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  • Aspire » Leadership

    11 Jun


    (Photo by humbert15)

    “Do you live Rich?”

    It was the first question asked by Dina Dwyer-Owens, CEO of the Waco, TX based Dwyer Group at a luncheon this past week in Overland Park, KS. You knew she had a hook in the question, but her delivery was just crafty enough that it invoked several thoughts instantaneously. What is rich? Is this about money? A luxury lifestyle? Define rich?

    (If you are a fan of Undercover Boss you may recognize the name, Dina was recently sent undercover to see if her companies were living Rich.)

    The audience quickly learned “RICH” was an acronym for the Code of Values that their company was built on over 30 years ago. It is the secret sauce. The constant. The part that never changes regardless of the economy, what business they are in, where they are located, or who it involves. In good times and in bad times the company strives to lead and operate following what is defined in RICH.

    At the Dwyer Group living RICH means….

    • Respect – Treat others as you want to be treated.
    • Integrity – Your word counts. Do what you say.
    • Customer Focus – Maximizing Customer Loyalty, Listening.
    • Having Fun in the Process!

    They attribute much of their success to building their business on these principles. She also credits her faith (she is Catholic) for her values and work ethic, and then living them. Today the Dwyer Group has over 1,600 franchises operating under a number of different brands around the world. As an integral part of their DNA, their culture, if you are part of the company you are expected to live RICH. It is a clear testimony of the value in clearly defining who and what your company it at the core.

    Now the reality…..

    Dina suggested only 5% of all businesses actually follow their vision-mission-values statement! She said it doesn’t matter how nice your values look on the wall or how cleverly it’s written, if the leaders don’t live it, the company will not either and it means nothing.

    Most of us have seen these plaques she is talking about. The company has a heartwarming, inspiring mission statement, powerful core values, or an inspiring vision statement that has absolutely no bearing on how the company actually operates. How many times have you seen this?

    Another startling percentage…


    “77 percent (of businesses) have yet to achieve their vision for their company”.

    - Inc. Magazine, June 29, 2010

    It is hard to achieve your vision if you don’t know what it is. A good place to start is figuring out what are the things that will stand the test of time. The ideals, principles, or values you want to be the foundation of your business regardless of what your business actually does. It does not need to be displayed on a wall. It doesn’t need to be a catchy word or acronym. What it needs to be is real, genuine, and what you want your company to be about at the core. Then your business will live its own version of “RICH”.

    What do you think? If you have a mission-vision-values statement, do you live it? Do your employees? If asked, can your employees recite/explain it? I would enjoy hearing your thoughts and how this impacts your business – talk back in the comments below.

    Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach

    24 Apr


    Even extremely successful business owners have issues they don’t want to deal with – they think  “I’ll do it tomorrow”, and tomorrow is the day that never comes.  Some things just fall into that category of ‘I need to put this off’.

    Do you ever find yourself sliding important issues you really don’t want to deal with further down your priority list?  You’d rather work on something less painful, less stressful, and less exhausting than dealing with the “that issue” right now.

    For business owners this can be a dangerous trap to get caught in. Yes, it can be easy to justify doing other tasks you’re accomplishing in lieu of “that issue”. There are always plenty of other things to do and if you’re even halfway creative, you can put something you don’t want to do off indefinitely.  This trap can happen even if you’ve got a team working for you – maybe it’s the kind of thing you can’t delegate or maybe you just recognize that if you don’t want to do it, then it’s not really fair to pass the buck.

    At one point in my career, the inevitable employee termination was “that issue” for me. When all other options were exhausted and additional training and coaching was not going to change the unavoidable outcome…I knew I had to fire someone. But even after all of that, I found reasons to delay, to make other tasks more important.  Of course bad news doesn’t get better with time, so eventually experience taught me that pulling the trigger was not something I could put off until tomorrow.  It wasn’t helping anyone to delay (including the employee) by finding excuses not to address it.

    What are you putting off until ‘tomorrow’?

    Businesses are different, businesses are the same.

    Think about this…

    Have you ever noticed most business books and business articles resonate with the majority of business owner regardless of the industry? You read the book and it’s like the author must have secretly visited your business! The reason is that, although every business may have challenges that are unique, there are a number of cross industry issues that nearly every for-profit business deals with, yours included.

    Many of the best sellers are simply a rehash of the same topics in a different wrapper. The reason the books continue to sell is because the issues are real and if you don’t pay attention to them your business may not survive. The authors know it and their audience knows it. Despite the importance and understanding…ironically, businesses continue to find ways to keep these kinds of topics in limbo; Just put it off until tomorrow!

    If this scenario sounds familiar, maybe it is time to identify what’s been getting put off your plate and act on it. Move it to the top of your priority list. You owe it to your business, your customers, and your employees. You and your business will be healthier for it.

    Easier said than done right?

    Looking for help?

