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  • Aspire » Inspire

    24 Feb

    Businessman and questions

    The story of your life (so far) is what it is.  As a business owner or leader you have made choices that have created the path that leads to where you are at this point in time.  It’s your story and in that story, your Why exists…and it turns out that your “Why” is the key to success. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

    “Finding WHY is a process of discovery, not invention.” ― Simon Sinek

    Let me share an example to show you what I mean:  Marty is a physically fit and mentally sharp man who looks at least 10 years younger than the birthdate he was given over 7 decades ago. A few days ago he was discussing his business with a group of his peers.  He’s been struggling with the growth of his business over the past several years and the frustrations were mounting.  Curiously, someone asked “So what’s your Why? (in your business)”  Typical of many business owners, he was able to fire back quick pointed answers, and they were all honest, sincere statements, but they were mostly answering “What” he did and “How” he did it.  The “Why” was not coming through and the lack of clarity fueled the conversation.

    However Marty is very clear on a lot of other things – he has defined his target market in a very specific way…something every company should do regardless of size.  At the very least a clearly defined market provides direction for sales and marketing efforts of a company. Without that clarity, you’re going to be lost – no business can be all things to all people.  In Marty’s case, he has defined a specific industry and also a very specific segment of that industry.   So in terms of Shallow and Wide vs. Deep and Narrow, there was no question his business plan had clarity on where it was focusing its efforts.  Marty was all in on the Deep and Narrow.

    But the fact is, he wasn’t clear on everything. Here was this well-educated man, with an MBA with Honors in Marketing & Finance, years of successful corporate experience working with fortune 500 companies, and an intentional business model that is 100%  focused on a very clearly -defined market segment, yet he is unable to articulate his “Why?”.  There had to be more.

    Others in the group added their thoughts and suggestions in an effort to get to the heart of this thought provoking question he seemed challenged to answer.  He answered a few “How’s” when he explained how he had two homes and splits time between them to match the climate he prefers, how he operated his business, how he helped some past clients, and so on.

    Then he added he wanted to be a good a father and grandfather to his family…. it felt like the “Why” was getting closer.  But the question still remained.

    Find your Why and you tell your story…

    Pressed one more time with “But that still isn’t your Why”   Marty leaned forward and spoke with a passion that is hard to describe. He said “15 years ago I lost my first wife.  She had a professional career and was under a constant stress and I lost her.  She was 53.”   And with that, Marty’s “Why” was a mystery no longer.  He’s driven to help women business owners (even more specifically female dentists) find a way to succeed without all of the stress from their business. That’s the kind of motivation that makes everything else – his what, his how…fade into the background. This is a guy who will do whatever he possibly can to help his clients because of what he believes (his “Why”). That’s the kind of guy you want to hire if you fit his target market.

    His niche is very narrow, but his model is not constrained by geography. If you know any female dentists who live in Tucson, AZ,  Walnut Creek, CA, or anywhere else in the country that has ever thought they might want someone to help them with the “business side” of their business, please introduce them to Marty. He has discovered his Why and he would love to help them discover theirs!

    Do you ever ask yourself what your Why is? Why do you get up in the morning? Do you share that “Why” with your team or your customers?  Want  to learn more? Simon Sinek gave a great TED talk explaining the Golden Circle of What? How? & Why?  It is one of the best, most watched Ted talks of all time. Discover your why, tell your story and it will make all the difference.

    We’d love to hear what you think – share your thoughts in the comments below.

    Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach 

    29 Dec

    Gratitude - Relax

    I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately on what it takes to be happy and successful (not necessarily the same things by the way…). It’s interesting that one of the ideas that keeps coming up is the importance of consistently and authentically practicing gratitude in your life. (As an example, it’s physically not possible to be mad/upset and grateful at the same time…so if you’re having a bad day, taking time to find something to be thankful for can really shift your mood).

    Overall 2014 has definitely had it’s challenges – but with the idea of focusing on the positive, here are 14 things I’m grateful for in 2014:

    1. Family

    I love watching (and participating) with my kids as they make the tough transition to adults – it’s a very cool thing to see happen. I also deeply appreciate my wife and extended family for their support and connection this year.

