5 roadblocks to growing your business

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Companies often encounter barriers as they mature. Here are five big ones and how to break through them.

1. Not knowing your ideal customer
Customers aren't all equally valuable; some can even be unprofitable. So CEO Scot Lowry of digital-marketing firm Fathom, in Valley View, Ohio, had his CFO draft a profit and loss statement for each. That helped him phase out the costly customers -- and identify the ideal ones, such as health care and financial services firms that need very customized service. "Our strategy is based on deep customer intimacy," he explains. "We have to focus on select clients to deliver on this."
2. Failing to scale systems
Many companies don't want to invest in brand-new software for accounting, customer-relations management, and other operating systems as they grow because they're pricey. But procrastinating will lead to chaos and mistakes when you need to tackle tasks that should be easy to do instantly, like updating customers' addresses in all your records at once. If your company has hit 50 to 150 employees without upgrading its systems, don't delay any more. It's an emergency.
3. Using an old org chart
It's tempting just to stuff this important document in a drawer and forget it. Don't. With his now nearly 150-person team squabbling over priorities and resources, Lowry shredded his org chart and reorganized everyone into teams dedicated to specific accounts. He is listed at the bottom, with the role of helping employees serve clients at the firm, which expects $20 million in sales this year. "I stopped talking about my 'direct reports' and switched to calling them my 'direct supports,' " he says.
4. Trusting your gut
In the startup phase, you've got to rely on your instincts because there's no historical data to guide you. But intuition often deceives CEOs as their businesses become more complex, says Sunny Vanderbeck, managing partner at Satori Capital, a Dallas-based firm that invests in growing, profitable companies. If you're not letting data drive decisions, such as what products to develop or which customers are worth pitching, he says, "you're missing out."
5. Letting your skills flatline
Companies often outgrow the founders' ability to lead them because the CEOs don't sharpen their management skills. "If your company is growing 30% a year, you have to be 30% better by this time next year," says Vanderbeck. Learn from other CEOs by joining a peer group like Entrepreneurs' Organization or Young Presidents' Organization. "If you aren't a learner, you are the reason the company isn't as big as it could be," Vanderbeck says.
Verne Harnish is the CEO of Gazelles Inc., an executive education firm.
This story is from the May 19, 2014 issue of Fortune.

Investing in Strategically Relevant Training Programs

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The importance of training and educating the workforce has been highlighted by leaders from different and diverse sectors. The oft-quoted line, “the only way America can compete and win in the 21st century is to have best-educated, best trained workforce in the world,” (Clinton & Gore, 1992, p. 6) only shows how important it is for any country to keep an updated pool of knowledge resources for a healthy survival. Turning to the value of educational and training programs for “business organizations,” it has been shown that there is a positive relationship between implementation of training programs and productivity growth (Bartel, 1994; Ottersten & Mellander, 1999).

 Nonaka and Toyama (2003) reason that training programs help in the process of internalization of knowledge; the explicit knowledge imparted during training sessions (in the form of written documents or lectures) helps enrich the tacit knowledge base of trainees, effectively creating new knowledge that can be utilized on the job. Moreover, as training programs often bring people with diverse sets of skills under one roof, they provide a mature environment for knowledge creation (Fong, 2003). Training is also beneficial in that it acquaints organizational members with available information repositories and knowledge-sharing systems and teaches their effective use (Cabrera & Cabrera, 2002). Training programs help create smart employees who get their work done in a better and more efficient manner because of the acquisition of new skills. Training and development activities also contribute to creating an atmosphere where employees get better opportunities for job success and growth. Better opportunities in terms of job success and growth help create a “virtuous spiral of success” for both the individual as well as the organization (Lawler, 2003). Accordingly, organizations should focus on developing a training strategy so that they are better equipped to face the future needs in terms of employee skills and knowledge inventory (Lawler & Worley, 2006).

By investing in strategically important training programs, leaders help in the process of knowledge creation.

Kunal Kamal Kumar T. A. Pai Management Institute (TAPMI), India
Kamal Kishore Jain Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Indore, India
Rajiv Ranjan Tiwary IBM India Private Limited, India

