Finish the Year Strong

The 4th Quarter can be the most important three months of the year for you.  It is a great time to Work On your business…and Work On yourself.

Finish the Year Strong

Not only can you take actions now that will ensure you still have a great year, these same actions will set you up to get started quickly next year.

What is the one thing that you could do this quarter that will help you finish the year strong?

To help stimulate your strategic thinking here are some projects we worked on with our clients in previous 4th quarters:

A lot can still happen in the next three months.  It can happen for you or it can happen for your competition.  The choice is yours.

Take intentional action on one thing this quarter that will move your needle.  You can chose from the list I shared or you may have a better project in mind.  Finding and implementing your one thing is the perfect way to finish your year strong.

If you need tools and accountability help executing your one thing we are glad to help. Contact me directly at 813-636-9181 or complete the request form below.



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Owner / Manager as Coach

3 Simple Activities to Bring Out the Best in Your People


Can you imagine Duke Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) waiting until the end of the season to give his team feedback?  To review and discuss their performance? To talk about how they can each improve personally and help the team?

Of course not.   Owner as Coach

That is not the way any coach runs their team.  It certainly not the way a great coach builds Championship teams, year after year.

Coach K gives frequent feedback about performance and is always challenging each of his players to improve.

The same should be true in your business.

The most effective owners and managers are giving their people feedback about performance every day.

They have high expectations and challenge their people to get better.  They are never satisfied with current performance and are always looking for ways to help each individual and the team improve future performance.

In other words the most effective owners and managers behave very similarly to great coaches, like Coach K.


How Often Do You Give Feedback

What about you?

When was the last time you gave any of your people feedback about performance – good or bad?

We have noticed that many owners and managers rarely give feedback or discuss performance with their people.

Do you only give feedback when you are basically “forced” to give it:

  • Once per year at the Annual Employee Performance Review, or
  • When an employee does something so wrong (or repeatedly wrong) that you feel you can no longer ignore it and you need to “sit down” and discuss it with them

You already know employee performance drives business performance.  So why leave it up to the employee and hope they improve on their own.  Why not do more to help each person improve.  Why not coach your people and provide them with more frequent feedback.


Assume Everyone Can Improve Performance

It starts with how you think and act.  The most effective owners and managers act like sports coaches.  They see it as their job to help their people improve and bring out the best in everyone.  Their mindset is that your best can get better, and your marginal people can move closer to your best.  They believe it is part of their job description to help improve their people.

Just like Coach K’s coaching style is different from say Kentucky’s Coach John Calipari (Coach Cal), there is no singular management style.  However, the most effective managers tend to do three things really well.  They have a great relationships with their people, provide them with frequent feedback and push more challenging work down.

The way we teach our clients to do these things is through the implementation of three core activities:  

  1. Employee Development Meetings
  2. Behavioral Feedback
  3. Delegation.

These three simple ideas work together and will feed everything else you need to lead and manage people.  Together these activities are our basic framework for getting started with employee coaching.  The purpose of coaching is to improve future performance.  To help you remember this coaching framework we have named it the Performance Coaching Trinity:

Performance Coaching Trinity


Employee Development Meetings

These are regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings with each of your direct reports.  The purpose of these meeting are to develop your people through goal setting, teaching and mentoring.  The benefits will be seen in each employee’s growth and skill development.

A less obvious benefit, but maybe more valuable, is these meetings will enable you to build better relationships with your people.  Relationship power is more effective than position power when it comes to influencing others.  It is easier to get someone to change or add a behavior when they like and trust you.  As opposed to trying to make an employee change because you are the boss.

Behavioral Feedback

An employee’s performance is a sum total of all of their behaviors.  Observing your people as they work and providing them with feedback about productive and non-productive behaviors is the fastest and easiest way to improve performance.

Behavioral feedback is a daily habit for the most effective owners and managers. Without feedback an employee may not be sure how they are doing and therefore has no reason to improve.  Similar to the way Coach K or Coach Cal give players feedback during a game, feedback is your tool to coach your people every day.

Learn how to give feedback based on behavior and you will see dramatic and lasting improvements. We teach a positive feedback methodology that elevates and inspires each employee to continue to get better.


