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  • Aspire » Inspire

    07 Apr


    I’ve had this little square manmade resin stone with 4 words engraved on it on my desk for years.  I don’t even remember where it came from (sorry honey, if it was from you!).  Each of the four words has an accompanying quote.  It gets rotated regularly but at least one word is always in clear view.  The words and the quotes have always impacted me and they have provided a little nudge from time to time so it seemed appropriate to share them and maybe they will do the same for you.


    “Nothing in this world is impossible to a willing heart”

    This word is my favorite as I know of no other trait more important when looking for quality people than hiring great attitudes.   They are hard to manufacture. You can usually train an inexperienced person on a skill, but when it comes to attitude, building a team with positive, optimistic attitudes is one of the best recipes there is for building an environment full or energy and it sets the stage for these next three words to go to work in your business and life.  It is important to note that in a poor environment great attitudes can be spoiled so they are something that needs to be fostered.


    “Keep your head and your heart in the right direction and you’ll never have to worry about your feet”

     We spend a lot of time talking about the significance of having goals.   But the difference between those who succeed and those who fail often has very little to do with levels of education, plaques on wall, or the type of business they own.   More often than not the people who consistently are high performers in their careers are people who take the time to write their goals down and clearly state when and what they are going to do.  They review them regular and track their progress.  They are not just goals, they are SMART goals.


    “If you do not believe in yourself….chances are nobody else will”

    If you own a business and don’t believe in what you are doing your chances for long term success are virtually nonexistent.   And for you to believe in what you are doing, it starts with believing in yourself.  Self-limiting beliefs is one of biggest obstacles there is in preventing the implementation of new game changing ideas.  And when you don’t believe in yourself, your employees will sense it and your customers will smell it a mile away.   Believe in yourself.  Believe in your business.  Believe in your employees and coworkers and your customers will believe in you.


    “The distance between success and failure can only be measured by one’s desire”

    How is it that two companies providing the exact same product or service in the exact same economy can have two completely different outcomes in terms of success?  I am not just talking about financial success, ultimately if you’re a for profit company that has to be in the net result.  But, also the desire for your business to stand for something, to make a difference by positively impacting your community, your region, or maybe the world.  Think about Zappos or TOMS shoes.  What’s their desire?  Is it really about selling shoes?  Or are the shoes just used as the vehicle to deliver what their real desire is?    What do you really desire?  If your desire is high, chances are success will be the byproduct.

    That’s it.  Attitude-Goals-Belief-Desire.  4 words and quotes on a small square block.  Maybe you have something similar?  What do you use to give yourself a nudge when you need it?   As always feel free to share your thoughts in the space below.

    Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach

    31 Mar

    Big Idea Book

    A great book can take you places…and a great business book can inspire some amazing things. I’ve personally always been a big fan of reading (which is why I enjoy doing the Business Book Reviews we do every month). To me books are almost magical – repositories of wisdom and inspiration that are just out there waiting to be found.

    Reading a lot when I was young was a big reason for my success in school and as I’ve gotten older it’s clear that continuous learning is a huge part of what it takes to be successful (not just my opinion – see HBR’s For those who want to lead, read). When I’m feeling stuck, I look for a book that might help me. If I know I’m not up to speed on a topic, I’ll add in a few of the right books to my upcoming reading list. And if I’m looking for inspiration…I start with great books.

    Here are just a few big ideas from some great business books – hopefully at least one of them will inspire you and help you:

    1. Your job is to work ON your business: The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber

    Michael Gerber wrote the E-Myth back in the 80′s but the central ideas are still extremely relevant today and he absolutely nails the challenge and frustration that most entrepreneurs and business owners have in the first few years of running their business.  Most business owners started their business because they’re really good at what they do – but creating a successful business that’s scalable requires a lot more than technical expertise, it requires you to purposely build the business as if someone else was going to own it and run it. As long as you are implicit in the day to day operations, you don’t have a business…you have a job.

    Does your business own you?  When’s the last time you took a long vacation and didn’t deal with work?


    2.  People don’t buy what you do but WHY you do it:  Start with Why by Simon Sinek

    This particular idea is a little deeper philosophically than the others.


    If I’m in the market for a great widget, then I’m going to buy the best widget I can find that fits my price range – pretty straightforward and doesn’t seem to have anything to do with having a purpose, a cause…or a WHY.  But it turns out that if you are going to make a great widget (or offer a great service), then the bigger picture of WHY becomes really important. It becomes the difference between Southwest Airlines and the short lived TED airlines from United.  They had the same basic business model, but TED was built to compete with Southwest and Southwest was built to bring fun, cost effective flights to the masses and that made all in the difference in terms of the product / service they created. See the difference?

    What do you stand for and is it represented in what you sell and do?


    3. You MUST have the RIGHT people on the bus:  Good to Great by Jim Collins

    It’s pretty difficult to only pull 1 great idea from a Jim Collins book, but getting the right people on the bus is the one that stands out to me. Based on a lot of research into how companies succeed, Collins and his team uncovered a clear pattern that having the right people on your team is a lot more important than having a clear destination. The right team are people who share your values…the ones who get what the company is all about (see Start with Why above) and will go the extra mile to make things work.

