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Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Guest Post: Key Business Lessons from Chelsea’s Unexpected UEFA Champions’ League Victory

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Football (Soccer), like many sports has grand lessons for any business enterprise. This because sports teams are complicated business enterprises that are supposed to both entertain (hence are mired in all sorts of strange emotions) and make money applying skills of players with different sorts of talent yet liable to injuries that turn the fortunes of a team upside down anytime in a season.

Chelsea of England has been a great Premier League and European team since it was purchased by Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch, in 2003. In seeking greatness (read, winning the Champions’ League trophy which is as prestigious as the World Cup for European club teams and global players at club level alike), many Chelsea coaches have fallen victim to this objective (the current coach is the 8th in that period, serving in an interim capacity). The dismissals have come even where other teams would have paid to be in Chelsea’s shoes (e.g. losing the final of the Champions’ League, winning the Premier League and FA Cup etc.)!

At the start of the 2011-12 season, Chelsea paid thirteen million pounds for the coach they much coveted to be released by his club Porto from his contract. This coach was brought in with two key objectives for him, transition the club into a greater club by culling the team of its older players making the team dependent on younger ones, and change the team’s playing style into an attractive one like that of Barcelona and Arsenal. In business parlance, he was the change agent to make the organization better placed to compete in the future.

The way he went about this was wanting from the start. His pronouncements in public about “this project” as he put it, especially on the old players did not help his cause. He completely antagonized those the club depended upon over many years and still had much to give, both in terms of performance and passing knowledge through their experience to the next generation. In the process, he isolated them!

His presence at Chelsea turned into unmitigated disaster given the results which placed the club out of its customary top 4 in the premier league (which comes with participation in the Champions League, thirty million pounds for competing and hence is a boost to a club’s finances, in addition to serving as an attraction for the best players in the world which guarantees staying in the upper reaches of football). He was fired in the middle of the season. Players breathed a sigh of relief on his departure.

His assistant, a former Chelsea player with minimal coaching experience at the top levels replaced him in an interim capacity. Every experienced manager, pundit, and media person at the time predicted nothing but doom for Chelsea. In addition to poor premier league performances (they ended the season 6th), Chelsea had just lost a Champions’ League game and were likely to be eliminated from the next round. The playing unit was suffering from a total lack of motivation with senior players on the team shocked by the treatment they received. In essence, the club was totally dysfunctional.

The new manager though interim seemed to turn this around. He did a number of things right. He met each player personally, and explained each one’s role he was going to play moving forward in the short period of the season remaining. He decided games were going to be played applying strategies and tactics amenable to the players available vis-à-vis the opponent. Every player young and old alike got a clean slate in competing for a place on the team. The team was going to work and fight for each other. As the media and experts continued to spell the doom awaiting Chelsea game to game, the team went about its business of winning by using the most pragmatic means necessary. In the process, they were either lucky or indeed created their own luck! The manager sought leadership from players within the playing unit. You didn’t have to be captain to lead. It was expected of you as a member of the playing unit to play that role.

In doing so, they reached the final of the Champions’ League when least expected, eliminating arguably the best team in Europe, Barcelona at the semi-final stage. The final was going to be a taller order as they were playing at the home of their opponent, Bayern Munich. All pundits deemed Chelsea a non-issue, handing Bayern the trophy before a ball was kicked. This team was arguably the worst seen at Chelsea in the last eight years, albeit the core of the playing unit having been there in the same period. Matters were made worse by the fact that four of their best players were suspended for the final. When the team won the Champions’ League trophy, players young and old stated clearly that their season was turned around when the prior manager left. Others have stated they will never forgive him for the way he treated them – such was the dysfunctional state of affairs at the club in his presence, and justifies how massive an accomplishment winning this trophy was.

What business lessons are here that we can learn from Chelsea’s success under the prevailing circumstances?  Here are a few:

1)    Recognize that job titles do not necessarily tell who your best leaders are on your team. Some team members are leaders by virtue of what they do and their influence on the rest of the team. For Chelsea these leaders were Didier Drogba, Ashley Cole and Petr Cech (none is either captain or vice-captain on the team). They gave 100% every game, even when the team was supposed to be at its worst. They rose to the occasion in special ways each game. Identify your team members who take pride in speaking through their actions. Reward them accordingly, as you need them and they will come through for you at your hour of need!

