In-Synk Blog

This blog is all about my latest insights into growth, strategy, and execution.

Is Your Founder’s Front Line In Focus?

Lost Your Founder's Front Line Focus? - Michael Synk - #GetInSynk

Let’s talk about the third predictable pitfall of growth.

One of the key strategic advantages a company can have is the founder’s focus, especially as it applies to the front line.

Obviously, the founder of your organization (maybe you?) started the business. To be successful starting any sort of company, the founder usually has a unique understanding of everything on the front lines of the business. He/she was the frontline, sales person, customer service person, negotiator, marketing person, order taker, etc. As such he/she knows what it takes to successfully transact business with customers. The customers and all their nuances are known. The founder knows the deal; he knows the challenges the front line has when transacting business. His knowledge of this, and his ability to do it, is why the company has come so far.

What happens when the founder steps away?

So often, the founder steps away from the front line or stops paying attention to the front line transactions. When that happens the company is at risk. Just ask Howard Schultz of Starbucks.

After years of great year-over-year growth, he sold the business. It flat lined, much to the chagrin of the buyers. This is the third predictable pitfall to growth that you want to avoid.

The new management changed the focus to efficiency and took their eyes off the front line transactions and how they attract sales. The barista’s became hidden (the barista performs a key front line activity), menu changed and became less coffee oriented (key front line attraction), and the stores became smaller which made hanging around less attractive (again a key front line ambiance). There were many more similar things too numerous to mention.

The new guys didn’t appreciate everything that went on at the front lines. Schultz came back and noticed the mess ups. They were called self-inflicted wounds. He triaged them, and therefore made Starbucks four times more valuable than before the sale. The founder’s focus returned.

Find, define, and remind your team of your founder’s focus and how they can continue it.

Have You Misdefined Your Core?

Have You Misdefined Your Company's Core? - Michael Synk - #GetInSynk

Misdefining your core is the first predictable pitfall of growth.

Defining your core is essential. A company’s core, its core strengths, core processes, core capabilities, core customers, are the most distinctive and powerful assets a company can have.

Unless it is something special, your business is a commodity. It determines where and why you win. It determines how your most loyal customers choose you.

Still, many companies get it wrong. Not intentionally, but they still misdefine it. In my last blog post, I talked about the second pitfall of growth. Now you know the first predictable pitfall of growth.

So, how does a company misdefine this?

  • They apply it too narrowly. (Netflix asked Blockbuster to buy them for $50M in 2008.)
  • They apply it too broadly. (Trying to be all things to all people.)
  • They shift poorly. (Legos started selling children’s clothing.)
  • They fight on too many battlefields. (Selling and competing everywhere instead of dominating just a couple of channels.)

Don’t lose the love of your cores. Double down on them.

How Many Steps From the Core is Your Next Growth Initiative?

How Many Steps From Your Core is Your Next Growth Initiative? - #GetInSynk

It’s an intriguing question.

Strategy expert Chris Zook asked the audience. I could see that it challenged everyone. “How many steps away from your core is your next growth initiative”?

This audience was a room full of  entrepreneurs and many Gazelles International Coaches (I’m one). Chris Zook, from Bain, was presenting a talk entitled, “The Three Predictable Pitfalls to Growth and How to Avoid Them.” The question addressed the second pitfall. We’ll take a look at the other two pitfalls in future posts.

Scale-able Growth comes from the repeatability. Zook contends that most companies fail to leverage this repeatability by making strategic moves that are NOT adjacent to their core. Another way of saying this is that leadership takes too many steps away from what it’s good at. Go only one step away at a time, and you leverage your repeatability. He called these adjacent moves, and he listed six types of them. Each of these is just one step away from the core.

  1. New geography or territory
  2. Additional channels
  3. New value chain
  4. New customer/consumer segment
  5. Different products
  6. New businesses

These moves are each one step away from the core. Doing two of them takes you two steps way, doing three, three steps away, and so on.

Trying to do more than one step away decreases your chance to succeed.

