Category Archives: Business Planning

Business Structures

2 Small Biz Guys engage a pretty dry subject with a little flair – business structures. Although the topic is about as interesting as watching paint dry, business owners have to face the fact that their business must have some legal structure. We are not attorneys and you are advised to consult both an attorney and CPA when determining how to structure your business.

The basic business structures include Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, C-Corporation, S-Corporation, Limited Liability Company, Trusts and Employee Stock Ownership Plan. The structures move from very simple with complete liability of the business owner to somewhat complex and less direct liability. Often businesses go through a progression or evolution from one to another over the course of the business’ growth. We discuss the various forms and the distinctions of each regarding personal, financial and tax liability.

Initially, determining a business name requires various legal forms, checking with the Secretary of State for the availability of the name, and filing appropriate paperwork with the State Corporation Commission. Every state is slightly different yet very similar in the process. For branding purposes, your business name should be descriptive and distinct regarding the business itself. It’s always best to describe what you do in your business name.

We close the show talking about the growth of holacratic businesses, like Zappos, and their challenges as Millennials take over the world.

You will find some useful information in our discussion and perhaps gain insight toward your own business path.

The World To Come

The World to ComeThe World to Come

reviewed by Ray Silverstein

I would like to introduce an extremely interesting book, “The World To Come,” by Dara Horn. This is not a business book, but it made me think more seriously about what is “the world to come” is for business. The book deals with the concept of our individual futures. The next event in your life… the next door you open to an unknown circumstance…even birth and death. Each of us of has our own World To Come.

In the business environment, not everything is unknown. But many business owners do not want to examine or think about the world that will be coming upon them. It is evident that customer communication methods are changing rapidly, in some ways not to our liking. But if we want to experience and be around for The World To Come, we must adapt and change our thinking.

When I first entered the business world (I don’t want to say how long ago), the primary method of communication was a personal letter, followed by a personal phone call. A long distance call was something special, unique and expensive. A telegram was a sure way to get someone’s attention.

These methods don’t really carry any weight today. Many people now favor email. It is easier to make an email connection than a telephone connection. Depending on the age and generation of the communicator, even an email may be out of date, with text messaging or tweeting your communication method of choice.

The world is becoming smaller. It is far easier to learn about customers, suppliers, competitors, and people in general with Internet sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter plus a host of others websites. When I talk to small business owners in the peer advisory boards I facilitate, some are moving forward into these new and interesting venues, but others are still living in the old world.

I believe we all have to move into The World To Come…even me. Nobody likes to change their habits, be forced to learn new skills, or be made to feel uncomfortable. I like to look upon moving forward as a new adventure. Think about the strategic concepts, the way these new technologies can enhance your business, life and experience. For example, my wife is even Skypeing with her grandchildren. What a treat! To be able to not only talk with but actually see friends, children, grandchildren, and business associates around the world. And the price is right…it’s free!

If you are not in the Chicago or Phoenix areas and would like to explore with me how you can position your business and benefit in The World To Come, visit PRO President’s Resource Organization  People say life is an adventure…come and explore with us!

Avoiding Growing Pains

How to Avoid Organizational Growing Pains

By Ray Silverstein

When it comes to growing a business, is it possible to experience too much of a good thing? Yes, it is. And while you might think this would be a good problem to have, think again. Many times this can put you out of business.

Too-rapid growth is actually more dangerous to a business than no growth at all. While we tend to envy ‘overnight successes,’ research shows that growth exceeding 25% per year puts a business at risk of failure.

Just consider all the demands that an unexpected growth spurt would place on the various facets of your business:

Financial – Suddenly, you have big orders to fill, but not enough inventory to do so (or people-power if you’re in a service industry). Nor do you have the cash on hand to purchase what you need (or to hire who you need). Plus, getting credit is trickier these days (especially for service businesses that don’t have hard assets to offer as collateral). Purchase order financing is a possibility, but it is almost impossible to obtain and very expensive.

Personnel – Regardless of what you sell, you’ll need more workers to push your products or services out the door. But you don’t yet have the dollars needed to meet a rapidly-expanding payroll, not to mention the acquisition costs of bringing on new employees. Speaking of which, you’ll be so busy, you won’t have the time to make wise hires or train your newbies properly.

Morale – Because you’re short-staffed, your employees are constantly under the gun. Even dedicated workers can only give so much for so long before they start to burn out.

Workflow – If you don’t have adequate technology and processes in place when business explodes, what you do have will short circuit your ability to service or produce. Now you have a new fire to put out, and even less will get done.

The end result is: orders will go unfilled, and service will suffer. Customers will lose patience and walk. And remember, business that’s lost due to service issues is very hard to win back.

