Accountability, Accounting & Financials, Blinding Flashes of the Obvisous (BFOs), Business Fundamentals, Key Performance Indicators, Management

I said it last year, and I must say it again, the Business Excellence Forum (BEF) gets better each year.  There were more than 500 business owners, executives, team members and business coaches in attendance in Houston, Texas.  With that many attendees, there was an abundance of formal and informal exchanges of ideas, strategies, success stories and best practices.

This year’s forum had an extensive list of keynote speakers whose presentations yielded many Blinding Flashes of the Obvious (BFOs) and new ways of looking at things.  The following are some of the BFOs that struck a chord with me, most of which will enhance the value I bring to my clients.  I am sure that some of these will have a similar effect on you.

During the opening session, Brad Sugars, founder and Chairman of ActionCOACH shared the following:

  • We often present the concept of Learn More to Earn More. Brad added Serve More to Earn More.  Serve More to Earn more became one of the major themes of this year’s Forum.
  • To serve more, you must set an expanded vision (more about that later) and then you must grow into it.
  • Brad highlighted the difference between a Leader and a Coordinator. Leadership is all about the Vision.
  • During a discussion of referral strategies, Brad challenged everyone to develop a pre-gifting strategy. For example, give a book relevant to your product or service to ten of your top customers and encourage them to pass the books along to people who would benefit from your offering.

Our first keynote speaker was Keith Cunningham, author of “The Ultimate Blueprint for an Insanely Successful Business” and creator of the CFO Scoreboard.  (

Mr. Cunningham, while explaining financial reports in very plain, simple language, slips in many gems about business.  Following are some of the most important:

  • For most in business, the universal answer to business problems or issues is growth – most of the time, that is a fallacy. It is often more effective to consolidate your business and address the problems directly before resuming your growth.  After all, your problems may grow bigger as your business grows.
  • “To play the game of business you’ve got to speak the language.” The language is knowing how to read and understand your financial statements and KPIs.
  • You need two things; Language and Scoreboard:
    • Language (Report Card) = Financials
    • Scoreboard (Dashboard) = Optics which leads to strategy
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  • To make more money, get better at business
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  • M+D+A=N – Management -> Decisions -> Activities -> Numbers.  The numbers on your Report Card (Financials) influence your Activities and your activities determine your Report Card.
  • What activities need to change to change your numbers? When you stand on the bathroom scale and are unhappy with the number you see, what are you going to change to eventually see a happier number?
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  • We have too many goals, we need more standards (non-negotiable goals).
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  • Running your business with un-read or improperly formatted financial reports is like playing pin the tail on the donkey.
  • You give what you tolerate – every management failure is caused by a lack of courage.
  • PROFIT is a Theory – Cash is a FACT
  • “It is not about getting big, it’s about getting rich (generating cash).” Too many businesses lately are focused on getting very big.  Many of them are burning cash along the way.
  • The only reason to spend money is to get or keep customers.

All the BFOs above were from before the morning break!  There is much more to come from Keith and other speakers in the next blog post.

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Adding Value, Customer Service, Mindset, Mission, Serve more to Earn more

I recently used eBay to sell a file cabinet that I no longer need.  Oh, the benefits of more and more of my business being conducted online.  Because of its size and weight, the file cabinet was listed as local pickup only.  When the auction was completed, the buyer paid immediately and contacted me to arrange a time to pick the cabinet up.  When I met Leo, the buyer, at my storage facility I was surprised to be introduced to a Chinese man in full business attire, three-piece suit, beautiful silk foulard tie, the works.  The buyer was accompanied by another Chinese gentleman, John, who was dressed in business very casual attire, khakis, polo shirt, sneakers, you get the picture.

While John maneuvered the van into one of the loading bays, Leo and I took a dolly up to my storage unit to retrieve the file cabinet.  By now you are thinking what does this have to do with business?

