Competition Leadership Management Small Business Strategy

86 percent have no plan. Are you wandering in the desert with them?

photo credit: cdibona

Prior to teaching an online internet business course, Jack Humphrey recently surveyed his class of almost 200 students from across the globe. He reported on the results a few days ago.

One of the things he asked his class is “Do you have a plan for your business?”

EIGHTY SIX percent said “No.”  14 percent said “Yes”.

I’m guessing that 12 percent might have stretched the truth a little bit. I’d be surprised if 2 percent had a plan, but that really isn’t the point.

Are you one of the 86 percent who doesn’t have a plan for your business?

A strategic, financial, marketing business growth plan?

If you are, spend some time this weekend putting one together. Don’t make your success an accident. Build a roadmap and then start following it.

Tempted to blow it off? Consider the likelihood that your competition is in the 14% who has a plan. Part of their plan is to put you out of business.

coaching Competition Leadership Motivation Strategy

Fundamental excuses for Memphis and your business

air time
photo credit: *sean

Runner up Memphis Tigers lost last night’s NCAA men’s basketball championship game to Kansas, 75-68 in overtime.

Because of a single free throw.

All season long, Memphis head coach John Calipari has been making excuses about his team’s poor free throw shooting. All season long, Calipari appeared to discount, if not blow off, the importance of the fundamental flaw in the Tigers’ basketball weaponry, saying things like “We find other ways to win” and “We would always come through when the stakes were highest.”

But they didn’t.

Memphis’ performance in shooting free throws – what anyone would consider a fundamental basketball achievement of a good team, much less a championship team, ranked them 339th out of 341 NCAA teams by making only 59% of their free throws.

In that category they aren’t second in the nation. They are SECOND TO LAST in the nation.

And that’s why Kansas coach Bill Self had them foul the crud out of Memphis in the final two minutes – because he knew that their fundamental weakness was the ability to make free throws. Any coach in the same position would have done what Self did. Force the opponent to their weakest position.

After the loss in the championship final, Memphis’ star freshman guard Derrick Rose echoed his coach’s excuse, saying that if they had done other things prior to the end of the game, they would have won anyhow. Yet Rose’s team had done those things already – they had a 9 point lead with 2 minutes remaining.

Noting of course, that Rose’s missed free throw at the end of the game allowed Kansas’ Mario Chalmers to tie the game with 2 seconds left on a dramatic 3-pointer. Rose’s spectacular 2nd half performance is what had them up by 9 in the second half, but he clearly is drinking the coach’s Kool-Aid about the theory that free throw shooting isn’t important to them. He still doesn’t get it.

Free throws are one of those “other things” that champions do to win. Part of being in the top 2% of any group is doing the things that no one else does.


“It will probably hit me like a ton of bricks tomorrow, that we had it in our grasp,” Calipari said after the game.

What would hit your business like a ton of bricks?

What fundamentals do you discount? Where does your strongest competitor lack excellence in fundamentals? What fundamental skill can you pay more attention to and raise the performance of yourself and your company?

Leadership Management Media Montana Small Business

Mopping up messes – What’s the best way?

radio.jpgRecently, a local AM radio station had a former employee charged by the Feds with misdirecting funds and buying more supplies than needed so that he could get prizes and cash as rewards for the large purchases.

Not big news. Not unusual news. Left untouched, it would have largely been forgotten about by the locals at least until the trial.

Enter misguided management.

The AM station’s morning guy reads the news and adds his own flavor to it. He has a huge listener base.  After fifty three years on the air, he IS the station to many listeners.

The morning guy gets into a discussion with the  station manager, who tells him “you’re gone if you read that story”. The story, of course, is the story about the Federal charges lodged against the radio station’s former employee.

So the morning guy quits after 53 years on the air, feeling that his journalistic integrity is being threatened.  Naturally, the obtuse manager refuses all calls on the matter, stirring up the other media outlets even more.

Rather than a non-issue that would have gone away shortly after it was read, this manager has now threatened the perception of the integrity of this station’s news and editorial policy, and has substantially raised awareness and interest in the issue (the morning guy’s departure is front page above the fold main headline news in every area paper).

At this point, it’s natural to start to ask questions about the station’s financial controls, editorial policy, management and a number of other issues.  Clearly, the station manager has burned his reputation in the area, and any relationships he may have had with other media people.

All because the morning guy wasn’t allowed to spend 15 seconds reading a story that had already been in the paper and on local TV.

Got a mess at the office? Don’t sweep it under the rug. It’ll come back to bite you when someone trips over that lump in the rug. Take your lumps, maybe even make a little fun of yourself, and move on. Everyone else will too.

Hide from the public and the media and they’ll be provoked to do the natural thing: Want to know what else you’re hiding and dig for it.

Leadership Management ONE Small Business Strategy

Would one “minor glitch” bring down your company?

Florida power outage

Last October, we discussed the single slip-up that doomed a beef company. Not just doomed it, but in fact, put it completely out of business. A single stumble kills a decades-old business.