Picture a tiny, start-up restaurant that unexpectedly receives a great review from a trendy food critic. Suddenly, it needs five or six servers to wait on the nightly crowds, but it only has four on staff. Service plummets; waiting time skyrockets…and unless management makes some quick fixes, soon it will only need three.

Manage Potential Growing Pains

You may think this will never happen to your business, but it may be sneaking up on you, on a smaller scale. My point: keep a pulse on your activity and plan ahead. Know Thy Business. Build on your strengths, shore up your weaknesses, and attend to these key areas now:

Financial – Lay the groundwork for acquiring credit in advance. Develop a relationship with your banker. Build a good credit history. Study your numbers and get them to a healthy place.

Personnel – Always know who your next hires may be. Think of your workforce as a major/minor league system. If you’re continuously scouting for talent, you’ll be halfway there when it’s time to hire. Your minor league is a list of people you believe have the right attitude and skills to do the necessary work.

Morale – Nurture it always. Build good communication habits with your employees. And remember, a little personal appreciation goes a long way.

Workflow – No one wants to incur the expenses of upgrades until they’re absolutely needed. But every new system has learning curves to master and bugs to work out, so who can afford to wait until crunch time arrives?

Finally, learn to recognize the symptoms of growing pains. An easy way to get started: use my Growing Pains Diagnostic Test to conduct a DIY five-minute checkup. Just email Ray@propres.com and request a copy. Do something easy and healthy for your business today.

 

About the Author: Ray Silverstein is President of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. He is author of “

Market Research Benefits

Will Market Research Benefit Your Small Business?

By Ray Silverstein

Wouldn’t you love to get inside your customer’s head and take a good look around? To see his or her wants and needs revealed in stark clarity? To view your products through his or her eyes, unclouded by your assumptions?

As entrepreneurs, it’s our responsibility to understand and anticipate our customers’ mindsets. It’s what keeps us in business and allows us to grow.

That is the essence of market research. Over the last 60 years, market research has evolved into a powerful marketing tool. But while big companies embrace it, many entrepreneurs tend to steer clear. Yet there are aspects of market research of great value to small businesses, if we’re open to them.

For this reason, my company, PRO, recently sponsored a workshop, “The Guerilla Approach to Knowing Your Customers.” Our presenter was Bob Kaden, a long-time market research expert and author of the Guerilla Market Research books. Bob gave us a lot to think about, some of which I’m sharing here.

Market Research in a Nutshell

In short, the objective of market research is to get as close to the customer as possible, so you can understand and influence their buying behaviors, maximizing your opportunities for success.

There are two types of market research: primary, which focuses on your particular business, and secondary, which focuses on information available in the public domain.

Every time you read a business publication, visit a competitor’s website, or search an industry topic online, you’re engaging in informal secondary research. You can learn about your market, industry, and competition this way, while staying up to speed on consumer trends. We should all be engaging in some secondary research daily.

Primary research is a different animal. It’s personalized and proprietary. It may take the form of focus groups, interviews, or surveys, but however you conduct it, you do so with a specific goal in mind, targeted to a specific type of customer: yours.

When Do You Conduct Primary Research?

The time to conduct in primary research is when you want to learn something specific about your market. Maybe you need clarity setting your product development strategy. Maybe you’re about to rebrand your company. The bottom line is, you have to be ready to take action as a result of what you learn, or the research isn’t worth doing.

In addition, you have to be open to whatever the results reveal. We all have pet theories. If you’re not willing to let them go—which isn’t always easy for entrepreneurs–now is not the time to invest in research.

How Do You Conduct Market Research on a Budget?

Big companies use big market research firms, but that’s not the only alternative. If you want to have a pro do the work for you, look for a one-person firm or perhaps a local professor. They’re more affordable.

And more small businesses are engaging in DYI market research. If you have the temperament, you can conduct your own focus groups or interviews. Or, you can use Survey Monkey (SurveyMonkey.com), or ask simple questions via social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. But if you are going to do it yourself, take the time to learn how to do it right.

Maybe market research makes sense for you; maybe it doesn’t. The bottom line is, business is more competitive than ever, and we need to be open to new ideas. When you become aware of a tool that’s available, consider it objectively. Never say never, to market research or anything else.

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Biography: Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. His latest venture is 2 Small Biz Guys business radio show, specialized for emerging businesses, solopreneurs and those who want to achieve more. He is author of “The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses,” and “The Small Business Survival Guide.” You can reach Ray at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com.

Thinking Fast and Slow

Thinking, Fast And SloThinking Fastw
Daniel Kahneman

reviewed by Ray Silverstein

Daniel Kahneman won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his pioneering work on how human judgment sometimes defies logic or probability—and how even supposedly scientific decisions are influenced by human bias and irrational assumptions. This was alarming news to economists.