While in the elevator Leo explained that he was on his lunch break from Bank of America, and John is his client.  John, he told me, is in the process of opening a daycare center and mentioned that he needed a file cabinet.  When he asked Leo for advice on where to purchase a used file cabinet, Leo suggested eBay.  John had never used eBay so Leo went the extra mile, logged into his eBay account, placed the winning bid, completed the transaction, and accompanied John to pick up the cabinet and to translate.  For me, that was a WOW moment, I was quite impressed by Leo’s dedication to his clients.

So, here are three business related questions I want you to consider:

  1. When was the last time a banker, especially from one of the giants, demonstrated that level client focused service? Or for that matter, what is the service level of many of the large businesses you regularly business do with?
  2. What is the service level you routinely offer to your customers? Do you WOW them on a regular basis?
  3. What would be the resulting increase to your bottom line if you separated your business from your competitors by raising your level of service to WOW?

As Brad Sugars, the Founder and Chairman of ActionCOACH said at our 2017 Business Excellence Forum last month, “Serve more to Earn more.”  Leo is certainly doing just that.  If you would like to make more by serving more, my colleagues and I at ActionCOACH will be happy to assist you.

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Being an Owner, Business Coaching, Entrepreneunship, Ownership, Planning

My wife and I took our grandsons to see, “School of Rock” on Broadway last weekend.  There is one line in the show that struck a chord with me: “Not everyone is cut out to be a rock star, but if you are, then you’ve got to go for it.”

What struck me about that line is how it directly relates to business and my coaching practice: “Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, but if you are, then you’ve got to go for it.”

In my mind, there are two types of entrepreneurs; active entrepreneurs and everyone else who has a job.  In other words, we are all entrepreneurs.  The days of two-way company/employee loyalty for 30-40 years is gone.  No more gold watches and fancy retirement parties.  Like it or not, we have become a society of “Me, Inc.”  We are our own bosses.

But how do you know if you are cut out to be an active entrepreneur?  Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Am I comfortable with an erratic schedule? Do I have good time management skills?  As an entrepreneur, you likely won’t be working 9-5.  As you gear up, 10-12 hour days are not uncommon; you’ll spend your time networking, blogging, researching, and marketing.  You will need to work on your business every day.
  2. Can I afford it? You need a safety net.  It can take up to six months or more to start to see a steady income.  Depending on the terms of your contracts, clients can take up to three months to pay.
  3. What could I do? Two ways to go here:
    1. Skills and Talents: Evaluate your current career/work situation. Are there any skills that you can take and parlay into a business?
    2. Passion: Hobbies: many people have used their talents and created successful companies from their love of baking or knitting.
  4. What are my strengths and weaknesses? While it might be painful, ask your friends and family.  They will give you some good insight regarding how you are with people, taking initiative, or seeing a project to the end.  A word of caution here, do not let family and friends dissuade you from pursuing your dream.  Also, don’t underestimate self-assessment tools – such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® or the DiSC which can provide self-awareness.

Assuming these items don’t scare you, what’s next?

  1. Plan. Our philosophy at ActionCOACH is to start planning as early as possible.  Most businesses grow organically, without planning.  Often, that leads to problems down the road.
  2. Research. Talk to other people who are already doing it.  You need to know the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Arm yourself with as much information as possible.  Additionally, there are many excellent books that address entrepreneurship as well as your area of expertise.  Never stop learning.
  3. Get all necessary certifications. The cost of the schooling may be tax deductible.
  4. Start small. Get the word out with friends and family about the service(s) or product(s) you are offering.  Word of mouth is one of the most effective marketing tools.
  5. Don’t wait until you get laid off. Lay the groundwork as soon as possible.
  6. Most important, hire an ActionCOACH to help you write a business plan, outline goals, and be the most effective president of “Me, Inc.”

Even if you decide you do not wish to be an active entrepreneur, it is necessary to take most of the steps outlined above to succeed in your career.

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Accountability, Business Coaching, Learn to Earn, Leverage, Ownership, Responsibility

I pride myself on my organizational skills and attention to detail.  Since my coaching practice depends on both, I’ve developed spreadsheets, procedures, and extensive files on my shared disk drive which enable me to run my business effectively and efficiently.  It’s a system that works well, enables leverage, and keeps me in check.

