fubarWe’ve all experienced Murphy’s Law and we all know what it feels like when things don’t go according to plan. In business (or in the military it is called FUBAR- please don’t ask me to spell out the acronym), you can count on something going wrong on a regular basis.  There are so many cogs turning at once, it’s inevitable. The question you need to consider is not whether something will go wrong, but rather how you’ll handle it when things do go wrong.

Now most of the time, the challenges that arise are small enough that they don’t seriously jeopardize the future of your business, but sometimes there are major setbacks or obstacles that do pose a serious threat to business success.

It could be an accident, the break-up of a partnership, the loss of a major customer, a lawsuit, a death in the family, divorce or any number of other things that affect your life or business. In challenging times like these, there are to two things that can serve you well: Perspective and Preparation.


“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”

—Charles R. Swindoll

Your perspective is derived from a number of life experiences like: your up-bring, your core values, major challenges, and many of your life obstacles.  The important matter here is the way you choose (stress again the word choose) your appropriate response. Without having a mythology for an appropriate response, all the challenges, obstacles, frustrations and annoyances that naturally arise in business will be exactly what they seem to be: problems. But with a productive mythology, all of those problems become opportunities to do better, to learn more, to improve and transform your business.

Despite logic, many employees go through an ‘entrepreneurial moment’ and feel the need to start their own business with the ambition that, “I can do ______ better than my former owner/superior”.   However, these new business owners set themselves for failure  due to their ‘employee’ mindset and knowledge base.  What happens is these new business owners operate their business entirely from the perspective of a technician. So why is this?  Most employees are trained only as technician’s and are entirely focused on the mechanics of business, not the results.  Consequently, when things go wrong, it represents a problem that has to be dealt with- usually with great effort, time, money and pain. These business owners find themselves working harder on problems and consequently losing focus of working “on” the business.  The inevitable result is: burn out, negativity, loss of hope and loss of the vision for the business.

Entrepreneurs know better. To the true entrepreneur, nothing is impossible and the world is full of endless opportunities. Therefore by working smarter, not harder, the entrepreneur doesn’t get burned out or disheartened—even in the worst of times.  So all problems and potential problems are dealt with on a productive and proactive perspective.


While it’s true that no amount of planning or preparation can account for everything that might happen in your life or business, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan! The good news is that if you’re doing SMART strategic planning, you have already prepared for the unexpected.

Strategic planning is one of the most powerful activities you can engage in as a business owner and it will prepare you for the unexpected. Strategic planning includes things like: a clear vision for your company’s future, a functional cash and operating budget, cash reserves for problems or opportunities, and a clearly defined hiring and training (and on-going training) plan for all new and existing employees.

By planning for the future you have greater clarity of things that could possibly go wrong and disrupt your plans. Strategic planning helps you prepare for the eventualities that might otherwise have stayed off your radar, sometimes ‘problems’ require you to rethink your goals and objectives. When this happens you now have the opportunity to reassess and reevaluating your future vision and goals and determine the next tactical steps. You are also afforded the opportunity to properly align the present conditions to your future vision.

What to do when things go wrong:

– Be clear about your personal objectives and vision (what really matters to you)

– Stay committed to your Strategic Plan

– Work strategically on your business for the future

– Leave room for errors and have contingency plans

– Control your immediate and ‘gut reaction’ to any problem.

– Accept all problems as an opportunity for a positive change.


By adopting an entrepreneurial mindset, you stay positive, productive and look for the opportunity in all things.



General George Armstrong Custer

General George Armstrong Custer

Economic events and major shifts in the competitive marketplace caused many companies (including whole industries) to completely rethink their business models and strategic plans. To their peril, many businesses let their strategic planning efforts lapse into a meaningless exercise in goal setting, or worse yet budgeting, only to discover that the underlying assumptions they were operating their business are no longer valid or are obsolete.

Today, it is crucial to use a disciplined process to assess how economic and industry dynamics are likely to play out, and then create an effective strategic plan to confront these realities.  It is now important to make strategic planning an ongoing quarterly process, not an annual event.

Business leaders routinely acknowledge that they need to make changes to their company’s strategy, however some become incredibly frustrated when they share their vision for the future with their employees, only to find that the implementation breaks down or the plan never gets any traction.   Remember just one thing . . . Execution is the primary job of the Business Leader.

Suppose that a company has gone through a Strategic Planning Process.  They have involved all the key managers and team members in the process and obtained their complete commitment.  Then, they carefully craft an effective strategic plan to properly position the business for the future success in their industry.   So what happens next, or better yet what doesn’t happen next?  Often, the plan simply fades away when managers go back to being “busy” in the business with routine day-to-day demands.

Harvard Business School professor Robert Kaplan, say, “90% of strategies fail due to poor execution”.  But how do successful companies align their daily activities to achieve their long term strategic priorities?  What is interesting is that . . . .

– Only 27% of employees have access to the company’s strategic plan.

– Only 5% of employees fully understand and embrace the company strategy.

– And, 92% of organizations do not measure Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s).

