7 Reasons Why Salespeople Quit and What You the Leader, Can Do About It

Sales leadership requires your action.

Sales leadership requires your action.

Leading, managing, directing, teaching, motivating and inspiring a group of sales executives with different levels of experience, skills sets & egos, to attain both their individual goals and the objectives for the company is NOT a task for the weak-minded or ill-informed leader. Successful Director Of Sales and VP of Sales leaders know that their job becomes most challenging when they are constantly experiencing turnover with their middle and high performers. One of the critical success factors in retaining this segment of salespeople is to first understand 7 reasons they leave in the first place. Followed by instituting the necessary processes and culture changes that will inspire them, increase their loyalty to the company and the mission that lies before them.

Competition (the bad kind)

Your best salespeople LOVE competition. They LOVE to win, to get the awards, the trips, and the recognition. They LOVE winning the deal against their competition. External competition fuels their desires to win. Well managed internal contests between teams can also, create a lively, fun environment as it produces comradery while also, having a positive impact on both the individual and team performance. However, when internal competition becomes so fierce as to demean the individuals or teams that did not win the contest or weren’t the top performers it will have a negative impact on the culture and long-term sales performance. WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT: The fiercest level of competition should be saved for the companies and competitors that are lined up across from the reps on a daily basis - not the teammates who are lined up beside them.  Make sure your Internal competition fun, rewarding and motivating and also make sure that it increases comradery and does not endorse any type of divisiveness.

Feeling That Their Value Fluctuates Based on How Much or how Little they Sell

At the beginning of every year, a sales manager I know gave his team a different motivating talk filled with stories about the successes and challenges the team overcame during the previous year, his expectations for the upcoming year and his appreciation for them as a team. He would also provide the following value statement to his team every year – “your value to me has nothing to do with how much you sell. Your value to me as a person is based on, how you conduct yourself, how you treat your internal teammates and customers. Your value to me is based on you consistently doing the right things, at the right time, for the right reasons and in the right way. We are all adults here and we all know that if we don’t sell enough stuff - we will be forced to sell stuff for someone else, somewhere else. You don’t need me to remind you of this every day or month.” WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT: The manager in this example is someone well known for his high social intelligence with his direct reports and clients. He knows what personally drives each individual and motivates each of them based on their goals and aspirations - not his.Likewise, the most important thing for you as the leader of the team or organization is to; get to know your people. What are their passions and interests? What do you know about their family, their upbringing?What gets them out of bed each morning?  Charter your management team and yourself to learn as much as you can about the heartbeat of each individual. One way to do this is to ask each of the team members to write a bio or personal essay about themselves.  The most valuable asset your company has - is the human assets that are comprised of your employees and your clients. If you want to increase performance know WHO your people are as individuals & what’s important to them. Do you know their birthdays, important dates such as their wedding anniversary, etc.? It doesn't have to be a big party of an event - a simple note or comment of recognition will do. Take care of your people and the profits & the performance will follow.

Assuming that Giving Them Money fixes Everything

Sales are not easy. It can be lonely, frustrating, challenging, laborious. It’s not easy being a road warrior constantly on planes, trains. and automobiles or at times being a punching bag for an unhappy client or internal departments day in and day out. Senior Management will often listen to the complaints of their sales organization and in a panic - quickly provide a quick fix with “let’s pay them more commissions/spiffs/bonuses and worry about their client concerns, support issues, etc. next fiscal year." WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT -There will always be situations where the "just pay ‘em more strategy is appropriate." However doing so to appease them - instead of addressing their frustrations (i.e. support or inventory challenges, product or deliverable challenges) is like the serial cheating husband who keeps buying his wife a diamond every time he is unfaithful, instead of eliminating his cheating. Listen to their concerns, make changes immediately where and when you can. This solution will increase the sales organization's trust in you, reduce their stress and ultimately increase loyalty and production. On the other hand…

Arbitrary Negative Changes to Their Compensation

“Money isn’t everything but it isn’t nothing either,” said a sales executive at one of our clients in the merchant services industry. This particular salesperson was not happy that during a recent sales promotion the company reduced the commission amount for the salespeople on the promo services. WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT - Once a pay plan is rolled out don’t get into the habit of having “buyer’s remorse” because you now think your salespeople are making more money than you believe they deserve. You made the deal when you rolled it out. Now it is time to keep your word. Your lack of confidence in their ability to over perform is not a good reason to change the plan mid-stream. In fact, if you as a member of management have faced this problem repeatedly I would suggest that you might be the problem. Reducing their commissionable earnings for any reason mid-stream of the year won’t be good for business. Don’t do it.

Lack of Upward Mobility

Not everyone gets to be an astronaut when they grow up. Likewise, not every successful salesperson that has a desire to be a manager or part of the Senior executive team will get to do so because frankly, there are usually more people who want to move up to management than available management opportunities in a given year. WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT - Companies such as ADP and CDK Global address this by creating mentors to work with the newer sales hires. This relationship does not end after new hire orientation but continues for at least a year and in some instances the career life of the mentor and mentee. Creating mentors allows those selected as mentors to gain management-like experience and knowledge of what it takes to be a successful leader. Equally important; a system such as this gives your managers and Senior executive team the opportunity to see how the future management candidate performs, while in the mentor role and can further validate (or show where they need to improve) their future candidacy for management.

Lacking Authority

Most salespeople like the feeling of independence that being in sales affords them. However, not having the ability to make decisions when they are in front of a customer can be frustrating. If the sales executive repeatedly has to say “I will have to check with my manager” the credibility of that sales executive is diminished. WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT - Salespeople work smarter and better when they are empowered to make unilateral decisions when dealing directly with a customer. Trust and relinquishing control can be a little scary for some of the managers reading this. However, the days of salespeople just selling stuff are over. The successful sales rep today is, dealing with a myriad of internal and external factors that have nothing to do with selling. Empowering your salespeople, to make as many decisions as possible when dealing directly with a customer in negotiations, regarding service or even billing related matters, can have a strong, positive impact on the relationship between sales executive and the customer. Of course, your sales executives should also be given parameters of how much they can commit to the customer. However empowering them to make more decisions are critical factors to improving client retention, increasing the customer lifetime value and heightening the job satisfaction of the sales executive.

Being Lied To

With all the progressive studies done during the past 20 years regarding how bad this is, one would think it is a “no-brainer” to not lie to an associate. Truth be told (no pun intended), in many cases, the manager did not lie. Rather promises were given in earnest but due to unforeseen circumstances, the manager was unable to fulfill the promise. With all that you do as a leader of the team, the promises that are made during the heat of the daily battles such as "get this deal and I promise - you are on your way to that promotion, I’ll give you more accounts next year, I will make sure your quota is lower next time" can sometimes get lost in the shuffle, or forgotten. WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT- Sometimes situations change and the promise can’t be fulfilled. When this occurs, you need to make it known to the sales executive that you won’t be able to make it happen. Be transparent and if  YOU are the reason it can’t happen then own up to it directly with the rep, followed by a plan to make the promise a reality - if not now than in the future. It is important to remember, when issues like this arise, your ENTIRE team is watching - not just the team member who was personally impacted.

Applying an offensive strategy to, combat these 7 reasons before your best and brightest become unhappy is essential to, making your team stronger, their sales performance higher & job satisfaction better. Most importantly it will make your job and your life a little easier.

The Six Habits of Values Based Leaders

Values Based Leaders

Values Based Leaders

A great philosopher once said, "some people are put into our lives as an example of what we should do while others are placed there as an example of what we SHOULD NOT do!" Sadly our most recent Presidential race was filled with examples of the latter. During my travels a common theme I heard during and after the race was,“well that was ugly, or rude, or shady etc." Irrespective of which candidate one voted for or against, the race was filled with examples of what NOT to do as leaders. As the President Elect prepares to take over the oval office, many pundits continue to dissect and evaluate the outcomes of the race from every conceivable angle. However, what can we as Values Based Leaders of business, communities, religious institutions, non-profits, and even families learn to avoid that we saw in the presidential race? What leadership lessons and core values should be implemented to ensure that those whom we lead, do so, with a high degree of purpose, trust & enthusiasm? Below are 6 key values that will increase their satisfaction, loyalty, and career success and establish your legacy as a Values Based Leader.

Values Based Leaders are Honest and Transparent

The candidates kept the fact checkers very busy with countless half-truths, fabrications, and even outright lies. Values Based Leaders are a transparent and honest when it comes to the message or dealing with the messengers.

Values Based Leaders aren’t kept awake at night with worries of their team, stakeholders, customers or competitors finding out that past messaging, product deliverables or stated promises were inaccurate. They are transparent in all that they do and say.

Values Based Leaders are Humble & Kind

Values Based Leaders know that all of us is always better than one of us. They know too, humility encourages an environment where mistakes and setbacks are viewed as part of the progressive direction in the creation and sustainability of productive cultures, ideas, processes, and increasing profitable returns.

A great football player was once asked, why do you always help your opponent up from the turf after you’ve tacked him? The star player said of his opponent, “because. I want him to see who it was that knocked him off his feet! Plus it’s just the right thing to do”. Too many leaders today confuse being kind with being weak. Values Based Leaders are tough-minded, mission focused but never at the expense of demeaning others (employees, competitors, and even their critics) or guilty of always putting themselves first.

Values Based Leaders are Respectful and Practice Empathy

There is a Kenny Chesney song with the famous line - it got a little crazy last night. This past election got a little crazy as well. The name calling, intended sarcastic slights and threats among the candidates seemed to be at an all-time high (or low depending on one's perspective).

Values Based Leaders are tasked with so many tactical, strategic responsibilities that respect for others can get pushed off their leadership radar. Empathy takes time but the dividends that are paid back to an organization in terms of employee retention, customer satisfaction, brand reputation and profitability make empathy a must-have for the Values-Based Leader.

Values Based Leaders Have a Mission AND a Plan

Too often during the presidential race, we heard a candidate tell us what he/she was going to do but not enough was said about HOW they were going to do it.

Values Based Leaders have a mission that is bigger than a single individual. More importantly, they build processes and communication around the mission and through tools such as Growth Engine Management (GEM), they provide ongoing feedback and status updates. Values Based Leaders are committed to communicating the mission, the plan and the current status in a consistent manner so that every associate and every employee can achieve the goals and objectives of the mission with purpose, passion and conviction.

