AngryI recently had a customer service experience that I feel compelled to share.  Just a bit of background first . . .

I used this outside vendor for the past 12 months, with no issues.  However, I was not deriving the necessary ROI (Return on Investment) for this service.  Therefore I cancelled this service, compliant with the understanding they needed 30 days prior notification.  While looking at my business account some 45 days later, I noticed a recent charge that should not have been there- for this very service.  Therefore, I notified the company and requested reversal of the charges.

I received the following email as a reply to my request for the reversal of charges . .

“When you cancel, we do require a 30 day notification, so if you’re notifying us today that you do wish to cancel your agreement with us, that would technically start the 30 day notification as of now, and September would be your final payment due to us.”

After wasting my time researching and providing previous emails to this company, I received the following response . . .

“I wasn’t privy to these emails, so my apologies. I will instruct accounting to reimburse you immediately.”

As of today, over one week later, I am STILL waiting for the reimbursement into my account. In fact I am thinking that my next email will be to question the timeliness of their commitment to the word ‘immediately’.

What went wrong?

This business is not a terribly large, with only 15 employees, but (whether they admit it or not) they have significant challenges with their customer service.

1- Communication.  All communication needs to be shared with all people in their customer service area, by customer account is preferred.

2- Never write an email with a confrontational tone. There should be Systems and Procedures that have an approved email template that customer service personnel can use without deviation.  Remember, the objective for Customer Service is to help the customer not anger the customer.

3- In an apology, there are three critical parts that need to be addressed:

a. We made a mistake.

b. We are sorry for this mistake.

c. What can we do make it up to you?

4- The cost of acquiring a new client is six times more than maintaining an existing client.  I am NOT a satisfied (previous) customer, therefore the ultimate cost of a dis-satisfied customer has an huge exponential (and largely unknown) cost to your business.

5-    Every customer service break-down, represents the opportunity to identify and improve the level of the customer experience.

What to do?

You need to get into your customers’ heads.  Unfortunately, you can’t read minds. The Technician in you accepts this and tries to genuinely meet your customers’ expectations. Unfortunately, this doesn’t cut it.

The business owner wearing the Technician hat takes the easy route and bases the company’s entire customer experience system on the “standard” systems they see everywhere else.

• The automated hold message says, “Your call is important to us…”

• The customer service represent asks, “How may I help you?”

• The supervisor replies in a neutral tone, “I understand your frustration.”

These things might work at times. But they’re not achieving the desired result. In fact, they’re keeping your business stagnant.  If your business is like most, you thrive on repeat business, loyal customers, excellent customer service and positive word-of-mouth.

So, if the desired result is a healthy and thriving customer base that will keep coming back and telling others about you (and it should be), it’s time to change hats. Many companies have been able to achieve this. But staggering numbers haven’t, even though it’s entirely within their reach.

Companies that create a healthy customer base do so by providing an exceptional customer experience. They create an experience with a systematic approach and intention to exceed customer expectations.  It’s not by accident.  It’s by design.  The two areas of focus that most business owners tend to unintentionally overlook are also the two areas that can have the greatest impact on increased sales and profitability.

Customer Service and Delivery

“Customer service” is an overused phrase that has little meaning any more, but customers still want their needs met. To accomplish this requires that customer service is the responsibility of every employee, whether they have direct customer contact or not.

Customer service is different from any add-on service you offer for sale.  If you charge money for a service, it’s part of your product mix.  Customer Service is free.

Customer Service enhances your main offer – it’s not your main offer – but a pleasantly unexpected bonus that reinforces your message that you care.

Customer Service opportunities are endless.  It is a major area that can give you a competitive advantage – especially if you are seen as a commodity with numerous competitors.  So when you start thinking about the customer services you might offer, think beyond the obvious.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What attributes of your business lend themselves to better customer service?  Don’t be afraid to experiment and then elicit feedback from the people who know best – your customers.

Delivery Experience

There comes that moment in your customer experience where your customer accepts delivery of your product or service. This really is the moment of truth. It’s the culminating moment where you either exceed, meet, or fall short of your customers’ expectations.

