Building an Engaging Corporate Culture Starts with Clarifying Your Vision, Values and Mission

How important is it to clarify your vision, values and mission? If you’re struggling to answer that question, consider the fact that Harvard Business Review reports that corporate culture has more impact on revenue and profit than either strategy or structure (Daft, 2007). In other words, if you want to build an engaging corporate culture that drives business success, it’s critical to take the time to clarify your vision, values and mission so that your employees are clear about what your company stands for and how they can help the company achieve its goals.

The need for an engaging corporate culture

In today’s corporate landscape it is extremely important for leaders to create a clear vision for their company. A clear vision guides your employees in making daily decisions that are aligned with your overall goals. An engaging corporate culture can be created through transparent communication of your company’s vision and values at all levels. By doing so, you build a culture in which employees are engaged and motivated by their passion to make positive impacts on your business. Employees who feel valued and appreciated will be more likely to stay longer, work harder and produce better results. To start building an engaging corporate culture: Define your company’s vision, values and mission statement; clearly communicate these statements to every employee; ensure each employee knows how his or her role contributes to achieving these statements; hold regular meetings with employees where they can ask questions about what these statements mean; encourage open dialogue between management and staff members about how best to achieve stated goals; celebrate achievements regularly.

The importance of clarifying vision

When it comes to building a workplace culture, most leaders will tell you that vision is crucial. The problem is that most of us aren’t exactly sure what they mean by vision. That’s because we confuse vision with specific goals or objectives. A vision statement is not something that can be easily quantified. It’s more than just setting goals; it’s about defining your organization’s core values—what makes your company unique and worth investing in? What do you stand for? How do you want people to feel when they interact with your brand? Without these answers, how can you possibly build a strong corporate culture?

What are your shared vision, values and mission?

The most effective way to drive engagement is by creating a corporate culture that is emotionally intelligent. A great first step in developing such a culture is by articulating your vision, values and mission as clearly as possible. For example, if you want employees to be innovative, then make sure you define what innovative means for your organization. If you want employees to be passionate about their work, then make sure you articulate what it means for them to be passionate about their work. If you want employees to have fun at work (and who doesn’t?), then make sure they know how they can have fun at work—and hold them accountable for doing so!

How do we communicate the three things?

When you think about how you are going to communicate your vision, values and mission to your employees it is critical that you start thinking about one thing – Why? If we want employees who care about our company’s vision, values and mission then they have to be able to connect emotionally to them. That means they need to be able clearly understand why these things matter. Without understanding why these three things matter at a personal level we risk creating engagement challenges down line.

The importance of effective communication tools

Ineffective communication often comes down to ineffective technology. If your company is using convoluted software that doesn’t allow for real-time collaboration, it’s a major inhibitor to building stronger bonds in your organization. Start by communicating effectively internally (between employees) before tackling external communication (with clients). Remember: You can only have strong relationships outside of your organization if you have a strong culture inside of it. So don’t be afraid to spend time on internal communications first.

Tips on being emotionally intelligent as a leader

Emotionally intelligent leaders focus on managing their own emotions first before working on managing other people’s. This means making time for introspection, being cognizant of your feelings and reflecting on what you are feeling versus just reacting to whatever is thrown at you. It also means learning how to harness your natural emotions like empathy, confidence and passion so that you can use them as a strength when dealing with other people in professional settings.

The value of having emotional intelligence in everyone else in the company

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a widely used term in management today, but many people are still confused about what it means. In short, emotional intelligence is your ability to understand your own emotions and those of others. High EI allows you to read how others feel through their facial expressions or body language; it also gives you a deeper understanding of group dynamics. By being aware of such things as these, you can more easily build rapport with colleagues on any level of your company.

Strong Leadership Requires All Your Emotional Intelligence

Everyone seems to have an opinion on how to lead well, but few people have studied the question as scientifically as Harvard psychology professor Daniel Goleman has.

Goleman fathered the theory of emotional intelligence, and in his research of more than 3,000 business executives he finds a clear correlation between leadership and emotional intelligence.

You can’t be a good leader if you are emotionally unintelligent. That doesn’t mean you must be a “nice” person; just that you must understand yourself and others. Demagogues can be effective, at least in the short term, because they understand how to manipulate people.

Emotional intelligence, if you recall, is how well you function emotionally with yourself (self-regulation and self-awareness) and with others (motivation, empathy and social skills). The theory broke new ground in its recognition that being smart is about more than doing well on tests.

This is a powerful insight for any size of company that has employees. Integrating this information can make you incredibly effective.

Golf clubs in your bag of tricks

I value Goleman’s theory of leadership because it recognizes that there are different, equally valid, styles of leadership within the same leader. The title of his Harvard Business Review article sums it up: “Leadership That Gets Results.” He focuses on what works.

These leadership styles Goleman likens to golf clubs in a bag that are useful for different terrain. Most leaders only have one or two styles. But you need more than that. When you try to use the wrong style for a situation that calls for something else, you miss the mark (or should we say, the hole).