Kahneman spend decades of research digging deeply into the human brain and the often-flowed way in which we make decisions and arrive at conclusions supported not by objective fact but by subjective assumption.

The brain thought process switches between automatic response or kneejerk reaction, System 1, and System 2, which involves concentration and deliberation. Although System 2 believes itself to be where the action is, the automatic System 1 is the hero of the book, according to Kahneman.

He argues that overreliance on System 2 can result essentially in tunnel vision. System 1, however has a bias to believe and confirm and neglects ambiguity and suppresses doubt.
He also shows that “hindsight is 20/20” is more than just a cliché’ in revisiting past beliefs and opinions. People tend to paint a much more flattering picture of themselves

Research in the areas of risk aversion and prospect theory to learn more about the ways in which humans make decisions and weight risk. Research suggested that the negative often trumped the positive; that is, if presented with data that a 50 percent positive and 50 percent negative, the general tendency is for out brains to come away with an impression of “negative.” Even though the positive/negative factors are equally divided.

Similarly, people tend to overestimate the probability of unlikely occurrences. In a business setting, that may mean failing to take a smart risk because of an unlikely hypothetical scenario. A gambler may refuse to cash out on a hot hand because he or she has a “feeling” that it will continue. The fear of regret is a factor in many of the decisions that people make.

There is also the relationship between the “experiencing self” and the “remembering self.” Taste and decisions are shaped by memories and memories can be wrong. We sometimes feel our preferences and beliefs so strongly that they can seem to be somehow rooted in fact; this however, is often not the case. This applies even to our choice of vacation. For many people, the value of a vacation is not the experience but the anticipation beforehand and the memory afterwards. Kahneman sums up, “I am my remembering self, and the experience self, who does my living, is like a stranger to me.”

Key terms and concepts:

Anchors: are related to how people try to estimate an unknown quantity. An example, the amount of money you will offer to pay for a house is in large part influenced—or anchored—by the asking price.

The Certainty effect: describes a process where your chance for success escalates from very high to certain. An example, if you are bidding on eBay and knew you had a 90%^ chance to win an auction with a $20 bid, would you still be tempted to use the “Buy It Now” option for $25, thus paying five dollars more to offset the 10% of chance of losing your bid?

In his study of decision making related to gambling Kahneman found that people tended to overvalue small risk, again showing that people make calculations and conclusions that are not aligned with probability.

The Halo effect: can be seen whenever a person makes assumptions based on a factor. An example, a beautiful stranger at a dinner party may be automatically assumed to be successful and confident. The Halo effect impacts not just social situations, but economic decisions as well.

Loss aversion: is a term that reccurs repeatedly throughout the book. Case studies show how people tend to be more driven by fear of failure than by the promise of success. This is loss aversion.

Optimistic bias: explains the decisions that we make or the beliefs that we should in the face of ample evidence to the contrary.

The major theme of Thinking, Fast and Slow is that our brains are divided into System 1 and System 2. System 1 houses our emotion and intuition, and it processes information making decisions automatically. System 2 describes the part of the brain that gets wrapped up in rationalization and concentration and value based judgments. While System 2 saves us from many of the unchecked kneejerk idiocies of System1, its decision-making capacity is more limited than we often think.

WYSIATI—“what you see is all there is.” WYSIATI basically describes our minds jumping to conclusions, drawing simply on what is in front of us without looking for missing evidence or data.

Interesting observation: studies on the impact of money on happiness, Kahneman found that there was a predictable dramatic difference between people living in poverty and people making 69K a year. Beyond that, though, the studies offered some surprise: Millionaires didn’t show any greater emotional happiness than people around the 50K zone.

The general conclusion is “We have a very narrow view of what is going on. We don’t see very far in the future, we are very focused on one idea at a time, one problem at a time, and all these are incompatible with rationality as economic theory assumes it.”

Wall Street Journal: “One major effect of the work of Messrs, Kahneman and Tversky has been to overturn the assumption that human beings are rational decision-makers who weigh all the relevant factors logically before making choices.”….”What Messrs. Kahneman and Tversky argued that, even when we have all the information that we need to arrive at a correct decision, and even when the logic is simple, we often get it drastically wrong.

Build to Serve

Build to ServeBuild to ServeBuild To Serve

Dan J. Sanders – Reviewed by Ray Silverstein

Leaders have spent far too much time focusing on fiscal resources and not enough time focusing on human resources. Long-term success is a result of putting more effort into building a positive, people-centered culture than poring over profit and loss statements.
The bottom line is not about price and profit; it is about choice and culture.