Values Based Leaders Lead with Character

On the stage, in front of the crowds of supporters, the candidates said all the right things, keeping the crowd engaged and entertained, with the ultimate goal of receiving the votes of the attendees. Promises were made by various candidates during these rallies and speeches that had a slim to zero chance of becoming a reality.

Values Based Leaders would rather be known as a person of character, than a person who is a character. They practice what they preach and expect that others will do the right things, the right way, at the right time and for the right reasons – even when no one else is watching.

Values Based Leaders Speak without Malice

Was it just me or was there a ton of loud and angry verbosity during this election season? More than once as I listened to the candidates scream and insult one another I was reminded of a question I once heard someone ask during a debate with an angry individual – If you speak LOUDER than me does that make me right?

Values Based Leaders don’t feel the need to scream their message in a loud or angry tone. Rather they choose to deliver their message with passion versus emotion and they place more value on living their message by their actions and deeds followed by their words, rather than the volume of the message. Values Based Leaders avoid speaking in a malicious way about their competitors, doubters or critics. More importantly, they let the love of their company, their employees, customers, products, and the mission speak louder than even the words they profess.

In less than two months we will officially have a new President in the Oval office who will have 4 years to fulfill his promises, implement change and run this country. While most well-run organizations have a 4-year plan of some sort, most want to see progress, goal achievement and customers delighted immediately. Values Based Leaders know that these six leadership lessons are important keys to increasing customer retention, maximizing customer lifetime values, improving employee loyalty, while achieving mamarket-leading profitability for the long and short term.

CEO Insight: Three Vs to Valuation

Cut through distractions to attain your goals

Cut through distractions to attain your goals

It can be good to be the king, but often CEOs suffer more than anyone in their company with too much noise. CEOs must think about everything from stock price to whether Tommy shows up for work today.  Before you start campaigning for that CEO role, think about what being a CEO involves. Being in charge feels like a 24X7 balancing act between solving everyone’s immediate problems (why can’t they solve themselves?) and thinking three years down the road. CEOs focus on tactics and channeling their inner Nostradamus at the same time. Heavy is the crown. 

Does your company claim internal politics don’t exist? Oh, that’s rich. Do they also paint unicorns and rainbows on the office walls? Can I work there?  We’d all like a break from reality. If there are people working at your company, politics exist and that’s okay. We tend to get down on politics because we have such a sorry example of that word coming out of our nation’s capital. Good politics create collaboration, compromise, and removing friction.  Losers complicate issues, winners clarify the complex. Noise and bad politics create complexities.  Winners use the three Vs to communicate clarity for everyone and tear down barriers.

Growth Engine Management brings simplicity

In designing our GEM (Growth Engine Management) model, we set out to simplify a company’s growth. CEOs tell us that GEM is helping explain their company to any employee on a single sheet of paper. With the problems in internal communications, educating people about your company is a wondrous thing. The more stakeholders know what the company is doing, the more they think about how to improve. Be a hero and get the Growth Engine Management white paper. You can read it and pass it along to a CEO who wants to get everyone on the same page. It could change a company for the better.  

Stop thinking you work in a building

You think you work in a building. We imagine a tall, static structure generating money flowing out of the windows because the building just can’t hold it all. We work all day to make our company so attractive that we cannot be ignored. The building mindset is a lie. Your company is living a lie. You are now living a lie. Geez, I’ve got to take it easy on the coffee! What I’m trying to say is that there’s a more accurate way to look at this. Your company is a boat.

You are in a vessel that is in constant motion on the high seas. The size of your boat is of secondary concern. The fact that your boat is always moving is the turning point of your thinking. You navigate with headwinds, crosswinds, and the wind at your back (rarely it seems!). Your engine room is a masterpiece one day and on the next day, it smells like dirty oil. Moving from port to port (opportunities), you try to put your best foot forward and hide the imperfections when you present your company. To navigate through risks and opportunities, your boat relies on clear direction, critical thinking, constant attention, and a steadfast crew.  

With wind, fuel, rogue waves, international laws, competing boats, and weather affecting your results, you lead your crew to better outcomes. This can feel overwhelming. I’m sure even a damp Blackbeard looked out over the water on a stormy night and thought, “I should have been a blacksmith like me mum always wanted, Arr”.   

The three Vs are the keys 

We have spent enough time on the boat imagery. Now that we are in constant motion, let’s get your company anchored to a simpler approach. Your valuation and why customers ultimately choose your company is based on the combination of the three Vs; Values, Value Experience, and Value Captured. This is your true brand index. Think about how your company should be obsessed with these three areas. Noise gets filtered quickly and bad politics dissipate when guided by a shared purpose. 

Growth Vision - Three Vs to Valuation

Growth Vision - Three Vs to Valuation

V #1: Values

Your fortunes depend on your team’s values. If the employees don’t have the right kind of values, people aren’t going to want to do business with you. Establish a Growth Culture. Refuse to hire anyone who doesn’t align to company values and don’t let anyone stay who doesn’t reflect your values. Some examples; Poor listener? You need to go.  Subversive teammate? You need to go. Argumentative? You need to go. Self-aggrandizing? You need to go. Kind? You stay. Active listener? You stay. Self-aware? You stay. Idea machine? You stay. Good project manager? Please stay and sit next to me.

Help undesirable employees exit (usually, just a few) and profile candidates based on values. Your clients hire your values to help get them through the day.  Match to their values and you get more business. Values start early and are hard to change. You didn’t expect this, but you’ve become a fan of great parenting in the business world. Look for people who know how to think at a high level (mastery) and think of others first (maturity). Do not waver on aligning to your values or striving for cognitive diversity. Ideas are the currency of our time.  

It’s not easy to purge the few that are causing problems, but the alternative is costing you more. Remember, some people have already quit and they just didn’t tell anyone. Addition through subtraction is a real thing. Honoring your company values is the foundation of the value experience you deliver.

V #2: Value Experience

There are four parts of the Value Experience. They are market understanding, customer experience, value proposition, and the value portfolio.  

Begin by understanding the business challenges of the market. This insight informs our products and services.  Invert execution from having markets and client knowledge. You need more than TAM (total available market) discussions, you need to be human. The degree of empathy your company has for decision makers is apparent to your markets. Lose the customer insight battle and you will predictably lose share of the markets you target. Gain clarity on customer aspirations, obstacles, and their customers. Market and client understanding is the first part of defining the Value Experience.

The customer experience determines how customers talk about the value you bring. We can all share brand opinions in a heartbeat with the entire planet. Customer experience transparency feels cleaner than the obscure marketing environment of the past.  From content to the first sales call to customer service, customer experience is the second part of defining the Value Experience.

Stay loyal to your value positioning. The same messages should be repeated into the markets and clients you target. It’s not because your prospects are daft (maybe a few), your markets and clients are distracted. When your company has mastered the market’s most pressing needs, you are helping prospects with clear and cadenced messaging. Your prospects will let you know if you need to back off in their noisy world. Break through with personalized messages that resonate and educate. Stand out with the value you bring in today’s noisy B2B world. Clear and consistent value positioning is the third part of your Value Experience.

Your value portfolio enables the business outcomes prospects want. The value portfolio includes core products and services, skills, resources, networks, and channels. Your value portfolio keeps the promise of the value proposition. This is where you perform important functions such as product management and development. Your value portfolio in the fourth part of the Value Experience.

V #3: Value Capture

Leaders are measured on KPIs (key performance indicators) and none is more important than capturing value. Your stockholders measure your company on an increasing (hopefully) valuation that is communicated in earnings per share and profit. Top line growth is great, but stewarding efficient profit boosts your overall valuation. On a quarterly basis, CFOs are a public face for their company and strive to communicate an unbiased look at their company’s performance. That performance report is helped with the first two V’s; Values and Value Experience. All that is missing is capturing the value created.

Value Capture includes risk management, compliance, infrastructure, financial management, and any strategic investment. We can do a great job with Values and Value Experience and still undermine our valuation if we play fast and loose with Value Capture. The bonus here is that new customers are attracted to financially secure partners.  If you have a CFO who asks a lot of fact-based questions, count your blessings.  

The Three Vs as a Ballast

Heavy items are often placed on a ship to give it ballast which is a fancy word for stability.  If you are a CEO, emphasize the three Vs to deliver ballast to the company journey. At least once a quarter, discuss the three Vs with the entire company to cement the focus. The company now sees itself as unified on the execution needed to drive valuation.  With so many changes outside of your control, a little stability combined with agility is a welcome sight to all stakeholders.

Remember, you can get the GEM whitepaper which offers more specifics on how to support and communicate on the three Vs.  Thank you for reading.

How CIOs Can Align Themselves to Their Company's Growth Strategy

CIOs Align and Orchestrate Tech Toward Growth

CIOs Align and Orchestrate Tech Toward Growth

Your CEO is under growth pressure

Your investors, the board, employees, and all stakeholders look to their CEO to build a growth culture. A growing number of CIOs are reporting to their CEO.  This leads to a CEO who has lots of questions about how technology is helping the company grow.  A CIO that doesn’t have good answers is a CIO who needs to keep their job hunting skills current.  CIOs can no longer believe bringing function to the enterprise is sufficient, they have to help their CEO grow the business.  Remember, the CEOs find fall guys too, don’t let it be you.

Technology has moved to the center of business strategy

IT was something only key managers had access to long ago.  Later, it became distributed computing and most employees had access to higher productivity.  Fast forward a couple of decades and now technology delivers automation, scale, and efficiency for everyone.  If you want a person to do a job right, give them the right tools for the job.  If you want a company to be more efficient and enjoy speed, give it technology that enables the best methodologies through code - at scale.  The smart game is creating clear lines as to what is centralized and standardized.  Then, balancing this against empowering employee workflow.  A clear example of this goal is the rapid ascent of the cloud in companies that once thought everything had to be on premise.

Lead the platforms that lead you to transformation

Yes, I know.  Software platforms for the enterprise have been around for a while and some have a spotty history of success.  But enterprise software platforms are wonderful when properly executed and their level of ROI is rare. Was the problem the software?  Maybe.  But it’s just as likely it was the partner-integrator or organizational change management that was poorly executed that led to failure. We have to get one’s ducks in a row.  IT projects fail, they often end up costing a lot more than anticipated and take more time.  That is why your platform approach bodes the outcome.  Start with a transformative end in mind, secure the right partner and choose proven technology.  You will spend the next three years selling a vision internally.