You may not think of it this way, but delegation is a great way to develop your people.  Pushing more challenging work down will test your people’s abilities, increase your understanding of their strengths and determine what skills and capabilities they need to work on and develop.  Delegation is a useful tool in succession and career development.

To ensure delegation is done correctly, we teach a written delegation system. It will help you know what work to delegate, when and how. Delegation will not only free your time to work on more important higher value work, it will increase your people’s capabilities.  Just like the great basketball coaches mentioned, you are always looking to increase your team’s capabilities and delegation is a smart way.


Performance Coaching

Don’t wait for an annual performance review to give your people feedback about their performance.  By then it is too late to do anything to improve.  Implement these three simple activities into your routine and you will see dramatic improvements in all of your people.

Performance Coaching is an educational process that enhances the employee’s ability to increase his or her capabilities, productivity and performance.  It is a process.  It is personal and focuses each person’s strengths, which is a proven methodology to get the best out of everyone.

You may be thinking you don’t have time to do these things.  The reality is that each activity doesn’t take that much time.  Ultimately, doing these things will actually free up more of your time.  What it does take is a change in your behaviors.  You will need to use your time differently.  You will spend less time doing, and a little more time getting results from your people = coaching.

If you need tools and help implementing these ideas we have created a special Owner / Manager as Coach Program.  We will teach you step-by-step how to implement the Performance Coaching Trinity.  You can learn more about the program here:  or contact Kevin directly.

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Essential Leadership Skills for Business Owners

Your Path to a Better Future

Your Path to a Better FutureIf you are the owner operator of a small business, by default, you are the leader.

Many small business owners are not all that comfortable as leader.  They prefer doing over leading.  However, they are smart enough to realize, if they are more effective leaders their business will produce better results and be less dependent upon them.

The challenge is where do you turn for advice on how to become a more effective leader?

There is an overwhelming amount of information on leadership.  Even if you pay attention to just a small fraction of it, you end up with a very long list of things you need to do to be a “good” leader.  It can be very confusing.

Of course there are lessons to be learned from the famous CEO leaders (i.e. Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, etc.) who tend to be studied in MBA programs and the dominate examples cited in much of the leadership development information. Your leadership challenges are different than theirs. You are interested in practical and relevant skills for your situation.

Leadership is Situational

There is no one list of leadership skills for small business owners. Understand leadership is situational – different situations require different skills. As a small business owner your situation is unique. You need the skills to lead a relatively small number of people who will help you grow your business your way.  One that is less dependent on you, affording you more freedom and financial success.

As the owner you have multiple roles in your business.  When you are filling the role of leader, what is your job?  You may not consciously make a distinction between your leadership role and what you do every day.  Defining the work you do when wearing the leader hat will help you determine the skills you will require.  I like Marcus Buckingham’s definition of leadership: 

“A leader’s job is to rally people to a better future”.

I think this is a perfect way to think about leading a small business.  It is simple, practical and easy to remember.

Five Essential Leadership Skills for Business Owners

If your role as leader is to rally people to a better future, what skills do you need to do that?  Here are five skills that will serve as your building blocks to becoming a more effective leader:

1. Vision

This is your ability to paint a clear picture of what your business will look like at some future date. If you expect people to follow you, you better be going somewhere.  Think of what you want to accomplish as your destination.  If you know where you want to end up, it will be easier to figure out how to get there.

Create or refine you vision for what success looks like.  Clarity is the key to an effective vision.  In addition to your destination, clarifying what is important to you and your business like core values, core purpose, culture and what role you want to fill in your business are all key elements of this work.  If you are going to rally people to a better future it starts with your vision of the future.

2. Strategic Thinking

If vision is your destination, then evaluating and choosing the best path to reach your vision is strategic thinking.  It includes your ability to focus on outcomes and keep your eye on the “big picture”.  The challenge is it is so easy to get caught up in what needs to get done today, you can easily forget about your destination.

It’s important to make some time to step outside of the day-to-day and stay on top of trends in your industry.  Anticipating future business opportunities and potential competitive threats are all part of the strategic work an effective leader does.

3. Communication

It is not enough to have a vision and a strategy in your head. You also need to be able to share it with the people who are going to help you achieve it.  The challenge for many small business owners is how do you share what is in your head with other people in a way they get it.