Goleman’s six styles in a nutshell:

  1. Coercive – Do what I tell you
  2. Authoritative – Come with me
  3. Affiliative – People come first
  4. Democratic – What do you think?
  5. Pace-setting – Do as I do, now
  6. Coaching – Try this

What varies are the people with and the situations in which the styles are used. Knowing when to deploy them is key.

When negative is effective

It’s interesting that in Goleman’s research the authoritative style is the most effective, yet he considers that and “pace-setting” to be negative styles to be used sparingly. Relying on one style exclusively means that you will fail when that style is not helpful.

Crisis, for example, demands that someone make authoritative, often unilateral, decisions. That’s why boards will bring in “turnaround specialists” when a company is on the precipice. If you have too much of a democratic or affiliative style, you’ll flounder in a crisis. Recognize what kind of leadership is needed and work to provide it.

When you are lacking in a leadership style

Try to work on the underlying emotional intelligence so that you have more than one club in your bag. The affiliative and coaching styles emphasize empathy and relationship building. Without those, you will probably have high turnover in your organization.

You can work on those styles by communicating with your employees more about what matters to them. Ask questions and really listen. Look for ways to develop the potential in each person.

The best leaders know how to get both loyalty and high performance out of their teams.

Did any of these styles resonate with you? I’d love to talk to you about how you can lead your team to greatness.

Spring Is Made Possible By the Death of Winter

Whether or not you observe Lent, the 40-day season between Ash Wednesday and Easter, you can understand the profound reality of life that it represents. Lent, from a word meaning “spring,” is a celebration of death and resurrection.

To get through a difficult and painful situation, our first instinct is to deny it’s happening, and to resist dealing with it.

But without winter, we can’t have spring. Without darkness, light can’t shine through. We cannot, as business people and as humans, avoid all darkness. It’s an inevitable fact of life.

The best strategy is to embrace the darkness.

Coral Castle

Too many horses spoil the city

The largest city in the world in 1894 was drowning in manure. Literally.

More than 50,000 horses transported people and goods around London each day. Imagine for a second: A horse can produce between 15-35 pounds of manure per day. Add to that urine, disease and putrefying equine carcasses on the streets.

The ‘Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894’ seemed to have no solution. The best minds weighed in, but the problem was only getting worse.

We know what happened next. Henry Ford.

Horse drawn buses were replaced by buses and electric trams. The manure crisis was over.

Something has to die whether we like it or not

If you asked the horse and buggy drivers to choose cars, they’d have resisted, as coal miners today are resisting the inevitable death of their industry. But we can’t keep the problem alive and still have it solved.

Embracing the darkness helps us transcend the problem.

When we spy a problem on the horizon, we can pretend it’s not coming toward us for only so long. Netflix saw digital streaming in time to change its business model. Blockbuster did not. Uber knows driverless cars are the future and so it is developing one, in a race against Google. It is embracing the darkness by developing a Plan B.

Marketing expert Seth Godin says when we are in a “dip,” we are smart to quit when there is no way forward. That frees us to go in a different direction.

And sometimes there is no way to pivot so if we want to survive we must move forward and endure the consequences.

‘Why me?’ is a waste of time

When a challenge comes our way, we have a choice: Lamenting “why me?” or making peace with reality. The only way past a problem is often through the heart of it. The more you try to walk around something, the more tired you get. It’s easier and faster to just face it head on.

Death is a change that we cannot avoid. I like to think that death itself does not exist, that in fact we simply change form.

The paradox of transcendence is when we finally let go of something we think is indispensable, that our lives would be meaningless without, can be when we find the solution that we could never see before. The thing you resist can also be, miraculously, the thing that saves you, by bringing light into the situation.

It can be the time when we find ourselves.

Whatever problem you have, somebody else has solved it already. Sometimes you spend a great deal of time trying to reinvent the wheel when it’s already being produced.

Consider the message of Lent

Returning to the Lenten theme, Jesus’ followers were in despair when he said he was leaving them. They argued and pleaded with him not to go. When he died, they thought that was the end of his teachings. But as we now know, Jesus’ influence has changed the world.

And if you believe in the story of resurrection, his followers did get to see Jesus again, in a restored, perfect state. If you don’t, consider it simply an allegory.

Sacrifice yourself for something greater, whether in your spiritual life or for a dream of building something on earth, and you will find yourself. That truth is eternal.

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Getting Things Done By Learning One New Habit

At Alcoa, a gigantic company that produces aluminum, a new CEO was faced with turning the company around years ago and decided that improving safety was the answer. Wall Street, ever conservative in its approach to change, reacted to this unconventional approach by punishing the stock.

Can you predict what happened?

CEO Paul O’Neill had decided to change what Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, calls a “keystone habit.” This he defines as a habit that is so important that by changing it, one sets up a chain reaction that affects everything else one is doing. Companies and people both have habits, also called routines.

These things happen without our even thinking about it. Consider your routine when you get to work in the morning—showering, dressing, eating, coffee, driving, checking email, etc.

It can be an hour before you even make a conscious decision.

