Thursday, October 11, 2012

Our Culture's Addiction

"The Addiction of our Culture is Comfort" - Mike Huey

We are addicted to the comfort physical pleasure.  How many times have you heard yourself say, "I don't feel like it?"  That feeling stops you from doing what needs to be done.  True?

Good tasting foods, soft beds with numbers to get the exact comfort level, and comfortable cars are icons of our society.  Capitalism is driven by the desire for comfort.  Someone invents a product people will pay more money than it costs to produce and distribute so that both the customer and the capitalist can have a better, more comfortable life.

However, comfort and the lack of resistance to comfort leads our culture to spend an enormous amount of time and money being entertained.  Many do not want to go through the initial pain (or can I say 'comfort opposition') of creating a budget.  They go further in debt because they don't want to deny themselves the product that will make them more comfortable; even though they don't have the money to pay for it.

Debt and obesity have become the epidemics of our society.  Both have roots in the addiction of comfort and resistance to discomfort.  I would guess most addictions have their roots in an unbridled desire for comfort.

The desire for comfort keeps us mentally in a "comfort zone."  When a challenge or opportunity comes, most people let it go because it is too big, too fast, too difficult.    To grow, however, we must push ourselves to go past what we are comfortable with and go after what we are uncomfortable with.

If we fail- who cares?  We, as individuals have grown through the experience and have stretched what we are comfortable doing.  We will be more comfortable next time trying what is uncomfortable.

P.S.  In a different post I will address the positive areas of comfort such as the gut feeling or 'feeling comfortable with a decision' is good.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Innovation: In 8 Simple Steps

Innovation was a catch phrase a few decades ago.  You really didn't need to innovate that much to stay alive.  Today-different story.  The creative and innovative process is accelerating and if you don't keep innovating as an individual, as a team, and as a company you will dramatically shorten the life of your usefulness.

One mentor said, "Every business has a definite lifespan."  Some industries are longer than others but they all end-unless they innovate and change.  The same is true with your usefulness as an individual.  If you are not learning, growing, and implementing new habits you will be left in the dust by the next generation.

Here are some steps to innovating.

1.  What is a need that is not being met?  The customer may know the need or, as Steve Jobs demonstrated, they may not.  The other way to start is instead of a need to meet, imagine an ideal future.  Star Trek writer Gene Rodenberry imagined what Skype created.

He imagined cell phones,  along with wireless ear devises, 
and (sorry Mr. Jobs), the tablet market. 

2.  Identify trends that are impacting those needs?  These can be, but not limited, to cultural trends, business and trends, personal habitual trends, political trends, and mob mentality trends.  Whatever trends that impact you need-both positive and negative.

3.  Create a brainstorm team.  The team may be just yourself.  This team should be no more than four people.  More than that and the strong personality will drive the agenda of the meeting.  But create a team that comes from various departments, personality styles, but who have direct contact with the problem or customers.

4.  Add a person from the outside to the team.  This person can be from a separate department than others or from a different company.  For your personal innovation, get someone who does know the problem intimately.  This person becomes a fresh seed from which to germinate innovation.  WARNING:  If this becomes a longer project than 3 months, this person will become part of the team and you will need a new outsider.

5.  Have each member create a list of possible innovations on their own.  Earl Nightingale in his program, The Strangest Secret had an exercise of 20 answers.  He encouraged the listener to write a question at the top of a piece of paper.  Then create 20 answers.  No matter how ridiculous create 20 answers.  Many times the most creative is not in the first 10.  The first 10 are obvious ones that you either tried or discounted. 

6.  If you are in a group, have everyone give the three best ideas.  Put them up on something that everyone can see.

7.  Project plan the idea that has two traits:  (1) The most likely to succeed and make the desired impact and (2) the one that will have the best return on the money and efforts invested.   Check out my quick blog entry on Resource Planning.

8.  Implement the plan.  Continually revise the project and track the progress and set backs.  Keep the plan flexible for unforeseen obstacles that arise. 

Innovation is NOT just coming up with the idea.  We are all creative and can do that.  Innovation is the ability to both create the idea and create the reality of the idea.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

40 Questions to ask when selecting a CRM package

No!! I don't sell any Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.  This is NOT a shameless plug.  Our company is growing so I thought I would share concerns we faced.  As a former ERP sales rep. for small and mid-sized companies I have seen what works and what doesn't.

Before even selecting a CRM you need to look at your own sales processes.  You need to remove the bottlenecks and double-work.  After you have created a smooth business process flow, then it is time to select a CRM.