    One of the best ways to step up and address the hard issues is to get some support.  If you would like to do this with other business owners – business peers who share common issues, then you should check out the Aspire Business Growth Program.  Get into an environment with other successful business owners and lead your company through those recurring topics you keep reading about. But this time, instead of just learning, you will also write your own chapter of successfully implementing a solution! Move “that issue” from tomorrow to today. You can do it! We guarantee you’ll be glad you did.

    What are the things in your business you find yourself putting off until tomorrow?  Share  your thoughts in the comments below.

    Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach

    19 Mar


    We have all been there at one time or another, the “To-do list” looks more like a novel than a manageable list of activities to complete before week’s end. Suddenly your Friday spills over into Saturday, and then Sunday. Monday morning has you fighting to catch your breath and the week is just getting started.

    If this is striking a chord, it may be time to take a good hard look at your Delegate-o-Meter. You know this meter. It shows just how well you’re doing at finding other able bodied people to do repeatable tasks that for whatever reason you continue to do yourself.  Doing too many things on your own…without delegating?  You’re wasting time and your Delegate-o-meter should be ringing.  We often see this with business owners. The funny thing is, once you identify tasks that could be delegated to other people we have a hard time coming up with reasons why they are still doing them.

    “No person will make a Great Business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.”    – Andrew Carnegie

    There are a lot of reasons to not want to delegate (none of them very good…).  Some of it is often rooted in the “I can do it better myself” mentality. Maybe it is a matter of trust, knowledge, or proper training. Maybe it is simply, because that is how they have always done it. The point is it really doesn’t matter, if you are doing tasks that could be performed by another person (employee, 3rd party, virtual, or other) who’s value per hour is less than yours you are limiting your business.  And you don’t get to play the “I’m the owner…so my time is free” card.  Typically tasks are delegated to employees or staff – which is where you should consider “value” and not just “cost per hour”.  You have to factor in the actual cost and the opportunity cost – when you are performing a task someone else could be doing, you are not performing a task only you can do. And that is costing you money.

    “Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.”    – Ronald Reagan

    There are few leaders in this world who have achieved any notable level of success without learning the importance of delegating along the way. So this week as you go about your business turn on your Delegate-o-Meter. Be mindful of all the tasks you are performing that could be delegated and make a list. At the end of the week, prioritize them by the value per hour you are spending on them. I think you know the next step from there! If not, give us a call.

    Please feel free to share any successes you have had with delegating and how it has impacted you in the comments below.

    Chris Steinlage  Kansas City Business Coach

    06 Feb


    How would you like your business to perform 259% better than your competitors?  What if there was one thing (albeit a major thing) that you, as a business owner, could do that would create this huge competitive advantage?  Would you do it?

    Surprisingly, you probably wouldn’t.  Most business owners don’t view this approach as a real ‘competitive advantage’ – instead writing it off as touchy feely and not important.

    The advantage I’m talking about is employee engagement…or being a great place to work and it’s illustrated by the performance of Fortune’s Top 100 Great Places to Work business versus their peers in the Russell 3000 stock index.  Granted small businesses don’t trade on a stock exchange, but it’s not a stretch to assume those results reflect the underlying performance of the companies.  Check out the performance comparisons below:

    Equally impressive, Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For experience less than 50% of turnover compared to their peers…across all industries!

    Of course it’s one thing to appreciate how engaged employees…and being a Great Place to Work could  make a difference in results, but the real challenge is figuring how to build that kind of environment for your own business.

    One place to look might be what’s going on at Zappos – a hugely successful company built around a company culture of service and delivering ‘wow!’.  Zappos went from almost going under after the Dot-Com bust in 2001 / 2002 to generating over a $1 Billion in revenue less than 8 years later.  Since that time, they’ve been purchased by Amazon for $1.2 Billion – primarily as a model on how to really implement an amazing company culture.

    According to Tony Hsieh – the CEO of Zappos and the author of the best selling Delivering Happiness, the essence of what it takes to be happy in general boils down to 4 things:

    • Perceived Control (ability to make things happen)
    • Perceived Progress (ability to get better)
    • Connectedness (the number and depth of your relationships)
    • Being part of something bigger than yourself

    This ties in well with Daniel Pink’s Motivation 3.0 Model that he outlines in the book ‘Drive’.  The Motivation 3.0 model uses 3 key components as the drivers for motivation:

    • Autonomy (ability to make things happen, decision making control)
    • Mastery (ability to get better, develop skills that are important to me)
    • Purpose (opportunity to work on something exciting that’s bigger than just me)

    The underlying assumption here is that happy employees are motivated employees are engaged employees who have a great place to work.  In other words, all of these things tie together.

    How do you apply this to your business?

    For most business owners, adopting this new motivation model or building a strong company culture around things that will make employees happy seems almost impossible.  It’s definitely hard to make major changes, but the good news is that you don’t have to change everything at once, you can make incremental changes at your own pace.

    Here are few things you should consider doing to get started:

    Get to know your employees!

