know growth in revenue isn’t really growth without at least corresponding growth in profits that translates into cash flow. This is the true bottom line of your business. Hopefully, you can run your business and get greater growth in profits over solely a growth in revenue. That turns into more cash. I think we all understand these definitions of growth.
Let’s go a step further. Aren’t other definitions of growth out there as well?
Here are some other definitions I’ve been pondering lately.
- Business growth could be the same revenue but with increased profits.
- It may mean the same revenue and profits that’s been accomplished much more easily.
- Growth could be signaled from the same revenue and profits but with more enjoyable customers or work that is more fun.
I’m still holding on the belief that if your business isn’t growing, it’s probably starting to die. But, these additional definitions of growth give us a better idea of what growing actually can be.
Let’s define what business growth looks like for your organization. Then, we’re ready to unleash the growth that fits your definition.
I’m so glad Netflix is streaming episodes of Cheers, an iconic TV show for those who weren’t around when it originally aired in the 1980s. There is a regular character who causes all of us who have watched the show to yell in unison when we see him walk in to the bar that the show centers around.
Norm Peterson is the lovable accountant who visits the Cheers bar everyday to engage in a little revelry. This character provides an almost perfect analogy for understanding the persona of your “core customer” and using it as the foundation of your strategic plan.
Norm represents the core customer of Cheers. He’s loyal, and he buys regularly. The staff enjoys serving him. Everyone enjoys being at the bar that much more when he’s present. It can be concluded that they also drink more beer. (Disclaimer: I’m not suggesting that heavy drinking is acceptable or that you should run your business like a bar. Alcoholism is a serious sickness. I have recently witnessed a dear relative suffer from it, causing much pain to himself and his family).
That’s pretty much the same definition of your core customer. Norm embodies what you want. He’s loyal, buys a lot from you without fussing too much about price. This person is enjoyable to work with and influences others to buy from you,, too. The staff of Cheers knows Norm like the back of their hands. You should know your core customer the same way.
With Norm, it’s not about the beer. With your core customer, it’s not really about the features and benefits of your product or service either. It’s about the way you deliver your product or service. It’s about the ways that it solves other issues the core customer experiences. Sure, the bar makes their money from the beer they sell to Norm. However, they deliver it to him in a special way (“Norm!”) that addresses his need for camaraderie, his penchant for pranks, and his competitive nature.
What does your “Norm” need?
Your core customer has higher, or deeper needs, than the specific features and benefits of your product or service. Knowing these things about your core customer allows you to create a differentiated Brand Promise. That allows you to build a great strategic plan.
Twenty years ago, I wrote a silly little book titled, How to Create Customers as Loyal as Norm Peterson: The Cheers Model of Marketing. It uses the characters of Cheers instead of business terminology to explain how to build your marketing strategy around your core customers. I also did a number of really funny keynotes on this theme.
A few copies are still available. If you want one and you can figure out how to send me $15 via Venmo, PayPal, or Square, I’ll send you a signed copy.
I just might be updating the book, now that the show is getting a new life with streaming and more people are getting to know Norm.
In my last blog post, I suggested some excellent books to help you lead. Now, I have three more for you to take on.
If you can improve your ability to listen, you’ll improve your ability to lead.
Here are three books that will help you develop your listening skills. Even though these books aren’t really about leading, they will help you be a better leader.
The first book to improve your skills to help you lead is The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier.
Leading isn’t really about telling people what to do. The Coaching Habit teaches a stack of questions to ask. These suggestions almost always seem to work when you need to turn the conversation around. They allow you to help someone think through the problem or opportunity that they bring to you. This gets you off the track that has you solving everything while no one else gets smarter or better.
The second book is Conversational Intelligence by Judith Glaser.
The author introduces how the manner in which you and your team talk with each other determines how difficult the conversation is going to be. Glaser connects it to the biology that is triggered within your brain. This gives you insight as to how to initiate and respond to conversations. Your conversations will be more well received, open, and collaborative.
People can recognize speech patterns (which are behaviors) and decide how to respond to make sure the conversation goes the best way possible. The book is a bit annoying because it seems to be selling a high priced workshop that you “need” to go to in order to become great at this. But, I found that I improved dramatically just by reading the book and following the basics that she presents quite well.
The final book recommendation is Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman.
The people you lead, as well as you yourself, are driven by emotions. While I love stoic philosophy (I’m a big fan of The Daily Stoic), which helps one be more rational and reasoned with our reactions and actions in the world, we just can’t get away from the fact that we are emotional by nature. Developing instincts and intelligence about emotions, both your emotions and others, will help you lead.
I use all of these tools as much as possible when coaching my clients.
Do you want to lead more effectively? Read on.
