Category Archives: Achievement Index

10 Secrets to Grow your Business During Tough Times

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I am often asked, “How do some small businesses manage to grow and thrive while others perennially struggle and miss opportunities that come their way”? In our experience, the most successful business owner display some clear patterns and habits both in constructive and positive ways as well as making the same mistakes, many of which are avoidable.

Here are our top 10 secrets for achieving growth even in a poor economy:

  • Grow to survive – Many small or local businesses assume it’s best to reduce offerings to survive tough times. While this seems intuitive, many times the answer is to do just the opposite. Before cutting back and shrinking your business, consider first whether changing your strategy and tactics and or re-allocating resources might help.
  • Check your ego – You know your business inside and out, but that doesn’t make you an expert at running it. Smart business owners know what they don’t know. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice and then, take it.
  • Remember what got you there – Many entrepreneurs seem to forget who/what helped them get started. If you have investors (think beyond those who gave you money), keep them apprised of what’s going on. Good communication is key.  A good investor is an invaluable resource and can often times provide suggestions and other resources, so keep them involved.
  • Share your knowledge – In today’s business world, success and influence are in the hands of those who share their ideas and information. Sure, you might lose a little competitive edge by sharing your secrets.  But you will gain significant influence, and perhaps even greater success. So when you’ve found a great tool or solution, or gained insight, tweet it, blog about it, author an article, post it to Facebook, etc.
  • Hire someone to watch what’s important – Lack of strong advisors in strategy, tactics and finance could be the only thing keeping you from reaching your business and financial goals. Find well-qualified people who share your vision; then step back and take their advice.
  • Don’t give up – Stick to your mission. Many would-be success stories end prematurely because they give up when challenges mount. Don’t let obstacles stop you. Arm yourself with market knowledge and an expert team and push through.
  • But recognize when to change direction – Still, there are times you may need to change direction or call it day, and having the courage to do so can be liberating. Let the world take a turn and then come out swinging. You may end up with a clearer picture of what will or won’t work.
  • Cash is often times still King – A common challenge we hear from our clients is that their business is running out of cash. While the sun is still shining on your business or before your financial picture has a chance to turn, meet with lenders, landlords and others proactively, to see if there are opportunities to restructure any debt, payment terms, improve cash flow, etc. Having cash on hand is critical for staying afloat and continuing to grow.
  • Get more when you have more – Don’t wait for things to slow down. Your business is an engine that needs fuel regularly. One of the biggest mistakes we see is when things are good and business owners “let it ride”. The best time to “get more” is when you “have more”. One of the most important things is to try something “different” when you can afford to do so. As an expert in your business, you know what do to in order to succeed but there are many additional ways to get creative and grow regardless of what business you are in. Waiting until you really need business kills your ability to think and act creatively. Operating in desperation mode rarely if ever results in a positive outcome.
  • Have an exit plan – Know where you stand in the marketplace at all times. That includes what your potential is, and what it will take to reach your potential.  That way, when opportunity knocks, you’ll know what to do. Again, don’t be afraid to seek outside counsel from experts to assist and support you with this.

Have a question about growing your business in tough times? Reach out to us at: www. AchievementIndex.com for a free, no strings consultation!

 

 

John Garofalo is a performance coach focused on getting results working with Business Owners, Presidents, CEOs and leaders who among other things are frustrated they are not growing as fast as they want and or need.  For a no obligation discussion, you can contact John at:  John@Achievementindex.com or by calling:  609-693-1430.

 

How is Your Business Doing?

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As the owner of my own business I am asked this question all the time. Sometimes how I respond or react is sometimes just about timing; how my day is going or what is happening in the moment as a business owner. As a business coach, this simple question and how we interpret and answer it becomes a cornerstone to a lot of the work we do.

 

While there are many ways to answer the question above, many small business owners would first think to, and then answer in terms of profitability and monetary success. Working with my clients one of the first questions I ask is what motivated them to start their own business in the first place.