You wanted to be transformative, right?  Think agile milestones, not waterfall, and get going.  Right now, in a large, multi-national company, it boggles the mind how much money ($millions) and time (months/years) is wasted on applications that don’t work well with each other and frustrate employees. Personally, I love platforms, having been involved with several over my career. My favorite enterprise software platform right now is ServiceNow (Enterprise Services Management).  You can actually get ServiceNow architects on your team to implement the platform through the professional services and software company, Crossfuze (has the highest customer satisfaction score for ServiceNow partners).

CIOs walk the tight rope with limited resources such as time.

CIOs walk the tight rope with limited resources such as time.

Strategy:  Running from the engine room to the bow of the technology ship

As CIO, you have lots of spinning plates while walking the tightrope.  Internet of things, mobile computing, cyber security, digital marketing, replacing that ERP system and cleaning data across the enterprise.  And, oh look, more shadow IT.  I didn’t even mention the lack of adoption for that CRM system your company purchased two years ago that was thrown in your lap!  

Bottom line; CIOs often lack time, money, and talent to get everything done.  
News alert - you cannot and should not do it all at once.  Take a breath and prioritize with your team (and/or yourself) while setting a few high-impact expectations with the C-Suite.  Coach your team to think strategically and to drive achievable execution.  Give comfort to the C-Suite that your technology is in business strategy alignment.  Don’t carry the whole weight on your shoulders.  Yes, you need to know what is going on in the engine room.  More importantly, the company needs you on the bow of the ship advising the CEO on how to reach your growth destinations.  



5 Ways the Growth Engine Management Mindset is an Agile Approach to Leadership

Organizations Must Cope with Continuous Change

Digital changes are fostering new worlds; both the Agile approach and the Growth Engine Management mindset enable a company to thrive on what's behind the corner. In an ever-changing landscape, one has to diagnose and move quickly to improve one's position. Before, we made changes based on politics, budgets, or a function; we now make collaborative decisions based on cross-functional growth enablers. If you are too comfortable, you are probably behind. Being Agile and using Growth Engine Management keeps your organization thinking like entrepreneurs who thrive in the open field of business. Growth Engine Management gives everyone in your organization a dynamic context to everything while an Agile approach asks you how to lead.

One Big Lab and Continuous Improvement is the Goal

Growth Engine Management is not a business plan with dates and budgets or even a static business model. It is a dynamic mindset in the organization that says, "this is how we will grow." Do adjustments get made? Only if we are paying attention! It's more important to be an adventurer than a first-try genius. Just like the Agile approach, we organize around delivering value in the areas that enable growth, not in functions. The prerequisite to growth is increased capabilities in those enabling areas that contribute to growth. For instance, we can only deliver growth if we continuously improve our core offerings, our customer experiences, and overall profit can we deliver growth. Continuous improvements need a mature business outlook on experimenting in order to find those gold nuggets you cannot uncover copying a competitor or a documented best practice.

Working Together in the Right Way is a Game Changer

Do you ever feel like your organization is working harder than smarter? That aching feeling that you are falling behind even though the time flies by? It is because your company has not optimized its teams. With an Agile approach, more is done faster showing true traction, as opposed to a "wait-for-it" mentality. The waterfall approach that often ends with a dud and doesn't allow for the team to quickly adjust. Growth Engine Management asks the important question of, "What is your team doing to enable growth optimization at every decision point?" It also asks the team question of, "Are you working in cross-functional teams to address a growth enabler?"


Growth Engine Management is Agile

Growth Engine Management is Agile


You can Attain Speed and Accuracy

Patience is a wonderful thing, but in our digital world, more companies need to adopt the mantra, "There is no tomorrow." Companies can be painfully slow to work through their decision-making not because of the reasons we give them such as poor management, but because their approach and mindset are no longer effective in 2016. Fans marvel at the brawler with the amazing roundhouse that knocks you out, but the boxer with the fastest hands seems to win more fights. We have to be quicker. An Agile approach and a Growth Engine Management understanding get us to more accurate answers faster. Add speed to an outside-in understanding of our customers, partners, influencers, and competitors; shift your position to your advantage.

Feedback Loops - Free You to Grow confidently

Instead of some large monolith, Agile teams work in small groups that deliver new and more immediate value.  In Growth Engine Management, that value gets reflected in one of the five enabling areas working toward growth.  As mentioned, those enablers are not functional areas like "sales" and "marketing", they represent cross-functional networking and feedback from across the organization in order to optimize that enabler.  On top of this, in Growth Engine Management, since everyone sees how growth is achieved, anyone can contribute growth ideas.  No longer is the growth strategy locked into discussions at the top of the organization. Our dynamic growth strategy has been communicated so we can crowdsource a new supply of ideas and each person can feel accountable for the growth of the business.


To learn more about Growth Engine Management, download our e-book

To learn more about Agile, visit this Scrum Alliance and Learning Consortium


How to Drive Change with Growth Engine Management


Three questions that I have gotten since our announcement last week regarding the pending Growth Engine Management (GEM) tool release include; What is a business engine? How is it different than our business plan or business model? Moreover, how does it affect my team on the operations, sales or maintenance side of things?”  In my post today, I hope to address these questions in a concise and easy to understand manner.

No Engine, No Movement = No Growth 

Using an automobile, as an illustration, a company’s business model could be defined as the body of the car, while the business plan is the navigational GPS portion of the vehicle which includes the routes of how to reach your destination. GEM is the motor that drives the body of the vehicle that contains the navigational GPS. The Growth Engine powers the car and adjusts the speed, the torque and is connected directly or indirectly to all mechanical and electrical elements of the vehicle.  From a growth strategy perspective, the Growth Engine Management tool connects directly to both the business model and the business plan of a company. However, unlike the business model or business plan which are static and meant to be inflexible, the GEM tool is one that allows for adjustments and changes to the strategy and execution but does so in a way that does not negatively impact the goals outlined in a fiscal business plan for example.

GEM does not Drive Itself, People Do

Most importantly, the Growth Engine Management Tool connects the most important part of your company – your employees directly to the business plan. How many times have you started your fiscal year with a concise, well thought out and defined business plan only to realize three months into the fiscal year that no one in the company understands what the goals and objectives are and why the stated objectives are important? The GEM measurements and process methodology eliminates the overwhelming perception by the front-line employees that the plan is something “the C-Suite put together, but it has nothing to do with me.” The GEM tool connects everyone from the janitorial staff to the sales and operations organization to the Mid-level and Sr. Management teams. It becomes an active, empowering tool that will improve employee retention and your customer’s buying experience while contributing significantly to the achievement of your company’s growth goals.

Business Model + Business Plan + Growth Engine Management = Attainment & Growth

Growth Engine Management

Growth Engine Management

The color of an automobile certainly can improve the esthetics of the vehicle in the eye of the owner and often contributes to why the owner purchased it.  However, you will never hear the owner say, “I bought the car in this particular color because the color makes the car faster!” Conversely, a CEO or business owner who believes they will reach their top line, bottom line, growth and profit goals SOLELY because they have a business plan are increasing their chance of missing their forecast and objectives. Even though the business plan is well thought out, analyzed and monitored by the C-level team, it is without key elements within the Growth Engine Management tool.  These elements impact not only the attainment of sales, profit and growth goals but also the speed of the attainment.

The most esthetically designed automobile with the highest quality of technology and interior design will go no farther than the driveway without a well-tuned engine. Likewise, even the best business models and business plans can lack power, lose momentum or worse yet, stall completely without the compliment of the Growth Engine Management tool to heighten the corporate focus and master the precision needed to attain the Growth Goals of your organization.

To get your growth engine moving, request the Growth Engine Management Whitepaper

Lee Novak is the Chief Revenue Officer & a Managing Director at Growth Visions, a firm that specializes in growing profits and revenue by focusing on people and process improvement.  He is an award winning Sales Management Executive with experience managing sales performance at two publicly traded technology companies in the automotive retail and manufacturing sectors. Lee is also a keynote speaker who speaks on Growth Topics such as Growth Engine Management (GEM), Leadership Development, How to Develop your Story for Sales Success, as well as culture, faith-based and life improvement topics. To schedule a meeting or speaking engagement, please contact him at lee.novak@growthvisions.com or 832 567 8512. Feel to follow him on Twitter at CoachNovak

How to Get the Entire Company to Serve Your Growth Strategy

80% of executives believe their strategies are not well-understood in their own companies. Think of the waste that is taking place when no one is looking. Consider the inability of people in management roles who are trying to match execution with a strategy few understand. 

80% of executives believe their strategies are not well-understood in their own companies.

Growth Engine Management

This pervasive problem is why Growth Visions is announcing our Growth Engine Management approach. Business leaders we have met with see this as a new way to grasp how an organization connects growth strategy to executionKey benefits are understanding your core value as a company, who is most interested in that value, how you will go to market and build a growth culture. Please read our Growth Engine Management whitepaper (15-minute read) to start communicating more clearly to your teams about your growth. 


Imagine if everyone in your organization grasped at a deeper level how your company intended to grow. Not just high-level "we want to sell more of a specific product or service"; but how all of the enablement parts fit together to create growth. We have budgetary and often political conversations around functions that may sit in isolation. 

Alternatively, let's focus energizing our capacity for growth through cross-functional teams with clarity around growth enablement. 

Aligning Resources for Growth, not Favorites 

From a leadership perspective, think about how you are allocating resources. Are priorities clear?  Have you made the clear decisions in shifting money, talent, and overall resources to high impact areas of your business? According to McKinsey, 83 percent of senior executives identify strategically shifting resources as a top management lever, yet a third of those companies reallocated only 1 percent of their capital from year to year. A company that actively reallocates delivers, on average, a 10 percent return to shareholders, versus 6 percent for a sluggish reallocator.   

Biases are part of the human experience.  In business, it's easy for executives and leaders to create biases about a business that no longer supplies growth due to market conditions while underinvesting in emerging opportunities.   

Companies want collaboration and efficiency to reign 

You need a visual way to articulate what your priorities are and how you will achieve growth. Thus, what everyone who is a decision-making role or has ideas knows where their focus should be.  Directors on a board, the C-Suite and everyone else is responsible for growth. Why not get on the same page about what must happen? What about employees who want have an impact with their ideas? How can we make it so they can clearly see how to make their ideas relevant to our growth plans? 

Companies like to talk about knowing their mission. Let's be candid; your true mission is to grow in your areas of enablement before the revenue growth will come. Alongside your mandate to grow can exist a clear mission that makes the world a better place and they are not mutually exclusive goals. When it comes to creating growth, we have to tie strategy to daily execution and good habits.  Request the paper and let us know if we can help.  Do you feel everyone in the company is aligned to your growth priorities?

Good Boss-Bad Boss Becoming the One You Want to Be (Part 10 of 10)

People make the difference in any Business or Effort

People make the difference in any Business or Effort

Good Boss-Bad Boss Becoming the One You Want to Be (Part 10 of 10)

Today is the completion of the ten-part series of Good Boss-Bad Boss. A series that was written to serve as the foundation to becoming a Great Boss, Great Company and ultimately a Great Leader. It is our belief at Growth Visions that Great Leaders or Companies aren't born rather they becoming great - one step, one habit, one day at a time by doing the right things, in the right way, at the right time and for the right reasons.

Ironically, we end the series where we began it, with People. They are the most important asset an organization has. They are the heartbeat and the soul of the enterprise and represent the organization by what they do, think and say about the organization 24/7 be it at the grocery store, family dinner, or a social event. They matter. Leaders that get this & implement this importance will enthusiastically share that it was the key in taking them from bad to good, good to great and great to market leading.

The 10th Principle

Every Decision, Product or Dollar of Profit, Begins and Ends With People. Period.

Stockholders, Board Level and C-Level Executives nor the companies they represent will never reach optimum financial or market-share growth without people (employees) believing in, the mission and drive the results or people (customers) buying and recommending the respective product or service. They realize that everything they do should be about the people. They realize too that every product or service is secondary to the people. People conceptualize an idea; they build it; they strategize how to deliver it; they sell it, and people buy it. Good to Great companies and leaders realize that everything they do is just "stuff." What matters the most is, People!

The Ten Leadership Principles that drive a Growth Culture

1) They always put their people (employees) before process or profit.

2) They make it a priority to coach, mentor & develop their people.

3) Hiring the right people & having the right interview process is a top priority.

4)  They celebrate the achievement of goals attained by the team member, the overall team, the company and even their customer’s achievements.

5) They use 360 evaluation tools to ensure that their management team members continue to grow into leaders through anonymous feedback from those senior to them, their peers and their direct reports.

6) They believe in doing the right things, in the right way, at the right time and for the right reasons.

7) They create a culture that ensures - every employee from top to bottom puts the customer 1st, always.

8)  They build winning cultures through a definitive business engine which serves as the foundation for their success journey & is communicated to & by all in the organization to ensure that "ALL are in."

9) They TRUST one another regardless of position or title, and they trust their customers regardless of size or total customer value.

10: Every Decision, Product or Dollar of Profit, begins and ends with People. Period.

 An idea without implementation is simply a hallucination.
- Thomas Edison

I hope you have enjoyed this series designed to serve as the foundation of becoming Great Bosses, Leaders, and Companies. Remember these only serve as the foundation to Greatness. The successful achievement of the goal to become Great, is in direct proportion within each of you to commit to the implementation of what you have learned.

Good Boss-Bad Boss becoming the One You Want to Be (9 of 10)

Trust is the Glue for any High Performing Organization

Trust is the Glue for any High Performing Organization

During the past 9 weeks, we've reviewed 8 attributes that superior bosses, leaders, and companies make it a practice to do, and by doing so they are traveling from bad to good, from good to great and now in the homestretch from great to superior. However, before we review # 9 let’s take a quick look at the previous 8 attributes of a superior boss, leader and company which include:

1) They always put their people (employees) before process.

2) They make it a priority to coach, mentor & develop their people.

3) Hiring the right people & having the right interview process is a top priority.

4)  They celebrate the achievement of goals attained by the team member, the overall team, the company and even their customer’s achievements.

 “I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.” – Lawrence Bossidy, Former COO of GE and author

5) They use 360 evaluation tools to ensure that their management team members continue to grow into leaders through anonymous feedback from those senior to them, their peers and their direct reports.

6) They believe in doing the right things, in the right way, at the right time and for the right reasons.

7) They create a culture that ensures - every employee from top to bottom puts the customer 1st, always.

8)  They build winning cultures through a definitive business engine which serves as the foundation for their success journey & is communicated to & by all in the organization to ensure that "ALL are in."

9) They TRUST one another regardless of position or title, and they trust their customers regardless of size or total customer value.

"If you don't have trust within your organization, then you can't transfer it to your customers." - Roger Staubach

Trust is the glue that bonds the company, management & employees to the customer & is also, the foundation principle that holds all relationships. Trust is also what keeps bosses from micro-managing their direct reports, empowers every employee to make decisions when the fire is still a small flame not after the entire building has burned down. Trust is the glue. If you are a C-Level executive, then trust is the key to empowering your managers to lead their teams as they see fit. If you are a manager trust is why you allow your people to make decisions that serve your customers in the best light and best way. If you are one of the direct reports, trust is the driving force behind your belief that your teammates will use their talents and gifts in a way that will assist you in the achievement of your own goals

All of Us Is Always Better Than One of Us

Not having trust is analogous to a single strand of twine that will hold a light load but breaks easily when under stress. Having trust between senior management, mid-management, employees and customers changes the single strand into a braided rope that is hard to break and even harder to defeat when challenged.

Growth Engine Management Leads to Employee Engagement

Get Employees Informed on Your Growth Engine

Get Employees Informed on Your Growth Engine

Employees Need to Get Informed About Your Business

Most of your employees and many of your managers have no idea what the game is that your company is playing.  Stephen Covey once wrote that if organizations were a soccer team, only 4 out of 11 players would know which goal to shoot on.  Employees are uninformed on strategies, goals, and never get to see the big picture.  Many times, they don’t even know what the score is.  

Add that to research from MIT and the London Business School that states 66% of senior managers do not know the top three priorities of their company. One more jewel of concern; when it comes to relying on teams in other departments or business units, less than 10% of senior managers trust their colleagues to deliver all the time.  

66% of senior managers do not know the top three priorities of their company - MIT and London Business School

It is Expensive When Employees are not Engaged

Based on a Gallup poll from last year, 50% of employees do not strongly agree they know what’s expected of them.  As recently as May of 2016, 50.9% were “not engaged” and 16.4% were “actively disengaged.” That’s a lot of minds, connections, and ideas sitting on the sidelines.  Paying a W-2 mind with benefits is a terrible thing to waste.  

50% of employees do not strongly agree they know what's expected of them.” — Gallup

These unengaged employees lack company context, how they contribute to the company's results, and a clear understanding of expectations.  When you are unaware, you lack a personal VP (value proposition) for the organization.  If you aren't known for something in the company, you are likely disengaged and relegated to widget status. Even if they are unable to articulate it, employees can feel their hopelessness. Why invest their emotions, connections, and ideas? Conversely, if you know the Growth Engine (dynamic business model), know your colleagues do too, and know your expectations, you settle into an area of relevant contributions. Voila!  You are now part of something bigger than formal job description.

If you aren't known for something in the company, you are likely disengaged and relegated to widget status.

Growth Engine management Unifies the Company

Your Growth Engine is the combinatorial impact of the components of your business that serve your organization’s strategic direction.  It is not a lifeless document sitting on the shelf, (hello business plan) but the very reason working together is motivating! Wait, you thought you showed up because you love selling?  Great selling skills with a weak Growth Engine is brutal.  An exceptional Growth Engine can succeed even if the sales team isn’t optimized. Let’s not let the tail wag the dog.  Growth Engine understanding helps the entire company connect the operating dots and increase our valuation.  A superior management approach is to focus on optimizing the Growth Engine components and the ideas that improve it.

Growth Engine understanding helps the entire company connect the operating dots and increase our valuation.

Your Growth Engine will Change

If a company doesn’t want to feel the terror of the D word (disrupted), they can start by reviewing their Growth Engine.  Your old reliable business model definition is likely decaying even if the results are not informing you yet.  You should also know Growth Engines change more often than before and one size does not fit all in an industry.  Even established service industries such as accounting firms use different business models.

Since the emerging digital organism we call the market is morphing into things we have never seen, we must continuously adapt.  Start thinking biology in a digitally transformed ecosystem.  We tend to work through distinct departments in our company and underestimate the dynamics of what happens when two parts of our company inspire each other with attainable ideas; Miracles and Magic.  

All Employees Should Think About managing and Improving the Growth Engine

Our hierarchical model assumes effectiveness (oh brother) and we hope for C-level super powers. However, we live in a fragmented world where genius can emerge anywhere and be shared immediately.  Are we to fight crowd sourcing ideas in our own organization?  Please no.  Let’s unleash informed ideas to our collective benefit. Teach everyone about your company’s Growth Engine.  Use internal communications to begin a campaign of heightened Growth Engine understanding.  Thinking about our business is for everyone. 

Use internal communications to begin a campaign of heightened Growth Engine understanding.

Growth Engine management Connects Employees to the Boardroom

HR consultants preach the value of accountability, building cross-functional teams, getting employee feedback, purpose, and rewards.  Without a Growth Engine understanding, these terms struggle for relevance in regard to what the CEO discusses with the board every 90 days.  The more we appreciate what’s on the CEO’s mind, the more of us can engage our best thinking to help our engine of growth.

Why Educating All Employees About Your Growth Engine is Smart

Employees Contribute to the Growth Engine

Employees Contribute to the Growth Engine

Doing well but out of sorts

Early in my career, I held the position of Distribution Sales Director for a high-growth software company.  My team was responsible for about 40% of the entire company’s revenue working with massive software distributors, large channel players, and value-added resellers.   I had mastered the tiered distribution game since I had done it before for a larger company with great success.  My dedicated team and I were in our element. We knew how to work with the channel players, we had good products, and excelled with our product managers.  Work was good, but something was missing.  One day I realized that I lacked context to our entire company.  We were pretty good at slaying revenue dragons, but I had to know more about how our kingdom worked and how our team fit inside that kingdom. 