The author, Dan J. Sanders is president of United Supermarkets. One reason for its success is the United’s team members are genuinely considered family and United’s workforce displays the rhythm and innovation of a seasoned team. The company’s mission is defined by just six words: Ultimate Service, Superior Performance, and Positive Impact. The company is sustained by a culture-driven, people centered approach to business. The team members recognize personal relationships are their business.

The author believes the global culture that prevails today is broken. What is needed is a radical transformation—a monumental paradigm shift that will reshape our present understanding of the true purpose of work. This transformation begins with accepting the idea that an organization’s culture is the wellspring of sustained success. When the culture models this kind of vibrancy, such positive elements as growth, profitability, and good corporate citizenry are natural by-products. People are fulfilled professionally and personally, and organizations find deep meaning, resulting in a positive impact on the communities they serve. This is a business model that places people ahead of profits and service ahead of statistics.

A sustainable culture is built from the inside out. It starts with leadership that places the highest level of importance on human beings and a corresponding premium on recruiting, hiring, and training—both academic and experiential training—to equip and empower. A people-centered culture does not comprise values; rather, it seeks to remain faithful to values—even when remaining faithful means doing things differently from everyone else.

A leader’s actions, not words, form the basis for learning and eventually handing down a culture. People centered cultures are focused on marketing the work, not on advertising work that needs to be done. Example, rocks to be picked up (advertising), making a game of picking up the rocks (marketing). We all know unglamorous jobs exist in any profession, Even so, the successful completion of the work is largely the result of our mental approach to the task.

An organization’s ability to serve will be the last tool that can provide a competitive advantage in a crowded marketplace. Organizations desiring sustained success simply must embrace culture-driven, people-centered philosophy.

Understanding Higher Math:

Higher math requires an emotional alignment of the leader with all levels of the workforce. It is about building trust and having a positive impact on people. Financial statements are only a small part of the story. Spreadsheets fail to convey the emotional status of an organization’s leadership. They are tools and nothing more—fine when it comes to numbers, of limited use when it comes to the human factor. Simply put, engaging people in a manner meant to maximize their contributions makes a difference for both the organization and its people. People-centered organizations speak the language of potential—not so much as it relates to a sales number, but rather as it relates to the workforce itself.

Are people in your organization considered an expense or an asset?

People-centered organizations connect the work they are doing with the mission they are committed accomplishing. A sustainable culture-driven, people centered enterprise exists when team members take ownership of what they are doing and realize it is important and essential to the higher purpose. Cultures focused on people unleash the imagination and lift performance to new heights—to a higher purpose. Example. Medtronic, assembly of heart values… higher purpose, saving lives maybe a co-worker or family member.

The Emerging Career Model:

The people-centered culture relies on leaders who genuinely connect with team members.
Connected team members understand the organization’s vision and mission. Because of that, they recognize the unique importance of their own specific role. Everyone is empowered in a culture-driven, people centered organization.

United Supermarkets calls human resources, talent management. It is customary to base cash compensation on performance, however, consider alternatives where the psychological value is not lost. Trips and special events are a great way to recognize achievement and acknowledge team members throughout an organization.

Making Winners Fail:

As the leader, you can delegate authority, but you can never delegate responsibility. Successful leaders truly belong to their follows. The leader’s ability to understand servanthood and friendship is the difference between a career that flounders and a career that flourishes. Friendship means much more than simply what one person can do for another. It is an emotional investment in each other’s lives, creating a special bond, a common journey. Without investing the time necessary to establish relationships, an organization’s leaders will never realize that difficult-to-reach level of trust and peace..

Fortunately, once the relationships are established, the friendships are formed, and the teaching is under way, a leader learns the important lesson of letting go. Great leaders understand servanthood comes first, before mentoring and friendship. In sustainable organizations, connecting what people do on a daily basis with the higher purpose is paramount. The degree to which that connection resonates with the workforce is directly proportional to the degree to which the workforce feels a part of the community. The word community implies a sense of sharing in common—a sense of family.

People are promoted not for what they have done but for what they can do. When promoting someone to a new position, do so with the confidence that the person has the skills to succeed in that position. It is not enough to say someone was good in the past; the person has to be good in the future.

As leaders, we must resist the temptation to promote winners before they are ready. The success of team members rests on our willingness to take the time to forge relationships by first exhibiting servanthood—a genuine desire to help others make the most of their potential. Therefore, leaders must discern when team members are ready for promotion. And it is the leader’s job to ensure winners on the team win.