2)    Team members who understand where the company has come from and the micro-culture within it can save a sinking ship. The interim manager, a former Chelsea player, brought the team together, with players responding due to the respect they afforded him having been in their shoes before. Do not underestimate the value that can be brought by people who have played a role in the past, especially in times of crisis. Don’t burn bridges with team members who leave, they may come in handy in the future when you most need them!

3)    Create your luck and ride it! Chelsea did so by implementing tactics to suit the players they had on the playing unit in a very disciplined and systematic fashion. Everyone in the team (manager, players, and staff) was on the proverbial same page all the way to the last and most important game of their season! They took advantage of any mistakes of omission or commission by the other team at every occasion. For this, they were crowned champs for the most prestigious trophy in Europe at club level, something they have failed having been to at least the semi-final stage six previous times when they were at their best!

4)    You are as strong as your weakest link. Clarity of purpose is essential to success even when failure is the assured result. Each member understanding their role and how their non-performance will result in sure failure for the whole is fundamental. This has to be set at the top, yet and most importantly it also has to be passed on to the team clearly. At Chelsea, the interim manager accomplished it by speaking to each player individually and ensured that each understood their role clearly as they strode toward the team’s end goal.

Let us know if you have any lessons from the most unlikely victory in the comments section.

GUEST POST: This article is a guest post to the KikScore blog from Eric Akunda who was moved to write this after he saw the victory by Chelsea and then saw the parallels to large companies, small businesses and startups!

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Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

The Fabric of a True Leader – My Takeaways from the Last 5+ Years

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

As many of the readers of this blog know, my day job has been at a large web services company over the last few years.  Today is my final day of juggling the absolutely exhausting schedule of a demanding full-time day job and simultaneous full nights and weekend entrepreneur with KikScore.  I am very excited for that, however, the only major downside really is I now have to find another excuse for why I am 10 pounds overweight, have no time to work out, am balding and have those dark circles under my eyes!

The substance of this post and the story that provides that substance has been years in the making. In short, this post is about the lessons I learned from an undeniable true leader, my former boss (who also left the company this past November).  Therefore this is a very personal and important post for me for two reasons: 1) to provide a way of saying thanks to him and 2) to share with the broader community some of the incredible traits that I hope we all strive for in leadership positions that we are in or may be in one day.  My tribute to him will only really be complete if I can embody and carry many of these same traits to KikScore and beyond in my career and not end up like the guy from the CareerBuilder ad (great song by the way from one of my all time favorite commercials)!

Instead of a long story, the best way to convey to readers what I experienced and learned first hand is by sharing the traits that he repeatedly demonstrated in his daily work and interactions with our team, management, board of directors, third parties, employees throughout the organization and even adversaries trying to sue the company.   The traits broadly broke down into four main areas:

1) Personality;

2) Management;

3) Strategy; and

4) Interaction with Others.

Just for some important context, I saw these traits and actions of this leader over the backdrop of more than 5 years, 4 different management teams (including 4 different CEOs) and 3 different owners that included two separate private equity firms.  His approach to leadership and managing his team instilled a tremendous amount of loyalty not just with me, but throughout the entire organization and especially with his ability to successfully manage through external crisis scenarios and heavy media scrutiny.  A testament to that is over the last few years there was not one person that had the overall and nearly universal respect of the multiple management teams, middle level management and employee base as well as scores of people outside of the company (even competitors too!) and in the community that consistently and repeatedly recognized and often commented on how phenomenal of a leader and person my former boss is.  The funny thing is I honestly think there are probably more than 20 people today across many of these organizations around the world that would write this very same post I am writing about him because our experiences with him have been so similar.