I realized that I lacked context to our entire company

Luckily, I had a VP of Sales who encouraged me to go across the organization and meet people.  People not just in marketing and sales, but those in finance, R&D, and support. For example, I took an accountant to lunch to learn what she did (gaining appreciation for being an accountant) and to explain what our team did.  After that, when any of my customers had financial questions or challenges, things went very smoothly with our internal finance team and I no longer required our CFO.  I did the relationship math. When good people across the organization understand and care about each other, the company is more efficient.  Not to mention, it creates friends who look out for the health of the business.  Cross-functional alliances assist employees in handling daily business tasks.  Still, these meetings on their own were not enough to maximize the understanding of the company.

When good people across the organization understand and care about each other, the company is more efficient 

Later on, when I moved into marketing and had my own P&L as a business unit director, I was able to understand our unit's growth engine.  Then, as an executive and board member, an even greater view of the entire company. Finally, as someone who advises companies, venture capitalists, and private equity firms, I have disciplined myself to define a unified picture.  Alas, inside of companies, there simply is just not enough dialogue around how the company operates and the unique supply chain cocktail that makes it valuable.   

Growth engine (business model) context is what’s missing.  This is not the same as goals. Goals tell us what we want, business models instruct us where to add operational value.  Constant attention on our growth engine tells us where our ideas and general efforts are helping.  Other than the CEO, few people fully understand the complete business model of their own company. What are the components and the combinatorial impact that creates unique value, growth, and earnings? The true value of your company is the efficacy of the value chain. 

Few CEOs manage, communicate, or educate toward a holistic grasp of their own growth engine.  That's called lost opportunity folks.  Instead, they manage department heads (also in the business model dark) toward their respective annual goals.  We can leverage our diverse talent so we grow faster. Going back to my accountant colleague, what if she knew the complete business model?  Who knows what experiences, relationships, and ideas that were sitting beneath “her role” where she could progress our business?  It is so easy (LinkedIn) for today’s employee to communicate with their business connections outside of their employer. Employees could explain their organization more effectively if they had the benefit of context.  

Few CEOs manage, communicate, or educate toward a holistic grasp of their own business model 

We need simple visual tools that communicate the growth engine and a common language.  All employees and business owners can now see the big picture and the relationships between the adjacent components that create that picture. A well-known problem in managing departments is catching silo-itis which causes harm because of how they see the business and because of how they get recognition.  Happening at this very moment is a joint meeting where a department head is confused about what they(the other department) are doing. With a unified business model understanding, our teams can prioritize and discuss how we are working to improve the model that generates earnings.

As an executive, I would rather be held accountable for addressing a growth engine component (not a department) and how I can help other parts of the business model.  As an employee, I would rather be known for improving or fixing something in the business model as a part of my individual performance review.  When the business design model is being improved, it’s not about me anymore.  Business model improvements enable gains for our teams, divisions, and the company. Welcome to understanding a greater purpose than “me”. 

Let’s do our jobs fully aware of how our efforts live in harmony with the rest of the growth engine.  One of the great failings of hierarchical management is to keep employees down by withholding.  To make sure our reports never get the exposure to fully understand what the business is.  Once again, needless fear and ego jump into the game.  We have to show courage.  Employees that get exposure to our business models and C-level concerns become lynchpins to our business.  Conversely, employees that aren’t interesting in learning more about your model, shine a light on their limitations.   

One of the great failings of hierarchical management is to keep employees down by withholding 

Growth engine excellence is a game-changer because you aren’t required to provide the best products or services. Look around.  Are you painfully aware of imperfect products and services?  This is the result of a superior business model that includes partners, strong branding, clear pricing, distribution channels, persona targeting, and responsive customer support.  The guy with the best product might have a warehouse of the best product because his business model isn’t working.  

Growth engine excellence is a game-changer because you aren’t required to provide the best products or services 

Businesses that test constantly win faster

Your existing business model is dynamic (why we call it an engine) and it’s being tested everyday by your customers and partners.  Does your company capture what it learns so you can make insightful adjustments to the model? What kind of frustrations do you suffer from not being able to share the knowledge?

At times, you’re creating a new model of iterative learning where you will embrace the philosophy of testing frequently, fail fast, and document what you learned. Be careful not to include the same people leading existing business models with those pursuing the new models.  The former is sharpening the saw, for the latter, you’re inventing a new kind of saw, requiring a different mindset.

Growth Visions has created our own working one-page Growth Engine framework. True, there are other business models out there, but they seem to focus only on startups using a snapshot approach. Ours is more flexible and we thought other components needs to be included. In the next few weeks, I plan on writing quite a bit about the usefulness of business models. We use them with our clients and know they are necessary to create conversations that make the biggest difference.

Imagine if everyone in your company understood your growth engine design. How could have helped in recent situations or conversations?

How to Create Champions like The Cleveland Cavaliers (prt. 8 of the Good Boss-Bad Boss Series

Create a championship culture at your company

Create a championship culture at your company

The Cleveland Cavaliers are NBA World Champions. People throughout the world, many of whom don’t follow basketball much (like me), took notice, clapped, and saluted this team because everyone loves an underdog, a feel-good story, and an example of overcoming the odds. The Cavaliers were the ultimate underdogs. They were in a city that hadn’t won a championship in basketball, football, or baseball in over 52 years. To say that Cleveland teams were cursed and their fans jaded would be an understatement. How then did they turn it around and what can a good boss, leader, or company learn from this incredible team?  

Sometimes in Business a Leader has to admit their mistakes 

LeBron James is the superstar on this team. He is the beloved homegrown native of their blue collar town and people simply believe he walks on water. But a few years ago he left them for a bigger payday and a chance to win a championship in Miami. Feelings were hurt, bad things were said by the Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and by LeBron about Mr. Gilbert. It was pretty ugly. LeBron won his rings in Miami. The Cavs, on the other hand, didn’t do too well without Mr. James. However, after his contract was up, Mr. Gilbert and Mr. James made amends, and worked out a deal that once again made LeBron a Cleveland Cavalier. Yesterday they won a World Championship because they had LeBron.

Business Lesson: Stay in touch with your superstars or individuals who were both productive and good team fits for your organization if they depart. Keep them on your birthday and Christmas card list and if needed iron out any differences you may have had - before you need them, or they need you.

Superstars can Inspire Their Teammates to Perform at Higher Levels 

The Cavs team was built around LeBron. His performance in the final two games of the series was pivotal in the Cavs bringing home the championship trophy. Lebron’s 41 points played a key role, but more importantly his play, hustle and passion raised the performance of every one of his teammates. They played harder with slightly more passion, and it contributed to their performance in rebounds, assists, and total points. Cavs head coach Tyronne Lue created offensive schemes allowing LeBron to perform at his best.  Thus, allowing the entire team to raise their game to higher levels as well.

Business Lesson: Challenge your superstars and high performers to do their best, anoint them to be leaders. In other words, Get Your Best to Provide their Best for the Rest.

Me, We and Something Bigger Than these Two

Dan Gilbert was wise to get LeBron back on the Cavs roster. The team and the city were excited to have their prodigal son back home. However, Mr. Gilbert, the front office, LeBron and his teammates heard the talk by the pundits and doubters about not winning a championship for 52 years. They knew how many loyal fans were dejected, disappointed, and downright depressed over being constantly reminded of the failures of the Browns, Indians, and Cavalier teams to bring a championship trophy back to the city of Cleveland and being dubbed as the curse of Cleveland. LeBron wanted to win not just for himself, and his teammates, but for the city of Cleveland, the state of Ohio and every fan that had suffered the 52-year drought.

Business Lesson: Find Something that is bigger than you, your best employee or your team to motivate them to do, to be better. Things such as a donation to a children’s hospital, a donation in the teams name to a charity selected by the team and paid for by the company, extra days off or get-away trips for internal members, and spouses when the team achieves an annual goal.

The Cleveland Cavaliers became World Champions because they built a strong foundation (business engine), high expectations (goals), the right people on and off the court (internal-external team) and a cause that was bigger than just basketball (a calling, a mission, a cause) What are you doing as a good boss, leader and company that will lead you to overachieve your goals and become a champion?

Leadership Principle # 8

Good Bosses, Leaders & Companies build winning cultures through a definitive business model that is the basis for their success & is communicated by all in the organization are All In.


If you found this article to be helpful, press the like button to endorse.  If you would like a custom business engine analysis, schedule a meeting to discuss Lee's leadership insights, or to have the Growth Visions team conduct an analysis of your company, please feel free to contact him directly at 281 494 8843 (office) or 832 567 8512 (cell).

Good Boss, Bad Boss - Becoming the One you Want to Be (Part 7 of Leadership Series)

For a growth culture, companies should put the customer first

For a growth culture, companies should put the customer first

A man named George who was in his late thirties, well known for his partying, and questionable behavior - both in his business and personal life, dies unexpectedly. Upon his death he’s escorted up the stairs to heaven where he is greeted by St. Peter. George is surprised even to be near the pearly gates because of his questionable life choices. However, an even greater surprise is about to take place. St. Peter explains that he knows George lived a questionable life at times but he also, had many flashes of goodness. Therefore, Peter would provide the recently deceased man the option tochoose where he wanted to go - either heaven or hell. George was certainly shocked but with the help of St. Peter opened a door to see what heaven looked like. What he saw was beautiful! People were floating on clouds with a peaceful look on their faces; nearby two angels played music on a harp. There were fresh flowers everywhere, and George couldn't help but notice that all the people seemed to be joyful, stress-free and content.

