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  • Aspire » Inspire

    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

    13 Oct

    Click start below if you’d prefer to listen to this week’s article…and let us know what you think by leaving a comment.


    This is for dedicated to all the fans of baseball past and present.   Next week we’ll get back to business.

    He was born and raised about 100 miles NW of the current Truman Sports Complex.  He was a dairy farmer by trade, but those who knew him will tell you when it came to sports, baseball was his favorite.  As a young man, he played baseball on a local team comprised mostly of other young farmers who also had a passion for America’s pastime.   And, as I understand it, most of their games were played on Sunday afternoons, because a lighted ball field was a luxury that most teams didn’t have in rural America in those years.

    Because the Royals quickly established themselves in the Major Leagues; in his lifetime he never experienced many years of the Kansas City Royals not being expected to compete for the American League title.  Today, that’s hard to believe, but the last season he saw them play was 1989; the infamous 92 win season that many baseball experts think may have been the best team the Royals ever fielded.   Unfortunately, that was before the expanded playoff format and the third best record in baseball only earned you a spot on the couch in front of a TV to watch the remainder of the season play out.

    He loved his baseball.  When the Royals Stadium first opened, one of the first family vacations was a Kansas City trip to World’s of Fun and a Royals game.   The family may have enjoyed the entire trip, but make no mistake, the amusement park was for his kids, and the Royals game was for him.  In the years that followed, most summers usually included at least one trip to Royals stadium.  One of his favorite positions was first base, at 6’ 3” that had been his regular spot “back in the day”.  For the Royals,  Big Bad John Mayberry and Steve Balboni were two of his favorites to play the #3 post during the 70’s and 80’s.

    As Royals fans know, from day one in Kansas City the voice of the Royals has been Denny Mathews.  During the baseball season on the farm, Denny’s voice was part of milking cows, throwing hay, and doing other work around the farm.  If there was an AM radio nearby and a game was on, you can bet he had it tuned into WIBW 580 out of Topeka.   Few games were on TV and even if they were, unless it was Sunday afternoon, Denny’s call over an AM radio mounted on a tractor fender, usually won out over the RCA console TV and recliner in the living room.

    When his boys were old enough to play baseball, the rural community he called home his entire life did not have an organized summer baseball team.  So he, along with two other farmers in the community decided it was time to start a summer ball club. Apparently, his past baseball playing experience, coupled with his 8th grade diploma and Army GED was enough to qualify him for that role.

    Funding was simple; they held a pancake breakfast in the church basement before each season.  The proceeds of that breakfast plus a little revenue from concessions provided enough to fund an entire season.   During the early years, the home games all had to be played on Sunday afternoon, because the field still did not have any lights.  In time, lights were added and eventually a score board, bleachers, and an enclosed concession stand.

    He would go on to coach for years while all 5 of his sons played through the 3 different divisions that spanned from elementary thru high school age farm kids.  It truly was a “farm system” in the purest sense of the word.  Over the years his teams collected a number of league trophies.  As good coaches will attest, winning is the goal, but win or lose he wanted his players to have fun, knowing that both ends of the scoreboard were character building lessons in their own way.  Today, his oldest son still continues that family coaching lineage on that same baseball field.  As a side note, over the last two decades his son’s team’s aggressive base stealing tactics would make Rusty Kuntz and Ned Yost proud, but that is another story!

    This year is the 25th anniversary of that 92 win season and the passing of my dad, Lambert Steinlage.  He would absolutely love this Royals team.  The young rising stars, the veteran leaders, their never quit attitude, their passion and energy, the team chemistry, and the fact that so many are home grown through the farm system.  He would love it all.  But mostly, I think he would love the way they have fun playing the game.  Dad, if heaven has a front row seat, I hope you’re in it.  Win or Lose, this is going to be a lot of fun.  Let’s Go Royals!

    Chris Steinlage  Kansas City Business Coach

    15 Sep


    As a business owner, it’s way too easy to get bogged down in the day to day challenges. Sure it’s important to put out fires but it’s equally (or more) important to think about the big picture and where you’re taking things.

    One way to get inspired and to challenge your thinking – or at least get a different perspective, is to find a quote that resonates with you. Often someone else can put into words those ideas that are bouncing around your head.

    Here are 5 quotes that get to the heart of business success.