So, imagine my chagrin when all too late, I – or rather my wife – discovered a typo in my December newsletter that was missed by both me and my assistant.  It’s hard to correct without jamming up people’s inboxes so the most I could hope for is … laughter!

Yes, we have to laugh at these minor transgressions and put them into perspective.  In this case, my assistant indicated 2016, not 2017 for a January seminar.  She herself laughed and said that she was still writing 2014 on checks.  I had little choice but to laugh along with her because this is very likely a universal thing.  (By the way, as I finalize this toward the end of December, I note that although many opened the December newsletter, no one called me out about the typo.)

All too often, we are quick to point out errors and mistakes – as my wife did about the incorrect year.  I think it gives us some satisfaction knowing that we are all flawed.  So how do you overcome setbacks like this?  Here’s a formula:

  1. Be above the line.  Apologize without making excuses.  Saying “I’m sorry” acknowledges the mistake and demonstrates being accountable.  Likewise, if you are on the receiving end of the error, give the person a chance to own up to it without using accountability as a weapon.
  2.  Correct.  After you apologize, ask how you can make it right.  Come up with ideas on your own and collaborate with peers if necessary.  And, on the receiving end, listen and appreciate.
  3. Learn.  There is a vast body of published biographies, auto biographies, business books, articles and knowledge that equate failure and mistakes with prerequisites to success. Bottom line, you’ve got to Learn to Earn.

On the other hand, if you keep making the same mistakes, then it’s time to hire an ActionCOACH business coach to help you break through the obstacles that may be holding you back.  In addition, if you need to design your business to maximize your leverage or would like to learn more about bringing your business and yourself above the line of choice, contact myself or any of my colleagues for a no obligation complementary coaching diagnostic session and learn how we can add value to you and your business.

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Accountability, Blinding Flashes of the Obvisous (BFOs), Business Coaching, Business Fundamentals, Management, Success

Many of us have heard that 80% of your results are achieved by 20% of your efforts. Since Pareto introduced that concept back in 1896 by identifying that 80% of Italy’s land was owned by 20% of the population, it has since been applied to science, engineering, healthcare, and sports. My assistant claims that 80% of what you wear comes from 20% of your wardrobe so the applications are limitless.

As a business coach, my clients frequently complain that there’s just not enough time to get everything done.  Upon discussion, we have a lightbulb moment in which the client realizes that s/he is spending 80% of their time on trivial matters and only 20% of their time cultivating their core business, the very antithesis of what they should be doing.  During our coaching sessions, I suggest these ways to increase their productivity – and profits – by incorporating the 80/20 rule:

  1. Focus on the 20% of your customers who are generating 80% of your profits. Cultivate those relationships and watch your bank account grow!  Delegate the rest to your sales team and help them to nurture the future 20%.
  2. Identify the 20% of your friends and business associates who can provide 80% of your support, be it marketing or emotional. Conversely, eliminate the 20% – or more – of those who drain you of your energy or stand in the way of your success.
  3. Find the 20% of the tasks that you truly enjoy which bring the greatest reward and put 80% of your energy into them. The rest can be delegated or outsourced.
  4. 80% of a business’s problems come from 20% of the business. Is the 20% related to production?  Delivery?  A particular employee?  Periodically review your processes, policies and procedures.  Communicate expectations to your staff regularly.  This is about fire prevention.

The common thread here is to simplify as much as you are able.  Granted, the way we work has changed dramatically over the last two decades and we’re now “on” 24/7.  However, by discovering how we are using our time, we can make informed decisions about how we choose to spend it.

My colleagues and I are ready to assist you in applying Pareto’s Law to your business and your life.  Contact any of us for a no obligation complementary coaching diagnostic session and learn how we can add value to you and your business.