After the Heaven tour, George was brought down to the other place - hell, which had three gold doors. He knocked on the middle door and was greeted by a well-dressed man who said, "welcome George! I am so glad to meet you and so very happy to have you here!" George couldn't believe his eyes or ears. He'd always been under the impression that the devil was a monster with horns, a tail and his weapon of choice was a pitchfork. Instead, George was looking at a man who was a smooth communicator, gracious and an outstanding host. The devil then escorted him to the remaining doors. When George opened the first door, he saw everyone was rich beyond his or her wildest dreams with money literally raining down upon them. Behind the second door, he saw the most beautiful, fit and happy people he'd ever seen - laughing, celebrating and having a grand time. Finally behind the third door, he saw the people had all the material comforts one would ever want. He thanked the Devil and then hurriedly ran up the steps to give St. Peter his decision. George said "St. Pete, I've made my decision. I choose to go to the other place because as you know, I am still a relatively young man - with a zest for life in the fast lane. I believe that hell is the place for me" and with that, he raced down the steps and knocked on the door. For some reason the previously golden door now appeared rusty - but before George could entertain another thought - the door was abruptly opened by a red monster who had horns and a tail and a pitchfork in his hand who proceeded to, stab the fork into Georges' torso, lifted him overhead and was about to drop him into a huge pit of fire when George screamed - WAIT! WAIT! WAIT! Mr. Devil, there is some mistake! You see, yesterday I was greeted by an articulate man who gave me a tour of a place filled with rich, happy, beautiful people! This. is. not. what. I. saw. yesterday. As the devil threw George into the fiery pit he laughed and replied - "oh my silly George... The reason everything is different today versus yesterday is because yesterday you were a prospect but today my friend, you are a customer!"

Isn't it ironic that often the customer experience after the sales cycle is one that is parallel to the aforementioned story? Companies spend large sums of money each year to train their customer-facing employees on the best techniques, positioning strategies and how to overcome objections. These employees have pay plans that reward them for customer satisfaction and customer retention. But what about everyone else? What about accounting, administration, or operation departments?   How often have you heard an upset customer say something like,. "Initially I had a good experience with your company. My team of managers loved your salesperson. She was honest, professional always answered our questions and was responsive when anyone on the team needed help. However since the contract was signed, I rarely hear from your company anymore. I guess the honeymoon is over!"

The solution to this all too familiar story is simple but is not simplistic to implement. It is not a quick fix. However bosses, leaders, and companies that embrace the 7th principle are more profitable, have higher customer retention and happier employees. This game-changing Leadership Principle # 7 is:

7) Good Bosses, Leaders & Companies make sure that every employee from top to bottom puts the customer 1st, always.

How to Develop a Culture that is Customer Centric

1) Everyone from the CEO to the Janitor Signs a Contract that emphasizes their promise to serve the customers

2) Everyone from the CEO to the Janitor receives financial incentives for Customer Retention and Customer Satisfaction

3) Successes (client is saved, the difficult challenge is resolved, the customer writes a letter of appreciation, etc.) are celebrated each morning  by the entire company the day after they occur. These celebratory moments can be captured in a few words, short skype message or even a morning roll call meeting

The key to changing a culture starts at the top (c-level), permeates to the middle (management and their teams), seeps to the next level (facility, operations staff) and then rises back up to the middle and then the top before it touches and influences the customer experience. Changing a culture is a process, not a one-time event or a nice mission statement on the wall in the break room.Companies that have instilled a customer first culture such as Southwest Airlines, Kimley-Horn & Associates and Ultimate Software have not only recorded above average profitability,  achieved higher employee retention, produced higher customer satisfaction scores than the competitors in their respective verticals but were also, made Forbes Magazine's list of Top Companies to Work in 2015!

I look forward to hearing your ideas, thoughts and successes at lee.novak@growthvisions.com

Good Boss, Bad Boss - Becoming the One you Want to Be (Part 6 of Leadership Series)

Good leaders put people first for growth

Good leaders put people first for growth

We are now more than halfway to completion of the Leadership series which focuses on the most difficult tasks companies and management face today.  The good companies and bosses want to answer correctly the question"How do we become a company or an individual leader that creates a profitable entity within and externally in the marketwithout becoming a dog eat dog, win at all cost monster?" The reputable companies and leaders don't begin their respective journey with the goal of being bad but  somewhere on the journey during periods of hectic growth, perilous deadlines, economic swings, pressure from competition and/or stockholder expectations - they simply lost their way. However, it is not too late to alter the course, re-engineer the culture or establish a servant leader mentality. By examining what good companies and leaders practice and do the struggling organizations and bad bosses can turn their current setbacks into a comeback. 

Let's take a look at the 5 leadership qualities which have been addressed during the past few weeks in the Good Boss-Bad Boss series: 

1) Good Bosses, Leaders & Companies always put people before process

2) Good Bosses, Leaders & Companies make it a priority to coach, mentor & develop people

3) Good Bosses, Leaders & Companies know the key to hiring the right people is having the right interview process

4)  Good Bosses, Leaders & Companies celebrate the achievement of goals attained by the team member, the overall team, the company and their customers

5) Good Bosses, Leaders, and Companies use 360 evaluation tools to ensure that their management team members receive anonymous feedback from those senior to them, their peers and their direct reports. 

Good Companies and Leaders believe that people first & high ethical culture promotes exponential growth. These companies believe that the higher one goes (empowerment), the farther out (ideas, solutions) one can see.

Leadership Principle # 6

6) Good Bosses, Leaders & Companies believe in doing the right things, in the right way, at the right time and for the right reasons

Four "Right Things" Good Companies Practice

1) They tell the truth. When they mess up, they take the responsibility. Management doesn't blame the employees, employees don't blame their teammates, the company doesn't blame the customer

2) Their business pyramid always has the client and employees at the top

3) They provide good to great products and services

4) The money, the returns, the growth, the reputation all flow from the above

Three "Right Ways" practiced by Good Companies and Leaders

1) They look at their products/services from the customer point of view; how the customer benefits from them, what the customer experiences while using them and how the customer feels about the company who provides the products/services.

2) They create cultures and business relations by encouraging, facilitating and enhancing people, process, performance and profits for their customers and their employees

3) The avoid positional management internally and believe in providing high value for ALL customers both large and small

2 things Good Companies and Leaders do at “The Right Time”

1) They avoid releasing or selling their products or service if the product/service is not able to produce or perform as advertised.

2) They sell and produce based on the Business Model of the customer which they have mutually designed with the customer and for the customer

The Right Reason

1) They won't sell a customer a product or service just to simply sell them something. They often express the following promise: Mr. Customer we promise never to sell you something unless it increases your profitability or increases efficiencies, maximizes effectiveness or heightens your brand in the marketplace.

Bad Bosses become Good Bosses, Good Bosses become Leaders and Bad Companies become Good Companies when they adapt, adjust, change and ultimately practice these 6 Leadership Principles (& those to be revealed during the next few weeks).

I look forward to hearing your ideas, thoughts and successes at lee.novak@growthvisions.com

Good Boss Bad Boss - Becoming the One You Want to Be (Part 5 of Leadership Series)

Good bosses show they care about their employees and create connections

Good bosses show they care about their employees and create connections

The country comedian Jeff Foxworthy has a routine called - You Might Be A Redneck which made him famous years ago. My Foxworthy's monologue included gems such as; If you own a home with wheels and several cars without  - you might be a redneck or If your wife’s hairdo has ever been ruined by a ceiling fan – you might be a redneck. Many people (including me) find his humor hilarious still today, while others don’t find his humor to be funny at all. What makes people laugh or cry or both is dependent upon the individual taste of each person, however, what actions makes a bad boss  is universally agreed upon by employees. Interestingly, what makes a bad boss bad - isn’t tied to socio-economic, or even position factors as noted in the following. The list was compiled from an interview with a successful manager making a six figure income, at a large company and includes the manager’s actual experiences with their boss.

15 Actions That Make You a Bad Boss

  1. If you don’t know the birthdays or other significant anniversaries of your direct reports – you might be a bad boss
  2. If you don’t reach out and wish them a happy birthday, acknowledge a significant anniversary or milestone – you might be a bad boss
  3. If you equate giving encouragement to giving “everyone a participation trophy” – you might be a bad boss
  4. If you believe it is appropriate to correct a direct report in front of their peers – you might be a bad boss
  5. If you believe that results are the only thing that matter and the journey insignificant – you might be a bad boss
  6. If you have hung up the phone on any of your direct reports because you were frustrated with them – you might be a bad boss
  7. If every compliment statement you provide  ends in a period (.) but your criticisms always end with an explanation mark (!) – you might be a bad boss
  8. If you speak about a direct report in a negative manner to their teammates – you might be a bad boss
  9. If  you use the following statements; “just do what I tell you, because I said so, or do it or else”– you might be a bad boss
  10. If you believe your time is more important than your direct reports and therefore it justifies your questioning their sense of urgency and expectation that they should answer your phone calls and respond to emails immediately – you might be a bad boss
  11. If you have ever lied about a direct report to your boss because you were scared of getting in trouble for dropping the ball – you might be a bad boss
  12. If you believe it is appropriate to leave nasty emails to your direct reports and always copying your boss when doing so, but when providing positive emails to your direct reports you won’t copy your boss because you feel it might make you look too soft – you might be a bad boss
  13. If a direct report on your team is seasoned, talented, productive and a terrific team player but isn’t a great fit for your team and you don’t attempt to find a fit within your company in a different role or department – you might be a bad boss
  14. If you fear that a direct report might outshine you in a presentation or meeting – you might be a bad boss
  15. If one of your direct reports, announces that he/she has a long term illness or their spouse is ill, and your first thought is how they heck am I going to make my number/finish the project on time/or how can I get relief in this situation – you might be a bad boss.

    How to Not Be A Bad Boss
    So, how do you prevent becoming or being a bad boss? How does a company ensure that they don't support a culture that the above manager experienced? The answer is - bridging the gap between where the executive believes themselves to be versus what their superiors, peers and direct reports believe is essential to the  growth of the culture, the leader and the performance of the company. This can be accomplished through customized training and coaching. Recent studies estimate that the overall performance of individuals who receive 1:1 coaching based on narrowing the gap established during 360 surveys, experience an increase in production between 10% and 19%.

    Leadership Principle #5
    Good Bosses, leaders and companies use 360 evaluation tools to ensure that their management team members receive anonymous feed back from the those senior to them, their peers and their direct reports. Then based upon the overall input the company develops a customized training and coaching curriculum. Bridging the gap between where the executive believes themselves to be versus what their superiors, peers and direct reports believe is essential to the  growth of the culture, the leader and the performance of the company.