    2. Clients

    I enjoy working with my clients – and I’ve discovered that one of the best things is the opportunity to celebrate their successes. And I have some really sharp clients, so that’s been happening a lot in the last few years…!

    3. The economy – finally starting to show some signs of life

    Despite the huge vacuum of leadership in Washington, we are finally starting to see the overall business environment pick up. I started Aspire back in 2007, right before the economy crashed, so it’s been a long stretch of down years, which makes it great to see even the small sparks we’re seeing now.

    4. Opportunities to TravelSouth Africa - Cheetahs on the hunt

    We had the chance to take one of our bucket list trips this past summer to South Africa and it was everything we could have hoped for (and then some). It’s difficult to put an exact value on travel, but I can tell you that a great trip will make everything else you do better…and that’s worth a lot.

    5. Networking Partners

    The past year has really been a good one in terms of developing relationships with business contacts that I admire, enjoy and have opportunities to collaborate with. These great relationships are also starting to pay off with quality introductions and referrals (in all directions) – creating the kind of environment you have to have for continued growth.

    The Quadrafoil Electric Boat6. Cool Technology – example: The Quadrafoil

    My entire life I’ve been inspired by cool ideas of what could be (probably because my Dad had me reading Science Fiction in grade school…). We live in an amazing time where technology is really starting to meet (and often exceed) what was only dreamed of years ago. Quick example – I don’t want a boat and I don’t live near water, but I can’t deny how cool the Quadrafoil is for a lot of reasons – check it out: The Quadrafoil

    7. Friends

    With work, family and all of the other obligations at hand, it’s not possible to spend as much time with friends as I’d like, but I do value the time that I have been able to spend this year (and I will be pushing to spend more next year…).

    8. Time to Think – White Space

    Another key to success and happiness that I’ve been reading about (and observed this year) is finding time to unplug and find some white space. I haven’t quite worked up to meditation (although I’m sure that’s good for you as well) but I definitely appreciate the benefits of finding some quiet time.

    9. Entrepreneurship

    When I worked in the corporate world the ongoing message was doom and gloom with never-ending challenges. Maybe that’s why I so appreciate the optimism and energy of entrepreneurs and small business owners.

    Photo by  eagle102.net via Flickr

    Photo by eagle102.net via Flickr

    10. Gary Pinkel and Mizzou Football

    The Tigers were supposed to struggle this year, but ended up going back to the SEC Championship and winning at least 10 games – and Coach Pinkel has built a program that’s gratifying to root for.

    11. Bill Snyder

    I didn’t go to K-State but you can’t help but be impressed and inspired by their great football coach. Unfortunately I’m getting old enough to really appreciate what he’s been able to accomplish at his age…or at any age.

    12. Abundance – example Solar Energy Revolution

    I first ran across Peter Diamandis and his book Abundance a couple of years ago and I was struck with what a different (and great) message he had. The essence of the book and most of what Diamandis does is that technology is building the capability for a golden age in the next 10 to 20 years. One recent example from his blog is a write-up on the Solar Energy Revolution. As you can see from his blog (and the book) – the possibilities are amazing. I’m grateful to be living in a time where the world is fundamentally changing and often for the better (despite what you hear on the news).

    13. Marvel Comics – Bringing us great Movies

    One of my Christmas gifts was a copy of Guardians of the Galaxy – one of the best movies of 2014…not one of the best superhero or comic book movies, but overall one of the best movies period! And Marvel also brought us the excellent Captain America – The Winter Soldier this year as well. I’ve always been a fan of superheroes and science fiction and now we’re getting a chance to see great adaptations on the big screen!

    14. Health

    Probably no surprise that as you get older you start to clearly realize how your body works…or doesn’t work. I don’t always enjoy going to the gym or eating right, but I definitely appreciate feeling great and staying healthy (and relatively) fit. It’s harder work than it used to be, but I think that makes it even more valuable.

