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5 Action Steps to Start Outsourcing Tasks Within Your Business Today

December 15, 2017 / Leave a comment / by Connor Gillivan

As an entrepreneur, do you always find yourself running out of time for your other tasks?

Do you always end up with more items on your to-do list left undone than you have checked off?

If the answer is yes, then you know that something needs to change. But don’t worry, because most business owners run into the same problem. It’s easy to get caught up with everything that’s going on, including every task that you need to accomplish on a daily basis.

When you’re busy and laser-focused on what you do, time can easily pass you by and you may not even notice. The problem there is that as a business owner, your time is too valuable to be wasted.

The good news is there are things that can be done to avoid running into this problem day in and day out. You don’t have to do everything on your own because doing that often leads to disaster. Not only will you get burned out, but your business will suffer too.

It’s all about delegation, and with that said, below are 5 steps you can take to start intelligently outsourcing some of the key tasks within your business.

1. Identify the first tasks to take off your plate

Your business surely has a lot of tasks that can be farmed out to a freelancer or contractor, but how do you identify which ones?

Before you outsource, make sure to identify the core areas of your business. When we say core areas, we mean tasks that have a direct impact on the product or service your customers get from you. A good example is if your business specializes in computer programming. You definitely wouldn’t want to outsource that because it’s what your business is all about. It is your main deliverable. What you can outsource instead are repetitive tasks like data entry, or specialized tasks that require certain expertise like social media management, blogging, or copywriting.

Once you’ve identified your business’ core areas, it would be easier to narrow down which particular tasks you can entrust to another person.

2. Create an avatar of your ideal assistant

The best way to identify what kind of assistant you would like to work with is to put yourself in his or her shoes by creating an avatar for your ideal assistant.

What is an avatar anyway? Your ideal assistant avatar is a fictitious character that represents your ideal assistant. This character is a composite of all the characteristics you’re looking for in an assistant including their demographic, psychographic, motivations and aspirations in life.

The more detailed and specific you can get, the better. This is so you know exactly what you’re looking for and can more easily attract exactly the ideal candidate. Below is a good example of an avatar for your ideal assistant:

“Kevin is a 30-year old husband and father of three from the Philippines who quit his day job to pursue a career in freelancing because he wants to be able to earn a living for his family and spend as much time with them as possible. He works 10-hour days and even works on weekends. He wants to start his own business because he doesn’t quite feel comfortable in a corporate environment and wants to be able to do what he does best freely without someone limiting his creativity as a social media manager and writer. He is proactive and meticulous, treating each of the clients he works with as a business partner and every project as a priority.”

Once you have this detailed description of what you are looking for, finding that kind of assistant will be easier.

3. Request for an assistant with the help of Freelancing sites

Once you’ve identified your ideal assistant, you will be ready to hire one. Doing this today has become a lot easier with the help of freelancing sites like Upwork, Elance or FreeeUp, where you can find thousands of people with varying expertise at a rate you can afford.

The great thing about these freelance marketplaces is that you are one step closer to the hiring process. These platforms have already pooled a good slice of the global talent pool. The only thing left for you to do is to check if they fit into your preferences and requirements. Once you’ve met your match, they can start right away. No need for tedious onboarding and training periods like they do in the corporate world.

4. Setting clear expectations with your assistant

Hiring someone is one thing. Getting the right person is another.

The important thing to remember before you start working with your assistant is to set very clear expectations to avoid any misunderstandings. Here are a few examples of questions that you might want to get cleared up before work begins:

  • How many hours do you require?
  • What is the frequency with which you need repetitive tasks done? (e.g. how many social media posts per week)
  • What specific time of the day do you need him or her to be online?
  • Do you need him or her on weekends?
  • What specific requirements do you have for each assignment? (e.g. the word count for blog posts)

These are just some of the specifics you can talk about. The key is to be totally clear and detailed with your expectations. Encourage him or her to ask questions if there’s confusion on their part so that you’ll have a smooth-sailing working relationship through the course of the project.

5. Manage your assistant

One of the common mistakes business owners make is leaving everything to their assistant after expectations have been set. Unfortunately, your involvement doesn’t end there. Your assistant, just like an employee in a corporate setup, needs someone to manage him or her.

You can’t leave them to work on the project and not monitor their performance or the quality of their work. You need to able to track their progress, tell them about areas for improvement and be able to lend a helping hand when they need it.

You need to make sure that they have everything they need to perform their tasks well. For instance, do they have complete access to the tools and the websites they need to work on? Do they know where to go to get access?

Having regular talks will help as well. It is through these conversations that you will learn what they’re going through, what difficulties they’re having, and how you can motivate them to perform better.

You hired them to help you take some of the burden off your shoulders, but you still need to make sure that those tasks you let go of are being performed properly and that you are giving them the necessary support if they’re having difficulties.

Conclusion

A business owner’s time is valuable, and since we only have 24 hours in a day, it’s going to be impossible for you to do every single task needed to make your business run.

You can’t do it all, which is why outsourcing some of them is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. You’re not only avoiding stress, you’re also giving your business the opportunity to grow with the help of other people.

