6 Habits of True Strategic Thinkers

You're the boss, but you still spend too much time on the day-to-day. Here's how to become the strategic leader your company needs. In the beginning, there was just you and your partners. You did every job. You coded, you met with investors, you emptied the trash and phoned in the midnight pizza. Now you have others to do all that and it's time for you to "be strategic." Whatever that means. If you find yourself resisting "being strategic," because it sounds like a fast track to irrelevance, or vaguely like an excuse to slack off, you're not alone. Every leader's temptation is to deal with what's directly in front, because it always seems more urgent and concrete. Unfortunately, if you do that, you put your company at risk. While you concentrate on steering around potholes, you'll miss windfall opportunities, not to mention any signals that the road you're on is leading off a cliff. This is a tough job, make no mistake. "We need strategic leaders!‖ is a pretty constant refrain at every company, large and small. One reason the job is so tough: no one really understands what it entails. It's hard to be a strategic leader if you don't know what strategic leaders are supposed to do. After two decades of advising organizations large and small, my colleagues and I have formed a clear idea of what's required of you in this role. Adaptive strategic leaders — the kind who thrive in today‘s uncertain environment – do six things well:

Anticipate
Most of the focus at most companies is on what‘s directly ahead. The leaders lack ―peripheral vision.‖ This can leave your company vulnerable to rivals who detect and act on ambiguous signals. To anticipate well, you must:
  

Look for game-changing information at the periphery of your industry Search beyond the current boundaries of your business Build wide external networks to help you scan the horizon better

Think Critically
―Conventional wisdom‖ opens you to fewer raised eyebrows and second guessing. But if you swallow every management fad, herdlike belief, and safe opinion at face value, your company loses all competitive advantage. Critical thinkers question everything. To master this skill you must force yourself to:

Reframe problems to get to the bottom of things, in terms of root causes

 

Challenge current beliefs and mindsets, including your own Uncover hypocrisy, manipulation, and bias in organizational decisions

Interpret
Ambiguity is unsettling. Faced with it, the temptation is to reach for a fast (and potentially wrongheaded) solution. A good strategic leader holds steady, synthesizing information from many sources before developing a viewpoint. To get good at this, you have to:
  

Seek patterns in multiple sources of data Encourage others to do the same Question prevailing assumptions and test multiple hypotheses simultaneously

Decide
Many leaders fall prey to ―analysis paralysis.‖ You have to develop processes and enforce them, so that you arrive at a ―good enough‖ position. To do that well, you have to:
  

Carefully frame the decision to get to the crux of the matter Balance speed, rigor, quality and agility. Leave perfection to higher powers Take a stand even with incomplete information and amid diverse views

Align
Total consensus is rare. A strategic leader must foster open dialogue, build trust and engage key stakeholders, especially when views diverge. To pull that off, you need to:
  

Understand what drives other people's agendas, including what remains hidden Bring tough issues to the surface, even when it's uncomfortable Assess risk tolerance and follow through to build the necessary support

Learn
As your company grows, honest feedback is harder and harder to come by. You have to do what you can to keep it coming. This is crucial because success and failure--especially failure--are valuable sources of organizational learning. Here's what you need to do:
  

Encourage and exemplify honest, rigorous debriefs to extract lessons Shift course quickly if you realize you're off track Celebrate both success and (well-intentioned) failures that provide insight

Do you have what it takes?
Obviously, this is a daunting list of tasks, and frankly, no one is born a black belt in all these different skills. But they can be taught and whatever gaps exist in your skill set can be filled in. I'll cover each of the aspects of strategic leadership in more detail in future columns. But for

now, test your own strategic aptitude (or your company's) with the survey at www.decisionstrat.com. In the comments below, let me know what you learned from it.

6 Ways Successful People Stand Out
Substance trumps style in the long run. Here's how to make the kind of impression that lasts. Bosses spend the vast majority of their time helping other people succeed: employees, customers, vendors and suppliers... the list goes on and on. Helping other people succeed is your job, but it's also your job to focus on yourself, at least part of the time. Why? Your success creates success for others--and success requires, at least in part, standing out from the crowd and being known for something. Of course there are different ways you can stand out. For example, you can be like this guy. Okay, maybe not. There are better ways:

Be first, with a purpose.
Lots of business owners are the first to arrive each day. That's great, but what do you do with that time? Organize your thoughts? Get a jump on your email? Instead of taking care of your stuff, do something visibly worthwhile for the company. Take care of unresolved problems from the day before. Set things up so it's easier for employees to hit the ground running when they arrive. Chip away at an ongoing project others are ignoring. Whatever you choose, do it consistently. Don't just be the one who turns on the lights--be the one who gets in early and gets things done. The example you set will quickly spread.

Be known for something specific.
Meeting standards, however lofty those standards may be, won't help you stand out. Go above the norm. Be the entrepreneur known for turning around struggling employees. Be the business owner who makes a few deliveries a week to personally check in with customers. Be the boss who consistently promotes from within. Be known as the person who responds quicker, or acts faster, or who always follows up first. Pick a worthwhile mission and excel at that mission.

Lots of people take verbal stands.. Show a little of your personal side.. so it died an inglorious death. That's a huge advantage for a new business or a company competing in a crowded market. The customer will appreciate how you tried. jump in and help fix it." The same works for a business owner. I was disappointed but the company wasn't "out" anything. a few personal details add color and depth to your professional image. Nothing--nothing--is a substitute for hard work. but being "the guy who is always training and traveling to marathons so we can never reach him when we need him" is not. The key is to take a risk with a project and make sure your company or customers don't share that risk. Excelling at an assigned project is expected. without being asked. and soon after I was selected for a high-visibility company-wide process improvement team because now I was "that guy. For example. It's easy to criticize what's wrong or to talk about what should be changed or could be improved.Create your own side project. Just make sure your personal interests don't overshadow professional accomplishments." Put your muscle where your mouth is. The people who stand out are the ones who help do something about it. Bummer. . to better meet their needs. Excelling at a side project helps you stand out. instead of simply showing everyone how smart you are by pointing out its flaws and revamping the timeline. Say you think a project has gone off the rails. Personal interests help other people to identify and remember you. I worked on the project at home and a few managers liked it but our HR manager hated it. Being "the guy who ran a marathon" is fine. Experiment with a new process or service with a particular customer in mind. Look around: How many of your competitors are working as hard as they can? Not many. Work harder than everyone else. Let people know a little about you. The best way to stand out is to try to out-work everyone else. Fewer take a stand and put effort behind their opinions. and you'll become "that guy. years ago I decided to create a Web-based employee handbook my then-employer could put on the company Intranet.

. Sounds great. When you mess up. good or bad. Your job is to coach and mentor and develop--every day. Years ago my review was late so I mentioned it to my boss." right? But you don't need a meeting to get input. leadership means always having to say you're sorry. after all you're "engaging employees" and "valuing their contributions. Here are five things remarkable bosses never do: Say. Right away. I recently described what remarkable bosses do." He was right. Deliver annual performance reviews. Waiting for a scheduled review is the lazy way out. Annual or semi-annual performance appraisals are largely a waste of time. "I've been meaning to apologize for a while. You've already heard everything I will say. but you should know you won't hear anything new.. As a leader what you don't do can sometimes make as much or even more impact than what you do.. but flip it around: What things should I not do?" Glad you asked. so model the same behavior. If anything on your review comes as a surprise to you I haven't done my job. If love means never having to say you're sorry. because you'll be the only one trying..It's also the easiest." You should never need to apologize for not having apologized sooner. Hold formal meetings to solicit ideas. You certainly want employees to immediately tell you when they make a mistake. A number of people emailed and asked.. The best feedback isn't scheduled. 5 Things Remarkable Bosses Never Do What you don't do can sometimes make a bigger impact than what you do. "I'll get to it. especially when times get tough. either as praise and encouragement or as training and suggestions for improvement. "That's a great list. When employees know you listen they bring ideas to you. 'fess up. He said. Many companies hold brainstorming sessions to solicit ideas for improvement. The best feedback happens on the spot when it makes the most impact.

"I wish we could find a way to get orders through our system faster. the better way to ask for ideas is to talk to people individually and to be more specific. now I really need you to come through for me and work this weekend. Be accommodating when being accommodating is the right thing to do. . Create opportunities that fit. Then assign projects that fit. "Development" is a noun that sits in a file cabinet. explain why less than good ideas aren't feasible. Provide training that fits. Formal development plans are. Create development plans. Great bosses are remarkable based on their actions. Say. Results are everything—but not the results you might think. and never do "favors" for employees in anticipation of return. Be flexible when being flexible is the right thing to do. To develop requires action. I was really flexible with your schedule while your son was sick. So talk about it--informally. Then give feedback on the spot. Sometimes they have great ideas. You should know what each of your employees hopes to achieve: Skills and experience they want to gain. Remarkable bosses aren‘t great on paper. "Mark. like annual performance reviews. "Develop" is a verb. The 5 Qualities of Remarkable Bosses Consistently do these five things and the results you want from your employees--and your business--will follow. and you'll get all the input you can handle without a formal meeting. largely a corporate construct.And if you must ask. They never take. What would you change if you were me?" Trust me: Employees picture themselves doing your job--and doing your job better than you--all the time. They have ideas. Never lend money to friends unless you don't care if you are repaid. Remarkable leaders only give. I know lots of bosses who play the guilt game." Generosity should always be a one-way street.. act on good ideas. Call in favors. like saying... etc. Be open. career paths they hope to take..

mentoring. no amount of focus on goals and targets will ever pay off. Spend the bulk of your time developing the skills of your employees and achieving goals will be a natural outcome. It's your job to provide the training.. And they're distracting. you can't lead. or that someone else will deal with it. More importantly. and accomplishing concrete goals—but do that and you put your leadership cart before your achievement horse. Before you remove your weak link from the chain. 1. While that employee may desperately want to ―rehabilitate‖ himself. when you ignore a problem your employees immediately lose respect for you.. Over time that employee comes to be seen by his peers—and by you—as a weak link. Rescue your worst employee. "John. Small problems always fester and grow into bigger problems. Nothing kills team morale more quickly than problems that don't get addressed. Never hope a problem will magically go away. because small problems never go away. You and your business benefit greatly. Deal with problems immediately. When you do. and opportunities your employees need and deserve. 2. Say. all negatively impact employee motivation and enthusiasm. achieving results. Plus. you can put your primary focus on reaching targets. Develop every employee. so do your employees. it's almost impossible. The weight of team disapproval is too heavy for one person to move. 3. But it‘s not too heavy for you. Deal with every issue head-on. Almost every business has at least one employee who has fallen out of grace: Publicly failed to complete a task. So don‘t worry about reaching performance goals. improvement. Employees can only achieve what they are capable of achieving. performance issues. Let's .Consistently do these five things and everything else follows. no matter how small. Without great employees. feuds between departments. Interpersonal squabbles. so it‘s your job to help all your employees be more capable so they—and your business—can achieve more. lost his cool in a meeting. Sure. and personal achievement. or just can‘t seem to keep up. Plus it‘s a lot more fun. and without respect. I know you've been struggling but I also know you're trying. you transform the relatively boring process of reviewing results and tracking performance into something a lot more meaningful for your employees: Progress. put your full effort into trying to rescue that person instead.

find ways together that can get you where you need to be." Express confidence. Be reassuring. Most of all, tell him you'll be there every step of the way. Don't relax your standards. Just step up the mentoring and coaching you provide. If that seems like too much work for too little potential outcome, think of it this way. Your remarkable employees don‘t need a lot of your time; they‘re remarkable because they already have these qualities. If you‘re lucky, you can get a few percentage points of extra performance from them. But a struggling employee has tons of upside; rescue him and you make a tremendous difference. Granted, sometimes it won't work out. When it doesn't, don't worry about it. The effort is its own reward. And occasionally an employee will succeed—and you will have made a tremendous difference in a person's professional and personal life. Can‘t beat that. 4. Serve others, not yourself. You can get away with being selfish or self-serving once or twice... but that's it. Never say or do anything that in any way puts you in the spotlight, however briefly. Never congratulate employees and digress for a few moments to discuss what you did. If it should go without saying, don't say it. Your glory should always be reflected, never direct. When employees excel, you and your business excel. When your team succeeds, you and your business succeed. When you rescue a struggling employee and they become remarkable, remember they should be congratulated, not you. You were just doing your job the way a remarkable boss should. When you consistently act as if you are less important than your employees—and when you never ask employees to do something you don‘t do—everyone knows how important you really are. 5. Always remember where you came from. See an autograph seeker blown off by a famous athlete and you might think, ―If I was in a similar position I would never do that.‖ Oops. Actually, you do. To some of your employees, especially new employees, you are at least slightly famous. You‘re in charge. You‘re the boss. That's why an employee who wants to talk about something that seems inconsequential may just want to spend a few moments with you.

When that happens, you have a choice. You can blow the employee off... or you can see the moment for its true importance: A chance to inspire, reassure, motivate, and even give someone hope for greater things in their life. The higher you rise the greater the impact you can make— and the greater your responsibility to make that impact. In the eyes of his or her employees, a remarkable boss is a star. Remember where you came from, and be gracious with your stardom.

8 Qualities of Remarkable Employees
Forget good to great. Here's what makes a great employee remarkable. Great employees are reliable, dependable, proactive, diligent, great leaders and great followers... they possess a wide range of easily-defined—but hard to find—qualities. A few hit the next level. Some employees are remarkable, possessing qualities that may not appear on performance appraisals but nonetheless make a major impact on performance. Here are eight qualities of remarkable employees: 1. They ignore job descriptions. The smaller the company, the more important it is that employees can think on their feet, adapt quickly to shifting priorities, and do whatever it takes, regardless of role or position, to get things done. When a key customer's project is in jeopardy, remarkable employees know without being told there's a problem and jump in without being asked—even if it's not their job. 2. They’re eccentric... The best employees are often a little different: quirky, sometimes irreverent, even delighted to be unusual. They seem slightly odd, but in a really good way. Unusual personalities shake things up, make work more fun, and transform a plain-vanilla group into a team with flair and flavor. People who aren't afraid to be different naturally stretch boundaries and challenge the status quo, and they often come up with the best ideas. 3. But they know when to dial it back. An unusual personality is a lot of fun... until it isn't. When a major challenge pops up or a situation gets stressful, the best employees stop expressing their individuality and fit seamlessly into the team. Remarkable employees know when to play and when to be serious; when to be irreverent and when to conform; and when to challenge and when to back off. It‘s a tough balance to strike, but a rare few can walk that fine line with ease.

4. They publicly praise... Praise from a boss feels good. Praise from a peer feels awesome, especially when you look up to that person. Remarkable employees recognize the contributions of others, especially in group settings where the impact of their words is even greater. 5. And they privately complain. We all want employees to bring issues forward, but some problems are better handled in private. Great employees often get more latitude to bring up controversial subjects in a group setting because their performance allows greater freedom. Remarkable employees come to you before or after a meeting to discuss a sensitive issue, knowing that bringing it up in a group setting could set off a firestorm. 6. They speak when others won’t. Some employees are hesitant to speak up in meetings. Some are even hesitant to speak up privately. An employee once asked me a question about potential layoffs. After the meeting I said to him, ―Why did you ask about that? You already know what's going on.‖ He said, ―I do, but a lot of other people don't, and they're afraid to ask. I thought it would help if they heard the answer from you.‖ Remarkable employees have an innate feel for the issues and concerns of those around them, and step up to ask questions or raise important issues when others hesitate. 7. They like to prove others wrong. Self-motivation often springs from a desire to show that doubters are wrong. The kid without a college degree or the woman who was told she didn't have leadership potential often possess a burning desire to prove other people wrong. Education, intelligence, talent, and skill are important, but drive is critical. Remarkable employees are driven by something deeper and more personal than just the desire to do a good job. 8. They’re always fiddling. Some people are rarely satisfied (I mean that in a good way) and are constantly tinkering with something: Reworking a timeline, adjusting a process, tweaking a workflow. Great employees follow processes. Remarkable employees find ways to make those processes even better, not only because they are expected to… but because they just can't help it.

3 Rules for Building Business Relationships
Are you generating the most value from your professional relationships? Here are three ways to quickly inject some life into your network.

simply making an introduction between two people in your network who share a common interest or challenge can do wonders for each of these individual relationships. Here are three ways to improve the way you nurture your network to get the most out of your professional relationships. While you should always be sensitive to busy people's time.Ask any entrepreneur or salesperson (one might argue there is no difference) about their greatest asset and you'll often hear the same answer: their network and relationships. 2. If you can provide value to someone in your network with limited time and resource investment. By following these simple steps. Don't let personal fears get in the way of forming new relationships. These questions will help to ensure that the relationship is mutually beneficial. . Share your thoughts with us at karlandbill@avondalestrategicpartners. It is far easier to talk to people you already know than it is to form new relationships. we realize that each of us has a strong network of relationships that we aren't fully leveraging. you can begin to improve the quality of your professional relationships . We are always looking for ways to form new relationships and would love to hear your best practices. do it! Aside from the fact that it is a nice gesture.com. Being a relationship "broker" can offer significant benefits to your personal and professional brand. Explore the boundaries of your comfort zone to put yourself in a position to form new.a skill that is admired by many but mastered by few. Focus on the value that you can provide to your network and not necessarily on what the person can provide for you. 3. Partner or Not: How to Decide Bringing in partners to help launch a new business is the ultimate risk and reward proposition. Why is it then that we see so many people not taking advantage of the opportunities to broaden their network and engage with those who could potentially be their next great partner? As our firm continues to grow and we bring in top talent from a variety of companies and professional backgrounds. productive relationships whenever an opportunity arises. Avondale associate Asim Aleem contributed to this article. but proactively expanding your network can pay off in dividends for your personal and professional development. It is never an easy task. It's generally preferable to have fewer high-quality relationships than hundreds of low-quality relationships. you can be sure you'll be top of mind next time this person or someone in their network has a need that fits your area of expertise. 1. Countless bestsellers have been written on how to cultivate and nurture relationships.

g. it's on to the next part of the assessment. Outside eyes can help us avoid the rose-colored glasses syndrome. Equally important is deciding which (if any) potential partners to bring in to help build the business..Deciding to create a new business line or enter a new market is a complex process that requires some diligence around defining and prioritizing your target customer and aligning internally on who's accountable for driving the new business. begin winnowing them down by asking:  What are their motivations? Why would they want to partner in general? Why would they want to partner with us specifically? What is the compelling financial and strategic business case we will make to a potential partner that defines a win/win result? How can we add the external resources and risk-sharing we need without giving up an excessive amount of upside potential? We want to be creative in answering this question. With the right partners. extra arms and legs) required to make the new business successful? Where do we have gaps in those resources? Can we fill those gaps internally? That is.     Identifying the Right Partners Once we have decided to bring in a partner. After all. if we are unable to convince partners that our new business is compelling. can we hire or contract for the specialized skills? Do we need to share risks with others? Are we uncomfortable with the total level of risk? Are we willing to cede some control? Whenever we bring partners in to a business. partnering creates additional management and communication costs that you may not want to incur. Beginning with a broad list of potential partners. as the first-blush answer may not be ideal. we have to give up some level of control or oversight. specialized skills. which can be an expensive vision problem to correct! .   Note that building a compelling case for partners is a good acid test of whether a business model is truly viable. their oversight may add value instead of being detrimental. we should question whether the business is worth pursuing. However. Going It Alone? The first set of questions we ask about potential partnerships help us decide whether we even need external partners for a new business:  What are the essential resources (e.

compared to 41% of men. What's no surprise is that employees whose bosses have taken credit for their ideas are 3.. (So much for that stereotype." Some of the results are interesting if not surprising (at least to me.com. women are more honest than men: One in five men report lying when it came to their most recent sick day.000 job orders and placements every month." says Art Papas.com. at least in one aspect. We help bosses get to know their employees through lighthearted 'would you rather.. 71% of the respondents from IBM say it does happen.. a recruiting software firm whose Web-based products like Reach and Marketplace are used by over 45. compared to the overall average of 36% across all companies..000 recruiters in 35 counties to handle over 150.) And while 52% of respondents say their boss would never take credit for one of their ideas. CEO of theFit. (Here's the complete workplace culture infographic. whether intentional or not. . while only one in seven women say they were taking a "mental health" day. And. According to a survey of 5..' questions.) TheFit was developed by Bullhorn. "The survey questions are designed to let people give honest responses without getting into trouble with their boss or bashing the company. TheFit is a career site that asks questions designed to reveal what a workplace is really like. or just playing hooky.. Women: More Honest and Hardworking? What's the workplace really like? A new survey claims women are working their tails off. employees performed by theFIt.) Tech companies like Google and Microsoft—generally known for their hard-driving corporate cultures—rank relatively high for family friendliness. Bank of America ranks high on female leadership: 62% of the respondents from BofA say their boss is a woman. and men are more likely to play hooky. "It's not about digging up dirt. But there is good news for business owners: 84% of all employees say they were actually sick or caring for a sick child the last time they called in sick. 54% of women report working nine or more hours a day.What has been your experience in building a business? Have you had success identifying and engaging partners? Please let us know in the comments below or email us at karlandbill@avondalestrategicpartners.S.5 times more likely to be dissatisfied with their jobs. interviewing for another job.000 U.

. "If you're a job seeker the survey results can help you decide whether a company is a good fit for you. Take care of unresolved problems from the day before. Lots of business owners are the first to arrive each day." And as for those honest. compared to 55% of men. with a purpose. standing out from the crowd and being known for something. Helping other people succeed is your job. I found out that 25% of Bullhorn employees would rather receive more vacation days than a promotion. at least part of the time. If you own a business it's another way to find out what your employees really think.S. For example." Papas says. . do it consistently. as it turns out. Whatever you choose. the list goes on and on. and view the results for their company. 6 Ways Successful People Stand Out Substance trumps style in the long run. answer survey questions. at least in part. There are better ways: Be first. Set things up so it's easier for employees to hit the ground running when they arrive. Here's how to make the kind of impression that lasts. Twenty-six percent of men said "their friends would feel bad for them if they knew how much they made. you can be like this guy. but it's also your job to focus on yourself. are also more likely than men to do some work while on vacation? It may surprise you to learn they perceive their compensation more positively than men. That's great. Bosses spend the vast majority of their time helping other people succeed: employees. but what do you do with that time? Organize your thoughts? Get a jump on your email? Instead of taking care of your stuff. Chip away at an ongoing project others are ignoring. do something visibly worthwhile for the company.. Why? Your success creates success for others--and success requires. Okay. but anyone in the U. hardworking female employees who. vendors and suppliers. can sign up." compared to only 17% of women—even though only 47% of women reported receiving a bonus last year. customers. Of course there are different ways you can stand out. For example. maybe not. "Job descriptions and websites only touch the very edge of a company's true culture.Currently theFit ranks companies in 12 major metropolitan areas.

I worked on the project at home and a few managers liked it but our HR manager hated it.. or who always follows up first. Personal interests help other people to identify and remember you. For example. Show a little of your personal side. won't help you stand out. Be known for something specific. The example you set will quickly spread. The customer will appreciate how you tried. The people who stand out are the ones who help do something about it. however lofty those standards may be. years ago I decided to create a Web-based employee handbook my then-employer could put on the company Intranet. The key is to take a risk with a project and make sure your company or customers don't share that risk. or acts faster. Be known as the person who responds quicker.. Lots of people take verbal stands. Create your own side project. Excelling at an assigned project is expected. and you'll become "that guy. Be the boss who consistently promotes from within. instead of simply showing everyone how smart you are by pointing out its flaws and revamping the timeline. I was disappointed but the company wasn't "out" anything. Excelling at a side project helps you stand out. Fewer take a stand and put effort behind their opinions. Pick a worthwhile mission and excel at that mission." Put your muscle where your mouth is. and soon after I was selected for a high-visibility company-wide process improvement team because now I was "that guy." The same works for a business owner. Be the business owner who makes a few deliveries a week to personally check in with customers. without being asked. Go above the norm. . Bummer. Be the entrepreneur known for turning around struggling employees. Experiment with a new process or service with a particular customer in mind. jump in and help fix it. It's easy to criticize what's wrong or to talk about what should be changed or could be improved. Meeting standards. to better meet their needs. That's a huge advantage for a new business or a company competing in a crowded market.Don't just be the one who turns on the lights--be the one who gets in early and gets things done. so it died an inglorious death. Say you think a project has gone off the rails.

I was there when he tried to identify those attributes. that he could select and create a great team. a few personal details add color and depth to your professional image. Years ago I worked in a manufacturing plant where productivity was all-important. you are what you measure. typical improvement initiatives. (There‘s a big difference. During the brainstorming session he filled up 12 easel pad sheets with key skills and attributes.. because you'll be the only one trying. As supervisors and managers we also spent a lot of time competing with each other. Being "the guy who ran a marathon" is fine. It's also the easiest. That‘s a definition many business owners. and measure potential team members against those attributes. We spent significant time and effort working to improve efficiency. often get wrong. (Hey. How to Build a Great Team With Imperfect People Your goal isn‘t to ensure every employee is great. right? That‘s true—as long as you define ―great‖ correctly.Just make sure your personal interests don't overshadow professional accomplishments. Look around: How many of your competitors are working as hard as they can? Not many. reduce downtime. but being "the guy who is always training and traveling to marathons so we can never reach him when we need him" is not. Nothing--nothing--is a substitute for hard work. .) We all know what makes a great team: Great people. it's to ensure that collectively they'll be great.. Work harder than everyone else. The best way to stand out is to try to out-work everyone else. Let people know a little about you. He felt that if you could determine the key attributes. right?) One manager decided team performance could be predicted and improved by quantifying the attributes of a great machine operator. and bosses in general. reduce waste.

Many attributes were hard to quantify. but this is the attribute almost every employee must possess. and all too common. Never mind our plant‘s equipment failed less than 4% of the time. or a specific skill set. many of them intangible and hard to quantify. teamwork.. drive.) To build a great team: Decide what key attribute you must have. so mechanical knowledge must be important. Just identify the attribute you can‘t live with and make sure it stays off your team. even though those qualities were much more important than mechanical aptitude. or teamwork. So he went with mechanical aptitude because it was something he could ―know. This one‘s easy.. I don‘t want him on my team because he…" Typically your answer won‘t be skills-based. Forget about the stereotypically well-rounded employee for a moment. The key is to recognize that every employee brings different skills and attitudes. Decide what key attribute you can't have. And intuitively it made sense: Machine operators run machines. a horrible work ethic. Just complete this sentence: "I don't care how great he is. whatever it is. Never mind we had skilled machinists who were seconds away if we needed help. Yet my team—most of us with limited mechanical aptitude (based on testing. If you could only pick one attribute.‖ So afterwards he focused on attributes that could be quantified. my mechanical aptitude was the worst)—consistently outran his team by a wide margin. like ―self starter‖ and ―team player. that attribute is the foundation for individual employees and for your team. Mechanical aptitude could be measured in a way hustle. it will be something like terrible interpersonal skills. Here's how you can avoid it. so your goal isn‘t to ensure every employee is great. Off he went. in short order creating a team filled with mechanical aptitude superstars. he picked an attribute he could put a number on: mechanical aptitude.‖ instead of focusing on other qualities that were more difficult to assess. or interpersonal skills. That‘s a simple. great operators possess a dizzying array of qualities. your goal is to ensure that as a team those employees can collectively be great. or a larger than life ego. Where did he go wrong? Faced with too many variables. One was mechanical aptitude. (There‘s a big difference. mistake. and work ethic could not.The problem was. Plenty of tests evaluate and measure mechanical knowledge. Training can fill in the gaps. . what would you choose as the most important skill or quality a great employee needs to have to succeed in the position? Maybe it's attitude.

rolls his eyes when he's speaking." a black hole you'll struggle to escape from.Determine your threshold point. If you can find more. when individual contributors work alone and largely outside the scope of a team.. But where teams are concerned. he could serve as the poster boy for my definition of a remarkable employee. One of my employees complained about how another employee treats him. He said. Never assume the only individual attributes that matter are attributes that can be measured. and outcomes. actions. Focus only on numbers—especially on the wrong numbers—and you build teams that on paper should perform well… but in practice never do. Could we have afforded two operators on the team like him? No. Sorting out interpersonal issues is never easy. or a loner who is an outstanding problem solver. You may not be able to build a team where every member possesses your most important attribute.) The rest of us bridged his speed gap and we all benefitted from his leadership skills.. Talk to both employees. but only talk about facts: Words. Even when you do. In our case a crew was made up of six operators. it can still appear you took sides—at the very least to the employee who "lost. (In fact. Here's how to handle interpersonal problems more gracefully. I spoke to the other employee and he denied it. success is almost always the result of intangible qualities. separately or together. talks behind his back. probably not. Knowing your threshold point frees you up to build a team with complementary skills. How to Settle Employee Squabbles The last thing you want to do is seem like you're taking sides. Sticking to facts helps you avoid entering the "feelings zone. In some cases." What do I do now? — Name withheld by request. If not you‘re still okay. Decide how many individuals who possess your most important attribute will be enough to make things work." The key is to stick to facts. that‘s great. You can take on a great team player who is technically weaker. He said the other employee makes snide remarks. "I don't know what his problem is. behaviors. He thinks everyone hates him. Dear Jeff. Put together the rest of your puzzle. quantifiable skills may be all-important. . or a person with limited experience who possesses incredible hustle and drive. We had room for one operator who wasn't quite as fast on job changeovers but was a great leader.

" or "I know he doesn't like me. most employees respond positively to the fact you tried." While that may be what you would love to say. And definitely never say something to the effect of. To at least one employee the problem is very real. determine whether those things were appropriate.. That means you'll need to direct the conversation and avoid discussion like. 6 Ways Successful People Stand Out Substance trumps style in the long run. caused those feelings. Helping other people succeed is your job.. Why? Your success creates success for others--and success requires. but employee behaviors definitely fall within your scope. Here's how to make the kind of impression that lasts. Employee emotions are largely outside your control. You don't have to like each other. "Let's talk about that." For example. For example. if any. but what you really need to know are what actions. standing out from the crowd and being known for something. at least part of the time. So find out exactly what was said and done. grow up. the list goes on and on. "I know he doesn't respect me. Have a question? Email questions@blackbirdinc.. but it's also your job to focus on yourself. you can't." interrupt (nicely) and say.. vendors and suppliers. Bosses spend the vast majority of their time helping other people succeed: employees. "Look. More importantly you can help employees focus on behaviors that can be changed.. And then keep a close eye on the situation and make sure your door is always open. Of course there are different ways you can stand out. "I know he thinks.... . if an employee says. and then clearly state what you expect in the future. And remember that while you may not fully solve an interpersonal squabble. Please indicate if you would like your name and/or company name to appear. you can be like this guy..Don't get me wrong: Feelings are of course important." or "I know he assumes. at least in part. Why do you feel he doesn't respect you? What has he said or done to make you feel that way?" By focusing on facts you can find out what really happened.com and it may appear in a future column.. You just need to do your jobs. customers.

The customer will appreciate how you tried. Bummer. There are better ways: Be first. or acts faster. Experiment with a new process or service with a particular customer in mind. and soon after I was selected for a high-visibility company-wide process improvement team because now I was "that guy.. years ago I decided to create a Web-based employee handbook my then-employer could put on the company Intranet. Chip away at an ongoing project others are ignoring. Be the entrepreneur known for turning around struggling employees. Take care of unresolved problems from the day before. I worked on the project at home and a few managers liked it but our HR manager hated it. Be known for something specific. won't help you stand out. with a purpose. Excelling at a side project helps you stand out. or who always follows up first. Don't just be the one who turns on the lights--be the one who gets in early and gets things done. Meeting standards. Go above the norm. That's great. so it died an inglorious death. Pick a worthwhile mission and excel at that mission. Create your own side project. Whatever you choose. Be known as the person who responds quicker. Set things up so it's easier for employees to hit the ground running when they arrive.Okay. I was disappointed but the company wasn't "out" anything. do something visibly worthwhile for the company. and you'll become "that guy. The key is to take a risk with a project and make sure your company or customers don't share that risk. to better meet their needs. . do it consistently. Lots of business owners are the first to arrive each day." The same works for a business owner." Put your muscle where your mouth is. but what do you do with that time? Organize your thoughts? Get a jump on your email? Instead of taking care of your stuff. however lofty those standards may be. For example. The example you set will quickly spread. Excelling at an assigned project is expected. without being asked.. maybe not. Be the boss who consistently promotes from within. Be the business owner who makes a few deliveries a week to personally check in with customers.

It's also the easiest. Look around: How many of your competitors are working as hard as they can? Not many. I left the company years ago for another but I still run into former colleagues. 5 Things You Should Say to Your Colleagues Today They're small things--but they can completely change someone's day. a few personal details add color and depth to your professional image. Work harder than everyone else. Let people know a little about you. It's easy to criticize what's wrong or to talk about what should be changed or could be improved. That's a huge advantage for a new business or a company competing in a crowded market.Lots of people take verbal stands. Show a little of your personal side.‖ my ex-coworker said. Say you think a project has gone off the rails. Just make sure your personal interests don't overshadow professional accomplishments. The people who stand out are the ones who help do something about it. did you hear about the (latest management decision I think is really stupid) at the plant?‖ This question was different. because you'll be the only one trying. The best way to stand out is to try to out-work everyone else. ―Hey. but being "the guy who is always training and traveling to marathons so we can never reach him when we need him" is not. instead of simply showing everyone how smart you are by pointing out its flaws and revamping the timeline. ―You worked there for almost 20 years. Being "the guy who ran a marathon" is fine. jump in and help fix it. Nothing--nothing--is a substitute for hard work. Fewer take a stand and put effort behind their opinions. Personal interests help other people to identify and remember you. ―Is there anything you wish you could go back and do over?" . Usually the ensuing conversation involves something along the lines of.

Say you're sorry. to some of my peers. ―I thought you were. No less. “Can I help you. asking for help is seen as a sign of weakness. he swallowed his pride—he was senior to me in tenure and perceived status—and told me he would be happy to help in any way he could.‖ Be specific. There are things we need to apologize for: Words. Many people naturally hesitate to ask. or simply be supportive. ―I was just thinking about how you handled that project last year.. Say.. I'm all right. or step in.. I don't really regret strategic errors or poor tactical decisions or career missteps (I made plenty of those. I was given the lead on a project he really wanted. No more. ―Is there anything I can help you with?‖ Most people will automatically say... not really. I decided to show I could handle the project alone.) Surprise praise is a gift that costs the giver nothing but is priceless to the recipient. Saying.?” Then flip it around. Saying.. Say you're sorry. because you still remember what happened a year later.‖ And there‘s a bonus: You get help.‖ can make just as positive an impact today as it would have then. Don't just say.‖ or any statement that in any way places even the tiniest amount of blame back on the other person.) I certainly regretted those things then. Pick someone who did something well and tell them. But everyone needs help. Failing to step up. I never let him. Actions.. Instead I most regret the things I didn't say: To employees who reported to me. . but it‘s not too late for you.I thought about it later. but now. can I help you finish that?‖ Offer in a way that feels collaborative. Those are moments I'd like to have back..” We‘ve all screwed up. not patronizing or gratuitous.. “Can you help me..‖ or. ―No. say why you're sorry. ―I've got a few minutes. And don't follow up your apology with a disclaimer like. I let my ego be more important than his feelings. In some organizations.. and take all the blame.. To his credit.” No one receives enough praise.. and to at least one person I worked for. ―But I was really upset. Here are five things you should say—today—to people you work with: “That was great how you. “I'm sorry I didn't. ―Can you help me?‖ is the same as saying.. It's too late for me. Asking someone for help implicitly recognizes their skills and value. Even though I could tell he really wanted to participate...?” One of my biggest regrets is not asking a fellow supervisor for help. Omissions. (Maybe a little more impact. ―You're great at that. Feel free to go back in time. No one.

Some of these moves are just plain rude. Just don‘t sell it. 2.) Told you. so they have decided to handle it themselves. Seriously. You sell an item that was a gift. Your significant other publicly criticizes employees. no matter how right. It's up to you to chase them away. That‘s tacky.And then actually help. well. It was a project I definitely didn't want. give it back. Eventually my manager said. I let other people take up my slack and focused on projects I was more interested in. 3. If you don‘t want it. A manufacturer gives you a tablet in hopes you‘ll review it on your blog. or vendors. describe what you need. they don‘t work there. It always without exception sounds horrible. (Go ahead and watch. If he agrees let him help you—on his terms. Others are real reputation-killers. They have no right. ―Everyone knows you're really busy.” I was assigned a project in a different department. To his credit. You ask for a favor and then describe how the favor should be performed. Say you write a popular tech blog. . I'll wait. didn't care. to my discredit. Or donate it to charity. It‘s yours to do with as you please. The biggest elephants are emotional elephants. So. 8 Tacky Business Moves to Avoid Don't be that person. ―I know you were trying to help me. customers. When you ask someone to help you. Don't be caught making any of them: 1. In fact it sounds something like this. “I'm sorry I let you down. It‘s a gift. now or later. I let it slide. I'm sorry I let you down. I promise it will never happen again.‖ I felt bad but I never said. No matter how justified.‖ That one statement would have chased a very large elephant from the room. my manager had stuck his neck out to get me the project so I could get broader exposure but I.

Still. ―Could you change a few of the words in your review? You used ‗great‘ three times. I posted it. Why quibble? Don‘t try to turn someone else‘s nice gesture into something even nicer. the players have lost interest.It sucks to say yes only to find out that 10 more conditions also apply. The next day she emailed me. are a time-honored customer relationship tradition. And then you‘re that girl. do you have any free time tomorrow?‖ should always be followed by. You interview someone’s friend as a courtesy. 5. (Which is why. The only time anyone should ever know what you‘re having for lunch is if they ask. don‘t go through the motions. etc. Save the fragrant leftovers for home. 7. half the crowd is gone. picnics. Anything less shows you really didn‘t appreciate the gesture. concerts. no. Okay. I once wrote a review for a person at their request. neither should your lunch. Even if the game is a blowout. work parties. 8. stay until it‘s over. You don't stay to the end when you’re given tickets to an event. Providing tickets to sports games. Just say thanks. often in the form of legend. They aren‘t Vegas. It was an awesome review. or outings are an extension of work. Your perfume or cologne should never precede you. What's on your list of tacky business moves? 6 Ways to Ruin a Company Offsite Meeting . You do something at the office party you wouldn’t do at work. Forget I used "great" three times in the same sentence on purpose because I liked the rhythm. ―Maybe… what do you need?‖) Beggars can‘t be post-agreement choosers. you can have a drink even though you (I‘m guessing?) wouldn‘t have one at work. Don‘t be that girl. 6. Throwing someone a bone usually means someone gets hurt. You—however mildly—criticize a nice gesture. 4. If the friend does not otherwise deserve an interview. Change two to ‗excellent‘ and ‗outstanding‘?‖ Um. I can‘t. and your ―host‖ isn‘t even there. You commit a lunchtime assault. What you say and do at the office party doesn‘t stay at the office party—everyone remembers. ―Hey.

Then. Inviting more than 10 people is usually a mistake. not the venue. . many of those people get offsites wrong.. Unfortunately. You know going into the meeting that a few employees will work to pursue their own agendas. Wrong place. Give temperamental employees a chance to be heard in private. Unusual venues are fun. Some will bring up subjects better dealt with elsewhere.. Generally speaking there‘s an inverse relationship between the number of participants and the value of a meeting. Save the everyday stuff for every other day. if necessary. but don‘t assume meeting at a ―creative‖ location will automatically inspire your team to greater creativity. Invite too many people. Talk to everyone. since I have you all together. and efficiency. Invite the right people and have them seek input from others before the meeting. the offsite is an integral part of many managers‘ and business owners‘ leadership toolkits. Many people disagree. Fail to pre-interview. Worry about buy-in later. And don‘t assume you need to spend more on the meeting to ensure employees take the meeting seriously. wrong time. They‘re also distracting. Give them a chance to vent or whine. 4. sometimes that‘s all they want. Deal with those situations ahead of time. don‘t make the following mistakes: 1. not input. especially if the entire group is rarely in the same location. Using the time to take care of a number of outstanding issues is a temptation few can resist. but not at an offsite. Whenever you find yourself about to say. 3.‖ stop immediately. Let the venue overwhelm the occasion. Give them a sense of what you hope to accomplish. Too bad. and why what you want to accomplish is important. Every employee should have a voice. 2.Still doing trust falls and scavenger hunts? If you want results. here's how not to run a team meeting. an offsite should result in decisions. Pick a venue that allows your employees to focus on the meeting. Fill the agenda with small items. convenience. Higher meeting expenses don‘t correlate to better meeting outcomes. By all means ensure comfort. If you think an offsite is in order. explain what you expect from them during the meeting. I‘m not a huge fan of the offsite meeting—mainly because I'm skeptical that "thinking outside the box" will happen just because you've let your employees out of the box. Fancy venues are cool. why don't we take a second and. "You know. One or two might actually try to sabotage the meeting.

offsite wage expenses are high enough. Great teams become great teams when they produce great results. To your employees. . and initiatives. to other employees. 7 Undeniable Truths of Employee Pay To you. Policy. perks—basically anything related to compensation—will stay confidential. Focus the meeting on how to produce great results. not in fumbling around for facts or figures. a day-long 10-person offsite costs $1. Teambuilding exercises. That expense should result in decisions. bonuses. Trust is built when employees know. 6.‖ Generally speaking. Include teambuilding exercises when teambuilding isn’t the point. puzzles. Skip the exercises. the only employees who don‘t share details about their pay are the ones who are embarrassed by how much or how little they make. Forget the cost of the venue and amenities. that they can count on each other. through long experience. they're much more. Never assume raises. Employees talk. treasure hunts. Workplace trust is not built on a ropes course. schmolicy: Employees talk. who doesn‘t want a stronger. and let your team discover how great it is through their achievements. They‘re still fairly popular.. like ropes courses. Arrive unprepared to make decisions. After all. etc. so ignore the following truths at your peril: 1. Doesn‘t matter. Make sure you talk about what you know—not about what you don‘t know. more cohesive team. Then create a backup plan if you need access to data during the meeting. Many companies actively discourage staff from talking to each other about their salaries. their salaries are just a line item in the budget. Get down to business instead. I did. If all your employees make $15/hour. both when I was ―labor‖ and when I was ―management. I even know companies that require employees to sign agreements stipulating they won‘t disclose pay. more cohesive team? Still. etc. Work really hard to pull together all the data you need ahead of time.5.200 (not counting benefits) in wages alone. Your employees are your business. benefits. were incredibly popular in 90s corporate America. actions. a one-off teambuilding exercise will not result in a stronger. starting salaries. Designate an employee not attending the meeting as your go-to person for performing quick research.

The gain is never worth the pain. Why? Employees lose if only because they resent justifying a certain pay level. in their view you should already know their value. Unless your business is struggling. often with good reason. If you think a certain percentage raise is fair. They’ll let you take advantage. Employees think about pay all the time. but you‘re just not worth that much. people get paid. developmental opportunities. always make your best offer. to you employee pay is a one-off market research activity or something you consider when it‘s time to prepare your expense budget. Falling back on pay scales is often the easiest way out of a difficult discussion about pay. so pay whatever you can to get and keep the best you can. 3. You lose because at some point you may have to say. Plus it‘s just wrong. ―I‘m sorry. And since business owners are born cost cutters. Every time they deposit their check they think about their pay. Saying. Each week spend a little time thinking about ways you can improve employee pay and benefits. If you can‘t afford to pay an employee more. you can find other ways to improve how you compensate employees: flexible hours. you both lose.2. . You get what you pay for. say so. but most new employees are just really happy to land the new job. Pay scales are like a pacifier to a big company. Pay scales—and pay practices—are important to you. They don’t care about pay scales. and it's business as usual. explain why. pay is the most important number in their family's budget. 4. and use reason and logic—and empathy—to explain pay decisions to employees. And that feeling never. While you may not be able to make substantial changes to what you pay. it‘s natural to hire every new employee for as low a wage as possible. They think about their pay a lot more than you do. ―That‘s just how our system is set up. Then the employment honeymoon wears off and the employee feels you took advantage. views them as arbitrary rules you came up with one day. flexible benefits. ever goes away.‖ Great employees are worth a lot more than their pay. in so many words. to employees. Otherwise checks get cut. Never take advantage of a naïve or desperate employee. When you negotiate. Occasionally the job market is a seller‘s market. To you. etc. 5. When you find great. If your best offer is too low. Use pay scales to build your budget.‖ is a cop-out. but they‘re largely irrelevant to an employee who. their pay is a line item. there‘s nothing you could have done.

killer wardrobes. and increased competition. opportunities for development… the feeling that their job is more than just a job. We all grow accustomed to what we have. make to-do lists. Get started so you can start adapting. financial constraints. your employees are stuck simply working for a paycheck. . Respect. other things become important: recognition. Businesses are built on go. because… 7. Unfortunately you can‘t always give more. It's a lot more fun to avoid them entirely. Assume style indicates substance. create long-range plans. identity packages.6. Think of a plan as an end result. Here are some of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs—and businesspeople in general— tend to make: 1. The effect of a big raise eventually wears off.. revenue shortfalls. They understand market conditions. But why not skip the pain and suffering yourself--at least on these 9 mistakes. recognition. eventually. The happiest and most engaged employees feel they work for something more than just money. not show. No matter how much you pay. none of those matter if you can't deliver. eccentric work spaces. Higher pay is great but the effects are fleeting. They understand when you can‘t pay top-of-market salaries. Logos. and a sense of real purpose last forever. that raise is just pay as usual. it’s not enough. Once pay is reasonable and fair.. somewhere along the way you've forgotten your goal is to actually start the business. The 9 Most Common Start-up Mistakes Mistakes are a great way to learn. Making mistakes is also not particularly fun. Making mistakes is a great way to learn. And that‘s okay. Without meaning. and get going. It‘s natural. Reasonable pay is okay. both inside and outside your company. It‘s your job to provide that sense of belonging and meaning. Most successful people are solid planners and excellent adapters. Your business or personal style will create a memorable brand as long as you deliver. respect. 2. We all want more. Establish goals. A big new house eventually seems normal. Say you‘re agonizing over a business plan. Employees are smart. What they don‘t understand is when they don‘t feel fairly compensated compared to other employees in similar positions. challenging work.

Just because you really want something to work out doesn't mean it will magically cost less. Give up too soon. A start-up. Know what you will do if your timelines are wrong. Sometimes it's not the business or the market. Opportunities are tantalizing. but execution is everything. 7. Every once in awhile. If you‘re like me your favorite childhood stories involve something stupid you did. Dreams are exciting. Plans are more concrete. (How else would I know the right mixture of sulfur and saltpeter will burn hot enough to turn a Tonka truck into a glop of metal?) Business is serious enough. Keep getting distracted by the latest trend and your best ideas get ignored. Check out everything on the business menu. Don't be afraid. Assume perfection is required. Create timelines but always factor in scenarios and sensitivities. Sometimes it's you. Great. Underestimate the time required. Stop acting silly. 8. Think of business as all-you-can-eat. 5. Small is almost always your start-up friend. no matter how bootstrapped. always has unforeseen costs. Silly makes you feel like a kid again. so do a Tim Gunn and make it work. Before you give up. Nothing ever goes as quickly as you predict. Never quit until you‘re sure it‘s not you. Success rhymes with excess for good reason: Entrepreneurs who succeed do so because they work harder and longer. or have too big an ego. Silly is memorable. Underestimate the money required. 3. Get to market and then start refining your products or services based on actual customer feedback. in a start-up. Just like your time estimates. Take on too much and you do few things well. Ideas are thrilling. Laughing at yourself will make the toughest day a lot easier. Apply sensitivities and create plans in case your estimates are wrong. what will you do? An estimate is theoretical. they will be. Trying to create a product that meets every conceivable customer need? Sooner is almost always better than later. do something silly. 4. take a step back and decide whether additional effort is all that's required to overcome roadblocks or hurdles. to start small. And get to work. If you don't reach your estimated sales in six months. . It‘s easy to underestimate cost when you let hope creep into your calculations. 6. time passes in reverse dog years.Just be you. but only select a few items at a time. They will be.

(If you don‘t want to accomplish something there‘s no reason to write. Dear Jeff. you either don‘t know what you hope to accomplish or how you will accomplish it. Not only am I slow I also am not very good. If you‘re trying to build a relationship. Here's how. We are all influenced to some extent by what other people think about us. you just just need to become a better technician with words. it‘s probably because you‘ve gotten hung up on the ―craft‖ of writing. not your own. It‘s the only one you get. Here‘s how: Start with your goal. If you‘re justifying a project. How can I improve short of having to take a technical writing class?—Erin Jameson If you think you aren‘t a good writer. to sell. I mostly write emails but I also do reports. I feel like I spend most of my day writing. list the four major benefits. to build a relationship. But unless you‘re somebody like Nicholas Sparks and you write novels guys hate because you make us all look like insensitive jerks by comparison. 10 Quick Tips to Become a Better Writer It's not about being a highly skilled artist. It sounds selfish. and analysis papers. It‘s really hard to write well when you‘re worried about how you write. Whether it‘s emails. proposals. .9. to instruct. but when you write you want something: To educate. Your bullets should support your goal. list the three things you will offer to do. Always be sure you're living your life. style is basically irrelevant. If they don‘t. Be a technician. Just break your goal(s) into bullet points. For now forget complete paragraphs and sentences. etc.) Determine exactly what you hope to accomplish. What matters most is what matters most to you. to convince. Organize in bullets. So don‘t worry about being an artist. Writing is all about achieving a goal. But what do you want? What really matters to you? Live your life based on the opinions of others and you live their lives. reports… good writing gets things done. Adopt expectations. That drives everything. Results are all that matters. project justifications.

and a lot more to the point. Treat your writing like wine and let it breathe. flowery. Good writing is a reflection of your thoughts.. and suddenly everything you write looks incredible.) That's why you should always. you know. Whenever possible skip the intros and get to the point..) Rewrites are much easier when you step away and return with fresh eyes. I cut my Negotiating for Wimps post in half when I edited it. show appreciation. The key word in that sentence is ―your. Avoid lists if your goal is to say thanks. Just write like you talk. If each point can‘t at least partly stand on its own without lengthy explanation your bullets aren‘t tight enough. you aren't reading this anyway. The result will be tighter. (I should know.. (Like that last sentence. more powerful. Just keep in mind lists come across as impersonal and less than friendly. your ideas. Roughly speaking.Then determine your structure. pretend you have to cut out a third of what you‘ve written.. Your personal style is not your personal style if you have to think about it. Just make sure that you also… Be yourself. leave out anything the reader already knows. ―Here are the reasons we should proceed‖ may be all you need. Eliminate the obvious. Long. convoluted sentences are bad. Now you can worry about formatting and style. If you don't think good writing is important. Never try to force a style. and your reasoning.. and as I re-read it I think it's still a little wordy. Otherwise. It‘s easy to slip on beer goggles when you write: You get into the flow. or congratulate the reader. Verbs are good. For example. After you finish a draft. Lists make the process of writing a lot easier.‖ . I didn't start this post with the obligatory ―excellent writing skills are incredibly important in every profession or business‖ lead.. And don‘t force a list. Be direct. That's why you should. Nouns are good. but then you wake up horrified the next day. only like without the ―um‖ and ―you know‖ and ―like‖ stuff. I write them all the time. I have never written anything I did not later feel could be improved. If your goal is important. Lists make the writing process a lot easier while making your main points more memorable. Cut a third. if you‘re detailing your reasoning behind a project request. make lists your friends. use lists (bullets or numbers) when you have discreet points to make. fall in love with a clever phrase. always start early enough that you can let what you write sit for at least a few hours before you give it a final edit. Rough drafts are naturally wordy because you‘re thinking as you write. No one wants to read the top five reasons their speech was awesome.

Ask friends and colleagues for input. the words are easy. But don't try to wring out every ounce of character. Most job board sites..000 recruiters in 35 countries to handle more than 150. here are some ways any small business can take advantage of techniques used by professional recruiters: 1. Partly that‘s because finding new employees is just one of a thousand other tasks you perform. have seen a steady decline in traffic. I called on one. Once you have that. When recruiting is something you only do occasionally it‘s hard to be an expert—unless you adopt some of the strategies professional recruiters use. smiled sheepishly. I once took an informal survey at a speaking event. You’re Doing It Wrong The six steps every business owner must follow to find better talent. . ―are satisfied with the way you find and recruit employees?‖ Two people raised their hands. ―What‘s your secret?‖ He shrugged. And he‘s my brother. According to Papas. Have a question? Email questions@blackbirdinc.000 job orders and placements every month.. to take certain actions.com and it may appear in a future column. to respond by a certain time. Enter Art Papas. Let other people proofread. CEO of Bullhorn. a recruiting software firm whose web-based products like Reach and Marketplace are used by over 45. If This Isn’t How You Recruit. not just easy. but you need effective. ―I only have one employee. and said.‖ I asked an audience of about 300 entrepreneurs. Sure. like Monster and Career Builder. they're easy to use. Ditch the job boards. And finally… Make sure the reader knows what you want. Please indicate if you would like your name and company name to appear. ―How many of you. or just to feel complimented or appreciated—then you failed.‖ Most small business owners struggle to find and recruit great employees even when unemployment rates are relatively high. The job seeker audience is moving on to basic search and to search aggregators like Indeed and Simply Hired. It's your writing—it should reflect you. Results are everything. If the reader can‘t tell what you want—to make a decision. Don't write unless you have a meaningful point to make.

and they love to help their friends. Obviously spend a massive amount of time on LinkedIn. ―We‘ll keep your information on file and will contact you if we have future openings. And don‘t create a system that only makes your job easier. not for improving the candidate relationship process. . Facebook. and they're not shy about sharing their feelings with others. in the good graces of the people you don‘t hire. while the more passive job seekers are on Facebook. and that job would be perfect for him… I‘ll tell him!‖ While only a few people may respond. That simple addition alone quadrupled conversion rates. In the long run it definitely pays off. You promote your company on Facebook as a way to build your fan base. Create a simple system that lets you stay. Instead. as best as possible. Manage the relationship. Many companies make the barrier to entry too high and the reward too low by requiring applicants to fill out page after page of information before they can even submit a resume. so why not get even more out of it? Say you run a coffee shop. people who are so skilled they have options—will opt out. ―Hey. Every job seeker has heard. Some may think. 3. 4. Where job searches are concerned. If you say you‘re hiring. Most companies create systems that are optimized for tracking compliance with federal regulations. my friend John is looking for a job. Every candidate you turn down is at the very least a potential customer. and Twitter. at best a person you will want to hire. Put more emphasis on social media. make it your goal to facilitate a conversation. 5.‖ Every job seeker also knows the company never will. Follow up. Set the barrier to entry too high and you create a negative selection bias.2. Treat job seekers with the same courtesy and respect you extend to your customers. Why should they waste all that time when the employer probably won‘t even call? Making it easy definitely works. So start publishing job opportunities there. Tell the people who are fans of your brand that you‘re hiring. Create a system that makes it as easy as possible for great candidates to engage—in fact. They already like you. You‘re already engaged in social media. to want to engage—with you. your fans will spread the word. you only need a few. The candidates you most want to attract—in some cases. All you have to do is leverage your existing social media marketing efforts. Make applying easy. the active job seekers live on LinkedIn. Job seekers hate when they apply for a job and never heard a word. One of Bullhorn's systems places a ―Let‘s Talk!‖ button next to the recruiter‘s photo.

Sell. Say there‘s a person you tried but failed to hire because she opted to stay at her current job. 3 turns out to be a disaster. You can too. Ultimately the best talent needs to be sold.quick. and motivation. though. Stay connected the same way you would stay connected to a sales lead. playing résumé roulette. make an offer -. but it's nearly impossible to teach and instill enthusiasm. new endorsements… various social media signs that an employee may be on the move. the smaller your business the more important it is you hire the right people. But the typical hiring path is a third-party recruiter or an employee referral. So pay attention. If you find someone with these 7 traits. You would still love to hire her. Do more than just send a generic ―Have you thought about coming to work for us?‖ email every six months. If you don‘t select a candidate but she is definitely a person you may want to hire in the future. We all want to work with great people. teamwork and independence (great employees have both). That's why attitude is everything. thousands of people submit applications for any job they can find. Bullhorn offers a Reach Radar tool that watches for profile updates. you wouldn't throw away a lead. The people who get jobs leverage their connections to get their foot in the door. While every hiring decision is important. Remember. 7 Must-Have Qualities to Look for in Employees The smaller your business. connections with recruiters. Great companies land outstanding employees because they work hard to find and sell great talent. When employee No. the more crucial it is to get every new hire right. Think of it from the potential employee‘s point of view. You can teach skills. . 300 turns out to be a disaster. When employee No. set up a simple system that allows you to stay in touch. we‘re all in the same boat. See great people as leads.A percentage of the people who apply for your opening already have a job so they may still be interested in working for you six months from now. would you? 6. When unemployment is high. the impact on the business is relatively small and often confined to a small group of staff. As an employer it‘s just as important for you to make and nurture connections as it is for employees and job seekers. everyone—and everything—suffers. Watch for things like LinkedIn Profile updates.

not hold a position. she‘s done her homework. Say you sell products online.) Want to learn and take over. etc. vendors. generating leads. processing orders." He felt he was paid to work for 8 hours. only bring roles in-house because the candidate is truly outstanding. give her serious consideration. Great employees are more concerned with overall objectives and goals than their individual duties. I don‘t mean to be rude. Here‘s a list of the changes I would make in the first three months. An employee who isn‘t afraid to stand out or stretch boundaries often comes up with the best ideas—and helps you think in different ways. but it could be a lot better. Think. "I checked out your website. too. "Sure. so having the luxury to delegate and forget is extremely valuable. but in a really good way. Aren’t concerned with job descriptions or organizational structures. “I’ll do whatever you need. What qualities would you add? 6 Phrases You Should Never Say Again . If you have the choice. Many roles can be outsourced. While a prospective employee will rarely knock on your door. Think about your favorite customers. Great employees are willing to do whatever it takes. It's all 8 hours to me. (If you don't feel there's a difference you haven't run a small business. While employees with an independent streak can be more difficult to manage the payoff is definitely worth it. He smiled and said. Possess one outstanding skill. To a business owner a prospective employee who asks to see a detailed job description is waving a giant red flag. and make your day a little more fun. Customers buy more and build longer-term relationships from people they like. and happy to be different may seem a little out there.And that‘s why great small business employees: Can come across a little different. She‘s targeted her approach. That‘s my list. when one does. Look for the same qualities in the people you hire. Small businesses have a variety of specific needs: Running the website. It’s all 8 hours to me. and she‘s displayed a level of initiative every business owner hopes to find. outgoing. friendly. Employees are paid to work. I graduate soon and would love to work for you. May lack polish but overflow with personality. Asked you for a job. You're often overwhelmed. sometimes irreverent." I first heard that expression when I asked an employee to help me clean up after a backed-up sewer line spread (incredibly unpleasant) fluid across the warehouse floor. and here‘s a breakdown of how those changes will improve SEO results and conversion rates. One day a college senior walks in and says. People who are quirky. What typically comes to mind first? Those people are personable. so the tasks he performed during that time period didn't matter (in a good way). or suppliers.

I worked for a manager that was the poster child of buzzwords. If this colleague heard a new one. I once carried on a passionate and all-too-public affair with ―that‘s neither here nor there. he was one of those. Typical usage: ―What can I say? That‘s just Joe being Joe. The Fake Agreement: Pretending to agree while expressing the opposite point of view.‖ (Or even worse.in the same sentence as a way to justify unusual or unacceptable behavior. 2. If you disagree. Yep. The Double Name: Using a person‘s name twice-. or without noticing use irritating speech patterns. we all have a little of that manager in us. he pulled a small notepad out of his shirt pocket and wrote it down. he also bought one of the first Palm Pilots.especially your own-.Love catchy business speak? Before your next meeting or presentation. Typical usage: ―I can definitely see what you‘re saying. We use the same words too often. you don’t really see what I‘m saying because otherwise you would agree with what I‘m saying. but I just don‘t think we should take on that project. Years ago. . Whenever he whipped out his pad two things happened: 1) the manager looked smug and proud because he thought he had just said something so insightful the supervisor wanted to capture for it for posterity. ―What can I say? That‘s just me being me.) One of my colleagues maintained a running list of this manager‘s buzzwords. just say so professionally. let‘s just stop there. make sure you aren't guilty of one of these useless (& annoying) verbal tics. (Oh. ―I hear you…‖ is like a condescending pat on the head. Guess how productive those meetings were. See if you‘re guilty of any of these: 1.‖) Whenever you say a person‘s name twice as a way to describe them you‘re actually making an excuse for behavior you would never tolerate from someone else. Unfortunately. and 2) the rest of us tried not to laugh because we knew what was really going on. or simply fall in love with certain expressions. Beginning a sentence with. And everyone knows it. He loved slipping ―cones of precision‖ and ―silos‖ and ―drill down‖ and… well.‖) When we do. so roomfuls of people often sat waiting while he laboriously entered timelines and schedules into his calendar. (I‘m definitely guilty. Don‘t try to couch a different opinion inside a warm and fuzzy Fake Agreement.‖ In fact. whatever we hoped to say gets lost.

I walk in your store. I want to buy a shirt. . you‘re just trying to create buy-in or a sense of inclusion by pretending you still have an open mind… or you‘re planting seeds for something you know you will eventually do. you‘re sure.3.‖ Oh yes. let‘s say I‘m thinking we can just move on.. The First Person Theoretical: Pretending to be another person in order to explore different points of view. sometimes multiple times. Often he could cram all three into the same sentence. Typical usage: ―Let‘s say I‘m the average customer. when I think about it I‘m not so sure shutting down that facility isn‘t the best option after all. 5. Typical usage: ―You know." You can get away with this occasionally. Think about it. but more than once a year is really irritating. The Unsupported Closure: Ending a discussion or making a decision without backup or solid justification. in fact. you are. The False Uncertainty: Pretending you‘re not sure when. or can‘t. explain why..‖ Win-win! 4. I kept track one time and counted thirty-seven ―in other words‖ in a four-minute span. Whenever you feel an. we‘re here to sell products. otherwise you‘ll spout inane platitudes instead of objective reasons that may actually help your employees get behind your decision. In fact. Typical usage: ―At the end of the day. Typical usage: Simply pick a word and hammer it to death. Let‘s say I‘m the average reader and I know someone who uses the First Person Theoretical to pretend they‘re putting themselves in someone else‘s shoes. but at the end of the day revenue concerns must come first. Never say you aren‘t sure unless you are truly willing to consider other viewpoints.‖ ―in general. ―At the end of the day…‖ coming on. Quick note: A Fake Agreement combines nicely with an Unjustified Closure: ―I hear what you‘re saying.‖ and ―regarding‖ into. And let‘s say I‘m thinking it‘s really irritating. take a deep breath and start over.and so on.‖ Really? I had no idea we‘re supposed to sell products! Unsupported Closure is a go-to move for people who want something a certain way and don‘t feel like. 6. The Favorite Word: Using a word so often that word is all anyone hears. I had a boss who never met a sentence he couldn‘t find a way to shoehorn ―in other words.

Unfortunately. ―I'll stay on this until it‘s complete. Reignite Your Passion for the Business: 6 Tips Somewhere along the way you lost the thrill of running your own business. Pick the one thing you enjoy the most about your business and do it. other people not only tire of it but they hear nothing else. I‘m also not worried about him reading this since he‘s probably off somewhere clubbing baby seals. Every day you face some of the same problems with vendors. thinking. as your business grows you gradually spend more time working on the business than in the business. You'll start the next day recharged—and you'll remember why you love your business. That‘s a good thing—but not when you‘re in a rut. and customers. Everyone has ways of measuring how they work. ―I'll work on this for three hours. ―Oh jeez. and I promise you‘ll never use that word again. At first they‘ll look uncomfortable and try to avoid answering. the less time you get to spend actually doing what you love. 2. If you're a landscaper with four crews.‖ Some people dip in and out of various tasks throughout the day. I‘m not proud. Insist. roadblocks. Some people work based on time. suppliers. Whatever you hoped to get across gets lost as people think. for once could he leave out the ‗that‘s neither here nor there‘‖? Ask someone if you overuse a word or phrase. better yet. This week make time to ―work‖ for a few hours or. And you start to lose your enthusiasm and passion for your business. . As a business owner you often face the same frustrations. Here's how to get it back.Hey. you probably spend the majority of your time organizing and managing and fighting fires and very little time creating amazing designs.‖ Some work based on tasks. and employee headaches. Jump back in the pool. the whole full day. You undoubtedly started your business based on a passion. The more successful your business. thinking. When you fall in love with a word or expression. How do you get that enthusiasm back? Here are five ways to break out of a business rut: 1. Eventually they‘ll tell you. Use a different standard.

follow up. Now it just takes up valuable shelf space and a big chunk of operating capital. Your employees can perform many tasks just as well as you can. now they‘re not. train. Spend more time with your best.‖ The more you eliminate the more your day changes and the more time you free up to focus on what really matters. tasks.. often even better. or the experience. anything that falls into the category of. Every business owner does. 3. You may be surprised by the increase in productivity. It's also draining. . setting a time limit will cause you to work smarter and harder to make sure you get done within the time allowed. and trying to make it a winner drains resources from every part of your business. Stop doing five things. ―Well. Or maybe a product line needs to be cut because it no longer sells. that's how we've always done things. One of your employees is so organized she makes Stephen Covey look messy. Of course that‘s not true. Not only is his performance poor. and let go. One of your employees has outstanding interpersonal skills. Nagging. You hang on to too much. In all likelihood one of your employees should be let go. If you tend to use time. processes. but once you get past the immediate discomfort you‘ll wonder why you waited so long. Find five things you can stop doing: Reports. Take a different approach and spend a few hours with your best employees. forcing yourself to finish a task will make you more productive for the same reasons. delegate. If you like to finish projects. Get rid of your worst.. 5. It's natural to spend more time with struggling or poor performers. Or maybe one of your customers needs to go because the margins are too low and the effort is too high. switch over to task completion mode. Twenty percent of your employees monopolize most of your time. You're convinced there are some things only you can do: No one else has the skills. If you like to work for a set period of time. set a time limit. or just cares enough... They will appreciate the attention and you will be inspired by people you helped develop. let it go. long-term problems kill enthusiasm and passion. It may be painful at first. Give yourself more room to breathe by giving your employees more opportunities to grow. turn more processes over to her. Whatever your ―worst‖ is. Do you really need to review every proposal from your sales team? Some of your processes and guidelines may have been necessary early on. Pass off five things. If you tend to be task-oriented. you'll look at how you tend to work a little differently. No matter what. 6.Think about how you normally approach your workday and switch it up. 4. Explain. his actions and attitude destroys morale. Let him work with a few key customers.

getting fired is both the end and the start of another process: Collecting personal items.The 10 Worst Things to Say When You Fire Someone Firing someone is hard -. If you've done your job right the employee already knows why he's being fired. I‘m not sure how to say this…‖ You‘re sure what to say. That‘s too bad." For the employee. I have to let you go. State the reason for your action as clearly and concisely as possible. "Oh yeah? What about me? How hard do you think this is on me?" If you feel bad—and you will— talk through your feelings later with someone else." You're not an NBA team firing an unsuccessful coach. getting fired is way harder for the employee. that‘s just selfish. ―Look. this is really hard for me. Whenever you have to fire an employee you must protect your business from a legal aspect. etc. learning about benefits status. Possibly that‘s why making the firing process as easy as possible—for the boss—is something of a cottage industry. 2. "We've decided we need to make a change. Or just say. After that. So forget about your feelings." 3. "Look. Which is why you should never say any of the following: 1. . And also never say. Any time you talk about how difficult the situation is for you the employee thinks. "Mark. Never even hint that the employee should somehow feel your pain. your only goal is to treat the employee as compassionately and respectfully as possible. because while terminating an employee is hard for you. Don't make it worse by putting your foot in your mouth.but getting fired is always harder. You‘re just uncomfortable saying it. "We will work out some of the details later. Letting an employee go can be a stressful and even painful experience. And you're not holding a press conference either. Skip the platitudes." Who cares if it‘s hard for you? The employee certainly doesn‘t. returning company property. Your feelings are irrelevant.

" If Mark doesn't come back. let’s talk about that. Don‘t put them through a walk of shame. to protect your own. "Mark." If you truly are downsizing. the employee is on their time. go get him. Never let yourself be dragged into a back-and-forth discussion. targets. "Okay. Just set simple parameters. and you're hiding behind that excuse so the conversation is easier for you. at least not at first. be empathetic. so down the road you’ll be glad. go ahead and gather up your personal belongings and I'll meet you back here in 10 minutes. Just listen—that‘s the least you can do. especially if you later hire someone to fill the open slot. we can talk about this as long as you like. "I need to walk you to the door. "We both know you aren't happy here. and stick to the facts. But if you're not actually downsizing.. Be professional.It's your job to know how all that works—ahead of time. 4. . Plus. sitting in limbo while you figure out the next steps is humiliating for an employee who wants nothing more than to leave. Let them find their own glimmers of possibility. Just say. Don't feel the need to respond if an employee starts to vent. Never make an employee wait to meet with others who are part of the process. worse. 5. Once you let them go. but a few will want to argue. not yours.‖ That‘s a conversational black hole you will struggle to escape. Just be straightforward. And the most you can do. Say. drawing comparisons between employees makes it possible for what should be an objective decision to veer into the ―personality zone. 7. Employees should be fired because they fail to meet standards. 6." Most employees sit quietly." Whether or not the employee will someday be glad you let them go is not for you to judge. Here’s why. "You just aren't cutting it compared to Mary. or behavioral expectations. but you should understand that nothing we discuss will change the decision." Never compare the fired employee to someone else as justification." I worked for a company where the policy was to immediately escort terminated employees out of the building. He won't argue. then you do the employee a disservice—and you open your business up to potential problems. leave performance out and just say so. Never play games to try to protect the employee's feelings—or. An employee you fire is not a criminal. Employees can‘t find a silver lining in the fired cloud. Getting fired is bad enough. "Mark. "You’ve been a solid employee but we simply have to cut staffing." Arguments almost always make the employee feel worse.. 8.