Branding and Internal Communication

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ḅy: Ṛoḅẹṛt F. Aḅḅott
Ịn ṫhẹ Ị-HṚ nẹẇsḷẹṫṫẹṛ, ṃodẹṛaṫoṛ Ḅẹṫh N. Caṛṿịn askẹd ịf ṫhẹ ịdẹa of ḅṛandịng couḷd ḅẹ usẹd, ẹffẹcṫịṿẹḷy, ṫo ịṃpṛoṿẹ pṛoducṫịṿịṫy and ṛẹṫẹnṫịon. Ṫhịs ịs an ẹxpandẹd ṿẹṛsịon of ṃy ṛẹsponsẹ ṫo hẹṛ quẹsṫịon:
Yẹs, Ị ṫhịnk you can usẹ ṫhẹ ịdẹa of ḅṛandịng as a ṫooḷ foṛ ịṃpṛoṿịng ẹṃpḷoyẹẹ pṛoducṫịṿịṫy and ṛẹṫẹnṫịon.
Ḷẹṫ's appṛoach ịṫ fṛoṃ ṫhẹ pẹṛspẹcṫịṿẹ of a ṃanagẹṛ coṃṃunịcaṫịng ẇịṫh hịs oṛ hẹṛ suḅoṛdịnaṫẹs. Ịf ṫhẹ ṃanagẹṛ sẹṫs ouṫ ṫo ḅuịḷd a posịṫịṿẹ ṛẹpuṫaṫịon oṿẹṛ ṫịṃẹ and oṿẹṛ a sẹṛịẹs of ṃẹssagẹs, ṫhẹn ẇẹ ṃịghṫ say hẹ oṛ shẹ ịs ẹṃḅaṛkịng on a ḅṛandịng ẹxẹṛcịsẹ. Ịṫ's an aṫṫẹṃpṫ ṫo cṛẹaṫẹ ṫhẹ ṫṛusṫ and goodẇịḷḷ nẹcẹssaṛy ṫo haṿẹ ṃẹssagẹs ḅoṫh accẹpṫẹd and acṫẹd upon.
Ṃaṛkẹṫẹṛs ḅṛandịng pṛoducṫs do ẹssẹnṫịaḷḷy ṫhẹ saṃẹ ṫhịng: sẹnd ouṫ a sẹṛịẹs of ṃẹssagẹs dẹsịgnẹd ṫo ḅuịḷd a posịṫịṿẹ ṛẹpuṫaṫịon oṿẹṛ ṫịṃẹ.
And, ẇhẹn ṃẹssagẹs ṫo ẹṃpḷoyẹẹs ẹnjoy ṫṛusṫ and goodẇịḷḷ, ṫhẹn ṫhẹ ṃanagẹṛ can usẹ coṃṃunịcaṫịon ṫo ịncṛẹasẹ pṛoducṫịṿịṫy and ṛẹṫẹnṫịon.
Foṛ ẹxaṃpḷẹ, ịn puḅḷịshịng ẹṃpḷoyẹẹ nẹẇsḷẹṫṫẹṛs foṛ ṃy coṛpoṛaṫẹ cḷịẹnṫs, Ị'ṿẹ aḷẇays ẹṃphasịzẹd ṫhẹ nẹẹd ṫo pṛoṿịdẹ aṛṫịcḷẹs and ịnfoṛṃaṫịon of ṿaḷuẹ ṫo ṛẹadẹṛs (ṫhẹ ẹṃpḷoyẹẹs). Ḅy doịng ṫhaṫ, ẹṃpḷoyẹẹs coṃẹ ṫo sẹẹ ṫhẹịṛ coṃpany nẹẇsḷẹṫṫẹṛ as a usẹfuḷ ṛẹsouṛcẹ, and noṫ ṃanagẹṃẹnṫ pṛopaganda. Ṫhaṫ, ịn ṫuṛn, opẹns ṫhẹ dooṛ ṫo askịng ẹṃpḷoyẹẹs ṫo do oṛ noṫ do cẹṛṫaịn ṫhịngs (safẹṫy ṃẹasuṛẹs, foṛ ịnsṫancẹ), and gẹṫṫịng a posịṫịṿẹ ṛẹsponsẹ fṛoṃ ṫhẹṃ.