 

That in mind, one way to think about the question is to consider whether you are happy and satisfied. More specifically, what’s your satisfaction from the emotional and lifestyle standpoint? Sure, there are always going to be days work, life and everything is a challenge but does being a business owner bring you “joy”?

 

There is tremendous value in the ability to reflect on the specific factors that inspired you to start your business. It is extremely common and oh so easy to get sidetracked often times forgetting the principle values that got you started.

 

Take a deep breath and put the rat race on hold for a moment. Have a good look (literally and figuratively) around you at all things that exist because of you and your business and do an inventory. Keep the things that are important, adjust those that will benefit from it and remove the things that are counterproductive.

 

Now ask yourself the question: How is your business doing?

 

The Secret to Success is “You”

People often ask me, “Where can they invest in their career or business to get the greatest return?” Typically leading to a discussion, many are surprised and sometimes even disappointed in my answer. The secret to growth is rather simple. The wisest business/career investment you will ever make, is investing in your personal development. I am such a firm believer and advocate of investing in people before process that I often hand new clients CDs, books, and or access to resources. Why? Investing in the development of people is perhaps the single most powerful competitive advantages you can create. When people ask me how they can advance in life, I often recommend they spend as much time working on themselves as they are spending on their work.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.” This famous quote by Abraham Lincoln has always resonated with me. With just two hours to do the chopping, Lincoln spent twice that working on the tools of the job rather than with the task itself. You are the “axe” whereas your life is the “task”.

When life puts a tree in the way, many people immediately grab their axe, dull or not, and start hacking and chopping away. When they realize they aren’t making much progress with the tree, they usually quit, saying it’s somehow the fault of the tree. What most people forget is that success lies in how you use the axe; i.e. in what angle and which spot on the tree to strike first. The lesson is that all tactics can be measured, weighed, and improved upon and that it all starts with the axe. It all starts with “you”.

We never stop learning. Whether from a class, CD, book, a coach, a seminar, friends and even our experiences. Learning is fluid and continuous and is a combination of all these things and much more. When was the last time you made an investment simply to improve yourself or your people? Take time and consider how to best challenge and develop yourself. Be open to learning new things and Investing in “you”. This will provide the greatest ROI you could ever imagine and reward you with long term benefits for the rest of your life.

 

John Garofalo is a performance coach focused on getting results working with Business Owners, Presidents, CEOs and leaders who among other things are frustrated they are not growing as fast as they want and or need.  For a no obligation discussion, you can contact John at:  John@Achievementindex.com or by calling:  609-693-1430.

Why is Your Organization’s Culture So Important?

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Culture, by simplest definition is the way you do things in your organization. In reality though, it’s so much more than that.

Culture includes sharing values and beliefs embraced by everyone across the organization. These values and beliefs while typically reflected in an organization’s HR practices, from performance programs to the way projects are coordinated are even more importantly demonstrated by all functions and disciplines within the entire organization from Sales & Marketing to Operations, Finance and others.

Culture permeates each and every function in an organization right down to the way meetings are conducted and clients handled and it’s essentially the glue that holds your organization together. Fundamentally, your culture is often a big reason why people want to work for or with you.

Some organization’s culture may be derived by the story from which they were created or perhaps a byproduct of new leadership’s vision. Some even from a branding perspective might define the symbols used in their logo into their culture.

The sticking point is that culture is often misunderstood and rarely a top of mind subject matter for many leaders, but we cannot over emphasize how incredibly important its role as part of your organizations DNA.

For example, you can hire someone with the best skills with a track record in your industry of considerable past success, but if they’re not a good fit with your team and culture, how long will they last in your organization? Then imagine the cost of having to hire someone to replace them (the direct and the even more dangerous, invisible cost in lost opportunities and momentum) not to mention all the time spent finding, interviewing candidates, orienting them and getting them up to speed; again!

Why defining your culture is so important?