Don’t focus here, Business Leaders still need to oversee the day-to-day operations, make certain products/services are sold and delivered, satisfy customer’s needs and fighting fires.  But that is simply known as “just doing the job”.  Effective leadership is the ability to simultaneously devote sufficient time and attention to implementing the key action priorities identified in the strategic plan.

Just Three Things:

Business leaders need the ability to clearly articulate the top 3 things strategies in the strategic plan and the ‘rocks’ that need to be work on.  Therefore, everyone in the company should know:

1-  What are the top 3 strategic moves the company needs to make over the next 3-5 years in order to properly position the company for the future success in the industry?

2- What are the top 3 actions the company must execute in the current quarter?

3- What are the top 3 actions each key person must personally implement in the next quarter?

The priority here is that business leaders need to clearly communicate strategic action priorities and then align key persons to the achievement of this plan.  This action is considered a major accomplishment and a critical first step for execution of the plan.  The next step is for individual managers to ensure these actions are carried out on a quarter, weekly and daily basis, by consistent management of KPI’s.  Business Execution Professionals, reveal that one or more additional success habits (see below) drive the execution of the strategic plan.

Weekly Action Priorities

Strategic leaders ask their direct reports every week, “What is the #1 thing you are going to do this week that will contribute toward your strategic action priorities for the quarter?”  The intention is for staff to publicly articulate, commit and reaffirm their #1 strategic action priority on a regular basis.

Business Execution Software

Simple software solutions are available that communicates strategic plans that team members can understand.  The software breaks down strategic plans down into quarterly and weekly action priorities and individual staff accountability.  Some software drive the execution via email reminders, SMS texts and outlook synchronization.  This empowers management to have better control and drive the focus and effectiveness of the teams.

External Accountability

External parties, like Coaches and Mentors, are better at challenging the leader’s assumptions, holding the key members accountable, facilitating the accountability of KPI’s, providing alternative options and giving an impartial 10,000 foot perspective that cannot be obtained from colleagues and subordinates. By using external sources, leaders get a vital perspective on the objectives and implications of the strategic decisions.




Sales Up“I need more sales.” If I had a dime for every time I heard that from a client . . . . But seriously, the issue of sales (or lack thereof) comes up all the time; most often from clients who are just beginning our Mentoring Programs.

Think about it, what business couldn’t benefit from more revenues, more cash, and more stability? Business owners can very easily find themselves distracted by the lure of “more sales.”  Sometimes that is just what the business needs.  And sometimes, it just isn’t. The reality is that more sales does not always equate to more money.

As Coaches/ Mentors we admit that I have the advantage of perspective, having worked with dozens of clients on this very issue. We have seen what works and what doesn’t and it’s our job to try to get the client to find the path that works. We start by digging a little deeper into what the client really needs, because often, the frustration they presume to be dealing with isn’t really the frustration that’s causing all the problems.

Let me give you an example. One of my clients told me that she desperately needed more sales. She and her partner had been working really hard in the Mentoring Program; they were developing systems, implementing innovations and cranking through the development of their business, but it wasn’t working for them – at least their efforts were not turning into immediate profits. In fact, they were working longer hours, spending more time worrying about cash flow and they were starting to lose control over the business as a whole. They were confident that the problem was the result of not enough sales. They wanted to discuss how they could ramp up their leads right away.

So, we explored their frustrations in greater detail, and it became clear that it really wasn’t a sales issue they were facing. The reason they were spiraling out of control wasn’t because of a lack of intention…it was a lack of attention to the right aspect of their business.

Instead of focusing on sales (or more specifically, their lead generation and lead conversion systems) we turned our attention to their financial management systems. They’d already started the Testing and Measuring process, and were beginning to track the flow of information that arises in the normal course of business—invoices, purchase orders, cash register tapes, bank deposits, and lease payments—all of the things that captured the movement of money into and out of their business. But they’d yet to organize or analyze that information in any meaningful way. And when we did that, we found our answer.

They were working themselves into the ground not because they didn’t have enough sales, but because they simply weren’t profitable in their per unit sales. And no matter how you slice it, more sales will not suddenly make you profitable. More sales would only have increased their cash flow for a few days, but the long-term impact would have been devastating to their business. In fact, when we looked at the numbers, any significant increase in sales could have ruined them by the end of that quarter.

When in Doubt, Dig Deeper

The bottom line is that the root of your business frustration is not always what and where you think it is. It’s important that you pull yourself out of a tactical reaction when confronting a challenge, and instead approach it strategically. Because every area of your business is connected, what you’re experiencing might merely be a symptom in one area (Lead Conversion for example) of your business, when the real cause of the problem is in a different area (Cash).

Business Examination

Now, we want you to get in a little business exercise.  We want you to practice this strategic thinking.  Here are three steps to follow when confronted with a problem in your business:

  1. Explore the big picture. What is the real impact this frustration has on you, your employees, your customers and your business?
  2. Then quantify anything and everything that might be a result of this situation. Whether its lost time, productivity, lost revenue… every frustration is ultimately costing you money.
  3. Keeping the first two steps in mind, observe the frustration objectively. Avoid blaming people, and instead, focus on the systems. Walk step-by-step through the sequence of events until you’re able to dissect what’s really going on. You’ll probably identify areas that can be improved with system implementation right away.