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Adding Value, Customer Service, Total Product DEfinition

I am a picky eater; I tend to frequent restaurants with menus that have items and preparations that I like.  In addition, I prefer restaurants that are flexible, and I’ve walked out of more than one after hearing “Sorry, no substitutions.”   My wife, not so much.  She has a very brave palate and is always willing to experiment with the new and unusual.  So imagine our delight when we found a restaurant in the Stockbridge, MA area many years ago that had a menu that appealed to both of us.

The restaurant was very successful and always crowded.  We appreciated the reasonable cost, the dependable quality of the food, and the reliable service.  The place was a home run for us and for the other residents and visitors to the Berkshires.

A few years went by and for reasons that are unknown to me, the owner hired a new chef who promptly – and completely – changed the menu.  For some people this would be an adventure.  However, to my wife and me – and judging by the decline in customers – this was business suicide.  I know we are not returning when my wife tells me that she has trouble finding something to order.  Gone were our favorite dishes.  Gone were the selections that catered to the bland eater and the daring.  Worse, they instituted a “no substitutions” policy.  We kept checking the restaurant’s website hoping that the owner and chef would come to their senses and revise the menu.  No such luck. As you can probably guess, the restaurant closed within a few months of this change.

In business, there are thousands of examples like this.   A successful business sells a product, then ostensibly to entice another customer base, creates a product that is not of value to the targeted new customer and worse, alienates the long time patrons.  Ultimately, the business fails.

So, what is the lesson here?  As a business owner, you MUST understand three things about your offering:

  1. You MUST understand what your customers value, not what you value. Oftentimes, they are very different things.
  2. You MUST understand all aspects of your offering, not just the obvious. For example, the obvious offering of a restaurant is the food.  Patrons also value the service, flexibility, décor, parking, dress code, cleanliness, consistency, reputation and variety, to mention a few.
  3. You MUST understand that every customer will value something different from other customers. Joe will value the food, but Mary will value the ambiance. And they seldom value the same aspects that you value.

Failure to fully understand your customer’s value proposition and consistently deliver that value is a recipe for disaster.  Yes, it’s important to grow, to improve, and to innovate your product base to give people options and to attract new customers.  However, if you consistently deliver great value to your customers you will be blessed with many raving fans.

If you would like to increase the value your company offers to your customers to accelerate your growth, my colleagues and I at ActionCOACH are ready and able to assist you.

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Culture, Leadership, Management, Ownership

When I mentioned to my assistant today that I needed to write a blog post, she replied, “Well, what is people’s pain these days? Write about that!” With a smirk, I told her that I didn’t want to get political and she and I went on to have a pretty lively discussion about the candidates. Although we didn’t come out and say it, I got the feeling that we were of the same mindset which came as a relief. Nothing like working in a small, two-person office and being at complete odds with one another.

But what about the rampant disagreements that are clogging up your Facebook page? “Your candidate is an idiot!” “Your candidate sucks!” And worse. Friendships are broken, even families can splinter when the members are on opposite sides of the fence. Every year, it seems that the back biting and insults get worse when, in truth, it’s been this way for 200 years.

When I was in architecture school, my fellow students and I would often question one particular professor about one building or another to elicit his opinion about said building. “What do you think of Lake Point Tower?” Tilting his head and stroking his well-trimmed beard, he’d thoughtfully and quietly reply, “It’s interesting.” Interesting? That’s it? We were stymied by his response but now, 50 years later, I’ve come to appreciate these two seemingly innocuous – and admittedly somewhat frustrating – words and I teach them to my coaching clients today.

The potential uses are endless and should be a part of every-day communication skills. It can be used in business settings, family settings, one-on-one relationships and the list goes on. Use it when someone tells you something that you don’t believe in or agree with. Let’s face it: our goals in provoking an argument is to get the other person to be on your side. More often than not, it has the opposite effect.

So let’s take a look at how we can incorporate “That’s interesting!” into today’s volatile political arena:

Ranting person: “Idiotface candidate is a lame-brained jerkhead who would take this country into world war III!” or “Moron is a bald-faced liar!”

You (rakishly tilting your head and thoughtfully stroking your chin): “Hmmmmm…. that’s interesting!”

Ranting person: “YEAH! Uh………”

See? You’ve managed to acknowledge ranting person’s tirade while not giving him fuel for the fire. Chances are, he’ll either keep ranting, to which you keep replying, “That’s interesting!” or he’ll walk away. In essence, he’s inviting you to an argument but you’re not accepting the invitation.

When applied to business, it can enhance brainstorming sessions, make meetings more effective and inclusive, and from the receiver’s side, defuse potentially negative performance reviews. Just be sure not to overuse it or it can be construed as passive aggression. But the thoughtfulness and learning behind it just may teach you something.

And isn’t that interesting?

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Business Coaching, Business Fundamentals

This post is a follow up to a Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter post that I published a few days ago.  While reading an article in the July/August 2016 edition of INC Magazine entitled “Taming the Beast” ( by Leigh Buchanan, I was astounded by some of the examples of well-intended silliness mentioned.  In addition, I appreciated that the article didn’t simply state the challenge without offering some suggested solutions.

The first example of regulatory over-burden involved a relatively small craft winery in Brooklyn, NY.  The CEO, Brian Leventhal fills out monthly reports to each and every state his company ships, or has shipped product to.  The information requested on the reports vary by state, but generally includes the name and address of each purchaser of their wine.  Furthermore, he must file reports to states even if he had no shipments during the previous month to customers within that state.  Mr. Leventhal is quoted in the article saying “it looks like [rules governing the wine industry] exist only because someone made them up that way 80 years ago.”

The article goes on to site some statistics about the proliferation of regulations; 3,400 federal regulations in 2015, 545 with direct effect on small business, for example.  In a survey about regulation conducted by Paychex, 39 percent responded that over-regulation dissuaded them from entering a new market, 36 percent from introducing a new product, and 25 percent did not start new business ventures into a new kind of business.  Further, that survey found that 65 percent of the respondents reported that regulations hurt their profitability or their opportunities to grow.

Philip K. Howard, founder of Common Good, a non-profit with the mission of applying common sense toward reducing government bureaucracy is quoted as saying “America is run by dead people.  The people who wrote these rules are dead, so you can’t argue with them or hold them accountable.”  Regulations are like plastic bags or embarrassing social media posts: once they are out, you can’t get rid of them.

I invite you to respond to this blog with a list of the top few regulations that hurt your industry or company.  You might highlight your number one target for elimination or revision.  I also invite any suggestions about regulations that should remain, with or without revisions.

Finally, if me or my colleagues at ActionCOACH can assist you with overcoming your regulatory constraints, please contact us to learn what is possible to keep you ahead of your competition.

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Accountability, Ownership, Responsibility, Success

One of my favorite activities while behind the wheel driving to and from the Berkshires is listening to one of the SUCCESS Magazine monthly audio CDs.  This past weekend I was inspired by a segment with Barbara Corcoran on the June 2016 CD.

In answer to the interviewer’s question about some of the worst things she has heard from the entrepreneurs she has invested in, she said that  the absolute worst was “What should I do about … ?”  She made it very clear that there is nothing worse than asking her for help that way.  It is not that she does not make herself available to assist and advise her investees, quite the contrary.  She just knows that “What should I do … ?” is the wrong way to request assistance.

Why?  That particular phrase and its variations demonstrates a lack of Ownership, Accountability and Responsibility (OAR – above the line of choice – see The OZ Principle by  Roger Connors, Tom Smith and Craig Hickman) for the implementation and outcome of the advice.  If someone tells you what you should do to solve an issue and things do not go well, you can lay Blame at the other person’s feet (Below the Line behavior).  Or if you don’t implement or botch the implementation of the other person’s recommendation, you can still operate below the line by making some sort of Excuse.