 

 

Connor Gillivan is the author of Free Up Your Business: 50 Secrets to Bootstrap Million Dollar Companies, a serial entrepreneur, and the CMO and co-founder of FreeeUp.com. When he's not bringing together hundreds of freelancers and business owners, he's mentoring entrepreneurs through his site, ConnorGillivan.com. He currently lives in Denver, Colorado.

 

How to Establish Business Credit and Why it’s Essential

October 12, 2017 / Leave a comment / by Beth Kotz

 

As a business leader, you work tirelessly to ensure that your company is thriving and opportunities for growth remain bright.

This work may involve many things, from working with vendors and customers on the marketing of your products, to controlling production costs by streamlining your organization and negotiating the best possible prices with your suppliers.

Another important thing to consider while you go about your daily business is the importance of your business credit score, and how firmly establishing your company’s commercial credit rating can contribute to your chances for success and growth in the future.

When you run a business, a solid commercial credit score is an essential ingredient of your continued growth and success. Business credit enters into the development of your business at every step, from the beginning when you’ll likely need startup funds, to the business credit accounts that will help support your business during the years of growth and expansion. In this way, building a solid commercial credit score is of vital importance for anyone at the helm of a growing company.

 

What is Your Commercial Credit Score?

Unlike personal credit, which is scored on a scale between 300 and 850, credit bureaus score business or commercial credit on a 0-100 scale with 100 being the top score. When you apply for loans or open a business credit card account under a registered DBA (‘doing business as’) with an employer identification number, your creditors will report information that is both positive and negative with the credit reporting agencies, just as your personal creditors do. The good news is that you can take steps to improve and consolidate your business credit score in ways that are similar to how you would improve your personal credit score.

 

Here are some tips that can help you establish business credit and improve your company’s commercial credit rating:

 

First, how is business credit established?

Instead of tracking your personal financial information, business credit bureaus use your business name, business address and federal tax identification number to compile a credit score that reflects the ability of your company to pay back a financial debt. The financial information that business credit bureaus collect to rate businesses is provided on a voluntary basis by business creditors. Unfortunately, business credit bureau reports are often incomplete or inaccurate – in fact, it isn’t at all unusual for several years of financial transactions to be missing from a credit bureau report. This can dramatically limit your ability to access timely credit at reasonable rates of interest.

 

The primary credit bureaus that compile commercial financial transactions include:

Because a business credit score has a range of between 0 and 100, a rating of 75 or more is generally regarded as excellent. Reviewing your credit report will not negatively influence your credit score. You can also contest entries that are outdated or expired. The following steps can quickly improve your business credit score.

 

Carefully analyze your current credit reports

The first step is checking your business credit score by obtaining your commercial credit report. This is accomplished in the same way that you would receive your personal credit report, by visiting the website of one of the leading credit reporting agencies and requesting your report. Once you have your report, you should go over it closely and dispute anything that has been reported inaccurately.

 

Check with suppliers and vendors

One of the ways that businesses really take a hit on their commercial credit rating is by falling behind on paying their suppliers and vendors. For this reason, it is a good idea to stay in regular contact with your suppliers and vendors and ensure that you are caught up. If you are behind, just making a payment arrangement and beginning the process of getting caught up will go a long way toward improving your business credit rating. Once the unpaid balance has been brought up to date, ask the supplier to send the positive update to the business credit bureaus. Another way to increase your credit rating is to make certain that you have all the proper business licenses, registrations and permits for the type of business that you’re operating.

 

Be credit smart

While being current with your creditors is an important part of maintaining a strong business credit rating, there are other financial facts and figures that can hurt your credit rating. The most important in this regard is your ratio of debt to remaining credit on all of your credit lines. By keeping your outstanding credit ratio low, it will certainly improve your business credit rating.

Demonstrate your credit worthiness by opening a reasonable number of credit card and loan accounts and observing the rules associated with those accounts.

 

Timeliness

In terms of business credit, timeliness refers to more than just making payments on time. Creditors want to see that you are committed to maintaining an impeccable commercial credit history. In this regard, making your payments early whenever possible is certainly your best practice.

Checking your business credit score is just as important as being aware your personal credit score. This is especially true if your company is listed as a limited liability corporation or LLC. If you are the sole proprietor of your business, it is likely that your personal finances will be somewhat interwoven into your company’s finances, but an LLC will be a completely separate entity and will therefore have its own credit score that is separate and unique.

Understanding how your business credit score works and how you can improve it will throw the doors of opportunity wide open to you as you seek the financial resources necessary to promote the growth and the continued success of your company.

Making Sense of The Internet Marketing Lead Generation Ecosystem

April 06, 2017 / 1 Comment / by Brad Shorr

The Internet Marketing Lead Generation Ecosystem

The Internet marketing landscape is so big and complex it sometimes looks like one giant blur — even to experienced Internet marketers. In an effort to bring clarity and organization to the terrain, Straight North, an internet marketing company, created the “Internet Marketing Lead Generation Ecosystem” infographic, which helps marketers visualize not only the components of the lead generation process, but perhaps more importantly, how they fit together.

 

lead-gen-ecosystem-1.jpg

Turning our attention to the top portion of the infographic, we can see there are a number of sources of website traffic: social sites, display networks, search engines, off-site content and referral sites. A big challenge, right off the bat, is determining which of these sources to focus on for lead generation campaigns.