Telling Players From Fans:

Organizations are like teams. In fact, teams are composed of players and fans. Players represent the team every day of the week because, whether or not they are playing, they are still a part of the team. Players are apprised of the team’s strategies and tactics, know the “playbook,” and take ownership of their role in the overall success of each play. They rely on one another for support, and they recognize and embrace their teammates’ strengths. They win together and lose together. They exude camaraderie, loyalty and unity.

On the other hand, fans are fickle. If the team is winning, they are happy. If the team is losing, they are unhappy. Fans can actually infiltrate the team, interfering with the players focused on getting the job done.

Far too many organizations subscribe to a “needs-based” approach to hiring. In other words, no serious recruiting, interviewing, or actual hiring of talent takes place until a specific need arises. This is especially popular in numbers-orientated cultures.
Hiring “warm bodies” allows impostors to penetrate organizations. Too often, “warm bodies” fail to appreciate the organization’s vision, much less its values. Culture-driven, people centered organization adopt a healthier approach. They are always looking for players, even if no need exists.

The model begins with a vision of who you are and mission of what you want to achieve. In culture-driven, people centered organizations, values serve as a litmus test for a leader’s vision. Players with a clear vision will make great things happen. Players who have lost the vision creep over to the right side of the life-cycle curve. It begins with nostalgic thinking. Saying, “Let’s just go back to the way it used to be.” The problem with nostalgic thinking is it presents an impossible solution.

Stage two of the journey prompts unproductive questioning, which tears down a healthy organization. Often, these are complaints disguised with questions. Such as, why do have to keep this area so clean? If we are lucky, team members who reach state three will eventually move on to stage four and quit, but remarkably, people in stage three tend to hand on forever.

So how does a leader move people from the right hand side of the curve back to the left hand side? First , in a culture-driven, people-centered organization, it is the leader’s responsibility to remove impostors—to get the fans off the floor. Second, everyone creeps over the right-hand side of the curve from time to time, but most of us choose not to stay there. When we find ourselves distracted, the answer to getting back on the positive side of the graph is to refocus on re-embrace the vision—this is the key, the answer. The vision is everything when it comes to moving team members from ineffectiveness to effectiveness. Culture-driven, people-centered organizations never stop talking about their vision.

Defining The Who: See The Vision:

Vision matters. An organization’s vision represents the purpose of its existence—the heart of what it is an entity. Knowing and understanding the vision creates a level playing field for an organization’s team members and partners. In culture-driven, people-centered organizations, training manuals and checklists may have a role in standardizing policies or programs, thy they do not take the place of the organization’s heart and soul.

A clearly communicated and understood vision statement empowers team members to make decisions that support the organization’s higher purpose. Since leaders cannot delegate responsibility, they must rely on delegating authority ot get much of the work done. It is impossible to equip everyone with a list of action steps that will cover every conceivable scenario. What is compelling about a great vision well communicated is people will do almost anything to keep from compromising it.

In culture-driven, people-centered organization, leaders celebrate actions that support the vision, even if people occasionally bend or break some rules or policies in the process. In culture-driven, people-centered organization, leaders spend more time building relationships and communicating the vision to people and less time devising way to catch people intent on disrupting the process. Communicating the vision effectively allows supervisors to present disciplinary steps in the context of the higher authority.

The psychology of gains and losses and the finding that there is greater fear of loss than desire of gain. This is particularly true in Western culture because ego plays such an important part of self esteem. Business leaders capable of exchanging their ego for humility are more likely to see upside potential and gains than people are imprisoned by fear.

Many business leaders will not seek opportunities that require risk because they do not want to fail and suffer a hit to their egos. Failure to keep people informed leads to fear, the second-biggest obstacle to successful vision attainment. The first is pride.
Leaders must never grow tired of talking or modeling their vision. They may change it from time to time, but they must constantly remind their followers of the vision.

To develop the vision:
1. Think big. Ask stakeholders to share ideas regarding the need for the organization’s existence. Ensure the emphasis is on culture and people.
2. Identify what sustainable difference the organization will make for humankind that will transcend time.
3. Focus on the vitals—those deep seated values the team is unwilling to comprise.
Keep it short, less is more when it comes to articulating who you are. An effective vision statement has more to do with significance than with success.

When Things Go Bad (And They Will:

At no time is an organization’s sustainability more important than when bad things happen. Sometimes the pain is self-inflicted, and other time external forces deliver the blow a culture-driven, people-centered organization allows it persevere and rebuild.
Leaders must radiate positive energy throughout the organization when things are going well, and especially when they are not. Leaders should never deplete their team members’ energy; they should create it.