I’ve got three books for you to read to learn how to succeed at leading. Two are older ones and one is new. Guess what! None of them have anything to do with developing leadership attributes, or getting a better education, or developing your personality, or evaluating your strengths and weaknesses.
They are all about what you actually need to do in order to lead a group of people successfully.
These books are all based on strong research. My suggestions also build on each other.
The first is The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner.
It’s in its sixth edition. What does this mean other than the fact that it’s been around for a while? This means that the research it presents has been replicated six times, confirming its validity.
There are five skills that all successful leaders use when they are leading their teams. They are skills that can be learned by anyone regardless of attributes, personality, education, or background. In no particular order, and I’m paraphrasing, but the skills discussed are: challenging the status quo, inspiring a shared vision, giving the power to others, walking their talk, and celebrating successes.
The second book to read is Multipliers by Liz Wiseman.
This book, in its second edition, studies the difference between good leaders and the great ones. Great leaders get so much more out of their teams compared to just good leaders, hence the name “Multipliers.” They are able to double or triple the performance of their existing teams.
They adopt a mindset of “we are smart enough to figure this out.” Spending most of their time defining the opportunity/problem, they then let everyone on the team have at it. Great leaders don’t solve the problem themselves or tell others what to do.
Finally, the third book is The Nine Lies About Work by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall.
The authors of this one come at it a bit differently. They studied the commonalities of high performing teams as those opposed to average and low performing teams. They’ve measured what high performing teams are getting from their leaders and the companies that have enabled them to become high performing.
As a leader, you want to measure how you are doing on these things with your “followers.” Then, move the needle with your own behavior to improve.
I think you can see how these books build on each other and relate to each other. They are all about what to do, instead of what to become.
Now, for the plus one.
In my coaching, I’m constantly working with leaders and their teams. They want to become better leaders for their teams.
My book, Rock & Sand™, provides a framework. It’s a tool for accomplishing all of the insights from the books previously mentioned.
Draw from all of these, creating a foundation for leading your company to growth with good planning and great leadership.
You’re more than likely familiar with a SWOT analysis. You know, the exercise that you use to look at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. There’s a good chance that you’re also familiar with the movie from 1987 called “The Princess Bride.”
Have you ever thought about them together?
In a recent book review, during the discussion time, I made reference to one of my favorite movies, “The Princess Bride.” I talked about a scene to illustrate understanding one’s “assets.” I was being facetious of course, but it is a fun way to think about this strategy.
In the past few days, I’ve come to appreciate the scene from the movie where Inigo (Mandy Patinkin) and Fezzik (Andre the Giant) are helping Westley (Cary Elwes) create a strategy for storming the castle. The goal is to save Buttercup (Robin Wright). They have limited resources. Here’s the scene (excuse the ad that runs first):
Seems to be a BHAG in there (rescuing Buttercup) and a pretty fair analysis of the liabilities (3 vs 60). We also have a superficial analysis of the assets (brawn, brain, and steel) and some questions that reveal some hidden assets (wheelbarrow and a holocaust cloak). Spoiler alert, if you watched the movie, you know the three of them succeed.
Doing a SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats), a SWT (strengths, weaknesses, and trends), or a SOAR (strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results) will help you find assets you have quite possibly overlooked.
One of these processes should be an integral part or your regular strategic planning process. That is if you want to successfully storm the castle.
Book a meeting with me to learn the best ways to incorporate such tools into your planning. I like the SOAR the best, then SWT, but a good SWOT works as well.
You know that you have a good strategy. You also have confidence that your team knows what to do. However, you know there’s something missing. What is it?
I truly wish this not to be the case for you, but you’ve probably asked yourself this question many times over the years of running your business. You will probably ask yourself again many times in the future.
Let me venture a guess at the answer.
My educated guess and experience leads me to point to connections and commitment.
Let’s look at connections.
Strategy can be unconnected to execution in many ways. Maybe it’s been developed from the top and handed down, so the frontline and middle managers are at least initially skeptical of the changes the strategy requires. After creating the strategic plan, is it talked about regularly, and measured for progress, making sure everyone is contributing instead off everyone going back to what they were doing? After all, the day to day activities that generate cash are flying at them constantly (the SAND) and that comes first, right? Is the strategy even communicated to the frontline, or is it kept in a drawer for just a select few? (Ask me about the mushroom school of management sometime). Is the strategy connected to the higher needs of the core customer? This means that your strategy is connected to what the customers need to buy, instead of you want to sell them,
Answer these questions, and you will start finding what is missing due to a lack of connection.
Take a look at commitment.
So often, teams aren’t truly committed to the strategy or even the company. They’re just putting time in to collect the income they need. Have you effectively communicated the impact your service/product makes to it’s customers and the world? Did you ask them to be involved in the creation of the plan? Have you asked your people how to accomplish the new initiatives of the plan and included them in assessing progress? Do you help them understand how they individually contribute to the overall success of the plan? Have you acknowledged their input and acted on it when possible?