A small win can lead to big changes

If you struggle to finish tasks, it is probably because you have habits that are not helping you. Such as checking your email every five minutes. What you need is a keystone habit that will give you a small win, Duhigg explains. That little boost will keep paying off in other ways.

Exercise, for example, is a positive keystone habit. At Alcoa, the keystone habit that the CEO wanted to instill was to put safety first.

His goal: Zero accidents. He told his workers that he wanted Alcoa to be “the safest company in America.” Pretty ambitious, but not impossible.

Focusing everyone around this directive worked. It created a ripple effect where other positive changes followed, such as employees and managers working together to redesign processes to ensure worker safety. In a year, the company’s profits rocketed and, when he retired 13 years later O’Neill had raised the company’s income by 400 percent.

Just trying harder is the definition of insanity

How does this relate to getting things done? Most of us are highly distracted and have trouble staying on task. We tell ourselves we just need to try harder, but that doesn’t work.

A more fundamental change is necessary.

The main obstacles to productivity, in my opinion, are:

  • The inability to focus
  • Not identifying one’s mission and thus getting lost in the weeds

They are related, of course. Many business owners make the mistake of starting too many things and not finishing any. It’s tough to bring ideas to port.

A simple test that can change the way you approach your business

Here’s how to get on the right track. First, identify your mission. Then make a habit of checking everything you do against it:

Is it aligned with my mission?

If not, don’t do it.

Is it mission-critical?

If not, delegate or outsource.

If it meets the test, then: Make a note, but then schedule time to work on it. Ask yourself when you want it done by. Write down the steps and then do them.

Want more mission-critical tips? I tell a story elsewhere on this blog about an Iraq ship commander and how this worked for him. Learn five tips for staying mission-critical.

Do you have trouble distinguishing mission critical tasks and struggle to get things done? CHB can help you overcome these obstacles. Contact Claude today.

5 Tips To Become a Mission Critical Organization

The USS Benfold was the most technically advanced ship in the world, yet not coming close to its full potential.

Commander Mike Abrashoff turned things around by changing the culture of the organization. He interviewed each crew member to see what was working. He separated tasks into mission critical and “non-value added.”

This distinction, which nobody else had thought to do, proved to be enlightening.

Rust was not just an eyesore

For example, Abrashoff learned form the crew that all the ship’s hardware was ferrous metal, which rusts in salt water. When procurement didn’t have stainless steel bolts, the commander persisted. He had the crew buy up every single bolt they could find at home improvement stores, and hired a firm to finish the ship’s hardware with a rust-inhibiting process that made the paint job good for 30 years.

Why did the commander care so much about the paint job?

Abrashoff saw that his crew was spending entire days sanding and re-painting the ship, which was both a morale-killer and time waster. His talent was to figure out what was obstructing high performance, and to laser in on a solution, even if it meant bypassing conventional channels to get it done.

He attributed the crew’s high readiness to having more time to learn their jobs. The ship not only won a prestigious military award, but enjoyed a 100 percent retention rate for its sailors, vs. a 54 percent rate for other crews.

Pretty good for a ship that was deployed in the Persian Gulf during the Iraq war.

How does this apply to your business?

Think about your company’s mission. What is essential to the mission and what is not? Small problems may seem insignificant, but not if they interfere with the mission. In this case, painting the ship was not essential to the mission, so Abrashoff saw that it needed to be minimized, whatever it took.

In business, value-adding activities are the most important.

Five tips for staying mission critical:

  1. Divide tasks into A and B lists depending upon whether the task is related to the mission of the company—the source of your revenue.
  2. If it’s not mission critical: delegate, eliminate or automate.
  3. Train employees to perform mission-critical tasks.
  4. Set up systems to simplify non-mission critical tasks such as bookkeeping, payroll and benefits, collections.
  5. Do everything you can to maximize your cash flow, such as billing on time. Letting this go hurts your bottom line and your credibility.

Remember that today, it’s not enough to be cheaper and better, you must be cheaper, better and faster.

Are you unsure how to identify and separate mission critical tasks in your organization? Comment or contact us directly at CHB Associates to see if coaching can help you get back on course.

Six Reasons You Do Not Ever Need to Hire a Business Coach

See if any items on this list apply to you:

  1. My business is exactly where I want it to be. I have enough clients, and the work is the type of work I want to do. Even if it is not yet where I want it to be, I know just what I need to do to get it there.
  2. My family and close friends have all the answers to my questions and don’t have any conflicts of interest or time constraints in their lives. They feel free to give me impartial, honest feedback about my business without it affecting our relationship. I have made myself accountable to all of them and I feel comfortable divulging all the details about my business.
  3. I have a stack of reports on my desk from consultants that tells me everything I need to know about my business. After they provide feedback, the consultants are continuously available to help me implement their solutions. Even if consultants have not helped me at all, I don’t think coaching can do any better.
  4. I have an MBA, so what can a coach possibly teach me? I’ve always excelled so there is no reason I won’t succeed at this. I will beat the odds by myself. Coaches are for indecisive people who cannot solve their own problems and need somebody to tell them what to do.
  5. I don’t need therapy, and I don’t want to talk about that stuff anyway. I’m happy and functioning well in my personal life. I just need more time to get my business off the ground.
  6. It’s not that important to me to be successful. I don’t have the time that it would take to change things so I’ll live with it. Change takes too long and is too disruptive.