A big mistake is forcing the systems, leadership, and the sales force change the process to the package.   When you have a broken process and then go through a migration of software you will have a major disruption of efficiency and cash flow.   

Here are 40 key questions or concerns when selecting a CRM system for your company:

  1. Can the CRM extend across to other departments or easily integrate with other systems such as accounting?
  2. Is the system easy to use for the sales force? 
  3. Does it make the sales job easier?  (This is not the same as #2).
  4. How easy is it to change the sales process in the future with this CRM?
  5. How well does the CRM integrate with MS Office?
  6. Can the sales force either access data or check out (library type system) data to their tablets or smart phones when they are in the field?
  7. If your sales force gets inundated with calls or interruptions from customers, does the CRM open new windows for the other customers so the sales person can keep open the projects being worked on?  Or does the system require changing current screens to another customer, thus requiring the sales person to remember who they were working on before the interruption?
  8. How easy does the CRM attach quotes or correspondence to the customer records?
  9. How easy is it for the sales person to get their task list by priority and by time period?
  10. How many screens are required to change common information items on a customer?
  11. How easy is it to produce mass emails to specific segments of customers or prospects?
  12. How easy is it to create quotes?  Modify existing quotes?
  13. Can the executive teams get reports that they need when they need it?
  14. Do those reports have the ability for the executive to drill down into detail when a problem is spotted?
  15. Does your CRM provide reports that can show historical trends?
  16. Does the system have dashboard or an e-mail alert system for the executive who does not want to run reports?
  17. Can management create an automated report such as a monthly sales report or future quarter forecast without having to manually start the process?
  18. How well does the software track key activities of the sales person, such as calls, emails, or appointments, separated by clients and prospects?  How easy is it to get a report?
  19. How easy is it to view a specific sales person’s pipeline?  The department's or region's pipeline?
  20. Can it track sales coming in that are one-time verses contractual and on-going.
  21. What are security concerns you have and how does that package address it?
  22. Does it have the ability to create departmental hierarchy and various access permission rights to users.
  23. If personalization is needed, how easy is it to do and how much does it cost?
  24. Can you add custom tabs and custom fields?  If so, how many and how easily.
  25. What is the long term upgrade path and direction of the CRM developers?
  26. Is the CRM written on an industry standard language?
  27. How does the vendor train you and what is the cost?
  28. Does the CRM have easy to access tutorials for on-going improvement of a user’s operation in the software?  How clear and easy to use are they?
  29. What kind of support does the vendor provide and what is the cost?
  30. How much access do you have to the CRM’s customer service department?  How much does it cost?  Is it via live chat, call-in, a knowledge library, or all of the above?
  31. How many concurrent users can this program easily handle?
  32. If you want customers to enter their own orders or check the status of orders, does the system have a portal for them?
  33. Can it capture and track an on-going customer service concern?
  34. Is it integrated with social media?  If so how? 
  35. Is there integration between your corporate website to the CRM.  Such as, if someone sends a request through your website, will it trigger a task or call back in your CRM for a sales person?
  36. In some cases you may want your CRM to also act as your knowledge library about competition.  Is that so for you?  If so, does your system allow both easy entry of new information and is it easily searchable in the future?
  37. If you are international, can your CRM support multiple languages? 
  38. If you are international, can your CRM support multiple currencies? Is automatically updated and can it translate.  So if a sales rep. in New York quotes in U.S. Dollars will it translate the quote to Euro’s for your European prospect?
  39. Does your CRM support multiple time zones?
  40. What is the cost to purchase and to keep the system updated?
You should also understand the strengths, weakness's and costs of both cloud based and server based systems.  Look at both initial and on-going costs.

Hope this helps.  If there are other questions I should add, please let me know.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

6 months to expand your business

Here is an idea starter for you and your business. Each week, just read one idea.  There are 26 ideas so it will take you six months.  

Allow yourself to experience one of two things:
1. Let you mind ask, “How could we implement this idea in our company and industry?”
2. Let you mind use that weeks idea as a launch pad for a completely different idea that would work in your company.  Allow day dreaming or additional questions to think of new things.