) Research shows that when a seller makes the first offer the final price is typically higher than if the buyer made the first offer. "If there is anything I can do for you. you are the company (even if. but not this one. but the employee won't. if you are laying off good employees due to lack of work you should do anything you can to help them land on their feet. and a lot more successful: 1. because the other person almost always has a reasonable understanding of value. anchors matter." Like what? Write a glowing letter of recommendation? Call your connections and put in a good word for him? (Of course.000. in fact. a little more fun." But never offer to do things you can't do." At this moment. That anchor strongly influences the rest of the negotiation. I hate negotiating. Say. Remember.‖ In the real world. or other details. "We have decided to let you go.9. (The value of an offer is highly influenced by the first relevant number—an anchor—that enters a negotiation. So set an anchor with your first offer. not about you—and especially not about what makes you feel better. Unfortunately. "If you have any questions about benefits.‖ the thinking goes. So if you‘re like me—a negotiating sissy—here are a few ways to make negotiating a little less stressful. 10. you‘re just an employee.and get it. ―and he would have happily paid $7.000. I'll make sure you get the answers you need. In negotiations. and I‘m a confrontation-averse kinda guy. Why? The buyer's first offer will always be low. I admit it. People hate to go first if only because going first might mean missing out on an opportunity: "If I quote a price of $5. just let me know. negotiating is a fact of business life.) Take responsibility. (Hate negotiating." The word "we" is appropriate in almost every setting. "I. I leave money on the table. Negotiating for Wimps How to ask for what you want -.) Absolutely say. You might feel a little better because you made an offer. call me.) To me. That sets a lower anchor. that rarely happens. when you fire an employee it's all about the employee. Make the first bid. Eleven tips for the confrontation-shy. . final paychecks. a negotiation always feels at least a little confrontational.

too. Be quiet. Always get something in return by taking something off the table. feel free to ask for things you don't really want so you can concede them later. Expect the best. Don‘t provide them. Most of us talk a lot when we‘re nervous. Maybe he‘ll share why he needs to make a deal so quickly. People love to ask for ballpark figures. 6. The seller will start talking in order to fill the silence. If you make an offer and the seller says. don‘t say. Maybe he‘ll list reasons why your offer is too low. Listen and think more than you speak. always ask for something else in return for that higher price. Always go into the negotiation assuming you can get what you want.000. Never negotiate alone. Always assume you can make a deal on your terms. Say a buyer asks you to cut your price. Most of the time the seller will fill the silence with useful information—information you would never have learned if you were speaking. 4." The buyer will naturally want the final cost to be as close to $500 as possible—even if what you are eventually asked to provide should cost well over $1. ballpark figures set anchors. While you probably do have the final word. we miss a lot. If you‘re selling. but when we talk a lot. 2. being the ultimate decision-maker can leave you feeling cornered. much less on your side of the middle. You can't receive if you don't ask. Sit tight. When you do speak." don't respond right away. They‘ll tell you. For example. ask open-ended questions. unless you know what other people really need.0000. You can't meet in the middle. "That is way too low. . Always have a reason to step away and get a final okay from another person. Always ask.If you‘re buying. 3. be first and start the bidding low. Never provide an estimate when you don‘t have enough information. Follow the same logic if you are the buyer. start the bidding high. Keep asking questions instead. High expectations typically lead to high outcomes. When you make a second offer. Every price reduction or increase in value should involve a trade-off of some kind. Never set a range. And if you expect the negotiations to drag on. Use silence as a tool. 5. even if that other person is just you. Concede for a reason. "My guess is the cost will be somewhere between $500 and $1.

most will hang in for much longer than you might think. you‘re not built that way. Here's how one business owner actually made it happen. always think about how what you say and do can help establish a long-term business relationship. because.It might feel wimpy to say. Don‘t try to be a ruthless negotiator. Push too hard and take away every option and the other person may have no choice but to walk away. The more time the other side puts in the more they will want to close the deal… and the more likely they will be to make concessions so they can close the deal. Never assume everything you hear is true. 9. Ignore bold statements. both. While some people will walk away. and never leave too much. so does the other party. Even though money may never change hands. never try to wrap a negotiation up as soon as possible just to be done with it.. Strong statements are either a bullying tactic or a sign of insecurity. Otherwise. Most people don‘t want to lose on their investments. You feel defensive when you feel trapped. Instead. The bolder the statement the more likely it is to be a negotiating tactic.. walk away. always try to… 11.) If you feel intimidated. 10. As you negotiate. listen closely for what lies under all the bluster and posturing. Even though you may hate everything about negotiating. You don't want that. it also makes your business world a better place. 8. Plus there‘s another advantage to going slowly. The best negotiation leaves both people feeling they received something of value. often. Use time to your advantage. Don’t try to win. negotiations are still an investment in time. Give the other person room. Like most platitudes. (Or. Build a relationship. Negotiating isn‘t a game to be won or lost.‖ but better to feel wimpy than to be pressured into a decision you don‘t want to make. A long-term relationship not only makes negotiating easier the next time. . Haste always results in negotiation waste. 7. Never take too much from the table. ―do what you love‖ rings a little hollow… but not for everyone. ―I need to talk this over with a few people first. How I Built a Lifestyle Business I Love Most people wish they could say they do what they love.

―To me. booked her first clients. I really wanted to ride and travel.‖ she says. ―Life is not about having stuff. ―and yet I was still totally stoked. an award-winning cycling tour company based in Boston that has won Outside magazine and National Geographic trip-of-the-year awards. loved to ride. ―I don‘t see it as a ‗sales process. but what sold me was how great the surrounding area is for cycling. ―I knew I didn‘t just want to have time to ride. ―and I thought education would be a cool component. leading trips from Rome to Paris and Rome to London. I decided to design my life so I could always have those experiences and share them with others.‖ . take hundreds of pictures. tour operators offered specialized destinations and experiences.‖ At the time cycling tours tended to focus on point-to-point excursions. ―It‘s a terrific school. ―I love to talk about our tours.‘ When you love something. To her surprise. say. She loves bicycles: from an early age she loved the outdoors. New York City.‖ Like how she chose a college. and led her first tours as a one-woman enterprise. If I had gone to college in. ―My dad wanted me to go to Cornell. the sales process came easily. something would have been missing and I wouldn‘t have been as engaged. I thought about opening a bike shop. ―and I loved culture and travel.‖ While in college she led informal bicycle trips. ‖ She ran her first ad. selling is easy: Just talk about what you love. embracing the history and culture… really turning a cycling tour into more than just a bike ride. ―Those trips are about as challenging as it gets for a tour leader. and when she graduated she wasn‘t sure what to do next. getting away is the dream.Take Lauren Hefferon. so I went off to study in Italy. Lauren decided that with her anthropology background and her love of experiential learning. and loved cycling on an athletic and a personal level. Few. So I came back to the States and started my own company. a bicycle tour wouldn‘t have to only involve riding from place to place with a lunch strapped to your back.‖ So she started working for a small cycling tour operator in 1985. it‘s about having experiences.‖ Lauren says. While I was there I looked for ways to take my love of cycling and make a life out of it. I decided my secret sauce was providing bicycle tours for the culturally curious. ―I had studied anthropology. Even in high school I thought the definition of awesome was to ride my bike.‖ Today Lauren owns Ciclismo Classico. ―Starting when I was a kid. I wanted cycling to be at the center of whatever I did in my life. Italian lessons. So I started developing the formula: Cycling clinics. but I didn‘t want to sell things. enjoy amazing scenery. Cycling was like a stake in the ground that kept me engaged in school.‖ she says. It goes without saying that Italy is an amazing place to ride. How? By design. ―I love to learn.‖ she says. Lauren does what she loves.‖ she said. if any.‖ she says. and eat amazing food. cooking lessons.‖ she says.

―When I started we took a more basic approach. That‘s always the challenge. Pick a large market with room for many large winners. Just because you are friends doesn't mean you can work well together. it's time for me to bring you back down to earth. Pick the wrong market There's a great line in Marcus Luttrell's Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10 about picking the right opportunities. Recently we‘ve shifted back.Over the years her business has changed. 2. The rest of us don‘t get to do as much of what we love as we become more successful.‖ she says. The booby prize for winning a fight with a cofounder? A failed business. etc. taking a ‗more miles for less‘ approach because that's what many clients want. Starting a company will be one of the hardest things you ever do. You don‘t need to mother it forever. the only person who ever succeeds fully is a musician: They get to market their music and play their music.‖ She has adapted her role in the business to ensure cycling remains central in her life. as more than 65% of all businesses fail. ―A business is like a child. Choose the wrong co-founder The fastest way to ruin a friendship is to start a business with him. Choosing the wrong market can turn the game of business into a game of roulette in which each chamber has a bullet. Now that I have you fired up about why you should start a company. . It's you versus the world. using 2-star hotels. ―It should grow up and be the person it can be. You'll be much more likely to avert a swift start-up death. 1." Shoot for the stars. but it‘s definitely a challenge worth tackling. "I'd rather shoot for a star and hit a stump than shoot for a stump and miss.‖ 7 Deadly Sins of Start-ups Don't fall prey to one of these common entrepreneur mistakes. And the world usually wins. Choosing a good market can make up for a lot of operational mistakes. Marcus quotes his risk-taking entrepreneurial father. at least in part. In the 1990s people wanted a 5-star experience. Besides. But we still are known for our huge culinary focus and advanced riding experiences. So what are the major mistakes you will make that will lead to the demise of your business? Here are my 7 deadly sins of start-ups. so we created deluxe tours to satisfy the more affluent clientele.

" In the real world. 4. don't hire your second sales person until your first is generating at least two times her annual salary. many very publicly and with flair. and iterate some more. I assure you. Spend as little money as possible as you try to find your business model. The wrong hires will ensure suboptimal performance. It often makes The Apprentice look tame. is to increase spending too fast. Entrepreneurs love to turn on the gas before the business model is fine-tuned." But I've met many. . The only way to really know if your offering has a future is to actually go to real people and ask them to buy. So launch early to get the feedback you need to iterate. Wait too long to launch Business school classes (so I've heard from friends who spent a small fortune to lose 2 years of their professional lives) talk about finding a "product-market fit. 5. Everything comes up roses in spreadsheets. And trust each other. opposites attract in co-founders. Just like in marriage. Put a big pile of potential money in the middle of them. we call that building a product or creating a service people will pay for. Don't market aggressively until you know that people will buy your products. If you are selling a product to businesses. Your people are your jockeys. Find someone whose strengths are your weaknesses.Two dudes can be best buds for 20 years. and watch the worse character traits of each come out. Great people will get you into first place. iterate. 3. The gap between what you think will happen during your planning phase and what actually happens when you are in market selling your product or service is often huge. or use it—soon. but the person riding it. Divide and conquer together. many entrepreneurs whose businesses have failed. And the difference between a winner and a loser is usually not the horse. Your job as the founder is to ensure that your business gets into orbit before it runs out of money. Hire the wrong people Your business model is your race horse. This is a mistake. Spend too much too soon Most entrepreneurs fail for one simple reason: They run out of money. The easiest way to run out of money. Don't start a business with someone whose skill set matches yours. I've never met an entrepreneur whose projections weren't "conservative" or whose financial model wasn't "rock solid. and whose weaknesses are your strengths.

also came from gut decisions. but it doesn't work out for various reasons. It is your company. Do you let the wrong people fester at the company. future hires will suck as well. They set the tone for all future hires. Many serial entrepreneurs hire the wrong people. And it will cost you tons of money in the end. I've done it dozens of times and still do it regularly. and join your company. They are the soul of your business. Warren Buffett. Not firing the company misfits does the company and its employees a disservice. and create more and more problems? Or do you fire them and part ways? The right answer is simple: You should fire them. The most important hires are your first 20. Entrepreneurs are eternal optimists. Each hour of lost productivity dealing with internal issues created by the wrong hires is another hour spent not building a better product. Both parties go into the transaction with the best intentions. 6. But operationalizing this truth is not easy. don't hire him. Steve Jobs. These are hours you can't afford to lose. They all learned very early on to listen to their initial instinct. kill your company morale. 7. Let me tell you a little secret all great entrepreneurs know: Hiring isn't a task on your to-do list.Too often. And each of his product decisions. Michael Dell. We're driven by fear. His gut told him that students would love a service to connect them seamlessly to each other at their campus. If your gut tells you that an investor will probably screw you down the line. . If your gut tells you that a potential hire is not a fit with the ethics and values you set. What happens next is critical. If they suck. change and do something else. don't take her money. Telling people that today is your last day is the last thing any of us want to do when we get to the office. selling it or supporting it with excellence. Just look at Mark Zuckerberg. attract more wrong people. entrepreneurs try to just fill positions so they can "move on" to what they think are more important tasks. Richard Branson. Ignore your gut Entrepreneurs who train themselves to listen to their gut in making key decisions generate a tremendous amount of the world's wealth. If your gut tells you that your product will never gain one customer. If they are awesome. When was the last time someone told you that they shouldn't have listened to their gut? Exactly. from the newsfeed to photo tagging. awesome people will follow them. let alone customer traction at scale. Don't fire the wrong people All first-time entrepreneurs and managers hire the wrong people. But you have to do it. It's the lifeblood of your company.

we realize that each of us has a strong network of relationships that we aren't fully leveraging. We are always looking for ways to form new relationships and would love to hear your best practices. Why is it then that we see so many people not taking advantage of the opportunities to broaden their network and engage with those who could potentially be their next great partner? As our firm continues to grow and we bring in top talent from a variety of companies and professional backgrounds.a skill that is admired by many but mastered by few.com. By following these simple steps. you can begin to improve the quality of your professional relationships . you can be sure you'll be top of mind next time this person or someone in their network has a need that fits your area of expertise. It's generally preferable to have fewer high-quality relationships than hundreds of low-quality relationships. Focus on the value that you can provide to your network and not necessarily on what the person can provide for you. do it! Aside from the fact that it is a nice gesture. Avondale associate Asim Aleem contributed to this article. Share your thoughts with us at karlandbill@avondalestrategicpartners. productive relationships whenever an opportunity arises. 1. While you should always be sensitive to busy people's time. It is far easier to talk to people you already know than it is to form new relationships.3 Rules for Building Business Relationships Are you generating the most value from your professional relationships? Here are three ways to quickly inject some life into your network. If you can provide value to someone in your network with limited time and resource investment. but proactively expanding your network can pay off in dividends for your personal and professional development. . Being a relationship "broker" can offer significant benefits to your personal and professional brand. Countless bestsellers have been written on how to cultivate and nurture relationships. Don't let personal fears get in the way of forming new relationships. Here are three ways to improve the way you nurture your network to get the most out of your professional relationships. It is never an easy task. 2. Ask any entrepreneur or salesperson (one might argue there is no difference) about their greatest asset and you'll often hear the same answer: their network and relationships. Explore the boundaries of your comfort zone to put yourself in a position to form new. simply making an introduction between two people in your network who share a common interest or challenge can do wonders for each of these individual relationships. 3.

Unless someone is clearly and directly accountable for the success of a new line of business-or any project." and it is always more expensive to align later. we have found that we consistently err on the side of not giving enough direction at the start of a project. To paraphrase the 1980's Fram oil filter commercial. we fail to create clear accountability in one of the following ways:  We assume person X knows that they own the path forward on a project. If we don't stretch. The two of us are not aligned with each other. the two of us are not aligned with the person we have made accountable   We have learned through bitter experience to invest the up-front time to make sure the two of us are aligned on accountability. we will throw the problem at a person and let them determine the direction we should take. "we can align now or we can align later. sub-par results and general confusion / lack of direction." Our biggest challenges as owners come when we do not clearly "hand off the ball. Ultimately. . But be careful how you assign that accountability. Sometimes this is deliberate.Project 101: Don’t Fumble Your Pass Every new business initiative needs a champion--someone who takes responsibility for driving its success forward. At Avondale. that we have communicated clearly who is accountable. we have a team of very bright. there really is no middle ground. and that the person accountable has understood us clearly. while the other assumes person Y owns it. Ultimately. and do not take the time to make sure they know it. energized and entrepreneurial people who usually need only minimal direction from us. every key investment also needs a champion-the one person who is accountable for driving success in the new business. capable." Too often as owners. Deciding when and where to invest in new business models or markets is one of the main challenges of a growing company. One of us assumes (and communicates) that person X owns it. the only way we can gain enough leverage from our team for us to achieve our growth objectives is to hand off increasing levels of responsibility and ask our team to stretch. on either the priority or direction of the project. for that matter-you're likely to end up with missed deadlines. They are at their best when they can "run with the ball. Provide Clear Direction In the same vein. Steps in this process including identifying and prioritizing target customers and filling the customer pipeline. then we stagnate. Alternatively.

Here are seven reasons to launch a venture today. fresh. I wish I hadn't started so young. In that case. You're miserable at work . They peak at 25. but I do agree that it's easier to pour your life into a company when you're young. What has been your experience in building a business? How have you thought about assigning accountability and setting clear direction? Please let us know in the comments below or email us at karlandbill@avondalestrategicpartners. The younger. or. rather. Stupid decisions are excused as learning experiences and the worst outcome of most youthful transgressions is a few days in juvenile prison. I decided to focus these assets on two goals: making money and finding women who would date a geek in glasses with crossed eyes and a bum heart.However. If a few minutes or hours of investment in problem-solving on our part will greatly increase the odds of success or accelerate our alignment on a path forward. we also have to take the capabilities of our team as problem-solvers into account. the better.com. and wife at a wedding at age 22. 2. there is high value in putting that outline down on paper and communicating it. we owe it to the team to make that investment. and fired up. You're young The best time to start a company is when you are young. Starting a business killed two birds with one stone. my primary asset was time and passion. creative. I grew my first company into what became a publicly-traded firm (University Wire and Student Advantage) and I met my future business partner. Youth is a beautiful thing. "Wow. that only sets them up for failure. going broke. Best Time to Start a Company Don't wait. Now that you know my belief that starting a company is your best hope of living the life you want. I've never met an entrepreneur who said. worse. It's the perfect combination of ignorance and innocence. When I graduated from Northwestern in 1996." The world is full of regrets and one of the main ones is from entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs lamenting that they didn't start off earlier. best friend. If we already know in advance the broad outline of the right answer. here's the next logical question: When should you get started? 1. we fail them. by 30 they're usually done. Blogger Michael Arrington recalled a conversation with a venture capitalist last year that "entrepreneurs are like pro basketball players." I don't agree with the blanket statement. they don't fail us. It does no good to throw a problem at someone who cannot catch it. lover.

Many grow companies to rebel against former bosses. it also has a ton of downsides—you won't see your friends or family as much. and traveling. Show me someone who makes a million dollars a year but hates his job and I'll show you an unhappy guy. accomplishment. I have many friends who have been speaking to me about starting businesses for 15 years now. When you're fired or let go. But a layoff is a great catalyst if you're already thinking about making the move. . It's a mini death forcing the least introspective to examine all aspects of their lives. Put everything on the table—new opportunities you have been ignoring. and starting your own gig. Let's be clear. The more responsibilities you have. You have no responsibilities Start-ups and life responsibilities are often inversely related. many fall into the trap of focusing energy on the people who "wronged" you. I've always believed that misery loves company for a reason. You're out of work There's nothing like a good ol' fashion layoff to turn you from a worker into an owner. recruiting. 4. they aren't always. Show me someone who makes a tenth of that and I'll show you someone who is 10 times as unhappy. the less likely it is that you will start a business. So start a company when you have the time and the energy and the freedom to do so. It shocks and beats the comfort out of you. industries you're interested. Starting your own firm has a ton of rewards—excitement. everyone who is laid off should not start a business. meeting. private school tuition bills. We grow up rebelling against our parents. the promise of financial freedom. the best fuel to start your own company. your income will approach zero. weekends. And when you're confident you're on to something. Don't wait until it's too late and you're trapped by a mortgage. jump. But don't kid yourself. Look inside any company and you'll find a boatload of misery. the time you used to spend working out is now being spent networking. even if all you have at the end is less money in the bank and a learning experience. I assure you that you'll never look back. Just the opposite. they now feel it's too late to jump in. Look at the firing as a blessing in disguise and motivation to reevaluate your life. and annual family vacations that you need to fund. 3. Use your nights. and more. While age and responsibilities are often related. And for many.Life is too short to sit behind a desk and be miserable. if not mutually exclusive. and lunch breaks to form your ideas and network and start laying the groundwork for your eventual prison break.

Rockefeller.Providing for others and keeping up with a lifestyle you've grown accustomed to makes it hard to start companies. You're obsessed. The Founders Institute released research last year that shows that being older increases the likelihood of success. The Rockefeller story is a great one. do it now before you decide that it's just too late. It's you versus the world. and the allure of being a self-made person. 6. You have an incurable obsession Our great country was founded on the idea that anyone with an idea can strike it big. founded Standard Oil. You're incurable." The two are well on their way to creating a formidable business that will revolutionize how consumers save money through a network of 24. 5.000 grocery and drug stores nationwide. But data also shows that age and entrepreneurial success aren't tied. It's well documented that college dropouts create great businesses (Facebook. Start a company after you sit on your idea for a while—and you can't get it out of your head. especially for the first-time entrepreneur. You are an "intrapreneur" I am starting to spend time with more and more entrepreneurs who came to the game late but are in an ideal position to thrive. Just look at David Rochon and Michael Libenson from SavingStar. married without kids. They theorize that the "combination of successful project completion . the adventure. This incurable obsession must be consistent over an extended period of at least three months. the money. Microsoft. or thinking about getting married and starting a family—and considering jumping on the entrepreneurial train. David had 25 years experience in the grocery industry and Michael was a former consultant who spent 20 years building other people's businesses. But don't get seduced by the myth. Despite having responsibilities and being older then 25. You start working on the idea during all your free time. They have launched stuff inside large companies (also known as "intrapreneurs") and have put some money in the bank. and Dell. You can't stop talking to friends and family about it. the son of a traveling salesman. Let it sit. If you are single. and in the process became the nation's first billionaire whose fortune swelled to more than $500 billion. they are in a position to invest in themselves. And you feel like you will never forgive yourself if you don't take a chance. to name just a few). a mobile savings company I invested in and sit on the board of directors. And the world wins 90% of the time. No matter how much you try not to think about the business. Starting a company is the hardest thing you will ever do professionally. Let it settle. it keeps coming back. And don't confuse it with the entrepreneurial seizure. a more temporary excitement that will wane if you give yourself time to really think about the idea. John D. which in December 2011 TechCrunch called the "Groupon of Groceries. The two launched Saving Star.

with hair or balding. And. thin. our country doesn't have a monopoly on business creation. What you will find below is the life you wanted to live and all you need to do is get over the fear that's keeping you back. or your MBA. you're interested in starting your own business. To see more about how I decided to start my first company rather than take a job. Your life is not getting any simpler. And the fastest-growing group of business starters? Old fogies like me (those who are older than 35)! 7. Great businesses have been started when we the country was facing its darkest hours and the entrepreneur was at her lowest low." The Kauffman Foundation reports that the Great Recession of a few years ago drove more people to start their own business than any time in the past 15 years. There is much we can learn by studying Abraham Lincoln's journey from being just another politician to becoming America's greatest president. But this time. When you are old. actually jump. Not tomorrow. Not in two weeks. you're about to jump and seriously consider it. shapes. check out my talk from late last year. pregnant. and how fear is getting in your way. I'm going to be answering questions next week in my column.500 words about a topic you weren't passionate about? So let me make it simple for you—the best time to start a business is TODAY. Lessons in Leadership: How Lincoln Became America's Greatest President It wasn't Abraham Lincoln's strengths but the self-discipline with which he used those strengths for the right purpose.skills with real world experience helps older entrepreneurs identify and address more realistic business opportunities. poor. See that cliff in front of you that you're scared to go over? Run up to it once again. Why else would you read 1. ages and colors. Entrepreneurs come in all sizes. But any attempt to do so won't make you more or less likely to succeed. married. So please ask anything you'd like about starting a company in the comments below. believe it or not. Do it today You can try to pick the best time to start a business. rich. TODAY! You're not getting any younger. Not after you get promoted. you! I'm talking about you!). (Wikipedia provides a compilation of "Historical rankings of Presidents of the United States" which makes it clear that in the eyes of . If you're reading this story. fat. And if you are reading to the end (yes. Great businesses have been created in times of prosperity. young.

the people referred to it as "the skinning of Thomas. debater. Lincoln consciously cultivated this mastery of language and expression. impulsive politician who launched personal attacks on his opponents. Jess Thomas. A key to this transformation was how Lincoln. writer. accosted Lincoln and challenged him to a duel. and inspire us to this day. As a young boy he would practice public speaking by gathering his friends together and stepping onto a stump to address them. His words—as a public speaker. In fact. one of his friends reported that "…the recollection of his own conduct that evening filled [Lincoln] with the deepest chagrin. What made him change? All along. And he gleaned valuable lessons in rhetoric by diligently studying Shakespeare. Lincoln recognized the power of words to weaken and even destroy his opponents. This inner stirring intensified when some of his verbal attacks drew unfavorable consequences for Lincoln himself. How Lincoln began to use words for a higher purpose But the Lincoln we know as president was not this brash. He felt he had gone too far and to rid his good nature of a load. . was so enraged that he forced the newspaper to divulge the writer's identity. and conversationalist—continue to entertain. the recipient of his reproach. and. calling him "a fool and a liar" in a letter. Lincoln's Humor: An Analysis. and for years afterwards." Lincoln was also in the habit of writing anonymous letters to newspapers to sharply criticize his adversaries. when the letter he signed as "Rebecca" was published.many experts. Shields. was reduced to tears. During his days as a lawyer in Illinois. Lincoln would frequently meet up in the evening with friends at a tavern where they would engage in story-telling contests. Right after the "skinning of Thomas" in 1840. when he was told that it was Lincoln. Thomas. Lincoln mimicked and ridiculed his opponent. Upon provocation at a political gathering in 1840. for instance. As he began forging his political ambitions. On one occasion in 1842. something had been stirring within him. educate. to uproarious cheering of the crowd. whose birthday is today. Having learned a lesson by coming so close to an inglorious death. who was present at the event. With only one year of formal schooling. Good sense prevailed on both men just moments before they were to commence this fightunto-death. developed the self-discipline to take one of his signature strengths—his mastery of language—and used it to serve the interests of the American people rather than his own. James Shields. Lincoln has consistently held this status). One of the best communicators of all time Lincoln was undoubtedly one of the greatest communicators among all American presidents. and making mock-allegations of an unflattering conversation that James had had with Rebecca." according to an excerpt in Benjamin Thomas. Lincoln never wrote such anonymous letters again. and the public. and so he started to attack them with powerful volleys of criticism and mockery. hunted up Thomas and made ample apology. he used the fictitious identity of "Rebecca" to castigate and deride the state auditor. humorist.

and he is usually right about what he speaks. Lincoln's journey suggests that the true measure of a leader lies not in how much we cultivate and exploit our strengths. If it did now exist amongst us. Lincoln also became highly attuned to the feelings of others. When. and others. and highly measured in the way he communicated in adversarial situations. even those within his inner circle. "I leave it to my audience. Once. If slavery did not now exist amongst them." Lincoln injected. "This city is full of enemies. Stephen Douglas called Lincoln twofaced." Lincoln had not lost his propensity for ridicule. but now it was mostly directed at his own self. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. they were later discovered." according to a 2005 Time magazine article The Master of the Game. in Lincoln's words. so if he called me a damn fool. He had the selfdiscipline though to not dispatch these "hot" letters. If I had another face. one small step at a time. and the wounds of a Civil War had to be rapidly healed." as recorded in Lincoln-Douglas Debates. On an earlier occasion Lincoln had explained about Southerners: "They are just what we would be in their situation. and Revelations from His Best Friends and Worst Enemies. Lincoln's anger occasionally consumed him. "Well. he was informed that the Secretary of War. in a stirring testimony to his power over words. some bad—or do you see the potential for gradually sculpting your character further. why would I be wearing this one?" (This is from Presidential Anecdotes. as he and his wife Mary Todd Lincoln were approaching Washington in a carriage. This was a crucial quality for leading America at a time when the nation was so divided. sir.Gradually molding his character this way. had refused to execute a presidential order— and further. the "better angels of our nature" to use our strengths in the service of a cause much higher than our own personal gain. Stanton speaks what is on his mind. We must not be enemies. but in how we work on tapping. but twice!" replied the excited congressman. errant generals. "We are not enemies. Do you have the discipline to sculpt your character? Do you view yourself solely as who you are today—some good. but friends. making him pour it out in letters to critics. they would not introduce it." as told in Lincoln As I Knew Him: Gossip. in his first inaugural address. including his enemies. "Enemies? Never again must we repeat that word. wryly. Lincoln built his selfdiscipline. I must be a damn fool. But changing oneself isn't easy. who had brought him this news.) How Lincoln masterfully handled criticism Lincoln by now was also showing remarkable self-mastery in gracefully fending off the frequent attacks hurled on him by critics." "He called me a damn fool?" Lincoln asked. Edwin Stanton. "Yes! Not once. the character of his presidency. In this way. and through it. the way Lincoln did? . during one of their debates. I will go to him now and find out why. in a self-effacing manner. unsigned. the President pleaded. she remarked. in a drawer in the president's desk. had called the president a "damn fool. Lincoln responded. On one occasion. And. Tributes. so even as president. we should not instantly give it up.

Leadership Forum. Create a Loss Leader Under many circumstances. . 1. which has been dominated to this point by manufacturers creating products that consumers ―don‘t know they need (or want). In some cases. however. if not desirable. Selling Your Product at a Loss Can Be Good for Business Killing an unprofitable product isn‘t always the best path. 2. to sustain an unprofitable product indefinitely. Here are four scenarios where a company can create value for itself and its customers despite selling a product at a loss. who inevitably purchase high-margin ink cartridges from the manufacturer. for The Inc. This has been rumored to be the strategy of Amazon with many of its new ereaders as the firm tries to crack Apple‘s dominance in the market with its iPad. Common sense would tell you that if you have unprofitable products. which for a long time have been sold at or below cost to attract customers. do describe it below.‖ In such a market. Want to learn more ways to become an even stronger business leader? Join Inc. and have you been striving to discipline yourself to use your strengths in more and more purposeful ways? What kind of life story could you craft for yourself if you chose to do that? In the comments section below. in Miami. I invite you to share reflections from your own journey in life and leadership. and life direction. Here are four scenarios where sustaining a poor performer can help the business grow. Some executives and MBA students in my Personal Leadership & Success classes and workshops have shared remarkable stories of their own personal transformation and growth—in wisdom. If you have experienced a similar turning point. a new technology might be offered at a loss to encourage trial and drive acceptance among consumers. June 6-8. The classic example of this is inkjet printers. a product may be offered at a loss initially to increase customer uptake.How aware are you of your strengths? What have you been doing to nurture them? Are there times when you have misused these strengths? Has this led to any inner stirring in you. A current example is the tablet market. because it attracts the customer to other more profitable products. selling one product at a loss may drive significant value for other products. character. driving significant value to the bottom line. This value would not exist without the loss leader in the portfolio. Penetrate the Market With many new emerging technologies. it‘s acceptable. for your story may inspire us just as much as Lincoln's. removing them from your portfolio will increase the overall profitability of your business.

determine what specific costs are driving the value destruction. Every CEO of a growth company is faced with a primary challenge: funding that growth. most high-growth businesses need to find outside sources for growth equity. the cost structure is sound. which have a higher cost structure but provide significantly more value to the customer. 3 Characteristics of a Great Investor Outside investors can propel your business and create a foundation for long-term success. it‘s best to stop the losses. The trick is finding the right ones. bank loans and founders‘ equity. In every case. Does the price indicate what the market will allow or is a higher price justified? This is largely the strategy behind many premium products. Otherwise. but the revenues are still insufficient to achieve a profit. you need to develop the facts to understand why a product is unprofitable and the value it provides to the overall portfolio. warranting a higher price.3. But at some point. In some cases. but assessing a product from the portfolio view is also important in making the correct business decision. You always need to prove why maintaining an unprofitable product in the short term will create value over the long term. In this instance. You may be tempted to accept funding from any interested investor. Pinpoint Cost Savings There may be ways to reverse the fortunes of an unprofitable product by reducing costs or streamlining overhead. But there is a huge benefit to finding the right investors—the ones that can propel your business and create an environment for long-term success. Who are the right investors? We‘ve found that the best investors have three key characteristics: 1. it is important to evaluate the price of the product. Are costs primarily fixed or can they be variablized? Does the infrastructure surrounding the product exceed what is required? Are there opportunities to streamline production? An unprofitable product can often serve as an indicator of operational inefficiencies that can impact the profitability of multiple products in the portfolio. Evaluating product profitability is a valuable tool for managing your product portfolio. Before eliminating a product from your portfolio. 4. Identify Your Ability to Selectively Raise Price For some products. Deep knowledge and interest in your product or industry 2. Experience with the unique challenges and idiosyncrasies of a growing business . growing businesses can partially rely on customers (in the form of working capital).

It‘s amazing to witness the business opportunities that develop when you are able to tap into the knowledge and experience of investors who were once. however.g. An interest and ability to actively help to grow the company and to be invested in its success At Avondale. Figuring out whether or not franchising will work for you is a matter of knowing your business and yourself. etc. When you can harness that industry insight. Even established venture funds. entrepreneurs themselves. The investment will be much more attractive to these investors once the lead investor is in place. . From drawing up a Financial Disclosure Document to figuring out what potted plants will line the storefront. forming a management team. by comparison. The pay off. when turning a business into a franchise the devil is in the details. How do you put together the ideal investor group? While there‘s no single right answer to finding the ideal group of investors.. you can develop a strategic asset that gives you a clear competitive edge in your marketplace. They may also have time restrictions on the investment that may not fit the natural evolution of your business or market. These individuals inevitably see business opportunities within their markets that others don‘t recognize. is likely to focus on one thing: return on capital. as franchising is one of the best ways to spread a brand and grow a business quickly. 6 Steps to Franchising Your Business Franchising your small business may be a good way to grow fast. raising capital.3. you can approach other equity sources—VC.com. angel. M&A. reputation and access to relationships. Once you‘ve agreed on the business model and investment with your lead investor. customer acquisition. experience. PE or institutional investors—to fill in the funding gap. we have the liberty and privilege of building partnerships with investors as a primary strategy to build our business. and private equity groups with experience in your industry may have a number of restrictions that prevent them from becoming the ―ideal‖ investor for your business. potentially even before you finalize your business model. A pure financial investor. and possibly still are. can be lucrative. Hearing their own experiences will help you to shape the right approaches to developing a market/product strategy.). Have you built win-win partnerships with you investors? Are you currently looking for the ideal investor group? Share your thoughts with us at karlandbill@avondalestrategicpartners. we‘ve found that it‘s best to start your search early. and creating a growth path (e. Find a lead investor who has experience building businesses in the industry and pitch a few alternative business models. angel investors.

" Here are six tips for any small business owner thinking about turning their company into a franchise: 1.9 million workers. "It never ends. That early experience was better than any business school for Farid. and it may be difficult for them to itemize all the infinitesimal but important obligations they fulfill every day." he says. Mulgannon said that potential clients come to him with some sense of why they want to become a franchise. into an international franchise. nine thousand dollars a day. His chief competition was another upstart shop down the block called Subway. When he reached his goal. He opened a sandwich shop in the San Jose area." Now Mulgannon is a franchise development consultant and director of franchising for Junk King. "We mostly focused on building the business. "They want to utilize other people‘s skills and other people‘s capital to grow their brand. Know your business inside and out." says Farid. "That crashed and burned.Data released by the U. Which means no job was too small for Farid to take on himself. Every step of the process must be carefully outlined. a junk hauling service that was founded in 2005 and now has 31 franchisees managing 58 units in the United States. and they want to grow. "Usually they are at the level where they want to scale. He named it SUBS2U.5 percent of business across 295 industries in 2007. Dennis Mulgannon walked the beat as a police officer until 1983. Farid became . who helped him around the shop. Tariq Farid had owned four flower shops by the time he was 19. however. The directions provided to each franchisee will likely have to be precise. For businesses that are looking to become franchises. when he was making sixty dollars a day. He remembers sitting with his mother. he turned it in for another dream. but it still didn‘t prepare him for the challenges of building his next idea. When he started out. When the company website needed photos of the product. CEO and founder of Edible Arrangements. It still hasn‘t for Farid. the franchising wasn‘t part of his business plan. are frequently accustomed to running their companies on intuition. Franchises accounted for $1. and will need to be told how to do everything from keeping the books to ordering supplies. but where they are in their planning tends to vary. they‘re looking at their business. the first report drawn up by the Bureau that gathered information on franchises. and they have some level of success. The business owner may have to rediscover what it is like to run a company for the first time. says that franchises made up 10. "But I kind of cut my teeth and fell in love with the franchise process. there are franchise consultants." Mulgannon said. a shop that sold bouquets made of carved fresh fruit. They‘re looking at themselves. Franchisees will not have the freedom to improvise." Mulgannon says of his first try at his own business. and he‘d tell her of his dream to someday make seventy.7 billion in payroll disbursed to 7.3 trillion in revenue and $153.S. he says. Soon he was telling his mother that he wanted to make eight. Census Bureau in 2010. Business owners. when he decided that he wanted to start his own business.

When his shop needed a more robust back end to allow them to fill more orders online. Whether or not an interested small business owner manages to plow through the 450-page revised second edition may itself be a litmus test of an entrepreneur‘s conviction. "I was mostly doing it myself. These legal complications are an area in which the hopeful franchisor may want to seek out professional help. "I went to this consultant and he gave me a bill. he'll decline to work with them. Learn about the legal issues. The International Franchise Association is also a great resource when it comes to the legal issues surrounding franchising.‘ and I took him seriously. Farid told the consultant he couldn‘t afford that. ―We had no money. Farid wouldn‘t exactly advise anyone to go about franchising their business without expert advice. Can You Explain it in 30 Seconds? 2.000. in the form of a second store." Farid says of his early efforts to raise money. "I think he jokingly said. cut through the legal thicket. but by that time he had learned plenty himself. and went through all the minutiae himself. filed the documents. The IFA compiles information on franchises. Know how you want to grow." Farid says. and he did end up hiring franchising consultants ultimately. lobbies for legislation favorable to franchises. he said it would cost $100. and it was tough to go to a bank with a basket of fruit. Dig Deeper: 10 Common Mistakes of Prospective Franchisees 3. "The one consultant Farid did go to unintentionally set the ambitious business owner on the right course.an amateur food photographer. Farid built it. Farid decided to do a test run himself. ‗Why don‘t you try it yourself. . and provides resources and aid to businesses looking to become franchises. With his head buried in how to increase revenues that were already steadily growing. He found a building. I didn‘t think he was kidding. Farid says he didn‘t think much about franchising until a man walked into his shop one day and said he wanted to open an Edible Arrangements in Boston. This is where a franchisor outlines financial performance information. and build his trial franchise. The association also publishes reports on the legalities involved in franchising. To see what might be involved in opening a franchise. Mulgannon says that if everything's not in order in a company's Item 19. from interior decoration to training the staff. He forced himself to work through each step of the process exactly as a new franchisee would. Mulgannon advises all business owners looking to get into the franchise business to pay close attention to Item 19 on their FDD filing. Dig Deeper: You Know What Your Company Does. including one titled An Introduction to the Law of Franchising." Farid says that he made a lot of mistakes.

he would pass. If someone would come up to me and say. The company has reliable brand recognition in California and some surrounding states. "Often they‘ll sell to anyone. "Most of the people are looking for a job where they can work on the truck.The idea of growth is appealing. as well as enthusiastic about their business. the first thing he does is sit down with them and carefully examine their proof of concept. "I used to call it the googledy-eyes test." Mulgannon is confident that this deal will allow Junk King to spread its brand beyond the United States with minimal risk. ‗I want to build a franchise. At the other extreme is international franchising. For others. He." Mulgannon ." "We get about 20 inquiries a day and we eliminate about 75 percent of those." Mulgannon says. Over enthusiasm is as common in franchising as it is in any realm of business. Screen your franchisees. and they decided. something Mulgannon says he has explored with Junk King. When a business comes to Mulgannon to explore the potential of franchising. That someone wants to open a franchise with your company's name on it does not mean you should let them. to expand in California and into northern Nevada. a popular sandwich shop and caterer in northern California. He worked with a company called Erik‘s DeliCafe." Mulgannon says of his approach to choosing clients. even internationally. "They sought us out. I think it‘s going to be great!‘ and they didn‘t realize the hard work involved. he considers the personalities of the business owners. For some companies looking to become franchises. They grew."Most franchises go to market with a shotgun approach. Better that they‘re thoughtful and measured." Farid says. Mulgannon said. "Before I start with anybody or take them on as a client I have to do my own due diligence to ensure my eyes are wide open. They're going to be representing your brand. "I put together a deal with a Panamanian investment group to develop Junk King throughout Central America. Mulgannon says. Farid says he has a way of knowing whether or not someone will make a good franchisee. so be sure to have a system in place to make sure they'll take your company in the right direction in a new market." Mulgannon says. with Mulgannon‘s help. like Farid. it may mean adding a handful of new outlets. but within the scope of their brand recognition. That‘s a big mistake. the new business model may mean expanding coast to coast. they have to consider where their business model will work and how far they can expand their brand into unfamiliar territory. Dig Deeper: How to Keep Up With a Fast-Growing Company 4. Apart from the documents and financial information supplied by potential franchisees. but a small business owner wants his or her company to scale at a reasonable rate." When a franchise wants to grow. doesn‘t want someone who‘s all passion but no substance. and I spent twelve days there negotiating an international master license. The experts recommend growing at the rate natural to your business.

certain freedoms they are allowed. he or she should spend extra time getting to know the franchisees. Set the right restrictions. radio. Mulgannon says." Mulgannon says. and should be. He or she has opened a new store or service provider and is responsible for its performance within a designated area. A franchisee is unlike other types of small business owners. but keep those freedoms circumscribed. He or she derives a livelihood from the business. They are small business owners. print. and so one requirement Junk King does place on all franchisees is that they spend a minimum amount on advertisement. Mulgannon says he turned down one business that wanted help becoming a franchise because they were going to set very narrow limits on who could become a franchisee. he said. whether television. and companies can get other ideas approved through the corporate office. "If they‘re looking to replace six figures. Yet. there is always a larger corporate structure overhead." Mulgannon says. Dig Deeper: How to Give Your Franchise a Personal Touch 6. and how the franchisee works within that structure varies from franchise to franchise. training. or some other medium. Support your franchisees. "They have to reinvest back in their market ten percent of gross revenue. "The pool of franchisees would have been much too small. Even after giving franchisees very specific instructions on hiring. Junk King is not interested in franchisees who are primarily interested in putting on a pair of work gloves and getting on the truck. Different franchises will have different ideas about the restrictions they want to place on their franchisees." Growing the brand is always the end goal. Give them freedoms. and as the franchisor begins to step back from daily operations. he or she will have to rely on the judgement of the franchisees as they explore new business opportunities. too." Mulgannon said. Junk King provides about 90 percent of the promotional materials required. and oversees all daily operations. "The requirements on the franchisee would have been much too stringent. Even as the franchisor begins to remove him or herself from the daily business of the franchises. there will be. "One of the big indicators for us is what are their previous income expectations." Dig Deeper: How to Improve Your Hiring Practices 5. Contrary to what one might expect. that‘s good for us. . They struggle with how to balance preserving brand identity with the touch and sensibilities of individual franchise owners. and other practices.described Junk Kings as much more of a white-collar franchise. Mulgannon says he and his staff will scour over data supplied by applicants in the search for certain qualities.

Farid says Edible Arrangements has a department that works with franchises on the sourcing of their materials. unexpected variables of any kind. if business is good and new stores are opening. The boy who wanted to find a way to sell more long-stemmed roses still finds it hard to fold up his apron at the end of the day. and other worry about problems that may be coming down the road." he says. what are some of the challenges. But he would say that the hunt for it never ends. the company is always working with new recruits. "Beyond that. Another handles training. Farid says sometimes his employees say he‘s too paranoid. It wasn‘t until Edible Arrangements had reached 500 or 600 stores that he began to take a step back. the franchisees have bought into you to start the next grand thing. too attached. "I still visit the stores because that is what I enjoy most. Farid says." Farid says. "We‘ll spend a lot of time communicating with them [the franchisees] online in terms of what‘s happening this week." Farid wouldn‘t reveal what that next horizon may be for Edible Arrangements. and where to look for them.A franchise model presents some particular challenges because. when you get to the size we are now. . Ensuring that all the cogs spin together requires constant communication.

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