When you try to take more than one step away from the core that has been successful, it multiplies complexity instead of just adding it. Sticking to one step away at a time, until it is mastered, is the way to grow, according to Zook. He had the data and case studies to back it up. Eighty-seven percent of executives indicated that their one step adjacent moves were much more complex than they anticipated.

He introduced “strategy on a hand,” which I found compelling. One step away is your thumb, the second step away is the index finger, the third step away is your middle finger, and so on. Don’t go further away than your thumb.

I’ll talk about pitfalls #1 and #3 in my next two posts.


Six Signs Your Strategic Planning Process Is Too Simple

Six Signs Your Strategic Planning Process Is Too Simple - Michael Synk - #GetInSynk

If you agree with any of these six, you have some work to do.

Ever wonder about your strategic planning process? You should, because it’s important and should be treated as so.

Here are some things to watch out for that might indicate you’re not treating this process as seriously as you should. Take a look, and give your planning process more teeth.

Six signs that your strategic planning process/system is too simple if…

  1. …it doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable on a regular basis.
  2. …your assumptions, upon which you run your company, are not challenged.
  3. …it doesn’t inspire your team to think or act differently.
  4. …you can update without input from your team or from your customers.
  5. …benchmarks, to which you can be held accountable, aren’t set.
  6. …your team isn’t wringing their hands a bit as they work with you to update it.

After completing your plan, it should be simple enough to understand and clear to everyone on the team. However, it shouldn’t be too easy to create or execute.

So, is your strategic planning process too simple?

  • Click here ( to set up a discovery meeting (no fee) to determine how “Scaling Up” coaching would help you create a simple/clear plan that will guide the hard work of growth.
  • Learn here ( more about the ways I coach owners/entrepreneurs/CEOs to Scale Up.
  • Click here ( to learn about my book and streaming video Rock & Sand.

Do You Have Rock and Sand Confusion?

Confused About Rocks & Sand? - Michael Synk - #GetInSynk

When I start working with new clients, especially those do-it-yourselfers who are already using a “strategy system” like Gazelles’ One Page Strategic Plan or Traction/EOS, there is often what I call Rock & Sand confusion.

Here’s what I observe: they are diligently working hard on moving about 27 rocks at the same time and getting incremental growth as they are moving them. As a Gazelles/Rockefeller Habits Adviser, I’m all in favor of each person on the management or leadership team having a Rock that applies to their specific areas of responsibility. However, I’m certainly not in favor of an organization  having more than two company-wide Rocks at a time. Really, I prefer only one at a time.

Less is more. So, let’s clear this up.

Rocks are major initiatives or projects that move the company forward substantially in the next 90 days. It’s usually cross functional or cross departmental. This means it has a bit of complexity and requires focus by more than one or two people to move it. The following criteria should be applied, “Failure to move the Rock is not an option.

Just last week, I was doing some “naked coaching” with a prospect. I challenged him about his 15 Rocks he was trying to move. While discussing, it was apparent that there was one Rock that if successfully moved in the next 60 days, it would unlock the door to solutions to so many other challenges. The question became, “Why isn’t everyone focused on moving this Rock”?

Stopping him in his tracks is not what I anticipated, but it’s what happened. He had an epiphany about Rocks. Over the next day and a half, he reworked the focus of his entire team. He and four others would drop everything else and work exclusively on this Rock. This would continue until they achieved the successful outcome. The rest of the team would “hold down the fort” on everything else. This meant that they would focus on the Sand. They would keep everything else going until the Rock was moved.

No other duties for those focusing on the Rock. Everyone else was handling the Sand.

Have you a better understanding of Rock and Sand now?

Are You Running Your Business or Is Your Strategic Planning System Running You?

Are You Running Your Business? - Michael Synk - #GetInSynk

I’ve noticed something about those strategy do-it-yourselfers. You know, the ones running their companies with either the One Page Strategic Plan or the Traction/EOS system.

It seems that many of them are really focused on making the system work. So much so, the focus becomes the absolutely correct use of the system. Either system; it doesn’t matter. They focus on the wrong thing instead of the actions and outcomes it should be driving them towards. These DIYers abdicate running and leading the company preferring to concentrate on using the system correctly.