  1. ·         Add sales force.  Hire more sales or marketing people.
  2. ·         Reduce sales force.  Sometimes getting rid of people who are not performing inspires everyone else to do more.
  3. ·         Launch new locations.  Can you duplicate what you are doing somewhere else?  Across town? In a different state? In a different country?
  4. ·         Re-inspire the troops with a conference or training.  If people are your greatest asset, when is the last time you invested in them to keep them growing in skills and camaraderie?
  5. ·         Increase your price.  If you could increase your price by 1% and not lose business, how much would that add to your bottom line?
  6. ·         Decrease your price.  Retail companies do this every Christmas.  They offer a sale price for a set period of time to bring in more business.
  7. ·         Bundle your offering with another product or another companies offering.  Can you add something else you offer or that someone else offers in attract more business?  For instance, one restaurant bundles appetizers, a main course and a dessert for a low price of $20.
  8. ·         Bundle your offering with a service or another companies service.  Instead of adding more products, can your team or the team of another company add something that makes your product more valuable and desired?
  9. ·         Systemize what your top performers do and use that to train the bottom 80% of the sales force.  Basically you are franchising your top sales force.  Your 80%ers will sell harder because they believe if they do what the top people do, then they will get what the top people get.  Their right!
  10. ·         Engage a sales consultant or sales coach.  Invest in someone from the outside who can give you a fresh look at the strengths and weaknesses of your team and sale process'.
  1. ·         Create a Social Media Marketing plan.  If you don't have one you are already behind.
  2. ·         Create a short video.  If you go to: .  After viewing it, go to:  You will see an example of two 90 second videos that have brought us business.  Since I systemized the general flow it made it just as easy to make two as it was to make one.
  3. ·         Update your website.  It's just not that expensive anymore.
  4. ·         Update your reference letters and testimonials.  Do not let six months go by without a new reference letter.  Potential customers are more impressed with a current letter than one dated two years ago.
  5. ·         Hire a marketing firm.   It's just amazing what professionals can do for your business.  Don't feel like you have to do it all yourself.  And especially don't believe you can do it better than the pros.
  6. ·         Write industry articles in your industry magazine.  If you want people contacting you by word of mouth, this is a great way to get it done. 
  7. ·         Speak at industry conferences.  If you write articles, you are asked to speak at conferences.

Business Strategy
  1. ·         Engage a business consultant or coaching program for executive team.  Same thing, don't assume you know everything or that you should know everything.  Consider fresh insight from the outside.
  2. ·         Systemize repetitive processes.  Pretend you are going to franchise your business.  Write the process manuals.  This will help you recruit and train talent faster and position you to either franchise or open more locations.
  3. ·         Know your financial numbers.  It's amazing how living on a budget can reduce unnecessary overhead.
  4. ·         Franchise.  Not all business's can or should franchise but maybe your business can. 
  1. ·         Systemize it.  I once helped a custom commercial art company systematize their systems.  If they can do it, you can do it.  It will dramatically help you control operations.
  2. ·         Remove bottle necks in your process’.  Do some work flow analysis and figure out where your bottlenecks are.  My guess is you probably already know where they are.  So either remove it or add the resourced needed to open the flow.
  3. ·         Remove dead weight employees.  People are people.  Just like the sales force, when you remove dead weight, the others are inspired to work hard.
  4. ·         Reduce overhead.  Know the difference between luxury and functionality;  wants verses needs.
  5. ·         Increase output.  As long as sales are there, what can you do to increase the output of your operations?  If sales are not there, what increase in operations create an added value to your offering?
Although any of us could just read through the list, which is what you just did, go back and meditate on one a week.  Even if you only apply one a month your business will look different by the end of the six month session.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

1 Day Challenge

I was reading a book, "How to Think Like a CEO" and the author presented a "1 Day Challenge."  The idea is to manage and lead by ONLY asking questions.  No directives.  It is a great relational skills challenge.

That got me thinking about how I could challenge myself in other areas.  I thought of a couple:
  1. Speed read a book in a day.                                             Intellectual Challenge
  2. Only drink water.  That means no coffee.  ouch.               Physical Fitness Challenge
  3. Stay at or below the speed limit for a day.                         Self-discipline Challenge
  4. Only look people in the eyes.                                            Relational Challenge
  5. Fast and pray during meals                                               Spiritual Challenge
  6. No spontaneous purchases                                               Financial Challenge

To gain further benefit, I thought of challenges that would take a week to complete:

  1. Vegetarian diet                                                                  Physical Fitness Challenge
  2. Post and Reply in LinkedIn each day for a week               Relational Networking Challenge
  3. Clean and organize a specific room in the house/office     Emotional Well-being Challenge
  4. Experience homelessness for a week                                Relational and Financial Challenge
  5. Memorize a passage or poem                                           Intellectual Challenge
 Reply below with a challenge you would give yourself?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