“Be Here Now.” The importance of living in the present moment.
Have you ever been with someone who was not there?
Have you ever been with someone and they were not there?
Have you ever been at a meeting and no one was there?
Have you ever gone home and left your brain at work?
When things go bad, leaders need a place where they can talk, listen, and remove themselves from the day-to-day chatter work. In culture-driven, people-centered organizations, human beings communicate with human beings. Progress is cultivated through a common understanding that solutions are ongoing dialogues for transforming relationships. Even when problems exist the best course of action is to communicate those issues openly and honestly.

Albert Einstein once wrote, “In the middle of every difficulty lies an opportunity.” Opportunities abound because we have choices to make. Healing starts where pride stops.

The 4P Management System:

The 4P’s of Management system required manager to address issues related to people, process, partners and performance with equal interest. Understanding the 4P’s starts with the observation that management begins and ends with human beings—people and partners. In misaligned cultures, organization prefer the opposite, beginning with performance and ending with human beings.

The 4P’s begins with the people inside the organization—the team members responsible for carrying out the day-to-day tasks necessary to operate the business. The next element of the model is process. Everything that happens inside an organization is a process. The key to improving performance is the elimination of as many obstructions in the process as possible. The further removed leaders are from the actual process, the harder it is for them to determine what is causing the obstruction. The sources of that information are the teams that use the process every day. They know precisely where the obstructions are located because they must work around those obstructions to carry out their duties.

Great ideas can spring from anyone in an organization. The culture of the organization dictates whether they surface. The third element in the 4P’s is partners, a term used to identify the importance of suppliers and buyers—customers, and users of the products and services sold by an organization.

During the past 50 years, customers have become a necessary inconvenience for many organization. Rather than embracing and celebrating the people who purchase their products and services, such organization merely tolerate them. When this happens, few, if any, organizations realize sustained success. Treating customers like partners is often overlooked, but it is important to culture-driven, people-centered organizations.

Culture-driven, people-centered organizations recognize poor performance is symptomatic of deeper problems—problems that require engaging people and changing processes. In this view, performance measurements are mere indicators—tools that prompt additional investigation and productive questioning. Performance measurements alone prompt more questions than they answer.

Humility Trumps Pride:

The biggest threat to an organization’s success is pride. In a culture-driven, people-centered organization, honest feedback is a must.

Pride is an interesting word. It has multiple meanings, some of them in direct conflict with one another. For example, one definition of pride involves a feeling of elation or satisfaction over one’s achievements, while another suggests a high or overbearing opinion of one’s own importance. Culture-driven, people-centered organizations seek to maximize the feeling of elation and satisfaction, derived from achievement and minimize any high or overbearing opinion of one’s worth or importance.

To accomplish this, first, organizations must keep people focused on the future, not the past. The destructive nature of pride is reinforced by what people have done, not what they have yet to do. Culture-driven, people-centered organizations are always moving toward what they want to become, as opposed to basking in their accomplishments.
Second, organizations must keep people focus on the pursuit of excellence, not the path to mediocrity. The pursuit of excellence forces people to confront their weaknesses, adapt their thinking, and keep their egos in check. Organizations must also keep people focused on the right kind of role models.

How to Recruit Top Talent

recruitingThe Smart, Easy Way to Recruit Top Talent

By Ray Silverstein

Recently, we discussed how the key to making successful hires is to target applicants who share your core values.

Today, we ask: why wait for those hires to come to you?

The smartest, easiest way to identify great potential employees is ‘24/7/365 recruiting.’ It’s simple: even when you’re not actively hiring, keep your eyes open for people who impress you, and get their contact information as you go.

It’s like you’re building your own major league baseball team. You’re always scouting at some level, and you keep a running roster of possibilities. So when it’s time to trade-up, you have a leg up.

24/7/365 recruiting comes down to being observant and building a few good habits, which include:

• Always carry business cards. When you meet an exceptional worker, give him a card and request his. Tell him upfront that he impressed you, and while you don’t have openings now, you’d like to explore future possibilities. At the very least, you’ll make someone’s day.

• Keep your eyes open at trade shows, chamber of commerce meetings, not-for-profit gatherings, etc. At these events, you have a golden opportunity to observe a potential candidate’s skills, work ethic, and communication style, without a formal interview or aptitude test.

• When calling on customers, take a peek at the sign-in book. It’s a goldmine. You just may find an experienced sales pro or two who already know your client or target market.

• Review your company website. Does it do a good job of reflecting your goals, culture, and core values? Make sure it does, because it will draw the kinds of candidates you seek to you.

• Research your market. Visit the websites of competitors or firms that resemble yours in terms of distribution or skill sets. Some companies list key employees on their sites. Use the wonders of LinkedIn to learn more about them.

• When you come across finished work that impresses you—say, a highly-effective website or print marketing piece—find out who did the work and take note. When you’re ready to start a project like that, you already have someone in mind for it.