Just telling them once is never enough.  You need to repeat your message often and consistently.  Your ability to help people confidently see what comes next, how the work they do every day aligns with where you are going, and what’s in it for them is how you will engage your people and rally them to a better future.

To help business owners become better communicators we have developed tools plus a specific meeting rhythm to allow them to easily and more consistently share the vision, strategy, mission, core values, goals and priorities.  This ongoing sharing and conversation about the business creates a common point-of-view and language for your business which is foundational in building your culture.

4. Relationship Building

Being able to understand others’ perspectives and deal with them effectively is a key leadership skill. Business is all about relationships. The higher the quality of your relationships – in your personal life and business life – will often lead to a more enjoyable and successful business.

Relationship power is a more effective way to get things done than position power.  Better relationships will lead to more frequent and meaningful conversations.  This will allow you to have deeper connections, and give you more opportunities to share the vision and strategy.  The more you share and connect with people the more they will trust you.  It is much easier to influence someone when then they trust you; as opposed to when they are afraid of you.

5. Action

You have all heard “lead by example”.  The small business owner may take this concept a little too far.  Believing if they put their head down and work really hard, go the extra mile for the client and keep an eye on every penny, people will follow and do the same. Visibly working hard is their version of leadership.

Instead, I want you to think about action in terms of what actions you can take as leader to get more and better results from your people. It is like moving from being the main player on your team to being a player-coach (and depending on your vision to being just the head coach).  Involve more of your people more often.

This means adapting more leadership behaviors like coaching, mentoring, supporting and team building.  These are the leadership actions that will enable you to grow your business in a way that is less dependent upon you and ultimately more enjoyable.

Decoding Small Business Leadership

Don’t over complicate your role as leader; don’t ignore it either.

Simply spend a little more time envisioning and thinking about the future.  Clearly and regularly share your vantage point and the direction the business is going.  Involve your people where ever you can. Connect and engage them in making the future better.

Focus on these fundamental skills.  They are skills that you will always use and will serve as the building blocks for you to become a more effective leader.  You will need additional leadership skills throughout the life of your business.  Your unique situation will determine which skills are required.  Leadership is a learned skill.  Once learned it is part of what you do – a set of beneficial behaviors.

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Why Your Value Proposition Doesn’t Work and What to do About it

How to craft a more effective marketing message.

Craft an Effective Value Proposition

Often the hardest part of your job is getting people to understand you have something worth buying…something they would value.

Many small businesses tend to do a poor job of explaining what their company does in a way that their ideal buyers understand the value they will receive.  In other words, their value proposition doesn’t work.

Don’t get me wrong, they know what they do, they know how they do it and they love talking about their business.  They just do a poor job of communicating the value they provide, mainly because they start in the wrong place.  They start their value proposition by talking about themselves, their experience, their credentials, their mission, their core values, their product, their service, etc.   The message is focused on them, not the buyer.

It is like the buyer is the least important part of the equation.  Yet, what is the one thing your buyer cares about more than anything.  And it is not you or your business – they care about themselves.


What is a Value Proposition?

There is no shortage of value proposition definitions.  Here is a fairly common one: “A value proposition is a clear statement that explains why a person should buy from you”.

This is a simple enough concept.  So why do so many businesses struggle with creating an effective value proposition?  I think it is because of two reasons:

  • First, they don’t think about value from the buyer’s point of view.
  • Second, they interpret the word “statement” in the value proposition definition to mean “sentence”.  Leading them to try to cram everything they think the buyer values into one long meaningless sentence.


The Ineffective Value Proposition

Most businesses are not clear about what their buyer’s value.  So they write from the point of view they are clear about, what they do. They mistakenly believe the buyer cares about them, what they offer, how long they have been in business, how hard they work, and so on.  Therefore they talk primarily about themselves, their business model, and what their product or service does.

Let’s look at what I mean.  Here is a marketing message I pulled (changing the firm’s actual name) directly from a real company’s home page:

The Every Wealth Management firm delivers comprehensive and personalized

wealth management, integrated wealth planning and investment management.


This example comes from the wealth management industry, but you will see similar marketing messages from other business types, especially professional services firms.  Where is the value to the buyer in this statement?  Basically they are describing their business model / listing their services:

  • “Comprehensive and personalized wealth management”
  • “Integrated wealth planning”
  • “Investment management”

This is a statement of what they do.  It is not clear what value the buyer receives from what they do.  I found a number of wealth management firms using similar messaging.  They all are communicating they believe the buyer values what they do.