    “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders.  Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”  – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

    Imagine having a team of great employees who were as excited about what you’re building as you are. Going through the motions of work, just doing what has to be done is how most businesses operate…but if you want to be special, you need a team that yearns for the vast and endless sea.


    “High expectations are the key to everything.”    – Sam Walton

    If there’s someone who knows a little something about success, then I’d put Sam Walton high up on that list. I love this quote because it applies to how you think about yourself and the type of people you want to have around you. It’s a lot of work to consistently live up to high expectations – but that’s what it takes to succeed. And if you’re surrounded by people who believe and buy into that, then you’ve got the chance to do some amazing things.


    “That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”           – Steve Jobs

    Anyone can build something complex. In fact, chaos theory pretty much dictates that things will become more complex over time even if you don’t intend them to. Simplicity has a magic about it – whatever it is that you do, if you can simplify it down so people just ‘get’ it, then you’re onto something. You can’t scale your business successfully without first simplifying it.


    “The key question to keep asking is, Are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have.”    – Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

    This is another quote that has different levels to it. It’s important advice when you’re building your business because the only way to really get ahead is to focus on the most important things.  There are a million things you could work on, but only a few of them will actually move you forward.  And then of course there’s the clear message (from a dying man) on how important it is to think about your life and everything in it and to think about what’s really important. Are you spending your time on what’s important today?


    “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”    – Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

    According to Pew research, over 50% of the US Population read less than 5 books last year (23% didn’t read any). As a business owner, or a business professional who’s trying to get ahead, a huge part of your job is to get smarter every single day. And if you’re not plugged into some form of continuous learning (and reading would be the easiest way to do that) then you’re not going to be successful over the long run. It’s as simple as that.

    What do you think? Do these 5 quotes that challenge your thinking? What’s one of your favorite quotes – one that would have a profound impact on a business success?  We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach

    21 Jul

    Macy skiing

    The most memorable lessons in perseverance and persistence are not stories from history books but from the events that play out in our lives.   I got a great reminder of that on July 13, 2014.

    At 6,500’ elevation, the lake water in Montana rarely gets above 70 degrees on the surface.   On this mid-July Sunday, the air temperatures had climbed into the low 80’s but the lake water was still in the upper 60’s.   We were spending time with some family and enjoying an afternoon on the lake about an hour north of Butte, MT.  The biggest activity on the water was getting your turn on a Jet Ski, which is always a great time.    Except for the kids playing in the warmer water along the shore most of us were dry.

    A few hours into our day two of my brother-in-laws decided they wanted to show off their skiing abilities.  Both of them are natives of the Big Sky Country, so honestly they are more accustomed to the colder water temperatures of a high elevation lake.   The two of them proceeded to take their turns putting on a show carving back and forth on the water.    After they had worn out their legs the unavoidable “OK, Who’s Next?” question was tossed out to the group.

    Unexpectedly and without much hesitation, my daughter who is just shy of her 12th birthday announces she wants to give it a try.   I think her Dad was surprised as much as anyone!  So in a matter of minutes one of her uncles was fitting her into a set of skis and she was getting ready to put all her effort into marking another item off the bucket list of her life.

    My daughter is small for her age and the skis were for an adult so she was having a rough time holding the tips up, but her patient uncle was giving her words of encouragement and she was doing her best to follow his advice.   In a couple minutes the rope was snug and she was ready to go.

    Lesson #1:  Know when to let go

    In business we often witness businesses holding on to something that simply isn’t working.  A program, a product, an employee,  a bad customer.   Sound familiar?  They don’t really know why when you ask them what they’re doing…they just won’t let go.   For my daughter she learned that lesson on her first attempt.  When the roped tightened, her weight over shifted forward and she was pulled out of the skis.  And as first timers often do she kept a firm grip on the rope and was plowing the water with her body for a brief second or two before letting go.

    Lesson #2: Stay positive, access the situation, and make adjustments

    A little startled from the jolt and with the realization the water away from the shore is lot colder, her uncle turned coach proceeded to give her a few more pointers on where to keep her weight, how to hold the skis and her arms and so on.   Back along the shore we were yelling out of words of encouragement and her determination was building.  On the second attempt, she again lost her balance and the orange skier down flag went up.  But, there was progress and Lesson #1 was definitely mastered, she knew when to let go. :-)

    Lesson #3:  Persistence does pay off  (or 3rd times a charm!)

    By this time the cameras were rolling and a fan base along the shore had grown to include a larger group – more than just friends and family.   You could sense if she tried it again, she just might pop up out of the water. When the skis had been reattached to her feet, her ski instructor uncle gave her some additional words of encouragement and she was once again ready to give it a try.   This time the rope tightened, the tips stayed up, and within a second or two she was officially water skiing!   The shore erupted in celebration and my daughter, Macy had taken her maiden voyage on a pair a skis.

    With a solid initial run in the bag, the adrenaline rush started to wear off, and she realized the water wasn’t getting any warmer the further out they went from the shore.  So for this day, her water skiing was over.   But she had done it.   And although, the length of time and style points may have been more in line with the Wright Brothers first airplane flight, she was now a water skier and I was one proud dad!  Way to go Macy!  Persistence does pay off!

    If you have times in your life where persistence has paid off we would love to hear about them.   Also, we hope this reminds you to step away from your work a little bit this summer and recharge your batteries with some time with family and friends.

    Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach

    14 Jul

    Sharing their lives with each other

    As I write this, I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to work out my schedule for the next few weeks and get everything done.

    We’re going on vacation – and this summer for the first time in a very long time, we’re planning on taking 2 full weeks (According to Joe Robinson, only 14% of Americans take more than 1 week of vacation at a time and only 38% use the vacation they have coming to them…so I guess we’re in the fortunate minority).

    We’ve always been good about taking time off, but it can be really difficult to find the way to make 2 full weeks work.  This year we decided to go all in…our kids are getting older and we decided it we wouldn’t have too many chances left to take a big trip like this.

    I’m excited to go but it is challenging to figure out how to make it work…and I have the advantage of working for myself and having complete control over my calendar.  (Of course the downside to that is that I technically don’t ‘get’ any vacation time…if I’m not working, I’m not getting paid).  I’m saying ‘no’ to more than a few things, I’m cutting back or deferring on some income opportunities and I’m really scrambling the last couple of weeks before I go (and probably the week after I get back) to make everything work.

    But it’s totally going to be worth it.

    Not only is this going to be a great chance to spend time with my family but it’s going to really help me clear my head and ultimately make me a more creative leader. We will be gone for 2 weeks and we’re not going to be checking email or doing any work while we’re away…which again puts us in the minority – in 2013, 61% of U.S. vacationers planned on doing work while they were on vacation!

    Here’s my question to you:

    Are you and  your employees taking a real vacation this summer?

    It doesn’t have to be 2 weeks at once, but it should at least be a pretty big chunk of days – and here’s why:

    1. You’ll feel better.

    Literally stress can kill you and if you don’t take real time off, it’s really difficult to alleviate that stress.

    2. You’ll be more productive.

    In fact you could be a lot more productive. GoHealthInsurance.com recently switched to an UNLIMITED vacation policy and saw productivity go up by 200%, Hubspot switched to a similar policy a couple of years ago and saw a significant spike in productivity as well.

    Plus you just need the ‘white space’ in your life. Your ability to dream, create, come up with new ideas is 100% dependent on being able to stop thinking about all the fires and day to day issues.

    3. Your business will operate more effectively.

    Small businesses, by design and by necessity, tend to have a handful of ‘key’ employees (including the owner) who are the only people capable of doing the ‘critical business functions’. When those people go on vacation, someone else has to figure out how to get that work done.  And if you’re arguing that this is exactly why you discourage vacations, you’re making a huge mistake – what are you going to do when that person quits…or you get sick…at least with a planned vacation it’s only temporary and you’ll have time to figure out what’s needed and train for the right kinds of back up.

    If it helps – think of your time off as a trial period to see how things really run without you. If you can successfully take 4 days off, then maybe next time you can shoot for a full week…or 10 days.  But unless you push the envelope and make it happen, you’re going to stay trapped by your business.

    A very large percentage of business owners won’t take vacation…or they’ll squeeze in a day or two here or there but not really get away.  If that’s you – ask yourself what it would take to take a real vacation. You deserve one…and it will be good for you, both personally and professionally.

    What do you think about getting away for vacations?  When’s the last good one that you took? Where you’d go? Was your business still standing when you came back? We’d love to hear about – leave us a comment below.

    Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach