The One Strategic Mistake Your Company is Likely Making

Do you know what your company’s core values are?

You know, those ten to fifteen statements that are supposed to be the guiding principles that dictate the behavior and actions of your company? The foundation from which you are supposed to be ‘Built to Last’ and help you make your most important decisions? Could you recite them out loud right now without looking them up?

I didn’t think so.

Chances are your CEO can’t either. And I think that’s pretty sad. It’s part of the reason why most companies are mediocre. Most people, like your CEO, would say that having core values in business is important. However, very few are actually living them… not because they don’t have any but because of the opposite – they have too many. People can’t remember them all and so they forget. And if you forget what your core values are then you aren’t making decisions using them.

Stop confusing people.

Steve Jobs said it best: “Marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world. It’s a very noisy world… And so we have to be really clear on what we want [the world] to know about us.” And it’s not just about marketing. It’s everything. Your core value should be the lens through which you see the world and make all important choices. By having fifteen “core” values that nobody remembers, you’re needlessly complicating things for your constituents over who you are, what decisions are best for the business, and how to talk about your company. You’re confusing your team and everyone else around you.

What’s the solution?

Get it down to One Word. Whether it’s #Innovation (3M), #Love (Starbucks), or #Health (CVS), having a single guiding value helps communicate to your team, your customers, and the world what you stand for. It also helps make the big decisions easier like being one of the first big companies to stand up for gay marriage (Starbucks, #Love) or walking away from $2 billion in annual tobacco sales because it doesn’t align with your One Word core value (CVS, #Health).

This might be painful.

If you’re at an organization that hasn’t ever really dug into what’s most important then turning those fifteen core values from a plaque on a wall to an actionable, meaningful One Word, will be difficult. People will disagree. Some may quit. Others might be asked to move on. But until companies start looking beyond the resume, beyond the skills, and start looking at do our people’s values match up with what we stand for as an organization, then all the other strategies and tactics won’t save your business.
Get your One Word right. Apply it as the operating philosophy through which your entire company is run. Give your team, customers, and investors something to actually be proud of. And watch your culture, impact, and profits soar.


About the Author

Evan Carmichael is the author of Your One Word (December 6, 2016), and he also coaches entrepreneurs for peak performance. At 19, he built then sold a biotech software company. At 22, he was helping raise $500k to $15mil. He has been interviewed or featured as an entrepreneur expert in The New York Times,The Wall St. Journal, Forbes, Mashable, and elsewhere. He now runs EvanCarmichael.com, a popular website for entrepreneurs. He speaks globally and is based in Toronto. You can find him on Twitter @EvanCarmichael.

Lisa Hufford

How a Consultant Can Fit Into Your Culture

Great consultants don’t necessarily want to spend a lot of time talking about theory or generalities, they would rather roll up their sleeves and get into the mix to help you address your project needs and challenges now. That’s what you want to see: candidates that demonstrate how they can add value to the project, and are excited to get started.

Success in bringing in a consultant hinges largely on determining what they know about – and how they might fit into – the company’s culture, along with their soft skills. Hard skills are easy to identify and are part of the consultant’s resume, as well as their experience, accreditations and qualifications. If the manager looks only at hard skills it’s difficult to determine if there is a good fit because they are looking only looking at one dimension, when they really want to look at the full dimension, including the “nuances” of team dynamics and company culture.

Managers don’t get that full dimension until the actual interview process. Treat the interview as a sort of dry run for how the candidate might approach the project. Why not invite them to work with the project team for a day? For instance, have the consultant(s) come in and give them a problem to solve. Put the problem on a whiteboard and observe how they respond. Don’t expect a perfect answer, because they don’t know your business yet, but it’s a great way to see how they think on their feet. If you like the way they think and/or how they problem solve and the questions that they fire back at you, then put them on a 30-day, or even a three-month, contract and get them in the role. Have them start doing the work.

Remember you are not hiring a FTE (full time employee); don’t spend a huge amount of time combing through resumes. A short-term contract can have very clear metrics associated with the role, and if they are not meeting your expectations, have a conversation, determine why it is not working and what should happen to make it work, or move on. Another important aspect of the interview is a determination if cultural fit is there. You have to be clear about your culture, and who would work well with your team and on the project. Is your company community driven? Or, does it have an entrepreneurial spirit? What types of personalities would do well in your shop? Cultural fit works both ways – for yourself and the candidate. Ask if the candidate has previously worked in entrepreneurial environments, and how that worked out. Find out how he or she has performed in a similar culture. Have the candidate give examples of how they have done this job before, either as an FTE or as a contractor, and how they would accomplish the goals in your company within that culture.

Also ask how they deal with ambiguity. For example, the candidate might relate that he or she had to work on a project and was given very little direction, but had to hit a certain metric – and here’s how the situation was handled. This type of interaction gets into real-world scenarios and shows how the candidate performed in that kind of environment. Have the candidate explain how they have done this job before either as a FTE or as a contractor, and how they would accomplish the goals in your company.