Value is in the “Eye of the Beholder”

Unfortunately, buyers don’t care about you or what you do.  They care about what you can do for them.

You want buyers right.

Then lead with what you do for your buyer.  Talk about the outcomes they will receive and how they will feel when they buy from you.  Your buyer wants to know “what’s in it for me?”

What do buyers value?  They value solutions to their most pressing problems. People will buy solutions to their problems.  Talking about how you eliminate frustrations is the foundation for an effective value proposition.

We see a value proposition as a positioning statement that clearly explains the benefit you provide for your buyer.  It starts with the buyer’s problem(s), then your solution plus how they will feel once that problem has been solved.  For your value proposition to be more effective it will:

  • Tell who you work best with / who should buy
  • Conveys how your product or service solves their problem
  • Connects with your buyer at an emotional level
  • Conveys the success and outcomes they experience
  • Tells your buyer why they should buy from you (and not from the competition)

It isn’t a description of your business model.  It doesn’t use industry language (“jargon”); it uses language your buyer would use.  And it is clear – clarity always trumps clever.  It is a promise of the value you provide.


3 Simple Steps to Improve Your Value Proposition

It can be as short as a single sentence.  However, we prefer to think of it as a collection of reasons of why a person would benefit from buying from you.  This gives you more to work with.  This gives you more room to customize your message depending upon the most pressing problem of a particular buyer.

Here is our simple framework you can use to craft a more effective value proposition.  It is a series of short sentences broken up into three parts:  

Part 1:  The key anxiety experienced by your target buyer (problem)

Part 2:  Anxiety relief your product or service promises to provide (solution)

Part 3:  The results your buyer experiences, including how they feel (outcomes)


Let’s stick with the wealth management industry and see how a fictitious firm, TRG Wealth Management, might apply this framework to crafting their positioning statement:

Part 1:

At TRG Wealth Management, we understand that as you transition through life you will encounter numerous and varied financial crossroads.  The decisions you make at each crossroad will determine the financial path you are on.  Trying to decide the best path for you, alone without an expert guide, may lead to anxiety, overwhelm, doubt, wrong decisions or even inaction.

Part 2: 

We have developed a consultative approach to financial advice that combines expertise, overall coordination and aligning financial choices with life choices.  We call this process TruPath Wealth ManagementTM.

Part 3:

TruPath Wealth ManagementTM  results in a personal financial strategy that will bring all of the elements of your financial life into one clearly focused picture.  This will allow you to feel relaxed and confident knowing you are on track to reach all of your financial goals.  Let us guide you down your true path to financial independence.


As you can see there is a lot more here than just one sentence.  How do you use our version of a value proposition?  Use it as your core message – the starting point for creating each marketing message (including updating your website).  It is a tool.  It will keep you focused on what your buyer’s value, allow you to have a more consistent marketing message and still be able to customize it based on each situation.

Your path to more sales begins with clearly communicating you understand your buyers problems and how your solutions will benefit them.

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Five Marketing Multipliers

Simple Ways to Get Better Results from Your Marketing Activities

Who doesn’t want to attract new clients and grow?  Unfortunately, many professional service firms don’t like and are frustrated by marketing and their ability to consistently add new clients.  Here are 5 surprisingly simple things that will multiply your marketing efforts and generate more new business.

Marketing Multipliers

1. Relentless Focus on Your Target Market

The easiest way to improve your marketing results is to make sure you are connecting with the “right” people and not wasting time on the wrong people.  Sounds simple.  But how do you do that?  You need to segment your marketplace and then choose (target) the specific segments of preferred client types you would like to serve.

Surprisingly few firms segment their market place.  And fewer ever choose a specific segment they are going to pursue.  Instead, the typical firm will take on an eclectic mix of client types.  When you have multiple types of clients it is difficult to grow your reputation and be seen as an “expert” who can help a particular group of people.  This makes it difficult to stand out in the crowd.  It also makes it difficult to craft your Brand Promise in a way that resonates with anyone; because you are trying appeal to too many different types of people.