So how did you do? If these apply to you, you do not need to read on. Several of these statements, however, are based upon misconceptions about what business coaching is and what it does.

I don’t know many individuals and businesses who cannot derive benefit from business coaching, including presidents and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. It’s not a mark of failure or indecision; it’s an indication that you have high standards for excellence. Athletes have coaches. In corporate America, Forbes magazine estimates that more than $1 billion annually is spent on executive coaches.

A very common misconception is to assume that business coaching is simply a new name for something else, such as therapy, personal coaching, consulting or business education. Coaching is similar yet very different from each of these.

A coach does not help you to resolve your personal problems or traumas. The purpose of coaching is to help you improve your business performance, which is why it differs from life coaching or therapy. Therapists help you heal; coaches help you excel.

Although coaches may provide information, they do not teach you the basics of business or your industry. They assume you already are competent. Coaching takes a functioning person to higher levels of success. Coaching is not analogous to business school or getting any kind of degree. It’s not about obtaining a body of knowledge; it’s more about gaining hands-on skills for applying your prior knowledge to reaching your professional goals.

Coaches also are not there to give directives or make your decisions for you. They are guides and objective observers who work alongside you to define and implement a clearer path to your mission and goals.

If you commit to it, business coaching can take you from functioning to excelling.

Are you thinking coaching may be helpful? Comment or contact us directly at CHB Associates, LLC to discuss your options.

The 4-letter Word that Will Catapult Your Career: GRIT

The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses — behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.

–Muhammad Ali

The great boxer understood something about life that many of us don’t want to believe.

We like to think that stars are born, not made. But the thing that’s truly required to be “the greatest,” or a long-term success, is grit.

That’s why I’ll be at Brookdale College on June 22nd, to explain “The Power of Grit! 5 Steps to a Fulfilling Career: Whether You Are Just Starting Out or Mid-career.”

How can having grit help you in your career?

Often business owners give up on their goals because everything they try isn’t a roaring success. You cannot lose hope when something isn’t working or when something that worked in the past stops working.

After not getting a response after a sales presentation or email, gritty entrepreneurs don’t say, “Well, I guess they’re just not interested.” They don’t presume to know why they didn’t get a call back and they don’t tell themselves negative stories about what happened. They press on, harder if necessary, or by taking a different tack.

Ali knew that his raw talent alone wasn’t enough to keep him at the top forever. After he had lost some of his legendary speed because of age, he tried something else—he simply wore his opponents down in the ring. It was brutal on his body, but it worked.

Those with grit understand that people are busy and what they offer is probably not the first thing on their prospects’ minds. They realize that a rejection or lack of initial interest may not be related the quality of their offering or anything about them personally. A rejection is only the beginning of a conversation in many sales processes.

Most business owners, like athletes, have enough knowledge and ability to perform well. But most will stop short of excellence. Most will throw in the towel too soon, thinking that is the best they can do. Gritty people are not deterred by failure or the threat of it.

Often it’s when there is no other option that the effect of grit is felt, such as in war. Twenty years ago, I can remember that a strike on the west coast of paper suppliers was hurting my company’s ability to keep the presses running.

We needed to move paper from the east coast to the west, which required concerted pushing, negotiating and constant uncertainty. As head of procurement, this fell to me. Because I did not have a choice—losing was not an option—my goal was clear.

This kind of clarity of goals is needed in your day-to-day life as a business owner, not just in emergencies, because your livelihood is at stake. Grit without goals is just running in circles.

Clear goals are a key component of success. Another key element is to be around others with grit. We become like the people we associate with.

Selling is a long game, and being in business is a long game. Grit will get you through to the end.

At Brookdale, which is open to the public at no charge, I’ll explain what you must do to increase grit, whether you are starting out or mid-career.

I hope to see you there.

Do you want to learn more from an experienced coach and consultant about specific ways you can apply these insights to your particular situation? Contact Claude Blanc for more information at 732-995-3242.

Systemize Your Business This Year

Could this be you?

You’re a star developer whose mission is to create a game-changing software platform. You start to grow by selling some apps you’ve developed, and you hire junior level developers. 

Your bookkeeping becomes more complicated with employees and a payroll. You’re a smart person and you know you can handle it. Your networking brings you more accounts.

So far so good.

Life Gets Complicated

Tax time is a nightmare because you have so much to learn. A tax law change consumes your time and you stop going to conferences for a few months, but you plan to have it under control soon. Your bookkeeping workload is exploding, because, thankfully, business keeps coming in. You promote your best employee to manage the projects and people you no longer have time for. Your spouse and children complain that you are never home.

When you get back to developing, you discover nothing has been done the way you had planned. You didn’t standardize the process, because you assumed everyone would understand what you wanted. To keep the staff busy, your senior developer has taken on a slew of small projects that aren’t even related to the core business.