So based on my last 5+ years, the fabric of a true leader can best be described the following way:

A Leader’s Personality Matters

1) Be the person that sets the example and the standard for others

2) Remain calm during a crisis and when others are in various states of panic because that calmness helps everyone make better decisions

3) Keep everything in perspective, even when going through ups and downs as a company and team

4) Stick up for those people who do not have a voice, they will repay you with loyalty and even harder work

5) Be courageous and have the conviction to present a different opinion (just make sure to back it up with data and facts)

6) Steer clear of the politics for a decision and focus instead on what is the right decision for the business

7) Take the time to laugh and enjoy the moment – laughter can often diffuse the inevitable tense meetings and events that we all experience

A Leader Helps Create and Implement a Strategy

8 Work to create an overall mission/strategy that defines the role for yourself and the people you manage

9) Remain flexible and open minded in the tasks and roadmap needed to execute on the strategy

10) Always game plan so you think two and three steps ahead of decisions/actions taken so a team can adequately anticipate possible outcomes

11) Relentlessly focus on customers and employees for the overall strategy and the decisions that are made in executing on that strategy

A Leader Manages with Common Sense

12) Know the role that you have as the leader of a team and focus on consistently delivering in that role

13) As you manage and lead your team, work to ensure that the team clearly understands the strategy and mission that is to be accomplished and their individual roles in achieving the mission

14) Ask lots of questions, but do not second guess subject matter experts by replacing their recommendations with your own gut feelings

15) Learn to deflect praise to the team and team members

16) Actively promote the careers of deserving team members even if they end up having to leave your team

17) Communicate, communicate and then communicate some more with your team

A Leader Makes a World of Difference to Others Through Their Interactions

18) Set your own high standard for interacting with others and make sure you do not get drawn into reacting to other people’s behavior and negativity

19) Avoid unnecessary escalations where you need to “go over someone’s head” and instead give people the benefit of the doubt

20) Take the extra time to remove the attitude from communication and email – the attitude almost always is counterproductive to everyone involved

21) When in doubt, have a face to face conversation instead of trying resolve items over email, that hardly works

22) Be respectful of others’ workloads even when you are much busier than they are

23) Focus on the person that is talking to you, do not multitask and look at your email when they are asking you questions or talking to you

24) Encourage learning from failure and mistakes instead of pointing fingers

I could probably go on and on, especially with more than 5 years of material but then I would lose probably even more readers than I already have with this long post.  Ultimately, a person is perceived and recognized as a leader for a number of reasons often due to their own merit or in some instances just due to association with certain people in an organization.  This post is about laying out the path to do it on your own merit because that is what I saw first hand for the last few years with my former boss. I am forever better off for being part of a team that had a one of a kind leader that taught me (and many others on our team and beyond): that leaders succeed by standing up for a core set of values, working exceptionally hard, taking care of their people, and caring deeply about customers and fellow teammates.


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Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Top Ten Reasons Small Businesses Fail: part ten – Planning

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Planning

We find ourselves ending at the start: the Plan.

While many are aware of the need for a well-crafted business plan, few businesses of any size actually have completed one. There are several valid reasons: a thorough business plan is a complex document, requiring much more than expertise in tradecraft and knowledge of the potential market segment.

One- and five-year financial projections, competitor analysis, growth plans, best- and worst-case scenarios, – even an exit plan – are all part of a comprehensive business plan. Many Small Business entrepreneurs, especially in the current economy, have entered into their business ventures more from necessity than desire. Down-sizing and layoffs, it seems, create more Small Business than a burning desire to “go it alone” and brave the rigors of competition.

Yet as the saying goes, “failure to plan is planning to fail“. You may never have the time to draft a complete business plan – but then you’re probably not seeking a commercial loan or investors at this point. Still, there are steps you can take to give yourself a guide, to ensure that you’re operating on more than just “a wing and a prayer“.

SWOT analysis

This is a simple document – usually a page or two – though it may take some time to prepare. It is an acronym that stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats“. If you prepare no other document or plan, I urge you to prepare a SWOT analysis. Take a serious look at the business you’re in or are planning to start or enter into.

Strengths: What qualifies you? Seriously; it must be more than just “I got laid off“, or “I’ve always wanted to do XXX“. Are you REALLY qualified to pursue this line of work right now? If not, how quickly can you get yourself up to speed, and what would it take.??. I don’t ask this to discourage you, but ask you to consider the training, advice, mentoring and networking opportunites available that can enable you to answer this question positively.