When working towards the creation and pursuit of organizational goals or when trying to affect positive change, your culture can often be the very thing that prevents this from happening. We’re often asked to work with clients helping them create an employee handbook or performance programs without them first communicating their culture to us (many times this is because it’s not completely clear to them). Taking on a task or strategy like this without first defining their culture is like constructing a building without the proper foundation. It might look nice for a short while but in relative short order the structure will crumble.

When it’s clear what your culture is, everything from how you hire and on board new employees to how you develop, motivate and even transition employees out (if / when necessary) to how things run on a day to day basis is aligned to that culture.

As a leader it’s imperative that once a culture is defined and practices are in place, ensuring that the culture remains top of mind at all times and that all actions comes down to and fall squarely under the “practice what you preach” paradigm. I saw a study somewhere recently where the majority (85%) of more than 500 companies surveyed worldwide said their companies looks directly to the CEO to support and reinforce a company’s ability to act on its values. In this same report, nearly 80% said CEO vision and their subsequent behavior was one of the most effective practices for reinforcing an organizations ability to act and deliver on its values.

So now what?

Ask yourself, as a leader (at any level), how can you help design and define your culture? If the first thought that comes to mind is, “I don’t know” don’t panic. Being honest in your admission is the first step to doing something great!

Start by asking and then answering the following the questions:

  • Who are we?
  • What do we believe in?
  • What inspires us?
  • Where are we going?
  • What will this look like when we get there?

While doing this, always keep in mind the dangers of not living up to the values you defined. This might show up as mistrust, cynicism, dishonesty, an unmotivated workforce and a low retention rate. If you are going to invest time in defining them, make sure you stick to them Basically there is no turning back!!

Actions speak louder than words

Once you have achieved clarity around your culture and values, it’s time to translate these into action. One of the most effective ways to align your culture with your overall strategy is to apply sound leadership practices that speak to them. It’s not enough just to hang up a plaque on which your values are written, or even to talk about them at meetings. As a leader, you must without fail, support and reinforce your values and culture with your actions and behavior consistently. You must also help create clarity around these values for your teams by coaching and encouraging employees to adopt these principles regularly.

Positioning culture for success

We often see organizations struggle to connect the values of their culture with the bottom line, however, according to Wikipedia, “Performance-oriented cultures have been shown to possess statistically better financial growth. Such cultures possess high employee involvement, strong internal communications and an acceptance and encouragement of a healthy level of risk-taking in order to achieve innovation.”

To this point, if you can integrate a clearly defined culture with collaborative practices, you’ll have a company that is actively driving towards its goals, and a workforce that is well-informed, motivated, loyal and productive.

Closing thoughts

It is important to note that any organizations that doesn’t have a defined culture, or one in which things are unclear or constantly changing, or where employee input is not encouraged, typically demonstrate an ever present negative or counter-effective culture. Without the belief, trust and support of all employees along with a dedication to the culture and values, the majority of these organizations will experience limited and erratic growth and might even fail to survive.

Check us out at: www.AchievementIndex.com and let’s discuss how we can do something special together!

John Garofalo is a performance coach focused on getting results working with Business Owners, Presidents, CEOs and leaders who among other things are frustrated they are not growing as fast as they want and or need.  For a no obligation discussion, you can contact John at:  John@Achievementindex.com or by calling:  609-693-1430.

 

Team Alignment Can Save Your Assets

Team Alignment Can Save Your Assets

 

Rarely if ever, is there a single area that an organization needs to pay attention to in order to continually evolve and succeed however, team chemistry and aligning resources towards the greater goal is pretty close to the top of the list. There should never be a mindset or culture where the interests of an individual or department becomes more important than the interest of the organization.

Matt Blumberg over at Entrepreneur Magazine offers a really nice breakdown of how to get teams going not only in the same direction but for the same reasons.

Here’s Matt’s list along with my comments:

1. Define the mission. Be clear to everyone about where you’re going and how you’re going to get there (in keeping with your values).

