The Biggest Barrier to Success

3 10 2012

How is it two people in very similar businesses can have two completely different outcomes?  Whether it is retail, service, manufacturing, or healthcare, we know a company that is growing rapidly while another is going out of business.  Some may argue it’s luck.  Others might say it’s location.  There are even others who would imply that the company was successful because of other outside influences such as political incentives and breaks.

Yet for every success there are ten failures.  These companies may be across the street from each other, or they could be on the other side of the world.  Regardless of the industry, location or political environment, one barrier is pivotal to the success of any business; the habits and beliefs of its leaders.  It is the deep rooted habits that drive the outcomes.  It is the belief system that drives a person to create their own realities.

Much of my work is spent with CEOs helping them understand how their behaviors influence their decisions, actions, and outcomes.  This is very apparent in companies that are caught in the money trap: wanting top dollar for your product but unwilling to spend more than the lowest possible price on anything you purchase.

Our habits attract people who are most like us.  If a leader is constantly haggling to get everything for the cheapest price possible on goods and services, they shouldn’t be surprised that their customers demand the same from them.  It’s the law of attraction.  Whatever you place your energy towards will grow.  Obstacles are visible because you are looking for them.  Opportunities exist but most people miss their chance because they aren’t looking for them.

Bottom line, your biggest barrier to success is often you.  When you accept that, and change your thinking, the right opportunities will begin to present themselves.

Action item:  Struggling with something?  First look to yourself and ask, “What am I doing to create this?”  Can’t figure it out?  Then ask someone else.  A friend, mentor, coach, or trusted advisor are your best options.

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A Laundry List to Accomplish Through Five Steps

15 09 2011

In a recent client meeting we were reviewing the business numbers and talking about the next steps for the growth of the operation when the subject of incentives came up. During our talk, the owner asked if the incentive package could be repeatable in another company. My answer: it depends. This led to an in depth talk about why some companies can be highly successful and others not.

My client, the owner of a very successful business as well as a grand inquisitor asked me to define what made his current revenue sharing so successful. I threw the question back at him. I said, “First, why don’t you tell me what has to happen in order for your plan to work?” Through this, an extensive list was built:

  • The current business has no debt
  • They have highly productive people working
  • There is a culture of empowerment to get things done
  • They are Mission/Vision centered
  • They developed a pattern of growth
  • The leadership character of the owner
  • No assumptions are made. Evidence supports the program.
  • Problems are dealt with immediately
  • Everyone in the organization is treated as important
  • Loyalty matters (to customers and also vendors)
  • Team will go above and beyond because they are respected
  • Communication is high
  • There is trust in the environment
  • Outside support through mentoring and coaching
  • Owner is willing to be coached
  • Owner knows his weakness
  • Owner knows his Vision for the business

We addressed that because there are a lot of things working right, his compensation is successful where in other places it might never pay out. This brought up a greater observation; there are a lot of things that make organizations successful and if it weren’t for several factors impacting all these outcomes, the business wouldn’t be where it is today.

Many business leaders focus on the laundry list that needs to be accomplished. Yet even with a large list such as this, it can all be running right with just a few simple practices.

  1. A Vision-centric culture. Everyone knows what the organization stands for, what they will accomplish and how their role plays into accomplishing that goal.
  2. Goal focused and communication driven. Each person knows what they need to achieve and there is ongoing communication to help them succeed.
  3. The right people. people matter. Period. When leadership has the right behavior and people work from a position of strength and empowerment, amazing things can be accomplished. The wrong people or even the right people doing the wrong things can be costly.
  4. Working process that is always a work in progress. In an environment of change where people are continually taught and updating best practices makes for a winning combination. By honoring systems for their consistency, but being willing to question everything for improvement, people are able to maintain a high level of productivity.
  5. Measures that mean something. Data is abundant. The right data is far more important. Knowing what to measure, how to measure it and empowering people to be accountable and track their data, team members are able to help reach their targets as well as the growth goals of the company.

By following these steps, business leaders are able to develop great performance along with happy, engaged employees. What is your laundry list and how will you be tackling it?





The Impact of September 11

12 09 2011

Yesterday marks 10 years since the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington DC, and the failed attempt which led to the crash of flight 93 in Pennsylvania. Over the past week, many of my friends and colleagues have reflected on this event and how it changed our world. Like many, I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the news first broke. In the weeks following the incident, we became a unified nation committed to overcoming our differences and moving forward through our pain. Ten years later, life has moved on. The pain and grief are still there though more subdued compared to a decade ago.

Though our world changed, we still enjoy a good quality of life here and we owe much to those who have given their lives for the freedom we sometimes take for granted. Today we face new challenges with mounting debt and a sluggish economy. These too can be overcome if we commit to the same resolve we had on that fateful day. It involves each of us taking an active role in growing this nation. We must be accountable. We must be responsible and we must use our strengths to innovate and compete on a global scale. I hope we can learn how to come together to get things done much like our grandparents did in World War II. They sparked a growth in this nation that continued a generation of prosperity. We too have to tap into that work ethic and provide direction and leadership not only for this generation, but future ones as well. Remember September 11. Remember how it unified us towards a common cause and let’s apply that to the other challenges we now face.