Great consultants consistently bring a high energy level to their work and are excited to work on a product or service they love. As you interview, observe their energy, conviction, and acumen.

Here are a few questions to focus on when interviewing:

1. Tell me about your last project and your contribution to its success.

Tip: Follow up by asking the candidate to list the project team on a whiteboard or piece of paper, with a description of their role, who their managers/clients were, and their colleagues. You are looking for past performance, their contributions and consistency. This gives you more information about their role on a team, their collaboration style and possible references in addition to those you previously gathered from the candidate. It’s a good idea to request three examples that illustrate consistency and expertise on the project.

2. Tell me about a time when you failed on a project; what did you learn from that experience?

Tip: You are looking for resilience, adaptability and self-awareness. It may be hard to determine, but you are looking for consultants that see growth as part of their professional life. Are they continuing to seek out new certifications, training and knowledge within their industry?

3. What would your most recent manager/client say that your three key strengths are?

Tip: You are looking for awareness about how others view their strengths, skills and how they work with others. Watch how they respond. If they are evasive, fidgety or talk about how the previous team was difficult to work with, those could be red flags that the candidate has trouble working with others. Also, it might be a sign they are not a team player.


About the Author

Lisa HuffordLisa Hufford is the founder and CEO of Simplicity Consulting, a talent solutions company named to the Inc. 5000 list for five years running as one of the fastest-growing private companies in America. Inc. also named Lisa one of the top 10 female entrepreneurs, and she has been chosen as an Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Woman. She is the author of the book Navigating the Talent Shift: How to Build On-Demand Teams that Drive Innovation, Control Costs, and Get Results. www.lisahufford.com.

Hank Moore

Mentoring and Lifelong Learning

Professionals who succeed the most are the products of mentoring. I heartily endorse that find a great mentor. I have had many excellent ones in my long career and have in turn mentored hundreds of others.

The mentor is a resource for business trends, societal issues and opportunities. The mentor becomes a role model, offering insights about their own life-career. The mentor is an advocate for progress and change. Such work empowers the mentee to hear, accept, believe and get results. The sharing of trust and ideas leads to developing business philosophies.

The mentor endorses the mentee, messages ways to approach issues, helps draw distinctions and paints pictures of success. The mentor opens doors for the mentee. The mentor requests pro-active changes of mentee, evaluates realism of goals and offers truths about path to success and shortcomings of mentee’s approaches. This is a bonded collaboration toward each other’s success. The mentor stands for mentees throughout their careers and celebrates their successes. This is a lifelong dedication toward mentorship… in all aspects of one’s life.

The most significant lessons that I learned in my business life from mentors, verified with experience, are shared here:

  1. You cannot go through life as a carbon copy of someone else.
  2. You must establish your own identity, which is a long, exacting process.
  3. As you establish a unique identity, others will criticize. Being different, you become a moving target.
  4. People criticize you because of what you represent, not who you are. It is rarely personal against you. Your success may bring out insecurities within others. You might be what they cannot or are not willing to become.
  5. If you cannot take the dirtiest job in any company and do it yourself, then you will never become “management.”
  6. Approach your career as a body of work. This requires planning, purpose and commitment. It’s a career, not just a series of jobs.
  7. The person who is only identified with one career accomplishment or by the identity of one company for whom he-she formerly worked is a one-hit wonder and, thus, has no body of work.
  8. The management that takes steps to “fix themselves” rather than always projecting problems upon other people will have a successful organization.
  9. It’s not when you learn. It’s that you learn.
  10. Many people do without the substantive insights into business because they have not really developed critical thinking skills.
  11. Analytical and reasoning skills are extensions of critical thinking skills.
  12. You perform your best work for free. How you fulfill commitments and pro-bono work speaks to the kind of professional that you are.
  13. People worry so much what others think about them. If they knew how little others thought, they wouldn’t worry so much. This too is your challenge to frame how they see you and your company.
  14. Fame is fleeting and artificial. The public is fickle and quick to jump on the newest flavor, without showing loyalty to the old ones, especially those who are truly original. Working in radio, I was taught, “They only care about you when you’re behind the microphone.”
  15. The pioneer and “one of a kind” professional has a tough lot in life. It is tough to be first or so far ahead of the curve that others cannot see it. Few will understand you. Others will attain success with portions of what you did. None will do it as well.
  16. Consumers are under-educated and don’t know the substance of a pioneer. Our society takes more to the copycats and latest fads. Only the pioneer knows and appreciates what he-she really accomplished. That reassurance will have to be enough.
  17. Life and careers include peaks and valleys. It’s how one copes during the “down times” that is the true measure of success.
  18. Long-term success must be earned. It is not automatic and is worthless if ill-gotten. The more dues one pays, the more you must continue paying.
  19. The next best achievement is the one you’re working on now, inspired by your body of knowledge to date.
  20. The person who never has aggressively pursued a dream or mounted a series of achievements cannot understand the quest of one with a deeply committed dream.
  21. A great percentage of the population does not achieve huge goals but still admires and learns from those who do persevere and succeed. The achiever thus becomes a lifelong mentor to others.
  22. Achievement is a continuum, but it must be benchmarked and enjoyed along the way.