I look forward to hearing your ideas, thoughts and successes at lee.novak@growthvisions.com

Good Boss Bad Boss: How to Become the One You want to be (Part 4)

Good leaders put people first to grow

Good leaders put people first to grow

Good Boss Bad Boss: How to Become the One You want to be (Part 4)

Three Leadership Principles In Review

During the past several weeks I have focused on the Leadership Principles of Good Bosses, Leaders, and Companies which I have compiled during the past 15 years working with small and large companies, private and public companies. Additionally, each article included weekly work challenges which I hope you have found useful and purposeful as you navigate your Leadership journey. The three Principles that I have shared thus far include:

1)      Good Bosses, Leaders & Companies always put people before process

2)      Good Bosses, Leaders & Companies make it a priority to coach, mentor & develop people

3)      Good Bosses, Leaders & Companies know the key to hiring the right people is having the right interview process

But wait, There is more!

The Fourth Principle of Leadership

4)      Good Bosses, Leaders & Companies celebrate the achievement of goals attained by the team member, the overall team, the company and their customers

Every Good Boss, Leader, and Company know that the key to improving the buying experience of its customers is to improve the engagement of their own employees. In a study published in the Journal of Occupational & Organizational Psychology results indicated that organizational commitment had a more persistent influence on performance at the business unit level than vice versa. Consistent with prior research, this suggests that job attitudes may come first and that practitioners might be well advised to aim to improve job attitudes in order to boost performance. The study strongly correlated that employee engagement had a positive impact on both profit and growth as well as customer loyalty and productivity.


                                                                                                                                                        Four Cornerstones of Celebrating Achievements and Success

The Individual

I once heard a VP of sales say that he didn’t believe in celebrating the accomplishments of individuals unless that accomplishment was extraordinary or record breaking. He equated the giving of compliments, encouragement or celebrating individual successes to everyone on his son’s soccer team receiving a trophy for participation. What the VP failed to realize is that when good bosses and leaders provide GENUINE encouragement to their team members and associates it is more about getting them to and ultimately over the goal line than it is about complimenting them for “making the team”.  Leaders also spend time 1:1 with each team member requesting that in additional to the business objectives/goals they are expected to meet, to also provide a list of 3-5 personal goals they want to reach in the upcoming year. Goals such as running a marathon, adopting a child, buying a second home are some which the team members will provide. These goals can be discussed in private sessions with the associate and provide excellent opportunities for the manager to understand better who the associate is as a person and what truly motivates them.

The Team

At the beginning of every fiscal year a Sales Leader that I know, who is in charge of sales at a leading technology provider conducts a two-day long business and goal setting session. She provides her team with the standard quota, region/territory assignment, revenue goals and client retention goals provided by the Senior Executive Committee. Once these figures, budgets and expectations of corporate are issued she then separates each individual team and has the team Director lead discussions on what the team goals will be during the upcoming year. Goals such as specific dollars sold during a quarter, number of first call resolutions for support, timely CRM update documentation are a few examples. These are goals which the team celebrates when they have overachieved or are on track to achieving. These goals are NOT goals required by the company. Rather they are team objectives meant to enhance team unity and morale while rewarding behavior and disciplines that help them as a team to get the ball over the goal line. In instances where the manager has gained permission, they may also have the team members share with their teammates some of their personal goals. This, of course, forges a deeper bond with one another and provides an additional opportunity to celebrate their successes on a personal level when they’ve run that marathon, adopted the child or buy that second home.

The Company

Bad Bosses are most likely to comment that this category should be the only one to celebrate. They would argue "employees are getting paid to do a job. Those that do their jobs get rewarded with promotions, higher raises, and that is when they should be celebrated. Those employees that don’t get this should be terminated. At the end of the day, these employees should not ask what the company can do for them rather they should be asking what can they do for the company?" The error in this line of thinking is assuming an either/or, win/lose scenario. Good Bosses, Leaders, and Companies, however, realize the Corporate goals are highly important to sustainable growth to occur. These leaders also recognize the significance of shareholder value, market share and reputation, but the success of these values is the result of a people-centric mission (employees/clients), efficient processes, outstanding products/services and a culture built on care value and understanding (CVU, Growth Visions 2015)

The Customer

Good Bosses, Leaders and Companies stay in tune to the successes of their customers. They acknowledge and celebrate when the customer is named as a finalist or winner of a business award. They celebrate the customer when the customer announces a roll out of a new charitable initiative, or employee work balance program. They do so internally within the organization, with their teams to highlight what is good and great about the companies who are their customers and partners. Good Bosses, Leaders, and Companies know that celebrating with a customer needs to take place beyond those moments in the business relationship where a transaction has taken place (i.e. a sale, a joint venture, etc.). They send flowers; they write notes signed by an entire department congratulating the customer on accomplishments that have little or nothing to do with their client/vendor/partnership.

Weekly Leadership Challenge

1)      Think back to previous conversations where an employee may have shared a dream or goal they had. Ask them for an update. If necessary motivate them in unique ways. Fo example if their personal goal was to complete a marathon, get them a gift certificate to a specialty store for runners

2)      If you haven’t already done so, meet with some key members of your team and ask them to lead an effort to develop three team goals for the balance of the fiscal year. These goals are not mandatory company objectives. Rather the goals are specific to the team. Remind the team that these custom team goals are achieved they team will each receive an award, incentive based on this team achievement.

3)      Have the team google each of their top 3-5 accounts and provide you with some recent “newsworthy” successes these customers have achieved. Next, take a picture of the entire team together and forward a note, email, or video to these customers congratulating them on the successes

4)      Remember that celebrating has to be real and genuine, not manipulative or tactical!

I look forward to hearing your ideas, thoughts and successes atlee.novak@growthvisions.com

Good Boss Bad Boss: How to Become the One You want to be (Part 3)

Leaders need to improve their interviewing skills to grow

Leaders need to improve their interviewing skills to grow

Before I go into detail of this week’s leadership principle of good bosses, leaders and companies -let's recap what the Leadership Principle were in my previous posts:

1.Good Bosses, Leaders & Companies always put people first

2.Good Bosses, Leaders & Companies make it a priority to coach, mentor & develop people

People, as defined in my previous posts, include your employees/associates/team members, and your clients. Without people (clients and employees) the best products, services, or ideas would not be manufactured, sold, inventoried or even developed. Without people companies will be without the necessary profit, performance enhancing tools necessary to survive and thrive in their respective market. You HAVE to Have Good People which means you have to get good at hiring the select candidates. Therefore the 3rd Leadership Principle:

Good Bosses, Leaders & Companies know the key to hiring the right people is having the right interviewing process

This principle is so simple that many of you are thinking well DUH!  Lee everyone knows that! I couldn’t agree more. So why are so many bosses so bad at it? Not the hiring part – most bosses are filling positions, but their success rate and retention statistics are poor.  Leaders who are devoted to improving their interview skill sets will increase their batting average of hiring the right people & will win more deals, more profitably.

8 Things Good Leaders do to Improve their Hiring Results

1) Good leaders go beyond what their HR provides them.

2) They prepare for an interview just as they would an important meeting with a significant client.

3) They look for potential candidates internally who could be a great fit for the team & the role

4) They use their influence to attract external talent through mutual business memberships (Chamber of Commerce, Business Exchange club, Speakers Bureau)  & events such as industry trade shows, lunch & learn programs and business networking socials and fundraisers). These elite leaders are always on the lookout for new potential team members and do so before a position becomes available.

5) They commit to spending time every week, building & maintaining their list of potentials candidate and –

6) They spend time refining their interview skills by volunteering to assist other management team members who may be interviewing candidates for other departments positions.

7) They take responsibility for creating a comfortable, engaging style that encourages the candidate to be engaging, open and trusting.

8)  Good leaders take a creative approach to asking standard interview questions in a creative manner to make the candidate comfortable while encouraging them to a more open dialogue. (See below for interview questions for Sales Professional & Sales Management positions)

Four Questions that will Improve your Hiring Results When Interviewing Candidates for a Senior Sales Position...

The Standard: Sell me this pen.
Try This: Sell Me your car, or apartment or house
Why you do it/What you gain: If they can’t sell you something they use every day, they
probably won’t be a high performer

The Standard: Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
Try This: Take the next 10 minutes and write your obituary
Why you do it/What you gain: How do they see their future? Did the candidate see their self as successful? Were they promoted? Did they mention anything about being balanced? Did they articulate well?

The Standard: What will your boss say about you? 
Try This: Have them fill in the blank of this sentence; behind my back people say __________
Why you do it/What you gain: This will reveal what they believe others think of them or do they even care about what others say about them (this can be a good thing in terms of resilience and focus and attitude).

The Standard: What are your strengths?
Try This: What is your GREATEST strength. Mid-way through the interview ask them what their 2nd greatest strength is and finally towards the end of the interview ask them for their third.
Why you do it/What you gain: You will get a deeper and broader perspective of their strengths and by splitting up the sequence you will avoid receiving “canned” responses

Three Questions that will Improve YourHiring Results When Interviewing Candidates for a Management Position...

Question: How many people have been promoted while working for you?
Purpose: This will speak loudly to how they develop their people

Question: From your perspective - what is your definition of a leader?
Purpose: How they answer this question (was it fluid or did it sound rehearsed?) will provide insight as to whether the candidate is a leader or simply a manager

Question: If you were the winner of a special lottery where you received $2m in a briefcase but were required to empty the briefcase in the next 8 hours or you would forfeit the balance how would you empty your briefcase?
Purpose: If you want to find out what a person stands for watch how they spend their money. A leader is someone who should focus a great deal of her/his time on others. Did their answer reflect anything that signifies a focus on others or was it only about them?

  This weeks Leadership Challenge:

  • Look for one candidate internally and one candidate externally for bench strength
  • Volunteer to participate in future interviews to observe styles, questions & techniques

How to Hire the Best Kind of Diversity

Growth Comes with Hiring Diversity

Growth Comes with Hiring Diversity

Promote Different Views

Far too many companies hire the same kind of people from the same sources. Research has shown that the best ideas can come from outside of your own industry. Cognitive diversity should be a goal of all management teams when we share similar values.  Why don’t more companies get excited about a mix of perspectives?  I suspect it’s because people tend to choose security over courage which of course leads us to missed opportunities.  We avoid difficult conversations since our fragile egos are a barrier to the critical thinking we should be doing before our ideas hit the real world.  Egos are just the worst.