After noting problems for a few weeks, go back and look at your notes and deal with them strategically. Common themes of frustration should emerge, such as multiple occurrences in one department, trouble on a given team, more problems on Tuesdays, more issues at 1p.m., delivery problems when it’s raining, sales trouble at the beginning of each month, issues with particular clients, etc. etc.  If you can identify and analyze common elements, it will be easier to pinpoint what has to change. From there, you can develop some standard procedures to deal with those issues.

Team Work Helps

Once you have cultivated this skill within yourself, you can then teach this skill to everyone in your organization. Get them to track their frustrations.  Get them to see what isn’t working. Meet with them regularly to get them thinking about a system that could fix the underlying problem, and then hold them accountable for developing that system. Just imagine what your business could achieve if everyone, at every level of the business, could solve one frustration every month.

Shift Your Thinking

Without the correct thought process, you can expect the same frustrations to keep popping up again and again. Remember: every frustration you have in your business is due to the lack of an effective system, but first ‘drill’ down to find the real cause. With this perspective, you might discover that sometimes you need more sales. And sometimes, you’ll discover that what you really need is a solution to a much larger issue.


happy dentistThe WOW Factor and Critical Non-Essential Factors are about systematizing the ‘Little Things’ in your business and deliver an incredible customer experience that will make your customers Raving Fans! Imagine your customers describing your business in glowing terms to their friends and help you grow your customer base. This service concept changes your perception of the customer experience.  For example, Dr. Paddi Lund is known around the world as the crazy Australian dentist who:

– Ripped up his front reception desk with a chainsaw

– Fired all of his C and D patients

– Built his lobby around a kitchen so you smell fresh baking instead of dental smells

Critical Non-Essentials

In Dr. Lund’s dental practice the little things make all the difference.   During the ramp-up of his new dental practice, he did a variety of the proven and tried methods. After years of struggling with the usual methods of what was expected in building a dental practice, he found is that most people had no idea what the standard of quality of care really is. Instead, he found that the finer aspects of dentistry and the patient atmosphere were the items that truly impacted his patients. Why? Well that’s because:

  • All patients are served tea impeccably in fine china.
  • Each patient’s names and their photographs are actually on the door of their own personal lounge.
  • Each patient is greeted by name by their own Care Nurse when they ring the doorbell.
  • Each patient is served ‘Dental Buns’ (freshly baked buns) when served with their tea.
  • If the patient doesn’t want tea, he also has a cappuccino machine.
  • The lobby is full of fresh flowers.
  • There is also an array of dried fruits and nuts.

Do Your Customers Perceive Your Quality?

When you begin to understand what customers remember about your business, you will realize that it is rarely associated with the core part of what you do. The WOW Factors and Critical Non-Essentials are the little things in business that are so important in determining how clients or patients judge your product or service even though they have very little to do with the product or service itself.

Creating the WOW

Marketing the WOW Factor is all about doing something that makes others smack their foreheads and say, “WOW why didn’t I think of that?!”  It’s about taking something ordinary in one place and re-purposing it another place and making it extra-ordinary. Home staging consultants do this all the time when they are asked for their expertise in marketing a home that has been difficult to sell.  So for example, if you move an old piece of furniture into a different room and restage the room, you give a new environment to the room and the furniture.

When you implement existing marketing tactics in unexpected areas, you offer a new perspective of your products that could potentially pay off.  Marketing the WOW is a new twist that could have your customers saying WOW long after you’ve cashed their checks

To Do List:

Take a look at what your competition is doing? Yes, you’ve heard this before and yes you might say you’ve done it, but did you research it as far as you needed to go? This means talking to customers, watching the competition, do research about others in your respective field, and discover why some businesses are seemingly on the ‘cutting edge’.

1- Make it a point to offer one product or service that can add real bottom-line dollars to your business.  A uniform company out of Arkansas added deodorizers to their already-full trucks realizing that the deodorizers were an opportunity to brand themselves differently from their competitors. Other uniform businesses have followed suit with profitable results.

2- Throw away pre-conceived ideas such as “customers don’t want it that way.” How do you know? Have you asked the customers you currently have or have you asked those who don’t purchase from you?

3- Group some of the products you offer by solution, not by type or vice versa. Catalogs like Victoria’s Secret often will run the same product in several places. This is meant to increase the odds of purchasing, since the viewer now is in another state of mind. In addition, they might not see the item when it’s on Claudia Schiffer, but notice it on another model in another color.

4- Look across industry lines to see what has brought success to others. Schwan’s food company sells high-quality groceries, not vacuums or encyclopedias, door-to-door. Again, implementing a tactic that you wouldn’t normally see in your industry can yield surprisingly good results.


Start thinking outside the box and think about the WOW Factors and Critical Non-Essentials that you can create with minimal expense, but with maximum impact.  What three things can you start doing this week?