10 Tactics to Help Negotiations

Negotiating is a key skill required if you are going to expand your business or career profitably.  Negotiations can be the reason a business or real estate investment cash flows or not.  So here are ten tactics you need to make a part of your tool box as you meet with vendors, employees, bankers, buyers and sellers.
  1. Always meet with all principals you are buying from or selling to.  You waste time if you are meeting and talking with people who cannot sign the agreement.  You need to know the motivations and needs of the other party if you have to put together a creative offer.
  2. Keep one of your principals absent.  You probably know the needs of your partner(s).  This tactic allows you to think about their proposals without commitment.  It allows you to commit with a contingency of your partners approval.  If the partner disapproves then you can come back to the table with more discuss.
  3. Keep or create as many options as possible.  Maybe it is because I am a former Infantry Officer, but options keep you alive.  Both on the battlefield and in the investment field.  The Seller who has only one option has to take what the buyer is giving.  This is another reason to develop at least five exit strategies when you purchase a place.
  4. Game plan all their possible options with your responses.  Again, this may be a fall back from my military days.  Pre-plan your options and responses based on the various directions the other person may present.  This keeps your emotions out of the negotiations and you in control.  This will also let you know when negotiations are really halted and when your creativity can keep the transaction moving forward.
  5. Have the other side give the numbers and terms first.  This is why a buyer is often in a better starting position than a seller who has listed the property.  Once you have committed to a number it is hard, if not impossible, to move to a better position than your beginning one.  By forcing them to commit first you keep your options. 
  6. Check your ego at the door.  Ego costs money; plain and simple.  If you go in with any ego, you immediately put the other team on a defensive or aggressively offensive posture.  Let them be the experts.  Defer to their experience, knowledge of the market or property.  Defer to their age…whatever it takes to make them feel that they know more than you.  This will endear them to you and want to help you get a good deal.
  7. Be willing to wait.  There is a reason that many people become more patient as they age.  They became wiser.  Wisdom is knowing when to put the purchase agreement on the property immediately and when it is wise to wait.  Let the seller loose some options.  Realize that they can’t sell it for the terms they thought.  This makes them more flexible.  However, there are times when a property is already at 50-60% of market value and it will be gone tomorrow.  You don’t have to wait on all deals; just be willing to.
  8. Know your walk away numbers and terms.  By knowing your walk-away numbers you eliminate the chance of you being swept away by the emotional excitement of the negotiations.  After we have invested hours of negotiations we feel that we “just have to get that property” to make our investment of time worth it.  That is when it costs us the most.  By knowing the worst numbers you will accept you can walk away and save yourself from disaster.
  9. Keep track of all concessions made by both sides.  When we have invested time and countering offers over and over, it is easy to miss the fact that one side is giving more concessions than the other.  By writing each concession down as they are given and received, you can see if you are the only party moving toward agreement.  When giving a concession remember the phrase, “If I can do that, what will you do for me?”  That will force both parties to give at least equally.
  10. Leave making them feel they won so they will work with you again.  You never know when you are going to deal with that person or party again.  The older I get the more I realize this is a small world.  What goes around really does come around.  Make sure both parties accomplish their goals in the transaction for that is what a transaction is.  A movement of both parties toward their goals. 

These are some of the top ten things you should remember when you enter negotiations of any kind.  Use them daily.  Practice them in all areas of life and you will become a powerful negotiator.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Leadership: Do you build it or hire it?

I recently asked a couple hundred business managers if they prefer to train and raise up leaders from within their organization or hire it from the outside.

They held the common thought: "raise it from your own people."

There were a couple who went against the popular belief and shared some great insights.  Really the question is a wrong question.  It forces the respondent to think either/or.  In many cases I try to re-frame questions posed to me so I can think both/and.

A better question could be, "Why should we raise up leadership and hire outside leaders for our organization?"

Three Benefits of Raising up Leadership:
1.  They know your vision, values, and philosophies.
2.  It gives others hope for career development.
3.  I gives your leaders a sense of personal fulfillment.

Three Benefits of Hiring Leadership:
1.  You get fresh ideas injected into your organization.
2.  You receive the rewards of another companies leadership development efforts.
3.  You can get a leader ready to step into a high level of responsibility much faster.

Human development and recruiting are not mutually exclusive.  A great leader does both at the same time.  Constantly looking for ways to develop their people and constantly looking for new talent.