I have a great example of the benefits of 24/7/365 recruiting. One of my peer group members, Joe, often grabs lunch at a sandwich shop near his company.

Over time, Joe became impressed by one of the shop clerks, Adam. Adam was very careful, and cordial, and took his job very seriously.

At the time, Joe was dissatisfied with the performance and attitude of one of his employees. He found himself wishing he could find more employees like Adam.

Then Joe realized that, instead of finding someone like Adam, he could hire the young man himself.

Out of courtesy, Joe asked the sandwich shop owner if he would mind if he approached Adam about a potential job. As it happened, the owner was all for it. The young man’s wife was pregnant and he knew Adam was ready and eager for a bigger job and paycheck.

So Joe was able to let his non-performer go and hire Adam without missing a beat. Thanks to his proactive recruiting, what could have been a setback turned into an opportunity.

And that’s how 24/7/365 recruiting puts you ahead of the curve.

Biography: Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. His latest venture is Propelus, a specialized peer group for business advisors and achievers who want to achieve more. He is author of “The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses,” and “The Small Business Survival Guide.” You can reach Ray at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com.

Most Important Hiring Question

Job_interview_0001The Most Important, Most Overlooked Hiring Question

By Ray Silverstein

Good news: it seems like more small business owners are shifting into hiring mode. That’s a good thing for everyone.

Now, the bad news. Many small business owners don’t really know how to hire the best candidate. And making a bad hiring choice is one of the most costly mistakes an entrepreneur can make. Consider the recruitment costs, training costs, and lost opportunity costs incurred when an employee fails.

In my experience, most small business owners dread the hiring process. So they adopt a classic HR-type approach, focusing on background, skills, and experience. They come up with tricky questions to pose to applicants.

Background, skills, and experience are important, to be sure. But they are not the most important thing. So what’s the #1 factor that drives a new hire’s ultimate success or failure?

What are the applicant’s core values…and do they match our company’s?

Think about it. Skills can be sharpened. Knowledge can be acquired. Processes can be learned. But the kind of person you are in your heart isn’t likely to change. If you hire someone who’s competent but doesn’t share your values, you’re almost predestined to part ways down the line.

For example, if your company prides itself on its ethical dealing with customers, you can’t accept an employee who places profits or efficiency over quality service. An employee who takes shortcuts when he can get away with it isn’t the kind of employee you can build your business on.

Or, maybe it’s the other way around. It’s not about right or wrong here. It’s about ensuring a good match. It means recognizing your core values, and asking applicants to share theirs.

Say, you’re hiring an office manager, and work/life balance is one of your priorities. Or, conversely, maybe getting the job done is, at any cost. Either way, wouldn’t it be good to know what a candidate would do if forced to choose between staying to push a key project out the door or attending his/her child’s big recital?

When you’re making your list of interview questions, include some that start with:
• What would you do if…
• Did you ever have to choose between…
• What matters more to you…

…and address the issues that matter most to you.

And consider this. When an employee gives notice, many small business owners view it as a blow, a setback. But it’s also an opportunity to raise the bar. Focusing on the core values that ground your business is one way to ensure that your human assets are in fact…assets.

Interested in raising your HR IQ? Request my Human Assets Worksheet at Ray@propres.com.
Biography: Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. His latest venture is Propelus, a specialized peer group for business advisors and achievers who want to achieve more. He is author of “The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses,” and “The Small Business Survival Guide.” You can reach Ray at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com.

Market Wisely

strategic marketingMarket Wisely, and Sales Will Follow

By Ray Silverstein

What kind of marketing activities do you do for your business? Do you have a marketing plan? How about a marketing budget?

Do you use marketing strategies to focus and support your sales efforts, or do you engage in spontaneous, one-time marketing activities when an idea appeals to you?

For many entrepreneurs, it’s the latter. Unfortunately, isolated, spur-of-the-moment activities aren’t likely to move you toward your sales goals.

It takes thoughtful, strategic marketing—not haphazard bursts of activity—to set the stage for increased sales. How do you sharpen your marketing focus?

Use a Comprehensive “STP” Marketing Approach

According to STP theory, strategic marketing is a three-step process:

S – Segmenting
T – Targeting
P – Positioning

Segmenting – You can’t sell to everyone. When you segment your market, you divide it into groups of prospects based on criteria significant to your business: demographics, geographics, psychographics, economics, distribution, industries, wants, needs, buying habits, etc.

For example, one of my peer group members in Phoenix owns a swimming pool maintenance service. There are many, many pools in Phoenix. So he segmented his market, broadly dividing it in to family-owned backyard pools and larger, community-based swimming pools.