So what is the right way of requesting assistance from your adviser?  The answer is a very subtle, but significant change to the phrasing of the request to “What would you do in this situation … ?”  When you ask for assistance or advice using this wording, you are taking Ownership, being Accountable and Responsible for both the implementation and results of the suggestion.  Classic above the line behavior.  Sounds subtle but the difference is massive.  Furthermore, the advice you receive is more likely to be well thought out.  And due to your OAR, the results you achieve in solving whatever issue you sought assistance for will be faster and better.  When you operate above the line positive results are easier to achieve.  As the old (actually very old) television commercial said “try it, you’ll like it.”

If you wish to delve deeper into living above the line of choice in order to accelerate and magnify your results, my ActionCOACH colleagues and I are ready to assist you.  All you have to do is contact us.

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Accountability, Being an Owner, Communication, Culture, Key Performance Indicators, Management, Marketing

The first speaker of the afternoon on the second day was Chris Cooke of Luv4 Marketing one of the ActionCOACH strategic partners.  Luv4 has enrolled me and many of my colleagues in a social media master class.  In addition, we are able to offer a comprehensive marketing class to our clients via our strategic partnership.  My BFOs from Chris were:

  • Leads generated on the internet will not necessarily be successful if they are directed to a crappy website or landing page.
  • Internet leads will research you online, just like you research companies you are considering doing business with.
  • Your sales process must be revised to reflect the unique methods necessary to maximize your conversion rate of online leads.

Our chairman Brad Sugars wrapped up the afternoon and the BEF with mostly housekeeping announcements and one major BFO:

  • In order to improve your conversion rate, keep an Objection Log. Work answers to your most prominent objections into your sales process and materials BEFORE they arise.

The next two days were devoted to the annual North American Coach conference.  We were introduced to several new strategic alliances.  In addition, there were many speakers addressing best coaching practices and client strategies that worked for our clients.  The following are some of the highlights:

In a session about KPIs, one of my colleagues showed a clip from the movie Money Ball Ball ( to highlight using KPIs to overcome biases.  He then introduced the concept of subdividing KPIs into Leading, Lagging, People and Productivity KPIs, which was a BFO for me, having only thought of KPIs in general.

KPI Examples Slide

Balance KPIs Slide

By the way, if you are not familiar with Net Promoter Score, I will cover NPS in a upcoming blog, stay tuned.

In addition, he also had the audience do the following exercise:
KPI Table Exercise Slide
You should too.

Another colleague of mine ran a great exercise based on the ActionCOACH formula for change:

(D x V) + F > R

Step 1 – write out a challenge you would like to eliminate
Step 2 – write out your Vision of when the challenge has been eliminated
Step 3 – rate your Vision 1-10 (btw if your vision is not a 10, rework your vision)
Step 4 – rate your Dissatisfaction with the current situation 1-10
Step 5 – write the consequence of not eliminating the challenge
Step 6 – R – list your top 3 resistances to the changes needed to eliminate the challenge
Step 7 – write out the First Step
Step 8 – Be x Do = Have – write an I Am related to the Being needed to overcome the challenge. (The I Am statement will influence your unconscious behavior related to your DISC)
Step 9 – Four steps to learning – Step 7 moved you from u-i to c-i / what needs to be learned to move to c-c?
4 Steps to Learning Slide
Step 10 – question how DISC is effecting behavior (both yours and your team’s) toward solving the challenge

Finally, another colleague presented a process for creating “I’ll be happy when …” and personal purpose statements.

To create your “I’ll be happy when …” statement

Write your top 2 personal goals
Write your top 2 professional goals
List how you will feel when those goals are achieved

Use your top goals and the above list to Create your “I’ll be happy when …” statement

To create your personal purpose statement

List your 2 most positive and unique skills and abilities
For example: Experience and Insight

List how you demonstrate these skills
Coaching & Mentoring

What does a perfect world look like to you?
 Harmony between having positive impact on many clients and enjoying my 70s with my wife and family

Put all 3 together into 1 statement
I use my experience and insight to assist my clients to build very successful businesses that create many great employment positions in their communities.

 I trust you will find some ideas in this BFO series of blogs that will accelerate your success.  My colleagues and I are available to assist you in implementing the concepts presented in these four posts.

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