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  • Aspire » Leadership

    09 Jul


    On Tuesday evening, July 10th, 2012, baseball fans around the world will watch the annual Midsummer Classic – the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. With Kansas City as the host city this year, it’s a tremendous time for people all across the entire region to stand a little taller, show your pride, and take ownership of the slogan the Royals organization has been chanting for months. “This is Our Time”.

    For the people of Kansas City this truly has been a time to showcase what makes our little part of world special. In the 40 years since Kansas City hosted an All-Star game a lot has changed, but for the most part, the heart of the people, what makes the Midwest a great place at it’s core, has remained unchanged. It has been inspiring to see how the entire metro area has rolled out the red carpet in preparation for this event. For anyone in the area, it really is a time to be proud.

    It is also pretty safe to predict that many businesses in Kansas City will set 5 day attendance records that may never again broken (unless one day we host the Superbowl…it is fun to dream!) That achievement alone is an All-Star accomplishment, but what would make a business an All-Star? What about your business? Is your business an All-Star?

    Webster’s defines…

    All-Stars: ….as…outstanding performers or participants.

    Business: …as…commercial or mercantile activity (producing) a means of livelihood

    So an “All-Star Business” would simply be an outstanding performing business producing a means of livelihood. Sounds simple enough, but the opportunity lies in uncovering how an “average business” makes that jump to “outstanding All-Star”?

    Could three Baseball Legends provide the key?

    Maybe…Let’s simply inject a business word twist on comments from three of the greatest baseball players in history; Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Sandy Koufax. See what happens when you swap the underlined word with the business twist. Warning! Consistent execution of the results could create an All-Star Business.

    “My ability to fully focus on what I had to do on a daily basis made me the successful player (business owner) I was”    – Hank Aaron.

    The ability to focus and prioritize what’s really important definitely lies at the heart of long term success!  Do you and your team have a clear, consistent focus on what’s really important?

    The way a team plays (works together) as a whole determines its success.  You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play (work) together, the club (business) won’t be worth a dime.  – Babe Ruth

    Many an entrepreneur learns this lesson the hard way.  It’s your passion and expertise that allows you to start the business, but if you don’t learn how to make it a team game and get everyone working together, you’re not going to get very far.  Are you using all of the strengths from every member of your team?  Is everyone on the same page?

    I became a good pitcher (business owner) when I stopped trying to make them miss the ball (talking) and started trying to make them hit it (listening).                     – Sandy Koufax

    It’s exhausting and not practical to force your will as a business owner onto every aspect of the business.  As the leader it’s your job to set the direction…and then listen to your team on the best way to make that happen.  Are you listening and engaging or commanding and controlling?

    So what do you think? How does your business align with these three ideals once you cast them in a business light? Are you on your way to becoming a Business All-Star?

    It is time for all us to say, “This is our Time!” and start creating more Business All-Stars!  We hope you have enjoyed the All-Star Events. Feel free to share any thoughts you have on this in the space below. Your comments are always welcome.

    Chris Steinlage        Kansas City Business Coach

    26 Jun

    EPSON scanner image

    Illustration from Tom Fishburne

    Why? Why? Why?

    If you have been following the news lately, Verizon recently made an announcement that sent many of their loyal customers into a frenzy, ready to jump ship for another wireless plan. They have clarified and retracted the announcement, but that misstep created a windfall for their competitors. As it unfolded I am sure senior management was left asking themselves how could something like this happen? Why? Why? Why?

    The really contentious stuff seems to always fall in around money – for Verizon it was a change in how they plan to bill their customers and charge for data being downloaded. In the summer of 2011, Netflix announced a change in the way they were billing their clients and it nearly sank the company (regardless of the intention, most customers viewed it as a 50% plus increase in their service costs). At the time, Netflix stock was trading near $300/share, by the time their CEO publicly apologized a few months later it was about 50% of that. One year later, the stock value is over 75% lower than the value prior to the announcement. Ouch!

    So how does all this play into your business? You may not be a publicly traded business, but many of the challenges you face are more similar than you might think. At the end of the day you are faced with making decisions about pricing for a product or service and why (or why not) the profit margins are where you need them to be. Is the product even profitable at all? If not, why isn’t it profitable? Has demand for one of your products dropped recently? If so, why did it drop? What changed?

    Often in business we get our tunnel vision blinders on and don’t take enough time to look at the whole picture and understand what is really going on. We start treating the symptom instead of the cause; the true root of the problem.  We don’t ask why things are the way they are.

    Here’s an example – Honda has a clever commercial showing a competitor selling a longer standard warranty on their car compared to Honda’s. The message is about reliability, and the Honda is telling you the competitor’s car needs a longer warranty…because it’s not a Honda the implication is that it’s going to break down and when (not if) it does, you are going to need that warranty. The competitor is treating the symptom with a longer warranty. But Honda is saying the real issue, the core benefit of Honda is about the quality and reliability of the product.

    Start asking why…!

    The challenge to you is to pick out an area of your business where something has changed in the last 6 months. What are some new problems you might be having?  What might be unexpectedly going well?  Are there changes in the profit margins of a specific product?  More (or less) leads in a territory?  Productivity of a line better or worse?

    Find something that’s changed and take your blinders off and look at all the variables that could have contributed to that change.  Are you clear on the root cause or are you just looking at a symptom?  Why? Why? Why? Ask why about 4 or 5 more times than you normally do. Work with your team and get them to start asking Why as well.  Make sure your efforts to correct it are going towards root cause and not a symptom.

    If you have any short success stories from this exercise, we would love to hear about them. You may find the results fascinating!

    Chris Steinlage    Kansas City Business Coach

    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