    What are you thankful for this year? You don’t need to write your own post, but I would encourage to carve out at least a few minutes to think about it. It’s a great stepping stone for planning next year. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach

    22 Dec

    Prefer to listen to this post – just use the play button below and leave us a comment at the bottom:



    Whether you know him as St. Nicholas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, or Santa Claus, he is arguably one of the most recognized figures in world.   From his 4th Century origin as a bearded Christian bishop who was famous for his generosity to the poor to a man who now magically travels the entire world in a single night, Santa knows his business.   Over the years, these are a few things he taught me.

    Be someone others can count on.    Santa’s customer base is kids (no age limit!).  If you’re a kid there is a pretty good chance Santa is going to find your house on Christmas morning.   He is someone you can count on.   And, over the years Santa’s spirit of giving has even spread to organizations like Toys for Tots, the Salvation Army, and more directly in Kansas City Operation Breakthrough to help ensure Santa or his helpers find a way into every home.   Be someone people can count on.

    Checklists work.  Every year Santa is “making his list and checking it twice.”  He also has his “Naughty List” and “Nice List” (Which one are you on this year?)  Santa has learned the importance of writing down things down.  He should know; he has been refining his system for over 1,600 years!   He recognizes that Checklists reduce the chance of making errors.  So, if you’re trying to reduce errors in repeatable processes, try creating some checklists that are easy to follow.  Checklists work.

    Eat the cookies…occasionally.  It has been said that Santa has never found a cookie or glass of milk he didn’t like on Christmas.  But, that doesn’t mean he eats like that every day.  It is OK to treat yourself and your (reindeer) team to something special, especially when there is something to celebrate, like completing a big project by Christmas day!  Many businesses forget to celebrate successes throughout the year.  Keep it within your means, but eat some cookies and celebrate your successes with your team.

    The joy in giving.   This is the best part of Santa’s business model.  Santa knows there is nothing like seeing the joy on the face of child on Christmas morning.  It was at the heart of St. Nicholas during the 4th century and it was the message of a baby, born in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago.   Recently, I witnessed the joy of giving at a client’s Christmas holiday party.  The owner not only had nice gifts for all the employees, but there was something for every spouse and their children too!   Make giving part of your business model and experience the joy it gives back to you.

    We hope everyone has a great holiday season with your family and friends.  Be safe if you’re traveling…please don’t text or drink and drive.   And if you haven’t already, consider helping Santa by supporting some of the organizations mentioned above.    As always, feel free to leave any comments in the space below.    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

    Chris Steinlage  Kansas City Business Coach

    24 Nov

    If you’d prefer to listen to this post, click the start button below – and leave us a comment when you’re done!


    Thanksgiving Parade Picture from Martha_Chapa95 via Flickr

    Thanksgiving Parade Picture from Martha_Chapa95 via Flickr

    There is no other single day of the year that causes us to pause and give thanks more than Thanksgiving.   As the biggest travel holiday of the year, more friends and family are gathered together during this period, than any other holiday.  We spend time with family, we usually eat way more than we should, and we give thanks for what is good in our lives.

    Business owners may not have an official thanksgiving day, although I think some would say it is the day after they finish their YE taxes. ;-)    But as a business owner or manager we all have so much to be thankful for.  Not just once or twice a year, but every day of year.   Here are 4 that I think we all should raise a glass and have a toast to:

    Always Be Thankful for….


    It has changed the way we do business. The world can be your market place.  Today even the smallest companies can look as big as they want on the internet.  Brick and Mortar is not a requirement or measuring tool for success.  “The Cloud” has allowed businesses to be more remote than ever before.  The ability to access information, network and share ideas, and outsource business functions has never been easier; and it will only get better.  Be thankful and leverage this.

    Social Media.

    Technology created it and there are negatives with everything, but the positive impact of social media is changing the game of traditional marketing and how we connect with our customers. Big advertising budgets are often being replaced with leaner more targeted social media strategies that can connect and interact with their target markets instantaneously. Be thankful and tweet it, pin it, or share it!

    The USA.