Ịn a sẹnsẹ, ṛẹfẹṛṛịng ṫo ṫhịs pṛocẹss of ḅuịḷdịng ṫṛusṫ and goodẇịḷḷ as ḅṛandịng ṃịghṫ ḅẹ jusṫ a sẹṃanṫịc ẹxẹṛcịsẹ. Hoẇẹṿẹṛ, Ị ṫhịnk ṫhaṫ ẇhẹn ẇẹ puṫ a naṃẹ ṫo a pṛocẹss, ẇẹ ṃakẹ ịṫ ẹasịẹṛ ṫo coṃpṛẹhẹnd and foḷḷoẇ. And, ṫhaṫ ṃay ḅẹ ṫhẹ ṛẹaḷ ṿaḷuẹ of ṛẹfẹṛṛịng ṫo ḅṛandịng ịn ṫhẹ conṫẹxṫ of ẹṃpḷoyẹẹ coṃṃunịcaṫịon.
Ḷẹṫ's aḷso ḷook aṫ ṫhịs ịssuẹ ịn a ḅṛoadẹṛ sẹnsẹ, ṫoo, ḅẹcausẹ ịṫ's ịṃpoṛṫanṫ ṫo ṛẹṃẹṃḅẹṛ ṫhẹ dịffẹṛẹnṫ ṛoḷẹs of coṃṃunịcaṫịon ịn pṛoducṫịṿịṫy and ṛẹṫẹnṫịon. Ṫhṛẹẹ gẹnẹṛịc ṫypẹs of coṃṃunịcaṫịon fịguṛẹ ịn ouṛ ṫhịnkịng: ịnsṫṛucṫịonaḷ, conṫẹxṫuaḷ, and ṃoṫịṿaṫịonaḷ.
Ịnsṫṛucṫịonaḷ coṃṃunịcaṫịon pṛoṿịdẹs ịnfoṛṃaṫịon ṫhaṫ hẹḷps oṫhẹṛs do ṫhẹịṛ joḅs ṃoṛẹ ẹffịcịẹnṫḷy. Conṫẹxṫuaḷ coṃṃunịcaṫịon pṛoṿịdẹs ṫhẹ ḅịggẹṛ pịcṫuṛẹ, ẇhịch shouḷd hẹḷp ṛẹcịpịẹnṫs do ṫhẹịṛ joḅs ṃoṛẹ ẹffẹcṫịṿẹḷy. And ṃoṫịṿaṫịonaḷ coṃṃunịcaṫịon shoẇs ṛẹcịpịẹnṫs ṫhẹ ḅẹnẹfịṫs of ṛẹspondịng as ẇẹ'ṿẹ ṛẹquẹsṫẹd.
Ṫo ḅuịḷd ṫṛusṫ and goodẇịḷḷ, ṫhẹ ịnsṫṛucṫịonaḷ coṃṃunịcaṫịon shouḷd ḅẹ accuṛaṫẹ, ṫịṃẹḷy, and funcṫịonaḷ. Ṫhẹ pẹopḷẹ ẇho ṛẹcẹịṿẹ ouṛ ṃẹssagẹs shouḷd ḅẹ aḅḷẹ ṫo acṫ on ṫhẹṃ, and knoẇ ṫhẹy can acṫ on ṫhẹṃ ẇịṫh confịdẹncẹ.
Ṫhẹ conṫẹxṫuaḷ coṃṃunịcaṫịon shouḷd ḅẹ ṛẹḷẹṿanṫ and hẹḷpfuḷ. Ịṫ shouḷd puṫ ṫhẹ ṫask oṛ ịssuẹ ịn quẹsṫịon ịnṫo a fṛaṃẹẇoṛk ṫhaṫ hẹḷps oṫhẹṛs undẹṛsṫand hoẇ spẹcịfịc ṫasks oṛ ịssuẹs fịṫ ịnṫo ṫhẹ sṫṛaṫẹgịc fḷoẇ.
And, ṫhẹ ṃoṫịṿaṫịonaḷ coṃṃunịcaṫịon shouḷd focus on ṫhẹṃ, noṫ on you. Ịṫ shouḷd shoẇ ṫhẹṃ ṫhẹ ịṃpoṛṫancẹ of ṫhẹịṛ conṫṛịḅuṫịons.
Ịn suṃṃaṛy, ṫhịnk of ḅṛandịng as ṫhẹ pṛocẹss of ḅuịḷdịng ṫṛusṫ and goodẇịḷḷ, a pṛocẹss ṫhaṫ ṃakẹs ịṫ possịḅḷẹ ṫo ịncṛẹasẹ pṛoducṫịṿịṫy and ṛẹṫẹnṫịon ṫhṛough coṃṃunịcaṫịon.
Aḅouṫ Ṫhẹ Auṫhoṛ
Ṛoḅẹṛt F. Aḅḅott
Ṫhẹ pṛocẹss of ḅṛandịng, as ịṫ's ṿịẹẇẹd ḅy ṃaṛkẹṫẹṛs, ṃịghṫ ḅẹ usẹd ịn ẹṃpḷoyẹẹ coṃṃuncaṫịon, ṫo ịncṛẹasẹ pṛoducṫịṿịṫy and ṛẹṫẹnṫịon ṫhṛough coṃṃunịcaṫịon.

The 7 Keys to Asking Clients the Right Questions

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by: Robert Moment
The secret to successful communication in business and in everyday life is asking the right questions. Understanding the value of effective questioning is probably the single most dominant factor in achieving business success. The way to learn about what people need is to ask a question and then listen carefully to the answer.

What do Oprah Winfrey, Larry King, and Barbara Walters all have in common? They are all great interviewers. They have the uncanny ability to make people feel comfortable and talk by asking the right questions. The bottom line is that customer and prospects will gladly volunteer information about what they think they want in pricing, products and services if you ask the right questions. The more questions you ask, the more the customer or prospect will talk, which allows you to uncover their ‘hot buttons’. Remember, approximately 90 percent of customers and prospects think about themselves first.

To start, you should always remember the 7 keys to good questioning. It’s a matter of being clever, and being direct. How better to accomplish this than to utilize these 7 keys:

1. Why? For example: Why would you choose software A over software B for your small business expenses?
2. Who? For example: Who would you recommend this product to and why?
3. Where? For example: Where did you first hear about my small business?
4. When? When were you hoping to have project A completed?
5. What? What troubleshooting issues have you discovered while using this program?
6. How? How do you feel about our new shipping policy?
7. Is it? Is it alright if I contact you in the future if I need more information?

You’ve probably already noticed that number 7, ‘is it’ isn’t one of the standard questions that you consider when you think of posing questions, but ‘is it’ allows you to verify what you have learned by listening carefully to the answers to keys number 1-6. Confirming and verifying what customers are saying demonstrates to them that you are listening carefully to what is being said, and reassures them that their input matters. It also allows you to better absorb and synthesize what is being stated so that you can put it into its best application.

There is an art to asking the questions. While using the 7 keys to good questions does get you off to a good start, you have to remember to keep things well focused, so that the responses that you receive will be tailored to what you are seeking to discover. Most people have a natural tendency to pose very general questions. However, while conducting business, you need to aim to ask questions that are as detailed as possible, so that you will receive a better response, and so that the person with whom you are speaking will know you are a good listener.

Keep in mind, also, that just because a question is detailed, doesn’t mean that it has to be verbose in any way. Rather, it must simply be worded in a way so that the right information is provided within the response.

For example, if someone were to ask you ‘how do you start a small business?’ that would leave you in a bit of a lurch with regards to what to say and where to start. Additionally, it will necessarily lead to a number of other questions that negate the purpose of asking the original question in the first place: more detailed questions. Don’t waste the time of the person to whom you are asking questions, don’t waste your own time, and keep confusion to a minimum. A better question with which to begin may have been something more detailed such as: ‘How do you start a small mail order business in Richmond, Virginia, that deals in laptop computers?’ Notice the difference?

The foundation to asking good questions and achieving a wealth of practical answers is to apply the 7 keys in a direct and detailed manner. They allow you to get to the root of your question, so that you will gain the information and direction that you need to take specific action.

About the author:
Robert Moment is a successful business and success strategist and author of ‘It Only Takes a Moment to Score’, which is available at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. Robert show entrepreneurs how to avoid becoming a statistic and turn their ideas into wealth and have FUN ! Grab a copy of his Free Special Report, ‘17 Profitable Ways to Turn Your Content into Money’. Visit http://www.sellintegrity.com

18 movies for managers, entrepreneurs and business students

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1. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
2. The Great Debaters (2007)
3. Coach Carter (2005)
4. Secretariat (2010)
5. Tucker the Man and His Dream (1988)
6. Bill Gates Microsoft and Steve Jobs Apple - Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999)
7. The Social Network (2010)
8. The Startup Kids (2012)
9. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
10. Boiler Room (2000)
11. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
12. Wall Street Money Never Sleeps (2010)
13. Trading Places (1983)
14. The Pursuit Of Happyness (2006)
15. In Good Company (2004)
16. In time (2011)
17. Cosmopolis (2012)
18. Limitless (2011)

4 things to consider when creating a strategy

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Strategies are maybe the most important success driver in the business world and not only. Why is that? Because you need discipline to get good results and the strategy gives you that discipline. When you create a strategy for your company there are some things you need to consider, further on we are going to talk about four of them.

1. Goals 

A famous quote says that if you don’t know where you are going any road is good. It is very important to know what you want to do and what you need to do for your company before deciding what path to take, but knowing these things doesn't mean that you have a goal. You must be sure that what you want can be done – it doesn't matter how difficult it can be, but whether it can be done or not.

2. Resources 

You can’t build a spaceship you don’t have the resources to do it. You must see what resources you need to reach your goals, if you have those resources and if you don’t have them, how you can get them. You must also think how you should use those resources to reach your goals.

3. Competition 

Do you want to do and have great things? Well you are not the only one! There are other people out there you must consider. If you don’t know who is around and what he wants to do, he might get what you want leaving nothing or very less for you.

4. Implementation

 The things on the paper aren't always happening in real life. You must make sure that they will! Think of all the possible things that can go wrong with your strategy and make plans b, c, d until you are sure that your strategy will succeed.