The default campaign for many organizations winds up being SEO. Google processes more than 100 billion searches a month! What’s more, people searching for products and services are likely to be in the market — two good reasons to engage in SEO.

On the other hand, some organizations dive into SEO because they haven’t fully considered the following options:

  • Social media marketing can be quite powerful for lead generation, especially for visually engaging products, for brands with a passionate following, and for local businesses such as restaurants.
  • Display advertising reaches known website visitors, giving it high marks for relevance and conversion rates.
  • Off-site content can draw highly qualified traffic and sales leads, and can be tapped into as the foundation of a content marketing campaign.
  • Referral sites such as BBB, Yelp, Google My Business and Zomato are invaluable to local consumer businesses but also have great potential for larger operations in B2C and B2B.

 

Bottom line: Seeing the entire lead generation ecosystem enables online marketers to consider all of the options, refine and readjust their strategies, and ultimately get the most out of their Internet marketing investment.

 

 

Four Steps To Building Or Growing A Business You Truly Love

February 28, 2017 / Leave a comment / by Michelle Young

Many years ago our family began the formidable project of building a new home. Acres were purchased and what had once been a pear orchard would someday become the place our dream home would set.

When our (well researched) builder came to me saying we needed to design the kitchen, I didn’t even understand what he meant. Hadn’t we done all of that work when we designed the house?

“Look, Scott, you’ve built a lot of homes, I’m sure you’ve got this. Build me a beautiful kitchen. I promise I’ll love it.”

I didn’t.

The same thing happens every day with business owners. People that are the dreamers and the doers of this world. They are a specific breed of humans that create wealth and build the economy. But like a cook in a kitchen she didn’t think through, a business can become a burden when it’s not created thoughtfully.

There's this little thing I've discovered I call "The Law of Specificity", and it applies to our health, relationships, to our homes, and most definitely to our businesses. When we get very clear on what it is we want to create and step into the daily crafting of it, with thought and clear intentions, our business will fit like a glove.

This "Law", is all about getting very specific with what you would love to experience. When you define how many hours you want to work in your business, how much travel you want it entail, how much value you want to bring into the world, is typically what you’ll get. Anything less leaves you shooting in the dark at a target you’ve never even seen.

As a coach to business owners, artists and homemakers, I’ve learned and taught the essential steps on designing, with specificity, the life and business that will make you come alive.

 

First you must define, “What experiences you’d love to have in your life?” It’s a weeding out question. Asking what you, the creator, would love, precludes others expectations, it raises you above, “What do I have to do?” and takes you to a place where, ultimately, you get to play at your work. If ever you feel ‘stuck’ in defining this for yourself, it’s incredibly useful to ask, “What do I not want”. This simple question has the power to stimulate new ideas of what you truly want.

To that point, a client once laid his business plan out beautifully to me. I began taking him through the process of specificity, asking questions to help him discover better where he wanted to go.

“So you enjoy traveling for work,” I asked?

He got very quiet. In all his dreaming and planning, he never really given any thought to the fact that his business plan would require him to travel far from home (What he didn’t want). With a wife and young children, it went against his core values, and he redefine his desired experiences.

 

Second, envisioning what you would love and writing down exactly what that would look like puts a pin on the map to where you’re going. What does your office look like? What are the smells? Where do you travel to, and what kinds of people do you enjoy spending time with? Who do you love to serve?

What we focus on expands. It’s a known fact that Vision Boards are an excellent way to train your brain on your new reality, so that your brain does what it does and “attracts” this newly found experience you want to create for your life.

 

Third, fall in love. When you’ve written it all down, when you’ve gotten beautifully specific and know exactly where you’re headed, fall in love with your vision. Imagine you’re there, read what you’ve written as often as possible, and utilize that vision board.

Unlike falling in love with a person, you get to change your vision as you progress. With specificity as your guide, you’ll find some of your original ideas about your business have changed and you get to change them

 

Fourth, take action. “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without a vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” Joel A. Barker

Once you've defined the vision, wrote the vision, put pictures to the vision, and have fallen in love with your vision, it can seem daunting when it’s time to “make shit happen”. Your new vision can make you feel as if you have to eat an entire elephant in just a few bites. Questions pop up like, “Where do I begin? How do I get there from where I currently am? How can I acquire that life?”

The truth is there are a gazillion different ways to “make shit happen”, and at the end of the day it boils down to determination and consistency, no matter what method you use. 

I recently read The Compound Effect, Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success; by Darren Hardy – the publisher of Success Magazine”. It’s apparent Darren knows a thing or two about achieving success, and he teaches that when you take small steps every day, and remain consistent day-after-day you have no choice but to achieve the success you’ve defined for yourself. Before you know it, the elephant you set out to eat, is digested, and what remains is the blissful experience you’ve created for yourself. (And a whole lot of life lessons.)

The thing is, the business you’re building, is a living thing. As my friend Berny Dohrmann says, "Let it change and grow you, as much as you grow and change it." When you allow yourself to get specific, define, visualize and take action you’ll know without a shadow of doubt when your opportunities arrive. Because you’ll recognize them and seize them because you know them as well as you know the back of your hand.

As for my loathed kitchen, my husband and I have embarked on building yet another custom home, and this time, I know just where I’ll put the stove, the dishwasher and the pantry, I know where my latte machine will reside, and you can be sure I will cook there to my heart’s content.

If you’re ready to define your life with Specificity, connect with me at MichelleYoungCoaching.com for a complimentary session.

Six Steps to Building Brand Value

January 31, 2017 / Leave a comment / by David Corbin

 

If you know about Les Brown, then you’ve heard him ask, “Are ya hunnngry?”

Les has been my friend for over 25 years, he’s is a fellow faculty member at CEO Space, and he’s such an inspiration to so many... “Are ya hunnngry?”  

My questions to you are similar, “Are ya hunnngry to build your business? If so, what’s the level of appetite you have for creating a truly sustainable and profitable business?”  

It’s been my experience that branding yourself and your business is essential. It ranks right up there with how awesome the quality is of an outstanding service you provide; all of which are essential components to a successful company.

I’d like to assume, that as a business owner you already know this, aaand I’m suggesting that it’s just the beginning.

Having a brand is one thing, living the brand is another thing all together, and that’s precisely where I want to hang out with you for this blog; living the brand.

Have you ever seen, a highly technical person get confused with how to perform a basic operation? Or how about a customer service representative who treats people like crap? Or how about this one….the health pundit caught wolfing down a couple Big Macs and a Supersized Coke? You know where I’m going with this… We see, all too often, HYPOCRISY in action. BLATENT HYPOCRISY. And we laugh, snarl and sometimes even go into our egotistical ‘holier-than- thou’ mode. I mean, oh my gosh, we’d never do anything like thaaaaaat!

Guess what? We humans have been known to be inconsistent with our image, our values and our brand promise. Yes… sad, but true.

So what can you do to avoid this embarrassment?

Well first, it’s not about embarrassment. It’s about the crime. A crime? Yep… and here’s what I mean…

Your brand and reputation have a value; and a financial one at that. It’s an intangible asset of your business.

My friend and client (and a CEO Space faculty member) Michelle Seiler-Tucker is a master at selling businesses – She’s sold like over 300 to date. So needless to say, Michelle knows a thing or two about business assets. The one thing she reminds us of constantly is that, “Your brand is a measurable and valuable asset of your business and is always factored in the valuation and sale price.”

So, what would you call it when someone intentionally or accidentally destroys a company asset? Could be criminal. Could be incompetence.

Let me put it this way, you’re either building your brand or you’re killing your brand, and nothing about that is neutral. The fact of the matter is that you’re either engaged in brand integrity (building brand value) or engaged in brand slaughter (killing your brand).  

So, part of the how to actually prevent brand slaughter is this: Teach each and every team member to get real with the brand promise, and get serious about living the brand with all of their daily responsibilities and activities.

The best way to go about this is to imagine that the brand is a delicate and valuable, million dollar Faberge egg. Wouldn’t it make sense to teach each employee how to carry it properly so it won’t get damaged or destroyed?

The years of experience and insight I gained from hosting a lot of mentoring meal tables at CEO Space, has helped to feed my inspiration to write my latest book, Preventing BrandSlaughter: How to Preserve, Build and Support Your Brand Asset Value. I wrote this book with the mission to keep business owners and their businesses out of harm’s way.

One way of doing that is to understand the value of knowing how to orientate around the topic of brand value. It’s valuable to know how to hire, train, coach, and manage each of their unique personalities. In BrandSlaughter, I share how to build brand value by fostering brand supportive behaviors as a core job function of every leader, manager, supervisor and employee.

Every action you or your team members make in the day-to-day core functions of the business, will either build brand value, or kill brand value.

BrandSlaughter is a business narrative about a hospital. An engaging, touching story in which one of the characters teaches the staff about a process they called an ABI, (pronounced Abbey) or what he referred to as an Audit of Brand Integrity.

He suggested that each employee take an inventory of their activities with others, such as prospects, customers, vendors, co-workers, etc. Then, they are advised to consider how their brand is ‘at play’ in each of these interactions, and ask themselves, “What does brand integrity look like in this situation and what does BrandSlaughter look like? What’s the best way to build the brand in this interaction?"

I’ve listed the six-step process so you too can take an inventory of your company’s activities, and define what brand integrity and brand slaughter look like for you, so that you and your teams can leverage these situations to build your brand value every time. 

 

Six Steps To Building Brand Value

1 Introspect whether you resonate with the brand. If not, get out now; life’s too short

2 Create a three-column list with these headings: Situation/Interaction | Brand Integrity | BrandSlaughter

3 In column one (Situation) jot down at least 20 various situations

4 Imagine yourself in the first situation, think about how you can enhance the brand with 'brand integrity' and jot it down. 

5 Imagine yourself in the first situation again, but this time think about how you or someone has undermined the brand with 'brandslaughter' and jot it down.

6 When you complete the list of 20, think creatively on how you can build brand value through accentuating the positive and illuminating/eliminating the negative in each situation.

As I emphasize at the CEO Space Forums during my classes, and during the mentoring meal tables, “ideas don’t work until you put them into action” so I invite you to begin your ABI now. Take action first on yourself and then on your business. Your future self will thank you later.