Targeting – After you segment, target: determine which segment is most worth pursuing, and go. My peer group member concluded that community-based swimming pools make the best customers. He then targeted further, focusing in on YMCA pools and country club pools, because in his experience, their operational standards supported the most intensive maintenance programs.

Positioning – While segmenting and targeting define who you’re going to sell to, positioning focuses on how you’re going to sell them. My peer group member, for example, positioned himself up as the local YMCA pool/country club pool ‘specialist,’ developing proposals and packages just for them.

Positioning includes identifying products, pricing, place, promotions…marketing activities entrepreneurs know well. However, you can’t position your company effectively when you’re trying to reach everyone. By minding your “Ss” and “Ts” as well as your “Ps,” your sales efforts will be more focused and successful.

As I’ve said before: fail to plan, and you plan to fail. Segmenting and targeting are the basic building blocks for well-planned marketing and ultimately sales.

Balance Macro and Micro Marketing

Employing both macro and micro marketing strategies is another way to sharpen your marketing approach.

Macro marketing means working from the market on down. So, once you determine you’re pursuing country club pools, you take steps to—no pun intended!—immerse yourself in this market. Is there an association you can join? A publication to subscribe to? Can you create some marketing materials or a blog just for this audience?

Micro marketing, on the other hand, means working from the bottom on up. Once your macro work is done, you should still pitch each prospect individually for best results. Your targets have things in common, but they’re different, too.

So gather intelligence about each target. Who makes the buying decisions? What are their hot buttons? Who’d they use before, and what were the sticking points? By performing web research and networking, then slowly penetrating an organization, you can better tune your sales pitch to resonate with your prospect.

In summary, it’s a common misconception that ‘marketing’ equals spending money and time on things that don’t generate real results. A smart, strategic marketing plan is your sales department’s best friend. Used together, marketing and sales make a great one-two punch.
Biography: Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. His latest venture is Propelus, a specialized peer group for business advisors and achievers who want to achieve more. He is author of “The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses,” and “The Small Business Survival Guide.” You can reach Ray at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com.

Sell Smarter – Ditch the Pitch

Ditch the PitchHow to Sell Smarter: ‘Ditch the Pitch’

Review by Ray Silverstein

There’s one subject entrepreneurs can’t get enough of: how to increase sales.

Well, here’s a thought. If your current sales pitch isn’t delivering the results you want, it’s time to switch things up. Better yet, why not do something radical, and ditch the sales pitch entirely?

My friend Steve Yastrow, a shrewd business advisor and wonderful author, recently introduced this fascinating “Ditch the Pitch” approach to selling, which you’ll find in his new book of the same name. It’s so packed with worthwhile ideas, I asked Steve for permission to share my top takeaways with you.

Fact: Nobody Likes a Sales Pitch

You don’t enjoy being on the receiving end of a canned sales pitch, do you? I know I don’t. And, let’s face it, our prospects don’t either.

So, when you do get valuable face time with a prospect, don’t waste the opportunity by launching into a flat, unwelcome sales pitch. Shake things up: try using these three strategies instead.

Engage in Persuasive Conversations

People want to talk about the things they care about, not listen to monologues. You’ll get much further by drawing prospects into meaningful conversations about subjects that matter to them.

Yes, your sales pitch is a comfortable crutch. Engaging in real conversations will require you to improvise. But this is something you already know how to do. After all, we are all improvising our way through life. Assuming you know your stuff, businesswise (of course you do), you’ll do fine. And you’ll actually enjoy your sales interactions more.

Say Less to Notice More

Most people are better talkers than listeners. So let your prospects do most of the talking. Your first job is to listen, observe, and process what they’re saying. By doing so, you can identify their hot buttons and pain points, and then figure out how your products or services fit in.

That way, when you do open your mouth, what comes out will be interesting and relevant to them, which will get you closer to your goal.

Create a Shared Story

Here’s a great rule of thumb: make 95% of the conversation about your prospects. They don’t need to know everything about you and your business, only the parts that matter to them. Be very selective in what you share.

And another great sales tip: only speak about a paragraph’s worth of words before tossing the conversational ball back to your prospect. That way, you weave your story in with theirs.

In addition, your story is more likely to have a happy ending, in the form of a successful sale.

If you keep doing the same thing over and over again, you can’t expect different results. Now is a great time to try a new sales approach. You can learn about Steve’s book, Ditch the Pitch, at www.yastrow.com. And you can get my complimentary Weekly Sales Worksheet—a real-world sales activity tracker—by emailing me at Ray@propres.com

Biography: Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. His latest venture is Propelus, a specialized peer group for business advisors and achievers who want to achieve more. He is author of “The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses,” and “The Small Business Survival Guide.” You can reach Ray at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com.