Many firm leaders are unclear about exactly who their core clients are.  Even when they choose a target group, mysteriously they fail to focus their marketing activities on this core client.  Anything you do will work better when you have a clearly defined target market and all of your efforts are focused on finding and serving just this type of client.

Everything a professional service firm does flows from quality and excellent service.  Serving one type of client extraordinarily well will enable you to deliver high quality work.  This feeds directly into shaping your reputation, which leads to more referrals.  Everyone knows referrals are the best way to add more clients.

If you could truly provide excellent service to only one type of client, who would that be?  Have you truly clarified your target markets and created ideal client profiles?  Do you know their most pressing problems?  Does everything you do start with a clear picture of WHO you serve?

 2. Nail Your Brand Promise

Once you know who you are going to serve the next thing you need to do is to be able to clearly communicate why they should work with you.  Your ability to tell your target market about the value they will receive working with you will determine the results of your marketing.

You’re not selling something tangible that a person can see, feel and touch like a product seller.  You are selling a service.  When a client buys your service, what are they buying?

You’re selling a promise that you will do something for them.

This promise is Your Brand Promise. It needs to be relevant, magnetic and memorable.  You must use clear language that appeals to both their emotions and logic – hearts and minds.  Most of all it must resonate with your target market.

What are you promising to do for your clients?  Can you quickly and clearly communicate it?  When your target market hears it do they know immediately that you understand what they are looking for?

Let’s face it a professional service firm succeeds when you can convince enough targeted people their lives will be somehow better off working with you.  Take your time and nail your brand promise and you will see immediate improvement in all of your lead generation activities.

 3. Marketing Process and Systems

Do you have documented marketing processes?  Most firms don’t.  They treat marketing as more of an art than a discipline.  Instead of thinking of marketing as a system that can be continuously improved through quantification and process improvement, they use “random acts of marketing”, hoping something will work.

Marketing, like other key business functions is a system.  Without clearly defined processes you can’t systematize and automate marketing activities.  This means you are less effective and less efficient than you could be.  Simply documenting how you do lead generation and lead conversion will allow you to improve these areas of your business.

Systems will also allow you to delegate or outsource some of this marketing work.  This leaves you with more free time to focus on the more critical strategic marketing issues.  Making sure you have processes and systems for your core lead generation and lead conversion activities will multiply your results.

4. Keep Your List Healthy

Maintaining a healthy list of ideal prospects and influencers is often an overlooked marketing activity.  Probably because we get consumed (and distract) by the creative side of marketing – writing the headlines, selecting images, testing media channels, etc.  Your ability to consistently connect with the right people with relevant messages will improve your marketing results a lot more than your ability to choose the best image or best headline.

A few things to keep in mind when building and keeping your list healthy:

  • Bigger is not necessarily better than a smaller list of ideal prospects (think quality over quantity)
  • An organically grown list is better than a purchased list
  • Everyone you meet should not be on your list – invitation only
  • Segment your list

 A healthy list is one that is fed with only those who fit your ideal profiles, maintained and exercised regularly.  When you are in-touch regularly with your ideal client type you will see improved marketing results.


5. Utilize Marketing Technology – Technology is changing the way we do everything and marketing is no expectation.  From how you do your marketing research to how you on-board and serve clients there are technology applications.  According to the November 2014 Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, 7 Marketing Technologies Every Company Must Use –  there are “over 1000 companies trying to sell some type of marketing technology in over 40 categories”.

Marketing for a professional service firm is educational / content marketing.  Creating high quality content and then sharing it consistently across your selected channels is marketing for you.  Utilize marketing technologies that will make this easier to accomplish.

The right marketing technology tools can allow you to automate your marketing processes, easily expand your reach and touch more of your target market on a regular basis, in less time and at lower costs.


Summing Up Your Marketing Multipliers

These 5 concepts work great together.  The more you can focus on offering a tailored solution to a tightly defined client segment the easier it will be to create and keep your brand promise.  It will also allow you to choose the right marketing activities to attract clients to you.  Once you know your activities you can then create your marketing systems.  With systems in place you can find the right marketing technologies to not only automate processes, but to also leverage your activities and expand your reach.

I know I didn’t share any magic bullets here; these are just simple fundamental marketing concepts you have already heard before.  The magic happens when firms actually practice these concepts. They are no longer frustrated by marketing and they consistently add new clients.


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