But whatever you do, don’t operate blindly with a false sense of optimism: entering into a business venture without proper qualification can cost you more than you’re prepared to pay – in time, money and  reputation – and even expose you to litigation.

Weaknesses: This is the inverse of your qualifications. I’d actually focus on this first. You’re probably more aware of why you should enter into your chosen business than why you shouldn’t – after all, noone starts a business expecting to fail. Still, an accurate assessment of your deficiencies and shortcomings automatically maps out a course of action to enhance your skills, increase your knowledge and make up for whatever you determine you lack.

Opportunities: This may seem clear, but think beyond the obvious. If you’re creating custom clothing, might you have an opportunity to repair antique items as a side business? What partnership opportunites are there? Could you conduct a free course at a local college or community center, that would allow you to establish a reputation as a valuable local resource, demonstrate your skill… and discover potential clients in the process? Here is where thinkingoutside the box” is most important. Look beyond the surface, and think creatively — try to see things you wouldn’t ordinarily consider when dealing with just your core competencies.

Threats: Competitors. Lawsuits from upset customers. Negative online reviews. Disgruntled employees or partners damaging your reputation. Noone wants to dwell on these unpleasant things, but better to consider them in advance and prepare a strategy, than to be blind-sided and have an otherwise profitable business fail because of unanticipated threats to its existence.

There is also the Strategic Business Plan which, as its name implies, is a more focused document than a full-blown business plan. Where a comprehensive business plan is usually drafted when starting a business with, among other things, appealing to a bank or series of investors in mind, the strategic plan is devised for the business owner, and possible partners or employees, to map out the course of action for a few years.

It is everything from a mission statement to a declaration of intent — it says “this is who we are, why we’re here and what we’re doing“. It’s a good exercise to prepare it, and review every six months or so, to either revise it or simply to make sure you’re still on track with your original… plan of action.

Plan the work, and work the plan. That’s the fundamental key to success… or at least, a good way to avoid outright failure. And that’s been the purpose of this series – not to discourage you, but to point out some of the roadblocks, and help you chart a path over, around or through them.

Good luck to you all. And keep reading – there’s more good stuff to come, from Your Open Source CIO.


Series inspired by “Top Ten Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail” by: Connie Holt, E.A. cholt@henssler.com
The Henssler Financial Group Position Paper
© 2004 The Henssler Financial Group | www.henssler.com

Cornell Green is Your Open Source CIO, guest blogger for KikScore. Visit him at http://opensourcecio.blogspot.com

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Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Top Ten Reasons Small Businesses Fail, part nine: Closed Mind

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Closed Mind

It takes a lot of hard work, focus and persistence to launch a Small Business. Starting with an idea, and (perhaps) some skills, a plan is prepared, financing secured, details dealt with… and a business is born.

The problem is, in the time required to travel from concept to reality, too often Small Business enterpreneurs get stuck in the attitudes and assumptions adopted at the beginning of the journey.

Business plans and financial projections are usually developed long before the business is created. But during that time, demographics change, markets shift and economies worsen or improve. Since business plans and financial projections are rarely revisited (or consulted) during this period, Small Business entrepreneurs may find themselves operating based on inaccurate or outdated assumptions.

In addition… there are the basic human traits of pride and stubborness. Being confronted by the need to re-examine a business plan, or recalculate financial projections, there may be a tendency become defensive, resisting these suggestions, rejecting this well-intended advice as unwanted and unwarranted criticism.

It has often been said that success has a thousand parents, and failure is… umm, an orphan. While the expression implies that many people will take credit for a successful venture after the fact, in this case let us take it to mean that a successful Small Business entrepreneur will not hesitate to consult mentors, advisors and other experienced individuals to seek advice and guidance as they develop their venture from concept to reality.

Nearly every one you know may consider themselves experts on all manner of business-related topics, and even the few of them who actually are may be too familiar to you (or with you) for you to feel comfortable seeking their advice… or heeding their (many) unsolicited words of wisdom.

This doesn’t mean that you need to, or ought to, go it alone. There are many excellent sources of guidance and counsel – a few good places to start are listed below:

  1. SBA
  2. SCORE
  3. Local Business Networking groups


Small Business owners and operators, especially the “solopreneurs” and self-styled mavericks, will have a tendency toDo it My Way“, in the words of the classic tune. While this may seem like a good idea intuitively, if you find yourself struggling to break even after more than a few years, the facts clearly indicate otherwise.