Is Productivity Growth in the US Gone?

19 05 2011

I recently read a McKinsey Quarterly article that debated that very question. (http://bit.ly/prod_growth) Good points were raised on both sides, and in the end, it will be the economy and job growth which will truly provide the answer for us.

As a nation we have an amazing tradition of innovation which led to much of our productivity growth over the past hundred years. This growth has given us a higher quality of life and more opportunity than many other countries out there. But the times are changing and are we changing with them? Have we become so complacent to our lifestyle that we now just expect prosperity to happen? What are we willing to do to ensure our success for generations to come?

I believe that opportunities for growth are all around us. However those opportunities may fall outside what we have been accustomed to in the past. As a nation, we have looked inward for our growth. Now I think it’s time we look elsewhere. We expect our consumer spending to support our lifestyles. Easy credit has helped boost this along and has led to some unintended consequences for which we have been paying the price. In order to grow, we must work within our means and seek to build our economy through a global market. More importantly, we must rely on our innovators, not the government, to spur this growth.

I believe we can be the most innovative country in the world when we put our minds to it. This will lead to further productivity growth and job creation. I welcome others to share their thoughts and ideas. There are so many opportunities in front of us right now. It’s just a matter of looking through the challenges to see them.





The Importance of Purpose in Leadership

7 04 2011

Throughout my career I had to deal with conflict. Whether you’re a leader or not, conflict is something most of us face almost daily. As leaders, we are constantly in the spotlight when it comes to managing conflict. That spotlight increases exponentially based on your place in the organization and the size of the group you are leading.

As leaders, we often are responsible for creating conflict. Sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. On the positive side, conflict can be a good thing. When done properly, conflict acts as the catalyst for change. It creates new ideas, causes innovation, and can move people to new levels of thinking. Other times, conflict tears apart everything we are trying to build. It causes chaos and bitter feuds.

As leaders, we are responsible for bringing people together to work through challenges. However ego, insecurity, lack of purpose, poor communication, and lack of Vision can get in the way. When these factors take hold of an organization, it can literally rip the company apart. As leaders we need to recognize when this is happening and address it early on.

Conflict is impacted by change and vise versa. When the change is a negative influencers (i.e. low sales) conflict can increase. So how can we avoid the damaging effects of behavior on a company. One key to this is purpose. Each person needs his/her purpose defined in order to achieve the highest level of success. Leaders need to help create this purpose which is why it is imperative that the leaders themselves have a clearly defined purpose.

Each of us want to bring value to what we do in life. Knowing this value means understanding the strengths each person brings to the table. Those strengths may be observed by others and it is important we understand our own strengths as well. Imagine being placed in a situation where you were required to do something you hadn’t done before. You were left to your own choices with little feedback on expectations from someone else. How would you do? How comfortable would you feel making those decisions? How would you know you did the right thing? This happens more often than some might think.

Whatever role you play in a business, you need to understand that behavior significantly improves when purpose is there. Make it a point to understand your purpose and help others understand theirs.





Can Best Buy Survive?

16 03 2011

A few years ago Circuit City filed for bankruptcy. At that time, Best Buy looked to be in a very good position to control the world of electronics. Today, times have changed. Best Buy faces an uphill climb against competitors such as Walmart and Amazon. Market share continues to be impacted by price and convenience.

It’s kind of ironic that some of the strategies Best Buy is implementing aligns with the content of Apples to Apples. As a retailer, Best Buy sought to compete on more than just price. They don’t want to be the cheapest and instead focus on service as their key differentiator. After all, as I discuss in the book, culture is the brand. So upon first glance, it would be easy to discount that people are focused on price and not much else.

To be sure, price always has an influencing factor. Best Buy’s situation isn’t any different. However, did Best Buy really differentiate themselves on service? Was it exponentially better than that of Walmart’s? I would say no. For the most part, service at best is probably marginally better on a good day.

To Best Buy’s credit, I have worked with some excellent sales people. At the same time, I have also dealt with many people who are inexperienced and aren’t strong service people. The results show. While I think Best Buy wants to believe they are the best in service, it doesn’t always carry through.

Best Buy has the opportunity to regain its share as a market leader. It is going to take a stronger focus on training, sales and service. Competition isn’t going away. Apple has opened several retail locations and is now competing against someone who distributes Apple products. Compare the Apple Store’s service to that of Best Buy’s, what differences do you notice? Which one is over and above and which is just average.

Check out an article on Best Buy from Forbes: http://blogs.forbes.com/retailwire/2011/03/07/best-buy-nobody-said-it-was-going-to-be-easy/








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