To your success! 

 

David M. Corbin has been a member of the CEO Space Faculty for over 5 years. His consulting, speaking and mentoring business has, for over 29 years, been serving businesses from Fortune 10 to Solopreneurs. Known as the “Mentor To Mentors”, David is also an award winning inventor and Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker. david@davidcorbin.com.

 

The Start of An Incredible Journey: Eco Green Auto Clean

February 10, 2016 / Leave a comment / by September Dohrmann

 

 

Dinesh_-430335-edited.jpg  

 

Dinesh Gauba is the co-founder of Eco Green Auto Clean, a company that manufactures and sells a complete line of eco-friendly plant-based cleaning products for any type of automotive vehicle.  

Eco Green Auto Cleans’ mission is to transform the car washing experience for companies and individuals washing cars. In doing so they can help to save the 100+ billion of gallons of water wasted and environmental pollution caused by traditional car washing practices every year.

Dinesh is has been a member of CEO Space since 2010, and I recently had the pleasure of connecting with him and his beautiful wife Shelia.

We stood outside in the desert rain back in October of 2015. The successful couple decided to come by and hang out with us for the tail end of our event. I think we talked a good hour or so, the conversation was so inspiring time seemed to just fly by. I found that Dinesh has a very fresh and innovative mind, so it was no surprise that we started talking about awesome new ways to innovate our businesses.

He also updated me on the exciting things going on in his company and the role CEO Space played in the birthing of his fast growing eco-friendly company. He’s picking up so much traction around his genius solution for a urgent situation we’re facing with the water drought, I felt compelled to share what he’s up to, and what he contributes to the ongoing success of his business.

 

S: Where did the idea come from to start a company that addresses a global problem?

D: Well, we launched Eco Green Auto Clean about 3.5 years ago when I meet my current business partners at CEO Space. We hit it off really well and decide to form a relationship, which led to the launch of our company Eco Green Auto Clean about 6 months later.

 

S: What awesome things are happening around your business?

D: Well, we recently launched our first ever online outreach and awareness campaign to save 2 Billion gallons of water per year called One Cup, One Car.

 We’ve had a cover page story written about us in the San Francisco chronicle, which then led to a whole host of major TV stations visiting our car wash that week for news interviews/stories that were aired online and on prime time news.

(Dinesh also had a second article in the San Francisco Chronicle.)

This has helped us create a ton of great awareness about what we’re up to.

AND, we’ve also been featured in entrepreneur.com (thanks to another connection at CEO Space) 

 

S: Wow! That’s a great boost in momentum!

D: Yea, it all has immediately resulted in a boost of our product sales online for several weeks, which is always a pleasant surprise. 

 

S: Tell me about the growth you’re experiencing in your business?

D: The company has been steadily growing with our products and is being used in many U.S. cities and countries around the world. We estimate over 200,000 cars globally have been cleaned so far using our products. 

 

S: What do you attribute to the growth?

D: I would attribute the growth to a combination of things:

1) Our Team.

Having a dedicated and passionate team that provides great service and is continually educating people about the issues with traditional car washing and the wonderful benefits of cleaning with our eco-friendly products.

 2) Location. Location. Location.

Having our showroom car wash located in the heart of Silicon Valley (Redwood City CA) allows us to show off our awesome product and service. This has led to many key business contacts that have helped open up new opportunities for us.

 3) Being Mindful of Opportunity

The extreme ongoing drought in California has made people more open and inclined to finding a better way to save water and cause less pollution. Washing a car with our products allows them to save anywhere between 50 - 150 gallons per wash and eliminate toxic runoff into the storm drains. 

 

S: Tell me about your experience with CEO Space around your business.

D: For me, CEO Space is more about the culture and the energy of community that brought this idea and opportunity into my universe; which I'm grateful for.

I’ve received advise in the areas of legal, accounting and personal development. I've gotten good advice from several of the faculty during the forum itself and formed good friendships/relationships with them; which has been great.

  

S: Where do you see the business in the next 6 months? Next year?

D: Over the next 6 months, I see us forging more relationships with city/government agencies to start using our products to wash their vehicle fleets. We're also increasing consumer awareness with our One Cup, One Car social media campaign.

In the next year, I see us further expanding our distribution network and having our product being used in even more countries and by more brand name corporate customers. We are always looking for people or connections that could help us make faster progress in our mission. <end>

 

I tell ya, I really enjoyed our conversation and feeling the excitement of such great momentum and progress. It's clear that Dinesh is well on his way to building a great company, and we are so happy for him and his team!  

If you or someone you know would be interested in collaborating with Dinesh on progressing Eco Green Auto Cleans' mission, drop a note below and we'll make the connect. 

 

To find out more about CEO Space, visit ceospaceinternational.com. 

 

 

3 Keys To Lasting Success

January 12, 2016 / Leave a comment / by Aaron Young

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) kicked off last week in Las Vegas. Big news has been abound as the latest and greatest slew of must have gadgets are paraded before the public and press. We'll see fascinating products from new and innovative inventors as well as new generations of familiar stuff from the Multi-Nationals.