Worst of all, progress on your big idea has stopped. Your best person is too busy managing the day-to-day and you don’t have time either. Tasks are being duplicated, and other things are not getting done at all because you have no systems set up.

Many organizations, large or small, wait too long to systemize their operations. This hurts the bottom line as well as morale.

A major corporation will often wait until it starts having serious problems before digging into the job of centralizing and standardizing its many departments, who are typically duplicating efforts across those departments, resulting in bottlenecks and slowdowns.

By the time management tackles this, it’s become painful and costly to change. But the price of not changing is even higher, so it must be done.

It also happens to startups with as few as one person. That overworked person, as in my example above, tends to wear too many hats and try to accomplish too many things that aren’t mission critical.

Money is tight, and it seems less expensive to do everything in-house. But it’s actually not.

Not Investing in Your Business Is An Expensive Short Term Strategy 

When the owner above looked at the first half of the year, he realized, to his horror, that he’d made 20 percent less during tax time. He had skipped conferences where he had previously made valuable contacts, nor was he following up with less recent contacts, who had moved on.

If you are the best person to be drumming up business, you should be out on the front lines, but not all the time. Not so much that the mission—in this case, developing software—is being run by employees who don’t have the knowledge or training to manage it. 

In this case, the owner needed to manage the team, or else train and delegate it carefully. Some of the lead generation could have been handled by a salesperson or marketing, leaving him to close the deals. And there’s no question he does not need to be handling payroll or taxes. 

The owner has made what I call the “critical mistakes” of business owners, which I warn audiences about because they are so common and they do so much damage:

  • Suffer from “it’s easier to do it myself” syndrome.
  • Don’t understand the importance of systemizing and what that really means.

Both of these can only be successful in the short-term, but eventually, you will burn out or be unable to expand because you are just doing too much. Heed my advice and invest in your business by hiring and delegating to specialists, and systemize your operations in any way you can.

The longer you wait, the harder it will be. You value your autonomy in the beginning, but full autonomy has a price. Being a lone wolf is inefficient. Remember the reason why you started the company in the first place.

A clear mission and vision will guide you.

Have you felt out of control of your own organization because you’re trying to do it all? Comment or contact us directly at CHB Associates to learn more about systemizing.

Networking Not Working? Try These 4 Strategies to Make the Right Connections

Business networking meetings can be a superb way to exchange leads and meet potential customers, and many business people have struck gold while networking. Lasting human connections can be made.

On the other hand, some people perceive networking in a negative light, as a waste of time and resources, like trying to pick up corn after a bunch of chickens.

It doesn’t have to be if you pick the right groups, are strategic, and If you have thought about attending networking events, here are four suggestions for selecting and effectively utilizing networking to open personal and professional doors.

 1. How to Select a Business Network to Join

Networks are different. Some create casual social contacts, some are more formal and some are service-oriented. Seeking new clients for financial advisement is very different from soliciting businesses to contribute to a breast cancer run. What kind of group is it? Is it heavy on financial planners? Are services replicated within that one group?

Certain industries and professions are over-represented within network groups, thus some must be under-represented too, and this can be your opening. Additionally, get answers to some specific questions about the group. How long has it been in existence? How many members are there? What professional affiliations, domestic and international, does it have? How are meetings structured? How is an agenda created? What is the cost of membership? What do members say? Getting testimonials is important. Visit as many as you can and get answers.

 2. What to Do While At Networking Events

Almost all network gatherings will have an informal social time prior to a presentation, or some kind of icebreaker like elevator pitches that you should prepare for. To make the most of this “meet and greet,” scan the guest list where possible. Look for people you know and also anyone you’d like to meet.

When conversing, it is urgent to show interest in what’s going on in the other person’s business. This is the only way to gain clients, by getting to know their businesses and the specific problems they face on a daily basis. How else can you design solutions without an intimate knowledge of what they need?

3. Don’t Try to Talk to Everyone, But Make a Positive Impression

Even if you don’t anticipate a particular person becoming a client, or vice versa, you never know when someone may be asked for a referral. If you only talk about yourself and show no interest in being of value to other people, they probably will be unlikely to refer you to their friends and colleagues who may be good prospects for you.

It is also best to minimize conversations about family and health problems. While these are huge components of our lives, these conversations could eat up the time you are there. Your goal is to go home with a few business cards, not to work the room and collect cards like poker chips. Ideally, you will meet at least one person who you will want to get to know better for a “one-to one” at a later time. Come up with a system for dealing with the cards you receive. There are a variety of smartphone apps that allow you to photograph business cards, which are then stored in a searchable archive. No more stacks of cards to sift through!

4. Maximizing the One-to-One

At or after networking meetings, try to arrange meetings with others you are interested in. Within ten days is best. The local coffee shop is a safe and pleasant setting, but you may prefer other venues. This one-to-one is where you build trust with the person and share and receive more information about your businesses.

Think of the process as “know, like and trust.” Let them tell their story first so that you can look at their style. Again, search out common ground upon which you share business problems and potential solutions. Similarly avoid long discussions of children, spouses and health problems. This is best left to other settings other than this valuable one-to-one time. If the other person delves into these areas, gently steer the conversation back to the common ground of your businesses. You do not have to make something happen during this meeting, but if you sense the other person is interested in learning more, you can move to the next step. More about this in our next post.

 Networking can be supremely rewarding and lucrative when done with the right insights and preparation. We’d love to network with you. To arrange a one-to-one with CHB Associates, please call Claude at 732-995-3242.

Make Trust the Lifeblood of Your Business

In September 2015, Volkswagen was exposed as having systematically cheating on emissions testing. It tanked its own stock, boosted competitors’ sales and opened the company to a flood of lawsuits, all of which weaken it in the long run. Not to mention being skewered by late-night comics.

Trust takes a lifetime to build, as they say, but only a fleeting moment to destroy.

Examples of corporate breaches of trust are plentiful:

  • The collapse of Enron
  • The British Petroleum spill in the Gulf of Mexico
  • The aforementioned Volkswagen fraud

When a business puts short-term profits over long-term market integrity, the results are always disastrous.

Surveys have confirmed that when a customer believes that a business is hiding something, she will minimize the business relationship or end it. The core question is: Does my customer truly believe that I am working in her or his interests?

A customer simply must believe you are trustworthy for your business to succeed. Does the customer believe that you are hiding the truth, or anything, from him? The costs of hiding truth are far greater than any form of transparency.

Trust Is the Path to Not Just Sales, But to Loyalty

Transparency makes the most business sense, as we have demonstrated here before.

Think of how nervous many of us are when approaching a used car dealer. We fear the Lot Lizard salesperson that will say anything, do anything, conceal anything, to move a car off the lot and get your money, only to disappear on you later.

How many of us are uncomfortable signing or clicking “I accept” when confronted with a maze of technical language in a service agreement? We fear being exploited later, so we may balk at the last minute and refuse the transaction. The trust isn’t there. Customers want a company that will talk straight and do right by them.

Trust is the lifeblood of your business. Trust between you and your customer is the cornerstone of loyalty. Your customers must see you as dependable, credible, responsive, open and respectful.

But these values must be lived, not just declared; otherwise they are just noble intentions at best and false advertising at worst.

Regaining Customer Trust

Rebuilding your firm’s good name will take time but it can be done.

Understand the dynamics of your position. Fears, whether justified or not, are lethal to your brand. Fear trumps facts. Emotions run rapidly to wild conclusions. Does my daughter’s Bubble Yum have spider eggs in it? A reputation can be maimed by mere rumor. Unfair, but true. Mark Twain noted that lies run all the way around the world before truth can get its shoes on.

  1. The first thing you can do is apologize. While this isn’t strictly legal advice, it can be sound. Often people just want to know that someone is sorry for what happened to them. The usual response is “deny and defend,” but apologies can defuse the emotions that fuel lawsuits. But apologies can go a long way to avoiding costly disputes and rebuilding reputation. When confronted by revelation of misconduct, rationalizing, minimizing and justifying just deepens mistrust.
  2. A second step is to reassure. A wrong-doer in your entire industry can ruin your reputation. If tainted by scandal in your industry, get out in front of the issue by explaining on your website why your organization is different. Use social media to do this as well. Try to do this quickly. Recognize the speed at which grievance travels in the electronic world and don’t delay, or you may appear unconcerned, another nail in the coffin of trust. Explain in detail your steps to correct the problem, if there is one. What procedures or guidelines will be enacted and enforced to prevent a repeat of the misdeed?
  3. The last step is to educate your customers. Create an FAQ on your firm’s website.
    Devote prime space on your Facebook page or company site to explaining your steps of resolution. Not every mistake need be a PR fiasco if you apply these corrective steps.

Remember: if you create trust for your customer, your customer will return that trust with loyalty in the form of a consistent cash flow. And beyond any profits, real service to your customer means creating something that can’t be measured: sincerity. The first chapter of a book on business advice would have to be about honesty.

CHB Associates has expertly coached many businesses through understanding how to maintain and nurture trust. Call us today for a free consultation.

5 Elements of a Good Elevator Pitch: How to Stop Winging It

You are at a networking event with 40 people and are asked to “introduce yourself to the group.”

You stand up, say your name and notice how many faces are all looking at you. Here’s your chance to impress. But you can’t remember what you were going to say! You fear failure, so this fear builds on itself and then very nearly paralyzes you. You mutter some sentences just to get it over with, and then sit down.

Or maybe you want to avoid forgetting something, so you start rambling. Others are glancing at their phones, and some are even thumb stabbing now, but you can’t seem to find the right closing line, so onward you plod.

Both of these can be avoided by some careful preparation.

What matters is establishing eye contact with listeners, speak slowly, not droning in monotone, speaking with vocal inflection, memorize rather than winging it, and don’t fidget.

Here are the elements of a successful elevator pitch.