Address these questions. You’ll start finding what is missing because of lack of commitment.
Increased connection and commitment unleashes growth.
After you understand how to make the connection between ROCKS and SAND, and you want to go further, connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you know that I also do _____? I’m not really asking you this actual question right now. This is a tale of a personal case study that comes from this question.
These three questions are key.
- The first questions is “What are you working on that I could help you with? Pretty obvious. Flushes out business opportunities.
- The second question is “Who do you know, like yourself, who would benefit from working with me the way you do?” Another damn good question that flushes out referrals for you.
- The third question, “Did you know that I also do ___?” This might be the best question for your friendlies.
I tested the questions out myself.
I’ve spent the past two weeks calling friendlies to ask the three questions. It’s added to my funnel, and it’s built my confidence. Get Selling Boldly, or read my last blog to understand why this works. Really, it’s the responses to the third question that have caught my attention.
I have been missing opportunities for new business.
My friendlies all knew about the core strategy/execution coaching work that I do, using the Rock & Sand™ model, the Baseline Growth Roadmap, and Gravitas’ Four Decisions™ model. None of them knew that I do one day, in- and-out, coaching engagements called Tune-Ups. I thought they knew; it’s on my website after all. Not one of the 25 friendlies I called knew about them. I hadn’t told them, because I forgot to.
Several are now considering additional engagements with me, but almost more importantly they now know what they can refer people to me for. All of them have had their thoughts triggered to think about other ways I could be of assistance to them.
Do your customers know?
Your customers, even your best ones, are too busy to read your site to find out what else you do. You have to break through and let them know. Calling them and telling them is how. It’s easy, and your friendlies will appreciate the call and appreciate learning about your other offerings.
As I said in my last blog, get the book. Read it, and do it.
Now that you know about the other things I do:
- What are you working on that I might be able to help you with?
- Who do you know, like yourself, that would benefit from working with me?
Not being a “sales guru” I was initially hesitant to write a review of Selling Boldly, by Alex Goldfayn. In the end, I came to realize that the book is wise about sales and so many other things that I really needed to do a book review.
Here’s the short version.
Pick up the book. Download the forms, and do what Alex says. Just do it. That is if you want to improve your results.
Here’s the longer version.
Alex brings so much common sense to selling that you can’t ignore this book. You’ll sell more effectively. You’ll build your confidence, and you’ll get referrals. You will be able to get more business from existing customers. How?
By picking up the phone and calling them.
- Fewer people today are using the phone. You’ll stand out from your competitors. Digital communication is great for confirming things and sending information. It’s not ideal for building relationships.
- Most people hesitate calling their customers because they are afraid of bothering them, or they think the customers don’t want to hear from them. They may even think they will make them mad. Alex says this is nonsense. Head-trash you talk yourself into.
- Your customers, with whom you are succeeding, are friendly. His word for them is “friendlies.” They want to hear from you and want to tell others about you and most likely would do more business with you if they knew how. So call them. Just do it.
- Alex applies the science of positive psychology to sales. The researched and tested findings, of Martin Seligman, PhD, the father of modern positive psychology.
There’s more to “Selling Boldly” than just this. More for another blog.
The daily huddle is an event that we talk about when following the Four Decisions Model™. It’s something we should all be doing.
My normal advice for the daily stand-up huddle is for everyone to briefly report the “main thing” that they need to accomplish that day, no matter what happens.
After sharing their main things, then share any intel or information that’s useful to others that has came up since yesterday’s huddle. Follow that step with bringing up any “stucks” that one is dealing with. Pretty simple right?
I’m re-thinking that advice.
The positive psychology research that I’ve been reading recently says something that stuck out to me. It points out what confident people do at the beginning of each day. They decide how they will successfully negotiate the day. This is done by mentally drawing a picture for themselves about what success looks like for everything on their plate that day, large and small items, easy and difficult items. When they do that, they perform better that day. Each success of the day brings confidence to the next task of the day and continues building confidence through the day.
Let’s win your daily huddle by making it more meaningful and positive.
The intent of the daily huddle becomes how the team “will win the day.” It’s not just reporting on what’s going to happen or what has got to get done. A winning daily huddle has that along with the team telling each other what succeeding looks like that day.
Why not bring this to the daily huddle? Seems to me we should make “winning the day” the theme of the huddle each day. Have each person report in on the main thing they need to get done that day. Then they tell their team what winning (or success) looks like in getting it done. It builds confidence for the individual and the team. It also engages the team to help with stucks when winning appears to be really difficult.
What do you think of introducing this to your daily huddles?
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