Don’t be afraid to seek advice. It doesn’t mean you’re wrong, or that you’ve failed. If we each knew all the answers, the economy wouldn’t have crashed in ’08, and I wouldn’t be writing this blog post. The fact is, half of all Small Business startups will fail within their first two years.

You obviously don’t want Your Small Business to fall within that statistic. So, as much as it may bruise your pride, remember to keep an open mind… or you may soon be faced with closing shop for the last time


Series inspired by “Top Ten Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail” by: Connie Holt, E.A. cholt@henssler.com
The Henssler Financial Group Position Paper
© 2004 The Henssler Financial Group | www.henssler.com

Cornell Green is Your Open Source CIO, guest blogger for KikScore. Visit him at http://opensourcecio.blogspot.com

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Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Followup – RE: Top Ten Reasons Small Businesses Fail, part eight: Cash Flow

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

A business (also known as enterprise or firm) is an organization engaged in the trade of goods, services, or both to consumers.[1] Businesses are predominant in capitalist economies, where most of them are privately owned and administered to earn profit to increase the wealth of their owners (emphasis mine). Businesses may also be not-for-profit or state-owned. A business owned by multiple individuals may be referred to as a company, although that term also has a more precise meaning.

The definition in the preceding paragraph, from Wikipedia, is a clear and precise explanation of what is meant when one discusses the term business in the context of American economics.  My previous post, “Top Ten Reasons Small Businesses Fail, part eight: Cash Flow“, provoked more response than any other post I have presented for the KikScore blog site.  Several comments implied a lack of understanding of what “business is about” on my part.

I presents the Wikipedia definition not so much to defend myself as to clarify what I mean when I use the term “business”.  It’s seems to me that my several critics, with the best of intentions, are confusing “business” with “vocation“, at least in the context of this discussion. This is easily done, and the confusion is most likely at the root of why many consider it distasteful (of me) to imply that they must pursue their vocation solely for the purpose of making money.

According to Dictionary.com, “vocation” is defined as “a particular occupation, business, or profession; a calling; or a strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career.”  These are all valid definitions; I consider what I do for a living, providing computer support for solo entrepreneurs and small businesses indeed to be my “calling”, something I do for reasons well beyond simply making money.

But make no mistake: having said that, if I don’t make money, I will very quickly have to find something else to do, or I will be broke, bereft and bankrupt.  No amount of altruism, good intentions, or heartfelt desire to save the world makes any difference to my landlord, my cell phone provider, Uncle Sam or any of my other debtorsMy best wishes for the world are not providing for my impending retirement – only the money I make does that.  This is a distinction that appears to have been lost to my detractors, who clearly misunderstood my opening statement in my previous post as meaning that nothing is more important than making money.

If that is the case, let me state publicly that this is not what I meant.  I was merely stating a simple fact – businesses exist to make money.  This is not why we WHAT we do for business; in fact, if we are wise, we choose to do something we’re both good at and that we enjoyed doing.  But the third, and most often overlooked, criteria in this consideration is that we must choose something that we will be paid to do.  And, hopefully, paid well.  The annals of American business are rife with the husks and carcasses of enterprises founded by those who fail to understand that businesses are about making money.

Wall Street forgot this; thus came the crash of 2008.  Sound business principles were abandoned in a blind pursuit to keep up with the Joneses and chase the hottest fads and trends rather than do what they knew they should have been doing, which was to invest wisely with an eye on long range profitability and stabilityLehman Brothers, the company were I began my IT career, no longer exists because, despite their place as not only a major Wall Street firm but a source of guidance and leadership via the Lehman Brothers index, they took their eyes off the prize and bankrupted a star in the Wall Street firmament that was over 100 years old.

Let the serve as a cautionary tale to those new businesses, or even existing ones, who imagine that they are in business for purposes other than reaping a profitWHY you are in business is not the same as WHAT you are in business for.  I hope that you enjoy what you do; I highly stressed that you do what you do with the utmost integrity and respect for your customers and clientsNothing less will yield profitable results.