It’s this first step that most trip on right out of the gate. Clearly defining and expressing the vision, mission and collective strategies internally is where breakdown’s start and steam roll towards dysfunction. Take your time and make sure this first step is done effectively and thoroughly. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

2. Set annual priorities, goals, and targets. Turn the broader mission into something more concrete with prioritized goals and unambiguous success metrics.

Be realistic, be organized and establish a plan. Whether establishing benchmarks and KPI’s organizationally or by department or person being organized and setting priorities holds everyone accountable and serves as a road map for performance management.

3. Encourage bottom-up planning. You and your executive team need to set the major strategic goals for the company, but team members should design their own path to contribution. Just be sure that you or their managers check in with them to assure that they remain in synch with the company’s goals.

Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. Great leaders know that “buy in” comes from reciprocal input, feedback and charting the course together. Tear down the ivory towers and silos but establish protocol and chain of command whereas managers can keep the rudder steady as the waters of change effect your day to day journey.

4. Facilitate the transparent flow of information and rigorous debate. To help people calibrate the success, or insufficiency, of their efforts, be transparent about how the organization is doing along the way. Your organization will make better decisions when everyone has what they need to have frank conversations and then make well-informed decisions.

“Coach”, don’t “manage”. Communicate the good and the bad throughout the journey. Much can be gained from honest dialogue about what is working and even more so to at is not as long as it is done constructively and with an eye towards correction by “everyone”.

5. Ensure that compensation supports alignment (or at least doesn’t fight it). As selfless as you want your employees to be, they’ll always prioritize their interests over the company’s. If those interests are aligned – especially when it comes to compensation – this reality of human nature simply won’t be a problem.

So here’s the “reality check.” Superstar members of the company team are still part of a “personal” team after the work day ends. Understanding the DNA of the team by member and sub group is critically important.

Loyalty and aligning resources to grow and be successful must come from a reciprocal philosophy and strategy. The days of guerrilla management and “my or the highway” philosophies are dinosaurs. A high performing team is a delicate balance of many factors but let’s be honest, you, and every member of your team, “work” for pay. Mortgages, car payments, ballet lessons and more still need to be paid and family/personal lives need to be respected. Whatever the details of your compensation plan, it’s crucial that it aligns your entire team behind the company’s best interests. Rewarding individuals and groups are great just as everybody should share in the success when the company hits its milestones.

Best taken in sequence, these steps are the most critical for alignment but if asked which is “the most important”, it would be probably be number 5: “aligning individual incentives with company wide goals” but it’s when all these areas are addressed and become part of the fabric of your organization that magic happens and the results will be nothing less than extraordinary!

Is Your Net Working?

Summer is upon us in the great northeast, thoughts of vacations abound and calendars are booking up fast! Do you know how to work a room and make your own full calendar overflow with opportunity?

If you are scheduled to attend any upcoming event, here are some tips for networking:

  1. Stop trying so hard. (90% of the other people are not sure what to say either.)
  2. Go with the intent to help (Give, not get).
  3. Find out what other people are looking to accomplish at the event, then see if you can help them first!
  4. Be sincere.
  5. Smile.
  6. Remember: Interested people are interesting.
  7. Listen actively.
  8. Laugh a lot.
  9. Nod and say things like: Really? No kidding? Tell me more? What about you?
  10. Initiate conversations by asking people about their:
  • Hometown
  • Children
  • Family
  • Vacations
  • School/College
  • Sports, Hobbies
  • Parents, Family
  • Current events (Keep it topically light)

Follow these steps and remember: If you feel awkward at an event, chances are the other people do, too. Try to make others feel good about themselves and comfortable talking to you. They’ll appreciate you and want to be around you more often.

What’s the first rule of human behavior? “People interact and want to work with people they like.” Help people get to know and like you, and your calendar and pipeline will overflow with opportunity.

Happy networking!

john garofalo

 

 

 

JG3

John Garofalo is a performance coach focused on getting results working with Business Owners, Presidents, CEOs and leaders  who among other things are frustrated they are not growing as fast as they want and or need. For a no obligation discussion, you can contact John at: John@Achievementindex.com or by calling: 609-693-1430.