These are my concluding pieces of leadership advice. Know where you are going. Develop, update and maintain a career growth document. Keep a diary of lessons learned but not soon forgotten. Learn the reasons for success and, more importantly, from failure.

Good bosses were good employees. They have keen understanding for both roles. Bad bosses likely were not ideal employees. They too are consistent in career history. Being your own boss is yet another lesson. People who were downsized from a corporate environment suddenly enter the entrepreneurial world and find the transition to be tough.

Poor people skills cloud any job performance and overshadow good technical skills. The worst bosses do not sustain long careers at the top. Their track record catches up with them, whether they choose to acknowledge it or not.

Good workers don’t automatically become good bosses. Just because someone is technically proficient or is an exemplary producer does not mean that he-she will transition to being a boss. The best school teachers do not want to become principals, for that reason. Good job performers are better left doing what they do best. Administrators, at all levels, need to be properly trained as such, not bumped up from the field to do something for which they have no inclination.

Truth and ethics must be woven into how you conduct business. If you do not “walk the talk,” who will? Realize that very little of what happens to you in business is personal. Find common meeting grounds with colleagues. The only workable solution is a win-win.

Leadership and executive development skills are steadily learned and continually sharpened. One course or a quick-read book will not instill them. The best leaders are prepared to go the distance. Professional enrichment must be life-long. Early formal education is but a starting point. Study trends in business, in your industry and in the industries of your customers.

People skills mastery applies to every profession. There is no organization that does not have to communicate to others about what it does. The process of open company dialogs must be developed to address conflicts, facilitate win-win solutions and further organizational goals.


About the Author

Hank MoorePower Stars to Light the Business Flame, by Hank Moore, encompasses a full-scope business perspective, invaluable for the corporate and small business markets. It is a compendium book, containing quotes and extrapolations into business culture, arranged in 76 business categories.

Hank’s latest book functions as a ‘PDR of business,’ a view of Big Picture strategies, methodologies and recommendations. This is a creative way of re-treading old knowledge to enable executives to master change rather than feel as they’re victims of it.

Power Stars to Light the Business Flame is now out in all three e-book formats: iTunes, Kindle, and Nook.

How Project Management Apps Are Fostering Remote Working

The inclusion of remote workers into your team is as advantageous as it is challenging; perhaps what we can find particularly interesting is that this trend is not just restricted to successful conglomerates with international interests but early stage companies who are still trying to find their feet. The inter-connectivity of computers worldwide and the advent of project management apps and time-tracking software has made this possible.

It’s also pertinent to note that remote working not only solves the problem of access to highly skilled personnel but it has come to be seen as the perfect solution for employees who have to brave the long-hour drives to work, thereby reducing their stress levels. They are less exposed to the drama that comes with working in a “traditional” workspace, leading to greater productivity on the long run.

The benefits for telecommuters also include a significantly lower monthly gas bill, the opportunity to keep an eye on the kids, job satisfaction, peace of mind etc. To buttress this point, The New York Times, reports on an experiment carried out by a Stanford Economic Professor – Nicholas Bloom; with results that should not be ignored by the H.R department. The experiment showed that remote workers worked 9.5% longer than their office colleagues but that’s not all. There was also a 13% increase in productivity from the virtual team. As you can clearly see, it’s not just workers who get to enjoy the benefits, corporations have a lot to gain by instigating work-from-home policies.

The obvious benefit for companies would, of course, be the significantly reduced cost because they are no longer limited by distance in sourcing for skilled workers. The internet has made it possible for managers to recruit workers at an affordable rate. John Meyer, in a Forbes article, puts the total savings for companies at 30%.The job of the human resource manager becomes a lot easier as employee turnover rates are down and the constant battle with absentee employees becomes a non-issue.

As the years go by, the tradition of working from brick and mortar offices seems less and less attractive to millennials especially but like was stated in the opening paragraph, the remote-working trend also brings with it, its set of challenges.

Project managers want to be able to keep tabs on the progress of all team members, they want to know where everyone is at with respect to tasks assigned to them and if you are managing a team of 30-50 people, that’s no mean feat. They owe a depth of gratitude to apps that have made the process of managing virtual teams less complex. Project management software helps keep the entire process not just organized but ultimately promotes greater efficiency. What’s not to love about collaborative software that allows you send and receive documents from team members, or time tracking software that helps you stay on schedule?

Collaborative management tools have gone further to shorten the distance between virtual team members in addition to fostering productivity and efficiency.

Infographic courtesy of nutcache.com

7 Tips for Managing a Remote Team

Noah Fleming

If You Want Happier Customers Get These Three Things Right

Most executives I talk to feel like they’re drowning in data and yet anyone and everyone within the organization is telling them they need more and more data! Do you ever feel overwhelmed with all the things you need to worry about, let alone the collection of “big data” with the belief that data might help you generate better customer relations, or a more loyal customer!?

I’m going to let you in on a big secret. The companies and clients that I work with who are at the top of their games, or continuously increasing revenue are only really placing a concerted effort on three key areas. I’m going to warn you, there’s nothing ground-breaking here that you don’t already know, but how these companies are focusing on these areas might surprise you.

I’m a customer loyalty and retention expert. I’ll tell you until the cows come home that most organizations are too focused on the new customer at the expense of their existing customers, but I’m also a realist. The current customer is the beating heart of any great business, but you need new customers to grow. Anybody who tells you otherwise should be thrown from your office. Today we’re going to about new and existing customers.

The first area that these companies excel in is their uncanny ability to sell to their existing customers more often. I said sell, not just “market to,” and not just putting offers in front of them, but selling. You need the same level of gravitas and effort that is put towards new customer acquisition, applied to selling more to your existing customer base. That requires a customer retention process. Most businesses have a sales process but not a retention process. The best companies do.

I once heard an author and marketer say that all great sales & marketing is just about sharing your message over and over again. He might have been half right, once. A decade ago, maybe a quarter right. Now, it’s more like a tenth.

If you want to sell to your prospects and existing customers either the first time or the sixth time, then you need to get three things right. But you need to get them right, all the time and every time.

1. You need to maintain top-of-mind awareness with your prospects and existing customers. Some of your prospective customers aren’t ready to buy yet, and some existing customers might buy from your competitors if you’re not there. Here’s an example.

I was doing a workshop with a 60M construction firm. During the workshop, an employee in the back of the carefully raised his hand and asked if he could make a confession. With the CEO room I didn’t know what to expect, but here’s what he told us.

They had just finished an enormous and successful project. The client was thrilled! But when he returned to the client a month or two later, he found their biggest competitor performing an even larger job. They didn’t even get a chance to quote, and when he enquired the client just kind of shrugged it off and said, “They were here at the right time.”

How often is this happening in your business? Customer loyalty is never owed. It’s a function of day in and day out marketing.

2. You need maintain consistent and valuable messing. You need to have effective sales and marketing processes for before, during, and after the sale. You can’t just show up on your customer’s doorstep when you’re looking to meet quotas or get the next deal. The best companies are consistently showing up with value.

I was speaking to a group of Executives in Calgary when one woman raised her hand and asked me the following question, “Why would we continue to spend time, energy, and money communicating with our existing customers in a down economy when they don’t have any money to spend?” This is exactly the type of backward thinking that plagues organizations everywhere. Eventually, they’ll have money to spend and guess where they’ll be spending it!

3. Lastly, you need a way to test, track, measure, and ensure your sales and marketing, and customer-related processes are being completed, and that the things you expect to be happening are actually happening.

With another client, the CEO expected that when a sale was made, there was a handoff to the next person, and a package was sent to each and every customer. It took about half a day and talking to a handful of their new customers to find out this was happening, but rarely. It was only happening about 20% of the time. I’m continually advocating that you need a defined sales process for each stage of the buying cycle, and proper reporting to show you the right things are getting done. Without a systematized process, it’s virtually impossible to know where you need to improve, or where you’re dropping the ball.

Getting these three things right is all about having the right tools, processes, and procedures in place. If you do that, your organization will run smoother, your customers will be happier, and you’ll be more profitable. It’s hard to argue against that.

Over 20,000 executives receive my weekly Tuesday Tidbit. You can subscribe here. Every week I give them a specific challenge they can take back and use in their companies. Here’s one for you.

Secret shop your customers and clients. Have someone from outside of your company call a couple of your top clients ask them for a referral for something that’s directly in your wheelhouse and see if your customer refers you.

These are the types of growth-focused challenges that can be hard to swallow. But that’s how we learn. If you hear something that makes you flinch, it likely has nothing to do with the quality of your products and services, and almost everything to do with one the three areas listed above.


About the Author

Noah FlemingNoah Fleming is a globally recognized customer loyalty expert. He works with companies in a broad range of industries with revenues ranging from 5M to 2B per year to create dramatic results. He is the author of the new book, The Customer Loyalty Loop, and the Amazon #1 bestselling book in sales, marketing and customer service categories, Evergreen: Cultivate the Enduring Customer Loyalty that Keeps Your Business Thriving.