    Another way to look at this that might be a little more actionable:  If you have the WRONG people on your team, they are killing your business and it’s going to be very difficult to succeed in the long run.

    When’s the last time you looked at your people and asked if they were really the right ones for you?


    4. Planning should be simple and focused:  Traction by Gino Wickman

    This is another book that has several great ‘big’ ideas, but the one that I come back to over and over again is the importance of having a simple, focused planning process and developing a business plan that gets used every 90 days.  Most people will shudder when you talk about business planning…and for good reason.  They’ve been taught that a business plan is this big, complex document that gets created when you first start your business and then sits on a shelf collecting dust from that point on. Traction makes a great case for the need of a SIMPLE business plan (2 pages) that forces the business owner to really focus in on what’s most important…and to use that focus to drive the business, while updating every 90 days.

    Can you (and your employees) quickly list off the 5 most important things you need to accomplish this year?


    5.  Focus on creating marketing that is Useful to prospective customers:  Youtility by Jay Baer

    There’s a huge amount of noise in the marketplace today, so if you want to get attention from your prospective customers, you have a choice to try to either be Amazing (think viral videos) or Useful (think free app that helps your clients out). Jay Baer makes a really strong case that focusing your marketing efforts on being useful is clearly the best way to go (check out 5 Examples to get you thinking about better marketing). When you focus on being useful, you establish credibility and you start building trust and relationships – all the things you need to create long lasting clients who aren’t shopping for the best price.

    Look at your most recent marketing efforts? Do they add value? Are they educating anyone?


    What books would you recommend?

    There are literally thousands of new business books written every year, so it’s virtually impossible to keep up with all of them…and there are probably at least a couple of good ideas in every book.  What books have had a big impact on you?  What big ideas? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach

    *Note – the book links above are via my Amazon account…if you were to buy a book from that link, I might get a really small amount of money from it…just letting you know.

    17 Mar
    Picture from Official US Navy Imagery

    Picture from Official US Navy Imagery

    It’s funny what you can learn from your kids.

    My daughter is a freshman in high school and has really developed a passion for distance running – she loved Cross Country in the fall (made Varsity and qualified for state as a freshman!) and now practice is starting for spring track. I’m not sure where her talents came from – it’s not like we’re a family of distance runners, but whatever talent she’s got has certainly been maximized by her approach to training.

    She works hard.

    I mean really, really hard.  On a nice day, she’ll go out and run a few miles just for something to do…even after practice. And on a nasty day…she’ll do the same thing and reluctantly go work out in the gym if it’s not practical to go outside.

    I’m certainly convinced that her success to this point is driven primarily by her effort and attitude.

    However all of that zealous training from fall to winter has caused her some problems and she’s had to take some time, do some physical therapy to recover from an injury…which means that track practice started last week and she wasn’t able to fully participate.

    It was on one of those days where she couldn’t practice that she shared some wisdom as I was taking her home…the coach had the distance runners doing some really challenging speed drills…which most of her teammates dread.  My daughter, however, has a very different perspective:

    “I hope I feel better soon – I’m bummed out I missed on the speed drills.  I love the hard days!”

    Wow – is that a telling phrase?  I love the hard days.

    My daughter prefers the days when she’s challenged – either by another runner…by her coach…or if that doesn’t happen, she’ll find ways to challenge herself.

    Do you love the hard days in your business?

    I’m not talking about the days where nothing seems to go right. We all have those and generally there’s nothing to love about it.

    I’m talking about the days where you get a great opportunity to really focus in on a juicy, meaningful challenge…and you get to solve it.

    For me – I love working with a client who’s got a big dream or idea and is looking for the best way to get there. It’s generally not an easy or quick answer, we’ll talk through lots of possibilities and ideas before things start to come together…it takes time, research, a lot of effort, but the payoff for me, is to help my clients reach that next big step, whatever it might be – those are the hard days that I really love.

    What’s the big challenge that you love to solve in your business?

    What are the kinds of things that keep you up at night – in a good way because your mind is racing with possibilities?

    Do you have those kinds of challenges on a regular basis?

    If not – I’d suggest that maybe you need to consider a career change. Life is too short to not get excited about what you’re doing. Sure there are lots of aspects of your business that aren’t going to be any fun – I know very few people that like to collect money from clients…or even do billing for that matter.  But if you’re playing to your personal strengths for most of what you do, then it’s a pretty good bet that you have some great challenges that you love to solve.

    It’s a good bet that you also love the hard days.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – if you have a second, share them in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

    14 Jan


    Photo by Xurble via Flickr

    Photo by Xurble via Flickr

    At different times of our life and careers we ask ourselves, why am I doing this?  Is this where I am supposed to be?  How did I get here?   The answer isn’t always clear, but our hope is that every once in a while you get a little affirmation that today you are exactly where you were meant to be and the world is better for it.