The mechanics for delivery are different for every business, but every business has a process to get the product or service into a customer’s hands. The question you must ask yourself is: does it “deliver?” Delivery has two main components: transportation and experience.

Transportation runs from very simple to very complicated – from handing your customer their product at the time of purchase to outsourcing to a parcel delivery service. This decision is informed by the nature of the product or service and the available transportation channels.

One of the keys to building customer loyalty is to regularly subject your transportation systems to various measureable analytics – making sure you deliver the result your customers expect at the most reasonable cost.

The delivery experience, on the other hand, is your opportunity to differentiate your business from every other competitor.  In order to do that, you must fully leverage the marketing principle of “sensory impact.”

In other words, you need to do more than simply hand off your product or service to your customer; you need to make them feel good about the value they receive. The way you present your product or service to the customers who purchase it will have a lasting impact on their experience of your business.

While your concerns about delivery might be the costs of shipping, the reliability of your transport company, and whether to ship ground or air, your customers have their own definition of delivery.

They are focused on convenience, speed, and the cost to them. And because they look at how the package arrives, having it delivered by premium shippers like UPS or FedEx can enhance the perceived value to your clients. Not because those trucks are any better than anyone else’s, but because they are associated with speed and convenience.

From your clients’ perspective, you cared enough to satisfy them quickly, even if you had to pay extra for it. The result is a positive delivery experience.  Remember, “the medium is the message.” How you say or do something often has more impact than the actual content of the message.

In other words, the way in which you present your product to your customer may often times have more impact than the product itself.

Doing What It Takes

As a business owner, you know your resources are finite.  There is only so much equipment, inventory, cash, workspace, and employee time available.

When considering how to excel in providing an exceptional customer experience, it’s up to you to get the most value from those resources. But there’s more to it than just quantifying output.

It is counter-productive to your goals to simply squeeze more cost-effectiveness from your processes if it dilutes or sacrifices your customer experience or places undue burdens on your employees.

The key is to manage that delicate balance between productivity and the expectations that fuel true customer satisfaction.



????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????It’s time to crank up the old marketing machine!! Not only marketing for customers but for talent. As with most business owners, you need to dial-back almost a decade to find a time when marketing was as badly needed as it is today.

So, you are not sure where I put my marketing machine? Last I saw it, I think it’s sitting over with sales, but I’m not sure. I know we spend a lot of money to produce lots of marketing ‘stuff’, but I’m not sure who’s really leading the charge.

What we find is that the marketing function is simply missing in many of the company we meet with.  Or, a bigger mistake is take marketing and lump it in with sales with someone titled VP of Sales and Marketing running the show. And for many entrepreneurial firms, it’s the founder/CEO who is the default Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) with insufficient time to focus on the critical marketing tasks needed to drive profitable revenue growth.  So, here are four things you need to know about marketing:

Separate Marketing Function

The first step is to recognize the need for a distinctly separate marketing function with someone clearly accountable other than the VP of Sales. One of the first hires Michael Dell made, when he took back the CEO position recently, was a CMO, a position that had been vacant for over two years. It’s hard to get back market share without someone driving marketing.

Though marketing needs to work closely with sales, it must come out from underneath the sales function and stands alone within the company. Marketing requires different metrics, different conversations, and different personalities than sales. And in many cases the head of marketing should report directly to the CEO if it’s not the CEO driving the marketing process themselves.

In identifying someone to drive marketing, it’s vital to recognize that marketing professionals are different human beings than sales people. One is relationship driven, the other is process driven. It’s not surprising to see marketing leaders with degrees in physics, engineering, or even accounting. One of the best marketers of our time is Steve Jobs and he studied physics (along with literature and poetry) at Reed College.  As the CEO, if you are the best person to drive marketing, then it is imperative that you clear your plate of other functions and get focused on marketing. Marketing is a full time job from day one!

Get Data from Customers and Employees

You need market intelligence to drive your marketing decisions around price, place, promotion, and product, the 4 Ps of marketing – you just can’t be making these decisions in a vacuum.

The simplest approach is for each executive to call one customer per week and talk with one front line employee per week. Find out about their priorities, challenges and pains; inquire what they are seeing in their own industries and demographics; and ask them what they are seeing and hearing from your competitors (by doing a SWOT Analysis). Only last do you ask for their feedback on your firm.

You also need your sales organization calling in DAILY and reporting on what they’ve learned in the field. And the best way to get them to do this is to threaten with weekly sales calls reports!

Meetings and Metrics

The third step is setting up a weekly one hour marketing meeting, distinct from your weekly sales meeting. Here you will discuss what has been learned from the marketplace, any updated decisions around the 4 Ps, SWOT information about the competition and set marketing priorities for the coming week. This has been the universal key to driving marketing that high tech companies like Apple, Intel, and Genetech have implemented.

Besides the CEO and head of marketing along with any outsourced marketing resources you’re employing, I encourage as many of the other executives to participate as possible.

You also want to brainstorm this key question “what are the key influencers we need to reach this week that can fuel the word-of-mouth marketing of our products and services and how will we reach them?” Think tipping point!

As for metrics, the primary function of marketing is Lead Generation. ALL marketing activities must eventually drive leads, into qualified leads, and into buying customers or clients. Therefore, measure hits to the website; page views and time on the website; inquires tied to various promotions or ads; and referrals garnered from your word-of-mouth activities.  You want to measure the cost per warm lead so you can maximize the effectiveness of your marketing expenditures.

Last, to continue feeding ideas and topics for your weekly marketing meeting, become a great student of marketing. Read every book, attend every workshop, and visit every company that represents world-class marketing. Particularly in the field of marketing, it takes just one great idea. Start by reading most of Seth Godin’s books: Permission Marketing, Purple Cow and All Marketers are Liars, Is Your Marketing Out of Sync. Also sign up to receive Seth’s blog; and “google” his 43 minute presentation to Google.

Also study Dr. Robert Cialdini’s classic book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and master his six keys to persuasion and read Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller The Tipping Point. Read Gilmore and Pine’s Experience Economy and scan through Jay Conrad Levinson’s classic guerilla marketing books. I would also suggest Jim Cecil’s “Cure for the Common Cold Call” off his nurture marketing website.

There has never been a more explosive global economy – now is the time to grab market share. If you don’t, others won’t wait!


Follow leadDefine leadership. Now redefine it in terms of YOU!

What is interesting about recent articles and books written  about leadership, seemingly all these have been written by people who are no longer leaders. Yet, these authors routinely write as if they are ‘Monday Quarterbacking’ for today’s leaders under fire to adopt their “former leader” direction.

A recent article by one of these ’former leaders’ included  key points, one of these point was that “clarity is the antidote of anxiety”; therefore “clarity” is the main concern of the effective leader. What???

If you’re a leader, and clarity is your main concern, nothing important must be going on in your business.

During our Mentoring Sessions, we discover that leadership is multifaceted. There is no “one” concern more powerful than the other, therefore they are all important. So, what is more important here:  lead by example, get the ‘buy- in’ of the team, achievement of the strategic plan, management of the sale process, watching the bottom line, continual excellence of performance, management of the KPI’s,  absolute ‘open door’ communication, or fulfillment of the employees in the company?  All of these are far more important than “clarity.”

“Clarity is the antidote of anxiety.”  If a leader has anxiety, the first step would be to discover what is causing it, and then take the necessary action to eliminate or change it. Being “clear” is another phrase coined by another ’former leader’ to sell books.  Furthermore, it is a meaningless as “added value” or “on purpose” or “focus.” Just empty leadership-created words and phrases.

If you are the leader, boss, or manager, you need to sharpen the real-world skills you need to be a true leader.  These skills are the leadership qualities needed to succeed: the action items, principles, and skills to employ so leadership works. So it works for you, your people, your customers, your vendors, and your company-in that order.

But there are degrees of leadership effectiveness. Your ability to master these leadership skills are in direct proportion to your ability to lead. If you are looking for ‘clarity’, look no further than these skills:

  • Develop respect from your people and to respect you. If the leaders are not respected they are eventually overthrown-or fired. If a non-respected leader cannot be fired, people will quit.
  • Make sure your people and their jobs are a “fit.” Remember . . . Right Person, Right Seat, Right Bus.
  • Let your people share their goals. Part of the Strategic Plan is the common goal of the people and the leader.  When people set their own goals, they can achieve them, and they ‘own’ them.
  • Give your people specific responsibilities and clear direction. Everyone needs to fully understand their responsible. And make sure they see the big picture and how their part fits into it.
  • Create an environment in which people love their work and their workplace. Make the workplace fun.
  • Make sure all “money matters” are clear. Do not mess with employees’ money. And worse, do not reduce pay or commissions to cut costs. Pay fairly, benefit well, and provide security. Otherwise people will leave.
  • Make sure paychecks are accurate. People count their money and count on it. Nothing hurts morale more than wrong paychecks.
  • Encourage your people. The most effective leaders are coaches. They stand on the sidelines and cheer for their players.
  • Praise your people.  When is the last time you praised someone for their hard work? Praise effort publicly. Praise accomplishment. Often.

By your actions and your achievements-be their hero. If you want them to become dedicated players, your people need to see your dedication. If you are the one driving the bus and making big things happen, you will become a hero to those who respect your ethics and accomplishments.

So what is wrong with this statement?  “You don’t have to be liked, you just have to be respected.” People want to work for people they like AND respect, otherwise they will work for someone else.


So . . . Lead, Follow, or get the Heck out of the way. If you are the leader, and you are not following the above rules, you don’t have to worry about getting out of the way, because your best people will run away from you.


Leader 3There is a huge difference between being an effective Manager and a Leader.  If you consider yourself a leader, or are interested in becoming one, you must first understand that becoming an effective leader is a process, one that never ends. Here’s a few tips (actually 82 of them) to guide you on your journey to becoming a better Leader.

Planning & Strategy

•Understand what the core principles of being a leader are. It’s not about power, but rather about vision, mission, core values, direction and setting the standard for others to follow.

•There are different ways of managing people.  So what is your leadership style?

•As a leader you are constantly studying and getting more information to continually improve.

•As you build your business, know how to maintain it and prevent serious failures in the business and the team.

•Constantly analyze and improve the process and systems.

•Be prepared in the event of a ‘disaster’. Have a plan ready and be ready to recover from it and move on.

•Keep ‘garbage’ out of your trash cans and out of your employees heads.

Team Building

•Know how to identify, recruit, hire and train exceptional employees.

•Having a standardized interviewing process, which means asking the right questions to find the persons core values and work ethic.

•Constantly building trust in your team and your team trusting you.

•Develop and effectively communicate your vision.

•Having your team ‘Own’ the companies goals and vision.

•Interdependence – making sure your employees are sharing responsible principles.

•Mentoring your team by being a strong positive role model.

•Improve yourself by being influenced and studying great leaders.

•Control the culture and core values of your organization and never stray nor sacrifice these.


•Never sacrifice ethics in the workplace as well as your company’s image in your industry.

•Develop strong public speaking abilities to get the message across to larger groups.

•Keep your employees up-to-date with things they need to know.

•Command your own body language and your team members as well.

•Improve your proactive and effective listening skills.

•Speak clearly and concisely using economies of words.

•Proactively deal with difficult situations and set the standard.

Build Trust & Confidence

•Clearly understand and communicate the definition of Trust.

•Believe in your team, and work hard to find the good in all your team members.

•Be open minded to accepting new people, new concepts and ideas into your life.

•Be credible and real by showing vulnerability.

•Be prepared to face your fears, only then can your empower yourself and others.

•Know and understand your positive characteristics and when to use them.

•Know, understand and work hard to improve your weak characteristic and shortcomings.

•Take a look outside yourself and see how others perceive you.

•Set the standards for confidence and charisma and others will be drawn to you.

Time Management

•Set goals to get you focused on getting important things done first.

•Have an action plan to achieve those goals.

•Stop procrastinating. Remember you can only manage yourself not Time.

•Know when and how to delegate work.

•Get rid of any and all kinds of distractions while working.

•Keep track of your life by writing things down.

•Keep a schedule and stick to it.

•Know your bad habits and how to break them.

Being Responsible

•Be responsible for all your actions, words and deeds.

•Be responsible and never deviate from your culture, core values, mission statement, name, brand, and company.

•Practice what you preach.

DWYSYWD (Do What You Say You Will Do)

•You must always be aware of what you’re saying and what your not saying. Does the listener get the message you were trying to communicate?

•Create responsible employees, but also be responsible for their actions.

•Assume responsibility, even when it is not your fault.

•Take care of your health. If you don’t care for yourself, why would anyone think you care at all?

•Teach responsibility to others, including your children.

•Surround yourself with the best and brightest team.

Continuous On-Going Learning and Improvement

•Continuously build your leadership skills by reading management and leadership books.

•Keep a leadership blog to document your learning’s.

•Attend management seminars.

•Find yourself a Mentor; shared wisdom proves to be priceless.

•Learn from your employees and associates.

•Embrace new technology, it only makes smarter.

•Understand and learn from yourself. And, don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.

Become a role model

•Maintain a positive mental attitude- when times are tough, you need to be tougher.

•Great leaders exude strength before power.

•Lead by example in all matters.

•Demonstrate small and large acts of chivalry.

•Treat customers and co-workers with respect.

•Always dress for success.

•Set the standard for the office.

•Always encourage and nurture others; they will encourage and nurture you back.

•Be calm and exhibit patience in all your efforts.

•Know how to properly manage disappointments, both inside and outside of work.

•Value and cherish all life.

Being Real

•Show your employees and customers, that you care about them.

•Know that it’s okay to share your emotions from time to time.

•Allow people to see your shortcomings, for no one is perfect.

•The truth will set you free, so never lie to your employees about what’s going on.

•Don’t be afraid to put your foot down and redirect employees actions and attitudes when necessary.

•Look and learn from your employee’s vantage point.

•Promote job “ownership”.

•For everybody’s sake, make sure you have a life outside of work.

•Have fun at work! It will show.

Pay it Back

•You and your business donate to charity.

•Start your own charity or benefit.

•Help your employees learn, grow and develop.

•Good leadership means sharing your knowledge and mentoring those around you.

•Recognize exceptional performances and reward publicly.

•Use your skills and knowledge to write a book.


Success.2What are the reasons that some companies (and people) reach their goals, while others never seem to fulfill their potential.

Playing to your companies’ natural strengths and talents is one of the major keys to success.  In other words, doing those things that comes naturally and easy – things that are enjoyable and fulfilling.  In addition, successful companies achieve their goals not only because of who they are, but more often because of “what they do.”  Here is our take on what successful companies (and people) really do:

Be Specific

When you set a goal, make it obvious exactly what you want to achieve and by when.  Just expressing an outcome (e.g. sell 100 widgets this quarter) is not as powerful as expressing your goal as a specific, tangible project that will achieve the desired outcome when successfully implemented.  Your goal should not be that easy ‘reachable’ goal; rather it should be that goal that you have never been able to achieve even when it may seem a little uncomfortable.  So how much ‘stretching’ outside your comfort zone are you willing to do, in order to achieve that goal?  Remember, change never happens until your drive yourself out of your comfort zone.


Goals and projects should be expressed in a way that it is obvious what the finish line is that you intend to hit by the due date.  For long term projects – what are the desired milestones that you must reach by the end of this quarter?  Is it clear to everyone at which point they can pop the champagne cork to celebrate achieving a specific milestone?

Optimism with Realism

Just when you set yourself up to succeed, ‘stuff’ happens and fires need fighting.  By setting SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goals and due dates that take into account that you will also may need to deal with any fires (or Chaos) that normally comes along in the process – yet can still achieve your milestones.  Don’t underestimate the difficulties and challenges you will face along the way, rather allow for these as a business variable in your plan and for the opportunity to identify and fix a weak link. Don’t forget to DWYSYWD (Do What You Say You Will Do).