Leaders have stopped leading, therefore leadership is missing.

Don’t get me wrong, as a Gazelles Rock-Habits guy, I love the One Page Strategic Plan, and I’m coming to appreciate the Traction/EOS system as well. I welcome what they can accomplish for you. It aligns your team, creates direction, establishes accountability, and gives context for success.

But, whatever your system, it doesn’t replace leadership and decision making. It’s only a tool, a great tool, but a tool nonetheless. You still have to lead your team, and make great decisions. That never goes away if you want to scale up.

So, ask yourself if you’re running your business or is your strategic planning system calling the shots.

  • Click here ( to set up a discovery meeting (no fee) to determine how “Scaling Up” coaching could help you lead your company better using either of these systems.
  • Learn here ( more about the ways I coach owners/entrepreneurs/CEOs to Scale Up.
  • Click here ( to learn about my book and streaming video Rock & Sand.

Why Didn’t I See This?

Why Didn't I See This? - Michael Synk - #GetInSynk - In-Synk Coaching

“Why didn’t I see this?” That question comes up a lot while I’m coaching. More often than you probably imagine. Usually, it’s after I ask a question or point out something for clarification.

I’m not a genius. Although, I do think I’m pretty smart and experienced at this strategy thing. Certainly, being the outside set of eyes looking at your business has it’s advantages. My clients are often caught up in the weeds.

A fresh set of eyes, trained and experienced to look at specific data, often sees signs clients miss. It’s that I’m both looking at the data differently as well as looking at different data. By data, I don’t mean the financials either. I mean the evidence of all the things going on and how it all fits together or not. Usually, I’m asking for more data. Most of the time, I’m looking about what’s going on more than the client is.

Your strategic operating system is also important. Whether it be the One Page Plan and the Rockefeller Habits or the Traction/EOS system (or some facsimile thereof), it should be pushing this wide ranging data to you so you can see it. Often, those using these systems, especially the do-it-yourself-ers, aren’t getting the strategic operating system to feed them the data. It’s important that you are seeing the right data. You not only want the right data, but you want it delivered in a meaningful way.

As you know, I’m a Gazelles/Rockefeller Habits guy, and it pains me to know that the RockHabits DIYers have this problem just as often as the Traction/EOS DIYers.

Get your strategic operating/organizing system feeding you the right data in a meaningful way.

A fresh set of trained eyes, experienced in working with the right day can help you see the way to growth.

  • Click here ( to set up a discovery meeting (no fee) to determine how I can help you maximize your Strategic Operating/Organizing System so “Scaling Up” is easier.
  • Learn here ( more about the ways I coach owners, entrepreneurs, and CEOs to Scale Up.
  • Click here ( to learn about my book and streaming video Rock & Sand.

“Scaling Up” for Leaders Who Like to Get Their Hands Dirty

Scaling Up is for Leaders Who Like to Be Hands-On and Get Their Hands Dirty - In-Synk Coaching

Leaders have different ways to lead. Some like to give instructions and lead from a distance. Others enjoy an active roll.

Coaching can help different kinds of leaders, but know one thing.

“Scaling Up” coaching is not for the leader who wants to remain distant and lead from afar; it’s for the leaders who like getting their hands dirty while they lead.

These leaders who will benefit most from “Scaling Up” are those who want to be involved in the process of building their enterprises. They are the ones who will be getting everyone else in the organization involved at the same time.

These leaderss are the ones who want to understand the processes within their companies that drive success. They want everyone to be aligned around them and help determine them.

They are the ones who want to be aware of the successes their teammates are producing. These leaders want to know the challenges their teams are struggling with, so they can help them do more. They’re there to help them get unstuck.

They are the ones who are curious about their customers, their employees, their technologies, their marketplaces, and so many other things and want to continuously learn and improve both themselves and their teams.

So are you ready to get your hands dirty and Scale Up your business?


Why Are We Afraid of Discipline?

Why Are We Afraid of Discipline? - Michael Synk - #GetInSynk - In-Synk Coacking

Let’s face a fact; as entrepreneurs, we are all afraid of discipline. The kind that gets us these days isn’t the “this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you” sort of discipline meted out by our parents and teachers and bosses. I’m talking about the discipline of routine that makes sure we get things done.

Let’s take this out of the business environment for a moment first and talk about swimming.

Swimming is the main thing I do to stay in shape and keep my weight down. Once I get in the pool, I love it. I was born to swim. I’m a fish. Knowing the discipline of a regular swim workout is good for me, I have to admit that I feel better and have more energy when I swim regularly and often. You probably have some sort of exercise that works for you like swimming does for me.

Yet, at the same time, I hate being disciplined about getting up in the morning and knocking out my swim workout. I’ll delay it, postpone it, do something else. Regularly, I’ll decide I’ve done good with it and don’t need to do it for a few days. It’s like I’ve got this licked and don’t need it anymore.

Take that picture, and apply it to your work as an entrepreneur. Do you act the same way about key activities you need to be doing to lead your business?

For example, I have a number of clients who struggle with maintaining the discipline of weekly and daily meeting rhythms. They know, intuitively and by practice, that this discipline improves their personal performance and their company’s performance dramatically. But, they still find excuses to let it fall by the wayside. “It hinders my creativity” –wrongo bongo. It enhances creativity and collaboration. “I already meet with everybody individually so I don’t have to…” –wrongo bongo again. It eliminates the need for those meetings and frees up time for other creative activity. “I already know about what we need to focus on” –again wrongo bongo. The problems and opportunities come faster to you so you can creatively and collaboratively act on them sooner and more effectively.

This example applies to so many other disciplines that will make you better and greater. Yet, we avoid them.

When we accept that a particular discipline is good for us, we have to take the “Nike” attitude toward it. “Just Do It.” Discipline will make us and our teams better.

Which reminds me, I bailed on my swim workout this morning for a pretty stupid reason. Talked my way out of it.  So, I will be getting back to the pool this afternoon. It’s good to get back on track.

Consultant or Coach?

Coach or Consultant? Who Do You Need? - Michael Synk - In-Synk Coaching - #GetInSynk

Consultant or coach? That’s an important question to consider. Whether you are facing an obstacle, attacking an opportunity, or creating alignment to drive growth, you need to think. Maybe you don’t need either.

A consultant fishes. A coach teaches you how to fish.

Simple cliche that captures most of what I’m trying to convey.

1–If you are attacking an obstacle or an opportunity, that has to be addressed and addressed right, and you realize that you and your team don’t remotely have the ability to execute on it, then you need a consultant. A good consultant knows the territory. He can come right in and do it for you and do it right, especially if it’s urgent.

2–If you are attacking an obstacle or an opportunity, that has to be addressed and addressed right, and you feel you have talented people (although they may lack knowledge or experience, or they appear to be stuck in the weeds on it) who can get it done, then you need a coach. A good coach knows the territory, has the ability to teach, can facilitate the dialogue that will sort out your plan of attack for your team, and can hold people accountable to doing it. Coaches work well in both urgent and non-urgent, yet important, situations.

3–If you need help prioritizing, planning, motivating, or staying on track, you could probably use a coach as well. Again, a good coach can teach, facilitate the process of making good decisions, and hold the team accountable for long term growth.

With #1 you get it done and get it done right, but you give up control. It can also become expensive. The ROI is usually good but limited to the obstacle/opportunity at hand.

With #2 and #3, it gets done and gets done right. You are involved in the process. Everyone involved becomes better leaders and teammates. You gain control instead of losing it (at least that’s how it works when I’m your coach).

While coaching is perceived to be expensive, it’s usually less expensive than alternatives, and the ROI goes well beyond the benefit of addressing the obstacle/opportunity at hand.

As a coach, I handle #2 (address obstacles/opportunities) and #3 (prioritize, facilitate, and hold teams accountable for long term growth).

So, do you need a consultant or a coach?

Click here ( to set up a discovery meeting (no fee) to determine how my coaching would help you move forward.

Click here ( to learn more about the ways I coach owners/entrepreneurs/CEOs.

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