    Do an employee survey that will help you learn more about what your employees think, what makes them tick, where they want to go and what kinds of things would motivate them.  In a smaller business you have the ability to really get to know everyone on a more personal basis – you still need to keep a professional distance, but the more you build a real relationship the more you will be able to engage them and find out what makes them go.

    Delegate authority!

    This is something you have to do anyway if you want to grow your business, but for the purposes of motivating your employees, you should brainstorm decisions that your employees should be making without you.  In a call center environment that might mean giving your call center representatives the ability to ‘make the customer happy’ with whatever means are necessary…up to a certain dollar amount. 

    For other employees, identify ongoing decisions that have historically been escalated to management and ownership and figure out how to push those decisions down to the working level as much as possible.  Obviously you can’t just hope everything works out, so you’ll want controls and reporting in place, but your employees can and want to own more responsibility (and if they don’t you should get rid of them).

    Involve employees in planning!

    A big part of engagement is having everyone buy into where the company is going and how they’re going to get there.  As the owner you have the responsibility to lead the way, but that shouldn’t translate to a command and control approach, rather you should be leveraging your employees skills and experience to help you come up with great ideas.  Hold regular planning and status meetings with employees – done right these are very empowering and productive…and critical to keeping everyone engaged.

    Consider flexible work arrangements!

    If you’re like most business owners I know, you work a ton of hours but you would be very unlikely to go back to taking a job…even for good money.  Why?  A big part of the reason is the flexibility you have as the owner.  You work a lot of hours, but you (generally) have complete control over what hours you work.  Guess what – your employees would love that kind of flexibility as well!  Obviously different industries and different businesses will require different hours of operations, but there’s likely a lot more flexibility that’s possible than what you’re currently doing.  Brainstorm how you could pass along some of that to your employees.

    It’s not easy, but it’s worth it!

    Clearly rolling out significant changes on how you operate your business is not an easy thing to do, but the upside is clearly there.  If you have a business where every employee is engaged, on the same page and helping to make things happen, you will routinely be blowing your competitors out of the water…which will translate directly to the bottom line!

    What changes could you roll out in your business in the next few months?  Which of these ideas resonated with you and made you think ‘hmmm…’?  What ideas did I miss?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback – share them in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

    19 Dec


    It’s a simple idea…the best ideas always are.  2 people can accomplish more than 1 person on their own, but the real trick is that 2 people working together can accomplish a LOT more than 1 person…or even 2 people working independently.  Bottom line, if you want to achieve more, you’ve got to have teamwork…and teamwork starts with leadership.

    Joe Calhoon would describe it as the critical importance of having everyone On The Same Page, which is also the title of one of his books.

    I was fortunate to hear Joe speak at an event last week and he covered a lot of important ideas – I don’t have the room to cover the entire talk, but here are a few of the key points that really stood out to me.

    You’ve got to have a plan!

    Only about 12% of businesses take the time to put together a written business growth plan…and it’s no coincidence that those businesses perform much better than their peers who are reacting and drifting.

    The thing is – the plan doesn’t have to be overly complicated.  You don’t need a 40 page executive summary in front of a 200 page business plan.  Joe advocates a 1 page plan and I’ve worked with clients on 2 page plans.  What’s really important is that you’ve gone through a planning process and you can easily communicate what’s important and how you’re getting there.

    Employee Engagement will make or break you!

    According to studies, about 28% of employees are actively engaged in their work.  An engaged employee is one who fully buys into what you’re doing and proactively does what’s needed to help the business be successful…the kind of employees you want and need to have if you are going to make it, much less thrive.

    Conversely 50% to 60% are disengaged…which matches up with a study I found earlier this year that over 50% of employees are very unhappy with their job.  Disengaged employees show up to work most of the time, do the bare minimum to keep their job and generally avoid any kind of proactive or creative endeavors.  It’s an awful existence for the employee (imagine coming in every day to a job you hate) and it’s even worse for the business owner.

    The difference between a business with a high level of engagement and a typical business is night and day.  It’s the difference between dragging a heavy weight behind you and having a supercharged engine help you push up the hill!

    Keep it simple!

    The other thing that really resonated with me was the need for leaders and business owners to keep it simple.  We live in a complex world…and it’s getting more complex every day, but complexity confuses…complexity keeps people from taking action…complexity doesn’t get talked about (at least not in a positive way).

    Simplicity doesn’t mean dumbing things down, simplicity is about finding the core idea, the MOST important things and keeping the focus on that.  I love the idea of being able to tell people what you’re all about in 1 or 2 sentences…even better 10 words or less.  Try it – it’s not easy, but it is amazingly powerful if you can get there.

    Thanks Joe

    Joe covered lots of other important ideas and I would strongly encourage you to catch him at a future speaking engagement if you get the chance…and until then, check out one of his books and start thinking about how you could get your team on the same page!

    Have you heard Joe speak?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

    Photo by The Happy Rower