Make Time

“Business as usual” must keep happening in the meantime. You still need to create opportunities, make sales, deliver products and services, and collect money – the stuff you do every day to pay the bills.  But you still need to manage your own time to work on the strategic plan– we suggest a half-day every week. Then, you must take specific meaningful actions on a regular basis that will move your strategic priorities forward.


What number one action can you “complete” by the end of the week that is going to move your progress forward another step?  Be specific.  It needs to be a binary (yes/no) action that is within your control that you can check off and be held accountable for saying, “Yes, I completed that action this week.”  Also, build an accountability system designed for all key persons involved in execution of the strategic plan, with a weekly action chart to track the activities and accomplishment of the key milestones.

Measure Progress

You can only measure, by tracking exactly how far you have come and know exactly how far you have left to go.  Measure your progress every week.  Are you on schedule?  Or do you need help?  Are you behind schedule and in danger of missing your due date?  Be honest and confront the brutal facts.  Don’t wait until the near the due date to signal that you are running behind.

Man Up!  (or the female equivalent)

Show that you have whatever is necessary to overcome the obstacles and get it done.  The more you exercise your courage muscle, the stronger it becomes.  There are things we have to do that we don’t particularly enjoy doing in order to achieve success – but everyone has to “eat your veggies” before you get to have any dessert.


Pop the cork when project goals are reached.  The bigger the achievement the bigger the celebration.  Hard work, commitment and vision needs to be recognized and praised on a regular basis. So, put away “the whip” and enjoy those moments of success!


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.




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?


Leader 2Every day as managers and leaders, we bring ourselves to the ‘job’. We bring our standards, our qualities or lack thereof, our likes and dislikes, our preconceived ideas, the peculiar set of values and predispositions we’ve acquired, our unique personalities, values, and experience.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with what we are. It just means we’re human and we don’t leave our humanity at home when we work. But problems arise when we apply our preconceptions or values to situations at work without understanding what we’re doing — when we tilt one way or the other, not based on what’s best in the circumstances, but on what we tend to prefer. What we prefer is sometimes the right choice, but often it’s not.

When someone once said about a client, “You don’t build bridges”.  The client recognized the truth of those words — but was unable (or unable) to change. What he needed to do was against the grain of the fabric that was ’him’. It would have required a change in how he saw himself and the value he felt he added.

The first step to successfully changing ourselves is to understand who we are. Unless we understand our preconceived preferences — our “default settings” — we will be at their mercy. They will drive the choices we make every day, and we won’t even understand what’s happening. But if we know ourselves, we give ourselves the chance to stop and think: “I want to do such-and-such, but is that really the best choice here? It will make me feel comfortable, but is that the real test of what’s best?” If we can ask those questions, we give ourselves a better chance of making the right call.

All this is important for becoming an effective boss because managing and leading others, are built on a foundation of paradoxes. A paradox is a statement that’s true even though it contains contradictory elements. For example, “Effective bosses are proactive and patient” or “To manage people, you must exercise close control and give people wide latitude.”

 “The essence of management is about knowing when one side of the paradox is more appropriate — when to take action and when to wait, for example, or when to manage closely and when to give someone a long rein.”


So what are your preferences?  See below. There are no right or wrong answers. Effective managers will sometimes need to choose one way, and sometimes the other. The question is what would you prefer to do if you just followed your ‘gut’ all the time?

1- Do you prefer to include others in choices you make — by asking for their ideas and opinions or even giving them freedom to decide — or do you tend to direct others on what to do?

2- Do you prefer to focus on the work people do or on the people doing the work? In your relationship with direct reports, do you tend to deal primarily with the work, or do you prefer to interact with them as close colleagues and unique individuals?

3- Do you prefer to develop people through constructive criticism of what they need to improve on, or by praising them for what they do well? Do you let them figure out for themselves how to improve, or work with them using close contact and instruction?

4- Do you prefer to deal with your direct reports one-on-one or as a team? When there’s a problem in your group, do you tend to call everyone together and deal with it as a team, or do you prefer to go around person to person and work on it?

5- Do you prefer to focus on today’s challenges or do you prefer to think about tomorrow and what’s coming in the future?