    It is easy to find things to complain about when it comes to owning or operating a business.  We all hate taxes, over regulation, etc. etc. and globally there may be other countries that are more business friendly.  But, the powerful blend of culture, resources, and the laws that guide our country are unmatched. The bottom line is, the USA still offers tremendous freedom an opportunity to those who choose to go out and get it.  Be thankful for our freedom and all those who gave their lives so we could have it.

    Employees, Business Partners, Friends, and Family.

    The anthem of the business owner in independence. But the people we surround ourselves with ultimately have a huge impact on long-term success. Take stock in the people around you.  Thank them for their contributions and support. Let them know they are valued and appreciated.  These people (esp close friends and family) are often the people who support you the most and are acknowledged the least.  Be thankful they are in your life and let them know.

    On this Thanksgiving, we would like to thank all of those who have contributed to our successes in life and in business, especially our families.  It is through your trust, support, understanding, and encouragement we are where we are.

    Finally, we are thankful for our clients who allow us to help them in their businesses and entrust us to be part of their business success story.  We are thankful.

    What are you thankful for?  We always appreciate your comments.  Happy Thanksgiving!

    Chris Steinlage   Kansas City Business Coach

    10 Nov

    Want to listen to this blog post? Click on the start button below – and then leave us a comment.


    Powerful business - Signficant

    In life, success without significance is possible, but significance without success is nearly impossible.   In most cases long term success in business follows a very similar path.  The question then is which path is your business on?

    Recently, Kansas City area author, Dan Stalp was a guest speaker at an Aspire Book Review.   He used “The Reunion”, a book he co-authored, as the framework to challenge his audience on this subject.   His book tells the story of a High School Reunion with a cast of 4 main characters.  Each of them has led a very different life since their High School graduation day.   Ultimately, the story will challenge the reader to look in the mirror and reflect on their own life.   It is a great short read.

    The fact that 76 million baby boomers have been moving through the different stages of life at an avg. rate of 10,000/per day over the last several decades probably has something to do with the increase in this type of personal reflection. Regardless of the reason, it is also fair to say there has been a significant shift in the awareness or desire of companies to “make a difference” instead of just “making money”.    And even if they aren’t doing it at their core, there certainly are a lot of companies at least trying to portray that image publically.

    It is critical for any for-profit business to actually make a profit, without that there is no growth, no hiring of additional employees, no goods or services, and no profits to pay taxes on (which in turn fund things like schools, gov’t agencies, and our infrastructure).   There has to be a profit.   But if making money is the only thing you focus on, will that produce a long term successful business?

    “Successful Businesses may make Money…Significant Businesses also make a Difference”        –  Aspire Business Development

    Let’s agree that  there are examples of companies and entire industries that have made (and still make) a lot of money from what would not be viewed as significant businesses, at least not in a positive context, that’s part of the free enterprise system.

    Significant Businesses possess qualities and traits that tend to go a little deeper than the dollar sign.  Financially they tend to be very sound and profitable businesses, but the revenue is more of a by-product of the way the entire company operates. Below is a starter list of some qualities Significant Business exhibit.

    1. Strong ethical leadership that believes in accountability, honesty, and integrity.
    2. The business has a defined core value system that is reflective of who they are.
    3. Customers and Customer experience are a high priority.
    4. Positively impact the lives of their employees, the employees enjoy working there, and the company has a desire to give back.
    5. Provide products or services that have a place, fill a need, and they constantly strive to get better.

    Does this sound like your business?   Would you want to do business with this kind of company?

    A quick side note on this topic of significance…. Which city and fan base do you think the world viewed as being more significant the morning after Game 7 of the World Series?  The news of burning cars and arrests in San Francisco or the news of Kansas City fans that generated an unsolicited letter to the editor by a San Franciscan billionaire that went viral?

    Focus on Significance; chances are pretty good it will improve your business and the world around you will be a better place because of it.

    As always, we would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.   If you have any traits or qualities to add to the list above please feel free to share them.

    Chris Steinlage  Kansas City Business Coach