Today, a “minor glitch” (according to MSN) caused South Florida’s power grid to puke, and the resulting chain reaction caused two Florida nuclear reactors at Turkey Point to shut down.

While those shutdowns can be explained as safety precautions driven by automated monitoring systems, this was just a minor glitch, right? A minor glitch that cut off power to as many as 3 million people.

Look at your business. What sort of “minor glitch” could shut down your business for a day? A week? Permanently?

Some examples: Internet failure. Frozen merchant account. Boiler failure. Strike. Supplier failure. Power loss. Refrigeration loss. Cash flow. Vehicle problems.

What precautions can you take and processes can you put in place to prevent these glitches from causing serious damage to your business?

Be Prepared.

Competition Leadership Management Marketing Retail Strategy

The National Retail Federation “Give them a cookie” tax


I received my DM News (Direct Marketing News) this week and right on the front page, above the fold, is a story about the National Retail Federation board of directors lobbying government officials to “provide a relief package for retailers”.

Eh? Why in the world would retailers need their own relief package?

Regardless of the why, DM News reports that at the NRF’s recent NYC convention, they voted unanimously to petition the government “emphasizing that consumer spending represents 70% of the economy and calling on lawmakers to act quickly”.

I guess taking responsibility for your own success is just out of fashion these days. I wonder what would have happened if they had spent that convention time actually trying to do things to help member retailers to be more successful REGARDLESS of the current economy.

NRF, rather than distracting Congress with your lobbying for retailers at a time when they just might have something more important to ponder (doesn’t mean they will, but I digress), another thought might be:

  • Provide large retailers with a mental “kick in the shorts” and remind them that they already have the management experience and strategic tools needed to position them to not only survive the “upcoming recession“, but to come out of it a stronger company. Do Target, Wal-Mart and Costco really need every American to get another government check to figure this out? They’ve seen it all before.
  • Provide small retailers with a simple, achievable list of strategies for thriving, not just surviving, in times where retail sales might be down.

Those strategies might include:

Fix your advertising: Alter your advertising enough to be able to see which ads work and which ones don’t. Use only those advertising methods that you can track. Track every ad. Take action on the results of that tracking, ie: cull the loser ads and the loser media. The newspaper, radio and TV ad people are not your friends, they are selling tools to help you improve your business. If they work, keep using them. If they don’t, tell them they aren’t delivering and move on.

Fix your customer service: Rather than spend a month identifying every touch (or having me do it), look at the 5 most frequent customer contact points. Fix them, improve them, polish them.

Fix your customer retention: Get a newsletter going. Start with print, add email next month or next week. If you don’t have customer contact info, then fix that starting today. Put a process in place to collect it. Give your clientèle a valid reason to provide it to you, don’t just say “gimme your stuff”. No one else in your market is doing these things. Even if you start doing it, they won’t emulate your tactics because they don’t get it. They’ll look at the minuscule cost and blow it off. You will look at the improvement in customer retention and repeat customer transactions, and wonder why you didn’t do it before now.

Fix your positioning: Look at everything you do. It defines who you are. Do people really know what you do, what you sell, how qualified you are to provide that service? Do they have a pile of real testimonials available to them to reinforce what you say, but in other people’s words? What have you done to put your business in the position to be the first one people mention when someone asks them for something you do or sell? Do more.

Fix your sales processes: Almost every business has holes in its sales processes. Some are manual. Some are process-driven. Some are personality-related. Some are simple advertising problems. Train your sales staff regularly (that doesn’t mean annually). Reward great performance and provide the tools and training necessary to help each member of your sales team improve their results.

Remove the box stores from the equation: Look, Wal-Mart isn’t going away any time soon, and you aren’t going to beat them on price. Add more upscale product lines. Add more upscale services. Beat them on the things that you can beat them on and keep looking for more. Service. Customization. Installation. Personal Touch. There’s a reason why I hound you about these things regularly…it’s because they are effective.

Of course, none of this addresses the real issue with the idea to give everyone a big check and ask them to go shopping in order to save the economy. The real issue, while mostly outside the scope of this blog, is the debt load that is crushing many Americans, much less our government.

The NRF and Congress seem to think it’s easier to just give everyone a cookie, pat them on the head and tell them it’ll be OK. Small businesses just need to take care of business using the strategies we talk about every day. You don’t need a cookie.


Leadership and the “little woman”

A lot of people hate Bill Gates. Some do so because of Windows (“just because”).

Some do so because he’s successful. Some do so because of various perceptions of his company’s business practices, true or otherwise.

Very few, if any, truly successful people go untouched by the wrath of a society sometimes obsessed with hate-of-the-wealthy.

But his wife just might.

Wealthy or not, this country could use more leaders like her.

Leadership Politics

The “Menu of Delayed Pain”, or Where have all the leaders gone?

Speaks for itself. 8 minutes. Be patient with it, even if you despise Glenn Beck. It isn’t about him.

Regardless of your politics, I think you’ll be glad you did.