6- Do you prefer execution, getting work done day after day, or innovation, creating new products or services or new ways of working?

7- Do you tend to work mostly with direct reports, your own group, or do you prefer to work with others throughout your organization?

8- When you have to make a tough choice, do you tend to focus on the harm that might befall someone or some group? Or do you prefer to focus on the greater good even if a choice may cause harm to some?


Include others vs. direct others, work vs. people, critique vs. praise, one-on-one vs. team, today vs. tomorrow, execute vs. innovate, direct reports vs. rest of organization, harm vs. greater good. These are some of the most fundamental choices we must make every day as bosses. If we don’t know our preferences when we encounter them, we’re far less likely to make the best choices. Going with your ‘gut’ isn’t always the best way to be a boss.


TsunamiOn March 11, 2011 an earthquake and subsequent tsunami destroyed Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s, Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant and crucial cooling systems, causing three reactor cores to melt and causing a release of radioactive material.

A new report says the tsunami-ravaged nuclear plant was so unprepared for the disaster that workers had to bring protective gear and an emergency manual from distant buildings and borrow equipment from a contractor.  The report shows that workers struggled with unfamiliar equipment and fear of radiation exposure.

The report revealed insufficient preparations at the nuclear plant that had not been previously acknowledged. It said plant workers had a disaster drill just a week before the tsunami and “everyone was familiar with emergency exits,” but it apparently did not help them cope with the crisis.

A fire engine at the plant couldn’t reach the unit because the tsunami left a huge tank blocking the driveway. Workers destroyed a power-operated gate to bring in the engine that arrived at the unit hours later. It was early morning when they finally started pumping water into the reactor, but the core had already melted by then.

Other workers were tasked with releasing pressure from Unit 1’s containment vessel to avoid an explosion. But first they had to get the manual, which was not in the control room but in a separate office building at the plant.  To activate an air-operated part of the vent, workers had to borrow a compressor from a contractor. And the workers, who had to get close to the unit for the venting, had to get protective gear from the offsite crisis management center, five kilometers away from the plant.

The report also said workers borrowed batteries and cables from a subcontractor on the compound to set up a backup system to gauge water levels and other key readings.

What are Systems?

Systems are a structured way of doing something that can be replicated time and time again, has proven to be efficient and maximizes production.  But as evidenced by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, ALL systems need to be consistently tested and monitored. They are not an end in themselves; they are a means. So, can you see what happens on a massive scale with regards to a systems failure in a nuclear power plant?

When Systems Fail!

Most well-intentioned systems when put in a stressful situation fail.  The frustration for business owners is when one systems failure contributes to another systems failure– just like the Japanese nuclear plans.

For example . . . A failure at the initial production level happens when the installation instructions were not followed and where quality control and oversight was not accomplished. What this means is a massive failure at the management level.  At the management level is where the oversight should have occurred, and a high level of accountability should have been instilled in the technician charged with the installation.

The ultimate impact to any systems failure is a customer service failure, a typical frustration for business owners. If the company cannot get the customer experience right, what level of confidence should the customers have in the company and their customer experience?

Customer Care

What happens when systems do not work? Worse yet, what if NO ONE CARED?  What if someone made a mistake, but no one cared enough about the problem to fix it? So, when did apathy become the norm in your business? How could this happen to you?

Let’s face it; mistakes can and will happen. We are all human, and it’s perfectly natural to make mistakes. But we have to do something about our mistakes. We need to take ownership of our actions and take responsibility for our work. Accountability breeds competence. The root of competence is care. If you’re responsive, you express that care.

Reject Systems Failures!

– Do not allow systems failures to happen in your business.

– If systems failures occur, take it to the highest level and fix the system permanently.

– Systems failures are a way to learn more about your systems, employees and clients.

– Do not allow systems failures to permeate your culture as being ‘acceptable’.

– Systems are vehicles to express how much you care about your customers and their customer service experience.

– Systems are never a be-all end-all.

– If you see something wrong with a system in your business, change the system.

– Systems exist to serve people, not the other way around.

– Systems are a means of growth.