  1. Give your name, the company name and location, and quick statement of what you do. Brief–not a list of everything. A poignant opening quote can be effective here and can create a fun moment for the group.
  2. Tell a story of what makes your company different. Ask a “hooking” question like, “Are any of these important problems for your business…?” Continue with, We help companies that are (struggling with), (concerned about), (looking to), (worried about), etc. What pains is the business facing? How do you present a solution that both saves time and makes money for the client? Share a story of a recent or specific example of your business solving a pressing problem.
  3. Describe your ideal client or referral. “A good referral for us would is…” A short description of your ideal client may resonate with anyone there, and someone who matches up well will likely approach you later. The goal of good networking is to make introductions.
  4. Ask for business. Here is what lawyers call The Ask. Say something like, “So if you see, hear of or know someone who has questions we can answer, won’t you please give them my card?” Do this, and there is a distinct chance that your phone will ring with a potential new client just a few days later.
  5. Finish with a memory hook. “We work with clients who need help…” Remind them of your name and company. A concluding joke or moment of levity is superb here. People remember the first and last things they hear when listening, so give them something to hang on to. Close with a tagline that’s pithy, memorable and relevant, “building a smarter planet, just do it, don’t leave home without it.”

These ideas and the five elements will help you design an effective pitch for networking. Remember, you have to design it only once. After that, it gets only better with repeated deliveries.

How To Defeat Sales Objections

Anyone who owns or operates a business is in sales.

Sales objections are unavoidable. In fact, regardless of our profession, we all deal with objections in life with co-workers, business partners, spouses, and family.

The good news is that there are ways to get around those objections. All it takes is a little preparation.

The first consideration is that when you sell, whatever you sell, you should never be surprised by objections. In fact, every objection is an opportunity. It is an indication of what your prospect has in mind. Thinking of it this way makes it a positive.

Objections Can Teach You A Lot

When an objection is presented, listen carefully completely; pause, and make sure you understand the situation. When you respond, the most effective responses are generally framed as a question.

  • Objection: “Your price is too high”
     Reply: “I understand your concern, what were you planning to spend?”
  • Objection: “I want to think about it.”
     Reply: “That’s a fair statement, so what are the specific items you want to think about?’

Dig deeper. You want your prospective buyer to open up and tell you more about what is keeping them from making a decision. During this exchange, be real, be sincere, be understanding and be positive. Honest, heartfelt questions will normally get prospects to open up. And, you must answer the objection to the satisfaction of your client, before moving forward in your process.

Never argue or debate with your prospective client: nothing stalls or even kills a negotiation faster. Never speak poorly of your competition. If an objection forces you to compare your product or service against a competitor, use factual information only. Hearsay and rumors do not lead to long-term success.

What’s The Silver Bullet to Eliminate Objections?

Objections are part of the selling process and they will never totally be eliminated. However, they can be greatly reduced.

How? By spending more time qualifying your prospect and finding out his or her needs and expectations are before you do your presentation. You need to ask a lot of questions. And then, listen to the answers. You can defuse many objections by clarifying the expectations before you start your presentation.

Example: At the end of a perfect presentation the potential buyer announces they need to consult with another person before they can make a decision. How could this objection be avoided? Ask up front if all decision makers are present and make sure that everyone who needed to be there would in fact be there for the presentation. If not, abort and reschedule. This issue could have been prevented completely by simply asking the right question up front.

Try this short exercise to improve your handling of objections:

Write your top five most common objections on one side of a piece of paper. On the other side, for each objections list 2-4 clear responses (framed as questions) that will address the objection and keep you engaging with your prospect.

Your top priority in the discussion is to truly understand the needs of your prospect. His or her objections will help you figure those out. Review your list regularly and get comfortable with the concept that every objection is an opportunity.

Remember that every objection is an opportunity.

8 Critical Questions to Ask Yourself Before Hanging Up Your Shingle

It surprises me to realize, that often when I begin working with a new client, he or she has never thought about the following things:

  1. What are your core values?
  2. What is your core focus?
  3. What is your 10-year target?
  4. What is your marketing strategy?
  5. What is your three-year picture?
  6. What is your one-year plan?
  7. What are your quarterly short time goals?
  8. What are your issues?

If you are going to succeed in business, you must have a plan and a strategy that includes goals and targets. And your values, I believe, are the most important thing because they are what will keep you on track when you are tempted to go in a different direction.

I offer coaching and business development consulting for all size businesses. If you think you could benefit from a free consultation, give me a call today.

Do You Have Time? 10 Time Management Tips to Maximize your Effectiveness

Have you heard the following adage: “You cannot manage what you cannot measure”?

It is hard to improve if we do not establish performance metrics.

This is particularly true when speaking about time management improvement. Time seems to escape us and there is never enough time to do everything there is to do. Yet we have no less time than Einstein, Mother Teresa or Steve Job.

So, what is going on?

If you’re like many people, the answer to is…”I don’t know…!”

Could you prioritize and increase productivity? How much time do you spend marketing, selling, producing, servicing your customers? Are you using your time productively?

The ten following tips, if applied systematically, could add a week to your life every year:

  1. Log in all your activities for a week. This will help you understand how much you can get done during the course of a day and where time is going. You will see how much of your time is actually spent productively and how much time is wasted.
  2. The 80/20 rule applies also to time management. You produce 80 percent of your results in 20 percent of your time. Once you have identified those most productive activities, focus on spending at least 50 percent of your time engaged in those activities.
  3. All activities that are important to your success must have a time assigned to them. If, for instance, you need to make so many sales calls per day, assign a time and write it down in your schedule. Schedule and write down the time to meet with your staff. And do not forget to set up an agenda… Every important activity must be set up as an appointment and even if they are appointments with yourself, have the discipline to keep these appointments.
  4. When something hits your in-box, decides on the spot if you need to do it, delegate it, defer it or drop it and act on it accordingly. Do not let things accumulate in your in-box.
  5. Take the first 10 minutes of every day to huddle (standing) with yourself and/or your staff to plan your day. This is the most important time of your day.
  6. Assess before every call and task what results you want to attain. Visualize success. Examine after each call and activity if your desired result was achieved. Every call and activity will result in being a success or a lesson.
  7. Close your door and put up a “Do not disturb” sign when you absolutely have to get work done.
  8. Do not answer the phone just because it’s ringing or respond to e-mails just because they show up. Give your instant attention to people only if it is absolutely critical to your business (911 responder). Schedule a time to answer email and return phone calls.
  9. Social media has become a key marketing tool for many businesses. When using social media, schedule blocks of time and do not let distractions take you adrift. Set up clear goals and objectives and monitor that you are achieving them.
  10. Remember that it is impossible to get everything done. Work effectively, get the most important things done and be ok with it. “This constant, unproductive preoccupation with all the things we have to do is the single largest consumer of time and energy,” says Kerry Gleeson.

So, ultimately, it is not about managing time: time manages itself. It is a matter of managing our actions and making the right choice about what to do at any point in time.

Do Not Sell Yourself Short: Pricing Strategies

As we end the year, let’s assess the profitability of your business. Many new (and existing) business owners price their services below market to bring in business. As operating costs increase, however, you find yourself with a growing business–but not growing profits. What should be done? Should you raise prices?

Your current clients who made your success possible have put a value on your services – the value that you initially set for them. So, if you raise your prices by 20 to 40 percent, at par with your competitor’s rates, your customers may think, “Wow, that’s expensive!” But if you don’t raise prices, you may regret it. Here’s why.

Low prices are a problem

When you price yourself considerably lower than your competitors, your services are viewed as being “cheap,” regardless of their true value. This leads to three significant problems:

  1. Customers often equate a discounted service with low quality.
  2. Your ability to invest money in your business to allow you to provide new services and more value to your customers is limited.
  3. You are missing out on high profit clients.

Can low prices drive clients away? If you need surgery, would you look for the cheapest surgeon? Probably not. To get the best level of service, you pay the high-end of the range. In a professional service business, you are sought after because of your knowledge or talent in a certain area. Your prices should, and must, reflect that talent at the outset of every relationship with each client.

Here are some things to consider when setting your prices, be it now or from the beginning.

  1. Do your research. Check out your competition, especially those who are most successful. What do they charge and why are you different? Be prepared to answer that question for your customers and potential customers.
  2. Know your costs. You need to set prices in such a way that you make the profit you want and need. Proper pricing can help you ensure the long-term health of your business.
  3. Do not discount. If the value of your services is $5,000, why would you offer it for $4,000? Is it less valuable to this client than it is to others? If so, let’s find more of those clients who find it more valuable. After all, you’re a professional, not a discount shop.
  4. As a general rule do not bill by the hour. There are few professions in which hours provide a good measure of value. Additionally, with hourly billing the more experienced you become, the more efficient you are, the less money you make! The client doesn’t care if it took you 50 hours or 50 minutes to design their marketing piece. As long as they receive a terrific design, it holds the same value to them.

How to raise prices

At first, leave your current clients alone. Instead, resolve not to accept any new business below your newly established higher price. Publish new contracts, price sheets or rate cards and stick to them. Once you start receiving business at your new price level, you will feel your service is worth the higher value that these new clients have assigned to it.

Once you establish the new pricing with your new clients, then return to your old clients. Have a face-to-face meeting with them, preferably, and review with them the value of the services you deliver. Let them know that you have researched your competitors and found that you are offering more value for less money. Also, let them know you are billing new clients at the higher price level. Then, raise their prices with an effective date two to four months in the future. This gives you a chance to finish current projects or services at the present price while allowing them time to adjust their expectations and budgeting for future projects or services. If it’s worthwhile to you offer them the chance to pre-pay now for future projects or services at their current low rate. This gives you the certainty of their future business as well as cash in your pocket today!

Setting your services at market value will secure client loyalty and respect, allow you to invest in and grow your business, and improve your profit margins. If you, as the business owner, do not value your own products or services, you cannot expect your clients to value them either. Do not settle for less than you’re worth!