At the end of the day, however, profit is what you are in business for.  And that is why I posted an article about managing your cash flow, and the importance of getting beyond the emotional inhibitors which may cause you to ignore or avoid the importance of managing your money.  The warm fuzzy feeling you get at the end of the day, having done a job well done, provides many things.  But if it doesn’t add up to an increase in your bank balance, when that feeling fades, you’ll have nothing left to show for it.  And sooner or later, you either will have to focus on profit, or you will go out of business.

And that’s not my opinion – that is a simple equation, and a statement of fact.


Cornell Green is Your Open Source CIO, guest blogger for KikScore. Visit him at http://opensourcecio.blogspot.com

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Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Facebook and Twitter: Parallels and What Can SmallBiz Learn From Them?

Monday, April 18th, 2011

According to Cnet, Twitter is disorganized. Now I’m not entirely sure the article is true, but I figured that I could trust Cnet and since they included a link to a Fortune article it looks like it checks out. So, what’s going on with Twitter? Some claim they don’t, exactly, know what they’re doing. There’s a lot of speculation going on, such as some higher-ups spying. Cnet seems to speculate that Twitter is trying to emulate  The Social Network. That’s probably not the case. So, what’s really going on with Twitter?

So, Twitter has trouble amongst the higher ups. That’s not surprising. Many startups seem to have that happen especially during a meteoric rise. Remember Facebook? There was some serious chaos going on at Facebook a couple of years ago and Facebook was about the same age as Twitter is now.

However, the difference between Facebook and Twitter is that some argue that Twitter lacks a powerful visionary heading the company. Facebook has Zuckerberg, who, practically, built Facebook according to his vision.  Observers claim that Twitter does not have that. Facebook has apparently learned from it’s mistakes and has become a stronger company. Twitter is trying to get there, but some may be fearing that it doesn’t look like anyone wants to take charge.  In some ways, Twitter’s investors seem to have more influence over what the company does.

Twitter’s problem seems to be that there are too many men (they’re all male) in positions of power and from the outside at least not a single one of them has been willing to take charge. There are other issues that Twitter has to deal with too, such as the need to sustain growth, prove themselves as a sustainable revenue generating company etc. However, these issues are common for nearly every young company.

Is Twitter a service that is being kept afloat by a trend?  From the outside some say it looks pretty unstable and this management issue could distract it further. Like any company, Twitter needs practical and strong leadership. However, whoever takes that position will have to deal with another problem: balancing Twitter’s malleability, where it’s users decide what they want to do with it and what Twitter’s users want out of Twitter.  That will ultimately prove whether Twitter can succeed.

So, what can a small business learn from all of this?

First, that it’s important to have a clear plan and vision of where your company is going.

Second, make sure that there is someone who is clearly in charge and providing leadership as we discussed in a previous post about 10 leadership traits in a startup or small business.

Third, know that problems will happen. Almost nothing goes smoothly when running a business. Factor that in when making plans.

Lastly, in tough times work to pull teams together to focus on the future rather than start finger pointing about what happened in the past.  Here is a prior post we did on building the right team at a startup that discusses the importance of having a good team at your business.

What do you think about all of this?

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7 Questions A Small Business or Startup Should Ask Themselves Every Day

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

I like to talk.  I like to talk alot, especially when I have had a few really good margaritas.  And my wife, my family and friends can all attest to that fact.  That is all except for where I may have had too much to drink and then I have an uncanny tendency to just fall asleep in mid-sentence sometimes even at a restaurant booth (reference multiple experiences in Columbus, Ohio eating a Barnyard Buster and in Washington DC eating a jumbo slice at Pizza Mart).

Anyway so what is my point?  Talking is not as good as everyone makes it seem for business.  Instead asking questions is much more important.  It really did not dawn on me, however, until I was reflecting back on conversations with mentors, business partners, and our own team that you really should be asking critical questions about your business almost on a daily basis.  Those questions can help uncover critical gaps in strategy, planning and execution for your startup or small business.  If you ask these questions, then you can increase your chances of addressing these gaps.

So here are a few questions that may help you with your business:

1. Distractions. Are you focusing your efforts on the right tasks for your business and avoiding distractions that take you away from meeting your overall goals?