I’ve been following an attending CES for decades and I’ve seen a lot of companies come and go. I’ve seen great ideas go down in a ball of flames after a ton of media attention. It seemed as if they couldn’t lose and then months later, they were gone.

This is true for lots of good ideas, innovative companies and dedicated entrepreneurs. Maybe you have even lived through it.

Here’s the thing, what kills most companies is skipping the basics. No matter how awesome your idea is, if you ignore fundamentals you will fail. The key is to mastering the basics.

So, as you jump head first into 2016 here are three things to keep your focus on. 

1. Corporate Compliance.

OK, that may seem like a boring way to start but the truth is that if your business entity is shaky, then it doesn’t matter what you build on top of it, the whole thing is at risk. Make sure that you are treating your company like a separate legal individual from you and that you hold the appropriate meetings and keep the documents the government requires.


2. Watch Your Cash.

Too many people are focused on the profit and loss statement rather than the cash flow reports. Here’s what I know. You cannot spend profits. You can only spend cash. Your task is to figure out how to turn paper profits into spendable cash. This is done through imagining each expenditure as an investment rather than an expense. You will always pay attention to the returns you are getting on investments where as you might get sloppy about how you are paying bills. Cash is king. You must have sufficient cash. Without it, you are dead in the water.

 

3. Empower Your People.

The most successful companies, most beloved bosses, most heralded industries are dominated by the concept that you need to empower your people rather than lording over them. Most people will flourish in an environment where they can feel ownership of their job and have a clear understanding of how their successes and failures impact the company as a whole. When people know they can make a decisions without fear of punishment and when they can make the job “their own”, they will give you their heads and hearts. That is the beginning of real strength. (Check out this article we did on authentic leadership that creates impact.) 

 

Bottom line - the success of any enterprise is found in the basics, regardless of what your particular basics are. They are always important and they apply to a tons of different 'life' situations.

For me, I define my basics as playing by the rules, have sufficient cash and surround yourself with a powerful team. 

What are your basics that you live by in business? 

Should Leadership Development Eliminate Weaknesses or Exploit Strengths?

January 06, 2016 / Leave a comment / by Dr. David Gruder

 The importance of leadership development in business success is no longer debated. Leading leadership consultants like Ken Blanchard, John Maxwell, Stephen Covey and Marshall Goldsmith agree that top-notch leadership development is essential for seasoned executives as budding talent, when building and sustaining high performing organizations.

Of all the executive development areas, EQ (Emotional Intelligence) appears to have become the most universally endorsed. And for good reason. As Travis Bradbury of Forbes puts it, "EQ skills empower people to deal with anyone, in any situation.” As a clinical and organizational development psychologist who has been a leader development mentor and trainer since the 1980s, I agree with him.

The question is, which EQ skills are the most useful to focus on in leadership upgrade initiatives? The most obvious answer is, whichever skills a particular leader would most benefit from developing. But what’s the menu of EQ stills development options? And even more to the point, is it better to focus on developing a leader’s weaker EQ area or on exploiting their EQ strengths?

Miranda Kennett of Management Today talks about "a seismic shift in the leadership development world away from concentrating on weaknesses (or 'development opportunities', as they were euphemistically termed) to focus on identifying and exploiting our strengths.” This trend is based on the belief that developing weaknesses isn’t a unsuccessful strategy, but that focusing on our inadequacies is depressing. Kennett goes on to assert that “since we can't build on weaknesses we're better off spending our energy on making the most of our strengths.”

Her position parallels the Positive Psychology movement’s position: accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative. Don’t go delving into dark waters. Keep your attention on the sunny side of the street.

Yet, other leadership experts, such as my colleague Hugh Ballou, stress the importance of discovering your leadership gaps because those gaps limit leadership effectiveness at best and create damage at worst. Ballou’s position has parallels in the field of psychology as well. In fact, one of my long-time sayings is that "leaders lead at the level of their psychological limitations instead of their business’s highest intentions."

So, which is it: "Illuminate the negative” as my colleague David Corbin puts it, by understanding and fixing the behaviors that are holding us back, as Marshall Goldsmith’s best-selling book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There is all about? Or focus on the “power of positive thinking” as Napoleon Hill advocates in his classic book “Think and Grow Rich," and his many adherents passionately advocate?

Since I was a teenager I have been fascinated by our tendency as human beings to turn both/and into either/or. Whether in politics, religion, or personal development. Similarly, with leader development is it truly prudent to play to our strengths and sidestep our gaps?

All of us have natural strengths, acquired strengths, acknowledged gaps and hidden gaps.

Natural Strengths

Acknowledged Gaps

Acquired Strengths

Hidden Gaps

 My experience is that the leaders who become the most effective and fulfilled are the ones who pay attention to all four of these areas:

  • They have taken ownership of their natural strengths, they make the most of them, and they look for opportunities to further refine their capacity to utilize these.
  • They have the courage to uncover the leadership gaps they didn’t know they have and they make strategic decisions about which they will turn into acquired strengths, and which they will make sure that others on the leader team have instead.