Egos are just the worst.

We have too many executives or hiring managers pursuing, “this person looks and thinks like us” instead of the more intriguing, “we welcome new perspectives”.  It's okay to standardize on systems and processes, but not your talent. Over the years, I’ve listened to CEOs complain about they seem to be the only person with ideas.  A contributor to idea-drought is hiring managers who have very little feel for team dynamics.  They are matching a resume to a job description (often written by someone who never actually did the job).  When you add a new individual to a team, you have to think about the dynamics of that team.  The cognitive cocktail that you have delivered could result in just the kind of fresh thinking you so desperately need.

It's okay to standardize on systems and processes, but not your talent.

Think Different or be the Same Old Thing

Think Different was Apple’s plea in the 1980s because if you weren’t going to be bold, you were going to buy IBM’s personal computer and Apple had no future. IBM asked us to buy their dependable computers, Apple was asking you to be Think Different. After a long and windy road, Apple has more cash in 2016 than any company in existence.  Having a vision for a better future can happen in your company too.  

HR has to get in the game and argue for the long-term prospects of any hire. Too much emphasis is put on the time cost of on-boarding when the bigger opportunity that may be in front of us is to hire a leader.  But what if the hiring manager is threatened by a strong candidate who can lead?  If that’s the case, we have a more serious problem.  We need leaders at every point of our company.  Waiting to be told what to do is dead.  We need thinkers at the point of any challenge who get stuff done now and are constant learners.  Hire the long-term player who has a strong point of vision instead of the short-term “check the boxes’ candidate fulfilling the immediate requirements. The more cognitive diverse you hire, it becomes easier for new and smart employees to bring you new value since they know they are welcome.

We need leaders at every point of the company.

Support a Psychologically Safe Environment

Having a healthy exchange of ideas with no judgement results in breaking down walls. No one enjoys a HIPPO (highest paid person’s opinion) work environment.  Everyone should have the opportunity to sell their idea and unique viewpoint with respect. Ultimately a direction must be chosen to progress the company and action will be taken. It requires a psychologically safe environment for problems to get solved and innovation to flourish.  Where innovation lives, margins are higher. A psychologically safe environment ultimately leads to your CFO smiling.  Isn’t that an unexpected bonus?

No one enjoys a HIPPO work environment.

Celebrate Ideas in Business

You think you have big problems?  Breakthrough ideas allow us to transcend our problems. Teams get to bigger answers by combining all kinds of thinking from the analytical to the most creative.  If you are drowning in groupthink and the same predictable stable of options are available, you are already losing.  

Breakthrough ideas allow us to transcend our problems.

The more valuable people on your team are great improvisers.  They are able to build on ideas, support the other team members, and capture value.  In a world that is changing every second, your ability to adapt, create ideas, and deliver value predicts your financial returns more than yesterday’s revenue.  

Hire for cognitive diversity and develop a 21st century management strength of welcoming and integrating value from any mind.

How to Fall in Love for Breakout Growth

In order to grow, companies need to empathize with their customers

In order to grow, companies need to empathize with their customers

Almost five years ago, I wrote a book called Buyer Steps.  It is about the complex B2B digital buyer’s journey.  It covers how they research solution providers, and it includes a straightforward playbook on combining content, relationships, and technology to serve the buyer’s journey.  I knew figuring out the customer or buyer’s journey was important, but I had no idea it was going to turn into the hot topic it is today.  I am now wondering if the journey discussion is broad or intense enough.  

The Buyer’s Story

Does the customer journey fall short of the buyer’s long-term story?  The buyer has an evolving story with turning points like we all do.  It’s a story full of stops and starts due to resources, culture, and indecision.  Are we holding ourselves buyer-accountable?  When buyers tap away on their devices for some kind of hope to solve their problems, are we being buyer-accountable? We have to do a better job of helping specific buyer personas research their issues and strengthening relationships.  When our buyer is tormented by a high-anxiety boss who is considering a former colleague to replace our buyer, are we being buyer-accountable?  We need to get our answers (products/services/expertise) to our buyer earlier.  When buyers feel unsafe and insecure with their buying process, are we being buyer-accountable?  We must transfer knowledge to our buyers at the right time.

What is our buyer’s story?  Of course, we will write up a persona profile for all of our buyers so we can hit the messaging mark.  That’s good practice and if we have the right marketing leadership, we will relentlessly integrate our persona education with the organization.  Moreover, what is the story of our buyer’s company?  Our sales team will want to understand the buyer-company's solutions, ecosystem, and direction so solutions can be tailored.

Fall out of love with internal conversations

Your internally-directed conversations matter less than they ever did.  There’s enough corporate nonsense talk on the Internet to last you 1,000 lifetimes.  We get it, it’s messy.  Cut down on the talks on your corporate hierarchy, reports that don’t drive action, and executive personalities.  Start being vocal about your buyer personas, the goals your buyers want to achieve, and the changes you must make to give them more value - faster. If your buyers don’t excite you, you are in the wrong business.

You need everyone (and I do mean everyone) in your company to know your buyers.  Beyond that, are your growth stewards (executives, sales, marketing) advocating your buyer personas? Because buyers can feel your attachment to their story when you are in front of them.  Without buyer obsession, you are an also-ran and not a high-growth company.

You can achieve market-leading growth

Do not settle for market pace growth.  That’s a sand castle in low tide and uninspiring. Disruption has your company in its sights.  Market pace growth can be just selling more of the same thing into the same or adjacent markets.  This won’t separate you from the pack.  If you want strong organic growth that rattles your category, you’re going to have to innovate.  Innovation comes from collaborating with your buyers to creatively address what they want and need. Now, you are starting a shared story that differentiates your offering and you have a chance for breakout growth.

Working with our buyers leads to refinement of the best ideas so the new products and services can be turned back out toward the overall market. To be sure, it’s a process and you need someone to own innovation who is buyer-informed (what buyers say and behavioral data), can lead projects, and connects dots.

John Ryan is a Managing Director and Chief Growth Officer at Growth Visions. With over 30 years of business experience where he has worked with nine market-leading companies and has served as an executive or board member on six technology companies.  You can contact him at john.ryan@growthvisions.com

Two Reasons Why Very Few Companies are Great

Companies need to innovate and deliver a great customer experience to grow

Companies need to innovate and deliver a great customer experience to grow

The great company does two things very well in the 21st century.  Conversely, companies that do not do both well need to transform themselves with urgency or suffer diminishing profits.

Great companies invest to make innovation a strength

Should we expect non-technology companies to innovate?  Yes.  Innovation is not the exclusive domain of Silicon Valley geniuses.  I would say that if you are in an industry that is not good at innovation, spend now to get that capability and expertise.  We have collectively developed the most sophisticated and digitally-armed buyers in the world. We better have an innovation strategy to feed their rapidly-evolving wants and needs.

Company leaders who do not appreciate constant change are poor students of astronomy, biology, and the human race, just to name a few.  Everything is changing and disruptive technology is changing everything we know in business.  Change is often just another word for innovation or evolving. Innovation is life in the Digital Era.

Great companies build to serve the customer experience

Think about a person you deeply care about and where you can pick up on the slightest signals.  Your hawk-like attention allows you to anticipate their wants and needs others simply never detect.  Think about how that feels when it happens to you.  Someone can just look at you and know what is on your mind. It feels like a superpower.  Today’s buyer demands that you have that superpower, but most companies don't.

Companies have heard much about the customer journey and customer experience. Then why are so many so bad at aligning to their customers?  I suspect because the customer experience effort asks them to be long-term thinkers and too many business leaders are the loyal practitioners of the myopic.  Also, leadership often make the conversation too much about what the marketing and sales teams are doing instead of what the customer requires.

Let’s take a look at where you would place your company and competition on the following chart.



Market-leadership Ability Chart

Group One:  Done for

Unable to innovate and without a superior customer experience, your best people have likely left the company.  Time to hit the reset button, shut this company down, or sell it off.  You are in deep trouble.

Group Two:  Groundhog Day

Customers are cheering for you, but feel disappointed.  They want to know you are a partner making them look smart for picking your brand.  Your front-line people are delivering the same strong customer experience every day, but the portfolio is tired.  They have nothing new to talk about.  Your portfolio isn’t evolving and you lack innovation skills.  If your business is currently okay, enjoy it, because disruption is around the corner.  Your loyal customer is already researching other providers.  Find an innovation leader (hire from a tech company if you have to) create an innovation team, name an executive sponsor, invest in ideas (two generations deep) and pilot those ideas to market.  The clock is ticking and you need to protect your future.

Group Three:  Bottleneck

You are innovating, but your go-to-market execution is lacking.  Moreover, your company fails to create solid touchpoints which means you lose buyers during the purchasing cycle.  You have too many things to sell and a small pipe to get them through.  Some symptoms here are; salespeople with uneven subject-matter knowledge, uninspiring content marketing, confused buyers, and channel education issues.  This is fixable.  Have someone own the customer experience, create a plan, and execute with a customer-first passion.  This is change management requiring two to three years for the company to adopt this transformative approach  Bonus: with what you learn by getting closer to your customers, your innovations get sharper.

Group Four:  Market-leader

It is hard to compete with someone who innovates and delivers a superior customer experience.  These are the market-leaders and great companies. Technology and drug companies depend on innovation management.  This will be a new set of skills for most non-technology companies.  Most will not know how to pollinate ideas, manage cross-functional teams, and bring those ideas to market.  The great news for you is that it’s easy to stand out if innovation becomes a center of excellence for you.

Research shows that many companies are bad at customer experience, so it is a point of differentiation for the company that does it well.  When it comes to the Internet and social media, customer experiences are shared with millions in real time.  Let’s take it one step further.  Should we admire our marketing and sales leaders if they are not working together to address the customer’s journey? Even if our company is doing well today, we could be marching to a dead end.


Plot your competition on this chart above.  Where are you?  Instead of thinking about how big your competitor is or what they want the world to believe (branding), do an objective analysis of these two determinants.  Whether your leadership wants to admit it or not, disruptive technologies have placed you in the innovation and customer experience game regardless of your industry. How your company invests in both for the next decade will decide if your company is great or an also-ran.