We all know how bad distractions can be in business.  Distractions can be one of the biggest impediments to building momentum for your business. The trick here is to make sure your business and your team is focused on what will move the business forward by continually weeding out distractions.

2. Customer Satisfaction. Are you doing everything to make your customers’ lives easier in some way through either using your product/service or helping educate them?

If your customers are not happy, then it will be nearly impossible to grow your business.  So in everything you do you need to make sure the goal of the task is that you are helping your customers in some way.  If not, then you should seriously consider abandoning those tasks that do not relate to helping current or potential customers.

3. Customer Value. How can you give your customers more reasons to keep buying from your business and not your competition?

Your customers are likely being bombarded by your competitors with tempting offers and reasons to buy from them instead of you.  So you have to be relentless in making sure you give your customers reasons to remain loyal to you.  Without investing the time to create that customer loyalty, your business will always be at risk of churning valuable customers to your competitors.

4. Facilitating Word of Mouth Marketing. How can you get more customers to refer their friends and contacts to use your product/service?

Word of Mouth Marketing is free.  So all it costs you is the time and effort to give the customer a great experience, but also the means for that customer to spread the word about your business and the product/service that they love.  So always be thinking about how can you arm your customers with information about your business value that you can provide the market.  The best way to do that (and least selfish) is making sure the customer knows the value you have created for them.  They can then go and spread the word for you!

5. Building Trust. Are you doing everything possible to ensure that your customers have confidence in your business, product or service and believe that you are reliable.

Customers know small businesses and startups come and go.  There is a reason why buyers tend to prefer larger and more established brands.  So one way to distinguish yourself is to make sure that everything that you do for your customers and for the public is viewed through the lens that you are trustworthy, reliable and your business delivers on its promises.  That track record of delivering will help generate trust in your business.  Heck, after all that is what KikScore was based on – allowing small businesses to show the world their track record of reliability and trustworthiness!

6. Your Team. Do you have the right team to succeed and grow your business and if not, should you bring in a new employee or a freelancer?

Businesses and startups can be just like my beloved Cleveland Browns.  The Browns team has been terrible since 1999.  Bad teams means lots of losses.  So learn from the Browns and be like this year’s Packers (Collins will like this reference). The Packers built a great team, loaded it up with depth and even got people off the streets in some instances to fill in when key players were injured.  The New Orleans Saints did the same last year on their way to winning a Super Bowl.  As you evaluate your team, make sure you have depth, solid performers and cut the freeloaders as they are a drag on morale and overall team dynamics.  Once you eliminate the underperformers then decide if you need a new employee or perhaps a freelancers that can step in and augment your existing team.

7. Your Money. What are areas of your business that you can manage your costs better?

Always be reviewing where your money is going.  Even though it is sometimes easy to just say well those costs are ones that I can’t really control and I just have to suck it up and pay for them. NO!  Call up that vendor and see what discounts that they can give you.  Threaten to leave and go to their competitor. Also there may be particular functions at your small business or startup that you can get experts to help with instead of you having to spend extensive time on your own.  Time is money so the value of your time may very well be better spent on your core business of serving your customers then performing back office functions or doing things like managing a marketing campaign.

These are just some of the questions that each small business or startup should be asking themselves.  But just like too much talking, too many questions can send you down a spiral of too much analysis and confusion.  Keep your daily self-analysis of your business to certain key questions that are fundamental to your business and watch and see if your perspective and approach changes.

What questions would you ask?

Photo from Flickr user Marco Bellucci, CC 2.0.

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Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Are you on the right journey for yourself and your business? A Must Watch Video

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

If you have not heard about Dr. Srikumar Rao, he is a well known professor and speaker on business, management, professional development and personal enrichment.  He has given a number of great talks including a recent one at the TED conference that can be seen here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).   The above one is from a talk he gave at Google in 2008.

The reason you should watch this video: it is really a transformational type of video that asks critical and important questions about the journey you, your business, your career and your life is on.  While the video is a little over 45 minutes, it is well worth it.  My wife and I watched it on Sunday.  We highly recommend it to our friends, family and the community.  You will not regret taking the time to watch it.

After you watch it, please tell us what you think.

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