Kennett's notion that it’s not a good idea to address our weaknesses because doing this is depressing is, from my perspective, a kind of EQ deficit. A leader who can’t look honestly at their gaps without getting depressed lacks self-esteem. Leaders with self-esteem deficits tend to be ineffective wimps or ineffective egotists/tyrants. In other words, a leader who can’t look upon his or her deficits with open eyes, and yet without shame, will never become sustainably effective or sustainably happy in being a leader.

So, yes, leadership development is absolutely vital to business success. Yes, EQ skills are absolutely essential to leadership effectiveness. And yes, EQ includes becoming masterful in how we utilize our natural strengths, in how we turn well-selected gaps we have into acquired strengths, and in who we surround ourselves with that have the rest of the strengths our business needs to succeed.

Stop paying attention to the “experts" who advocate ignoring your gaps. Don’t settle for those who lack the expertise to help you further upgrade the usefulness of your natural and acquired strengths. And don’t waste your money on ones without the wisdom to help you discern which of your gaps to fill yourself versus which ones to bring others onto your team to fill.

You wouldn’t have made it all the way through this article unless you’re truly committed to your leadership effectiveness and your business’s success. You’d therefore be wisest to insist on utilizing only those leader development resources who can brilliantly help you in all of these areas, not just with some of them.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Have you experienced the cross road of this choice? 

How the Pendulum Swings Today

December 08, 2015 / Leave a comment / by Michael Drew

I'm okay. But you're definitely not okay.

That's not me speaking. That's society. In particular, that's today's society.

You see, you're in the middle of a particular social cycle, one that comes around approximately every 40 years, and toward the middle of our current cycle people are beginning to point fingers at each other for not toeing the line. Or for not fitting in. Or for being a little different.

That's where we are now. It's getting testy out there.

I'm the co-author, with Roy H. Williams of Pendulum, a bestselling book that explored the shifts in society in over 3,000 years. You see, society shifts from an individually minded era, which we call a ME Cycle, to one that focuses more on community, which we label a WE Cycle. The title of our book refers to the way that society swings every 40 years or so, as if it's on an invisible pendulum.

We move back and forth from that ME Cycle – when the emphasis is on individualism, hero-worship, larger-than-life egos, free expression and a kind of egocentrism – to a WE Cycle – when people are more inclined to work together for the common good, to prefer the truth to empty slogans, to crave for things that are real, raw and relevant, to be spoken to as adults. (We're currently in a WE Cycle, by the way, in case you hadn't noticed.)

We arrived at our findings by sifting through historical events, literature, visual arts, politics, religion, and by poring over works as disparate as the Bible, the Commentaries of Caesar, Le Mort d'Arthur, England's Magna Carta, America's Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land and Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, among many other examples. We listened to music from Bach to the Beatles to Beyoncé and beyond. We tried to figure out why certain aspects of society seemed to resurface time and time again.

And you know what we discovered? That society is predictable in the way it changes every few decades. That what becomes important fades as new concerns arise. We used to look up to a certain type of person as a hero. Then we realized heroes were often self-centered and so we began to prefer people working together. And then – and this is the surprising part – we sour on that concept as we look ahead to the next cycle (without being fully aware of it).

We found out too that in the middle of a WE Cycle – in fact, just about where we are today – things begin to go south. Idealism turns to cynicism. Cooperation turns to suspicion.

Look around you and see: we've become a society that looks over its shoulder. We're anti-immigrant, we're increasingly intolerant of free speech, our spoiled children are demanding so-called safe spaces so they don't have to hear differing opinions, we blame everything on invisible terrorists, and we look at our neighbors – people we used to welcome with open arms – as if they might be dangerous.

And just a few years ago, everything seemed so rosy.

You see how things change? This sort of thing doesn't last forever, but it does go on for a few years. So you need to be prepared for a shift in how people view the world.

What does this mean for business?

Well, it means you can't take anything for granted. Your customers don't trust you. They think you're going to rip them off. They think you're in it for your needs, not to serve theirs. In a previous ME Cycle, it used to be about branding. But today, in our WE Cycle, it's about relationships.

And as our current cycle turns more suspicious, it's still about building relationships. You've got to carefully engage your clients and customers by paying more and more attention to their needs and concerns, not just what you want to sell them.

And you know what else? In today's age of information overload, people are also more distracted than ever, and their attention spans are increasingly shorter. Most of your audience is highly skilled at paying attention to distractions, flitting from one thing to the next approximately eight seconds at a time. So you don't have much of a chance to get them to look at you.

How do you capture the attention of a person with an attention span shorter than a goldfish? You spark curiosity, strategically. You surprise them. At the same time, you assure them you're there, warts and all, to serve them. You may be flawed, but you're real and relevant – and you can help them.

It isn't always easy – true engagement never is – but the reward is a more committed customer, someone who looks for a lifeline of honesty in an ocean of suspicion.

Welcome to the pendulum: we're swinging into an interesting time.

 

3 Tricks for Producing Sales From PR

December 03, 2015 / Leave a comment / by Cheryl Snapp Conner
 
Need more sales? Here’s where PR and quality content can be extra beneficial according to Ken and Kerri Courtright, cofounders of Today’s Growth Consultant and Income Store.com. In a recent interview with Cheryl Conner for Forbes, http://www.forbes.com/sites/cherylsnappconner/2015/11/07/steal-these-3-tricks-to-convert-pr-into-sales/ Ken shared the following ideas for converting your good PR news into sales. 

Income Store is a company that buys and creates high-traction “Google authority sites” for purchase partnerships by organizations with the potential to grow their businesses by selling online. They then support the organizations in growing their commerce sites further in an arrangement that allows them to participate in a profit sharing relationship for the online revenue growth they create. What this means for them that others can benefit from also: Public relations, and especially the thought leadership and content side of public relations, is king. Ken has shared a number of the ideas he’s developed through years of business in a 2013 book (he has another book in the works that’ll come out shortly as well). With that in mind, here are three of the ideas he suggests: 

Idea 1: “Who can help?” 

In 1997, while running a family brick and mortar video store, Ken Courtright learned a lesson in the course of growing that business that he now suggests as a strategy to every entrepreneur (both online and off). At the time he was caught in the throes of the midsummer retail blahs that hit every store like his own. Nothing he or wife Kerri could do seemed to make a difference.

On a somber day he drove around aimlessly for a period of hours in search of inspiration. As the thought “What can I do?” pounded in his head, he suddenly changed the thought from “What can I do?” to “Who can help me?” Now the picture shifted and he found himself in front of neighboring business Louie’s Pizza store. What goes well with videos? Pizza. In a flash of brilliance he printed up 5,000 video store coupons and walked into the store. He asked the manager on duty if they could please distribute one of these coupons on the boxes of the next 5,000 pizzas they sold. Out came Louie, pronouncing there would be “no way in Hell” they would take on the work of distributing those 5,000 coupons. So Courtright began to barter. What if, in exchange, the Courtrights were willing to distribute 10,000 coupons for Louie’s to every customer who walked through their doors? Louie’s eyes lit up, and they had struck a bargain. In both directions, the coupons began to fly. In the immovable market, the Courtrights’ sales rose 22%. Louie’s sales rose 6%. In both directions, the extra effort proved to be a deal worth making.

In the online arena, instead of thinking “What can I do?” to find yet another conduit to communicate a one-way message, convert your thinking to “Who can help?”  What are the aligned services and product sites that can benefit your customers? Cross articles on your sites, in your online newsletters, and most especially consider sharing your opted in customer database with each other, if you can appropriately do so, and you will each walk away with a contact list twice as large. Then track the resulting business you create in both directions to help determine if the arrangement is a good one, and how much priority to give it in both directions from now on.

Idea #2: Forget about simply publishing “content.” Instead, think informational value-add.

In another case, the Income Store made a bid to invest in a plumbing website, ThePlumbingInfo.com. Ken Courtright entreated the founder of the original business, Art Kavanaugh, with decades of wisdom in his field, to publish once a week as a part of the deal. The senior executive felt the publishing would be too big an endeavor and turned the deal down. But after sleeping on it, he came back and said “Okay, I’ll do it—but only if my son, Sean, can help.” Now they had a deal.

The inclusion of Kavanaugh’s son turned out to be a stroke of genius. Instead of thinking of his assignment to publish as a weekly “checkmark to hit” and straining to produce a kind of essay to fill the space, he thought through what information would be most value to the company’s customers. Inspiration struck, and he created a review of various alternatives for shower heads. Yes, it took a little doing to test the alternatives and to come up with the ratings, but the post was immediately compelling. It was classic thought leadership in action—non-promotional no-spin information of the kind the company’s customer base legitimately wanted to know. The post was a success, had a significant lifespan and drew many views. This was fairly well the last the company thought about the project until one day, six or so months later, a set of visitors from Germany arrived at their door.

“We are the providers of Hans Grohe shower heads,” they said. “Do you remember us?” Why yes, replied Sean. “We reviewed your product,” he said. “You came in second out of ten.”The manufacturers then said, “And our inventory of that product immediately sold out. We needed to find you to see what else we can do. Since that review was posted, sales of that product have risen sharply." A blog assignment, meant to provide authentic value. It led to a significant increase in sales and deepened partnerships with the providers of the products Kavanaugh’s customers now understood and valued more than before.

Idea #3: There’s an image for that. 
Here’s an idea an energy provider used to create so much PR reaction it momentarily caused Google to think the business was behaving illegally and temporarily de-list the site in Google results. Several years ago, while Income Store and the company were considering what they could do to generate interest, they gathered in the newest data available from Consumer Reports and created an infographic (pictured below) on all of the areas within a house where energy savings or loss could occur. They published the piece, and, as they say, “the crowds went wild.” Then the team noticed, a month or two later, the traction had suddenly stopped. What happened? Investigation showed someone had translated the infographic into Japanese, but had left the attribution and link in place that credited the energy co. as the source. It produced 400 links to the company from Japan within the space of a weekend. Google had assumed such a spike in traffic wasn’t possible unless the company had illegally purchased the links.

“It was almost funny—except that it wasn’t, when they delisted our client’s site,” Courtright said. But after a phone call to show and explain the story, a Google representative gave a verbal apology and restored the site to its rightful role.

What educational information is unique to your company and service that you could publish and share to the world in a visual format like this?  Three ideas, all possible without high agency budgets (or likely possible without agency involvement at all. For every entrepreneur who is growing an online business the increased revenue these ideas create will be welcome news.