This blog is all about my latest insights into growth, strategy, and execution.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
My client was right.
This company 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. The president 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.
The president introduced 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.
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