    At Aspire, one of the most rewarding parts of our business is seeing our clients succeed.   Sometimes the successes are subtle and sometimes they are more dramatic, but the reward comes in the forward progress. For me, a conversation this past week at an early morning meeting reminded me of a past customer and an event that took place over 10 years ago and is still unfolding today…

    An introduction…

    I first remembered him coming into our equipment dealership as an employee of one of our larger utility contractors.  He was probably in his late 20’s and was essentially a laborer on a construction crew.   After seeing him on a few of their jobsites, it became clear he was very skilled at running just about any type of construction equipment.  In fact, the tougher the job, the more likely he would be part of the crew sent to complete it.

    As time went by, he eventually approached one of my salesmen about renting a piece of equipment on his own.   He had an opportunity to take on a project by himself, but he would need a machine to do it.   With this one job, he thought it could be the first step towards starting his own business.

    An Obstacle…

    However we ran into an unexpected issue as we prepared to set up his business account.  It turns out he had made some bad decisions in his early twenties.  He was convicted of a felony leaving him with a permanent record. To his credit, he was forthright and shared this with me before we found out on our own, but that didn’t change the situation. Even though he had paid for his mistakes, he basically was left with no credit and at that time there was little chance of getting him financed for much more than a shovel.

    But things aren’t always that black and white…or at least they shouldn’t be…this guy had a lot of things going for him.  He was one of the best equipment operators I had ever seen, he was mentally sharp, and he wasn’t afraid of work.  So after much deliberation, an agreement was made to work out a rental program on a used piece of equipment to get him started with his own.  As long as he kept his end of the agreement, we (the dealership) would keep our end.

    Creating Success…

    Over the next few months, he kept his end of the deal and we kept ours.   Since the dealership was acting as his “bank” initially we talked pretty openly about equipment purchases and where he spent his money.   His felony record forced him to use an initial growth strategy that would not require capital equipment debt.  So most of his first machines were used units that he would buy on auctions or from private parties.  Then he would have our dealership run them through our service department to get them ready for production.

    Today, I don’t think he has an issue with getting a line of credit.  His business has prospered and through slow and steady growth his company now provides employment and a livelihood to 35 – 40 employees and their families.

    Why do we do what we do?

    Honestly, it is hard to put into words the feeling one has knowing they played a small part in that kind of success and growth.

    That is why we do what we do.

    What about you? When’s the last time you thought about why you do what you do?

    Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach

    17 Dec
    Photo by Kevin Dooley via Flickr

    Photo by Kevin Dooley via Flickr

    What drives your employees?  If you don’t know the answer to that question, you may want to ask it.   But be ready, the answers may surprise you.   Believe it or not, good employees are motivated by much more than money or a just paycheck.   I was reminded of that again just recently, thanks to an engaging group of employees who participated in an onsite meeting facilitated at their office.

    The question was succinct; “Why do you work for this company?”    We then proceeded to create a list on a whiteboard.   Their responses touched on several different motivators that reinforced why they came to work each day.   However, the responses of “money”, “paycheck”, or “it’s a job” never made the list.   In fact, no one even used a word to insinuate one of those as a reason.   It brings one to question if in fact money is even a significant component?   Of course the answer is yes it is, but only to a certain degree.   When it is all said and done, the reasons we seek out one career over another, one job vs. another job is a lot less about the financial rewards than you think. Which of course begs the question – Why is money…or some kind of monetary bonus the first thing we think of when we want to motivate an employee?

    Daniel Pink was so intrigued by the idea of what motivates people he researched, authored, and titled a fascinating business book called Drive (reviewed it in a previous blog post)  The snapshot summary is money is only a motivator up to a point.   As long as the compensation is fair, additional compensation is not going to generate a higher return on investment.   Pink then defined three components that his research identified as his new model to motivate employees and it turns out that none of them involved money.

    • AutonomySome degree of freedom.
    • MasteryAbility to perfect and “master” something
    • PurposeMaking a difference       

    Putting the model to a test…

    If Pink is really onto something, the $100,000 question is:  How would your company respond?   Do you have a company that gravitates towards this higher level or do you have paycheck collectors?   All business owners would like to believe they don’t have any of the latter in their organization.  But unfortunately, many businesses still do.

    As for the team of employees at this recent meeting, it appears this group is reinforcing the statistics Pink discerned in the research for his book.  Here is a summary of their answers…

    “Belonging” -  Purpose           “Enjoy what they do, likes industry”

    “Feeling of Gratitude”               “We do things right”  – Mastery

    “Trust & Autonomy”                “Good Atmosphere”

    “Growth Opportunities”           “Constant Learning & Change”

    Although, they didn’t use Daniel Pink’s terminology verbatim, their answers directly included all three of the components Pink identified in his model.  Additionally, several of the others indirectly can be tied to them.   Without question, it is clear this group views their employment as much more than collecting a pay check.

    So what do you think now?  As a business owner, how would your employees respond if they answered honestly?  If you’re an employee, how would you answer that question?  Still unsure?   If you have never seen it, carve out about 10 minutes and check out this animated video of Pink discussing his research behind “Drive”.  We promise you will find it interesting.

    As always please share your thoughts in the space below.

    Chris Steinlage, Kansas City Business Coach