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    31 Dec
    Lucky Four Leaf Clover

    Great Luck photo by JD Hancock via Flickr

    This is the time of the year when everyone is wishing you good luck.  It’s a great sentiment and certainly everyone would like to have a bit more good luck…especially after the last few years.  However Luck isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…in fact it turns out that what you do with the Luck you get (good or bad) is really what determines your long term success – you could call this your Return on Luck (ROL).

    This idea of Return on Luck was coined by Jim Collins (the author of Good To Great) and Morten Hansen when they released their latest book Great by Choice about a year ago.  Positive Return on Luck was one of several key findings that differentiated hugely successful companies (Great) vs. those who failed or just didn’t make the cut.  What’s really impactful about these finding is that it’s not just an anecdotal experience or a few quick interviews and an example – Collins and Hansen worked with a team of 20+ researchers over a period of about 10 years looking at data and interviewing people from thousands of companies and a time span of about 30 years.

    The premise behind the book was to be able to answer the question: “Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?”  The goal was to make this study as scientific as possible but they knew they would have to address the concept of Luck…”Sure company X was successful, but they were extremely lucky…anyone would have succeeded with the opportunities they got!”.  In fact the team went into the research assuming they would see disproportionate luck (good and bad) and that would be a key driver for the winners and losers.

    In order to find out what role Luck really played, they went through the painstaking effort of reviewing all of the key company’s histories and identifying ‘Luck’ events.  These were things that happened unexpectedly and outside the influence of the company that were good and bad.  They then went on to review what happened to the companies as a result of the ‘Luck’ events.  What kind of Return on Luck did each company get?  There were several interesting findings in the study:

    1. Luck is evenly distibuted – you are not more or less lucky than others

    Much to their surprise, once all of the numbers and research was pulled together, it turns out that companies in general experienced an equal number of good and bad luck events.  If anything, the less successful companies (the control group) had slightly more ‘good’ luck than the Successful companies (the team called them the 10Xers because their overall returns were at least 10X better than their competitors).

    So even though it may feel like you’re getting an unfair share of bad luck…or a competitor of  yours is exceptionally lucky, there are thousands of data points that would say that you’re wrong.

    2. Although the distribution of luck was fairly even, the outcomes of what was done with that luck varied a lot!

    The 10X companies (the successful group) had much higher Return on Luck for the positive luck events that happened to them…and conversely they also minimized the impact when bad luck came their way.  This was attributed to a few different things:

    • The mentality of the 10X companies was different – they never viewed themselves as victims and never used Luck as an excuse.  Instead the focus was on what was in front of them (good and bad) and how to optimize the current situation.
    • The 10X companies specifically (and routinely) planned for the worst outcomes.  They had ongoing discussions and strategies laid out to identify what they would do if bad things happened.  If and when they got bad luck, they were generally able to take them in stride.
    • The 10X companies had a strong focus on execution – when good luck came to them, they were able to take full advantage of the situation and respond with great execution.  The less successful companies often wasted their good luck because they couldn’t respond to opportunities.

    So what’s the point for you?  As you plan for next year, it’s great to hope for some good luck, but if you really want to be successful then you should also spend some time planning for possible bad luck events (and what you could do to minimize them) and focus on your execution…if you landed that super big client next month, are you really ready to make that a great experience (for them and for your employees) and deliver exceptional results?  If you’re hesitating at all with that idea, then what could you possibly to do increase your capabilities?

    What’s your take on luck?  Do you hope for the best but plan for the worst?  Would you be ready to jump into a major new deal tomorrow if it came knocking?  We’d love to hear your thoughts – share them in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach

    23 Dec
    Rainy Day

    Photo by JD Hancock via Flickr

    If you are reading this, the Mayan calendar was off at least by a few days and the end of world did not come as it was predicted.   And, hopefully you’re enjoying the Christmas & Holiday season and reflecting on the year as it comes to a close.

    Speaking of reflection… we were having an interesting conversation last week about some businesses who despite the overall disposition of the economy experienced not only growth but a very a profitable year in 2012.   The conversation reminded me of the first few years that I owned my equipment dealership; the fiber optic boom was moving at lightning speed (pun intendedJ) and our equipment was very instrumental in getting it put in the ground.    Our customers were enjoying very profitable years and the dealerships that provided equipment to install it benefited as well.

    It was very easy to get pulled into a cycle of reckless spending, because you start convincing yourself it is the “new normal” and the additional revenue will just keep coming.   But the reality is almost everything has a cycle, some are not as severe as others, but the growth arrow seldom points upward 100% of the time.

    The closest thing I had to a “business coach” when I owned my own business was the dealership where I cut my teeth in business.  And that dealer had not only been a good leader as my former employer, but continued to be a trusted advisor, mentor, and friend as my dealership was growing.   A couple things he often stressed about growth were the importance of having controlled growth and the importance of reinvesting profits back into your business.  (By the way – this particular idea was one of the big findings from Jim Collins latest book – Great By Choice…we wrote about that a few months ago in 5 Ways Your Business Can Fall Off the Cliff).

    The controlled growth mindset keeps you from doing things like over staffing the first time you get a backlog or opening a new branch in a high growth area without researching it thoroughly before implementing.   It is mostly about asking more questions before you make a decision that is going to have a significant financial impact on the business.

    But reinvesting profits back into the business was without question the best advice he ever gave me.   His experience was, the best stock he ever put money into was his own business.  So as my business grew that was the approach I took.  It may sound simplistic, but it takes a lot of willpower, especially when things are going great and you see others splurging.  Successful business owners are often tempted to take profits out of the company and start “diversifying their interests”.  Those “interests” will range from other businesses, to lake houses, boats, and real estate.  And trust me you can find all kinds of reason to justify every one of them.

    But I poured the profits back into the business, we paid down debt where we could and built up a reserve of cash so if the economy turned south we wouldn’t be overly exposed.   As it turned out, it was a great move – things changed quick when the dot.com bubble burst and 9/11 happened.  The tide turned, sales plummeted and it became survival of the fittest.   Many equipment dealers had over built, they had bloated inventories (guilty!), and stretched credit lines.    Thankfully, we  had been practicing  controlled growth and reinvesting profits as a consistent part of our business plan.  And because of  those two strategies we were better positioned to navigate the downturn and maintain a healthy business.   It wasn’t easy, but relative to many others we were in good shape!  I will say that until that downturn happened, that rainy day, it was really hard to keep from “diversifying my interests”.  Thanks,  John!

    How about you, do you have a plan to save for a rainy day in your business?    As always we enjoy your comments & Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.

    Chris Steinlage   Kansas City Business Coach

    18 Dec


    I’ve had great discussions with a few different clients lately…they are seeing a huge shift with the results in their business.  Both in terms of how much they’re making (more) and how much they’re working (less than they used to).

    There are some specific reasons why they’re seeing improvements – some of it’s related to strategic planning paying off, some of it’s as simple as having the confidence to raise their pricing to reflect the value they generate.  But the biggest difference is that they have successfully shifted from a technician’s mindset to an Entrepreneurial Mindset.

    Mike Michalowicz – author of the The Pumpkin Plan really nailed the definition of what an entrepreneur is:

    “Entrepreneurs don’t do most of the work.  Entrepreneurs identify the problems, discover the opportunities and then build processes to allow other people and other things to do the work.”

    Technicians…on the other hand are masters at their craft.  They are really good at what they do and their mindset is that they are going to be more effective at doing that work than anyone else can be.  That may be a true statement…but it’s a dead end trap for a business owner! The technician’s mindset leads to longer hours, capped income and eventually a state of burnout.

    Contrast that with the Entrepreneurial mindset…focusing on finding the bottlenecks in your business model and resolving those issues in ways that don’t require your personal time.  It takes more time and effort up front, but as you clear things out, you will start making more money and spending less of your own time on working IN the business.

    Ask yourself this question as you think about your planning for next year:

    In order to make more money than you did this year, do you personally need to put in more hours doing the work / delivering your service or product?

    If the answer is yes, then you’re stuck acting like a technician.  A better question would be:

    How can I generate more profitable revenue AND free up my time?

    It’s not easy, but when you make the shift to an entrepreneurial mindset and start spending your time resolving the business model, all sorts of things become possible.

    Where are you in terms of balance between Entrepreneur and Technician?  Are you building your business through brute force and time…or are you building your business to operate without you?  We’d love to hear your thoughts – contact us or share them in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach

    11 Dec

    Business Owner Presents

    In just 3 short weeks Santa will be here.    If you own or manage a business we wanted to share  4 things we hope you all put on your Christmas list, regardless if you have been naughty or nice this past year.    I think some of the most successful businesses we have worked with would agree if you could box these up and put them under the tree, you would be ready to charge into 2013!  So today, we wanted to share some of the secret sauce.

    Present  #1: Clarity of Vision/Mission/Values

    A clear vision of who you are, what you are and what you stand for is at the core of every successful business.    Of the four packages under your tree, this present should be the largest.   It is the foundation on which everything else in your business is built on.   Before you buy any other gifts, I would recommend this one first.   Until you establish a base line to build from, it is hard to move forward with a purpose.

    Present  #2: Focus on what matters most

    Business owners often feel like they are getting pulled in 10 directions at once.   Purposefully prioritize what is really important and what is going to get you where you where you want to go.   Complete a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis on your business.  Through strategic planning, develop the action steps necessary to achieve the desired goals.    Set goals that are thoughtful and achievable.  Then, put time lines on them and assign an owner to every goal.

    Present  #3: Momentum to achieve your goals

    Avalanches start from one small section of snow breaking away from a slope.   But first, something (either natural or manmade) has to trigger the snow to break away.   For businesses, getting focused would be the trigger, but the avalanche it creates is where all the momentum (energy) is released.    The momentum ignites excitement in both your employees and customer base.   Positive momentum can also boost you and your team like a high energy drink and that energy will be contagious.

    Present  #4: Accountability for success

    This present is the one that sits in the back of the tree and often gets overlooked, however if you don’t open it and use it with the first 3 presents, the first 3 presents may as well be returned for a refund, because they will not produce the results you desire.    Sometimes we see businesses use the gift of accountability with eager dedication, when it is shiny and new.  But over time, it starts collecting dust on the shelf and eventually ends up misplaced in the storage room.    And unfortunately, without Present #4 (Accountability) continually being incorporated with the other 3 gifts of Clarity, Focus, and Momentum, none of them ever end up reaching their fullest potential and consequently, neither does the business.

    So as you get into the hustle and bustle of the Holiday shopping season, we hope you get the perfect gifts for all those special people in your lives and remember those who are truly less fortunate than you during this season of giving.   And, as a business leader or owner who is thinking about what the future holds for your business in 2013, we hope these four presents are on your list and find their way under your tree.    If you are not sure where to start, where to find these four presents, or how to make them work (instruction manuals can be confusing!), please give us a call.   As always, our goal is to do our very best to help you.   What (business intangibles) would you like to get as a gift this year?  Share your thoughts below.

    Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach

    Photo by kennymatic via flickr

    03 Dec


    This is a great time of year to reflect and search for wisdom and inspiration as you start thinking about what you’d like to do next.  In the age of twitter and status updates, what better way to do that than to find some powerful quotes and use those as the seeds for growth.

    Entrepreneurs and small business owners operate on caffeine, dreams and inspiration.  Sometimes those are in short supply, so if that’s the case for you – grab a cup of coffee (or a big diet Coke) and check out the following quotes we pulled together – specifically targeted for the business owner who’s ready to grow their business.

    Make something happen!

    Successful business owners are part of that rare breed of people who make things happen.  It’s not that they don’t get bogged down in the same stress and fear that everyone else deals with, it’s that they understand and consistently apply an active approach.

    “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  – Thomas A. Edison

    “Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

    “To live is the rarest thing in the world.
    Most people exist, that is all.” – Oscar Wilde

    “We have a ‘strategic’ plan. It’s called doing things.” – Herb Kelleher, founder, Southwest Airlines

    “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living, or get busy dying.” – Character Andy Dufresne in Stephen King’s The Shawshank Redemption (Tim Robbins)

    Fear of failure…or just plain old fear can keep you from making things happen. Change your perspective and get motivated!


    There are no silver bullets. Plans and assumptions will always end up being wrong…but the act of planning, being prepared for uncertainty is what will make you successful.

    “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” – Mike Tyson

    “No business plan survives first contact with customers.” – Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur and author of Four Steps to the Ephiphany

    “Nonsense, man!  They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance!” – U.S. General John B. Sedgwick…his last words!

    “Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose up sides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow.”  – Author Tony Schwartz

    “When you’re testing to see how deep the water is, never use two feet.” – Mark Twain

    sailing boat                                         photo by Stuck In Customs via Flickr

    “A ship is safe in harbor, but that is not what a ship was built for.” – William H Shedd

    It’s a fine line between playing it safe, avoiding risk and getting in over your head.  The key to remember is that reward doesn’t come without risk so find ways to manage your risks, not avoid them.

    What are you selling?

    Entrepreneurs sometimes fall into the trap of building ideas.  They may be great ideas but the real test for a business is whether someone is willing to pay for that solution.

    “Nothing happens until somebody sells something.” – Arthur ‘Red’ Motley, famous sales trainer

    “You have to solve a problem that people actually have.  But it’s not always a problem that they know they have, so that’s tricky.” – Joshua Schachter (creator of Del.ici.ous)

    “The product that will not sell without advertising will not sell profitability with advertising.” – Albert Lasker, pioneer of modern advertising

    You can’t have a hotdog stand without a hotdog.  Figure out what your core is, and get that right.” – Jason Fried, founder of 37 Signals

    “Business is not financial science, it’s about creating a product or service so good that people will pay for it.” – Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop

    What solution have you created?  Are you actively selling it?  If not, why not?


    You will have bad days and there will be times when things look grim. That’s when you need to find your core…why you’re doing this in the first place and recharge yourself for the next go around.

    “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible!” – Audrey Hepburn

    “I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was” – Muhammad Ali

    “When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.” – Advertising Executive Leo Burnett

    “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford

    jump3 photo by lintmachine via flickr

    “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing” – Helen Keller

    You have a choice – you can create something remarkable, or you can be overwhelmed. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it doesn’t feel like you have a choice, but you do.

    The Successful Entrepreneurial mindset

    Growing a successful business requires the business owner to make a leap from doing the work to creating the engine to do the work.  Create the engine and create the habits of success.

    “Entrepreneurs don’t do most of the work. Entrepreneurs identify the problems, discover the opportunities and then build processes to allow other people and other things to do the work.” – Mike Michalowicz, author of The Pumpkin Plan

    “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.  The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” – John C. Maxwell

    “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.” – Jim Collins in Good to Great

    “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

    What’s something you could change about your routine that would make you more successful?  Maybe another one of my favorite quotes has an idea for you? (Bonus #26):

    “You are the same person today as you’ll be in five years except for two things, the books you’ll read and the people you’ll meet.”  – Charlie ‘Tremendous’ Jones

    Any of these quotes resonate for you?  What are some of your favorites quotes that aren’t listed here?  I’d love to hear your thoughts – share them in the comments below:

    Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach